Once she dreamed 2, p.6
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       Once She Dreamed - 2, p.6

         Part #2 of Once She Dreamed series by Abbi Glines
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  world, while touring around the city. They had a polished look about them. One you couldn’t miss when you stared. That was my course so far.

  Hale would return in a week. Would Ezra return when he did? I hoped so and that made me pathetic. I couldn’t drive the man from my head. I was trying to stay focused on other things, but Ezra’s absence was driving me nuts.

  Jamie had asked me about Hale and myself. I explained that he was my employer and I his employee. It was that and nothing more. But I hadn’t told her about Ezra. It was a secret and I didn’t know why, other than he worked with Hale. Deep down I was protecting Ezra. I knew that was important to the both of us because Hale had become unpredictable. I never knew what the man would do.

  I tugged my reusable grocery bag up onto my shoulder. I turned the corner and headed for the penthouse. My thoughts were everywhere and with them worry. I’d lost interest in the world around me. The scenes I’d craved and adored. I then came back to the people in the streets, blocking my thoughts and concerns. There was a mother strolling with her baby. A man on his phone in a suit. An older woman pushed her walker down the street and then there was, what, there was Ezra? With a tall, leggy brunette. They were close and whispering as if they’d something important to discuss between themselves. It was intimate, well, I think so, intimate enough to cause anger.

  I paused and put them in focus. Sure enough it was Ezra. I hadn’t dreamed him up because I was missing his company. That was Ezra, here in New York. With a woman I didn’t know.

  If I were brave I would approach. Walk over to the couple and pretend as if seeing them was a nice surprise. Just so he’d know I saw him. He was here and close and the man had ignored me, after doing and saying what he did.

  But I wasn’t brave or even stealthy. I wanted to sneak past them and get to the penthouse one block down from this street. After that I’d forget I saw him and eventually try to disremember I threw myself on his charm and good looks. Of course he had other women. He was beautiful, dangerous, and intriguing. I was silly to think I was special. Or that our kiss meant something to him.

  I wondered if she’d been “the work” he rushed off to the other night. He was completely into me and then he wasn’t and… no, she could be his wife! My stomach knotted and I felt sick. Was he married? Oh God, what if he was married? That would make me an adulterer! Momma would be ashamed. Not as much as I was ashamed of myself.

  I crossed the street and stepped into a bookstore. I could see them, but they couldn’t see me. I’d wait until they moved down the block before I left and returned to the penthouse. Facing him was impossible right now. He might be married or engaged. What if he was engaged? Was that as terrible as being married? Either way I’d become “the other.” The other woman in Ezra’s scheme.

  Conquering the world single was sounding more and more appealing. Men couldn’t be trusted. They wanted women. Lots of women. One woman would never be enough. Women craved that sole connection. A man who would love them eternally. Right now it appeared that men wanted sex and the better the variety and distance between them the more sex they could have without caring. I knew my daddy was precious. I wish more males would behave like him. He was a decent caring individual. I’d set my goal too high.

  I watched from the window as I pretended to look at a cookbook about barbecuing, which I’d never actually attempt. The woman was close to Ezra. Looking serious as she spoke and gestured. Like they were discussing something important. Her skirt couldn’t be any shorter. If she bent over you’d see her vagina and for crying out loud she was hot.

  Although they weren’t embracing or showing affection, their bodies were close and familiar. There was something between them, I was sure about that, but just what it was seemed vague.

  Finally she said something, squeezed his arm affectionately, before turning and strutting away, her stiletto heels clicking and tiny skirt grabbing, although he didn’t watch her go. That was surprising to me. She was shaking her ass for him to enjoy, but he threw his attention to the street, musing on some other thing.

  Crap, he was headed toward the penthouse. I wasn’t going to be there waiting like a good little girl for his pawing. I knew better now. I was hardening.

  Once he was out of sight I left the bookstore and reversed my trek, went back the way I had come. I knew a good food vendor three blocks away and I could take my food to the park and eat it while staking the penthouse. He’d give up and leave I bet. Why waste his time waiting on me when he had legs waiting on him.

