Dacia danced because she had no choice, she moved across the stage on her toes, pirouetting here and there. She was like a doll, a living doll. A mask covered her face, red and black with dark sequins. Night after night he made her dance for the pleasure of his friends, tonight she was a ballerina, tomorrow who knew. It was the sound of the glass skylight breaking that drew her eyes up. She still danced, unable to fight the compulsion, but she watched as a you man descended from the ceiling, sliding down and rope with an excited yell. He landed on the stage next to her, those watching her had jumped up and he watched shocked from the front row.
“Hello Maaren.” The man said to her captor, waving to him.
“You will not take her.” Maaren moved towards them and the man wrapped one arm around her waist and tugged on the rope. They were suddenly being hauled up, the sound of Maaren’s snarls and yells filling the surprised silence. Her feet still moved and as soon as they were out the skylight and on the roof, something wet was pressed to her face and she felt herself fade into unconsciousness.
When she woke it was with a gasp and the same man who had stolen her away was there “easy now, I only knocked you out so you could quit dancing.” HIs voice was so warm and friendly. It had been so long since a voice actually relaxed her “why did you help me? Where am I?”
“It’s what I do with my life. I save people from slavery. It’s not right, nobody should be a slave to anybody else.”
“you knew him…that…that monster Maaren?”
“Yes, I’ve saved many people from him before”
“Why don’t you just stop him completely?”
“I would if I could but I haven’t been able to yet. I stop the people I can and I do hope one day I can end his kidnappings for good”
“You’re going to save everyone else too right?”
“I’ve only just saved you. Don’t you want to enjoy that a few moments?”
“No, how can I enjoy myself when I know what they go through?” He smiled, liking her already. “OKay then, come to the kitchen and eat something for me and we’ll work on saving everyone else.”
It felt good for Dacia to have control of her body, to be able to walk where she liked to eat when she felt like it. Rowan smiled as he watched her and she felt heat climb up her neck. “You’re so cute.” He said and the heat filled her cheeks, turning them red.
“Sorry, it’s the way you’re just savoring your food, making every bite count, it cute.”
“Well, he always told me when to eat, when to dance, what to wear. I guess, I just want to take everything in knowing he can’t tell me what to do.”
“How did he get you?”
“He came to one of my performances and after he came to my dressing room, with flowers to talk to me. He asked me out and I declined. I guess he got tired of my rejection because he drugged me and I was no longer in control myself. I hated it. He treated me like a doll.”
“I’m sorry, that’s him to a T though. He’s used to getting his way with women since he’s attractive and when he doesn’t he forces his way. The men he kidnaps is just because they piss him off somehow and it makes him feel good to control them and make their lives hell”
“Yeah, all my fellow prisoners told me their stories with him”
“I hate I can’t stop him completely”
“It’s amazing you do what you can instead of turning a blind eye”
“You sure you don’t want to just breath a day or two before we try to help the others?”
“I’m sure, I can’t relax knowing they are miserable”
“Alright, just wanted to double check”
“It’s just, he can be so cruel and without me there he’s going to be angry.”
He reached out and gently took her hand. “It’s okay, we’ll get them out.” He smiled and she felt herself blushing. “You should meet the others.”
“You didn’t have time before. There’s four of us, plus Igor.”
“Heather’s dog.” He suddenly realized he hadn’t actually introduced himself. “I’m Rowan, seems I got a little caught up in everything.”
“It’s alright, I’m Dacia.”
“What a beautiful name.”
“So your friends, where are they then?”
“Out shopping for clothes for you and food.”
” we don’t just rescue people and forget about them. We’re going to make sure you’re okay and safely back wherever you belong before moving on. Though it seems now we’re going to try once again to actually take this guy down.”
“You sound stressed”
“He doesn’t stop at anything Dacia. Our group almost lost Almon last time, we didn’t think he’d make it. Thankfully my healing magic is as good as it is but he does need to be stopped. This time we wont fail, I know it. How long has he had you? Maybe you learned something that can help us. While we wait tell me everything you can remember. It doesn’t matter how insignificant the memory might seem, anything could help us”
“I was trapped there for a year, even though it seems so much longer. I was the only one, besides the maids, allowed in his room because I was his favorite.”
“No, that seemed to be where he drew the line. Odd isn’t it?”
“Even some assholes have their limits.”
“His room has a lot of windows, he likes the natural light and there’s a skylight in his bathroom. Then there’s the wine cellar, another place only I and his butler were allowed into. He has a new shipment brought in every couple of months because he hosts a lot of parties. He liked to make me dance at them, even if I was tired.”
