I felt myself start to give up.
Running away from Nicholas had taken much of the energy out of me and the current was too strong. It was like fighting a mob of people on your own, all of them coming at you mercilessly from each side and angle. The water seemed to wrap me in a cold embrace. Choking me. I couldn't breathe.
I knew if I didn't get out soon I'd be dead, either from the cold or from lack of oxygen. My arms reached furiously above my head, grasping desperately for something, anything to hold on to, and finding nothing.
Then suddenly he was there. There was a loud splash beside me and I felt a firm hand clasp round my arm, pulling and tugging hurriedly. Someone was dragging me out of the water, saving me.
I couldn't see who was rescuing me, but knew it was Nicholas.
I felt weak, my brain numb from lack of oxygen. I didn't know whether I wanted to be saved or not. Being saved meant he'd take me back. It meant he'd be more alert in the future. It meant he wouldn't let me get a chance to escape ever again.
Maybe drowning wouldn't be so bad.
As soon as I thought it I regretted it. I didn't want to die, I wanted to live. I wanted to go back home to my family. I wasn't going to let him ruin my life. I couldn't let him take anything else from me. He already took away my freedom.
My head broke through the surface of the water; the cold air seemed to slap me in the face, waking me up. I felt the air, fresh and welcome, engulf my lungs.
I was shivering and gasping for air as Nicholas dragged me back to land and laid me down. He stood hovering over me, his eyes wide and panicked, water dripping from his soaked body.
"Oh God, Violet."
I heard him curse and I choked up some water.
He put his hand on my face and then pulled it away sharply.
"What were you thinking?"
He put his face in his hands and groaned.
"You could have died."
He took his hands away from his face and his eyes flashed. He was mad, as I expected.
The urge to run overcame me again but I was too scared and weak to do anything about it. I sat there in silence, watching him silently while I caught my breath. Each gasp of air seemed luxurious after being underwater so long.
Meanwhile the wind whispered through the trees, scattering nearby leafs, the only sound being my erratic breathing and Nicholas's pacing. I could still taste the water in my mouth. I knew I had come close to dying, and he had saved me. I didn't know why he'd done it. I thought he would have left me to drown after I'd tried to escape. I felt I had to say something to break the silence but I wasn't sure what.
"Y-you didn't have to save me," I stuttered, not knowing what else to say.
Nicholas turned to me, simultaneously exasperated and surprised I'd been the first to speak. "I wasn't going to let you drown," he said, brushing his fingers through his hair and shaking out some of the water.
My reply seemed to be stuck in my throat for a moment.
I looked at him quizzically. "Why? Because you love me?" I scoffed. The opportunity to mock him never taken for granted.
My teeth suddenly chattered and I crossed my arms over my chest protectively, trying to keep warm.
A flash of hurt crossed his face, and disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared, his mouth forming a harsh line. "I'm not as bad as you think I am. You'd see that if you gave me a chance."
For a moment I felt dumbstruck by his response. "You kidnapped me. That classes you as bad in my books."
He pulled his eyes away from mine, seemingly choosing to ignore my comment. Maybe he finally realised it was true.
I waited patiently for a reply regardless.
"Let's go back," he muttered, seeing I wasn't going to say anything else. "You must be freezing; we'll need to get you warm soon."
He avoided meeting my eyes still.
I stood up reluctantly, testing my strength. Straight away my legs started shaking, making me unsteady. Nicholas quickly put his arm around my waist to steady me. I felt uncomfortable but secretly grateful for the help. I didn't think I'd be able to walk on my own.
"Thank you," I murmured, so quietly I wasn't sure whether he heard, but he forced a shaky smile for me suggesting he had.
I didn't want to go back but I saw no other way making an escape again. Not yet anyway. My muscles seemed to cramp, my head hurt and I felt nauseous. Suddenly the idea of lying in front of a warm fire appealed more to me than anything else in the world. The weather was merciless, iced winds seemed to knife us as we moved. As much as I wanted to run away, I knew we had to find someplace warm and soon.
I stumbled and Nicholas's arm tightened round me, stopping me from falling just in time.
"Are you okay?" Nicholas worried.
"Yeah, aside from being frozen, I'm good."
He gave me a frustrated look and then we carried on walking. For a few minutes I was fine then I stumbled again.
"Okay, you're definitely not good," he noticed, pausing abruptly. "Do you need me to carry you?"
No. You already have your arm around my waist which is bad enough.
"I'll be fine," I snapped, but I felt far from it. Maybe he could see from my expression that something was wrong because he suddenly swooped down and picked me up.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"You can't walk yourself, your legs keep looking like they're about to collapse."
