Chapter 1: No Hiding From The Past (1)
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Brodi was having one of those days where merely getting out of bed was a bad idea. Days like that were coming more and more frequently, and though he was normally the “take things as they come” type, he wasn’t sure how much more he could take. 

His day  started with the jarring realization that he had overslept.  Oversleeping had been happening a lot, and it was a vicious cycle difficult to break. He would have trouble falling asleep, and as soon as he did manage to fall asleep, the dreams would come. His mind would usually replay the accident that nearly took his life. If he had to choose his nightmare, he would prefer that one. At least he could attempt to help himself. 

Alternatively, his mind would trap him alone and helpless in a hospital bed, unable to move, screaming at the top of his lungs. Trying to, anyway. No sound ever came out. No sound ever came out.  

Whichever horror his mind fell into, they both ended the same way, with him sitting bolt upright finding himself safe in his bed, far from calm, admittedly, but safe. When he finally managed to relax enough for sleep to overtake him again, the entire cycle would begin again. That, lately, was how his nights went, sleep coming in fits and starts, and far from restful. The result was—well, it wasn’t pretty. 

He knew his body was trying to heal itself, that the oversleeping was a sign that he was not giving himself enough time to recover. One of the advantages of being raised by hippie parents was that he’d been taught to have a higher sense of awareness about himself and how he co-existed with the world around him. Neglecting oneself was not noble. Balance, balance had been drilled into him, and he was off balance right now. He should give in and get his mother to send him one of her herbal tea mixtures or tinctures that would allow him to sleep deeply enough to quell the dreams.  

There were two problems with that. First, he’d have to ask his mother for help. He loved her dearly, but she could go—overboard with things. She’d want to know why he wasn’t sleeping well, and would at the very least hint that he might be lovesick. He knew she was dying to hear that he and his coworker Liv had become more than just friends. They were, sort of, but he didn’t feel like sharing that aspect of his life with her just yet. 

Then, if his lack of sleep was not due to being lovesick, she’d want to know why. Brodi couldn’t very well tell his mother he didn’t WANT to sleep, considering that he’d been unconscious for three weeks following his skiing accident. Sleep seemed like such a waste. He just wanted to enjoy the gift of still being alive, being with his friends, being with Liv, just being AWAKE. The knowledge that he wasn’t being logical or giving his physical condition time to correct itself didn’t change the fact that he had developed an aversion to sleep, an aversion not helped by the knowledge that his original injuries had been perhaps moderate but nowhere near severe enough to warrant his being in a coma for three weeks. 

Further knowledge that his coma was the result of a doctor’s misguided practice—suffice it to say that Brodi had a firsthand understanding of why most people hated hospitals so much. Nevertheless, he had kept his appointment today in the hopes that he’d be taken off medical leave, allowing him to get back into his studio. Instead, his doctor had extended his restrictions for another two weeks, warning him that he needed rest. 

No, he wasn’t doing all he could to take care of himself, and that was one of the reasons he had not been released to return to work. His doctor again offered to refer him for post-traumatic stress disorder. Brodi acknowledged that he’d been given that diagnosis in the past, but he refused the referral yet again. It wasn’t because he didn’t believe in psychiatry. He did. 

He’d made use of therapy and psychotropic medication in a crisis in the past, with much success. He didn’t feel like he needed that now. All he needed, he was sure, was to get back to work, to regain something akin to a regular schedule. Doctor Reid reminded him that he had to skip his morning meditation to make this medical appointment because he had, once again, overslept and that the oversleeping was a result of trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. 

Brodi sighed and tried to accept the gentle lecture. Skipping meditation once or twice wasn’t going to matter much in the long run, but, he had outright lapsed. Dr. Reid was willing to back off on making an official recommendation that he get treatment for PTSD before returning to work, and even willing to accept Brodi’s self-assessment and holistic mindset, but Brodi had to prove to him that he had things under control. Brodi was irked about that but wasn’t entirely sure why. He pushed the emotion aside for now. He was tired, and he needed to process his options. Dredging up worry wasn’t going to help him get back on track. 

And he did need to get back on track. Balance, balance, he reminded himself. In the expression of loving-kindness, you were supposed to include yourself. Still, he was stubbornly insisting that things that things needed to be normal, damn it. He missed seeing clients. He missed being in his studio. It wasn’t that he was worried about the studio or even his clients. They were in good hands, with other teachers taking up the slack his absence had caused.  He saw the doctor’s point of view. He couldn’t help but feel like getting back into his normal routine would only help him. 