“You are a beautiful dancer. Under different circumstances, I could have watched you all day.” His charming smile made her heart skip in her chest. “Sorry, sometimes I don’t have much of a filter, but I mean it.”
“Tell me more about that place.”
She racked her brain. “There’s a big tree on the south side, its branches run really close to the house, but he has dogs, big dogs. They’re sweet to the people there, but they go mad if anyone so much as thinks about climbing the fence.”
“Thanks, is that all you can think of for now?”
“No, that was really good. All of that is useful to us” She finished her food and he offered her more “No, thats fine for now. My stomach feels a bit off”
“sorry, I hope it’s not what we used to knock you out”
“Don’t be, really, I can’t thank you enough for this. Not only saving me but having your friends buy me clothes and being willing to save the others because I asked”
“You’re sweet and rather adorable Dacia” she blushed again and he decided not to tease her. “why don’t you rest somewhere since your stomach isn’t feeling that great”
“Thank you, I would like another drink though”
“No problem, sweet tea again?”
Dacia fell asleep after she finished her tea and only woke when she heard voices. She sat up, stretching her arms above her head. It felt good not being forced to wake up. Just as she stood to get out of bed, the bedroom door opened and a large dog came bounding in, followed by Rowan. “Oh, you’re awake.” He said with a big smile and the dog jumped up, his paws landing on Dacia’s shoulders as his tongue gave her big wet dog kisses. “Igor, down.” The dog huffed and dropped down. “Sorry about that, that’s no way to wake you.”
“It’s okay.” He walked over and used his shirt to wipe the dog spit from her cheek and nose.
“There we go.” He took her hands and gently pulled her to her feet. “Feel up to meeting my partners in crime?”
“Sure, but I’m kind of a mess.”
“Nonsense, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world, even half awake and covered in dog spit.”
Dacia’s cheeks tinted pink and it made his smile widened. Rowan guided her into the living room and began introducing everyone “first, this is Heather Kapoor” Heather, although she was sitting looked tall. She had beautiful, long blonde hair and stunning blue eyes. Dacia also noted to herself she had this majorly friendly aura about her. She just felt like the type of person you could count on. Next he introduced Almon Chandra. Almon had blonde hair aswell, some of it he had dyed blue. His face was covered in piercings and she noticed a necklace around his neck. Eben and Fleeta were next, they were twins, each had jet black hair and intense brown eyes. They all seemed happy to meet her and she looked forward to getting to know them.
“It’s nice to meet you all.”
“How are you feeling?” Heather asked.
“Fine, a little tired, but much better than I was at Maaren’s.”
“That’s good and it’s probably just the drugs still leaving your system. You were on them for awhile weren’t you?”
“We’ve found that the longer you’re on it, the longer it takes to completely leave your bloodstream.” Almon replied. “Some of the people we’ve rescued have experienced lethargy, muscle pain, sometimes even nausea and vomiting.”
“Is it addictive?” Dacia worried.
“No, I promise, you’ll be fine.” Rowan reassured her as he rubbed his hand up and down her back.
“We got you some clothes.” Eben said as he held out a couple of bags. “I guessed your size so I hope they fit. The ballet stuff you were wearing was all custom made and form fitting, but I thought you might want something more comfortable.”
“He’s never wrong with measurements, it’s his freakish power.” Fleeta teased.
“It’s not freakish, it’s amazing and I don’t hear you complaining when I pick something put for you.”
Dacia smiled and it nearly stopped Rowans heart a moment, she looked so genuinely happy and real happiness looked stunning on her. “I appreciate this so much”
“Try it on” Dacia walked out, returning to her room and quickly changing into one of the outfits. Fleeta was apparently right about her brother, this fit perfectly. It looked good and was incredibly comfortable to wear. When she returned everyone could see how happy she was with what she was wearing “Has Rowan fed you yet Dacia?”
“Yeah, I’m good”
“Good, he’s filled us in on the information you shared. We need time to plan but we really are going back for everyone else. We’ll take him down once and for all”
“what does that mean?”
“I wont insult you by lieing, it means we will have to kill him. We’ve tried so much so many times. Ending his life seems to be the only answer if you really don’t want anybody else hurt by him again. He’s been doing this a long time and nothing short of death is going to change that”
“We’ll try to keep you out of the fight.” Rowan said. “I wouldn’t want you tainting your hands.”
“I just ask you try not to kill the others. If he tells them to fight, they won’t be able to help it.”
