What have I done?
The smell of vomit permeated my nose as I looked down upon the woman I loved. The woman whom I single-handedly delivered her worst nightmare to.
I slumped to the floor beside Emily, unconcerned that I might soil my clothing, and tried to offer what little comfort I could in this moment. She jerked back from my embrace and scampered a few feet away from me.
It was then that comprehension dawned. The expression on her face...it wasn’t just the pain over the loss of her son. It was betrayal.
My gut tightened and I could feel the blood draining from my face. It was as if she were taking my life force with her the farther she moved from me.
“Emily,” I whispered with outstretched hands, walking toward her on my knees.
She shook her head frantically from side to side. “No, no, no. You stay away from me!”
“Amore mio, we will find the men who did this—”
“You! You’re the man who did this! Why couldn’t you just give them what they wanted!?” Big fat tears rolled down her face and my fingers itched with the need to wipe away any trace of them. To somehow make this right for her. “Why!? Why!? Why!?”
Emily wrapped her arms around herself and began to rock back and forth. She looked frantic—feral, even—and on the verge of splintering into so many pieces that she could never be put back together.
I swung my head in Sal’s direction and barked out an order. “Vai a chiamare il dottore dell’hotel immediatamente. Ha bisogno di qualcosa che la calmi.”
He nodded, the expression on his face pained, before he stalked over to the hotel phone and made the call. Sal would never admit it, but I knew he’d grown fond of Emily over the past month or so. I knew he was feeling as I was—that we let her and Daniel down.
Those bastards! They told me Daniel would be fine. If I’d only known...I would have sacrificed myself ten times over to save him.
As Sal hung up the phone behind me, I inched toward Emily like she was a fragile bird who would fly away at any moment if I startled her. It appeared she already had—mentally anyway. She didn’t even seem to notice me now, lost in her own world of grief and anguish.
She muttered something to herself over and over again as she rocked back and forth, but I couldn’t make out the words. I’d almost reached her when the vision of Daniel’s face while we played together in the pool accosted my brain. The physical pain that accompanied the memory had me clutching my chest.
What have I done? That poor sweet, innocent child whom I’d grown to love as much as his mother. What have I done?
I trusted the wrong people, that’s what. I didn’t pull the trigger, but was there really a difference? If I hadn’t been in their lives, Daniel and Emily would be fine. The woman I loved wouldn’t be drowning in a well of sorrow I knew she’d never escape. Not really.
Someone was going to pay.
The metamorphosis from man to monster occurred in that precise moment. Something inside me unfurled, and the more hate I fed it, the stronger it became. The beast was growing, feeding off the despair raging through my blood, and I welcomed it. I would need that part of myself I always suspected existed somewhere deep down inside of me. A part I’d been able to keep at bay until now.
I would need the beast to bring retribution to Emily’s doorstep.
A knock on the door drew me back to the scene in front of me. I glanced up to see Sal already halfway down the hall that led to the suite’s door.
“She’s suffered a loss in her family and she’s fallen apart,” I heard Sal say to the middle-aged blond man who stood in the now open doorway.
The doctor was dressed in suit pants and a dress shirt with no tie. He stepped forward with his medical bag in hand.
“I’m Doctor Gast,” he said, directing his comment to me.
I nodded. “Marco Valenti. I want you to give her something to help her relax.”
Emily continued rocking and muttering, seemingly unaware that anyone else had entered the room.
“I’ll need to examine the patient first before I can administer anything to her.” Doctor Gast leaned over and placed his medical bag on the floor.
This could get tricky if the good doctor started asking Emily questions and she became coherent enough to answer them.
“I think it’s pretty clear that she’s in no shape to be answering any questions. Just give her something so she can get some rest.” I kept my tone cordial, but at the same time made it clear that it wasn’t a request.
“Mr. Valenti, I can’t administer any medication to someone without examining them. It will only take a minute, and then I assure you that if I think it best, I’ll give her something.”
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep myself from demanding that he do as I asked and simply nodded.
Doctor Gast lowered himself on one knee beside Emily. “What’s her name?” he asked.
My gaze flicked to Sal. Thinking that the less the doctor knew the better, I lied. “Brandi.”
It sickened me to use that name. I’d promised myself that once she confided her real name to me, I’d never revert back to calling her by her working name.
“Brandi,” he said in a congenial voice. “Brandi, can you hear me? I’m Doctor Gast. I just want to ask you a few questions, okay?”
Emily didn’t acknowledge his presence at all. Instead, she kept babbling to herself and continued her incessant rocking.
“Brandi. Brandi…” When he received no reply, Doctor Gast placed his hand gently on her shoulder.
The second his hand made contact, Emily shrieked and whipped her hand up to dislodge him, causing the doctor to fall back on his ass.
Emily screamed and flailed around frantically. Her words were nonsensical, and though no one was trying to touch her, you would have thought she was being attacked.
“Hold her legs down,” the doctor ordered as he tried to get a hold of her hands.
I did as he asked, managing to grab each of her ankles and hold them to the floor as best I could without hurting her. The doctor and Sal finally got hold of her wrists and pinned them to the carpet.
“Pass me my bag,” he said to Sal as he tried to prevent Emily from bucking up off the floor—or worse, getting her hand free.
Sal handed the doctor his bag, then took over restraining Emily’s hands.