Villa Le Duvall ~ Chapter 11


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Villa Le Duvall ~ Chapter 11

  1. 1. <br /> <br />Welcome to the long-awaited chapter eleven of my continuing saga! Hopefully, you will find it entertaining and enjoyable to read. I also hope you haven't forgotten all about it seeing how long it's been since the last update. Written 11-08-09<br /> <br />Donovan Duvall emitted a sigh of contentment as he lowered his body into the steaming bath. He had just left Sasha's room. Sasha had finally grown calm after speaking with him for about an hour. As bad as things had been for him, he felt sympathetic toward the girl. He could imagine how he would feel if it had been her who had taken ill and he was not allowed to see her. He felt so close to Sasha that he could not begin to fathom what he would do without her!<br />His brow furrowed into a frown when his thoughts drifted on to Ellie and the words that had come from Sasha's mouth about his father killing her. Louis would not do that, would he? The boy felt nothing but love and respect for the man who had raised him. He knew that Louis had a quick and dangerous temper, but would he actually resort to murdering a member of the family?<br /> <br />Donovan decided he must look into it immediately. The girl was obviously insane and needed help. Even though she had tried to murder him, he felt she needed mercy, not misery. For some reason he was unable to discern, he had a soft spot in his heart for Ellie. Although he would be more cautious around her in the future, he held no disdain for the girl. He had forgiveness in his heart and wished her no ill will.<br />Even after everything he had been through, the boy was actually feeling very well today. Leaning back with a sigh, he closed his eyes and enjoyed the warmth the steamy water brought to his stiff muscles. He felt a bit out of shape from spending too much time in bed during his illness. Once the water grew tepid, he pulled the plug, stepped out, toweled himself dry, and quickly dressed. The tune he whistled as he entered the room he shared with his father was abruptly cut off at the surprise of seeing Lucinda sitting on the sofa, apparently waiting for him.<br /> <br />" Good afternoon, Donovan" she greeted softly. " How's my boy feeling today?" She smiled as she watched him move over and take a seat beside her. The woman was deeply worried, but she did a good job of keeping her emotions out of her expression. She had spent much time deep in thought lately, but she was still unsure of how exactly to proceed where the boy was concerned. She felt there were many things he must be told; things of which her older brother would not approve. Soon, the boy would see his twenty-first birthday and he would reach the point of no return. Lucinda felt the boy needed to know certain things, so that he may be free to make an informed decision.<br />" I am feeling well, thank you, Aunt Lucinda" the boy replied with a polite smile. His curiosity rose as he studied her expression.<br /> <br />" That is good to hear" she smiled back at him, her eyes never leaving his. She was happy to have the feeling he was telling the truth. The woman continued to gaze at the boy as his expression turned into one of concern. She waited patiently for him to voice his thoughts.<br />" I was just thinking, I mean, wondering about Ellie. Where is she?" he asked cautiously. " I mean, I have not seen her around since, well since, you know." Donovan grew silent as he awaited her reply. He was desperate to know, yet did he really want to know? What if Louis had killed the girl? Would he still be able to respect, or even love his father if he had done such an unspeakable act? " Where is my father?" he added quietly.<br /> <br />The boy had uttered the words Lucinda had dreaded and feared to hear. What could she tell him? What should she tell him? The fact was the woman knew where the girl was, but she did not know how the girl was. She knew Louis was with her and that it could not be good. It felt as if a million emotions flowed through her as her mind struggled with how best to handle this delicate situation. As much as she felt the boy needed to know certain things, she feared telling him too much too soon. A horrific shock could send the boy back into his previous state of catatonia, and she was determined to not allow that to happen.<br />She decided to address his second question first. " Louis is down in the cellar" she answered in a voice barely above whisper. Donovan could not help but notice that she averted her gaze away from his for a millisecond when she spoke. He felt panic begin to rise from deep in his gut.