Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tempting the Tiger *** First Chapter Preview!

Tempting the Tiger the second book in my Awakening Pride series and follow up to Waking the Beast, is out tomorrow!!!! I'm very excited about this! I can only hope that my readers will love Reno's story as much as I do!
First off, how about another look at this yummy cover!
I have to say the covers so far for
this series rock! Love, love, love these covers!!!

So now how about a first glance inside the book? I'll post all of chapter one just for you! Hopefully, it will be enough to make you want to read the entire book!
In chapter one you'll meet the heroine of the story, Amia Blane. I wonder how many of you will recognize the Blane name from Waking the Beast? Amia is one kick ass woman and the perfect mate for a man like Reno. I hope you like her.
This opens with a look at how her life all changed one day when she was 16 years old. Enjoy!

Blurb:

Legend awakened…

 

Reno has known there was more to him since he awoke in the hospital, alive when he should have died. Only one thought consumed him. Find Tah. Watch over him. Protect him. Then everything changed.

 

A tempted tiger…

 

A mission gone wrong brings him face to face with a woman who tempts his tiger from hiding. He wants her with a fierce hunger that consumes him and shocks him with the possessive nature she awakens.

 

Mine…

 

Amia belongs nowhere. Not with the Blane family of hunters she was born into, and not with the dominant man who kidnaps her and turns her world upside down. She runs. She fights. And when the time comes, she pays the price. Running isn’t an option, and there’s no fighting a man who turns her inside out with unquenchable lust. Maybe, just maybe, she’s found where she belongs.



Tempting the Tiger
©2014 by Lacey Thorn

Chapter One


Eight years ago…

 

Amia held her breath as they pulled the prisoner into camp. Four of her father’s men had gone hunting, and this was their prize. They ripped the black bag off the captive’s head, and Amia gasped out loud. A girl—a young girl who had to be close to Amia’s sixteen years. Why did they have a child?

“We’ve caught another dirty animal!” Her father, Marcus Blane, screamed the words at the growing crowd. He jerked the frightened girl up to her tiptoes by her long, blonde hair. “You can smell the animal in her. We’ll cut it from her and leave them both to die.”

A cry went up as fists rose in the air. They were talking about killing a young woman, not an animal. Why couldn’t they see that?

Marcus threw the girl to the ground, and with her hands tightly bound behind her back, she hit hard, unable to break the fall. Amia wanted to step up and question her father, but she’d learned her lesson after multiple beatings and would never confront him in front of his men again.

“Take her to the barn,” Marcus ordered.

Three men stepped forward to drag the girl up. Amia watched the way their rough hands caused pain and felt a tear trek down her cheek. The captive didn’t utter a cry.

“Show her how a hunter greets his prey,” Marcus sneered.

More cheers from the crowd as they finally split, three of them dragging the girl away while the others returned to whatever they’d been doing before the interruption. At a nod from Marcus, her cousin Kellan followed the other men, looking far too eager for whatever they had planned. Amia waited until only her father remained before approaching him. She could see the disgust in his eyes as soon as she met his gaze. Disgust and disappointment.

“It’s an animal, Amia.”

“She’s a young girl, probably my age. What makes you think she’s an animal?”

“A hunter knows his prey. And she’s got an animal in her so deep it will have to be ripped from her.”

“It’s murder,” Amia said without thinking and felt the back of her father’s hand across her face. She fell to the ground and sat looking up at him.

“It’s justice. They are an abomination. Do you think they would hesitate to take your throat out once in animal form? They won’t. Animals and men aren’t supposed to mate. These creatures shouldn’t exist.”

“Have you ever seen one of the people you’ve captured shift?” Amia knew he hadn’t.

“No, because we don’t allow them to. We’re saving society by eradicating these animals.” He reached down, gripping her shoulders tightly and jerking Amia to her feet. “You’re too soft. Your cousin Kellan warned me you needed a firmer hand, but I wanted to believe blood would tell. Seems there’s too much of your mother’s weaker blood in you. So there’s only one thing to do.”

Amia was already shaking her head when he nodded and finished.