Before I could complain he explained. "We're not that far from the house, you'll be fine like this for another few minutes."
I let him carry me, feeling nowhere near to happy about it, but taking advantage of the warmth of his body to dispel the chill of mine, and the rest it gave me from moving with my now heavy limbs.
My eyes struggled to stay open. I looked up into Nicholas's face, watching his facial expressions as he glanced down towards me then back up again to the surrounding woods.
Now would have been a great time for me to retrace my old route and see where I went wrong with my last escape but my body wouldn't allow it. The cold seemed to be the only thing on my mind. It felt like ice was running through my veins. My body seemed to cramp up accordingly, responding to the cold.
Nicholas was glancing at me more often now, his pace quickening up.
"We're almost there," he whispered reassuringly in my ear.
And he was right. We broke through the darkness created by the towering trees, forming canopies above our heads, out into the open. The sun was still out but it was retreating behind a group of clouds in the sky.
We made it to the door of the house in a minute, more or less. Nicholas managed to keep me in his arms while he opened the door and then everything after that became a rush.
Nicholas took me through the kitchen and down the corridor. He opened a door I had never seen before, taking me into a room which had a single couch in the middle, next to a fur rug and old-fashioned fireplace. Nicholas set me down gently on the couch and got set to making a fire. It didn't take him long.
I felt the fire before I saw it.
The warmth seemed to spread out from the fireplace, reaching me from my place on the couch. Nicholas turned and moved from the fire, walking out the door, mumbling something I couldn't quite hear. I laid there shivering, staring intently into the fire while he was gone. The orange flames flickered and danced in fiery, frenzied madness that sent up sparks and ash. When he finally returned, he had an arm full of blankets which he placed on top of me, saving only one for himself.
He watched me curiously now from his place on the rug. The stare felt slightly intruding but I was too exhausted to care or yell at him.
"I think you may have gotten hyperthermia from being in the water so long," Nicholas told me eventually. "All the symptoms were there. The shaking, muscle cramps, temperature change and stumbling."
I rubbed my nose and sniffled quietly, unsurprised by what he told me.
I didn't want to talk. Now, that I had started to warm up I felt almost back to my usual self again. The dawning fact that I had failed to escape hitting me full force in that moment. I hadn't made it. I'd nearly died trying. The helplessness of my situation seemed to drag me down into a place I didn't want to think of. Nicholas seemed to sense this. He started talking but I zoned out, lost in my own thoughts. A sort of numbness seemed to pull over me.
Nicholas had finally caught onto the fact I wasn't listening.
"I want to go home," I said, unthinkingly.
Nicholas was silent. "This is your home now."
I paused, letting what he said take its blow. Finally, I said, "No... No it's not. You took me away from my home."
"You'll like it here eventually," Nicholas insisted, quick to argue back. "You'll get used to it."
He really was insane.
"You don't know that, you're not me," I reasoned, hoping he'd understand.
His face revealed nothing new. Just that same old blank canvas. I didn't know whether anything I said had any impact on him.
"I almost died today," I added, trying to get a reaction from him. "And that wouldn't have happened if you didn't take me here against my will."
I hoped that somehow if I kept mentioning the fact he'd kidnapped me and I didn't want to be here, he'd understand and let me go. Surely... some part of him must be capable of empathy.
When he replied he still didn't seem to understand.
"Yeah, you did. You almost died today. But that wouldn't have happened if you didn't run off like that... not when you don't know where you're heading."
I felt angry again. "You just don't get it do you?"
He gave me a strange look and stood up suddenly. "Get some sleep, Violet."
Exasperated, I yelled, "I don't need sleep, I need answers, you don't have a valid reason for keeping me here, not with that "I love you" bullshit."
He contemplated what I said, then shrugged. "Like I've said before, you'll calm down as time goes on, and maybe come to like living here."
"We'll see," he mused, his lips lifting up at the corners to form a smile.
He seemed to find my denial amusing. Either way it didn't seem to be getting me anywhere. I felt myself growing more frustrated by the minute.
Nicholas changed the subject. "Are you warm enough?"
I rolled my eyes. "I am now." And it was true, the blankets and the fire seemed to have battled the cold inside me and defeated it.
"Good," he beamed. Then he seemed nervous. "I have something to show you," he confided.
"Unless it's the way out of here I'm not interested," I retorted, not forgetting how he'd changed the subject earlier.
He glared. "No, it's not the way out of here. It's much better than that."
I sincerely doubted that.
"What is it?" I asked after a minute passed, curiosity finally taking over.
He gave me a mysterious smile. "I'll show you tomorrow. I have a feeling you'll like it."
I had a horrible feeling I wouldn't.