Authors: Felicity Sparrow
But it’s right for the story. And it’s right for the moment that I’m in. It’s what I desire.
“I think David would kiss Clara,” I whisper.
His hand closes on my jaw like a clamp. Erik’s fingers are tight enough that my eyes water. “Is that what you think?” He almost looks angry.
I can’t nod while he’s holding me like that. I can’t speak, either, but I don’t know if it’s because of his hand or the proximity of his body to mine.
Erik searches my face, sweeps his eyes down my blouse to the exposed skin at my waist.
Then he presses his lips to mine. Hard.
His tongue forces my mouth open. The hand on my chin shoves my head back until it hits the wall. There’s no hesitancy in him, only demand.
Kissing Raoul as a teenager had been the kind of thrill that could only be expressed through poetry. All of those breathless clichés about butterflies, soaring, fireworks—that was kissing Raoul. It had been the climax of a handful of summers. It had been life-changing.
It had been
like kissing Erik.
He takes without giving, sucking the breath from my lungs. His tongue battles mine.
Erik’s free hand is familiarizing itself with my body. Cupping my breast through the shirt. Capturing the peak of my nipple between forefinger and thumb.
He rolls it, sending heat shooting through every nerve ending.
I can’t breathe. I’m not certain that I want to.
When he pulls back, his forehead is still pressed to mine, his eyes an inch away. I swear that I can see the darkness lurking within the artist. Erik is every inch the antihero from his books. He is fully capable of every terrible thing he has ever written.
My fingers are still clutching the rope, the safety line that would allow me to escape instantly.
I could let go and free myself.
Erik isn’t going to ask me what I think about this. Any of it. He is watching my hands to see if I release the rope and release myself from the grip of the hooks on the wall.
I cling to the knot as I’ve never clung to anything in my life.
His hands push underneath my blouse and his fingers trace the lower edge of my bra. I’m grateful that it’s laundry day for once, because it means I wore one of my sexier bras even though I didn’t think anyone was going to see me without a shirt.
He growls when his fingertips meet the lace cups. “Who is this for? Is this for
For an instant, I wonder if he means Trevor.
But I am not Clara and he is not David. He didn’t have a friend lure me to his house.
No. Erik means Raoul. Did I wear a sexy bra for Raoul?
I shake my head. I could tell him that I haven’t had a boyfriend since college, but I don’t. There is no world outside of Erik’s basement. Personal history is a triviality unworthy of mention.
My denial makes him burn hotter. He is emboldened. He kisses so hard that I think I might bruise, and then drags his lips down my jaw, jerking the neck of my shirt aside so that he can bite my collarbone.
He hikes my leg up at his side and presses his hips against my core.
Erik is painfully aroused.
If his size is any indication, he’s hurting as much as I am.
I want him inside of me. I want him to penetrate my body and claim it as his.
But I can’t communicate what I want, not when he’s sucking all the breath from my lungs, smashing me against the wall. I’m helpless to what he wants. My needs mean nothing compared to his desires.
He rocks against me. His hardness slips into the crevice between my legs, rubbing a long line against my aching center.
The moan doesn’t sound anything like me. It’s so much more animal, much more desperate.
Too much clothing. Too much between us.
“Please,” I say.
He ignores me.
Erik keeps rubbing against me, a cruel frottage that is driving my body toward burning heights of ecstasy without giving me what I need the most. I am on edge. It won’t take much of this to undo me entirely.
I’m tempted to release the rope, if only to strip the clothes between us and force him to take action.
But I understand that if I let myself go, it will all be over instantly. Gone as if a dream. This is only happening because Erik is in control, which he will never cede. This goes as far as he needs it to.
My wants are nothing.
Still, I must beg. I am too close.
“Erik,” I gasp.
He seems to like it when I say his name. He growls and buries his face in my throat. The hard edge of his teeth run along my jugular.
His pelvis angles against mine, hitting just the right spot over and over again.
