“That was so cool!” Cain exclaimed and gave Lisa a friendly jab to her shoulder.
“You lasted way longer than any of those cowboys did!” Marcus chimed in.
“Boys, don’t encourage her,” their mother said, in a stern voice. Lisa smiled at her brothers despite her mother’s tone.
“She’s a cowboy alright,” Jeffrey added.
Lisa smiled when he winked at her. She hadn’t climbed on the horse with any intentions other than to try something that looked fun, but her brothers were so proud of her, she couldn’t help but be excited. She could tell by the look on her father’s face, that he too was impressed, but trying hard to not show it.
In fact, if her mother had been truly angry, she would be saying much more than she was. And, come to think of it, her mother kept looking out of the window of the limousine as they drove on. Lisa leaned forward for a better look … it was true! Her mother was trying to stifle a smile.
‘You’re not really angry!” Lisa exclaimed. Unable to restrain herself any more, her mother out right laughed.
“And you accuse me of encouraging her!” Lisa’s father joked.
“Admit it Mom,” Jeffrey said, “when you realized it was Lisa on that horse, you loved it!”
“Now Jeffrey … “
“Come on Sharon, who do you think you’re kidding. You had the boys and Lisa on horses, skiis, water skiis, at shooting ranges, parachuting for Christ sakes, all before their 5th birthdays. I hardly think you were surprised to see Lisa on that horse … and I think you were more tickled by it than all of us combined!” Her father said while laughing.
Lisa loved that laugh. He often laughed that way when they did things together, whether it was speeding down a mountain side while skiing, or fixing the bathroom plumbing, it didn’t seem to matter. She looked at her family around her. Her mother and father. Her oldest brother Jeffrey, at 22 years old, he was four years older than her. Cain, 21 years old, and Marcus 19 years old … nothing made her happier than her family. She loved those faces, and it felt so good to see her parents laughing again. For the past few days they had been so serious, so nervous.
Suddenly, something didn’t feel right. Uneasiness began to grow in the pit of Lisa’s stomach.
“Alright Jacob,” Sharon gave in, hands raised in surrender, “but just because I believe in letting my children experience a wide range of activities doesn’t mean I want my child to be trampled by a wild horse.” A giggle escaped her. “But did you see the faces on those people?” she demanded. “Those ranch hands couldn’t stay on that horse for more than a couple of seconds. Lisa … you did just as well as they did! But whatever possessed you to do it?”
Lisa shrugged, confused by the dread that was beginning to grow in her.
“Language Jeffrey … “ Their mother said wagging her finger at him.
There was something wrong … something about this moment with her family seemed so familiar, like it had happened before.
“Lisa, you have to stop and think sometimes,” her mother continued. “You can’t just do everything on impulse. It’s going to get you in trouble some time.”
“You’re mother is right Lisa …” her father began, just like she knew he would, and not just because he always did. This had happened before.
“Dad, “she said, suddenly grasping her father’s hand, and then her mother’s. “Are we safe now? Is it all over?” Suddenly the smiles were gone from her parents’ faces. Jeffery, Cain and Marcus all looked at their parents expectantly.
“Not yet,” their mother replied, squeezing Lisa’s hand in hers. “We’re safe with Wesley driving, and some of Mommy and Daddy’s friends protecting us … “ she nodded her head at the back window, where a grey sedan followed close behind their car, and to the front, where a cream colored station wagon led the way. “It won’t be long, don’t worry.”
“Besides, Mom and Dad have their guns … If anything happens they’ll take care of it … hey with all the targets you’ve been hitting at the range … you could take care of it for us,” Jeffrey added with a wink.
Lisa began to shake her head … it wasn’t true. She couldn’t take care of them!
She looked out of the window and saw the beginning of a curve in the road. Something awful was going to happen!
“Stop!” she yelled.
“Lisa, what is it?” her mother asked.
“Stop the car … please!”
Lisa threw off her seatbelt, and scrambled to the window that separated them from the driver and pounded on it.
“Wesley stop! Stop the car!”
“Lisa … sit down!“ she heard her father’s voice say from behind her.
Gun fire erupted from outside the car.
“No! No! No!” Lisa yelled, turning she saw the bodies of her parents, Marcus and Cain tossed around the car like rag dolls.
“Shoot Lisa!” Jeffrey was yelling. Lisa looked down to her hands. She was holding her mother’s gun. She knew she’d picked it up, and she knew she wouldn’t use it. “You can do it Lisa, shoot!” And then there was a sickening thump and Jeffrey’s head seemed to explode.
“No!” she screamed and sat up.
A searing pain shot up her arm, and she threw herself back to relieve it. The handcuff chafed her wrist, and she felt her head hit the headboard. It dazed her for a moment, but then terror pulled her through.
“What the …” a groggy voice said from beside her. She thrashed her body until the heavy arm that lay across her disappeared.
“Mom! Dad! Jeffrey! Cain! Marcus! Come back … please, come back!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. A hand pressed down on her mouth and a heavy body rolled on top of her.
“Shut up Jessica!” a voice hissed, and she recognized it as Angus’.
A whole new sense of horror consumed her. Angus. She was in his room, in his bed. She’d been used already, she remembered now … she could feel the burning between her legs.
It was something they’d started doing in the past few months … she had thought they’d been cruel all along, she hadn’t realized how much worse it could get.
Lisa had thought that their insistence on changing her name from Lisa to Jessica, and treating her like an animal by tying her to a leash, had taken her to the limits of her humiliation.
But she’d been wrong.
None of the mind games, beatings, verbal assaults and intimidations could match the violation she felt when they began to use her body for their enjoyment.
Now Lisa felt the terror grow. Angus would be mad at her for dreaming again … she should have been quieter. He’d use this as an excuse to abuse her again.
