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Hunted

Dark Obesssion

By: Claire Thompson
Published By: Romance Unbound Publishing
Copyright: Published by Romance Unbound Publishing
12 chapters / 61,000 words
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Lured. Abducted. Trained. Hunted…

False pretenses brought Mara to the island, where she’s held captive with other imprisoned young women. Forced to submit, brutally trained and harshly disciplined by sadistic taskmasters, Mara desperately seeks a way out.

Dangerous, high-powered men use and abuse her at their whim, and Mara’s trainers demand far more than just her service as a sex slave to their guests. Still, nothing can prepare her for…the Hunt. 

Hunted is a Dark Obsession Series novel. Erotic non-con that’s not for the faint of heart. Read only if you dare.

Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

“You’re perfect. Just what we’re looking for.”

Mara blinked, not certain she had heard correctly. Hillary smiled and nodded as if Mara had spoken aloud. “You’re just the type of person we’re seeking for Pirate Island Luxury Resort & Spa. You have the experience. You’re young and single, so you won’t have a problem with moving. I must say, I admire your grit and determination, putting yourself through school, making it all on your own.” Her smile became sad as she reached across the small table to pat Mara’s arm. “Such a tragic story, Mara, losing your parents in a car accident at sixteen, no other family to speak of…” Tears actually filled the woman’s eyes.

“It’s been ten years,” Mara offered, embarrassed at the unwanted sympathy, wishing she hadn’t said anything, despite Hillary’s rather insistent probing into her background. “I miss them every day, but they’re always in my heart.” Did that sound too corny? It was true, but did it make her sound unprofessional? Sitting up straighter, she said, “I really appreciate this opportunity.”

Boy, did she! She’d only been unemployed for two weeks, but the severance package she’d received wouldn’t last much longer. What a horrible shock it had been when the owner of the small hotel she’d been successfully managing for two years informed her he’d sold the place to a large hotel chain that would be bringing in their own staff to run things. How incredibly lucky she’d been to land this interview with Wallace Hotels & Resorts, a well-established company with locations throughout North Carolina and the Outer Banks.

Presumably, Hillary Wallace, executive vice president, not to mention daughter of the owner and CEO of the company, had the authority to make a job offer whenever she wanted. Yet it was almost too good to be true—a management position at a luxury resort with an incredible benefit package and nearly double the salary she had been making.

Hillary’s smile brightened. “As I said, you’re just what we’re looking for. I’d like you to meet with Alex Carroll—he oversees operations at Pirate Island—for a final interview. My father—Mr. Wallace—will be there as well.” Her eyes moved over Mara’s face and body in an almost predatory way, making Mara uncomfortable beneath the scrutiny. To hide her discomfiture, she reached for her water glass.

The waiter appeared beside them. “May I show you dessert menus?”

With a brisk shake of her head, Hillary held out a credit card without having received the bill, not even bothering to look at the man. He took the card and melted away. Her gaze still focused on Mara, Hillary said, “As soon as you’re ready, I’ll make arrangements for our private jet to fly you directly to the island. You can take a tour of the facilities and discuss details of the job with Alex. If you like what you see and he likes what he sees”—she flashed an oddly evil grin—“I don’t see why you can’t start right away.”

A private jet! Mara tried to keep her expression politely professional, though she couldn’t stop the smile of excitement that spread over her face. “That sounds great,” she said. “I could be ready in the morning, if that works.”

“It works just fine. I’ll send a driver at nine o’clock tomorrow morning to bring you to the municipal airport. Pack an overnight bag, dress casually and don’t forget your bathing suit. We’ll put you up in one of the guest suites so you can experience for yourself the luxury we offer our guests.” Hillary stood, extending her perfectly manicured fingers toward Mara.

Who said fairy tales didn’t come true?

 

Mara had expected Hillary to meet her at the private airport and fly with her on the short trip to the island. But when the driver dropped her in front of a small but sleek jet on the tarmac, there was no one there to greet her.

As Mara walked uncertainly toward the jet, its door lifted and a short flight of stairs was lowered. A middle-aged man in black pants and a white shirt, a pilot’s cap on his head, appeared at the top of the stairs. “Good morning,” he called down to her. “You must be Mara Stevens. I’m Captain Goddard. I’ll be flying you to the island.”

