Clang. Clang. Clang.
“They’re coming. Oh, God help us,” a female voice screeched, her accent thick and husky.
What the hell? I was finely able to open my eyes, scanning the area around me as another girl continued to wail, the sound pitiful and terrified. My lips were cracked, my throat parched, making it difficult to swallow, and I fought to catch a tiny breath of air. Where am I?
“What is going on?” I managed, my voice raspy. I noticed the terror on one of the girls’ faces. She was huddled next to me, clinging to my arms as if I could save her life.
“They… they’re coming for us,” she whispered, her voice shaky. “They’re going to whip us.”
“Who? What is this place?” My mind remained foggy as I attempted to figure out what the hell was going on. I scanned the area again, butterflies rumbling in my stomach. There were so many women surrounding me, all of them almost catatonic.
She continued shaking violently, bubbles floating past her lips. I was sick of her constant wailing and shook her hard, getting in her face. I had to know what the fuck was going on.
“Tell me. Who the fuck are you talking about?” I demanded.
Swallowing, she slumped against the stone wall. “Don’t you know? Aliens. They’re fucking monsters. They took me from my bed two months ago. We’re all going to die. They’ll use you and fuck you and whip you…”
“What?” Aliens? Nothing was making any sense. Fucking? Whipping? This had to be some kind of a terrible nightmare. “Where are we?” I glanced around what was nothing more than a large cage, almost retching from the disgusting stench permeating the damp air. “Tell me!” The primitive enclosure was dark and ominous, the stone walls pitted and stained. Almost every prisoner was filthy, covered in mud, their hair matted, their faces haunted.
“I don’t know. Okay? A planet, I think. Oh, God. Oh, God!” she whimpered, scuttling backward as another clang resonated throughout the cage.
Everything was fuzzy. I rubbed my brow as the wretched noises continued. “What else do you know? What do they want?” Try to think. Try to process. As if I could make sense of anything. Maybe I was losing my mind as well as my patience. “Tell. Me!”
The girl shuddered, wincing from my harsh actions. “I don’t know really. A game. All this is about a game. I was chosen once. It’s horrible what they do. That’s all I know. I swear. Please don’t hurt me and don’t tell them I told you. They’ll gut me.”
A game? This was crazy. “I’m not going to hurt you. Just talk to me. I don’t understand.”
“You will. They’ll beat you and fuck you and…” Her voice trailed off as the stomp of boots clamored through the space, something or someone approaching.
I stood to my full height, allowing the girl to hide behind me.
“Get back!” a male voice bellowed, rumbling like thunder. There was something off about his voice as if English wasn’t his first language. The clanging came from something hard being smacked against metal.
I was almost crushed as several of the girls scampered past me, every one of them horrified. I glared in the direction of the noise, refusing to back down. Fuck whatever creatures were in control. There were several barbaric grunts and the others around me scuttled away like rats, fearful of whatever was coming in our direction.
Terror snagged my mind, pulling me into despair.
Then I caught a glimpse of the brutes, their huge bodies and bulky muscles unlike any being I’d ever seen. They were terrifying, their appearance straight out of a horror movie.
No! This couldn’t be happening. My name is Katarina Garens. My name is Katarina Garens. While I might still be able to remember my name, I also realized at that very moment that I was going to die. There was no other explanation. I shifted backwards, mixing with the crowd as the beings approached the iron bars.
Two of them spoke in another language, surveying the cage as they licked their lips.
I continued to huddle in the corner, my face pressed against cold, wet stone, trying to remain unnoticeable. I slapped my hands over my ears, praying to God this was just a nasty nightmare. I shuddered and scanned the area around me. I’d been correct. There were hundreds of other girls, all speaking different dialects, the horrible buzz of their screeching and whining penetrating my eardrums.
“Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God,” the girl from before whimpered.
The sound of a creaking door sent a flurry of activity throughout the cage, all trying to race away from whoever was responsible for the noise but there was nowhere to go. A vision pulsed into my mind, horrifying in detail. I attempted to block out the entire situation, taking several deep breaths.
Then I heard his voice in close proximity, before I even laid eyes on him.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Get up. Now!” The gravelly tone boomed throughout the dense space, filtering over the screams and moans. “You have been selected.”
The fucker was talking directly to me.
