“Come here,” said Caleb and I knew exactly what he wanted. It took quite a bit of effort on my part, but somehow I managed to crawl toward him without using my injured shoulder. In the process I saw Nancy was out cold in the corner, still strapped down, but with a gag in her mouth. I shuddered. I obviously didn’t give two fucks about Nancy, but no one deserved that.
More words were exchanged in Arabic before the strange man in front of me addressed me, “Leet sawm k’leet sue,” he said.
I looked toward Caleb who repeated the command with some exasperation. With tears flooding my eyes, I lied back and opened my legs toward the pair, relieved I was wearing clothing. That was, until the man reached down and flipped my skirt up over my knees. Losing all composure, I flipped the skirt back down and struggled to move away.
“Stay where you are!” yelled Caleb and I was helpless against accepting the command. He approached me at a fast clip and pushed me to the ground. Within seconds, I lay in the appropriate position with my most intimate parts displayed for this stranger. Betrayal burned hotly in my chest, but a voice in my head bade me to be smart and avoid confrontation. No one had hurt me – not yet and until then, Caleb still kept his promise.
“She’s hardly been broken. I’ve had more obedient hounds!”
Caleb’s eyes narrowed in my direction. He was embarrassed in front of this man on my account. I knew that now. I knew who the man must be. Rafiq, my mind offered. This was the man Caleb owed and he was the reason Caleb planned to sell me.
“Lye zhaash chee!” ordered Caleb and once again I did as he asked. I rolled over and lifted my ass into the air, sobbing into the carpet as I struggled to demean myself fast enough.
Caleb and Rafiq spoke more Arabic as they ignored my sobbing and took stock of me. Caleb’s hand traveled my body, exposing parts of me along the way. One of his hands played along my spine, trying to soothe me as the other trailed up the back of my thighs and palmed each of my ass cheeks in turn. It was almost as though Caleb were trying to convince Rafiq of something. I hoped it would end in my favor, but I had my doubts.
Finally, Rafiq let out a resigned sigh. “Fine, Khoya. Perhaps when she is healed and trained properly, I will see her as you do. For the moment, I am not so impressed.”
Caleb urged me back into my rest position and put my clothing to rights with clipped and jerky movements that made me want to cringe. Despite my relief, I knew I’d be paying for Caleb’s embarrassment one way or another and soon.
A groan from the corner brought our collective attention back to Nancy. Rafiq laughed, “Now this one, Khoya. This one is a whore. She’s been had by almost everyone, but she continues to come no matter how brutally she is taken, or how many times. It would be a pity to kill her, but of course, the choice is yours. I would never deprive you of your blessed revenge.” He walked over to Nancy and cut her loose.
She screamed as he lifted her and I cringed when I saw blood and semen run down both of her legs as he forced her to walk toward us while he led her by her hair. It was my fault she was here. Ironically, I was glad she had been so cruel to me and had participated in my torture. Otherwise I would be beside myself for what had been done to her. It was difficult to stomach as it was. I couldn’t imagine if this had been her penance for trying to help me.
Nancy collapsed when Rafiq threw her in front of me. She cried and whimpered, but what terrified me most was the way her hands reached out for me, “Help me,” she sobbed, “please, help me.”
I was frozen for a few seconds, but then I grabbed her hands and bent her fingers until she let me go. I didn’t want any part in this. I scooted back and dared a glance up at Caleb.
“It’s your decision, Kitten. I don’t know what happened between you. I don’t know what role she played, but if you want her punished, if you want her dead, say the words and I’ll see to it,” Caleb said. He was deadly serious. I could see it in his eyes and I knew what he wanted me to say. He wanted me to order her death.
Broken sobs erupted from Nancy and surprisingly…from me. “I can’t!” I wailed over Nancy. “I can’t do that! She’s awful. She helped them. She held me down,” I sobbed. “But I can’t kill her. I’m not a fucking murderer!”
Caleb’s face was grave as I yelled the word murderer. He lunged forward and I flinched, but Nancy was his target. He lifted her head roughly, craning it in my direction. With his eyes fixed on me he whispered in Nancy’s ear.
“Yes!” she yelled, “Anything…just don’t kill me,” she sobbed.
Caleb let go of Nancy’s head like he’d just touched a piece of shit with his bare hand. “You hear that?” He pointed his finger at me, “She just said she’d kill you herself if we let her live instead. Is that the kind of person you want to spare?!?”
My head literally vibrated from the strength in his voice.
“No!” I sobbed, “I can’t, Caleb. I won’t. Please, please don’t do this. Not for me.”
“Caleb?” said Rafiq softly, his face twisting and another torrent of clipped Arabic followed.
Horrified, I realized what I’d done. “Master—I didn’t mean to!” I pleaded, “I know you’re my master. Please forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.” I repeated the words as I rocked back and forth.
Without warning, Caleb hoisted me to my feet, completely unconcerned with the pain it caused me. More Arabic was spoken and then he led me out of the room and away from Nancy and her belligerent screams.
At Rafiq’s request, Caleb led Kitten back to the party. It was not something he wanted to do, but in the unfamiliar space of the grandiose home of Rafiq’s ‘friend’, he had no choice but to follow the butler in the direction of the other guests. Anger toward Rafiq ran rife through his thoughts and he needed time to process everything he was feeling. Why was Rafiq at the mansion and why would he deliberately ambush Caleb? It didn’t make sense, except when Caleb considered the way Rafiq and Jair had been conspiring behind his back. He was tempted to count the incident as a betrayal, but the word was perhaps too strong, given all Rafiq had done for him in the past.