Mara hoisted her small overnight bag onto her shoulder, gripped her briefcase resolutely and climbed the stairs. There were eight passenger seats, four to a side, upholstered in soft blue leather. “Let me help you with those.” The pilot took Mara’s overnight bag and briefcase and hoisted them into an overhead bin. “Make yourself comfortable,” he said, gesturing toward the seats. “You can sit anywhere you like—you’re my only passenger today.” 

As Mara buckled herself in, he pointed to the galley at the front of the jet. “We’ll only be in the air about thirty minutes, but feel free, once we’re at cruising altitude, to help yourself to a drink, snacks, whatever you want.” He gave an apologetic smile, adding, “Sorry, there’s no flight attendant on board.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” Mara interjected, extremely surprised the company was going to this kind of expense just for her. “Really, I’m fine. This is fantastic.”

The pilot flashed her a smile, though his eyes seemed sad. “Good, then. I’ll radio the tower that we’re ready to go. I’ll leave the cockpit door ajar, in case you need anything.”

“Okay, thanks. Thanks very much,” Mara said. She settled back in the oversized, comfortable seat, a far cry from the narrow seats of commercial jetliners, and sighed contentedly as the pilot disappeared into the cockpit.

She would use the flight time to review the Wallace Hotel & Resort data she’d brought along for reference. Yet once the plane was in the air, she decided just to relax—she was confident she was up to speed on the company’s assets and corporate business model.

When the pilot gave her the all clear, she unbuckled her seat belt and walked to the galley, where she found packets of gourmet cookies and chips, cold sodas and bottles of beer and wine. She selected some chocolate chip cookies and a can of Dr. Pepper and settled back down, staring out the window at the ocean below.

The flight was smooth and the pilot landed the jet with barely a bump. After a moment, he stepped out of the cockpit. “Welcome to paradise,” he said. He unlatched and opened the door while Mara retrieved her things.

As Mara came up beside him, the pilot pulled a lever and a set of stairs slowly unfolded to the ground. Stepping aside, he gestured toward the opening. “I’ll be returning directly to the mainland.” His grin faltered a moment, his face darkening as he regarded her, but then he shrugged, as if shrugging away an unwelcome thought, and smiled once more. “Good luck.”

Mara wondered at the man’s odd reaction and decided he was disappointed he wasn’t joining her in “paradise.” Nervous excitement bubbled in her gut as she stepped into the warm sunshine and climbed down the few steps of the plane. She drew in a deep breath of the damp, salt-laced air and looked across the pink sand at the beautiful blue-green sea. Heaven!

At the bottom of the stairs a dark-haired, swarthy man in a white shirt waited in a red golf cart with the words Pirate Island painted in gold on the side. As Mara approached the cart, the man jumped out and reached to take her things, which he stowed in the back seat of the cart. “Climb in,” he said as he returned to the driver’s seat. “I’m Ronaldo.”

“Mara Stevens,” Mara said in her professional voice, turning and extending her hand.

Very nice to meet you.” The man’s eyes moved with undisguised admiration over her body and bare legs as he took her hand. Instead of the brisk shake she had expected, he held her hand several beats too long until she pulled it away, confused and put off by the man’s rude behavior. She made a mental note of his name, wondering if Mr. Wallace knew his employee behaved so unprofessionally with guests.

Ronaldo faced forward, a strange smile on his face. The cart began to move, its tires crunching over the shell-strewn sand. After passing between some dunes covered with undulating sea grass, they moved onto a wide, paved road bordered on either side by tall, stately trees beneath a deep blue sky.

The cart slowed but didn’t stop as a two-story building made of stone and wood with plenty of glass came into view. That must be the main hotel and reception area. Oddly, the place was deserted, not a soul in sight.

Moving past the wide circular driveway in front of the structure, Ronaldo steered the cart along a paved path to the right of it. Behind a riot of tropical foliage there appeared a large bungalow with white stucco walls and red-tiled roof. He parked in a small driveway to the side of the house and got out of the cart.

“This way,” he said, waving toward the front door.

“My things?” Mara said, taking a step toward the back of the cart.

