“I’m going to shove my cock deep inside your sweet, little pussy, Miss Attorney. Then I’m going to flip you over and fuck you in the ass. And you know what?” the monster asked as he grinned, his dark eyes flashing rays of nothing but pure evil. “Then you’re going to beg me to do it again. And bitch, I take what I want. You will be mine.”
Shuddering, I would never forget the promise made by the horrible freak of nature, the murderer I was prosecuting. I couldn’t help but look in his direction for the tenth time that day. This time, his grin told me everything.
He would make good on his promise.
Staring into the evil eyes of a monster isn’t all it’s cracked to be. Do I have a certain level of control? Absolutely, but I’m also no fool. The reputed mafia lord could have my life eliminated with a single phone call—even while his ass rotted in jail.
Several of my colleagues had suggested that I fed off various criminal activities, hungering for a personal taste of the dark side. Maybe that was true, but this man and his penchant for murder was entirely different. I was trying to forge my way out of a black shadow. Admitting that had been difficult for me. Pushing every boundary was my usual manner. Now, I had to admit, I feared I was in over my head with no safety net.
“Ms. Crawford. Are you ready with your closing statement?” Judge Allistair asked, his stern face reminding me that it was almost five o’clock, close to his standing hour for cocktails.
“Yes, Your Honor,” I said as I rose from my chair, giving the monster’s attorney the sweetest smile I could manage. I had no idea how Michael Shapiro could stand defending a creep like Santana Dioletti, but it was obvious by his three-thousand-dollar suit and diamond studded Rolex that the man was paid very well.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” I allowed a perfectly timed pause, looking into every one of their eyes, before turning my gaze toward Santana.
Santana tipped his head, narrowing his ink jet black eyes as he swept his gaze from my face to my breasts, his hunger evident by the way his chest rose and fell.
I was able to keep my smile, turning my attention back to the jury. I refused to allow the man to get to me. “As I believe you’ll agree from the vast amount of unrefuted evidence that Santana Dioletti, also known as the Slicer for his preferred method of killing, should be found guilty on all counts of murder in the first degree.”
I could tell Michael was chomping at the bit to object. Too bad, sucker.
I moved closer to the jury, taking my time before issuing my final statement, holding up two of the most horrific photographs of the murder scenes. “Three. Innocent. Lives. Snuffed out. Murdered in cold blood. Stolen from their families. That’s all you need to know. Find. Him. Guilty.” I heard the single moan coming from one of the jury members just seconds before my heels clipped against the smooth, tile floor as I walked back to the table.
Sometimes saying less meant so much more.
There was no doubt what the jury was thinking.
I was paid very well, my win rate at ninety-seven percent. This asshole was just another case, or at least he should be. I hated the fact he continued to terrify me. Maybe I should ask for a raise.
“Mr. Shapiro, please issue your final comments,” the judge stated.
After sitting through the solid twenty minutes of Mr. Shapiro’s repetitive bullshit, the judge finally cleared his throat. There was no time for a rebuttal, but in truth, I didn’t need one.
When the drama king was finished, taking his time and walking back to his seat next to Santana, I couldn’t help but lock eyes with the notorious Kingpin. He’d terrorized the entire southeast during the last ten years, his reign of terror splashed across the evening news on a regular basis. Even with a venue change to Baton Rouge, the mafia leader locked down in solitary confinement, he’d managed to continue running his New Orleans kingdom with an iron fist.
The incidents of violence and bloodshed in the streets were rampant, and witnesses disappeared. There were reports he was expanding his territory, pissing off mafia families and other underground leaders. And the rumor mill? Fascinating but unsubstantiated. The Trust. The notion of a group of influential men controlling entire aspects of several countries left a horrible taste in my mouth. Still, if Santana had plans on cornering the Opioid and heroin markets, bringing more drugs into the United States, I would fight to the bitter end to convict his sorry ass.
The monster held the same expression as he gazed at me, one of knowing.
One of seducing.
I swallowed, my mind shifting to the threats I’d received, including the single one in written form. While anonymous and devoid of fingerprints or other pointed evidence, I knew with absolute certainty who’d sent it.
