Velvet Roses Ch. 11


The minute he hit the ground, Daniel straddled him. He reached into his back pocket and retrieved a switchblade, and as the knife sprung free, he pressed it against his brother's throat.

"From now on, we're doing things my way," Daniel said, his teeth bared like a dog with rabies. "I don't take orders from no one, especially not you."

"Are you nuts? Get off me, Daniel."

"Apologize first."

"I said get off me, you fucking nutcase!"

Rather than acquiesce, Daniel pressed the knife more firmly against Adrian's windpipe, and as a thin line of blood seeped from the shallow cut, Adrian gritted his teeth against the pain.

"Apologize." Daniel angled the point of the knife against Adrian's Adam's apple. "Say you're sorry or I'll cut you right open."

"Alright, fine. I'm sorry, okay?" he choked out. "Now get that knife off my throat."

As if possessed by madness, Daniel's lips pulled back, nostrils flaring in fury, then finally he removed the blade from Adrian's throat and got to his feet.

"You better not talk to me like that ever again." Daniel's voice was low and dangerous, his stance threatening as he glowered down at his injured brother.

Blood trickled from the cut on Adrian's throat, and as he rose to his full height, his eyes narrowed to slits. "You're insane," he hissed. "You've completely lost your fucking mind."

Daniel took a step closer to Adrian. So close, that their noses nearly touched. "I could have done a lot worse, you little shit. Just remember that."

The expression on Adrian's face was one of homicidal intent, his jaw clenching repeatedly as a storm raged in his eyes. "This is over. We're done here." He turned on his heel and gathered his handgun and bowie knife from the edge of the bed, then retrieved his sweatshirt from the floor. But before he could exit the bedroom, Daniel called out to him.

"It's not over until I say It's over."

Adrian halted his steps, turned to face his brother, and then lifted the gun and aimed it straight at him. "We're leaving. Now. So get your shit and let's go."

This only drew a chuckle from Daniel's lips and he slowly sauntered towards Adrian, only coming to stop once the barrel of the gun was pressed against his chest.

"Go on," he goaded. "Be a man for once and pull the trigger. Or are you too chicken shit to go through with it?"

He said nothing in return, only stared Daniel down with hard, cold eyes. The contempt between the two brothers was so thick it hung in the air like a cloud, and as Jeneda waited with bated breath, she noticed Adrian's finger tighten on the trigger.

The seconds which passed seemed like minutes, and the space around them brimmed with unnerving expectancy. Yet instead of heeding his brother's advice, Adrian lowered the gun, then turned and walked out of the bedroom.

"Yeah, just what I thought, you pussy," Daniel called out after him.

The hardwood floor creaked as Adrian's heavy footsteps continued down the hallway, and for a few moments all Daniel did was stand there staring after his brother. Then suddenly, as if coming out of a trance, he jerked his head around to look at Jeneda.

As he stared at her, she glared right back at him, and for a moment she was certain that he was going to make another attempt at violating her body, but as his eyes drifted to Dane, she noticed his grip tighten on the knife he was holding.

He took a step towards Dane, then another before coming to a stop right in front of him. Then in one swift motion, he delivered a stunning punch to his throat.

The force of it caused Dane's head to violently snap back, and for a moment, he made no sound at all. Then a horrible wheezing noise suddenly erupted from his mouth, followed by a harsh, string of coughs that racked his body.

His shoulders heaved with every breath that he took and he squeezed his eyes shut, face tightening with pain. His body slumped back against the chair, and as the horrible wheezing noises turned into desperate gasps, Jeneda knew he was fighting to breathe.

Daniel continued to watch on with morbid interest, studying Dane intently as his ragged breaths tapered off. Then with frightening suddenness, Dane's head lolled to the side and his body went completely slack.

Too stunned to do anything except stare wide eyed, Jeneda watched on in horror as Daniel turned nonchalantly away from Dane, and after casting one last rageful glare toward Jeneda, he picked up his jacket from the floor and casually ambled out of the bedroom.

A few seconds later there was a thump out on the fire escape, followed by the unmistakable sound of Daniel descending the metal ladder, and that was when an anguished wail tore from Jeneda's throat. It was a long, heart wrenching cry, lips quivering as she willed Dane to give her a sign that he was still alive.

