The door burst open. The two men who had questioned her for hours this morning strode in. When they saw what she was doing, one grabbed her arms, twisting them behind her back, while the other snapped metal cuffs on her wrists.
“Let me go!” she shrieked, kicking and wiggling.
The men dragged her out of the room and down the stairs. Jackson stood by the front door, his mouth set in a firm line. Remy and Eddie were in the hall, with another strange man standing guard over them.
Eddie stepped forward. “You don’t have to treat her like a criminal, mate,” he said. “She’s done nothing wrong. She’s scared. She won’t understand a word you say. Can’t you wait till Quinn gets back? He speaks her language and he can translate for you.”
“Commander Quinn is no longer in charge of this operation,” said Strauss. “His objectivity has been compromised. This woman may be in possession of technology that threatens the security of all the NATO allies. She’s being taken to headquarters for further interrogation.”
Hearing Quinn’s name, Tess began screaming at the top of her lungs. But he was nowhere to be seen. Jackson looked like he was about to come to her rescue. One of the strange men stepped in front of him, brandishing a weapon.
“Don’t even think about it,” he warned.
“At least let one of us go with you,” Jackson said. “She knows us and she won’t be so afraid.”
“This is no longer your concern. Now stand back.”
Jackson shot her a reassuring look. “It’s all right, miss,” he said. “Quinn will come get you. I promise.”
They ushered her out the door and into the belly of the flying beast. Tess thought she’d die of fright when the huge creature took off, carrying her deep into the night sky, and away from everything she’d ever known.
They traveled a long way, taking her to a huge building behind a fence of wire, where more soldiers with weapons escorted them to a windowless room. Her hands were unfastened. One of the men pointed to a chair on one side of a large table, and then left without saying a word, shutting the door behind him.
Tess sat down and looked around. The only furniture in the room was the table at which she sat, with two other empty chairs across from her. The walls were bare of all adornment, save for an enormous mirror in which she could see herself. She looked tired and frightened. Tess set her mouth in a firm line and straightened her shoulders. She vowed that these evil wizards would not see her crumble, no matter what they did to her.
The nasty-tempered nurse she’d slapped yesterday walked in, accompanied by two more men with guns at their waists.
“She’s a wild one, she is,” the nurse said. “Ye’ll have to hold her down so I can give her the injection.”
The two men came around the table, one on each side. Tess watched them warily. One put his big hands on her shoulders and held her immobile. Tess swung a fist, but the other one laughed and grabbed both her wrists in a crushing grip. The nurse hurried over with a huge needle in her hand. Tess spat at her, but the woman plunged the hilt of the needle into her arm, smiling wickedly the whole time.
“Ye’ll not be slapping me round this time,” she said.
Tess stared up at her, watching as her loathsome face blurred and faded. Darkness closed in and she couldn’t seem to keep her eyes open any longer.
Sounds and voices awakened her. For a moment she thought she was back in the cave. She swore her head had been rent in two by an axe and she could barely open her eyes, just like before. But it wasn’t dark and musty-smelling here. And when she finally did open her eyes, the light was so blinding she squeezed them shut again.
She tried to sit up. But something was wrong. She couldn’t move. Tess tried hard to make sense of it all. She was lying on a hard surface, on top of a soft cloth. She wiggled her fingers and toes experimentally. They moved. But when she tried to lift her arm, she panicked. It was tied down. Tess opened her eyes a crack. She nearly screamed out loud when she realized she was strapped, stark naked, to a table in a room full of strange men.
“She’s awake,” said a familiar voice. It was one of the men who had dragged her out of Padraic’s house and brought her here. The tall one. Strauss. He stepped closer.
“These men are going to run a series of tests,” he said, his voice so loud that it made her head ache even more. “Just relax and cooperate and it will go much more smoothly for you.”
“She does speak a bit of English,” he said to someone outside Tess’s view. “I’m not sure how much, but I suggest you proceed as though she understands everything you say. In other words, use discretion.”
He walked out of the room without a backward glance. The doctor who examined her before stepped forward, accompanied by two other men in white coats.
