Lipstick and Handguns [Lawful Disorder 1]
M/M Erotic Suspense Coming April 7th!
Sidney screamed and sobbed around the ball gag in his mouth. With no windows, no sunlight, the days and nights blurred together. The passing hours held no meaning. Time didn’t stand still, but seemed to drag out into one, long, miserable nothingness.
He knelt on the concrete floor, naked and shaking, a steel spreader clamped around his ankles to hold his legs apart. Manacles surrounded his wrists, connecting to a chain embedded high in the stone wall, stretching his arms over his head until his muscles and joints roared in protest.
Screaming again, he sagged against his restraints when another crack of the whip sent blazing heat spreading across his back. Sensing more than hearing the movement behind him, he cringed, and long, cold fingers wrapped around his throat, cutting off his air supply.
He prayed they would kill him this time. Anything to stop the pain.
Just as suddenly as it came, the hand released his throat, and Sidney sucked in as much oxygen as he could around the rubber ball in his mouth.
“I’m done with this one. There’s no will left in him.” He heard the callous voice speak from somewhere in the corner of the dimly lit room. He had seen the man’s face, looked into the eyes of the demon, and knew he’d never leave his cell alive.
“Should I find another to replace him, sir?”
He had seen that man as well, though this one never touched him. His calm, soft, refined voice did not match his mammoth size at all. Sidney fought the urge to giggle. Perhaps the pain had finally driven him to the point of delirium.
“Not yet. I have two that should sell nicely. I want to find out what makes them different so that we can refine our search.” The man sighed heavily. “Buyers want well-trained slaves to wet their carnal appetites—slaves who can take their punishment and beg for more. This one is…defective.”
“Very good, sir. Shall I dispose of this one?”
Sidney didn’t even have the strength left to be afraid. All he knew is that he wanted it to end. However it happened, he just wanted it to end.
“Yes. I’m afraid the time has come to terminate our association. Just dump him as usual. He can’t even stand, let alone swim.”
“As you wish.”
* * * *
Gentle hands lifted Sidney from the trunk of the vehicle. Too exhausted to care, he let his head lull against the warm expanse of a muscular chest. Water pelted his naked body, and a rumbling roar sounded in the distance.
“I’m very sorry about this, my dear.”
Sidney didn’t respond. What was he supposed to say? “Yeah, I’m sorry you have to off me. That must be horrible for you.”
The rocking ceased, and that smooth voice whispered to him, “Be at peace, little one.” Then the arms dropped way, and Sidney plummeted through the air.
The icy water felt like needles against his bare skin. The shock of it penetrated the numbness he had shrouded himself in during his captivity. Raw adrenaline coursed through his veins, clearing his mind and gnawing at his survival instinct. Free at last, he wanted to live.
Now, if he could just reach the shore. With his arms roped behind his back and his ankles tied together, the pier would be of little help if he couldn’t grab on to it. His body undernourished and weak from his beatings, every movement caused him pain and depleted his small supply of energy. Even if he managed to get a hold on the dock, he wouldn’t be able to maintain it for long.
Rocking his body and kicking his feet together like a dolphin, he ground his teeth together as pain lanced through his body.
Fighting against the agony and bitter coldness of the water, he wiggled his body in small waves, pushing through the water with weak but steady strokes of his feet. His muscles ached and throbbed, protesting the effort. His lungs screamed, and his head spun from lack of oxygen.
If his captor waited on the dock, Sidney was dead. If he didn’t get air to his aching lungs soon, he was dead. Though neither option appealed to him, drowning held the least merit. He’d endured too much for too long to end up with a belly full of the disgusting bay water.
Changing directions, he ceased his trek toward the shore and rose upward, straining for the surface.
One last kick, and Sidney’s head broke through the water. He gasped, pulling in one lungful of air after another as he tried frantically to keep his nose above the water. Fat raindrops splashed off the surface of the water and splattered against his face. Lightning slashed across the sky, zipping from cloud to cloud, sizzling the air, and illuminating the empty dock.
The relief lasted only seconds before realization dawned that he now floated several hundred yards away for the shore. In the dark, murky depths of the freezing water, he’d inadvertently woven his way in the wrong direction.
