Michael Zane Sample
Slowly he lifted his hands, meeting his index fingers at his smirking lips, folding the rest of his fingers together. His eyebrows lifted at the ends, the sensual lips under his mustache and beard tilted to one side. His dark eyes pierced through her.
“What am I going to do with you?” He said in a teasing, deceptively soft voice.
Raina started to tremble. She tried to make her mind work, but she felt wrong, off balance. “Please…,” she started, but his enigmatic face changed. His hands dropped. While his eyebrows lifted further into dark upside-down checkmarks, his lips parted slightly and his whole face became hard.
Raina dropped her eyes and nodded timidly. Something was so wrong.
His finger gently lifted her chin. His smile was back. “Yes, what will I do with you?” The tender breathless quality in his voice was more terrifying than the anger. “I understand you must be very uncomfortable sitting in this hard chair, secured so tightly, but some discomforts are necessary. I assure you, that as soon as you tell me what I need to know I’ll let Diana take you to your new room.” His voice had become matter of fact; almost comically so. He turned and picked up a file from the table.
“Your guardian is Red Westridge, correct? Just nod if yes.” He held the file open in his left hand, lifting his finger to his lips. “Hmm, you lost your parents a year ago, just as you finished your first year of college?” He glanced up and met Raina’s eyes as she nodded. “You were already living with Red and his wife because they were in the same city where you were attending college?”
Raina shivered at the seemingly benign questions, knowing it couldn’t all be this simple or she wouldn’t be here. Why was she feeling so vulnerable? She was strong. That she was sure of. She remembered being strong. She nodded again and wished her parents were still alive.
“All right, Diana, take her to her room.” Raina stiffened. Why was she here? Why had he taken her? Is that all he wanted? Her face had given away her incredulous thoughts.
His gaze became hard, his eyebrows lifted again and he leaned in very close to her, his breath brushing her cheek. “Do you want to say something Raina?” She shook her head with small jerks, trying to back away.
Raina had awakened earlier in the dark room. It was taking her time to remember anything. She couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t move. She tried to lift her arms and legs, but nothing happened. Her head seemed all jumbled and confused. She could hear music. Sometimes it seemed far away then it was close. It was unsettling music. She couldn’t describe what made it so, but it caused her skin to crawl.
The door had opened and she observed her captor for the first time. His presence immediately took her breath away. He was so cold. He wore a black turtleneck with a tailored black jacket and slacks. He had his hair cut short, but she could see the curls smoothed into control. Raina noticed a cropped beard and a mustache that joined at the sides of his mouth with sideburns cut to just below his ears.
His eyes, his eyes made her shiver, as they were hauntingly familiar. She listened to his shoes clip to the beat of the music, that unsettling music, as he approached her from across the room.
He leaned over her and unbuckled the straps holding her down. It had never occurred to her that she was restrained. She just lay there gazing at him. He didn’t speak; he just smiled to himself, a very pleased expression on his face. He met her eyes once but didn’t acknowledge her presence except to finish freeing her. She could see his eyes were a deep green. He stood and left the room, closing leaving her in complete darkness. Why hadn’t she spoken? Raina realized he was the person her nightmares were made of; they all encompassed him. It was him.
Raina tried to sit up, but nothing happened. She concentrated on moving just her fingers. She might as well have been still strapped to the bed. She struggled inside, pushing away a terror that was creeping up from the foot of the bed. She knew in her mind that it was unreasonable fear, the kind she’d never before had to fight with personally. Her uncle had taken her to horror movies since before she could walk, so nothing scared Raina Devear. She knew that, but she was trembling from fear. Something was coming for her. Something had her.
“Raina,” a voice spoke. It had to be him. He hadn’t spoken earlier but the voice had to be his. It was a calm hypnotic sound, but the story he conveyed wasn’t calm at all. She willed herself to move, trying to cover her ears, but nothing would respond. She just lay in the dark. Her mind was clouded with the voice that slowly, methodically, whispered to her the terrifying tale of a child. What made it worse was that she seemed to know what he was going to say before a word. She felt drenched in sweat, but a cool breeze chilled her. This narrative had to stop sometime. He couldn’t speak forever.