Kitten, also, had disappointed him. He had warned her about being obedient, warned her about what it might mean if she were found lacking in front Rafiq and the others, and still, she had humiliated him. Even now, her hand continued to search out his, seeking comfort in the most pedestrian fashion. She refused to stop weeping since she’d seen the blonde woman.
Internally, Caleb flinched but he wasn’t sure why. The blonde had surely deserved everything that had happened to her. He was certain now she had played a role in what happened to Kitten. She deserved no less than the fate she wished to impose.
The woman had been beaten severely. Her body was littered with whip marks and bites, her throat was bruised and her eyes were bloodshot from the oxygen she had obviously been deprived. Rafiq mentioned she had been raped, roughly, and repeatedly. Tortured. Yet, despite feeling that she had had it coming, Caleb took issue with violent rape. He could not get the image of blood and semen running down her thighs out of his mind fast enough to suit him. Finally, that his mentor had participated was difficult to accept.
He’d meant to give Kitten a gift, one that meant everything to Caleb: vengeance. Caleb would have done anything to go back in time and see to Narweh’s end in the slowest, most painfully degrading way possible, but the time had passed. Narweh was dead and Caleb had to live with the knowledge that even in the end, Narweh had never begged for his life or offered penance for what he’d done to Caleb. It was a slap in the face that Kitten would not only forgo such an opportunity to get back at her tormentor, but also look on Caleb as some sort of monster for suggesting it. It wasn’t as though he expected her to watch!
But here, now, especially so close to his objective, he could not allow himself to show weakness, especially where Kitten was involved. This time was very critical and Rafiq would be watching his every move, as expected. They had been partners for twelve years, working toward the singular goal of ruining Vladek Rostrovich’s life in every conceivable way. It was a goal that had long ago cost both of them their proverbial soul’s. Men had died. Women had died. And Caleb had killed. All to ensure their revenge would be carried out one day. Finally, their sights were set on their target and Caleb seemed to be suffering from some absurd crisis of conscience. One silly girl was trying to make him question everything he and Rafiq had worked so hard to achieve. It was absolutely asinine when Caleb put it in perspective. Kitten might not be one for vengeance, but Caleb most certainly was.
Caleb kept an eye on the butler’s back as they took the seemingly endless number of twists and turns that would lead them to the others. He had no idea what the evening would entail, but his hackles were already up and he would have no pity for the next person who decided to trifle with him, even the sniveling girl next to him. Caleb could scarcely repress a snort of derision as he recalled the way Kitten had spat the word murderer in his direction. Yes, he was a murderer. He reminded himself he could no longer afford to be soft with her. No more leniency or favors. She would have to learn, right now, that mercy ended with him.
The murmur of loud voices finally reached Caleb’s ears and he was relieved to know he wouldn’t have to listen to Kitten’s sobs echo around him much longer. At last, they reached the other guests and the butler asked Caleb to wait while he let the master of the house know they were joining the festivities.
Caleb didn’t know a lot about Felipe Villanueva, other than the fact Rafiq obviously trusted him. Rafiq had told him they had come to know each other in the years after the coup in Pakistan when Rafiq’s general had taken power. They were not, by Rafiq’s own admission, very close, but his mentor was meticulous when it came to whom he decided to trust. Caleb didn’t need any higher recommendation. He also, had no other choice either.
Kitten, once again losing her composure, pressed herself to Caleb’s back and wrapped her arms around him from behind. Annoyed, he pressed his fingers into the insides of her wrists until she released him. “Do not embarrass me in front of these people again or I will be forced to make an example of you. What did I ask you to do when you’re unsure of what is expected?”
Kitten sobbed, rubbing her wrists, but had enough sense to get into her rest position. Caleb was momentarily satisfied when she was able to take slow breaths without drawing attention to herself.
He stroked the top of her head and spoke in a whisper only the two of them would be able to hear, “Good girl, Kitten. Obey me and I’ll continue to see to your safety.” He felt her nod beneath his hand. He couldn’t wait to be done with this day, even as he dreaded what the next might bring.
A Mexican man in his late forties, with dark hair, green eyes, and an impressive beard, made his way toward Caleb and Kitten. He was dressed in an outlandish white suit and his demeanor was vastly different from those around them. From the general description Rafiq had given him, Caleb knew it had to be Felipe. Only the owner of an estate such as the one they were currently occupying would dare wear such an ostentatious suit to an extravagant party. Caleb, in ill-fitting jeans and t-shirt, was vastly underdressed and he was slightly self-conscious at his disheveled appearance. He would have liked to meet the man on equal footing.
“Bueno! You must be Mister C,” the man says, his tone formal but light. “Mister R has told me very good things about you. I am Felipe. Welcome to my home.”
Felipe’s accent was thick, but his words remained clear enough to understand. Caleb extended his right hand only after Felipe had offered his right hand first. They shook hands firmly. Rafiq had long ago taught Caleb the importance of never offering to shake hands first, or being the first man to enter a room. It established a subtle, but important power dynamic between two people meeting for the first time.