Pain. There was nothing but pain, Azim’s body writhed with each breath he took. The scent didn’t help as he choked on it. Dirt, spunk, and blood added to the reality of what his world had become. Days no longer had any meaning. They all merged together into a world of hurt and humiliation. He couldn’t move for the chains holding him captive to a damn wall in what seemed to be a basement. Sleep was impossible when he didn’t know when the next attack would happen.

His mind was fuzzy. A lack of feeding and no rest, was that the cause? Was he dying? Was this how his life was going to end? The sob was noiseless as it caught in his throat bringing his mind back to the reality of his situation.

For brief moments, in the darkness, he’d considered if death would be a kinder option. But damn it, Azim didn’t want to die. He had more self-respect and wasn’t a coward. He had a life, a family that loved him, depended on him. At home, somewhere, was his mom and sisters who liked having him around. They needed him to be strong like he’d always been for them.

If only… if only. Azim’s body spasmed on the next wave of pain from the simple act of trying to swallow another sob. His throat seemed to have shrunk in size. Swallowing was one of the things that worked to undermine all his hard work to keep control. To stop the fucker from seeing he was weakening. But the last time the guy had come to ‘play’ he’d done something when he’d throttled Azim… If there was one side benefit, it at least meant he didn’t give the bastard who was abusing him the pleasure of hearing him scream any longer. The bubbles of hysteria rose in Azim’s chest, trapped inside him along with his voice. The chains clanged against the stone as his head lolled back, his eyelids, against his wishes, drifted shut. Silently his lips moved as he worked to keep his head present. It was so exhausting to think beyond the pain that flowed through his veins. But the pain helped to remind him that to these men, he wasn’t human. That he wasn’t sacred or worth more than this.

His eyelids fluttered open; his head moved the fraction it could. His pulse jackrabbited against his chest working to escape. Was he coming back? The cry was silent as tears ran down his icy cheeks. His chest billowed as he shut his eyes, knowing that praying wouldn’t stop what was coming. The scratching sound increased, and Azim blinked his eyes open with effort. The room seemed to sway and blur in front of him. He strained to hear, but the noise wasn’t coming from beyond the door. Was it?

His gaze narrowed on the room, and the tears that spilled unwillingly down his cheeks didn’t help him in the darkness. Having not fed in forever, his senses were useless. The noise came again. Was he hearing things? Or was there a rodent in the basement with him?

His heartrate picked up further until it made his head throb mercilessly. He sniffed the air, his hunger stirring at the thought of something to eat, even if it was only a rodent. The buzz in his ears was broken by the sound of glass smashing.

The fear took charge, and he shrank back, disregarding the chains ripping into his flesh. His mind trying to figure out what or why someone was breaking in.

Shouts came at him from a distance. Had someone called his name? Or was the guy ramping things up to a new level to get his kicks? The part that had not given up hope rose, and Azim used what energy that remained to shout back, “help,” only it came out a strangled, raw whisper that cut at his throat. Pain took hold, and he screamed in his mind at the monster that wasn’t listening to him.

Yet, there fighting past the monster were words. He could hear them floating in the air. His brain shut down, losing the fight over the pain, his eyes drifted shut.

Was he floating from his body? Was this what it was like to die? The clanging in the distance hardly registered. Air moved over his damaged skin while someone was telling him to do something. Was the voice real?

The warmth of the sun bathed his face, it pierced his eyelids, but Azim’s mind had lied to him before. How could he be outside? Voices, deep and gentle, spoke around him, but it was the feeling of something soft brushing against his ripped skin that he found himself focusing on. The air remained trapped in his nose. His mind latched onto the delicious scent that surrounded him. The aroma that he wanted to immerse himself in and never leave.

The sea.

The sea had saved him…