Spun around in her bindings tied above her head, Rachel focused on Jack observing his former cellmates shooting dice near the hall’s great hearth. The traitor. It was like he hardly noticed her strung up for a lashing, his prison buddies looking forward to her vicious flogging. Heartlessly calm and detached, he intermittently checked the currently inactive scene of her soon torture, not very interested.
“Jack…” she called out to him. He cast a lazy look her way.
“If Quattro beats me, you can’t use me the way you want to in the mountains.”
“What makes you think stripes on your back would stop me?”
God, she hoped Jack was bluffing. She really couldn’t tell if he were a good guy or a bad guy. Was it okay with him to rape her in the woods while she was wounded? She shuddered.
Jack rose from his table, abandoning his meal.. His sight burned into hers, risk in his holographic sky-blue eyes. A low-grade anxiety pulsed through her. He sashayed over to where Quattro had left the whip on the floor behind her.
“You want to see her punished, Quattro?” Jack brushed the dust from his hands.
“I insist upon it,” the mobster replied.
“Do you want her frightened?” Jack picked the whip up, suddenly too attracted to it.
Quattro’s gross grin rose. “I want to hear her shriek in terror and fear me, you, and every man here.”
Rachel was well on her way to all that. She feared every sadistic criminal in the room, but Jack. And he was fixing that right now. She stiffened to keep from shaking. She watched Jack pull the lash through his hand as if he appreciated the braid…or measured it. Others took notice. He took another step back, nonchalantly taking a position. Her heart pumped harder, and her breath quickened. He wasn’t going to do it, was he…going to beat her?
“Hold still, Rachel…” he said low, getting a feel for the grip. She mashed herself against the wall in dread of the lash.
Then Jack reared back and struck. The whip loudly snapped so close to her back, she felt the ripple in the air through the thin cotton of her techsuit. Rachel felt a shocking sting shoot through her body, and she shrieked. But she hadn’t felt the whip dig into her flesh.
“You b@%#!*d!” she shouted at him, awaiting the agony and so fearful of the pain, she nearly started to weep. “I swear to God, I’ll find a way to kill you for this!”
Her terror thrilled Quattro so much, he applauded.
“You’re a passivist, Rachel Marie,” Jack said, berating her. “You can’t kill a thing.”
She couldn’t yet feel the pain, though she didn’t think the hall cold enough to truly numb her from the agony of a lash. She opened her eyes and watched Jack’s audience grow. Where was the pain?
Jack reared back with the whip again. Rachel pinched her eyes shut and screamed in terror again, certain he wouldn’t miss a second time. The strike ripped the material of the techsuit down her back. Except for blood-curdling horror and a puff of slapped air, she felt no physical pain or even any contact. The second strike caused the audience to cheer.
A third strike still brought out her terrified cry and more of Quattro’s acclamation. The leather braid never met her back. Of course, it didn’t. Jack hadn’t missed a shot since he was twelve. If he missed the shot, it was because he meant to miss.
Bets started going down to see how many stripes she’d last.
Jack halted the entertainment cold, staring at them. She didn’t know what he was thinking. She wondered if he thought them vacant, psychotic souls, if he wanted to burn their hearts out with the laser gun strapped to his thigh. He broke away from some tormenting theme of thought, and began to roll the whip. Thinking the bloodsport over too early, the malicious crowd found other things to distract them, their breakfasts, games of dice.
“Quattro,” Jack bothered to finally say something as he coiled the whip and tied it, “beating her for an audience of your enemies isn’t such a good move, though I’m sure it would conjure a wicked orgasm for you and your men. If you torture her before your enemy, she becomes a hero. If you kill her, she becomes a martyr. Heroes and martyrs fuel rebellion. You may start a fire you can’t contain.”
Rachel caught up with her racing breath. The panic attack slowly eased The sweat risen from her body in fear of supersized agony made her colder.
“You got the fear and loathing from her you wanted, the juicy fear and loathing,” Jack told him, “so let my property go.”
Realizing Jack hadn’t beaten her at all when her back wasn’t bleeding, Quattro was stopped cold by a thought. The hovercraft the gangster sat upon gave a spit. “You can’t possibly think I should let the insolent b@#&h go without a serious blooding, do you?”
“You should care more that your beds aren’t razed by blue armies. You’re done with her.”
“Your first f#$% in the free worlds hasn’t softened your black heart, has it?”
Jack rolled stunning, digitally perfect blue eyes.
“For as many men as I’ve seen you kill, you’re not much of a woman-beater. You’re already softer than you were in prison.”
Jack paused. Quattro hit a raw nerve. Rachel wished she knew his thoughts.
“I have more control than you,” Jack told him with a dead-eyed stare, his finger in the gangster’s face. “Don’t mistake that for weakness. I have control of every thing in this room.”
The statement shut Quattro’s foul drunken mouth.
“You’re very reckless today.” Jack passed him the whip.
“She’s not getting any more punishment than she just got,” Jack told him. “If I allow you to beat her, she’ll never survive the mountains with me for my purpose. She pilots the only ship around capable of traveling the wormhole in one piece. Leave her correction to me. I’ll make her want to die. Release my property, now that you’ve gotten your rocks off seeing her terrorized. That’s all you required.”
“I hope she cuts your throat in the middle of the night.”
“If you couldn’t get the job done after five years of trying, she can’t.”
“You sleep with your eyes open.”
Rachel watched Jack. He was magical. He knew just what to say to make Quattro do his bidding, the cold timing required, and the guts and confidence to pull it off, not to mention his dead-on aim. He was impressive.
Later, she had to know…
“What were you thinking when you were staging my beating and watching your audience thrill to the show?”
