He'd been her friend for years. He said he loved her. Then she realised she didn't know him at all...When everything seemed to be falling apart in Sophie's life, she was thankful for her friend Kas, who was always at the end of a phone, ready to listen and to offer comfort and advice.Her father's cold dislike of her and then her parents' divorce had left her with a deep distrust of men. But, gradually, Kas made her believe there was at least one man who truly cared about her.But she was wrong.At first when Sophie went to stay for a few days with Kas in Italy, he was kind and caring, as he'd always been. But three days after she arrived, everything changed.His eyes were cold as he described the things he expected her to do `for love'. But soon Sophie's bewilderment turned to fear as he punched and shouted at her and threatened to kill her adored younger brothers if she didn't do exactly as she was told...to sell her body on the streets to pay off Kas's debts.Terrified of Kas, the police and the men whose pleasures she was forced to satisfy, Sophie worked seven nights a week for the next six months on the dark and lonely streets of a town in northern Italy.Subjected regularly to Kas's verbal, mental and physical abuse, she knew she would never escape.And then, one day, after she'd been admitted to hospital with stomach pains - and knowing that Kas would kill her if he found out - she dared to phone her mother.But who would reach her first?
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Sophie Hayes was in her early twenties when she was forced into prostitution in Italy. Following her horrifying ordeal, Sophie is rebuilding her life in London. She is working with the charity STOP THE TRAFFIK and the William Wilberforce Trust to raise awareness of trafficking and to help other women life herself. To date she has worked with Cherie Blair, the Metropolitan Police and the UN.The Sophie Hayes Foundation was set up and inspired by Sophie in January 2012. Since Sophie's return to the UK she has been relentless in her work in order to make a difference and change perceptions. The mission of the Sophie Hayes Foundation is to raise awareness about, and support survivors of, human trafficking and modern day slavery.For more information please visit:www.sophiehayesfoundation.orgwww.facebook.com/SophieHayesFoundationwww.twitter.com/SophieHayesFndnExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
We drove straight from the airport to a beautiful lake, where we sat together outside a café, soaking up the heat of the late-summer sunshine. Kas was exactly the same as he'd been in Spain-just as relaxed and easy to talk to-and I felt immediately comfortable in his company.
We went back to the lake that evening, and as the air was cool once the sun had gone down, we sat inside a restaurant, where we talked and laughed together and the waiter smiled at me and called me "La bella signorina." Everything seemed perfect.
After the meal, we went to a café to meet two of Kas's friends, who were so nice to me I began to wonder what he'd told them about our relationship. At the café, we ate ice cream and drank brandy, and when Kas and I were leaving, the two men stood up, kissed me on both cheeks like benevolent uncles, and said "Arrivederci, Soffee."
That night, in Kas's apartment in an ancient, yellow-brick house a couple of miles from the center of town, we made love for the first time, and afterward Kas held me in his arms and I felt safe. I didn't know whether I was falling in love with him; I certainly didn't feel the way I used to when I was with Erion, when a light seemed to shine from somewhere deep inside me, but maybe I'd been wrong and that hadn't been love, whereas the feeling of security I had with Kas was.
For the rest of the weekend, we wandered around the city together, sat outside cafés drinking coffee or glasses of wine and ate our meals in restaurants that were full of the sound of laughter and where everyone seemed to talk at the same time. On Saturday evening, we went to an elegant nightclub in the center of town, which was decorated with lavish crystal chandeliers and carved-marble fountains and was quite unlike any nightclub I'd ever been to before. Home, with all its worries, seemed a million miles away.
We spent Sunday by the lake, and when we returned to Kas's flat in the early evening, I had an almost physical sense of contentment. Kas's arm was resting lightly on my shoulders as he put his key in the lock of the front door, and I reached up to kiss his cheek before walking across the little hallway and into the bathroom.
When I came out again a few minutes later, Kas was in the kitchen. He had his back to the open doorway, but he turned as I stepped through it and looked at me with an expression I didn't recognize and couldn't read. Although he didn't seem to be angry, there was a coldness in his eyes that made the skin on my scalp tingle and my heart began to race.
"Is everything all right?" I asked him. "Kas? Is something wrong?" But instead of smiling and reassuring me, as I'd hoped he would do, he nodded his head toward the little wooden table under the window and said, in a voice that filled me with dread, "We need to talk."
I pulled out a chair and sat down, expecting him to sit beside me, but he remained standing, with his back resting against the work surface, as he said, "There is a reason you are here." I looked up at him and smiled, but when he didn't smile back at me, I felt my stomach contract sharply.
"There is a reason," he said again, "and I am going to tell you what it is. First, though, I have to ask you: do you love me?"
"I think I do," I told him, trying to ignore the horrible sense of foreboding that had settled over me like a dark shadow. "I don't know how people know when they love someone, but you've been there for me for so long that..."
He interrupted me, raising a hand impatiently and saying, "Well, if you love someone, you have to make sacrifices for them. We all have to make sacrifices for the people we love, and that's why I asked you to come here: because there's something you can do for me. There's a sacrifice you can make to show me that you love me."
