Kara stared out of the window of Caius’s immense spaceship onto the planet below, the cowl of the rich green silk cloak that covered her from neck to foot lying against her back, highlighting her deep auburn hair that reach down to her lower back. Under the cloak she wore a white dress made of sheer silk. The material was layered so there was only a glimpse of the pale skin that lay beneath. At each shoulder was a delicate silver clasp that held the dress in place, so with a click it would fall away from her body. The deep V neckline exposed a pale line of skin down to her bellybutton. Just below that a silver belt delicately engraved with vines and flowers rested low on her hips. The piece was beautiful, and if Kara had been less exhausted, less numb she would have admired it.
Caius had always lavished her with gifts like this after a conflict where the nightmares she inflicted on their enemies were particularly gruesome. It was his way of apologizing for forcing those images into her own head, because what the victim saw, so did Kara. Yet on the times she had fought him, refused to do his bidding, he used those same nightmares against her. Forcing her to relive them as if they were her own. It was as if two different people lived inside of him. One who care for her, was gentle with her, maybe even loved her in his own way. The other used her, forced her to do things for the only reason that it would hurt her, and he enjoyed her pain, was viscous in his punishments, a monster in every sense of the word.
When they first arrived on the ship, she had caught a glimpse of the man who cared for her well-being even though she was his to command, to use. That glimpse had been fleeting. Once she and Aden refused to break their bond the monster roared to life. When Aden told Caius that they could not break something magical when they did not know how it was forged, and that even if they could they would not, the monster exploded.
Kara did not know how long she spent in that small white room with no windows or doors screaming. The short coarse shift she had been given to wear lay in shreds on the cold floor, her pain so intense, unrelenting, that she had shredded the thin material to reach her skin. Praying that if she spilled enough blood the pain would bleed out with the precious fluid. She begged, pleaded, promised things she would have never conceived of doing, just to stop the pain. Nothing short of her denying Aden would suffice. The one command she could obey.
On the other side of a wall size two-way mirror that looked like a blank wall on Kara’s side, Aden was trapped in his own room, helplessly watching. With Kara’s screams echoing around him, unable to reach her, to help her in anyway, he too had promised things that had made him cringe in revulsion. Begged Caius to punish him, not her, but the emperor had refused.
There was a time when Aden thought his power rivaled Caius’s. Now he knew different. With barely a thought, without any effort, Caius bound Aden’s powers completely. Bound them then left him unable to stop the torturous pain Caius inflicted with gleeful abandonment on Kara, laughing as he watched Aden break in front of him. All because Aden dared to love her. He had asked Caius who he really was, because the man who stood before him was not the man he had grown to respect, to love as a mentor.
“I am someone more powerful then you could ever imagine. As powerful as the gods themselves,” Caius had seethed. “And you will do well to remember that Kara is mine to do whatever I wish. She will obey me. As will her mate. As will you.”
“I cannot give you what you want,” Aden cried desperate to make Caius understand that he asked the impossible. On the other side of the mirror Kara’s screams intensified. Aden tightly closed his eyes and looked away, the agony that sound caused him threatening his sanity.
“Cannot, or will not,” Caius quietly hissed, his own rage barely contained at Aden’s refusal to do as he was told. Aden could not meet Caius’s eyes, his silence an answer on its own. His voice squeezed down to a whisper in his rage, Caius repeated, “I will ask you one more time. Break your connection with Kara, or you will both wish for a death that will never come.”
“You have taken everything from us,” Aden agonized whisper filled the sudden silence. Eyes filled with defiance, he glared up at the monster before him and hissed, “You can do your worst, but we will not give you the only thing that makes our existence bearable.”
For a long moment they glared at each other. Aden on his knees, his conviction and determination etched in his expression. Caius looming over him, his rage mounting with every second Aden refused to bow down to his authority.
“So be it,” Caius hissed into the silence.
With a swish of his cloak, Caius turned and left the room, the metal door whooshing shut behind him. The moment the soft click of the door sounded Kara’s screams began once again. Closing his eyes, Aden slowly bent over until his forehead touched the cold metal floor, agony washing over him. Nothing short of total obedience would stop their torment, and that was something neither of them could give.
Then, suddenly, it stopped.