Damn him, and damn the others. She thrashed beneath his weight and tried to strike at him with everything she had available to her, but her arms and legs were pinned beneath his body, his hand held her head down.
‘God damn her!’ Angus thought as he tried to hold her still. Why couldn’t she just hurry up and learn her place? Despite being awoken from a deep sleep, he had enough of his wits about him to realize that he’d been hugging her. And it had felt good.
That bitch Beth had been his first and only girlfriend. Once she was gone, he had experienced a few years of lonely existence.
Yes, he had the men Riley, Josh, Scott, Jim, and Kevin when he got out of prison … practically brothers. But no one to share his bed. No one to be his. He knew now without a doubt that he should have listened to his father’s advice about women. If he’d ruled Beth with the same iron fist that his father had ruled his mother … but then there was the irony of it all. In the end it hadn’t turned out so well for his father.
But Jessica was going to be different. From the moment she’d come to them, he had ruled her firmly. Riley’s general directive of making her pay for her family’s sins making the perfect excuse for Angus to discipline her.
But then Riley had made an even better decision.
And it had brought Jessica to Angus’ bed. There he could work out his frustrations.
His frustrations with Beth, his mother, Jessica’s continued and increasingly forceful retaliation strikes. He knew Jessica’s existence was sure to be short lived. Once she was broken, Riley was going to kill her. That was fairly certain. But, deep down, he wanted Jessica.
He wanted her to be his the way that Beth had never been. Now he was beginning to have serious doubts about whether she could ever be broken. It had been nearly a year already and he hadn’t seen even so much as a hint that she was going to give in … that they were going to win.
Angus tightened his hold on Jessica as he felt her try to move again. Why couldn’t she just sleep through the damn night? Give him the chance to hold her the way he wanted, just for one fucking night.
He exhaled as he prepared to say the words that he knew would ruin the night even more. Personally, he’d rather just discipline her, fuck her, and go back to sleep. But Riley’d been quite clear about using Jessica’s emotional pain about her family’s death as a weapon against her.
“They’re dead Jessica. All dead, even that bag of shit uncle of yours.” Well that wasn’t entirely true. Her Godfather, whom Jessica referred to as an uncle had actually survived the attack but gone into hiding. That didn’t matter … if she thought he was dead, so much the better. “They’re gone. But you’re left, left to atone for their sins.”
The men had grown up together, in a close knit group of families who held one unshakable belief … and that was, that government had no place in their lives. Their ancestors had been confederate soldiers, plantation owners, rebels.
No one, and particularly not any northern, bleeding heart, Yankee government, could tell them what guns, land, and people they could own.
From the moment they were born, the men learned that the government was their enemy, and that anything and everything had to be done to stop them from infringing on their God given rights. And their ancestors, parents, and friends did what they had to, to strike back at their oppressors.
Collectively, this group of families called themselves ‘The Clan’. To reduce the possibility of detection, they broke up into cells, each cell worked in concert with the others. The men’s families had formed a cell together. The clan had always been persecuted.
One enemy that turned out to be incredibly effective, was an overly zealous District Attorney, and his equally zealous wife. She was the governor of the state. With all of the power of the state and federal government at their disposal they launched an all out war on the clan. Little by little they destroyed the group. Riley’s father, Angus’ brother, Josh’s parents, Jimmy’s cousin, Scott’s two uncles, all ended-up in prison.
His wife already dead, Riley’s father had taken his own life. Mysterious ‘accidents’ killed off the other imprisoned clan members.
The men had decided to fight back. They attacked the district attorney, his wife and the family. But somehow Jessica had survived the attack. So the men brought home a prize and a new plan. It was simple, make the child of their enemy suffer, break her spirit, make her yield to their every command, and through her humiliation have her repay the debt that her parents owed. They had expected to eventually kill her, let her parents spin around in their graves. But taking Jessica home had its consequences.
Other family groupings within the clan had taken issue with the fact that the men had taken a prisoner. They demanded that she be released, or killed, immediately. They argued that she was a liability. Neither option was acceptable to the men. So, they distanced themselves from the clan. They made it very clear that the members of the clan, were no longer welcome at their home, neither personally or professionally. All business was to be conducted at a neutral site.
So, not only did they lose their family, but even their remaining friends. Just remembering what her parents had done to the clan made his blood boil.
“And do you know what Jessica … when you atone for their sins, I get my rocks off!”
She bit down hard on his hand.
“Damn it!” Angus mumbled. He pushed himself up onto his knees, straddling her. “A fucking year later and you still haven’t learned a thing!” He muttered.
She tried to roll over and curl into a ball. The handcuff chafed her left wrist. She shivered.
“Don’t think so,” he said as he grabbed her arm and tried to turn her onto her back. She fought as much as she could, but he soon pinned her right arm above her head, forced himself between her legs and rammed his way into her as forcefully as he could.
The physical assault over, Angus slid off of her. She rolled onto her side again, drew her legs to her chest and waited for the verbal assault that always followed. She closed her eyes and waited to hear all of the cruel things he’d say about her family, about her, but it never came.
Something soft dropped onto her and she flinched before she realized that it was a blanket. She welcomed the warmth, but she couldn’t accept it. If she accepted this … they would win. He would win. Out of the five of them, she hated Angus the most. The feeling seemed to be mutual, and as she kicked the blanket off, she prepared herself for his wrath.
Why couldn’t she just be weak like the rest of them? Angus wondered. His mother had folded with far less than this. A mere threat to go to jail had made it alright for her to sell her friends and family down the river. And Beth.
He didn’t know who was worse, his chicken shit mother or his two timing whore of an ex-girlfriend. Angus flinched as a memory he thought he’d pushed from his mind for good, came back in vivid detail. Beth, with her ultimate betrayal … a betrayal that made cheating on him pale in comparison by so much that it was practically meaningless.