<br /> <br />" He's in the cellar?" Donovan asked in a nervous, high-pitched tone. He felt his stomach tie up in a tight knot and felt hot bile rise up into his throat. He had seen the cellar, with its jail cell and various instruments of torture. It was not a place in which he cared to spend much time, none at all, as a matter of fact. " Why?" he asked weakly around the lump in his throat. " Why is Father down there, and is Ellie down there as well? Is he… is he planning to kill her?" <br />The boy could almost understand the need to keep the highly volatile girl under lock and key until, possibly, she regained her sanity, but why would his father be hanging out down there with her? For that matter, was there not another room where she could be guarded that was not as dank, dirty, and frightening as the cold, dark confines of that cellar? " Come on, Aunt Lucinda, answer me!" the boy commanded sternly.<br /> <br />" I…he…yes" Lucinda answered with a helpless shrug. " Louis is down in the cellar with the girl!" The woman felt more than terrible. The expression on the boy's face was actually making her skin crawl. She could visibly see his mind working from the look in his eyes. Lucinda knew Donovan would not just sit by and let things happen the way Louis wanted and she had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as she began to worry about what was in his head. Her older brother was so set in his ways and determined to have things his own way, that she feared what he may do to the boy if he got in his way, even though she knew Louis' feelings ran very deep for 'his son'. " It is a possibility" , she replied weakly.<br /> <br />Donovan was torn. His aunt's last words had hit him like a ton of bricks in his stomach. His love and respect for Louis was embedded deeply into his heart, and soul and he had never questioned anything he had known the man to do, but he could not bear the thought of his father doing anything to hurt Ellie, despite the fact that he could be dead because of her actions. If his father was planning to murder Ellie, how could he stop it? Was it already too late? His eyes pleaded with Lucinda for answers that she was not capable of giving.<br />Finally, Donovan made up his mind and asked one more question of his aunt. " I cannot just sit here knowing what I know" he said, releasing a long breath he had not realized he had been holding. " I have an idea, but I need your help. Will you help me, Aunt Lucinda?" <br /> ************************************************************<br /> <br />" The time has come to take care of you, little one" Louis whispered harshly as he pinned the girl against the cold stone wall. Ellie's fear had returned, so she had twisted free of his grasp, only to be slammed roughly into the wall. She felt a painful bump rising on the back of her head and pain shot up from her neck into her skull. Louis delighted in her pain and fear, his excitement growing with every beat of her racing heart. The scent of the warm blood coursing through her veins mixed with that fear only intensified his overpowering desire to possess her. <br />Her soft whimpers and the trembling of her terrified body further fueled his ravenous thirst. " 'Tis so sad, my dear, it has all come down to this" he crooned softly. " If only you had shown more patience, you could have had everything you ever wanted and more!" <br /> <br />The girl let out a sharp gasp of surprise when Louis suddenly pressed his lips against her throat and felt his sharp teeth graze lightly across her delicate skin. He breathed deeply her warm human scent, savoring the feel of the rapidly pulsing artery just beneath his hungry lips. Her wildly beating heart was pumping her blood through her veins at an alarmingly quickened rate and the aroma was swiftly fueling the fire of his bloodlust. Not wanting to make her experience a pleasant one, he pressed his teeth harder against her skin. Electric shockwaves of exhilaration shot down his spine as she squirmed helplessly in his powerful embrace. Opening his mouth wide, he was prepared to rip her throat out, allowing her blood to flow freely from her body into his. His head abruptly jerked up at the sound of a voice behind him.<br /> <br />" Father, may I speak with you?" The sound of Donovan's voice broke Louis' lust-ridden frenzy. The man wondered how much the boy had seen. The last thing he wanted was for his son to see him like this and he pressed his hands against his head in an attempt to regain some composure. His thoughts and emotions were in turmoil at being caught in such a comprising position with the girl. <br />Louis swallowed hard and cleared his throat in a futile attempt to speak to the boy in a normal voice. Try as he might, his voice sounded tight and strained when he finally replied. " I will be with you in moment, my son." He suddenly remembered the girl as she whimpered softly and trembled violently before him.<br /> <br />" Shut up!" Louis growled menacingly in a quiet tone to prevent Donovan from overhearing. " And hide your face, you stupid girl!" Ellie's heart was pounding so violently against her ribcage that felt light-headed and she struggled to remain conscious, but she knew better than to defy the man. The girl might have been grateful for Donovan's intrusion as it had spared her life for the moment, but instead she only felt blinding hatred toward the boy for prolonging her agony. If not for him, she may have been put out of her misery by now.