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Book III in the Spanked Wives series.
I didn’t know what was worse anymore — when he opened that door, or when he closed it.
How many times had I wondered? How many minutes had I counted until they’d fallen away in the blackness, as unmoored, lost, and hopeless as I felt?
But there wasn’t time for that.
The only thing that mattered was figuring him out. What was he really after? What did he truly want?
For the thousandth time, I cursed my stupidity, my hubris, my idiotic conviction that I could pull this off. It was a cruel irony of fate that a single, impulsive, split second decision could profoundly influence the rest of a person’s life.
However long that might be.
I missed clothes — real clothes — not the all- access outfits he made me wear now. No, what I was allowed was little more than decoration, embellishment of the physical attributes of his new found toy.
How much more of this could I take? How much more did he intend to put me through? What was the end game, when he finally got what he demanded?
I already suspected, deep down, that there could only be one end to this, a single conclusion to what this had become. My strength was ebbing away. I couldn’t deny it any longer.
What was the worse though was the temptation, the increasingly appealing prospect of simply...surrendering.
And giving him what he wanted...
Publisher's Warning: Intended for mature readers. 18 and over only!
The novel contains: pervasive BDSM themes, capture fantasy, intense and explicit sex, and (seriously) unequal power dynamics. If any of these activities or themes might be offensive to you, please do not buy or read this book.
I didn’t know what was worse anymore — when he opened that door or when he closed it.
How many times had she wondered? How many minutes had she counted until they’d fallen away in the blackness, unmoored in the shadows of her cell?
But it was a waste of time. He had her, and there was nothing she could do about it now.
The only thing that mattered was figuring him out. What was he really after? What did he truly want?
It wasn’t just her body — he could have that any time he wanted, and we both knew it. And yet, here she stayed — in this dark hole, lost to the world, her only connection to it that man who was both her protector and her captor.
She had to remember the deal. The agreement was her only true protection.
“Keep it the fuck together, Falon!”
She clapped her hand over her lips.At least he’d left enough slack in her chains for her to do that much. She had to be careful though. He could be out there, just outside the threshold of her dark, little kingdom of a single soul.
Tracking the time was perhaps the best way to regain her bearings. It kept her anchored in the now, in what might happen, in the knowledge that — however far away it might seem — eventually she’d be free.
For the thousandth time, she cursed her stupidity, her hubris, her idiotic conviction that she could pull this off. It was a cruel irony of fate that a single, impulsive, split second decision could profoundly influence the rest of a person’s life.
In ways one could never expect.
“Calm, Falon. You can do this.”
Shaking her head again, she bit into her tongue, the pinching burn a reminder to shut the fuck up, to keep her thoughts in the one place they were still safe — her mind.
Maybe he’d figure out a way in there too?
It was true though. A bastard he might have been, perhaps even a monster. But somehow, she knew he wouldn’t hurt her.
Well, not more than she could bear anyway.
Not that it mattered much anymore. Nobody knew where she was,not yet. Hell, her boss probably didn’t even miss her yet.
Not setting a check-in date wasn’t your smartest choice, Falon.
She missed clothes — a luxury more precious that almost anything, now that she’d been deprived of them. But she knew he only saw them as an impediment, something that got in the way of his enjoyment of the physical attributes of his living sex toy.
The traitorous tightening of her nipples didn’t surprise her anymore. She’d given up on making sense of any of it. How had he managed it? How had me turned her against… herself? Was it that he saw what was already there and simply brought it to the fore? Was she that shallow, that simple?
What did it mean that her body readied itself with an anticipation borne of far more than a need to survive? More than was even logical?
The thought echoed in her mind more and more now, even if she tried to suppress it, tried to argue against even the possibility that it could be.
She wasn’t that weak. That much she knew. It would take a lot more than this to break her.
But how much more of this could she take? How much more did he intend to put her through? What was the end game, when terms of the agreement had been fulfilled?
She already suspected, deep down, that there could only be one end to this, a single conclusion to what this had become. Her strength was ebbing, something she couldn’t deny it any longer. Her exhaustion was bad enough, but what was the worst was the temptation, the increasingly appealing prospect of simply… surrendering.
Giving him what he wanted.
What then, Falon?
Maybe he’d turn her into one of the Stepfords populating that town? Hadn’t that been the worst? That they’d all agreed to it? Wanted a life like that?
