Home > The Story of Son(3)

The Story of Son(3)
Author: J.R. Ward

Miss Leeds smiled a little. "It will not be so bad for you. He is like his father. A lovely beast."

Claire rubbed her eyes. There were two Miss Leeds in the bed. Actually, there were two beds. So did that make four Miss Leeds? Or eight?

Miss Leeds looked at Claire with disarming clarity and a detachment that was discomforting. "You mustn't be afraid of him. He can be quite gentle if he's in the mood. I wouldn't try to run, though. He shall only catch you, after all."

"What—" Claire's mouth felt dry and fuzzy, and when she heard a noise to the left, it was as if the sound came from a vast distance.

Fletcher was taking the silver tray off the brass cart and putting it on a bureau. When he came back to the cart, he extended a hidden panel out at the foot of it so the thing became like a stretcher.

Claire felt her bones loosen, then collapse altogether. As she slid into the side of the chair, Fletcher picked her up and carried her to the cart, just as easily as he had brought over the heavy chair.

He was laying her flat when her vision started to slip. Desperately, she tried to hold on to consciousness as she was wheeled down the hall into an old-fashioned brass and glass elevator. The last thing she saw before she passed out was the butler pressing the button marked "B" for basement.

The lift lurched and she sank with it, falling into oblivion.

2

Claire rolled over in her bed, feeling velvet under her hands and smooth Egyptian cotton against her cheek. She moved her head up and down on the soft pillow, aware that her temples were pounding and she was vaguely nauseated.

What a strange dream. . . Miss Leeds and that butler. The tea. The cart. The elevator.

God, her head hurt, but what was that wonderful smell? Dark spices . . . like a fine men's cologne, only one that she'd never smelled before. As she breathed in deep, her body warmed in response and she ran her palm over the velvet duvet. It felt like skin—

Wait a minute. She didn't have velvet on her bed.

She opened her eyes . . . and stared into a candle. Which was on a nightstand that was not her own.

Panic roared in her chest, but lethargy prevailed in her body. She struggled to get her head up, and when she finally lifted it, her vision swam. Not that it really mattered. She couldn't see beyond the shallow pool of light that fell on the bed.

Vast, inky darkness surrounded her.

She heard an eerie shifting sound. Metal on metal. Moving around. Coming toward her.

She looked to the noise, her mouth opening, a scream rising in her throat only to get tangled on the back of her tongue.

There was a massive black shape at the foot of the bed. A huge . . . man.

Terror made her break out in a sweat and the shot of adrenaline cleared her head. She reached around for anything she could use as a weapon. The candle, with its heavy silver holder, was the only thing. She grabbed for it—

A hand clamped on her wrist.

Mindlessly, she tried to scramble back, her feet wadding up the velvet duvet, her body thrashing. It made no difference. The hold was iron.

And yet uninjuring.

A voice came through the dense darkness. "Please . . . I shall not hurt you."

The words were spoken on a long breath of sadness, and for a moment, Claire stopped fighting. Such sorrow. Such pervading loneliness. Such a beautiful male voice.

Wake up, Claire! What the hell was she doing? Sympathizing with the guy who had a death grip on her?

Baring her teeth, she went for his thumb, ready to bite her way free and then knee him where he'd feel it most. She didn't get a chance to. With a gentle surge, she was turned onto her stomach and her arms held carefully at the small of her back. She wrenched her head to the side so she could breathe and tried to buck free.

The man didn't hurt her. He didn't touch her inappropriately. He just held her loosely as she struggled, and when she finally exhausted herself, he let go immediately. While panting, she heard the chains being dragged into the darkness over to the left.

When her lungs stopped pumping wildly, she grunted, "You can't keep me here."

Silence. Not even breathing.

"You have to let me go."

Where the hell was she? Shit. . . that dream of Fletcher had been real. So she must be somewhere on the Leeds estate.

"People will be looking for me."

This was a lie. It was a holiday weekend and most of her firm's lawyers were taking work to their summer homes, so there was no one to miss her if she didn't come into the office as she'd planned to. And if folks tried to reach her and got voice mail, they'd probably assume she'd finally gotten a life and was taking some time off for Labor Day.

