Damage:an Arranged Marriage Mafia Romance

By: Natasha Knight


I hear her before I see her. Her gasp echoes as sunlight pours into the deep well.

I look down.

Something moves and she screams, pulling her knees in and the terror in her voice makes every muscle in my body tighten.

“Gabriela,” I yell down, shoving the man aside and leaning the machine gun I took off of him against the well. A soldier takes hold of him and I peer down. The well has got to be sixteen, maybe eighteen feet deep.

Rafa is beside me in an instant. He looks down at her.

“Ah, fuck,” he mutters.

She’s huddled against a corner on her knees. Her hands are bound behind her and a hood covers her face. Something runs across her lap, a mouse maybe, and she screams again.

“I’m coming, Gabriela. I’m coming to get you.”

I don’t know if she hears but she’s trying to stand, to press her back into the wall.

“Here,” Rafa says and I look at him, at the rope ladder he’s unraveling into the well.

“We’re throwing a ladder down. Just be still, Gabriela. It’s me. It’s Stefan. I’m coming.”

I climb down into the cold, damp space. The rope is old, and I have to be careful.

When I get closer, she starts screaming again.

“It’s Stefan,” I tell her, taking hold of her shoulders, pulling her into me. Holding her tight.

The instant she knows it’s me, her body goes limp and she begins to sob, her hooded face buried against my chest.

I look around. I’m glad the well is at least dry. They didn’t have her sitting in filthy water.

I pull back to look at her. She’s covered in dirt and shivering and for as hot as it is up there, it’s fucking cold down here. Although I think without that covering at the top of the well, it would have been worse for her.

She’s cold, but she’s alive.

I have to hold her upright as I look around the small space, see the hole the mouse must have disappeared into, see the carcasses of bigger animals rotting nearby.

It’s probably better she had that hood over her head.

“Stefan?” she manages.

I hug her again, hear her whimpering softly beneath the hood.

“Are you hurt?”

She makes a sound and leans against me, her face, her torso, her weight fully into me. I want nothing more than to pull that hood off. To look into her eyes. To see for myself she’s not hurt. To tell her she’s safe.

But I need to get her out of here before I do that. She’ll panic if she sees what’s down here.

The rope ladder concerns me, though. She’s too weak to climb on her own but I’m not sure it will hold both of us.

First, I untie the rope at her wrists, rub them, eyeing the bruised, raw flesh, the marks on her through the ripped tatters of her clothes.

Her hands move to the hood, but I capture her wrists.

“Let me get you out of here first,” I say.

“I want it off.”

“Trust me, Gabriela.”

She hesitates, then nods. “Okay,” comes her small, trembling voice.

“We’re going to climb up,” I tell her, trying to keep my voice calm. I have to carry her up. I have no choice.

When I pull away, she cries out. “Don’t leave me!”

“Shh. It’s all right. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Stefan,” Rafa’s voice calls down when he realizes what I’m going to do. “The rope isn’t strong enough.”

“It has to be,” I say. I turn to Gabriela who can’t see me. “Wrap your legs around me,” I tell her, lifting her up.

She barely manages and I wonder if they’ve given her food or water in the last few days.

“Good. Now hold on tight and don’t let go no matter what,” I say, folding her arms around my neck and holding her to me with one arm wrapped around her.

I keep her like this for a moment before beginning the careful climb up. My progress is slow and the rope strains beneath our combined weight. When I’m about two-thirds of the way up, it tears beneath my foot and Gabriela screams, clinging so tight she’s almost choking me.

I stop moving. Hug her tight to me.

“It’s okay. We’re okay.”

I look down. I look up.

“A little farther and I can take her,” Rafa calls to me.

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