“Rafiq, Miss Ruiz. When did you meet him?” Reed has apparently decided to forgo the imposing environment of the craft room and interrogate me in my room. Fine with me.
“He was there when we got to Tuxtepec,” I whisper. This isn’t a part of the story I want to tell, but I know it’s what I have to do. The truth is – I want Reed to make it to that auction. I want him to round up those bastards and free those slaves. I owe it to them. I owe it to myself. I owe it to Caleb. “He’d been waiting for us.”
Reed and I are silent for a moment. He pulls a recorder out of his jacket pocket, presses the record button and puts it down on the bed. “It’ll help me go through your statement later. I know this is hard, Miss Ruiz. I also know, you think I want to make it that way, but I don’t. I just want to do my job and make these people pay for what they’ve done, to you, and to so many other women and children. There are children there too…did you know that?” I shake my head. I hate him for putting that thought in my head. I can’t stand the thought of a child suffering. No more jokes or banter. Reed quietly lifts his briefcase and sets it on the ground before he sits down.
I clear my throat and lick my lips. This is where the real story begins.
I don’t know exactly what time it was when we arrived, but the sun had set not too long before. Caleb and I hadn’t done much talking on the way. I didn’t really have anything to say to him that wouldn’t result in him punishing me.
My heart pounded a sharp tattoo in my chest as we made our way down the seemingly endless driveway. The person who owned this house definitely had a lot of money and demanded a lot of privacy. Large trees hid our destination, but I could see the glow of lights in the distance. Soon. Soon, I would lose everything that was ever important to me.
I berated myself for not making more attempts to escape, even if I could barely walk, let alone run. Still, even if I died in the process, I felt like I should have tried again. Death had to be better than what I had coming. I knew once he got me inside that house I would be a sex slave for the rest of my life. I know Caleb said two years, but I just didn’t have any faith in that. How could I?
“Don’t cry, Kitten. I won’t let anyone hurt you. Obey and you’ll be fine.” Caleb’s words were supposed to soothe me, but his tone was somewhat deadpan. It seemed not even he, believed what he said.
I wrapped my arms tighter around myself and closed my eyes to try and find my bearing. I could do this, I kept telling myself. I could survive. I could get well enough to escape. I couldn’t lose hope. Someone would come for me.
Abruptly, the truck stopped and a man wearing a tuxedo asked Caleb for his invitation. I was tempted to shout for help, but something told me the man knew exactly why I was being brought here and the last thing I needed was to prove to Caleb he’d been right about me. I would try to escape at the first opportunity. It was true, but he didn’t need to have that kind of certainty.
“I don’t have an invitation, but I was invited: Caleb.”
His name, that’s all it took. The man waved us on and a little further up the driveway Caleb stopped the vehicle, came around to my door and gripping me by the arm, pulled me slowly up the walkway while someone else took the truck.
“I can walk!” I shrugged out of Caleb’s grasp, ignoring the pain in my shoulder. I was sobbing, completely unable to stop. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
You’re going to die in there. Stop marching to your own fucking doom!
I stopped walking. “Caleb. Please, please don’t make me go in there. Please. Please!” I turned to run, but Caleb’s arms surrounded me before I managed to take my first step. I struggled and pain radiated from every part of my body, but especially my shoulder.
Caleb’s hand covered my mouth as he pressed his body against my back and held me immobile. “Kitten, don’t you dare!” he half whispered, half growled into my ear. “I warned you not to use my name. I warned you not to run from me. You are going inside one way or another and there is nothing you can do about it. Accept it. Breathe and accept it.”
I whimpered and sobbed behind his hand, but I had to admit being held by him was slowly bringing me back toward center. My panic was palpable, literally thrumming and pulsing in my veins, but Caleb’s arms were strong. Caleb was solid. My muscles strained and the pain was approaching unbearable. I willed myself to relax my body in degrees and I noticed Caleb’s fingers also relaxed.
He slowly withdrew his hand from my mouth. I gasped for breath and sobbed. “Shh.” He stroked my hair as he continued to hold me up. “I know it’s terrifying. I know you’re scared. I’m trying to make this as simple as I can, but you cannot disobey me. If anyone believes I am not your master…. It will be bad, Kitten. Do you understand?”
I gripped Caleb’s arm, wrapped around my midsection. Don’t leave me, I silently screamed. Don’t leave me. I nodded slowly and let Caleb’s touch comfort me and reassure me he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me. So long as I obeyed Caleb, I was his and no one could hurt me. No one, but Caleb.
We walked the rest of the way in silence, but Caleb let me hold his hand. I knew he’d eventually punish me for my outburst, but that was later. At the moment, his anger was tempered and his hand was warm and strong against mine. Caleb was finished comforting me the moment we reached the large wooden door of the enormous estate. My entire body trembled, but I kept my head down and tried to breathe. My safety was assured, so long as my obedience could be expected. It could be a lie, but doubt was something my fragile psyche could ill afford.
Caleb rang the bell and after a few seconds, there was a metal clang and the door creaked open. “Buenas tardes, Señor….”
I tuned out while Caleb and the man who answered the door talked. In the place of their conversation, I heard a high-pitched screech. I felt dizzy, too, but somewhere in my head, I knew it was only my panic and adrenaline doing this to me. I forced air in and out of my lungs at a steady pace, willing myself not to hyperventilate.
