Warning this book contains strong BDSM elements, blood play and other elements that may not be suitable for all readers.
With a slow breath let out through clenched teeth, Alayna eased to kneel at the booted feet of the statue. At least this way, if someone looked in on her, or there were peepholes within the room, she’d appear to be fulfilling her duties. She intertwined her fingers, lowered her head, completing the image of a woman praying before her God. At least one thing remained in her favor--these types of offerings were normally done in silence, so no one would expect to hear mumbling words of praise spilling from her lips.
Cold seeped through her body--the linen offered little in the way of protection. Not that she had expected them to really care. First the antechamber, now here--the warmth and comfort of the other room had felt out of place. Maybe that had been why she had refused to touch anything other than a blanket.
“Or maybe you knew we were watching you?”
A man’s voice pulled her from the mix of thoughts, catching her off-guard. No one else should be in the room--she’d not heard the door open or the sound of footsteps.
“Who...?” She turned, still on her knees, searching for the source of the voice.
“Well, we were right. You’re stubborn, headstrong, arrogant and, yes, attractive. Very nice, indeed.” His words sent a chill down her spine. Where were they coming from?
“I’m right in front of you, Alayna.” The mocking tone taunted her.
That didn’t make sense. The only thing in front of her were walls and the statue.
“Ah, I see, you’re unwilling to accept the obvious answer.”
Wherever he was, his voice was smooth, silklike, yet with a cold, deadly quality that turned her stomach even as she searched for the source.
The statue moved, dust falling away from the boots, white stone turning into black leather. That wasn’t possible. Statues didn’t come to life.
“Unless they aren’t statues at all, but your Gods, child.”
Fingers twined into her hair, grasping it tightly, arching her backwards until her gaze rose to meet the now-living face. His eyes burned into hers, violet pupils, lip curved upwards in a sneer.
“Yes, I’m real, and yes, I can hear your thoughts. What else did you expect? But of course, the Gods don’t really exist, do we? We’re nothing more than an outdated concept, a product of the fears of weak-minded fools, a belief encouraged by zealots.”
“This isn’t happening.” She tried to hide the fear that fueled her words.
“Oh, but it is.” His free hand slapped her face; the only thing that saved her head from snapping to one side was the grip he had on her hair.
Pain lanced through her face; she tasted her own blood as it seeped from the corner of her mouth. Only twice before in her life had she been struck, and both those times had been that very morning. Now her face throbbed from a slap that had dazed her vision and left her trembling under the gaze of a man she feared.
“Such a delicious offering you make, Alayna. I plan on tasting you to your fullest over the coming weeks.”
His smile offered no comfort--if anything, it made matters worse, reminding her of a predator. She could see every elegant line of his face, smell the odd musky smell that emanated from him. Under other circumstances, she might have considered him attractive--dark and cruel, but not someone that most women could have ignored. Even if they had wanted to.
The grip tightened on her hair, pulling her up from her knees, still keeping her back arched as his lips lowered to hers. She tensed, expecting a kiss to claim her or a hand to move over her body, perhaps tear the linen from her form. Her breath caught in the back of her throat.
An unwanted desire gained life; even with her fear she could feel it, an odd, clenching sensation between her thighs as he closed the gap between them. A shudder ran through at the touch of his tongue against her chin, following the thin trickle of blood. She felt a need to press more tightly to him, to seek his touch even though her mind screamed no.
Only now did his hand move across her body, touching through the linen, caressing from her thigh upwards.
“Yes, you’ll do nicely.” His words brushed against her cheek. “A tender new pet at my feet, so ripe for the training I can give. All the delights I will be able to teach you as you enter my service more deeply with each passing day.”