<br /> <br />" Father, are you alright?" Donovan asked cautiously. It seemed as though an eternity had passed since he had first spoken. The silence and tension lay heavily in the air as if it were a living, breathing thing. Donovan had a sudden, irrational urge to turn and flee the room. <br />At last, Louis spoke in a choked, strained voice, " Please give me a moment, Son." He closed his eyes and sucked in several deep breaths, and then releasing them slowly. He struggled to make himself grow calm, but he knew he had to do it. His love for the boy ran deep, but he had an almost irresistible urge to strangle him for the unwarranted interruption of his pleasure in dealing with the insolent, stupid girl. Finally, Louis felt his control return and turned to face the boy. " What is so urgent, my boy?" Louis inquired in an even tone as he moved a few steps forward.<br /> <br />Before Donovan had a chance to reply, Louis continued, " As a matter of fact, what I really want to know is how you made down here. I am quite certain I locked the cellar door after entering." Louis' calculating gaze sent a cold chill down the boy's spine that made him shutter inwardly.<br />" Actually, the door was slightly ajar, Father" Donovan lied carefully. In fact, Lucinda had unlocked the door for him with her spare key, but he had no desire to send his father's wrath showering down upon his aunt. " Please . . . do not kill her, Father" he whispered softly with a quick glance in the girl's direction. He strained to see her face, but she kept it covered with her hands.<br />Louis was not truly convinced, but he hated the idea of his son lying to him, so he let it go. " Ellie and I were just having a nice little visit, my son" Louis smiled. " Do not worry. She will be breathing when we are through. Run along now. I shall meet you in my room in just a little while." <br /> <br />" You have caused more trouble than you are worth!" Louis hissed vehemently as he turned back toward the girl when he heard the cellar door close behind Donovan. " Once again, my son, who you attempted to murder, has spared your miserable life!" Louis, now more than ever, wanted to make her suffer for what she had done. She had even caused him to, momentarily, feel the desire to punish his own beloved son.<br />The girl, formally known as Gabriella Snidely, tried her best to shrink back far enough to be absorbed into the cold stone wall. She had never before seen such an expression of pure, unadulterated hatred and disgust on anyone's face in her young life. Her body began to tremble violently and she began to whimper uncontrollably as the infuriated man stepped closer to hover menacingly above her.<br /> <br />" Do not, even for one moment, think you have escaped punishment" he growled from between clinched teeth. " Oh, you will, indeed, pay dearly for your transgressions against my family . . . my son." <br />The girl's heart pounded so ferociously she feared it may burst open, killing her instantly. She trembled and coward against the stone wall as Louis bent and grasped her under her arms to lift her roughly to her feet. Ellie squealed pitifully and tried, in vain, to twist her body out of his powerful arms. The man's cruel laughter rang out into the room as he tightened his grip around her. A sadistic smile slightly curved the corners of his lips when she had given up and ceased her struggles against him.<br /> <br />" Going somewhere?" he whispered, amused at her strong will and determination even though there was nowhere to run. " I think not! You have many things to learn, little girl, and I am the man who will teach you some hard lessons." His malicious laugh, once again, filled the room and seemed to hover over the girl, taunting her. Ellie threw back her head, released a blood-curdling, anguished cry of hopelessness and despair, and then fainted dead away.<br />A cruel smile spread across Louis' face as the girl went limp in his arms. He loosened his hold and let her body slide heavily to the floor. This new development made it easier for him to prepare for the new course of action which had formed in his mind following the boy's interruption.<br /> *****************************************************<br /> <br />" Donovan has gone down to the cellar" Lucinda said to her two younger brothers. " Louis is down there with Ellie. I am very concerned about what problems will arise from this." The two men glanced nervously at each other before turning their gaze back upon their sister's distraught face. Her anxiety level had gone through the roof when the boy had asked for her help, but how could she deny him his request? <br />Immediately after using the spare key to open the door for Donovan, she had rounded up her brothers and asked them to gather in her room for a meeting. Louis rarely ventured to the third floor of the house, let alone an intrusion into her private space, so her room was the safest place for them to congregate. She felt the time had come for everyone to share whatever knowledge each may have and to discuss what should be done to rectify the situation with Louis and the youngsters. <br /> <br />Lucinda wrung her hands nervously as studied her brothers' expressions, as her news began to sink into their minds. Each of the men looked to be as anxious as she felt. The silence in the room grew thick and became almost stifling until Stephen finally broke it. " What can we do?" he asked with a helpless shrug. " There seems to be no getting through to our eldest brother whatsoever." Sighing, he rested his hands in his lap.