Read Beyond the Shadows Online

Authors: Cassidy Hunter

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Romance, #erotic, #Fantasy

Beyond the Shadows (3 page)

Chapter Five

 

He collapsed atop her. She was surprised by how welcome his weight was. His body, so warm, so huge, made her feel, for the first time in her life, safe.

All too soon, he lifted himself, and she turned onto her back to watch him. He stood beside the bed and dressed, his face somewhat pale, his eyes heavy with fulfillment.

He jerked his pants over his hips and fastened them with a little too much force, and not once did he meet her gaze.

What had made him so uncomfortable? What thoughts scurried about in that beautiful, arrogant head? She had done as he’d commanded, had given in to his mastery, his domination. And she’d loved every moment of it.

He glanced at her bare breasts, then strode toward the door. “Eat your breakfast. I will send for you if I have need of you. Until then, stay here.”

“In these rooms? All day?”

He stared at the door, giving her a rigid back and stiff shoulders. “Unless you wish to walk the grounds naked. Perhaps you’d like to tease the men?”

Suddenly angry, she snarled, “Perhaps.” She was finding it more difficult than she’d imagined to allow yet another person, another man, to dominate her. To give her rules.

He swung around. “What?”

She bit her lip. “I’m sorry. I meant nothing.” How had she allowed herself to lose her temper? She’d been ready for him for a long time and knew exactly how to act, what to say. Having a fit of temper was not in her plans.

He got to her. She sighed and rose onto her knees. “It won’t happen again.” She pushed her heavy hair back over her shoulders, giving him a view of her flawless body. “I wish to tease no one.” She lowered her gaze briefly. “Except you, of course.”

“Yeah. Of course.” His stare was hard, his mouth a thin, straight line of displeasure.

They had both overreacted. She, because he got under her skin like a spine from a mean cactus, but why was he so prickly over
her
words? Maybe she was getting to him already. Things were moving faster than she’d imagined they would, if she was making such an impact this early in the game.

Whatever moments of closeness they’d had while fucking, whatever connection they’d shared, seemed to have disappeared. He closed himself off so abruptly and with such finality it was disorienting.

He left the room without another word. The room felt empty and sad without him in it. She blew out a deep breath, more afraid than she’d been since she’d arrived here. Afraid she was going to soften toward him. She couldn’t do that and still betray him. She couldn’t.

She lay back, his seed cooling between her legs. There was no hurry to get up. If he didn’t want her leaving her rooms, she’d have to ask for some things to keep her occupied: a book, some sewing supplies, ink, paper. He could afford to share such luxuries with her, surely.

She’d bide her time. After all, it wasn’t as if she’d expected to make him love her immediately. No, she was a patient woman, and in the end, everything that happened would be worth the wait. Freeing Constantine would be worth everything she’d gone through to get to this point.

Pride sang through her, and a smile tugged at her lips. Just as quickly, it fell. Con could be dead.

She shoved the ugliness away. There was no use in thinking about it right now.

Covered with Kai’s scent, she wallowed in the sheets, swimming in the silky softness. He could confine her to her rooms for weeks, and she’d be okay. Sooner or later, she’d do what she’d come to do. Until then, she’d do what he wanted her to do. Be who he wanted her to be.

Suddenly ravenous, she pulled the breakfast tray to her and made short work of the eggs, thick bread, and bacon. The food was cold but still delicious. How many mornings had she awakened with only boiled coffee and porridge and thought she was in heaven? The orange juice was fresh and tasted of the sun, and she tossed it back like a good whiskey.

Three hours later, after she’d taken a long bath in bubbly, scented water, tidied the rooms, and watched the activity below her third-floor window with some interest, she turned gladly at the knock on the door.

It wasn’t him. He wouldn’t knock. “Come.”

“I’ve brought your lunch, mi—Sarah.” Teddy bustled into the room with a loaded tray, followed by a young woman with a pitcher and a glass. “We’ll have someone up in a bit with some food and such, as Mr.
Trinder
ordered. Then you can make yourself something whenever you want, without waiting on mealtimes.” She pointed at the door leading to a small room that Sarah had already peeked into. “You can put all your supplies and extras in there.”

“Would you ask for books and sewing supplies?” The fact that Kai sought books for his house was a pleasure she much appreciated.

“You
sew
, miss!” Teddy put a hand to her chest. “How is it you escaped the
needleworker’s
hall in
Springland
?” Her voice was a horrified whisper.