I think you know why it really bothered you. Why lie to yourself?
“Stop it, you idiot,” she whispered, her voice rasping like the slither of a serpent through fallen leaves. She hated the way every sound was amplified in her little cell. He’d installed some sort of lighting along the tops of the walls in the basement though the faint illumination spraying up onto the painted ceiling doing little to brighten the dismal space she occupied.
At least it seemed dim enough to let her sleep.
Her heart froze in her chest at the sound, the familiar thump and creaking of stairs filling her with that maddening mix of dread and anticipation, her body exhibiting an increasingly Pavlovian response that mortified her more every time. Had he wanted it that way? Was turning her body against her just part of his plan?
With a creak of hinges, the cell door swung open, his shadowed silhouette all she could make out in the low light.
He was here again.
He thought she’d talk more.
Ford watched her in his rear-view mirror, her blonde sun-kissed good looks paler now, the set of her jaw betraying something different than fright.
Her blue eyes met his gaze. “You can’t do this, you know. You think arresting me is going to stop this shit from getting out?”
“That’s exactly what I think.”
He turned the truck onto Dyer Road. Though he hoped he’d never have to do this, he knew the protocol well in such cases. If she knew just how much trouble she was really in, he suspected she’d be a blubbering mess there in the back seat.
Or maybe not.
Falon, young, hapless producer girl or not, was a smart one. And tougher than she looked, if he had to guess. Things would have been much, much different if Deputy Anders hadn’t tailed her. The spot she’d chosen in the park was perfect for concealment. They’d never have spotted her in a million years. Who knew what god-awful chaos she’d have unleashed for White Valley if she’d slipped away?
“What am I being charged with, Sheriff?”
The new venom in her tone made him crack a grin. He liked a woman who didn’t just roll over and give up. He respected that kind of strength, even though it wouldn’t matter in the end.
“I’m sure we can think of something,” he muttered, stopping at the light where Waters Avenue crossed Dyer, the intersection marking the western edge of town. “Disturbing the peace comes to mind.”
“I don’t think a judge is going think much of that defense.”
“As if I’ll see a fucking judge,” she hissed under her breath, looking out her window again. “You didn’t have to leave these cuffs on, Sheriff. Not like I’m going to overpower mister Big Bad Cop.”
“I’m not taking any chances, Ms. Moore. You’ve already proven I can’t trust you. Until you’ve disabused me of the inclination to not trust you any farther than I can throw you, I’ll have to err on the side of caution. I think you understand.”
Her murmured curse wasn’t quite audible, but it didn’t need to be. He got the message loud and clear — she was going to fight.
“Where are you taking me? The station’s the other way, isn’t it?”
“Observant, I see.” He pulled the truck over onto the gravel shoulder, rocks jumping up and crackling against the undercarriage as he brought the Tahoe to a stop. He flipped on the light bar, then draped an elbow over the side of his seat, turning toward her. “We’re not going to the police station.”
“Why not? I need to make my phone call. Then we’ll see how you like it when you’ve fucked somebody in the press.” She smiled, a bitter edge to it utterly devoid of amusement or warmth. “You think criminals are bad? We’ll make your life hell.”
“I haven’t fucked anyone in the press, Ms. Moore. Not yet anyway.”
“Just keep quiet for a minute.” He paused, looking out his window. The first applicant in The Walk would be reaching the viewpoint soon, perhaps at that very moment. He was irritated at having to miss this one, but something — and someone — even more intriguing had fallen into his lap.
And that person currently sat cuffed in his backseat.
“Need to talk to someone — and being in town isn’t the best place for you at the moment.”
“Not the best place? What the fuck?” Her eyes were wide now. “I want to talk to a lawyer, Ford. Now.”
This was something she didn’t expect, and he knew keeping her off balance, uncertain, was the best way to handle her. She was a lot smarter than some might think, and he wasn’t about to give her an opportunity to prove it.
“No lawyer is going to get your ass out of the sling it’s in right now.” He lowered his voice, glaring at her. “If you’d simply listened to me, headed on out of here for greener pastures, this wouldn’t be happening. Now, you’ve forced me to do this — for your own good.”
“So, you’re arresting me — without charges — for… my own good?” She burst out laughing, looking down. “I can’t fucking believe this shit.”
