Mistress:Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure(9)By: India Grey
Behind her, the peal of bells echoed eerily through the leaden air, and the sound made her press her foot harder on the accelerator, trying to put as much distance between her and the church as quickly as possible. Ahead of her the lane twisted around blind bends, making it impossible to get any idea of where she was going. She hadn’t even thought of that. Where was she going?
In fact, where was she? Panic pumped through her in icy bursts. Looking around her wildly, she wondered whether anyone had realised she was gone yet. Would the verger have found her missing by now? Maybe it wasn’t too late to go back. No one would have to know. All she had to do was find somewhere to turn round in this godforsaken lane. She could slip in as quietly as she’d left, replace the veil, and let the rest of her life continue as planned.
Carlos and her mother were right. She couldn’t possibly cut it on her own. She couldn’t even run away without getting lost.
It had started to rain, a thin mist of drops that beaded the windscreen and blurred the world beyond to a watery grey. Frantically trying to remember how to work the windscreen wipers, Rachel eventually located the right lever, only to discover that the blur was caused not by rain but by tears.
The road was bumpy and potholed, and there was nowhere to turn. She pressed her foot harder to the accelerator, trying to make the noise of the engine drown out the sound of the church bells in the distance. They were fainter now, drifting eerily over the dank, drab fields with a ghostly melancholy that was horribly funereal. The hairs rose on the back of her neck. Suddenly everything seemed sinister—loaded with menace. Her heart thudded madly as she glanced again and again in the rearview mirror, expecting to see the headlamps of Carlos’s huge black car getting closer, dazzling, hypnotising, until they engulfed her.
Someone must have seen her go. Someone must have heard. He would have guessed that she had gone with that terrifying instinct he had for sensing her fear and exploiting it until she was helpless to do anything but submit to him…
She could almost feel his hot breath on her neck, and, letting out a whimper of terror, had to look quickly over her shoulder to reassure herself she was imagining it.
Twisting her head back again, she saw that the road in front had narrowed suddenly into a low-sided bridge. She swerved, but did so too sharply, cringing at the sickening sound of metal against stone as the nearside wing glanced off the wall. Numb with horror, she kept going, accelerating off the bridge with a screech of tyres and swinging out onto a straight stretch of road. She should stop, check the damage to the car, but darkness crouched menacingly in the hedges and fields beyond, harbouring all manner of nameless horrors—all of which paled into insignificance at the thought of Carlos gaining on her. She imagined him pulling up alongside her as she stood in the deserted, darkling lane, getting out of the car and coming towards her with that look in his eyes that she would never be able to forget…
A sob tore through her, and she felt herself buckle, as if she’d been punched in the stomach, as the memories bubbled up through the thin crust that had sealed them in, like a mental scab. Her lungs screamed for air. It was all she could do to keep her hands on the wheel and not fall into the yawning chasm of panic that had opened up beneath her.
What you lack, Rachel, is courage.
Orlando’s voice cut through the fog—calm, steady, reassuringly blank. And then suddenly up ahead she saw the shape of a large building, dark against the pewter sky, and twin gateposts reared up on either side of the road. Weeping with relief, she sped towards them as a dim memory of a story she’d read as a child came back to her—where someone had had to race across a bridge to safety before a headless horseman caught them and all was lost.
She screeched through the gates and slewed the car round on the gravel in front of the huge, dark house, praying there was someone home. Someone who could help her—hide her—in case Carlos was making his way through the dark, dripping lanes towards her.
Turning off the ignition, she sank down in the driver’s seat, waiting for her heartbeat to stop reverberating through her entire body and for enough strength to return to her trembling legs to allow her to walk up to that imposing front door. What if there was no answer? She pictured herself knocking, hammering with all her strength as the sound echoed through vast, empty rooms, and all the time the headlights in the distance were growing closer…