Was it customary to wear unsightly nightgowns in an asylum? So the patients always knew their place, reminding them of their insanity? Tori looked down, hating the cream nightgown that reached down to her feet. The neckline was itchy, reaching high under her chin like an old world night rail.
Tori sat on medium-sized velvet bed and surveyed the room she was put in after she passed out. This oddly didn’t look anything like an asylum bedchamber to her. Before, she only remembered a white sterile room, empty of warmth and life. This was rich with wood furnishings, antique décor elegantly accenting the walls and floor. The space was small but beautiful, making her feel as though she was transported back in time.
A thought suddenly struck her. Of course. They’re trying to confuse her mind with the setting of her story! Trying to bring back her supposed past to see if she can overcome the delusion. Everything is a test. Tori smiled, knowing that this was a poor attempt at confusing her good sense. In fact, this was amusing. Proving them wrong seemed very attractive. Her anger towards everything that the doctor had confessed was still an open wound. Honestly, she didn’t know what to believe. This whole thing could be one big lie, to see if her brain could weed out the truth. Or whatever sick experiment they were trying to conduct here.
Tori shivered, feeling very much alone. The dead silence of the room made her nervous, wondering what kind of tests they had planned for her this day. She missed the comfort that Samson brought her, and now he was gone. She’d never forget the look of disgust he gave her before they took her away. Taking a deep breath she knew that she must keep her anger in check if she wanted to succeed here. Staying focused was a must. Tori had a strong feeling that they were going to try and bring back her fake memories, her story once again. But this time she was ready. Under no circumstance would she take any sort of pills.
God, she will not be played like a fool this time.
Sunshine was glittering through the window, casting warm light into the dim room. Her eyes then caught sight of a delicate blue ribbon on the vanity next to a hairbrush. She would be an idiot if she didn’t think these two weeks would be a challenge on her mentally. Tori walked over to the vanity and picked up the tiny indigo ribbon and tied it in a bow firmly to her middle finger.
This will remind her.
She heard the door unlock and she turned around to see a shockingly handsome man walking into her room. Holy crap. He had his blond hair tied back and the color of his eyes were a startling sky-blue. The doctor wore a white jacket and held a clipboard tucked under one arm.
He stared at her for a long moment before speaking. “I hope this is not too much of a shock for you?”
His voice was soothing, like a trickling stream on a summer’s day. Tori looked down at her nightgown and blushed a bit, wishing she didn’t look like a mental case. “I was very shocked to hear that my entire life has been an experiment, doctor,” she said with vigor.
He nodded coolly, but his intense gaze searched her face like he was trying to read something there. He walked up to her making her realize how tall he actually was, having to crane her neck. He spoke softly, “You’re wearing contacts,” he confirmed instead of asking.
She shivered, trying not to notice how this man seemed to put off an eerie charge. Tori shook her head and glanced at the ribbon on her finger, her grip on reality. For all she knew they injected her with something, this could be her first test. She looked up at him and smiled. “Do you wish I remove them? My hair is dyed also, I hope you don’t mind.” She sounded a bit more sarcastic than she wanted to.
He stared down at her and a hint of a smile touched his lips. “No, you may do as you like Victoria. I am here to guide you through your two weeks here. You may ask me any questions you’d like. Are you hungry?”
She frowned at him. “What is your name? Doctor…?”
“We have already met long ago if you can remember. Just call me Michael.”
Tori closed her eyes, knowing now whom he was trying to portray, and boy did they do a good job of it. She laughed and shook her head, feeling a bit embarrassed by how naïve she used to be. She had believed that he was the legendary archangel, how stupid she must have looked back then. He was just a doctor with his crazy experiments. “Alright Michael. Yes, I do remember you and I am quite hungry.”
“Good. I will have a nurse bring you some breakfast immediately. Through that door are your toiletries and female products.” Michael pointed to the narrow door she thought was a closet. He tilted his head at her and spoke, “I hope you know that what we are doing here is for a good cause. This is for your safety as well as ours. This might seem very unorthodox, but I assure you that it will serve a great purpose in the end.”