Santana would find a way one day to take what he believed belonged to him.
The sudden noise somehow managed to give Santana an opportunity to wrap his hand around Michael’s pen. I watched in slow motion as he very deliberately wrote something on a piece of paper.
Seconds later, I was forced to walk by the monster’s table just as officers attempted to lead him away.
But the split second timing was just enough, the note lifted so only I was able to see. All time seemed to stand still, images of his most recent victims flashing in my mind’s eye in vivid detail. My stomach churned, the bile clawing into my intestines. If there was a God, he would make certain this animal fried.
But the single word would forever burn into my mind.
A cold shiver trickled all the way down the back of my legs, but the asshole wasn’t going to have a single opportunity to see me sweat. I had very personal reasons for wanting to see him taken down and I always made good on my promises.
Especially to myself.
His nod of respect was followed by shoving the note into his mouth, chewing the paper as if this was his last meal. Then he issued an animalistic howl, the eerie sound quite possibly the most terrifying threat to date.
“Jesus. Fucking. Christ,” Judge Allistair hissed. “Get him the hell out of here.”
Santana managed to mouth the word one last time. Yet another promise to me, a sick reminder that he believed himself not only above the law, but the Devil himself.
I walked out of the courtroom just as the sun began to set, holding my head high and pushing my way through the crowd of reporters. Only when I noticed a man standing across the street, his eyes covered in dark shades, did I take a deep breath, shaking like a freaking leaf. There was no doubt in my mind one of the Santana’s goons had been sent to scare me.
Or capture me.
Or kill me.
The case was closed and in the jury’s hands. Thank God it was Friday, even though I couldn’t imagine the horrible weekend ahead for the seven men and five women on the jury. There was nothing more that I could do. This particular prosecution had taken two long months of preparation, three weeks of jury selection, and a full three weeks of testimony. I was exhausted.
I was also over asshole criminals thinking they were unstoppable.
And dear God, I needed a vacation, something I’d already mentioned to my boss. Twice. The pompous man was going to approve my request. Now, all I could hope for was a speedy verdict.
Unless every jury member ended up dead.
Taking several deep breaths, I grabbed my keys, heading straight for my car. The possibility of retaliation was high. Santana had never seen the inside of a prison, even though he’d been accused of murdering a solid twelve people during his tenure as Kingpin.
Even my boss had suggested I stay in a safe house until after the trial. That wasn’t my style. I had two guns in my possession and knew exactly how to use them.
My father had taught me well.
“How about a drink?”
The male voice came out of nowhere. Turning, I knocked headfirst into someone, falling directly against a massive chest. As I tumbled forward a hand snapped against the back of my neck, creating an instant slice of pain. “Shit.”
“Oh, God, are you all right?”
I breathed a sigh of relief as I attempted to steady myself. “Dan, you scared the hell out of me.” Dan Swift was the FBI agent who’d been vital in the capture of Santana. He also had a crush on me. One hand was still wrapped around my neck, the other holding my arm.
Grinning, he eased me into a standing position. “Sorry about that. Did I hurt you?”
“No, I’m…fine.” I rubbed my neck then slid my hand down my skirt, taking a deep breath. I scanned the area, still terrified one of Santana’s goons was waiting in the wings.
“You’re certain?” he asked, grinning. “Would you like me to drive you home? Hey, maybe we could grab a bite to eat.”
“You’re very sweet but I’ll be fine and I’m just going home and hiding under the covers.” He looked hurt, but at this point, I honestly didn’t care. The exhaustion was starting to settle in.
“Well, maybe next week. Take care of yourself. You did good in there,” he muttered, lingering as if I’d change my mind.
“Thanks.” I gave him a hard look, the kind that made certain he’d walk away. A boyfriend I didn’t need. “Hey, do you think the jurors will be okay?”
He gripped my arm, giving me a reassuring nod. “Stop worrying. They’re well protected. Nothing is going to stop this conviction.”
I watched him walk away, more hopeful than I had been. Then I sighed, forced to realize I was going home very much alone.
