Big Sky Allure Chapter 3, Part 2

His words attracted her attention back to the situation and she let him escort her to what appeared to be a service elevator. They entered the elevator in unison, as he swung around to push the button marked twenty-one, the top floor of the building. She could not help but notice the cleanliness and pleasant scent, unusual, she thought, for an elevator of this kind. She shook away the distraction and again focused on her escape plans. A lot of floors to hide in when she broke away from her captor, was the first thought that came to her mind. The elevator didn’t stop until it reached their destination, where two men were standing guard outside the elevator door. She inhaled and was instantly mesmerized by the spectacular hallway they had just walked into. After the dank room in the restaurant, she had not expected this.
The plain elevator had only given a hint of the type of building they were in, but this hallway told the whole story. She reflected on the astonishing modern architecture she had seen in Barcelona, including several buildings that curved, like commas. This hallway curved and she wondered if she was walking inside one of the buildings she had admired during the last several weeks. Ornate brown polished wood walls, juxtaposed with contrasting white plush carpet. Several tables adorned with bright colored fresh floral arrangements stood along the walls, reflected by ceiling height mirrors. The intense floral scents further distracted Mari from her unpleasant situation. Focus, she silently told herself. The housekeeping and maintenance staff that keeps this place immaculate could be her connection to freedom.
A white double door flanked by two robust men wearing dark suits stood a short distance down and across from the elevator. Mari made a mental note that only one other, single, small door stood approximately thirty feet away. It might be of use to her later. Except for the two guards, she didn’t see anyone else.
Mikel looked into a retinal scan security device situated on the frame of the main door. A green light on the scanner, and a subsequent click of the door indicated access was granted. He turned the knob and held the door open for her. Mari stepped into what looked and felt like an oversized foyer. In front of her was one of the most breathtaking sights she had seen in Barcelona. She gasped.
The expansive room’s solid white interior was only interrupted by scattered traces of beige, and more floral arrangements. Across the room, rising from the floor to the ceiling and expanding across the entire room, stood a contiguous series of glass windows, tinted blue by the view of the Mediterranean Sea. The azure water extended from boat lined docks, only stopping where it blended with the clear blue sky. Mari understood why the room did not need additional colors, God’s beauty had provided enough.
The apartment was meticulous and maintained, Mari noted. Again, a new drop of hope filled her when she thought of the staff caring for the apartment, who she could reach out to. Such hope quickly dimmed by the memory of another apartment she had frequented, this one in Miami. Aron had owned a waterfront apartment, memories about which still pained her. The torment and distress she had brought to her family pained her. She rubbed her chest to alleviate the ache in her heart that appeared each time the difficult memory flooded her mind. Sadness filled her knowing she might not live long enough to make it up to them.
Mari felt a hand touch hers, quickly transporting her to the present, and away from her internal struggle. She noticed she had not moved since taking her initial steps into the apartment. “Is there something wrong?” her captor asked.
“I’m just thirsty and tired.” her voice harsh from a dry throat, her words weak from the recent stress.
He put his hand on her lower back and led her into the apartment. The warmth of his hand was more than a physical gesture, it gave Mari a sense of support. She felt conflicted by the apparent gentleness and care of this man who had apprehended her. “I’m sorry, I’ve not been a good host. Let me get you some water. I had the restaurant send over some food, and Juli will bring over your clothes.” He closed the massive door behind them, leaving the men in military uniforms outside the apartment.
The clicking echo of their shoes against the marble floor, interrupted the quietness of the large room as Mari and Mikel walked into the kitchen. Another large white room adorned with modern wall cabinets, and equipped with state-of-the art professional wall ovens and cook top. A grey streaking in the white marble counters was the only color in the room, but with the open windows and blue sky, it didn’t feel cold. It felt like she walked into a cloud. Most apartments Mari had lodged in, or visited during her stay in Barcelona had been compact and simple, so the opulence of this grand space astonished her.
She opened the bottle he handed her and drank several gulps without taking a breath. The cool water relieved her parched mouth and throat. Mari felt her mouth moistened and more able to project normal speech. “Who is Juli and why is this person going through my clothing?”
