Once upon a time, a girl was saved by a monster that lived in a dungeon.
That girl was me. Now my monster’s been taken by my worst nightmare.
I should be scared. But all I want is revenge.
If you haven’t already read Broken Dolls, you can read this couple’s origin story for free, here.
Short, brutal, and hot. This story has Kitty’s signature all over it, and I loved every second!” -Cecile Smits, Goodreads
Well, that was darkly delicious! … Watching this new dynamic emerge was all sorts of sexy, wild, vicious, fun! ” -Dar, Goodreads
Excerpt from The Easter Hunt (c) 2022, Kitty Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
“I can’t believe you paid so much money for this gaijin whore.” Matsumoto’s lackey walks around me in a slow circle as though he’s in any position to judge me, his laughter ringing in my ears. I jump as the whip slices through the air behind me, making that sharp cracking sound.
And then I wake up.
My hand goes immediately to Brian’s collar around my throat. It steadies me and reminds me I’m safe.
It’s a short dream—like the one where you’re just drifting off and dream you tripped on something, and your body jerks. I always wake right at the point before the damage starts. I don’t know if it’s my mind protecting me from the event, but I always hear that whip moving through the air. I’m always bracing for that first horrible sting, but it never comes. Instead, I find myself in the room I share with Brian in the dungeons of the Pleasure House.
I’m still so grateful he got to me in time, before Matsumoto had me long enough to give me more permanent scars. And Brian knew just how to tend to my wounds so they’d heal with minimal physical reminders.
I don’t feel any lingering fear when I wake from these dreams.
Mostly I feel anger. It’s a boiling rage I feel I can no longer contain, as if some sort of beast lives inside me and is hungry for someone’s blood that isn’t my own. I unconsciously reach for Brian, but I keep forgetting he isn’t here.
I glance over at the alarm clock. It’s almost noon. I can’t have breakfast unless I make it myself, but the cafeteria should be serving lunch by now, and definitely by the time I manage to drag myself out of bed and upstairs. It’s a process. I’ve been sleeping poorly the past few nights, and there aren’t exactly any windows down here to alert me to the arrival of the sun.
I have zero discipline without Brian. He’s off on a job, and I know it’s not for the house. It’s for his personal demons, no doubt. I don’t know if he’ll dispose of the body on site when he’s done or if he’ll bring it here to incinerate. It really depends on his mood. When he’s all covered in blood looking like an even more insane Dexter with trash bags filled with body parts, it does strike the terror he’s looking for in the residents of the house.
It causes everyone to give him a wide berth, which is pretty much what he prefers. Brian, like me, has trust issues.
I’m the only one who sees underneath the monster to the man who saved me, the man who has been hurt as I have been hurt. And something has flipped over in me as well. It’s like a trigger buried deep inside me. I tried to ignore it. I tried to brush it away and be the good girl, but underneath it all there was a darkness that began to take root, a slithering dark smoke swirling around my soul.
After Japan, everything cracked open, and all the dark smoke that had only been seeping through the small cracks within me were finally free. I’m no longer afraid of Brian. I’m afraid of myself, my own darkness. I have long vivid violent dreams now—not violence where I’m the victim, violence where I’m the perpetrator. Every time Brian goes on a job I want to go with him, but he says it’s too dangerous, he can’t risk me, but I have a growing need to do damage.
This feeling festers more and more, like an itch I can’t scratch, and I’m starting to resent him keeping the carnage to himself as though he’s hoarding necessary supplies for my survival—like he’s hoarding oxygen. Is he truly worried about my safety or does he want to protect that last shade of innocence that remains in me? It’s one thing to be a victim and have a traumatic past. It’s another thing to then become the thing of nightmares yourself, to inflict the trauma. To be the monster.
I look the other way when Brian punishes girls in the house and when he kills, whether it’s to enforce house rules and the secrecy this illicit business requires, or if it’s personal jobs, personal vendettas—personal trash he feels should be taken out. I’m not sure if he gets paid for these side job hits, or if it’s pro bono assassination, but… we both know either way he doesn’t need the money and money isn’t what drives him. It’s blood and begging. It’s him having the power and no longer being that scared abused little boy.
It’s like how he runs on the treadmill in the middle of the night… not for fitness, but running from his ghosts and the dark awful childhood only I and the house shrink know about, the scars on his back so like mine that only I have been trusted to see. It doesn’t make what he does most of the time okay, but I understand. And sometimes his kills are needed. To protect someone. To protect me.
Last year he threw me aside and I left, walking into what I thought was a free world, looking over my shoulder the whole time wondering where Brian was and if he’d just forgotten me, wondering if any part of his heart beat for me or could beat for me. During this time, I was stolen off the street by a man called Matsumoto. I was never clear on if that was his first name or his last name or if he had only one. I was taken to the other side of the world where he took out his sadism on me—all because Brian had kept me from him.