His head was lolled to one side, and blood trickled from his nose, providing a sharp contrast against his pale skin. His face was blank and his eyelids half mast- unseeing and void of even the slightest glimmer of recognition.

He didn't appear to be blinking, but from what she could see, the rise and fall of his chest was very minimal. She also noticed that his pale complexion had become impossibly whiter, and as she stared at his lean, unmoving form, she suddenly became aware of the silence surrounding her.

The steady dripping of the leaky bathroom faucet was the only thing to cut through the stillness, and as the seconds ticked by, the sound became deafening. For some reason it made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end, and as she came to the realization that Dane was fading right before her very eyes, a spike of sheer panic raced through her body.

Her heartbeat resonated in her ears, pounding so hard she could feel it in her throat, yet rather than be incapacitated by her emotions, she sprung into action.

Her eyes immediately darted to the bedside table beside her, and upon noticing that her cell phone was hidden beneath a pizza box, she leaned over, angling her body so that her nose bumped against the edge of the cardboard carton. She nudged the pizza box aside until it fell to the floor, and after gripping her cell phone with her teeth, she lifted it from the nightstand.

She moved carefully and slowly, but apparently she wasn't painstaking enough, because her cell phone managed to free itself from the captivity of her teeth and clatter noisily to the hardwood floor.

As if to reinforce the hopelessness of the situation, the outer shell of the phone broke apart, and as the battery fell out, she was left to stare in dismay at the remains of her mobile.

Her gaze shifted to Dane, and as she noticed that he was still unmoving and breathing weakly, her chest tightened painfully. Panic beckoned her and her vision was clouded with tears, but now wasn't the time to give up.

Wild with hysteria, her eyes scanned the surface of the bedside table for anything that might aid her in removing her restraints. Keys, loose change, a stack of books, and a bottle of aspirin were among the useless items on the table, but as her attention came to rest on an envelope opener, a rush of hope swept through her.

Imitating her earlier move, she leaned in closer to the nightstand, then angled her head so that she could capture the letter opener, but in her rush to grasp it between her teeth, she knocked off a glass of water, sending it shattering to the floor.

Rather than deter, it only spurred her on, and after some creative maneuvering she finally managed to grasp the letter opener with her mouth. After dropping it on the bed, she shifted her body so that she could nudge the object behind her with her toes, and as her fingers found purchase against the sharp edge of the knife-like object, she went to work at cutting her restraints.

The envelope opener had a fairly sharp blade, but it still took a fair amount of time and effort to cut through the rope, and by the time she managed to slice through her restraints, blisters had formed on her fingertips.

No sooner had her hands been released, did she hastily get out of bed, but the moment her feet touched the ground, a crunching noise cut through the air, followed by her shrill cry of pain.

In her rush to get to Dane, she'd completely forgotten about the glass that had shattered, and as a wickedly sharp piece sliced into the bottom of her right foot, she winced, but continued on.

The moment she reached Dane, she sank to her knees behind him, and as she saw that the thumb and index finger of his right hand were deformed and bent at a sickening angle, her stomach heaved.

She turned away, placing a hand over her mouth while she fought to control her stomach, and after taking a few deep breaths, she went to work at freeing him from his restraints.

As she hastily cut through the rope that bound his wrists and ankles, her vision clouded with hot tears, and after rising to her feet and sinking to her knees in front of him, she removed the duct tape that sealed his mouth.

A barely audible whimper sounded from his lips, and as she looked into his badly swollen eyes, she saw him blink once, then twice before uttering some barely intelligible words.

"Hospital..." The words came out as little more than a croak and he winced, as if the act of speaking pained him greatly.

"Yes, of course. What am I thinking?" She hastily asked before grabbing her phone from the floor. "I'll get an ambulance right away."

She hurriedly replaced the battery that had popped out, then quickly dialed 911. The call send button was never depressed, however, because Dane suddenly called out to her in a panic.


Jeneda whipped her head around to look at him, and as her eyes met his, she saw there was genuine worry in them. She also noticed that his bloodied lips were moving without sound, as if he were struggling to push out more words.

