The metal legs creaked beneath her as she shifted.
She was jittery and restless, uncomfortable inside her own skin. She wanted to shed it – slip out of it like a snake. It didn’t feel like it belonged to her. As her fingernails trailed up and down the length of her arms, the crawling itch she sought to sooth intensified. Leaning her body back, the feel of the cold metal rim passed through her blouse, sending a chill up her spine…a chill Alexis felt make a slow and steady path, nerve by nerve. She closed her eyes against the shroud of darkness that again played havoc with her senses. But now, the rest of her body made up for what her eyes and ears had taken away. Every sensation was expanded and extended, as if inviting her dissection of them. She didn’t want it.
She didn’t want to feel anything. She HADN’T felt anything, not since Thomas had left her alone to…sleep? To slip into oblivion? She didn’t know what it had been. She didn’t remember having any conscious thought or feeling, just…drifting. Was it even the same day?
She hadn’t realized that the pain enveloping her head had somehow melted away until it came creeping back with a vengeance: the raw burning of her forehead, the tender throbbing against her cheekbone, the stiff bruising down her neck all rampant once more. Her lack of physical vanity notwithstanding, Alexis was grateful she couldn’t see what she looked like. Sorel would only be fueled by any shred of fear or shame he could provoke in her. She had to show him strength.
The thought urged her spine to straighten, forcing her to sit upright. She lifted her head high, allowing her tingling arms to fall to her sides. She placed her hands in her lap, folding them with a deep breath. The full assumption of her professional posture was complete. Alexis Davis, Attorney at Law...officer of the court…independent woman…nobody’s victim...survivor. Holding on to who she is, Alexis sat tall and strong, waiting.
She closed her eyes against the sudden flood of light. Again, the clank of the heavy door opening. Again, the footsteps against the concrete floor as they came close to her. She blinked slowly, allowing her eyes to adjust on their own time before meeting the bemused stare of Sorel.
The silence between them was long.
“Well,” Sorel finally offered, “You don’t seem TOO much worse for wear.”
Alexis cocked her head and squinted at him against the naked light that glowed behind his head. “Aww. You sure know how to talk to a girl, don’t you?”
As Sorel chuckled, Alexis kept her eyes on his face, deliberately avoiding Thomas. “If you’d wanted me to shut up, you could have just said so.”
“What makes you think THAT’S what I wanted?” Sorel asked. He took a deep breath and clasped his hands behind his back. “So. Tell me Miss Davis, did you enjoy the ride?”
“Did you enjoy watching it?”
Alexis swallowed, taking a steadying breath. “If drugging me and watching me fall to the ground is your idea of a good time, with all due respect…you need to get out more.”
As Thomas shifted his weight, almost imperceptibly, Alexis’s eyes darted toward the movement. “Don’t piss him off.” He had warned her, but she couldn’t help it. Her only weapon was her mouth, and it was all that stood between her and a complete loss of power.
Sorel walked around behind her. She heard the creak of the chair as he grasped one side of it in each hand and leaned over her shoulder.
“Is that an invitation?”
He was still keeping THAT threat alive. Alexis’s left hand unconsciously wandered back up her right arm, fingernails answering the itching cry of her skin.
“It’s an observation,” she replied, keeping her gaze forward. Her point of focus was now the edge of Thomas’s sleeve, the glint of his silver watch peeking out from below. God, she wished she knew what time it was. What day.
“You know Miss Davis, there just might be something to that observation of yours. As you can see, my business does demand a great deal of my time and energy. It is, after all, a twenty-four hour a day endeavor.”
Alexis closed her eyes with a wry smile. “And people say I’M a workaholic.”
She heard another creak as Sorel’s hands released their grip on the chair. He continued his circle around her until, through closed lids, she saw his form block the light from her face. She opened her eyes as his hand touched her chin, tilting her face upward.
“A woman like you? All work and no play? What a waste.”
“I hope my clients don’t think so.”
Sorel regarded her a moment, then pulled his hand away. “Speaking of your clients, I got a couple of calls from Mr. Corinthos today.” He turned to Thomas. “What do you think Thomas? Should I call him back? Or should I let him wait a while longer, while I help his dedicated attorney delve deeper into the concept of less work and...more play?”
Alexis glanced at Thomas, searching his face for the meaning in Sorel’s words. Thomas betrayed nothing, returning Sorel’s gaze with a blank expression. But as Sorel turned back to her, Alexis caught the quick, deliberate look that Thomas shot her way. Sorel’s fun with her wasn’t over. She suddenly felt like a science project, the two men so close, peering down at her as she shrank inside. Gathering all her reserve, Alexis shifted her weight forward to carefully, gracefully, rise.