I’d always been told that I ran away from life and that one day I wouldn’t be able to run any longer.
One day I’d have to confront my reflection in the mirror, facing the truth that all those ugly whispers were far too accurate, a telling of the various fears I’d yet to face.
The Trust. I shuddered at the thought.
But I’d run head long into this case, much as I had during my entire career, and I refused to back down to the asshole in any manner. Work had become my passion, burning deep within me. There was no time for a social life, even with a handsome FBI agent.
My large collection of vibrators satisfied my every need.
There was no slice and dice attempt on my life as I walked through the garage, but I locked the car doors within seconds, starting and revving the engine. I lowered my head, taking gulping breaths then turned the satellite radio on full blast. He can’t get to you. You’re going to be just fine. How many times had I mumbled the mantra? Enough the words should matter.
They didn’t in the least.
A wave of fear kept me on edge as I pulled out of the shadowed area, but even the mysterious man had disappeared.
My instincts were something that had kept me out of harm’s way during several explosive cases, but with this one in particular, I was well aware of the horrific danger. The notion kept me peering into the rearview mirror every few seconds. There were no speeding cars, bumper huggers or massive dark SUV’s with blacked out windows following me.
Still, I took another route home, forgetting about grabbing anything at the grocery store. I had enough wine and cheese for the night. That was all the sustenance I needed.
The thirty minute drive to my condo, which I was paying way too much for the sweeping views and topnotch protection, was the longest of my life. Twilight had fallen, leaving everything with an ominous appearance. At least there was a full moon cresting over the horizon.
By the time I rolled into the very secure underground garage, the entire high-rise building safeguarded by security cameras and two guards, I was close to hyperventilating. After pulling into my reserved spot, I was finally able to breathe without whimpering.
Some tough girl I turned out to be.
Still cautious, I glanced out every window before exiting my BMW, the only real luxury I’d allowed since my promotion. Other than hearing a door being slammed, the echo popping through the dense space, there were no other sounds.
There were also no creeping thugs, waiting to wrap duct tape around my mouth. Just simply a sea of expensive cars and concrete.
Fifty paces to the elevator and I could pretend the outside world didn’t exist.
The ping of the elevator was made me jump and I laughed when the doors opened, revealing a cold steel and very empty box. I took a deep breath, still slapping my hand on the close button as soon as I stepped in. I was safe for Christ’s sake. There was no boogeyman attempting to follow me, no monster ready to end my life.
By the time I walked out onto my floor, my keys in hand, all I could think about was opening a fresh bottle of wine. I deserved a glass or three after the day I’d had.
I locked the door behind me, lifting my middle finger before kicking off my shoes. I could wash away the wretchedness of the day and cuddle up in a blanket on the couch, finding some fabulous horror movie. A really scary one.
Chuckling, I dropped my things and immediately headed for the kitchen, flicking on the television before grabbing a bottle of wine. Another newscast. Another reminder. I glared at the screen, the ugly images of the day’s court events splashing across like the circus was in town. The Channel 9 crew were recapping everything, including the man being transferred from the jail that morning. I almost dropped the wine glass as Santana looked directly into the camera.
He was staring at me, undressing me. Longing for…me.
“Jesus.” I couldn’t take anymore, turning off the remote before managing to open the wine. I ripped the cork into two pieces, finally shoving the second half into the bottle and pouring the glass to the rim. Several gulps did little to calm my nerves, so I took a few more, finally taking a deep breath then refilling.
The stench of the fucker was all over me, as if his fingers had managed to caress every inch of my naked body. I couldn’t stand the thought, disgusted with the events of the day. Hell, the entire trial. The glass was firmly planted in my hand as I walked into the bedroom, flicking on a single light. The man’s power and influence would terrify me for weeks to come. Damn it. I certainly wouldn’t admit it outside of my own apartment, but I prayed to some God that Santana would be sent away for a very long time.
Another gulp. Then a second. I managed to ease the glass onto my dresser then practically ripped off my suit jacket, throwing it across the room. The pin in my hair was second and as I tossed my hair back and forth, I was able to take several choppy breaths. My fingers were fumbling so badly that I finally yanked off the last button of my ridiculously expensive silk blouse that I’d spent way too much time selecting. Not too sexy. Not too conservative. All business.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!