Kara felt gently arms lift her from the floor of her cell. Exhausted, her mind clinging desperately to what little sanity she had left, the only thing she remember in those next hours were flashes of light from the ceiling as she was carried back to her rooms. Of gentle hands washing the blood from her already healing body, each ragged gash tended to so it would not scar. Of her tangled hair being carefully brushed out, each tangle handled with care not to hurt her as they were pulled apart. Of being laid on a soft bed and being tucked under warm blankets. Of blessed pain free, dream free darkness.
Now, as Kara stared down at the innocent planet, she wondered what had changed. Why had the torment ended when it was obvious they had not given Caius what he wanted? It had something to do with this planet, but she had not the opportunity to ask Aden and she was too afraid to ask Caius. His anger was there, just under the surface, so she made it her life’s mission to be as invisible as possible so she would not bring his wrath down upon her again.
A calm soothing presence drew near her, enveloping her with a love so warm, so deep she felt the lingering pain of the last weeks subside. Closing her eyes, Kara allowed herself to fall into that warmth if only a moment. Then, very gently, she began to pull away.
Aden, her mind breathed into his. You take a big risk doing this out in the open. If Caius found out…. She let the thought finish itself. Opening her eyes, Kara fixed them on the planet before her as Aden came to a stop next to her, his eyes also on the offending planet.
Down there was the man who would take Kara from him. Down there was her destiny, his destruction If he had been given any wish he desired, it would be to take her as far away from here as possible.
It is a risk I am willing to take if it gives you a moment of peace, he countered. He projected a mental image of him wrapping his arms around her, pulling her back against him. So real was the image they both felt the heat of each other’s bodies. His love, his need for this woman defied logic. She was his drug he could not get enough of. He was addicted to her and he never wanted to be cured. Feeling her shiver against him, he mentally nuzzled her neck. Again this was a huge risk he was taking, because if Caius caught them he would punish them both. Aden was not sure either of them could survive another round of the last two weeks. When he thought about how long they have been trapped in their never ending cycle of torment, he shuddered.
“I will not allow him to deny us this one pleasure,” Aden vowed adamantly yet quietly as he gazed down at her. He took a step closer.
“Aden,” Kara began, but before she could turn towards him or assure him that she would not give in to Caius’s demand, that she loved him too much to lose him, she hissed in pain.
The pain in her lower back that radiated up to her lungs and outwards was so sharp it took her to her knees. Because they were wrapped around each other in their minds, the pain leaped into Aden. Gasping, he grabbed onto one of the steel girders that held the windows in place before his knees could collapse from under him. Quickly backing his mind away from hers so he could think clearly, Aden stared at her in horror before looking towards the doors, feeling his master’s murderous glare from across the room.
The black cloaked figure moved slowly across the room, his pale blue eyes gleaming from under his cowl. Raising hands twisted with arthritis, showing the blue veins just under the grey skin, he pushed his cowl back to show a face that looked every inch of his two thousand years. Shoulders hunched with age, his true height was hidden, although he did have to look up slightly as he narrowed his eyes at his young apprentice.
“Must she spend more days in agony because you refuse to heed my wishes?” Caius growled, his voice gravelly as if it had been used too much. “Have you learned nothing? Do you not care for her well being?”
Aden bristled at the last comment knowing that after those torturous hours of watching Kara writhe in pain, Caius knew exactly how he felt about her. “My lord,” Aden bowed before walking towards him. “I only asked how she faired. Nothing more. You know I would not risk her health any further.”
Caius looked from his most trusted servant to the girl on her hands and knees doing her best not to scream because she knew he would enjoy her pain. Frowning, he knew under normal circumstances he could trust Aden to do anything he asked of him. Yet when it came to this girl Aden refused one simple request.
The part of his brain that he had kept under lock and key from the moment he ordered Aden to retrieve Kara whispered, What did you expect? That they would bow down and grant you your every wish? You have taken everything from them. Their family, their freedom, their will. All they have is each other. Besides, no matter how powerful you may think you are, you cannot take what they cannot give.
Scowling at the unwanted reminder of that little known fact, Caius mentally put a muzzle on his prisoner. I do not need advice from weak love sick fools. I will have what I came for, prophecy be damned!
With a flick of Caius’s hand towards Kara, her pain subsided and she was able to breathe again. As much as he enjoyed seeing her suffer, there was no time for small pleasures. Noting how Aden made it a point not to look at Kara, or go to her side to help, Caius watched as Kara slowly climbed to her feet using the wall for support. Although Caius could tell it cost Aden a great deal to stay where he was.
