Read An Excerpt

by Jenna Black

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Read Book Review

Adam pulled me into the black room, then left me there with a terse “wait here.”

He closed the door behind him, leaving me surrounded by the blackness. I shivered and crossed my arms over my chest, wondering how on earth I’d come to this. My mouth was parchment-dry, my heart thundered in my ears. I felt small, and weak, and terribly, terribly alone.

I’d never been so afraid in all my life.

After what felt like an eternity, Adam returned, carrying a large box. I didn’t want to know what was inside. There was a flush to his cheeks. Anticipation radiated from him. I racked my brain for any other way I could gain his cooperation. None leapt to mind.

Adam set the box, unopened, on the floor, then turned to me. I must have looked really pathetic. He blinked a couple of times, visibly trying to control his excitement.

"You’re not in danger here, Morgan,” he reminded me. “This is going to suck, but there’s nothing I can do that Lugh can’t heal.”

I guess he meant that to be reassuring, but I don’t think anything short of an unequivocal reprieve would have reassured me at that moment.

“You’ll need to take off your shirt and bra,” he continued as he approached me.

I crossed my arms over my chest and swallowed hard, stepping back from him.

He stopped and raised his eyebrows. “Come now, love. You know I need bare skin for this.”

But I just hugged myself more tightly, unable to bear the idea of being even partially nude in front of him. He cocked his head and regarded me curiously.

“I told you before I’m not into rape,” he said. “If that’s what you’re worrying about. I’m sure your breasts are stunning, but I assure you I can resist the temptation.”

Honestly, I didn’t think my virtue was in danger. It was certainly possible that Adam liked women as much as men, but I strongly suspected he was faithful to Dominic. Don’t ask me why I was so sure, but I was.

No, my reluctance was based on a core of prudishness and a terror of vulnerability. I didn’t think he’d understand, even if my brain were working well enough to communicate the point to him. I figured I was doing damn well to stay upright and conscious.

He looked at me for another long moment, then started to unbutton his shirt.

That roused me from my shocky numbness. “What are you doing?” I gasped.

“I’m giving you my shirt. You can put it on backward and protect your modesty.”

If I hadn’t been so scared I had to fight not to wet my pants, I might have enjoyed the view when he slipped the shirt off his shoulders. He had a really nice chest. There was a part of me just woman enough to notice in the most offhand manner.

 He dangled his shirt from his index finger and held it out to me. I took it.

“I’ll give you one minute,” he said, stepping toward the door. He raked me with a head-to-toe look. “If your modesty can handle it, you might want to take off your pants so you don’t get blood on them.”

The bastard winked before he slipped out the door.

Still shaking, wondering if I would ever stop, I took off my blouse and bra, then slipped my arms into Adam’s shirt. It was still warm from his body. The warmth spread goose bumps over my skin. I hadn’t realized I was cold until that moment.

There was no way in hell I was taking my pants off, so I just stood there and waited, trying to keep myself from thinking, from anticipating, from dreading. My eyes locked on the box Adam had set on the floor, but I wasn’t remotely interested in taking a peek inside.

He came back in, glanced at my pants, and smiled, but he made no comment. I had to force myself not to back away from him as he came close, towering over me. He licked his lips, and I swallowed hard.
“Remember, love, Lugh can make it all go away. You’re not in danger.”

I so didn’t get this guy. Why was he trying to reassure me? You’d think scaring the shit out of me would be part of the appeal of this little scenario he had going on here. He wasn’t following the psychotic sadist script I’d mentally composed for him. Of course, he wasn’t human. I remembered Lugh telling me Adam wasn’t a “typical human sadist,” and I didn’t know if that made me feel better or worse.

“Having second thoughts?” he asked, the sharp edge back in his voice.

I shook my head. “I just don’t understand you.”

He made a sound between a snort and a laugh. “You’re just figuring this out?”

He took me by the arm and guided me toward the far wall. Either he’d made a new addition to the room since I was last in here, or I hadn’t been very observant. A pair of black leather restraints hung from the wall, almost invisible against the matte black paint.

Adam hooked a low black footstool with his foot and moved it under the restraints. I must have looked puzzled, because of course he had to stop to explain.

“Dominic’s taller than me,” he said. “I need the extra height to secure him comfortably.”

“TMI,” I said, proud of myself for that small hint of bravado.

