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Authors: Tara Crescent

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Freed

FREED

Book Three

of the

Assassin’s Revenge Series

by

Tara Crescent

Text copyright © 2015 Tara Crescent

All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review. 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. 

An infinite amount of gratitude to my editor Jim and to Anne A. Lois and Richard North – quite possibly the best beta-readers in the world. Freed is so much stronger because of your help. Thank you, thank you and thank you again!

Cover Design by James, GoOnWrite.com.

 

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Never on a Sunday:
Stephanie Rice has her sex life all figured out. She fucks six different men on six days of the week. Monday is the Chef. Tuesday, the Technician. Wednesday is the Playboy. Thursday, Mr. Buttman has his way with her. Friday, she has an appointment with the Doctor, and on Saturday, the Dominant works her over.

On Sunday, she normally does laundry. However, on this particular Sunday, her worlds collide. All six men find out about each other, and they are determined to give Stephanie an evening she will never forget.

Prologue

Alexander:

“Do you believe in karma?”

The question hangs in the air and my therapist looks intently at me.

I don’t know how we’ve wandered onto this subject. We talk about many things, the good doctor and I. Sometimes, we even touch upon the core issues. My father’s sins. My aunt’s complicity. The accident of my birth. The suicide attempt.

For the last twenty minutes, we’ve been talking about reincarnation. The concept that a man pays for his sins in his next lifetime. It is a seductive thought in a world where people seem to get away with so much wrongdoing without visible consequences.

“I have to,” I reply. “I have to believe the wrongs get redressed. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to carry on.”

Though I have no secrets from my therapist, I don’t voice the next sentence. I might believe in karma, but I play my own role in restoring balance. I’m not afraid to use my money or my power to act as I see fit.  

Durov is dead. Sylvia Anliker’s destruction is only a few days away. And one day, I hope to right the most grievous wrong of them all. One day, I’ll be able to make myself face Dylan McAllister and pull a trigger.

Even though this is something I haven’t been able to do for over ten years.

***

Fifteen names. Fifteen women. One man’s legacy.

I felt responsible for many things in my life, but this, I felt the deepest. Those fifteen women, stolen from their homes and their lives, so that Dylan McAllister could train them to his perverted ideal.

Marie-Therese had been the first one, abducted from a small village outside Arles. The very village where my farmhouse was located, in the heart of Provence. Dylan had been sloppy that first time. Had the right person raised an alarm and revealed her suspicions, he could have been stopped right then and fourteen women could have been saved.

But shamefully, that person had kept silent. When Marie-Therese had died less than two years after he took her, Dylan realized he liked his women captive and afraid.

He’d never snatched a woman himself again. He’d used brokers, middlemen and procurers. People that he could go to and announce that he wanted a virginal blonde, a feisty brunette or a tall redhead. People who would, for the right sum of money, watch for their targets, picking the weak, the vulnerable and the uncared for. There were many such women. Runaways from foster homes. Women with indifferent families and no friends. Women who had no one to raise an alarm when they disappeared.

Fifteen times, he’d taken these girls and whatever hell they’d already seen, he exposed them to worse. I knew what happened in his compound. I wasn’t naive. I knew he beat the women till blood dripped down their back. I knew they were thrown to his guards to be gang-raped as an object lesson that bad behaviour had brutal and terrifying consequences.  

I never wanted to forget these fifteen names.

When I’d finally been in a position to act, seven years ago, I’d tried to find each and every one of them. But it was hard. Even the names were difficult to come by, only possible because by then, I was trusted enough to be able to look through Dylan’s accounts. But I was never allowed access to the files where Dylan had kept their personal information.

But I worked at it. I combed through police cases and missing people reports. I did what I could, matching names and descriptions in a Herculean attempt to find Dylan’s former slaves.

At least Dylan’s current slave had known what she was getting into. She had been carefully recruited for the role. Yet the idea of Bethany alone with Dylan was a thought that sent a lance of roiling guilt through my insides. I had no access to Dylan’s dungeons and I had no informant among Dylan’s guards. I couldn’t guarantee her safety, so I kept constant tabs on her. My visits to Dylan were as much to do with my real need to make sure she was okay. Even though Bethany had been trained for this and even if she assured me that she welcomed the pain.

It was unavoidable.
Necessary.

