EXCERPT: STEEL EMBRACE by
Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane
After jutting a finger toward the direction of the lounge, Fawn dissolved through the opening marked office, her garment swishing. A lump formed in Raina‘s throat as she forced her legs to move. She needed the job. Interviews terrified her, actually, anyone with authority basically terrified her. Growing up in an orphanage, one of the last of its kind, and then a foster home with atypical trauma, Raina ended up sheltered in a wrap of solitude until she discovered she had a brother, Storm. Being nearly a decade older than her, he remembered a time when they had parents. That revelation, that moment was an epiphany that gave her foundation and legacy. She remembered with fondness he teasing about their parents being fixated on weather.
He told Raina if they had another sibling, he or she would probably be named Thunder or Drizzle. She longed for the comfortableness being with him brought, rather than the upheaval of this uncertain moment. Storm made her laugh. She didn‘t know she could laugh so much with another. Though, her students usually made her chuckle. With young people she felt a sense of oneness that was missing from her socialization with many of her peers. Storm reinforced the ideal that not all people were cruel, that sometimes you just had to take a step of faith and trust. They had a perfect year together even though he wasn‘t around as much as she wished. Storm had made his money in the stock market, but he applied it to mysterious ventures that took him to various parts of the country. He said one day he‘d reveal all, but not until he knew the truth, not until he had proof. Truth? What truth? Proof? Of what? Those were question he had left unanswered.
None of that mattered to her. All that mattered was that she now had a modest sense of home. All her life she knew she needed to belong to something or someone other than herself. Now, that love of family was in jeopardy.
The start of their second year together, Storm became ill. The medical community devoured his fortune, and Raina took him as a dependent. The Anderson Medical Facility specialized in blood disorders. It was only a thirty-minute drive from Raina‘s previous job and home. Then the job dissolved and her medical would as well by the end of the month. This job, today, was important. Storm required this hospital. The idea of moving elsewhere was unacceptable. Besides, Storm had given her the job lead, told her to do whatever it took to get the job, suggesting there were odd circumstances boding. From the moment he came into her world, she obeyed him like a father. While making her way to the lounge, she noted more of the same primed walls with etchings left undone. If the hall and foyer were her only work, it would take at least six months to finish, and that was encouraging She might not need the entire year, by the way things looked. She assumed the lounge was on her left, headed that way, when a cry of pain caught her attention. Raina wasn‘t the type to ignore such a thing and followed the sound to a room at the far end of the corridor. A door stood partially open. She did not hesitate to peer into the area. Astonished, she retreated a half step. On the other side, an enormous, muscular woman, haplessly tucked into a red, leather corset, flesh overflowing. Supported by bold legs covered in sheer silk stockings with spiked-heeled boots. The appearance did not astound. What she was doing did. She flogged a spindly, partially naked man not much older than Raina. Wrists had been manacled, with fur lined cuffs, to a hook in the ceiling. His feet dangled inches from the ground. It appeared painful. Blood beaded and dripped from long sleek lines marking the length of his back, buttock and thighs. Adrenalin-spirited palpitations heaved Raina's chest. "Red," he shouted. "Red!"
Eyes enormous, Raina realized she was somewhere she didn‘t wish to be. She understood the scene, a Dominatrix and her slave. Why in the world did her brother steer her to such a place? Why indeed? The answer emerged like a sword from a sheath, desperation. They needed the medical coverage and from Raina‘s inquiries, this job supplied it. Her second epiphany was an understanding of where she was. This placed catered to the unusual. Could she separate herself from that reality? Hoping as an artist, she wasn't expected.... She did not finish her thought.
The woman threw her arm back and the leather straps of the flogger connected with the man‘s thighs. Its crack rippled as he cried out, and again screamed. "Red!" The word red was wheedled as if it held purpose. Raina suspected this must be his safe word. The woman purposefully ignored him. Raina took a step forward even though this was none of her concern. Momentarily she rationalized, that he could be a masochist and might not appreciate Raina interrupting. Should she intrude where she wasn‘t wanted? Yet it didn‘t at all seem like he was enjoying himself.
Her compassion moved her feet forward. As if to confirm her suspicion, a whimper of despair seeped past the man‘s white-pursed lips which was followed by the woman‘s cruel laugh and harsh words. "Since when do you have limits, maggot? You are mine and I‘ll beat you to a pulp if that‘s my pleasure."
