Chapter 13. - Hold onto the cat.
You can do this, Natalie! Don't be a coward!
Haru meowed, looking at me angrily from inside his crate.
I'm sorry Haru! I'll get you out of there soon.
But first, we need to get out of this situation first.
Taking a deep breath, I looked at my watch.
There was still half an hour until 6 o'clock and an hour until it was time for John Spiridon to pick me up for the awful meeting of his family. The dread that filled me when I imagined being part of his family forced me to take one last look around my bedroom and grab on tight to my backpack and onto Haru's crate.
If I was going to get dragged into a loveless marriage with a person who only used me for their own personal agenda, at least I would try to do something to avoid it. Something reckless, stupid and very much something I would regret doing.
Like running away, for instance.
Climbing out on the ledge, I tied my bag and the crate together onto a rope and slowly lowered them to the ground. Once that was done, I began to climb down holding onto the trellis.
Everything was going fine, until my leg got stuck on a vine. In a desperate try to disentangle myself, my hand slipped and suddenly the ground seemed like it was getting closer, way too fast. I was no longer upright, but lying on the floor and the air gone from my lungs.
Taking a second to assess my wounds, I reminded myself to keep on moving or else someone would notice my absence. Wincing from the pain, I walked over towards the backyard, which after the gate was nothing but trees.
Past those trees there was a path that I knew very well from all the times I sneaked out when I was an angsty teen. Now as an angsty adult, I was attempting to flee using the same path.
Moving my pace as much as I could, I looked at my watch one more.
I wished I could've been able to imagine that I was normal girl waiting nervously for a date instead of dodging branches in the woods.
After twenty minutes of trying to hail a cab—an Uber was out of the question since my father could track my phone—I was finally on my way to my studio.
My heart was pounding like bird in a cage. What if by the time i made it there John was there to take me away, never to be seen again?
I shook my head, no problem.
If anything happened I would deal with it when I got there, there was no need to get myself more worked up than I already was. When the taxi driver stopped in front of my studio there was no signal of John or my father.
Paying the taxi driver, I walked onto the sidewalk and immediately noticed a black Bentley Continental parked on the street. I wanted to linger on more about why such an expensive car would be stationed in a medium income area.
But I didn't have a minute to waste, and that was the reason I didn't waste time waiting for the dingy little elevator. I took the stairs, something neither my feet nor my ankles were too fond of since my fall.
Opening the staircase door on my floor, I was met with a man leaning on the door of my studio. The man I was supposed to be meeting.
Before any words could leave my mouth, he beat me to it.
"I had a hunch you'd be late, so I came here to make sure everything was okay with you."
I looked at him and hated myself for being in my situation. He looked so handsome, dressed in a navy suit with a white crisp dress shirt and his tie, a contrasting red. And there I was, with dirt on my jeans and I was pretty sure I still had twigs in my hair from the stroll in the woods, looking far from the girl this lovely man should be seen with.
Why now? Why, why, why? Damn it!
I cleared my voice and said. "Hi. It's nice to see you again, though I don't know how you found my address. I'm sorry for bailing on you, but something has come up and it's very urgent that I take care of it today so I won't be able to have coffee with you."
"I see." He said taking in my whole outfit. "Why do I have the impression that's not the real reason you are canceling our meeting."
"Ivan, I'm really happy that you took an interest in my art and that other night I had a lot of fun, but I need to go deal with this. So I'm going to ask you to leave, please."
My time was running out.
He looked at me one more time and nodded. "I hope you get everything settled, that urgent matter that you have. Have a good night, Natalie."
I felt the tears prick my eyes and proceeded to nod. It was all I could do before I burst into tears. Turning around, I heard the sound of the elevator and proceeded to open the door before I did something I regretted.
No, Natalie, keep your focus.
Rushing into my studio, I placed my belongings and Haru on the floor. I walked over to the painting that resembled my mother's favorite flower and kneeled so I could move the loose floor board were I hid my money.
I had saved up twenty-thousand dollars. I had enough to move and start a simple life somewhere far and leave behind the pressure of being Viktor Dashkov's daughter.
Haru meowed from his cage once more, encouraging me to move faster.
I tucked the money safely into my backpack, grabbed his cage and took the stairs again to avoid being seen just in case my father sent someone to look for me.
I made my way towards the garage area and found the key for my slot.
Once inside I removed the tarp from my escape vehicle which was nothing more than a Jetta. I placed Haru safely in the back seat and just as I sat down and tried to turn the key the worst possible thing happened.
Not even a purr.
No! No! No!
Banging my palm on the driving wheel, I finally broke down.
Big ugly tears left me, scaring poor Haru as he began to cry. I didn't know if it was from fear of me and my crying or for being cooped up in the crate for so long.
