I wanted to cry for him, but I didn’t dare. “God, Valentine. That’s so…awful.”
“I couldn’t prove anything to anyone. No one had seen her taken—no one would even say a word about her. And Gina played innocent. But later that night, she made a point of telling me that I was hers. She had this little smile on her face the whole time we were—” He cut off, waving a hand.
“Valentine, it’s okay. We’re together now. I love you. That’s all that matters.”
He nodded. “Yeah.” A long pause. “Anyway. The point is, I tried to leave. And she sent a guy after me. Not just to kill me, though, but to make me suffer first. If he’d just shot me from behind, I would never have had a chance. But he tried to cripple me first. Stabbed me in the back. We fought, and I won. I made him tell me who’d sent him, and why. He told me. And I put a bullet in his skull. That’s something I’ll never forget, either. I got away, and thought that was it.
“I ended up in New York, used the money I’d saved to buy a house on Long Island. Flipped it. Did all the work myself. Sold it for a profit, did it again. Bought an apartment complex building in the Bronx, fixed the units up, rented them out. Had a business going within a few years, making serious money. Legitimate money. Diversified. Hired someone to keep the real estate business going, started buying companies out, improving them, and selling them off. Then I met your father…and by that time, I hadn’t heard a peep from Gina or her father. I thought they were history.
“And then, ten years later, I woke up handcuffed to the bed in Gina’s estate on Oia.”
I slid off the bed, knelt between Valentine’s knees. Took his hands in mine. “Valentine? What did she do to you?”
He squeezed his eyes shut, tried to pull his hands away. Spoke through clenched teeth. “She…you know what she did.”
His chest was heaving, veins standing out purple in his neck, on his forehead. “You really want to hear me say it? Fine. She stripped me naked, handcuffed me to the bed, and groped me. Got me hard. Fucked me. I wouldn’t let her make me come, though, and she got mad. She’d put a cock-ring on me, so my erection wouldn’t go away. Couldn’t. I did everything I could. I tried to stop it. Jerked on the cuffs so hard my wrists started bleeding. I was so hard it hurt. So hard for so long. I wouldn’t let her make me come. So she…forced that pill into me. Two of her goons pried my mouth open and put the pill onto my tongue. Forced my jaw closed and pinched my nose closed so I had to swallow to breathe. I damn near choked. But she got the pill into me. A few hours later, she came back. And this time…well, you saw how I was. It turned me into a monster. I still fought it. I fought it for—for you. I knew it was wrong. The need, it was wrong. It wasn’t me. But I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop my body from reacting to the chemicals. I tried, Kyrie. I tried. Fuck, I tried.”
His voice broke. His shoulders shook. He tucked his chin against his breastbone and shuddered, and his hands clenched around mine, turning to fists around my fingers, crushing me. I let him, swallowed the cry of pain. A groan left him, scraping out between grinding teeth. “She took what she wanted. She got on top of me, and she raped me. Made herself come on me again and again, and I tried to hold back even though it hurt.”
“She took what she wanted from me for herself, but it wasn’t enough,” he continued. “She wanted to break me. But I held out. Refused to come. I don’t know how. Then the pill wore off. You saw what happened, the side effects of the drug leaving my system. I went through that. She came back, found me covered in vomit. Couldn’t have that, of course. She couldn’t fuck a puke-covered man, so she had her goons uncuff me. I tried to escape. I puked all over one of them, and managed to get his gun in the process. I shot him. But I couldn’t even stand on my own. They cleaned me off. That hurt rather badly.” He paused again, rubbing at his face, then began again. “I wouldn’t take the pill the second time. I’d killed one of her men, and it had taken two of them to administer the pill the last time. So she decided to…have some fun. She water-boarded me. Poured water into my mouth. Up my nose. It’s like drowning, but worse. Panic. You can’t breathe, and she knew just when to stop so I wouldn’t actually die. And then she’d start all over again. She used a moment when I was gasping for breath to put the pill into my mouth, and then she kept pouring water down my throat and forced me to swallow it. Even after I’d swallowed it, she kept water-boarding me. Over and over and over. Just to hurt me. Because she enjoyed it.” He finally opened his eyes and looked down at me. “And then you and Harris rescued me.”
“Valentine….” I didn’t know what to say.
“I never gave her the satisfaction she wanted. If you hadn’t rescued me, I would have succumbed. She would have broken me.” He ducked his head, closed his eyes. “She did break me. I didn’t give her what she wanted from me. I didn’t let her make me come. But she still broke me.”
I withdrew my hands from his, reached up, and took his face in my palms. “No. She didn’t. You’re not broken, Valentine.”
“Yes. I am. I am.” He jerked his face from my hands. “Look what I did to you. I had you pinned to the bed. I nearly—I nearly did to you what she did to me. I did do that to you. Just because you didn’t fight doesn’t mean—” He choked, gasped, started again. “I forced you. I brutalized you.”
I couldn’t stop the tears. “No. Valentine, no.” I shook my head, gripped his face. “Look at me, Valentine. Please.”
He twisted his face out of my grip, closed his eyes, and refused to meet my gaze. “It won’t happen again, I promise.” He murmured the words, syllables dropping from his lips like cold, hard pebbles.
“Valentine, no. Look at me. That’s not how it was.”
I was lying a little, though. That hadn’t been my Valentine making love to me, hadn’t been my Roth fucking me. That had been someone else, something else. He hadn’t forced himself on me. He’d stopped. But what we’d done when he was in the throes of the drug, that hadn’t been us, either. I couldn’t figure out what it was or how I felt about it, but it wasn’t us.
Roth wouldn’t look at me. Wouldn’t touch me. Wouldn’t let me touch him. I put a palm to his cheek, trying to be gentle and tender. He flinched away.