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Beck releases me, pushes the fingers of both hands through his hair, and clasps them at the back of his head, looking down at me as if he doesn’t quite know what to do. He’s angry and he’s worried, and I can’t even begin to imagine how he feels about me at this moment.

Caroline steps toward me, her hand coming back to my shoulder in a reassuring squeeze. “Tell us what happened.”

I watch as Beck’s hands drop from his head and he turns his back on me. He takes two paces and comes up against his desk, palms down onto the edge, where he leans over and bows his head to hear my story.

He doesn’t want to look at me, so I turn to face Caroline. Her face so open and ready to understand and accept whatever I tell her. But there’s no way I can tell her everything that happened at JT’s house.

“Sweet Caroline was a lovely piece that I just couldn’t resist, and she put up a much bigger fight than you ever did, which made it all the better for me.”

My head swivels to see Beck still hunched over his desk, head hanging low as he listens.

Back to Caroline, who inclines her head and levels me with that look that says, You and me, sister…we’ve been through the same hell. I’ve got you right now.

God, she’s got no fucking clue that we truly have been through the same hell.

Raped by the same man.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes briefly, remembering that moment just after JT told me what he did to Caroline. He’d had the cast on his arm pressing down on my throat and my body was starved for oxygen. He was laying his body on top of me and I was filled with torn panic wondering if he’d rape me again or merely strangle me to death.

Regardless of his plans for me, my arms began to flail from near hysteria and an inherent need to live.

JT looks down at me, eyes leering not with sexual lust but with a crazed hatred. Saliva slips over his bottom lip and hangs in a long string until I feel its slimy touch on my chin. I have worse things to worry about right at this moment, but feeling his fluid on me disgusts me so much I involuntarily try to lift my shoulder to wipe the spittle off me.

My chest heaves, trying to suck in oxygen, but nothing’s getting in. Everything around me seems to dim, my periphery going fuzzy and then darkening to gray. I feel so unbelievably weak.

One arm jerks, not intentionally, but sort of haphazardly slaps at JT’s face. He laughs at me as it flops uselessly to the side where it hangs over the edge of the desk. My other arm also jerks and slowly starts to lower, coming down to rest softly just above my head. JT continues to stare at me, eyes practically rolling around in deranged glee as he watches me suffocate.

A lazy sense of acceptance swarms me, and I realize I don’t hurt anymore. I can’t even feel the crush of his cast on my throat, and about the only sensory perception I have is the hard, flat desk underneath me. The back of my head seemingly cradled by the wood, as if it were gently rocking me to sleep. A cold, thin object under my forearm as it lays uselessly above my head.

Wait…what is that?

With herculean effort, my brain tells my arm to move…to turn slightly…grasp for whatever that is, but it doesn’t seem to want to cooperate and I realize my brain must be dying.

But then…something is in my hand.

And I know immediately what it is.

An image of Beck flashes before me, lying in bed beside me…smiling…hair all mussy and his eyes warm and loving.

My arm flies off the desk, up and swinging outward, only to come back in a giant arc, where I plunge the end of a letter opener into the bottom side of JT’s neck and immediately pull it back in a completely reactionary manner as I’m horrified I just stabbed someone. A spurt of blood hits my neck and I see JT’s eyes go from maniacal to shocked in a nanosecond, then they become enraged. I don’t think or hesitate, fear driving my actions. I swing the letter opener again, and it hits higher on his neck but still goes deeply.

JT pushes up off me a bit, opens his mouth to say something, and a pool of blood spills out onto my chest. The letter opener is on the same side as his casted arm, so he uses the opposite hand to try to grasp it, but he can’t seem to find it. It doesn’t matter though, because the first wound is bubbling and spurting blood with every dying heartbeat. His eyes become glazed as I watch him start to fade before my eyes.

His hand tries to grab the letter opener again, but the effort is pitiful and he misses by a mile. Through the haze of pain and death on his face, JT’s eyes plead with me to help him, but all I can do is stare in helpless fascination.

I suddenly realize I’m breathing again and have an immediate return of strength and determination fueled by nothing more than pure adrenaline. I bring both my hands up to his chest and shove him off of me. JT makes a gurgling sound as he starts to drown in his own blood, falls to the side, and drops to the floor out of my line of sight.

I immediately scramble and roll to the opposite side, lowering my feet to the floor and keeping the desk in between us. I’m fairly sure he’s incapacitated, but I’m not taking any chances. My head sweeps left and right and I finally see my gun lying at the base of a set of bookshelves. I run to it, coughing and wheezing, my throat on fire.

With sure hands, I grab the Walther PPK and swing it immediately back toward the desk, imagining the worst and JT crawling over the top of it toward me.

But I don’t see anything.

Carefully, I sidestep my way toward the desk, trying hard not to cough and hack but not succeeding. If he’s alive, he’ll hear me coming a mile away as my sore throat rebels and demands I ease the pain and scratchiness with repeated barks of hoarse air.

With the gun ready to fire, I hold it out before me with a sure grip, round the side of the desk, and point it down toward the ground.

JT lies there on his back, eyes open but not seeing anything, the letter opener sticking crudely out of his neck and a pool of blood starting to form under him where it’s starting to well and push its way past the object that made the hole in the first place.

JT’s dead.

My rapist is dead and I feel like my life has just been ruined.

Fuck, I hate hearing these details. She was almost robotic in her retelling, as if she was reciting merely from a bad memory she tucked deep away so as to protect herself, and it was too painful to bear repeating.

“All these months, I wanted him dead,” Sela whispers in a voice laced with pain and regret. “But now that he is…I don’t want that. What the hell have I done?”

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