Oh, friends...are you in for a ride today. It's the second to last installment of Beast + Beauty (!!!) so hopefully this will not disappoint. In case you need to go back and reread, here's part I, II, III, IV + V (I highly recommend rereading the last one before starting this).
PLEASE let me know in the comments what you think! As always, each one means the world to me...and there's quite a few plot twists in this installment. Which means the ending is the only part left..sniff sniff. Also, is anyone wanting a kiss? Or wondering if I've written one in or not? Hmm, pressing issues...
Alina blinked hazily, staring at grimy concrete. Cold warehouse air pressed against her skin, wet from the rain. A dizzying sense of déjà vu swept through her...was it really only ten days ago that she’d lay here after the subway incident? But there was no loud-mouthed teenager or gentle, dark-eyed man to help her…Adam.
“…let me know. I don’t want them sneaking up on us,” Iain finished, turning away from a man by the door.
Alina lifted her head, every nerve in her body tensing. Now his attention was on her. She pressed herself into the wall, wrapping her arms around her knees protectively.
He stopped by her feet, staring down at her. “Get up.”
She didn’t move.
Iain clutched a handful of her damp hair tightly and yanked her up. Despite her best efforts, a whimper came through the duct tape at the sharp wave of pain.
He ripped it off. Her mouth stung, as if he’d slapped her.
“I want you to cry,” he breathed in her ear, holding up a phone in front of her face tauntingly. His ice-blue eyes narrowed. “Because if you cry, he will come. To rescue his little beauty.”
Alina glared at him with burning hatred, desperately trying to blink back the treacherous tears pooling in her eyes. “No,” she ground out between her teeth.
His hand twisted against her hair again, this time almost yanking her backwards.
A horrible rip met her ears and she nearly screamed as he jerked again. Black streaks swam before her eyes; dizziness roared in her ears, threatening to engulf her.
“I can keep going,” he said pleasantly. “And rip it out strand by bloody strand.”
“I - hate - you,” she sobbed, using every ounce of her strength to remain upright.
“Not as much as you will if you don’t obey.” He jerked his chin to the barrel-chested, tattooed man standing guard by the door. The man nodded and exited.
Alina’s eyes fixed on the door, cold fear running through her. They were alone. Oh, God.
Iain seemed to read her thoughts. He released his fistful of hair, sliding his fingers through it instead.
“See, if you don’t do what I want and call him...” His finger slipped past the ends of her hair and down her neck, grazing her collarbone.
She stared at him, hypnotized with horror.
“...I’ll put a bullet where you don’t want it.”
The door banged open: a dirty, bruised man tumbled in, falling to his knees. The tattooed gang member stepped in, standing just above him with a pointed gun. Mr. Barra looked up, blue eyes widening in shock above his duct-taped mouth.
“NO!” Alina screamed, lunging towards her father.
Iain slammed her back into the wall and stepped back into her line of sight.
“Please, don’t – don’t hurt him!” she moaned, sagging against the biting concrete.
He leaned in, his breath hot and jutting on her wet cheeks. He shoved the phone into her hands.
“Then call him. And beg.”
She surrendered, sliding down to the floor numbly. A string of numbers, already typed, stared back at her from the screen. Forcing her shaking fingers to move, she pressed the “Call” button.
Don’t pick up, for the love of God, don’t pick -
“Who is this?” Adam’s voice came on, harsh and demanding.
Alina bit back a sob – no…I can’t...no, please...
“How did you get this number? Who is this?”
Her breathed hitched; she couldn’t hold back a whimper. “Adam...”
“Alina,” he inhaled sharply on the other end of the line. “What’s wrong, are you okay?”
Tears blurred her eyes. Her world was water and screaming pain - beneath it all, his voice in her ear, rough and urgent and yet so gentle. The gentleness undid her.
“Adam – I’m...I’m so sorry,” she sobbed harder. “It’s Iain, he has my dad and me at the warehouse – Adam, he’s going to shoot him...”
“Unless I come first.” Flat, horrified acceptance.
She closed her eyes. “Yes. But Adam, don’t...don’t come, he’s going to kill you -”
The dial tone shrilled as Iain kicked her, knocking the phone to the concrete.
“Don’t worry, little beauty,” he spat. “He knows.”
His fingers closed around the phone and he left, leaving those damming words hanging on the air followed by the door’s grating screech.
Her father shifted next to her, his blue eyes even larger with horror and slight accusation. Alina raised a shaky hand and grabbed the edge of duct tape on his mouth. She winced at his muffled yell and tried to force breath into her lungs.
Now she had to explain.
These two have striven half the day,
And each prefers his separate claim,
Poor rivals in a losing game,
That will not yield each other way.
Alina rested her forehead against her knees, trying desperately to withdraw within herself. Trying to will away the musty air of the concrete room that crawled into her throat - gagging, filling her mouth with the taste of dirt and old hatred. She was still nearly deaf from her father’s shouting – he had not taken the story well, vacillating between fury and terror at the number of times she’d stupidly endangered herself.
A frozen silence stretched out, taunt with bitter disappointment.
That’s all I do, she thought numbly. Disappoint. Alina blinked, horribly aware that she was the reason both of the two men she cared about were in this twisted situation.
After an unbearably long time, the heavy tattooed man appeared in the doorway again. He flung the door open.
Iain stepped in, his mouth curving with satisfaction at the tear trails still wet on her face. “Ready for the show, little Beauty?” He crossed over to her, light gleaming off of the gun barrel in his hand.