“You won’t be needing them,” the man replied decisively. “Come along. Mr. Wallace is waiting.”

Mara wanted her briefcase, but Ronaldo was already heading toward the door. Uncertain, she decided he was right—she was wearing a sundress and sandals, dressed casually as Hillary had suggested. She would present herself as confident but relaxed, just the sort of image required at a beach resort.

Ronaldo touched a doorbell and Mara could hear its chimes. She noted the keypad set into the door just below the knob. After a moment, she heard the click of a lock being released. She drew in a breath and put on her professional smile as she waited for the door to open. Instead, Ronaldo turned the knob, opened the door and gestured for Mara to enter. She’d expected a suite of offices, but found instead a large, furnished living room filled with white wicker furniture, glass tables with vases of tropical flowers and a stone-tiled mosaic floor. The room was empty.

“Back here,” Ronaldo said, leading her to sliding glass doors that comprised the entire back wall of the room. Ronaldo pulled the slider open and they stepped onto a spacious veranda with more wicker furniture and a full bar in the corner, complete with rows of liquor bottles, its countertop a long, smooth slab of polished wood. The veranda was entirely screened in, a sandy shore beyond the screen, a long strip of dark blue ocean visible at the horizon.

Three men were seated about the space, glasses of amber liquor over ice in their hands. The oldest, a ruddy-faced man of about fifty with dark, curly hair laced with silver appraised Mara over the lip of his glass with small, shrewd eyes. Mara recognized him from internet searches she’d done on Daniel Wallace. He was wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt over shorts.

 

Mara stepped toward him, hand outstretched. “Mara Stevens,” she said with a smile.

Oddly, he didn’t stand to greet her, nor did the other two men. Instead, as if she hadn’t even spoken and wasn’t standing there with her hand extended, Dan Wallace said, “My, my, my, Hill outdid herself this time.” He rubbed his hands together, an ugly expression on his face. “We’re going to make a fortune on this one.”

Mara dropped her hand and took a step back. “What—” she began, confusion and shock twisting in her gut.

A second man, maybe thirty-five, with thick reddish-brown hair cut a little long, fine, aquiline features and brilliantly green eyes interrupted her. “Let’s see her naked.”

“What?” Mara cried again, the word bursting from her mouth in a sharp, incredulous bark. She looked wildly between the four men, who all regarded her with nasty smiles. She took another step back and turned toward the sliding doors, a vague but urgent idea of escape forming in her mind.

Ronaldo stepped between her and the doors, blocking her way. She whirled back toward Wallace, her heart pounding so loudly she could barely hear her own voice over its beat. “I’m here for a job interview. What is this? What was that man talking about?”

Wallace continued to grin his ugly grin. As if she hadn’t spoken, Wallace turned to the third man, a younger, more muscular version of himself, with the same mop of curly hair, though without the silver, and the same close-set, shrewd gaze. “What do you think, DJ? Did your sister find us a live one?”

The younger man nodded, his small eyes narrowing. “Oh, yeah,” he said fervently. “I like Alex’s idea. Let’s see her naked.”

Mara swayed, dizzy with shock and fear. This couldn’t be happening. She had to get out of there. She had to get help. Her cell phone was in her briefcase outside in the cart. She would call 9-1-1, but how would they get to the island? She didn’t even know where she was!

Wallace gestured toward Mara with his chin. “Go ahead, boy. Let’s see the goods.”

DJ jumped eagerly to his feet. As he stood, he pulled something from his cargo shorts pocket and flicked it open with a snick and a flash of silver. Terrified, Mara took another step back, bumping against Ronaldo. Strong arms reached from behind, hard fingers digging into her shoulders.

DJ moved closer, the switchblade gleaming in his grasp. “Relax, baby,” he said, his eyes glittering with malevolent lust. He grabbed the front of her dress. “You’ll be fine as long as you stay still.” She couldn’t have moved if she’d tried, caught in Ronaldo’s firm grip. With his other hand, DJ drew the tip of the knife down the fabric, which parted with a ripping sound.

