Her friend attempted to pull her along, but she fought back.
“I’m not leaving, Luanna. This is my home now. I can’t go.”
She threw up her arms. “He’s brainwashed you. Can’t you see that? Any male will promise you the world because of that band. It means nothing.”
Tears pricked her eyes. She refused to believe it. Draven was different.
“I could be pregnant already. I can’t leave him. I won’t leave him. If you were smart, you’d see this place for what it really is and give it a chance. The world outside these walls is a terrible place. You know that, Luanna!”
Luanna paced back and forth. Ashley noticed the figure in the doorway first.
Her friend turned, but it was too late. Three men plowed into the room, knocking Luanna to the ground. The first one grabbed Ashley by the arm and tossed her into another man’s arms. He squeezed her so tight, she lost her breath.
“Get your hands off her!” Luanna shouted from the floor, and one of the men kicked her in the ribs.
Ashley screamed. “Don’t hurt her!”
She dropped her weight, trying to get out of the man’s grasp, but he was too strong. Ashley twisted and writhed, fighting with every ounce of strength. The man holding her reeked of body odor, making her stomach roil.
They dragged her towards the doorway, and she knew she had to fight being taken. The replay of her stint in the government facility came back to her. She refused to be an incubator, a toy for men to use and abuse.
“Let me go!” she chanted.
Luanna got to her feet and bolted to the balcony, swinging the doors open. She screamed for help, then turned and looked Ashley right in the eyes. “Oh God, the gates have been breached.”
Cold dread made her shiver uncontrollably. This was a nightmare in the making. Her adrenaline rush must have given her added strength because a second man had to grab her ankles and they carried her through the room like a used carpet.
The man in the lead stopped dead.
A hulking frame blocked the doorway.
Her nerves tingled as the relief cascaded through her veins. But he was one man against three, and there could be dozens more if the gates had been penetrated.
“You’re touching my woman,” said Draven, his voice eerily steady. “That was your first mistake.” He grabbed the lead man by the shirt, tugging him under his arm long enough to break his neck. It happened so fast, so proficiently, that she almost missed it. The sickening sound was followed by the heavy body collapsing to the ground. Draven stepped over the dead man, evil dancing in his eyes. He moved forward without hesitation, without fear.
She’d never seen this side of him, but she knew he had a checkered past that continued to haunt him.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked. Draven held out both his arms to the side. “This is my kingdom, and I’m sure you’ve heard that I don’t tolerate trespassers.”
“We don’t want trouble. Just the girl,” said the man holding her legs.
Draven tutted, his stance dripping of a man with confidence. “Can’t have that now, can I?”
Draven stared down at the cages in the basement. Ten men in total had been captured, five of his own men and five from the outside.
The small group with the fertile woman left at first light, probably glad to get away from his kingdom after the chaos last night. Draven couldn’t provide the safe haven they probably expected, which pissed him off more.
Luke stood next to him, not saying a word. They had lost three more men because of Ashley. He knew there was fear growing within the camp. Running a hand down his face, he felt the night’s stubble that had grown. He was so fucking tired, and his body ached.
The men were unconscious for the time being. Turning off the single light, Draven made his way up out of the basement, locking the door behind him.
Luanna sat at the kitchen table, holding a drink of honey and lemon. The lemons weren’t fresh, but they’d salvaged those cheap-ass bottles from the supermarket. They had raided one a few weeks ago and gotten as much food and medical supplies as they could.
“If you want to leave, you can. You’re not taking Ashley with you.”
“You still think this is safe? They were your men as well. How can you even think of keeping her here?” Luanna got to her feet, glaring at him.
“Have you been touched?”
“It’s a pretty simple fucking question. Have you been touched?”
“Abused in any way?” His voice grew louder as he demanded answers.
“No!” She screamed the last one.
“So you want to leave the safety of this house for the outside world? Luke, do me a favor, tell Luanna how often occurrences like last night happen?”