“You met him earlier. He will be here any minute.” His eyes met Mari’s, causing her to shiver at their piercing fierceness. A knock on the door interrupted them, announcing the imminent entrance of someone with security clearance. Mikel turned towards the sound of a door opening. She found herself unable to turn away from this enigmatic man. How could a man who obeyed her order to not watch her undress, look at her with such scorching eyes? Why would those eyes make her fear he could kill her at any moment?
Approaching footsteps turned out to be those of Juli, who entered the kitchen looking like a younger, slimmer version of Mikel. Having one man scrutinize her while she slept had been bad enough, but having another go through her things infuriated her. Anger and embarrassment burned in her chest. She tried to avoid eye contact with him by looking towards the kitchen cabinets. Her anger burned along with her embarrassment and she gave him a side glance. One meant to portray her annoyance.
A broad smile crossed Juli’s face as he broke the uncomfortable silence. “Hola.” He strode over, holding up her suitcase while her camera bag hung across his chest. “I’m so glad to see the medicine has worn off. Forgive me for giving you that shot and for having taken your things. I’m sure somebody has explained by now.”
Juli’s pleasant entrance and his cordial demeanor eased some of her anger. She crossed her arms. “No,” she frowned, “the Neanderthal over there didn’t explain anything.” She pointed towards the foyer where she heard Mikel talking she presumed to the security men.
“You figured him out quickly.” Juli chuckled. “Yes, he behaves like a caveman around women. Maybe I should be the one to take care of you and send him off to do what cavemen do.” His broad smile now dominated Mari’s attention, and his wink at Mari almost made her smile.
If it weren’t for the circumstances, she could like this man and enjoy his natural charm. “Maybe.” She pointed at the suitcase. “Did you enjoy going through my things?”
He gave a mock bow as he placed the suitcase and her camera bag next to her. “I only placed everything in the suitcase, I would never probe a ladies clothing.” His lips lifted at the corners, “Unless she is wearing them.”
Mari couldn’t help but laugh with him. It wasn’t a quick laugh either. She belly-laughed, as if all of the day’s stress was pouring out and away from her. So different than his brother.
“Has Mikel, or Mr. Neanderthal as you say, offered you anything besides water?” He looked at the water bottle she held. “Or is he being the awful host he always is?” He said in a loud conspiratorial whisper.
“You have work to do Juli. You can come back in the morning while Tristan and I finish up.” Mikel barked, appearing unexpectedly in the kitchen. He took hold of the younger man’s arm, leading him out of the kitchen so swiftly Mari did not get a chance to answer.
Juli leaned over his shoulder, struggling to make sure Mari heard him as he was being pushed towards the door. “Good bye. Marissa, right? I will see you in the morning and promise to show you how a proper Spanish man behaves.”
Mari wondered why they allowed her to know their names. If their intention was to kill her it didn’t really matter what she knew. But then again, why was she still alive? Too many questions and not enough answers.
Mari perceived the annoyance in Mikel’s face when he walked in the kitchen. Did he dislike Juli, or did he not like him being nice to her? Her thoughts were interrupted by Mikel’s voice. “I apologize for Juli. He thinks all women lust over him.”
“I liked him. He’s obviously the one with manners.” That earned her an ice cold glare from Mikel. She enjoyed that her barb hit the mark she intended. She felt bad that the highlight of her day, her interaction with Juli, had abruptly ended. He brought some relief to the mysterious and harsh Mikel. She felt the need for a pause, alone time that would perhaps allow her to figure out at least some of what was taking place. “I would like to shower, if it’s possible.”
Mikel picked up her suitcase and began walking up the stairs. She shook her head at his lack of communication, but followed him hoping he was agreeable to her request. He entered into one of several doors on the second level, and placed the bags on a bed. “When you are done we will eat. I hope you enjoy traditional Spanish food, I had the chef prepare various tapas. ” He extended his hand, palm up, reminding her she still wore the hideous outfit he’d ordered her to change into. “There is a lock on the inside of the door, and in the bathroom if it makes you feel better.
