Their Virgin Princesspart #4 of Masters of Ménage Series by Shayla Black / Romance & Love
Nothing could cut the heat of the jungle. The fan overhead turned, but sweat still ran down her forehead. She would have wiped it away, but the fuckers had tied her hands to the bedpost the night before. Poor little kidnappers couldn’t handle one small escape attempt without getting pissy. Too bad she’d only managed to cut one of them before they had captured her again.
Alea closed her eyes. Sunset had shadowed the little room with increasing darkness. They would be back, and she wasn’t sure she could handle another night of watching her abductors use the other women they had caged with her.
They were all in school, the pigs had told her. They were supposed to learn what a woman’s real place was.
Before she’d been taken and sent to this hell, she’d been a graduate student at New York University, studying international politics. Now she was majoring in misery, forced to watch her fellow abductees endure all kinds of sexual deviancy from men who abused them.
From the room beside her, she could hear the high-pitched whimper of a woman in pain and the staccato thud of a headboard hitting the wall.
Alea shut her eyes, wishing she could close her ears to block out the sound. When would this nightmare end? The days were bleeding together. She was losing track of time—and her grip on the carefree woman she’d once been.
When she’d first been abducted, she’d kept a careful count, marking out each day in small scratches on the wall. They were still there, all sixty-some odd lines—proof that she’d once hoped someone would find her. The endless cycle of time and pain had marched on, and she’d stopped carving those stupid lines. With no way to fight the drugs they fed her, time had become meaningless. She merely alternated between being dazed and terrified. When she was lucid, the world around her seemed foreign. Rapid-fire Spanish she couldn’t quite wrap her brain around and unfamiliar men, not to mention a situation so alien and horrific, she still struggled to comprehend. Coping was out of the question. Did it matter if she was here a day or a lifetime? Hell was hell.
And she was quickly rotting in it.
Lately, her captors had taken to doping her up more. Some days, Alea wasn’t sure what was real and what was a hallucination. The worst part was being dependent on that needle. Even now she was sweating, her stomach cramping, because she’d been too long without a fix, but there was no way they would wean her off of it again after her last escape attempt.
Suddenly, the doorknob was turning. Alea frowned, bracing herself. Perhaps this would be the end. Maybe this would be the moment they bound and trussed her up, then shipped her off to some asshole who would rape her and torture her for the rest of her short life. And it would be short, because she had no intention of being some man’s plaything. She was Alea Binte al Mussad, descendant of the royal family of Bezakistan. She was a princess. She had pride. And she would go down fighting and try her damnedest to take as many of these bastards with her as she could.
A single moment flashed across her mind. A sweet summer’s day at the palace when she’d been a child turning her face up to the sun. The inner garden had been her own private world. Her beloved cousins had been older, but they’d still played hide and seek with her, calling for their little “monkey,” a nickname she’d earned because she climbed the trees and made her nannies insane with worry.
But they don’t know you, little monkey, Talib would say. They don’t know how strong you are. One small tree can’t take you down. Some days, I’m not even certain a small army can.
The door opened with a small squeaking sound that signaled her torture would now continue. There were no trees to climb in this place, no armies to fight, only suffering.
She turned her gaze to see which pig had come to hurt her. An unfamiliar man in all black slid inside the door with a gun wrapped around his chest. He held it the way she’d seen military men grip their weapons, like a mere extension of their arms.
Was this a new torturer? If so, then her end would likely be very soon because this man was a killer.
“Alea?” The words were whispered, but came through loud and clear as if the man who spoke them expected to be understood and obeyed.
No one had called her by her name in…forever. Here, she was “girl” or “puta. ” For the briefest moment, she considered denying her name and perhaps avoiding her terrible fate, but her name was all she had left. If she died, she would die as Alea.
“I need you to stay as quiet as possible. My name is Cole Lennox. Your cousin sent me. ”
It took a moment for the words to sink in. Cole Lennox? She’d never heard of the man before. Her cousin? Talib? Or Yasmin? Would Yas even know how to hire a mercenary? It didn’t matter. Someone had come for her. Or had her “keepers” found a new, fun way to torment her and extort money from her royal relatives? Would this man get her hopes up, only to show her a new terror?
Cole Lennox towered over her. “You’re going to fight me, aren’t you? You think you don’t know me, but you do. I saw you once at the palace right after I brought Tal back from his ordeal. You invited me into the drawing room and offered me tea. I need you to understand that if I have to, I will knock you out in order to save you. ”
Tears welled, the first she’d felt in months, and she fought them ferociously. Now that he was closer, she remembered. Lieutenant Lennox had saved her cousin from radicals, and now it appeared he was going to save her.
“They don’t allow me clothes. I’m not wearing anything under this sheet. ” Shame crashed over her like a wave on the beach.
He shrugged out of the black shirt he wore, revealing a T-shirt. He set the shirt aside and produced a knife. Her hands and feet were free in seconds, and he was wrapping the shirt around her, carefully avoiding looking for more than a cursory glance below her neck.
Alea stood, her hands shaking as Cole Lennox began to lead her out, step by creeping step. In the distance, she heard gunfire and shouting.
“That’s baby brother doing his job. ” He winked over his shoulder at her. “Let’s get you home. ”
She followed Cole out, but the girl he’d met all those years ago was long gone. They could take her back to the palace, but a part of her would always be trapped here, forever tainted.