He now knew the answer. Between Beth and his mom, Beth was by far the worse.
He pushed it from memory. He would not think of it again! He felt like vomiting. He was just relieved that only a few people knew the details of what Beth had done. He wouldn’t have been able to handle the humiliation of others knowing.
But he could make himself feel better. He could drive the humiliation away by taking all his anger out on Jessica.
“Suit yourself,” he said. The contempt in his voice made every hair on her body stand on end. “But I think you know what you’ll have to do to get it back …” He ran his hand along the back of her leg.
She moved her leg. He grabbed her ankle, she jerked it away. As he flipped Jessica onto her back and dragged her toward him by her ankles, Lisa knew by the look on Angus’ face that resistance was futile. But she didn’t care. She had to find a way, but how? He held her legs firmly in his hands, her hands were bound by handcuffs. Her father’s words to her, the words that had sustained her through this all, came back to her. ‘Remember Tiger, in everything, there is an opportunity, it’s up to you to find it.’.
She brought her head back and saw blood flowing from his nose. He looked surprised for only a moment. She barely noticed the throbbing in her forehead … she’d used it often enough now to defend herself, but she still hadn’t gotten used to the stars and pain that accompanied the punches Angus landed on her face. She lay dazed and barely felt Angus’ thrusts into her. She felt proud of herself. She had made him bleed, and the more she could hurt him and the others, the more she lived up to the vow she had made to her family when she’d first come to this God forsaken place.
A pang of guilt nearly brought her to tears. In her mind’s eye, she could see Jeffrey’s face again as he was yelling “Shoot … Lisa, shoot!” Thirteen out of the twenty-one years of her life at that point had been spent on the firing range, she knew guns like she knew her own hands, but when it had been most important, she had failed.
In the next instant, her brother was dead. They were all dead. Everyone but her, and she had let it happen.
When her family’s killers had brought her back here, she had vowed to get even. Not only to relieve her guilt, but she had known about these kinds of people for her whole life. Her parents had told her and her brothers over and over again that the people who would use terror to hold a nation captive, needed to be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. Her parents had made it their life work to do just that, and died because of it. The least she could do was to see their crusade completed. Guilt was quickly replaced with frustration. She had failed in her goal. She had been in this awful place, with these awful men, for the past year. And she had never escaped further then their front door, never harmed them more than some superficial wounds. As Angus rolled off of her and shoved her to the side, she turned on her side and pulled her knees to her chest again. She closed her eyes and cringed. Something had to change. She had to try something new, but she couldn’t think what that would be.
“I bet they’re rolling over in their graves right now,” Angus said from beside her and laughed. “I thought that killing your asshole parents would be the best feeling ever …” he continued, “but you … “ he said rolling her onto her back and taking her breast in his hand, “you’re a gift that keeps on giving.”
She hated him. If she had a gun right then, she would not hesitate to blow his head off. For the moment she had to settle for something much more benign. She summoned up as much phlegm as she could and took aim. She was pleased to see it hit him square in the face.
“You little ….!” he yelled as it splattered over his face. He clenched his fist around her breast and was rewarded with her scream. “This is going to be a long night Princess … hope you’ve caught up on your zzzs …”.
Jimmy choked as coffee came out his nose. Angus had dragged, what looked like a car crash survivor, into the living room on the harness and leash. She sank to the floor cautiously, as if every bit of her hurt. If the rest of her body looked like her face … which he was sure it did … she must have spent the night as Angus’ punching bag, again.
Despite the fact that she went out of her way to egg Angus on, he hadn’t beaten her this badly in a while. When he saw Angus’ face, he knew why. His nose was swollen and a large gash swallowed its bridge. Jimmy felt his heart sink. There had been a week or two of relative calm … blissful calm. He no longer had the stomach for the constant fighting, crying. He saw the same stunned looks on Scott and Josh’s faces. They sat around the table with him.
“Rough night?” Riley asked Angus as he closed the basement door behind him and stood looking at Jessica.
“Yeah, I didn’t get much sleep. I think I wore her down a little for you though … I doubt she’ll be spitting on you much tonight. Hey Jessica … will you?” he sneered at Jessica and tugged on her leash. She flinched, but Riley wasn’t sure if it was from the pain or her continued defiance over the name they’d given her. She knew now that it was in her best interest to respond to the name Jessica, but she certainly didn’t like it.
“Spat at you … “ Riley said more to himself than Angus. He stared at her bowed head. Well, the girl had gumption. She had yet to win the war, but she had won a few battles. Her victories had always been short lived … revenge was the name of their game, and it was revenge they always got … but he had to give her credit for never caving under it. Well, maybe this time she would.
“Riley … “ Jim interrupted. He had been watching Jessica and saw in her expression something he knew all too well. It made his blood run cold. For the first time ever, she looked dejected. He had become an expert at reading that look, telling when people had reached the end of their rope . He’d missed it with his sister … recognizing it for what it was only after she’d killed herself, but he learned quickly to see it in the enemies that he and the men broke. It signaled the time that they would have their final victory … the enemy left in a room with a handgun and a single bullet … that wasn’t something he wanted Jessica to do. He liked her. And although the others didn’t admit it, even to themselves, they liked her to. They’d kidnapped many enemies over the years, and none of them had stayed with them for more than a few days. None of them had so much as sneezed in Angus’ direction without getting a bullet to the head. Even before he began having sex with Jessica, Angus had not killed Jessica … to Jim that spoke volumes.
“Maybe spending the day in the corner will do her some good, “ Riley said. He knew that she hated that corner, and being so sore, hanging from a hook all day would teach her not to provoke Angus anymore.