Of the fifteen women, six were dead. Marie-Therese had died in a difficult childbirth. Five others had died in various other ways, either when trying to escape the brothels that Dylan had sold them to or at the hands of clients who dished out more pain than the girls could take.

Five women I had been unable to rescue.
Their names flashed through my head every time I closed my eyes.

Then there were the eight that I had been able to reach. If recovery was ever possible from their ordeals, they were on that path. I had money and it could buy therapy and a safe place to recover. Money couldn’t erase the horrors of the past but it could sooth some pain.  

There was only one woman that I’d been unable to find. No one in Cleveland had a record of Ellie Samuelson. Dylan’s guards didn’t talk, so I didn’t know what she looked like. Only once, two years ago, I’d been able to bribe one of Dylan’s guards, Ivan Klimov. But Ivan had been killed before he could send me anything of value, the same night I’d arranged a hit on Durov.

All I knew of Ellie was that the day after she had been sold to a brothel in Lagos, Dylan had fled Abeokuta for Tbilisi in Georgia, part of the former Soviet Union, where he’d remained for two years under the protection of Stanislav Durov.

The net was tightening around Dylan McAllister, but I was no closer to uncovering the mystery of what had happened to Ellie. She had disappeared into thin air. I couldn’t find her in Nigeria’s brothels. I couldn’t find any sign of her in Cleveland. I had no idea who she was, how old, whether she was even alive.

But every day, I swore an oath. I would find her. I would make amends. Because of who I was, I had so much to atone for.

Chapter 1

Alexander:

When I opened the door to my Paris house, none of that was on my mind. All I was thinking about was the woman in my home. Jenny, Rachel, whatever her name really was.
My bright star
.

I’d gone to Lori’s auction four times in the past, and twice, I’d found submissives there, women who liked to play the way I played. Two submissives whose eyes had brightened in anticipation when they saw the playroom and who had approached play without fear.

Yet, neither of them had tugged on my heart the way Jenny did.

After Paris two years ago, when she’d given me a fake number, I’d sworn to myself that I wouldn’t look for her. She had not wanted to be found. I could respect that.
I had to respect that.

But when I’d seen her at the auction with a cover story designed expressly to appeal to Lori, of course suspicions had been raised.

She was a player. In this game, there were no coincidences. The only reason she was in my home was so that I could find out who she was and who she was working for. I needed to know what she had been doing in Paris two years ago. I had to uncover why she wanted me to bid on her in the auction.

I had to do all of this knowing that the wrong answer would result in me putting a bullet in her head.

Two years ago, I’d spent a night with her, ignoring all my responsibilities. But when I’d returned, I’d ended up comforting a grieving woman whose man had been killed in my absence. I could not allow myself to forget that. Though I very much wanted to, I could not afford to lose myself in Jenny again.

***

I found her in the library. She looked fearful when I walked in. Her cheeks were pale and her eyes were wild, and my heart clenched.

“What’s the matter?” I asked quietly, stifling the regret in my heart.

I had hoped that we were past this. If I was allowing myself to hope, I had so many wishes. I desperately prayed that she wasn’t involved in anything where I’d feel compelled to take action, because though I told myself I was capable of killing her, I was lying. Where she was concerned, I was shamefully weak.

My greatest desire was for her to look at me with want, not fear. Deep within me, there was the unvoiced wish that she’d want to stick around at the end of three months, though I could not allow myself these hopes and dreams,
these weaknesses
.

It was all a pipe-dream anyway, because she was looking at me with unease in her eyes once again.

She shook her head. “Nothing,” she replied.  Her body language was closed and withdrawn.

I clenched my hands into fists and strove for patience. Her constant fear was pulling me back to the worst periods of my life. I wanted to find her former master and beat him into a bloody pulp for what he had done to this woman, because no matter what angle she was playing, there was nothing fake about the flash of terror in her eyes.

“What are you reading?” I asked her, changing the topic. She adored the library. She was ensconced in the overstuffed chair in front of the fireplace, curled up into a ball with a book on the armrest. The last three days, anytime I had wanted to find her, I’d started in this room and she was almost always here.

“I was just flipping through a magazine,” she said tonelessly. She flinched in her chair as I moved and I held on to my temper with difficulty. I knew I wasn’t the cause of it, but I couldn’t help feeling hurt at her reaction. Each time I saw her panic, it took me back.

