Capo di Foia Ch. 03byMsArcher©
Dear Readers --
Once again, thank you for your extraordinary kindness and support. I apologize for the delay in posting -- I never expected how time- (and thought-) consuming this process can be!
I acknowledge there's a lot of build-up, certainly more than I would have anticipated. But I think it's important to lay a framework for our two lead characters; hopefully it makes their development a bit more interesting. As always, I love your feedback -- keep those suggestions coming!
Happy reading. -- Ms.Archer
Samantha looked up from the page. She had read and attempted to re-read the same paragraph over the last thirty minutes. It was impossible to concentrate; apparently having all the time in the world was not enough to sort her thoughts. She scowled, examining the overlay of the fibers on her sofa.
She felt changed, irrevocably. He'd violated her. She knew this happened to hostages -- and inwardly, she snapped at the voice that told her she'd barely been touched. He'd stripped her, fondled her, and all against her will. Her mind was a dizzying reel of moments, playing in shadow with peeving alacrity. She thought of his gaze in the candlelight -- the way his dark eyes burned with pleasure at every touch and each reluctant moan that escaped her. And she wasn't moaning; he'd elicited a response. He knew that. He was playing with her -- she knew that.
If he'd wanted to rape her, he could have, certainly. Gripped the fabric of her underwear, suddenly, and yanked it to her knees. He might have watched her fear as he freed the bulge in his pants and let the tip of his heavy cock drag across her stomach, a string of precum visible in the flickering light. He was a large man, and Samantha wondered at the breadth and feeling of his size until she caught herself.
She was agitated; a flurry of heat and swirling thoughts. He was a gorgeous man -- by any standard. He looked like a fucking celebrity; chiseled brow and soft lips. A man like Gabriele Franco could've had any future he wanted; instead he'd chosen a life of pervasive crime and backroom dealings -- seeding himself in an illicit network of extortion, lies, loyalty, and killing.
She ASKED HIM TO FUCK HER. Her cheeks flared in embarrassment. He'd provoked a physiological response; it would have happened to any woman. It did not change her consent. She did not consent to him violating her -- touching her as he did.
She stretched her neck to her right, kneading her fingertips deep into the muscle. The stubborn knot strung a blunt pain down to the top of her back. She'd spent the rest of the night tethered to the bedpost and finally fallen asleep. Franco's lackeys came to cut her down at what must have been morning; she'd felt humiliated in her underwear and ripped clothing. After her shower, Samantha found her breakfast waiting. She tried turning to her latest book, Siddhartha, to calm her mind. But the pain in her neck made it impossible to concentrate.
What was she doing here?? Franco had no reason to keep her. It was so pointless -- the books and the bedroom and the abject monotony. Was she a prisoner? This was a most unorthodox prison. For how long? What could he hope to gain by keeping her in custody? Samantha resented the nagging memory of him, the predatory hunger in his eyes as he took in her bare flesh.
He wanted her, on whatever twisted plane his mind operated. The understanding both allayed and aggravated her fears. It bestowed a weapon she felt powerless to wield. How did he want her? Was it his plan to seduce her? Hurt her, use her? Was he manipulating her?
Samantha was no stranger to desire; she was beautiful, she knew, and innately conscious of precisely when and how to employ her charm. Early on in training, she was insistent -- determined -- to submerge any hint of feminine allure. What good was an agent if she couldn't run as fast or shoot with best of them? She deplored the stories of female agents "sleeping their way to the top" or opting not to wear a gun to the office. She would be an agent -- first and foremost. The resolution spurred countless late-night sprints at the track and harsh self-admonishment whenever she failed to nab a top score on the exams.
She was relieved to feel a sort of self-emergence after arriving at the field office. Here, ability was no longer measured by bench weight or grappling ability. She was sharp and doggedly thorough in her casework, not to mention highly effective in field interviews and liaison work. In a male-dominated field brimming with alpha males and knuckle-draggers, Samantha learned her strengths as a woman frequently gave her the upper hand, set her apart from her colleagues.
Still, the shooting -- obliterating as it had been-- was an affirmation of sorts. So many had teased, scoffed that she didn't have it in her, and deep down, she'd feared they were right. If she ever had to pull her gun -- could she? When it came down to it, would the hits count?