"Where are you?" she demanded, her voice echoing. When there was no response she wondered if she hadn't been left alone.

She reached out for the candle and used the weak glow to look around. The wall behind the carved wooden headboard was made of the same pale gray stone as the front of the Leeds mansion, so that confirmed where she was. The bed she was on was draped in deep blue velvet and sat high off the floor. She was wearing a white robe and her underwear.

That was all she could ascertain.

Slipping off the edge of the mattress, her legs wobbled and she fell as her knees gave out. Wax spilled on her hand, burning her skin, and the stone floor bruised her ankle. She caught her breath and dragged herself up by the bed's duvet.

Her head was bad, aching and scrambled. Her stomach felt like it was filled with latex paint and thumbtacks. And panic made both of those happy problems worse.

She stuck her hand out and shuffled forward, keeping the candle as far in front of her as she could. When she made contact with something, she shrieked and jumped back—until she realized what the irregular, vertical pattern was.

Books. Leather-bound books.

She put the candle forward again and moved to the left, patting with her palm. More books. More . . . books. Books everywhere, organized by author. She was in the Dickens section, and going by the gold inlays on the spines, the damn things looked like first editions.

There was no dust on them, as if they were cleaned regularly. Or read.

Some countless yards later, she ran across a door. Angling the candle up and down, she tried to find a knob or handle, but there was nothing to mark the old wood except black iron hinges. To the right of it on the ground there was something the size of a bread box, but she couldn't guess what it was.

She straightened and pounded on the door.

"Miss Leeds! Fletcher!" She kept up the hollering for a while and threw in a good long scream, hoping to alarm someone. Nobody came.

Fear gave way to anger and she welcomed the aggression.

Scared but pissed off, she kept feeling her way around. Books. Just books. Floor to however high the ceiling was. Books, books, books . . .

Claire stopped and was suddenly relieved. "This is a dream. All this is just a dream."

She took a deep breath—

"In a manner of speaking, yes." The deep, resonant male voice sent her wheeling around, her back slapping against the stacks.

Show no fear, she thought. When you face off with your enemy, you show no fear.

"Let me out of this f**king room. Right now."

"In three days' time."

"Excuse me?"

"You will be here with me for three days. And then Mother will set you free."

"Mother . . . ?" This was Miss Leeds's son!

Claire shook her head, pieces of the conversation she'd had with the woman skipping through her mind, landing on nothing rational.

"This is unlawful restraint—"

"And after three days, you will remember nothing. Neither where you went nor your time here. Nor me. Nothing will linger of the experience."

God . . . his voice was hypnotic. So sad. So smooth and low—

Chains dragged across the floor, the sound getting louder, reminding her that she needed to fear him. "Don't come near me."

"I'm sorry. I cannot wait."

She raced back for the door and beat against the wood, her jerky, frantic movements splashing wax everywhere. When the candle's flame went out, she dropped the silver holder and as it clattered away, she banged both fists against the solid panels.

The chains grew closer; he zeroed in on her. Terrified to the point of madness, Claire clawed at the door, her fingernails leaving long trails.

Two hands covered hers, stopping them. Oh, God, he was right on her. Right behind her.

"Let me go!" she yelled.

"I will not harm you," he said quietly, gently. "I will not hurt you. . . ." He kept speaking to her, word after word after word until she fell into a kind of trance.

Her body tingled as his scent filled her nose. He was the source of that dark, spicy smell, the delicious fragrance everything that was male and powerful and sexual. Her core grew swollen, heavy, wet. . .

Horrified by her reaction, she tried to jerk away. "Don't touch me."

"Be still." His voice was right in her ear. "I will not take much this first time and worry not. You will leave here with your virtue intact. I cannot lie with you."

She should not trust him. She should be terrified. Instead, his gentle hands and his quiet, deep voice and the sensual smell of him soothed her fears. Which was probably the thing that terrified her most.

   
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