"Can't go." His face contorted into a grimace and he took a few swallows, shifting in his seat before forcing the next few words out. "No hospital."

"Why?" Her brows knitted tightly together. "Dane, this is serious. You *have* to go."

"No," he wheezed, then gave a harsh cough and spit up blood that had collected in his mouth.

"Listen to me, Dane," Jeneda said as she tenderly cradled his battered face in her hands. "Going is*not* an option." Her words were razor sharp, her soft, feminine features hardening into an expression of deep concern. "I'm calling an ambulance and they're taking you to the hospital. You have no say in this."

She grabbed her phone, and after connecting with emergency services, she quickly gave them the information. After ending the call, she traced a hand ever so lightly over his hair, pushing back the disheveled strands that hung in his eyes, then stared up into his puffy face.

"Oh my God."

Jeneda's voice wavered with emotion, her gaze roving from his eyes that were so puffy they were nearly shut, before lowering to his nose, which was broken and leaked copious amounts of blood that filled the air with a strong, coppery scent. Both sides of his face had bruises forming along the jaw, and his lips were swollen from being punched in the mouth.

Her gaze them came to focus on his throat, and that was when she noticed that it was beginning to swell. It was clear to see that Dane was struggling to take in air, because his breathing was uneven, and his Adam's apple constantly bobbed up and down, as if he was trying to clear a blockage in his windpipe.

Although she knew it was a bad idea to traumatize herself any further, she still chose to lift his shirt, and upon seeing what lay underneath, she inhaled sharply, then clamped a hand over her mouth and whimpered into it.

The bruises on his torso were more horrific than she could have ever imagined, scattered along his stomach and ribs, and as her eyes came to rest on one particularly angry red mark, she saw that it was actually in the shape of knuckles.

An electric jolt went through her heart at the sight of it, and unable to bear the sight of his battered torso, she pulled his sweater back down, then reached up to gingerly caress his cheek.

"Oh babe, I'm so sorry." Fat tears tracked down her cheeks, and she sputtered faintly before blubbering, "They won't get away with this. We'll press charges, and-" Her voice suddenly halted as she realized that they couldn't press charges, and as the terrible reality of the situation hit her full force, her chest tightened with dread.

A sharp rapping at the front door cut through her dismal thoughts, and after rushing to the front door and opening it, the paramedics stepped in. What happened next was little more than a blur, and as they loaded Dane onto a stretcher and wheeled him out, his slitted eyes drifted close.

* * * *

The hospital room smelled strongly of antiseptic, and the sound of voices calling out codes over the intercom drifted in from the hallway. The chair Jeneda sat in was located next to the bed Dane was reclining in, and as she placed a palm over the splinted fingers of his right hand, he emitted a faint murmur.

His eyelashes fluttered, then his eyes slowly opened, and as he turned his head to look at Jeneda, she gave him a weak smile. A pained groan escaped his lips, and after swallowing dryly, he opened his mouth to speak.

"I told you no hospital."

"So what should I have done?" She asked. "Left you at home to suffer in pain?" Her tone came out sounding harsher than she'd expected, and reminding herself of the torture he'd been through, she once again softened. "I had to bring you, Dane. There's no way I could have taken care of you at home."

His eyes darted around the room, as if searching for some invisible threat. Then resting his gaze back on Jeneda, he said, "Take me home."

Although his voice came out as more of a murmur, his tone was firm and demanded obedience.

"I can't do that."

"Yes, you can. Now get me out of here."

"Sweetie, I don't think that's such a good idea. You should at least stay overnight so they can-"

"I'm not staying here!" Using his uninjured hand, he threw the covers back, then rolled onto his side and attempted to get onto his feet.

"Dane, stop it. You haven't been discharged yet."

She hurried around to the other side of bed and tried to stop him from getting up, but he only evaded her grasp, then pushed himself onto his feet.

His face twisted in pain, grunts emitting from his mouth as he made slow, methodical steps toward a closet located next to the bathroom.

Upon reaching it, he opened the door, then pulled his clothes out of a clear plastic bag. She watched in frustration as he stripped out of his hospital gown, and as he began to sluggishly dress himself, she offered her assistance.