In the blur of phone calls, statements, psychological assessments that followed, she felt a repressible swelling of pride to hear her story had swept across the agency. Her precision was remarkable -- one round grazing the lower right rib and three in a 2-½ inch diameter in the center of the chest. Considering that LEOs under stress shoot anywhere between 10 to 50% of their usual accuracy, her performance was admirable. Perez had even called her reaction "surgical" and Samantha felt guilty for reading her co-workers' congratulatory emails.
The vindication was a blessing; the media blitz that followed was not. While she successfully managed to elude the photographers perched in front of her home and outside the courthouse, the picture(s) of her with NYPD the night of the shooting were recycled for weeks in subsequent articles covering the civil suit. It was because she was a female agent -- not just a fed -- that it got any coverage at all.
Management had been supportive. Her supervisor, Paul, even stopped by her house the next day. At their insistence, she met with an agency-designated counselor, not that it cured the insomnia and recurrent nightmares. She hated her therapist, a saccharine pinhead of a woman with all the personality of a curtain tassel. The mandatory admin leave -- too many days spent trying to fill time - left her feeling vapid, aimless.
Samantha suddenly realized her solitude in the room felt all too familiar.
She wondered how Franco had managed to delude her office for this long. How could he excuse her absence without even a trace of suspicion? Samantha knew they would come for her; it was an impossibility for them not to realize something was seriously wrong.
* * *
Afternoon came, as did a knock at the door. Samantha started to get up off the floor before realizing she had no reason to. The door opened, and a 50-year-old man with a bristled goatee and grey eyes walked in. Her pulse quickened. Where was Franco?
"Ms. Brier, you and I have business to attend to," he said, resigned. He looked tired.
"What do you mean?" Samantha eyed him cautiously.
"You'll find out momentarily." The words made her stomach plunge. Maybe they were going to kill her after all... She felt panic overtake her.
"I'm afraid you've earned a reputation for being difficult," he continued. "So let me level with you. We can go about this like normal people and you follow me, or we do the handcuffs, the whole shebang. What say you?"
Samantha wasn't expecting that. She watched the man's face, searching for motive. He bore the presence of an old retired cop, equal parts loyal and world-weary. His eyebrows rose, awaiting a response. Somehow, his grey eyes seemed kind.
"Yeah. I mean, yes," she answered. "I'll be civilized."
"Good. Don't make me make this unpleasant for you. Let's go," he said, and walked out the door. Samantha hurried up from the floor and followed him into the hallway. Being there took her back to last night. She couldn't see any trace of Tony's blood. All of the doors down the hall were closed.
The compound -- mansion, whatever it was -- proved to be larger than she'd estimated. Samantha tried to commit each turn and passageway to memory. The halls, opulent near her quarters, began to appear more Spartan. She looked up at her escort.
She half-cleared her throat. "What do you do for him, exactly?"
"I oversee Mr. Franco's security apparatus," he answered.
"Oh." His candor caught her off-guard. "How big is it?" she asked.
The man gave her a sideways glance, and Sam felt herself blush. "I mean, how many men does he keep onsite?"
"Enough," he answered simply.
The two rounded the corner, and the man opened a large black door. Samantha followed him in.
There Franco stood, in front of a single metal folding chair.
He looked pensive -- any hint of passion from the night before erased from his expression. She hated him, this sick, brooding, cold-blooded man.
"Ms. Brier, take a seat," the man behind her encouraged.
A large television screen was mounted to the wall. Samantha sat, felt the ice-cold chair against her skin.
"You're going to make a series of phone calls," Franco said as he walked toward her.
Samantha tried her best to appear unphased.
"Before we do that," he continued, "I thought it appropriate to incentivize your good behavior."
As if on cue, the television flickered to life.
Samantha looked at the screen. She saw a white door, the number "25" on front. From the corner of the screen, an arm knocked. She realized she must be watching some kind of hidden camera feed -- perhaps a spy camera. Then the door opened. Samantha paled.
It was April. They were fucking AT her doorstep. She shot a look of fury up at Franco, her eyes filled with desperation. She could hear a man's voice onscreen but couldn't make out the words.
"Yeah, sure. Come on in," she heard her friend say. Samantha's mind was screaming. APRIL! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!
