THE BINDING TIE

MADERLIN BIDMEAD

Disclaimers: See Part One

Feedback: As always it is more than gratefully received both good and bad maderlin@yahoo.com

Notes: The end is in sight, there will only be 2 more parts after this. I thank all of you who have waited patiently for this part and felt I owe you an explanation. I have managed to have and resign from two jobs since October ad will be starting a third on monday. I have also traveled to Italy and had another failed romance...all of this has eaten in to my writing time. I hope to have this fic finished in the next three weeks so that I can get onto another one that has ben nagging at me. Thank you for reading this ramble, now onto the fic :)


CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE



"I'm sorry, Mr Prince, but we've come to a wall. There was no sign of them at the cabin. What tire marks we did find trailed into nothing. Whoever is behind this thinks like we do. If I didn't know better I'd say it was a cop." The reedy police officer was clearly perturbed.

The two men stood huddled in the hospital corridor, heads bowed towards each other. Salvatore had been intercepting all police information before it got to Francesca. He didn't want his daughter to be further upset, he could cushion the blow far better than any cop could. Every day the news was the same. No information. No evidence. No clues. No leads. It was taking its toll on his youngest child, and he couldn't do a damn thing about it.

"Just keep trying. I better go and break it to her." A familiar black cloud descended behind his eyes.

They turned from each other, the blue clad man striding purposefully down the hall while the tycoon made his way, dejectedly, to his child's side. He stood outside the grey door trying to compose himself, it wouldn't be right to walk in there with the bad news written so clearly on his face. Each day Francesca would look at him expectantly, just waiting for the news that Hunter was there, and each day she would be disappointed. He knew that it was crushing her, but he could do nothing but tell her the truth and hold her together as she crumbled.

Salvatore walked through the dull grey door and was greeted by the sight of his daughter laughing. It warmed his heart to know that she had not lost all of her joy. The children seemed to be acting as a balm to her battered soul. Darla noticed her husband enter the door before any of the other occupants of the room, catching his eye she instantly knew tat there was no news. She reached across the bed to grasp her daughters hand, letting her know that her father had arrived.

Salvatore approached his youngest child, bending down to place a soft kiss on her uninjured cheek. Her beautiful face was still bruised, the deep blue colour fading to a sickly yellow after almost two weeks of convalescence. Most of her injuries were healing quickly, she had been lucky, the effects of the beating could have been much worse. After several blood transfusions and rest she was almost ready to be sent home. Bruising and a cast were the only evidence of recent events.

"Any news Papa?" It was always the first thing out of her mouth. She would look at him with her wide blue eyes, so hopeful.

"Not today, Princess. But I do know something that she brighten your day." He saw her expression waver. "You can come home today. Maybe this is just the tip of a good news ice burg." He knew the joke was a poor one, but he was rewarded with a watery smile from his daughter. She was thankful for her fathers efforts.

Darla gathered the three children together and ushered them from the room, intent on giving her husband some time alone with their child. Terrance and Rochel ran ahead of their grandmother, their excitement over the mothers impending release and the unspoken promise of ice cream a potent combination. Becca held on tightly to Darla's hand, her little face sombre and her feet dragging. Feeling the child's distress Darla crouched down and scooped the six year old into her arms.

"What's the matter Rebecca? Aren't you happy that mummy is coming home?" She peered into sad brown eyes.

"I love mommy, Nana. You know that." Said with the indignation that only a child can use.

"Then what's the matter?" Becca had always been the most subdued of her daughters children, reminding the older woman of Francesca after Rhani had been taken. She honestly wanted the child to be happy.

"I just want Hunter to come home too. She makes mummy laugh and she plays with me." Her voice went down to a whisper. "I wish Hunter was our daddy."

"They'll find her. Now go catch up with the others before they eat all the ice cream." Telling her grandmother her worries seemed to have perked Becca out of her funk. She bounded out of Darla's arms and down the corridor. The older woman was left shaking her head in bemusement. I think Francesca is going to have to have a little talk with her children about the difference between mommies and daddies, a wry chuckle passed her lips as she followed her grandchildren at a more sedate pace.

**********

Large hands fluffed the pillow behind her head for the tenth time in what felt like as many minutes. Francesca was overwhelmed by the support that her brothers were showing her but she could only take so much. Straightening herself on the couch she turned to the two men seated in the arm chairs beside her.

"Boys, you can relax. I'm not going to break, I actually feel fine except for my arm." At the raised eyebrows from both men she realised that it wasn't entirely true. "I miss Hunter. But bugging me isn't helping."