Caleb’s hand at the small of my back urged me forward and somehow I did it: I took that first step toward my own annihilation. Then I took another and another, my eyes watched my feet as they continued to carry me.
Music played in the background as we walked and soon I couldn’t help but notice the place looked like a lavish hotel. The floors were made of marble, and use of rich, wine colored carpets was also prevalent. I kept close to Caleb, especially since he didn’t discourage it. Suddenly, I heard a loud slap, followed by a woman’s whimper of distress from the left. My eyes followed the sound past the man in front of us and landed on the scene in the adjoining room.
A crowd of finely dressed men, and even some women, was loosely gathered to watch as another man in a white tuxedo held a naked woman over his lap. Her black hair was swept to the side, her pain-stricken face clearly visible. Her body seemed graceful, even in its debased position. A glaring red hand print stood out prominently against her pale white skin. The man stroked her spine and she undulated, lifting her behind higher into the air as if begging the man to strike her again. I looked away when he did and the woman once again whimpered, but did not scream.
Is that the kind of thing Caleb expects from me? I knew the answer. I also knew I would fail at the task miserably. No matter how many times Caleb had spanked me I always screamed and begged for him to stop, even as I surrendered to the orgasms he gave me.
“There is someone here to see you. I am taking you to him now,” said our chaperone.
Caleb’s fingers twitched against my spine and I felt a corresponding shock of pure panic. “Is it the master of the house? I’ve been eager to meet him.”
The chaperone kept walking as he answered, “No, Sir. The master of the house is Felipe Villanueva. We passed him in the den with his slave, Celia. The señor often has guests; he enjoys the attention.”
Another slave. Another woman being held against her will in this same house. It makes me sick. That poor woman, being humiliated in front of all those strangers and knowing none of them will help her.
Caleb stopped and I jumped when his hand pushed me forward. Our eyes met. His blue eyes were cold and they hid something very dark. I did not want to know what he was thinking. I forced myself to keep going.
The music and the sound of the other guests slowly drifted away with each twist and turn we took into the labyrinth. Unfortunately, they were drowned out by the sound of a woman screaming. I couldn’t help but start crying then. I found Caleb’s arm and gripped it with both arms, wrapping my body around it. I looked up to see the chaperone slide two doors apart and the screaming only got louder. The man and Caleb exchanged a short nod and then the man left. Caleb dragged me inside as he walked.
Caleb stopped after a few steps and I could feel the way his body tensed. Something had startled him. The woman was still screaming.
I looked up and the sight in front of me finally forced me to faint. Nancy, the girl that had assisted in my attempted rape, the one who had watched while those men held me down and tried to go at me from both ends. The one that had stood by while they punched, slapped, and kicked me! She was the one doing all the screaming. She was naked and tied face down onto some kind of wooden horse while an Arab looking man rammed himself into her over and over.
When I regained consciousness, I realized Nancy wasn’t screaming any more. I was lying on a burgundy leather sofa and Caleb’s angry face was looking down on me. He said nothing as he lifted a glass of water to my lips. I didn’t even think of speaking. I’d seen what could happen if Caleb left my side and I was determined to endear myself to him.
Suddenly, a man’s voice broke the silence. He spoke a language I didn’t understand. It was the same fast, clipped speech I recognized as being similar to Jair’s. He and Caleb’s exchange was heated and forceful. The other man laughed at Caleb. I dared not look in the direction of that voice.
Caleb’s brow furrowed, and his eyes focused above and behind me, “She’s scared. I hardly see how terrifying her further will serve anyone’s purpose.
The man let out an eerie chuckle, “English, Khoya? Do you want her to understand our conversation?” His words were thickly accented, but understandable. “She should be afraid. After the chase she led you on and the trouble she has caused, she obviously wasn’t terrified enough to begin with. Jair mentioned you’ve been soft with her,” said the man.
I could tell the man had to be someone with a lot of power. I couldn’t imagine Caleb would let anyone speak to him that way.
Caleb’s voice rose and he rattled off a bunch of words in another language I didn’t understand; Arabic, I thought. If I had to guess, I would say he was giving the other man a piece of his mind. I sank into the couch and tried to become invisible as the two of them went back and forth.
Finally, Caleb said, “Enough! Kitten, get down on the floor in your rest position.” Though terrified, I didn’t think twice about obeying and quickly found myself on the floor at Caleb’s feet with my legs open and my hands on my thighs, head bowed, just as asked.
“I want to look at her. Come here…,” he chuckled again, “Kitten.”
I whimpered and shook, but I couldn’t make myself move. I inclined toward Caleb’s leg, cowering and begging as much as I could without speaking or breaking my position. He had promised to protect me. I hoped he would, now.
The man tsked, and I could almost feel Caleb’s anger radiating off of him, but I didn’t know whom the anger was directed toward. It didn’t take long to figure out. Caleb’s hand pushed my head away and he left my side.
“Look at me,” Caleb said.
He stood next to the Arab-looking man. The man had put his clothes back on and I was somewhat surprised to see him in a dark, finely cut suit. His shirt was unbuttoned some of the way, exposing some of his deeply brown, and slightly sweaty skin. He was a few inches shorter than Caleb, but still tall by my standard. He was older than Caleb as well, perhaps in his forties. His eyes were dead and dark. They seemed to be rimmed in kohl but I could tell they weren’t. It was an attribute associated with Middle Eastern men to have such long, thick, and dark lashes. However, I was not attracted to him in the least. He was a monster.