“H-he trafficked girls, and when they didn't bring as high a price anymore... h-he... o-or... one of his guys killed them and sold their organs.” It was even worse saying it out loud.
She'd never said any of that out loud to anybody.
“He didn't just threaten to kill you if you left, did he?”
Astrid shook her head. She squeezed her eyes shut trying to somehow block out the memory.
Finally she opened her eyes and immediately wish she'd left them closed. She was afraid of the darkness she saw in Angel's face. Somehow it didn't matter if that darkness had been directed toward killing Joey and not hurting her or innocent girls, it was still the same dark look—the look Joey got. It felt wild and dangerous. Like it could burn her alive.
“So... see? You can let me go. I-I'm not going to say anything. A-and my work will miss me. Isn't it going to look weird with my car and Joey's car at the house, but both of us missing and never returning? And... the scene you left...” She remembered seeing things smashed up in the house before she'd dropped her stuff and ran.
“I'm not letting you go.” There was a long pause, and then he added, “I don't want to.”
Astrid felt everything inside her freeze. It was exactly what she suspected, the reason he hadn't killed her. That look.
“W-what do you mean you don't want to?”
“I just... don't want to,” he said quietly. “I'm not going to hurt you,” he said again.
But every time he said it she became more worried it was a lie. What if he was like Joey? And wasn't holding her hostage hurting her? By definition?
“A-are you going to...” but she couldn't complete the thought.
“Force myself on you like some animal? No, Astrid. I'm not.”
What did that mean then? What did any of this mean? It was wrong that he'd taken her—especially when he knew she wasn't a threat. It could almost be understandable if he was just doing it to protect himself. Almost.
She'd thought she'd never be free of Joey, and just when she'd thought maybe there was a chance for her, here she was in this fucked-up situation with someone people in the real world actually referred to as theAngel of death.
“So what do you do for work?” he asked as if this were some sort of date.
“I manage a restaurant.”
“Do you like it?”
As if it mattered. She clearly wasn't going back.
“It was a front business for Joey. After hours he used the place... for other business.”
“I thought you were going to some kind of convention?”
“I was. And it was a real convention for restaurant managers, but he just wanted to get me out of town for a while. He had another shipment coming in, and as the operation grew he was starting to get antsy I think about me knowing so much. He wanted me to deliver something to a friend of his at the convention, but other than that I think he just wanted me out of town for a few days.”
The oven timer beeped and Angel got up and took the food out. He put a couple of slices on her plate and several on his own and brought them back to the table.
“Why did you come back tonight?”
“I missed my flight. I got the time wrong, and when I arrived they had already boarded and the plane was pulling away from the tarmac. I'm such an idiot. I can't believe I got the time wrong.”
Angel stopped asking questions, and she stopped volunteering information. Instead, Astrid focused on her pizza. It was from one of the best pizza places in the area. Joey had taken her to Naples, once in the early days. The pizza there had been on a whole other level. This pizza was a very close second.
When they were finished, Angel took their plates and put them in the sink.
“You've had a long day. You should try to get some sleep. You can explore the rest of the house if you like tomorrow.”