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About the author:
Nikki Rae is the head editor of Metamorphosis Editing Services and a writer who lives in New Jersey. She is an independent author and has appeared numerously on Amazon Best Seller lists. She is the author of The Sunshine Series and concentrates on making her imaginary characters as real as possible. She writes mainly dark, scary, romantic tales, but she'll try anything once. When she is not writing, reading, or thinking, you can find her spending time with animals, drawing in a quiet corner, or studying people. Closely.
What inspired you to write your book?
I've always been interested in secret societies and how they operate so under the radar of the "normal" world. Other than that, the characters appeared and just started telling me their stories. 😉
Here is a short sample from the book:
The rooms are always dark when we first arrive. It disorients us, makes us easier to control—or at least move. The hands that pressed against my back were hot and clammy. The woman’s fingers, thick like sausages, made it feel as if I wasn’t wearing the thin robe.
“Move your feet,” Elma urged. “You’re lucky anyone is interested in your damaged body.”
That was at least the fourth time she had said it since we entered the cold, dark space she was currently pushing me through. It wasn’t a new notion, either. I had been told since I was nine that my scars would only bring me trouble—most of the time I even believed it. Life hadn’t shown me anything to the contrary.
I heard the sound of a door being opened, its squeaky hinges echoing in the dimness beyond. I could see a little more here, and I paused. The steps were made of concrete and for one small, fleeting moment I thought of running. How easy would it be if we climbed high enough? I could just turn and shove her wobbly form down. How satisfying would the cracking of her neck sound as she hit each step?
But it was momentary. One flash of lightning across a starless sky before it disappeared. I had learned long ago that running wasn’t an option. Even if I did follow through, there would just be someone else to take her place to continue my imprisonment.
Still, every once in a while my body took over and I couldn’t control my instincts. Yesterday was a prime example.
“Move,” she ordered in a voice that was more suited for a troll in a fairytale. She smoked more than anyone I had ever seen, and when she spoke, a slightly rotten smell came out.
Our feet made scuffing sounds as we ascended higher and higher. Her boots were much louder than the slippers I wore. I looked like I was going to bed, not a meeting that could potentially seal my fate. I was hopeful this one would be just like the rest: interested in my pretty face, but upon seeing me in person, changed their mind. No one wanted me, and I was fine with that. The place I had called home my entire life was hell, but at least it was a hell I knew.
My heart plummeted into my stomach when we came to the door at the top of the stairs. There was a small window and artificial light filtered into the darkened hall surrounding us. She shoved me again as she simultaneously pushed open the door. I almost hit my already swollen face on the glass.
I was momentarily blinded by the florescent lights lining the ceiling. The carpet was the cleanest I had ever seen and there were various offices—some had doors open and some with their doors shut; all empty—lining the hall. There were sparse white walls; modern art hung. I recognized them from my lessons. Prints, of course. Cliché things like Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss and Vincent Van Goh’s Starry Night. It was a welcome change from the hideous Victorian paintings that hung back at the compound. Little kittens and little girls in fields. At least the lines in these were darker, deeper, harsher. More fitting than the light feather strokes of an oil paintbrush.
I managed to only earn one or two more push before we stepped through a door.
I tried to concentrate on breathing as my heavy legs carried me forward. I hadn’t done this very many times—five at most—but even with my limited experience, I had hoped I would be more used to the process by now.
“Don’t do anything else stupid,” she hissed into my ear, her decaying breath hot on my skin.
Elma stepped in front of me as the door opened and my eyes instinctively traveled to the floor.
“Ah, Miss Elma,” a deep, accented voice said. “Good to see you.”
I watched her thick calves cross the threshold and I shuffled behind, too afraid to look up. My stomach flipped and my swollen jaw throbbed with my quickening heart. They had done my makeup and arranged my hair to hide yesterday’s infraction, but I doubted it really concealed anything.
“Please, come in.” It was a friendly voice. One that was most likely not directed at me—it never was.
The woman took a few steps behind me, blocking the door. From my view of the carpet, I could tell that I was in front of a large, cherry wood desk. A pair of dark shoes came into my line of sight.
There were pleasantries being exchanged, but the man did not direct anything towards me, so I remained silent. I couldn’t concentrate on what they were saying. It was the usual exchanging of paperwork and medical records. Someone was flipping through them and somewhere I knew that it was the man standing in front of me.
