The longer I remain trapped with him, the more I come to suspect that I’m not the only captive in his brother’s home. Andrés’ scars go deeper than the wicked furrows carved into his flesh, his pain reflected in the dark demands he imposes upon me. His obsession is twisted and wrong, but maybe I’m twisted, too.
Do I want to be rescued from him? Or is he the one who truly needs saving?
Toxic fear engulfed me, freezing the scream that had escaped me for mere seconds. Cristian stepped behind me so his brother’s camera could get clearer footage of the horror I was enduring. His big fist tangled in my hair, jerking my head back so I had no choice but to stare up into his cruel black eyes.
The cold tip of the knife scraped upward from the center of my throat, grazing over my skin as it traced a path under my chin. I stopped breathing when the flat of the blade swiped across the line of my lips. A high whimper slipped through them, the resultant vibration threatening to make the knife pierce my skin. As it was, the tightly packed nerve endings on my lips sparked as the cool metal kissed them.
The knife left my mouth, but I didn’t have time to suck in a panting breath before the frigid blade returned to my throat.
“You were in my territory today, watching my people. One of my men followed you home. Who are you working for?” he demanded.
“I’m FBI,” I said, my voice barely more than a whisper. With the knife at my throat, I could scarcely draw the breath I needed to speak.
He frowned at me. “A sniper made an attempt on my life a few days ago. The feds wouldn’t assassinate me. Who are you really working for?” The blade sliced a thin, stinging line across my throat.
“I really am FBI,” I said in a rush, the truth spilling from my lips. If he knew I was a federal agent, he wouldn’t dare hurt me. “My name is Samantha Browning. I’m a tech analyst. Well, I was. I’m a field agent now. I’m not trying to kill you. We’re investigating you. You have to know you’re on our radar. Please, I swear I’m FBI.” I was aware that I was babbling, but I couldn’t stop pleading for my life.
He considered me for a long, terrifying moment, weighing my fate. “You’re a tech analyst? That means you have access to all the evidence the feds have on me. If you’re telling the truth about who you are.”
“I am,” I said quickly. “You can’t hurt me. If you do, my friends will come after you.”
“I think I’ll give you to my brother, after all,” he mused. “He’ll make sure you’re telling the truth. I’d rather not mutilate you, if you’re going to be useful to me. Andrés has more creative ways of breaking women. And I’ll keep our little video to ourselves. If you are who you say you are, I’d rather your friends at the FBI didn’t know I have you.”
The knifepoint pressed against my cheek, just below my left eye. The pressure increased slightly, and I felt warmth bead on my skin. It slid down my cheek like a crimson tear. My eyes watered, and Cristian’s handsome face wavered above me.
“Maybe I’ll give you a scar to match my brother’s first,” he mused.
A deep growl sounded from a few feet in front of me, and I knew it came from Andrés. I couldn’t so much as glance in his direction; Cristian’s long fingers in my hair kept me immobile.
A sharp grin lit his features with amusement. “Apparently, he wants you mostly intact. Should I give him what he wants?”
The fearsome growl sounded again, a wordless warning. I shuddered, equally as frightened of the prospect of his desire to have me as I was of the knife piercing my cheek.
“Not the face, then,” Cristian said decisively. “But I think I’ll let Andrés see what he’s getting to work with.”
The knife left my face, but the blade instantly hooked beneath the top button of my shirt. It gave way easily as the sharp steel tore through thread. He continued to move the blade downward, trailing a sickening path between my breasts, over my navel, down to the top of my slacks. The fabric fell open with a flick of the knife, leaving me exposed in my white cotton bra.
A plea for mercy locked in my throat. I couldn’t speak, could barely breathe. My mind began to shut down, the adrenaline created by fear clouding my brain.
Cristian’s fingers tightened in my hair, giving me a bite of pain. “Stay with us, Samantha,” he ordered smoothly.
