The sound of the shower running filled my ears as I woke up. I was curled on my side, and the room was filled with sunlight. I rolled over to see the other side of the bed was empty. I ran my hand over the sheets to feel that they were still warm. Ben must have just gotten into the shower.
I yawned and stretched my arms up over my head as I walked back into my room. I went into my bathroom and got into the shower. The warm water cascaded down my skin. I stayed in the water for a few extra minutes after washing my hair. When I stepped out of the shower, the mirror was steamed. It was nice to not have to look at my reflection. I wrapped a towel around myself and another twisted around my hair.
I opened the door to see Ben sitting at the foot of my bed. The textbook Oliver had brought was in his hands. I tightened my grip on the towel as he turned to face me.
“What is this?” he asked, holding up the book.
“Oliver gave it to me,” I said. “Can we talk about this later?”
“Diana, what is he planning to do? Does this mean you’re coming back to Canada? Is he putting you under the knife again?”
“Let’s not talk about this while I am wearing a towel.”
Ben threw the book onto the bed. His jaw was clenched and he ran his fingers through his wet hair.
“If he is getting cocky and trying to perform more surgeries on you -” he started to say.
“He’s not,” I cut him off. “He’s not doing anything to me. He wants to do this to more people.”
Ben glanced down at the book before looking back at me.
“Is he going to make you help him?” he asked.
I gave my head a slight nod.
“Yeah,” I said. “Bethany never made you do that?”
“No. She hasn’t.”
“Okay. Well, get out of my room and let me get changed. We can talk about this later.”
Ben didn’t say anything, but turned and left my room. I opened the door to the closet to see the usual row of dresses were gone. It was replaced with a set of sundresses.
These dresses were not here when I put on my pajamas last night. Someone came in to replace these while I was asleep. They would have seen that I was not in my bed. I doubt it was Oliver. He probably had Leta do it, but she relayed messages to Oliver. She told him that I had a headache, so she surely told him that I was missing from my room. He probably came in and saw Ben and I sleeping together.
I put on one of the new dresses. The silky material ran past my knees. I found a clip and managed to twist my hair back and secure it.
Ben was waiting outside my door. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. His eyes scanned my outfit.
“That’s new,” he said.
“All of my clothes are gone,” I said. “Someone must have come in last night.”
Ben bit down on his lip. His cheek twitched and a small dimple formed. I raised an eyebrow as he looked like he was trying to suppress a smile. He extended his arm out toward me.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go to breakfast.”
I was tempted to ignore Ben’s gesture, but I knew I should not do that. I had to keep Ben and Oliver happy. That was the key to getting out of all of this. I laced my fingers through his, and we walked to the dining room.
The other patients were all sitting around the large circular table when we came in. Jane waved at us. Matt and Elias were deep in conversation. Candace wiped her mouth with a napkin and pushed her plate away. She walked by us and I could see her glare. We filled our plates with eggs and toast before sitting down.
“I didn’t get to see you yesterday, Diana,” Jane said. “I hope you’re liking it here.”
“Sorry, I had a headache yesterday,” I said.
“Are you feeling better now?”
I nodded. I jumped when Ben put his hand on my knee. He continued to eat his breakfast unaffected.
“What was up with Candace?” Ben asked.
“She’s a bitch,” Elias said with a shrug. “What else can I say?”
“Forgot about her already, Ben?” Matt said.
Ben chuckled. “Never.”
I picked at the food on the plate before pushing it away. Ben squeezed my knee. It was a warning that I should eat more, but I ignored him.
“Haven’t gotten an appetite yet?” Elias asked. “You’ll learn to eat once you got a feeding tube down your throat a few times.”
“I’ve already experienced it,” I said. “Don’t try to threaten me.”
Elias smirked and I crossed my arms over my chest.
“I’m not threatening you,” he said. “It is just a warning.”
I pushed my chair back and stood. I already knew that I wasn’t going to be sold, so I did not have to try and make friends. If anything, I should be studying in case he makes me be a part of this grotesque surgery. Ben moved to stand, but I held out my hand signaling for him to stop. He stayed as I walked out of the dining room.
When I got to my room, I picked up the textbook and started reading.
I rubbed my temple. The hours of reading the dense medical text were giving me a real headache. I set the book down and stretched out my limbs. I opened the door connecting my room with Ben’s, but he was not there.
I went down the hall and looked in the lounge. It was empty. I furrowed my brows. I expected at least Jane or Elias to be in this room. I went down the hall to the next room I could think Ben would be in: the swimming pool was at the end of the hallway.
Candace was spread out across a lounge chair. She had on a bikini, her blonde hair was tied up, and a magazine was open in her hands. The sun was pouring through the dome glass ceiling. She turned to look at me. She moved the sunglasses up off of her face and rested them on the top of her head.
“Are you alone?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
She swung her legs over the side of the chair and sat. She slipped her arms through the sheer robe.
“Sit down,” she said. She lifted her chin and motioned to the next chair.
I looked behind me at the empty hallway. From the way she stormed out at breakfast, I don’t think I want to hear what she is going to say. She gave me a slight smile and it seemed out of place. It piqued my interest in what she was going to say and I sat in the chair.
Candace’s eyes scanned my body.
“They gave you my old dress,” she said. “I’m surprised Dr. Alexander kept it.”
I looked at myself.
“Anyways,” she said, regaining my attention. “I want to talk to you about Ben.”
The way she said his name made my skin crawl. She said it with venom.
“Why?” I asked.
“I can see he is already trying out his mind games on you,” she said. “I want to warn you so it doesn’t happen. Alexis was a really sweet girl before she got caught up in all of this.”
Candace’s brown eyes grew wide. My stomach was twisting itself into a knot. I curled my fingers into the soft fabric of the dress.
“He never told you about Alexis?” she asked.
“No.” I shook my head. “Who is she?”
“Dr. Phillips’ second subject after Ben.”
“What? I’ve never met her.”
If Bethany had brought Ben to Oliver’s house then why did she not bring her? Was she coming to the dinner?
“You won’t,” she said. “She died almost a year ago.”
“How?” I asked. “Was it because of the surgery?”
“Overdose. They think she killed herself.”
“But you don’t?”
She shook her head.
“I don’t trust him,” she said. “Ben has always seemed off to me.”
“He told me he was fighting against Dr. Phillips and trying to escape for the first few years he was here.”
Candace scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“I remember Ben’s first dinner,” she said. “He was nothing but smiles and respect.”
“How long have you been here?” I asked.
“Seven years,” she said. “I was studying abroad in France when Dr. Lacroix abducted me.”
Her fingers grazed along the scar running down her chest.
“He replaced my heart, and two years ago he sold me to Dr. Alexander,” she said. She swung her legs back onto the lounge chair and leaned back. She opened the magazine, and I could catch a glimpse of the cover. It had news about a celebrity couple that was a few years old.
“I like you, Diana,” she said. “I hope you don’t fall for Ben’s plan. I would hate to hear that you died.”