Raina started. She had dozed, but some of the cloudy dreams lingered. That same face was there; his voice had continued speaking, the terrifying pictures he’d painted with his hypnotic rhythm haunting her sleep. She threw her hands to her ears as a scream pierced the unsettling music. After a moment she recognized the sounds to be Halloween sound effects, but still, she shuddered.
At that moment she realized she’d moved! She sat, in the deep darkness, with the room spinning. Raina reached out, found a wall behind the head of the bed, and pulled herself up. Standing still for a long time, she regained some semblance of balance. “I will not fall,” she heard herself say in a rough hoarse, dry voice.
She felt a door not far away that opened into another room. The light switch didn’t work but she groped around and discovered that it was a bathroom. Raina drank greedily from the sink faucet and then relieved herself. She continued her examination of the room in the dark but found nothing else. Just the door he'd entered and left from.
When she made it back to the bathroom, Raina backtracked. The bed was gone. She found the corner where the bed had been, but it was gone. There was nothing in the room now, just her. Raina trembling moved into the corner. She stood until her feet hurt, and then slowly slid down the wall in shock.
She wished the grating music would stop. The sporadic screams and sounds were overwhelming her. What time was it? How long had she been here? She was huddled in a tight ball, her head on her knees. She was crying and she couldn’t believe it. Raina Devear, crying. Raina Devear, afraid. This couldn’t be.
The paralyzing music stopped, and after a moment she realized that the silence was deafeningly worse. The pounding of her heart and the sound of her breathing threatened to overwhelm her.
Raina started speaking. She knew she was babbling but it didn’t matter, she had to hear something. “Who are you?” She waited as if for a response. “Why am I here?” Raina peered around in the dark. “I’m really not very important. I can’t think why you would want me here.”
“You are very important,” came the silky desire filled voice. It was next to her. He was in the room with her. She hadn’t heard him enter. Raina threw out her arms in terror only to come into contact with him. He took her hands in his. Raina couldn’t breathe. She gasped, and then breath came again. “You are very important to me. I have always wanted you.” He let go of her hands and abruptly was gone. “Wait! let me out.” She searched the room on her hands and knees; no one was there. Raina waited. She tried to sleep, curled in a tight ball in the corner of the empty room, but she was too afraid. The slightest sound caused her to bolt up, wary. Finally exhausted, she closed her eyes and drifted.
Her awareness returned at being taken to a cold metallic room to be questioned.
Raina shook herself. She watched the man holding a file, his lips moving. Slowly she realized he was speaking.
“Good! I’ll be seeing you at dinner in an hour and a half. We dress for dinner here. Shower and clothe yourself in what is laid out.” He turned and strode from the room, leaving her struggling to catch her breath.
Diana, a hard-faced blond, flipped the catches on the straps that held her. Raina flexed her limbs. “Follow me.” Diana didn’t even give her a second glance, as she strode toward the open door in the bare cold room.
Raina stood and had to wait as the blood came rushing to her arms and legs, but most distressingly, her head. She swayed and held onto the arm of the chair for support. Her vision faded to black, and then slowly started to return.
She felt an arm grab her, “Hurry, I’ve got things I have to get done.” Diana roughly pulled her toward the door and a long hall.
The hall ended with a metal-doored elevator, which opened when Diana’s hand pressed fully against the pad on the wall. They entered, and Raina felt herself ascending. The door opened, The contrast was unbelievable Raina stumbled as she walked out of the elevator and into a hall that seemed to be part of an ancient castle. Everything threw her off balance.
“Come on,” again she was jerked back to the present. A small staircase and another hall led her to a room. Diana gave her a shove, “Don’t leave your suite, someone will come for you. You don’t want to make the master wait, so be ready.” Diana slammed the door behind her.
Raina was amazed as she gazed around the room. It had a rich thick carpet, dark furniture, and a highly sculpted writing desk. She heard a clock ticking and remembered that she had been told to hurry. She stepped right into another room that was filled with the most ornate curtained bed she had ever seen, deep brocades and silks. Lying on the bed was a seductive dress and lacy underwear. On the other side of the bed were large double doors. She glanced to the left and could see a dressing room. She walked into the dressing room and saw the bath to the right. She took a deep breath and went back to retrieve the clothes on the bed.
