Her hands shook—the only sign of emotion. Her eyes tore away from mine, and she resumed her stitching.
We didn’t speak again as she finished sewing me up. Her touch was light and gentle, but every stab of the needle gave me what I craved. Somehow, she created a new sensation. Mixed with pain and sweetness, making me surrender to her hypnosis, giving me the strength to ignore the conditioning just for the moment.
I fell into a trance. When I next opened my eyes the medic was gone and Zel had stuck crisp, white bandages over the stitched-up wounds. It was only then I noticed she’d cut off the leg of my trousers.
Her eyes met mine before she ever so carefully, ever so hesitantly, touched a large scar on my shin bone where they’d snapped my leg and then pinned it back together after a mission.
I sucked in a breath, clenching my fists. Without pain the conditioning echoed in my brain.
“Did you do this snowboarding as a child? Or perhaps falling off a motorbike when you were a teenager?” Her voice stayed low, none of the anger and heat from before.
She wanted to know.
Joy lit my heart. She wouldn’t leave until I explained. I’d answer any fucking question she had if it helped her forgive me.
For now emotions between us were pure, almost as if the fight had cleared the air for utmost honesty. “No.” My own voice shocked me. I’d never spoken to anyone about my past. Ever. Cold chills darted down my back.
She won’t forgive you. She’ll hate you even more when she learns the truth.
“I’m waiting, Fox. Tell me who you are.”
She’d look at me with terror and loathing. She’d feel it was her duty to report me. I’d be locked up in another cage and made to stand trial for what I’d done. Overwhelming fear cracked my heart. “No.” I couldn’t do it after all.
Her face darkened and her eyes dropped. She focused on her finger trailing around my kneecap. Small X shaped scars decorated the joint where they’d stuck torture devices so I couldn’t bend when I walked. They said I had to learn how to run and move in any condition, including being almost disabled.
“Did you fall off a horse, or perhaps were hurt in a car accident?” Her voice whispered. A threat more than a soothe. Her entire body hummed with tension—anger barely contained.
Her touch crept upward, ticking my thigh, brushing through hairs and tracing old injuries. Every inch she travelled, my stomach tightened. Confusion smothered my brain. The conditioning grew stronger with every sweep, but I clutched the bedspread, reactivating the pain from my bruised knuckles.
I wanted her to stop. My body wanted to kill her because that’s what it’d been taught to do if touched. But for once, my brain wanted more. It wanted the softness, the gentle caress.
I wanted more of the sweet torture of being stroked.
Such a novelty. Such a rare gift.
Zel never stopped her feather light touch. “Did you have a boating accident, or fall off a skateboard?” Her voice painted pictures of a carefree kid who’d had a normal upbringing. Had loving parents and a fun-filled childhood. She painted a lie. A lie I desperately wished was the truth.
Her fingers flattened against my thigh until her entire palm pressed against me.
The conditioning increased its ferocity until I trembled, trying so hard to ignore it. Her body shifted as she moved higher, following the contour of my thigh until her hand disappeared under the torn material of my trousers and brushed against my cock.
I jerked. I gasped.
My brain had too much to filter.
Don’t hurt her. Don’t kill her. Please keep it together.
All I wanted to do was surrender to the sweet agony she invoked. My hard cock swelled to the point of pain, summoned to life by one innocuous touch.
I groaned as her hot hand clasped me, squeezing firmly. “Does that hurt?”
I couldn’t speak, but it did. It killed me from the inside out. I’d never felt such fucking pleasure. Such branding awareness. Nodding, I moaned again as her hand released me, dropping to cup my balls.
All my life I’d avoided touching it, looking at it. The one and only time I’d brought myself to release had come with dire consequences.
Zel grasped me firmly, squeezing with a mix of authority and temper. Her touch sent me spiralling into a cesspit of memories.
“What is this piece of meat, Fox?”
“Then why were you jerking it like it was your favourite toy?”
My fifteen-year-old cheeks flamed. I forgot there were cameras in my room. I hadn’t meant to touch myself. I hadn’t meant to chase the delicious tightness building in my balls.
I didn’t mean to get caught.
“If this is proving to be a distraction, we can remove it. Can’t we, Fox?”
My heart ceased to beat. “No, sir. You don’t have to do that. Never again, sir. I swear, sir.”
Sir. Sir. Sir. I couldn’t stop begging.
His hard grip on my dick squeezed before letting go. “You touch yourself again, and we’ll rip it off.”
“Fox. Fucking stop. You’re hurting me,” Zel snapped. Her palm slapped my cheek, bringing a sharp sting.
My eyes flew open and I jerked my fingers away, releasing her wrist. The moment I freed her, she rolled her hand, bringing blood circulation back into her hand. Her eyes glassed with tears but they weren’t sad tears—more like rage. “Why the hell am I trying to help you? You’re beyond help!”
My heart stuttered and I grabbed her hand again, massaging life back into it. “Fuck. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
The mixture of uncertainty and fear in her eyes undid me, and I’d never been so close to breaking down. After everything I’d done, she still hadn’t left. She hadn’t given up, and I thanked the fucking universe for whatever connection existed between us. She persevered with me, not because of the money, but because she couldn’t walk away.
