Poison Study Page 57

I had stolen and hidden a knife under Reyad’s bed a year before, after he had beaten me for practicing. Why his bed? I had no real strategy, just a terrible foreboding that when I needed it, I would be in Reyad’s room and not in my small room next door.

Dreaming of murder was easy; committing it was another story. Even though I’d endured much pain that year, I hadn’t crossed the threshold of sanity. Until that night.

“Did something set you off?” the ghost asked. “Or were you procrastinating, like now? Learning to fight!” He chuckled. “Imagine you fighting off an attacker. You wouldn’t last against a direct assault. I should know.” He floated before me, forcing the memories out.

I flinched from him and from that night’s recollection. “Go away,” I said to the specter. Picking up the book on poisons, I stretched out on my bed, determined to ignore him. He faded slightly as I read, but brightened whenever I glanced his way.

“Was it my journal that set you off?” Reyad asked when my eyes lingered too long.

“No.” The word sprang from my mouth, surprising me. I had convinced myself that his journal had been the final straw after two years of torment.

The painful memories flooded with a force that shook me and left me trembling.

After I had regained consciousness from the beating, I’d found myself sprawled na**d on Reyad’s bed. Flourishing his journal before me, he ordered me to read it, taking pleasure in watching the growing horror on my face.

His journal had listed every single grievance he had against me for the two years I’d been with him. Every time I disobeyed or annoyed him, he noted it, and then followed with a specific description of how he would punish me. Now that Brazell no longer needed me for his experiments, Reyad had no boundaries. His sadistic inclinations and overwhelming depth of imagination were written in full detail. As I struggled to breathe, my first thought was to find the knife and kill myself, but the blade was on the other side of the bed near the headboard.

“We’ll start with the punishment on page one tonight.” Reyad purred with anticipation as he crossed to his “toy” chest, pulling from it chains and other implements of torture.

I flipped back to the beginning with numb fingers. Page one recorded that I had failed to call him sir the first time we met. And for lacking the proper deference, I would assume a submissive position on my hands and knees, and then be whipped. He would demand that I call him sir . With each lash, I would respond with the words, “More, sir , please.” During the following rape, I would address him as sir , and beg him to continue my punishment.

His journal slipped from my paralyzed hands. I flung myself over the bed, intent on finding the knife, but Reyad, thinking I was trying to escape, caught me. My struggles were useless, as he forced me to my knees. With my face pressed into the rough stone floor, Reyad chained my hands behind my neck.

The anticipation was more frightening than the actual event. In a sick way, it was a comfort, because I knew what to expect and when he would stop. I played my part, understanding that if I denied him his intended moves, I would only enrage him further.

When the horror finally ceased, blood covered my back and coated the insides of my legs. I curled into a ball on the edge of Reyad’s bed. My mind dead. My body throbbing. His fingers were inside me. Where he would always be, he breathed into my ear as he lay beside me.

This time the knife was within my reach. My thoughts lingered on suicide.

Then Reyad said, “I guess I’ll have to start a new journal.”

I did not respond.

“We’ll be training a new girl now that you’ve failed.” He sat up, and dug his fingers deeper into me. “Up on your knees. Time for page two.”

“No!” I screamed. “You won’t!” Fumbling for a frantic second, I pulled the knife out and sliced at his throat. A surface cut only, but he fell back on the bed in surprise. I leaped onto his chest, slashing deeper. The blade scraped bone. Blood sprayed. A warm feeling of satisfaction settled over me when I realized I could no longer determine whose blood pooled between my thighs.

“So that’s what set you off? The fact that I was going to rape you again?” Reyad’s ghost asked.

“No. It was the thought of you torturing another girl from the orphanage.”

“Oh, yes.” He snorted. “Your friends.”

“My sisters,” I corrected. “I killed you for them, but I should have done it for me.” Anger surged through my body. I cornered him. My fists struck out even though I knew in a tiny part of my mind that I couldn’t hurt him. His smug expression never changed, but I punched again and again until the first rays of dawn touched Reyad’s ghost. He vanished from sight.

Sobbing, I sank to the floor. After a while, I became aware of my surroundings. My fists were bloodied from hitting the rough stone wall. I was exhausted and drained of all emotions. And I was late for breakfast. Damn Valek!

“Pay attention,” Ari said. He jabbed me in the stomach with a wooden knife. “You’re dead. That’s the fourth time today. What’s the matter?”

“Lack of sleep,” I said. “Sorry.”

Ari gestured me to the bench along the wall. We sat down and watched Maren and Janco, engaged in a friendly bow match on the far side of the storeroom. Janco’s speed had overpowered Maren’s skill, and she was on the retreat, backing into a corner.

“She’s tall and thin, but she’s not going to win,” Janco sang. His words aimed to infuriate her—a tactic that had worked before. Too often, Maren’s anger caused her to make critical mistakes. But this time, she remained calm. She planted the end of her bow between his feet, which trapped his weapon close to his body. Then she flipped over his head, landed behind him, and grabbed him around the neck until he conceded.

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