Authors: Nina Lane
THE EROTIC DARK
Copyright © 2012 by Nina Lane
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This book contains graphic sexual scenarios which some readers might find objectionable, including dubious consent, BDSM, spanking, whipping, caning, and enforced female submission.
This book is for sale to adults only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made this purchase. The author and publisher are not responsible for any loss, harm, injury, or death resulting from the information and practices described within this work. Please engage in safe, consensual sexual practices only.
Three men stood on the wrought-iron balcony, their gazes directed with unerring precision toward a woman walking on the street below. Ropes of wisteria, their petals and leaves moist with morning dew, twisted around the curvilinear bars of the balcony. Wisps of fog clung to the air as the sun began a slow scorching of the city streets.
The woman wore white, slim-fitting cotton pants and a striped shirt that reached mid-thigh. Her feet were encased in strapped sandals, and she carried a large, leather bag over her shoulder. She moved well, with an easy, purposeful gait, as if knowing her destination and how she would arrive there.
The men were not able to fully view her face, for her eyes were shielded by a pair of dark glasses, but her high cheekbones sloped downward to a strong chin and a mouth that carried the promise of sensuality. Her straight, brown hair fell to her shoulders, capturing and holding the watery glow of the sun.
Two of the men had been informed that the woman was not beautiful, but none was seeking beauty in its conventional form.
“What is her name?” one of the men asked.
Preston Severine looked away from the woman, reaching for a paper-thin china cup filled with coffee. He inhaled deeply, appreciating the dark, chicory scent. “We will call her Lydia.”
Preston settled into a chair and nodded.
“She is…aware, shall we say.” A corner of his mouth lifted in a slight smile. “I wouldn’t say that anyone truly knows.”
He sipped the rich coffee and returned his gaze to the woman. His next words were soft and certain.
“I believe she will do very nicely.”
Swamps edged the perimeter of the plantation grounds. The wet heat rising from the waters had caused the wooden casing of the house to warp, giving it an air of forgotten elegance. Antique white in color and accented with green shutters and trim, the house stood in the middle of the grounds like a lord presiding over his underlings.
Willow trees dipped and swayed in the hot breeze wafting from the south, and wild vines climbed rampantly over trestles. Disorder ruled the garden, plants and flowers taking freedom in the humid warmth of the Louisiana climate as they stretched over fountains and flagstone paths, invading the territory as if claiming it for their own.
She sat on a wooden garden bench, the rich scent of gardenias rising around her. Her body was taut with defiance, a sharp contrast to the yielding vegetation and atmosphere of succulence. A heavy silence hung in the air, broken only by the call of birds and the rhythmic buzz of insects.
A noise came from behind her, and she turned to look for the source. The tall, broad-shouldered man stepped onto the wraparound veranda. She suspected he had Creole blood; the evidence lay in the fathomless depths of his black eyes and the light coffee-colored skin stretched over the sharp planes of his face.
His name was Kruin. It sounded exotic and strange, like a name from the ancient deserts of Egypt or that of a cruel, medieval king.
“Your legs.” His expression was impassive.
Her breath hissed outward in annoyance. She and Kruin looked at each other for a long moment in a silent battle of wills. They both knew who would win.
She would have to become accustomed to that name. She tore her gaze from Kruin and stoically separated her legs from their crossed position, both a symbolic and physical expression of her availability.
The posture had been the very first thing she learned in this place that was both her haven and her prison.
When she had first arrived—had it really only been two days ago?—Kruin had been the one to take the small valise she carried, murmuring in his deep voice that she would not be needing it. She had followed him down the dusty road leading to
La Nouvelle Vie
and into the foyer, her gaze moving over the flowing curves of the staircase, the chandelier overhead, the polished, hardwood floors.
Lydia’s stomach had tightened with nerves and apprehension of the unknown. She looked down at her hands, the neat, manicured nails that required little or no polish, the small scar on her forefinger from a minor accident when she was a child. No rings, not even the sterling silver band that had once belonged to her grandmother. She was to wear no jewelry, Preston had said, no cosmetics unless they told her to.
Preston appeared then through a set of carved, mahogany doors. Blond-haired and handsome with strong, aristocratic features, he looked the epitome of a regal man in command. He wore black trousers and a crisp white, linen shirt that bore no wrinkles despite the heat.
He smiled at Lydia and kissed her cheek. “Your trip was fine?”
“Yes.” Lydia’s voice was icy, her posture rigid despite Preston’s welcoming demeanor. He had once been a childhood friend, but she had not seen him for over ten years until just last month.