The second I turned, heading for the bathroom, I heard a noise. I made my living being extremely observant and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that someone was in my condo. I twisted my head, holding in my breath as I listened. There was no other way out of the bedroom and I’d left my phone in my purse, dumped by the front door. If I was right, I was in serious trouble. Very cautiously I tiptoed toward the nightstand, grabbing the gun I’d kept hidden away for this purpose alone. Holding the weapon in both hands, I inched toward the door, darting my head into the shadows. The kitchen light was still on and there were no obvious signs that I was right.
I took another step into the living room, swinging my arms in both directions.
The bright light prevented me from seeing anything. I yelped, stumbling against the doorjamb. The pain shifting into my shoulder was no match for the terror skipping through every blood cell. “What? Who are you?” The gun was still in my hand, but other than a few mute shadows, my vision was clouded. “I have a gun. I suggest you get the hell out of here.”
The dark chuckle sent shivers down my spine.
“Hello, Carina. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you in a more formal setting.”
His deep baritone was gravelly, the kind of sensuous huskiness that every woman wanted to hear whispered into their ear. But this wasn’t about seduction.
This was about murder.
“I will shoot you.”
“Not without bullets,” he said, laughing. “Go ahead and try.”
Pointing the gun in the direction of his voice, I did just that. The hard clicking sound brought tears to my eyes. My arms slowly dropped, defeated. “What do you want?”
“You really didn’t think I’d allow you to have access to a weapon?”
“Fuck you!” I jerked to the right, only to be stopped short by a massive hand wrapping all the way around my forearm. The attacker exerted little energy as he held me in place, his hot breath trickling across my cheek. I could swear I recognized the husky voice, craggy as if the man had smoked one too many cigarettes but sexy enough to create a jolt of electricity. I raked my brain, trying to remember everyone I’d encountered in the last few weeks. No one came to mind.
Seconds later, the gun was gently removed from my hand and the blinding light turned off.
“You and I will soon know each other very well, Carina. I suggest you get used to that fact. Then…” He allowed the word to linger. “Then you’re going to learn about rules, very strict rules. But first things first.”
“What… What do you want?” Blinking, my eyes finally adjusted to the darkness, the moonlight splashing in through the open blinds. I could just make out his silhouette, his hulking figure standing well over six inches taller than me. Even in the limited light, I was able to distinguish his massive muscles. The man was huge, outweighing me by a solid one hundred pounds. I was no match for his brawn and completely vulnerable to anything he desired.
“Obedience. First and foremost. We’re going to begin that process immediately. Now, stay completely still while I begin. Any movement will result in harsh punishment.”
Who did the asshole think he was?
The second he released his hold, taking a few steps away, I bolted for the door. Run. Run! If I could just make it into the hallway, then maybe I’d have a chance. I could do this. I could. I… He made no sound as he grabbed my wrist, yanking until I was thrown against his chest.
“That wasn’t very nice, Carina. That’s going to cost you.” He let out a slow and very sadistic growl as he rubbed his hand down my back.
Tremors tickled the insides of my thighs, thoughts of carnal and disgusting acts filtering into my brain.
“I’ll scream,” I breathed.
“Hmmm… Two of your neighbors won’t be home from work for hours and the third is out of town on a well-deserved vacation given his extensive hours working for a true asshole. No one is going to hear you.”
The bastard had stalked me. I should have expected no less from Santana. Where in the hell did I know this asshole from? Shivering, I slammed my hands against his chest. He was rock hard all over and my efforts did nothing but piss him off. A series of tingles shifted down my legs, leaving me lightheaded. “Please let me go.”
“That I can’t do.” He dragged me behind him as he walked further into the living room, turning on the lamp by the couch.
Wincing, I blinked several times, shoving away the useless tears while attempting to memorize every detail about the fucker.