Jim was about to argue, but once Riley had spoken, Jessica’s usual anger and defiance returned to her face. He felt relief, but only momentarily. How long would it be before they really broke her … and then what. He had to find a way to broker a truce with Jessica. He looked at Scott and Josh. They sat watching Jessica and it was obvious from their expressions that they felt sorry for her. They would never intervene on her behalf … Jim had never either, but with a little prompting, they would. With them on Jessica’s side, Riley and Angus would follow, he was sure of it.
“Maybe she should be naked in the corner … “ Angus added, and laughed when Jessica scrambled to her feet, prepared to fight off any advances.
“Jesus Angus!” Josh muttered. Angus was always threatening to make her walk around naked. It was little wonder Jessica went out of her way to break Angus’ nose whenever she could.
“You willing to try and undress her?” Scott asked not interested in going into battle with her himself at the moment.
“Sounds like a challenge,” Angus said stepping toward Jessica.
“The corner will do, “Riley interrupted.
“Come on Princess,” Angus said tugging on her leash. Jessica leaned back against the harness and dug in her heels.
“I’ll do it,” Jim said to Angus while holding his hand out for the leash, “have some breakfast.”
Angus hesitated not sure that he wanted to pass on the opportunity to show Jessica who was boss. But hell, he’d done nothing but that the night before.
“Knock yourself out Jimbo,“ Angus said handing the leash to Jim, “watch your nose though, she’s fast with her head.”
Jim took the leash.
“Have fun, hanging around,” Angus said to Jessica as he passed her on his way to the kitchen.
Scott and Josh put their dishes on the counter and headed out the front door to begin feeding the horses. Neither one of them could look at Jessica. Jessica had spat at them plenty of times and she’d never ended up looking like that. Angus was a hard man, that was not news to them, but ever since Jessica had come into their lives they had seen first hand just how brutal he could actually be. At a not so deep level, Angus scared the crap out of them. They couldn’t believe that Jessica persistently challenged him like she did. In her attempts to escape, Jessica was as equally brutal as Angus. And though they’d never admit it, they were afraid of her too.
“You gonna watch over her?” Riley asked Jim.
“Yup.” Jim replied.
“Alright, I’ve got business in town. When you’re done hanging her up, can you check out my rifle? Something seems off. ” Riley asked.
“Sure,” Jim said. “Delivering those pups?” he asked.
Riley nodded. “I won’t be long.”
The men all had specific responsibilities within the group, some of which involved contact with outsiders. They used assumed names and the contact was little more than pick-ups and drop-offs, but it was something that helped ease the isolation. Jim and Josh help Scott break-in and breed horses, using their horse trailer to haul prize studs to clients’ ranches. Jim was in charge of keeping their weapons cleaned and serviced.
Riley trains dogs for the clan, and anyone else that needed guard, attack, or fighting dogs. He had twenty kennels, five of which were filled with their own dogs, ten of which Riley usually filled with the dogs he was training, and five he kept as spares. They had a bitch at the moment, who had just had four to five pups. He was going to drop them off at the buyers’ homes. They certainly couldn’t come and pick them up.
Angus, was the group’s mechanic and handyman. He kept their cars running, overhauled old cars to replenish their needs, or those of the clan. Often if one of the other cells had a car problem, Angus would pick up the vehicle and bring it back to their house for maintenance. He refitted one of the five barns they had into a garage. And if anything ever broke, Angus was the one to fix it. Since the time that the men had attacked Jessica’s family and chosen to keep Jessica, they lived together, alone, with her. Their contact with the outside world was limited to them going out into it. No one from the outside was ever permitted to come to them. Not even others in the clan. To ensure this, they chose to live in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town was one hundred miles away.
Jim began to roll the leash over his hand, moving closer to Jessica as he did.
Jessica twisted her body, fruitlessly trying to twist her way out of the harness that tied her to the leash.
“You hate this thing, don’t you?” Jim asked letting the leash sag between them. “If you don’t want me to drag you by it, you’re going to have to walk over to the corner.”
Jim took a step past her in the direction of the corner with the hook in the ceiling. She didn’t move.
“One way or another, you’re going to hang from that hook Jessica,” Jim said, she cringed at the name he’d used. “You can avoid the humiliation of me dragging you by the leash. I’m counting to three … one, two … “
Jessica began to move toward the corner. Once there Jimmy pulled a set of handcuffs from his pocket. “Put your hands out,” Jim said. Jessica didn’t move. Well, he supposed that was too much to ask for.
“Need some help there Jimboy?” Angus demanded from the dining room table.
Jessica tensed, and stuck her hands out before her.
“Didn’t think so,” Angus added as Jim cuffed her wrists. Raising her hands above her head, he lifted her up and hooked the cuffs to the hook. Jim stepped back, and Jessica dangled from the hook. She grunted, but stubbornly refused to cry out. Looking over his shoulder, Jim saw that Angus had turned his attention from them, to his food. Jim leaned closer to Jessica and whispered,
“If you hate the leash and harness so much, why don’t you do something to get out of them?” Jessica looked startled. “If you stop making us use them to drag you from place to place … stay where we put you, I think I can convince the others to remove them. But it’s up to you. Think about it.” And Jim walked away. He dropped onto the sofa, picked up the book he’d been reading earlier, and began to read.
Jessica felt a searing, burning pain shooting through her arms, her back. As was her usual tactic, she searched for something to think about that would distract her from the pain. Jim’s suggestion about the leash and harness was just the thing to do it.
She never knew quite how to take him. He’d never touched her sexually, but then, neither had Riley. But there was something else. He was always whispering to her, suggesting ways that she could possibly be happier … or depending on how you looked at it, ways that she could submit to them. She did hate that damn harness and leash though. Long before the sexual abuse, this had been her first devastating humiliation. It was true that by going where these men directed her was a form of obedience … but if it got them to remove the harness and leash, it was also a step closer to escape.
She decided then, that she would do it. Images of the bodies of her parents and brothers returned. ‘I’m sorry,’ she mentally said to the crumpled bodies. Jessica stifled a sob. She wanted nothing more than to feel her mother’s arms around her again … to bury her face into her father’s chest.