"You shouldn't be doing this," she said as she helped him into his pants, then zipped and buttoned them up.

"I don't like hospitals, and I won't be forced to stay here." He lifted his arms so that he could pull his sweater on, and as Jeneda helped him into it, he groaned in pain.

She sighed deeply, and as concern etched her features, she spoke. "Alright, I'll get you out of here. But we're going to your apartment."

"No, take me to your place."

"Your apartment is safer. And besides, Adrian has a key to my place, so we can't go back there until I can get the locks changed."

"There are emergency locksmiths. We'll call one."

She bent down to help him into his boots, and after tying them, she pulled herself up to her full height and gingerly slung his arm around her shoulders. Then she slipped her hand around his waist and they slowly made their way to the door.

"I really don't feel good about going back there," she said. "Especially not so soon."

"Just take me to your place. Please. I want to go to your apartment."

As she looked up into his face, she saw that his eyes were pleading with her, and she nodded her head, then gave him a loving rub on the back.

"Okay, we'll go to my place."

He swayed as they continued forward, leaning slightly on her shorter frame, and as they exited the door and walked out into the hallway, a pixie haired nurse pushing a blood pressure monitor spotted them. As they walked closer towards her, she studied Dane's battered face, then came to a halt and blocked their path.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going home," Dane said.

"Have you been officially discharged?"


"Then you aren't leaving," she sternly said.

"You can't keep me here against my will."

She remained silent, as if considering his words, then turned on her heel and briskly headed back down the corridor. Dane and Jeneda exchanged a brief look before continuing forward, and as they made their way past the nurse's station and toward the elevators, they heard a voice call out after them.

They looked back over their shoulders to see a doctor with boyish good looks rushing towards them, and as he saw where they were headed, his mouth set in a straight, grim line.

"I don't recall discharging you, Mr. Leventhal."

"That's because you didn't." Dane spoke firmly while staring straight into the physician's eyes.

"I strongly recommend that you remain in our care. At least for the night."

"I'd rather go home."

"Need I remind you of the beating you endured?" He flipped back a page that was attached to his metal clipboard, then began to list Dane's injuries. "Two broken fingers, a cracked rib, a broken nose, extensive bruising to your torso, partial obstruction of the throat caused by a blow to the Adam's apple..." His voice drifted off and he gave Dane a serious look. "Please reconsider. These injuries aren't to be taken lightly."

"I appreciate your concern, doctor, but there's nothing you can say to keep me here."

The physician exhaled a heavy breath before saying, "Fine. Just know that there are risks involved with an unauthorized release, and that by doing so, you sign away our legal responsibility to you."

"I understand."

"At least let me give you some take-home instructions." His eyes then shifted to Jeneda. "I assume you'll be taking care of him?"

She nodded. "He'll be staying with me until he gets better."

"Then you'll need to know how and when to change his dressings, as well as guidelines on how to bathe him." He gave brief pause, glancing back and forth between the two of them. Then in a tone which expressed reluctance, he said, "Just give me a minute, and I'll print out the instructions."

While the doctor headed off to the nurse's station, Jeneda gazed up into Dane's two swollen black eyes, and with a look of concern, she asked, "You sure you don't want to stay overnight?"


Her eyes shifted to his splinted nose before drifting to the marks that mottled his jaw, and as her gaze came to rest on the vicious looking bruise on his throat, she reached up to tenderly stroke it.

As her thumb lightly grazed over his injured Adam's apple, Dane looked down into her eyes. His palm cupped her cheek with the same gentleness that she was giving him, and as they stood there staring into each other's eyes, an unspoken understanding passed between them.

They were irrevocably linked now, and although what lay ahead was a complete mystery to the both of them, they knew that their paths had been entwined for a reason. As this thought ran through Jeneda's head, she was reminded of the last love note that Dane had left on her fire escape, and the words he'd written reverberated in her mind.

*We're meant to be together and you know it.*

Not having broken eye contact for even a second, Jeneda continued to gaze into his eyes, and as Dane craned down to kiss her, she whispered against his lips.

"You were right. We are meant to be together."

His brow cocked in surprise, followed his lips curling into a sad little smile. "But I'm a beast. How can you still love me?"

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