Elpída

Cover by Reese Dante


May 30, 2017 from Harmony Ink Press, NOW available for pre-order!
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, GooglePlay, & Kobo

ελπίδα
Elpída. Greek. Meaning hope
Hope. noun. /hōp/
1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
2. archaic. A feeling of trust.


Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.
~Herbert Ward



Hope sees the invisible,
feels the intangible,
and achieves the impossible.
                                    ~C. Kennedy, Paraphrased from Winston Churchill



~*~

Michael and Christy attended prom, graduated high school, and Michael leads the USATF tryouts. With Oxford University on the horizon, his future looks bright, and he believes life has returned to normal after Christy’s rescue. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Christy has been free from a life of slavery for more than a year and has made remarkable progress due in no small part to the love he found with Michael. But the recent prosecution of a past abuser has shattered the life he so painstakingly built out of nothing but a mountain of horror. He now faces the daunting task of building a new life—yet again.

Twelve-year-old Thimi has been missing since Christy left Greece and, unbeknownst to everyone, has hidden out in a vacant mansion in Glyfada. Learning of Christy’s survival is the only thing that brings him out of hiding. People, open spaces, even the most common of sounds frighten him beyond reason. A mere ghost of a boy, Thimi arrives in the US with no knowledge of the outside world—the only constant in his life a purple marble.

Lost, shattered, and afraid, only hope gives them the strength and courage they need to begin anew.

~*~

CHAPTER ONE
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Friday
UPSTATE NEW YORK, JUNE, 2012
Michael woke with a start, his heart pounding in his throat. Terror held him in its vicious grip, assaulting his senses like a ferocious miasma. The image of Christy jumping to his death seared his heart as the nightmare clawed at his nerves. He looked at the back of Christy’s long white-gold curls and tried to gather his fractured, panic-stricken thoughts.
Christy is okay, Christy is okay, Christy is okay!
It was twilight. That moment when dawn pressed the sky. The time between full night and sunrise where the sky was still a blueberry blue and the moon still shown somewhere on the faraway horizon. Michael thought of Evanescence’s “My Immortal” and tears began to fall. He squeezed his eyes shut. He’d failed. He’d failed to keep Christy from harm, he’d failed to keep Christy safe, and he’d failed at protecting the life Christy had so painstakingly built over the past fifteen months. He’d failed at everything.
He curled tighter around Christy and looked around the hospital room as he listened to the cardiac monitor drone on. The rhythmic beep skipped every so often, reminding Michael of the damage Christy’s heart had sustained over years of abuse.
The trial to put away Yosef Sanna had gone well until they played the surveillance video. In spite of Christy’s phenomenal courage and strength, he could take no more when Yosef began to taunt and scream at him. Christy had run from the courtroom, intent on committing suicide.
They’d rescued Christy from the top of the Ferris wheel, and he hadn’t stopped crying until he’d been sedated. There was no telling what would remain of Christy’s shattered soul when he woke. Michael had no idea whether he’d be in the here and now or permanently chained in his faraway place. Would Christy even recognize him? Even Michael’s dad’s medical intervention might not help. What would Michael do then? The thought terrified him, and his heart ached with profound grief. Christy was everything to him. He couldn’t lose Christy. He wouldn’t survive without Christy.
The image of Christy falling to his death wouldn’t leave his mind, and he worked like hell to remain utterly silent and not move a muscle as he cried even harder. He didn’t want Christy to wake and see him for the emotional mess he was. He needed to be strong for Christy. Christy was the epitome of everything good and right. He was kind and pure of heart, and… fragile. Michael needed to be a rock for him.
Ever so carefully Michael reached for the box of tissues on the bedside table. He grabbed two tissues and dried his eyes, wiped his nose, and willed himself to stop crying. He sighed deeply, held Christy close, and drifted into a fitful sleep.


