I decided that it was time to finish this story, but as usual I couldn’t resist the urge to change the storyline, just a little!
I glanced at the man as he dropped into the seat beside me and addressed Jodie. It was a struggle to hold back the tears when he murmured, his tone disbelieving, “This is your little sister.”
“We are cousins, not sisters. Take your hands off me,” I snapped when he grasped my chin forcing eye contact.
Jodie was aware of my quick temper, the impatience when men touched me and the reasons behind my fears. The dislike was mutual. His sarcastic response would have been heart-breaking once, but frankly I no longer give a damn.
“Jodie, it is difficult to believe that this young woman is a close relative.”
Jodie is tiny with a slender curvaceous frame whereas I’m 175 centimetres tall ― in my heels ― which are barely 4cm. I loathe parties. This always happens and Jodie wallows in the admiration of men when they mention my height.
“Dance with me,” Braedon murmured, moving closer. He sighed, dramatically, his manner amused, “You cannot refuse, I am, after all, your host.”
“No,” I snapped, pulling away. Glancing around the room revealed numerous hostesses, obviously hired to provide companionship for his male guests. “Why don’t you invite one of your hostesses to dance with you. Surely, they are your type.”
“Please explain what you believe my type to be?”
“This party resembles a cattle market. Men standing around the dance floor deciding which woman they will choose to spend the night with. How about a woman who will pander to your every whim?”
His expression assessing, he waited for me to continue. When I failed to do so, he smiled and quietly said, “And that isn’t me.”
None too gently, I pushed his hand away and grabbed my bag. “Jodie, why the hell did you bring me to this awful party. We were supposed to be spending a quiet evening in the pub to celebrate my birthday. You can do what the hell you want, but I’m going home.”
Tears cascaded down my cheeks as I struggled to open the car door.
Jodie raced across the car park, stopping beside my Jimny. “I’m sorry, Angie. Jim was cruel, but you can’t let it put you off men. The majority are kind and generous.”
Grizelda’s engine purred as the window opened. I watched the familiar scene playing out before me; Jodie’s lips trembled, and a lonely tear made its way down her cheek.
“It was touch and go. I died but they managed to bring me back. Physical scars heal, but mental ones take time. Those obnoxious men remind me of my husband and his friends.”
The engine of my Jimny purred as I raced down the long winding driveway, barely making it through the gates as they closed. The journey home seemed to take forever. I paused before unlocking the door.
“Paranoid,” I murmured when the door opened. “How,” I whispered, as I glanced at the key clutched tightly in my hand, “did he open the door?” Finally, I recalled Jodie’s claim that her employer was a powerful warlock. The feeling of dread overwhelmed me as I was drawn, unwillingly, into my tiny cottage.
Braedon, seated in a large leather chair beside a blazing fire, silently watched me before quietly saying, “You left before we became acquainted.”
I gasped when he appeared beside me. One minute he was seated, the next I was cradled in his arms. I felt the gentle probe as he entered my mind, forcing the mental barriers aside. Seconds only passed, but it felt like hours.
“You have a choice. Describe your husband and the men who abused you or I will force my way into your mind to take the images of what happened that night.”
“Why would anyone ask me to recall the cruelty faced throughout my marriage. Empathy really is not one of your virtues, is it?”
I froze when his eyes darkened to an inky black and the room chilled. The pain as he forced the mental barriers aside rendered me helpless. “Please,” I sobbed. “Don’t…”
The hiss of fury silenced me. “In future, when I ask you to explain, you will do so. Mrs Grainger, your husband and his friends will ― in time ― pay with their misdeeds.”
Somehow, although I have no idea how, two days have passed since Braedon Delaney visited my home, yet the memories are vague. A fire burned in the grate and the aroma of bacon awakened my taste buds.
Groggily, I ventured into the kitchen.
“Thank God,” Jodie sobbed. “Angie, we thought you’d never wake up. What the hell happened?”
“Absolutely no idea. All I remember is a strange man asking me to dance with him.”
Her voice tremulous, she whispered, “I’m sorry, Angie, this is my fault. I thought Braedon would help you cope with the dreadful memories. Please forgive me,” she sobbed.
“Jodie,” I whispered. “Did you lock the door?”
“Oh goodness, Angie, I’m sorry…”
“Forgive me for intruding, Mrs Grainger, but the door was ajar. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Detective Andrews, my college is DCI Price. Your husband escaped from an open prison early this morning.”
“Who decided that it was safe to transfer him to an open prison?”
“Jim’s new legal team appealed the conviction. Sir Braedon Delaney insisted that his client was innocent on all charges.”
“I don’t understand. How can he possibly claim that Jim was innocent. Mr James provided proof of the abuse I suffered. For goodness sake, I died.”
“Yet Sir Braedon Delaney provided irrefutable proof of his client’s innocence.”
As Angie locked the door and drew the curtains, she glanced at Jodie. “Thankfully, I can vanish without trace.”
“You are leaving.”
“I have to leave, Josie, I can’t risk losing my precious child.”
For the first time in months, Angie made plans for the future; a future without fear. Packing her meagre belongings and her mother’s precious possessions into the red chest took little time. As dawn approached, she glanced around the avenue, raced through the snicket to a lockup and carefully loaded the chest and cases into the Jimny.
Tears trickled down her cheeks as her long hair fell to the floor. She smiled, quickly running her fingers through the short spiky locks. Angie smiled, admiring her reflection: coloured contact lenses, a fair complexion, nose pin and dangly earrings changed her appearance beyond recognition.
“It’s time to leave, Sam.”
Barely ten minutes later, a dark grey Jimny raced down the narrow winding street towards the M1. Six hours later, she left the channel tunnel and headed south.
Angie watched her tiny Podenco as she raced around the field in pursuit of a rabbit. “Sam,” she screamed when the rabbit disappeared into its burrow. Angie sobbed when the pup responded to her call.
“Mom insisted that a Spanish passport and driving licence would be useful,” she muttered. “She was right.”
Angie ventured onto the balcony of her penthouse apartment overlooking the town of Nerja. Views of the ocean were magnificent. Sam’s low growl alerted her to a visitor.
“Angelina, why are you in disguise?”
“I’m intrigued. Why do you believe I would interfere? Mom warned you about Jim’s penchant for violence, but as usual, you ignored her so why would you listen to me. Angie, you were foolish. Jim is twice your age, and an ex con.”
“How are you aware?”
“Mom hired a private detective. He mentioned your injuries, and numerous visits to A&E. Thankfully, you returned have to us.”
“Alex, what have you done?”
“Three old friends are heading north through France. I asked them to pay your soon to be late husband a visit.”