The Penance of Black Betty

By: Kelli Maine

ONE





He was there.

She could feel him.

Bethany ran from him enough times to trust her instincts about her ex, and her instincts were screaming that he was there.

She dug her phone from the front pocket of the ostentatious Chanel Alistair bought her before setting the bag down on the console table in his massive foyer. It was dark and she hadn’t listened to Alistair when he told her to leave a light on inside. He was out of town filming Hues of Black and Blue in Seattle for the next two weeks before he got a break and came home to LA.

Now she was regretting every second she spent talking him into taking the part opposite his ex-fiancé Heather Winston. He’d be home right now if she hadn’t opened her big mouth.

The security display on the box on the wall was blinking. Had the police been contacted?

She should turn and run, but knew he’d only make her regret it if he caught up to her.

He always caught up to her.

Her phone rang. Master and Servant. Her ex’s ringtone. It echoed through the big, open space.

She tapped the green button on her screen to answer, but didn’t say anything.

“Bethy…” Her ex’s sing-song nickname for her. “Bethy, baby, I came to take you home.”

She jabbed the end call button and willed herself not to panic. There had to be a way out of this.

“You’re supposed to say, yes sir!” he yelled, his voice sending slivers of panic up her spine.

Damn high ceilings. She couldn’t tell where he was—upstairs, downstairs, hell he could be right behind her in the hallway and she wouldn’t know.

Run. Her subconscious screamed, but the muscles in her legs had tensed and her feet were frozen to the floor.

Move.

She couldn’t. Her mind was too busy reeling, playing back the images of abuse, conjuring phantoms of pain from lashings and beatings that left her scarred and bruised. She’d barely escaped Florida with her life ten years ago.

Now she’d have to fight to live again, just when she found something worth living for.

Sure and steady footsteps sounded from the stairs. He wasn’t even trying to sneak up on her. He knew she wouldn’t run. He knew…too much about her. He’d forced his way inside her head and claimed a section of her mind for his own. That real estate lay dormant for so long, she forgot it was tainted and twisted. But now she remembered. That part of her was alive and programed to respond to him.

He came into view, standing in the archway between the great room and the hallway, standing with arms spread and a grin on his face. “There she is. It’s been a long time.” He spun in a circle, taking in the grand expanse of Alistair’s mansion. “You’ve done well for yourself. I’d say I was proud, but…” he shrugged and started toward her, slack-hipped and confident, “we both know how you got here, don’t we? On your back.”

He stopped when he reached her and stared down at her with his hard, crazy eyes. She could tell he was still doing drugs. When she’d left him, it was heroin, but God only knew what he was into now.

His jeans were filthy and his gray t-shirt had pit stains. He looked like he hadn’t showered in weeks.

How could she have ever been married to this man? How could she have had such little self-respect?

Ten years at Dolls & Doms had cured her of that—mostly. What the club hadn’t cured, Alistair had.

If she was such a different woman now, then why was she standing there like a statue waiting for him to hurt her?

His eyes roamed her body. “A little more meat on your bones now. I guess that’s to be expected with a woman in her thirties.” He grabbed her ass and squeezed, hard enough to leave a black and blue thumb print.

Bethany grabbed his forearm and tried to pull his hand away. In a flash, his hands were around her neck, tightening and shaking. “You forget your place—on your knees at my feet.” With force she hadn’t been subjected too for a decade, he shoved her to the floor. Her knees hit the tile at the same time his fist hit the side of her face with a sharp crack.

Spots flickered and spun in front of her eyes and a pitiful whimper left her throat.

He grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked her head back. “Look at me.” She wouldn’t. She kept her eyes as low as she could, focused on the wall behind him—on the flashing security screen. “Look at me!” He yanked hard. Her scalp burned blazing hot, then cold and numb.

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