Authors: Lacey Silks
Tags: #romantic suspense novel, #adult, #Series, #erotic novel, #sex, #Suspense, #Erotic Romance, #sensual, #Romantic Suspense, #erotic suspense, #trilogy, #adult books, #Romance, #love story, #rich and wealthy, #Erotica, #contemporary romance, #desire, #layers trilogy, #couples erotica, #new adult, #Women's Fiction
by Lacey Silks
Layers Off © Lacey Silks 2014
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental. All sexually active characters in this work are 18 years of age or older.
This book is for sale to ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It contains sexually explicit scenes which may be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.
Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
She’s gone through hell and back.
He’s kept a secret that could send here there again.
And they’re trying to find their way to each other.
Rescued by the man she loves, Kendra Knight struggles to recover from a month-long captivity. Memories of her imprisonment as a sex slave haunt her as she battles withdrawal from drug addiction and fights to put a dreadful past behind her. With the help of her new friends, Allie and Laura, Kendra begins to question who she is, and Julian Cross’s true intentions for her future.
Julian Cross, owner of a top investigations firm, has kept a secret from the woman he loves since the day he met Kendra. He watched her grow from a teen to a woman and fall in love with his brother Tristan, only to be broken into pieces in the end. Now, he vows to stand by her until she’s well, so he can tell her the dismal truth about her past.
Will the truth finally set Kendra free or send her back to the drug-infused pit of hell?
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Death was my only escape. I wouldn’t give up on the Grim Reaper until I could taste earth in my mouth. I didn’t want to go on, and I prayed for darkness to take me away. Inside, I was broken into pieces – every ounce of my being shattered like tempered glass. Yet here I was, alive, wishing the doctors and everyone else would stop trying to put me back together, because I was convinced the task was impossible. At least not until I remembered my entire past. Not until those unanswered questions around my parents’ death were no longer a mystery. That shadow over my hazy memories needed some sun. But for now, I chose to grasp at the chance to forget my miserable life in any way I could, and death was the clearest answer to accomplish that.
The corner of the room had been my safe zone for the past six days. My back hugged the little nook where the two wall sides joined. With my knees pulled up to my chest I held my arms around them, squeezing to ensure my whole body wouldn’t leave the safe perimeter I’d imagined. At least I thought I’d imagined it; it couldn’t be real, could it? Since Allie had found me at the hotel, the line between reality and make-believe was blurred most of the time. Drugs still cruised through my veins like a virus, fusing in the middle of my brain. They’d fed them to me like candy. My arms were showered with bruised patches the needles had left. Now the oval spots were turning green – a bit more pleasant than purple, at least.
At times I was back in that dark room in which I’d been held captive, listening to the clatter of unlocking chains, screaming women, and crying girls: their wails still rang in my ears. But once the narcotics made their rounds to each cell, the skin-cringing sobs stopped. The prisoners either passed out on the floor or were too stoned to know how to let their voices be heard. Those times I stayed in my corner, quiet, pretending to sleep; praying they wouldn’t pry my mouth open to feed me the drugs. They’d sneaked enough into my body with the little food I got to eat.
Once it quieted, only a faint hum of the flowing water outside remained. We had to be close to a river. But I didn’t exactly know where. Each time they prepared us for a job, our eyes would be covered.
I fought against the need to sleep that month. In my stoned state, I was haunted by nightmares. Each dream seemed like a forgotten memory of someone being shot: the gun held tightly in my hands; blood leaking from the little spot in his back. He turned to look me dead in the eyes. There was something familiar about those dark grey eyes, yet I couldn’t identify them.
In my cell, moisture flowed down the earthen walls. The space resembled a medieval dungeon. Sometimes I thought I’d stepped into a time machine, but after a while, I knew it was the hallucinogens I’d been given. Luckily, I’d managed to hold on to a piece of my past to realize I hadn’t been a whore my entire life. At my lowest, my memories drifted to a happier time, full of deep laughter, fresh smells, and carelessness – but even those were becoming scarce. I knew I had days if not hours left in me. And if I hadn’t been saved, I’d be dead – such a wishful thought at the moment.
Right now my body shook. The trembles returned when I thought back to my month-long imprisonment by the lords of the sex trade. Jitters of fear and hopelessness embodied me. It was all too much. I didn’t know whether I could go on. I didn’t want to. As much as my body needed some kind of powdered boost, I hoped the pain of withdrawal could kill me. Even if I had drugs, I wouldn’t take them. I needed the feel of my aching muscles and nearly breaking bones. If I concentrated on my torture now, the horrific memories dulled. Each minute that passed felt too long. I could relive what had happened to me in half that time, and it hurt too much. But I had brought it all on myself. In that tiny cell, abandoned once again, I wondered whether everyone had forgotten about me. I wouldn’t blame them if they had. I deserved it. After all, I’d almost killed the man I thought I loved, and gotten my best friend buried six feet underground.