The lavish bathroom seemed out of place in the old world ambiance. A huge walk-in shower made of glass brick, a large claw-footed tub with jets, and a small toilet room. The towels were rich and thick, each with a Z monogrammed on them; the ones hanging at the shower were on a heating bar, comfortably warm to the touch.
She realized how dirty she felt and that time was rushing by, so she lifted her hands and started stripping off her filthy wrinkled running shorts and shirt. She showered, enjoying the scents of the rich soaps filling her nostrils. The thick soft towels on her flesh as she dried made her want to stop, curl up in the bed and sleep, but instead, she hurried. Dressing, then drying her hair, using the provided toiletries; she arranged her hair to complement her formal formfitting dress. She would have never selected this dress as it was too sensual for her comfort. When Raina stepped out into the sitting room she saw a clock sitting on the writing desk. It was fifteen minutes to the hour.
A knock on the door made her jump. She turned toward it, recovering herself as the door opened. A young man in old-fashioned servant’s garb stood before her looking like someone out of the PBS Upstairs Downstairs series. “If you are ready; this way, Miss. We don’t want to cause the master to wait.”
Raina stepped out and followed the servant. She again walked down the rich hall then turned to the left. The room next to hers had a larger door than the rest in the hall. She thought that this was the door that led to her room. “Whose room is this?” she whispered
“It’s the master’s, Miss. Come, we must hurry.” Raina felt the growing sense of panic once again. Was the man in black the master? This made no sense, why was she here? Who was this man they called the master in awe and reverence? Nobody called anyone master anymore.
Raina gasped as she gazed down the elaborate staircase into the huge hall. This was a castle; the room was immense. Raina shook her head, she fought the confusion and timidness overwhelming her mind. She tried to push it aside but found her lips pressed firmly together keeping her from making a sound. There were at least twenty people milling about and chatting. Everyone was formally dressed, yet something was different. She glanced down at her dress, moving down the stairway as all eyes turned to her. She appeared to be the only one in color, while everyone else wore black, white or gray. The men all wore tuxedos, the women floor-length gowns. The crowd stepped apart as the servant led her forward, toward two huge ornately carved wooden doors. The servant stopped for a moment with his hand on the door and waited. He sighed a breath of relief and let a little tension leave his shoulders. Raina used the time to gaze at the people staring at her, because people were staring, and whispering and waiting.
A bell chimed and the servant opened the door with a flourish, leading her into the next room. Many plush chairs and overstuffed couches in inmate sitting areas graced the room. Light music was playing and two more servants stood behind a bar. Most of the people followed her in, then gathered at the bar to take champagne glasses full of a golden liquid while the others stood just inside the door whispering.
The servant directed her to a comfortable chair close to another set of doors. As she sat, he leaned over and spoke softly into her ear. “You do not stand when the master enters. Wait until he comes to you and extends his hand.” He stared into her eyes to see if she understood.
“Yes,” she whispered, nodding.
The hum of the others softly chatting soon overpowered the soft music. No one stepped near her, but she was the center of attention. She heard scattered words, but the atmosphere made it impossible for her to hear anyone in particular. The door at the other end of the room opened. Raina didn’t admire the books lining the wall or the huge desk, all she saw was her captor. He wore a black tuxedo and the superior smirk she had come to expect. He pulled the doors to the library he had exited shut behind him.
Everyone stood. The women curtsied and the men bowed slightly. Raina glanced around wondering at the strange action. The servants and guests all clearly feared her captor.
“Welcome,” he boomed, “on this especially grand occasion.” He then greeted each of the guests by taking their hands and speaking to each one. They seemed nervous but excited by the individual attention. The women flushed as he leaned and kissed their cheeks, telling them how beautiful they were. And they were. There wasn’t an unattractive person in the entire group. Raina was confused and nervous as she watched the faces around her.
Her attention was abruptly pulled away from the handsome group, as he glided toward her. He was a striking man. He carried himself in such an assured manner.
Everyone hushed and stared. His hand extended toward her so she stood, yet hesitating to take the offered hand. She didn’t want to touch this man. She feared him too much, but her fingers automatically reached out as his eyes commanded. Why was she so fearful? she wondered.
