Authors: Jasinda Wilder
“Poetic and sinfully provocative . . . Highly innovative and addictive!
not only seduced me, it invited me into a sensual world where I was one of the wicked participants. This isn’t just a sizzling hot read, it’s an exhilarating, unforgettable experience.”
New York Times
“Jasinda Wilder like you’ve never seen her before.
draws you in from the first page and doesn’t let go until long after the last.”
New York Times
bestselling author of the Driven series
“Jasinda outdid herself! Every word, every line in this book was a treat and I savored every bite. Sensual, intelligent, and well-paced, I am on the edge of my seat and needing more!”
New York Times
“Wilder . . . pulls out all the stops for this spellbinding novel of identity, passion, and fear . . . The intense, violent, erotic story is told in the first-person voice of X herself, with impressively well-handled second-person passages directed at her often odious clients . . . Once readers fall into X’s story, they’ll be desperate for the next installments.”
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This book is an original publication of the Berkley Publishing Group.
Copyright © 2016 by Jasinda Wilder.
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eBook ISBN: 9781101986929
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Wilder, Jasinda, author.
Title: Exiled : a Madame X novel / Jasinda Wilder.
Description: Berkley trade paperback edition. | New York : Berkley Books, 2016.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016004875 (print) | LCCN 2016010320 (ebook) | ISBN 9781101986912 (paperback) | ISBN 9781101986929 (ebook)
Subjects: LCSH: Man-woman relationships--Fiction. | Sexual dominance and submission--Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Romance / Contemporary. | FICTION / Romance / Suspense. | FICTION / Contemporary Women. | GSAFD: Romantic suspense fiction. | Erotic fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3623.I5386 E95 2016 (print) | LCC PS3623.I5386 (ebook) | DDC 813/.6--dc23
LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016004875
Berkley trade paperback edition / August 2016
Cover photos: Woman © yurok/Shutterstock; Skyline © Songquan Deng/Shutterstock.
Cover design by Sarah Hansen.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
nce upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a boy. His name was Jakob.” Your voice is a murmur I must strain to hear. The cadence of your speech, the length of your vowels, and the hardness of your consonants . . . they shift and cross continents. “Jakob? He was a spoiled little brat. Anything he wanted, he had. And more. If he wanted it, he had but to point, and it was his. Never was he told ‘no.’ His father, you see, was a wealthy merchant who had the good fortune to marry an even wealthier Jewish woman. So this boy, he grew up believing in his very heart of hearts that he owned all of Prague. This little brat, this spoiled princeling, he would march about the city, trailed by his doting father and adoring mother and watchful nanny, shouting and demanding and pouting and scheming. He was not forced to attend anything so pedestrian as
, this Jakob. Oh no, he was educated by a private tutor. History, maths, science, the classical languages, Jakob was given a world-class education in his very own library. He was taught to play the piano, which he detested. Also the violin, at which he
was a virtuoso. He learned fencing, horsemanship, politics, economics. Jakob, as spoiled as he was, possessed an exceedingly keen mind and an even keener hunger for knowledge.
“His world was small, and perfect. Until one day, mere weeks after his sixteenth birthday, young Jakob returned home from a riding lesson to find his home empty. His father and mother were both gone. And the housekeeper, she was incoherent, babbling in her native Greek so fast no one could understand a word, except ‘sick.’ Sick, she said. Over and over and over, sick, so sick. ‘Who is sick?’ she was asked, but the poor woman could only shake her head and weep.
“And for the first time in Jakob’s charmed life, he felt the touch of a truly unpleasant emotion, heretofore unknown: fear. Just a seedling. A germinating sprout of fear. So Jakob went with his nanny to the hospital. He was received by a kindly and sympathetic nurse, and guided down hushed corridors to a darkened room. The curtains were drawn, bathing the room in shadows. It smelled. Like sickness, like death. Jakob didn’t know that, then. Just that it smelled horrible. He approached the bed with trepidation, tiptoeing ever so carefully, as if by walking too loudly he might accidentally make his worst fears come true.”
You pause, a long, fraught silence. Unblinking, unmoving. A stone statue.
“Jakob’s father, he was a strong man. You must understand this. So strong. Tall, quiet, and stern. He was not a man given to outbursts of emotion. He loved his wife very much, however. Very, very much. Too much, perhaps. To him, she hung the moon, and scattered the stars in the sky, and even set the very sun to blazing. It was obvious to all, though Jakob’s father never said as much. It was merely a fact, as true and undeniable as gravity. But he was
. So when Jakob, with trembling knees, moved through the
shadows and stench of that hospital room, and saw his father weeping . . . it was as if the sun had failed to rise. A shocking blow, the kind that leaves an indelible impression upon a young mind.