<br />Thomas remained silent. His baby brother had asked the question that had been on his own lips. With a heavy sigh, their sister replied, " I do not know if there is anything we can actually do, but we must keep a close watch on the situation. Even though it seems unlikely, I fear that Louis may feel the need to issue punishment to the boy for his intrusion on Louis' privacy in the cellar with the girl. As we all well know, the form Louis' discipline takes is far worse than a mere slap on the wrist." She paused for effect and then added, " There are some things which you both need to know." She gave Thomas a knowing glance and it returned it with a wavering smile.<br /> <br />Lucinda had already told their youngest sibling her theory about why Louis' power of persuasion did not seem to have a complete or lasting effect on Donovan, but until now, Stephen had remained in the dark. " All those years ago," she began quietly, " when Thomas went to Shannon to bring her peace, but then stopped short because he realized she was with child, part of his essence flowed into the woman's bloodstream. That essence, in turn, flowed through the unborn child's veins as well that night. The after effect on Shannon was lethargy and weakness until she was able to recover. The effect on the child, however, told a much different story. I believe Thomas' actions had a lasting result on the boy. If my theory is correct, and I believe it is, Donovan was born already, in part, a Duvall . . . and Thomas is his sire." <br />A stunned gasp came from Stephen as what his sister said registered in his brain. He had never even fathomed such a notion!<br /> <br />" How do you like that, brother?" Thomas quipped. " I have a son!" Forever young and impetuous he could not withhold chuckling at the sight of his brother's confounded expression. <br />Stephen, however, did not find the situation at all amusing. How would Louis react if found out about this? Something like this could possibly send their unstable older brother spiraling over the edge of insanity. At the very least, it would infuriate him beyond belief. " That is so not funny, Thomas!" Stephen snapped angrily. " Must you make light of everything?" <br /> <br />" Must you be so morose and solemn all the time?" Thomas shot back with a sheepish grin. He chuckled as irritation flashed in Stephen's eyes.<br />" I am not morose" the middle brother pouted. " I am simply less self-centered and more empathetic than you could ever be!" <br />" Boys" Lucinda chided sharply, " This is not the time for your childish banter! We happen to have a real problem here and it will not be resolved unless we put our heads together to figure some out some things. I cannot do this alone!" Both men, feeling thoroughly chastised and ashamed, turned their full attention back to their sister. " Thank you" Lucinda smiled. " Now Thomas, I have had the feeling for quite some time that you have been keeping some things from us. Do you not think it is time for you to share your secret with us?" <br /> <br />That was a kick in the groin! Thomas thought. How could she know? It took him a few moments to regain his poise and to feel able to speak in an even tone. " You are correct, Sister" he finally replied. " I do something that I have avoided sharing with you. I have learned that Ellie's real name is Gabriella. She is Donovan's half sister. Both his siblings were taken aback by the news, but waited in silence for Thomas to continue. " Louis used Gabriella's grief over catching her boyfriend with another girl as his means for bringing her here. That, in turn, put the boy in such a state of grief, not to mention guilt, over her disappearance that it was the catalyst which enabled him to snatch the boy and bring him over." Lucinda seemed to be in such a state of distress that Thomas decided to keep his frequent visits with the boy's mother to himself for a while.<br /> <br />" Well" Lucinda said when found her voice, " that is quite a bit of information to swallow. Thank you, Thomas. It does clarify a few things for me." The woman had a strange feeling that her baby brother had held back something, but decided not to press him further. The conversation moved on to the matter of Donovan's upcoming twenty-first birthday. The men agreed with their sister's idea of telling the boy what was to be expected of him. " So then, are we all agreed to arm the boy with as much knowledge as possible before the time comes for Louis to approach him with his birthday gift?" The men nodded in agreement. Lucinda stood and the men followed suit. " Thank you, boys" Lucinda murmured as she encircled each of them in a warm embrace. They left the room and continued their evening routines as usual.