I thought I’d die there and that Brian either didn’t know or didn’t care. I wish I’d been conscious when he strode in like an avenging dark angel. I imagine him with two guns in his hands, taking out every soul that stood between him and me. And I’m ninety percent sure that’s at least close to how it went down.
When he leaves me behind to rescue, protect, enforce house rules, take out his rage, outrun his demons or fight back against them, I feel alone.
I’m not truly alone, of course. There’s an entire world upstairs teeming with life in what I think of as The Pleasure House. All the trainers—unnaturally attractive men, and all the girls seeking to be trained—similar in their unnatural beauty. Oh yes, the women all came here voluntarily. They have some deeper inner kink that they feel can’t be met with play pretend kink. I was foolish and hopeful like them once, too.
They want it to be real. They want to truly be owned. I sometimes wonder if they are as damaged as me. Is that what drives this desire? Or is it the comfort and safety of not needing to make a million decisions in such an uncertain world? Or wanting someone else to take care of them or be responsible?
Or is it the sheer hedonism of being someone’s pleasure toy, knowing these buyers are so well screened that anyone you go to is very likely to be very well versed in the art not only of receiving, but in giving pleasure, and that you will receive the full force of that lust and desire. And you belong to them…you signed away all your rights so… you have no choice but to submit and experience and express your desires. You can’t be blamed for anything. You’re the victim here, so you may as well enjoy the fall.
But are we victims? I honestly don’t know anymore, the lines are so blurred. But I don’t feel like a victim. The most dangerous and feared man at this house—the only true actual psycho makes me feel more safe than I’ve ever felt in my life because I know nothing will ever stand between Brian and me. If I’m in danger, someone is dying. And if Brian has anything to say about it, it won’t be me.
The girls at the house are all transient. Once they find their forever homes—like so many puppies at the pound—they’re gone forever as new women drift in to be trained.
Then there are the lifers… First there are the owners who also double as trainers: Lindsay—that’s a man and also the house shrink, Gabe—the nice one, Anton—the Russian massage therapist and seducer of women with his magic hands, and Brian—the wounded dangerous one.
There was another guy who was asked to be a part of all this, Michael, but he opted out. Probably for the best. It’s kind of like the mafia around here. Once you choose to be in, you never get to choose to be out. Mutual assured destruction makes for greater criminal safety after all.
Then there’s Phyllis in the kitchen. She’s an older woman, maybe mid to late fifties. She downplays her looks, and who can blame her? Even though she’s past the average shelf life of what these men sell and trade, one can never be too careful. And besides, Lindsay is around her age. And then there’s the cougar phenomenon. You never know if one of these young trainers is going to develop an older woman fetish, so she’s probably smart to downplay, but I can see the beauty she hides.
Phyllis was the real estate agent who sold this place to the guys as they were building their illegal and morally bankrupt business to match wealthy powerful men with women who long to serve them and live out all their greatest filthy fantasies. She saw too much, and so now she’s in charge of the kitchen.
There’s a girl named Shannon who I mostly avoid. She’s sweet but maybe even more damaged than me. She has bad scars, including some on her shoulders and one on her face. The worst thing about the scars is that Brian gave them to her. I can’t let myself ever think about it.
He’s not like that with me. I never fear or even think he could ever be like that with me, but Shannon is the one person in the house who reminds me who Brian really is. Even when he’s covered in blood from a fresh kill. Even when there are garbage bags full of body parts to incinerate, nothing drives home what he’s capable of like looking at Shannon.
She came to the house, like me, in search of the kinky fairy tale. She, like me, bought all the marketing hype delivered by Lindsay.
Lindsay failed her, just as he failed me. No one warned her about Brian, she smarted off to him on one of his dark days, and… the rest is etched into her skin for the rest of her life. They couldn’t let her go. Lindsay spared her life, but now she’s got a very different kind of slavery, and not the pleasurable kinky kind. She basically runs the on-site spa, much more half-heartedly than Phyllis runs the kitchen.
It’s so hard to hold in my head the fact that Brian could hurt someone the way he hurt Shannon, that he can be her literal nightmare at the same time he’s my salvation. So, to keep my sanity in check, I avoid her as much as possible.
The last lifer, besides me, is Annette. She’s with Anton. Gabe had some fixation with a girl named Julie, but decided to leave her alone, so now he’s just moping around the house like a sad country song.
I sigh and finally drag myself out of bed. I can complain about the lack of windows down here all day long, but it’s like a cozy cave, and Brian is the master of comfortable bedding. You wouldn’t think a man—much less a man like Brian—would be concerned about that, or even know the first thing about it, but when you have trouble sleeping like he does, I guess every bit of comfort counts for something.
It took until I got back to the house to really start to appreciate Brian’s understanding of thread count. He’s a complex guy.
I take a quick shower, put my long chocolate brown hair up in a messy up-do and throw on some leggings, casual boots, and a sweater that hangs half off one shoulder. The leggings-aren’t-pants crowd can kiss my ass.
