Perceive by K E Osborn
Adrenaline surges through my system. I can’t get enough oxygen in as I frantically inhale trying to catch my breath. My palms tingle and fingers go numb as nausea hits me with the fear of the unknown. My feet crunch on the falling rubble, my heart racing as I search frantically through the chaos trying to find Rix. Sirens scream throughout the bunker, letting us know the intruders are somewhere in the facility. As if the sound of bullets and the explosions aren’t warning enough!
Through the fog of smoke and dust, I search frantically for Rix. He saved me once. I need to find him through all this. I should go back to look for him, but I know right now exactly what he would want me to do—head to the escape hatch. My bottom lip quivers, completely torn between what my heart tells me to do and what my senses warn me I should do.
His men, the guards of this place, pull me along with them, urging me forward, but I don’t want to leave him.
He’s the only connection I have to my past.
A past I can’t remember.
“Kenzi!” A man calls out a name.
It’s not the name so much that sounds familiar, but the sound of the man’s voice that awakens something inside me. I stop, spinning around to see a group standing at the opposite end of the hall. They’re not Hendrix’s men. They have to be the people who set off the alarm. The assholes coming in here to destroy all our hard work.
A man steps forward, ripping off his mask, and the second his attractive face comes into view, my heart stalls for a second. Some flash, a jolt of something wracks through my body, but I have no clue what the hell it means. I have no fucking idea who this man is before me.
Rix’s men around me all raise their guns to shoot.
My muscles tense, my breath catches in my throat. “Stop!” I raise my hand getting them to pause. I don’t know why. There’s something—a tickle in the back of my brain that has my entire body going numb.
I can’t move.
I’m entirely glued to this mystery man.
“Kenzi, come on!” he calls out, sheer desperation radiates in his eyes.
Why is he looking at me like that?
Why is he calling me Kenzi like he knows me?
My foot lifts just slightly, instinctively, like I’m drawn to him.
“Mac… here, now! It takes a moment for the harsh order to register—a delay as the words sink into my ears and for my brain respond. When I turn to see Hendrix off to the side, my chest squeezes with relief and familiarity. I was frantically searching for him, but I should have known he would find me. Instantly, I run to his side. He’s my safe place. As I dive into his arms for comfort from this hell that’s unfolding all around us, his arms wrap around me protectively and he ushers me toward the rear exit.
… I can’t help but take one last glance over my shoulder to the man who called me by another name.
To the man who caught my attention.
To the man who is a complete mystery.
To the man who is looking at me like I’m breaking him apart by rushing away instead of rushing to him.
What in the actual fuck?
After fighting our way free of the rubble and carnage that was the bunker going up in smoke, I cough a little, my throat raw and still feeling the effects of the dust and debris caused by the attack.
We’ve made it to the safe house without a hitch.
While walking around the edge of the bed, I strip off my coat needing to remove the aftermath of the attack.
Rix is having a quiet conversation with one of his men, Carlos, at the door. Their bodies are tense as I watch them, but I can’t hear what they’re saying. I have so many questions running through my mind, but I know I need to wait until he’s done. Knowing I can’t disrespect him in front of his men by barging in interrupting him, my mind wanders back to the chaos of the bunker.
With the brown hair.
How do I know him?
The door clicks shut, and I spin facing Rix in an instant. “What the hell just happened?” I demand, tossing my filthy lab coat onto the bed, then work on the buttons of my blouse. I’m covered in dust. It’s everywhere—on my clothes, through my hair, in parts of my body it has no business in being.
“What do you mean?” Rix’s gruff tone annoys me as he turns to avoid my eyes. He strips off his own shirt before storming toward the attached bathroom.
We’d made it back to a small safe house in El Paso. We don’t use this place often, but shit had hit the fan on a few occasions, and we had to hold out here for a few days. If I am honest, I kind of like it here. It’s hot. The sun shines so brightly, it has a calming effect. And because we spend so much time underground in the bunker, my body craves the sunlight.
I follow Rix into the bathroom, watching as he shakes his hair over the sink, bits of dust and rubble falling from his tendrils. “Tell me what happened!” I demand again, leaning against the door frame.
Turning to meet my demanding gaze, he pauses for a moment before dipping his head again. “We were attacked,” he answers wistfully, rustling his hair with his fingers before flinging his head back and washing his dirty face.
My teeth grit together as I stand taller, folding my arms over my chest. “Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.”
“Then don’t ask stupid fucking questions!” he roars, gripping the basin like he wants to pick it up and hurtle it at me. “Those fuckers just cost us millions. That’s money I have to somehow get back. So instead of beating around the bush, ask your actual fucking question…” He pauses. “Go on!”
I hesitate for a moment.
The glint in his eye tells me I should back down. But the need in me to know is outweighing the danger signs flashing across Rix’s face. “Who was that?”
I don’t have to explain or describe anything, Rix knows precisely who I am talking about. I can see it in his eyes, the way his body is clenching, the tick in his jaw, the redness spreading across his face.
His lip twitches, and he exhales. “Axel Cruise,” he finally answers, rushing toward me and almost bowling me over when I don’t step out of the way in time. I stumble, catching myself on the door as Rix barges past me into the bedroom.
“Axel Cruise,” I whisper to myself.
It feels so smooth, so familiar.
Like the name of a rock star.
Or an actor that you just know.
“So…” Rix finally stops, halting his pacing and scrubs a dirty hand over his face. “When I told you I found you, that was true. But what I didn’t tell you was that it wasn’t just random… I rescued you.”