Would they forgive her for the concessions she was about to make?
Twelve hours later, an eternity to Jessica, Jessica couldn’t feel her arms any more. Riley was leading her to his room. As they walked Jessica hoped to feel the tingling sensation that accompanied the return of the blood to her arms, but it wasn’t coming.
She stifled a groan when Riley led her to the corner in his room. She looked at the hook with a feeling of dread but she steeled herself against it. Under no circumstances was she going to let Riley know how she felt.
“Maybe spending the night in the corner will make you think twice about spitting at us,” Riley said after hoisting her onto the hook. He stepped back and dropped onto his bed. He stole a look at Jessica hoping for some indication that she was getting the message, for some indication that she was at least a little bit sorry for her actions.
‘Damn it!’ he cursed under his breath. Jessica hung on the hook undoubtedly as uncomfortable as she’d been all day in the corner of the living room, yet she didn’t look the least bit sorry. In fact she seemed her usual smug self.
Riley lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. It was mostly his fault, he supposed. It’d been his idea to abuse her sexually, and yet, he couldn’t do it. He knew Angus was following the plan… he wasn’t sure about the others.
But they were decent men. Too decent for this kind of behavior.
Maybe he should’ve been happy to know that at least in this respect, he was decent also. But he wasn’t happy. Not at all.
For the past year they’d gotten nowhere with her and he was no longer sure what the goal was.
They had started out to humiliate her, to use that humiliation to cause suffering for her parents, somewhere in the afterlife. But for every bit of humiliation she was supposed to feel, she had caused them a humiliation.
He had never seen anything like that before.
He couldn’t help but wonder if they should just kill her and be done with it. But somehow that didn’t seem a satisfying end to the situation.
For the first time he allowed himself to ponder the thought that had been in the back of his mind for the past few months. He hadn’t allowed himself to think about it … but it was there and now he was willing to acknowledge it because it spoke to this situation.
He wondered how much of the dissatisfaction that would come from killing her would be due to the fact that they had not got their way, and how much of it came from the fact that Jessica was … Jessica?
She was stubborn, tough, brave, and … female.
For a group of men that very fact was appealing. She was female and she was their prisoner. She had no rights. No choice to leave them. She was theirs. And that’s what bothered Riley.
The oldest of the men, at 25 years old, Riley wanted her. Not sexually so much, but … he hated to admit it, emotionally. And, although not old enough to be her father in years, emotionally he felt twice his age. And therefore, old enough to be her father.
Riley had dated before. Had had a few relationships, but nothing that could have been considered serious. There were too many variables, to many unknowns in relationships to make it worth the emotional effort. He saw what Angus’ relationship with Beth had done to him. He could hardly consider his parents’ relationship as a model of what he strove for. They had stayed together until the end, but it was not clear to Riley whether they had truly loved on another.
Riley shook his head. His parents had to have loved one another. His father always watched out for his mother’s best interests. Making sure she didn’t step out of line, behaved herself. And he still remembered the grumbling his father did about Jimmy’s sister and the ways Jimmy’s father was handling her. His father had made it clear that she was being given too much leeway, not being put in her place. And then she’d killed herself, so Riley supposed his father had been right.
From that time on, it had seemed easier to deal with dogs. Dogs obeyed. Even the most difficult ones did eventually. They rarely tried to exert free will. So why couldn’t females do the same thing? Every woman he’d had contact with had some level of free will, but when tamed they eventually fell in line. Except, it seemed, Jessica.
Riley slid his eyes over to watch her hanging, stoic expression on her face, in the corner. He used to want to break her so that it could be a strike against his enemies. So he could feel the pleasure of victory. But now he wanted to make her conform to the role of a potential mate. He still felt too old for her. Right now. But in a few years … she’d be good for him and the men. But how to get there? Everything he’d thought of so far had failed.
“Riley!” Jimmy’s voice was behind his door, accompanied by an urgent knock. “Open up!”
“What is it?” Riley asked, instinctively reaching for the handgun tucked in the waist of his pants at the small of his back. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as the possibilities ran through his mind. Were the cops here? Was what he dreaded the most finally going to happen? Relief flooded over him when he saw that Jim did not have his gun.
“We’ve had contact … you and Angus need to go meet the others. Something has happened.”
“Now?” Riley asked, poking his head into the hall and looking for Angus, or any of the other men who could offer an explanation. But the hallway was empty.
“Yes.” Jim replied. “I won the draw. I’ll take Jessica to my room.”
“Right, okay.” Riley said moving back to allow Jimmy to enter.
Jim stifled a curse. What the hell was Riley doing, hanging Jessica back on a hook? Had he intended to leave her there all night? By then, her arms would fall off, Christ!
Jim lifted her off the hook, and then took her hands in his. They were ice cold, and blue. For a moment he thought he saw a flicker of relief behind Jessica’s mask of defiance, but then it was gone and she went back to pretending he wasn’t there and that hanging by her arms for 12 hours was nothing more than a day at the beach. For a girl, she had a lot of balls.
“Angus is waiting in the car,” Jim continued as he led Jessica from Riley’s room. Funny that she wasn’t resisting that too much.
“Got it,” Riley said, following them into the hall. “See yah.”
“Later … good luck,” Jim said.
In his room he stood facing Jessica.
“Bed or floor?” he asked, as he always did when he had his night with her.
Jessica nodded at the floor, as she always did.
Jim sighed. She never took the easy way out.
He pulled her to a spot on the floor next to his bed. Pulling the cuff keys, he undid her hands, looped the cuffs through the hook on his bedpost, and re-cuffed her. He caught her hands as she started to pull them away, and inspected them again.