He had heard through the grapevine that some of his celebrity clients had been pressuring the suits at the resort to bring him back, but they weren’t caving—yet. He was grateful that the powers that be were still allowing him to live in his suite rent-free, but he was starting to feel some resentment about being kept on medical leave. The ski season was already over, and by the time he got back to his studio, all the planning for summer activities and events would be over. He was missing a prime opportunity to gain summer clients. That was all a moot point right now, though. He couldn’t so much as touch a client until his doctor released him to go back to work. So yeah. Forget unbalanced. Frustrated. Frustrated would be the mildest thing he could say about how he felt right now. 

To make matters worse, all morning long he felt like someone was following him. He’d caught a glimpse of someone once or twice, but he was praying that he was wrong. He rationalized it as probably feeling antsy because of the lack of sleep, because of the appointment he’d just had, and because he was letting his spiritual practice slip. Nonetheless, it felt good to get back to the main lodge and the safety of his suite. 

“So, I know you recognize me. I can see it in your eyes every time you’ve noticed me. Why haven’t you had security remove me yet?” 

Brodi froze in place in the alcove, his hand on the inner doors. He hadn’t heard anyone come up behind him, but he didn’t have to turn around to find out who was speaking to him. Well, that put an end to ideas about just being paranoid. And, judging from the time of day it was—just before noon—the lodge would be deserted. Checkout time for departing guests was 10 AM, and check-in time for arriving guests wasn’t until 3 PM, enough time to allow the housekeeping staff to clean any vacated rooms. Doubtless, there was no one in the lodge but administrative staff and the receptionist at the front desk. He was alone at the moment.  Taking a deep breath to calm his mind, he considered how to answer this creature from his nightmares that had been stalking him. 

“You can turn around and answer honestly. You won’t hurt my feelings.” 

Another deep breath. Four counts inhale, four counts hold, and four counts exhale. He could do this. Slowly, he turned around to face his boogieman. 

“Lauryll. Hi. Yes, I had noticed you were around. But believe me, my dear, fear of hurting your feelings had not entered my mind.” 

The woman standing alarmingly close to him scowled. 

“Ouch. But yes, I deserve that. You still haven’t answered my question, though.” 

Brodi tilted his head and looked at the petite brunette. She was still pretty, still possessed an air of innocence that he knew all too well was a façade. What answer did she want? 

“I can certainly arrange for your removal if you prefer that kind of attention. However, since I’m not in the habit of leaving my drinks unattended anymore, I have friends and an employer who would notice if I’m missing for more than a day, and I tend to lock my door now, I haven’t been overly concerned. No Coby or Daniel, either. Unless they’re staying out of sight.” 

Lauryll shrugged. “Dead? In jail? Don’t know. Don’t care. I’m--look, I know I’m the last person on earth you want to talk to right now. Let me say what I need to say, and I’ll walk away. For good.” 

“Go on.” he prompted. 

Lauryll took a step forward then stopped abruptly, apparently deeming it wise to stay beyond arms’ length.   

“I know—I know that sorry isn’t enough. But I am. Sorry, that is. For what they—for what we—did to you. I swear I didn’t know Coby was going to do what he did. Not that it matters, I suppose, because I did go along with it.” 

She reached a hand up to his face, frowning as he jerked away from her reflexively. 

“Don’t,” he warned, his voice harsh. 

“He knew I wanted you, Brodi, so he was adamant that I have you. But, uhm,” Lauryll looked down briefly, then looked back up at him. “his ego was going to make damned sure you paid for it, paid for making me want you. Do you remember the last conversation I had with you?” 

“No,” he said, a little too quickly. “My mind was a little foggy between the dehydration and the drugs, not to mention the concussion.” 

He did remember, though. The mild paralytics they had been injecting him with to keep him compliant were wearing off more and more quickly after each use. That meant he was gaining tolerance or they were getting careless with dosage. Either way spelled an unpleasant end to a torturous situation. The last time, the time she was asking him to remember, his head was clearing quickly and he tried to focus, tried to figure out how he was going to get out. The downside to this: he remembered every last syllable she uttered. Damned if he was going to give her the satisfaction of knowing that her actions had left such an impact on him. From the smirk on her face, he guessed that he had failed at that task. 

“Coby was going to kill you. Did you know that? You must have realized that he had no intention of letting you go. You had to have, even with the free highs we were giving you. Would’ve been easy too. Surfer boy gets lost in the ocean at an end-of-semester party? No one would have known the difference. Especially since no one had seemed to miss you yet. My last time with you was to be the farewell carnival ride. Did you know that, lover? When I finished with you, lover,” Lauryll paused and giggled as she repeated the word, remembering, perhaps, that he hated her calling him that. She licked her lips for emphasis, and Brodi barely kept a wince from showing on his face, pain at the reminder that he had been a toy to her, something to be used up and discarded. Oh yes, she knew she was opening up a long-closed wound, and she was enjoying it. 