“Believe it, Falon.” He faced forward once more, taking a deep breath as he brought the Tahoe back onto the road, gunning it up to fifty and leaving the lights on. “We’re going to have a little talk and figure out what we’re going to do with you.”
She was silent after that, another sign that she was a cooler customer than one might otherwise think. The more time she had to work out her situation, the more dangerous she was. Though he thought he could probably keep a handle on her, the girl would indeed bear watching. Close watching.
One thing was troubling him though. After he’d cuffed and stuffed her, he’d had a look at the documents she still had with her. She didn’t have much on her, but in her car they’d found a treasure trove of information, including laptops, tablets and thumb drives.
Most of the “dirt” she’d dug up on White Valley was exactly what he’d expected. That wasn’t the problem. Her source, which frustratingly wasn’t identified anywhere that they’d found thus far, had provided her information — damaging information.
The worst part of it though was that it was information that was entirely new to Ford. And if even half of it was true, Ms. Moore was going to turn out to be a whole lot more trouble than even he thought.
For the entire goddamned town.
* * *
She couldn’t help but wonder what he had in mind. Where was he taking her? Would he hurt her? At this point, she wasn’t sure what he would do. The question now was: how the hell was she going to get out of this? She suspected the town might try something like this, but she hadn’t expected it would be someone like Ford doing it. She thought of him as, well, one of the good guys. She was usually pretty good at reading people — it was part of the job. This time though, she’d screwed up. Badly.
The truck flew along the road, west of town, in a part of the country she had no familiarity with — she’d never gone this far in her travels around White Valley. There was one thing for sure though, he wasn’t taking her back to the police station.
What does that mean?
Each time she thought of it, the possibility of what might come next ran through her mind, and she tried to push away her fright, her fear of the unknown. And yet, a part of her was morbidly fascinated at what was happening. She really had no reference, no experience to draw upon for something like this. What she’d seen in the town through that telephoto lens was something she still didn’t know how to process.
Everything her source had told her was true.
So often sources flaked, or had a hidden agenda, an ax to grind.
Not this time.
She watched Ford as he drove, the man silent as ever, and wondered. Was he really one of the good guys? Or was he just one of the many people in White Valley her source had warned her could be dangerous?
He pulled the truck off the road, gravel spraying against the undercarriage, Falon bouncing and groaning as the cuffs abraded her wrists once more. Then they came to a stop, a cloud of dust rising around them, her heart suddenly pounding like a jackhammer in her chest.
Oh my god.
She watched Ford as he got out of the truck, turning her head to follow him as he walked around the rear of the vehicle. She tried to prepare herself for what might come next. Would he pull out a gun? A knife? It could be anything. She didn’t know what he was capable of doing anymore. She had to assume he was capable of anything.
Stop this, Falon. He would have killed you already if that’s what he wanted to do.
Her door opened, and then Ford stood there, filling the exit. He peered inside, his gaze meeting hers.
“I need you to cooperate with me. This will go easier. For both of us.”
“You could start by taking these off, you know.” Falon leaned over on one side, wiggling fingers just beginning to grow numb in the stricture of the cuffs. “Then you could try telling me what this is.”
“Proving you can be trusted is the only way those are coming off, Ms. Moore. Thus far, you haven’t even come close to earning that trust.” Ford tapped his fingers upon the roof at the top of the doorway. “I need you to sit tight for a minute.”
Instinctively, she knew she shouldn’t argue the point. She was in even more danger outside. It was the middle of nowhere, well outside of town, and though she still couldn’t believe he’d really hurt her, it felt a tiny bit safer in that backseat, cuffs or not.
Falon wasn’t about to let Ford know that though. She glared at him, but didn’t move.
“Now, you can choose to sit quietly for a minute, or you can choose to defy me. I promise you won’t like it if you choose the latter.”
“Fuck this,” Falon said under her breath.
Ford watched her, his eyes narrowing, and for one terrifying moment, she feared she’d pushed him a little too far. Then he sighed, slamming the door and walking several paces toward the road, his phone to his ear.
Falon nearly screamed in startled fright as the radio in the truck crackled twice, the sound jarring in the hushed silence.
She looked around at the expanse of tall conifers surrounding them, the shadowed undergrowth choked with brambles, the few bright yellow flowers in its midst belying the flesh-shredding danger of the mass of thorns within. The road seemed to be following the base of a ridge that stretched up to their left, what looked like might be a foot trail disappearing into the tangled vegetation. There wasn’t a single sign of civilization aside from the two-lane blacktop.