Tori bit back a retort. “Thank you,” she said evenly.
He winked at her. “I will be back when you have finished your breakfast.”
“Wait!” she continued, “What am I to do here? Are you going to shock me or run me painful tests?”
He paused then smiled warmly at her over his shoulder. “Your job is just to relax for the next two weeks. There will be no painful tests Victoria. You just have to reveal what is reality when your stay is over, quite simple.”
It sounded simple, too simple.
He left and minutes later she was greeted by a nurse who was a woman of few words. Tori tried to ask her some questions, maybe acquire some insight from the staff but was only rewarded with a couple of crude grunts.
The food was delicious, not realizing how starving she really was. It wasn’t until after she ate that she regretted it. They could have put something in her breakfast to make her hallucinate. Cursing she began to pace her room, biting her nails in nervousness. If she started seeing things she’d know they were not real, having to rely on logic instead of her senses.
The door opened again and Michael entered along with a different nurse carrying clothing. Tori frowned as she watched the lady place different gowns on the bed, laying them out as if to display them for her. One of the dresses was Victorian style, with a hoop skirt and puffed sleeves. Another was a ruby lace dress that ended at the feet, very sexy. Then there was a black short club dress with long sleeves.
Tori looked at Michael and rolled her eyes. “What is all of this about?”
He gestured to the dresses. “You will be having dinner tonight with a special guest. You may pick which one you would like to wear.”
He was eyeing her intelligently, knowingly.
What was he up to? Tori’s heart skipped a beat, not liking that look he was giving her. “With who?”
“I’m sure you know who Ezra is, from somewhere in your memory? He will be helping with the tests,” he said carefully and eyed her. “This is a game of reality versus fiction, I’m sure you gathered this already.”
Her heart started to pound harder at the mere mention of Ezra’s name. Ezra was not real. Victoria looked down at her little ribbon and smiled. “That sounds interesting Michael. I would love to see him again.” She would play along with this ridiculous game. A part of her was curious to see whom they found to play Ezra’s part. She arched a brow, “I thought Ezra was just his actor’s name? So will you tell me his real name or do I refer to him as Ezra?”
Michael gave her a look she couldn’t quite read. “Why don’t you ask him that when you see him,” he offered.
This Michael character was definitely hiding something. Tori certainly didn’t trust him. He was trying to see her squirm, hoping she still harbored delusions of Ezra. Maybe they wanted to find her mental weakness by starting with Ezra; it would be the biggest test of all. Tori held her head up high and gazed at the dresses.
She was not dumb enough to pick that, no doubt this was an experiment. If she picked the red lace then they would know she was doing it because of Ezra. “I will wear what I’m wearing now, thank you.” She eyed him, seeing if he would argue.
His mouth thinned a bit. “Very well.”
“I know what you are doing and it sickens me,” she hissed, glaring at the nurse beside him. The nurse glared back until Michael gave her a reprimanding look.
He glanced back at Tori. “Well, if you already know then this should be easy. Am I right?” he countered. “Sixteen will be your name when you are here. There are too many patients with the name Victoria I’m afraid.”
“Sixteen?” She laughed and shook her head in distaste. “Patient number Sixteen? Charming.”
“It’s so we can keep you apart from the others. You all share such a striking resemblance to one another.”
She gritted her teeth, refusing to show her anger. They can try and fool her all they wanted with their androids. Or whatever they were using to make multiples of her. Tori didn’t have a clue of what kind of technology they had here, but she’d bet it was top of the line. “When is this dinner?” she asked politely.
“In four hours, please be ready. You slept until two today, so your dinner will come a bit faster than normal. I will leave these dresses here in case you change your mind. There are books in that chest if you get bored,” he said indifferently and turned to leave with the nurse.
Tori ran over to the chest and grabbed a book, hurling it at the door right as they closed it. She bit her fist, rubbing the ribbon on her finger. It’s only two weeks.Don’t let them get in your mind; you’re smarter than that.