“I kissed you, and when you didn’t respond, I remember crying and asking you why it was so hard to love me. Then—oh my, you do remember, don’t you?” 

Lauryll seemed to feel braver now and took another step towards him. Brodi willed himself to remain casually leaning against the wall. He was in no immediate danger from her. He had about a foot in height and a hundred pounds on her, and she didn’t seem to be armed. With the outfit she had on, it would be all but impossible for her to hide a weapon. He still had no desire to be anywhere near the woman. That said, he forced himself to remain still, unmoving as he stood inches away from her, staring her down as she studied his eyes.  

“Yes. Yes, you do remember. I’m flattered.” 

“Don’t be,” he said curtly. 

“It was always your eyes that got to me, you know.” she continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “Such beautiful, expressive eyes. Like right now. You can barely contain your distaste for me. You assume you’re safe here, because of the security cameras and because I’m alone. And you’re right, I’m unarmed.” She grinned as she ran her hands down the front of her skin-tight minidress. “Nowhere to hide anything, as you seem to have noticed. Like I said, flattered.” 

Brodi sighed heavily. “Lauryll,” 

“Anyway,” she interrupted him, “you opened up those gorgeous blue eyes when I asked you why, and even after all you’d been through, you looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Look at me, Lauryll. You don’t do this to someone you love.’ That’s when I looked at you, and really saw the full extent of what we had done to you. Your face was swollen and bruised. Your hands were bloody from fighting against your restraints. Your arms, your legs, and the rest of that magnificent body was covered in bruises, cuts...” 

Brodi pushed off the wall and pushed past her. “Lauryll, I remember enough of it quite well. I don’t need a grocery list of injuries. Go find some other way to cleanse your soul, if that’s what you’re trying to do.” 

He started to open the inner door, freezing in place when she placed a hand on his shoulder. At her touch, he turned his head slowly and looked at her hand. He started to brush her hand off of his shoulder, but when she tightened her grip, he picked up her hand forcefully, dropping it away from his body as he turned to face her once more. The smirk on her face as he did so irritated him, but he just glared at her in response, raising an eyebrow as he waited for her to continue. 

“My point,” she spat, her eyes flashing with enough anger to tell Brodi all he needed to know about her claims of remorse, “is that I saw your injuries clearly for the first time. Your words broke through to me, don’t you see? I lied—told the guys I’d dosed you up again and convinced them that we could party some more before finishing you off. I made sure that one cuff was loose before I walked out of the room. Surely you remember all that. I gave you back your life, Brodi Parker. I can’t undo those three days, but I gave you back your life. I protected you. That should make up for something, shouldn’t it?” 

Brodi looked at her carefully, taking time to center himself before speaking. A deep breath, a shoulder shrug, and a pop in his neck, and he was ready. 

“Lauryll, I’ve heard enough. The conversation is over. Come near me again and I’ll get a restraining order. If I see you again, I promise you, you’ll wish you never laid eyes on me. In short, it is in your best interest to leave right now. Don’t come back.” 

Brodi turned his 6’4” frame and willed himself to walk away before he got sucked into any more conversation. As it was, he’d heard enough that she was probably going to be in his nightmares again for the next six months. 

“Brodi! Wait!” 

He kept walking, though he wasn’t entirely sure where he was going. He damned sure wasn’t going back to his suite. Not yet, anyway. Not while there was a possibility she could follow him and find exactly where he slept. God, there was an image. No, he couldn’t let her take away that safe place. 

“Brodi! I protected you! Doesn’t that mean something?” 

The inner doors finally closed and muffled the sounds of the hysterical woman he’d left in the entryway. 

“Mr. Parker? Is everything OK? Do I need to call security?” 

Brodi forced a smile for the petite woman sitting behind the reception desk. 

“I think it will be fine, Emmy, but thank you,” he said as he continued across the lobby. “But, if she comes inside, have Nate kick her out,” he called over his shoulder. 

“If you’re sure,” she responded. 

Brodi didn’t have to wait to know that she had picked up the phone to call security anyway. That knowledge gave him some measure of comfort. Still, after he crossed the lobby, he made a left down the hall instead of going up the stairs. Eagle’s Peak Grill, the main resort restaurant, would be the safest place for him right now. It wouldn’t be too crowded, but there would be enough people—he tried not to think the word ‘witnesses’--with various staff members trying to get a lunch in before the onslaught of guests made the place busy again. Well, as busy as it got in the early summer.  There would be a few people in the restaurant. It wasn’t that he wanted company. He didn’t. He just didn’t want to be alone. 

Next: Chapter 2

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