My jaw tightened as pressure built in my lungs. Cold and fear surrounded me once again. I weaved my fingers into my tangled hair, pulling on it as hard as I could. The pain had to make it all go away. If I thought any longer about the thirty days stolen from my life, I’d crumble and never get up, so I pulled as hard as I could until auburn clumps remained in my clenched hands.
Yes, the throb on my scalp helped. Who the fuck would care how I looked in my coffin? Would anyone even show up to my funeral?
And then the warmth of strong arms eased everything. I remembered the same hold from a week ago, when Allie Green risked her life to save me, and then Julian Cross answered my call and came running into the alley. Since the moment he embraced me in his arms that night, Julian’s strength had never truly let go. His caring grip around me eased the shakes. He smoothed his cheek against mine, holding my hair-filled hands between his, pressing his warm lips against my temple and forehead, cooing soothing noises into my ear. The smell of his freshness filled me and I leaned further into him, wondering whether it was just a dream. I prayed that by some miracle, I could relish in his comfort for a bit longer, because I didn’t want my gruesome memories to transfer to the present. Could this be true? Was it really over? And if so, how could his warm body be enough to tie me to life?
I opened my eyes… and there he was, holding me in the safety of my corner; except I wasn’t exactly in my corner. Julian sat behind me with his legs and arms completely wrapped around my body, my back against his bare chest, his cheek pressing to mine. It was still dark outside. I must have woken him.
“Shh, you’re safe Kendra. I’m here. I’ve got you.”
He repeated those words each time I had an episode. His voice and body always brought me back to the beautiful bedroom in his house. Julian slept on the mattress by the door. He wouldn’t let me leave on my own anywhere, accompanied me to the bathroom, and helped me get dressed when I just stood there, unable to move. Instead of dumping me at a clinic with doctors in white ankle-long aprons, Julian insisted on taking me home, and had cared for me ever since.
I didn’t deserve his compassion or the time he took away from his work. But he said he’d never leave me again. He would never allow another man to steal me from him. Sometimes I wondered whether he was referring to his brother Tristan or to Martinez, the scum who kidnapped me and whom I killed.
A regret I’d held onto for years loomed near my heart. I wanted to tell Julian the truth, but I couldn’t. Not yet.
The nurse told Julian I could be suicidal; which I was. After all, would you want to live if you’d been raped by dozens of men, hit across your face if you were too loud, assaulted in ways no one could ever dream of? I didn’t think I could go on. How do you live after something like that? How do you put the pieces of your shattered body and soul together when you can’t even distinguish your true past from a dream?
But as he held me right there on the floor, the hope I’d once lost grew. His warm skin infused mine with caresses I hadn’t imagined I’d ever have again. The soft lips I’d wanted on mine for years kissed my forehead, cheeks, and shoulders. The gentle touch of Julian’s wide palms around my hands soothed the trembles as my body completely eased into his, letting him hold me like no one ever had. These second long moments were enough to stir new dreams of a possible life. They were enough to pull me out from another relapse.
The smell of chamomile tea and breakfast woke me, but I wasn’t hungry. Well, perhaps I was, but giving into food was like admitting I deserved to eat. The struggle to live tore me apart with every opportunity I could find to deny myself a necessity. My body still refused to cooperate. At first my stomach had rejected food, and they’d fed me through a tube. I’d even soiled my sheets in the hopes they’d have enough of me, but he never left. He always stayed by my side. And in the last two days, with Julian’s help, I managed to get a few bites into me at a time.
“Good morning,” Julian’s cautious smile greeted me. I wanted to smile back and reply to him, but my lips had shut down completely. I hadn’t said anything to anyone since they’d rescued me. I didn’t know what to say. Before I was kidnapped, I swear I’d been possessed by a bitch. Some ghost must have really had it in for me. Or perhaps it was just a pretext for treating others like shit. I’d built this wall around me that no one could get through. It was a defense mechanism I’d used since high school; but I didn’t want that anymore, and I carefully measured what I should say first. Whom to thank, whom to apologize to; the first words out of my mouth were critical. They had to express my gratitude and regret and ask for forgiveness at the same time.
But I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know how to communicate what I wanted to truly say from my heart without sounding like the bitch that I used to be before I got into trouble. And pretending that someone had made me be that nasty was just an excuse. So I stayed quiet, hoping something would finally click in that drug-fried brain of mine. Did Julian think I was mentally ill? He probably did, and I couldn’t blame him. But incapacitated was still better than a whore and slut and a soulless friend.
He strolled toward the bed with a tray and set it on the side table. “Ready for some food?” he asked.