**** Trigger Warning ****
This chapter is violent with scenes of abuse 18+
Six Years Earlier
It hurt. Every muscle, tendon and bone in her body ached with the fire of a thousand suns and there was nothing she could do to stop it. This was her life now. The constant beatings. The torture when she dared protest when he wanted her. The water torture was the worst, she contemplated as she lay on her side on the cold tile floor of the bathroom yet somehow, tonight felt very much it was her end. She hugged the cool floor.
Marble. The marble tiles were what he’d bounced her head off repeatedly this time. She likely had another concussion. She probably needed specialized medical attention but the last time she’d asked to see a doctor he had given her a damn good reason to see one and then he’d brought one in who had patched her up as best he could. Then when the doctor had lingered too long studying the bruises on her ribs, Valentin had shot him in the head right in front of her. He had said he’d looked too long at what belonged to Val.
Val. Her husband, her partner, her lover. All names he called himself. He wasn’t really. She would never have willingly been with such a beast of a man. No, he’d taken her from her father’s house as a payment for her father skimming the books and forced her to do too many unthinkable things.
She’d never known during her entire twenty-one years her father had been a bookie for the Cacciola family. He took the bets for them. Processed them. Laundered money for them. He had always kept his nose clean and his role as an accountant for a casino had been the perfect cover to do the dirty work for the mob. Then her mother had gotten sick. Breast cancer. The bills had been astronomical. Knowing the kind of collateral the mob took for loans, Cosimo Segreto used the trust he had built over twenty years of working for the Cacciola’s and skimmed their books.
Once his wife had passed away and the bills for useless medical procedures were paid in full, he stopped. It wasn’t the stealing which had gotten him caught. It was when he’d stopped. Elio Cacciola had been tipped off and he’d sent his son Valentin to collect the debt, too angry with his long-time friend to confront him himself, according to Val.
Cosimo had no money but when his pretty daughter stumbled into the house from a party, a little tipsy and a lot belligerent, while he had been delivering a smackdown on the old man, Valentin had immediately taken an interest. He wiped the bills off the books, paid it off himself and said he was taking her as his own.
Cosimo had begged him not to take her but Valentin had threatened to shoot both the man and his daughter right then and there if they didn’t agree. He warned Cosimo if he spoke to anyone of their arrangement, she would be killed as would he. Terrified over the potential loss of her dad and her only living relative, she had agreed to go. She hadn’t seen her father since.
He had been referring to her as his wife since the night he’d collected her from her father’s house. She was the bride of Satan. Scratch that. She’d rather be with Satan.
Before they had even made it to his condo near the hub of the city lights of Vegas, Valentin had forced her to give him oral s*x in the back of his limo. He’d been rough and she’d left the car with a split lip and bruised eyes from gagging so hard. He had told her nothing was more beautiful than her skin blemished by his hands.
Since then, it had been eight long months of whatever he deemed fit as a payment for the hundred thousand dollars her father had stolen. Four months ago, she’d had a miscarriage. He’d beaten her for having the audacity to get pregnant even though he was the one who raped her continually without protection. He didn’t stop the blows to her abdomen until he personally verified the blood seeping down her legs as confirmation of the abortion.
He was a cold, ruthless bastard. Tonight, he’d brought a bunch of his men to the condo and he’d been very drunk. She had stayed hidden in the bedroom, knowing when he was in the state he was in, he didn’t care who saw what he did to her.
But he’d come looking for her. Told her she had disrespected him by not greeting him at the door and it had embarrassed him in front of his friends. Then he’d dragged her from the bedroom and in front of the six men he’d brought home, had told her she had to blow him. Either suck his c**k in front of friends or suffer his wrath. She’d stupidly pleaded with him to let her go. Said she would do whatever he asked if it was in their bedroom but not to make her do it front of strangers.
She’d made a mistake. She’d called it their bedroom and not his. He’d dragged her down the hall, beat her with his belt until her back was bloodied while reminding her who the man of the house was and then did what he wanted to her sexually before beating her for daring to bleed on his c**k. He had yanked his pants back up and went back to the men he expected to still be sitting in the living area to find it empty.
They had left and he blamed her. He had found her crawling on the floor of the bathroom with the intent to clean up when he’d decided to take the disrespect the men had shown by leaving without him out on her already battered body. He had bounced her head off the floor eight or nine times before she’d lost consciousness.
She wasn’t sure how long she had been laying here but the cold tile made her shiver and she tried to sit up but putting pressure on her wrist was impossible. It was likely broken. She whimpered and then cringed at the reverberations of Valentin yelling down the hall.
He was bellowing about his brother. She knew it because the words “bastardo” and “stronzo” were being tossed around viciously. While Valentin was Elio’s child born to his wife, he had an older brother from a mistress Elio had taken in the beginning of his marriage to Val’s mother. Jolie didn’t know much about him other than Valentin hated his guts and wanted him dead. Because the brother was older, there was jealousy and fears of him taking what Valentin felt as the legitimate son of Elio only he should have.
The bathroom door kicked in and she looked up in terror as Valentin stormed in and glowered at her.
“You!” he snarled. “Why are you still on the floor? You should be in bed.”