“They’re going to hurt like hell when the blood comes back,” he said. She stared at him, attempting to shoot darts of defiance at him with her eyes. “I can rub them for you, help bring the circulation back faster. All you have to do is ask.”
Jessica’s expression didn’t change.
“Suit yourself.” He replied and let her hands drop.
He sat on his bed and debated what to do. He’d planned on playing his guitar tonight. He tried to play whenever he didn’t have her with him. On his usual nights with her, he would spend the time having a staring contest with her. The challenge was to see who would look away first. They were equally matched for the contest and usually by the time he was too tired to keep it up it’d been hours before either one looked away.
One thing he knew for sure, Jessica was determined. That determination caused him some concern when he had her in his room for the night. Though she was chained and could not conceivably do anything of harm to him … he couldn’t relax enough to do anything but hold the staring contest with her.
Often a one way conversation accompanied the contest and he found himself blabbing to her about things that he didn’t talk to anyone about, and she most assuredly cared little about, in hopes of getting some response from her. But he rarely got one, just a determined, angry stare.
Well. Tonight her arms were like rubber, and in a matter of minutes she would be in indescribable pain as the blood made its way back to her extremities. There was little she could do to him tonight, even if she weren’t chained. He went to his closet and retrieved his guitar. When he turned back, Jessica was staring off into a corner of his room. He sat on his bed and began to play.
Jessica leaned her head against the wall and sighed in relief. Thank God she was going to spend the night here instead of Riley’s room. Of all the men, Jimmy was the easiest to tolerate. He rarely bothered with her when they were alone.
She gritted her teeth. Her arms began to tingle. This was going to hurt. It wasn’t the first time she had to endure this pain, but at least Jimmy would leave her alone, not needle her with verbal abuse, or find some way to make the pain worse. All she had to do was concentrate on the corner of his bedroom and clear her mind, and this could be an okay night.
But suddenly, she heard a sound that she hadn’t heard in what seemed an eternity. Without thinking, she looked over at Jim. He sat on his bed, rocking back and forth, watching his fingers move back on forth on the neck of his guitar. Music! She could hardly believe it.
For a moment she forgot where she was, forgot the pain that was building in her arms. She knew how to make those sounds too, she had played the guitar with a passion at home. She even recognized the song.
A noise broke through Jim’s concentration, and it brought him back to reality. He’d forgotten that Jessica was in the room with him. He looked over at her and she was looking at him. She was looking at him and kind of smiling.
Jim stopped playing. Smiling? Yes, she was smiling, and swaying slightly, and there was that noise again. It was low but definitely coming from Jessica. Jim leaned closer. She was humming. He recognized the tune that he’d been playing. Suddenly Jessica realized what she’d been doing and jumped as if she’d been slapped. She sat staring at him, and he stared at her. Jessica’s gaze slid down to Jim’s guitar, and he followed it.
“Do you … you know the song?” Jim asked.
Jessica nodded, still staring at his guitar.
“Do you want me to keep playing?”
Jessica nodded again.
Jim couldn’t believe it. All of these months of getting nowhere, and it turns out that his biggest passion could get a positive response from Jessica?
Without hesitation, Jim began playing again. Jessica closed her eyes and swayed. Jim could tell by some of the contortions on her face that her arms were killing her, but Jessica never stopped her swaying. Jim played song after song, and Jessica swayed. He was able to tell exactly when her pain subsided, because her facial contortions were replaced by a look of serenity.
That was something he had never seen before. It wasn’t until Jessica fell gently against the bedpost, asleep, that Jim stopped playing. He looked at the clock. Two hours. He had played, and she had swayed, for two hours.
He put his guitar away, turned out the light, and lay back on his bed. Despite how tired he was, excitement coursed through him. For the first time since Jessica had come here, Jim felt hope. Hope that things were going to get better. The constant tension and hatred emanating around them all of the time was beginning to wear on him. He lay thinking of ways to use the music to his advantage. To use it to broker a truce of some kind. He drifted off to sleep with the sweet image of Jessica singing, and laughing. No traces of hatred left on her face.
The next morning Jim stretched, yawned, and rolled to the side of the bed that Jessica was cuffed to. He found her already awake and staring at the ceiling.
His standard greeting of “Morning,” was met with Jessica’s standard silence. He sat up. “How’re your arms?”
Jessica continued to stare at the ceiling.
“Jessica,” Jim said, “Hey, Jessica,” he said snapping his fingers in her line of sight.
Jessica slowly swung her eyes onto Jim. Gone was the dreamy look she’d had the night before.
“My name, “ she said through clenched teeth, “is Lisa.”
Jim sighed and slid onto the floor. He crouched before her.
“Look, I know that. I know your name is Lisa, you know your name is Lisa, Riley, Angus, Josh and Scott know your name is Lisa. But that doesn’t mean anything. We’re calling you Jessica. This has been going on forever and getting you nowhere. Why don’t you do us all a favor and just pretend that your name is Jessica. It’s really not that hard.”
Suddenly, they were back to the staring contest.
“Like I told you yesterday, the leash, the handcuffs, the abuse, all that unpleasantness could disappear, like that …” he said snapping his fingers again, “if you’d just play along.”
“What about my family?” Jessica demanded, “will the bullets that ripped their bodies apart suddenly disappear? Will they suddenly come back to life, and will I suddenly be home?”
It was Jim’s turn to lose the contest. He lowered his eyes, his head. Silence hung in the air.
“No, Jessica. None of that will happen.” He forced his eyes back up to meet hers. He had a sudden image of her spitting at him, but she only sat staring back at him. Her hazel eyes should have been easy to look into, but the anger and hatred he found in them made it anything but easy to maintain eye contact.
“Look. I can’t change the past, but I can play the guitar again for you. Would you like that?”
This time Jessica broke eye contact and turned her face away from him.