I tipped my head, my eyes moving from the thickness of the monster’s calves to his thunderous thighs and chiseled hips. His massive chest muscles pushed hard against the stark uniform he was wearing, indicating incredible strength. The man was a giant. An alien. It was his face I was terrified of.
Bluish in hue and almost human-looking, the horns on the top of his head fueled the violent images that had been filtering into my mind the last few hours. Hell, maybe days. I had no idea how I’d gotten here or if I had been transported into some horrific 3-D game where the villains were products of our dark, angry, and vivid imaginations.
I didn’t react other than opening my mouth, fighting back a strangled scream. That alone pissed him off.
The beast grabbed my arm, yanking with enough fury that I was pitched against him, the lurid grin on his face one I’d never forget. He ground his hips against mine, enabling me to feel his thick, hard cock throbbing. He thrust his hand into the bodice of the dress I was wearing, squeezing my breasts until I whimpered from the pain. As his rough fingers fondled my nipple, I was shocked that wetness pooled between my legs. He pinched my hardened bud, twisting and turning until I cried out.
“Let me go!” My scream was mirrored by others but there was no one willing to help me.
He chuckled, the sound like some evil monster as he shifted the same hand between my legs, brutally fingering me, shoving several long digits into my pussy. “Wet. The king was right. She will do.”
“No. No!” I levied a hard punch, catching him off guard, his oversized eyes glowing as his rage increased.
“You’re one of the chosen,” he snarled, his forked tongue flicking across his full lips, his massive hand slamming against my throat. “You will obey, or you will be punished.” Hissing, he darted a glance at my naked breast, his eyes full of longing before easing back.
“Fuck you, asshole.” The words rushed from my mouth as the fear swept into my throat.
He snarled, tilting his head then in a swift move, planted one humongous foot against the iron bars, lifting and plopping me over his thigh. I slapped at the bars, trying desperately to get away, but it was no use. He was far too strong.
I was shocked when he yanked up the thin dress I was wearing, exposing my naked bottom. I’d never felt so embarrassed or humiliated in my life. Even though I struggled, able to swing my arm back and catching him in the chest, he managed to unfasten his belt, jerking it from his uniform.
“What are you doing?”
“Showing you what happens to bad little humans who don’t follow the rules,” he hissed in a husky tone.
I heard the whoosh of the thick leather seconds before the strap connected with my bottom, sending a wave of blinding pain coursing through even inch of my body. I heard the scream erupting from my mouth as well as the asshole’s dark and evil chuckle.
The man was laughing at me.
I tried once again to get out of his grasp, smashing my fist against his leg. He was hard-bodied, and unlikely to have felt my weak blow. When the belt was brought down again, I clamped my mouth shut, refusing to give him the pleasure of knowing my discomfort.
Then he delivered four more brutal strikes and I’d had enough.
“Get off me, you bastard!” My voice only fueled the other beasts, all of them snorting their delight, their eyes burning with lust. My God, their cocks were all thick and hard, throbbing against their tight uniforms. This was sick.
“This one is a fighter,” he snarked as he raised the belt again, bringing it down several times, moving from my ass cheeks to my upper thighs.
The pain became white hot, searing my naked skin.
“That will suit the king. He likes a display,” another alien said, followed by all of them laughing.
“Fuck all of you. You will die for this!” I knew my words would only fuel another series of harsh strikes.
One after the other the beast brought down the belt, each harder than the one before. The burn was incredible, forcing me to suck in my breath, leaving me fighting to keep the tears at bay. They would not break me. Never.
He refused to stop, fueled by the cries of the other girls. Pain radiated down my legs, leaving me shaking all over.
Then my body reacted in a manner that was horrifying. My pussy twitched, my clit vibrating as if the savage punishment turned me on. No! Shame roared through every cell, leaving me bucking against his leg. The scent of my arousal was disgusting yet delighted the animal even more.
He growled savagely then thrust several fingers into my pussy. The shock was horrifying.
“You’re wet, little girl. I would enjoy sticking my cock deep inside.” He plunged brutally, continuing to issue a low-slung growl.
I remained in shock at my body’s reaction, the monster almost pushing me into an intense climax. When he removed his fingers, I was almost grateful, until he smacked the strap down again. And again.
The punishment was far from over.
“You will learn to obey, little girl.”
“We need to get the prisoners to the arena, brother,” another beast stated.
The man whipping me grunted like the animal he was, driving his fingers inside one last time. Then he leaned over, whispering in my ear, “If you’re not chosen, I will find you and I will fuck you.”