“It’s time for you to join the hunt. If you were a boy, you’d already have begun training. I’ve pampered you like the men have accused me. You’re a weakness to the Blane family, and we can’t have a weakness. Our job is too important.”

Pampered her? Who would ever accuse him of that? Not her. Every time she turned around she was getting backhanded for something she’d blurted out. Or worse, there were the times he took his belt to her.

“I won’t hunt.”

He hit her hard across the face, and she could feel what was sure to be a bruise on her cheek as pain exploded.

“You’ll do as you’re told.”

A bloodcurdling scream echoed as he opened the barn door, and Amia couldn’t hold the shudder in.

Her father, the cruel bastard that he was, took notice. “Training starts now.” He began dragging her through the barn, toward the screams that weren’t stopping. “We’ll start with showing you how hunters deal with animals that try to disguise themselves as human.”

“Please, Daddy. Don’t make me do this. Please!” She dragged her feet and pulled uselessly against his tight hold.

But nothing would dissuade Marcus from a decision once he’d made it. It seemed she had been a disappointment for long enough. Her only protection was to squeeze her eyes shut tightly as he pushed open the door and pulled her in after him. She heard nothing but her heartbeat at first. Then she could hear the panting breaths of one of the men and the stifled sobs of the girl.

“Open your eyes and look,” her dad commanded.

“What’s going on, Marcus?” Kellan’s voice. Unlike her, he was allowed to question Marcus no matter who was around.

“It’s past time Amia learned how to be a hunter. I’m giving her over to you to begin training. I’d like to see things happen the way we’ve discussed.”

Hard fingers gripped her face, and Kellan’s hot breath washed over her. “Open your eyes. There are no cowards here.”

She blinked them open and met his cold, cruel eyes. There was little humanity left in Kellan, and wasn’t that the biggest joke of all? A hunter more animal than the prey he hunted.

“Look at the bitch.”

At first, she thought he was telling everyone to look at her, then her mind cleared and she realized Kellan was commanding her to look at the girl. Amia couldn’t stop the small sound that escaped from her compressed lips, but she did her best to fight the nausea that tried to claw its way up her throat.

The girl hung limply on the wall, only the tight bindings of her cuffs keeping her upright. They’d stripped her naked, and her breasts, belly and thighs were crisscrossed with red welts, some raised and bleeding. Each of the three men held short, leather whips, and Amia realized they’d all been beating the girl.

Large bruises rose beneath the welts—bruises from pinching fingers and hard hands most likely—the marks vivid against the pale skin. The girl’s face no longer resembled the one Amia had just seen out in the yard. One eye was already swollen shut, and the other wasn’t much better. Her lips were split, and blood oozed from them. She had a cut high on her cheek and one along the brow above the eye that was swollen shut.

As Amia looked, the girl pried one eye open and met her gaze. She could see pain and even hatred, but though she’d heard her scream, she saw no fear in the girl. Amia felt awed in that moment. What would it be like to have so much strength? Then something happened that had her swaying on her feet and blinking her eyes in surprise.

“Don’t pass out,” Kellan ordered and gave her arm a jerk.

But she wasn’t passing out. She was seeing something she hadn’t seen in a long time, something she wished she didn’t. A golden glow appeared to surround the girl on the wall. She had no idea why she hadn’t noticed it earlier, but there was no missing it now. It was warmth and comfort, and like always, Amia felt drawn toward it. She stepped forward without thinking, her hand stretched out as if she could absorb some of it herself.

“Want a flogger to use, Amia?” one of the other men taunted, shaking the short whip at her.

She ignored him as she moved closer to the wounded girl on the wall. “I’ll free you.” Amia mouthed the words to the girl, and the only verification she received that her words were understood was a flare of that one eye and a slight jerk of the girl’s head as she lowered it toward her chest.

“How long will you keep her?” Amia asked, never turning her gaze from the glowing girl.

“A few days,” Kellan answered.

She could tell by the tone of his voice he’d already dismissed her.

“Are we going to try out the chamber, Marcus?” Kellan asked as he turned to face Marcus.

“Do you think it’s ready to go?”

Even she could hear the excitement in her dad’s voice.

“It’s perfect. We just need to find the right person to test it out on.” Kellan was just as excited as her dad.

