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Tonight was the night. Mindy could feel it, the winds of change flitting in from some elusive place, prickling her skin with a familiar itch. It was just as it had always been: subtle, intoxicating, and unmistakable.
Tonight was the night she was going to leave Saõ Benedita.
Mindy shrugged into her backpack and gripped the strap tightly, taking in a deep breath as she stepped out onto the balcony that extended off her suite. She leaned over the stone railing and looked down at the ground five stories below.
You can do this, she told herself, shutting her eyes when vertigo set in. You have to do this.
As if sensing her hesitation, a breeze wafted in, renewing her resolve. It was now or never. If she didn’t leave tonight, she wouldn’t leave. Ever. Tomas and the ruffians he called bodyguards would see to it.
And then she’d be stuck in this contemporary white cube forever.
She wasn’t about to let that happen. Especially now.
Her mind quieted, leaving her body on autopilot as she threw one purple boot-clad leg over the railing. The stone was cold beneath her, making her regret the teal fishnets she’d chosen for her getaway outfit. But it was too late for a costume change. Everything she owned had been stuffed into her backpack. No way would she risk getting caught by one of Tomas’s security brutes just to spare a cold hiney.
She lifted her other leg over the railing and steadied herself. So far, so good. All she had to do now as lower herself, slow and steady, down the side of the building. One foot and then the other, using the notches etched in the stone as a makeshift ladder. In no time at all, she would be on the ground again. And then she could run.
And keep running until she was sure he would never find her.
But where would she go? She hadn’t thought about that. The only thoughts consuming her had been the ones regarding her escape. It had taken weeks to plan, to arrange all the variables so that she was afforded this narrow window of opportunity. A window of opportunity that was nearly shattered by an impromptu visit by one of Tomas’s business associates.
A shiver passed through her, nearly causing her to lose her footing. She tightened her grip on the white stone as terror gnawed at her insides. It wasn’t the height that scared her so much as the falling. The falling and landing. The falling and landing and getting caught and locked back up in this prison Tomas called home.
She leaned forward and rested her forehead against the cold face of the building, and slowly began counting to ten. She would allow herself that, but no more. After that she would start climbing down again, scared or not, and she wouldn’t stop until she reached the bottom.
She had only gotten as far as four when a loud crack sounded from somewhere above her. Frantic, her eyes darted up to the balcony, where Hector, her warden–er, bodyguard–was standing. Their eyes met, and his round face tinged purple as he bellowed for the rest of the security team to lock down the premises.
There was no time. No time to think about what she was doing or how frightened she was or how raw her fingers were against the rough stone as she moved double-time down the face of the building.
She picked up the pace, fear lurching into panic at the prospect of being imprisoned once again, this time forever. She could see the bottom now, coming into focus below her. She was going to make it. She was so close.
Her foot slipped and she fell, landing with an oomph on top of something soft and warm.
And clothed in virgin wool.
She looked down at the man on top of whom she’d landed, and grimaced. “Are you OK?”