“Oh my god,” Mara whispered, breathless with shock as Ronaldo pulled the torn dress from her body. DJ slipped the cold blade between her breasts and yanked it forward so the bra, too, fell open. Mara nearly fainted as the knife slid beneath the elastic of her panties and ripped them easily from her body. She sagged against Ronaldo, too terrified to make a sound.

Wallace leered at her with a wolfish expression. “Excellent breasts. Long legs. She looks strong. She’ll give the guys a run for their money during the next hunt.”

Mara could make no sense of this bizarre statement, but Alex nodded in apparent agreement. He was also staring at Mara, but his expression was colder, more assessing, as if he were reviewing the contents of a shipment of books or a case of wine. DJ stood nearby, one hand rubbing the bulge at his crotch, the knife still in his other hand.

The room tilted as Mara’s legs turned to jelly. She sagged hard against the driver as her eyes fluttered closed.

When she opened her eyes, it took several seconds to figure out where she was, or whose face was gazing intently into hers. She was slumped in a chair, naked. “There you are,” Alex said, leaning back on his haunches. “We lost you for a minute there. Welcome back.”

Mara wrapped her arms protectively around herself, leaning forward, elbows on her thighs to hide her nudity as best she could. She looked toward Dan Wallace. “Please,” she begged, “there’s been some kind of horrible mistake. I’m here for a job interview for a management position. You must have me confused with someone else.”

“No confusion,” Wallace said with a cruel smile. “At least not on our part. Admittedly, you were brought here under false pretenses”—he shrugged dismissively—“but that’s your problem, not ours. Go on”—he gestured again toward Alex—“tell the little lady what the score is.“

Mara looked to Alex, both desperate and terrified to hear his explanation. “Keeping it short and sweet for now, you’ve been abducted, Mara. Your former life is over. Your apartment will be emptied, your car disposed of, your life erased. You are now the property of Pirate Island, to be used and enjoyed as we see fit. Your life is quite literally in our hands.”

Mara stared in speechless, horrified confusion at the man who stood and stepped back from her. This couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be happening.

Alex nodded toward Ronaldo. “Let’s get her up. Take her to the girls’ quarters for prep and then on to Dr. Morgan for her exam.”

The men converged on her and Mara was forcibly lifted from the chair. Her arms were yanked behind her back and something cold and hard clicked over her wrists, cuffing them together. “No!” She struggled against the men. “You can’t do this! Help me! Help!”

A sudden, sharp slap to her face stunned her into silence. Alex leaned close, so close she could smell the whiskey on his breath. “Keep that pretty mouth shut, Mara. There’s no one to appeal to. We own this island and we own you. The sooner you can acclimate yourself to your new circumstances, the better off you’ll be. If there’s one lesson you need to learn quickly, it’s this: good girls get rewarded; bad girls get punished. Severely.”

He nodded again to Ronaldo as he stepped away. Ronaldo wrapped a strong, heavily muscled arm around Mara’s shoulders. He propelled her from the veranda and back through the house toward the door.

You are now the property of Pirate Island… Your life is quite literally in our hands… Bad girls get punished…

The words whirled and smashed in a menacing cacophony in her brain as Ronaldo led her outside and pushed her roughly into the passenger seat of the golf cart. He leaned over her, pulling a thick, sturdy seat belt she hadn’t noticed before over her chest and waist and clicking it into place. The cuffs had ratcheted painfully tight around her wrists from her struggles, and they cut into her skin.

“Please, please, please,” Mara begged, crying. “I don’t know what’s happening. Please don’t do this. Take me back to the plane. Let me go home.” She turned to Ronaldo, who stared straight ahead, her voice beseeching. “I have money. I can get you money—whatever you want. Please, don’t do this.”

Still without looking at her, Ronaldo shook his head. “Save it, chica. It won’t do you any good. I get paid very well by Mr. Wallace. He is a very powerful man, not someone I want to cross.”

He glanced at her, and she thought she saw the tiniest spark of sympathy before his face hardened once more. “In case you haven’t already figured it out, you’re involved with some very bad men. If you keep your head down, keep your mouth shut, and do as you’re told, you’ll be okay. If not, if you fight them…” He shrugged, not completing the sentence. Mara’s fevered imagination filled in details too horrible to contemplate and she shuddered.