“Then test it. I want to see it. Leave the animal chained, and let’s go take a look. Is it exactly as we planned?”

“It’s better than we could have anticipated,” Kellan stated with the arrogance she expected from him.

“Amia, let’s go,” her dad ordered.

“I want to stay for a minute. Take a look at…” She indicated the short whips. “The floggers and what kind of damage they do.”

Her dad eyed her curiously as if testing her for the lie she spoke. Thankfully, his excitement over whatever the chamber was outweighed his worry regarding her, and with a nod, the men left her with the girl. She waited until the door closed before she reached for a cloth and dipped it in water. She wasn’t planning to clean any of the wounds, there were too many, and it would hurt too much right now. Instead, she held the wet cloth to the girl’s lips and squeezed, letting the water trickle inside.

“What’s your name?”

The girl blinked her one functioning eye a few times as if straining to bring Amia into focus. Silence seemed to weigh Amia down while she waited to see if the girl would answer.

“Clara,” was the hoarse reply.

“I’m Amia,” Amia told her in case Clara hadn’t figured that out by now. “I need you to hold on for me. I’ll be back tonight with clothes and whatever I can get together. I’m going to get you out of here. I swear it.”

“Why would you help me? You’re one of them.”

“I’ll never be one of them,” Amia swore and wasn’t that the truth. She would always be a disappointment. She wasn’t a hunter and never would be. “Just stay strong. No matter what they do to you. Stay alive. I’ll come for you. Don’t give up.”

Amia stepped away quickly when she heard the footsteps heading her way. When Kellan entered, she was standing before the arrangement of weapons they used on prisoners. Floggers of all shapes and sizes, lashes and long deadly looking whips, knives and numerous other things she hadn’t seen before and shuddered to think of how they might be used.

“This one is my favorite,” Kellan said as he stood far too closely behind her and reached over her shoulder to finger a whip with three strings on the end, each tipped with a wicked blade. It was mid-length, and scary as hell. It would cut deep and flay the flesh wide open. His choice didn’t surprise her. The few times she’d wandered into the yard during training, she’d seen just how ruthless he could be. There was no mercy in him, not even for those he trained.

Plus, he’d made her feel uncomfortable with the way he watched her. He was always there, observing, when she crossed the yard for whatever errand she was on or when she went onto the porch for a view of the night sky and fresh air. It unnerved her and made her afraid. Her father’s earlier words made her even more so. What plans did he and Kellan have for her other than training?

Kellan’s hand dropped and landed on her waist, his fingers spanning across her stomach. He moved just a bit closer, and she held perfectly still though she wanted to jerk away from the erection she could feel pressing against her. Oh, God. She was going to be sick. He couldn’t mean to be with her. They were family.

“I’m glad you’re coming around.” His voice was way too close to her ear. “I’ve been watching you for a long time. Your dad and I have spoken many times. I’ll tell you all about it once we get your training started.”

She swallowed her bile down and stepped away with the pretense of looking at something else along the wall. “We’re cousins, Kellan. Surely, you can’t plan to be more than my trainer.”

“We’re no blood relation. My dad and your dad were step-brothers.”

He moved toward her again, and she was afraid she might panic if she didn’t get away from him soon. Not blood relatives? It didn’t matter. She couldn’t be with Kellan. Ever.

“When will we start training?” she asked, shifting away again.

“This weekend. I’ll see to your training myself.” He sounded far too pleased with that.

“I guess I’ll head back to the house for now then.”

Kellan nodded, and his focus turned to Clara. “I’ll see you later.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Animals have to be taught all kinds of lessons. We’ve barely started with this one.”

Amia could see Clara tense and said the only thing she could. “Can’t you come with me instead?”

Kellan’s gaze flicked to her with surprise, then delight. It was all Amia could do not to take the words back. Instead, she let her glaze return to Clara, a visual reminder of what the girl had already been through. Saving her needed to start now.

“I mean, you could walk me back to the house and tell me more about what we’ll be doing this weekend. I’ve got some iced tea made. I bet you’re thirsty after all this.”

