Chapter 13: Crystal

Nickolas Parkingsons

I don’t know what to say to comfort her. Thinking of Carleton still makes me choke up, and I’ve had a least a couple days to let it sink in.
It still hasn’t.
“Who do you think is here?” She asks, sniffling. “Has Frost mentioned anyone?”
“No idea, sadly,” I answer.
“Also—why is Jonathon in on this?”
I frown, “I’m assuming it’s money.” I pause as I watch her, “I’m sorry for getting you into this, Kat.”
She sighs, turning her head to look at me, “It’s not your fault. I should’ve brought more than Lucas with me. I felt there was something wrong when you called me Katie in our text messages.” Kaitlyn pauses as she thinks, “You tried to warn me, didn’t you?”
I hang my head, “Yes. They had me tied up looser, so when Frost came in to taunt me about how you agreed to meet, I stole the phone and tried to send you a message.”
She smiles sadly at me, “Thanks for trying.”
“I know this is an inopportune time, but there’s something I want to tell you—” I start, but the door opening stops me short.
“Hello, lovelies,” a woman in a dark purple evening gown strolls into the room. Frost follows along behind her like a lost puppy. “You look so comfortable.”
“Who are you?” Kaitlyn spits and I admire her courageousness, but will her to shut up when the woman’s piercing gaze focuses on Kaitlyn.
“Why, I’m Crystal,” she smiles, revealing beautifully white and straight teeth.
My brain clicks the gears into place as I try to think of where I have heard the name, “You’re Irwin McArthur’s wife, aren’t you?”
She giggles, before winking at Kaitlyn, “You’ve got yourself a sharp man.”
“What?” Kaitlyn says, before she’s shushed by Crystal.
Crystal walks around the room until she’s behind us, making my stomach clench with worry, “I’m the head of Nexis.”
It’s my turn to ask, “What?”
She giggles again, “Poor old Irwin has no idea, only recently joining the company.”
“What about Amanda?” Kaitlyn asks, and I see a frown on her face. “Does she know?”
Crystal scoffs, “My dim-witted daughter wants nothing but to marry rich. She has nothing going for her in life.”
“How can you speak about your daughter in such a way?” Kaitlyn snaps back, before glint catches my eye and a knife is pressed on to Kaitlyn’s throat.
“I’d watch what you say, girl,” Crystal whispers into her ear. Kaitlyn’s eyes are full of fear, even as Crystal removes the knife and walks back around in front of us. My anger is flaring, but I’m terrified to say anything that would cause her to hurt Kaitlyn. “Untie them, Kenny.”
Frost nods as he cuts our bonds off of us, “Try to run, and you will be killed.” I nearly sigh at being able to move my arms again and I instantly grab Kaitlyn’s hands to check her bloodied wrists.
“Oh Nickolas,” Kaitlyn gasps as she looks at my arms. Crusted blood and bruises are all over them, but I can barely feel the pain as I examine her.
“Pish posh,” Crystal says, waving the knife in the arm. “Hurry and follow me. It’s time to put the plan in motion.” I decide to put myself between Kaitlyn and Frost, deeming him more of the threat than Kaitlyn. I take a few wobbly steps, as my legs try to regain their circulation and Kaitlyn holds me upright.
“I’ve got you,” she says quietly, taking a few steps forward with me as we follow Crystal. Stairs come into view and my stomach sinks as I try to figure out how I’ll be able to go up them.
“We don’t have all day,” Frost says gruffly from behind us. He pulls me away from Kaitlyn and tosses me over his shoulder.
“Leave him alone!” Kaitlyn yells, before silence. I can’t see what’s going on, but suddenly we’re moving up the stairs. We reach the top and Frost places me lightly on my feet, which is surprising before I see that his other hand is pointing his gun at Kaitlyn. I wobble for another second, stumbling towards her.
“Don’t shoot,” Crystal says, pushing off from her position at the wall. “We still need them.”
“To do what?” I ask tentatively. Crystal pushes open a door and gestures for the two of us to enter the room ahead of her.
Hanging from a privacy curtain is a navy-blue suit with a maroon tie, and a matching maroon floor-length gown. A gold-metal masquerade masks are attached to the outfits and Kaitlyn and I turn to see a smirk on Crystal’s face.
“You’re going to a Masquerade Ball, lovelies.”

Kaitlyn Jarred

“We’re what?” I ask for clarification. “Why?”
“Because she said so,” Frost snaps at me, but Crystal holds up a light hand, stopping him.
“Tonight, you will be attending Senator Harrison Robert’s Masquerade Ball. You will act as though everything is fine—Kaitlyn, you will tell your father you wanted to spend the day with Nickolas and since he forbade you from seeing him, you ran away.” Crystal stares at me and my mouth opens in shock.
“How did you know he wouldn’t let me see Nick?”
She rolls her eyes, pointing to herself, “Criminal mastermind. You will dance, drink, and mingle. You will be watched closely, and with one wrong move, you will be killed.”
I instinctively take Nickolas’ hand and he squeezes it, asking, “What are we doing there?”
My movement does not go unnoticed by Crystal as she answers Nickolas’ question, “You will find out once you are there. Now get dressed and be presentable.” She flits out of the room, leaving us alone with Frost.
“Go get dressed behind the privacy wall,” Nickolas murmurs to me. “I’ll get dressed out here.”
One look at Frost, and I agree, pulling my gown off this side of the wall and walking around it. I check both ways before taking off my clothes, terrified a camera has been placed to humiliate me. I see under the gown that there are even undergarments and I flush as I put them on, scared to disobey the Nexis leader. I look at my wrists, realizing I need to wash them off. I peek out from behind the privacy curtain, blushing again when I realize Nickolas has his shirt off and has just pulled on the suit pants.
“Is there a bathroom for me to wash my wrists?” I squeak out and Nickolas nods.
“I was just in there, it’s that door,” he points to the door across the room and I nod.
“Also,” I hold the dress with my hands, “will you zip me up?” I’m embarrassed to ask, but there is no way I would want Frost touching me.
Nickolas visibly gulps, but beckons me over. He’s careful not to touch my skin, although his fingers do brush it a few times. Somehow the dress fits perfect, and I hate how good it looks on me, “Thanks, Nick.” I go to the bathroom, closing the door behind me as I wash the blood off in the sink. My thoughts wander to what Nickolas wanted to tell me before Crystal interrupted us. I look around the sink to see make-up and hair-care products, deciding that I should use them to make myself look more presentable. “Don’t want to anger the Queen of Ice,” I mumble to myself as I put concealer on the bags under my eyes from the crying I had done earlier. I finish everything else up and exit the bathroom to see Nickolas finished as well.
“You look nice, despite the circumstances,” he says, a small smile on his face.
“You too,” I say, surveying his clothing. “These fit remarkably well, don’t you think?”
“Jonathon probably gave them my measurements,” Nickolas frowns. “I don’t know how they fit yours though.”
“Enough small talk,” Frost growls. “Let’s go.”

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