Authors: Sasha Cain
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Paranormal & Urban, #Futuristic/Sci-Fi
The Celio Series, Book Two
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Sasha Cain
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
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First Faery Rose Edition, 2014
Print ISBN 978-1-62830-270-7
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-271-4
The Celio Series, Book Two
Published in the United States of America
RETURN TO CELIO
Book One of the
Won first place
in the Virginia Romance Writers Contest
Finalist in both
the Valley of the Sun's Hot Prospect Contest
the Heartland Romance Author's
Show Me the Spark Contest
To my family and friends
for all your love and support with the last book
for the endless hours she selflessly sat with me
while I wrote
And to my husband, of course, for all of his inspiration
Pain exploded in Isela’s brain as the back of her head slammed into the wall. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to turn away to escape his breath, which reeked like rotting meat. He pinned her wrists against the wall above her head, his body pressing against hers, holding her in place.
“It will not serve you to make trouble for me, Isela,” he said quietly, so only she could hear him. “If you insist on misbehaving, you will be punished.”
“I didn’t...” Isela started to argue, but quickly thought better of it as his fingers dug into her flesh.
She winced inwardly at the pain, but refused to let him see it. She knew what he was capable of. She’d seen his cruelty with her own eyes. He liked making an example of her to the others, so there was no need to rile him.
“I will get my way, Isela. My plans will come to be. You can’t stop me. I won’t allow it.”
She glanced around at the other men in the room, standing guard. She wondered if they really believed in him or if they too, lived in fear of this dictator’s wrath.
He may have run this prison, but she’d never let him control her...not like he’d dominated her mother. She choked back a sob at the thought of Mama.
Isela knew for certain that Guarros, or the warden, as he insisted they call him, was to blame for her mother’s death, but she’d never been able to prove it. Not that it would’ve mattered. He’d never be brought to justice. He was the law around here, and his puppets would never stand against him.
So while she was stuck serving him for now, imprisoned for no other reason than Warden Guarros had chosen that as her fate, she wasn’t without hope. Someday she would escape. She’d wait, enduring the torment he delivered, like she always had, and when the opportunity presented itself, she’d run, freeing herself of this hell...and of him.
He clutched her cheeks between his fingers and his thumb, squishing up her face and forcing her to look at him.
“Do you doubt me?” he asked smugly, with a smirk.
Isela considered spitting in his face, but quickly decided she’d rather not receive the beating that would undoubtedly follow. She jerked her head free of his grasp.
Her mother’s face flashed before her eyes and her rage toward her incarcerator returned.
“I know what you are,” she hissed, “and others will know too.”
He backhanded her across the face, dropping her to her knees, shouting, “You will learn to submit to me, Isela! Just as your mother did.”
Isela didn’t raise her gaze to his. She refused to let him see the hatred her eyes held, so she remained on her hands and knees staring at the cold stone floor until she heard the sound of his boots retreating and the door slamming behind him.
Mae, one of the other servants, ran to her. She slipped her arm around Isela’s waist and pulled her to her feet.
“Why do you talk back to him like that, Isela?” her friend asked. “You know it makes him furious. He took us in...All of us. It could be worse, you know. We could have to survive out there.”
Mae nodded toward the locked double-doors leading out into Midland, the untamed dangerous land where they lived.
“No, Mae, he only took us in to serve him, to work all day living among criminals with little or no protection. He led my mother to believe he cared for her after my father died, but that was only to get control over her. He did nothing but use her. When he tired of her he killed her. He’s a sadistic bastard. You’d be better off to realize that.”
Mae chewed her bottom lip, glancing around. “You shouldn’t say such things out loud,” she whispered. “If he hears you...”
“I think I’d rather take my chances with the scabras and viocomen.”
Mae gasped. “Don’t say that, Isela. Please.”
Isela sighed. She’d never seen a scabra or a viocomen, but she’d certainly heard of the violent, man-eating monsters that roamed Midland. There were hunters that patrolled, trying to keep the people who lived there safe. Trouble was, they couldn’t be everywhere and there were more monsters than hunters.
Isela had lived in Midland her whole life. Her father had been a hunter and her mother, a maid to the warden. When her father was killed by a molterg, another kind of monster in the Outer Rim, the only place more dangerous than Midland, their landlord, the warden’s brother, raised their rent, making their home unaffordable on her mother’s salary.
Warden Guarros offered her mother a room in the prison in exchange for her service to him. With no other options and a ten-year-old daughter, her mother had accepted.