“‘What is wrong?’ Jakob asked his father. Jakob refused to look at the still form in the bed. He was too petulant, you see. As if by refusing to see, the truth could be denied. But Jakob’s father would not speak. He could only weep, his shoulders shaking like dead leaves on a tree branch in autumn. Jakob grew angry. It was his way. When faced with anything untoward or unpleasant, spoiled little Jakob would grow angry. Stomp his feet, scream and shout and curse and throw things. Even at sixteen, nearly a man, he would throw these tantrums if he didn’t get his way instantly. So Jakob grew angry. He hit his father. Beat him about the face and shoulders with his fists and demanded to be told what was going on. But his father was not moved. Could not be roused from his tears. So Jakob finally was forced to see his mother. He was forced to look at the bed, and see his mother there.”
Another long, long, pause. A silence that feels . . . deep. Chasmic. I cannot speak, do not dare move for fear of breaking the spell.
“She was so still. So pale. Like a sculpture carved from porcelain. There were tubes in her nose, and in her mouth. To young Jakob they looked like . . . like translucent serpents, sneaking their vile way into her body so they could steal her life away. Jakob was a child, you see. He had never been forced to grow up. So when he saw her lying there, his reaction was that of a child. No, he said. No. No. He screamed, and stomped his feet, and cursed. He even tried to wake her up. He grabbed her shoulders, and shook her. Not hard, not violently. Just . . . to wake her up. But this . . . this finally roused his father. He leaped up out of his chair, rushed at his son, at Jakob, and threw him to the floor.
Leave her alone!
’ Jakob’s father shouted. He
never raised his voice. He rarely even spoke at all, really. So a shout? It was . . . Jakob could not fathom it. He lay on the ground, disbelieving, truly afraid for the first time in his life. His nanny drew him away. Led him from the room. Sat the boy in the waiting room and brought him tea and promised him it would all be okay. But it wouldn’t be okay. Jakob knew this, in his heart of hearts, he knew it. The way he’d once known he was the master of all of Prague, he now knew nothing would ever be all right ever again. A day, he sat in that waiting room. Two days. He was dragged away finally by his tutor and his nanny, forced to eat. Forced to sleep. But he returned as soon as he could. He tried to gain entrance to his mother’s room, but his father refused him. Shoved him away. Without words, but with sudden and frightening violence, his father threw him out of the room. He was blind with grief, you see. Unreasoning.
“And then, after nearly a week of waiting, Jakob’s father emerged from the room. He was . . . stooped. Thin. Frail. It was as if that week in the hospital room had sapped him of all life. As if a vampire had drained the blood from him, leaving only a half-alive shell. He did not look at his son. He merely shuffled out of the hospital. Alone. Jakob threw off the attentive and worried hands of his nanny and tutor, and went after his father. He followed him home. Into his office. Jakob’s father locked the door, and remained there for many hours. Young, terrified Jakob sat on the floor outside his father’s office and waited. There was a very long period of utter silence.
“And then there was a single gunshot. Jakob did not go in. He was a child in a young man’s body, and a coward. So he remained sitting on the floor as the police arrived. Jakob was carried away, eventually. He allowed this, because he knew what had happened. He knew where his father was. But Jakob was pretending not to know. So Jakob allowed himself to be dressed in his finest clothes. He gripped the handle of the suitcase that was placed in his hand. He boarded the
large, intercontinental airliner and took his seat in the first-class section. He sat there as the airplane flew him to America. He was brought to a distant cousin’s house, a cousin of his father’s. But his father’s cousin was not a good man. He was selfish, and mean-spirited, and cruel. So Jakob lived in a tiny room in a place called Harlem, with a distant cousin who spoke no German, no Czech, no Yiddish, not even French and certainly not Greek or Latin. He only spoke English, which, Jakob had always been taught, was a barbaric language. Jakob did speak English, of course, but poorly.
“Jakob endured this for one month. And then his father’s cousin received a large sum of money. It was Jakob’s inheritance, the estate of his parents wired to him from Prague, sent to the care of Jakob’s cousin. It was a really extraordinary sum of money. And this cousin? He lured Jakob out of the little flat in a place called Harlem, and led him onto a subway car. After a very long ride on the train, he led Jakob up out of the subway and out onto a street in a much different part of the city, and just . . . left him there. Jakob’s father’s cousin vanished into the crowd, and for the first time in his life, Jakob was utterly alone. He didn’t know the address where his cousin lived. He didn’t know where he was. He had no money. Only the clothes on his back, and a rather remarkable education in a wide array of completely useless subjects. What good did it do Jakob to be able to read and write Latin and Greek, to play Bach concertos on a violin, or to perform advanced mathematics with ease? No good at all. Not if Jakob couldn’t even feed himself. And so Jakob starved, there on the streets of a place called New York.
“Or . . . he would have.”
You pause once more. You let out a breath. A rough, pained breath.
And then you resume.