  I decided I hadn’t missed anything in life by not dating the guys in Moulton. Other than Ben there were no good guys. For all I knew Ben was the same. He could be out dilly-dallying other woman while Jamie threw up in a sink. The idea made me even angrier. If I found out he was I’d go to Moulton to stomp his butt.

  Stupid, stupid men!

  A whistle startled me and I turned to see a creeper checking my walk and ogling. He was working on a building in a hardhat. He winked and waggled his tongue. I then channeled my frustration, flipped my middle finger, and with a snarl I stalked off. This life was increasing my harshness. I didn’t care. I needed it to. Being naïve wasn’t healthy. It led to dumb decisions and heartache. I’d already had enough of both.

  Chapter Fifteen

  While opening the door to the penthouse part of me wondered if I’d see Ezra waiting on the other side. I knew he could get in when he wanted. What I didn’t expect was to see Hale there with a glass of amber liquid and a scowl painted on his face. I was dressed in his clothing. The apartment was clean. I was allowed to leave, was I not? Why was he angry with me?

  “Hello,” I said, hearing the crack in my voice, realizing I was holding my breath.

  He glared with disapproval. I felt my hands begin to sweat. I raced through all his reasons for annoyance but what it was seemed lost to me.

  “Have you spoken to your mother today?”

  That was his question. Had I talked to my momma? No. Not today. I shook my head. “Is she okay?”

  He then cocked an eyebrow at me. “I’d say so. She now owns the bakery. I bought it and gave it to her. Do you know why I did that Samantha?”

  To control me Hale. To own me. To create a wall of guilt. Ezra had told me as much. I just hadn’t been sure he was right. Now seeing the look on Hale’s face I wondered if he’d been correct.

  “No,” I honestly replied.

  He took a drink and his mouth held its hard line. “It was a gift to you. You said you wished your mother could own a bakery. Now your mother does.”

  Oh well, that was nice.

  “Thank you, that’s a generous gift. I don’t know what to say exactly.” Because I didn’t believe he had done it. Buying me a gift like that made no sense at all. Unless there were strings attached. What was the price I would pay?

  “How about starting by telling me where you’ve been all day. I arrived at noon and you weren’t here. It’s after eight and you’re just coming home. I’ve wasted an entire day waiting on you and I’m not very happy about it.”

  He wasn’t due for another week. “I was out exploring the city. Then I got food from a vendor and ate it in the park. Why didn’t you call me Hale?” I thought that was a decent question. One that made sense to ask. His scowl then deepened and I suddenly realized I wasn’t supposed to ask questions in his presence.

  “I shouldn’t have to call my employee and ask her why she isn’t working.”

  “But I left everything clean.” I immediately defended myself.

  “Does that mean you’ve completed your other assignment? You’re ready to submerge in my world. I doubt that highly Samantha.”

  No, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to “submerge” in his world. I’d rather “submerge” into a sewer system.

  “I’ve been studying but I’m not prepared.”

  He sat his glass on the table and it almost shattered. I jumped and my heart began racing.

  “I bought your mother a bakery Samantha, becau
se you wished it and now it is hers. And in return I get you running around the city taking advantage of me, the life I provide, and does that sound fair to you?”

  Was he actually becoming a victim? After purchasing a friggin’ bakery? He made it sound like I was using him. That wasn’t how this was at all. “I was watching the people in the city. I can’t learn shut inside this apartment.” The expression on his face was frightening. I was fairly sure he wouldn’t hurt me. Hale was just upset. “I’m sorry. I thought I had another week. I wanted to walk around. It was lonely being in here.”

  He snarled and my eyes went wide. Hale’s face then contorted into some weird mask forcing me to retreat. I took three steps back and stopped. There was danger in his eyes and voice. This was why Ezra wanted me to call him. His warning was now before me.

  “Lonely?” he replied, taking a step in my direction while cracking his knuckles and scowling. “You, Sammy Jo Knox, were lonely in the big ol’ city? The girl who wanted nothing more than to escape her hick town full of what she referred to as ‘permanents’? She then manages a penthouse in greedy Manhattan and complains about being lonely. Can you not afford to be happy? Are you already that spoiled and demanding, that you require constant attention?”

  “That’s not what I meant Hale.” My voice sounded like that of a child. I was scared and it was obvious. He was wrong on every point.

