Authors: Cassidy Hunter
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Romance, #erotic, #Fantasy
It was so much easier than she’d thought it would be. Kai obviously had been struck by the sharp-tipped arrows of love and seemed to believe he and she were fated to be together. Soul mates.
Sarah stared up at the ceiling, her body lax and tired on the soft bed. She was so torn. And that was just stupid.
She was here to do a job. An important job. There were really no choices. She closed her eyes, a weak groan slipping from between her parted lips.
Who would have thought she’d fall for him? Flipping to her stomach, she punched the bed, unsure of whether to laugh or cry. In the end, she did both. Still, it would be okay. As long as she ignored her heart and did what she’d come here to do.
Help her brother escape Kai’s jail and hope like hell they’d make it out of this alive. Simple as that.
Kai’s face floated into her mind, his eyes so intense and hot, his mouth sensual and warm, his strong, strong features. And deep inside those eyes, kindness. Love. Love for
She could tell him. Explain. Constantine had tried to save her. Sampson had promised to free her in exchange for Kai’s head.
She shivered, remembering. Remembering how her biggest fear had been staying another night in Sampson’s compound. She hadn’t cared about Kai then, hadn’t even thought of him as a person. She’d just wanted out. “
Take his offer, Con. If you don’t do as he asks, I’ll be here forever. And I’d rather be dead
.” She’d sobbed then, clutching his threadbare shirt, begging him. He’d stared down at her with hopeless eyes and had agreed. “
I’ll save you, Sarah
,” he’d whispered. “
I’ll save you
And now he was rotting away in prison, and it was her fault. She’d been selfish. Unwilling to live out her life in
, beneath the hideous Sampson and his cruel wife. Ella had eventually discovered her husband had feelings for Sarah that went beyond her body and, in desperate haste, had aided in her escape. But not before Sarah had learned what she needed to know, not only to survive, but to thrive.
She should explain to Kai. Maybe he’d understand, help her.
No. He wouldn’t. She’d see the expression in his eyes go from the beginnings of love to distrust and suspicion and hatred. She’d played him. And she wanted the freedom of a man who’d tried to kill him. A traitor. A man couldn’t get past that. Not a man like Kai.
She’d take his love as well as her chances. She couldn’t lose sight of what mattered. As tempting as it was to believe that somehow she could free Constantine and go on living here with no one the wiser, she knew better.
Constantine—his quick smile and flashing green eyes floated into her memory, and she smiled back at him. Love arose in a quick cloud to surround her, her stomach clenching at the thought of what he must be going through.
She had always taken care of him. She’d sworn to her mother that she always would.
Resolve strengthened, she angrily scrubbed away the weakness of hot tears and whispered her vow to her brother.
“I will save you.”
First she had to find him.
“Actually, first I have to gain
trust.” She had to be allowed out of her rooms. Grimacing, she walked to the windows and flung them open, leaning out to inhale fresh, rain-cooled air. It didn’t help that her home had been in the enemy settlement. Kai was bound to be suspicious. As he should be.
She could close her eyes, try really hard to picture herself safe at home before the fireplace with Mother smiling at something Constantine said and Father smoking his pipe and reading a thick, dusty book. And her, sitting there with her arms wrapped around her knees, happy. Safe. Peaceful.
The picture dissolved in a ragged cloud of grief, and she opened her eyes as a tear threatened to work its way free and leave tracks of regret on her cheek. Stupid girl. That was not her life. Not anymore.
A thrill of fear shot through her, as for a brief second, she imagined he could read her traitorous mind.
He walked up behind her and stood with his body just touching hers and peered out the windows with her. She shivered at the light contact, goose bumps rising on her skin as his breath stirred her hair.
She resisted the urge to lean back against him, almost desperate to have his arms around her. How had she grown so weak? His scent surrounded her, so male, so sensual, so
“What are you watching out there?” He pulled her against him, his arms going around her just the way she’d wanted. Maybe he really
read her mind.
“Just…enjoying the fresh air.”
“Are you all right?”
“I…” Oh, how tempting to tell him everything, to throw herself upon his mercy, to beg for her brother’s release. “Yes,” she whispered.