“Instead, Jakob was taken in by a woman named Amy. Miss
Amy. She was beautiful, worldly, intelligent. She dressed provocatively, which excited young Jakob. She fed him. Gave him a room in which to sleep. At first, he thought she did this out of the kindness of her heart. But, it turned out, this was not the case. Jakob was young, but he was tall for his age, and strong from fencing and horse riding. He was rather good-looking . . . and naïve. And desperate. Well, one day Miss Amy brought over a friend. This friend was well dressed, with fancy hair and fancy fingernails and fancy shoes and a fancy purse. Miss Amy told young Jakob that if he wanted to keep being fed, if he wanted to continue to have a roof under which to sleep, he would accommodate her friend’s every request. Miss Amy then left Jakob alone with her friend.
“That was a rather eye-opening experience for Jakob. Miss Amy’s friend had a lot of requests, all of which were . . . new . . . to Jakob. As I said, he was naïve, and sheltered. That was the beginning of a whole new kind of education for Jakob. It began that day, with that one friend. But, it turned out, Miss Amy had a rather lot of friends. They all came to Miss Amy’s condominium in a wealthy part of the city, one at a time. Friends, coming over for lunch dates, brunch, coffee, aperitifs, dessert, drinks. And if they happened to catch a glimpse of Jakob, and happened to want to spend a little time with him . . . well, who would be the wiser? It began slowly. One friend a week. And then twice a week. And then three times a week. And then every day. And then twice a day. And if Jakob asked too many questions, Miss Amy would show him the door. Lead him outside, and tell him to go. Make his own way, if he wished. He’d spent several weeks alone on the streets. He’d been near death when Miss Amy found him, huddled alone in an alley, shivering, gaunt, too resigned to death to even cry. He did not want to do that again. He had no money. He still spoke very limited conversational English. So he continued to entertain Miss Amy’s friends.
“And then, when Jakob began having bad dreams, Miss Amy gave him a pill to help him sleep. That was another beginning, that little pill. Another education, this time in things that could take away the bad dreams, things that could calm the boil inside him. He was still angry, you see. So Miss Amy gave him pills. And then one day, she tied a piece of rubber around Jakob’s arm, and slid a needle into his vein, and pressed the plunger down. After that, Jakob couldn’t go a day without that injection. He needed it, and Miss Amy had it. So the arrangement continued.”
I cannot move. I can barely breathe. I want you to be lying, to be weaving a fiction for my benefit. But your eyes, they see only the past, your voice holds the weight of old pain, and I know you are telling the truth. Or part of it, at least.
“Eventually, Miss Amy put Jakob into his own apartment. But she paid the rent. And she provided him with the medicine that would keep the shivers and itches and aches at bay. The stream of friends was constant. They all adored Jakob. They couldn’t get enough time with him. They came back for more, and more, and more. Some of her friends were not women, but they wanted the same thing. And other things. And Jakob let them do them, did what they wanted, because he remembered starving, and now he needed the medicine. He knew it was drugs, in the deepest part of his soul. He knew what he was, in the dark places of his mind. But he didn’t dwell on it. He entertained Miss Amy’s friends, and he injected the medicine into his veins, and he refused to think about it.
“And then . . . one day . . . Miss Amy died. An accident. She was crossing the street, and a cabdriver wasn’t paying attention. She died instantly. And once again, Jakob was alone. But now he had an addiction. And without Miss Amy, no way to get the medicine to feed the addiction. He found her condo, and tore it apart looking for the medicine. But she wasn’t stupid, so he didn’t find any drugs.
“Instead, he found something better: a Rolodex. It was well hidden, in the false bottom of a jewelry box, hidden deep in the back of a closet. He knew the names of many of the people in the files, so he knew what it was. And he knew what he could do with it. He’d lived with Miss Amy’s arrangement for several years by this point, and didn’t know anything else. So he set himself up in Miss Amy’s apartment, and when friends came calling, he made it clear business would continue as usual, but he would be receiving the payment.
“It should have been simple, but it wasn’t. He went through withdrawal. The apartment got taken away because he wasn’t on the lease and didn’t know how to pay the rent. But now he had a little money, and he was out from under the grip of the medicine. So he improvised. Found somewhere else to live. Invited his friends over. That would have been the end of Jakob’s story. It should have been, honestly. But it’s not. Once you have a taste of money, it’s more addictive a drug than heroin, or meth, or cocaine. Jakob had a taste, and he wanted more.
“So when he stumbled across a teenaged girl, huddled alone in an alley, starving, he knew what to do. He fed her. Clothed her. Gave her somewhere to live. And, after a while, Jakob introduced the girl to a certain lonely acquaintance who was willing to part with a sum of money in exchange for an hour alone with her. And then Jakob found another girl, in similar straits. And another. This being New York, there was no shortage of lonely men with money to spare, nor desperate, starving girls to entertain them.”
I’m sick now. I see the shape of things.
But you aren’t done.