"Red," he cried, this time in a tattered tone. "Please Mistress, no more." Another blow which appeared harder. Tears bubbled from pale, blue eyes that started to roll back in his red-face. A sharp snap of leather to flesh echoed in the small chamber, its rip insisting.
Raina didn‘t have a clue nor care as to the proper protocol in this situation or if there was any, but she knew this man was in trouble. She could tell by his sparse breathing and a harsh, choking sound that the man was about to have a seizure. She had seen her brother in this state. Bursting into the room like an avenging angel, Raina shoved the much larger woman aside with enough force to have her stumble. "Are you out of your mind? He‘s in trouble."
"How dare you!" the woman roared, her brightly painted lips an effigy of fury. She raised her lash to Raina who turned toward the larger woman in defiance daring her to snap leather. The lash did not move. "Get away," Raina shouted as she tried to figure out how to undo the manacles and get the man down. She dragged a chair over to him, and she was grateful the cuffs were but a series of straps that could be quickly unfastened.
"He is mine!" Her anger was real.
"Get help, now!" Raina commanded in a judgmental tone, "or I swear if this man dies, I‘ll testify that you beat him to death." The woman blinked, screamed something about being a paying member of the club and that the owners would know about this, and mid-rant she finally left. Raina could hear her shouting for help, but Raina had the impression it wasn‘t for this man‘s sake.
As she managed the last binding, trying to manipulate his weight, they both fell, first to the chair and then to the floor. He began to shake, eyes rolling, spittle sprayed from his mouth. She feared the worst. A Japanese tea service decorated a nearby table. The elegance of it contrasted against an array of whips decorating the wall above it. However, it provided a spoon, and she crawled toward the table, snatched it up then flung herself back to the distressed man. She stuffed the spoon between his lips to keep him from swallowing his tongue, not really knowing if it was the right or wrong thing to do. She simply had to do something. "It‘s all right. You‘re going to be all right," she said, her tone more shaky and scared rather than soothing. The seizure seemed to last an eternity, but it was only a minute or two. Soon others sprawled into the room, infested it like ants on a cookie crumb. She recognized the corseted woman and Fawn, but not the three burly men.
"See," the large woman exclaimed in an angry screech. "She dared to interrupt our scene. What sort of place allows this? I pay good money to be a member of this club and I expect privacy." There was a snap in her voice the rivaled that of her whip.
"The door was open," Raina managed after a heavy swallow. Please don’t let me lose this job opportunity wild ravings rivered in her thoughts. "He was in trouble. Can‘t you see that?" Raina pushed at the young man‘s hair, watched as his pale colored eyes returned to focus. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing emerged.
"Get Doc," ordered the tallest of the men exuding authority. "As for you, Mave, consider your membership canceled. You‘ll get a full refund in the mail."
Raina ignored the lot of them; her gaze focused on the prone, bleeding and sweating man. "You‘re going to be all right." Inside, Raina wondered if that were true for her as well. She had stepped out of her comfort zone, and that never brooded well. Had she interfered? Was this a boundary where the consequences to her would be devastating? Someone must have ushered the woman away, for her salty curses grew distant.
A moment later, an elderly man with crinkly, old eyes and a soft tone, gently nudged her aside. "I‘ll take it from here, girl." She nodded, found her feet, smoothed down her skirt not noticing the new spots of red, felt the over-sized waistband settle on her hips rather than her waist. She behaved as might a scolded lad, whereas, the floor looked very appealing and she didn‘t take her gaze from it.
"And just who the hell are you?" a distinctive though unfamiliar voice commanded. Fawn answered for her. "May I speak, Sirs?" Someone must have nodded, for Fawn continued. "She‘s here for the interview. Her résumé is in the office." Surprisingly, none of the three men outwardly ogled.
Nodding acknowledgement he turned. "Give her a moment to collect herself then show her to the lounge and get that résumé," was said in the same authoritative voice. "Doc, is Kenny all right?" "Seems just fine to me, now. We are lucky he is young!" the older man said, a bit of a drawl to his tone. "But he could have been in real trouble if this young lady didn‘t poke her nose in where Mave didn‘t want it to be." He half-smiled and winked.
Someone cursed. Raina didn‘t know whom. The floor kept holding more and more appeal for the focus of her eyes. Now, if only it would cooperate and provide a hole she could drop through. Her angst caused her to noticeably shiver. The heaviest of the men smacked her on the back hard enough to make her jump a step and look up. "You done good, Doll, even if you did break a house rule."
Angelica Hart and Zi ~ Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane
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