“Good. I’m going out for the day, but tonight”—he ran his hands up her bare arms, his fingertips just grazing her skin—“be ready for me.”
Her breath caught in her lungs and hung there. “Yes.” Always.
“I’m having clothes brought up for you. I’m—”
He hesitated. She waited, but he didn’t finish. Whatever he’d been about to say was swallowed in a flurry of motion as he pulled her around and squeezed her to his chest. “You’ll have the run of the house and the grounds.”
Her heart jerked, then thumped with painful slowness. He was giving her the chance she needed to find Constantine. “Thank you.”
Voice hard, he jerked her hair, lifting her face to his. “But as I said, tonight, be ready for me.”
His eyes were unfathomable, deep, dark holes of mystery. She bit her lip and then dropped her gaze to his perfectly sculpted mouth. “Okay.”
He dug his hard fingers into her arms. “Damn it, Sarah. Do you feel forced to agree to my every demand? Yes, Kai,” he mocked. “Okay, Kai. Whatever you want, Kai.”
? Dazed, she stared at him. “I’m sorry… I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I can see into those big, deep green eyes of yours. You’re not so agreeable as you pretend. I’ve felt your fire. Why, then, are you always so damn…pleasant?”
“You want me to be difficult?”
He gave her a
shake. “I want you to feel free enough with me to be yourself. I want to know you. Lose the facade. Show me the real Sarah. Let go. The way you did when I made love to you in the rain, in the mud…”
She shivered at the image his words conjured, emotions and thoughts swirling in a whirlwind of confusion. She looked away. Burying her face against his hard chest, she fought for composure. If he knew the real Sarah, he would kill her.
“I don’t want you to send me back.” She trembled against him, and it wasn’t entirely an act.
His chest swelled against her cheek as he sighed. “Sarah, Sarah. I will not send you back.” His smile was in his deep voice. “I like you here.”
“I am happy to be here.” Her words muffled against his shirt, she pulled his scent deep into her lungs. God, he felt so good against her skin.
Once again, he tugged at her long hair until she looked up at him, then planted a short, hard kiss against her lips. She thought she saw a fleeting look of disappointment in his eyes, but then he walked away from her and looked at his watch.
“I have to go. I hope today will be a good one for you.” Curiously formal, he inclined his head and left the room.
Frowning, she folded her arms and leaned against the wall, her unfocused gaze going to the courtyard below. What did he
For the first time, she was swimming in a deep pool of doubt and confusion. She’d had him figured out. At least, she’d thought she had. He
meek women. He liked obedience. She shook her head. Why the hell was he disappointed in her, then? She’d made sure to be submissive and sweet, offering him her body like a gift, giving him everything he asked for. And still…
She snorted, disgusted with herself. She would fix it. She’d be exactly what he wanted until Constantine escaped, and then it would matter little what he thought of her. She’d been mooning around like a schoolgirl in love, and that was not going to get the job done.
She and Con would run beyond the borders, beyond the settlements, beyond the world they knew. What lay beyond the shadows, she did not know. But she’d always had an adventurous spirit. If not for the fact that she would have to go without Kai, exploring the strange secrets outside the settlements would have held excitement along with the fear.
She was ready when Teddy marched in, leading a stream of people loaded down with clothing. What a relief it’d be to get dressed again. Walking around nude took her mind from her purpose and put it on her flesh, especially when Kai was around.
“Look at the packs, Sarah! He’s had one of every color brought for you, I do believe. What’ll you put in them? What’ll you wear first?”
Sarah laughed at Teddy’s excitement and slipped into a dark pair of simple white underwear, cotton pants, and a pullover, sleeveless shirt. Her footwear was given much more thought, though, and she chose a pair of sturdy, kick-ass boots. Good boots and clothes that’d give her room to move and run. Just what she needed, despite Teddy’s disappointment.
“Wouldn’t you like to dress up? Look at this dress!”
Sarah fingered the beautiful fabric, for one instant tempted to make herself pretty for him. But no, she had to keep her mind on her purpose. Today was the first time she’d had a chance to find Constantine. It wouldn’t be difficult to find the prisoners. Now, getting to them—
would be hard.