"We only want to help you Francesca, just tell us how." Rodrigo's usually jovial face was anything but. He had a caring side that few but Francesca and Darla saw. Francesca felt tears start to well up in her eyes.

"Tell us about Hunter." Nathaniel was gruffer, more uncertain than his younger siblings, but he too wanted to be useful.

"I can't...I...She's in so much danger." The tears began to cascade down her face, choking sobs stealing her breath. She felt gentle arms wrap around her, her head rested on a broad shoulder. Beside her Nathaniel held his baby sister in his arms, while in front of her Rodrigo took her slender hands in his.

"You don't have to talk about the kidnapping Princess, don't cry." He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles soothingly.

"You know about us?" Francesca's tears gradually stopped as she looked shyly through her lashes.

"I'm not blind." Rodrigo smiled.

"And I'm not stupid. So together we worked it out." Her older brothers usual dry delivery made her smile, just a little.

"We're in love...um..." She felt suddenly giddy as she said those precious words. A blush covered her face.

The two older men shared a smile. Maybe they weren't very good nurse maids, but they were pretty good brothers. Pretty nosey too. At least this should take her mind off the horrific events of the last few weeks and hopefully remind her of happier times.

**********

"Wake up baby." It was a faint whisper, dreamlike.

In her dream she was floating on a cottony soft cloud. Only the cloud was wrapped all around her like a cocoon, not simply underneath her. It seemed to be getting tighter and tighter, seeping through her skin. Invading her brain.

"Wake up!" The voice seemed to be getting closer. Was it Chess? Was this cloud nine?

"Wake up, damn it!" The voice was loud and angry. Hunter knew that sort of voice, that sort of command. She tried to comply, but her body would not cooperate. The cottony cloud in her brain made her too confused.

Sudden white hot pain lanced through her shoulder. A scream was ripped from her throat as she sudden hit consciousness head on. Electric eyes blinked open, trying to hold back the stinging tears that the pain created. If she could she would have rocketed upright, gasping for air. Restrained as she was she had to made do with dragging in painful breaths from her reclined position.

"There you are. I thought you'd never wake up." Jordan trailed gentle fingers over Hunters burning cheeks. "Sorry I had to do that, but I couldn't let you sleep the day away, now could I?" She smiled beatifically down at the younger woman before planting a rough kiss on her lips.

Hunter didn't bother to struggle, she had at the beginning, but after weeks or torture and violence she couldn't bring herself to care anymore. Francesca had died in the fire, she had nothing to fight for. She waiter for the kiss to end, which seemingly took an eternity, the thrusting tongue in her mouth making her want to gag. Then it was over and she was left alone for a few blissful moments of clarity. It wouldn't last long, her head was only clear in her first waking moments, as soon as Jordan returned she would be rendered helpless.

Hunter began to feel all of the sensations that constantly coursed through her body. The one that screamed for attention was her right shoulder. The gunshot wound still occasionally seeped blood, the area around it was red and swollen. Infection had started to set in, and the fact that Jordan would use it as another way to control her kept it open. She craned her head as best she could to get a glimpse of it, and was dismayed to see a yellowish ooze leaking out of it. The infection was getting worse. Her body temperature was too high, a fever having taken residence in her body over the last few days.

She heard Jordan's footsteps approaching the door to the room that they shared. The apartment was small, but beautifully decorated. In her more coherent moments Hunter wondered how the other woman could afford to rent it without a job. Such contemplation was rare. As the door began to open, the warrior sent up a silent prayer to the woman that she loved. She hoped beyond hope that the spirit of the other woman heard her thoughts.

Jordan sat down on the edge of the bed and gazed adoringly down at the other woman. She knew that Hunter didn't remember that they were in love yet, the mind control was still too strong but she was working on that. Each day she added new chemicals into the other woman's body, it was just a matter of time before she found the antidote to the mind altering chemicals that the Prince's had pumped into her.

"Time for you medicine baby." She swabbed an area on the other woman's arm, just below the elbow. Expertly she injected the contents of the syringe into a vein.

Almost instantly Hunter felt herself slipping away. All day she would walk as though through a fog. Jordan was in total control of her body after the injections, she became nothing but an automaton. Even had she been mentally unencumbered, her body was too weak to attempt an escape. Jordan quickly unlocked the restraints from her wrists and ankles, freeing the other woman. She ushered her into the bathroom gently, with great care.