His gaze flicked between Clara and her, and Amia held her breath. It was cowardly of her, but part of her wished he’d ignore her request and stay. And the guilt of that thought weighed on her, making her step forward and clasp his hand with hers. She’d just admired Clara’s courage. Maybe it was past time she found some of her own.

“Come on.” She did her best to use a teasing tone. “You know you want to.”

“Just for a little bit. I’ve got to get back out here later.”

“Later then,” Amia agreed and tugged him toward the door.

Amia wasn’t short at five feet seven inches, but Kellan was taller at just over six feet. And strong. If he wanted to hurt her, she’d be hard-pressed to stop him. Still, she walked with him across the yard toward the house, chattering the whole way. But in her head, she wondered how she could help Clara escape.

The answer came when they ran into her father in the kitchen. She poured Kellan a drink while he sat at the table with her dad, as if it were his normal place. Maybe it was. Lord knew she didn’t spend more time down here than she absolutely had to. Quality time together was not something they had. She cooked and cleaned, but her father usually sent her to her room to eat alone while he conducted business over meals. She didn’t mind.

“Don’t forget we have a meeting tonight. We have three hunting parties coming in from the other farms with reports. I’ll need you there. We’ll have to tighten security for it. I’ll want all the men armed and watching the cabins,” her dad told Kellan as Amia grabbed a glass and put ice in it.

The cabins were on the other side of the house, about one hundred yards away. More importantly, they were on the opposite side from the barn. So if all the attention was focused on the cabins, none of it would be on Clara.

“What about the prisoner?” Kellan asked, and Amia could have thanked him for voicing the question for her, if she didn’t hate him with every breath she took that was.

“Leave her for now. She’ll still be there in the morning.”

Kellan nodded and smiled as she handed him the filled glass.

“Did I see you two chatting away a few minutes ago? Making plans already?” her father asked.

She did her best to control the impulse to scream and jerk away as Kellan put his arm possessively around her and patted her on the butt.

“Amia is coming around to our way of thinking. I’m looking forward to taking her out this weekend and starting her training.”

She almost gagged at his barely veiled comment. Surely her father realized Kellan wasn't just talking about hunter training? What disgusted her even more was the look of pleasure across her father’s face. How could she not have seen them plotting this for her?

She knew in that moment she had to get away as well. Tonight, while everyone was focused on the cabins, she’d slip out and free Clara. The soundproofing of the barn would act in her favor. They’d have to work together to get away from here, far away. Amia wasn’t any safer now than the prisoners they captured. She was just a different type of prisoner. And while they might die, she would be forced to endure the plans her father and Kellan had for her every day for the rest of her life. She would rather die.

The rest of the day crawled by, but Amia used the time wisely. She had two backpacks ready to go as well as a set of clothes for Clara to put on. She could only hope they would fit the other girl well enough. She thought Clara might be a little shorter and leaner.

Dinner was a cringe worthy experience with Kellan sitting beside her, constantly touching her as if it was his right now, while her father looked on with pride. She choked down what she could manage, knowing she would need the food for fuel later.

Finally, the house was dark and quiet. Still, her heart knocked in her chest as she carefully slipped out the side door and darted from shadow to shadow around to the back of the barn where she’d left the packs hidden. She took the clothes with her as she sneaked inside and toward the room where Clara had been chained. But Clara wasn’t there. They’d moved her? Where would they have moved her?

The chamber? She had to search her mind for any conversation she might have overheard at dinner. She knew the chamber was on the other side of the barn. Kellan had mentioned earlier that they wanted to test it. So it only made sense that was where they’d taken Clara. Surely if she had been killed, they would have mentioned it at dinner.

She made her way toward the area she thought it might be located, but she couldn’t find anything. Frustration mounted as time crept by. She kicked out her foot and tripped over a cord draped across the barn floor. She threw up her hands as she fell against the wall, then squeaked in surprise. There was a soft snick, and it gave way, parting to reveal a room she hadn’t even known was there. She eased inside, shutting the door behind her, and found it was lit by the dim glow of a monitor. She saw Clara on the screen, and the girl wasn’t moving. Where was she? It appeared she was in a very confined space. But it was too dark to see much detail, especially with the camera angled at Clara’s face.