But she’d think of something. No matter what she had to do, she’d get to her brother.
No wonder Kai was beginning to trust her enough to turn her loose on his land. Walls at least fifteen feet high surrounded the compound, with thick rolls of barbed wire perched atop them. She raised an eyebrow. The person who scaled those walls would find himself stuck at the top with an ass full of metal thorns, but who the hell could climb walls fifteen feet high, anyway?
Her luck today had been surprisingly good. Teddy had handed her a map of the estate with precautions about the men’s barracks and the “holding pen,” as she called it. The jail. The unpleasant place where men were kept for the most hideous of crimes: murder, rape, torture. Those who’d committed lesser crimes were fined or even sent from the settlement, forced into the unknown with only the clothes on their backs. If they were lucky, Kai might keep them to do labor around the compound.
There was no women’s prison here. Kai refused to imprison women. Those who committed crimes were sentenced by the sheriffs.
Today she planned on getting the lay of the land and as much information as possible. Then she would decide when to make her move. It wouldn’t be today. No, today she just needed to see exactly where he was and who guarded him. And how many. Escaping from Kai’s compound was going to be complicated, no doubt. The place was secure. Too secure.
But she would find a way. She always found a way.
She walked slowly, pretending aimlessness while her gaze constantly scouted the area. Her brain busily recorded everything she saw. There had to be a way to get out of this compound. After all, they wanted to keep people out, not keep people in.
Ambling ever closer to the building that housed the jail, she nodded at the occasional pedestrian, smiled at the child leading a pony hitched to a small wagon, and watched with interest the busy men and women who cared for this land.
Glancing up at the house, she was surprised to see a few women gathered on a third-floor balcony watching her. She waved, but they didn’t so much as move. A quick thrill of unease shot through her, but she shrugged it off and walked on.
The sun was bright, the air fresh. She stopped walking to lift her face to the yellow orb high in the noon sky, closing her eyes as she listened to the sounds of birds and human activity. Off in the distance a dog barked and sounds of a hammer hitting nails made the world seem a little less lonely.
Kai should have given her the tour of his land, but Kai was a busy, busy boy. She passed the barracks, a long, squat building that reminded her of a toxic frog. The place was quiet and somehow dark. She hurried past, casting only a cursory glance back. The back of the building was surrounded by high fencing. Ugly place.
According to the beautifully printed map…yes, there it was. The jail. Her brother’s prison. Set well back under a canopy of trees, the building was comparably small, the brick painted an unassuming white. There was no fence surrounding this building, which took her by surprise. But lounging out front, chairs tilted back as they laughed and talked, two huge men guarded the entrance.
They watched her but made no attempts to stop her. The front of the building was windowless, the only way in a small, barred door. When she reached the back, she breathed easier. The back also had a single door, but this one was unguarded.
Throwing a look around, she walked closer. This door was barred as well, a narrow, steel door with a Barrows lock in place.
The smile crept across her face like a lengthening evening shadow. She’d cut her teeth on Barrows locks. It wouldn’t keep her out.
She lay her cheek against the building, closing her eyes as she skimmed the roughness of the brick with her fingertips.
Could he sense her coming to get him?
If he did, he’d tell her to run. Run away. Save herself.
But he surely knew she’d never leave him.
She’d share his fate before she’d let him suffer it alone. He’d have done the same for her.
done it for her.
She jumped back with a shriek, her foot catching on a rock. Kai caught her before she fell, his eyes carefully blank.
“What are you doing, Sarah?”
“Do you know what this building is?”
She gathered herself, forcing a calm she was nowhere near feeling. “Yes, I saw it on the map. But I felt dizzy, and the brick was so cool…” Was he following her?
He eased his hands from her upper arms, the lines in his face smoothing just a little. “You’re ill?”
She ran a hand over her face. “No, no, nothing like that. I’m just tired. I haven’t been sleeping well. And,” she added, just in case that wasn’t enough, “I should be drinking more water. I must be dehydrated.”
He shook his head. “You need a keeper, little one.”
