The longer I remain trapped with him, the more I come to suspect that I’m not the only captive in his brother’s home. Andrés’ scars go deeper than the wicked furrows carved into his flesh, his pain reflected in the dark demands he imposes upon me. His obsession is twisted and wrong, but maybe I’m twisted, too.
Do I want to be rescued from him? Or is he the one who truly needs saving?
I beat my fists against his lower back, thrashing like a wild thing. “No! Please.”
He ignored me, handling me roughly as he pinned my body down on the bench and strapped me in place. Tears dropped down my cheeks as the false image of him I’d built in my mind shattered. He wasn’t doting. He wasn’t nice.
He was unstable, insane.
And every small kindness he’d shown me had been a lie, a manipulation.
“What did I do wrong?” I heaved out on a sob as terror took hold of my mind. He’d been harsh with me, but he’d always been fair, in his own way. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t. Please.”
Once I was fully bound beneath him, he paused and finally looked down into my eyes. His face was drawn, his scar puckered and twisted as he clenched his jaw tightly. He stared down at me for several agonizing seconds, then he drew in a deep, shuddering breath. He trailed his fingers over the leather restraints that held my body at his mercy, and his fierce expression eased. He reached out and brushed at the wetness on my cheeks. I tried to cringe away, but there was nowhere to go.
“Please,” I whispered brokenly. “I promise I didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t hurt me.”
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he promised, his accent thick. “Much,” he amended. “Hush now,” he said in his usual soothing tones as he stroked my trembling body. “This isn’t a punishment.”
“But you’re angry,” I said tremulously. “You’re going to hurt me.”
“I’m not angry with you,” he replied, calm settling over him as he continued to pet me. “My brother…” His fingers firmed on my skin, pressing too hard. He drew another deep breath and resumed stroking me, concentrating his attentions around the leather straps that held me down, as though seeing me helpless and at his mercy comforted him in some perverted way. “I need to accelerate your training,” he said. “My brother is not a patient man.”
I tensed. Andrés continued stroking me, his focus shifting to my hair.
“I’ll protect you,” he promised. “But I’ve been too indulgent with you. You must learn your place.”
“So you’re going to beat me,” I said in soft accusation.
“I’m going to train you,” he countered. “You will experience a little pain, but you will enjoy it. I know you will. You like your spankings. You’ll like this, too.”
“I don’t want you to flog me again,” I whispered.
“I don’t want you to be scared of me, cosita,” he said instead of responding directly.
“I thought you like it when I’m frightened,” I said bitterly, remembering all the fucked up things he’d said about my lovely eyes when I was crying from fear.
His lips firmed, and he cut his gaze away from mine. “That doesn’t mean I want you to fear me. But yes, a part of me likes your fear.”
“Please let me up,” I begged. “You don’t have to do this.”
His gaze snapped back to mine, hard with determination. “Yes, I do. It’s for your own good.”
I didn’t dare say how crazy that statement was. I was too intimidated, and he held all the power. He could do anything he wanted to me, and there would be nothing I could do to stop him.
He placed his hand on the back of my neck, lightly squeezing. In his messed-up world, this was a comforting gesture. At least, it seemed to comfort him. It was a demonstration of control, of ownership.
“You’ll like this,” he said. “You’ll see. You have to trust me.”
I bit back the retort that I’d never trust him. He might be calmer, but his mood was precarious, violence lurking just under his skin. No matter what he said about me enjoying whatever he was about to do, he needed to hurt me. I could see it in his eyes; I could see the all dark things that stirred in their black depths: desire, anger, pain.
Something about what had happened with his brother had triggered him, and he needed me to soothe him. If he were a normal man and we were in a normal relationship, I’d hold him and kiss him and tell him everything was okay.
But this wasn’t normal. He was my captor, and right now, he was on the edge of sanity. There was only one way the madness inside him would be soothed: my complete subjugation. Already, just having me bound and crying beneath him seemed to have quieted his more volatile emotions. Next, he’d extract pleasure from my screams.
I shuddered, my teeth chattering as cold terror settled into my bones.
He dropped to his knees beside me, his face leveling with mine. Through my watery vision, I saw his brow furrow with concern.
“Samantha,” he said my name almost hoarsely. “You’re okay. You’re safe with me.”
“I’m not,” I said, my voice hitching. “I’m scared. You’re scaring me. And you like it.”
“I don’t. Not like this. Please. Don’t be afraid.”
Please. I’d never heard him utter the word.
“I don’t want to be in here,” I whispered.
“All right, cosita. It’s all right. You’re safe.” He started murmuring to me in a stream of soothing Spanish, running his fingers along my chilled skin as he released me from the cuffs that trapped me against the spanking bench.
A relieved sob heaved from my chest when he lifted me in his arms and cuddled me close. My hand fisted in his shirt, and I turned my face against him as I wept and shook.
He carried me back into the bedroom and settled me on his lap when he sat on the edge of the bed. He held me while I cried, all the fear and pain that lingered inside me from the night he’d flogged me spilling out to soak his chest with my tears.
“Lo siento.” I caught the words several times as he continued to speak to me in low, calming tones.
I’m sorry. I knew what it meant.
That helped bring me back to my senses more than anything. My big, scary captor was apologizing. Blinking up at him, I studied his taut features. He seemed truly distressed, and when my sobs finally quieted, he pressed a tender kiss against my forehead.
“I was worried about you,” he rumbled, his arms tightening around me to pull me closer to his warmth. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You did,” I countered quietly. “You wanted to see me cry. You wanted to hear me scream.”
His eyes flicked away from mine, and he tensed beneath me. “I do want those things from you, Samantha,” he admitted, his voice strained. “But not like this. I won’t break you. I won’t.” He still wasn’t looking at me, and he seemed to be speaking to himself as much as he was reassuring me.
Julia Sykes is the USA Today bestselling author of the Impossible Series. She has always kept dark stories tucked away in her mind, so she was thrilled when she discovered that other people actually want to read them. Her books blend romance, suspense, and BDSM.