There was little in the room around Amia but a large panel with numerous buttons marked with things like lift, lower, merge and open. There was a large slab of concrete to her right that looked eerily out of place in the barn. And there were tanks of something with tubes disappearing into the ground. What in the world was this? Where was the chamber? What was the chamber? And where the hell was Clara?

It took Amia a minute to realize what she was seeing. Her mind didn’t want to believe even with the proof right in front of her. But there was no holding back the shock when she finally accepted the truth. The chamber. It was a burial chamber. Clara was in what was probably a coffin of sorts and somewhere underneath that slab of concrete. The chamber Kellan and her father were so excited about was something straight out of a horror movie.

Amia turned to the panel and tried to focus more clearly on the buttons, needing to figure out how to get Clara out. Her hands shook with fear that she might hit the wrong one and kill Clara by mistake. She took a deep breath and looked at the button that said open. But did it mean to open the concrete or whatever they had her locked in? My God, she could kill Clara instead of releasing her. But none of the others seemed right either.

With a shaky finger, she hit the button and prayed she was right. Her stomach was in her throat as the concrete split down the center and began to shift apart. It was deep, so deep beneath the barn. She had no idea how far down Clara was. The entire chamber was lined with some form of metal and she saw tubes snaking down the sides. Tubes from the tanks? She took a closer look. Oxygen tanks. They must have set it up to keep oxygen circulating so whoever was submerged wouldn’t suffocate.

They’d buried Clara alive. What if the oxygen tanks had failed? What if the chamber had collapsed? Clara could have been crushed under the weight of concrete. She wasn’t sure what kept the oxygen lines from getting crushed or severed. Or was that part of the fun? Not knowing if the captive would be alive or dead when they decided to bring them back up for more torture? And her father wanted her to believe they were the good guys, saving the world. More accurately, they were the fucking animals that needed to be eradicated.

Glancing back at the panel, she decided to press the button marked lift next. She held her breath as a coffin slowly came into view and prayed no one would be close enough to hear the soft whirring of the motor. As the coffin rose higher, she noticed the lid had a bolt through it. When it finally breached the opening the concrete closed again, this time beneath the coffin.

She shook as she reached for the bolt. It almost proved to be her undoing as she struggled to release it. When it did give, she ended up falling back on her ass across the floor from the effort she’d been exerting. The lid sprung open, and Clara exploded out, landing in a crouch in front of the coffin.

“It’s me,” Amia whispered. “I’m here to help just like I promised. I’m here to help, Clara.”

Clara began to shake uncontrollably, and Amia crawled across to her, continuing to whisper.

“I’m so sorry. I can’t believe they did that. I can’t believe…”

“That you come from such sadistic bastards?”

Amia nodded. There was really nothing she could say to make any of this better. It didn’t matter what she thought. It only mattered what she did, and the plan was to get them both out of there as quickly as possible. It had taken more time than Amia had planned to locate Clara. They had no more to spare.

“I’ll help you put these on.”

“I’ve got it,” Clara said and jerked the clothes from her hands.

Amia busied herself lowering the now empty coffin back into the ground while Clara dressed. When she turned around, she noticed Clara had rolled up the jeans just a little. The sneakers looked a bit loose as well, but there was nothing to be done about that.

“I’ve got a pack for each of us behind the barn. I can get us through the woods and out of here. There’s a town at the base of the mountain, but I’d suggest bypassing it and going somewhere else. We need to get as far away as we can.”

“You’re going with me?” Clara asked her softly.

Amia nodded. “You’re hurt. I’ll stay with you as long as I can. Do you have a place you can go and be safe?”

Clara slowly nodded, but her gaze was guarded, and Amia knew she wouldn’t be invited to tag along to that safe place. She shouldn’t have hoped for anything more. She might not have been the one who’d captured and tortured Clara, but she was a part of them, whether she wanted to be or not.

“Good. Let’s get going. I’ll stick with you as far as I can before we need to go our separate ways.”

“You’re not coming back here?” Clara looked at her suspiciously, and Amia didn’t blame her after what the Blanes had put her through.

She wondered what else might have been done to Clara while she’d been oblivious in the house, cooking and then eating dinner. Suddenly, every morsel she’d forced down wanted to reappear, and Amia had to swallow to keep it down.