Jack surveyed the west mountains with the binoculars, and then the sea line. Rachel considered he might not answer the question until he replied, “I was thinking of how I wanted to kill all the sick degenerates for getting off on a weaker creature’s fear and pain.”
At the time, he’d looked like murder was on his mind.
Maybe that’s what happens to a good man’s soul when he serves time in Hell. He becomes the cold executioner.
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Available in e-book ISBN#: 1-60601-884-1
I've decided to start an interview series. So every Monday (and the occasional Friday) you stop by, you can meet a new author. Today, we're starting the series with a birthday girl! Please welcome Michele Hart.
Linda Kage: Good morning, Michele. Tell us a little about you and what you write please.
Kage: What happened to the first book you ever wrote?
MH: I mainly call myself a Sci-Fi Romance author, though I have an Erotic Romantic Suspense title and a Greek Myth Romantic Comedy title, as well. I have two upcoming projects to write, both Sci-Fi Romances, so that’s what you’ll see from me for a while to come.
MH: (smiles widely) Oh, lordy. Without the guidance of an experienced author and with no knowledge of the industry, the first thing I wrote was a 9-book series. Of course, unsalable. It is in forever storage. It wasn’t bad for a first effort. Because of it, I
fear no word count!
Kage:What’s your backlist and coming soon bookshelf look like?
MH: I’ve got stories for different tastes. Check my web site for reviews on all of them.
My first story, a Contemporary Erotic Romantic Suspense novel, is Looks Are Deceiving, available at Siren-BookStrand. If you like short stories and are looking for a laugh, I have the Greek Myth Romantic Comedy, No Funny Stuff!, a tale for Thalia, the muse of comedy. You can find it at The Wild Rose Press. For Sci-Fi Romance, I have a short story, Zero-G, at All Romance e-books. The proceeds of Zero-G go to the American Heart Association, so you can read for charity on that one. For novel-sized Sci-Fi Romance, Mind-Blown is available at BookStrand, and Luminous Nights is available tomorrow!
***horns toot, doves are released***
Kage:So, what story are we going to talk about today?
MH:Today, I get to talk about my new release, a Sci-Fi Romantic Adventure called Luminous Nights. BookStrand is helping me bring it to you. If you like a lot of action, Luminous Nights seldom sits still. It comes out tomorrow.
Cop or convict?
How many faces can one man own?
An assassin wearing a holographic mask and a prison tattoo boards Rachel’s freighter during a prison riot, intent on collecting gadgets capable of changing a man’s identity from the black-market gang who'd stolen them. She’s never sure of Jack's identity nor his goal, but he claims to be an Alliance I-Marshal. Cop or convict? The clues never stop contradicting. Rachel's horrified to find the bright holographic mask conceals the gruesome face of a monster. And the badge doesn’t slow him from murdering people right before her eyes.
When Rachel learns Jack will trade innocent lives for the digital miracles, she determines to make the mercenary grow a heart. How could a stone-cold killer kiss her so hotly? How could she kiss such a dangerous deceiver?
Jack has done years in prison to learn who’d stolen the remaining Gemini ticks, 3-D magic. Nothing will keep him from gaining extreme-technology capable of unleashing galaxy-wide chaos. Forget feelings for Rachel. She can’t stop him from killing everyone involved.
Kage:What would Luminous Nights be rated if it were a movie?
MH:Luminous Nights is rated R. It’s a Sensual Romance, which is a step less erotic than Erotic Romances..
Kage:If you HAD to fit this story into a cliché, which one would it go
MH:Luminous Nights fits a couple of great clichés. I love clichés. The story is about the cost of vengeance on a man’s soul. It’s definitely Beauty and the Beast story and a Save-the-World adventure.
Kage:Okay, now that we have a general idea which class to fit this story under, what makes this book so unique from every other book out there?
MH: Alien chocolate makes several appearances in Luminous Nights, and Jack and Rachel debate whether the candy is a powerful aphrodisiac, as it’s rumored to be. Turns out, Rachel thoroughly loses that debate.
Kage: (Still licking lips from that last image!)What was the easiest part to write?
MH: There isn’t an element that comes more easily than others for me. I don’t plan much about my stories. I’m a pantser, flying by the seat of my pants, for the most part. For at least the rough draft, pantsers are like witnesses recording the scenes as opposed to planners who actively and consciously conjure the elements. There are times when I don’t see the next scene in my head, and that’s usually when I need to walk away and rest. Luminous Nights came very easily. The first few scenes left Rachel, guilty of smuggling, with a badge-waving imposter wearing a holographic mask aboard her ship. I wanted to see how such a smooth operator as Jack, used to women falling all over him, was going to melt an iceberg like Rachel. :-) Brain-scrambling chocolate helped. I just kept asking, “What comes next?” I can imagine that’s how most pantsers do it.
By the way, that’s how you end up writing an unsalable 9-book story, being unable to stop asking, “What comes next?”!
Kage:What do you like most about the main character(s) and what do you like least? Did you learn anything from them?
MH: I really loved Jack because he was based on someone I know. All Jack’s slick operation and smooth manipulation came from him. It was like giving my friend a super weapon and a job to do. I loved Jack’s girl Rachel because she didn’t fall for his lines. Until he brought out the Big Guns. :-) Who can fight the Big Guns?
Kage:Michele, Thank you so much for stopping by today and gracing us with your presence. But now that you've totally made us want to buy your book, where can we get our hands on a copy?
I’m at http://www.ILoveShapeShifters.com. Come over, have some coffee. Read some blurbs and excerpts, cruise the reviews, watch a few book trailers.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Linda. Thanks to all the readers out there, as well.
Read and live an adventure. Have an action-packed day.