When I knew Aisling, she was my sister’s best friend.
But that was then.
Now I’m hardened and ruthless.
A bare-knuckle boxer. An enforcer for the Clan.
And that carefree girl is a slave to her addictions with demons in her eyes.
When she witnesses a murder—a murder I committed—
I have no choice but to take her.
I’ll keep her silent.
I’ll keep her hostage.
I’ll see her freed from her addictions.
And then I’ll keep her bound to me… forever.
“Please,” I repeat, closing my eyes because I’m crying, and I fucking hate crying. “Please make it stop,” I whisper.
He watches me, takes another sip from his glass, then slides it on the table beside him. He rises, and for one brief moment in time, I let my gaze roam over him.
He’s grown up, a full grown man now, the reddish hair darkened and a little on the longer side, and he wears a full beard. He’s all angles and planes and power, intimidating as hell with his muscled grace and strength as he walks toward me. He smells strong and masculine, like pine and whiskey and tobacco smoke, and as he nears, my body begins to respond. My shaking intensifies, as terror fills me.
He crouches in front of me, resting his arms on his knees, his large fingers laced together. “Please what?” His voice is rough and deep, commanding my attention.
I swallow hard. “The pain,” I whisper. My voice, in such sharp contrast to his, wavers. “Give me what I need. I’ll give you anything you fucking want.”
The shaking stills when he reaches a hand out to me. He cups my jaw, his thumb tracing the side of my face.
“You’re strung out,” he says, a note of unmistakable anger in his voice. “You’re fucking looking for a hit.”
I close my eyes, and this time, even through my haze, I’m ashamed. He doesn’t know the girl I am now. He knows the girl I once was. I want to hide from him.
“Please,” I whisper again, opening my eyes reluctantly to plead. “I’ll do bloody anything.”
He shakes his head from side to side, and realization begins to dawn on me. I’m prisoner here. I won’t be able to escape. And there’s no fucking way I’ll be able to get what I need.
Fury consumes me. I open my mouth and howl, tears of rage and hopelessness streaming down my cheeks. “Let me go! Let me fucking go! I’ll call the police! I’ll scream! I’ll fucking kill you, I swear to God I will!”
He shakes his head once, from side to side, raises to his feet, and goes back to his drink. Unperturbed. Barely ruffled. He watches me with cold, narrowed eyes as he slugs the rest in one gulp. He slams the glass down on the table so hard it shatters, the only indication that I’ve affected him. But I don’t stop. I scream again, and again, even though I know I’ll regret this, because it’s the only release I can get.
“Let me out!” My voice sounds as if it belongs to another person, so desperate, so pained it hurts even me to hear.
“I warned you,” he says softly. “I don’t have what I need here, but I know where I do.”
He reaches into his pocket and retrieves a knife. Oh God oh God oh fucking God he’s going to hurt me.
“No!” I scream. “Hellllp! Somebody help me, please,” I sob and scream. “He’s going to kill me! Help!”
“Stop that.” His voice is harsh like a cut from a whip. I freeze. “I’m not going to kill you, but if you don’t fucking stop, I am going to give you a bloody hard spanking you’ll remember.”
I freeze. He means what he says, I know it. My thoughts don’t know where to settle, to fight him or push him even harder. A part of me wants him to strike me, as if it will somehow relieve the brutal pain that lashes at my insides.
I watch him flick open the knife. He falls to one knee, muttering, “Ought to spank you anyway for having a fit like this.” He gives me a stern look. “There are women and children living here that don’t need to be scared witless by your screams.”
If he only knew the torment I’m facing, he’d let me scream, unless he’s a monster.
Is he a monster?
I’m sobbing freely as the knife slashes my ropes. When he reaches for my arms, I flinch. He curses under his breath. I don’t catch the words.
He’s rubbing my skin, and some of the burning eases, but just the pain on the surface. The internal burning intensifies, fire licking through my limbs. Soon, he’s got all of me unbound, the tattered ropes scattered around us. My body’s limp, as the fight goes out of me. I slump to the floor, but he catches me.
I’m in his arms. I’m whimpering, curling up into a ball, then I splay out my limbs, but nothing I do eases the burn and pain and shaking. He lifts me up in the air and tosses me over his shoulder, but it scares the hell out of me. I scream and flail, and he quickly tugs me back down. He holds me to his chest, so tightly it almost makes the trembling better, but not quite.
I whimper and tuck myself against him, crying freely. I want to scream again, but it doesn’t help, and I know he doesn’t like it. Even strung out like this, even terrified, I don’t want to scare any children, and he said that I could.
We’re walking through the doorway, and the lights brighten. I hear voices, but they stop when we walk by. He’s rapping out orders like a drill sergeant, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. People shuffle to obey. I’m somewhere between consciousness and confusion. Who is he, that people do his bidding? Does he command them all?
But I don’t care. I don’t care who he is or where we’re going. I just want the burning to stop. We get to the foot of the stairs, and I hear a voice I recognize. I can’t place it, though. I keep my head tucked into his broad chest, and I can’t stop crying. I won’t look at the familiar voice. It’s a woman’s voice, and she’s troubled. She’s crying. We’re both crying. Even through my pain, I want to give her comfort.
Will anyone comfort me?
USA Today bestselling author Jane Henry pens stern but loving alpha heroes, feisty heroines, and emotion-driven happily-ever-afters. She writes what she loves to read: kink with a tender touch. Jane is a hopeless romantic who lives on the East Coast with a houseful of children and her very own Prince Charming.
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