The world sharpened around me with cruel clarity just before pain sliced into me. The tip of the knife grated a torturously slow line along my right collarbone. The cut was shallow, but blood welled up as the blade scraped bone. The scream that had been trapped inside me burst out as pain seared through me. He hooked the blade beneath the little strip of cotton at the middle of my bra, parting the fabric and exposing me.
My scream choked off on a sob as terror mingled with humiliation.
“What do you think, hermanito?” Cristian asked with mild interest. “Is she pretty enough for you? She’s not a great beauty, but her nipples stand out nicely against her pale skin.”
My skin turned frigid, my flesh pebbling as ice sank into my veins. I vaguely recognized that I was going into shock as my entire body began to shake violently.
“And her eyes are quite lovely,” he continued in detached observation. “So much fear there. You like when they’re frightened, don’t you, Andrés?”
His low grunt in reply rolled around my mind, but my capacity for conscious thought had been ripped to shreds. The knife left my breasts to slice through the ropes that bound my wrists behind me. I slumped forward, my watery muscles incapable of holding me upright.
Strong arms closed around my shoulders, bracing me before I slid to the floor. I was dimly aware of my body being lifted. My head lolled back, and the last thing I saw before my mind short-circuited was Andrés’ fearsome, scarred face looming over me.
Stinging pain on my chest yanked me back to awareness, and I bolted upright with a gasp. Panic blinded me, but firm hands gripped my upper arms, pressing me back down against something soft that cushioned my body. I was no longer sitting on the unyielding metal chair. I recognized the feel of a mattress beneath me, and my torso was pinned down against it by a strong, masculine hold.
I squirmed and kicked, instinctively trying to fight my way free. I became aware of cool air against my breasts, and I realized I was still exposed. My heart hammered against my ribcage, and I doubled my efforts to fight off the man holding me down, my fingers clawing blindly. His hands easily encircled my wrists, trapping them at either side of my hips.
“Calm down, cosita, or I’ll have to restrain you.” I recognized the soft Colombian accent.
Moreno had me. He’d hurt me, stripped me…
Oh god. He’d given me to his terrifying brother. Andrés.
And now I was half-naked and helpless in his steely hold.
I couldn’t stop thrashing, my muscles rippling with effort to break free. My stomach twisted, nausea rising as the full horror of my situation came down on me.
A low sound of disapproval grated against my mind. His grip instantly shifted, tugging my arms over my head. He secured them there with one big hand. Something cool and supple encircled my right wrist. Metal jingled against metal as he buckled the cuff into place.
I twisted my entire body, trying to angle myself so I could kick out at him. Desperation clawed at my insides, and all my training left my head as animal terror took hold. My awkward attempts to resist him made no effect, and he quickly secured my other wrist.
Working in silence, he caught my left ankle, pulling it diagonally toward the bottom corner of the bed. My eyes finally focused and I watched in helpless horror as he bound my legs to either side of the four-poster, spreading me wide. I still wore my slacks, but I felt terribly exposed and vulnerable.
I thrashed against the restraints, but he pressed his big palm against my bare abdomen, pinning me down against the mattress and effectively ending my struggles. All I could do was jerk uselessly against the cuffs. Fear coursed through me. My fight-or-flight instincts had settled on flight, but there was nowhere for me to go. That didn’t stop my body from twisting like a wild thing, panic beating against the inside of my chest.
His dark eyes watched me with calm certainty as he simply waited. I wasn’t sure how long it took for my muscles to burn with exertion, and I finally gave up, my limbs trembling where they were stretched above and below me, laying me out before him.
“Are you done?” he asked coolly.
“Fuck you,” I seethed, my acid tongue the only weapon left to me.
Keeping me pinned in place with one hand, his other swiftly came down and cracked across the outer swell of my breasts, one after the other in rapid succession. My sensitive flesh instantly began to burn, and I cried out. I couldn’t escape the pain; I was trapped in place for the harsh censure.
Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, and he finally stopped.
