Wickedly handsome and shamelessly rich, Tristan Stahl is a villain. A businessman by day and an underground cage fighter by night, he fears no one, and respects one man alone – his adoptive father, Mark Stahl. It’s at Mark’s request that Tristan recruits Isolde Molnar for her “special talents”. He doesn’t expect complications from this “piece of livestock”, but working closely with her turns out challenging in more ways than one. Throw a modern alchemist’s potion in the mix along with Mark Stahl’s growing infatuation with the girl, and there you have it – Tristan and Isolde Reloaded. Enjoy!
CHAPTER XVII – Falling in Love
It’s five in the morning, my men scout the area around the block, and I’m sitting at the table in Isolde’s kitchen. My senses spike in order to feel her while her brother Roland makes coffee. She’s curled on the couch in the living room, wrapped from head to toes in a blanket, shivering with exhaustion.
Roland sets a mug in front of me. It’s a bang in my ears, and my hearing adjusts automatically to normal volume, tearing me away from Isolde.
“So, what’s your story?” he demands, dropping his bulk in a chair opposite from me, a mug with chipped rim in his good hand. Demerol fixed his shoulder, but it seems to still hurt a bit.
“I already told you what you needed to know.”
“You told me that Stahl Biotech wages a sort of cold war against the Institute for Psychosomatic Research. You told me that you hired my sister because of her unusual intuitive powers, in order to predict their moves. But what’s your quarrel with them?”
“Shrinks are making drug stores obsolete, to put it simple.” I glance at my watch. I need to cut this short.
“How do you mean?”
“I mean the power to create perfect health is within you. What you need is the right guidance, not outside chemistry.”
“And the Institute discovered that? They know how to do it?”
“They know that and more.” I stand, my chair scraping the floor.
“Wait.” Roland comes to his feet, too. “Stahl, what you did to that guy, it’s not—“ He pauses, looks hard at me. “It’s not humanly possible. You didn’t just crack his facial bone, you shattered it. Half his face was completely distorted.” He glances at my hand. “What is it made of? Your fist?”
“I’m made of flesh, just like you.”
He laughs. “Sure, only you can do things I’ve only ever seen done in Marvel’s comics. It’s obvious you’re not like the rest of us.” He walks closer around the table. “I want the truth.”
“I can’t give you the truth.”
“So matter-of-fact.” He grins mockingly. “Did you give it to Isolde?”
“Don’t push, Roland.” I stand in place like a statue, unnaturally calm. Anger should flood my veins, it always does when they interrogate me, but right now it seems asleep.
“Listen, Stahl.” Roland’s gaze darkens like a man’s ready to start a fight. Is he insane? “I’ll give it to you straight—I don’t care if you’re an engineered beast. If any harm comes to Isolde because of the way you’re using her, I’ll do everything in my power to kill you.”
For the first time in what feels like ages I want to laugh. “Lucky for me not much is in your power.” I turn to leave, but then Roland speaks again.
“You’re big and powerful, Tristan, while life has been a bitch to Isolde. She was only sixteen when our mother died, and she had me to worry about, too. Luckily she was already in high school, already on the right track. She could go to college, and the social system supported us, but that didn’t spare her bullying and beatings.”
The word fires in my head. I turn on an axis. “Beatings? Who beat Isolde?”
Roland exhales loudly, and leans on the table. He looks pensively down at his coffee while he talks. “We had to stay with a foster family until she was eighteen. The youth welfare office placed us with a family in East Berlin—for integration purposes, you know, us being Latinos and all. Later we realized this integration business wasn’t benefitting us—but the family. They had a herd of children of their own, all as blond as they come, and the father was a reformed neo-Nazi. Later we found out he still had a swastika under the family portrait on the wall. Having us benefited him and his wife in a number of ways; first, they got the child allowance for both Isolde and me, while also proving that they’d mended their ways. In truth, the woman would stand watch at the door, while the man dragged Isolde by her hair and kicked her in the ribs while she was on her knees, cleaning up.”
“Enough!” My blood starts to boil, and I turn, determined to get out.
“You know why he never raped her?” Roland calls behind. “Because his wife was unemployed, always at home, and very jealous. She used to slap Isolde a lot. She said she wanted to see if Latina skin could redden.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I grunt between my teeth, looking over my shoulder.
“Because I want you to be gentle to her.”
I stalk down the hallway toward the door, but when I pass the living room I can’t help myself. I halt. I turn my head to look at her, slowly, somewhere deep down knowing what I’m doing to myself. Just for a moment.
She’s curled on the couch, wrapped from nose to feet in a grey blanket, the light from the TV flashing on her face. My insides seem to melt. I drink her in, letting my eyes rest on her arched eyebrows, her long, dark lashes, caress her cheek, slide down her nose. Her wild cavewoman hair is spread over the couch arm. My senses adjust, I can now hear the blood course through her veins, her steady heartbeat. The urge to go there and bite into her like she’s a mouthwatering peach overwhelms me, but the idea of causing her pain drives a spear through my heart. I grit my teeth and rip myself away.
Speeding down the stairs, I grab my cell from the inside pocket of my jacket. The info man picks up. “I’m listening, boss.”
“Isolde Molnar used to have a foster father. Find him.” I clench my fist so hard the muscles in my arm hurt. “And when you do, bring him to me. Down in the cages.”
To be continued . . .
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