But at four a.m., in the kennels of the man who meant to kill me, I let it all go.

In every tear I shed, I said goodbye to control. I waved farewell to everything that made me live, but had also suffocated me, too. I didn’t have photo shoots to worry about anymore. I didn’t have concerns on what to wear, where to be, how to act.

All of that had been stolen. And there was no point crying or fighting against it.

The moment I embraced the freedom of nothing, I stopped crying. My headache left, and I drifted to sleep wrapped in the four legs of my new best friend.

Squirrel nudged my hand, bringing me back to the present and the waiting message from Kite. The past struggled to let me go, but I blinked, dispelling my forlornness.

“He wants to know where I am. What should I tell him?” I asked my entourage of hounds.

Foxhounds to be exact. Their black, tan, and white coats became visible as the sun rose, glinting off the glossy health of their fur. Their silky ears slapped their pretty heads as they lopped around the enclosure, waking up as the sun grew brighter.

They didn’t give me an answer.

Needle&Thread: Where I am right now doesn’t matter because I’m in a fantasy with you. I’m in your bed. Naked. Wanting.

It was much better than the truth: I’d slept on hay in a barn with eleven dogs secured by a giant padlock.

I focused on the huge roller door. I’d checked last night to see if there was a way out, but of course, there wasn’t.

Kite007: You took a while to reply. Did you pleasure yourself?

Throwing myself back into Kite’s sexual world, I replied.

Needle&Thread: I’m coming now. Both hands are between my legs, twisting my clit, feeling how wet I am. I’m crying out your name over and over. The neighbours might hear me I’m so loud.

Rubbing the head of Squirrel, I smiled. “Don’t tell him I released my tension by crying myself to sleep with you in my arms.” Lowering my voice, I added, “And don’t tell him I’ve never had an orgasm.”

The dog cocked his head, an expression of confusion on his face.

Kite007: I like it when you talk dirty. Keep going. I have my cock in my hand and want you to make me come.

My heart sped up. Reclining against the hay bale, I bit my lip. I’d never made anyone come. The drunken night of losing my virginity didn’t count because we were both so intoxicated it was a miracle he found the right place to stick it in. After a few half-hearted thrusts, he’d rolled off me to throw up, and I’d pulled up my knickers. I’d been silently horrified at the blood on the sheets.

The copious amounts of alcohol had stolen any pain I might’ve felt when he penetrated me. It’d also stolen the rush of entering womanhood, swapping it with age-old regret.

The night definitely hadn’t been a success. Or the next day. Because no matter how hard V tried to hide my hangover from Tex, he couldn’t prevent me from vomiting on my dad’s shoes when he plucked me from my bed and took me to the doctor.

I groaned in remembered embarrassment. “He found out, you know.” I scratched Squirrel behind his large ear. “The doctor told him I’d been taken advantage of. We’d used protection but it didn’t stop the endless STI tests or pregnancy exams.” Another hound slinked closer, plopping next to me, looking for a scratch. “That was the last time I was alone with a man other than my dad or brother. Sad isn’t it?”

The new dog panted, looking as if I’d told the world’s best joke.

Maybe Tex prevented you from dating, so when they came for you it was only his heart you broke—not a husband or children.

The sudden thought stole my vision with horror.

Was the overprotectiveness to shield others? Had he kept me locked up like some princess in a tower, all to stop me being my mother?

He’d fallen in love with my mother.

They’d had children young.

They’d come for her.

I rubbed my chest, unable to stop the epiphany shedding my father in a new light. Was it selfish of him to protect me from living, knowing I was destined an early grave? Or merely a tragedy that he prevented others enduring heartbreak by loving me.


He would sense the moment my life was snuffed out. We were linked more than spiritually—but soul-glued and breath-bound. I’d known when he broke his collarbone from kayaking. He’d known when I’d dropped my heavy Singer sewing machine onto my foot.


Don’t think about it. It hurt too damn much. Tears pricked my eyes but I blinked them back, trying to remain in my false little bubble of sexting. This was all I had. I could flirt with Kite with complete safety, knowing I would never be able to break his heart when the time came.