“I want to do a complete internal exam,” one of them said. “We need to find out if any of her organs have been altered by the anomaly. If she made the leap with all her bodily functions intact, this case holds tremendous potential for the reality of intergalactic travel.”
They began shooting comments and questions at each other so fast Tess could barely make out a word here and there.
“Does anyone know if she’s had a bowel movement yet? If her last meal was eaten two hundred years ago, the contents of her digestive tract would be fascinating to examine.”
“Too late. I’m told she’s been eating bread and cheese and bacon. She’ll have modern food additives in her system.”
“Let’s get samples of her hair and fingernails, then. She’s only been here a day or two. They should be untainted.”
“You took her temperature with a thermometer in her ear yesterday. I think we should take it both orally and rectally at the same time, to see if there’s any difference. After taking a jolt of electricity strong enough to do what we think it did, it’s a miracle her insides aren’t fried to a crisp.”
“Strap those electrodes onto her head and let’s get her into position.”
One of the men wheeled a cart over to the table. He came close and fastened a black band around her forehead, with strings hanging from it that led to a box on the cart. Then he unfastened her wrists from the table and rolled her onto her side. Tess moaned and tried to get away, but any sharp move made her dizzy. She was weak as a newborn lamb and her limbs felt like they had been weighted down. Through the fog in her brain, she realized the needle they’d stuck her with had been tainted with some sort of drug, making it nearly impossible to move her limbs.
“Open your mouth,” said one of the white-coated men.
Tess shook her head and then groaned. Even the slightest movement had her swearing her head was split in two. The man squeezed her nose, holding it till she was forced to open her mouth and gasp for air. He shoved in a thin cold cylinder and then clamped her jaws shut around it. Tess tried to spit it out, but his hands were like iron bands around her mouth.
To her horror, she felt a different set of hands on her bottom. She struggled, but the hands were forceful, spreading apart the cheeks of her arse. Another cold, hard object pressed against the opening of her tight bottom hole. Held down on the table as she was, she couldn’t squirm away. And with her jaws clamped shut, she couldn’t even scream.
Tess shuddered, trying desperately not to cry as the object was inserted inch by inch into her nether region. This was horrible, nothing like her naughty daydreams of how it might feel if Quinn slid his finger slowly in there while kissing her cunny.
She tried to squeeze her muscles and force it back out. But firm hands held her buttocks wide apart, while shoving the foreign object deeper inside. She shivered as she felt the smooth hard cylinder violating her bottom hole, penetrating much further than the doctor did yesterday with his gloved finger. The man moved it around inside her, sliding it out a little, then back in even deeper.
Despite her humiliation, Tess felt a wild flutter of arousal. She fought back hot tears of shame. Right now she’d given anything to be back at the farmhouse with Quinn, even if it meant she’d be lying across his strong thighs while he paddled her ass hard. Instead she was lying here under these harsh lights with a room full of strangers watching while a faceless man inserted some sort of unknown object into her most private parts.
Where was Quinn? Why had he abandoned her? And what cruel new torments did these wicked men have in store for her?
Lights blazed from every window of the old farmhouse. Quinn had barely turned off the engine of the SUV when Jackson ran out, followed by Remy and Eddie.
“They took her! We couldn’t stop them,” Eddie shouted.
“Sir, those two interrogators from HQ sent for a helicopter. Turns out they bugged every inch of this place earlier today,” Jackson explained. “They heard you talking to Remy and Eddie about quantum physics and the anomaly. Then they listened in on your conversation with Tess in the kitchen. They’ve taken her away… to study and examine her. They refused to tell us where. Strauss told me you’ve been removed from command of this operation. He says you can no longer be objective.”
Quinn let loose with a string of curses. “She must have been terrified.”
“She was frightened, but you know how feisty she is. She’ll likely do some serious damage to those two if she gets half a chance,” Jackson replied.