Fine, let them do their worst.
Tori smiled as she went into the small bathroom and peered into the old style mirror. She looked a little rough around the edges. Her long black hair was in knots and her skin appeared very dull. The contacts in her eyes were irritating her, making the whites bloodshot. No wonder Michael commented on her contacts. She could definitely use some eye solution and a shower would do wonders for her. Yes, she would be refreshed and beautiful once again.
But, that wasn’t her plan tonight.
They expected her to secretly want to look appealing for Ezra. Even if he was only an actor, that wasn’t the point. The obsessive thought that on some slim chance Ezra could be the realthing would ultimately win over any rational thought. Yes, they were anticipating that she would choose the red lace dress.
Tori ruffed up her hair with her hands, completing the effect of a crazy person. Walking back into her room she lay on the bed and exhaled loudly. The hours ticked by quicker than she expected. She finished a short chapter of a book about vampires and werewolves that took her mind off the dreaded dinner date for a while. It wasn’t that she was nervous and didn’t want the time to come, but it was the fact that she didn’t know what to expect. Was Ezra a good actor? Would he try and convince her that she really did fall through the portal long ago? And her book was real, not a test like they told her? Trying to make her tap into her delusion once again. She must be prepared for everything.
Looking down at her ribbon gave her courage. Even just the smallest reminder of reality made her feel worlds better.
Again, the door opened and a nurse came in with a dry look. Her dreary blue eyes paired with an expression of mild irritation made her look very unappealing. She scowled at Tori’s appearance and sighed. “Are you ready for dinner Sixteen?”
Tori stood and smiled. “Quite.”
The nurse grunted then nodded for her to follow. They walked through hallways after hallways that reminded Tori of a medieval castle, except for the doctors and nurses that passed them with their computer tablets. When their eyes landed on Tori she could see their curiosity. She didn’t blame them, for she did look like she’d lost her mind with her tangled hair and creepy nightgown. Tori glanced around as they walked at a steady pace. Dark wood furnishings and beautiful velvet accents gave this castle a dark and forbidding energy. It almost seemed like the walls and pictures were alive. Portraits of Lords and Ladies adorned the walls and their gazes followed her. She could feel their eyes burning her skin, making a slow shiver slither down her spine.
She rubbed her ribbon with her thumb and took a shaky breath.
The nurse opened two giant double doors that lead into a massive dining hall with a table that could possibly seat a royal army. Tori’s gaze scanned the whole scene. This room looked so familiar. The smell alone pulled at her memory cords, and the feel of the spacious room made her shutter in sudden awareness. What was this awareness? Tori’s heart started to thump faster, her calm resolve was diminishing. She didn’t like these conflicting emotions she was experiencing at the moment. Tori could see that two spots were set at the long table. One at the head, then one to it’s left.
Where was this supposed Ezra? The room was empty, and it felt strangely uncomfortable.
“You may have a seat Sixteen. Your guest will arrive shortly, make yourself at ease,” she ordered and then left her alone in this echoey cavern.
It was so quiet. She swallowed and slowly walked to the table where two elegantly placed candles were aglow. Fine china and wine glasses were perfectly set, making her feel like she was royalty. Well, she felt like that, not looked like one. At the head of the table, Tori pulled out the impossibly heavy chair with an earsplitting screech. She tensed and glanced around, wondering if the entire castle heard. Even the smallest of sounds seemed to echo off the stone walls. Sitting down she nervously smoothed out her nightgown and strained her ears for the slightest of sounds. Why was he not here? One of the smaller doors suddenly flew opened almost making Tori gasp – a man in server’s attire stood, wearing a white crisp shirt with a black vest and slacks.
Her heart slowed, realizing it was not the supposed Ezra. He came up to her with a bottle of red wine and held it out to her. “Would you care for some wine?” he asked in a thick accent and eyed her nightgown with a confused, disgusted frown.
Tori blushed slightly. Yes, she should be drinking warm milk followed by some heavy narcotics. Not expensive wine. She nodded to the waiter, feeling like she could use some form of calm immediately.
