* Clover *
Bentley tucked a lock of unruly red hair behind her ear with a pleased glint in his blue eyes. She struggled to keep her expression neutral as his toxic touch soothed her frayed nerves. The last few days he treated her good-naturally, confusing the shit out of her after losing her mind in a dog cage. She didn’t remember much, but her gaunt frame gave the impression she nearly died.
This afternoon, after hours of recuperation spent in his large four-poster bed, he sat her in front of a square picture window facing a cute flower garden at a tea table, presenting buttered crackers with water as if her inability to ingest more than a once of fluid had nothing to do with his disciplinary tactics.
Too weak to avoid his reach, she bit her tongue, reminding herself she had to play the long game to gain his trust. Freedom was attainable. She just had to make him believe his torture methods worked.
He kept her secluded in his room and she felt as if the second hand ticking away on the ornamental clock hanging beside the dresser counted down to when Bentley’s sadistic side would rear its ugly head. His hands wrapped around her waist at night and his handsome face greeted her with a smile every morning. It was perplexing, comforting, and terrifying all at once.
While blood filled her mouth from the sharp bite of her teeth on soft tissue, he stroked her arm with a slight smirk, conversing about his father. About how they used to backpack in the mountains during the summer. How they slept in the elements, even during rainstorms, because real men didn’t fear nature.
“That’s nice, sir,” she whispered when he paused.
“He taught me important lessons, but sadly, passed away when I was twelve.” he looked to where his hand rested on her forearm, “Your parents are still alive aren’t they?”
“Are you close?”
“Not really, sir.”
“They retired to another state, and I continued living here.”
“Do you think we’re in Tucker City, pet?”
She sighed, “I don’t know, sir.”
Bentley nodded before kissing her on the forehead, “Are you tired? I had hoped you’d feel up to joining us for dinner. Delia is meeting her Sir tonight.”
Clover tried to not let surprise show, dipping her head to sip from the glass. Someone was coming? Someone who didn’t work for Bentley and could report he saw her? The visitor was obviously a criminal, deflating her sudden excitement. Poor Delia! Could there a way for her to stall the girls from being trafficked, even if it landed her deep shit?
“I’m better, sir. The sunlight helps,” she offered him a watery smile.
He beamed, “Excellent. Take a nap. I’ll help you get ready beforehand. Would you like that, Clover?”
She swallowed a nasty response, saying instead, “Of course, sir.”
He waited for her to lie down before locking her in the room with a smug wink. The last few days whenever he left her alone, she searched for anything useful for escaping without success. He kept his clothes and nothing else in the bedroom. A few decorative items hung on the wall and the little table and chairs were not sturdy enough to withstand a blow to the door if she applied them as a brace. Sure, she could maim him with a heavy object, then what? Kyrell or Man-Bun Guy would swoop in and kick her ass.
She remained seated on the mattress, glaring at the sunlight streaming through the gauzy drapes. Keeping ‘sweet’ was becoming a chore, uncertain how much longer playing along wouldn’t become reality. Bentley was psychotic, no if-and-or buts. Still, after the stint in the kennel, she was reluctant to act out. She never found out if Reese or the others had undergone her punishment, but from the way they had acted at the dinner where Man-Bun Guy slapped the shit out of them, the answer was probably a resounding yes.
As the sun slipped lower into the sky, she dozed before hands flitting over her stomach woke her. She tensed, and Bentley hummed to relax in her ear. Yeah, right!
“Your skin is so silky Clover,” his face locked in on hers, “Can I kiss you?”
He was asking? Should she say no? He noticed her hesitation but didn’t seem angry.
“I meant it when I admitted I prefer you separate from the rest,” he rumbled, running his large palm over her forehead to swipe back her hair, “I get you don’t trust me, but I look forward to learning your quirks. We can discuss anything, as long as you’re respectful. Want me to go first?”
She merely nodded, her heart hammering. Was this test? He had said he would let her out of his room tonight. This could be another mind-fuck, but by allowing herself to come across as meek, his defenses might soften enough for her to gain clues on how to breakout.
“I drugged you that night at Patches’,” he adopted a sheepish expression she didn’t buy, “Kyrell stood outside the bar in case you ran — which you did. A guy drove off with you. Did you know him?”
She used the headboard to lean away from him, not caring if he became irritated. Luckily, he relaxed, resting his head on his hand while giving her space. Was this the part where he confirmed being a psycho freak and murderer?
“Kinda, but not really, sir,” she profoundly regretted accepting Brad’s help, “Why did you drug me?”
“I dosed Mason too,” A small smile appeared, chin pointed up at her, “Reese chatted with him, like I asked, only he started tongue fucking her. You saw. If he took your relationship seriously, you’d think a little roofie wouldn’t matter.”
She could feel her cheeks turn red with fury, “It worked too fast to be a roofie… SIR.”
He smirked, unbothered by her sharp words, “Smart girl. It’s a concoction I perfected with Mason back in the day. He and I had a lot of fun before Peter Gill convinced him I was a liability.”
She soaked up the information while keeping syrupy sweet, “I’m sorry, sir.”