He engulfed her hand with both of his as he pulled her to him and held her. Raina felt a flood of weakness engulf her. His arm then moved around her back and he stood a moment gazing down on her before he spoke. He was tall, she knew, because she was tall and she fit snuggly in his arms.
The anticipation was palatable, everyone giving their undivided attention to him. “You all are, I’m sure, consumed with curiosity; whom has Michael included in our most private of dinner parties? Well, I wish to present to you Raina Devear, his fiancée.”
Raina jerked violently in his embrace and turned herself toward him with a shocked expression on her face. She moved her mouth to speak but the man next to her turned back into the fierce man she’d seen earlier. She felt her heart had stopped at the overwhelming fear he caused. She gazed down in confused surrender.
“You may congratulate us with a toast, friends.” Each glass was raised. Michael took a glass from a servant and handed it to Raina, making sure she was holding it before he let go. He lifted his glass toward the crowd, “Drink to our health.” He turned toward her and lifted her chin with an extended finger. “Don’t resist,” he whispered in the silky voice he’d used earlier to tell the story in the dark room. He then leaned forward and lightly touched her lips with his.
Raina felt like a fool as a cloud engulfed her. All she could think as she fainted, was, “A fit of vapors.”
Michael was the first face she saw as she resurfaced from the cloud. “You mustn’t forget to eat again, darling. You’ve fainted from hunger.” He held a glass to her lips, “Drink.” She tried to push it away as he lifted her with one arm and placed the drink to her lips, but again when her eyes met his firm gaze she succumbed. “All of it.” Raina sputtered as the brown liquid exploded inside her throat. At Michael’s insistence, she finished the last drop. He helped her to her feet, again leaning forward to kiss her gently. She felt his lips warm and firm as his mustache grazed her face. “Now friends, let us eat.”
Michael sat at the head of the table after seating Raina to his right. Being seated first left her feeling awkward and on display. The guest to her right was older and seemed very enamored by the young lady on his right. It seemed he feared talking to Raina, or even being too close. Michael was busy leading the conversation at the table so she sat in silence watching him. His face was strong and so expressive. Even though one couldn’t hear his words they could still know what he was saying or at least how he felt about the issue in discussion.
The first course was soup, which Raina found offensive. She didn’t even care for the bread served with it. Michael forced her to eat with a small gesture. She dared not criticize his menu. She was famished, but by the third course, she knew this farce of a meal had to be planned. Everything served was something she completely disliked and would refuse to eat normally. She forced herself to take small bites and shifted the food on the plate to simulate eating. She drank as much water as the servants could keep in her glass to clean the disgusting tastes out of her mouth and fill her stomach. At one particularly offensive dish, Michael kept motioning for her to eat. Raina ended up with half of the food in her napkin.
Even the dessert was covered with dried coconut inside and out. Raina shook her head and let out a quiet sigh of exasperation. What was this man up to? She realized she was going to have to eat soon, but for now, the adrenaline that was flowing would keep her going.
Michael stood suddenly, causing everyone but her to jump quickly to their feet. “A toast to my beautiful fiancée.” Everyone stared at her again as they lifted their glasses and drank. “Let us move to the gaming tables in the arboretum.” Michael reached out to her and she slowly placed her hand in his. She stood and allowed him to lead her out of the room, and into another. Everyone followed them, again whispering. Michael leaned toward her, speaking in the devilishly silky voice, “Everyone is fascinated by you. I’m sure everyone finds you as irresistible as I do. I want you by my side all night, I’m sure you’ll bring me luck.”
The arboretum was as impressive as the rest of the house. Tables were scattered in and out of the trees and plants. Michael led her to a table. “You sit here.” A comfortable wingback chair was slightly removed from the gaming table but within easy reach. The table was in a corner of the room with palm trees reaching out over it.
Between hands of cards, he would reach out for her hand and hold it. She couldn’t resist him: she didn’t have the strength.
She stared again at the beautiful people. They were all very familiar with each other. They were enjoying the many games of chance around the room; it had the appearance of a casino. They seemed to be playing for real money from the conversation she overheard at the table. She tried to focus her mind but it still resisted her.
“Raina,” Michael’s hand was caressing her leg, “You’ve fallen asleep, mustn’t do that.” She lifted her head and forced her eyes open while straightening herself in the comfortable chair. She’d slipped her shoes off and tucked her legs under her at some point. Michael’s eyes were still on her as she nodded.