Suddenly, he spoke, startling me and interrupting the conversation as Elma was mid-sentence. “You don’t have to stare at the floor.”
It took my boggled mind a few seconds to realize that the accent that laced his calm, deep tone was French. This was a foreign man and foreign men were always willing to pay for shy American girls. At least that was what had been drilled into my head.
Slowly, I brought my gaze upwards, traveling across the dark maroon slacks, the matching suit jacket, the white shirt and underneath, a black tie. His hair was long and thick. Dirty blonde, some parts lighter and some as dark as mine, but he wore it in a knot at the back of his head. He also had facial hair—something I hadn’t been expecting. This too was thick, a shade or two darker than his hair, but neatly kept. What surprised me most of all was how young he was. Still at least in his thirties, he was over twenty years younger than any Suitor I’d encountered.
“This is Master Elliot Lyon of Chimera House,” Elma said by way of introduction. I’d heard of that house. It was powerful; many men belonged to that group and they were all a mix of the other houses, bloodlines that were pure only when it benefitted them.
He gave me a curt nod when my eyes finally met his—his were a deep brown more suited for someone who chopped down trees, not someone who picked flowers like me. Then he reached out his hand to Elma, who handed him more papers—ones that detailed every single thing about me. He flipped a few pages, not looking up from the files but not appearing to really read any of it either.
“She has a very high IQ,” he said to the woman behind me.
“She’s a smart one, all right,” she said flatly.
He set the papers down on the desk behind him and studied my face. I flinched when his fingertips gently touched my jaw, landing right on the bruise I had earned the day before as he moved my head slowly back and forth.
“I can see that,” he commented. “Wipe her makeup off,” he ordered abruptly, letting go of my chin.”
Elma wasted no time complying, taking a makeup wipe from her bag and scrubbing my face with it so hard I had to fight not to whimper as it brought tears to my eyes.
“That’s enough,” he said, just when I thought I couldn’t take any more.
The woman smirked so only I could see as she took her place behind me once again.
“Now I can see you,” he said directly to me. It took me off guard. No one ever addressed me unless they were reprimanding me in some way.
“What is your name?” he asked.
It had been so long since I had been asked that question that it took too long to respond. Elma saw to it that my behavior didn’t go unnoticed. I felt the sting of her baton against my bare legs and it startled me so much that this time I actually did whimper.
“The gentleman has asked you a question,” she stated before hitting me again.
I looked up at him as I tried to form the words in my dry mouth. I heard her raising the baton again but he held up his hand. “That isn’t necessary,” he told her, staring at me as if he was expecting something, head slightly tilted to the side.
“F-F-Fawn,” I sputtered like an idiot. I added, “Sir,” more successfully.
He nodded his approval. “Can you open your mouth please?”
Knowing what he wanted, I complied, tilting my head back so he could see within. After what I thought was an acceptable amount of time for him to see everything he wanted, I slowly closed my mouth and righted my posture to see him studying me.
“You have nice teeth,” he said like it was a detail he was adding to a tally. “A nice face, too,” he added. “Though this swelling is unfortunate.” His eyes found mine again and I saw a playful glint in them. “Hope it was worth it.”
I stared at the floor, not wanting him to see my embarrassment. He knew as well as I did how hopeless it was to run, to fight. I was the stupid one for not accepting it.
Without ceremony, he unbuttoned the top three buttons of my robe. This was expected. When someone wanted to buy an apple, they had to make sure there were no imperfections. Too bad he couldn’t see that I was already full of worms—had been since I was born—and if he ever took a bite out of me he would come away with more than he had bargained for.
The robe left my skin and I couldn’t help but shiver as I stepped out of my slippers and spread my arms and legs wide as was expected of me. I hated myself when a few tears squeezed past my eyelids and I tried to wipe them on my bare shoulder before he could see.
He came closer, about an inch or two away. He had a small grin on his face that made my stomach flip. “Votre garde parle-t-elle le Français?” he asked.
Does your guard speak French?
I looked around the room carefully. Elma stared with the same disgust she always regarded me with. I turned back around with an almost smug smile I let last a few seconds. “Seulement moi, Monsieur.”
Only me, sir.