In a way, his fastidious request for distance protected him. And for that, I was oddly grateful.

Running a hand through my long hair, I sighed, re-grouping myself. I smiled softly at Squirrel. “If a drunken whoopsy daisy was my only attempt at making a man come, how the hell am I supposed to do it via a faceless message?”

Be someone you’re not. Act. Pretend.


Swiping at the dirty mixture of hay, dog hair, and dust from the blanket Jethro had given me, I prepared to embrace my inner sex-kitten.

Needle&Thread: Imagine your hand is my hand. I’m holding you firm, tight. I’m kneeling at your feet while you sit on a large chair. A throne. Your hand wraps in my hair, pulling me forward. I obey because I know what you’re asking me to do. Your eyes don’t ask, they tell, and I lower my head into your lap. My mouth waters to taste you. You’re big. Smooth. Begging for my mouth.

My breath came faster; my mind playing out the fantasy in crystal detail. The warmth I’d been looking for spread from my core like a tentative sunrise.

Kite007: Fuck me, woman. Why haven’t you been talking to me like that all along? What was with the shy bullshit? Fuck, keep going. I’m so damn hard. I want your mouth so fucking much. Give it to me.

My skin broke out in goosebumps. The power. The approval. Kite was a wanker, an arsehole, and a complete shallow prick, but he approved of me. He wanted me.

Needle&Thread: You’re holding your cock while I lick you once at the very tip. You want me to swallow you, but you don’t force me. Because you know I’m going to swallow every drop.

Kite007: Did you taste it?

I frowned.

Needle&Thread: Taste what?

Kite007: My precum. Fuck, I’m so close. I’m in your mouth. I’m fucking your lips. I’m holding your hair as I drive so deep down your throat. What do I taste like to you?

Needle&Thread: You taste…

“Hell, I don’t know.” Looking at the cluster of muscular dogs, all watching me as if they knew what I was up to, I swiped a hand over my face. “What the hell does a man taste like?”

Needle&Thread: You taste of expensive liquor, making me drunk as you come. Spilling over my lips, dripping down my chin. You don’t want me wasting a drop, so you capture the liquid on your thumb and push it back into my mouth.

The instant I sent it, a chill darted in my blood.

Thumb. Mouths. Sucking.


My taste buds brought back the crisp taste of Jethro. His unyielding hold on my chin as I licked his finger. He hadn’t really had a taste. Just the cold precision of stone. But having him dominate had given me the permission to feel a flutter in my core, to not be embarrassed of wanting more. Of becoming wet.

Kite007: Fuck me. I haven’t come like that in a while. It’s all over me—splashed up my chest, sticking to me like fucking glue. I like you like this, naughty nun. You’re more…relaxed.

My voice was soft. “That’s what happens when your life is no longer your own and there’s nothing you can do to control your future.”

Squirrel yipped in agreement.

“That’s also what you do to survive. You become different. You change.”

As much as I hated the Hawks, they’d given me something I’d been searching for all my life.

My little kitten claws were growing, prickling. Still too new to scratch with—but there.

My battery flashed again and I knew this would be the last time I’d have the luxury of using it until Jethro let me charge.

Ignoring the emptiness inside and the sharp twinge of letting Kite use me, I sent my last message.

Needle&Thread: I’m glad. I’m licking you clean. I’m drunk on everything you’ve given me. I’ll be here for you when you next need a release, but please…don’t call me naughty nun anymore. Call me Needle.

Jethro came for me at eleven a.m.

The horses across the yard were gone—to do what, I had no clue. I’d spent an hour or so listening to the grooms prepare them and the comforting clack of their metal shoes disappearing into the distance on cobblestones.

I pictured myself commandeering one and galloping away. Not that I knew how to ride. I’d never had time. Sewing had been my one obsession.

Squirrel and his gang of hounds had left not long after I finished messaging Kite. A piercing whistle summoned and they’d charged from the kennel through a small dog-size exit down the back. I’d tried to follow—to get free—but it only opened if a coded collar was in range. A password programmed to every dog allowing them access.

So, I’d spent the remainder of my morning alone. Alone with thoughts I flatly ignored.