As soon as Michael’s attention was back on the card game, she peeked around the room and tried to find a clock. The man to her left had a watch on and, as he lifted his arm she concentrated on it. It was 3 a.m., no wonder she’d fallen asleep.
Raina wondered how many days it had been since she had woken at six o’clock to go for her morning walk. Red always insisted she stay in a well-populated area, so she did. The local walking path was almost too crowded to be effective. Even so, it kept Red happy. She’d pulled into the parking lot as a dark van pulled up on the driver’s side of her car. She’d opened her door to get out. When she had come even with the sliding door, it had popped open. She was jerked in and a cloth was placed over her face. She didn’t remember anything else, till she’d woken in the dark room. Maybe the drug had something to do with the way she was feeling. Raina felt so unsure, so afraid, so intimidated by this man.
Raina fidgeted to stay awake, but with each moment the yawns became harder to stifle. Finally, Michael stood. “It’s been a profitable evening everyone, but I believe my fiancée is in need of her bed.” Everyone stood as Michael strode toward the door. She watched as the people expressed their gratitude bowing and curtsying out the arboretum.
Raina thought she would finally get some sleep, but instead, Michael walked her out of the room and to a door that opened into the elevator. They rode it down to the sterile cold hall she had first seen. “Come, we have unfinished business.” She tried to walk normally but Michael had to support her as she started to tremble violently. She was led back into the cold sterile room and placed in the same hard chair. The lights came up, she was blinded while the rest of the room was in darkness.
“Raina, tell me about your parents.”
“I don’t understand?” she whispered.
“What’s the first memory you have of your parents?” His voice was smooth, silky inviting her to confide.
“I remember a trip overseas when I was very small, a beautiful room with red curtains and bead doors.”
“Do you remember anything else about the room?”
“I remember we had to leave quickly, and that the only thing we took was Father’s briefcase. It was so long ago, and I’m so tired.”
“Did you ever go overseas with your parents again?”
“No, they said they didn’t want to interrupt school. I stayed with Mrs. Peterson, my nanny, and my Uncle Billy.”
She had known from her youngest years that her family was different. No one else’s parents traveled as much as her parents did or left them with nannies as often. No one else had an uncle who took them every other weekend and vacations often. No one else’s parents carried themselves the way hers did, and it had made her feel special.
“Raina, how did your parents die?”
Raina started to cry, the exhaustion of the day overwhelming her. “They were in a car crash in India.”
“Where are they buried?”
“My parents were cremated in the car wreck. There wasn’t enough left of them to send home, so the authorities in India took care of it. I don’t remember being told where they were buried.
“Please take me home. I’m so tired.”
“Raina, where are your parents’ belongings being stored?”
“Red took care of all that. I’m not sure what he did with all of it. I have a few things in my room. Things that were important to Mom and Dad.”
“Tell me what was important to your parents, Raina.”
“My mother had a crystal vase she always wanted on the dining room table when they were home. She kept it full of roses. Dad had a pipe, and pipe stand that was always on his desk.”
“Anything else, Raina.”
Raina was quiet for a moment. “ A strange knick knack that sat on top of the hall table. I don’t know where it is, though.”
“Tell me about it,” he encouraged, his voice invited confidences.
“It was a cobra and a mongoose. Mom always touched it before we walked out the door and chuckle. She never would say why neither would Dad.”
The lights in the room returned to normal and Michael reached out and helped Raina to her feet. “It’s time you were in bed, young lady.” Michael led her to her door where he turned her toward himself. “I’d love to join you, but we’re both tired plus we’re not yet married, so I’ll just wait and see you tomorrow morning. Sleep well.” With that, he pulled her to him and kissed her hungrily, holding her close. His hands stroked her, controlling her, making her senses reel with the sensations.
Michael opened the door a maid waited patiently. “Put her to bed quickly, I’ll be coming for her early in the morning.” Michael turned and strode away leaving them to make their way to Raina’s bedroom. The maid helped support the exhausted woman as she undressed, then dressed Raina quickly, slipped her into the bed, covered her, then turning off the lights, left without saying a word.
“Thank you,” Raina whispered as the maid slipped away.