My eyes widen, my hand shooting straight to my chest as my feet carry me forward. My skin tingles, my body alight with nerves as I soak in his words. “Rescued me? You said you found me on the side of the road?”
“I lied,” he replies deadpan.
My legs give way, and I sink down into the small armchair that decorates the corner of the room.
Rix holds back, rolling his shoulders, his eyes floating to the ceiling like he is trying to remember something. He’s nervous, I can see it, but it’s odd. I don’t ever remember a time when I’ve seen him this way. He’s confident, self-assured, and rules with a heavy fist. He doesn’t get nervous, so what the hell is going on?
“I wanna know,” I urge, my voice catching.
Rix has been my everything.
He still is everything.
My world has revolved around him for the past four years. He found me and didn’t falter when he knew I had lost my memory. He protected me, helped me discover the things I loved—my favorite foods, colors, clothes.
When you have nothing, literally nothing, you need someone to be your rock.
And Rix is my rock.
He takes a seat on the edge of the bed, bracing his arms on his knees and intertwining his fingers. “I knew your family before you lost your memory.”
I gasp, my eyes flooding with tears. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t want you to try and go back to them!” he snaps, twisting his hands together while clenching his jaw. “I didn’t want you to find out what they were like.”
I tilt my head. “What are they like?” I hiss—a little angry, a little curious.
“They’re the vilest human beings I’ve ever met,” he snaps, shaking his head. “They’re bikers. A gang. They run drugs, sell women, kill people simply for amusement.”
My brow furrowing between my eyes as I fall back into my chair. “How… why…” I mutter, not even sure what I’m trying to ask. I thought once I knew, I would have this moment of clarity, some kind of recognition, but all I feel is confused. “They’re bad?”
“Your father beat you, tormented you, basically made you the club’s fucking slave.” He leaps to his feet, stomping back and forth across the room like some sort of disturbed madman. “The club, they treated you like trash, like a fucking whore.”
My hands grip the soft seat beneath me, my nails digging into the cotton covering as a memory surfaces.
A shadow looms over me, pressing me into the hard ground. Stones stab into my back as their nails scratch at my skin trying to tear off my clothing. I try to scream, attempt to beg for someone to help me, but all it earns me is a blow to the face, sending my thoughts scrambling. And for a moment, just a moment, it steals the pain away.
I blink away the flash of recollection, trying to calm my breathing. “I don’t remember,” I lie, my stomach swirling as my head begins to spin. It wasn’t so much a lie because I honestly don’t remember. The flashes come and go. The same two, over and over, plaguing me, tormenting me. I’ve never told Rix about these memories. He asks me constantly, do you remember anything, do you see anything, you would tell me if you feel anything becoming familiar, right?
This is something different, though.
I didn’t want to tell him about this.
I didn’t want him to know just how bad things were before.
Turns out, he already did.
“Are they coming after me?” I rasp, my breathing accelerating, sharp and short breaths that leave me feeling dizzy and nauseous.
He pauses, pressing his lips tightly together for a moment. “Maybe,” he replies, but his voice sounds so unsure.
“Maybe, that’s it?”
I yank my glasses off, tossing them to the floor, an instant migraine beginning to attack my senses. My fingers thread through my hair, and I pull at it, trying to take the searing pain away. Sometimes they last a few moments, sometimes they will knock me out for a day.
“Hey, whoa!” Rix rushes over, sweeping his arms around my body and pulls me to my feet. He presses my head to his chest, rubbing his hand up and down my spine as he tries to soothe the ache. I let him, though I know his touch won’t help.
Nothing ever does.
But I don’t want him to know because he’s trying.
He is always trying.
Trying to please me. To make me happy. To help me through these past few years, where sometimes I feel like the world around me doesn’t make any damn sense.
After a few minutes, the pain begins to ease, and I lean back looking up at him as he cradles my face in his hands. There’s a different look in his eyes, maybe it’s worry or concern, I can’t be sure.
“So, what now?” I whisper. “I want to know more. I need you to tell me more.”
I want to know everything.
Every ugly, painful, soul-destroying moment of my past that he’s keeping from me.
Even if it hurts, and I have to find the shattered pieces of myself through the memories. Simply put, I can’t help but hope I can maybe piece them back together, one by one. Find that part of me that feels like it’s been missing all this time.
“Later,” he answers, sweeping his hand up through my hair, pulling it back from my face.
“Rix,” I plead, swallowing back the apprehension as he backs my body in the direction of the bed.
“I’ll tell you everything later,” he promises, dipping his head and pressing his lips to my neck. I pinch my eyes shut tightly as his kiss moves up to my jaw.
“Everything? Every question I have?” I whisper, trying to remind myself that I can’t be a selfish bitch right now. Rix has given the world to look after me, to protect me and keep me safe from the people who seem like they are out to destroy me.
“Everything you want.” His lips trail under my ear, making my breathing labored.
We have been intimate for a couple of years now, and while he knows how to play my body like he owns it, I always find myself searching for a shower after. Feeling ashamed. Dirty. Like I’m only doing this because I am scared he will turn his back on me.
But I’m sure he and I both know, if he walked away, I would be left with nothing.
No one to look out for me.
Not one thing.
So, I grit my teeth and let him lower me to the bed.
But for a second, another face flashes into my mind. I feel another person’s hands on me, and I relax into the sheets.
Because those hands feel right.
The guy with the Hollywood name.