No matter, Caius thought to himself. After tomorrow she will not even care if he is in the room.
The muffled humph in the back of his mind that spoke of a naivety Caius had lost long ago did nothing to cool his irritation. Well two could play that game.
“I have a job for you, my friend,” Caius announced in his gravelly voice as he walked over to where Kara stood, reaching out to gently stroke her hair. Inside his head, his prisoner slammed himself against the bars of his cage, desperately trying to escape so he could stop Caius from touching her. A few steps away, he could feel Aden’s desperate need to yank her away from him. Caius was impressed with the amount of willpower it took for Aden to stay his hand. Two men who were desperate to protect one small woman from her destiny. Fools. “I want you to go down to the planet and retrieve the package.”
“I thought the original plan was to bring Kara to him so we would know for sure he is the one we seek,” Aden frowned. Watching his master study Kara as if she was some prize possession, a pet, threaten to tear down the fragile walls he had built around his rage. Attacking the emperor would do neither of them any good. Looking away, he forcefully shoved the unhelpful emotion back into its box. Closing his eyes, fisting his hands in frustration, Aden realized that was exactly what Kara was to Caius. A prize possession, and soon he would have the matched pair. That thought had Aden gritting his teeth again. Kara was his.
“It was,” the emperor answered. “However, I have recently learned he is not as well trained as our young pet here. I will not risk losing all I have worked so hard for because of someone else’s incompetence.” He turned to Aden, who was now looking at Caius with neutral eyes. “You will go down and inform the queen since she could not break him then she leaves me no choice but to do it myself. Something that displeases me greatly.”
“And if she gives me trouble?” Aden asked.
“Dispose of her,” Caius ordered coldly.
“As you wish,” Aden bowed. With one last worried glance towards Kara, that unfortunately the emperor did not miss, Aden left the room.
Caius looked at the door pondering what he should do about Aden’s refusal to heed his wishes concerning his pet. It didn’t matter their connection would be severed this time tomorrow. What concerned him was it had occurred in the first place. Kara should not have been able to bond with anyone aside from the one who would father her children and one of two who had been connected to her through the prophecy for more lives than he cared to count. It was the way it had been since the beginning of time. What was different this time? The scrolls he had in his possession yielded nothing he did not already know, which frustrated him to no end. His gaze went to Kara who stood quietly staring out the window, doing her best not to be noticed. Maybe there was something new in the ones he had discovered just before he brought Kara home.
Home. This metal city was far away from her home or even his. It was a means to and end, and once they finished with this next step of his plan then, maybe, they could think about going home. Before that could happen, there was the small matter of the continuing disobedience he needed to attend to.
“How much more must you suffer before you heed my wishes?” Caius’s voice hissed through the room as he turned and walked towards his throne.
“You ask the impossible,” Kara answered not taking her eyes off the planet. There was something down there. Something familiar, but for the life of her she could not remember ever being here.
“I only ask for what is mine!” Caius bellowed, slapping his hand to his chest in emphasis.
Jumping at the sudden sharp anger, Kara’s eyes snapped to Caius. He had reached the three stairs to the dais where his throne sat. She had no real excuse for what she said next. Maybe it was the fact she was exhausted, or that she could feel Aden as he moved further away from the ship, like taffy being pulled thinner and thinner, threatening to snap in half. Or maybe it was whatever was drawing her attention down to the planet. Pick one. None of them explained her sudden stupidity.
“What is yours? What you ask for has never been yours because it belongs to Aden therefore I cannot give it to you,” she snapped in frustration.
Caius froze as he placed his foot on the last step. The stillness in the room, for there were the ever present elite guard watching over their emperor, was deafening. Wide eyes regarded Kara as if she had lost her mind, and maybe she had.
It was when the emperor began to move that the room began to breathe again. Eyes filled with horror, Kara watched him slowly turn and carefully place himself on the large black throne, making sure that his robes were just so. That the long sleeves hung just right as he gently placed his hands on the arms of the throne. He was moving with that controlled carefulness that spoke of a fine burning rage. One that would consume everyone in its path with white hot flame. When he finally spoke, his voice was the calm before the storm. A deceptive controlled emptiness that with one breath would break, destroying everything in its path.
