Release Date December 28th
Alicia winced as the needle pierced her back. The pain would be over soon, and marking her flesh would seal the covenant with her Lover. The collar she wore bit into her skin as she lay face-down on the bed. She balled the soft cotton hotel sheet in her fist, searching for a distraction from the pain but not finding it.
She’d hated needles her whole life. As a child, she’d cry whenever she saw one, and once, she’d even kicked the doctor when he’d tried to vaccinate her. Her mother had spanked her legs and told her to sit still. The woman had never been the comforting type. She’d been as nurturing as a serpent to a mouse.
She pushed the thoughts away and concentrated on the pain that was now. They’d been at it for an hour already, and even though she was mostly numb from the repetitive vibrations, there were still moments when it hurt like hell.
The tattoo needle hit a tender spot, sending a jolt of electricity through every nerve, and she fought the urge to jump. “Fuck! How much longer?”
“I’ll be done when I’m done,” the artist said. “You’ll do as Lover says and be a good little girl. You don’t know how lucky you are to have someone care about you so much—a useless druggie whore like yourself.” There was a smile in his voice and laughter on the edge of his tone.
Shame burned in her gut; she wanted to please Lover. She’d tested her own will and tried to prove herself on every level. And that was what brought her to the hotel to mark her flesh at her Lover’s whim. She had learned to give herself over to Lover’s power.
The elevator shaft was located just across the hall, and Alicia could hear the motors whirring as it made its ascent. Her heart filled with warmth, and a smile spread across her face. She knew how pleased Lover would be when the door opened to reveal her lying there, doing her task like a good little submissive, naked and vulnerable to the man who was inking her skin.
Alicia heard the sounds of wine being poured and the needle paused.
“Drink.” Lover’s voice was so powerful, and yet, like a song to her ears, it warmed her soul.
She stayed on her belly, knowing the command was not for herself. The artist gulped down his drink and made an annoying little “ah” sound afterward. She closed her eyes to keep from rolling them, which was never allowed.
Lover was quiet, and Alicia could only guess the two were communicating through glances. Finally, the artist’s voice broke the silence. “Are you pleased with the ink, Lover?”
“It will do.”
Alicia deflated a little, not knowing if the work that would forever be drawn into her back was of good quality. She didn’t want to be displeasing to Lover. No one in her life had ever done so much for her. Lover had taken her in and given her affection that she’d never known. For the first time, she felt human and alive. Even though she’d slipped a few times, she vowed to herself never to hurt Lover by telling. She didn’t want to be a disappointment, and Lover’s punishments could be brutal. She still bore the scars from her trials when she’d fail to be respectful.
“On your knees, Flower,” Lover said. Alicia’s whole body warmed as she stood up and dropped to her knees. “Let’s make it all fours. It’s time for you to thank the man for his work.”
The artist gave a cackling laugh. “How very generous of you.”
“Mount her at your whim. She’s grateful for the work you did on her collar. It’s a perfect fit.”
Alicia wanted to verbalize how thankful she was, but instead, she braced herself for what would surely be a brutal taking. She’d heard all about the artist and his tastes. He was a vile human, a harsh master who took pain sluts and had no idea that BDSM was more about respect and trust than cruelty.
A hand cracked down on her ass, and she winced. “You’ll be a good girl, won’t you?” the artist asked.
Lover chuckled. “She’s always a good, obedient girl. Aren’t you, Flower?”
Alicia thought of the things she’d done and hoped that Lover would never know she’d stolen the money to buy a quick fix, or that she’d lied about where she’d been.
A single tear ran down her cheek as the guilt consumed her. “Yes, Lover. Always the best little girl for you.”
The artist’s rough hands gripped her hips, and a moment later, his rigid erection jutted hard against her pussy and then plunged deep.
She cried out as another hand made contact with her ass. The pleasure was intense and continued for what seemed like hours, even though she was sure it was only minutes.
She braced herself, trying to be strong as her breasts slapped together. The artist’s sweaty body soaked her back as he writhed over her, growling like a rabid dog.
“Seed her!” Lover commanded.
The artist snarled like a beast and grunted with every thrust. Alicia winced but trusted Lover’s command. Moments later, she was left soaked to the core. Lover seemed pleased from where he watched across the room with a smirk.
Alicia felt dirty and used, but she’d desecrate herself a thousand times over to please Lover.
“You may relax.” There was no kindness in the command.
Alicia let out a soft sigh and turned to see that the artist was smiling. His features were beautiful enough, and he was good at most things, including making her orgasm, but his reputation made him less than attractive. Lover was the only person who had turned her on with a single look.
“Pleasure doing business again. You call me if you need anything.” The artist put away his cock and then began to pack up his kit, but Lover poured them all a drink.
“Have a taste with us. One more for the road.”
He looked like he wanted to protest, but shrugged. “What the hell. Nothing like a drink with good company.” He tipped his drink back, and Lover smiled as he drank it down.
Alicia sipped her glass slowly. When she reached the last drop, the artist fell to the floor. Instinctively, she lurched forward as if she could have caught the man, who hit the edge of the bed and bounced off onto the floor like a sack of potatoes. A shriek left Alicia’s throat, and Lover yelled a command.
