Prologue (The Playroom)
The chains holding my arms above my head rattled violently against the icy stone wall behind me. My jaw ached as my teeth ground together. I willed the man holding the dirty, bloodstained knife to just be done with it. The hours of abuse were starting to take their toll on me and I wasn’t sure how much more I could endure.
The knife sliced deep into my upper thigh, next to my groin, crisscrossing the lines it had already inflicted as I screamed inside my head. I stubbornly refused to give these fuckers the satisfaction of hearing me scream. My jaw thrust forward and bunched under the strain as I willed myself to keep it together. Sweat beaded on my skin, even though the room was icy cold.
Unprepared for the sudden punch to my gut, my body bowed and slammed back into the rock behind me. The chains holding me hostage clanged and drowned out the obscenities being shouted at me. My empty stomach heaved and I dry retched. I spat out the coppery-tasting blood that filled my mouth.
My eyes blurred with tears that slid unwillingly down my face, obscuring my vision. Not that it mattered. I’d long since given up looking at the damage they’d inflicted on my body. After the first couple of hours of being held hostage in this dank cave, it had seemed pointless.
I also didn’t need to see the hate on their faces. I might not be able to understand all that they were saying, but I got the gist. The hate was stamped in the expression on their dirty faces as they took pleasure from my pain. I pulled on my years of training, both in the army and as a Dom, to keep from giving them the gratification they wanted in breaking me.
With each heaved breath I took, it felt as if I’d somehow managed to swallow a bag of sand and it was filling each of my lungs to capacity. The effort it took to breathe worked against me as my ripped uniform rubbed against my torn and bloody body.
A layer of numbness settled over me as the two ugly bastards left in charge of extracting information from me, laughed, and then walked across the dark, cavernous room to grab whatever other torture device they had left on the table.
My chest heaved as I used the precious seconds of reprieve to keep hold of my sanity. I tried to roll my shoulders to take some of the pressure off my arms.
Blinking my eyes into focus was a huge mistake when I saw one of the men returning, holding something that resembled an ice cream scoop, but with a sharp edge. My blood turned to ice as the guy’s gaze landed on my genitals with an evil smirk. The air I’d been struggling to draw in refused to fill my chest as my heart struggled to continue beating.
Metal touched my scrotum, a second before my testicle was scooped into the icy steel. My mouth opened as terror held my body hostage, much like these men. The sharp edge cut into my testicle and indescribable pain rendered me incapable of holding back, my screams rending the air.
My arms flailed against the soft cotton beneath me and brought back my awareness. I lurched forward into a sitting position with the scream stuck in my chest. My eyes snapped open and sweat slid down my chest as I searched the dimly lit room for my attackers.
I reached for the bedside lamp with trembling fingers, the remnants of the nightmare clinging to me. The soft light glowed warmly against the terracotta walls, soothing some of the rawness and fear clawing at my throat. My chest heaved and my shaky hands clung to the soft cotton of the duvet cover. The whole time, my heart continued to do its best impression of the Great Escape as it tried to dig its way out of my ribcage.
I inhaled and focused on familiar scents as my foggy mind cleared the dregs of the nightmare from my brain.
“You’re safe. It’s okay, you’re safe,” I warbled, hoping it would make it feel more real saying it aloud.
A shudder rippled through my body when I finally acknowledged the cool air touching my damp skin. My hands wouldn’t cooperate as I fumbled to tug the damp duvet off my body and moved to sit on the side of the bed. When I noticed the glass of water on the bedside cabinet, I reached for it like I’d been stuck in the desert for a month. Lifting it, I gulped the tepid water. It slid down my parched throat like nectar from the Gods and eased the scratchy discomfort.
If I’d been consistent then I’d have been screaming for all my worth. The nightmares had a tendency to do that to me, not that I was aware of it at the time. But the one and only sub that’d stayed overnight had been more than willing to point it out after I’d frightened the bejesus out of him.
Don’t go there, come on.
