I have to be at least seven feet off the ground right now, dangling as I am over Ike’s—if that is his real name—shoulder. I have no idea where we’re headed or how I’d make it back to Piccadily if I got free. Which is further proof that he’s the monster in question. He doesn’t want me to see where we’re going.

I’ve got your number, buddy.

Ike is just like everyone else (although a whole lot bigger). People live behind smokescreens of kindness and honesty, but as soon as the going gets tough, the smoke clears and reveals the real monster lurking beneath. The fact that Ike is seven feet tall and built like an ox will be a helpful, constant reminder not to trust him.

No, sir. No Stockholm Syndrome for this gal.

The moonlight on the ground vanishes, replaced by flickering lights, and the sound of Ike’s footsteps changes. We’re inside something. A cave?

“Where are we?”

“Home.” His tone drops several octaves. “This is where you will sleep and be fed. By my hand.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

His intense expression when he sets me down says it will, although that intensity gives way to something else. Nerves. He’s scratching at the back of his neck, as if apprehensive to show me where he lives. But that can’t be, right? Do big, scary beasts who require sacrifices get nervous about showing a girl their digs?

No. My brain is playing tricks on me, thanks to my trying evening. It’s not every day a girl gets hogtied and left for dead.

With his peaceful, honey colored eyes and full mouth, he might not be quite as monsterish as I expected, however. In the candlelight, he is almost…beautiful. In a rugged, brutal, caveman way. The harsh planes of his face are covered in a few days’ worth of beard growth, his teeth straight and white. His hands could crush me.

Focus on that. Not his pretty eyes and yoked body.

“So…now that you’ve taken me, what are your plans?”

His tongue travels along the seam of his lips, his gaze tracking down the front of my dress. “I don’t know. My videotapes haven’t taught me much about women. Unless…are you a movie star or perhaps a loveable girl next door?”

“Huh?”

“Nothing.” More neck scratching. “Come. I will show you where we’ll sleep.”

“Together?”

“I have only one bed, Diana. And it gets cold at night. You will be grateful for my warmth.” He rubs a hand over his erection. “And I yours.”

In total contrast to the hunger in his eyes, Ike’s hand on my lower back is respectful and gentle as he guides me farther into the cave. I’m brought up short when I find it looks pretty homey. There is a fire flickering off to the right inside a chiseled stone hearth, a woven chair situated in front. A seriously ancient, battery-operated television/VHS player combo sits perched on the mantle beside a stack of tapes. There is an opening above to allow moonlight inside and it falls on a gigantic, soft-looking pallet that appears to be layers and layers of bedding and pillows. Bathed in the moon’s light and slightly mussed, I can’t help but admit it looks rather inviting. A place to sink in, doze off and forget the outside world.

“Farther back is where I prepare food. Game and supplies are kept in another cave nearby.” His breath warms the top of my head, his oversized hands settling on my hips from behind. “I can show you another time.”

“What about right now?” I say in a rush. “I love supply caves.”

“Another time, tiny person. I’m enjoying having you in my home too much.” Through the material of my dress, one of his fingers tucks into the indent of my belly button and I squeal-giggle, jumping away from Ike and turning to face him. “Hey! That tickles!”

He looks startled. “What does? This?”

His finger boops me in the belly button again and while I bat his hand away, another involuntary laugh escapes me. “Stop!”

“You are laughing,” he breathes. “I like that sound very much.”

“Well don’t get used to it. I’m a kidnapping victim. We tend to be grumpy.”

His mouth turns down at the corners. “What other sounds can you make?”

I push against his hard chest, but he merely looks confused over my efforts to throw him off balance. “I’m not a toy, Ike. I’m a girl.”

“I know full well you are a girl, Diana,” he rumbles, setting off a feathery reaction in my tummy. Like…anticipation. Or excitement? “It is just that….”

Don’t ask. “What?”

“I would like to know the sound you make when you feel pleasure.” His huge chest starts to heave, making his corded abdomen even more impressive. “I would like to know how…I can make you make that sound.”

“Pizza,” I blurt, backing away from him. “Will moan for pizza.”

“Moan?” he rasps, following me. “Yes. That’s what I want to hear.”

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