He filled up her glass half way. “Ezra should be here shortly, I was informed that he is running late.”
She laughed at that then sobered quickly when the waiter didn’t smile back. “What, did he get stuck in traffic?” she said and rolled her eyes.
The waiter gave her a look, obviously finding her very irritating. “Something like that.”
Then he left her alone to wallow in her own thoughts. Brilliant. Tori sipped the wine, thankful for its calming effects. The longer she sat there the more nervous she became. Why was she nervous? Because if this was the man who helped fool her five years ago, then she wanted to meet him. All of her steamy memories with this supposed actor would make anyone on edge. He completely took advantage of her if her visions were correct. Though, she could have hallucinated them but she couldn’t be sure. This whole thing could be a hoax!
She rubbed her temples, wishing she knew the truth.
Her whole life had been one big experiment; that thought alone was supremely depressing. Tori exhaled, how long has it been? Thirty minutes at least. What? Was he in hair and make up and they couldn’t get his outfit right? Ridiculous. She snorted; trying to picture what Ezra would appear like if he were truly real. He was probably some paid model, having put contacts in his eyes and fake tattoos on his skin. Well, she couldn’t wait to see his reaction to dining with a crazy girl in nightgown.
It was laughable and a little embarrassing.
Tori finished her glass of wine and rested her head on the back of her tall chair. An hour must have passed by now. Was this a test? To see if she would throw a tantrum or get up and leave? No, no, she would wait.
A sound caught her attention making her sit up in her chair like someone had a knife to her back. She heard voices coming from the outer rooms. It almost sounded like arguing. Her skin tingled in anticipation; it had to be him. She took a shaky breath, wishing she had more wine. Her thumb rubbed her little indigo ribbon while her ears craned to hear the voices more clearly. It had to be him…
She now heard footsteps nearing the door, the sound echoed throughout the silent dining room. Her pulse was hammering now, feeling her skin tingle in alertness. Whoever it was sounded heavy, his boots clicking with determination. Tori held her breath. She could see the distinct shadows of both boots under the door and wondered wildly why he paused before entering.
The door opened and Tori lost her breath altogether.
Her ribbon didn’t prepare her for this. The large dining room became very small, suffocating her, closing in. The man that just entered stole her ability to close her mouth. God, if she were to imagine what Ezra would look like in person, this man would be a perfect fit. How in the hell did they do it? Maybe he was the same from five years ago? He had to be. It was like a part of her memory had just come back to life, defying all logic.
He was tall and extremely broad of shoulder, seemingly powerful. He exuded something dark and secretive, mysterious. The hairs on the back of her neck rose, like she was being confronted with a wild animal. It was like an overload to her brain, unable to process what stood before her. He was dressed impeccably, like he’d just come out of a wild-west steampunk movie. He wore a fitted gray dress-coat that ended at his knees adorned with military buttons and chains. His overcoat was opened revealing a black collared shirt that was only buttoned to the top of his chest. A dark scarf was tied around his neck and he wore black leather gloves giving him a dangerous air, almost like a villain. Tori swallowed as her eyes lowered. His dark jeans hung on his trim hips and hugged his muscular thighs to perfection, straight down to his steel-toed boots. The boot-cut of his jeans fitted him so appetizingly perfect. Tori’s eyes widened, he had a gun belt hanging on his hips but strapped to it was no gun.
Only a silver violin.
Of course, Ezra had used it in her story. Tori felt her face heat, not realizing she was gaping at him rudely. He stood before her, like he too was measuring her up in this strained silence. She cautiously raised her gaze to his face and wanted to groan. How could they have found someone so perfect, so flawless? Hewore black shades, but she could tell he was beautiful on so many different levels. His skin looked like fine porcelain, the line of his nose was strong and arrogant. The man’s high cheekbones and chiseled jaw-line would rival legends, she was sure. They even had his tattoos right, for on the left side of his hairline she could see the ancient designs. His thick ebony hair was tied back but for some silky strands that hung forward in that tantalizing way making her fingers itch to touch it.
