I swallowed very hard and took a long slow breath.

“All you want to do is hurt me,” I said calmly. A hint of fear laced my words. I expected more violence but didn’t give a shit. Instead he shushed me.

“Come here,” he said, very gently, sounding so safe. “It’s going to be okay.”

He grabbed me roughly and turned my face into his chest. Before I had any thought about it, I wrapped my arms around him and held on to him as hard as I could. He was my tormentor and my solace; the creator of the dark and the light within. I didn’t care that he would undoubtedly hurt me at any moment, right now; I just needed somebody to hold me, somebody to be kind to me, somebody to tell me exactly those words. It’s going to be okay. It wasn’t of course, I knew that. But I didn’t care. I needed the lie. I needed my books, my movies, and now Caleb’s arms.

He held me for what seemed like an eternity and rocked me gently, until all my crying had lulled and I simply rested against him. “Please don’t leave me in here. I hate it in here.”

His fingers caressed the side of my face and it gave me hope. But then I felt him inch his way out of the bed. Without a word of reassurance, he gathered his clothes and left me.

Lost, I lay back down and pulled my pillows closer. They smelled like him.

EIGHT

The door opened slowly, Caleb’s shadow significantly less ominous, haloed by the light of the room behind him. I was, dare I admit it, relieved to see him. Caleb. I stopped myself before I said his name and instead took a huge breath. I sat…I waited. He stood by the door, and then leaned against it casually. What looked like a silk nightgown was held almost carelessly in his left hand. I stared at it as he held it out toward me. Weary, I tried to make out his expression in the dark. Was this another f**king game? If so, it was the cruelest yet.

“Well, Kitten? Are you going to put it on or are you finally over your self-indulgent modesty?” I waited for the tease to play out, but he continued to stare at me with a quizzical expression. I walked toward him, and grabbed it from his hand fully expecting to meet with resistance. When I didn’t, I fell forward slightly, my cheek colliding with his chest for a brief moment before I righted myself. He laughed and it was almost…sweet.

The fabric was soft and sensual as it glided through my fingers while I discerned the opening. I had never been this close to the open door and my excitement was palpable. The light filtering in from the room behind him beckoned me sharply. I fumbled with the slippery silk.

Caleb’s hands unexpectedly reached out for mine. He held them still, steadying my trembling, overly excited hands. I looked up at him, finally able to make out his features in the glow of the adjoining room. I was strangely excited to see him in the light, to really see him, as plainly as I had that fated day on the street. It seemed a lifetime ago.

His right hand lifted toward my face. It was pure instinct that bade me to close my eyes when his fingers caressed first my brow, then my cheekbone, the curve of my jaw, and finally, his thumb across the bow of my lips. I swayed. My former instincts to fend off his caresses had left me at some point but I couldn’t recall when exactly they had stopped. His touches were expected now. My skin unconsciously eager, waiting for a stroke to feed this new hunger in me. I could suddenly feel his weight at my back, hear his low grunts in my ear as he had taken his pleasure from me. I released the nightgown into his all too capable hands and opened my eyes, expectant but also bemused. I tried, and failed to suppress a shudder when his hands slipped it on over my head. The silk licked my flesh from head to toe, first cool, then warm as it absorbed my heat.

“There,” his voice was hoarse. Another caress, this one down my arm. I stared at his chest, the dark buttons against dark cloth. He took my hand and led me out the door. My ni**les hardened, pressing against the silk.

He was really going to let me out? “Come,” he said, giving a small smile of approval. But I froze. I kept asking myself: is this really happening? And like always, the answer was: yes.

I stepped into the living room as if I stepped into a whole other world. It was one I was strangely frightened to enter. I hesitated, the room felt too big, too cold, and too bright to my sensitive eyes. I squeezed Caleb’s hand, needing to make certain he was close to me, and then stopped. I recognized the ridiculousness of my thought process, but also knew there was no way to change it. What was it called when a hostage took refuge behind her abductor? Stockholm’s? Did I have it? Could you catch it like the flu? I knew it was stupid to wonder. The simple answer was I didn’t want to run into that other guy, the one that took me—that’s all. Yes, yes, of course. These thoughts soothed me. Caleb hadn’t gotten to me, not like that. Hasn’t he? I shook off the thought and let go of Caleb’s hand to emphasize my point. Take that inner monologue.