“Where the hell are we?” she whispered.
Then she saw a second vehicle, another truck, jacked up, with a well-worn steel rack in the bed, various ladders and lengths of lumber strapped to the top of it. A red circle with the words Ellison Companies emblazoned in bold, white letters across it decorated the driver’s side door.
The truck slid to a stop in the gravel behind Ford’s truck, and a tall man stepped out, walking slowly toward the Sheriff.
Then she recognized him. The tall bastard on the street watching the… festivities.
The newcomer talked with Ford for a minute, both men turning their backs to Falon, the tall man occasionally looking over his shoulder toward her, his eyes equal parts darkness and cold.
Then they walked over to the truck, Ford opening her door again, the cool air whispering against the sweat gathering at the base of her throat. The stranger leaned a head in, his jaw as hard as granite, his eyes like twin points of obsidian.
“You should’ve stayed in Portland, girl.” His voice matched his look, deep and gravelly.
“Who the hell are you?” Falon swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly dry. The man may have been twice her size, but she knew it was unlikely he’d try anything with a cop around.
They both needed to understand they were fucking with the wrong chick.
“Doesn’t matter who I am. What matters is that you tell Ford here what he needs to know. Do that, and you might have a chance at getting that cute little ass of yours out of the trouble it’s in right now.”
“I don’t know who you are, but unless you’re helping me out of these cuffs, you’re not really helping anything.”
The man shook his head, then stepped back.
“Shut up,” Ford said, leaning in and taking hold of her upper arm, laying a hand across the top of her head as he extricated her from the truck.
The gravel shifted beneath the soles of her shoes as she peered up at the two hulking men.
“At this point, running that mouth isn’t doing you any favors,” the tall stranger said, jabbing a finger at her. “I see Ford wasn’t lying about your attitude.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Should I have thanked the good Sheriff for detaining me without charge?”
Ford slammed the door behind her, then spun her around to face him.
“I want a goddamned lawyer,” she spat. “I want to know what I’m being arrested for. This is America. You can’t fucking do this.”
His strong fingers bit into her chin as he lifted it. For the first time since she’d met him, she saw real anger in his dark blue eyes, something she couldn’t say was entirely unappealing.
Hardly the time to be drooling over the big, bad alpha male cop, you idiot.
“The way I see it, Ms. Moore, you’re out to sea. And I’m the only hope you have of ever making it back home. Yes, we’re still in America, but after what you’ve pulled? You might as well be in a different galaxy for all the good that will do you. Now, shut that smart mouth, or I’ll gag you.” He jabbed a thumb back toward town. “What you did back there? You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”
“Ford, this is fu—”
“I’m done arguing with you. Quiet, or else.” He tilted his head. “Are we clear?”
The tall man looked her up and down, a new interest sparking in his dark gaze. A smile quirked at the corners of his mouth. “I’m starting to understand your interest in her, Ford.”
“Don’t start, Von.” Ford let go of her chin, then ran his fingers through his hair, the hard bulge of his biceps straining the fabric of his tan uniform.
Stop looking at his muscles and think about that name. Who the fuck is that?
Von put his hands on his hips, emphasizing the breadth of the towering man’s shoulders, his battered and well-worn black denim jacket sliding open. “Now, I didn’t say a thing, Sheriff.” He grinned, nodding toward Ford. “Need any help with her?”
“I’ve got it.” Ford took hold of her upper arm again, his tight grip making her wince. “She stays with me for the time being.”
“I’ll let them know then,” Von said, giving her one last look before heading back to his truck. “I’m guessing it will need to be right away, now that he’s back in town.”
“I’ll use the station then until we decide what to do.” Ford tugged her back toward the Tahoe. “Come on.”
As Von climbed in, closing the door behind him, he draped an elbow out his open window, his expression suddenly somber. “This… isn’t gonna be good. You know that, right?”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Ford nudged Falon. “She’s so far into the deep end of the pool, she doesn’t even know which way is up anymore. Isn’t that right, Ms. Moore?”
Still trying to process the threat of both his words and the naked possessiveness she saw in both mens’ gazes, she simply nodded, momentarily deprived of speech, if not her will to keep fighting.
They’d never extinguish that.