He leisurely moved to the other seat and sat down, crossing his legs elegantly, completely at ease. She got the impression of a lounging lion; the potential of danger rang in the air. His expression was unreadable, like a stone mask. God, and the way he moved made her mouth water and her breathing harsh. Tori couldn’t deny that he put off this sexual charge that was impossible to ignore, even the way he silently stared at her was so unnerving. At this moment she’d give anything to touch him, to see if he was wearing shoulder pads. Or was that all him? Surely this man had to be physically altered in some way because no one had the right to elude such beauty.
Tori closed her eyes and rubbed her ribbon. It’s all an illusion. They must have put something in the wine. She must be delusional once again.
The door opened and the waiter came in with another wine bottle and a platter of cheese. The silence was deafening as he walked towards them, his shoes clicking softly. He filled up both of their glasses and set the platter in front her.
“Is there anything else you need until your dinner is served?” he asked the imposter.
He didn’t say a word.
The waiter just nodded and left.
Tori frowned, wondering why this play-actor wasn’t talking. Was he in a bad mood? Glancing down at her nightgown she feverishly wished that she had combed her hair, regretting her decision to play the crazy. When these two weeks were over she was definitely not getting his number. Without thinking she grabbed the wine glass and took a big gulp, wanting some liquid confidence pronto.
Tori set her glass down and took a breath. “So, I was informed that my name is Sixteen,” she announced meekly and quickly continued when he didn’t respond. He hand his hand on his chin, just gazing at her in that unsettling way. “I’m sure you already met the others, One through Fifteen? Hopefully you didn’t have to eat fifteen meals today,” she laughed, trying her hand at humor but she failed miserably. The man’s expression didn’t change, at all. Blushing she looked down then back up, wishing he’d say something.
He just quietly stared, tilting his head a bit. He must think she looked like a complete mess. Maybe he was just shocked by how unsightly she appeared at a formal dinner? The other girls probably wore the red lace dress and showered. Tori could feel his eyes on her making her want to tie this ugly nightgown in knots. She shook her head, feeling the wine starting to make her a little bolder. “Look, we both don’t want to be here. I get it. How long are we supposed to converse? An hour? Two?” Tori looked around, “Do they really even check to see if we stayed in here for the full time? Maybe we can ditch this.”
He regarded her for another moment longer then leaned forward, taking off his shades. Tori sucked in her breath and gripped the table in front of her. She was expecting to see beautiful silver eyes but didn’t. They had gotten his eyes wrong! How could they have mistaken his silver eyes with something else? That was Ezra’s most recognizable trait in her story. Now they resembled black opals, glittering in the low lighting. A shiver slowly traced its way down her spine. His gaze looked inhuman, animalistic. A smile suddenly pulled at one corner of his lips, making her pulse jump.
The smile was absolutely frightening.
His eyes seemed so cold, so emotionless and lifeless. But, they were also horribly erotic. She hated to admit that to herself, wanting to be immune to this Ezra sham. But holy shit! The man was sex incarnate, a woman’s deepest desire come to life right before her. It didn’t matter what his eye color was, this actor could pull off anything apparently. At least they got his deep circles right, for he looked like he’d been through some very rough times. The doctors might have overdone it a little, for he looked like he was barely living. Too much pale makeup maybe?
His dark gaze lowered. He was eyeing her inappropriate attire and instantly her cheeks heated like an inferno, threatening to ignite her hair. Tori wished she could snap her fingers and she would be showered and dressed. Why did he have this effect on her? He was just a trained actor! She should not be feeling this way. Yes, he was just a self-obsessed male model who the mad scientists hired. God, he was nothing more. Nothing more…
She rubbed her blue ribbon.