She glared at him with defiance and then tensed, seeing a familiar shadow move forward in the door. Dark eyes and twisting scars.
“Adam!” she gasped, rising up on her knees. “I’m so sorry, please forgive me -”
He ignored her, staring at Iain. “You win,” he said calmly. “I’m here...now let them go.”
Iain’s mouth twisted. “Getting soft, are we?” Something flashed in his eyes. “Funny how you come when she cries,” he hissed, pointing the gun at Alina’s head.
A muscle clenched in Adam’s cheek. “Iain...”
The latter stepped closer to Alina, jabbing the barrel into the side of her head. Adam’s hand twitched, but his face remained blank.
“No – we’re gonna fucking do this,” Iain snarled and Alina started at the raw fury bleeding through his mocking tone.The gun shook against her head - his hand was...trembling? Why?
“You’re gonna give me a reason why her life is worth saving when Kristin’s wasn’t.”
Adam put up his hands slowly. “I know you’re angry at me -”
“Angry?” Incredulous laughter burst from Iain's mouth. His voice rose a pitch higher. “You don’t know the first fucking thing about anger,” he spat, pressing the gun against her temple even harder. “You don’t have watch the man that your sister trusted - the one she thought she loved - get to live while she rots in a grave!”
Alina gasped and the room tilted. No…
Adam’s face tightened, pain darkening his eyes.
“I trusted you!” Iain shrieked. “I followed you, joined this gang...let you be with her. And you watched her die!”
Alina stared at him, shock numbing her. Adam’s gaze flickered down to hers sadly.
‘I’m not a hero – there’s nothing and no one that I care about.’
“Kristin...made her own choices. She chose to follow us that night, and she wouldn’t go back home, even when I begged her. You want to blame me for her getting caught in the cross-fire, so be it.”
He lifted his chin, his large frame suddenly more imposing. “But I’ll be dammed if anyone else pays for it but me,” he growled. “You don’t want a girl’s blood on your hands...trust me. Let them go.”
Iain’s face hardened, the fury giving way to cold hatred. “Fine. But this...” he gestured with between him and Adam with the gun. “This ends tonight.”
He jerked his head to the man by the door who stepped forward and yanked both Barras to their feet, shoving them to the door. The man threw Mr. Barra out and grabbed Alina’s wrist just as she broke free.
“Adam!” Alina half-sobbed, half-screamed and fought against the heavy arm. “No - Adam – please, I’m so sorry!”
Turn around, look at me...please look at me.
He didn’t move. And so her last view of him was the dimly lit room of cracked concrete walls, the two figures silhouetted against the doorframe as Iain’s fist landing in his face.
Adam crumpled to the ground.
Adam crumpled to the ground.
The door slammed shut, swallowing her and her screams in darkness.
To-night the winds begin to rise
And roar from yonder dropping day;
The last red leaf is whirl’d away
The rooks are blown about the skies
“Absolutely not!” Mr. Barra roared, turning on her. His eyes were livid with panic, his mouth still red from the duct tape. Somehow her bookish, elderly father was gone; the frantic man standing before her had summoned an inhuman strength to pull her away from the warehouse and back to the shop.
He had trembled almost as badly as her the entire way home.
“Dad, please -”
“Like...hell...are...you going back there,” he ground through his teeth. He crossed to the door, turning the bolt loudly for good measure. His hand shook; he clenched it tightly. “You’re going to stay here and I’m going to call 911.”
Alina stared at her father in horror. “You can’t tell the police – they’ll shoot him if Iain hasn't already! At best, they'll arrest both of them!”
“He’s a criminal, he deserves it. And what you’re wanting to do, it’s aiding and abetting!”
“Dad, he saved our lives,” she whispered. “Doesn’t that count for something?”
Mr. Barra shook his grey head determinedly. “One act of kindness don’t make a hero. And don’t think I can’t see that look in your eyes – it’s the same one your mother gave me when we dated.” He stepped forward and grasped her shoulders firmly; his voice softened. “You’re so much better than this – than him. I worked hard to give you a good life. Not so you could throw away your chances on some maniac...flinthead. You heard them, that other girl ended up dead!”
Alina laughed bitterly, blinking back tears. “What chances, Dad? I work in a bookstore.”
He flinched, confusion and the smallest amount of hurt staining his tight blue eyes.
She stepped back out of his grasp and glanced around at the small shop that had been her world for so long - despite the jab, she’d been happy here. As happy as one could be. She turned to the door.
The hoarse rasp of his voice stopped her. For the first time in her life, there was fear in it. The fear that had always been absent, even after the car accident. He’d always been so calm, so sure against everything that life threw at him. Except for her walking out the door, out of his life.
“Please…you’re breaking the law. I’m begging you, don’t make me see you in jail or have to identify your body. Your mother...”
There it was; she’d been waiting for him to play that card –
“She wouldn’t want this...we raised you to do the right thing.”
Alina closed her eyes, drawing strength from her memory, from all those times she’d heard those words, from the moment she’d hurled them at Adam in fright and anger.
Do the right thing.
Her fingers closed around the bolt and twisted.
She turned and smiled sadly at him. At the man standing desolate and heartbroken before her with his too-large sweater slumping on his shoulders, frizzled grey hair standing on all ends.
“Why do you think I’m leaving?”
The shop bell rang behind her as the door clicked shut on her childhood and the only real safety she’d ever known.
And, even when she turn’d, the curse
Had fallen, and her future Lord
Was drown’d in passing thro’ the ford,
Or kill’d in falling from his horse