Bezakistan – Two years later
Alea escaped from the glittering lights and laughter of the ballroom. Everything about the evening was lovely and elegant, and she couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t her dress or the amount of food she’d consumed, but the press of bodies, the expectation, the terror she could never quite shake…
The warm night air caressed her skin as she closed the balcony doors behind her. The terrace overlooked the garden at the center of the palace. Normally, the doors would be open and a bar would have been placed out here, but Dane Mitchell, one of Tal’s bodyguards, had decreed it unsafe for the time being. After an episode that had nearly ended in the murder of her cousins’ wife a few months ago, Dane had been on a security tear. Everyone had tried to explain to him that the perpetrator, Khalil, was dead and wasn’t likely to rise as a zombie to eat Piper’s brains. Alea felt a smile cross her face. She’d been the one to use that argument. But Talib, Rafiq, and Kadir, ever vigilant, had signed on to the new “keep the women safe” plan.
To Alea, it felt more like the “never let the women have any fun” plan. Or a minute alone.
“Hello, Landon. ” She didn’t have to turn around to know he stood there, strong and stalwart. She’d heard the briefest squeak of the door opening…then nothing. Landon Nix never made a sound, but sometimes little things like squeaky hinges defeated his silent grace.
“You don’t have to talk. I just can’t leave you alone. Pretend I’m not here. ”
Impossible. She turned and stared at the quietest of her three watchmen, all of whom had been hired months after her rescue. By then, she’d recovered, and Alea was beyond glad they had never seen her so weak. They had been apprised of her abduction and given sketchy details, but by the time Tal had hired them, thanks to Cole Lennox’s advice, at least her body had recovered. The three guards kept her safe day and night. And had quickly become the bane of her existence.
As well as the center of her every fantasy.
Landon hovered in the corner, shadows clinging to him, making him look even more dangerous than normal. He was six foot three and leaner than the two Mack Trucks he called friends, but there was no way he was any less lethal. Her brain told her that, but something about him put her at ease in a way she wasn’t with the other two. Dane was so dark and dominant. Coop was a relentless flirt—both things that scared the crap out of her. But Landon, with his golden hair and face, with his expression so often as placid as an untouched lake, was a calming presence. He never pushed her too hard to talk or demanded her smiles. When he guarded her, he simply followed and made sure she got where she needed to go. Coop and Dane either pretended to flirt with her or downright insisted that she follow their direction, but Landon just quietly did his job.
He was a little like the large, gorgeous Labrador retriever she’d had as a child. Except she had never dreamed about sharing Duke’s wet kisses, much less taking on his friends.
She had to stop thinking that way, but Landon made that difficult when he stood so near and the night fell softly all around her. She’d snuck away to escape the crowd, but she was surprised at just how much she liked being out here alone with Lan. “Did Tal make you wear that tux?”
Even in the deep gloom, she saw his telling flush. Maybe Lan’s down-to-earth nature was what made her feel so comfortable. He was obviously uneasy with the wealth around him. Ever since she’d returned to Bezakistan and the palace, she had felt the same way. She’d seen real suffering in the real world, and sometimes this opulence chafed.
“I don’t know why I have to wear this monkey suit. It was made for me, but it still feels too tight,” Lan said with a bit of a Texas drawl.
She couldn’t help herself. He was far too endearing to ignore. Months and months of trying had just proven she wasn’t capable.
Alea closed the space between them. “The suit fits you perfectly, but the tie is too tight. ”
He looked up, his eyes flaring briefly as she neared. “I’m not much good with clothes like this. I have to admit, I liked the uniforms in the Army better. Uncle Sam’s dress code made it easy. ”
And she’d bet he’d looked good. Of course, he looked devastatingly handsome in a tux, too.
Dangerous train of thought. Stop now. After hesitating for an instant, she forced herself to buck up and do what she’d crossed the room to accomplish.
“May I?” she asked before reaching for his tie.
Lan nodded, and she quickly undid the black scrap of silk. The Armani tuxedo had been perfectly fitted, but she knew very well that his normal wardrobe choices ran more toward sweat pants and loose fitting T-shirts. It was a crime against women everywhere that the man didn’t just walk around shirtless.
Don’t go there, Alea. He can’t handle your damage. None of them can. And you can’t handle them.
Her inner voice was way more practical than she was, but it was also right. Landon Nix was a gorgeous god of a man who wouldn’t look at her twice if her cousins weren’t paying him to. None of them would. She’d seen a picture of Dane’s ex-wife once. She’d been blonde and stacked and gorgeous. She wasn’t sure why they’d divorced, but it couldn’t have had anything to do with a lack of desire. Any heterosexual man would want that woman.
No one would want Alea if she wasn’t tied to the fabulously wealthy, royal al Mussads.
Landon didn’t move a muscle as she knotted his tie again, this time much looser. No wonder he’d been uncomfortable. He’d practically strangled himself. She smoothed down the lapels of his jacket, feeling his hard chest beneath. He was so close and he smelled incredible. The heat of his skin penetrated her senses. His gorgeously sculpted lips lingered just above her own. His eyes, which had always seemed so cold, were now a warm blue and focused intently on her. A flash of heat passed through her body.
If he knew what she was thinking, she would undoubtedly make a complete fool of herself because he was her cousins’ employee.
Quickly, Alea retreated, needing some distance between them. “There you go. That should be more comfortable. ”
He nodded, clearing his throat. “Yeah. Thanks. It is. You’re really good with that. I mean with men’s clothes. ” His eyes closed briefly. “I didn’t mean it like that. And you were putting them on, not taking them off. God, I’m just going to shut up now. ”
This was another reason she felt more comfortable with Lan. Looks aside, he wasn’t anywhere near perfect. In fact, he could be a charmingly inept conversationalist. “It’s okay. I only know how to tie a bowtie because Kadir was so bad at it. When Rafiq would try to help him, they would get into fistfights. When I was a girl, they broke my Barbie house. To avoid future disasters, I took care of their ties from that point on. ”