“So, no red lace?” his voice was just barely over a whisper. The sound just sent an army of gooseflesh racing down her skin and back up to her neck. The air around them cooled considerably, like a window was left open even though there was none. His tone was seductive, soft and hard at the same time. She resisted the urge to lick her lips and beg him to speak again. He had a thick accent, unable to place it. It almost sounded English with something else…
She swallowed, squirming in her chair as he continued to look at her. His glittering eyes moved up and down her like she wore nothing, as if he could see straight through the fabric. “I’m sorry but I have no intention of making a fool of myself in red lace.”
He raised a dark brow.
Tori shook her head, knowing she already made a fool of herself by looking like an escaped lunatic. “I k-know you’re a paid actor, trying to make me believe that you’re the real Ezra,” she said sarcastically and rolled her eyes as best as she could. “They’re trying to make me confuse reality with fiction. It’s not happening.”
“And what is reality?” he inquired, tilting his head.
She shivered again, hating that his voice was so hypnotic. Tori frowned at him. “I have already said. You’re a paid actor, they didn’t even get your eye color right,” she gave him a pitying look. “Having black eyes in my story means that you’ve lost your soul, which Ezra in my story did not. Tell Kristensen that.”
He leaned back in his seat, his features impossible to read. “I see. That’s seems like a considerable mistake to make, Sixteen. Are you sure you have your story right?”
Tori shifted in her seat. “Of course.” Of course.
He nodded, eyeing her with his eerie gaze.
“If you think to make me believe that you’re Ezra then show me something supernatural,” she taunted.
He didn’t say anything at first. “Like what?”
“I don’t know, disappear and come back,” she offered with a wave of her hand.
He clicked his tongue. “You know I can’t to do that, love. That would be cheating.”
Tori rolled her eyes. “I knew it.”
“Take out your contacts.”
She frowned up at him. Her eyes did feel insanely dry and painful, he obviously noticed. He was looking at her hard enough to. “They’re fine.”
Right then the door opened and the waiter came in carrying only one plate of food and set it before Tori. It was salmon and roasted veggies, which smelt delicious. She gazed at the imposter, seeing him lounge back in his chair. “Are you not eating?”
“Forgive me. But I’m not hungry for… food,” he said oddly then motioned for her to eat with his gloved hand.
What are you hungry for?
But, she was not drunk enough to ask that. She didn’t know if she could eat with him watching her like he was. Tori mentally shook her head and picked up her fork, tasting the fish. “I really hope this is not poisoned,” she muttered to herself. It tasted like a piece of heaven! She had never eaten anything so amazing. It was as if some source of energy was shooting through her body, energizing her senses to the maximum. “Did they put ecstasy in this?” she breathed. Not that she had tried the drug, but she heard of similar reactions. She took another bite and groaned, loving how her taste buds were dancing.
Tori devoured the fish shamelessly, leaving nothing on her plate, licking her fork. Then she downed her glass of wine like it was water. She looked up to see him eyeing her through heavy, assessing lids. Embarrassment overtook her as she wiped her mouth with a napkin, probably resembling a savage! God, she felt like one. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how hungry I was.”
“Don’t apologize. I enjoyed it as much as you did,” he whispered, sending a delicious shiver down her neck. He leaned up, his black eyes moving over her face. Something suddenly changed in their mysterious depths making her nervous. He looked like a lion that was not at ease anymore. Alert and watchful.
“Oh?” she whispered back.
He suddenly closed his eyes and she could see his jaw clenching. Tori’s breath was now visible, like the room just dropped fifteen degrees. He opened his eyes and pinned her with them. “I swear, if you’re a demon I will gut you alive the minute I find out,” he barely threatened, his mood dark and sinister. “I don’t know what you trying to pull with this get up. Or this play on innocence,” his words were soft but it cut like a sharp blade.
She was about to laugh but the expression on his face made her pause in fear, alarms were going off in her head. God, he looked like he meant every word, which was ridiculous. No,he was just a good actor. “Please, save the theatrics for the other girls,” she whispered, trying to harvest her courage.
He smiled coldly, that of a mad man. His dark eyes moved over her face and his jaw clenched again. “Tell me Sixteen, are you a virgin?”
Her eyes widened. “Excuse me?!”