“I’ll get to work on synthesizing the antidote for dart use.” Almon said. “It shouldn’t take too long.”
“I’ll help.” Eben said.
“Then Fleeta and I will make dinner while Rowan and Dacia come up with a plan.” Heather added.
“Me?” Dacia couldn’t believe they were actually including her in something so important.
“Of course, it’ll be fun.” Rowan said with a big smile. “You know the floor plan better than most, you were allowed everywhere.”
“But I don’t know if I can remember where everything is.”
“We have the floor plans, it’s how we knew about the skylight.”
“Go on, He’s basically the brains behind what we do and you’re more qualified to help him plan this one than any of us. We’ve got the food, the guys have the darts and I know you two are going to come up with the perfect plan for us” Heather said with a smile then walked toward the kitchen with Fleeta just behind her. Rowan took her hand, guiding her where they normally planned things out. “Heather seems especially nice” Dacia noted to him and Rowan answered “Yeah, she’s just one of those people you instantly feel completely comfortable around, she’s got an incredible heart. Did they all give you good impressions?”
“Oh yeah, it’s amazing Eben knew my size just by looking at me”
“It’s insane, he knows the precise size of everything just by looking at it. That skill is more useful than you might think in so many ways. Everyone here brings amazing things to the table”
“I wish I did, but all I’m good at is dancing.”
“Hey, I won’t have you talking about yourself like that, you’re amazing and beautiful and I’m incredibly happy to have you here.”
“S…so, what does everyone else do?”
“Heather’s our pilot.”
“Airship, that’s how we got you out. Almon is all about the chemical warfare. He made the stuff we used to knock you out and remove the toxins from your body. You know what Eben can do and both he and Fleeta are good fighters. They’re incredible at synchronizing their moves.”
“One of the cool things about being twins I’m sure” Rowan pulled out the floor plans of Mareens mansion “for starts lets see what all you can remember, I’m going to make notes while you talk but I’m listening intently. Don’t stress about what you can’t remember, all I want to hear is what comes to your mind. Start at the front door and walk me through the mansion as best you can”
“okay” she closed her eyes, thinking it would help if she tried to picture everything. As she spoke she listened to the soothing sound of Rowan’s pencil moving. It was odd but she had always loved the way it sounds when a pencil meets paper. He never once asked her to pause which surprised her. He seemed to easily keep up as she spoke. They were actually pretty far into this part of the process when they were called to eat. “How’s it going in there?” Heather asked and Rowan said “she has a really good memory, right now I have her doing a walk through. I know she already told me about Mareens home but I think it will be helpful to know whats set up through the house.”
“yeah, makes sense, I mean Almons injuries probably wouldn’t have happened last time if we knew more of what he had in his place and where” Heather then turned the questions to Almon and Eben “progress?”
“Same as them, just really getting things set up to do the real work”
“now that food is taken care of I’ll help Rowan and are you cool helping your brother Fleeta?”
“yeah, sounds like a plan”
Dacia was amazed at how well everyone worked together. Heather and Rowan set up a good plan of action and even points of escape. Eben and Fleeta made sure the airship was ready and Almon made sure his new ammo worked. “So, will I be going with you?” Dacia asked. She was worried about them going up against Maaren.
“I would rather you stay safely here.” Rowan said.
“But, I can help. I mean I can’t use weapons, but I could give directions.”
“We do have the headsets.” Heather said.
Rowan gently took Dacia’s hand. “Promise me you’ll stay on the ship. You’ll have the blueprints, you don’t need to be in there with us.”
“Please? For me? I know you’re worried, but this is what we do.” He reached up with his other hand and stroked her cheek. “Trust me, with you in our ears we’re going to make it.”
He smiled and her she felt herself warm from head to toe with a full body blush. “How cute, you’re as red as a tomato.”
“When are we going?”
She thought of her friends there and wished there was some way to let them know that tomorrow their misery would be over. No matter how cruel he was being right now out of anger she was gone it would be all over soon and they could return to their lives. She wanted to use that time to try and look up their family online and let them know they were okay but she knew that could lead to the police being involved and police might make it harder for Rowan and his friends to do what they do. It would make it especially hard since they were planning to end Mareens life for good. She knew they were right, he needed to be stopped permanently. He had given up his right to life when he started treating people like dolls, disregarding them and the lives they lead and just thinking of his own selfish wants.
“Hey Dacia.” Rowan said as he tapped on her door frame. She looked up from the book she had borrowed. She was too nervous to sleep.