Finally, her chest eased. She laughed. “I’m afraid that’s true at times.”
“Let’s go inside. I’ll get you some water, and you can sit down for a few minutes. You’ve walked quite a ways from the house.”
A fist clutched at her heart, a cold, icy fist. “Inside? In the jail?”
“Don’t worry. The prisoners can’t get to you. They’re well secured. It would give them a thrill they don’t deserve, though, to see you. What do you say? Want a tour?”
Could Constantine keep his face blank when he saw her? Or would his expressive green eyes, so like her own, give her away immediately?
Oh God, she wanted to see him. “Yes.”
“Let’s go around. This door is locked.”
She didn’t have to fake dizziness now. The thought of seeing Constantine was almost as bad as the thought of
seeing him. Either way, she had to know if he was all right. She had to see him.
Mouth dry and hands shaking, she allowed Kai to lead her to the front of the building. The guards jumped to their feet when they saw Kai. If they were surprised, they didn’t show it.
The building took on a dark, evil look, and she was sure the men could hear her thumping heart. Constantine, at last.
“You’re pale, Sarah. You’re not afraid, are you?”
“Of course not.”
“Good. There’s no reason to be.”
She might have shattered into a million pieces if he’d touched her, but other than a gentle nudge to the small of her back to urge her on, he kept his hands to himself.
As though moving in slow motion, she walked toward the door. The air felt thick enough to slow her progress. The guards stood on either side of the door as Kai ushered her inside.
“Do you want company, sir?” one of them asked.
Then they were inside, inside a small waiting area, inconspicuous and innocent looking. It could have been any room. A tall, fake plant stood in a gloomy corner, a dusty, lonely sentinel. Plastic arms reached beseechingly, forever frozen in a silent tableau.
What have you seen, little plant? Have you seen my brother?
Kai led her down a dim hall into a slightly more cheerful room filled with a long table, benches, a chalkboard, and old, nonworking vending machines sunk seamlessly into the walls, leftovers from a different time.
It didn’t look like hell. But then, she hadn’t seen the prisoners’ cells. Yet.
He pointed to a chair. “Sit, I’ll get you some water. Would you like something to eat?”
“Just water. Thank you.”
He opened the icebox and pulled out a ceramic pitcher of water. After pouring her a glass, he leaned against the wall, watching her drink. “Why do you want to see the jail, Sarah?”
want to,” she said, eyes wide.
“No?” He took a long pull of his water, his gaze never leaving hers.
Carefully, she put her water on the table. “Not particularly, no. I don’t care one way or the other. I just thought the tour you offered might be a…a distraction.”
“Seeing the prisoners is not going to upset you?” His raised eyebrow suggested he thought she should be upset, unless there was some sneaky reason she wanted to be there.
Or maybe she was overthinking things.
“Do you really think I possess such delicate sensibilities, then?”
He shrugged, drawing her stare to his wide, wide shoulders.
“I’m not sure what to think about you just yet, Sarah.”
She took a drink of water, wondering how he could rattle her so easily. He turned her to mush, nearly causing her to blurt out everything like a babbling idiot.
“Then maybe we should just—”
And as she was about to suggest they return to the house, fate intervened and took the decision from her.
Screams of rage or pain, perhaps both, erupted from somewhere deeper inside the building, and she started from her chair with little thought for the watching Kai. Constantine. They were hurting him…
But no, Constantine was stoic and full of stubborn male pride. He would never scream. At least, the Constantine she’d known would never scream. God only knew what changes his captivity had brought about.
Digging her nails into her thighs, she turned to Kai, whose shuttered gaze remained on her as he leaned casually against the wall. “Shouldn’t we… Shouldn’t you see to them?”
“They’re just fighting, Sarah. Men do that.”
She ground her teeth together as the yells escalated. Someday she would show him that women did that as well. “Take me there. I want to see.”
That brought him off the wall. “You want to see them fighting?”
At last he gave a familiar shrug. “Very well. Come along, my curious and bloodthirsty Sarah.” He took her arm. “You surprise me.”
Let him think what he would. She needed to see to her brother.
Constantine, don’t give me away.