Copyright © 2012 Tina Donahue
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The door to one of the treatment rooms opened. Squealing with happiness, a child tore out, running straight into Liz. The little girl, no more than two, hugged Liz’s legs, looking up at her. Eyes wide with surprise, the child waited to see what would happen.
Before even a hint of fear crossed that small face, Liz offered a reassuring smile. “Oops,” she teased, touching the little girl’s wispy brown curls, so soft they reminded her of kitten fur.
A grin broke across the toddler’s face with her lusty giggles.
Her mother joined them. “Sorry, Doctor. Come on, you.” Prying her daughter from Liz, she lifted the child into her arms and moved toward the waiting room.
Liz watched until they were out of sight and she had no choice except to join Carreon.
Her stomach knotted as she entered her office, stopping short of her desk, messy with patient files.
One of Carreon’s lieutenants flipped through a chart, reading her notes. His free hand rested on the butt of a gun holstered at his waist.
Liz frowned at his audacity.
The two remaining men moved to the opened door, blocking any attempt at escape.
They, like the man at her desk, were in their mid-twenties, their muscular bodies dressed in well-tailored gray jackets, white shirts and black pants, their youthful faces devoid of compassion. Feral hunger simmered in their eyes.
They knew what the coming hours would bring.
Liz was unable to forget, marveling at her previous naiveté. Months into her and Carreon’s relationship, he’d shared her with the man at her desk. To this day, she had no idea what his name was. His thick, strong body was what had mattered as he fettered her wrists to the bed, then took her repeatedly, using every orifice—her mouth, cunt, anus. Carreon had watched her losing all control, listening as she moaned in satisfaction.
Heat surged to her cheeks.
Turning from the men at her door, she spoke to the one at her desk. “Get away from that.”
He looked up, clearly surprised at her command. So different from the submissive mewls and whimpers she’d offered when he’d been inside of her.
She wasn’t that woman anymore. Not even trying to hide her disgust, Liz stared him down.
He smirked but did release her file.
She regarded Carreon.
In front of her window, he stood, his back to her, his tall frame clothed in an expensive Polo shirt and pants, both onyx black, an ominous color devoid of joy or hope. In stark contrast, the waning sun streamed over New Mexico’s Chihuahuan desert, intensifying its harsh beauty beneath a sunset of gold, purple and rose.
The vivid hues called to Liz, urging her to go outside and bathe her face with the sun’s caressing warmth, then run like hell toward normalcy that would never return. Those days had ended more than a year ago when she’d made the mistake of seeking excitement, not wanting or noticing anything except Carreon.
She still recalled his touch and scent. One of a rutting male who knew no shame and held nothing back, especially his hunger for power.
“Bad day, Liz?” he asked.
To a stranger, his question would have sounded downright serene. Having heard him speak the same way when ordering his men to torture and kill, knowing what he was capable of, Liz steeled herself for the worst.
At her continued silence, he faced her.
One of his men shut her door.
Determined not to show her fear, Liz didn’t move as Carreon’s attention lingered on her mouth, then moved to her demure attire—a white blouse, khaki-colored skirt and sensible heels.
Given the way he regarded her, she might as well have been wearing lingerie rather than business attire. Perhaps he was imagining her nude, bent over her desk, ready to be mounted or whipped.
She’d certainly invited both activities in the past, enjoying each.
As though he’d read her thoughts, Carreon’s full lips tilted upward in what seemed to be appreciation, heightening his male allure.
Her jaw clenched. How many women had he duped with his smile and commanding demeanor? How many had found his shaved head and the earring in his left lobe just the right touch, giving him the look of a thug or a modern-day pirate? Untamed, reckless. The kind of man many females would have found irresistible.
Liz certainly had.
Now that she was immune to his male beauty, she regarded him with clinical detachment.
Good health and strength radiated from his lean, six-one frame. In his mid-thirties, he was at his prime, his bearing and expression formidable, the same as his ancestors. Within him, the blood of the Aztecs and the Unknowns flowed, his heritage no different from hers. A shared ethnicity that should have colored his irises hazel—Liz’s shade—or made them as dark as Sabine’s.
Instead, Carreon’s eyes were a pale blue, a startling contradiction to his bronze complexion, black brows and that damned earring…a silver eagle’s feather that glimmered beneath the bright fluorescent light. Not once had Liz seen him without the item, not even those times she’d bathed with him.
Curious, she’d asked why he never removed it.
He’d explained on a sigh. “It belonged to the first enemy I took down. As he died, I tore it from his lobe.” He studied her face as though to gauge her reaction. When she remained accepting of him, he continued, “It’s a part of him that’ll always belong to me. I’ll do the same, taking a token from Neekoma’s body when I get rid of him.”
Liz had asked no more, nor had she pondered the wisdom or righteousness of Carreon’s plan. Zeke Neekoma was an abomination to her people, the leader of the clan they’d been feuding with for millennia. In the early days, the conflicts began over territory and resources as all clashes seemed to do. With the passing of time, the hatred between the clans escalated beyond food and land, driven by some of the leaders’ determination to rid their territory of those unlike themselves. Their version of ethnic cleansing. Despite many attempts at uneasy truces, the cultural differences and male machismo resulted in continuing flare-ups of a battle without end, similar to those in the Middle East. A hidden war the citizens of this country knew nothing about, just as they had no idea of the alien blood within Liz’s people and those of Neekoma’s.
In the beginning of man’s rule on earth, the Others and the Unknowns had crossed deep space, arriving at this planet in their exploration of the universe. Legends claimed that the aliens hadn’t brought women with them, and so they’d given in to lust, mating with the Aztec and Comanche females, leaving a few of their progeny with otherworldly gifts. For those in Liz’s clan, it was the power to heal. For those in Neekoma’s, the ability to see the future.
The tales never indicated if the Unknowns and the Others would return, but the elders believed it was possible, refusing to leave their territory in the hope that one day their ancestors would come home, perhaps bestowing even more supernatural gifts on their earthly children. Some even claimed the aliens might be walking among the clan now, watching to see if they protected the territory given them, ready to strip their offspring of their powers if they dared relinquish any of their land.
Liz wasn’t certain if it was nonsense or not, nor could she dwell upon it given tonight’s circumstances. She wondered which of Carreon’s lieutenants Neekoma had shot this time, with Carreon expecting her to heal the man so he could rejoin a never-ending conflict. Her belly twisted at the thought of more violence, what her refusal to help might bring. The consequences would be swift and merciless, unless she found a way to stop Carreon first.
As though he’d read her thoughts again, his smile faded. Stepping away from the window, he approached.
Instinct urged Liz to back away. Resolve to defy him, even in such a small matter, kept her rooted in place.
Carreon’s dark brows drew together even as his body remained relaxed, his manner deceptively casual. “We need to leave now.” He spoke just shy of a whisper. “While the body still has a bit of life.”
The body.No name, no sorrow, only ruthless efficiency.
“Who?” she asked, wanting to know which of his lieutenants could be so important to have brought him here, something he’d never done before. “Victor?” she said. He’d killed the most for Carreon. “Roberto?” Torture was his specialty.
Carreon exchanged a glance with his men. Unexpected delight raced across their faces.
“Neekoma,” he said.