Authors: Anna Zaires
For some reason, that scares me even more. These are criminals with money.
Crawling to the edge of the bed, I sit up, holding the blanket tightly around me. My bare feet touch the floor. It’s smooth and cold to the touch, like hardwood.
I wrap the blanket around me and stand up, ready to do further exploration.
At that moment, I hear the door opening.
A soft light comes on. Even though it’s not bright, I’m blinded for a minute. I blink a few times, and my eyes adjust.
And I see
He stands in the doorway like a dark angel. His hair curls a little around his face, softening the hard perfection of his features. His eyes are trained on my face, and his lips are curved in a slight smile.
And utterly terrifying.
My instincts had been right—this man is capable of anything.
“Hello, Nora,” he says softly, entering the room.
I cast a desperate glance around me. I see nothing that could serve as a weapon.
My mouth is dry like the desert. I can’t even gather enough saliva to talk. So I just watch him stalk toward me like a hungry tiger approaches its prey.
I am going to fight if he touches me.
He comes closer, and I take a step back. Then another and another, until I’m pressed against the wall. I’m still huddling in the blanket.
He lifts his hand, and I tense, preparing to defend myself
But he’s merely holding a bottle of water and offering it to me.
“Here,” he says. “I figured you must be thirsty.”
I stare at him. I’m dying of thirst, but I don’t want him to drug me again.
He seems to understand my hesitation. “Don’t worry, my pet. It’s just water. I want you awake and conscious.”
I don’t know how to react to that. My heart is hammering in my throat, and I feel sick with fear.
He stands there, patiently watching. Holding the blanket tightly with one hand, I give in to my thirst and take the water from him. My hand shakes, and my fingers brush against his in the process. A wave of heat rolls through me, a strange reaction that I ignore.
Now I have to unscrew the cap—which means I have to let go of the blanket. He’s observing my dilemma with interest and no small measure of amusement. Thankfully, he’s not touching me. He’s standing less than two feet away and simply watching me.
I press my arms tightly against my body, holding the blanket that way, and unscrew the cap. Then I hold the blanket with one hand and lift the bottle to my lips to drink.
The cool liquid feels amazing on my parched lips and tongue. I drink until the entire bottle is gone. I can’t remember the last time water tasted so good. Dry mouth must be the side effect of whatever drug he used to get me here.
Now I can talk again, so I ask him, “Why?”
To my huge surprise, my voice sounds almost normal.
He lifts his hand and touches my face again. Just like he did at the club. And again, I stand there helplessly and let him. His fingers are gentle on my skin, his touch almost tender. It’s such a stark contrast to the whole situation that I’m disoriented for a moment.
“Because I didn’t like seeing you with him,” Julian says, and I can hear the barely suppressed rage in his voice. “Because he touched you, laid his hands on you.”
I can barely think. “Who?” I whisper, trying to figure out what he’s talking about. And then it hits me. “Jake?”
“Yes, Nora,” he says darkly. “Jake.”
“Is he—” I don’t know if I can even say it out loud. “Is he . . . alive?”
“For now,” Julian says, his eyes burning into mine. “He’s in the hospital with a mild concussion.”
I’m so relieved I slump against the wall. And then the full meaning of his words hits me. “What do you mean, for now?”
Julian shrugs. “His health and wellbeing are entirely dependent on you.”
I swallow to moisten my still-dry throat. “On me?”
His fingers caress my face again, push the hair back behind my ear. I’m so cold I feel like his touch is burning my skin. “Yes, my pet, on you. If you behave, he’ll be fine. If not . . .”
I can barely draw in a breath. “If not?”
Julian smiles. “He’ll be dead within a week.”
His smile is the most beautiful and frightening thing I’ve ever seen.
“Who are you?” I whisper. “What do you want from me?”
He doesn’t answer. Instead, he touches my hair, lifts a thick brown strand to his face. Inhales, as though smelling it.
I watch him, frozen in place. I don’t know what to do. Do I fight him now? And if so, what would that accomplish? He hasn’t hurt me yet, and I don’t want to provoke him. He’s much larger than me, much stronger. I can see the thickness of his muscles under the black T-shirt he’s wearing. Without my heels on, I barely come up to his shoulder.
While I contemplate the merits of fighting someone who probably outweighs me by a hundred pounds, he makes the decision for me. His hand leaves my hair and tugs at the blanket I’m holding so tightly.
I don’t let go. If anything, I clutch it harder. And I do something embarrassing.
“Please,” I say desperately, “please, don’t do this.”
He smiles again. “Why not?” His hand is continuing to pull at the blanket, slowly and inexorably. I know he’s doing it this way to prolong the torture. He could easily rip the blanket away from me with one strong tug.
“I don’t want this,” I tell him. I can barely draw in air through the constriction in my chest, and my voice comes out sounding unexpectedly breathy.
He looks amused, but there’s a dark gleam in his eyes. “No? You think I couldn’t feel your reaction to me in the club?”
I shake my head. “There was no reaction. You’re wrong . . .” My voice is thick with unshed tears. “I only want Jake—”
In an instant, his hand is wrapped around my throat. He doesn’t do anything else, doesn’t squeeze, but the threat is there. I can feel the violence within him, and I’m terrified.
He leans down toward me. “You don’t want that boy,” he says harshly. “He can never give you what I can. Do you understand me?”
I nod, too scared to do anything else.
He releases my throat. “Good,” he says in a softer tone. “Now let go of the blanket. I want to see you naked again.”
Again? He must’ve been the one to undress me.