They drove along another path that wound between a profusion of small trees and foliage, pulling to a stop in front of a long, single-story windowless building. Ronaldo jumped from the driver’s seat and came around to Mara’s side. He released the seat belt and hauled her from the cart. “Let’s go,” he said, placing his heavy arm over her shoulders. Mara could barely walk, her legs like rubber, as he half-guided, half-pushed her toward the entrance of the building. This time, rather than ringing a doorbell, Ronaldo punched numbers into the small keypad below the knob and pulled the door open.

Mara held her breath as the door swung inward, trying to prepare herself for the dark, stony dungeon that awaited her. Instead, they entered a sunny, bright entrance hall filled with natural light streaming in from skylights in the ceiling, of which there were many. She stared in confusion at the airy, pleasant surroundings. The floor was made of sand-colored stone tile, the walls painted a soft blue. Two white wicker chairs and a loveseat with plump teal cushions were arranged near a credenza, on which sat a laptop and a vase of fresh flowers. Where was the prison, the dungeon?

“Dawn is in charge here,” Ronaldo said. “She’ll take care of you.” He pulled a small key from his pocket and unlocked the cuffs, removing them from her bruised, scraped wrists and slipping them into his back pocket.

They both turned at the sound of heels tapping against the stone. A striking woman of about forty with sleek auburn hair cut in a shiny, short bob appeared. She wore a green silk halter-top, a patterned batik sarong wrapped around her slender hips and long legs, her tan midriff bare. At her throat, she wore a stunning choker made of a thick strand of yellow gold set with easily a dozen diamonds and rubies in an alternating pattern. “Ah, hello,” she said in a fluty, cultured voice. “You must be Mara. I’ve been expecting you.”

The woman didn’t seem the slightest bit fazed or perturbed by Mara’s nakedness, tear-streaked face and overall disheveled appearance. She turned to Ronaldo and flashed perfect white teeth in a gracious smile that didn’t quite reach her artfully made-up eyes. “Thank you, Ronaldo. You may wait here while I get this girl cleaned up and groomed.”

Turning back to Mara, she flicked her gaze appraisingly over Mara’s face and body as Mara touched her aching wrists. “My name is Dawn. I take care of the girls. Come along.” She put a cool hand on Mara’s back and pushed her gently forward toward the hallway from which she’d come. Mara threw a beseeching glance in Ronaldo’s direction. He was seating himself on one of the chairs, a cell phone in his hand, not looking at her.

Not knowing what else to do, Mara allowed herself to be led away, the sandals still on her feet clacking alongside Dawn’s high heels in the otherwise silent hallway. They passed several closed doors that were bolted from the outside, stopping at the entrance to a large bathroom that contained a round sunken tub filled with steaming, fragrant water, a bank of sinks, three curtained showers and four toilet stalls. A massage table was set up in a corner of the space draped in snowy white linen. Everything was gleaming tile and gold-streaked marble, no manacles or prison cells in sight.

“Climb in that tub,” Dawn directed, pointing toward the bath. “Wash your hair and scrub your face. We’ll apply fresh makeup, something that doesn’t smear from a few tears. But first I need to wax that little bush of yours. Ever since it became popular on the porn sites, all our pussies have to be bald as babies’ behinds.”

What the fuck? The woman’s matter-of-fact, chatty tone about what she planned to do to Mara was almost more frightening than the menacing threats made by the men. She was behaving as if all this were the most natural thing in the world, as if she dealt with abducted, naked, terrified women every day of the week.

Oh my god, she probably does.

Mara drew in a ragged breath. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. The words repeated in an endless loop in her mind, as if by thinking it hard enough, she might somehow make it true.

“Please,” she begged, trying to appeal to Dawn woman to woman. “Did they kidnap you, too? Is there any way off this island? Are you here voluntarily?”

Dawn laughed, a tinkling, hollow sound. “Of course I’m here voluntarily, darling. I run a very profitable little enterprise for Mr. Wallace. My girls are the best, the very best—I make sure of it.” Her tone was pleasant but there was steel beneath the words, a hardness in her blue eyes. “Now”—she clapped her hands sharply—“get in that tub. We don’t want to keep the gentlemen waiting.”