“You will come for me,” he says.
I want to obey him like I’ve never wanted anything else in my life.
The command takes me to a higher place, a place beyond rational thought, where I feel nothing but his hands on my ribcage and the place our bodies meet between my legs.
I think I’ve whispered his name again. It falls from my tongue like a prayer.
His hand kneads my breast.
“Yes,” he says. And again, “
I try to warn him, but don’t manage to finish the sentence. “I’m going to—”
Words escape me.
The world unfolds and explodes into a thousand pieces.
My mind is filled with a tuneless song, vision blurring, every muscle clenching. I strain against the ropes as my muscles spasm. My knees dig into his ribcage, my heels pressing against the small of his back, gripping him harder against me.
Distantly, I’m aware that he’s put his hand behind my head so that I don’t crack my skull on the wall as I orgasm.
I am without body or mind.
But eventually, I come down, as I must. My arms have lost strength. I am a limp noodle dangling from the silver hook on his wall. Erik still supports much of my weight with his body, stroking hungry hands down my sides, up my thighs, tangling his fingers in my blond curls. He can’t seem to get enough of touching me.
Erik has brought me to climax with nothing but a few thrusts of his body through my clothing. We still haven’t even removed any clothing.
What could he do to me if I gave him everything?
“Beautiful,” he says, lips tickling the side of my throat. His fingers find my nipple through my shirt once more. I am immediately exhausted from the force of orgasm, but the skin still puckers to a hardened peak again, responding to his demands in the only way I can.
I’d like to say something to him, but there are no words.
He’s stroking me again. Rubbing his hips against mine. Awakening my core.
And I am his.
I won’t find out until later, but Raoul did return to pick me up while I was lost in Erik’s dark world below.
The camera footage will show him ringing the bell outside the gate for several minutes and frowning when there’s no response. He paces from one side to the other, pushing up his sleeve to check his watch.
Raoul Chance makes several phone calls. Records will show that he attempted to contact my cell phone—a number he testifies that he found in Durand-Price’s employee directory—and then Erik Duke’s phone, before calling back to the publisher to see if anyone has heard from me.
He drives away after fifteen minutes, comes back in another fifteen, tries to ring the doorbell again.
The police will ask him why he was so persistent about trying to get inside. Raoul’s testimony will say that he was worried about me and that he did not trust Erik Duke.
Later, a lawyer asks him, “Why? Why didn’t you trust Mr. Duke? What gave you the impression that you should be concerned about an author’s assistant working at her client’s house, when you hadn’t even met Mr. Duke prior to the incident in question?”
“Because I thought she looked nervous when I left,” Raoul will reply.
They ask him many questions about that footage, and the footage of our initial conversation.
They will also ask him why he didn’t immediately attempt to contact the police if he was so worried about me.
Raoul never provides an answer they find satisfactory.
At the time that he is ringing the bell, I’m entirely unaware that anything is happening. I don’t know that Raoul is worried about me. I don’t even remember that he invited me to dinner at the time.
For me, there is only Erik.
I wake up somewhere dark and unfamiliar.
The wall beside me is water-stained concrete. The floor is packed dirt. I’m resting in a bed that I’ve never seen before in my entire life.
Terror grips me immediately, closing my throat, filling my head with a buzz like a hive of bees.
Where am I? Get a grip, Christine!
The bed doesn’t match the stained walls. It’s an antique four-poster covered in elaborate carvings. Vines and leaves and even little insects that look like they should be too fragile to be cut from the same piece of wood.
The headboard has been hand-carved, too. There is a forest scene on it. A frightened doe standing in a clearing underneath the trees.
Gauzy white cloth arches over the mattress. I can make out large shapes beyond those translucent walls: heavy machinery, a classic car, stacks of crates.
It’s only when I identify the harvester that I realize that I’m still in Erik Duke’s basement.
The man himself is nowhere in sight.