“On your knees!” Lover’s hand twirled, and Alicia spun around and faced the wall, her heart fluttering faster than hummingbird wings. Lover’s breath fell upon her ear. “You lying little whore.”
Lover jammed the rubber ball gag between her teeth so hard, Alicia worried one of her teeth had chipped. Lover secured the gag in place. She knew better than to scream or fight, though she did give a little squeal. Lover would only make the punishment worse if she struggled, but it didn’t stop the tears from trailing down her cheeks.
Her flesh was still tender when she felt something burn across it like a hot quill. Pain seared her skin as Lover made deliberate marks that were so sharp, they took her to the edge of her sanity. She felt the warm trickle of blood, and only then, she realized she’d been stabbed a bit too deeply. By then, she couldn’t move. Lethargy had set in, and her muscles had no control or function. Something had been in the drink, perhaps something to ease her pain? She still refused to think Lover would do anything to harm her.
The carving continued, and she struggled to scream, her voice a choked whisper behind the gag. The knife pierced deeper in some places, again and again. Blood stained the white cotton sheets, and black spots formed in her vision.
Finally, Lover was done. Through the pain, Alicia prayed the punishment was over and it would be time for the soothing and aftercare that made it all worth it. Somehow, she was still clinging to hope that it wasn’t as bad as she thought, even as the bed grew wet around her.
The room went quiet, as did the beating of her heart.
Darek stumbled through the dark woods. His feet snagged on every exposed root and fallen branch, but he was determined not to fall and even more determined not to drop the heavy weight in his arms. Run. Run. Gotta keep going. Keep moving. Run!
Something jarred him from the dream, and he woke up in his bedroom with sweat beading his brow. He stirred and grunted, opening one eye to glare at Megan who lay beside him.
“Was that necessary?” He rubbed the tender spot where she’d kicked him.
She made a sound of disgust. “You’re sweating like a fucking pig, and you’re making that whimpering sound again. It reminds me of a panting dog.” She gave him another kick beneath the covers.
“So, I’m a pig and a dog? Nice. Love you too, baby.” He rolled over and scrubbed his face with his palms. She could be so mean at times, and he longed for the days when she saved that attitude for everyone but him.
“You’re in the doghouse for sure.” Megan gave him a pouty look, but even though her side-eyed look was full of anger, he felt challenged to make her smile.
He reached out and poked her side, tickling at her through the sheet she’d wedged between them. Beneath it, she was naked. His cock responded immediately, giving a twitch. “I’m horny as a dog, too.”
He turned over, and she rolled away, but that only left the perfect opportunity to slip his cock up against her ass. He ground against her, wanting to bury himself deeply. His cock hardened with each slight thrust.
Her elbow connected with his ribs. “I don’t think so.” The laughter in her voice spoke more to his audacity than her humor. “You missed your window. If you’re not going to do this on schedule, then I’ll never get pregnant.”
“Nothing saying we can’t try now.” He kissed her neck and shoulder and rose up in an effort to go down on her.
She slapped him away like shooing a fly. “No. What’s the fucking point?”
She got up and slipped her robe on. It wasn’t that the two of them were having any sort of fertility problems, but for some reason, her friend told her about an ovulation app on her phone, and now she was all about testing its effectiveness.
“Because it feels good? I didn’t realize I’d been turned into a baby making machine. I thought I was your husband.” It wasn’t like she was gung-ho about the whole baby idea, and he was sure she was only using the app excuse to have things her way.
“I did too, but apparently, the only thing you’re married to is your badge and a few too many beers.”
Her robe fell open, exposing her breast which was veiled by her long, honey hair. Her anger narrowed her eyes, making them even more sultry. God, she was gorgeous. He wasn’t a slob himself, but sometimes, he wondered how he’d gotten so lucky. She was beauty-queen gorgeous and had the crowns to prove it. He’d always known she was like playing with fire, but lately, he couldn’t help but feel burned. He snapped out of his haze and opened his mouth to protest, but she put her hands on her hips.
“Don’t deny it. I can smell the stuff in your sweat.” She shut herself inside the bathroom.
He raised his voice through the door. “I didn’t realize having a beer here and there was such a big deal.”
It seemed like everything had become a big deal. He wasn’t doing anything dishonest. In fact, other women didn’t interest him much. Sure, he’d look—he wasn’t dead—but he’d remained devoted to Megan the entire year they’d been married, and even the two they hadn’t been. It had taken him a lot of work to get her to marry him, and there were days now he wondered if the battle between him and her father wasn’t one he should just wave a white flag at. That was all the marriage had felt like, one big “fuck you” to her father, and mostly on her end. She’d liked jerking both her daddy’s chain and Darek’s cock in the process. He sometimes thought she got off on having them both on their leashes.
She opened the door. “It’s not a big deal, but I wanted sex, Darek, and not the kind I need to buy batteries for.”
“No, you just want the kind you can chart on your fucking phone like we’re some kind of experiment.” He got up as she breezed past him to leave the room.
He’d barely gotten his morning rituals out of the way when Max called. “You need to get down here, man. We’ve got a live one, and by live, I mean dead. I hear it’s pretty gruesome.”
