Home > Hold Me (Twist Me #3)(11)

Hold Me (Twist Me #3)(11)
Anna Zaires

“Yes, Dad,” I say patiently. “Don’t worry—I’m still focusing on school. I told you, I’m just taking a lighter load this quarter. I’ll make up for it by taking a couple of classes in the summer.”

The lighter load is something Julian insisted on when we returned, and despite my initial objections, I’m glad he did. For some reason, everything feels harder this quarter. My papers take me forever to write, and studying for exams is exhausting. Even with the lighter load, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, but that’s not something I want to tell my parents. It’s bad enough that Julian is worried.

So worried, in fact, that he brought a shrink to the estate for me.

“Are you sure, honey?” my mom asks, peering at me with concern. “Maybe you should take the summer off, relax for a couple of months. You look really tired.”

Shit. I was hoping the dark circles under my eyes wouldn’t be as noticeable on video.

“I’m fine, Mom,” I say. “I just stayed up late studying and painting, that’s all.”

I also woke up in the middle of the night screaming and couldn’t fall back asleep until Julian whipped and fucked me, but my parents don’t need to know that. They wouldn’t understand that pain is therapeutic for me now, that I’ve grown to need something I once dreaded.

That the cruel side of Julian is something I’ve wholeheartedly embraced.

As we wrap up the conversation, I remember something Julian promised me once: that he’d take me to visit my family when the danger from Al-Quadar subsided. My heart jumps in excitement at the thought, but I decide to keep quiet until I have a chance to ask Julian about it at dinner. For now, I just tell my parents that we’ll speak again soon, and log off from the secure connection.

There are now two things I need to discuss with Julian tonight . . . and both will be somewhat tricky.

* * *

“A trip to Chicago?” Julian looks vaguely surprised when I bring it up. “But you saw your parents less than two months ago.”

“Right, for all of one evening before Al-Quadar kidnapped me.” I blow on my cream-of-mushroom soup before dipping my spoon into the hot liquid. “I was also worried sick about you, so I’m not sure that evening counts as quality time with my family.”

Julian studies me for a second before murmuring, “All right. You may have a point.” Then he starts eating his own soup while I stare at him, hardly able to believe he would agree so easily.

“So we’ll go?” I want to make sure there’s no misunderstanding.

He shrugs. “If you want. After your exams are over, I’ll take you there. We’ll have to beef up the security around your parents, of course, and take a few extra precautions, but it should be possible.”

I begin to smile, but then I remember something he told me once. “Do you think our going there would put my parents in danger?” I ask, my stomach twisting with sudden nausea. “Could they become a target if you’re seen as being in close contact with them?”

Julian gives me an even look. “It’s a possibility. A remote possibility, but it’s not completely out of the question. There was obviously much greater danger when the terrorists were out for blood, but I do have other enemies. None so determined—at least as far as I know—but there are plenty of individuals and organizations who’d love to get their hands on me.”

“Right.” I swallow a spoonful of soup and immediately regret it, as the creamy liquid makes me feel even more nauseated. “And you think they might use my parents as leverage?”

“It’s unlikely, but I can’t completely rule it out. This is why I’ve had the security detail on your family from the start. It’s a precaution, nothing more—but it’s a necessary precaution, in my opinion.”

I take a deep breath, doing my best to ignore the churning in my belly. “So would our going to Chicago increase the danger to them or not?”

“I don’t know, my pet.” Julian looks faintly regretful. “My best guess is no, but there are no guarantees.”

I pick up a glass and take a sip of water, trying to get rid of the sickeningly fatty taste of soup on my tongue. “What if I go by myself?” I suggest without much thought. “Then nobody will think you’re in any way close to your in-laws.”

Julian’s face darkens in an instant. “By yourself?”

I nod, instinctively tensing at the shift in his mood. Even though I know Julian wouldn’t harm me, I can’t help being wary of his temper. I may be with him willingly now, but he still has absolute control over my life—just as he did when I was his captive on the island.

In all the ways that count, he’s still my dangerous, amoral kidnapper.

“You’re not going anywhere by yourself.” Julian’s voice is soft, but the look in his eyes is hard, like steel. “If you want me to take you to Chicago, I’ll do it—but you’re not stepping a foot off this estate without me. Do you understand me, Nora?”

“Yes.” I take a few more sips of water, still feeling the aftertaste of soup in my throat. What the hell did Ana put in it this evening? Even the smell of it is unpleasant. “I understand.” My words come out sounding calm rather than resentful—mostly because I’m feeling too sick to get angry at Julian’s autocratic attitude. Downing the rest of my water, I say, “It was just a suggestion.”

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