And that scared me.
“Valentine, please…don’t pull away from me now. Please don’t.”
He didn’t answer. Didn’t even acknowledge my words.
“Look at me, Valentine. Please!” He shook his head. Panic ran hot in my blood. “LOOK AT ME!” I screamed.
He flinched, and his eyes went dull. He went slack. Unresisting. “Okay, Kyrie. I’m looking at you.”
I sobbed. “I’m sorry, Valentine. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have—” I fell to the floor, weeping. He didn’t touch me. Didn’t comfort me. Didn’t say a word. I forced myself to stop and sat up. I looked at him. “You didn’t brutalize me, Valentine. You didn’t force me. You didn’t take anything I didn’t give.”
“Okay.” His voice was flat.
“Roth?” I stood up, stumbled back, spine to the wall. “Valentine?”
He blinked, glanced at me. “Yes?”
“What would you like me to say, Kyrie?” No intonation, no inflection, no Roth.
I’d lost him. He was gone. I shook my head, knelt down, and crawled toward him. Put my hands on his knees. He looked down at me indifferently. “Roth? Please. Don’t do this. Don’t pull away from me. This is me, okay? I’m sorry I yelled at you. I’m just…I’m scared. I’m confused. I’m angry. Not at you, at her.”
“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter, Valentine. It’s not fine.”
I wanted to scream at him again, tell him to wake up, to come back to me, but I couldn’t. I fell backward onto my butt, fighting tears, sobbing, chest heaving. I sat for a long time, just watching Roth. He in turn sat staring into space, motionless, blank. Eventually, I stood up, wiped at my face, and moved to the door.
I twisted to glance back at Roth. “You’re letting her win. You’re letting her break you. I love you, Valentine. I’m here. I’ll fight for you. I’ll fight for us. But if you give up, what is there to fight for?”
I moved topside, found Harris behind the wheel, feet propped up, a cigarette smoldering between two fingers, a paperback in the other hand.
When he saw me, he set the book face down. “How is he?”
I could only shake my head. “Not—not good.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell Harris what had happened. I assumed he would guess pretty close to the truth.
“Give him time.”
I shrugged. “I guess.”
“I’ve been waiting to decide what we should do, where we should go next. We should be safe here for a while, but they’ve got contacts all over the world. They’ll get wind of us here soon enough. We need a plan.”
I felt cold and empty. “Just…just take us back to New York. If the bitch wants us, she can come get us.”
“Kyrie, I don’t think that’s—” I leveled a look at him, and the expression on my face was all he needed. He held up his hands in surrender. “Okay. Okay. New York it is.”
THE MANHATTAN PROJECT
The relief I felt as I set my backpack down in the master bedroom of Roth’s Manhattan tower home came in a thick, hot, choking wave of tears. I dropped the bag to the floor, staring around at the familiar room. Wide bed, white duvet tucked in neatly at the edges. The wall opposite the bed slid open to reveal a floor-to-ceiling television that could double as a computer display. A set of double doors leading to a walk-in closet larger than most middle-class single-family homes. The door beside that leading to the bathroom, another expansive universe of dark marble and spotless glass and polished metal, modern lines and sleek curves and soft lighting. The wall facing outside was entirely glass, the whole wall designed to slide open to make the huge corner balcony and bedroom into one mammoth indoor-outdoor space. The balcony where Roth had told me the truth regarding my father’s murder. The balcony where everything I’d ever known had changed.
I turned away from the balcony. Roth stood in the doorway, unmoving, staring blankly over my shoulder at the skyline. “We’re home, Valentine.”
He nodded. “Indeed we are.”
He’d been nearly catatonic the entire way here. Countless hours on the boat, from Alexandria to Istanbul. A terrifying twin-engine prop-plane ride from Istanbul to Paris. From there a tiny jet, barely bigger than the prop plane, four comfortable seats, no flight attendant. Just Harris, Roth, myself, and the pilot, who spoke no English and was given a fat envelope full of Euros to fly us out of a private airfield in the countryside outside Paris. No names were exchanged, no questions asked, no flight pattern filed. Hours of yet more flying low over the Atlantic. No one spoke. Harris had a laptop on which he typed nonstop the entire ride. Roth stared out the window, blinking slowly every few seconds, taking deep sighing breaths, index finger tapping at his lips. No one slept.
Now I stood in the center of the bedroom, facing Roth, searching for something to say. For something to do. Kiss him? Tell him I love him? Drop to my knees and suck him off? Leave? Go stay with my friend Layla? Find a hotel? Stay in one of the guest rooms?
No. None of that would work. I’d told him I loved him. I’d tried to kiss him. Somewhere in the Mediterranean, partway to Istanbul. Middle of the night, moonshine gleaming through the porthole, bathing us both in silver light. Both of us were awake, unable to sleep. I rolled over, tucked my head against Roth’s chest. He hadn’t wrapped his arm around me. Hadn’t even responded or registered that he knew I was there. I leaned up, kissed his jaw. Nothing. Kissed his cheek. Nothing. Kissed his lips. They were dry, cracked, chapped. No response, just a blank stare at the ceiling. I was worried and afraid. Was this the drugs still? Or was it psychological trauma? I didn’t know, and didn’t know what to do about it.
Now, standing in the center of the room, I felt everything well up inside me. All the emotions I’d buried deep, over and over, began to boil over. The fear I’d denied myself. The panic I’d not allowed myself to feel. The pain at what Roth had endured. The sick-to-my-stomach unease at the way Roth had fucked me on that boat. The look in his eyes. The feral hunger, the brutal power. The way he’d taken me, nearly forced me. And then the way I’d stuffed down my own deep fear of him, my rage at Gina. The way I’d pretended as if him fucking me was okay. Even though I knew—knew—it wasn’t Roth. It wasn’t the man I loved taking me, giving me pleasure. That was a drug, raping me despite my consent. That was some chemical-addled monster riding me, using me. But I’d done it for Valentine. He had been in agony. Crazed. And I’d missed him. Needed him. I’d hoped, naïvely, that my love would be enough. That my feelings for him would bring him back to himself somehow.