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chapter 3

Z A R A

His name is foreign on my tongue. I haven't said it out loud in so long, I don't even know if I said it right. I couldn't believe my eyes or my ears, this is the man I've been thinking about for years... he's always been at the back of my mind.

My hands are trembling as it reaches out slowly to touch his face to confirm that he's real. His face hasn't changed yet he's completely different. I should've recognized him but I also wouldn't. His steel-grey eyes are colder than I've ever seen them. There's no life in them. He's looking at me as if he's never seen me in his life, yet knows me somehow.

Though his facial features haven't changed, he looks like he's been through Hell. He looks tired and worn out yet even more handsome than I remember him. Of course, he looks older too. His physique looks stronger, definitely much more bulked than I remember.

Something about the energy around him is steady and stable yet chaotic and anarchic. I feel comfortable around him yet I want to sprint into a run, somewhere far, far away from him. I hadn't realized that I had my hand on his cheek this whole time until he grabs my hand and aggressively pulls it away.

"interestingly pathetic," he notes as he stands up, brushing off his knees.

He throws the ring back in my lap.

"Well, I did go through the trouble to bring you in to see if you were still—" he starts but doesn't finish. "Never mind."

"If I were still what?" This is the first time since this whole incident started that my tone is clear.

I stand up to meet his gaze, though he was quite taller than me. "What did you bring me here for, Alejandro?"

"Frank, I have a meeting in 30 minutes," he turns to Frank, ignoring me. "Can you ask someone to bring my car to the front?"

I grab the loose fabric on his elbow, pulling him back, "Aleja—"

That must've been the worst mistake I've made since coming here because Alejandro's reaction wasn't something I was expecting. He turns around, gripping my wrist and twisting it behind my back while simultaneously pushing me against the wall with a slam. He uses his other hand to grab my chin painfully hard, lifting it so I'll meet his gaze.

The look in his eyes was still blank. Looking at his expression, you wouldn't think he just body-slammed me into a wall. There's no anger or frustration in his eyes yet his actions are screaming bloody murder.

My wrist and jaw, both start hurting as I squirm in his grip.

"Once I don't answer, that's the end of that conversation," his tone is flat.

"Alejandro, you're hurting me," I sound pathetic, just like he said before.

"Second, you don't get to say my name so casually. You refer to me as Boss or Sir, just as everyone else does, understood?" He states as his grip on my jaw gets tighter.

I nod.

"Frank, no one comes in or out of this room unless I say so," Alejandro instructs while leaving the room.

"Yes, Boss," Frank says as he walks right behind Alejandro, closing the door after they leave. I drop to the floor, gripping my aching jaw. The tears are free-flowing like a waterfall that has no plans to stop.

"W-What was t-that?" Is all I managed to say or think.

• • •

A clock, I need a clock. I'll go insane without knowing the time. It's odd, I cried for God knows how long and my system still hasn't turned off. It's as if I still have a bunch of tears and anxiety left in me.

Time.

Time.

Time.

I need the time. I didn't realize how important it is to my mind to know the time. Every second that passes by without knowing the time is a bit of my sanity leaving my mind. I don't know if it's morning or night. I don't know if a day has passed by or just merely a few hours. I don't know.

I should be worried about the lack of food and water but I'm worried about something as simple as time. The uncertainty is enough to make anyone feel like they're going crazy. I look at the camera and assume that whoever is watching me can hear me.

"Is it possible for someone to let me know what day and time it is?" I say in a shaky tone. I look like a complete idiot but it's worth a shot.

"Please?" I plead. "Please, I beg of you, please let me know if you can hear me."

Silence. What did I expect?

I sink back against the wall until I hear a crackling noise. It's coming from the camera.

"It's 10:14 PM of the same day," It's Frank's voice. "Thank you so much!" I genuinely appreciate such a small gesture because I'm hanging on by a thread. I'm in the dark literally and figuratively. I miss my parents. I miss Yasmeen. I miss food and water.