***

I’m seventeen. I’m in the barn of my aunt’s farm, home for the summer. Next year, I’m going to start college and get away from my family, and I couldn’t be happier. My father treats me with bored indifference and my aunt looks at me with barely concealed loathing and all my life, I’ve thought there’s something wrong with me because of the way they treat me.

But the school’s counsellor has been making inroads and I’ve come to realize that I’ve done nothing to deserve this. Slowly, the scared child who was sent away to boarding school when he was six recedes. I grow into myself.

I’m not thinking of any of this now. Rather, my attention is focused on the German girl tied up in front of me. Her body wriggles prettily and she pouts at me. “Alexander,” she pleads in that husky voice that sends a shot of arousal straight to my groin. “Stop teasing me.”

“Angela,” I chuckle. “Are you really in a position to make demands?”

I walk closer to her. She’s tied to a wooden pillar. Her arms are restrained behind her back, and coils of rope wrap around her waist, holding her immobile. Her legs are free to kick out, but why would she? We are playing around, enjoying ourselves. I’m savouring the sense of power I feel knowing I control this beautiful, busty blonde’s every tremor. If I decree it, she’ll feel the sting of the riding crop. Or the sweetness of a kiss.

Knowing Angela, I’m not sure which option she’d welcome more.

Her beautiful breasts bulge outwards, those ruby-red nipples straining towards me. I run the tip of the riding crop over each nub. She whimpers, squirming in pleasure. “Alex,” she moans. “You are the devil. I will die if you don’t fuck me right away.”

“Again with the demands,” I chide. I’m grinning from ear to ear, as is Angela. This is fun. Exciting. My cock agrees. It is rock hard and aching, but I’m ignoring it for the moment. It’s much more pleasurable to keep Angela at the edge.

I flick the tip at her breast and a spot of red blooms on her fair skin at the point of contact. She inhales sharply and I look at her instantly. “Too hard?” I ask quickly. I’m just learning my way with the crop.

She shakes her head. “Oh no,” she assures me. “Do it again.”

I laugh. “Begging to be hurt, Fräulein?”

She winks. “Oui, Monsieur,” she says in an exaggerated French accent. “Crop my breasts, please, Monsieur.”

Those words, uttered part in jest and part with real longing sends a hot surge of desire through me. “As you wish, cherie,” I tell her. There’s a haze of blood-red need in my brain. The crop descends on her and each time she moans, my cock throbs.

Again and again, she whimpers and squirms. When I touch her, she’s dripping wet and I growl with pleasure. I did this. I made her plead and beg for more. Me.

It isn’t till I hear the glass shatter that I realize we haven’t been alone. Sometime in the last few minutes, my aunt has come up to the old barn. She’s standing in the doorway with a look of horror and terror in her eyes. “Monster,” she whispers. “You are a monster.”

***

I shook my head to clear it of those memories. My aunt was dead. That day had changed the course of my life, but there was no point dwelling on the past.

“Let’s go for a walk.” I extended my hand out to Jenny. “Fresh air will do us both some good.”

She hesitated, then placed her small hands in mine, rising gracefully to her feet. She was wearing a red sundress that flattered every curve of her body, but I resisted the urge to pull her into me. First, the fear needed to disappear. Because, no matter what my aunt had believed, I’d never once played with a woman who didn’t crave it the same way I did.

We strolled in the quiet tree-lined neighbourhood in silence. Finally, I broke the quiet. “Why are you afraid?”

She exhaled and when she spoke, there was muted anger in her voice. “Because I don’t know anything about you. Nothing real. The only thing I know is that you seem to think it’s normal to pay a million dollars for three months of a woman’s company. And yes, I’m frightened of how wealthy you are. If I displease you, I could disappear.”

I raised my eyebrow as I looked at her. It wasn’t a baseless fear. If her story didn’t check out, if she worked for the wrong person, she would disappear. If I couldn’t bring myself to do it, Jean-Luc would. My sentimentality couldn’t interfere with what we did.

But I’d been a lonely child in boarding school and the school counsellor had helped me. Once upon a time, I too had wanted to become a therapist and give hope back, the same way it had been given to me. I’d taught myself to listen to the hidden undertones in what people said and did.