<br /> **************************************************************<br /> <br />Donovan was too anxious to sit, so he paced back and forth in the room while he waited for Louis to make an appearance. The thought popped into his head that if his father did not arrive soon, he would wear a noticeable path in the carpet. The boy's brow furrowed into an expression of worry when he remembered his father's position when he had first seen him with Ellie. Why had been holding her that way? It seemed to Donovan to have been a lover's embrace. The boy shook his head vigorously in an attempt to clear it. He felt quite certain that his father would not be involved with her in that sense. He knew that, after her unthinkable act against him, his father only held contempt for the girl. Donovan's thoughts were broken by a soft knock at the door. His expression turned to one of curiosity as he raised his head and said, " Come in?" <br /> <br />" Hello Sasha" Donovan greeted softly. The mere sight of her beautiful face made his heart skip a beat and he felt lightness filter into his soul despite his dark, brooding mood. Being in the girl's presence always seemed to make any situation a bit brighter. Although he made an honest attempt at a bright smile, Sasha could see her best friend was troubled. It never failed to make her heart ache a little to see him so. " So, what brings you here?" the boy asked quietly. <br />For several long moments, the girl stood still while she concentrated on reading the expression on his handsome face. She could sense his angst, almost as it if were her own. Sasha longed only to see his beautiful smile and to hear his hearty laughter. " I could hear your pacing footsteps" she answered softly as she moved forward several steps to close the gap between them.<br /> <br />" Are you alright?" she asked as she tenderly grasped his arm. " And don't you dare say yes, because I can see how troubled you are by the sadness in your eyes!" Her gaze burned into his, pleading with him to open up and allow her to help bear the burden in his heart. " Please, Donovan, talk to me. While you were ill I missed you so much I thought I may die! Now that I have you back, I do not wish to see you saddened and in such agony." <br />" Oh Sasha" Donovan cried in a choked voice as he threw his arms around her and buried his face against her warm neck.<br /> <br />" I love you, Sasha!" he murmured huskily. " Oh Sasha, what would I ever do without you?" Donovan forced back the flood of tears that threatened to spill from his burning eyes. He was a man now, and a man would never break down and cry on the shoulder of the woman he loved. When he inhaled a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself, her warm, womanly scent filled his nostrils and an unexpected spark of excitement spread through his body, stirring feelings inside him of the sort he had given no thought to for quite some time.<br />He gently pulled away, but their embrace had made him feel weak in the knees, so lowered his body to floor and sat down. Sasha had enjoyed their embrace as much he had and was not about to let him get away so easily and so she followed him down to the floor.<br /> <br />" I love you, Donovan" she murmured softly, tenderly stroking his cheek as positioned her body across his lap. The boy suppressed a moan as the pressure of her body caused stirrings in certain parts of his own. Placing his hands on her hips, he casually shifted her position slightly to reduce the chances of his losing all train of thought, save for one. " You know that I would do nearly anything for you, do you not?" the girl whispered as she lowered her head and kissed him softly on the lips. " I only want to help, but I cannot if you do not tell me what is bothering you." <br />At the moment, only one thing was bothering Donovan. Sasha had shifted back to her original position and it was causing the boy great distress, albeit not necessarily an unpleasant distress. " I have a headache" he said, quickly lifting her off him and moving back slightly.<br />" I can help with that!" she said brightly as she moved around behind him, pulling him gently backward against her body.<br /> <br />" How is this?" she asked as she tenderly massaged his scalp with very adept hands. Being raised as Lucinda's daughter, she had learned a lot about the power of healing. Sasha had always been very generous and caring, so she had been a very conscientious student in Lucinda's teachings. Donovan moaned in contentment as her hands continued working their magic. " Now, will you tell me what is bothering you, Donovan?" the girl urged gently.<br />Donovan moaned again. " That feels so nice, Sasha" he sighed. He wished he could forget about everything and just remain in her arms, carefree forever, but he knew that would not be the case. Reluctantly, he told her about his talk with Lucinda and his subsequent visit to the cellar.