Hours passed, with the woman going through the motions of a domestic couple. Jordan would direct Hunter and she would obey simple instructions through her haze. As the day progressed Jordan injected further dose of medication into her lovers body. However as night grew closer the final injection began to wear off, once again freeing Hunter from the fog. Jordan was no fool, already having tied the other woman down on the large, soft bed.

Hunter knew what was coming, she had been ordered to strip naked while still compliant and now laid spread eagled and bound. They had played out this scenario several times. She now watched, her head propped up on pillows, as the lithe blond stripped out of her own clothes. Slowly, Jordan climbed onto the bed, crawling her was up her captives body. She felt the burning heat coming off the gladiator in waves, but cast any thoughts of fever aside. Hunter was in the heat of passion. She lowered her head to the other woman's breast, taking a nipple into her moth. As she began to suckle she heard a whimper. She smiled around the flesh and began to caress it with her tongue, until she hear the words.

"Help me Chess." It was a whispered sob, barely loud enough to hear, but Jordan did.

The tall blond bit down harshly on the nipple, tasting blood on her tongue as her teeth sliced through flesh. She pulled away from the body below her, climbing to her feet. She took in the sight of her ravaged breast, the nipple almost severed. Her anger kept on building, even as she took the medical supplies out of a drawer and crudely reattached the flesh.

"She still has power over you." A hard slap landed on her face, followed by several punches to her mid-section and wounded shoulder. "I will purge you, I promise. You will be free of that witch." The irate woman threw clothes on quickly before returning to the bed with a syringe. As soon as it emptied into the other woman's neck she was unconscious. She then left the room, slamming the door hard behind her.

**********

The phone was taken from her hand by gentle fingers and placed carefully in its cradle. Francesca stood staring at it, like a creature of myth which had just jumped out at her. All around her he house was buzzing, the police having traced the crazed and threatening call. Yet she felt frozen, had she just heard what she thought she had or was she dreaming again?

"Princess, are you alright?" Darla was worried by her daughters lack of reaction to her kidnappers call.

"Mama, was that real?" Her blue eyes were pleading as they turned to the older woman.

"Yes, it was real. The police are on their way to the house it came from now. they should be there in twenty minutes."

"Rhani's coming home." Francesca was almost giddy with joy. "I never thought that I would be so happy to be sworn at, abused and threatened with death in my life."

"This is good news, Francesca, but don't get your hopes too high. You could be disappointed. I mean, I could hear what that lunatic was screaming. This is a delicate time." She could see that her daughter was not to be deflated. Lets join your father in the study, the police told him they would keep him informed."

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

Once again Francesca was left crushed by the news from the police. She had been hysterical after their call and needed to be sedated and taken to bed. Salvatore and Darla were worried sick about their daughter, she couldn't take much more disappointment. The older couple had been present when the detective had arrived at the mansion over two hours later. They had known that the news couldn't be good. There should have been a call. As soon as they heard the knock on the door a cloud of foreboding had descended on them...

...The door opened to reveal the stoney face of one of the case detectives. Salvatore simply stood back and allowed the other man to walk through the door. He closed the door and walked towards his study without looking back. He knew that the other man would follow. As they walked into the study, he saw his daughters face drop. He moved to sit beside his wife and daughter, leaving the detective the seat behind the desk.

"Its bad news I'm afraid. We found the apartment building but they were already long gone. I don't know how she does it. There were a few more traces this time, daily use items left in the cupboards, but as yet the only prints we've found are the slaves." He continued to look at his notes. He never noticed the venom directed at him by the young heiress.

"I understand that you want her caught Mr Prince, but you shouldn't be too concerned about the slave. We found a fairly large amount of blood on the bed as well as some signs of infection. It doesn't look good for her." A low keening began to come from the young brunette. The detective looked up from his notes and saw the murderous rage in the singers eyes.

"How dare you! She is not just a slave! She will not die! She can't!" Her voice was getting louder and louder as tears streamed down her face. As she spoke she rose from her seat, only to fall to the floor in a heap, sobbing uncontrollably.

Salvatore glanced at the detective, making it clear that he was to stay where he was. He knelt down and scooped his shuddering child into his arms and carried her out of the room and up the stairs. As he was taking her to bed, Darla called up a medic to come and sedate her child.

Half an hour later, with Francesca passed out, her parents sat opposite the police officer. They were ready to hear everything. The detective told them everything that the police had found. the only thing that even remotely resembled a clue had been the word 'box' that had been crudely written onto the pillow in blood. It had taken the cops on the scene a while to decipher what the word actually said, if it was a word at all.