He frowned and sat up so his body hovered over hers, “Don’t do that. I want to talk to you. I understand you’re pissed, but telling the truth. Why did you leave Patches’ with someone else? That man’s death is on Kyrell, but maybe you’ll think twice before crossing me.”
She closed her eyes, his self-righteous tone grating her nerves. “Brad’s dead?”
“Unfortunately, he made a grave error. You belong to me.” Bentley sighed with a shrug, slipping off the bed, “It’s almost time. Let’s shower together.”
Where did he get off treating Brad’s death as if he accidentally added onion to his cheeseburger when he wanted pickles instead? How many lives had Bentley taken because in his twisted perception it was perfectly okay to abduct what he took a shine to? She didn’t belong to him!
Clover should have known Bentley would use a shower as an excuse to take liberties with her body. She tried to keep from flinching when he snagged her hand in his, leading her to the large glass cubicle. She slipped out of the blue robe he forced her to wear, quickly stepping under the warm spray. The rainfall showerhead soothed her mending tendons but as soon as his palm slid across her neck she froze. This was the first time he stood naked before her and although she saw his cock once before, she’d been too upset to peruse his attributes. She couldn’t pretend Bentley wasn’t a fine male specimen. The asshole had good genes and a charismatic personality rivaling most Hollywood actors when he wasn’t in full-on sweet mode.
Her muscles kept flexing in an effort to settle down at his proximity, aware Bentley observed every damn move she made, but couldn’t hack it. There was no hiding her anxiety. His fingers trailed lower, pressing against her femoral pulse.
“Relax, Clover,” he crooned, bringing back the words Mason had spoken to her the night they’d given in to their attraction to one another. “Your skin is so soft. I’m as excited as you are.”
He pinched her chin, forcing her to meet his longing gaze. She understood yearning, had wallowed in the restless emotion when her cheating ex ignored her in favor of someone else. She used to obsess over what flaws she possessed for loved ones to mistreat her. How she went from a home where her mother often berated her for being overweight and lazy to living with Dan, bruising her where people wouldn’t notice. Bentley’s psychological torture almost made her miss his brutal strikes and her mom’s cutting temperament.
“Please, let me kiss you,” his tone turned urgent, dipping his mouth close to hers, “To see you naked and not touch you is driving me crazy. I won’t ask for more. After all, I’d do anything for you.”
There’s nothing your Sir won’t do for you…
Release your fears…
Not wanting to displease him in case he changed his mind about letting her out tonight, she closed the gap between their soaked bodies. His cool lips fell on hers and the arousal it set off surprised and horrified her. She kept repeating in her head; it was human biology to be turned on, yet her conscious screamed betrayal to every woman Bentley conned.
Accept your nature…
His tongue patiently waited until she gasped for air, then he plundered her mouth, crowding her up against the far side of the shower. Sculptured abs flexed when her palms connected with the dip between his abdomen, struggling to remain unresponsive.
His lengthening cock jabbed her belly, and she wriggled when his glistening tip marked her. “Hands down,” he growled, slapping them off his chest, “Unless I give you permission, you are not to touch me.”
Her shoulders hunched in shame and humiliation. What had she been thinking? She couldn’t afford to drop her guard, even while playing along. The kiss swooped from exploratory to scorching, scrambling her thoughts when he murmured what a good girl she was.
As quickly as things escalated, he let her go, leaving her to wobble on shaky knees, “Thank you, Clover. Here.” While she had been distracted, he picked up a canister of shaving cream and a cheap pink razor, “You have five minutes. Hurry up, we have guests waiting.”
She fumed inside as sexual desire fizzled into disgust. What an idiot! Do NOT treat the enemy like he’s doing you a favor by giving you basic toiletries, she chided herself. “Yes, Sir.”
He opened the stall door, wrapping a towel around his waist, “Don’t make me come back in here.”
Four fast minutes later she entered the bedroom to see Bentley had laid out a dark blue micro sleeveless dress for her to wear. She put it on sans panties or bra because apparently, women didn’t need them. She set her jaw after brushing her hair, mentally preparing herself for the night ahead.
Sliding on Italian loafers after donning black slacks, he frowned in annoyance, “What is it, pet?”
Pet? What happened to Clover? His mood swings were worse than her mother when she went through menopause. “Are the girls wearing this too? I noticed you dressed us the same.”
He finished buttoning his fitted white shirt before standing over her with a twinkle in those conniving sapphire eyes, “No. You are mine.”
Should she feel relieved that he had no plans to sell her? No, she only felt impatient, eager to figure out a way to free herself and the other captives. His sparkling gaze held her immobile when he kissed her chastity. Fuck, what was happening?
“You’re beautiful,” he linked their fingers, “Please remember the rules and before you know it, we’ll be in bed. Would you like to watch a movie later? I have a laptop we can use.”
Laptop… internet. A chance to contact the outside world! “Sounds fun, sir.”
How long would kisses satisfy his appetite before he demanded more? Would his casual affection become routine until she no longer balked? Is that how he brainwashed Reese?
She glanced at the clock, aware more than ever before her time was running out.
One way or another, she’d escape Bentley.