Alejandro. I've been pushing the thought away this whole time. It can't possibly be the same man I knew four years ago, can it?

It's definitely him but it's not. Did I really get kidnapped by people of the underworld? For what reason though?

"I was joking was I said I wanted to be y/n," I mumble to myself. I think about the time Alejandro agreed to tutor me for my chemistry class in our senior year...

- Flashback -

"Chemical bonds hold molecules together and create temporary connections that are essential to life," Alejandro starts. " Types of chemical bonds include covalent, ionic, and hydrogen bonds and London dispersion forces."

How does he expect me to pay attention to the lesson if he looks this handsome?

"Zara, are you listening?" There's slight defeat in his voice. I nod, quickly.

"Then, what did I just say?" He asks cooly.

"Something about chemical bonds. Maybe, uh, hydrogen? London something?" I look away, trying not to laugh.

"Zara!" He grunts softly, still annoyed.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'll—"

He suddenly grabs my hand and brings it close to his lips. My knuckles are inches away from the touching surface of his lips.

My breathing instantly stops in my lungs. It was as if time stopped and I couldn't inhale or exhale.

"If you don't pay attention, I might have to use some other methods to catch your attention," his tone is low and quiet but powerful enough to make me feel like I'll pass out from the intensity. He's looking right into my eyes, with a hint of playfulness.

I snatch my hand away, completely and utterly flustered, "Very funny, Alejandro! Bullying will only make me stupider.

"You should've held my gaze longer.

Astagfirullah. You should've held on tighter, so I wouldn't be able to pull away.

Astagfirullah.

You should've kissed my hand.

Astagfirullah, Astagfirullah, Astagfirullah.

He chuckles softly and it was almost unnoticeable, "You're so easy."

I am because you have that effect on me, Alejandro.

For the rest of the afternoon, he successfully helped me study but not without me catching small glimpses of him whenever he wasn't paying attention. God, I'm head-over-heels for this man, what do I do?

- End of Flashback -

"What's y/n?" Frank asks through the speaker system.

"Nothing in particular," I answer vaguely.

Frank doesn't reply...Slowly, I start feeling the impact of my hunger and dehydration. My head feels extremely light and my stomach feels like it's been sucked out by a vacuum because of how empty it is.

Can I even ask for food and water? Is that allowed? Would they even care? Water, I feel like I can ask for water.

"If you don't mind... can I get some w*..." sudden stinging pushes through my mind.

I think it's the after-effects of getting hit on the head earlier on but the sudden pain almost knocks me out. I quickly lay against the wall, without being able to ask for water.

I just want to lay here for another a few minutes... just a few... I wonder how afraid my parents are... I hope Yasmeen is holding up...My mind drifts off from weakness and goes unconscious.

• • •

"Wake up," a loud voice jolts me awake.

My eyes slowly adjust to the room again and I realize that what happened to me isn't a terrible nightmare but a terrible reality.

I still feel extremely lightheaded and thirsty until I realize there's food in front of me.

"Eat something," it's Frank again. He's as humane as it gets right now. I look at the burger and fries on the tray but grab the glass of water first. I gulp down the water as if I.were going to die within the next second if I didn't. The water feels like a river flowing down my throat of dry land. It's an instant refreshing feeling.

"Thank you so much," my words are much clearer now.

"Boss wants to see you in his office in an hour," Frank states through the speaker.

I stop munching my fry midway.

"Me?" I ask with a full mouth.

"Is there anyone else in the room?" He asks sarcastically.

There's no point in asking him but... "Would you know the reason, by any chance? I'm just trying to calculate my survival rate."

"You wouldn't be able to calculate that with your kind of math skills, now would you, Zara?" A different voice comments with amusement in their tone. The voice... It's the voice I was least expecting to hear from right now.

It's Alejandro... again.

- - -

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