"So, you see, we really have nothing more to go on now than we did to start with. If you can tell your daughter what we found when she wakes up, maybe she can tell us something." When the young man left they were both in a state of shock...

**********

Darla convinced Salvatore to hold back the information for a few days to allow Francesca a chance to calm down and come to terms with the new information. She seemed to be coping considerably better than they could have hoped. Francesca had been the one to explain what had happened to the children. Terrance had taken it in stride, being the strong little man he thought he should be. Rochel was upset, but her tears had been the short lived tears of a confused child. Becca on the other hand was almost as devastated as her mother. Francesca had cradled her in her arms and rocked her until she fell into an exhausted sleep.

When she thought that Francesca had had enough time to remain calm, Darla gave her the police information that they had received. She left the younger woman alone to read, if their places were reversed she would want to be alone to read about Sal. Francesca was left in her room, sitting on Hunter's side of the bed as she spread the paper around her. The first thing to catch her eye were the photographs of the apartment. It was small, yet stylish. It had not been destroyed in any way. It looked clean and comfortable. She riffled through the pictures of each room until she came to the bedroom.

The room was large, dominated by an equally large double bed. What made her heart start to beat faster was what was on the bed. The binds on the bed were obviously used to tie the warrior down, imprisoning her. Tears began to leak from her eyes as she got to the photo of the bed itself. The sheets were stained with Rhani's blood and some yellowing stains that looked like some sort of infection.

She closed her eyes briefly, trying to regain her composure as she shuffled to the last photo. When she opened them again what she saw hit her like a blow. It was a word, written in blood. To other people it would have been almost unreadable, childlike scribbling. But Francesca it was easy to read, Rhani had always written like a blind spider crawling over the page. She read the single word over and over, trying to understand what it meant. It was obviously a message for her.

'Box', what sort of box?

Is there something in a box in the apartment?That couldn't be it, the police would have found something.

Maybe I have something that can help. But what?

She lay back on her bed, the rest of the information in the brown folder forgotten as she tried to imagine what her beloved was trying to tell her. As she allowed her eyes to roam around the room she noticed something metallic sitting behind her mirror on the dressing table. She got to her feet fast and looked at the thing that was tucked almost completely behind her free standing mirror.

She reached out and picked up the small metal box. She found herself looking down at the remote to Hunter's voice inhibitor. The device that could, by remote activate the chip inside Rhani's body. The 'box' that could be used to find the young woman. Francesca put all this together in a matter of moments, suddenly letting out a whoop of excitement.

She threw open the door to her room and ran at breakneck speed down the stars and into the kitchen where her parents were having afternoon tea. One of their idiosyncrasies. Darla would make cakes and Salvatore would sit and watch her while drinking his tea. As she pounded into the room both parents stopped talking and turning to face their panting, but grinning, child.

"Princess?" Salvatore wasn't sure what to make of this. He hoped that his daughter hadn't snapped.

"I know how to find her Papa. Her message was for me." She was almost bouncing with excitement. "I have the remote to the thing that stops her talking. It can send from almost any distance. The police can use it to track her to her location." She threw herself at her mother, hugging her tightly.

"Sal, go get the police." Darla kissed her daughters temple as Salvatore sis as he was asked. "Baby, how did you get so smart?"

"Good genes." Both women giggled as weeks of tension began to melt with the renewal of hope.

**********

The new information proved to be invaluable to the police. It took a few more days to calibrate their sensors so that they could use the transmitters in the control as a tracking device, but it would work. They didn't want to alert the kidnapper to what they were doing, ensuring that they only activated the voice restraints at night when they were sure that she would not be required to speak.

When they finally had the machines at the right frequency they began to send out short bursts over the course of one night in order to triangulate a position. Not as exact a guide as an actual tracking device, it created a small grid that could be searched. Within a week, the covert ops team had found the two most likely locations. Both cabins were situated in the same dense forest in the mountains 200 miles west of their previous location. They would need to watch both cabins to find out which was the kidnappers cabin.

A week later the break through came. The owners of the smaller cabin came to stay, revealing that the movement which had been happening inside the log structure had been a computer controlled system. the young man and woman were more than willing to comply with the police when asked to go home again, especially after they noticed the large guns the police carried. The waiting game now began in earnest, they needed to see who they were dealing with, so they would wait.

Francesca and the remaining bodyguards offered their assistance to the police but found themselves rebuked at every attempt. Both Shep and Francesca couldn't help but worry as the time stretched on. Every day was another day where Rhani could be killed. They needed to do something soon. Francesca could feel time running out.

Continues in part 16


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