The stench of rotting meat permeates the cool, dank air of the basement. A rotating air purifier in the corner does nothing for the smell, only blasts my sweat-slicked skin with a chilly, stale breeze, causing gooseflesh to rise along my exposed skin.
My pink tank top clings to my body, saturated with old and new sweat, dirt and filth. My legs remain bare—my boy-shorts the only guard against the elements…and him.
I nudge the plate of uneaten food aside with my knee, my shackles rattling from above. The chains tighten, and I wince at the sharp, pinching pain. A whimper escapes my mouth.
My arms stopped aching hours ago—my muscles numb. If I stand, the feeling will come alive with unbearable agony. My calves still burn from the stretching. I no longer feel my toes, either. I wriggle them, trying to force circulation into my feet and legs, the cold cement floor fighting back against my attempt.
Three days. Five. A week? With no windows, no light from outside, there’s no way to be sure. Time doesn’t pass down here; it stalled and the world quit spinning the moment he touched me. Invaded me. And I stopped existing.
I’ve tried to measure my time trapped in this dungeon by his comings and goings—but they’re too sporadic. Sometimes I’m left alone for so long, I fear he’s forgotten about me. Then I’m sickened by the realization that I actually fear he won’t return.
At first, I screamed. I screamed for hours until my throat burned and my voice gave. He never covered my mouth. So the only thing I know for sure is that I’m somewhere far enough away where he doesn’t worry about me being heard. No. He likes my screams. That’s the first thing I learned. Then I learned to hold them in. Not to encourage him.
My body ices over with dread as my gaze swings to the cross.
I made the mistake of demanding to know what it was used for…having spent hours staring at it, fearing it…and then he showed me.
Not today. Please, not today. A hot tear trickles down my cheek, and I wipe the side of my face against my arm. He can’t see me broken. Because when he knows I’m broken—when he’s mastered me—I’ll be of no more use.
I pull at my memories, try to find a sanctuary.
So stupid. So, so stupid. My lips tremble as I recount my actions that brought me here. That dumb fight with Brandon, the one where I slammed his car door and stormed off—I can hardly remember why I was so angry.
He was texting some other girl. That was it. Then it blew up from there. Accusations and claims that I’m crazy. Girls are always the crazy ones. We never actually see what’s right before our eyes.
Furious, I walked off on my own, desperate to be away from him and empowered by the right to be a strong, independent woman who didn’t need her cheating boyfriend to drive her home. Damn if I wouldn’t walk myself right there. Then—
The night swallowed me.
And I’ve been engulfed, surrounded by its darkness ever since. I now know what evil lurks where even the light is afraid to shine.
A thump from above hitches my breathing.
Oh, God. I want the fear back. I wish my limbs would quake—that my body would shrivel up and my mind would space. I’ve moved past that fight or flight adrenaline rush, though. I’ve moved on to acceptance. And I want his touch to kill me.
I just want this to end.
As his footsteps travel down the steps, echoing against the cement walls, I decide I’m broken. Just let him see me break. That’s all he wants, then the torment will end.
And when I meet his intense gray eyes—no mask to protect his features—I know. This is my end. He’s no longer concerned about my escape, or someone finding me. I’ll never be able to utter his likeness to a soul.
His tall, muscular form moves to the wall behind me and he cranks a lever. My chains jerk taut, and I’m forced to my feet. My arms and body stretch thin, fire-hot needles attacking my arms and calves, my toes just scraping the floor. I shut my eyes against the pain and bite down on my lip to stifle the scream slithering up my throat.
He hates this. He’ll punish me. He wants to see my fear through the windows of my soul. Smell my sweaty skin. Taste my terror. If I anger him enough, maybe he’ll make it quick.
The feel of his calloused fingers gliding along my skin knots my stomach. “You’re being a bad girl again, I see.” They trail down, down my arms. Down my ribs, and farther to my waist. The chains jangle at my uncontrollable tremble. “My dirty girl.” His guttural voice surrounds me, blanketing my body with malicious intent, and my vision tunnels until I detach, removed far away from myself.
But he doesn’t allow me to stay there. He always brings me back.
The second his fingers dip beneath the front of my underwear, I seize with awareness. I’m present. I feel. Shocked into alertness, I fight back. Writhing against his iron-fisted hold, I force my legs closed. The same dance every time.
I never win.
He bites my earlobe and his feet move between mine, kicking them apart, before he wraps one large leg around my thigh to lock me in place. The struggle only urges him on—I have to stop fighting. And when I do, accepting my punishment, praying he’s quick…my fucking treacherous body deceives me.
I feel myself slick against his rough fingers. I cringe and squeeze my eyes closed tighter.
“Yes,” he says against my ear. “There’s my fucking dirty girl. You can’t hide from me.” He pinches me hard, wrenching a cry from my mouth, and then his hand is gone.
He backs away just enough to grip the hem of my tank top, then I hear the loud tear of material, fibers ripping, shredding the seams of my sanity. The cool air assaults my skin. My whole body shivers, fright enveloping me. A cold, hard object lightly grazes my bare back.
I shudder slightly, attempting to keep from flinching. I know what that object is; his favorite. He’s wasting no time getting to his good part. I keep my eyes sealed shut. Do not react.
I sense his presence before me, moving in, as he drags the cane along my stomach. “Look at me, Sadie.”
My eyes fly open. He’s never used my name before. Never wanted me to feel like a person. I’m his pet. His possession. At this point, I almost inherently believe that.
His face is not how I pictured it behind his mask. He’s younger than my parents; thirtyish, maybe. Dark strands of hair layer a handsome face. It’s all wrong. He should be vile. Inhuman. Not blessed with… I almost think beauty. But I cannot even utter that word in my head without the nauseous tumble pulling me under.
I never want to hear that word again.
He leans down, cane pressed against my belly. His hot breath sears my shoulder. “You’re not like the others,” he whispers. “They didn’t enjoy their punishment.”
My jaw tightens, my neck quivers, making my head shake from the restraint. Fear evaporates, and anger bursts forth. “You’re sick. I’m nothing like you.”
My head is yanked back as he digs his fingers into my hair and grips at my scalp. His gray eyes widen. Face right before mine. “Remember, Sadie. Every time you suck a dick, every time you fucking come, see these eyes watching you. I know where you live.” His tongue snakes out to lick my chin. “Now, let’s have some fun before we’re interrupted.”
The confusion at his words pushes my eyebrows together, but I’m not lost for long. In the moment he raises the cane to strike, a bang reverberates through the room, followed by stomps against the ceiling. My captor releases my hair. Fury ignites his eyes, his silver irises aglow with rage.
He pushes me away from him and snaps the cane apart, revealing a blade lodged at the head. I swing back into his arms as the footfalls grow louder. He moves behind me and clutches me against his chest, the blade pressed to my throat.
“God, what I could’ve done with you, accomplished, if I’d had more time. Never forget your lessons.” The blade drags along my collarbone, a searing fire splitting my skin and bone, and a shrill scream scrapes my throat as it claws free. “You were truly special, my filthy Sadie.”
Blackness threatens the corners of my vision. I’m detaching again…fading. My defense against the pain and terror. But my tormentor won’t let me fall. He keeps ahold of me; taking me with him.
“Drop your weapon!” Shouts. Clicks. Then a thunderous boom bursts my eardrums.
Damp warmth sprays over me. Covers me, drenching me in blood.
Silence hums. I close my eyes. A blink that lasts an eternity. And when I finally open my eyes, the world is red.