I’m awakened by the sounds of creaking wood and straining rope—constant protests to the unsteady pitch and roll of the darkness.
Dizzy and disoriented, I take a breath, trying to dispel the nausea. But the air is laced with the pungent smell of damp rot, and its raw bite forces me to shallow my breathing.
Staring into the darkness, I search for a shape, a silhouette—anything to give me a clue about my surroundings. But there is only a thick layered blackness, as endless as the grave.
I’m plagued by the sensation of motion, of being rocked up and down. A flash of impaired logic tells me to dismiss it as a specter, an artifact from the nearly depleted dose of Halcion.
A minute passes—or an hour. I can’t tell which.
I hear something—a garbled voice, remnants of disconnected conversation. And from much farther away, the plaintive cries of a bird. The sounds seem genuine, missing that phantom-like quality associated with suspects from a barbiturate daze.
I take it as a sign—the drugs are finally leaving my system.
A prickly thaw sweeps the surface of my skin, bringing with it the nagging sensation that something is pulling at my limbs, tugging at me from both ends.
It’s not an after-effect of the drugs, I’m sure of that. It’s too strong, too constant. I have the sense it’s been there all along, waiting to break through the chemical cloud that kept me unconscious.
It’s growing stronger, getting worse, becoming a piercing burn stretching from my shoulders to my hips, cutting me to the quick. I try to turn, to get away from the waves of searing heat raking at my arms and legs.
I can’t move.
The realization is as damning as if I’d awakened in the sulfur pits of hell. I’m bound like an animal, my wrists tied above my head, my legs strapped at the ankles—my body a living bridge of straining joints and wrenched sinew.
Even as my muscles scream at the draw of the restraints, I feel the bite of riveted steel against my back, the harsh, unforgiving surface running the length of my spine.
It’s no accident. Whoever did this intentionally stripped me, leaving me exposed and vulnerable, determined to violate my mind as well as my body.
The blackness rolls then plunges, releasing something new into the shifting darkness. Slithering against me, it touches my skin with a bitter cold that breaks through the unrelenting agony of the rope. I hear my own tortured wheeze catch in my throat as I feel it scoring my stomach, the freezing nip and sting quickly followed by the unmistakable seeping of liquid, collecting in the hollow of my belly, running down my sides.
A rush of useless adrenalin floods my bloodstream, my chest threatening to explode as my racing heart frantically pumps blood to an unseen wound.
Even through the suffocating surge of panic, a vision of what I cannot see crystalizes with vivid detail: My arms and legs are tortuously drawn on a makeshift rack . . . a pendulum of biting chill slices across my naked torso . . . tiny rivers of fluid trickle down my sides.
I barely hear it over my pounding heartbeat—the sound of sloshing liquid.
In seconds, it becomes as familiar as it is terrifying.
I’m lying in water.
I take a halted breath as I realize the truth: The fluid running down my sides is not blood, but ribbons of over-wash from the frigid pool that surrounds me.
Rope and water.
Pain and fear.
It’s deliberate . . . to break me.
Again, the darkness lurches and rolls, churning the water, splashing it over my breasts and thighs. And although the icy burn forces me to gasp for air, it also sparks a moment of fleeting recognition—a vague memory from my past, a connection to the rise and fall of everything around me.
I’ve felt it before.
But where? When?
Stray thoughts flood my mind—the gentle climb, the momentary sense of weightlessness, the sudden drop . . . the unique motion of the sea.
It isn’t much, but it gives me something to hold on to, a starting point in remembering what has happened to me.
World Without Love is a continuing story and meant to be read in sequence, starting with Betrayed, followed by Book Two, Reunion, and concluding with Book Three, Redemption. All three books in the series are available in eBook and paperback.
World Without Love contains mature content and is intended for an 18+ audience