"Samantha, listen to me," Franco spoke evenly. She looked up at him, fighting to suppress a surge of tears. "You be a good girl and do as you're told, and I promise you, no harm will come to your friend."
"Why are you doing this?" Samantha pleaded.
"I need to ensure you won't try to pull a stint like last night."
Samantha turned back to the TV. April was walking her intruder to the kitchen stove. What would he do to her?? She had to find a way...
He continued. "I'm going to give you a cell phone. The first call you're going to make is to your boss, Paul." Samantha looked up again, her brow furrowed. "You're to tell him that you're unable to return to the office. Indefinitely."
"How do you expe --"
"Samantha, you're a sharp girl," Franco said as he loomed over her. "I trust you'll know what to say." She recognized the familiar scent on his clothes. "Now if you try to call for help or make any mention of me or what's happened," he warned her, "Jack here will see to it this turns out very badly for April."
Samantha looked over at the older man, her mind grasping for a way out. How could she relay she was in trouble??
"Mr. Franco prefers to avoid brutality where he can," Jack spoke. "But do not underestimate him in this instance, Ms. Brier." A single tear slipped down her cheek; Samantha quickly wiped it away.
Jack continued, "I would advise you to follow his instructions to the letter, and your friend will remain unharmed."
She looked back at Franco, defeated. He held out the phone and she took it; it was a pre-paid cell. Carefully, she punched in the number to the office and hit send. She looked up onscreen to find the camera wearer prodding around the stovetop with tools. She turned in her chair to face the other direction. Jack watched her patiently, his phone in hand, thumb poised on the buttons.
The line rang three times. "Lambert speaking," a voice answered.
"Paul," Samantha said, relief flooding her "It's me. I need to talk to you."
The conversation went worse than she'd feared. Paul reamed her for not answering her blackberry, demanding to know why she could send emails but was too busy to answer her goddamn phone. She apologized as contritely as she could; the fear in her voice made her story easier to sell. "I'm going through a really rough time right now," she kept saying, trying to block out the scene behind her. When Paul told her the SAC was threatening to drop by her house in person, Samantha explained she was staying with a friend until she got back on her feet.
"I want to help you, Samantha -- really, I do," Paul said. "But I'll be honest; you're putting yourself in hot water with headquarters. If they have any doubt you're unfit for duty, they'll redo your background check -- they could strip your clearance and then you're S-O-L." A pause. "Have you been seeing that therapist?" Samantha glanced at Franco for guidance.
Franco shook his head.
"No, I haven't," she answered. "But I found a new one," she added quickly. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of Franco's approving smirk. "I promise, I'll get through this. Just please give me more time." She wished he would stop staring as she spoke; it rattled her already raw nerves.
"Samantha..." Paul sighed. "Look, the SAC said you've exhausted your admin leave."
The line fell silent. Samantha suddenly hoped he would remain stubborn. If they expected her at the office, then they would send someone out eventually...
"Alright," Paul finally spoke. "I'm presuming you have personal leave, right?"
"Yeah," Samantha swallowed. "I have a lot of sick time."
"Over 200 hours" she said. Samantha had never taken a sick day.
"Okay. I'll put you down for sick leave. But I would advise you to get a note from your therapist. And you'll have to fill out the forms when you get in." As supervisory agents go, Paul was the ultimate paper-pusher.
"Understood, sir. Thank you," Samantha answered despondently. She'd have to hang up soon; this call was her lifeline, her only window to the outside world. Franco held out his hand to collect the phone.
"Samantha?" Paul spoke.
"Yes, sir?" she said, grateful for the extra time.
"What you've been through, this is all part of the job," Paul admonished. "As an agent, you're required to be able to use deadly force when necessary. If this is too much for you -- and I'm not saying it is... but you may want to consider another career choice."
The words stung. Samantha looked away. The fucking asshole. "Yes, sir..." she said after a beat. She relinquished the phone to Franco, fighting a tempest of emotion. She heard the blip as he ended the call.
"Ms. Brier, your bullshit is commendable," Jack said, jolting her back to the room and her perilous situation.
Samantha looked to the TV. There was no sign of April onscreen. The camera was angled toward the lights overhead in the kitchen.
"What's he doing?" Samantha asked.
"April's just fine, Ms. Brier," Jack spoke. "One more phone call."
Franco looked down sternly at her. "Who is Kevin?" he asked, his coal-black eyes studying her.
Kevin. A whisper of hope fluttered in her chest. He'd been trying to reach her. She hesitated before speaking. "He's my friend," she said. "He's my very dear friend." God, were they after Kevin too?
"You work together," Jack offered.
"Yeah, we do." Samantha shifted uncomfortably.
"Call him," Franco instructed coldly. "Give him the same story you told Paul -- I expect you to sell it." He handed back the phone.
"Okay," Samantha answered softly.
She dialed the number, her eyes fixed on the TV as the phone continued to ring. Then she heard the familiar recording; she'd reached his voicemail. She looked to Franco, but his expression gave her no reprieve. The message beeped.
"Hi, Kevin...it's me. Um..I'm sorry I've been M.I.A. for so long. If you couldn't tell, I'm sort of having a mini crisis —" Samantha saw Jack raise his phone in warning. "—but don't worry, because I'm just taking some time for myself and I'm gonna' get through this. I'm staying with a friend for the next few weeks but I promise I'll be back in the saddle soon—" back in the saddle? Who says that? "—and I promise we'll catch up then. Okay. So take care. Bye."
Samantha ended the call and exhaled.
"Do I make the check out to you or the gas company? " she heard April speak on camera. Thank god, she was still okay. The relief soon turned to anguish. She'd had two phone calls with the outside world and no one had any clue she was kidnapped.
Franco rested his hand on her shoulder. She fought the urge to bat him away.
"Good girl," he said, and left the room.
* * *
Jack escorted Samantha back to her chamber. They walked in silence, but Samantha didn't notice. She felt completely broken, and simultaneously numb.
When she entered her room, she saw it had been polished and scrubbed. He'd sent someone in. All her laundry in the bathroom had been collected; her towels were gone. On the vanity sat a large box with a black satin bow. What the fuck is this.
Sourly, she loosened the knot and lifted the top of the box. Inside lay a luxuriously-woven Turkish bathrobe. Samantha couldn't help running her hand over the royal-blue terrycloth.
He can kiss my ass, she muttered to herself before turning to take a nap.
* * *
That night, Samantha stepped out of the shower. Holding her body, she cursed, remembering they'd taken the towels. She hurriedly tip-toed over to the box and removed the robe, donning its sleeves and wrapping the soft fabric around her body. Cinching the belt in a quick knot, Samantha looked at herself in the mirror. Strands of wet hair framed her face, her cheeks red from the hot shower. The robe fit her beautifully.
After wringing out her hair, Samantha sauntered into the bedroom and stopped in her tracks.
The room was dark, save for an ominous blue light bathing her nightstand.
"Clasp your hands above your head," he spoke from the darkness.
Samantha summoned her wits. "No." she said indignantly, her eyes searching the room. A tall dark figure stood from the sofa and moved toward her. Instinct urged her to run, but her feet refused. She would not run from him.
"I would expect nothing less from you, Samantha," his features now visible in the soft blue glow. His half-grin was menacing, all-knowing. She clenched her fists. "Sometimes I think you're practically begging to be disciplined," he said as he approached.
"You're sick," Samantha said bitterly. "I despise you. I'd kill you the first chance I got."
Undeterred, Franco continued to advance. "Is that so?"
He was a mere ten feet away. "Why. Why are you keeping me here?" she demanded.
He was closing in - two arm-lengths away. She angled her stance. "Come one step closer and you'll regret it."
Franco stopped, cocking his eyebrow. "And what do you plan to do with me, Samantha?"
She hated the way he spoke her name. "Let's find out, you filthy son of a bitch."
Franco lunged, a tiger pouncing prey. She'd barely had time to react before she was firmly encased in his grip, his hungry gaze leering over her.
"Filthy..." he said, relishing her wide-eyed dismay before scrutinizing every curve of her body hidden behind the heavy robe. Samantha began to struggle, but he easily and effortlessly seized her hands, freezing them at her sides as he drew her firmly against his hard body. Samantha groaned as he did.
He bent over her ear, the low cadence of his voice luring her in. "You have no idea how filthy I could be." She felt her breasts swelling against his ribcage. "But you wonder, don't you, Samantha... You've wanted this."