I was struck by his incredible physique, rugged in a dark and dangerous manner that screamed of absolute authority. I was right about his well-toned body, carved out of precious stone. He wasn’t the same kind of goon who trailed behind Santana like a lapdog. This man was much more threatening, his tight jeans and leather jacket depicting something more savage in nature. There was a sensual nature to his looks: short cropped blond hair, aristocratic features with a chiseled jaw covered in a three-day stubble, and a hint of tattoos creeping out from the thin collar of his shirt, but his eyes were his most mesmerizing feature. They were light blue, framed by long eyelashes. He was gorgeous.
“I know you,” I huffed, almost recollecting from where.
The smile curling on his lips was more sensual in nature. “You have a very good memory, but that doesn’t matter.”
“How long have you been following me? Why? What the hell is this?”
“You have no control here. I suggest you accept that very important fact.” He allowed those sexy eyes to follow a trail all the way down to my painted toes then back to my face. “Undress.”
“What? What did you say?” I was stunned, utterly shaken to the core.
“When I give you an order, you are going to follow it without question.”
I swallowed several times and for some crazy reason, I obeyed him, shaking the entire time as I unfastened my skirt. I had no doubt he was going to do something horrible, maybe cutting me into little pieces, a gift for Santana.
But only after he had his way with me.
“Someone will find me. I’m an important woman,” I said with an air of confidence.
“No one is coming for you. The jury certainly won’t be able to come to an agreement, not when their very lives are being threatened. You have no real friends, Carina, the only family a father you disowned years ago. There’s just you and I at this moment.” The velvety soft tone, if meant to be comforting, simply fueled my anger. What didn’t the creep know about me?
Oh, God. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t…
My fingers were completely useless, so stiff I slapped my hands at the outer edges of my skirt, trying desperately to wiggle the material past my hips. When the material had pooled around my feet on the floor, all I could do was stare at it.
“Finish,” he commanded. “I will not ask you again.”
I managed to slip my fingers under the elastic of my panties, humiliated that some dangerous asshole of a man was allowed to see me naked.
“Better. You can follow orders.” He sat down in the middle of the couch, jerking me over his lap.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“Giving you exactly what you need.”
As his large palm slapped against my backside, I fell into a complete state of shock. The man was spanking me.
Shame. Humiliation. I was thrown into a world I didn’t understand.
“Don’t. That hurts. Please stop. Please.”
“You haven’t learned your lesson.” He continued peppering my bottom with hard, almost brutal smacks, one coming after the other.
I squealed but he certainly didn’t seem bothered by the agonizing sound. Only when I flailed, throwing out my hand did he react, yanking my arm into an awkward and very painful position in the center of my back.
“You won’t…get away…with this,” I exclaimed, ashamed I sounded more like a little girl than a professional woman.
But in this stranger’s hands, I was merely putty, his dominance overwhelming in every manner.
“Sweetheart, you have no idea who you’re dealing with.” He smacked harder and faster, his huge palm curved to fit the roundness of my bottom.
“Some fucking asshole hired by Santana Dioletti.” I sputtered. When he hesitated, I wiggled, almost able to get out of his grasp.
But he was having none of it, jerking me back into position and spanking my inner thighs. I was pitched into a moment of blackness, trying desperately to fight him, but he was far too strong.
“This is just the beginning,” he growled.
Beginning of what? I panted, wiggling until I was able to feel the thickness of his cock grinding against my stomach. The asshole was aroused. Oh, God. Oh, God. The heat pulsing from my bruised ass was terrifying in every manner, but the realization my pussy was wet, throbbing from the intense pain was mortifying. There was no way I could be turned on by this fucker. None.
But I was.
“Stop. Stop!” I would do almost anything to make him stop, the pain was so intense. “Please, sir. Please. I’ll be good. I will.”
After two additional brutal smacks, he exhaled and rubbed my aching bottom. “I think you’ve learned your lesson for now.” The was no gentleness as he fisted my hair, dragging me into a sitting position on my knees, his cold eyes staring into mine.
“What are you going to do?” I hated the whine in my voice, the little girl sound that indicated I’d fallen into his trap, ready to submit to his every command.
He kept his firm grip as he moved to a standing position. “Now, I fuck you.”