  “It’s how you’re acting Samantha. You aren’t grateful for one damn thing. Do you know the girls who would promise their souls to be in your shoes at this moment? What they’d give up to live here? To be on my arm at those parties? Do you? No, of course not. You’re goofy and simple minded. All you know is the country ass life you’ve lived and I tell you, the world isn’t basic. Not one fucking bit my dear.”

  This wasn’t getting any better. I was making it worse with every word that I said, so I did what I knew was safe. “I’m sorry Hale. Please forgive me.” It was an apology I didn’t mean, but I said it anyway.

  He let loose a laugh and remarked. “You’re sorry?” he said, shutting the distance, as the fury flashed in his eyes. Why was Hale so angry? He had no reason to be. The man was a psychopath. “I don’t care if you’re fucking sorry. I care that you get your stupid ass educated and learn proper behavior. I own you Samantha Knox. You have the innocent beauty that will ideally fit on my arm in the public sphere. I knew that the moment I saw you. That’s why you are here. To be exactly what I need you to be. You do as I say and you don’t make decisions for yourself ever again. Do I make myself clear? Is it crystal?”

  I was stunned. I just stood there. His words had left me empty. This wasn’t what I’d come for. I never agreed to being a piece of property. “I didn’t ask you to buy my mother the bakery… ” I managed to get that out before his hand struck my face. I flew against the door I’d come through, the distance the length of my body and my jaw was on fire with pain.

  “Ungrateful bitch!” he roared. His voice was deranged and cultured Hale was gone from the city and the planet. My vision was blurry and my nose was bleeding as I tried to hold myself up. I needed to get my footing to defend against his coming onslaught. If I was down he might kill me.

  My head was screaming RUN when he grabbed my arm and twisted it unnaturally behind me. I cried in pain, the muscle was tearing, and I was sure he would snap a bone.

  “Shut up! I didn’t say you could fucking speak! I’m tired of hearing your voice!” And with that he slammed me against the door twice, causing my head to bounce. I blinked, but the world was still blurry. I wanted to cry and beg him to stop, but was afraid of what he’d do if I spoke and made any noise.

  “You wanted this life. I MADE it happen. I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars making your life what you dreamed. You expect me to want nothing in return? Are you that stupid, you bitch? I didn’t do it for fucking free. You’ll conform to what I want or you’ll pay me back every dime.”

  Pay him back? Why would he expect that? My head was splitting open from the pain and my arm was still twisted behind me. It was hard to breathe with the panic. I would say whatever I needed to say in order to get him away. Then I would run straight home. I could afford the bus. I wasn’t staying here. This was enough for me.

  “I don’t waste time Samantha. I get what I want when I want it. Do you understand that? Is it clear? You will do what I fucking say.”

  I couldn’t answer. My ability to speak was stolen by the horror of his terror. He jerked my arm and threw me again off the door and I landed on the floor with a whump. “Talk now woman! Speak! You have my motherfucking permission!”

  I opened my mouth while praying in my head that I could say anything to stop him. One syllable to make him quit. As my words were forming the door swung inward and there was something else in the room. Another presence I couldn’t make out.

  Chapter Sixteen

  “Back away from her Hale. Do it now.” Ezra’s voice was a welcomed sound. The tears that had pooled in my eyes ran freely down my cheeks. He was here. I wasn’t going to die.

  “Go check on her,” he said to another and there was someone else beside me. With the blow to my head my vision was bad and I couldn’t see who it was. She was then on her knees beside me gently touching my face. It was the woman from the street earlier in the day. The female I’d seen with Ezra. I didn’t want her hands on my body, but I had no strength to resist her.

  “She needs a doctor,” the woman told him, with concern in her voice and manner.

  “What the fuck are you doing Hale? You assault women now as a hobby?” The anger was clear in his voice. Hale was only mildly concerned.

  “Ezra, you work for me. Don’t question my decisions or actions and never barge into my house.” Hale replied without emotion in his voice. As if talking about the weather.

  “I work for your father, not you. That’s who I fucking work for. And he wouldn’t be okay with you beating a woman you entitled little prick.” Ezra’s tone had gone from angry to a barely controllable fury.

