"You will cry for me, Evie," he whispers, and then I hear the loud smack of leather against my back just before I feel the shock. The pain radiates up my back, causing my eyes to water. The slap of the belt echoes in my ears again and I brace myself against the splintering pain. He strikes me with such brutality. I'm scared that he will break me, that he will kill me, but the sinner in me relishes in each horrific blow. I close my eyes and as the next lash lands over my backside, I smile because it's been forever since I've been forgiven of my sins like this. Forgive me for my sins. And in the pain, I feel my release. Prayer does not touch what pain does. I feel as though all the sins over the past four years wash away from me. I find freedom with each strike, with each sharp bite of his belt. I can't stop myself from tossing my head back and smiling at the beautiful forgiveness stinging its way through my body. This man is granting me things I have longed for, and I feel connected to him in a way I shouldn't.
There's another crack of the belt, and aside from that, the only noise I hear is the even sounds of his heavy breaths. Although my body flinches away with each strike, I need more. I have many sins I need release from and this man...this man will grant me the penance I've sought for years. I stand taller, spreading my legs wider apart as I prepare for him to hit me once again. I want him to hit me, I need him to hit me. I was raised to believe pain equates to forgiveness and, as deranged as it may sound, I do believe this more than anything I've believed in my life. It is the one part of my religion that makes complete sense to me. You do something wrong, you are punished. Punishment teaches you to obey, and, when it doesn't, you at least are paying for what you've done. I think of the day I killed my father. I replay the image of his bloodied body lying in the kitchen floor, and I will Ezra to beat me harder.
The metal buckle clinks when Ezra drops it to the floor. My back is on fire, and the muscles in my arms ache from the tight restraints. I press my forehead against the cool wall and bask in the atonement just granted to me.
The heat of his body scorches through me as he steps closer and yanks my hair out of the knot. Jerking my head back, he presses his body against mine. The cotton material of his shirt feels like sandpaper over my abused skin, and I'm tempted to thank him for granting me absolution. His warm, heavy breath blows over the back of my neck.
"Do you like that, sweetheart?" he asks. "Does it make you wet?" His lips caress the side of my neck, sending chill bumps over my skin. He tugs my hair even harder than the last time, forcing my head to the side before his teeth sink into my neck.
That sensation makes my pulse pound in my throat. For the past four years, I have always been in control with a man, but this...I have no control over this. I am at his mercy, and he just purged me of my sins. I am white as snow, pure and innocent, and chained to a cross in front of him. My breaths are too ragged, my mouth too dry to answer him. He takes me by the hips and drags my body against his. I can't focus on anything aside from his hard dick pushing against me through his pants.
He fumbles with the restraints on my left hand and violently jerks the buckle like he's angry. As soon as the restraint opens, my hand falls to my side. Pins and needles tingle over my fingertips as the blood rushes back to them. Ezra steps toward me. His black eyes gleam as one by one his fingers wrap around my throat, and with one swift movement, he rips me from the cross. Even though my right hand is still cuffed and suspended above my head, he slams me against the wall. The cold wall feels like a bed of nails against my tender back, and I choke on a gasp.
His body rubs over mine, his fingers twitching over my throat. In this moment, when his hand is wrapped around my neck, his eyes locked on mine, I drink in each precise detail of his face. The clean-shaven lines of his facial hair are meticulous, making his high cheekbones pop. His dark blond hair is styled in a way that looks messy. His lips have a perfect dip in the middle that I shamefully want to run my tongue along. The broad muscles in his shoulders and chest strain against his shirt. This man is breathtaking like he's surrounded by God's glory, but then, when I look into his eyes, I know he's of the devil because all I see is depravity and squalor. His eyes scream sin and hell, and I close my eyes. This man is everything I despise. I'm terrified of him because he could easily end my life right here, and since Hannah is dead and gone, no one would even miss me. Slowly, I open my eyes. There's a beat of silence before he growls and tightens his grip around my throat.
"You're supposed to break, little killer. What is it going to take to make you cry? Do I need to make you bleed?" His lips pull up in a small smile and his eyes flash dangerously at the thought.
My heart sits in my throat, sweat coats my body. I will not grant him my tears. I save those. I do not cry for any man, and I most certainly will not cry for this one. There's a tense moment of silence. The hard beat of my pulse bangs through my ears as his fingers tense. I envision my lifeless body as he throws me into the Hudson River.
"Fuck!" With one final squeeze, he releases my throat and drops to his knees in front of me. He forces my leg over his shoulder, and then his warm, sinful mouth is on me. All over me. I flinch away, but his hands pin me in place, refusing to let go. I'm pressed against the wall with nowhere to go. This is wrong. This is sin because it feels good. And things that feel good are unholy. He groans against me, blowing his hot breath against my pussy before thrusting his tongue inside of me. My legs threaten to buckle from the warmth of him on me--in me. Pain, I want the pain. I do not want this. Just as I close my eyes to fight the feeling of lust he's stirring inside me, the warmth disappears. He's gone.
My leg drops to the ground, and my eyes remain closed because I cannot look at him. I hear his heavy footsteps as he storms across the room. The hinges to the door creak..
"Phase two. Friday. Ten o'clock." His deep voice echoes from the walls.
And the door slams shut.
I wait several seconds before opening my eyes. Ezra has left me naked, beaten, with one arm cuffed to this cross because he knows I need to be punished. And for that I am grateful.
* * *
The carpet burns my knees when I fall in front of the altar. My heart is still racing even though it's been hours since his hands were on me.
Closing my eyes, I look for the words I need to pray, but I'm at a loss. Instead of holy thoughts, all I can think of is him. Ezra. He is beautiful, stoic, perfect, but beauty is the work of the devil. I see that now. The image of his thick tongue flicking over my clit fogs my mind, blood pools between my thighs and parts of me throb, parts of me that I shouldn't feel while on my knees in a church because...he's the devil. I want to cry, but instead, I dig my nails into the stair, trying to ground myself.
He's a means to end, Evelyn. A test. That is all he is.
I choke on a sob as I lean my head against the stair. "Grant me peace. Forgive me for the thoughts I have."
Sweet'art. his thick British accent rustles through my mind, sending chill bumps sweeping over my flesh. Use him, Evelyn. Seduce him. Bring him to his knees and he will bring you to the man who killed your sister. He is the heartbeat of all the sick men in this city. Use him.
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"You will beg me to stop, but I won't," he growls against my neck. His coarsely sophisticated British accent makes the threat somewhat beautiful. I try to breathe, I try to control the urge I have to scream. The sudden silence makes my frantic heart pound harder and panic sets in. Out of instinct, I yank against the restraints, and the tough leather cuts into my skin.
I remind myself why I am doing this, and when I do, I see her.
Hannah is dressed in an expensive-looking red dress. She has on new jewelry. She smiles at me, her eyes flashing. "Actually, I got a promotion."
What kind of promotion can a prostitute get? I swallow at the thought.
"Evelyn, I'll make five thousand dollars a night. A night! And the men I will have access to..." She smirks. "Sinners."
This man is the same man who gave Hannah that five grand a night deal--the same five grand a night deal he's offering me. And that deal is what lead to her death.