“I won’t tolerate insults,” he said, still unnervingly calm. It almost would have been less disconcerting if he’d shouted. “You will speak to me with respect. Do you understand?”
“No.” The refusal came out as a horrified moan.
“You will understand soon,” he said, utterly confident. “You’re frightened, but you will learn. For now, I’m warning you not to curse at me again. Tell me you’ll obey.”
The tears came faster, spilling down my temples and falling into my hair.
His face shifted to a forbidding mask. “Tell me.”
I couldn’t manage more than a fearful whimper, but I nodded shakily. I didn’t want him to slap me again, and I recognized that there was nothing I could do to prevent him from doing it if he decided he wanted to.
His countenance softened, his scar easing so it wasn’t as pronounced. “In the future, I will expect a verbal answer. You belong to me now, Samantha. Defiance will lead to punishment. Obedience will be rewarded. You choose whichever you want. I might seem like a harsh Master, but I’m fair. Your behavior has consequences, either painful or pleasurable for you.”
“Please,” I forced out past the lump in my throat. “I can’t… I don’t… Don’t…” I began to pant out the fragmented words as my breathing turned shallower, until I was gasping but not drawing in air.
His hands bracketed my face, shockingly gentle. “Breathe,” he ordered, his accented voice low and soft, as though trying to soothe a frightened animal.
I certainly felt like a panicked, primal thing; trapped and terrified.
His fingers threaded through my hair on either side of my head, massaging gently.
“Breathe with me,” he cajoled. He drew in a slow, deep breath and then blew it out on a long exhale. “Again,” he commanded, and I vaguely recognized that I’d obeyed and matched his breathing, my lungs too desperate for oxygen to resist. I sucked in another shaky breath, mirroring him. We repeated the process several more times, until I was able to breathe almost normally. I sank down into the mattress as my body went limp, all the fight going out of me as exhaustion sapped my mind.
“Better.” He nodded his approval. His gaze finally diverted from my face, and he reached for a damp cloth that he’d placed beside me on the bed. “You’re still bleeding,” he told me. “I’m going to clean you up. This will sting a little. Stay still.”
I couldn’t have moved away even if I still possessed any willpower to do so. One of his hands remained bracketed at the side of my face, his thumb hooking beneath my jaw to hold me steady.
The cool cloth gently touched my cheek, and I hissed in pain. Just as he’d warned me, the solution that soaked the cloth stung, and I knew it was more than water.
“Good girl,” he said, the warm praise in his tone fucking with my addled mind. I only recognized the comfort in it, unable to process the twisted nature of how he was manipulating me. Anything was preferable to the unrelenting terror that had utterly sapped my will and smothered all thought of resistance.
He continued his gentle ministrations, his dark eyes completely focused on his task as he cleaned the cut on my collarbone. Keening sounds eased up my throat, and he softly shushed me.
When he finished, he sat back and considered me for a long moment, his black eyes searching mine. Instinct urged me to look away, to escape his probing gaze. The intensity with which he watched me made it impossible for me to break eye contact. I shuddered violently, unable to bear his scrutiny.
His grip on my face shifted, and his calloused fingertips smoothed over the furrow in my brow.
“You’re hurting,” he remarked. “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
He reached for something else on the bed beside me, and I cringed when my gaze fixed on it: a syringe. I didn’t want to be unconscious again, helpless and unable to defend myself.
“My brother gave me this in case I needed to subdue you, but it will take away your pain. I told you, I’m a fair Master. I won’t hurt you if you don’t earn a punishment.”
“I don’t want it,” I managed to whisper.
“I decide what’s best for you from now on,” he declared calmly.
“Please,” I begged uselessly as he carefully slid the needle into my arm.
“Hush now, cosita,” he murmured. “You’ll feel better when you wake up.”
“No,” I slurred, the drugs making my tongue heavy within seconds.
His long fingers smoothed over my hair, petting me as I fell into darkness.