My free hand rubbed at my damp face while I pondered what might have triggered the nightmare.
Was this all because of Lenny and the night before?
The idea caused a knot to form in my stomach and my chest to heave.
Not sure if I’d manage the walk to the bathroom just yet given how weak my legs felt, I placed the half empty glass down and shuffled my arse back. I leant back against the padded, velvet bedhead, hoping if I gave myself another minute I’d settle down enough to be able to go shower. The need to get clean after the nightmare was a common theme I’d established over the last ten years. I felt dirty and could still feel their hands on my skin. And although I knew no amount of washing would change that, I still needed to shower.
Come on, you’ve endured worse than this!
Dragging in a deep breath, I shut my eyes and ignored the sweat soaked sheets under my backside as I worked to do some visualisation exercises the therapist had taught me.
The childhood memory, the one I’d used when my therapist insisted I try visualisations to help deal with the nightmares, formed in my mind’s eye. Large mountains and lush green valleys outside Fort William appeared behind my closed eyelids. The fresh scents of summer and the feel of the soft breeze touching my bare arms and legs eased the tightness in my chest. After several deep breaths, I could no longer taste the bitterness my distress had caused.
My shoulder blades eased down my back to where they belonged as I breathed and counted until I felt able to open my eyes. I ignored the bone-weary exhaustion that seemed to be a constant companion after one of these nightmares and sat for several long minutes before I felt able to get up and walk to the en-suite.
I checked the clock as I moved towards the bathroom and wasn’t surprised to see it was six-thirty. Four hours of sleep had me grumbling to myself as I went to turn the shower on.
After Lenny had left last night, I’d had to go down to the club and it had been two a.m before I’d come upstairs to my apartment.
About to step into the shower, there was the sound of knocking on my bedroom door. It was only then that I remembered Ferron was only down the hallway from me and had probably heard me. Fuck!
I about-turned and took the robe I’d left hanging on the bathroom door and put it on. I went to my bedroom door and inhaled as I put on a neutral expression, hoping it would stop the questions as I opened the door.
Wide eyes and a fearful expression on Ferron’s face made me sigh as my hopes were dashed.
“I take it you heard me?” I asked.
His gaze remained on me as he nodded. “Yes, Sir. I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner… I… wanted to… but you—”
I placed a hand on his quivering shoulder to stop him. “It’s fine, Ferron. It was a nightmare. I have them occasionally. I’m sorry I disturbed or upset you. I know it must have been difficult for you to hear me screaming.” Any thought it had not been too bad, died when Ferron nodded, his eyes welling with tears.
“You sounded… like me when he wouldn’t stop hitting me,” Ferron sobbed.
The need to soothe overrode everything else as I gently wrapped my arms around his thin shoulders and patted his back as he buried his face in my chest. I hesitated when his arms clung to me. Our lack of suitable clothing became apparent as his face rubbed against my bare chest. A sudden image of Lenny flooded my mind, which was quickly followed by guilt. I tried to rationalise that this was me just offering a sub comfort, nothing more, but the sense that Lenny might not see it like that wouldn’t let go.
So after a minute I eased back and suggested, “Do you think it might be helpful to talk to someone other than me about what happened?”
His eyes swam with tears and what looked like utter misery as he gave me a tentative nod. “I’ll need to earn a little more before I could afford any—”
Cursing my own stupidity, I interjected. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll sort the cost out for now and you can pay me back from your wages a little each week.”
The relief was palpable as he nodded and a small smile played at the corner of his lips.
A moment of awkwardness followed before I suggested he go and make us some breakfast. Back in the bathroom, I switched on the shower and considered how to get Ferron his own place. I didn’t mind him staying, but I wasn’t sure Lenny would be happy with him continuing to stay with me now that we were officially a couple.
My heart skipped a few beats and I chewed my lower lip between my teeth as I considered my options.
Isaac came to the forefront of my mind, along with the massive house he had on the outskirts of London. Would he be willing to let Ferron move in?