He didn't raise his voice at all, but I could feel his irritation and when he looked at me, his expression seemed to be almost one of disgust. He spoke slowly, as though explaining a very simple concept to a determinedly slow-witted child, and although I nodded to indicate that I understood what he was saying, I didn't actually understand it at all.
When he spoke again, he sounded angry, in a way I'd never heard him sound before, and he barely glanced at me as he said, "As you say, I have always been there for you and now you must repay me by doing something for me."
"Okay," I told him. "You know I'd do anything I can to help you. But, please Kas, don't look so serious. You're making me nervous." And then I laughed, because I knew I didn't have to be afraid. This was Kas, who never shouted, who had been my best friend for the last four years and who I knew was the one man I could trust, apart from Erion.
"I've got a debt that has to be paid," Kas said. "That's why you are here. You are going to repay this debt for me."
His eyes had become cold and there was a closed, hard expression on his face. But still I told myself there was nothing to be afraid of. After all, what possible reason could Kas have for being angry with me?
"Of course I'd help you if I could," I told him. "But I hope I haven't given you the impression that I've got money. I spend almost everything I earn, so I don't even have any savings. I don't know what..."
Again, he interrupted me and I could almost feel his irritation as he snapped, "This is what you're here for. You are here to help me to repay this debt. This is why I asked you to come to Italy. It's a sacrifice anyone would be happy to make for someone they loved."
I felt sick. I couldn't understand what Kas was really saying or why he'd suddenly become so coldly detached. My heart was pounding and tears had begun to spill over onto my cheeks. I wanted to say to him, "This isn't the way we are together. Why are you speaking to me like this?" But he was watching me with an expression so close to dislike that the words stayed locked inside my head.
"I'm in trouble," he said. "I owe a hundred thousand euros-to Mario in fact, one of the men you met at the bar after dinner the other night and found so charming. I have to pay this debt."
"Oh, Kas, I'm so sorry!" I cried, although if I'm being honest, I'd have to admit that my sympathy was mingled with relief at the realization that he wasn't angry with me after all. When he'd first mentioned a debt, I'd assumed he meant it figuratively, as he wasn't at all the sort of person I'd have imagined getting into financial debt. He'd never talked in any detail about his work-only ever referring to it as "the import and export business"-but he seemed to have a comfortable life and I suppose, if I'd thought about it at all, I'd have assumed he earned a fairly good income. But I knew enough about him to know how much he must have hated having to ask for help, so I tried not to sound surprised or pitying as I asked, "What happened?"
I don't know what I expected him to say-perhaps that someone in his family had been ill and had needed expensive medical treatment and that he'd had to send home more money than he had. So I was caught completely off guard when he said, "It was a drug deal that went wrong."
At first I thought he was joking-giving me a ludicrously unlikely explanation in an attempt to make light of a situation that embarrassed him-but his face remained completely serious as he continued, "If I don't pay the money back, it will cause problems for my family. So that's why I need you to make this sacrifice for love." And that's when my heart began to race and the palms of my hands became damp with sweat.
For a few seconds, I just looked at him, my mind totally blank and uncomprehending, and then I shrugged and said, "I don't know what you mean. How can I help you? You know I want to, but it would take me a lifetime to earn that sort of money."
"I don't expect you to earn it in your pathetic job in England." His sneer was cold and dismissive. "You will earn it here. I will find you a place to work-on the streets."
Again a wave of relief washed over me and I laughed as I said, "Don't be ridiculous! Work on the streets doing what?" And then I added hastily, "But don't worry, Kas. I will help you. We'll think of something, I promise."
"We don't need to think of anything," he snapped, and the unmistakable sound of anger and dislike in his voice filled me with dread. "I have already thought of something, and that is why you are here."
He took a step toward me and, instinctively, I cowered away from him.
"What's your problem?" he shouted, leaning down so that his face was just a couple of inches away from mine. "Why are you looking at me like that? How dare you disrespect me in this way?"
It was as though the temper he'd only just been managing to control had finally erupted, and his face was contorted unrecognizably as he demanded, "How dare you answer me back? Do you not know that if you love someone, you have to make sacrifices for them? Are you so selfish that you can't do this thing for me?"
I felt like an actor who'd walked onto the stage to speak my lines and realized I'd learned the wrong part in the wrong play, so that everything going on around me was completely incomprehensible. And then it suddenly struck me, almost like a physical blow, that the "work on the streets" he was talking about was prostitution.
A wave of nausea washed over me, followed swiftly by embarrassment at the thought that I must have misunderstood. He doesn't mean it, I told myself. Just keep calm. This sort of thing doesn't happen in real life. But Kas was clearly in deadly earnest and as I rested my elbows on the kitchen table, holding my head in my hands with tears streaming down my face, I was afraid. The last man I'd ever been afraid of was my father, and as I looked at Kas, all the old feelings of dread and helpless vulnerability that I'd been so determined never to experience again threatened to overwhelm me once more.
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