He seemed pleased with this. “De qui es-tu le plus peur, moi ou elle?” Who are you more afraid of, me or her?
“Elle.” Her. The answer came so suddenly that I didn’t have the time to stop it from leaving my lips. I wasn’t sure it was true. With Elma, I knew what to expect. I knew when she got tired of beating me and how long I had left of keeping up the effort of escaping from the pain, ignoring what was happening—I had it down to a science by now. This man, I had no idea what he was capable of. Yet, he scared me less than she did and I wasn’t sure what to do with how I felt.
He smiled, satisfied with my answer before he slowly walked around me, studying every inch of naked flesh. The minutes ticked by and I had no way of telling how much time had passed. What felt like an eternity later, I heard him come back to stand in front of me.
“Quel âge avez-tu?”
How old are you?
“Dix-neuf,” I answered in the same language. Nineteen. It had been a while since I had spoken French and I was a little rusty, but it was easy enough to keep up with simple questions you learn in any elementary school.
“Combien de langues parlez-tu?” How many languages do you speak?
“Que sont-ils?” What are they?
“Allemand, Russe, Espagnol, un peu d'Arabe.” German, Russian, Spanish, a little Arabic.
He grinned slightly, head tilted to one side. “Was ist mit deinem gesicht passiert?” He asked it in German: what happened to your face?
I swallowed. I didn’t want to tell him I fought. They liked that. No doubt, they had told him anyway. “Ma petite,” he said, switching back to French, “je ne pense pas que tu voulez irriter votre ami en ne répondant pas.” My dear, I don’t think you want to anger your friend there by not answering.
I stared at the floor, having to skim my naked form as I did so. I wasn’t ashamed of being naked anymore. I had done this many times and it was almost as routine as going to the dentist. However, knowing this man’s eyes were on me made goose bumps break out on my skin and I couldn’t look into his eyes knowing what he saw.
“Si contestas, puedes vestir.” Now it was Spanish: if you answer, you can dress. He knew how to play games the same as any other man I visited. I give you something and you give me something.
“J'avais des pieds froids.” I said it in French so he wouldn’t have the satisfaction of hearing me speak the language of his choice: I got cold feet.
He made a small puff of a laugh that caused me to glance at him. “Very well,” he said, switching back to English for everyone to hear. He directed his attention behind me again. “I’ve seen enough. Let her dress.”
Without so much as looking at Elma, I dropped to the floor where the forgotten garment lay and gathered it in my arms, throwing it quickly over my body with my eyes trained on the carpet.
He sighed like he was disappointed, though I didn’t know with what. My response? Covering up?
“Well,” he said on a sigh that indicated that he was already bored. “She is alluring in person. Well proportioned, near-symmetry of her features.” He returned to studying me, leaning against the desk. “The scarring on her body is significant—more pronounced than what I saw in the photos. And the new bruises on her face and arms…” He trailed off, thinking to himself. “I want to make things clear.” His voice had an edge to it now, a hint of who he really was. I was grateful he was still talking to Elma and not me. “This girl is my property as of next week. I have paid a great deal of money for her and I won’t receive her as damaged.”
I swallowed. There he was. The true Owner. The new man I would belong to. Half of me couldn’t believe he wanted to still go through with the process after seeing all my scars—the ones that usually kept so many away if my reputation hadn’t already done so.
The air was thick and silent. Neither me nor Elma—nor anyone back at the Compound—were expecting this. Everything around me spun and I wasn’t sure if I was going to vomit.
“Yes, sir.” Elma managed to sound guilty, but I knew she enjoyed beating me more than anyone else.
I watched as he stared at her a few moments longer. If I had looked back at Elma, I was sure she would be shivering. I wrapped the robe around myself tighter and he wasn’t even looking at me.
When he did shift his eyes back in my direction, he was buttoning his suit as he stood from the desk. “Essayez de ne pas avoir de problèmes avant de nous revoir.” Try not to get into trouble until we meet again. He gave me a tight smile as he made his way to the door. My heart raced at the thought of him leaving, taking away the only shield I had between me and the burly guard behind me who would no doubt make me miserable when I didn’t tell her what me and the Frenchman had discussed.
I couldn’t help looking back at him as he walked away, surprised when he turned to see me staring. He smiled again, swiping a hand through his hair as he opened the door and closed it after he left.
Just like that, I was sold.