Michael next woke to the sound of soft sobs coming from Christy. He curled around him, held him tighter, and stroked his hair. A million thoughts swirled through Michael’s mind as he tried to figure out what to say to comfort him.
What did you say to someone who’d been retraumatized after being tortured and abused for thirteen of his nineteen years of life? What did you say to someone who had gone through utter hell in order to prosecute his abuser? What did you say to someone who had gathered the courage to relive the nightmare he’d endured with no guarantee that it would put his abuser away? For a damn maybe. What did you say to someone who wanted to take his own life because he’d been brutalized, degraded, and utterly humiliated all over again—in front of everyone in a courtroom?
He wanted to say something, anything to take Christy’s pain of the past twenty-four hours away. “Shhh. It’s over.”
Christy didn’t respond, and Michael continued to hold him and whisper comforting words for what seemed an interminable time. Michael finally propped himself on an elbow and gently turned Christy to face him. Christy looked up at him with bloodshot, swollen eyes, and Michael’s heart nearly broke in two. Christy seemed to have withered to a small, frail person—smaller and more fragile than he already was—and he looked absolutely crestfallen and outright destroyed. Michael cupped his face with a gentle hand and rubbed his damp cheek with a thumb. “It’s over. You’re safe now.”
Christy looked at him, and tears welled again. At that moment Michael knew Christy was in the here and now, and relief washed over him.
“I am the filth,” Christy said in a hoarse voice.
Michael quickly put his fingertips to Christy’s lips and shook his head slowly. “No. Everything about you is new and fresh and clean. You’re my kind, pure, perfectly pretty Christy. You’re my angel.” He touched his lips to the tip of Christy’s nose ever so gently. “You were so brave yesterday.”
Christy brought the sheet quickly to his lips to stifle a sob.
“Shhh,” Michael whispered as he stroked curls back from Christy’s forehead. “It’s all right. It’s over,” he soothed again.
Christy breathed a stuttering breath, the breath of a young child exhausted from crying. “You cannot love me now.”
“I’ll always love you. You’ll always be my precious Christy, no matter what.”
“I am filth,” Christy repeated.
Michael shook his head slowly again. “There is nothing filthy about you. You did what you had to do to survive. That’s all.”
“You cannot want me now.”
Michael put his fingertips to Christy’s lips again. “Listen to me. You did what you had to. If you hadn’t, you’d be dead. You’re everything to me, and I’d be lost without you.”
Christy looked at him, searching, seeming to verify the veracity of his words. “What happened to the face?”
“Bumped it. It’s only a bruise. Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.”
Christy seemed to accept this. “Sophia….” His voice trailed off as tears welled again.
Michael nodded slowly. He didn’t know what to say.
“Why?” Christy whispered on the air.
Yosef had spewed venomous words at Christy in the courtroom, and that was how Christy learned Sophia, a girl he believed all his life to be his cousin, was his sister. When Christy and Sophia were very young, their mother had given Sophia to her sister in an effort to protect her from their abusive father. Sadly, it had only caused the bastard to set his sights on abusing Christy.
Michael gently brushed a rogue ringlet from Christy’s forehead with a fingertip. “We’ll never know the answer to that. But I think I know why. Your mom thought Sophia was safer with your aunt and you were safer with her.”
Christy’s one brow dipped in a half frown as tears continued to fall. “This is how you think of this? Yosef said I am the disease and pus—”
“Don’t believe a word that bastard said. He knows he’s going to prison for the rest of his life, and he wanted to hurt you one last time before he was sent away. You know your mother loved you. You know that in your heart. Even I know it, and I never had a chance to meet her.”
Tears streamed Christy’s cheeks faster now, and he buried his face against Michael’s chest.
Michael put an arm around him and held him tightly. “Your mother loved you more than anything in the world. I know it because you have her beautiful heart.”
Christy nodded against his chest and issued a convulsive sigh. “She did.”
Michael rubbed Christy’s back in long soothing strokes. “That’s why she kept you close to her.”
“I hate my father.”
“Me too. I’m glad he’s dead.”
“I will hate him forever.”
“I will too.”
“I must talk to Sophia. I wish to know if she knew.”
