Authors: Elle Kennedy
Advance Praise for
“With a large cast of colorful characters, multiple intertwined plot threads, and sick, twisted villains,
is a high-stakes story about overcoming the darkest, most depraved side of humanity. Fans will be eager to see what Ms. Kennedy has in store for her mercenaries.”
—Shannon K. Butcher, author of the Edge series
Praise for Elle Kennedy
and Her Other Novels
“A must read.”
—Fallen Angel Reviews
“An undeniably erotic story.… The sex scenes are incredible and the characters are compelling… a great read!”
“A top-notch tale.”
“Elle Kennedy makes her characters sexy, lovable, and realistic.”
“[A] heart-wrenching, sensual story that will make you laugh and cry as the characters come to life before your very eyes… this is one emotional roller-coaster ride you don’t want to miss.”
—Long and Short Reviews
A KILLER INSTINCTS NOVEL
A SIGNET ECLIPSE BOOK
Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, May 2012
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Copyright © Leeanne Kenedy, 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Writing a book is a solitary process, but I couldn’t have done it without the support, guidance, and encouragement of some very wonderful people:
Jesse Feldman, my editor at NAL, whose advice is always spot-on and whose faith in this series is utterly contagious.
My agent, Don Fehr at Trident Media Group, for taking me under his wing and finding this series a good home.
And, of course, my family and friends, who continue to encourage me—and who don’t take offense when I repeatedly cancel plans by giving my trademark excuse: I have to write!
“Are you ready to talk?”
Abby cranked open her right eye—the left one was too swollen—and stared up at the harsh face of her captor. It was an unpleasant face, a menacing one. Pale blue eyes cold enough to freeze an ocean, hollow cheeks, a two-inch diagonal scar slicing his left cheek.
His thin lips curled in an angry frown. “Who are you? Who do you work for?”
She kept silent.
Gripping the whip in one hand, he crept closer, catlike. “Still determined to stay quiet?” He smirked. “That will change. A few more visits with me and you’ll reconsider.”
He raised the whip high over his head. It sliced through the air with a hiss and connected with her bare stomach. Pain jolted through her.
Block it out. They can hurt you only if you let them.
The whip slapped her thighs. Her hands were bound,
tied to a rusty pipe over her head. Her feet suffered the same fate, attached to a metal peg protruding from the cold stone floor. The room smelled like sweat and blood.
Mind over matter.
He can’t hurt you.
Abby repeated the mantra in her head, hoping to convince her aching, bleeding body that the whip couldn’t hurt it. She didn’t know how much longer she could take this.
“Turn her around,” Devlin ordered the silent guard by the door. “No need to damage those breasts any further.” He leaned closer, his faint British accent becoming more pronounced as he murmured, “Are they real, luv? I’d bet they are.” He touched the bloody welt on her right breast, then pinched her nipple.
Abby spat in his face.
“Bitch.” He retaliated with a vicious backhand.
The guard approached and turned her body around without untying any of the ropes. Her wrists twisted in an unnatural way, drawing a soundless yelp of pain from her swollen lips. One wrist was definitely sprained, if not broken.
“Who are you?” Devlin whispered in her ear. His hot breath fanned across her neck in a sadistic caress.
She mumbled something under her breath.
He pulled her hair. Hard. Almost tugging it out by the roots. “What was that?”
“I said I’m your worst nightmare.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “Ah, I knew you weren’t the pussycat Blanco claimed you were. I had your number the moment you spilled your drink in his lap at the bistro.” He chuckled. “Clumsy, clumsy Erica,
with her big blue eyes and fragile little body. What’s your real name, luv? C’mon, tell me. It’ll be our little secret.”
She feigned boredom. “Call me whatever you want, Devlin.”
Devlin dragged one finger along her spine. “I admit I liked you better when you were refusing to talk.”
He made a
ing noise and stepped away. A second later the whip cut into her lower back.
“Who are you?”
“Who sent you?”
The whip sliced her skin.
“It’ll be better for both of us if you talk. I truly hate hurting you like this.”
She fought a wave of nausea. Her ears started to buzz. “Liar,” she said, wheezing. “You love every minute of what you’re doing to me.”
He gave a deep laugh. “Ah, but there might be some truth to that.”
Another lash. Two more. Three. Water poured down her skin. No, not water. Blood. The stench of it filled the air. Oh God, her body hurt. Ted had really worked her over this time.
No, not Ted. That was a long time ago. Wasn’t it? Her head started to spin. Nothing made sense anymore.
“I will break you,” Devlin murmured. “Sooner or later, luv, I will break you.”
She bit her lip. It bled.
He raised his fist and a second later it came crashing down on her jaw.
Then everything went black.
When she awoke, she was back in the cell. It was night. Or afternoon. Hard to tell. It was always dark in the cell. With a groan, Abby tried to sit up but failed.
Block it out. Sit up.
She tried again, this time managing to lift herself up. As she nearly keeled over, she braced her hand on the cold ground to steady herself. Bad idea. Her broken wrist objected to being put into use.
Head spinning again.
Blood drumming in her ears.
When she came to the second time, the faint sound of voices drifted from the end of the dark hall. They would come for her again. Soon. But she wasn’t going to talk, no matter how many beatings they forced her to endure. It would get worse. She knew it would. Soon the beatings would become rapes and the rapes would become torture. But torture would not lead to death. Oh no. Blanco wanted her alive.
She drew in a breath, hoping the oxygen might clear her foggy head. She wiggled her right foot, tilting it to make sure the flesh-colored Band-Aid was still attached to her skin. It was, and she felt the tiny metal key digging into the sole of her foot. She’d swiped the key from one of the guards when they first brought her in here. Managed to get it off the key ring and everything—the moron hadn’t even blinked. Picking pockets was just one of the many skills with which Jeremy had supplied her. She wouldn’t use the key, though. Not yet.
Not until the time was right.