She toyed briefly with the idea of confessing the rage she was inviting by helping Clara escape. Her father would make her suffer if he got his hands on her. There was no greater sin than betrayal. Hadn’t her dad drilled that into her head when he spoke of her mother? Now she wondered what her mother had done to betray Marcus Blane, and if it was anything like what Amia was doing. But those were her problems, not Clara’s. The other girl had enough to worry about after all she’d had to endure.

“Ready?” Amia asked instead and waited for Clara’s response.

When the girl nodded again, Amia took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Follow me. Stay as close and quiet as you can. And if you hear me yell run, take off. Don’t look back. You don’t want them to catch you again.”

Clara nodded, still giving her that odd look, and that’s when it registered for Amia. Both Clara’s eyes were open when she’d have sworn one had been swollen shut just hours before. She shook her head in confusion. There was no time to dwell on it now.

It took them two days to go around the town. Clara recovered quickly, more quickly than anyone Amia had ever seen. She learned the girl had been taken while on a camping trip with friends, at least that was all Clara would tell her. Clara still didn’t trust Amia, and nothing Amia said or did changed that. She wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to trust anyone again either.

Her whole life felt like a waste, like a lie. Clara wasn’t an animal. Amia’s father and his men were the animals, the monsters that needed to be removed from society. Amia swore she’d see it done. She had no idea how, but she’d see her father and every hunter working for him stopped. How many people had they murdered in cold blood under the guise of some hunter’s law? And how did she stop them for good? How did she put an end to the madness? Where could she turn for help?

She was terrified when Clara told her it was time to part ways. She wanted to beg Clara to take her along, but she knew she couldn’t. Clara still didn’t trust her. For the first time in her life, Amia was on her own. So she moved, kept traveling, using roadside parks and keeping away from major traffic roadways as much as possible. She had no idea where to go. She’d never been far from the mountain that held Blane Farms.

She managed to succeed for six weeks before the Blanes found her. She was too malnourished to put up much of a struggle when they forced her into the truck and took her back to the farm. It was hard to realize nothing had changed since she’d left. Nothing but her, and how they viewed her.

She was thrown from the truck into the yard as soon as they arrived. Her father was there, and his eyes showed nothing but cold rage as he kicked her hard in the belly with his boot. She gasped, heaved and curled in a ball trying to protect herself.

“The traitor has been found,” he screamed. “We’ll need to teach her a lesson about what happens to those who betray hunter code, to those who break hunter law.”

Screams and shouts echoed around her, and fists flew in the air as the ones she’d once been a part of now took pleasure in her capture. It brought her back to the day her life had changed, the day they’d dragged Clara in. She couldn’t hold back the shudder of fear as she recalled vividly the state Clara had been in when Amia saw her chained to the wall.

Marcus squatted down by her, and for the briefest of moments, she thought he meant to forgive her, to stop whatever was already in motion. She should have known better.

“There is no crime worse than betraying family. You’ve shamed me for the last time. I had such plans for you. Now you’ll serve as an example to anyone else who might think of betraying us. You will be punished until you beg for death, until you wish for it with every gasping breath you take. And it will be denied. You can run. You can hide. But we will always find you, and you will always be punished.” He stood, facing the crowd once more. “No mercy,” he yelled.

“No mercy!” the crowd answered back.

“Kellan, I trust you to see she learns her lesson well.” Her father didn’t even spare her a glance now, as if the kiss of his boot had been enough of a farewell.

“I’ll make sure of it,” Kellan stated with a nod. “You two.” He pointed to a couple of the men gathered watching. “With me.” The look in his eyes when he finally met her gaze promised her pain and retribution.

They dragged her to the barn by her hair, with her kicking and screaming the whole way. She used both hands to try and yank the hands from her hair and felt several strands rip free of her scalp along the way. She was pinched and scraped with ragged fingernails as they stripped her clothes from her and chained her to the wall. She was naked and exposed, and Kellan made a point of letting his gaze rake over her leisurely as he ran his hand over the display of weapons. She braced herself, waiting for the floggers, recalling the bloody welts they’d left on Clara’s skin. But Kellan reached for his favorite weapon instead, and the blood drained from her head.