The bed, like everything else, is a prop from one of his books. This bed is from one of his early gothic masterpieces. I can’t remember the title at the moment; rational thought has fled.
Clenching my fists in the silken sheets, I lift them to find that I’m still dressed, aside from my absent shoes.
Erik carried me to the heights of ecstasy multiple times without removing my clothes. I must have passed out at some point, and still, he didn’t violate that barrier. He only carried me to bed.
How long have I slept?
What have I done?
I’m feeling sick to my stomach. Everything that happened in Erik’s basement seemed like a good idea while it was happening. Now that I’m alone, surrounded by gauzy curtains and the carvings of a forest scene, it seems much worse.
Erik’s a client. More than that, he’s one of the biggest names at Durand-Price, rivaled only by Sylvia Stone and her commercial women’s fiction. Becoming intimate with him must violate my contract in some way. It certainly violates every single ethical line that I can think of.
There’s a reason that professional distance should be maintained between author and assistant. If I were to make him angry, he could walk away from the publishing company easily.
And I know exactly what would happen to me if Grosvenor found out why a star author walked and took billions of dollars with him.
Visions of litigation flash through my mind.
Oh, Christine, you idiot.
But even while I’m having quiet freak-outs in Erik’s underground bed, my body is warming at the very thought of his name again.
He knew all of the right ways to touch me. He made my body sing.
I want more.
Definitely an idiot
Slipping from bed, I find the basement disturbingly cold and still. The shadows seem deeper than when I passed out. It hadn’t seemed quite so overwhelmingly huge when I’d been at Erik’s side—nor when I’d been tied to his wall.
My wrists are sore. It feels good, in a way.
Shadows dance over the floor. I round the car to find the man himself at his desk, lit only by a single lamp that is much too small to penetrate the deepest darkness of the room. It casts him in silhouette.
Erik is beating away at his typewriter with so much vigor that it seems he’s trying to break the thing. A precarious stack of papers waits on the edge of the desk. Apparently, we have broken his writer’s block.
He doesn’t see me. He is lost in his book.
My feet don’t make a sound as I pad through the room, skirting the light from Erik’s desk lamp. I won’t disturb him while he’s writing. I might have acted entirely unprofessionally, but I can still be a good author’s assistant.
But I don’t leave, either.
Erik is distracted, and I am essentially alone in his lair. The place where all his books are born.
The opportunity to explore is too sweet.
I permit myself a little tour through props representing Erik’s various bestsellers. The internet conspiracy theorists would be disappointed to see how few torture devices he possesses, though he does have a chainsaw mounted on his wall alongside a few exotic-looking swords.
It’s impossible to open any of his crates without making too much noise, so I limit myself to perusing the objects that are scattered about various tables. He has so many interesting knickknacks. Statuettes of animals, little machines, some jewelry.
Nothing is labeled, but I can connect almost everything I find to one of his books.
He really is quite the collector.
The bookshelves draw me to the edge of the room. I trace my fingers over the spines as I read the titles.
At first, I’m surprised to realize he has an entire shelf of Sylvia Stone books. Then I realize it’s only her last several releases.
The books I’ve written for her.
He has them in multiple languages, too. And not just in paperback, but the hardback releases, and even a couple of audiobook editions on CD. In fact—and I can’t be entirely certain of this—it seems that he might have every edition of every book I have ghostwritten for Sylvia.
I think I’m flattered.
But a sense of unease passes through me as I recall the way that Erik had described his current book to me.
David has been obsessed with Clara for a long time, though she doesn’t have a clue… He’s been dreaming about Clara, thinking about what he wishes he could do to her…
I shiver. The darkness of the basement is getting to me.
There is a photo album tucked among the books on the shelf above the Sylvia Stone novels. I tuck a curl behind my ear, bite my bottom lip.
A photo album.
That should probably be the place I draw the line. It’s little better than looking at someone’s diary.