Panic and depression waged battle, and Sidney almost burst into tears. The choppy waves created by the storm beat against him incessantly, demanding his sacrifice by dragging him to the floor of the harbor.
* * * *
“They found Sidney Kessler,” Michael said without preamble when Ryder answered the phone. The wooden spoon dropped from his hand and into the pot on the stove, splashing spaghetti sauce everywhere. Cursing and muttering under his breath, he turned off the burner and reached for a dishtowel.
“In the harbor, I’m guessing.”
Almost six months since the little redhead had gone missing, Ryder couldn’t think of anywhere else they could have found him. They’d questioned everyone the kid worked with and half the residents in the apartment complex he lived in. As with all the victims, no had seen anything. No one knew anything.
For damn near a year, they’d been running in circles and getting nowhere on this case. Some days Ryder just wanted to pack it all in and run off to Bora Bora.
“We’ll go by the coroner’s office in the morning.” Ryder’s stomach churned and his heart ached at the thought of losing another one. Though he knew he shouldn’t, he took the loss personally, feeling he had failed…again.
“Ry, Sidney Kes—”
“I know Michael, but the body isn’t going anywhere. Unless they need us at the harbor, it can wait until morning.”
A loud banging came from the front door. Frowning, Ryder wound his way around the kitchen table and hurried across the living room.
His frown deepened as he checked through the peephole and saw Michael standing on the porch, cell phone to his ear, and dripping wet from the storm.
Quickly disengaging the deadbolt, Ryder threw open the door and stared at his disheveled partner.
“He’s alive, Ry.”
His jaw dropped, and he reached out, gripping Michael’s jacket and yanking him through the doorway. “What do you mean he’s alive? You said…but…he…the harbor.”
Michael held up a hand to stop Ryder’s rambling. “Some guy spotted him in the harbor.” He rolled his eyes and snorted. “He had it all planned out to take an epic header off the bridge. I guess they saved each other. Guy thinks he’s a damn hero now.”
Ryder had stopped listening. Sidney Kessler was alive. “Where’d they take him?”
“He’s in ICU at Mercy Memorial.”
Michael nodded and headed back out into the storm. Ryder grabbed his jacket and pulled his shoulder holster and police issued handgun from the top of the closet. Shrugging everything on, he ducked his head against the torrential downpour and hurried after his partner.
Wild and heedless, tires slid on the rain-slicked asphalt as Michael took corners at reckless speeds. The sedan shimmied and stuttered, barreling through small lakes of standing water, while the wipers worked feverishly to clear the raindrops that pinged against the glass. Thunder cracked overhead, vibrating Ryder down to his bones as he held the door handle in a death grip.
Remarkably, they made it the hospital in one piece. Jumping from the vehicle, the pair made their way inside and up to the fourth floor, right to the ICU. Two uniformed police officers stood guard outside the door to Sidney’s room. Michael and Ryder flashed their badges, ignoring the nurse that tried to prevent them from entering the room, and eased around the curtain.
Ryder’s chest tightened, and he had to swallow several times past the burning in his throat as he took in the frail man lying on the bed.
Sidney Kessler appeared even smaller than in his photograph. His pale skin stretched tightly across his protruding collarbones, showcasing just how much weight he had lost during his months of captivity. A brilliant purple bruise spread over his swollen left cheek, the skin red and raw around the corners of his mouth, and white gauze bandages wrapped his chest and arms like a mummy.
Taking a deep breath and wiping any emotion from his visage, Ryder pushed his personal feelings away. He had a job to do.
A small whimpering noise killed his new resolve, and he rushed across the room to kneel beside the bed. Placing his hand gently against the boy’s temple, he leaned closer until they were eye to eye. “Shh. It’s okay. I’m Detective Ward. You’re safe now.”
Opened but unfocused, Sidney’s eyes held a terror and desperation that ate away at Ryder’s steely facade. He wanted nothing more than to pull the man into his arms and make it all disappear. Confused and unnerved by the feeling, he pushed it away, but didn’t remove his palm from Sidney’s face.