Mari stared at him. “You are mind boggling. You’re holding me captive, but worry if I feel safe?” She turned her back to him, opening her suitcase.
Mikel left the room mumbling. Mari turned her head just enough to make sure he had left, She would have rather he stayed to answer her question, perhaps to even argue, then, maybe, she could get a glimpse into this contradiction of a man. He was gone, at least for now. She pushed the door shut, and to her surprise, it did have a lock, a deadbolt. She locked it, conflicted but convinced she wanted her privacy.
Preoccupied with Mikel’s abrupt exit, Mari had not paid attention to the bedroom she had entered; a suite really. Large windows reflecting the mesmerizing turquoise water gave the room the same contrast against the simple white and beige repeated from downstairs. The bed was immense, a king with a fluffy duvet cover, and so many pillows one could get lost among them and never be found. The modern wooden headboard was elaborately carved with a theme Mari could only guess was Catalan. A vase with fresh flowers sat on a small table opposite the foot of the bed. She could not help but think of the many women Mikel had brought to this apartment. Was there actually a speck of jealousy in her thoughts, Mari caught herself and quickly returned to reality. Too bad she wasn’t enjoying this place under better circumstances.
She found everything in her suitcase the way Juli had described it. All her clothes had been piled as they had been placed in the drawer, her few skirts and one dress were laid neatly on the top. Warmth and red crept up her face at the sight of her undergarments in the zippered outer compartment. She didn’t see her phone or laptop in any of the bags. “Crap.” Disappointment flooded her even though she had expected them to be missing.
For additional peace of mind, when she went into the bathroom to shower and change, she locked that door too. A glimpse of her face in the mirror stunned her. The tangle of hair didn’t resemble the long sleek black hair she was so proud of. And the clothes. Her suggestion she looked like a Dickens character had not been far off.
Maybe this man could hold her captive, but she would hang on to her dignity. First she would shower, then put on decent clothes. A few minutes later, she stood in the hot shower and let the water pour over her. The bathroom was not any less plush than what she had already witnessed. Double sinks, resting on white marble counters. A toilet that looked like a throne, all complemented by a bidet were enclosed in a smaller area. If you could call anything small in this apartment. European bathrooms typically include the bidet, a must for women’s hygiene. The white marbled enclosed shower was as big as the bathroom of her rental apartment. Fancy shower jets ran the length of the wall as well as a rain shower overhead. A huge tub, contrasted in beige travertine sat separate from the shower. Ceiling to floor glass ran the length of the wall behind the tub, and it too encouraged the azure sea into the room stretched. The water must have been softened to perfection; she though, as she easily worked a foamy soap ladder that completely covered all surfaces of her tender young skin. She felt good. Even in the midst of the terrible day she had experienced, she could not complain about the way she was being treated. It must have been several minutes after all the soap had washed off when she finally turned the shower off. She found a perfectly laundered and pleasantly smelling soft cotton white robe hanging inside the bathroom door, and put it on.
Standing in the bedroom looking out at the magnificent view, she heard a knock on the door. She tiptoed to the door, unlocked it, and resumed her spot by the window, “Come in, it’s open.”
Mikel walked in. He had obviously showered, his damp long hair hung in loose curls around his face. Barefoot, and only wearing a pair of linen drawstring pants, his large muscular torso made him frightening. She sucked in air and her eyes widened in surprise.
His expression looked perplexed. “You have never seen a man without his shirt?” His lips turned up. The grin softened his stern face.
He was her captor. She could not let him get away with nice. “No, I’ve never seen such an arrogant shirtless man.”
He rolled his eyes. “Ay, Dios Mio. Las mujeres. I wanted you to know dinner was ready.” The quick hint of a jovial Mikel left the room before she could come up with a response to what she thought was a sexist comment. She heard him tramp down the stairs. She’d be damned before she’d go following him like a puppy dog.
The long day combined with the relaxing shower settled over her, and she felt exhaustion take over. The fluffy comforter looked appealing she stretched out on her back letting the soft robe and downy bed cover, enveloped her, and her body relaxed becoming one with the bed. Her eyelids lowered, she figured a few minutes rest wouldn’t hurt.

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