“Off with it.”
“That!” he growled with menace, “is not how you address me. Do it again and I’ll not forgive you.”
Kitten began to weep, but still stood. “Yes…. Please…don’t….”
“I gave you a choice. If you cannot make it, then I will make choices for you. Understood?”
She sniffled, “Yes…Master.” The words seemed painful for her to say, but Caleb cared nothing for her pain at the moment. She had defied him for the last time. He watched dispassionately as she slid the shirt from her shoulders and the panties from her legs. She stood, shaking and sobbing, but finally compliant.
“Kneel!” he barked for the sake of watching her scramble to obey. He smiled as her knees hit the threadbare carpet and her hands went to cup her breasts to hide them from view. His heart raced and he nearly groaned at the touch of his palm against his erection, trapped inside his pants.
He stepped slowly and deliberately toward her, watching with sadistic pleasure as she closed her eyes and her lips moved; she made no sound. He pulled at the tie holding her hair back, letting her long, dark mane cascade down her naked body, but hiding nothing.
“Do you remember what happened the night you decided to scream out my name?” he asked casually. The girl sobbed as she nodded. He lifted a piece of her hair and wound it around his hand, each turn bringing his hand closer to her scalp and tugging softly, but with ominous implication. “If I wanted you to nod, I’d move your fucking head myself. Answer…please.”
Kitten’s chest heaved with the force of her sob, but the answer came through, “Yes, Master.” Caleb undid the top button of his pants, jeans, pilfered from the good doctor. “Oh. No. Please, no, Master. Please, no.”
“Don’t speak unless it’s to answer a question you’ve been asked!” Kitten became silent, lips pressed together. “Breathe through your mouth; the last thing I want is for you to pass out without my permission.” She gasped, but didn’t speak. “How did I punish you?”
The words seemed to affect her like a physical blow and she pulled away from his hand, panicked, but with no place to go. Caleb pulled her hair hard enough to force her back into position, but not hard enough to injure. “Answer me.”
“You…you…I can’t!” she sobbed.
“Answer the question!”
“You fucked me!”
Caleb slid his zipper down slowly, drawing the moment out for the benefit of them both. “Yes, I fucked you. Right in your sexy little asshole.” She gasped at his words, her face a puffy mess from her open-mouthed sobbing. “Did you like it?”
She shook her head, “No, Master. No.”
Caleb tsked and brought her head toward his erection, still secure in his underwear, but undoubtedly hot against her skin nonetheless. “Liar. You came more than you had a right to. I know because I felt you, hot and clutching at my cock, begging me to come inside you. Isn’t that right?”
The girl shook her head, no, but she whispered, “Yes, Master.”
Memories played through Caleb’s mind as a series of erotic flashes. He remembered how good it had felt to be buried inside her and feel her push against him. It would be so easy to have her again, to have her in any way he wanted and to bring her to the heights of unbearable ecstasy until she no longer knew how pain or pleasure differed. However, he had a different point to make.
“What is your name?”
“Kitten!” she shouted without hesitation.
“To whom do you belong?”
“To, you,” she sobbed.
“Yes. To me. Now, tell me what I could do with you?” His tone was urgent.
“I don’t know!”
“You do know! Tell me.”
“Don’t you dare! I am not your lover. I am not your friend! Who am I?”
“Master! You’re my…. I want to stop. Please make it stop.”
“Answer my question, what could I do with you?”
“Anything! Fucking anything!” she sobbed wetly.
“Yes, I could do anything to you. I could throw you face down and fuck you until you can’t stand and there would be nothing you could do about it. You’re beaten, bruised and damn near broken. I could kill you. Those bikers could have killed you, but you keep provoking!”
“No! No, Master.”
“Are you prideful?”
“Yes! Yes, Master, I’m prideful. I’m sorry!”
“Is your pride worth the situation you are in?”
Caleb let her go and watched as she placed her hands on the floor and cried with her head bowed. “No, Master.”
He’d done what he set out to do. “Exactly, Kitten. Your pride isn’t worth it. It’s not worth the pain. It’s not worth the torture me, or anyone else, could put you through. It sure as fuck isn’t worth your life. Be smart! Fight the battles you can win and accept the ones you can’t. That’s how you survive.” That’s how you avoid being tied to a fucking mattress and soaked in your own blood.
“I’m sorry! Please…just stop. Don’t be this way anymore. I can’t stand it! I can’t stand being with you and not knowing who you are from one moment to the next!” Kitten cried.
Caleb buttoned his pants and crouched with one knee on the floor and pulled Kitten into his arms. She offered no resistance, her arms wound around his neck as though she had been desperate for them to be there all along and she sobbed into his neck.
“I like you so much better when you’re like this,” she whispered as she pressed her lips to his neck softly, over and over as though she sought to calm him, when it was her in need of calming.