I try to plaster myself even closer to the wall. And still don’t let go of the blanket.
Two seconds later, the blanket is on the floor. As I had suspected, I don’t stand a chance when he uses his full strength.
I resist the only way I can. Instead of standing there and letting him look at my naked body, I slide down the wall until I’m sitting on the floor, my knees drawn up to my chest. My arms wrap around my legs, and I sit there like that, trembling all over. My long, thick hair streams down my back and arms, partially covering me.
I hide my face against my knees. I’m terrified of what he’ll do to me now, and the tears burning my eyes finally escape, running down my cheeks.
“Nora,” he says, and there is a steely note in his voice. “Get up. Get up right now.”
I shake my head mutely, still not looking at him.
“Nora, this can be pleasurable for you or it can be painful. It’s really up to you.”
Pleasurable? Is he insane? My entire body is shaking with sobs at this point.
“Nora,” he says again, and I hear the impatience in his voice. “You have exactly five seconds to do what I’m telling you.”
He waits, and I can almost hear him counting in his head. I’m counting too, and when I get to four, I get up, tears still streaming down my face.
I’m ashamed of my own cowardice, but I’m so afraid of pain. I don’t want him to hurt me.
I don’t want him to touch me at all, but that is clearly not an option.
“Good girl,” he says softly, touching my face again, brushing my hair back over my shoulders.
I tremble at his touch. I can’t look at him, so I keep my eyes down.
He apparently objects to that, because he tilts my chin up until I have no choice but to meet his gaze with my own.
His eyes are dark blue in this light. He’s so close to me that I can feel the heat coming off his body. It feels good because I’m cold. Naked and cold.
Suddenly, he reaches for me, bending down. Before I can get really scared, he slides one arm around my back and another under my knees.
Then he lifts me effortlessly in his arms and carries me to the bed.
* * *
He puts me down, almost gently, and I curl into a ball, shaking. He starts to undress, and I can’t help watching him.
He’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and the T-shirt comes off first.
His upper body is a work of art, all broad shoulders, hard muscles, and smooth tan skin. His chest is lightly dusted with dark hair. Under some other circumstances, I would’ve been thrilled to have such a good-looking lover.
Under these circumstances, I just want to scream.
His jeans are next. I can hear the sound of his zipper being lowered, and it galvanizes me into action.
In a second, I go from lying on the bed to scrambling for the door—which he’d left open.
I may be small, but I’m fast on my feet. I did track for ten years and was quite good at it. Unfortunately, I hurt my knee during one of the races, and now I’m limited to more leisurely runs and other forms of exercise.
I make it out the door, down the stairs, and I’m almost to the front door when he catches me.
His arms close around me from behind, and he squeezes me so hard that I can’t breathe for a moment. My arms are completely restrained, so I can’t even fight him. He lifts me, and I kick back at him with my heels. I manage to land a few kicks before he turns me around to face him.
I’m sure he’s going to hurt me now, and I brace myself for a blow.
Instead, he just pulls me into his embrace and holds me tightly. My face is buried in his chest, and my naked body is pressed against his. I can smell the clean, musky scent of his skin and feel something hard and warm against my stomach.
He’s fully naked and turned on.
With the way he’s holding me, I’m almost completely helpless. I can neither kick nor scratch him.
But I can bite.
So I sink my teeth into his pectoral muscle and hear him curse before he yanks on my hair, forcing me to release his flesh.
Then he holds me like that, one arm wrapped around my waist, my lower body tightly pressed against him. His other hand is fisted in my hair, holding my head arched back. My hands are pushing at his chest in a futile attempt to put some distance between us.
I meet his gaze defiantly, ignoring the tears running down my face. I have no choice but to be brave now. If I die, I want to at least retain some dignity.
His expression is dark and angry, his blue eyes narrowed at me.
I am breathing hard, and my heart is beating so fast I feel like it might jump out of my chest. We look at each other—predator and prey, the conqueror and the conquered—and in that moment, I feel an odd sort of connection to him. Like a part of myself is forever altered by what’s happening between us.
Suddenly, his face softens. A smile appears on his sensuous lips.
Then he leans toward me, lowers his head, and presses his mouth to mine.
I am stunned. His lips are gentle, tender as they explore mine, even as he holds me with an iron grip.
He’s a skilled kisser. I’ve kissed quite a few guys, and I’ve never felt anything like this. His breath is warm, flavored with something sweet, and his tongue teases my lips until they part involuntarily, granting him access to my mouth.
I don’t know if it’s the aftereffects of the drug he gave me or the simple relief that he’s not hurting me, but I melt at that kiss. A strange languor spreads through my body, sapping my will to fight.
He kisses me slowly, leisurely, as though he has all the time in the world. His tongue strokes against mine, and he lightly sucks on my lower lip, sending a surge of liquid heat straight to my core. His hand eases its grip on my hair and cradles the back of my head instead. It’s almost like he’s making love to me.
I find my hands holding on to his shoulders. I have no idea how they got there, but I’m now clinging to him instead of pushing him away. I don’t understand my own reaction. Why am I not cringing away from his kiss in disgust?
It just feels so good, that incredible mouth of his. It’s like kissing an angel. It makes me forget the situation for a second, enables me to push the terror away.
He pulls away and looks down on me. His lips are wet and shiny, a little swollen from our kiss. Mine probably are too.
He no longer seems angry. Instead, he looks hungry and pleased at the same time. I can see both lust and tenderness on his perfect face, and I can’t tear my eyes away.