Kéleb, the man continued to call him, then grabbed him by the nape and dragged him across the floor while he struggled to crawl on hands and knees.

The boy cried.

Screamed.

Begged for his mother.

She never came. He hated her.

***

The air was thick. Tangible. Filled with an all-consuming excitement for things to come. She wasn’t far. His fingers curled tighter around the steering wheel of the SUV. Stroke her, or strangle her? He still didn’t know. He only knew he wanted his hands on her. He gripped the wheel tighter and pressed farther down on the gas pedal. Jair gave him a bemused look from the passenger seat. Fuck him.

“How did she get away?” Jair accused. Caleb shot him a look he hoped could murder him where he sat. Jair only smiled. “She must be good. I look forward to having a taste after Rafiq learns she’s ruined.”

Caleb said nothing, focused instead on controlling the rage running rampant through his veins. This time was critical. He still didn’t know Rafiq’s purpose in Jair and reacting would only lend credence to things that weren’t true. Caleb’s loyalties remained intact, even if his resolve had wavered for a fraction of a moment. “Touch her and I’ll cut off your hands,” he grated. Stupid. “We’re here.”

Caleb parked the SUV some distance from their intended target. The house hadn’t been difficult to spot. It was the only house with any lights on and the only one blaring music. Still, he didn’t want to risk losing the element of surprise. “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” One of the very first lessons in Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War.

The second car containing Jair’s cousins pulled up behind them and cut the engine. The three men exited the vehicle and immediately walked to the rear of the SUV to retrieve their weapons. Caleb’s hand sought his S&W Model 29 revolver with its powerful .44 magnum cartridges; it was enough to blow a hole through a door. Or a face. Whatever. He looked at Jair, resisting the urge to shoot him in the head and just be done with it, but he managed to restrain himself. Jair still had some uses.

Caleb looked at the revolver. He hadn’t fired it in quite some time, but already a familiar feeling was making its way through his fingers, up his arm, spreading through his chest and forcing his heart to speed. His head swam with adrenaline, and three feet below that he grew semi-erect at the thought of killing and taking back what was rightfully his.

Jair checked his AK-47 and Caleb observed how he stroked the weapon. He understood Jair in ways he rarely did. Blood lust and that shared understanding, that there was any commonality between them, made him feel nothing but disgust. Jair snorted and spat on the ground near Caleb’s feet. Caleb drew his weapon, checking its functionality and watching Jair. Both their fingers curved around the trigger of their weapons. “Well?” Jair challenged, when Caleb said nothing Jair continued, “Let’s go retrieve your little whore.”

He wasn’t afraid. Fear was reserved for those who had something to live for. Caleb was long over fear. As his gaze swept from Jair to his cousins, he let them see. He let them see there was nothing inside, and each man looked away, hiding his own fear. Jair sneered. Caleb turned his back on them, his way of letting them know who was in complete control, and to follow.

The trunk was closed with a soft click, but to Caleb it’d exploded, a feeling cutting through him. He didn’t look back. Jair and his men eventually followed. Their steps crunching against the dusty, pebbled ground resonated in the stark stillness of pre-dawn. Up ahead the lights grew brighter, the music louder and finally Caleb heard voices. Loud, angry, hysterical voices. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong and again, that foreign sensation – it stirred and bloomed. His heart stuttered. His steps faltered and he paused to regain control. A deep, calm breath. Another. And another. A sound, feminine and angry traveled down the distance. Before he knew it - he ran. The men followed quietly behind.

Caleb pulled up short as he neared so that none inside would even realize they were there. He took cover beneath a small window.

“You are such a dumb f**k! What the hell are we supposed to do with her now?” a man yelled inside. Caleb’s heart slammed in his chest and he was rendered nearly deaf by the sound thundering in his ears. He fought to control his breathing. What had they done to her?

“The f**king bitch bit me, what did you want me to do!” another man replied. Caleb carefully lifted his head and looked through the window. He recognized the biker from the bar, the one who called himself Tiny. He was a big sonofabitch and he only looked more so as he paced the small living room in his clunky biker boots. He pushed his hand through his long, greasy hair and spoke again, “What the f**k were you ass**les doing in there to begin with? I told you not to f**k with her.”