  “No sir, you work for me.” After he replied his body turned towards me. He motioned with his hand for the woman to move and spoke as if I were nothing. “Move back. She doesn’t need a doctor. You’re creating drama that doesn’t need to be. You will both do what I say.”

  Ezra was holding words in his mouth that had never been spoken before. He knew something Hale did not know and would not unless Ezra informed him. And so Ezra said it like this: “you could possibly be the target of a hit. Your father hired me to protect you. As for her, she’s leaving with us and I’m getting her medical attention.”

  Either my brain was a mess from the beating or I was hearing that Ezra was security. A bodyguard hired for Hale. Why would Hale need protecting? He seemed capable enough.

  “What hit?” Hale asked, his tone then changing to something else entirely. He wasn’t unconcerned anymore.

  “Ah, now that it centers on your precious existence your attitude suddenly shifts. Business gone bad my man. I think you probably know more about it than you want to admit,” said Ezra. “Now I’m taking Sammy Jo to a doctor. You call your father and figure this out.”

  Hale stepped between Ezra and I. “She’s not leaving. She’s fine. Nothing is permanent. She’s roughed up but will survive. You both can leave and pack your bags because once I talk to my father you’ll each be out of a job.”

  Ezra laughed then yanked it back. It was a deep twisted laugh like the man was amused because Hale had to tell his father to have any power at all.

  “Can you take a deep breath?” she asked me. The woman was talking quietly to me and the concern in her voice was motherly. As much as I didn’t want my focus off the others I glanced at her instead. She was even more beautiful up close. And she was truly worried about me. It was hard to hate someone who was trying to help you and meant it.

  I nodded and winced. “Just sore. My chest and neck hurt a little.”

  She frowned and looked at Ezra. “We need to take her now.”<
br />
  “We will,” Ezra replied. “Hale, I’ll put it like this. Move or you’re going through the sheetrock. I will put you through that wall.”

  I expected Hale to refuse. He then cleared and backed away. “Do what you want. You’re all three fired and that goes for your mother Samantha. I’m closing the bakery and selling the building. Then your family can starve to death and it will be your fault.”

  Ezra didn’t say anything. He stalked past Hale, bent down in front of me and asked “Sammy Jo, what hurts? Don’t leave any place out.”

  “Mostly my face, head and arm,” I replied in a childish whisper. “I’m sorry, no, it’s my body. He kept… ”

  “You don’t have to say another word.” Ezra slid his arms under my knees and back and lifted me as if I were weightless.

  “You’re both going to regret this,” Hale said. We then left the penthouse with the woman following, spinning to see what he’d do. She slammed the door with force and then stood there, listening for movement behind it. “God, I wish we could be fired. I hate that spoiled little bitch. We should leave ‘em a gap to knock his ass off and then act like we didn’t know.” Apparently she was something else. And she sounded mean as hell.

  “His father will deal with him.” Ezra replied businesslike. “Go ahead and call him please. Give him a run down of what’s happened to date. He’ll have heard all of this and he will need an update. Then stay close to the place and watch who comes and goes. I’ll update you on Sammy Jo as soon as we get where we’re going. Use your second phone and not the first whenever you speak with his father. Then switch back to the first. You know what to do.”

  “Got it,” she responded to the order. She was happy to receive it and did so.

  I stared up at Ezra then back at her. The woman was glaring at the floor numbers as they flashed in the descending elevator. “I swear I hate that bastard,” she muttered.

  Ezra nodded in agreement. Then he looked down at me. “How’re you feeling? A little less stress?”

  “Like she got her ass beat,” the woman replied. “Don’t make her talk if she doesn’t have to.”

  Ezra ignored her and watched me closely.

  I told him “sore and more than confused.”

  His frown then deepened and “we should’ve come sooner. I didn’t realize he was hurting you. The last time you cried out I knew he had.”

  “What are you?” I asked still wondering. Was I unconscious in the apartment and dreaming all of this. Were Ezra and the woman not real? Not my current reality?

  “I’m what I told Hale I was. And yes, this is actually happening. I’m protecting him for his father. There’s been a business deal go bad in South America concerning one of his interests. He believes they’ll go after Hale, being as that’s his only son. Hale knew nothing about it. His father didn’t want to concern him. He believed I was working for him. Now
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