He wrapped his hand around the back of my neck, squeezing as he pulled me to my feet. Every inch of my body was shaking, my face flushed and my bottom raw from the intense spanking. He made certain I watched as he opened his gigantic mouth, sliding his juice-covered fingers inside. The sucking sounds were disgusting, almost as much as the fact my nipples were rock hard.
How could I feel any kind of desire?
My legs were jelly, my entire body quaking as he jerked me along. Suddenly, I could see more of the same creatures, all storming into the crowded cage, each grabbing at least one other girl.
“Fuck off and die,” I snarled under my breath.
“Fucking you would be a pleasure, human, but no talking! That will only result in additional punishment.” He leaned in, brushing his cold lips against my cheek. “I would love stripping you bare, sticking my cock into every one of your holes. Maybe one day I’ll have the pleasure.”
The screaming continued and I could hear something else—the sound of a weapon, what I’d call Tasers being used, zapping those who continued to struggle. As the monster yanked me into the hallway, I was able to steal a glance over my shoulder, remaining in shock and awe at the barbaric conditions of the cage we’d been kept in.
Stained stone walls and dirty floors, only the color wasn’t right. Everything was damp, musty, the vile stench of decay permeating the air.
Anyone who fought the beasts was brutalized, shocked until their body jumped involuntarily from the heavy voltage of electricity. I learned very quickly to become compliant, keeping my mouth clamped shut.
Tears formed in my eyes, but I fought my fears as he dragged me down a dank hallway, my legs stumbling as his gait and speed increased. With every step, my bare feet snagged against sharp rocks, the pain almost blinding. I didn’t understand any of this. All I could remember was being in my apartment all alone, snuggled under a blanket and reading my favorite mystery.
Had I fallen asleep, taken to another dimension?
Please, God, get me out of here.
I cringed, the horrible noise of metal hitting metal another reminder that I was a prisoner. Everything seemed to echo, including the piteous wails coming from all directions. Then I heard the clomping of boots slamming against the surface and dared to take another look behind me. At least a dozen other girls were being led by a similar-looking brute, all in formation and all against their will.
I would never forget their expressions of terror.
“Where are you taking us? What is this place? Tell me, you motherfucker!” You’re just dreaming. You’re just dreaming.
The alien beast didn’t bother to acknowledge me in any form. He was merely completing a mission.
I was a survivor. I’d been through several traumas in my limited years. Wait. Were we even still on Earth any longer? Wake up, Katarina. Wake up. I closed my eyes, willing the horrors away.
God, was there chanting coming from somewhere?
Help me. Please help me!
I knew in my gut that there was no one coming for me, no one that cared to help any of the forsaken.
In the next several seconds, everything I knew about reality came to a standstill as I was led out of the darkness into the bright sun, only the blinding light had nothing to do with the world I’d known. Everything was wrong, off kilter.
The sky was a bright orange, not kissed from the sun but stained from an artist’s palette. The ground was almost purple in color, dusty with the stench of blood and death floating all around me. The air itself was dense, humid as if there’d been a tremendous storm, but not a single surface glistened from raindrops.
I blinked several times from the brightness, recoiling from the increasing noise. There were people everywhere, seated in what appeared to be an open-air arena. However, the hundreds if not thousands of spectators weren’t people.
No. No. No. No. No!
They were all monsters, every one of them with horns and twisted mouths and vicious-looking eyes staring at the line of girls being paraded in front of them.
Dozens of the same beasts dressed in silver-plated armor surrounded the enclosure, various weapons attached to thick metal belts.
There would be no escape.
That very moment I began to fight, struggling with my captor in an effort to get away. There had to be some way of getting the hell out of here and going home. “Let me go. Fuck you. I don’t belong here.” I’d always been a fighter, capable of taking care of myself. I hadn’t taken several self-defense classes for nothing. I managed a hard punch in what I hoped was the alien’s kidneys following by a jab to his jaw.
His grip slipped for that precious second, allowing me to twirl, gathering momentum. The kick was hard and directly to his groin. The very second before my foot landed exactly where I wanted it to, I noticed a throbbing bulge twice the normal size nestled between his powerful legs.
The alien’s expression shifted, his eyes narrowing but not from anger. Amusement. The bastard tipped his head back roaring—with laughter. The entire crowd did the same. I was thrown by their reaction, but my sixth sense told me no wretched deed would go unpunished.