“Please, please,” Mara begged, aware even as she did so it was useless, but unable to stop. “There’s been some horrible mistake. I’m not supposed to be here. I was supposed to be going for a job interview. I don’t know what’s going on. I—“

“What’s going on,” Dawn interrupted, “is that you are now the property of Pirate Island. You don’t have to worry about what happened before or how you got here. That’s over and done with. All you need to do going forward is exactly what you’re told.”

Mara started to protest but Dawn stopped her again with a raised hand. “The Wallace family is filthy rich and very connected in North Carolina and beyond. They own half the state, including many of the politicians who run it. As far as I know, most of their other businesses are legit, but you won’t find Pirate Island on any balance sheet. Now climb into that tub this instant or I’ll call Ronaldo in here to throw you in. Get a move on.”

Mara climbed into the water, which, despite her terror, was deliciously hot and soothing. She leaned back and submerged herself until only her face was showing, wishing she could sink below the surface and simply disappear.

“Wash your hair and body. No dawdling,” Dawn snapped. She stared hard at Mara until Mara reached for the shampoo bottle, squeezed some onto her palm and began to wash her hair.

Dawn stood by a counter next to the massage table, stirring something in a small pot over a heating element. “Here’s the situation, darling. Pirate Island caters to extremely wealthy men and the occasional woman who like to buy decadent, dark thrills. As far as our guests know, you girls are here voluntarily, and in fact, that does end up being the case more often than you’d think. Our girls are highly trained sex workers—think high-class New York call girl, the kind that commands a few thousand a night. Here on Pirate Island anything goes. Absolutely anything, short of permanently damaging the goods.”

She gave a small laugh, adding, “What happens on Pirate Island, stays on Pirate Island, and most of these guys have way too much to lose if they breathe a word of what goes on here, even if they wanted to. Dan Wallace makes sure of that.”

She looked from what she was doing to Mara. “Finish up in there. Dry off and lie down on your back on the table.” When Mara didn’t immediately react, Dawn’s tone sharpened. “Speed it up, darling. I don’t want to have to punish you on your first day.” She picked up a long, thin cane from the counter and whipped it menacingly in the air.

More frightened than ever, Mara quickly rinsed her hair and stood, reaching for a nearby towel. Eying the evil-looking cane, Mara contemplated the possibility of physically overpowering Dawn. Mara was younger and probably stronger, and certainly more desperate. But Ronaldo waited down the hall, and Mara would never make it past him. Leadenly she made her way to the massage table and forced herself to lie down.

“You ever have a Brazilian wax?” Dawn asked as she began to snip Mara’s pubic hair with barber scissors.

Mara shuddered at the touch of the cold metal moving against her skin. She fantasized about grabbing the scissors and stabbing the woman, but instead just lay there, shaking.

“I asked you a question,” Dawn snapped.

“No,” Mara replied, her muscles rigid with fearful anticipation.

“That’s no, ma’am, young lady. Where are your manners?”

“No, ma’am,” Mara forced herself to reply.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This is going to hurt like hell.” Dawn lifted a liquor bottle from the counter, poured some into a glass and held it out to Mara. Here, have some Cognac. It’ll take the edge off.”

Mara lifted herself on her elbows and accepted the brandy. She sipped, coughed a little, and sipped some more. Her empty stomach twisted, growling audibly as the brandy entered her system. She took another sip and then gulped the strong, sweet liquor.

Dawn apparently heard her empty belly too. “When’s the last time you had something to eat?”

“This morning.” Mara thought of the cookies and soda on the plane, and how happy and excited she’d been as she was flown toward the island.

“You must be hungry.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Dawn took the empty glass from her. “Good. Hunger is an effective motivator. Good girls get fed. Bad girls don’t.” She pressed Mara’s shoulder to indicate she should lie back down. Mara, lightheaded from the alcohol, complied.

“Knees up, feet flat on the table, legs spread wide,” Dawn instructed. Not daring to refuse, Mara obeyed, her face hot with embarrassment as she exposed herself in this way.

Dawn brushed warm, melted wax over Mara’s skin where her thigh met her groin and then pressed a soft strip of cloth over it with strong, sure fingers. Then—

“Ouch!” Mara cried as the cloth was ripped away.