Sarah could feel herself paling. “Oh, not well,” she said, hastily backtracking. “But I’ve been teaching myself.” She’d rather die right here and now than be sent to the
needleworker’s
hall to die a long, slow, agonizing death. Chances were slim that that would ever happen now. She would either die here trying to free Con, or escape with him to the shadows. Still, the thought of the
needleworker’s
hall scared her half to death.

“I knit,” Teddy said, her smile proud.

“Did you make the scarf you’re wearing?”

“I did.”

“It’s lovely.”

Teddy hesitated. “I know you come from
Springland
, dear. Is it as bad as I’ve heard?”

“Worse. I’m so happy to be here.”
Near Con.

Relieved that Teddy seemed not to have a suspicious bone in her body, Sarah sat on the bed, eager for her lunch. Her nudity bothered neither her nor Teddy, who was surely used to seeing naked girls in a house full of protected females. For an instant, a bothersome image of Kai between the legs of another woman flitted through her mind.

“Bring your needles when you’re not working. I’d be glad of the company, and I’d love it if you could teach me a few things.”

Teddy’s eyes lit up like fireworks were going off in her head. “Fantastic, miss!”

Sarah shook her head. “I told you my name.”

“Of course, and thank you.”

“How long will he keep me confined?”

Teddy took the pitcher from her assistant and set it on the table in the corner. “I don’t know, honestly.” Her brow knit, and she tilted her head. “He’s never kept the women confined to their rooms before.”

Sarah gaped, then snapped her mouth closed with a painful quickness when she realized she was showing her surprise. “He hasn’t?”

“No, ma’am.” Teddy shrugged and stood back, her hands folded over her dress. “But I don’t question. I just do what I’m told.”

After Teddy closed the door behind her, Sarah dug into her lunch. She’d never had a problem with her appetite, no matter what was going on. She’d always felt she needed to eat what was given to her, because one never knew what was right around the corner. She was no stranger to the pain of hunger.

One thing was obvious; Kai was treating her differently than he’d treated the other women. And so soon. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a scary thing.

How tempting it was to lie back and enjoy this new life. To revel in the crisp, clean linens, the solar-powered lights, the rich food. How tempting to forget the bleak world outside these gates. Tempting to ignore for a little while the knowledge that every moment of her freedom had cost Con his.

Before she’d escaped Sampson, she had felt fear every second of every day. Here, she was safe, secure inside the compound. Kai would protect her with his life. That was what protectors did. At least the good ones. He would give her everything she needed.

But she wasn’t here to enjoy Kai’s worth and wealth. As tempting as this privileged life was, she couldn’t put herself ahead of the man she’d come to free. Not again. And she couldn’t let Kai stand in her way.

She took a bite of bread slathered with fresh butter and frowned at a strange, anxious feeling in her stomach. It wasn’t the food. Could it be…guilt?

Carefully, she put the bread back on the tray. Hell no. No, not her. She’d protect those she loved with her last breath. And she would feel no guilt for betraying Kai to do it.

Would she?

She let out a sharp, harsh bark of laughter. Of course she would.

But that couldn’t stop her.

Chapter Six

 

Kai sat in the armored truck and stared out at the streets of New Haven. He was fucking tired. At times he wished for nothing more than to be a man whose only responsibilities were to care for a wife and a few kids, to hunt and fish and provide for them. Sometimes he wanted to forget that he had to help take care of an entire settlement.

And the fights with
Springland
were wearing on him. If Sampson hadn’t been such a greedy bastard, he could have been content with the resources he had. But not a chance. He wanted what every other settlement had. Especially the large, thriving settlement of New Haven. But New Haven was Kai’s, and he was not about to lose it to a bastard like Sampson. Sometime in the future, long after he was dead, to be sure, he had the hope his New Haven might compare favorably to the one that had come before.

He allowed himself a small smile. As much as he tired of the fighting, the unending pleas for his attention from the district sheriffs, the greediness…as much as he hated all that, this was his place in the world. At least here he had some control over what went on.

“You don’t have to be here, Commander.”

Kai glanced at his second in command and friend, who was sitting in the cab beside him. The rain beat a steady, loud beat on the roof of the truck and curtained the windows in a thin fall of water, insulating them from the outside world. “Obviously I’m aware of that, Erik.”

“Then why are you? Why aren’t you behind the walls of your castle, taking care of your harem?” He laughed, his green eyes surrounded by lines born of too much sun.