<br /> <br />Sasha breathed in deeply and then exhaled in a soft sigh. Donovan's hair smelled wonderful, so clean and fresh! It felt very soft and silky against her fingers as she ran them lightly through it. The sensation of having his body so close to hers was beginning stir excitement in her from her most secret places. For a brief moment, she wondered how it would feel to be holding Stephen in her arms this way. She pushed those feelings aside in order to try to help carry some of the burden her friend held upon his shoulders. " I am so sorry, Donovan, that you have all these worries on your mind. I am certain everything will okay. This may not sound very nice, but what Ellie did to you was an atrocious act, and I think she deserves to be punished . . . quite severely! If Louis does not kill her, she at least needs to learn to never try such hideous thing, ever again!" Donovan groaned in exasperation, rolled off her, and took her hand in his.<br /> <br />" But don't you see, Sasha?" Donovan sighed as he gave her hand a gentle, yet firm squeeze. He focused his eyes upon a spot on the far wall as his mind searched to find the words he wanted to say. He sighed heavily and continued, " Taking that sort of stance would make us no better than Ellie! You see, that girl had to be out of her head to try what she did. You and I, Sasha, are rational, sane people. If we were to take an attitude such as abiding cruelty to another, it makes us no better than barbaric, sadistic monsters." <br />The girl sighed in resignation and squeezed the boy's hand back. " I know you are right, Donovan, but I cannot help the way I feel. I am sorry." <br /> **********************************************************<br /> <br /> Each crack of the whip and the resulting sound of flesh being ripped open made Louis' heart soar in exhilaration and pure satisfaction. He considered the cries of agonizing pain that followed each time the leather strap made contact merely a bonus. As soon as the girl had lost conciousness, he had made his way up the stairs and had barred the cellar door from the inside. He could scarcely afford anymore unexpected intrusions on his private time with the insolent girl. Louis had promised to teach the her a lesson, and teach her one he would!<br />The girl remained unconsious until he had everything ready. He had waited patiently for her to wake before proceeding. She needed to be fully aware of what was happening and why. He smiled with malice as he noted the girl's dejected pose. Her body had gone limp and her head lolled forward like that of a broken rag doll. His cruel laughter pierced the room as he forcefully swung the whip forward again.<br /> <br />Instantly, the girl's body stiffened, she threw back her head, and screamed in agony. " Oh God . . . please, no more! I'm sorry! I'll be good, I swear. Oh . . . please . . . no more . . ." her voice trailed off into pitiful sobs as a thrill akin to the purest sort of ecstasy rippled through Louis' body like a raging electrical-generated wildfire. Those were the words he had been longing hear. For over twenty minutes, all he had gotten from her were screams, sobs, and unintelligible curses.<br />" That is much, much better, my dear" Louis cooed softly as he absently-mindedly tossed his whip to the side. He moved toward the girl and she flinched when she felt his hands on her wrists. Louis laughed, " Hold still, you stupid girl!" Suddenly, Ellie fell to the floor with a solid thump.<br /> <br />Ellie pressed her head into her hands and sobbed uncontrollably. Her back felt like it was on fire and now her bottom was bruised as well. She could hear the shuffling of Louis' boots on the hard stone floor as he paced around in front of her. The girl was completely broken. Dispirited and filled with despair, she felt the only thing left for now was to die. If not for the interruption of that meddling boy, she would have been by now, not sitting on the floor enduring such insufferable pain and misery.<br />The sound of rustling fabric reached her ears as Louis bent to retrieve her gown where it lay, crumpled, on floor nearby.<br /> <br />" I truly hope you have learned a valuable lesson, girl" Louis growled in a dangerous, menacing tone. " I would not want you to think, not even for one moment, that we will not have a meeting exactly like this one if you ever cross me again." The girl did not move, but the man knew she was listening since her sobbing had ceased, leaving only involuntary whimpers and trembling in its wake.<br />" Look at me, girl!" Louis spat angrily as he roughly flung her dress at her with all his might. She gasped in shock and finally met his gaze.<br /> <br />" You are never to go near my son again with cruel intentions. If you even think unsavory thoughts with the intent to do him harm, I will know. If I should learn of such a plan on your part, it will make the time we have spent here together today seem like a fun family reunion in the park in comparison!" He inhaled a deep breath, and then added, " Now get dressed!" <br />The act of pulling her dress up over her wounded back sent a fresh torrent of tears streaming down Ellie's cheeks. It was very painful and taking so long, that Louis forcefully spun her around, fastened the back, and roughly grabbed her by the arm to drag her back to her cell.