Chapter 25

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Author's Note: See "Multimedia" to the right for the soundtrack to this chapter.

The next evening, Maribel lounged on Dana’s bed, admiring Victoria’s work. The woman was a miracle-worker, really, Maribel thought as she watched Dana rub lotion over her freshly-bathed skin. The Malefics had nearly torn her to shreds last night, but already there was hardly a sign left. A couple of angry red scratches where the worst of the wounds had been were the only evidence she’d been in a struggle at all. The rest of her skin was smoother than it had ever been.

Dana ran a comb through her hair, smoothed some glittery balm over her lips, and slipped into her dress.

“How do I look?” she asked.

Maribel had to swallow the knot that had formed in her throat before she could answer. What the hell was Dana doing, going to Lawrence’s in such a dress? Was she trying to tempt him beyond his control?

“You look hot,” Maribel mumbled, disturbed. Maybe Dana wasn’t planning on teasing tonight. Maybe she was actually going to give Lawrence her virginity . . .

Maribel followed Dana down to the basement and helped her light the candles around the salt circle, wondering whether or not she should even ask. She almost didn’t want to know, because if she knew, she would try to influence it. As far as Maribel was concerned, Dana had no business going over there in that sexy-ass dress if she didn’t plan to take it off. But if she did plan to take it off . . .

Maribel sucked in a deep breath, trying to quell the sick, queasy feeling in her stomach. She didn’t want Dana to do it. But she said nothing as Dana lifted the hem of the dress and stepped into the circle. She needed to learn to let Dana do what Dana was going to do. Hadn’t Dana given her that respect?

Maribel thought back to earlier that day on the beach, when she’d removed her wrap to reveal all the bruises Cairo had left her with last night. Dana had flipped out when she’d seen them, steam practically shooting from her ears as she clenched her fists and threatened Cairo’s life, and Maribel had cursed herself for not healing them. In all the mayhem of the night before, it had slipped her mind, and the refill she’d meant to get on Aunt Vic’s healing cream had been left forgotten.

“Does he always abuse you, or was this the first time?” Dana had asked. “Has this been going on all along? Why haven’t you told me? I could help you kill him!”

And even after all of Maribel’s explanations and assurances that all was well, she knew that Dana had a hard time believing the bruises were a product of pleasure; she just didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend it at all.

But on Maribel’s pleas, she’d let it drop; left it alone. If this was what Maribel wanted, she wouldn’t interfere. So Maribel was going to give her that same respect.

“Wish me luck.” Dana blew her a kiss as her form faded from the circle.

“Good luck,” Maribel mumbled to the empty space before heading upstairs to . . . to what?

She wandered around the house aimlessly, not sure what to do with herself. She couldn’t focus on a book to save her life. Hadn’t been able to in weeks. And reading had always been her number one passion, next to baking. But it just didn’t work anymore; she’d get through a couple of lines, maybe a paragraph if she was lucky, and then she’d lose focus, her mind would wander . . . always back to him. And she didn’t want to think about him tonight. Not when she couldn’t call him.

“Don’t call me tomorrow,” he’d told her the night before as he’d slapped her ass, punishing her for the dinner she’d made him sit through. She hadn’t thought much about those words at the time – it was impossible to think when he had his hands on her like that – but now, in retrospect, they depressed her. She’d been telling herself all along that even if he wasn’t ready for the kind of closeness she craved, he wanted the sex, at the very least. And she’d figured the rest could come in time.