“Watch where you’re driving. You almost hit that tree.” He was silent for a beat, then decided to confide in his second. “I get sick of women.”

“Oho! Tell old Erik, friend. What troubles the young stud this lovely, warm day?” As he finished speaking, the rain came harder, a heavy, gray rain that sapped a man’s energy and made him wish for nothing more than a warm fire and a strong whiskey. In a few minutes the dirt streets would be slippery with mud.

Kai stared out his window at the few pedestrians hurrying along, their heads bent against the downpour.

He sighed. “Women.”

“Lucky bastard.”

“Right.”

“I’m just ribbing you, old man. I know you’re the good guy, taking care of as many women as you can, the way you do. Not many would do it.” He laughed again, his customary good nature beating back the black of the day. “Not many
could
do it.”

Kai shrugged. “Someone needs to care for them.”

“You’re a good man, like I said. How many of them are you bedding nowadays?”

Kai allowed a quick grin. “As many as will let me.”

“You’re still asking, then? You know they don’t expect you to ask permission. They belong to—”

“Yeah, yeah.” Kai waved an impatient hand, touchy as always on the subject of someone actually belonging to him. “I’m not their master. I’m their protector.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I have a new woman.”

“Yeah!” Erik held up a hand for a high five, which Kai ignored.

“I didn’t ask
her
. I commanded her like a soldier, and I fucked her without giving her an opportunity to say otherwise. And for all she knows, she has to obey my every demand or I’ll send her back to the hellhole she sprang from.” He shook his head, disgusted. “I made sure she knew I was her master.”

Erik studied him quietly. “What’s different about this one, friend?”

“I wish I knew. I mean, she’s incredibly beautiful, but I’ve a house full of beautiful women. It’s something else. And when I look at her…she drives me crazy. Makes me want to hurt her for getting to me. I wanted her the moment I saw her. Now I have her and…” He pushed a hand through his hair, blowing out a long breath. “Hell, I’m completely out of my depth.”

“Well, that explains why you’re out here in this mess.”

Kai laughed. “I guess it does. Women—they’ll kill you.” Then he held up a hand. “Stop the truck. Looks like Amelia is holding off a few mangy-looking men. Think they’re from
Springland
?” He didn’t pause for an answer. “That woman is one crazy sheriff. Let’s go help her.”

Erik braked sharply and peered through the rain-splattered windshield. He turned to pound on the window behind him, alerting the men in the back. Most of them had probably fallen asleep. “Grab your guns, boys! We have a skirmish coming up.” He grabbed his door handle. “We’ll get you some activity; get that woman out of your head.” He grinned at Kai, his wolfish smile eager and happy.

This was what Erik lived for. Women be damned. Give him a good battle, let him break some heads, and he was a happy, happy man. Kai laughed, Erik’s bloodthirsty attitude contagious.

He jumped from one of the three precious trucks in his possession, yelling to his men, who were now spilling from the back. He stomped through the mud, running to meet the enemy. They’d chosen the wrong fucking day to mess with Kai
Trinder
.

Chapter Seven

 

At the sound of an engine, Sarah ran to the window and threw open the glass to allow rain and cooling night air to greet her. She watched Kai jump from a truck, looking, even in the pale glow from the lights, muddy and covered with dark blotches that could have been blood. Oh, to be out there in the excitement, fighting and laughing and being part of the world. But she’d been given little choice as to what her purpose in this life would be.

A fucking whore and a traitor. A delicate in need of a protector, a bored, withering woman with a lonely, longing soul.

Kai glanced up, and she pulled back quickly, wondering if he’d seen her. Soldiers milled around, hoping, she was sure, for the hospitality of this house in the shape of whiskey, food, and a willing woman.

Taking another peek out the window, she saw Kai motion them all inside. There must have been twenty men out there. “Erik,” Kai yelled. “Let’s find you a warm meal and a hot bed, my friend.” As though he felt her gaze, he looked up, straight at her.

She clenched her fists, barely feeling the sting of her nails. She hoped Kai came to her. And not because of the road she’d been set upon, but because she wanted his company. She’d surely lost her mind.

The noise downstairs was so merry and bright she had to force herself to stay in her rooms. An hour later, the party was still going strong, and her heart hardened. She mattered to no one, and she needed to remember that.

When the door slammed against the wall, she’d been dozing. She sat up quickly, startled and disoriented. Kai, was her first thought, but it wasn’t Kai. It was one of Kai’s drunken soldiers, blundering about in the wrong part of the house. Or…had Kai sent him here, to her?

