The closet door burst open with a bang and before we realised what was happening, someone had tackled him and, with arms around his torso, was pulling him away from me. I threw myself off the bed with a scream, scrambling away. I watched in shock as the two well-built men wrestled on the bed. In the dim candlelight, it was impossible to make out who my husband was, and who, the attacker. One had pinned the other down and was trying to choke him. Then, as the man below moved his hand, the candlelight glinted off something that looked scarily like a knife. That threw me out of my daze.
Grabbing the vase of flowers from the table next to me, I ran into the fray and dumped the contents onto the man’s face. I felt a sudden pain as the blade sliced my arm. Then I was pushed off the bed. My head hit the wall as I landed a few feet away.
“Run, Ari!” My husband yelled. “Get out of –!”
His sentence was abruptly cut off by a muffled scream. And then everything was quiet, the silence only broken by the sound of laboured breathing. As I lay stunned on the floor, the room swimming in and out of vision, I heard heavy footsteps coming towards me. I was sure that my husband was dead and suspected that I was about to join him soon. I tried to sit up, to move away but my body did not respond. I felt the assailant crouch next to me.
“Shh!” came the voice as I whimpered and flinched away from him. I felt him lift me up, taking care not to jostle my injured arm.
“Shh!” he repeated as he laid me on the chaise lounge near the window. I heard a cloth being torn and felt a pressure on my arm as the man tied the cloth around the wound to stanch the blood flow.
A couple of hours ago, celebrating his company’s success and our first anniversary at this beautiful, secluded and expensive mountain lodge, my husband had been alive. He had just been a happy man wanting to surprise his beloved with a secret getaway. And now he was dead, killed, murdered, and I was at the mercy of his murderer – who was now tending to my wounds. I was confused by his actions. It made no sense.
The room was thrown into sharp relief as the murderer switched on the lights and sat down beside me. With a start, I realised that this man was no stranger.
“Lucas!” I gasped incredulously. “What…How..Why…?” I spluttered as my ex-boyfriend smiled beatifically at me. I hadn’t seen him since I’d started dating Richard, a good four years ago.
“I had promised I would rescue you from Stone’s clutches when he took you away from me, when he made you marry him. I know you can’t be happy with anyone else, least of all Richard Stone. I’m sorry it took me so long to come and rescue you, my darling, but I had to take care of the arrangements so that nobody could trace this back to me.” Lucas leaned forward to caress my cheek.
“You’re crazy!” I shouted, flinching away from him. “I left you for Richard because I loved him! I married him because I loved him! And now you’ve killed him, you arsehole!” I swung my fist, aiming at his face, but he was too quick for me. Catching my hand, he glared down at me. His eyes darkened and he looked every inch the murderer he was.
“No!” he growled. “You can’t be happy with him, or with anyone else! I know you weren’t happy with him. You can only be happy with me. You’re mine, always have been mine!” Then his demeanor changed, quick as a flash. “Don’t worry baby, I’ll keep you happy and safe. You’ll never want for anything, or anyone. Nobody will trouble us again, after tonight. I’ll take care of you.”
Lucas grabbed both of my hands and tied them together. Then, with practised ease, he pressed down on my carotid arteries with his thumb. I could feel myself slipping into unconsciousness. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Richard’s body on the bed. I remembered I had informed the staff not to disturb us over the weekend; we had wanted our privacy, Richard and I.
Lucas smiled. A tear slipped down my cheek as the darkness finally claimed me.
A few days later, Lucas strode into the house he had taken me to. There was a grin on his face as he shoved a newspaper into my cuffed hands. On the front page was a big photo of the hotel room, the murder scene. ‘Business Tycoon Richard Stone Found Brutally Murdered.’ the headline screamed. ‘Wife, Ariana, missing.’ the subhead declared.
The article went on to give the details of the murder and the investigation, pointing out that the police had found no clues about who could have committed the crime. There were no fingerprints, no witnesses, nothing. The murderer had known exactly how to go undetected.
“You’re free, Ariana baby!” Lucas laughed as he hugged me. “They’ll never find anything tying me to this!”
I closed my eyes. I’d never be free.