I was so close; I'd given everything to get away, even a date with the man of my dreams.
A honk from a car made me lift my head.
It was the black Bentley I'd seen parked outside.
The door opened, and Ivan got out and walked towards the garage.
"I know you told me you didn't want my help, but I'd figured I'd stick around maybe you'd change your mind."
With my eyes full of tears and between a sob and a laugh, I replied. "Can't you see I'm having a crisis here? I'm very busy, so leave."
Reaching down, he placed his thumb on my cheek catching a tear as I felt it roll down. "I can't seem to leave you alone, Natalie. Are you sure there's nothing I can help you with?"
Haru began to meow as if to answer 'Yes, we do! Help us, human!'
I looked into his eyes and decided to take a leap of faith.
Whatever happened next was a coin toss.
I nodded. "I'm running away and I need help to escape. I'll pay you, though maybe not as much as you'd like with that car of yours, but I can pay you."
"I don't need money from you, Natalie. I just need you to accept my help and for you to believe in me. Come on, I don't think she likes being in here." He said as he proceeded to open the back door and retrieve Haru as I grabbed my backpack. "It's a he, his name is Haru."
Ivan walked over to his car, opened the passenger door for me and passed me Haru's cage. After closing his door, he quickly got into the car. "Please put on your seat belt and hold onto the cat."
If it were another situation, I would've laughed at the absurdity of things, but I was too busy wiping tears from my eyes. Ivan pulled straight out of the garage area which was on the rear end of the building where I rented the studio. He turned left onto the main street and I glanced at my studio and everything I had left behind.
I'd left my mom's paintings, my supplies, my paintings…
Stop it, Natalie.
Those things are just material things.
As I mentally said my goodbyes to all of my belongings, the windows suddenly burst and exploded, sending the whole floor into flames.
"What the—" before I could say anything else Ivan floored the accelerator.
It wasn't until a little while when Ivan broke the silence. "Can you do me a favor, Nat? Can you make a call for me?"
I was frozen in place holding onto Haru. Even his meows had stopped; he was probably in shock too.
"Natalie?" Ivan repeated.
"What did you say?"
"I asked you if you could help me make a call, sweetheart."
I nodded absently.
He handed me his phone and said. "The code is 1011 and the number is in frequent calls by the name of Dimka."
I followed his instructions on autopilot and then the call was linked by Bluetooth on the car's speaker.
"Hey, why are you calling me, shouldn't you be on a date?"
"Dimitri, I need a favor. No questions asked. Can I use your cabin for a couple of days? It's an emergency."
The man cleared his throat. "Go ahead, Ivan. You already know the security code."
"Thanks Dimka, I appreciate it. I'll be working from my location. I'll call you as soon as we get settled."
"If you need anything at all, Ivan, just call. Stay safe."
Ivan hung up and I couldn't feel more grateful.
I was in over my head, I could've died today.
We drove and drove until there were no more people around us, nothing but trees.
If he was a dangerous man, he could have easily killed me and thrown me in the forest never to be seen again.
What importance did that have? My own father had just blown me up for all he knew.
Ivan turned off the motor and turned to look at me.
"Natalie, before we leave the car I want to tell you that no matter what happens you are safe with me. I won't let anything happen to you. You and your cat are safe with me."
"Why are you being so nice to me? I didn't do anything to deserve it."
"I like you a lot, so much that I've become someone else since I've met you and call me crazy but I don't want to let you go."
"You are crazy, but I have no other words to express how much it means to me what you've done today. Thank you isn't enough."
"There's no need to thank me. But I do want something in exchange—a name—the name of the person that did that to your apartment."
I gulped and looked down ashamed of what I was about to say. "The name you want belongs to my father."
"Can you give me a name sweetheart? I need it so I can know what I'm up against."
I bit my lip. What if he knew my father?
"He's a very powerful man, Ivan. I don't want to get you into this mess I created nor do I want to give him more reasons to target you. You've done enough by helping me get away."
"Why don't you let me worry about that and just give me a name?"
"Fine, if you want a name I'll give you one. My last name isn't Doru. I use that as an alias because I'm embarrassed to use my last name. My true last name is Dashkov, and my father is someone you must have heard of since he practically owns Portland. Viktor Dashkov."
"Fuck." Ivan cursed. "Natalie, I need you tell me everything."
And when I did tell him everything, I found out that fuck didn't even begin to cover it.
A/N: Hello everyone :)
This episode was more action packed than anything i've ever written, basically because i've been watching a mafia drama on netflix (Vincenzo)
so i was like i need an explosion in my story. Muahaha!
Any way thank you for the feedback I apppreciate every comment.