He laughed briefly. “Step up, please.”

I was shaking so hard I might have fallen in a heap if Adam’s hands hadn’t steadied me. He stood on the footstool with me and stretched my arm up toward the restraint. The pull forced me almost to tiptoe, but he managed to get the cuff secured around my wrist. I closed my eyes while he secured my other wrist. The leather cuffs were soft and supple, closing with Velcro.

When he’d finished, Adam closed his hands over mine, wrapping my fingers around the chains that attached the cuffs to the wall. I could feel his quickened breaths against my hair.
“Hold on tight,” he whispered in my ear.

There wasn’t much room on the footstool. To reach both my hands, he had to press his chest to my back. His skin felt scorching hot against me. With him pressed so tight against me, I couldn’t help noticing the telltale bulge in his pants. I tried to jerk away from him, but there was nowhere to go.

The asshole laughed at me. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I have no desire to fuck you.” For reasons I didn’t want to examine, that statement stung.

He stepped down, and I had to suppress a whimper of fear. I forced myself to think of Brian. He didn’t have a demon to heal what his captors did to him. And without Adam, I didn’t have the first idea how I could save him. I had to do this, had to endure it no matter how scared I was.

Adam’s hands skimmed my back. I flinched away from the touch, but he was just spreading the edges of the shirt wider, exposing more skin. He traced the outline of my tattoo with his finger, stopping at the waistband of my pants.

“Nice,” he said.

I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against the wall, praying for strength.

I heard his footsteps behind me, heard cardboard sliding against cardboard, then the crinkle of tissue paper. I squeezed my eyes more tightly shut and swallowed hard on a dry throat. When I heard him coming back, my head spun for a moment. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass out.

“This one’s a new toy,” Adam said, and I heard the slithery sound of leather brushing over the floor. He was getting breathless again. “An eight-footer. I just barely have enough room to use it in here, and that only if I’m very careful. These long ones are a bitch to control.”

I really, really didn’t want to hear this.

“I probably won’t make contact with the first couple of strokes,” he continued. “I want to get a feel for it first. If I hit you, it’s accidental. I’ll let you know when I’m going to do it on purpose.”

Wonderful. “Just do it and stop gloating,” I snapped, my nerves too raw to contain the protest.

“I’m not gloating, love. I’m just telling you what I’m going to do. But I take your point. I’ll get on with it.”

I nearly screamed when the whip cracked the first time. It was so loud, so terrifying. I felt a brush of air over the skin of my back, but as he’d said, he didn’t make contact. Sweat drenched my body, and I bit my lip until I tasted blood. I wished I could just hit fast forward on this little part of my life.

The whip cracked again, and again wind whistled over my skin. Adam made a satisfied sound.

“Brace yourself, love,” he said. “This one’s for real.”

My hands tightened convulsively on the chains. The whip sang through the air and drew a path of fire across my shoulder blades. I dragged in a frantic breath and tried to press myself into the wall, as if I could somehow escape through it.

Another crack, and this time I felt like a knife had sliced through the skin of my lower back. Something tickled, and I realized it was the drip of blood. Before I had a chance to process that thought, the whip struck again.

This time, I did scream. I couldn’t help it.

I honestly don’t remember much after that. It’s one of those memories that my mind does its best to protect me from. I don’t know how many times that whip cut through my flesh, though I know it was a lot. I screamed myself hoarse in no time flat, then was reduced to scratchy whimpers.

My knees gave out long before it was over, and I hung by my wrists, my shoulders shrieking in protest.When it got so bad I was tempted to pray for death, Adam finally stopped. I willed myself to pass out, but I didn’t.

Moments later, he was on the footstool with me again, one arm wrapped around my waist, holding me up as he freed my wrists. When I would have collapsed, he scooped me up and carried me to the black bed. He set me on my feet beside it, supporting me by my shoulders.

“Lie on your stomach, love,” he said softly, and he guided me down.

The sheets were silk, I noticed irrelevantly as I buried my face in the pillowcase and tried to contain the agony. The world swam around me, a dizzy, nauseating mess.

Adam’s voice came to me from what seemed like a great distance. “Don’t fight it.” His fingers stroked over my hair. “Let yourself go. Let Lugh fix things. It’ll be over soon.”

His voice was strangely soothing. I felt myself go fuzzy around the edges. With unspeakable relief, I let myself sink into the darkness.