Chapter 35

Keesha looked around her as the guards led her down the tunnel. Everything seemed like a maze, but she was determined to commit it all to memory.

After her talk with Simone, she was convinced that she would find a way to get them out. Simone had told her that Tommy had run away and would return with help. Keesha didn't want to say anything to Simone, but what if Tommy hadn't made it out. What if the guards found him and he's in one of these room beaten to a bloody pulp if not dead?

No, Keesha decided. She could not and would not wait. She had always taken responsibility for what happened to her and she wasn't about to stop now. She'd find a way out. Somehow.


The sound of ringing woke Dara from her slumber. After the last few sleepless nights spent worrying about Dawn's whereabouts, her body and mind was exhausted and she fell into a deep sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Mercifully, Dawn didn't succumb to any more nightmares and the rest of the night was quiet.

Rising from the sofa bed, she stumbled into the kitchen and grabbed the extension. She groggily said, "Hello."

"Good morning, Dara. This is Alex. Did I wake you?" asked the masculine voice on the other end.

"Mm…not exactly," she answered. Dara looked at her attire, a skimpy tank tops and shorts, and became mildly self-conscious.

"I'll take that as a yes," he laughed softly.

"Well, it is the wee hours of the morning, Detective," she replied. The sound of Alex's laughter in her ear brought tingles up and down her spine. She'd never noticed it before but he had a very sexy laugh.

"True. I should have waited to call. We can talk later," he said, with small hint of disappointment in his voice.

"This is fine. We can talk now. What's going on?" she asked as she sat on a stool. She felt like kicking herself. She had been teasing him. She didn't want him to think she was ready to end the conversation because she wasn't.

"Nothing really. I just came back from my morning run, and I thought I'd give you a call…to see how last night went. I didn’t realize how early it was. I hope I didn’t wake anyone else up."

He had been thinking about me…um us, Dara thought. Interesting.

"Everyone else is still asleep. And about last night…well, I think there was more to the story, than what Dawn gave us," Dara answered.

"What do you mean?"

"She had a nightmare. When we tried to wake her, she fought us off and kept screaming 'no'. I think she may have been sexually assaulted," she said quietly.

"I don't think so," he replied.

"Why do you say that?"

"From the way she greeted Nikolas. Had she been sexually assaulted, she would not have been able to sustain…um…his physical contact. She wasn't exactly standoffish or apprehensive when she first saw him or when you and his uncle granted them a few moments alone," he said.

"I think you may be right, but I do think something other than what she told us happened. Her reaction to Mama and I was too defensive and violent."

"Would you like some help?" he offered quietly.

She smiled at his offer and said, "Thanks, Alex, but I think this is something that would be better sister-to-sister."


Nikolas glanced at his passenger. She hadn't said more than two words since he picked her up fifteen minutes ago. He wanted to ask her what was troubling her, but decided that maybe he should be quiet and give her a little space.

Dawn was lost in her thoughts as she gazed at the passing scenery. Wayne's rape attempt bothered her more than she cared to admit to herself. She shuddered and pulled her sweater closer to her when her mind traveled back to how his hands felt on her.

Nikolas saw her sudden movement and asked, "Are you cold? I like to drive with the top and windows down, but it is a bit chilly this morning, isn't it? I'll raise the top."

Dawn was startled when she heard his voice. She had been so lost in the painful memory that she forgot that she wasn’t alone.

"I like the top down. You don't have to raise it on my account," she replied.

"Okay," he answered quietly. He was certain he had seen her jump when he spoke, but he decided to let it be. Instead, he asked, "Are you hungry? We can get breakfast."

"I'm not hungry, but if you are, we should stop," she answered.

Dawn, not hungry, he thought. Something was definitely wrong. Maybe when they stopped she'd feel more comfortable to speak with him about whatever was bothering her.

The short drive to Kelly's was quiet, as well as the time that was spent there. Small talk was made as Nikolas ate, but nothing more than that. As they walked back to his car, he became more certain than ever that something had happened. What if her parents had decided she should go back to New York and this was there last day together, he wondered. Maybe she was so quiet because she wasn't sure of how to tell him.

When they reached the Jag, Dawn reached for his hand to stop him from opening the door for her. She squeezed his hand and asked, "Can we go somewhere? I need to talk to you about something."

"Of course," he said, as he opened the door for her. This was it, he thought. Time for them to say their good-byes.

"We could go to the catacombs, if that's okay with you. Not too many people know about it. We should be able to speak in private there," he said.

"Is it safe there?" she asked quietly, with a slight tremor of fear in her voice.

"It's safe," he reassured her. He felt a twinge at her quiet question. Of course, she would be concerned for her safety, he thought. The last time they were together he wasn't able to protect her, but he promised himself that he would never let anything else happen to her as long as he was around. He intended to keep this promise.

The drive to the catacombs was quick. Nikolas parked the Jag. He exited the car and moved to open her door. He held out his hand for her, which she took, and he led her to the opening of the catacombs.

Inside the catacombs, Dawn became mesmerized by its beauty. She had never seen anything as exquisite as this natural setting.

Nikolas watched her expression and became pleased that he brought her there. She went from being rather pensive to almost like the open girl he had known over the last few days.

"It's beautiful," she said quietly.

"Yes, very," he said, his eyes never leaving her form.

She smiled when she realized that he spoke of her and then, she immediately sobered. She asked to come here so that she could talk to him. She wouldn't run away from this.

She released his hand. As she turned to face him, she said, "I have to show you something."

Nikolas watched as she unbuttoned and removed the sweater that she had been so careful to keep herself covered with. When she dropped the sweater and turned in a circle before him, he couldn’t prevent the sharp intake of air as he saw the bruises on her back.

"Did they do that to you?" he asked quietly. He was very angry, but he was determined to keep it under control for her sake.

"Wayne did," she answered. She looked away when she added, "When he tried to rape me."

Nikolas felt rage boil within him when her heard her words. He remembered from her statement to Garcia that Wayne was the one who had attacked him. Nikolas could let the blow to his head go unpunished, but not the blows to Dawn and to her spirit.

He wasn't sure if she would welcome his touch, but he couldn't stop himself from reaching out to her. His hand moved to gently cup her face as he turned her head so he could look into her eyes. When she didn’t flinch at his touch, he brought his hand to her waist and tenderly held her.

"I'm so sorry," he said, staring deeply into her eyes, the unshed tears there, caused her eyes to glisten.

"Me too," she replied. Her voice broke as she said the words and the tears began to fall.

"You don't have anything to be sorry about. You didn't do anything wrong," he whispered fiercely.

"I know, but I can't help feeling like I did do something. I feel so dirty, Nickie," she said softly as the tears streamed down her cheeks.

He gently pulled her closer to him. He breathed another sigh of relief when she leaned against him and wrapped her arms around him. He slowly rocked her as she succumbed to the tears, vowing to himself that he wouldn’t rest until retribution for her pain was made.

Chapter 36

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