I scuttled backward, immediately into the arms of another brute. The two spoke in their native language, complete with clicks and snarls. He held me fast as the first alien took long strides toward me, glowering down savagely, but I had an inkling of what they were saying.
Whip and fuck the little human.
As before, the beast’s eyes raked his eyes over every inch of me, his expression turning carnal.
Then I was tossed over the brute’s shoulders, the creature taking long strides, ceremoniously dumping me back onto the ground. Within seconds I was secured to a steel pole that had been driven into the bare ground. All the clicks and snarls were horrifying, adding fuel to my rage. How dare these wretched beings treat us this way.
“Let me go, you fuckhead!” My scream was quickly drowned out, the same laughter from the stands turning into a cackling sound.
I noticed quickly that there were several of the same poles, all asymmetrically placed, all with thick metal shackles meant for holding our wrists above our heads. The other girls were positioned and shackled in the same manner, the clanging sound of metal hitting steel exciting the crowd.
When one of the girls kicked her way into near freedom, wrestling with the alien, the hard crack as she was smacked could be heard above the chanting audience. I swallowed hard, trying to collect myself and jerk my mind out of this nightmare. I couldn’t be here, wherever here was. Every human knew there were aliens, and not the sexy kind depicted in old movies. Unknown sightings of various brilliant lights zooming across the sky had started the ugly rumors almost fifty years before. Teleprompter news reports had mentioned the world governments even working with an alien species as advisors in an effort to keep Earth safe. After years of scathing stories, only recently the various world leaders had been forced to admit that they’d been in contact with several alien species over the last twenty years.
But aliens with horns who could speak English and abducted humans?
That wasn’t remotely possible. Was it? The better question was why couldn’t I remember anything since being in my living room?
One minute, I’d had a glass of wine in my hand, listening to my favorite metal music as I read my book. The next—poof. Literally. I’d been pulled into a vacuum, chained like an animal. The visions were fleeting, my mind reeling. My throat was tight, nearly suffocating. I continued to struggle even though the same beast raised a strap, snarling under his breath.
“Stay calm,” the girl next to me said through clenched teeth.
Calm? Who the fuck could remain calm?
I took several deep breaths, trying to squash my nerves. Fighting wasn’t going to do any good. As soon as every girl was secured, the aliens moved away, standing with their feet apart and gazing in the same direction, their expressions full of reverence.
I glanced at their line of sight, narrowing my eyes from the bright glow in the sky. But I could still see the amphitheater-style seating, one box in particular covered in gorgeous ropes and sashes of various vibrant colors. On what appeared to be a throne sat a single beast, even more massive than the others. As soon as he rose to a standing position, all noise stopped.
“King Rajah!” a voice called from nowhere and everywhere.
Even from where I was standing, I was able to see his impressive stature, broad shoulders falling into a narrow waist and long legs. The tips of his horns were curled, as if indicating his ancient age.
And the fucker was staring directly at me.
Bile formed in my throat and I glared back at him with utter defiance. I could almost swear he smiled.
A simple wave of his hand and drumbeats began to pound from every direction.
Every beat matched the hard thudding of my racing heart, gut-wrenching terror digging at my mind.
Another group of alien soldiers stormed out of the same enclosure I’d just left, male prisoners in tow, moving directly past the line of shackled girls.
And I was last, far too close to the vicious crowd, able to see the disgusting leers the majority had on their twisted faces.
One of the male prisoners was struggling, roaring like a lion, refusing to accept his plight. The entire stadium seemed to be going wild, lifting primitive weapons toward the air while they chanted.
The guard’s reaction was swift, the hard strike of the whip driving the man to his knees.
“Cease or die, you Cryton beast!” the guard snarled, yanking the man back into position.
Cryton? From what I’d heard, they were the very aliens who’d sought peace with Earth, several of their high ranking officers even living on our planet. Their advisory positions had been vital, at least according to the news. I’d only seen pictures of them, but they were remarkably human-like in appearance, except for the light purple hue of their skin, eyes that were like molten pools of lava.
And their gorgeous, massive bodies rippled with muscles. Whew. My God, I was tingling all over from simply trying to catch a glimpse of him. How could I be attracted to any kind of beast?
The Cryton refused to obey, still struggling then looking directly at me.
