My heart tried to jump out of my mouth as I whipped my head toward the person holding me. I squinted but couldn’t make out anything but a bright glow that hovered about a foot above me. Terror pounded through my veins, and my lips opened to let out a scream.
A palm slapped over my mouth and muffled the sound. Another arm banded around my chest, pinning in my arms, and yanked me back. What had to be a male’s body molded to my backside. A fresh wave of fear hit. Oh, God, I’d made it through twenty years without being raped, so please not now. It was a situation I’d escaped a time or two, but I knew that my luck couldn’t keep holding out. I couldn’t even reach the dull blade I carried in my back pocket.
With adrenaline pounding like a drug through me, I yanked against the iron hold. It was like fighting a brick house. I still landed kicks where I could. Not even a grunt came from the man holding me, which sent a fresh spurt of anger coursing through me. Damn him, I was truly helpless.
My attacker withdrew his arm and shoved me against a dingy wood wall. As he caged me in by placing a hand on either side of my head, my eyes adjusted to the dim light. What I saw sent a surge of dizziness and rage through me. “You!”
“Yes, me, human,” he said in a dark, rich voice, his gaze never once leaving from my face. As if to punctuate his words, he leaned in closer, his body mere inches from mine. The scent of mint and pine wafted over me.
All the sirens in my head screamed at full blast. Oh, God, he was so close and so much worse than a human man. That glow had been Lucifer, his magic. The fae I hated and yet seemingly desired, though I didn’t know why.
I parted my lips to scream, but he again stuck a hand over my mouth. God, how I wish I could stick him with my knife, but it’d do no good. Through some deviltry or another, fae of his station were all but immune to human weaponry.
“Quiet. Do you want to bring everyone down upon our heads? Promise not to scream. You won’t like the results if you do.”
His words pierced my mindless panic, so I gave a shaky nod even as the urge to bite his palm swallowed me whole. I opened my mouth, but he sent me a chilling glare that stilled my intention. “Don’t even think about it. I bite much harder than you ever could.”
I shivered at the double meaning apparent in his words. Distaste for him rolled through me. After he removed his hand, I took in a shuddering breath. Though I hated being in such close proximity to him, at the moment I had little choice. Maybe he’d grow bored and leave me alone if I did as he said. Or that could make him all the worse. For now, though, I’d try compliance.
“You’ll behave?” Then his nose wrinkled. “Though your stench alone could mean our discovery.”
“I, yes…what?” I knew my mouth was gaping open, but I was powerless to close it. He infuriated and befuddled me in equal turns. Why hadn’t he hurt me yet? Or allowed his cronies to capture me? Instead, he was insulting my cleanliness. The bright side was that maybe my smell would keep him from coming closer.
His face contorted into a scowl. “Are you partially deaf as well as stupid?”
“Huh?” It wasn’t particularly eloquent, but it was all I could utter at the moment.
He gave an exasperated sigh. “Why do I even bother?”
That…that was what I wanted to know. Instead, I stood there like a leaf trembling in the wind. The combination of fright and anger always had this effect on me. I couldn’t wrap my mind or tongue around any words, so I remained silent.
When there was a fae around, it was always best not to talk unless spoken to. I inwardly winced. Though my interactions with the Sidhe were fortunately limited—my grandparents forbade any of us from trying to better our station by securing a position in a fae household or in a fae-owned factory—nobody could avoid them entirely. When I’d been a child, I’d earned more than one smack on the cheek by a Sidhe for my forwardness. And as a teen and adult, I’d garnered attention as fresh game for them, though they’d always left me alone quickly when they found better prey nearby.
When Lucifer next spoke, his voice contained a rough edge. “What were you doing in the dumping grounds?”
I wet my desert-dry lips. There was no point in lying. “Scavenging.”
He stared down his long nose at me. “The potential price of being caught is worth it?”
Potential price? So that meant I didn’t face one right now? “When you’re looking starvation in the face, yes.”
I didn’t mention my grandparents. It’d only give him more ammunition to use against me. With any luck, he wouldn’t remember me—or them.
He grunted as if only half-satisfied with my answer and closed the distance between our bodies. “Really?” he asked, his tone soft and dangerous. “Have you given thought to just what could be meted out to you?”
The press of his body against mine sent icy-hot chills racing up and down my spine and reminded me of the horrors that could only too easily await me. Though he was almost inhumanly handsome, I didn’t want him taking anything I didn’t offer. And I wouldn’t willingly give him one touch. The erection prodding against my belly told me that he wasn’t as disgusted by me as he acted. So much for my stink keeping him away. I had an inkling he only meant to scare me. Still, I flattened myself as much as I could against the wall in an effort to escape him.
Raising my chin, I glared up at him, resolved not to let my fright show. That was hard to do since he was so tall and imposing. The Sidhe loved nothing more than instilling fear. They were so good at it, too. “I have thought of all repercussions.”
And I had. I knew the dangers only too well.
With a snort, he pushed himself away and raked a gaze over me. “I’m not sure you have.”
The penetrating look in his eyes stripped me naked much quicker than hands ever could, so I nearly missed his next round of words.
“Don’t go back there again. Now leave.”
“What?” I asked, cocking my head to the side.
He rolled his eyes in a very human gesture. “Go before I change my mind or someone changes it for me.”
I nearly asked him what he meant, but his impatient expression halted my question. On quaking legs I slipped past Lucifer, all the while keeping a wary eye on him. Though I should feel grateful at his act of benevolence, I didn’t trust any of his kind, least of all him. Part of me cursed myself for not enacting some sort of retribution against him. What could I do other than bleed on his fancy boots, though?
To his credit, he remained where he was. I dodged around a corner, hoping never to see him again. A sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that such a wish was probably a futile one.