<br /> <br />" Welcome home!" Louis growled as he pressed his hand against her bleeding back and brutally shoved back into the cell. " I am sure you will find everything to your satisfaction." She cried out in agony as her knees met the unyielding stone floor, and the man's eyes glittered and danced in delight. He watched in silence as she struggled to lift herself up off her bruised kneecaps.<br />The girl had never felt so much pain in her young life, physical and emotional. At this moment, the physical pain was almost more than she could tolerate. The raw, open wounds on her back burned like a raging inferno, her face had cuts and bruises, and now her knees felt broken.<br /> <br />" Thirsty" she croaked in a voice which sounded as if it had come from a throat lined with sandpaper. " I am . . . so . . . thirsty" .<br />" That, my dear," Louis said as he crouched down closer to the girl's level, " could be the least of your troubles. Your life may have been spared . . . for now, but your punishment is far from over. You will remain locked up down here until such a time comes when I see fit to set you free." The man rose to his full height, closed and locked the cell door, and then added, " Maybe I will send Lucinda down with some broth and her medicine bag . . . maybe." With that, he turned and made his way up the stairs and into the kitchen.<br /> *********************************************************<br /> <br />Shannon Snidely had not been having one of her best days. Her sons were staying overnight at their grandparents' house, her husband was getting ready to leave on a two-day business trip, and her thoughts kept drifting toward the two children they had lost, especially her wonderful son, Donovan. Most times, during the day, she was able to force herself to go through her life as if nothing bad had ever happened, but when darkness fell, all her fears and feelings of hopelessness seemed to obtain a life all their own. It was especially bad when she was all alone in the house as she was soon to be. She heard soft footsteps padding down the staircase, so she held her tears in check and lifted her head to smile at her handsome husband as he rounded the coffee table to take the seat beside her on the sofa.<br /> <br />" Are you alright, Sweetheart?" he inquired softly as he wrapped an arm around around her shoulder and tenderly pulled her in close to him. Feeling his warmth and the beat of his loving heart made her wish she could melt into him and lose herself in his embrace. Her whole life long, he had been the one thing on which she could always depend. The couple had experienced some rough times in their lives, but none of it was any fault of their own. Her husband, her lover, her best friend had never purposely let her down.<br />" I'm fine, Joseph" she lied as pulled away from him to rise from the sofa. Moving a few steps away, she continued, " It's just that I'm not really looking forward very much to being alone tonight. Her knees suddenly felt weak and she let her body slide to the floor.<br /> <br />The man was almost instantly at her side, encircling her in his comforting embrace. " Shannon, you do know how very much I love I you, don't you?" he whispered huskily next to ear. " I would drop this business trip this very moment if I could and spend the whole night showering you kisses, and loving you until neither of us could stand anymore!" He sighed heavily and continued, " But, this is a very important client and the firm really needs to acquire his account if we are going to keep our heads above water." <br />" I know" Shannon replied softly. " I understand. Really I do!" She stood and began to move toward the entry hall. " Come. Let's get you out of here before you miss your flight." She had only covered half the distance before her husband was upon her.<br /> <br />" Hold up girl!" he chuckled as he wrapped an arm around her and buried his face into her warm, sweet neck. " Maybe I will just stay home and issue my treatment as promised!" Even after all their years together, his wife never failed to induce a wild excitement from deep within him, body, mind, and soul, that sent little currents of electrical shockwaves tingling down his spine. He was tempted to stay home with her.<br />Shannon giggled as he began nibbling on the sensitive part of her neck and a warm excitement spread throughout her body. Reluctantly, she gently shoved him away. " No, Joseph" she sighed, " you have to go. This is much too important." She took his hand and led him to the door.<br /> <br />" I love you so much, Joseph" Shannon whispered as kissed her husband for what would be the last time for two whole days. The love she felt for him shone in her eyes and she had begun to miss him already.