“I got an urgent call late this afternoon to meet General Starn,” Quinn explained. “I drove nearly halfway to Dublin, and then got another call that he couldn’t make it till tomorrow. They must have set that up to get me out of the way. Do you know where they took her?”
Remy spoke up. “I’ve been studying maps of this area. There’s an abandoned NATO base about a hundred fifty miles southeast of here, out in the middle of nowhere. My best guess is that you’ll find her there tonight. By tomorrow, who knows where she’ll be.”
“Locked away somewhere like a lab rat,” Eddie said, his voice flat. “Being poked with needles, prodded and scanned. They’ll treat her like an alien that’s crash-landed on our planet instead of a human being. It’ll be worse that she doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t have anyone alive who will miss her. For all intents and purposes, Tess O’Rourke doesn’t exist. They can lock her up indefinitely.”
“No one to miss her—except us,” Jackson added. “We’re ready to roll, commander. As soon as you say the word.”
Quinn had been silent, weighing his options. “I’m not going to let any of you get involved in an unsanctioned operation. And I won’t tell you what I’m planning to do. The less you know, the better. You can tell them I drove off like a bat out of hell. That they’ll believe.
“Before I go, I need to know a couple of things. Eddie, from all that you’ve learned about quantum mechanics, is Tess likely to have suffered any lasting physical harm from what happened to her?”
“As I told you, science knows almost nothing about moving matter through space. All I can tell you is that she looked right healthy to me,” Eddie replied. “And frankly, you’d know more about her physical condition than I would.”
Quinn let that one slide. “I can’t risk getting in touch with any of my old contacts. Remy, you still have connections with people who operate under the radar in France, right?”
Remy nodded. “I can get you anything you need.”
“Just a name. One name. I’ll take it from there.”
Remy disappeared into the farmhouse and came out a minute later with a slip of paper that he handed to Quinn. “This man owes me his life. Tell him Monsieur Lapin sent you. He’ll do whatever you want, no questions asked.”
Eddie looked at him in disbelief. “Mr. Rabbit? That was your handle? All this time I thought you were a tough street rat from Marseilles.”
“It is better to be underestimated by your enemies. Besides, I got that nickname by popping in and out of rabbit holes in the Internet—holes that no one else could even find, let alone slip through. Ever tried to catch a rabbit by chasing it? You can’t do it. All you can do is set a trap and hope to catch it. And I’m extremely good at avoiding traps. In fact, I’m the best you’ll ever find. As for the man whose name is on that paper, I taught him everything he knows about surviving off the grid in a cyber-world.”
Quinn headed inside and tossed a few things into his bag. Then he went out and shook hands with Jackson, Remy, and Eddie.
“There’s going to be an opening for a team leader,” he said to Jackson. “I hope you put your name in for consideration.”
“It’s been an honor to serve under your command, sir.” Jackson replied.
He turned to his geek squad. “Eddie, you’re a fucking genius. Don’t let them take away your sense of humor. It’s all that separates you from becoming a machine.”
“I think I’ve just found out what it means to be damned by faint praise,” Eddie remarked to no one in particular.
“Remy, I owe you.”
“Damn right you do,” Remy answered. “Someday, I’ll collect. You’ll get an anonymous email addressed to Beatrix and Peter Potter. And you’d better respond.”
“For a street rat raised in France, you have a surprising familiarity with English children’s books,” Eddie said.
“Not all education occurs in the hallowed halls of universities,” Remy retorted.
Quinn took one last look at his crew. These men had followed him on some of the most harrowing missions he’d ever commanded, putting their lives at risk at the hands of terrorists and cyber criminals with no expectation that their part in protecting citizens all over the globe would ever be known. He’d miss them—and he knew if he were to succeed in rescuing Tess, he could never see any of them again as long as he was alive.
He sent the rest of his squad out on an all-night drill and collected every weapon in the house. Then he knocked Jackson out and tied him up, roughed up Remy and Eddie a little before locking them in the cellar, and drove off through the night. It wasn’t much of a cover, but they could plead that he’d taken them by surprise. Jackson would have a nice lump on his head to show HQ and no one would expect Remy and Eddie to put up a fight against their own commander. Jackson would get a stern reprimand and the two boys would be watched closely, but as long as he had no further contact with any of them, they’d be safe from disciplinary action.