“Where do you need me?” He tried not to get too excited about the demise of another person, but this was the opportunity he’d been waiting for. As a homicide detective who’d recently applied for a position in the FBI, he needed the perfect case to get some attention.
“Meet me at the station. We’ll ride down together.” Max’s usual chipper voice was never fazed by the horrendous scenes they worked. The guy could eat a four-course meal at a week-old body dump.
“Sounds good, man. I’ll be out the door in five.” He hung up the phone and raked his hands through his dark, wet hair. He’d have to go with the stubbled look, and he considered growing a beard to turn his wife off even more. She hated it when he had stubble and had made sure he knew about it. She was the only woman who’d ever bitched through getting her pussy eaten, but find a nerve, and he’d hit it. His face had been shaved every morning since.
Megan was lost in her phone and sipping a cup of coffee when he went into the kitchen to say goodbye.
“Are you still going to see your mother this weekend?” she asked.
“Yes, are you going to come with me this time?” Sometimes he felt like they were always having the same conversations.
She let out a long sigh. “You know that nursing home gives me the creeps. The place smells like piss, and I feel uncomfortable sitting there, with her not even knowing who I am.”
It was hard to sympathize with Megan when she only thought of herself. His mother had been sweet to her two years ago when they’d met, but her good days were few and far between since the death of his father the year before, just a month before Darek’s wedding to Megan. Megan had only gone to see her a few times, and Darek had put up with Megan’s asshole father an unfair amount in contrast.
Before he let himself get too upset, he took a deep breath. He couldn’t blame her and knew his own discomfort would only be magnified by a hundred with Megan being twitchy nearby. At least in those quiet moments with his mother, he could rest his mind.
“Yeah, I understand,” he said. “I wouldn’t want you to be uncomfortable.” She looked up from her phone and gave him a smile as he continued. “I have to meet Max. He called and said we have a live one.”
She crinkled her nose in disgust. “That’s so gross. I don’t see how you do your job.”
“The person was someone’s family, Megan. Someone has to bring them justice. And not all the bodies are gross. There’s no competition for prettiest corpse.” If there was, she’d be first in line finding a way to claim the crown.
“They’re dead; they’re gross.” She curled her lip. “I don’t want to talk about this over my morning coffee. Will you be late again?” She pegged him with a hard glare.
He poured some coffee into his to-go cup. “I don’t know. Depends on what I find when I get there. But I’ll call you and let you know.”
She slid off her barstool and walked over to straighten his collar. “Call me.” She leaned in and gave him a quick peck. He pulled her closer, needing to taste her tongue against his. The vanilla coffee was a welcome flavor, but then she pulled away and left him to go to the other room.
“I love you,” he called out as she hit the nearest door to their living room.
“Oh, sure. Love you, honey.” And just like that, he felt dismissed.
He got into his car and adjusted the mirror. His lack of amusement in his home life was creased in his brow. He was beginning to feel like he was in a rut and hoped that he’d hear something from the Bureau soon.
Megan wanted him to be a special agent before she gave birth to their child, and at this rate, neither would ever happen. Maybe he didn’t want it to. He couldn’t exactly see himself as a father, but he knew if he ever had that privilege, he’d be better than his old man had.
His father, a wartime veteran, took discipline to a whole new level. Weakness was not an option. You fell down; you got up. You got pushed down; you fought back, unless it was him doing the pushing. Then, you had better show some respect and know your place.
He never failed to tell his son how much of a pussy he was, or a letdown. Darek had even joined the force because of his father, but not because he’d wanted him to. His father wanted his son to enlist with the Marine Corps, just like him, but he wasn’t about following the man or pleasing him. Not joining was the only way he could stand up to the old man without literally punching him the face, and he took the opportunity as soon as possible.
Once Darek’s achievements started to build into a career as a detective, he knew he’d found his calling, and joining the FBI seemed like a no-brainer. But then, his anxiety worsened shortly after his father passed away, and he’d struggled to keep it together. His focus was off, and he felt a permanent imbalance. Through lots of therapy and medication, he was finally doing a bit better, and the late nights by the pier were doing their trick.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go home to his beautiful wife and make love and babies, but in a way, he didn’t feel like he deserved it.
On those nights away from home, he would stare for hours at the skyline, the twinkling rainbow of colors that were scattered across the night sky. He’d sip his beer and let his mind take him where it wanted. Most of the time, it was through his day or past week, and sometimes, he’d go way back, letting whatever little grains of a memory slip into his mind like sand in an hourglass. Not all of his past thoughts were pleasant, and thankfully, the new meds were helping to keep them at bay. Some things, the brain pushed to the depths, deep in the murky waters of the mind, so that a person could cope. That was where they belonged.
Just after his father’s death, something had triggered, bringing back the darkness, the self-loathing, and pain that had caused his episodes. Thankfully now, when he sat at the river in a fog, it wasn’t because he was fighting those old demons. Still, whatever had haunted him before his break was lurking beneath the surface, and even though he knew it was best to let it go, it would never sink deeper, where it belonged. The ghost was hovering close, waiting to say “hi.”