It was odd to sit and do nothing. I had nowhere to rush off to. No emails to reply to. No to-do list to attack. I was in limbo, just waiting for the man I loathed to appear.

My stomach was a ball of knots wanting him to get it over with, whilst my jangled heart wanted him to stay away forever. I’d never felt so jumbled inside—including my stomach.

It’d stopped growling for food around dawn, but the empty ache only grew worse.

Jethro swung open the top partition of the barn door, leaving the bottom closed. Resting his arms on the top, he nodded. “Ms. Weaver.”

The sun took the liberty of bouncing into the gloomy kennel, granting bright light and silhouetting Jethro. His face remained in shadow but his thick hair was wet and messy from a shower.

He’d shed his charcoal suit for a more casual grey shirt, the diamond pin twinkling in his lapel. I’d grown to recognize it as his signature piece, linking him to whatever organisation his father ran.

Is it a gang? Did they rob and cheat and kill?

It wasn’t my issue. I didn’t care. I didn’t condone what they did. I was the innocent party—their hostage.

I didn’t return his greeting, deciding to stay bundled in my blanket and glower.

Jethro sniffed impatiently, removing his arms from the door. He unlocked the bottom partition, swinging it wide.

More sunshine entered, illuminating the bottom half of his wardrobe. Dark jeans. Well-fitted jeans. Jeans that made him seem young and approachable and normal.

My hands balled. Don’t buy into the projection. There was nothing normal about this man. Nothing sane or kind. I learned that last night—many times over. There would be no more begging from me. No more pleading. It fell on deaf ears, and I was done.

Jethro snapped his fingers as if expecting me to heel. “Get up. It’s time to begin.” Taking a threatening step into the kennel, he pursed his lips. “Shit what did you do in your sleep? Roll around like the dogs?”

I kept my lips pressed together, watching him in the silence he so seemed to enjoy. When I didn’t move, his face twisted, taking in my hay-riddled hair and dirt covered blanket. “I won’t tell you again. Get. Up.”

I shrugged. It was liberating to no longer care. To no longer be captive by the need to obey and jump to attention for fear of retribution. I meant what I said to Kite. Everything inside me was gone. Locked down, bunkered inside, ready to weather whatever war was coming.

Standing slowly, I placed my dead phone into my jacket pocket. Letting the blanket fall off my hips, I brushed lingering lint off my clothes.

Jethro snapped his fingers again, and I moved willingly—coasting to his side exactly as he wanted.

He scowled; his gaze full of suspicion.

I gave him an empty smile. I’d found salvation in not caring. It didn’t mean I had to pretend to like him. He wouldn’t know that by trying to break me last night, he only gave me a new avenue of strength.

I’m ready.

For whatever he threw at me.

I’ll survive.

Until I no longer needed to try.

Running my hands through my hair, I quickly gave up with the tangles and focused on pinching some colour into my cheeks instead.

“You think that will save you? Looking presentable?” His voice was blizzard and snow.

I didn’t say a word.

Jethro gritted his jaw. His hands curled beside his spread legs.

My muscles braced for punishment. The air shimmered with violence.

Jethro’s hand suddenly shot out, capturing my throat. Without a sound, he spun me around, and marched me backward out of the kennel. The sun kissed my skin, fanning the warmth I’d tried so hard to keep hold of from talking to Kite. I embraced it, hugging it close, so Jethro’s ice didn’t slice me into pieces.

His fingers tightened around my neck but I refused to claw at his hold. I repay in kind. Whatever I did to him in self-defence, I’d get back ten times worse. But none of that mattered now because I knew how to survive.

By being above them. By being untouchable on the inside even while they broke me on the outside.

“You think you’ve got it all figured out, don’t you?” His arm hoisted me onto the tips of my toes. Breathing was difficult, not fighting was impossible, but I permitted it. All I did was stare silently into his golden eyes.

“I understand what you’re doing.” He smiled. “But mark my words. You won’t win.” Shaking me, he unwound his fingers, then smoothed the front of his jeans. The sun gleamed on the gold buckle of his crocodile skin belt.

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