His golden eyes penetrated mine, boring into my very soul, his gaze following me until he was forced past. He was beautiful, his skin more like the color of lilacs in the spring, a body carved out of the finest quarry stone. I was taken aback by his prowess, his absolute commanding nature as he kept his head held high, defying the tyranny of the monsters, his long hair blowing in the breeze. His rugged face was marked with what appeared to be red paint, a technique of warriors used prior to battle.
To ward off evil.
The tether holding the prisoners together was jerked, sending them all spilling forward. The warrior growled his disapproval before darting another glance in my direction.
I was aroused, my nipples fully erect, wetness pooling between my legs. How could I have this kind of reaction?
A haze formed in front of my eyes as I studied the various male species, their wrists and ankles impeded by thick chains, forcing several to stumble as they were dragged like animals.
Just like we’d been.
The majority of males were another form of alien life, various colors and sizes, atrocities that were difficult to look at. But a few were completely human, only their faces covered in scraggly beards, matted long hair swinging against the middle of their backs.
They’d been here for one hell of a long time.
I had no idea what to expect as the prisoners were positioned in a line. The obvious alien leader seemed to be enjoying himself, smiling as he gazed upon the group of bedraggled males. Dear God, he was sizing them up. What for?
I scanned the arena, noticing the dark stains covering the platforms holding the seats. Blood. This was a fighting arena. “What is this? What the hell is this place?” My hoarse whisper was heard by the girl next to me even as the drums continued to thump over and over again.
“Quiet,” she hissed. “Don’t let them hear you. They will make an example out of you.”
“Why? What is going on?”
“Silence!” The same soldier who’d escorted me out of the prison cell moved in my direction, raising his hand to strike me even as I glared at him defiantly.
“No!” The booming voice was shocking to the crowd, their gasps of non-approval followed by thunderous noise from their boots. And the perpetrator of the dangerous sound?
The roughhewn warrior, daring to defy all those holding him prisoner. He was also challenging them because of me. I was struck by his aura, the way the others seemed almost afraid of him.
The alien turned his head away from me, glaring at the Cryton warrior.
“Enough!” This time, the rugged voice came from the stands, the particular beast they all considered their leader. Their king. He looked in my direction before pointing toward the warrior. A flurry of activity occurred after his proclamation as the powerful Cryton was unchained from the others.
It took four of the aliens to keep him under control, finally dragging him to the center of the arena. As soon as he was there, his demeanor seemed to change, as if he was more than prepared to be the center of attention.
The warrior was handed a sword, which he wielded with finesse, swinging the massive steel blade through the air. I was surprised at how lithe his body was considering his obvious time of incarceration. In fact, I couldn’t take my eyes off him; his rippling muscles as they flexed with each fluid move, the rise and fall of his carved chest as he roared his obvious disapproval, and the sultry yet angry eyes that could penetrate the darkness.
The thunderous rumble seemed to terrify the other girls, their hushed cries finally drowned out by the audience’s approval of the beast heading in the direction of the warrior. The brute was covered in an entirely different manner of armor, the metal gleaming in the neon-infused light. If rules were laid out, I certainly didn’t hear them.
There was just one statement made.
“You will fight until the death for a chance at your freedom.”
What? This was barbaric in any language. I stretched and struggled, trying desperately to free my hands. The warrior was tossed what appeared to be a useless bunch of rusted tin. He hissed as he glared at the chest-covering armor, tossing it toward the stands.
The king was not amused.
“Come,” the warrior dared, beckoning with his hand as he took a fighter’s stance, shifting the gleaming sword from hand to hand.
I was shocked at the sight of the second fighter, the alien more animal than humanoid in form. There wasn’t a story from my childhood that could explain what I was seeing. As the alien advanced, the boom of his powerful strides rocked the entire arena.
Or so it seemed.
“He kills everyone,” the girl said, chuckling in a demonic manner as if she’d been privy to this horror show several times.
I glared at her, chafing my wrists in an effort to get any traction. This was insane.
The king held up his arms, quieting the arena. All eyes were on the two fighters. This was insane. The moment the king dropped his arms, the alien attacked but the warrior was too quick, easily jumping out of the creature’s way. The warrior smiled, beckoning with one hand until the alien lunged toward him.
As the two swords smashed together, both struggling for domination, I became mesmerized by just how incredible the warrior truly was. Known as a peaceful species, the Crytons had been excellent visitors on Earth, never creating any issues that had been reported on the news. Just watching him, I could tell he was far superior, capable of killing a man or a monster with his bare hands.