“Good.” Preston smiled again, appearing not to notice her tension. “Come and have some tea, then.”
He took her arm and led her into the drawing room.
Velvet drapes were pulled back from the high windows that dominated the room, allowing the eerie twilight of dusk to permeate the air. Elegant antique furniture gave the room an atmosphere of the past. Lydia silently approved. The archaic house and grounds of
La Nouvelle Vie
cried out for heirlooms and history.
There Preston had introduced her to the youngest of the three men, Gabriel, tall with thick, black hair, sea-green eyes, and an aura of gentleness that the other two men lacked. He gave her a smile that was both welcoming and reassuring, as if he understood her anxiety. A pale glimmer of solace went through Lydia as she murmured a greeting.
“Please sit down.” Preston walked to a nearby tea setting and lifted a silver carafe.
“I’d prefer to stand.”
Preston’s eyes flashed in warning. “Sit down, Lydia.”
Lydia sat stiffly on the edge of a chair. She shot both Gabriel and Kruin quick glances, but their expressions revealed nothing. Preston handed her a cup of tea, then put both hands on her knees and pushed her crossed legs gently apart.
“Never cross your legs in front of us,” he said.
A flush heated Lydia’s face.
“So, Lydia.” Preston settled into a chesterfield across from her. “Is there anything you want to tell Gabriel or Kruin?”
Lydia wondered what kind of answer he expected. She shook her head.
“Perhaps something about why you’re here?” Preston urged.
“You know why I’m here.”
A lengthy silence filled the room, during which the hostile tone of Lydia’s words echoed against the paneled walls. Apprehension tightened in her gut.
Preston placed his cup on a side-table and leaned forward, his eyes on Lydia.
“Let me ask you again,” he suggested, his voice soft. “Why don’t you tell Gabriel and Kruin why you’re here?”
Lydia looked at Gabriel since Kruin’s dark eyes disturbed her. “I want to be here.”
“Because?” Preston prompted.
“Because…” Her voice faltered.
“You’re here of your own free will, aren’t you, Lydia?”
Lydia nodded. Her throat felt tight. Her options had been limited, but Preston’s seductive enticement had broken through her desperation.
To disappear, that’s what you want, isn’t it, darling? If you disappear, you’ll never have to face what you’ve done, never have to confront those who trusted you.
He had explained it in what Lydia thought of as vague detail. She understood what was expected from her and, in return, she would be protected and dissolved. In the eyes of the world, she would no longer exist.
She trusted Preston enough that she knew he was capable of fulfilling his promise. The profits of her vast embezzlement from the corporation she had worked at for years would be placed in a secret bank account, untraceable by the law enforcement agencies who were scurrying about like mice trying to compile evidence against her.
For ten years, she had skimmed the top until the money seemed to accumulate itself despite the luxuries in which she had indulged. Her anger at herself for having been discovered had been mitigated by her knowledge that she needed to escape. Preston had been the first thought in her mind, for over the years she had kept well informed of his insidious ways and connections.
Whatever he was involved with, she had known it was somehow sexual, that Preston’s sharply elegant manner concealed a streak of deviance. Still, that had not stopped her and perhaps even intrigued her. She had sought him out.
But she had not expected this. She recoiled when he first mentioned it, detesting the very idea of surrendering to anyone when she had been so aggressively independent. She refused, of course, even as she knew that it was the least horrific of her choices.
You need to disappear, love. You know I can do that for you.
She hated Preston for placing the choice in front of her, hated him for not helping her without expecting something in return. To be certain, a hidden part of her was curiously mesmerized by the whole idea. The dark corners of her inner self, however, were not areas Lydia had ever considered exploring.
Why won’t you just help me? Why does it have to be this?
It doesn’t. I would never ask you to do anything you didn’t want to do.
I don’t want to do this!
You won’t help me unless I do, will you?
This is utterly your choice. You contacted me, remember? And I promise you nothing, except the unequivocal guarantee that no one will ever find you. You will cease to exist.
Who will I become?
Preston had smiled then.
She understood, even as disgust with Preston and his tactics sickened her. And she also understood her lack of options. The thought of court, penalties, public trials and, ultimately, prison, terrified her more than this.
The damage to her family would be even worse—her father’s campaign for a Senate seat would be destroyed, her mother’s reputation as philanthropist skewered beyond repair. Not to mention her brothers and sisters and God knew how many other members of their extended family.