“I wanted to teach you how to use a gun before you went to sleep in case anyone got on the airship.”
“Okay, will I have to kill anyone?”
“No, it’s full of that stuff Almon made.
“Okay.” He came over and sat with her on the bed and held out the gun for her. She took it, amazed at how heavy it was. He adjusted her hands and she felt her heart beat quicken. She had never held a gun before, she hadn’t had to.
“So you want to make sure to hold tight, look down the sight, and when you squeeze the trigger do it slow, don’t jerk it. Never aim at anything you don’t plan to shoot and remember these aren’t real bullets, but it’s going to hurt on impact. They should go down quick and they’ll stay out for a few hours.”
“I got it.” She lowered the gun and handed it back to him. “I’m kind of scared.”
He sat the gun down then hugged her. “You shouldn’t be because there’s no way I would ever let him have you back. You’re under my protection now and nothing can take you from me.” She blushed and buried her face in his shirt so he wouldn’t see. “I really like you, you know that?”
“You don’t even know me.”
“Isn’t that the best part. I get to learn all of this new stuff about you, it’s like an adventure and every new detail just makes you more beautiful and amazing.”
He chuckled. “I’m going to protect you, Dacia and I promise to save your friends so don’t worry.”
He was intense but Dacia liked that about him and wouldn’t even try to deny the feelings stirring within her. His flirtations were telling her he might be feeling the same way she was and when this was all over, she planned on asking him out on a date if he didn’t ask her first. She knew this wasn’t the time to be thinking of dating but she couldn’t help it, Rowan was an incredible guy and a part of her knew that they were going to come away from this with all of her friends intact. She knew nobody could say for certain what the future held but from what she had seen of these people so far she had unequivocal confidence in them, especially Rowan.
“Get some sleep, Dacia, tomorrow night is going to be big for all of us.” She settled into bed and he bent down and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Night.”
The next morning she was a ball of nerves thinking about what might happen. Her mind played through every worst case scenario and only stopped when Rowan hugged her tightly from behind, sending her thoughts scattering as her body warmed. “There we go, you were making such a distressed face.”
“Sorry, I can’t help it.”
“I know, in only hours we’ll be flying towards Maaren. Not only will you have to be near where he is again but I know you’re worried about all of us and your friends. I just hoped a hug might make you feel better, if even just for a moment” Her thoughts filled with how sweet this man was again and suddenly today didn’t feel so grim. It was amazing to her how such a simple thing could make her feel this much better about their mission tonight. They prepared up until it was time to go “remember Dacia, no mater what happens you stay in the aircraft with Heather. You’re helping us by being in our ears if we need your guidance”
“I’ll stay with her”
“I wont leave a soul behind”
“I know, thank you.”
She told herself to breathe as they had breakfast and then went over the plan again. Rowan went ahead and took her into the basement where they had targets set up and let her squeeze off a few rounds with her gun. She felt more at ease as the day went on, reminding herself that things would be okay, all she had to do was keep calm and be there for them. “Think of it as an adventure.” Rowan said. “We’re like knights defending the weak, only we have a ship and better technology.”
She smiled. “You are so good at helping me keep my wits about me. I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here to talk me through this.”
“You’d be fine, you’re tough and smart.”
When it was time to head out she felt ready, honestly and truly ready. This needed to end, those poor people needed to be set free. Rowan sat by Dacia inside the ship, holding her tightly for comfort up until it was time for him to leap out “be careful”
“I will, keep your headset on beautiful” he shouted in return and in the next moments it was only her and Heather aboard “come sit in the front beside me Dacia!” Heather yelled and Dacia hurried up there. Rowan and his companions landed in the tree and Rowan wanted to high five Almon for being able to dart the dogs unconscious as they descended. His aim would never stop surprising him no matter how long they did things like this together. Rowan was honestly grateful for it in situations like these. Those dogs weren’t truly doing anything wrong. They were doing what their master taught them to do. He knew if their lives could be spared they could be given to good people who would make them loving and show them a good life.
“Alright beautiful, we’re heading inside, which room is this and which way do we need to go?”
“That’s a guest room and it should be empty. He probably doesn’t have any guests right now anyway. He’d be too angry to host.”
“That might also mean he has less guards.” Almon said.
“They’d be out looking for her.” Rowan agreed.
“All of the captives are kept downstairs in the basement. It’s nice down there, I guess, it reminds me of a harem type room.”
“Did he make you stay there?”
“No, my room is near where you are and is connected to his.”