The two powerful creatures went at it, slamming sword against sword, the clanging sound sending flutters into my stomach. The alien appeared to be winning, almost driving the blade into the warrior twice. The crowd was wild, every alien on their feet chanting in their own language.
But the warrior refused to succumb, using his agility to garner an advantage. He roared to the heavens as he swung his mighty sword, snarling like a savage beast. Suddenly, he struck the alien hard, knocking the monster onto his knees. The warrior was relentless, attacking from all sides.
The alien shifted and with one kick, sent the warrior tumbling several feet. The warrior responded by charging, managing to slice the alien’s arm.
Several harsh blows occurred, the alien’s fury evident by his raging barbaric grunts and the force of his strikes. Out of the blue, the alien made certain the warrior tripped, losing all momentum.
The crowd thumped their boots as the alien stood over him, reading to issue the killing blow. Then there was silence in the arena.
“No! Die, you fucker!” My bellow drew every alien’s attention, all glancing in my direction.
The alien fighter snarled his obvious disapproval, the girl next to me hissing.
“You’re dead. You’re dead. You’re dead,” she muttered in a singsong manner.
Guards stormed toward me, stopping two feet away then looking toward the king.
“You interrupted our game, our festivities. How dare you,” King Rajah stated with no emotion, the same boney finger pointed at me.
“The bastard cheated. That’s why.” The words flew out of my mouth before I could stop them. Hissing, I glared back at the monster.
“You shouldn’t have done that!” the girl next to me managed to say.
“Fuck them. This isn’t real,” I countered. “There are no such things as aliens. There can’t be.”
“I assure you, little girl. This is very real. You are to be punished for your insolence,” the king commanded.
Two more alien guards approached, wasting no time surrounding me.
“Wait. I am from Earth.” As if that mattered. The entire crowd seemed to roar with laughter as I was swiveled to face the pole, the thin material covering my naked body ripped away. I heard commotion in the background, an obvious scuffle.
“Do not touch her!”
The warrior’s deep baritone boomed over the roaring crowd. Why would he bother caring? I was no one to him. “Let me go. I did nothing.”
“You defied our king,” one of the guards snarled.
“Who is this king? I don’t belong here,” I threw out.
“You are on Zatan and you are our prisoner.”
Zatan? I was nuts. I had to be. My rational mind attempted to take over, the little voice inside peppering questions. How could they have transported me here? Why? Who the hell was I to them? I struggled to see what they were doing and when my eyes fell on an evil-looking strap, I panicked, tears forming in my eyes. Every inch of my bottom and thighs still hurt from the painful spanking from before. I knew this punishment would be much more severe. I closed my eyes, willing my mind back to my apartment.
My safe haven.
I’d come home from working in the laboratory after getting groceries, making a sandwich for dinner. I’d opened my favorite bottle of wine and was prepared for a quiet night. Then… Then…
With no warning, the front door had burst aside, wood splinters flying everywhere, the noise as if a plane had crashed just outside my door. As the debris flew all around me, I’d dived toward the floor, crawling forward in a desperate attempt to get away from the carnage. I’d never forget how the stagnant air had swirled around me, vapid and nasty, forcing me to gag. I could almost smell the wretched stench today, as if the substance remained in my nostrils. Then black smoke had rolled in through the broken door, covering every substance like a sticky mass of goo.
I gasped for air, trying desperately to see anything in front of me. My instincts to survive kicked in and I managed to get to my feet. Within seconds I’d felt a hard tug, unseen hands gripping my arms, yanking me backward as if I weighed nothing.
The fear had been suffocating. I clawed my throat in remembrance, trying to calm my nerves. The nightmare had been real.
Then there’d been nothing but blackness, something placed over my head. I remembered screaming, begging to be set free, pleading with the unknown assailants, as if they cared.
Then there was nothing but a breath-stealing cold surrounding me as I was heaved into an unknown vehicle of some kind, the rumbles unlike anything I’d experienced before. My hands and feet had been tied, and even though I’d struggled, fighting with my captors, there’d been no way to escape.
I’d been captured.
Stolen from everything I knew.
Now I knew why. I’d been taken to some godforsaken prison. What had I done?
As the first crack of the strap sliced against my backside, the pain nearly blinding, I realized that this was no dream.
This was my new life.
And I doubted there was a way home.