He took off from the farmhouse, never stopping to question his decision to snatch Tess away from her captors. He’d only known her for a day and a half, but from the moment he’d dragged Tess out of the cave, she had awakened primitive masculine instincts he’d never felt before. It wasn’t just the powerful sexual attraction that surged through him every time he touched her, tasted her, even thought of her. Something inside him felt the need to protect her, to care for her.
If he were to succeed, Quinn knew he’d need to use every trick he ever learned. It would be difficult to break her out of the compound, but he’d led enough surprise nighttime raids to be confident that he could get that part of the plan accomplished. Erasing all traces of their existence afterwards in a world that technology had rendered small would be the tough part. As he drove on through the night Quinn laid out his plans, his mind racing along faster than the powerful engine of the car he drove.
Tess wished she could die. The hard cylinders had been removed from her mouth and her bottom hole. But now she’d been strapped down on her back again, this time with her knees held up in the air by another set of metal stirrups. Her legs were spread wide apart, while the men crowded around the table and took turns poking and prodding every inch of her body, inside and out.
One of them cut off a lock of her hair, then took scissors to a fistful of the tight red curls between her legs. Another one stepped forward and spread a slick unguent all over a long, thick rod with a rounded tip. Tess watched in horror as he began sliding it into her cunny. It was so big and so hard she didn’t see how it would fit inside her tight little opening. Tess screamed and writhed on the table as he kept on shoving it in further and further. He ignored her. Suddenly she felt it begin throbbing and humming deep inside her. He said something to one of the other men and they all converged around a looking glass on another cart, watching dark shapes that swirled and melded together like drops of oil on water.
He moved the rod around inside her, rubbing against places that had her panting and squirming in spite of herself.
“Uterus looks healthy and intact,” one of the men announced, staring at the looking glass.
“There’s nothing wrong with her sexual responsiveness either,” the man between her legs added, watching her writhe around helplessly as he deliberately stimulated her G-spot with the vibrating ultrasound wand. That drew a lewd chuckle from the men in the room.
“Her nipples are fully erect too.”
Tess gasped when another stranger came forward and pinched the hard pink tips of her breasts between his fingers. The wild sensations Quinn had introduced her to began pouring through her body again. This time the little nub between her legs pulsed and throbbed in time with the thick rod humming inside her.
“Shall we see if she’s still capable of orgasm? Purely in the name of science, of course,” said the man holding the long smooth rod.
“Turn off all your recording devices,” called a voice in the crowd. “We don’t need this scene showing up on some porn site.”
The man manipulating the rod began drawing it slowly from her body. Tess felt a sharp pang of disappointment. But it disappeared the instant he brought the smooth rounded tip up to rest it on that little nub between her legs. Heat radiated from it now and it hummed and throbbed even louder. He pressed it against her, rubbing it back and forth. She screamed and dug her heels into the metal stirrups. Powerful waves rocked her body. She instinctively lifted her bottom off the table and arched her hips into the air, thrusting her mound against it. Everything in the room disappeared as her entire being centered on the savage sensations pouring through her. Finally she collapsed, breathless.
When he moved the rod away, Tess became aware once again of the leering faces of the men around her. She prayed that the earth would open and swallow her whole, saving her from the humiliation of having to face all these strangers after they’d seen her give way to such wicked behavior. She didn’t want to like what they were doing. But her body had betrayed her, made her lose control, panting and moaning like a mare in heat. Only once before had Tess felt anything like what the roomful of horrid men had made her feel. That was when Quinn kissed her—there, on the tiny bud that hardened and throbbed under his lips and his tongue and his fingers.
But now there were no strong arms to hold her afterwards, no warm body to snuggle against. Only the bright lights overhead, making her feel even more naked and exposed. Tess squeezed her eyes shut and tried to block out the voices, the cold, impersonal hands touching her everywhere again.
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