Michael winced. Sophia had confronted her aunt, and her aunt had admitted that Christy and Sophia were siblings but had been vague about the reasons behind it. Michael toyed with the idea of telling Christy the truth and decided he should stay out of it. “You can talk to her when she gets back from court today.”
Christy’s face crumpled. “Who does the speaking if I am not there?”
“Mr. Santini said there were only formalities in court today.”
Christy looked up at him. “I do not wish to see Yosef again.”
Michael looked into his beautiful blue-green eyes. “I don’t think you’ll have to see him again. The trial part is over.”
Christy’s eyes went wide. “I do not go back?”
“Nope. It’s over.” Michael rubbed Christy’s back again.
“It is a good enough trial to send Yosef to the prison?”
“Jake’s dad thinks so.”
Jake Santini was Michael’s best friend. Their parents had known each other since the caveman days, and Jake was like a brother to him. Nero, Jake’s dad, he’d been Christy’s attorney since his abusive father had died over a year ago. While Nero wasn’t the prosecuting attorney for Christy’s kidnapping case, he’d managed the trials of Christy’s abusers here and in his native Greece.
Christy’s face crumpled again. “There is the trial in Greece.”
Michael wasn’t sure what to say to that either, so he made it up as he went. “That trial is over what they found on the yacht, not only your abuse, and your paintings will be perfect. That’s why General Sotíras wants them, remember?”
Christy issued another shuddering sigh and rested his head against Michael’s chest again.
A nurse entered the room. After Christy’s kidnapping, they’d stayed in this hospital for two weeks and had come to know Carol well. She’d long given up on lecturing Michael about crawling into Christy’s bed to hold him at night. Her shoes squeaked softly as she approached the bed and walked around to Michael’s side to take his vital signs.
Next she silently walked around to Christy’s side of the bed and took his vital signs. “How are you feeling, Christy?” she asked softly.
“Okay,” Christy answered, his voice still hoarse.
“What time is it?” Michael asked.
“Almost ten. Jake said to tell you he and Sophia went to court with your mom and Jake’s mom.”
“Where’s Dad?”
“He went to court with Mr. Santini. He wanted to give the judge an update on Christy’s health.”
“Did he say when they’d be done?”
“Mr. Santini said court would end early today. Sometime between eleven and noon, so the jury would have a chance to deliberate.”
“Okay,” Michael said tentatively as thoughts of Yosef’s fate flooded his mind.
“Do you feel like eating something?” Carol asked.
Christy shook his head.
“Not even red Jell-O?”
Christy shook his head again.
Christy was addicted to Jell-O, cherry being his favorite. So much so, it had become a bone of contention between Christy and Mac, Michael’s dad. Christy was too thin, Mac was constantly asking him to eat more than mere Jell-O, and it was a dark day in history when Christy refused it. Then Michael remembered the only bit of good that shined through yesterday’s misery.
“I have some good news, babe.”
Christy looked at him, clearly disbelieving. “What?”
“Thimi will be here tomorrow.”
Christy’s eyes went wide, and a small gasp left his lips.
Unbeknownst to everyone until a few weeks ago, twelve-year-old Thimi had survived the horrible night that had nearly sent Christy to his death. Having endured the same near-fatal horrors and annihilation of human worth that Christy had, Thimi was a young mortal Castor to Christy’s Pollux. They were the brothers Dioskouri, and Christy would stop at nothing to bring him to the US.
Michael smiled. “And I think General Sotíras and Dr. Jordanou are coming with him.”
Christy fought to sit up. “I must leave the hospital. I must be ready for Thimi.”
Michael carefully pulled the covers back to keep Christy’s legs from tangling in them. “Hang on. You can’t go anywhere until Dad discharges you.”
Christy finally made it into a sitting position. “Okay. Okay,” he said, excited, his mood diametric from two seconds ago. “I wish to have the Jell-O.” He looked down at his hands. Though the bandages had been replaced, his fingers were stained with grease from climbing the Ferris wheel the night before. “I wish to have the bath to be ready to leave.”
Michael chuckled. “With or without marshmallows?”
Christy looked at Carol. “Does the hospital have the marshmallow?”
She smiled. “I bet I can scrounge some up. But Dr. Sattler asked that you wait until he returns before you take a bath,” Carol said firmly.
“Why?” Michael asked.
“He didn’t say.” 


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