A petite blonde appeared from an area behind the two arguing men. Street trash, Caleb thought, too much makeup and too little clothing, and hungry, always starving for something. And unpredictable. “We were just messing around Tiny. She’s the one who got crazy.”

Tiny pointed – nothing but menace in his eyes. “You stay out of this bitch. I know what you were doing there.”

Caleb tried to assess how many combatants were in the house by sight and sound. It wasn’t a large house but big enough and sounds carried in a bare space. And where was the girl? It took every ounce of self-control for Caleb to remain where he was. He needed to know what he was up against. If the girl was still alive he needed to make sure he could get to her before the shooting started. If. If she’s alive…if. He pressed against the trigger of his weapon. One thing he was certain of, if any of them had hurt her….

The one with the lanky black hair had done something to her. He had hurt her, possibly raped her…killed her. Caleb swallowed past the dryness in his mouth. He was going to kill that motherfucker and he was going to make the blonde watch, giving her a preview of things to come.

“Fuck you Tiny,” the blonde retorted, “Blame Abe and Joker, they’re the ones who couldn’t keep their dicks in their pants. Not. Me.”

Caleb bit the inside of his mouth until he tasted blood. The men behind him shifted their feet in the dirt as they waited for Caleb to give the signal.

“This is the only entrance,” Jair whispered, breaking through his murderous thoughts. “How many inside?”

“Two men and a woman in the living room, at least one more in the back. There could be others.” It was time. The girl could be dead or dying and Caleb didn’t have time to wait for the rest of the gang to emerge.

“There’s five bikes out here,” Jair pointed out.

Caleb gave a nod. “Two missing. Jair, Dani, the two of you bust in the door and the rest of us will come in behind you. I’ll head toward the back with Khalid and find the girl.” He glanced over at Jair and the man smiled. “When it begins, make them feel it. I don’t want it to be quick.”

“For once, you and I agree.” The smile grew even broader. “I like this side of you Caleb.”

***

Narweh’s English consisted only of simple words and phrases – yes, no, eat, sleep, come, and sex. His main form of communication was using a stick to beat understanding into the boys, though sometimes, he did much worse.

There were other things that went on, things Kéleb forced himself not to think about. When he was pliant he was often rewarded with food, clothing, or gifts from different men, and though he loathed what he did to get such rewards, he’d done his best to endure. When he refused, the beatings that took place were more than some grown men could withstand.

Eventually, Kéleb grew in years, height, and beauty. Armed with all these, his arrogance and quick wit were soon to follow. He knew more Arabic than English, though the English boys helped him retain a rudimentary knowledge. He soon chose his tormentors, pitting them against one another with the promise of true affection, though he was incapable of giving it. Still a child in the eyes of many and treated with little more than cruelty he understood only one thing – survival.

Each night, as he huddled close to his partners in suffering on the dirty floor of the brothel they were held in he remembered less and less the boy he had been. Worse, he no longer cared. He was Dog. It was all he had ever been. Instinct. Hunger.

He was always hungry. For food, for shelter, for power, for more… constantly more. He even learned to crave the pain. It meant he was still alive, still surviving. If he could handle the pain, control his reaction to it, make it work for him instead of against him, then he was free. And more than anything, Kéleb was hungry for freedom.

Narweh knew this. Had always somehow known. It was the reason the other girls and boys were called by alluring names to entice the patrons while he was called Dog. It was meant to demean him, to drag him to a place where he was no longer human. To make him feel less than human. It didn’t work. When Narweh looked into his eyes, Kéleb refused to lower them. And one day Narweh had had enough.

Kéleb knew he was about to be punished. He knelt on the ground and was unafraid. Narweh loved to beat him and he no longer struggled against it. He had too much pride for that.

He gritted his teeth when asked to undress. “It’s to be rape then?” he said in perfect Arabic, “Do your friends know how much you love f**king dogs.” Kéleb’s face throbbed with the slap he received, but he bore it in silence, fists clenched at his sides. He was free, he reminded himself.


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