<br />Joseph turned what she had intended to be a quick peck on the lips into something much deeper, more passionate. When he finally released her lips from his, he replied, " I love you, Shannon! I will call you everyday . . . several times a day, in fact!" <br />Shannon watched until her husband's car had pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the street before returning to the living room.<br /> <br />As soon as she was alone, Shannon's grief hit her full force. It felt as though her insides were raw and bleeding. Finally, she broke down and wept. She wept for her step-daughter, who she had raised as her own, but mostly she wept for the adorable son she had lost. Shannon and Donovan had been as close as a mother and son could be. He shared more of his life with her than most teens ever did with their parents and she missed their little talks, the time they would spend together. Donovan was a kind, considerate boy and had always put other people's feelings before his own. His kindness and generosity had been the very thing that had broken him in the end. Before his disappearance, he had been heartbroken over that fact that Gabriella had gone missing because he had given her his concert ticket. If not for him, she would have not been where she had been that night. She sniffled, swiped angrily at the tears on her cheeks, and then went upstairs to her room. <br /> <br />The woman threw herself on the bed and , once again, her body was racked with sobs. She thought she had cried until her tears were all dried up, but obviously she was not finished. Images of her son's handsome face, so like his father's, kept flashing in her mind, which started the torrent of tears anew. Finally, her eyes all red and puffy, she began to feel her eyelids become droopy with the need for sleep. She rolled over, turned off the light, and soon she was drifing off into a fitfull sleep, filled with images of disappearing children and the chaos such events caused in people's lives. The woman's distress was so great, that soon, a shadowy figure appeared in the corner of the room and began to slowly approach the bed where she lay sleeping.<br /> <br />She is still beautiful, even after all this time, the figure thought as it moved closer and peered down at the sleeping woman. With its heightened senses, it could hear the throbbing of her gently pulsing heart, feel the warmth emanating from her body, and it could smell the warm blood that coursed through her veins as a testament to her humanness and mortality. The dark figured longed to touch her, to feel her warm arms wrapped around him in a loving embrace. <br />It was a sensation that spread quickly through his very being, threatening to consume him and wipe away any other thoughts as well as the purpose of his mission, the reason he had come to her on this night. The figure rose slightly upward as the woman began to stir.<br /> <br />Her eyes fluttered open and she seemed to look right at him, yet not really seeing him. Her eyes were the same beautiful Hazel color he remembered and the sight of them only made him long to be with her even more. Oh, why did we have to be torn apart so suddenly, so cruelly? The figure thought miserably. He was hit with a sudden, overwhelming desire to climb into bed with her and snuggle up against her warm body.<br />Suddenly, the woman's eyes seem to come into focus and rest fully upon his face. She sucked in a sharp, startled breath and began to gasp as if she could not catch her breath. Her eyes filled with fright and she bolted upright in her bed, gaping, wide-eyed, at him in disbelief.<br /> <br />" This can't be" Shannon mumbled in disbelief. She was certain she was stranded in the middle of a horrible nightmare and that she would wake any moment, drenched in a cold sweat. Her heart throbbed painfully in her chest as it tried to make its way into her throat to cut off her breath. The eyes with which hers were now locked did not belong to the face of the man who had paid her frequent visits in the night for the past year or so. No. This was a face on which she had not gazed upon for a very, very long time. She was completely dumbstruck, as well horrified.<br />The figure reached for her and she shrieked and shrunk quickly backward in an attempt to keep him from touching her. If he was able to touch her, then she would know she was not merely caught up in a wild nightmare. " Stay . . . keep away from me" she stammered weakly.<br /> <br />" Please, do not be afraid" the figure said softly. " I am not here to hurt you. I would never, ever hurt you!" The eyes under the dark hood pleaded with her for understanding and her trust. " Your sadness, your pain is what brought me here tonight. I am here to help you, not to bring you harm." The figure reached a pale hand toward her, and though still afraid, Shannon reached out toward it.<br />" That is much better" , the figure smiled. " Soon, you will be in pain no more." The woman's life flashed through the figure's mind as he held her hand. Her childhood had been miserable and she had suffered much more pain and sorrow in her adult than anyone should have to endure. Now the time had come to end her extreme despair once and for all . . . forever.<br />