“I’m sorry, Valentin.” She tried to sit up but her breath was short. Her chest burned and she wondered again if tonight was the night she finally died. Maybe he’d broken her ribs when he’d punched her earlier and her lungs were punctured and she would die. She felt a tear slide down her cheek as she thought of her father who she would never see again.
“You’re so beautiful when you cry,” he said softly dropping to his knees in front of her. His mood changing with such rapidity it was mind bending. “I love you, so much. Don’t you know how much I love you? The minute I saw you with your beautiful hazel eyes and your gorgeous long hair, I knew we were destined to be together,” he gently scooped her up in his arms and cooed loving, tender words to her. “I’m sorry I hurt you again. You forgot to obey the rules.”
She said nothing knowing no matter what she did, this sweet tender moment was going to be short-lived. He whispered over and over how he loved her from first sight and how he was going to give her the biggest wedding and all the whores in Vegas would be jealous because she had locked down the best-looking man in the city. He lay her in the bed and gently kissed all the marks he’d made on her body better all the while stroking her skin and telling her how much she meant to him.
She knew better than to fight him when he said he wanted to make love to her the way he should have earlier when she’d ruined it by being such a bad girl. She lay on her back staring at the ceiling as he took of her, feeling the tears sliding down, praying for it to be over soon. When he eventually slumped over her, whispering words of adoration in her ear, she felt the cracking of her ribs from his heavy weight. Her breaths were short puffs of air.
“Tell me you love me,” he let the full weight of his body crush her.
“I love you Valentin,” she lied through her teeth willing death to claim her.
“I love you too, Jolie,” he whispered in her ear. “I am going to make love to you all night and all day tomorrow. Open your legs for me again. My brother thinks he is the most virile man in the world and can flaunt all the women on his arms and have my father praising him for it but I have what he doesn’t have. I have real love.” He began pumping his semi-erect shaft into her again, in his drunken and high state missing the mark more than once as he fell in and out of her, his clumsiness bruising. His hands closed around her neck as he pounded relentlessly, talking all the while about how he was so much better than his brother and how he was the better lover and the better man.
She put her hands to his wrists, “can’t breathe,” she whispered as he held his hands to her throat. “Val, I can’t breathe.”
He was lost now though in his twisted need to prove his own virility over that of his brother and the sweet relief of total darkness encapsulated her.
When next she woke a strange beeping and humming noise filled her ears and she felt as if something was covering her face. She clawed her way to get it off and then bright lights filled her eyes as the echoes of people’s voices broke into her thoughts.
“She’s coming around.”
“Should we let the officers waiting to see her know?”
Again, a light shone in her eyes and she tried to slap it away. She wanted only to get away from the brightness and float back down to the darkness.
“No. They’ll try to interrogate her. She was found with Valentin Cacciola. He was dead and she wasn’t. If the cops don’t screw with her, his f*****g family will.” A disembodied voice floated over her. “If I were her, the minute she’s not comatose, I’d be running for the hills.”
“Do you see the beatings he’s put on her?” Another voice asked. “Her father said she moved in with Valentin eight months ago and he hadn’t seen her since. Looks like the bastard has been torturing her for all this time. If she is the one who put the bullet in his head, good on her.”
“What kind of father doesn’t report a kidnapping like this to the police? There’s no way she went willingly.”
“The kind who doesn’t want his daughter dead,” another voice spoke sarcastically. “The cops couldn’t have helped. Now they think she took matters into her own hands.”
“There’s no way she killed him. Look at the bruising on her neck. He choked her out,” a man’s voice cut into the conversation. “Besides, her wrist and hand are broken. She couldn’t have pulled a trigger and got him in one shot.”
Jolie lay there listening to the conversation, wanting to speak but her throat felt closed off. She wanted to open her eyes but her lids felt heavy. She heard everything going on around her yet was incapable of contributing to the conversation.
“Hey, is she awake yet?” a creaking door being opened and closed.
“No but she’s not far off.”
“The cops really want a chance to talk to her before Beckwith gets here.”
“Yeah. They think he’ll either finish the job his brother started in trying to kill her or he’ll pay her to shut her mouth. The way the cops are talking out there, she’s a victim and since she’s likely been a prisoner of Valentin Cacciola for eight months, she’s going to have a lot of information to spill on the Cacciola family. They think they finally have someone who will talk.” The man’s voice kept speaking, “Beckwith isn’t going to take kindly to an enemy killing his kid brother. Someone is going to have to pay and if she was the last person to see him alive, he’s going to want answers.”
Jolie felt her heart flutter at the words. She had survived Valentin only to be put directly into his brother’s crosshairs. If the little brother was bad, the big brother was probably a thousand times worse. Panic gripped her and she blindly reached up with her hands and began tugging at the equipment bogging her down. She needed to get out of there.
“She’s waking up and she’s panicking. Quick, get a sedative into her.”
“Someone should have prepared for the fact she was going to flake the minute she woke up!”
“I did,” a man’s voice spoke, “I’ve got you, Jolie. We will keep you safe. Go back to sleep.”
Her hands floated back down to her side as shadows encroached and pulled her back into a deep dreamless sleep. Her last thought as she succumbed to the medication was, she would never be safe again.