“Maybe next time then.” Jim said. “If you’d like, I can play my guitar for you every time you’re here with me. All I ask is that you stop fighting the name, and you stop fighting the leash. At least with me. Just show me some good will. Okay?”
Silence ensued, but Jessica had momentarily looked at him from the corner of her eye. Well, that was something. He didn’t know what, but something.
“Alright then. Let’s get on with the day. Shower time.” Jim got up and went to his chest of drawers and began searching for fresh clothing both for him and for Jessica. Even though the men weren’t willing to follow Angus’ suggestions of letting Jessica walk around naked, neither were they willing to invest in any clothing for her. She wore the mens’ clothes … all way to large.
Jessica snuck a look at him while his back was to her. The words “good will” echoed through her mind. She really didn’t know what to make of him. Who the hell used words like “good will”, especially in this kind of situation? She couldn’t picture Josh or Scott using them, and certainly not Riley or Angus. Just Jim. He turned and smiled when he saw her watching him. Jessica snapped her head down.
“Let’s go,” he said unlocking her cuffs. When she stood, he hooked the leash onto the harness that remained on her body almost 24 hours a day. He walked away from her until the leash went taut, inches from the bedroom door. He stopped and waited. Not knowing why exactly, Jessica took a step forward. And then another. Jim exhaled, having inadvertently held his breath.
In the bathroom, Jim started the shower. Stepping back from the stall, he held the shower curtain open he said, “Ladies first”. Jessica turned her back to him and began to undress. That was something else. Jim was the only one who let her turn her back to him to undress. Jim was the only one that let her undress herself. In fact, Jim was the only one who let her shower by herself.
She began to skirt him, back to him, on her way to the shower, but as she looked over her shoulder, she noticed that he was looking away. No lurid leering with Jim either. As the hot water fell on her, she recalled the conclusion she’d come to the previous day, about the leash. She wasn’t sure that she could stand to give in to the others, particularly not those bastards, Riley and Angus. But, she could try for Jim.
“Done?” Jim asked after a few minutes. Jessica peeked around the shower curtain. Jim held a towel out to her. She wrapped it around herself and got out of the shower stall. Jim waited for her to dry and dress. He hooked the leash to the bathroom ceiling hook, turned his back on her and undressed. In the shower, he whistled. He was whistling the tune of one of the songs that he’d played the night before on his guitar.
Jessica sat and listened. The songs brought her back to a much happier time. She closed her eyes and listened. All she needed was to get off that damned leash, then she could get away for good. Jim didn’t look out of the shower once. If she were off the leash now, she could just slip out, somehow get to the front door, and run. That’s all she wanted to do. Run.
Josh paced the small floor space before his bed. Tonight it would be easier to control himself than other nights. Jessica’s bruised and battered body wasn’t as appealing to touch as it was otherwise. He looked at Jessica, lying on his bed, hands cuffed above her head, spread eagle with each foot cuffed to a bed post. She was fully clothed. He found that she got less upset that way. She was staring at the ceiling, holding her breath undoubtedly, her chest wasn’t moving. He dreaded these nights because it took every bit of energy he had to control himself. He winced as he remembered the first night he’d had with her after Riley had told the men to start having sex with her. He hadn’t intended to go all the way. A little petting maybe, but once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. She’d cried.
Josh felt sick to his stomach as he remembered the hysteria with which she’d reacted. It was worse than any break downs she’d had to that point.
Since that night, he’s worked hard to restrain himself and take it slow. He decided to work his way down her body, not moving to the next body part until he could touch the previous one without her crying. He’d promised her not to go all the way until she felt comfortable. It was a difficult promise to keep. Every night ended with him feeling like he’d been kicked in the balls. With a final resolution to restrict himself to touching only, Josh climbed on the bed and lay down beside Jessica.
“Just relax,” he said sliding his hand under her shirt and seeking a breast. “Let yourself enjoy this.” His voice was low, guttural, his breath hot on her cheek, whispering while pulling gently on her nipple.
Jessica didn’t even bother trying to fight. She needed her energy for later. She didn’t know why he bothered with these pretexts every time she was with him. He’d spend half an hour to an hour with these ridiculous games at the beginning of every night.
But then later, once she had fallen asleep, he’d rape her anyway. And no matter how much she fought or cried, he’d continue. The only consolation she had was that unlike Angus, Josh didn’t seem to enjoy inflicting pain on her. He got his rocks off, turned over and went to sleep.
‘Good God.’ Josh thought. He couldn’t take this much longer. Her nipple had become erect, she was obviously enjoying it, but when he cupped her breast Jessica tried to pull away. He had to stop now, or he’d do something he didn’t want to.
“Good night Jessica,” he said turning his back on her, switching off the light. He lay down, closed his eyes and fervently hoped sleep would come quickly.
In the living room the next morning Jessica fought to keep her eyes open. True to form Josh had made it a night of continuous assault. Unlike Angus who seemed to like a good pre-rape fight, Josh staked her out so she couldn’t move. The best she could do was curse him in her mind as she lay helpless.
She felt anger boiling within her. But despite that, she couldn’t fight the fatigue that was coming over her. She exhaled and leaned her head back against the sofa. For the next little while anyway, she was safe. Riley and Angus seemed to be away still. Jim and Josh were out of the house, and the only one left was Scott. He was rummaging around in the kitchen, but even if he weren’t distracted she had little to fear from him in terms of sexual assault. Much like Jim, Scott seemed to have no desire to torture her. He hated her, there was no doubt about that. He’d hurt her plenty over the months she’d been there, but never in that way. Jessica slid down on the sofa as sleep over took her.
Scott stood watching Jessica sleep. He held the tiny birth control pill in his hand. She needed her dose for the day, but it could wait. Especially now that she took it without a fight. Scott shook his head as he remembered the about face she’d done when Riley’d pointed out that if she didn’t take the pill she’d end-up mothering their children.
