Chapter Twenty Three
Mercifully, Zak seemed to sense that he’d hit some kind of limit and I was able to go to the bathroom without my blood pressure rising any further.
What had happened? When had he become this demanding? I’d liked him being playful but this… this was something else.
I just couldn’t figure out what.
I looked longingly at the huge tub sunk into the floor bare inches away from me. What I wouldn’t give to fill it to the brim and dive in head-first…
Zak would lose his mind. He’d probably drag me out by the hair.
Goosebumps begun to pebble on my skin and I rubbed my hands vigorously up and down my own forearms. Zak wouldn’t actually do something like that. Would he?
I could picture it. In my mind, I watched as the bathroom door was flung open and my husband came storming in, an ugly red flush covering his face down to the neck. He stalked toward me, huge and hulking…
I shook my head hard to clear it, shaking loose half the hair in my ponytail in my enthusiasm.
What the hell was going on with me?
Perhaps there was truth to the old wives’ tale that sweets before bed gave you nightmares and I was being punished for the large slice of dessert, a decadent dark chocolate cake, that I’d sneakily devoured during supper while having pretended to be in the bathroom.
The door opened then, just as it had in my imaginings and I jumped violently, upsetting the bottles and tubes that were neatly lined up by my sink for convenience.
I bent to start gathering them up but large hands beat me there. “Did I scare you?” Zak asked, straightening up and handing me the handful of cosmetics he’d gathered.
I shook my head. “Thanks.” I turned and begun to lay out the creams and cleansers neatly once again.
“Leave that, the maid will do it in the morning.” Zak caught my hand. “I still want to talk to you.”
I let him lead me out of the bathroom and back to our bed, preoccupied by my own thoughts. Not for the first time, I wished for a confidante. I was completely out of my depth with Mirzaq Mahomed and it was beginning to terrify me.
Zak put a hand on my shoulders, silently urging me to sit not on the bed but at the wrought iron vanity table that stood against the wall. I looked quizzically at him and he explained. “I’m afraid if you sit on the bed, you’ll fall asleep again.”
“I’m tired, Zak.” My voice came out sharper than I’d intended and his eyes narrowed.
“This is important.” His fingers tightened painfully on my shoulders, digging into my skin. A moment later and the pressure was gone, so suddenly that I’d wonder if I imagined it until I caught sight of the faint bruises on my skin in the mirror the next morning.
“What is?” I made eye contact with him in the mirror. “I’m awake and I’m listening, Zak. Just tell me already.”
“Mom doesn’t know that I’ve been transferred. Neither does Dad,” Zak began.
I’d suspected as much.
“I don’t want you to tell them either. I didn’t want to tell you,” Zak reminded me, a faint hint of rebuke in his tone, “but you walked in on my conversation this morning and figured it out.” There was an edge to his words that I didn’t quite understand immediately.
“Or was it listened in on,” he added smoothly. It wasn’t a question.
“I wasn’t eavesdropping.”
“I don’t know if I can believe that, Azraa.” Zak’s lips had thinned to a line. “Can you prove it?”
Outrage crept up on me slowly. “If you don’t believe me,” I said softly, “then that’s your choice. I’m not going to beg you, Zak.” I hadn’t begged my own damn parents, I would not beg him. And to hell with everyone who had a problem with it.
Zak was astonished. I had risen from the vanity stool and gotten halfway to the door before he realized what I was doing. “Where are you going?” he demanded, striding to the door to block it.
“Somewhere you aren’t,” I answered recklessly. I’d been repressing this part of myself so ruthlessly that giving into it again was intoxicating. I couldn’t remember why I’d allowed myself to be cowed by the man standing over me.
Zak moved so fast it made me dizzy. He snatched me up and dumped me down on the bed carelessly before retreating to stand still as a statue with his back to me.
I lay there stunned for a long moment.
“I wish you hadn’t done that,” Zak whispered. He came to me, a beseeching look on his face as he reached for me, laying a hand against my throat. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
I tried to move away, my skin crawling where he was holding me but Zak simply followed me, using his height to lean further over me. “Azraa?” he asked, needy as a puppy.
Where had all that rage gone? I searched his face but there was nothing.
I pulled my knees in to my chest, drawing a small measure of comfort from that simple movement.
“Azraa?” Zak said again, urgent. “You’re okay.”
I shook my head slightly and it was like a dam broke in him. “I didn’t mean to,” he said desperately. “I just… you shouldn’t have tried to leave me!” His face changed then, that rage returning, sickening and sudden. “You were just going to leave, I had to stop you. You shouldn’t have done that!” he scolded me.
“You don’t understand, do you? It’s okay,” Zak assured me, brushing a lock of hair out of my eyes. “I forgive you. You didn’t know. I’ll explain everything in the morning, okay? Let’s just go to sleep.”
I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t think I could. Not with him there next to me.
Zak’s face darkened when I didn’t immediately agree and let him lay me down. “Why are you being difficult?” he hissed.
I found my voice. “I just want some water.”
“Oh. Of course, babe. I’ll get it for you. Do you want ice? I can get you some from downstairs…” And he was eager again.
I jerked my head in some semblance of a nod and Zak hurried to do my bidding.
I lay there, waiting for him and trying to make sense of what had happened. I didn’t cry.
Quick note – things are going to get worse before they get better so please read responsibly.
Also, I know these chapters are taking time – they may continue to do so. Writing abuse is hard in a lot of ways. It’s tough to make believable but also and more importantly, it’s very hard to write because of how emotional and visceral it is. It can be and often is physically draining to write these chapters, just as it is to read them.