“No, I’m not okay. Everything about you tells me to run, yet I ignore myself and end up getting hurt again. I hate myself for needing to help others—it’s a compulsion that’s driving me insane.”
She squeezed her emerald eyes before looking right into my soul. “You’re driving me crazy but I’m learning and because I’m learning it makes it harder to leave. “
“What are you learning?”
She sighed heavily. “How to help you.”
I sucked in a breath, hoping, praying she was right. I’d had my moment of weakness and contemplated suicide, but now I was ready to embrace a cure. I would do anything. Anything.
I didn’t know what to say.
We stared for an eternity before she whispered, “Do you trust me to do something? I want to see if it works. If it doesn’t, I’m done. But if it does, I’ll stay and honour our agreement.”
Whatever the fuck she wanted to do, I hoped it worked.
“Yes. Do anything you want.”
She braced her shoulders and said, “Don’t ask questions. Lay back.”
I obeyed instantly. She waited for me to rest against the pillows and settled herself on her knees between my legs. My entire body thrummed from having her so close, and I forced my hands under my hips, pinning them beneath me.
“I’m going to touch you now,” she whispered.
Before I could reply or prepare, her hand disappeared up my cut-off trouser leg and wrapped boldly around my cock.
“Holy fuck,” I groaned. My brain capacity zeroed in on her hot, captivating hand. Every cell in my body gushed with need so sharp I felt like she flayed me alive.
“Concentrate on me touching you. Never stop focusing on my grip.”
I struggled to keep my eyes open as my stomach fluttered and my quads tensed to granite. Her gaze locked with mine, clouding with desire.
Another groan erupted from my mouth as her fingers tightened, moving up and down in an endless rhythm determined to shatter my brain. “Tell me what you’re feeling, Fox.” Her grip twisted around my dick, adding a new sensation.
My eyes wanted to slam closed, but I didn’t dare lose myself completely. I might hurt her. I might kill her. “I can feel how hard I am. How much I want to fuck you.”
“No. Focus inside. What do you feel?”
Fuck, I didn’t like delving into feelings. And I sure as hell didn’t want to share them with Hazel.
“Do it.” Her hand cupped the tip of me, pressing down, swirling moisture that appeared from nowhere. Shooting stars and earthquakes took up residence in my stomach, needing to release.
“Oh, my God, woman. I’m going to come.”
Her grip immediately softened, letting the orgasm fade. “Not till you tell me how you feel.”
Goddammit. “I feel torn into pieces that will never fit together. I have so much inside, I just wish I could hit a reboot button and forget about everything until the second you started jerking me off. I was taught to ignore right and wrong. I’m a fucking mess.”
Her hand increased its pressure, rewarding me. “Do you want me to stop?” she murmured.
I wanted to say yes. Tell her it wasn’t safe, that she’d pushed me too hard, but I had no willpower left. None. Gone. Non-existent. “No.”
Her fingers wrapped harder, stroking me, pumping me. Blood flowered thicker, filling my cock with an eager heat until I blazed for more. I shifted my hips, giving her better access. I wanted to be inside her. I couldn’t take much more of her possessive grip.
Zel didn’t move or touch me apart from my cock, and I was eternally grateful she kept her distance. But at the same time I was pissed off, annoyed, and wanted so badly to take control.
With her free hand, she inched the waist band of my trousers down my hips, never stopping her mind-bending stroking.
I raised my hips for her to pull the material off. Inch by inch, she slid the ruined trousers further. I didn’t care about her touching me. I didn’t care that more scars were on display.
All I cared about were the sparks and tingling tightness in my lower belly and dick. The conditioning lost its power over me. Everything ceased to exist but her.
The moment the trousers slid off my ankles, she knelt lower between my legs and squeezed. “I’m going to kiss you.”
My eyes shot wide, shattering the spell she’d put me under. The urge to grab her neck pulsed behind my eyes. I couldn’t handle her kissing me. I’d lose it.
Her tongue darted out, pink and wet. “Not on the lips,” she whispered. Her thumb caressed the highly sensitive tip of my cock, pressing against the hot flesh. “I’m going to kiss you. Here.”
Oh, my fucking God.
Never in my life had anything sounded so good. So fucking deliciously good. Never before had lips ever come close to that part of my anatomy.
I ceased to know how to speak. I nodded once, eyes wide, muscles tight.
She licked her lips, sending a thrill right through my heart.
The anticipation of her licking me, tonguing me, made my cock lurch in her fingers. Dropping her eyes, she bent over. The anticipation was too much. I couldn’t suck in a proper breath.
I waited endlessly for the first sweep of her tongue.
But then she stopped.
Sitting upright, she released her hold on me. My heart bucked in my chest as she stood up and moved to the side of the bed where I’d placed the leather cuff.
Holding it up, she said, “I’m going to put this on you. I want to give you pleasure but I refuse if I can’t restrain you.” Her voice wobbled; her body flushed with lust, same as mine. Her eyes fell to my straining cock, standing stiff and hot and begging for her mouth. The connection between us throbbed with rightness. Whatever we were doing was perfect. Whatever she was doing was working. I was healing.
Without a word, she padded back and waited for me to put one arm against the metal tree headboard. Doing her best not to touch me while securing the leather, I risked everything by leaning forward and placing a simple kiss on a darkening bruise on her neck. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, breathing in her subtle scent of Lily of the valley.