“It gets worse,” Dawn said, “so be prepared. If you stay still and behave, I won’t cane you. If you can keep from screaming, I’ll give you more brandy, and maybe something to eat. I’ll be all done in about ten minutes, so just close your eyes and take it, if you know what’s good for you. This is advice you’ll want to heed at all times while on this island.”

Another warm stroke of wax was applied, this time to her other thigh, followed by Dawn’s fingers pressing and holding the cotton strip in place, and then another stinging rip of pain. More prepared this time, Mara managed to stifle her cry into a gasp. As the strips were yanked from her pubic area, Mara couldn’t stop the yelps of pain. She had no idea there were so many nerve endings over her pubic bone, and every single one of them was screaming.

When the wax was spread and then ripped from her vulva, she began to cry, the pain too much to handle, any buzz from the brandy burned away in her agony.

When the waxing ordeal was finally over, Dawn placed a warm, damp cloth over Mara’s reddened, tender mons. “There,” she announced. “It’s done, and you were a very good girl, overall. If it’s any consolation, the first time hurts the worst, because you’re pulling out the hairs by their root bulbs. Next time will be easier, and the time after that easier still. Meanwhile”—she lifted the brandy bottle and poured another finger of liquor into it—“I’m feeling generous, so you can have another drink. Once I put on the salve, I’ll get you an energy bar.”

Mara sat up and took the glass. She drank the liquor, though now it made her empty stomach queasy. The salve on her pussy was both soothing and anesthetizing, and though her skin was tender and sore, the pain was bearable. Dawn brought her an energy bar, something chalky and dense that Mara didn’t really like, but ate anyway.

Dawn directed her to sit on a vanity stool in front of the bank of sinks. She gave Mara a bottle of water, which she drank as Dawn blow-dried her hair and applied makeup to her face. “No more crying, do you hear me?” Dawn said as she patted cream beneath Mara’s puffy, red-rimmed eyes. “You get a pass on your first day, but after this, every tear earns a stroke of the cane. We must be beautiful for the owners and our guests. Do you understand, Mara?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mara replied, though she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs that no, she didn’t understand a fucking thing, except that Dawn and these Wallace people and everyone in this place were out of their freaking minds and should all be arrested and put in jail for seven consecutive life terms each.

“There, that’s better,” Dawn pronounced when she was done applying the makeup. Mara looked at her image, surprised. Somehow Dawn managed to transform her blotchy, tear-stained face into a mask of youthful beauty.

Dawn clapped her hands and said briskly, “Use the toilet if you need to. Don’t dawdle.”

Mara sat on a toilet in one of the stalls, which had no doors, though the partitions on either side afforded some level of privacy. Her bowels were clenched too tightly to move, but she did pee a little, wondering as she did where the other captive girls were. Were they locked in those rooms along the hallway?

When Mara emerged from the stall, she washed her hands at the sink, avoiding the mirror. “Let’s go,” Dawn said. “I’ll show you your room and then Ronaldo will take you for your medical exam.”

With no choice in the matter, Mara followed Dawn out of the bathroom and down the hallway past several closed doors, listening hard for the sound of life behind them. Dawn stopped at the third door and slid back the bolt. The door opened inward, revealing a small room filled with natural light from the wide skylight overhead. The only thing in the room was a full-size bed made up with a yellow and white patterned coverlet, two plump pillows at its head. “You’ll sleep here when you’re not staying with one of our guests,” Dawn informed her. “That is, unless you misbehave, in which case you’ll find yourself sleeping in the punishment box.” She gave Mara a hard stare. “Trust me, you do not want to spend any time in the box.”

It didn’t take too much imagination to conjure a filthy pit filled with rats and crawling with insects, and Mara hugged herself, a shudder moving through her frame as they continued down the hall back toward the entrance. Ronaldo stood as they approached. He put a hand on Mara’s arm and led her from the building, Dawn walking beside them.

Once more, Ronaldo forced Mara into the passenger seat and drew the seat belt over her body. At least they hadn’t cuffed her. She was being compliant, and maybe that was the key. She would make them think she was going along with all this while she figured some way out of this nightmare. She had to get away from this evil island. She had to escape.

But how?

 

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