She jumped to the side of the bed, not bothering to grab a sheet to cover her nakedness. “What do you want here?”

“Eh? I can’t see anything. Turn on the fucking—Where’s the goddamn light switch?” He toddled into the room. The hall light illuminated him from behind, making him look like a giant, lurching shadow.

His searching hand hit the switch, and his gaze homed in on her. “Holy—Oh my, my, my. Lewis is a lucky bastard tonight. Oh yeah. Come here, baby. Damn! Look at your tits!”

She wasn’t about to let this man near her, whether Kai had sent him or not. She needed to stay in Kai’s good graces, but there were some things she refused to do. At least if she had a choice.

He grabbed handfuls of her naked breasts, squeezing and massaging them. “Baby, baby. Come give Lewis some
lovin
’, sweet thing.”

Ugh
. She jerked away from him but he just followed her, his sour breath making her gag.

He thrust a hand between her thighs, lowering his head to pull a nipple into his wet mouth.

“You have to go,” she said. “I belong to Kai.”

“Sure you do, honey,” he mumbled from around her nipple. “You all do. Lucky fuck, Kai is.”

Shit
. She brought a knee up, hard.

As soon as the pain registered, he loosened his hold and bent over, groaning. “What the hell? Bitch—”

She’d sent his nuts halfway through his belly, but he was Kai’s soldier. Those guys could take horrendous amounts of pain. With the added bonus of being drunk, it would take more than a knee to the balls to take this one out.

She vaulted onto the bed and, with a quick look over her shoulder, sprinted into the bathroom. Two more seconds and she would have had the door shut and locked, but he slammed into it. The door knocked her halfway across the room, and he came roaring in after her, drunk, infuriated, horny.

“Son of a bitch!” She scrambled back, the tiles uncomfortably cold and hard against her bare skin. “Get the fuck out of here, idiot!”

But he was not in the mood to listen or comply. He reached for the waistband of his pants. “I’m going to fuck you so hard, girlie girl.” His dazed eyes darted from her breasts to between her legs. He dropped his pants and wrapped his hand around a rather intimidating cock. “So hard.”

“What you’re going to do is get your ass kicked.” Carefully, she stood, dancing on the balls of her feet, waiting for him. “Come on, then, monkey. Let’s get this over with.”

He smiled, perhaps thinking she meant something entirely different. “I like to take my time, girlie girl. Pleasuring the woman means more than my own pleasure.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Right.”

“You sure do have some tits, lady.”

She sighed. He was a mean son of a bitch, but he was drunk and full of dinner. She should be able to get the drop on him, maybe bang his head against the tile wall.

But when she started toward him, she saw a shadow against the wall in her bedroom. She knew it was Kai as surely as she knew anything.

Startling the soldier so much he could do little but gape, she threw herself at him and began screaming as she beat and clawed at his chest. “Let go of me!”

Kai filled the doorway like an avenging angel, his face contorted into a raging mask. He plucked the soldier into the air and sent Sarah reeling. Weeping, she knelt against the far wall, her arms crossed over her breasts.

“Kai…
wha
—” the man said, his face paling.

“Did you touch her, you piece of shit?” He shook Lewis like so much fluff. “Did you fucking touch her?”

“I didn’t know she was off-limits, Kai. I swear it!” Scared sober, Lewis held his hands up, pleading. “I swear! I had too much to drink—”

Kai glanced at Sarah, the look on his face enough to make her stomach clench in fear. “Did you fucking tell him you belonged to me?”

She nodded, weak. “I did.”

His fury was a terrible thing to watch. He let go of Lewis, then hit him in the face, and Sarah flinched at the sound of bone crunching. Lewis’s body thumped to the floor, blood spraying from his nose. His pants were still around his ankles, his now soft dick delicate and small.

Kai followed him down and punched him again, looking up only once. “Get out of here.”

Sarah scrambled for the door and ran into the room that held her extra food and water, some of which she’d hidden away for her escape with Con. Surprised her hands were shaking, she decided to put on the kettle for a cup of tea. It would help calm her.

The sounds of flesh against flesh still came to her. Lewis’s pleas quickly faded. Silence reigned for a moment, then footsteps, heavy, slow. Kai would be carrying the unfortunate man from her rooms.

Then he would be back. She wrapped cold hands around the teacup.

She was ready for him.

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