“It’s a simple question.”
Tori shivered by the intensity of his gaze. “That is none of your business,” she snapped, her heart pounding. Why did he want to know!?
“It’s not is it,” he agreed. The tension in the air tripled, making her want to leave immediately. His hand was lightly feathering over a steak knife, “I am sick of these fucking games Sixteen. Year after year every one of you are Zion’s decoys.” He waved his hand in the air, “Where the real Victoria landed no one will ever know… and you’re claiming to be her, are you not?” He smashed his fist on the table making her yelp. “I think I shall enjoy breaking you down, and I will not need two weeks to do it.”
She swallowed. Tori knew he was an actor, but this man was starting to scare her. He was really taking this book thing a little too far. “I assure you that I am not a Zion’s decoy. I don’t even know what that means. And no, I am not claiming to be Victoria because she is not real! My name is Tori Gray if you must know and I grow weary of this ridiculous game,” she hissed back. I will not let this trained actor scare me.
“Tori Gray?” he asked and leaned forward. “Is that what you’re going with?”
Tori leaned forward too. “That’s what I said asshole.” His eyes widened. “I am counting down the days until I can get out of this nut house. You or anyone else will not stop me with these fanatical experiments. So stop trying to scare me with your ridiculous stories about demons and angels. I may have believed them the first time around but not now. I’m a not so naïve anymore.” She continued, “I don’t give a shit what the doctors tell you to do, I want you to stop with the theatrics. Do you understand violin boy?” Violin boy?! Tori glanced at her wine glass, which was regrettably empty.
His mouth hung slightly open. For the first time tonight she could actually read his expression. That man was actually stunned into silence. What? Did the doctors not inform him that she might lash out? The imposter closed his mouth and something sparkled in the depths of his dark gaze. He didn’t smile but she could tell somehow that he found her entertaining.
He took a moment to respond. “My apologies, Tori Gray,” he said silkily, eyeing her with those hypnotic eyes. What was with this sudden change? One minute he was raging mad then the next moment he had her panting like a cat in heat. It felt like he was doing naughty things to her with his eyes, envisioning wicked… things. And his deliberate look was not helping; she didn’t want him to know he affected her. Her tummy clenched and her skin was dotting with unwanted sensation.
God, how could one look do this? He didn’t even say anything scandalous. He didn’t have to, Tori scolded herself. The man alone was enough to send any female into fit of reckless desire without even trying. Lord above, she didn’t want to see him try. If her racing heart were any indication, then she would not have a chance in hell. She rubbed her ribbon, trying to get a grip on reality.
Tori looked away and took a shaky breath, willing her senses to stop dancing at his every move. It was almost like he was trying to make her squirm, and he knew exactly what to do. She could tell this man was someone with an immeasurable amount of experience with the female gender. Oh yes, he knew what look to give her that would make her breathing hitch. God, he is doing it on purpose. I won’t be made a fool of again. “I am done here. May I leave?” she said impatiently, trying to stay calm.
“You have not had any dessert yet,” he pointed out mildly.
Tori glanced at him and didn’t miss the unspoken dare in his eyes. And, more importantly, why was he coming on to her when she looked like this? She looked like an escapee! Because he is paid to hit on you, her intelligence reminded her. Right. Tori sighed hating that she was a test subject. “I’m sorry to disappoint, but I have lost my appetite.”
His laugh was breathy.
She frowned at his handsome face, getting up from her seat. How dare he laugh at me, her self-confidence roared. “Laugh all you want, I’m leaving,” she hissed. Her face reddened when her nightgown snagged on the large wooden chair, having to rip it out. The imposter’s laugh grew louder at that, obviously finding her attire and dilemma humorous.
Tori shot him a scolding glare making him chuckle more. He was slumped in his chair overtaken with merit. She wanted to slap him! “You should be the one in this dress! Not me! You sound like a mad man!” she yelled as anger tore through her. Tori turned and ran from the room, wanting desperately to get away from him. She opened the large double doors still hearing his voice echoing behind her.