It served me well right now. She was lying to me. She had as many secrets as I did. But I pushed back the automatic ire that had risen as a result of her accusation and I focused on the underlying fear.
Her previous master had been rich. She’d genuinely been concerned he could make her disappear.

My voice softened. “What would you like to know, Jenny?”

“Anything,” she responded. “Tell me about where you grew up.”

While I’d still have to be circumspect in my reply, this was something I could be truthful about. “I spent my childhood in a boarding school in Switzerland,” I replied. “I was sent away when I was six.”

She gasped in horror. “That young? Why?”

Though the wounds of childhood had the power to gash the deepest, this was an old wound that had healed in the intervening years. Besides, I didn’t want her sympathy. “My mother died during childbirth,” I responded. “I grew up with my aunt, my father’s sister. But she had a difficult relationship with my father and I think she never really was too comfortable with being my caregiver.” The words were bald. When I’d turned seventeen, so many truths had been revealed. I’d realized then why my aunt had reacted the way she had. Every time she looked at me, she was confronted with her own guilt and she couldn’t bear it.

As a child, I’d been hurt. I’d shrunk away, thinking I had been unwanted and unloved. As an adult, I had come to understand why.

Jenny’s fingers laced in mine as she tried to provide unspoken comfort. I flinched away from it. She didn’t know the entire truth. There would be no understanding if she did. “I don’t want your pity, Jenny,” I said harshly.

“Alicia and I never knew our father,” she said softly. “Our mom drank a lot. I understand childhood stuff.”

Her words had been chosen with care. We had talked about her mother two years ago and she had to tread carefully for fear that something she said would cause me to remember who she was. And she had to weave her fake sister into the narrative.

But behind the lies, the emotions were real, the same way they’d been two years ago. That night, though every word out of our mouths had been a lie, there had been an underlying truth to everything we’d said. We hadn’t been able to truly lie to each other, not where our feelings were concerned.

I knew that she understood my childhood pain. She too had experienced something similar.  

We walked past a neighbourhood
boulangerie
and I remembered the way she’d moaned in pleasure as I’d held a bag with croissants out to her that long-ago morning. “Let’s go in,” I said on impulse. She’d lost a lot of weight in the intervening two years and I didn’t like it.

She let herself be dragged into the bakery and we took a seat. When the waitress came by, I ordered us coffees and pastries and she sighed. “Alexander,” she protested weakly, “I can’t survive French bakeries without gaining a ton of weight. I know I’m supposed to pretend that it’s effortless being thin, but it really isn’t.”

“Just eat,” I told her. The waitress had placed slices of
tarte tatin
in front of both of us and she was eyeing her piece with intent hunger. My lips twitched a little at her expression.

“Well,” she said reluctantly, “you are my Dominant. This is an order, right?”

I laughed out aloud. “Sure,
cherie.”

She made an adorably scrunched up face, wrinkling her nose at me. “Okay,” she sighed, relaxing for the first time that day, “that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.”

I shook my head. I didn’t really understand her. Two years ago, I’d found her body curvy and lush and irresistible. An intriguing mix of tender softness and toned muscles. Now, she looked like a brisk wind would blow her away. I had my suspicions that this was part of her disguise so that I wouldn’t recognize her.

She made a little moan of pleasure as she dug into her
tarte
and I rolled my eyes. “Do you like music, Jenny?” I asked her. “Want to go to the symphony tonight?”

“I don’t know anything about classical music,” she replied hesitantly. She looked briefly upset before her expression shuttered.

“Want to try it?”

She nodded. “Yes, please. I’d love to.”

I glanced at my watch. “We should hurry then,” I told her. “The concert starts in two hours.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Is it far away?” she asked. I shook my head and she grinned. “How long do the women you know take to get ready?”

“Forever.”

“In that case, Alexander,” her voice was teasing, “I’m about to blow your mind. Because I can get ready in fifteen minutes. Ten, if you insist.”

“Is that so?” I asked her with a grin of my own. I sensed a dare in the offing.

She nodded confidently.

“A wager then,
cherie?
Any more than ten minutes, and you’ll pay your penance in the playroom.”

She furrowed her brows for a brief second. “Safe words?”

“Always. I don’t play without them.”

“In that case,” she rose to her feet, “bring it on, Alexander.”

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