“No,” she moaned in terror. “Please, Kellan. Not that one.”

A grin tugged at his lips, and she realized she’d just made her first serious mistake. Now he knew for sure which of the weapons she feared the most.

“No mercy.” Kellan said, flicking the whip out so it cracked in the air right beside her.

“No mercy!” the two men with him repeated.

He pulled the whip back and with a snap of his wrist sent it flying at her this time. She felt the vicious bite followed by a searing, burning pain as the skin split and the blades sliced deep gashes across her skin. He gave her two more lashes with it, each landing perfectly atop the other so she would carry the scars of this punishment always. If she managed to live.

She felt ripped apart from his strikes. Each had caught her just beneath her left breast and sliced across her stomach to the top of her right hip. She could feel the blood dripping from her and blinked several times as she dropped her head to stare at the coating of red on her skin. But Kellan wasn’t done.

Now came the floggers, and no part of her was safe from their reach as the three men closed in a semi-circle around her. She was barely conscious by the time they finished. Her voice was almost gone, broken from the screams they’d ripped from her, and now she was reduced to animalistic moans and grunts. She fell into Kellan’s arms when her bonds were released. She had no idea where he was carrying her or what awaited her now.

His touch was gentle as he lay her on a firm surface, and that gentleness alone should have warned her. But her lids were firmly closed as she hovered somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness. She didn’t even flinch as he stroked his hands over her skin rubbing some type of ointment onto her many marks. She no longer felt the pain from the whip, and she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

“I could have made you moan with pleasure,” he vowed as he ran his hands over her breasts and thighs. “You could have had everything a woman needs,” he grunted, rubbing something on her stomach where she knew her flesh was torn apart. The burn was immense, and she jerked with a silent scream her voice was unable to release. There was only the sound of her moaning in pain while he wrapped something around her stomach, binding her wound tightly. “We could have been happy.”

She would have never been happy or taken pleasure in his touch. He offered nothing she needed.

“Let me die,” she groaned, her voice barely a whisper as pain unlike any she’d ever known consumed her. But he heard her anyway.

“You won’t die. But you will learn a lesson you’ll never forget.”

She felt him move away from her.

“Open your eyes, Amia.”

She shook her head and was rewarded with the crack of his palm across her cheek.

“I said open your fucking eyes!”

She blinked them open slowly, feeling her defiance start to die away at the possibility of more pain. Instead, her breath caught in her chest as she realized where she was and what he had planned. She lay still, her entire body seized by terror as the lid slowly lowered closer to her face.

“No.” She wanted it to be a scream. In her head, it was. In reality, it was a barely formed sound of denial even as the lid closed, and she heard the bolt slam into place.

Her heartbeat galloped, and strength she thought had deserted her reappeared with a vengeance as she bucked and fought. Too late, though, too late to change her fate. Strength quickly faded, and she began whimpering as reality set in. She was buried alive beneath a layer of concrete and at the whim of people she had betrayed. Would they ever let her out? Or was this where they would keep her until either her fear or hunger killed her?

Later, she would realize she’d spent three days in the chamber that first time. They made her clean it when they released her. She was their prisoner for three weeks before she’d healed enough to look for an opportunity to escape again. It took them six months to catch her the second time. During those six months, she managed to slip in and free two people right from under their noses. They never knew she was there.

She was taught another lesson and learned it hurt even worse when scar tissue was ripped open. She learned there was no torture more guaranteed to break her than a stay in the chamber. And she learned what strength was. She discovered how it felt to be beaten and shocked, how it felt to have a knife blade slice deep and what a gunshot felt like as it pierced her shoulder. That one had taken a while to heal, and the raised scar where the bullet still remained was just one more to add to her list.

But she found out what she was made of, and how far she was willing to go to rescue those who needed her help, those with an unmistakable glow just as Clara had displayed. Amia vowed she would always escape, always find ways to rescue anyone she could from the Blanes. And she learned no matter how well she hid, how cautious she tried to be, no one ever really escaped the Blane family, especially the former daughter of Marcus Blane.


 

Happy Reading!

Lacey Thorn
It's your world...unlaced...
www.lacythorn.com
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