“Maybe I have been too lenient with you. Maybe I should take a page from your past, from before I found you and you begged me to save you from the bastards that abused you. Maybe I should and give you to one of my garrisons for a few hours. Remind Aden how the touch of a man, any man, fills you with hunger and lust. Then maybe he will see you for the worthless whore you are and sever your bond as I have commanded!” his voice growing louder as his anger grew.
Kara shuddered at the thought of being raped repeatedly. Because that was what he was suggesting. It had been Colin’s favorite form of punishment. Watching as his men used her. Knowing if she did not perform to his satisfaction he would turn her over to them again the next night bound and gagged, leaving her to the mercy of the men. Knowing that once her appetites were appeased that the horror of what she had just done would eat away at her soul.
“No,” she breathed. Taking a step towards him, Kara pleaded. “Please, my lord. I beg of you. Don’t do this! We cannot give you what you want.”
“It’s the ‘we’ in that sentence that displeases me,” Caius snarled slowly rising off his throne, his eyes narrowed on Kara with rage. “There should be no we!” He began descending the steps of the dais, one after one, his voice raising as his rage did. “There should only be Aden and then you. You do not belong to him. You belong to ME!” yelling the last word to emphasize it.
“Please,” Kara whispered, her eyes locked on some far point, arms stiff at her sides, her body trembling as Caius stopped close enough to her his robes brushed her cloak.
The small voice locked away in the back of Caius’s mind broke the gag Caius had put on him and screamed his outrage. He could not do this to Kara. She was precious, she was all he had. Everything that he had done, every sacrifice, every foul act was for her, for all of them. If the bastard that stood glaring at the trembling woman forced this vile act on her it would be the one thing that would break the strong vibrant woman he loved.
Ignoring that small voice, Caius leaned down, his lips close to Kara’s ear and hissed, “Break the bond, or so help me gods I will carry out my threat.”
The movement of her head was so slight Caius barely saw it, but it was enough. She would not, or could not, obey him.
“Very well,” his voice sounding as dead as his heart was. Louder, “Captain Hiram!”
Kara jumped at the sudden loudness, her eyes snapping to the emperor, wide with terror and disbelief. Hiram had been Newell’s second in command. He had worshiped Newell, followed him blindly. Hated Aden and Kara as much if not more than Newell did. The chance to avenge his mentor’s death was a dream he thought would never come true. And now the emperor was handing her to him to do with as he wished. Hiram stopped in front of them, his red robes swishing around his ankles as he saluted his emperor and gave him a small bow.
“My emperor,” he replied sharply.
“Take her to the Red Guard’s garrison,” Caius ordered as he very slowly pulled Kara’s cloak from her shoulders uncovering her to the men’s stares, his eyes locked with hers the entire time. Draping it over his arm, he took one step back and turned to his captain. “There should be on a few who are off duty. Take care not to tear her clothing. She will need the dress when Aden returns with his package. As for her body,” he hesitated, watching the hope in Kara’s eyes spark to life as she thought maybe there would be limitations to what they could do to her. “As long as there is no permanent damage and she is able to heal adequately before tomorrow’s festivities, do with her as you will. You have until this time tomorrow.”
“You promised,” she whispered. When Caius only stared at her, his expression impassive as if he did not know what she was talking about, she took a step towards him. “When you rescued me from Colin, when you brought me here, you promised you would never force me to endure his form cruelty again.”
There was a flash of compassion in Caius eyes. Just enough that Kara thought maybe the man who had made that promise was still in there, somewhere.
“You can stop this,” he said gently, reaching up to touch her cheek with the tips of his fingers. A feather light touch with eyes full of sorrow. His next words crushed that hope. “All you have to do is break the bond between you and Aden,” he smiled. That smile did not reach his eyes. Those had bled red and held a malice that Kara cowered away from.
“I can’t,” she whispered hoarsely.
“Then you leave me no choice,” his smile dimming. “Captain.” With that one word, Caius turned away from Kara and walked towards the dais, dismissing her.
“With pleasure, my lord,” Hiram smiled, the heat in his eyes turning them darker. With lightning speed, he reached out and grabbed Kara around the neck, yanking her to him. “I am going to enjoy teaching you your place, witch,” he sneered. There should be at least four men in the garrison at that moment. Four to one sounded like one hell of a party.
Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes