Bound By Temptation

By: Cora Reilly


Even as I did I knew I’d regret it, but I couldn’t resist. I was tired of being left out of everything, of always being too young, of being reminded every day that I needed protection from myself and everything around me.

The moment my feet hit the basement floor, my eyes settled on the center of the room. At first, I couldn’t even comprehend what was going on. It was as if my brain was giving me a chance to leave and be none the wiser, but instead of rushing off, I stayed and stared. My mind went into overdrive, soaking in every detail, every gruesome detail before me. Details I still remembered vividly years later.

There were two of the Russians who’d attacked us, tied to chairs, and then there was blood. Matteo and another man were beating and cutting them, hurting them. My vision tunneled, and terror rose up my throat. And then my gaze settled on Romero, his kind brown eyes, which weren’t as kind as I remembered them. His hands, too, were covered in blood. The good guy and knight in shining armor I’d fantasized about, that guy he wasn’t. A scream ripped from my body, but I could only tell because of the pressure in my chest and throat. I didn’t hear anything beyond the rushing in my ears. Everyone stared at me like I was the crazy one. I wasn’t sure what happened after that. I remembered fragments. Hands grasping me, arms holding tight. Soothing words that did nothing. I remembered a warm chest against my back and the smell of blood. There was a brief burning pain when Matteo injected me with something before my world transformed into eerie calm. The terror was still there, but it was blanketed. My vision was blurry but I could make out Romero kneeling beside me. He picked me up and straightened with me in his arms. The forced calm won out and I relaxed against his chest. Right in front of my eyes a red blotch disfigured his white shirt. Blood from the men that had been tortured. Sluggishly, terror tried to rip through the medication, but it was futile and I gave up the fight. My eyes fluttered shut as I resigned myself to my fate.



***

Romero

As Made Men it was our task to keep those safe that we were sworn to protect: the weak, children, women. I, in particular, had devoted my life to this goal. Many tasks in my job involved hurting others, being brutal and cold, but keeping people safe always made me feel like there was more to me than the bad. Not that it mattered; if Luca asked me, I’d do every bad thing imaginable. It was easy to forget that despite our own ethics and morals and codes, we Made Men were what most people perceived as evil. I was reminded of our real nature, of my real nature when I heard Liliana’s scream. The screams of the Russians hadn’t moved me. I’d heard those, and worse, before. But that high-pitched, not-ending scream of a girl we were meant to protect was like a fucking stab in the gut.

Her expression and eyes were the worst; they showed me exactly what I was. Maybe a good man would have sworn to be better, but I was good at my job. Most days I enjoyed it. Even the terror-stricken face of Liliana didn’t make me want to be something other than a Made Man. Back then I hadn’t realized that this glimpse of brutality wasn’t even the worst way I would fuck up her life.



***

Liliana

I woke to something warm and soft below my body. My mind was sluggish but the memories were clear and focused, more focused than my surroundings when I finally dared to open my eyes. Movement in the corner attracted my attention. Romero leaned against the wall across from me. I quickly did a check of the room I was in. It was a guest bedroom, and I was alone with Romero behind a closed door. Without the lingering effects of whatever Matteo had injected me earlier, I would have started screaming again. Instead I watched mutely as Romero walked toward me. I wasn’t sure why I’d ever thought of him as harmless, now his every move screamed danger. When he’d almost reached the bed, I cringed, pressing myself against the pillow. Romero paused, dark eyes softening, but their kindness couldn’t fool me anymore, not after what I’d seen. “It’s okay. You are safe.”

I’d never felt not safe in my life – until now. I wanted my blissful ignorance back. I didn’t say anything.

Romero took a glass of water from the nightstand and held it out to me. My eyes searched the skin of his hands for blood but he must have cleaned them thoroughly. There wasn’t the slightest hint of red, not even between his fingers or under his nails. He probably had a lot of practice cleaning up blood. Bile crept up my throat at the thought.

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