A/N: I wanted to post this earlier, but between client edits, formats, and sanctuary animals, I’ve got my hands quite full! Anyway, Sunday was Bo’s birthday, and even though I’m not yet done with the rewrite, I can’t help myself. For the first time in a long time, I feel connected to Bo again, and I’m so excited to finally share him with you all once more. thank you so
Wednesday: January 1, 2020
12:00 AM; MINNESOTA, NEW YEAR’S PARTY
He had been studying her for weeks. She had been a backup, just in case something went wrong with the other girl. She was a spare. Like waiting for a tire to blow out, she had been there as a fallback.
Well, the tire had blown the hell out, and he needed her. Now. Tonight.
Drink in hand, he walked over to her. His steps faltered the closer he got, and, as her attention shifted to him, it felt as though the air had been knocked from his lungs. God, she was beautiful, almost perfect.
“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked.
She smiled faintly, but it didn’t hide the sadness in her green eyes. “I’d like that,” she said.
“Bartender, another of what she’s having, please,” he said softly.
The man shifted his gaze back to the woman’s face, a soft smile lifting either corner of his mouth. It softened his features, defined his strong jawline. He was well aware of the effect his smile usually had on women. It made them trust him, for better or for worse. And tonight, he needed that. “Tell me, who was foolish enough to leave you all by your lonesome?”
She looked up at the bartender, thanking him as he set her drink in front of her. She shook her head, scoffing. “Some guy I met on the Internet. I let my friends talk me into the online dating shit.” She rolled her eyes. “That was a mistake.”
“Ah. Prefer meeting someone the old fashioned way, huh?”
She nodded, reaching up to tuck her blonde hair behind her ear. “Yeah, usually. It wasn’t working well enough for my friends, though. They want another option for double dates.” She took a small sip of her drink. “Can’t really trust most people you meet on the Internet, though. Learning that pretty quickly.”
It was good she felt so betrayed by the man who had stood her up. He had made sure the man from the Internet would be staying away, but he had feared it wouldn’t bother her much. But, oh, it had. And that was damn good. “I could show you a good time, if you wanted. Couple drinks, little dancing… The night’s yours.”
She laughed, soft and delicate. It was like music to his ears. Her laugh was absolutely perfect. “You know, it could be the margaritas talking, but I think I’m all for that. But I’d like to get the hell outta here instead.”
He smiled and held up his drink. “To twenty-twenty, then. Let you finally find your true love.”
She snorted, clinking her glass against his. “To twenty-twenty,” she echoed. He downed his drink, and she quickly followed suit. The man paid for both of their drinks and held out an arm. She slid off her barstool, smoothed out her dress, and linked arms with him.
Outside the bar, the soberingly cold air of a Minnesotan winter hit them in the face. She wrapped her free hand around his arm, stepping a little closer for the illusion of warmth. He couldn’t help but smile.
He unlocked his car and pulled open the passenger side door. She thanked him and slid into the seat. He smiled down at her and closed the door. He smoothed both hands over his suit jacket as he walked around the front of the car. Letting out a breath, he pulled open the driver’s side door and slid into the car. He pulled his seatbelt into place, fingers lingering even after it clicked. Safety first. Always. He had learned that lesson the hard way. “Buckle up, darling,” he said as he started the car.
They had places to be, and through a windshield sure as hell wasn’t one of them.
12:23 AM; MINNESOTA, THE SURGEON’S HOUSE, BASEMENT
She didn’t fight him on the way down the basement stairs. She didn’t fight him as he led her into a bedroom in the far corner of the basement. It wasn’t until he shut the cell-like door that she realized it wasn’t exactly a bedroom, per say. While the door looked like it belonged in a prison, the interior of the room was decorated like that of an actual bedroom. A king-sized bed, a vanity, a dresser, bedside tables, art hanging on the walls, an area rug on the floor.
“What the hell’s going on?” she asked, each word louder than the last.
The man wrapped his hands around the bars of the cell door. “I’m making my new year’s resolutions come true a lot sooner than they usually do.” He titled his head to one side, eyes scanning over the woman. It was the first time he could stare for as long as he wanted. It didn’t matter if she caught him now. She was thin and tall. An inch more and she’d be six-foot. She was a runner, athletic, and boy, did it show. “You’re almost perfect. Almost. You need to put on a little extra weight here.” He poked her just above her hip bone. “Not much. Just a little. I say we get started with a rather early breakfast.”
“Somebody help me!”
His shoulders lifted as he drew in a breath for a sigh. “Darling, nobody can hear you. It’s just you and me here.” He reached through the door and touched her cheek. She jerked away from him before he even had the chance to feel the warmth of her face. “That’s all right. You’ll get used to me eventually.” He smiled. “I’ll go make you some breakfast, darling. I won’t be long.”
As soon as he was up the stairs and out of her sight, she grabbed the cell bars and rattled the door, screaming for help. Off to her left, someone sighed. “I-is somebody there?”
“Yes.” A pause. “He’s right. Nobody can hear you scream down here. I’ve tried,” a girl’s voice said.
“Who… are you?” the woman questioned, turning toward the voice. The room was empty, a wall separating her and whoever the voice belonged to.
“The girl he kidnapped before you.”
“H-how long have you been here?”
“What’s today?” the voice asked after a moment.
“Oh. Then… about eight days, I think.”
The woman pulled her bottom lip into her mouth, closing her eyes. “What’s your name?”
“Natalie. But when he’s around, you have to call me Brooke,” the voice said quietly. “What’s your name?”
“Cleo. I-I’m Cleo.”
“Welcome to the party, Cleo. Here, though? Here, your name is Lauren. If he calls you Lauren, you answer him. When he tells you to do something, do it. Don’t complain. Don’t resist. Don’t try to starve yourself out. Just do what he says.”
“Because about an hour ago, there was another woman who was supposed to be you. Supposed to be Lauren, I mean. But she refused to eat, said she’d rather starve. Well… now she’s dead.”