“What you like or don’t like is irrelevant, Kitten,” he answered, gently. She went still, not tense, just lax. “That’s what you need to start expecting.” Without another word, Caleb lifted her into his arms and carried her into the bathroom. They both needed to rinse the day away.
They would start fresh in the morning.
I look around the room and feel let down by the lack of darkness and sterility. I had an image of what an interrogation room might look like: two-way mirror, scratched metal table, a high watt bulb lighting my face and making me sweat. Instead, the room looks more like a kindergarten classroom with art projects and motivational sayings glued onto bright construction paper on the walls. I am sitting on a plastic chair, staring at Reed across the round, faux-wood, table in front of me.
“Okay,” Reed says. He releases a breath, “just to get the chronology right: After you were kidnapped, you spent approximately three weeks, locked in a dark room, in a city you can’t recall. You escape the man known as ‘Caleb’, and are, almost immediately, held for ransom by a man named ‘Tiny’, and his motorcycle gang. You contact your friend, Nicole Freedman, and ask her to obtain your ransom of one-hundred-thousand-dollars and meet ‘Tiny’, in Chihuahua, Mexico, to exchange your freedom for the money. You never make it to the drop because you are rescued, by ‘Caleb’. In the morning, you discover he has kidnapped two people and held them hostage in their home. He leaves them alive, but steals their car and you both drive into Zacatecas, Mexico. You are there for approximately three months.”
There is a long pause, as though he expects me say some other thing that will amaze him. He’ll be vastly disappointed. He ought to start expecting disappointment.
“Is that all correct?” Reed asks.
“You look like you want to spit every time you say his name,” I say, without inflection.
“My feelings are irrelevant,” Reed says.
“They’re relevant to me.”
Reed shakes his head and can’t seem to stop himself from giving me his two cents, “He’s a human trafficker, Miss Ruiz, a murderer, and a rapist. He didn’t rescue you. He captured you. There’s a wide distinction between the two. Have you considered you might have Stockholm’s Syndrome? Otherwise, I can’t see how you can defend him on any reasonable level.”
My vision is blurry. “He was a lot of things, that’s true enough,” I say. My voice is raspy and my lips tremble with the force of my sorrow. “But he was also more than what you’ve written in your damn reports.” I blink, and glare at Agent Reed. “It was the bikers who tried to rape me. It was the bikers who nearly beat me to death! If Caleb hadn’t stopped them, I’d probably be dead.”
“Is he the one who killed them?” Reed asks, insistently.
I take a deep breath and lean back in my chair, wiping the tears from my face, “How would I know?” I shrug. “I was unconscious.”
“I’m not defending what those men did to you. Especially, if it happened the way you said it did.”
“Are you implying it didn’t happen that way?”
Reed lets out an exasperated breath, “I didn’t say that. I’m interested in the truth and nothing more.” There’s a long pause, both of us regrouping. “The auction. When is it supposed to happen?”
“Caleb said about a week from now.”
“I don’t know. Pakistan, somewhere.”
Reed’s questions come at me quickly. I have no choice but to answer just as fast. I don’t want him to mistake my pauses for answers. Worse, I don’t want him to think I’m taking time to form a lie – which I am. “So, according to Caleb and Muhammad Rafiq, Demitri Balk, also referred to as, Vladek Rostrovich, is supposed to be there?”
“I guess,” I grind out.
“Will, Rafiq, be there?”
“How the fuck would I know?”
“Will, Caleb, be there?”
“Caleb’s dead!” I pound my hand against the table. “How many times do I have to say it?” Reed sits back, unconvinced, “How did he die?”
“I told you already!”
“Tell me again.”
“Whose blood was on your clothes when they brought you in?”
“How did it get there?” He leans toward me.
“I told you! He died in my fucking arms.”
“And it was all very romantic, who killed him?”
I burst out of my chair and throw it behind me, knocking it into another table and littering the floor with art supplies. “Stop asking me! I’ve answered already.”
Reed stands quickly and circles the table. Before I can run, before I can even react to the fear racing through me, he has me face down on the table with my arms behind my back. I feel the cold from his cuffs, and then hear them click as he cinches them around my wrists. It occurs to me I should never have asked to be alone with him. There’s no one to watch him. There is only my word against his.
I struggle, but he holds me very easily. He’s obviously done this before. Caleb would be impressed. I am less so, “Get the fuck off me, you asshole!”
His voice is calm, but filled with authority, “I’ll let you go as soon as you calm down. I don’t like being threatened, Miss Ruiz.”
“I didn’t –” I start to say and am interrupted.
“You can’t throw the furniture around. I take that as a threat.” I am furious! But his tone is so calm and collected. I know if I don’t settle down, he’ll hold me like this forever. It’s almost tempting, but I force myself to let my body go soft. This is a battle I can’t win.
Reed releases his hold on me in degrees, the calmer I am, the looser his hold and soon I am free of him and standing. He’s much taller than me; I don’t even reach his shoulder, so I have to crane my head all the way back to glower at him.
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