Isela’s stomach rolled as she recalled the nights the warden would come into their room, usually after he’d been drinking. She’d always pretended to be asleep, but she’d never been able to block out the smell of the alcohol or the sounds of her mother pleading with Guarros to stop as he groped her and made his demands. She’d beg him to be quiet so as not to wake Isela, but he’d ignored her pleas. He’d merely slap her around until she submitted.
Her mother’s soft sobbing along with Guarros’ grunts of pleasure would haunt Isela forever. No man would ever touch her like that...ever.
Isela shook her head, clearing her mind of the vivid memory. She smiled at Mae, slinging her arm over the girl’s meaty shoulder. Isela was a good head and shoulders taller than Mae, with wild red hair and sparkling aqua eyes, a contrast to Mae’s short, tight brown curls and frightened brown eyes. Isela’s slender build made her seem frail at times, but anyone who challenged her would be a fool to underestimate her strength.
“Let’s go find something to do to take our minds off all this doom and gloom,” Isela said, getting Mae to relax and smile back.
They wandered into what the warden referred to, ironically, as the parlor. It was where the inmates and the few servants received their work orders. A large board hung on the wall, names on one side, corresponding duties on the other. Guards patrolled throughout all of the prison’s common areas to keep everyone in line. Isela found her assignment and sighed. Mopping...again.
No sense griping about it. She went to the supply closet, pulled out the mop, bucket, and soap, and got to work. She enjoyed listening to the inmates’ conversations to pass the time. Otherwise, pushing the mop around tended to be extremely mind-numbing.
She especially liked it when the men spoke in hushed tones about “the other world.” They talked of another place that they came from, how they came through a door and fell into the Outer Rim of Celio.
A parallel universe they called it...with brightly lit up cities, with names like New York and Miami, that came on like magic. Contraptions they called cars that took them from place to place. Not like here in Celio, where people walked everywhere.
Cooking was done without fire and in much less time. There were even machines that washed clothes. The men talked of things that sounded completely far-fetched, like television and cell phones. One man tried to tell her he’d been able to communicate with anyone in the world by the touch of a button, using something called a computer.
Isela had laughed. Who was he kidding? Everyone, regardless of where in Celio they were from, knew such things didn’t exist in this world. But if they did in another world it would certainly be worth looking into.
The way they told it, the prison was a much better place to be than the Outer Rim, a barren wasteland filled with giant, man-eating monsters and few places where you could escape them. Here in Midland, the middle section of Celio, wasn’t much better. The scabras and viocomen might not be huge, but they were certainly dangerous. If they got a hold of you, you were as good as dinner.
The only safe place to live in Celio was Inland. Supposedly, it was beautiful and tranquil, with no monsters, where everyone was happy and safe. Isela believed in that about as much as she believed in the “other world.”
The men claimed there were millions of people in this other world, and no monsters. Isela tried to imagine a place where she could wander free, not having to worry about being devoured by hideous creatures. It sounded terribly exciting.
She longed to ask the men questions, but didn’t dare. She would’ve been thought of as foolish if they were, in fact, teasing her, and she didn’t want to appear weak-minded in any way.
Isela finished mopping and went about the rest of her chores. She met up with Mae and their friend, Jerric, for supper when she’d finished.
The servants ate separate from the inmates, although Isela didn’t understand why. There was little distinction between the two, except the white collar the servants wore versus the wider black collars the inmates wore. Not that it mattered. They were all prisoners as far as Isela was concerned.
They stood in line for their food and followed the line to the seating area, a poorly lit windowless room resembling a cave, smelling of smoke and steamed vegetables, with two long wooden tables side by side. They had been sanded rough so they were quite uncomfortable. Guarros said it was to prevent idle lingering. As if.
Cutting his potato in half, Jerric took a bite. Isela wrinkled her nose at the charred piece of meat lying on her plate. The potato looked far more appetizing, and that wasn’t saying much.
“Did you hear?” Jerric asked. “They’re bringing meat in from the farms in Inland tomorrow.”
“No way,” Mae argued. “Why would they spend the money?”
“A couple of guys, ex-hunters, started a farm and apparently they’ve offered the warden a deal.”
Isela shook her head, pushing her food around on her plate. “Allowing outsiders into the prison?” She glanced up at her friends. “That doesn’t sound like Guarros. He’s up to something, no doubt. He never does anything unless it benefits him.”
“I know. I just can’t figure out what it is,” Jerric agreed.
After their meal, the friends parted ways, each going to their own rooms. Isela had been moved to a smaller room right after her mother’s death, which suited her just fine. It made it easier to block out the memories of Guarros abusing her mother night after night.
Her room, like all of the basement servant rooms, was small, with a hard stone floor and a narrow bed against the wall. A chest at the foot of the bed held all of Isela’s belongings. A basin for washing sat on the chest.