Rowan felt repulsed and was glad she was out of here. He was horrible enough to kidnap people and force them to do anything he wanted them to do. What was to say he might not have eventually made a turn for the worse and raped her. He was obviously pretty obsessed with his newest captive. Rowan had faced this guy multiple times and had saved a few people and none of them had had the level of access she did or had a room by his, especially not connected to his room. He might not have, nobody knew the future but he already was an incredibly entitled person, it wouldn’t be too far of a push to go that far.
“If you go out the door and turn right then go down the hall, you’ll find the stairs. Just be careful, they lead down to the entryway and there are usually two guards.”
“Where do you think he would be right now?”
“Either in the den, the basement or his study.”
“Okay, Eben you and Fleeta take the basement, Almon and I will search the first floor. If you see Maaren, do not hesitate to kill him and if you can’t kill him then radio for us. I don’t want anyone dying on this run, understood?” They all nodded then left the room, moving slow and quiet in case anyone was staying in the other guest rooms. Dacia had been right about the guards at the door and they quickly tranqued them and dragged them into a closet so they wouldn’t be found. Dacia gave Eben and Fleeta directions to the basement door and warned them to be careful again then told Rowan and Almon where the den and Maaren’s study were. She worried about them coming face to face with him.
“They’re going to be just fine.” Heather said.
“What if they’re not?”
“Then we go in guns blazing and rescue them.”
“Have you had to go in before?”
“Only once, Rowan is good at knowing when to surrender and call everyone back. He knows it’s better to try again later than to let his team die” Dacia’s heart nearly hurt it was beating so hard in her chest. It was an arduous task to not go in and try to help, especially when she could hear him through her headset. Maaren proved to be nothing when he wasn’t reinforced by creatures under his control. Their victory wasn’t woundless but they managed to kill him and get the other captives into the aircraft. Dacia cried with relief and as soon as Rowan was back on board he pulled her into his arms, doing his best to comfort her.
At their home they got antidotes in everybody and got the settled into places to rest off their captivity and the hard day. “thank you Rowan” Dacia said as she hugged him. With everyone squared away Dacia finally felt it was a good time to thank him properly. “thank you for inspiring my team and I to try and really take him on again. I hope you dont see me differently now”
“why would I?”
“It was I who took his life, I killed someone”
‘You needed to, you’re a hero in my eyes and in theirs” He smiled at her, his stare lingering like he had a million things to say but all he wound up saying was “get some rest, we all need it”
“Um…would you stay with me?” She looked down at her feet when he smiled. “It’s just…well I’m a little scared I guess, I mean it’s so hard to believe it’s over for all of us and I just wanted you there.”
Rowan gently tipped her head back, his smile widening when he saw how red she was. “Let me bathe first and I’ll stay for as long as you want me to.”
In truth he needed to be close to her, needed to feel her warmth seeping into him. Taking a life wasn’t easy and he hadn’t wanted to do it, but knowing what he had known about Maaren had sealed the deal. He knew that sometimes you had no choice and having Dacia and her friends safe was worth it. He took a quick shower then went back to Dacia who was sitting nervously on her bed when he walked in and she quickly stood, looking nervous. “Are you alright?” He asked.
“Yeah, just a little, you know.”
He crossed over to her and took her hands, pressing a kiss to her knuckles. “And why would I make you nervous?”
“Well, be…because I like you so…”
“It’s cute seeing someone who is so confident on stage looking so shy.” He chuckled. “I promise to be good, I just want to cuddle.”
She was particularly warm when they were finally cuddled together in her bed. It was the relief he was hoping for. The weight of taking a life lifted off his shoulders and everything felt right. Dacia was an incredibly special woman and he was over joyed to hear she liked him. “will you stay with us?” he whispered and she said “I want to go see my family and let them know I’m okay but I will stay and continue to help you guys”
“when do you want to see them?”
“after we help everyone else get back home”
“we’ll start helping them tomorrow. It shouldn’t be too hard” They fell asleep relativley fast in eachothers warmth and the next day everyone started reuniting people with their families. Thanks to the airship it was an easy task and in only a few days Rowan took Dacia home to let her family know she was okay. “You don’t have your apartment any more but you can stay with me” her mother offered and Dacia shook her head “I’m staying with him” she said, gesturing to Rowan. “Oh, so you two are a thing then?”
She looked at him and he smiled “Yes mam’
“good, thanks for saving her” they visited with her family awhile before returning to their base. The past year had been absolute hell but it had ushered Dacia into what she felt would be the happiest times of her life.
~ The End