The look of revulsion on her face had left no doubt as to how much she truly hated them. Even Riley and Angus had been taken aback.
Well, what did they expect? If there was one thing he knew, it was what it took to pleasure a woman. Nothing about their current situation lent itself to a pleasurable experience. The other men obviously had no problems forcing themselves on Jessica, but Scott wanted nothing of it.
He had his share of women in town and within the clan that begged Scott to have sex with them. He smiled as he remembered one such event the previous night. With or without this pill, there was no way Jessica would be mothering his child. And thank God. No child deserved to be hated. He shuddered as he imagined the contempt that Jessica would have for a child of theirs.
Scott fell into the armchair across from the sofa where Jessica slept. She was pretty. Despite the bruises, swollen eye and lip, she was pretty. He was attracted to her, and in another place, another time, he would’ve done his all to pleasure her. And she would’ve wanted it. He was sure of that, as sure as he was that he had a nose on his face. He never met a woman he didn’t please, never met a woman that didn’t want him, until Jessica.
Often he felt a longing to reach out to her, make her happy in ways he knew he could. But then he’d see how she felt toward him and he didn’t know how to react to it. And then other times, like right now, all he felt for her was sympathy and respect.
Sympathy for what her family’s violent demise had done to her and what was now happening to her. Respect because she was the first female prisoner they’d ever taken but yet she seemed to be tougher then the men. They’d had many male prisoners over the years. And they all broke. Not always quickly. The one thing he could say for the clan’s enemies was that they were not wimps. But within days and with torture much less intrusive then rape, they had broken.
But here it was a year later, and she hadn’t backed down. Not one iota. That took a strength beyond anything he thought a person would be capable of.
“No,” Jessica muttered in her sleep. “No!” she said more loudly and thrashed her head to the side. Her nightmares. When she slept, her subconscious betrayed her.
Asleep, she was unable to hide the sadness, pain and fear. And her nightmares were something Scott couldn’t stand to witness. Despite his hatred for her parents and all they stood for, he couldn’t help but feel some guilt over what he and the men were doing to Jessica and her nightmares intensified his feeling of guilt.
“Jessica,” he said going over to her, and shaking her arm. “Jessica, wake up!”
Jessica snapped to attention on the couch, eyes unfocused, confusion on her face.
“Jeffrey?” she asked, hope tingeing her voice. But then her eyes focused and the sight of Scott brought tears to her eyes.
“It’s time for your pill,” he said hating the obvious sadness that seeing him had brought her . This was all so alien to him. Even after all this time he couldn’t get used to her hating him. Women loved him. He was a lover. Every fiber of his being made him want to kiss her mouth, make the frown turn into a smile … pleasure her. But the daggers that she was shooting at him with her eyes dampened that fire pretty quickly.
“Here,” he said opening his hand that clutched the birth control pill. “Shit!” he said when his uncurled fingers revealed nothing but his palm. He turned to look behind him, it must have fallen when he stood up … the tug at the back of his pants was followed by a wave of horror. An image of his handgun tucked in the back of his pants flashed through his mind as he pictured himself turning his back to her. He spun around and found Jessica pointing the gun at him, hatred etched in her face.
“This is for my family!” she yelled. The gun was pointed at his chest, right at his heart. But she couldn’t do it. Not cold blooded murder.
That surprised her. In that split second she shifted her aim off centre of his chest, and pulled the trigger. The gun exploded and Scott flew back as if a very strong wind had picked him up and flung him away from Jessica. He fell to the floor with a thud and didn’t move.
Jessica’s heart was pounding a mile a minute. He couldn’t be dead, not where she’d shot him. But she’d hurt him, enough to give herself a chance to get away. Elation spread through her. Finally, she got a strike back for her family. Nothing could dampen that feeling, not even the sound of running feet outside. The others were coming, and they’d have their guns. She knew she didn’t stand a chance. Her only hope had been if she’d had time to get herself out of the damn harness. But she was tied to the sofa. They would gun her down. And though she had hoped to survive her ordeal here, the fact that she wouldn’t didn’t really bother her. She felt a smile take over her face as she raised her gun at the front door. She wondered how many she’d could take with her in the end. That wouldn’t be cold blooded murder anymore, but self-defense.
She could hear footsteps coming up the front steps now. Who would be first through the door? She hoped, really hoped, it would be Angus. It was entirely possible that she wouldn’t get more than one shot off, and if that were the case, she hoped she got one shot into Angus. For him, she’d aim right between the eyes. She pointed the gun at the front door, initially at chest level. She knew from what her parents had taught her, that it was best to aim for the chest. Head shots were hard if not nearly impossible to make. But despite what had been drilled into her she forced the nozzle of the hand gun up to head level. With chest shots, you were more certain to bring down the enemy but not as certain to kill them. Angus was a kind of evil that she had never known, really known, existed. But now that she knew, she didn’t want to take a chance on merely maiming him.
She waited a split second more, and then the door opened. She began to pull the trigger waiting to see that animal’s face. But rather than Angus running through the door, it was Jimmy.
Without thinking Jessica swung the gun an inch to the right and fired. She had no time to see where the bullet went because an arm came out from behind her and smashed the gun from her hands. Jessica had half a second to stare at the gun sliding across the floor, before the room spun by her in a blur. Suddenly Angus’ furious face came into view. He must have come in the back door. Jessica had just enough time to curse herself for not thinking of the back door before Angus landed a punch on her left cheek that sent her flying. The impact of her body smashing into the wall forced the air to rush out of her lungs. As she sank to the floor she saw Angus stalking toward her. Tears burned her eyes. She had failed again. Not only was she going to die but she’d only managed to take one of these animals with her. Angus raised his fist and drove it into her face again. This time darkness took over the bright colors that had floated behind her eyes.