“Are you saying you’re not interested in what Mr. Corinthos has to say? The ball IS, after all, in your court. Right where you like it to be.”
Sorel watched as Alexis’s body shivered slightly. She was clearly feeling the effects, despite her show of will.
“Yes, it is.” He shrugged. “But I’m in no rush. Corinthos, on the other hand, seems a bit anxious. What has it been, two calls in as many hours?” He checked his watch. “Yep, two calls in two hours.”
Oblivious to her actions, Alexis’s fingernails found their way back to her arm, attacking it with a growing intensity. Her eyelids fluttered as she shifted her gaze to the open door.
“You’re not curious about what he wants?”
“Oh, I know what he wants. He wants you.”
Alexis swallowed hard, still focused on the door, wondering what lay beyond it. Another shiver ran through her.
“He wants to talk to you.” There was a decided pause. “But, what do YOU want Miss Davis?”
She frowned slightly. “Excuse me?”
Sorel reached out and clamped his palm firmly over her hand, halting its assault on her arm. Her body jolted, the shock of its sudden stillness stunned her, and she lowered her eyes slowly toward the hand that covered hers.
“I said, what do YOU want. You seem to be in a great deal of distress.” He released his grip, his hand sliding purposefully down her arm. Alexis’s breathing quickened. She knew what was coming and she knew she couldn’t stop it.
“I’m fine.” Her voice caught in her throat.
Sorel’s hand began to methodically roll her sleeve upward. “I don’t think so. But don’t worry. I’m going to help you GET fine.” He moved to her other arm, rolling the slippery silk with ease.
Alexis shivered uncontrollably, the blood pounding like thunder in her ears as Sorel turned to Thomas with an upturned palm. At the sight of Thomas pulling the small white bundle from his pocket, Alexis began to stammer.
“W-why? J-just…tell me why? What could you…possibly have to gain from this?”
“A payback most poetic.” Sorel snapped the rubber band once…twice…
“F-for what? Representing Zander?”
“For pride, hypocrisy, and most of all…arrogance!” Sorel shot the rubber band across the room.
“I…I don’t understand!” Alexis’s panic was beginning to win.
Sorel shook his head. “No, you don’t.”
Thomas started toward her. She backed away.
“What have I done?” She was confused, pleading.
“Not you! HIM!” Sorel yelled, angrily throwing the white cloth to the ground.
“Zander?” Thomas caught up to her, the first feel of his touch stopping her cold.
“CORINTHOS!” Sorel bellowed, his face flushed.
Even when he’d hit her, Alexis hadn’t seen Sorel this enraged. As the tingle in her arms renewed, Thomas grasped her shoulders in his hands. His level of pressure on them was firm, but not harsh, as if he was trying to calm rather than restrain. She willed herself to accept what he offered.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t intend to make you angry.”
“Don’t insult me, Miss Davis!” Sorel came quickly up into her face, waving the syringe in the air. “Please. You have always spoken to me as an intellectual equal, something I truly respect and appreciate in you. UNLIKE Corinthos, who takes pride in publicly referring to me as an idiot!”
Alexis looked away, silent. She knew it to be true.
“Who commits hypocrisy by refusing to move my merchandise, saying it’s ‘beneath’ him, when he’s known to have moved similar merchandise himself when it’s served his own purpose. And he involved young girls, no less. I believe the name Karen Wexler may ring a bell?”
“Who is arrogant enough to consider himself and his own operation SUPERIOR to me and mine, to consider his hands CLEANER than mine, his halo SHINIER than mine, when, in fact, the man is WEAK! He can be pushed,and pushed and PUSHED, and he STILL fails to respond like a man! Pride, hypocrisy, arrogance.”
Sorel seemed calm now, as he looked Alexis in the eye with an earnest expression. “Do you understand me now?” She regarded the faint hurt in his eyes, this inferior, little man, then slowly nodded.
“Good. I’m glad.” Without warning, he grabbed her arm and jerked it up, locking it between the side of his body and his elbow. Alexis stiffened, her lower lip catching between her teeth. Thomas’s hands stayed steady on her shoulders, somehow helping her to get through this.
As Sorel bit down on the needle’s plastic cover, he froze. He suddenly dropped her arm and slid the syringe into his breast pocket. Alexis stayed still, afraid to move, wondering what new game he was headed for.
Sorel smiled, reaching into another pocket and pulling out his phone.
“But first, let’s see what Mr. Corinthos has to say for himself.”