My eyes devoured every surface, any object because who knew when I’d be put back in my black box. I looked up at the ceiling, some twelve feet high, and marveled at the thick wooden beams that ran from wall to wall. It was beautiful, old, and grandiose. Beneath my feet were ceramic tiles, large ones, some with flower-like designs. Tapestries and wall sconces lined the large room, accentuating the low antique looking chairs. I felt like I was in an eighteenth century sitting room. Any minute now, a man wearing a cravat and brandishing a stylish, if not useless walking stick was going to enter the room and offer me tea. Though one look at the arched entrance to a hallway directly opposite my room and I knew the man would probably not be English. This place had a lot of Spanish vibes. Where the hell was I? To the left I spied a type of kitchen area. There was a table at least. And directly across, to my right I finally saw…a window.

I think I let out a giddy squeal. I ran to the window, shaking off Caleb’s grasp when he tried to stop me, but he didn’t pursue me. I gripped the bars, peering out. It was still night! I was hoping it was daylight; I hadn’t seen the sun in…in…in? My brain couldn’t process anything beyond seeing the outside world. I was still trapped. This was a prison within a prison. Still, this was more freedom than I had had in a long time, a taste, but it would have to be enough to sustain me.

Overwhelmed, I stared out into the night. I reached through the bars, wishing they weren’t there, and touched the window, the warmth of the glass. The landscape was muted and hard to make out; the moon, nowhere to be seen. I wondered if this black immutable landscape was why he’d let me out this night—I couldn’t tell where the hell I was. I could be three blocks from home, or in an entirely different country. That gnawed at me, Mexico was way too close to California and yet too far away from any expectation of rescue. Caleb’s voice invaded my thoughts, “Are you hungry?” he said behind me, way behind me.

I didn’t look back at him, absorbed in the darkness outside, and distracted by everything else. I managed a, “Kind of.”

“Well, it’s ‘kind of’ a yes or no question. I’d appreciate it if you answered me properly, and face me when I speak to you.” I ripped my eyes away from the window and looked at him. He had that big smile on his face again. The same smile he had been using to cause so much inner turmoil. In the dark, it twisted me in knots, in the light – it was almost crippling.

“I’m sorry Master,” I said, regaining my composure. “Yes…I’m hungry.” I turned toward the window and squeezed the bars. His words echoed in my head, “You feel so good. I love your tight little ass.”

“There’s chicken and rice, or tamales. Which would you prefer?”

“Um, the rice?” I responded, turning around again. Even this felt like a test, a game. I wasn’t feeling all that hungry, but I was afraid if I didn’t eat I’d have to go back inside my prison. He grabbed the leftovers from the refrigerator and spooned the contents out onto a plate. How domestic of him.

“I was just getting ready to eat when you decided to have your little…episode.” He spoke so casually, as though we were conversing about the color scheme of the room. He carefully and quietly closed the microwave door and set the timer, going about this mundane task. My episode. He’d been inside me, deep. I felt a twinge of pain and a flutter of desire at the same time. My stomach clenched. Episode.

What he called an episode, I knew was a life changing event. I would never be the same and it didn’t seem to matter to him. I blinked rapidly. Do not cry Livvie.

I must have been unsuccessful in cloaking my emotions because he quickly added, “No more crying Kitten. No more dark so no more tears.” He slipped the spoon he used into his mouth and opened the refrigerator again. I stood there, staring at him like an idiot not sure what I should do. I nodded. It was all I was capable of.

He took two beers out of the fridge and set them on the counter before removing the plate from the microwave. “Here, take this,” he handed me the plate, “be careful it’s hot. Sit at the table.” I held the plate in my hands, still standing and staring before the heat started to burn my hands.

“Shit!” I exclaimed and hurried to set the hot plate down on the table. He laughed under his breath as he put another plate of food in the microwave. I sucked my middle and ring fingers on my left hand, feeling like a moron.


Tags: C.J. Roberts The Dark Duet Series Romance
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