“What are you doing?” she demands, trying to turn, but I brace her shoulders with my hands, locking her down. Panic lifts in her voice. “Chris, stop! What are you doing?”
I lift the top half of the dungeon stock and, pressing my hand to the back of her head, shove her neck into the chamber, then drop the top into place. A moment later I’m kneeling in front of her and, too gently for what she deserves, I grab her hair, tugging her face upward.
“You can’t do this,” she hisses.
“I just did. And if I find out Amber is let back into any of your clubs, I’ll use my substantial financial resources to shut them all down.”
“And then where will you be, mon amour, when you need me again?” she taunts.
“I told you: anyone can hold a whip, Isabel. You were just the one I didn’t have to have sex with.”
“Piece of shit!” she blasts in English. “You aren’t the only one with resources. There are powerful people who come to me, who’ll protect me. They’ll make you pay for this.”
“They might blink at your threats, but I won’t. After what I saw today with Amber, even if I let you stay open, we’ll be discussing the terms in which you operate.”
“I discuss nothing with you.”
“We’ll see about that. We’ll let someone know you require assistance after we’re out of the club without interference. Feel free to scream for help, though no one will hear in this soundproof room. Poetic justice, considering you try so hard to get people to beg for mercy—don’t you think?”
“She came to me wanting the same escape you begged for, and I gave it to her. What have you given her?”
“You,” I say. “And I’ll never forgive myself for that.”
I push to my feet to find Amber has been cut free and Tristan is standing in front of her, his big body covering hers. I return to the exit, where I’ve left the woman I love to witness this insanity.
My steps quicken, and just the idea that she won’t be there is absolutely gutting me. I yank open the door, and Sara is there immediately, looking haunted, her pale skin a striking contrast to her long dark hair.
We stare at each other, the air thickening between us, and I feel Sara like I do my own soul, and I need to protect her. Though I know that opening her eyes is protecting her, it’s all I can do not to throw her over my shoulder and carry her out of here.
“Stop it, Amber! Stop!”
At Tristan’s deep command, I turn to find a still-naked Amber running toward Isabel, clearly intending to free her. Tristan shackles her wrist and she whirls on him, raking her fingers down his face and then slamming a fist into his groin. Tristan grunts, buckles at the middle, and goes down hard to one knee. Amber sobs and sinks down beside him, curling into a fetal position.
Anticipating that Sara will try to help, I reach for her arm at the same moment she starts forward. “No, baby. I know you want to help, but she could hurt you. I need to deal with her.”
Her eyes meet mine and she says, “Just get us all out here, Chris. Just . . . do what you have to do.”
In that moment, she is strength and she is beautiful in that way she never sees, but I do. “Stay back and don’t let the door slam, or you’ll be locked out again.”
She nods and I move toward Amber.
Tristan has shaken off his pain enough to lift his head. “I’m done. She’s yours to survive, if you can.”
In that moment, I know Amber has played us all. She knew how to get Tristan to call me. She knew there was a good chance I’d bring Sara if I came here. And she damn sure knew she could push Tristan to his limit, forcing me into playing hero while Sara watched. For a moment I think we’re all enabling her by participating, and I consider walking out the door and leaving her here—but I can’t. Not when I played a role in creating her. But what she doesn’t know is that Tristan isn’t the only one at his limit. I am, too. I won’t allow her to continue on this path anymore.
I go to Amber and bend down beside her, picking her up and rising to my feet. She curls into my chest and whispers, “I’m sorry, Chris. I’m so sorry,” so that Tristan, who is the one who deserves the apology, can hear her. And I have never felt as shitty, or ready to shake sense into her, as I am now.
Trying to make this as easy on everyone as possible, I quickly leave the room and start down the hallway with its numerous doorways leading to playrooms. I cut to the left and head to Isabel’s private quarters.
Opening the door, automatic lights flicker to a dim glow as I shove through the sheer curtain Isabel uses for effect. Walking forward, I barely glance at the various “play” areas around the room, stopping at the centerpiece of the room—the massive bed, covered with white fur.
Setting Amber down, I drag a blanket around her and then step away. She sits up, remarkably dry-eyed as she lets the blanket fall away. Still manipulating. Still playing games. “Get dressed, Amber,” I order shortly, my eyes locked with hers. “When you do, we’ll decide how to get you home, where we’ll talk. I’m pretty sure Tristan won’t be giving you a ride.” Seeing how unaffected she seems infuriates me. “He deserves better than how you just treated him.”
Her chin lifts defiantly, not a tear in sight. “Like I deserved better?”
“Yes,” I say tightly. “Like you did. Only I didn’t do what I did to you intentionally. Evidently, the same doesn’t apply with you for Tristan.” Ready to be out of here, I start for the door.