When I get up to the cafeteria, lunch is being served. Phyllis excels at lunch. There’s a bizarre way in which Phyllis is sort of living out her dream life. She hated real estate. She was more-or-less self-employed but was trying to ease out of it. All she really wanted was to start a catering company. This woman loves to cook and bake like nobody I’ve ever seen.
Maybe she isn’t building an empire but she also doesn’t have the stress of business failure. It’s a trade-off. The guys at the house give her a huge allowance for anything she needs for the kitchen as well as a personal allowance and she just gets to cook and bake anything she wants. Sometimes she enlists help from others here when she’s planning something really labor intensive.
There’s a wide variety of sub sandwiches today, and I momentarily wonder if it might be some kind of inside joke or attempted pun.
There’s also a few plugged in panini sandwich machines which have become quite popular with an array of things to choose to put on them.
My favorite lately is turkey with a spinach artichoke spread she makes melted together with provolone cheese. If it weren’t for the gym here, I wouldn’t be flaunting the leggings aren’t pants code.
The girls give me a lot of space, and it hurts my feelings a little.
Even Annette is cautious around me now. I’ve been back at the house for a while but I can’t hide the darkness that has become suddenly very loud. I’m sure people can feel the energy of it. Where before I was a scared and traumatized woman—a small girl in a grown-up body in many ways—now there is an anger, a hardness, a power waiting to unfurl.
It scares me sometimes, so I don’t blame the others for their reactions to me. I feel as though I really could snap at any moment and do something crazy. Even the trainers are cautious in my space. The only person who isn’t on some level afraid of me now is Brian. But maybe it’s pity they all feel, not fear. After all they must have some idea of what Matsumoto did to me.
And I have thrown my weight around with the girls a bit. I’ve smacked a couple and yelled at a couple more since I’ve been back, but it’s only because they had comments to make about my mostly Queen of the Damned clothes, and how they don’t like that I call everybody but Brian by their first names around here. I saw the look Brian got in his eyes. While I may stay out of his way, it still bothers me that he’d hurt one of the girls over something minor having to do with me. So when these moments come, I take them into my own hands, to protect them. From him. But I’m sure they don’t see it that way. The girls who’ve been here longer understand the Brian threat, but the new ones often don’t. And I just can’t let another Shannon happen on my watch. Not because of me.
I make my favorite panini and sit at a table away from the others. Annette makes eye contact as she fixes her plate. I want her to come sit with me, but I can’t bring myself to call her over. We’d been starting to form a friendship before everything happened. Since then she’s been polite but wary. Lindsay approaches my table, and I flinch. He’s probably the only person at the house I still have a visceral unpleasant reaction to. There are things neither I nor Brian will ever forgive him for.
“Mina, do you know where Brian is? I need him.”
If anyone needs Brian it’s because they want him to do something unsavory and evil which they can’t bring themselves to sully their own souls or hands with. Punish a girl. Kill someone on the outside who has become a threat to the house. Something like that.
“He’s on personal business,” I say. “And he’s been gone longer than he should be. I’m worried.”
Lindsay rolls his eyes at this, like I’m expressing concern over a rabid dog. Nobody cares about how Brian feels. He’s a monster, so he has no feelings. It doesn’t occur to anybody that Brian might need anything from someone else. Lindsay was supposed to be his therapist—though that’s over. Lindsay was also once my therapist, and really this guy should lose his license.
“I mean it! I’m worried something’s gone wrong. He’s been gone a week longer than he said he would.”
Normally if he’s a day or two late, it’s fine. It happens. But this long? I’m afraid something happened. I’m afraid he might be hurt. Or dead. He doesn’t communicate with the house when he’s out on a job for security reasons, but, it’s been too long. Deep down I know this.
“Maybe he’s just got a lover on the side,” Lindsay says.
He thinks this kind of barb will affect me. It won’t. Brian and I don’t have intercourse. I know that’s weird but I don’t like doing it. Besides my traumatic experiences in the kink world even before all this, I’ve never really been able to get off on that particular activity. And for Brian, fucking isn’t a compliment, so no, Brian doesn’t have a lover. He and I definitely bring each other pleasure—yes the sexual kind—but he can’t fuck without it being an act of aggression and I can’t be fucked for similar and also different reasons.
The kind of intimacy we share requires a vulnerability Brian won’t and can’t show with anyone else. So nice try, psycho-shrink. Brian does occasionally fuck the women he punishes, but I don’t consider that cheating. My position with him and what we share is much different. I wouldn’t prefer to be in their place. Most women wouldn’t understand this, but if you’d met Brian, you’d know there’s nothing to be jealous about.
Lindsay hates that I’m not required to show any deference or respect to anyone at the house but Brian, and so he intentionally tries to get under my skin with petty bullshit like this. Annette calls all the other trainers Sir, and acts like the good proper submissive pretty much all the time, but Brian is the only person I answer to in any way. He made that very clear. And Lindsay can’t stand that I speak to him as though we’re equals. We aren’t equals. I’m about a thousand times better than the house shrink. And we both know it.
“Well, Lindsay, if you aren’t going to care about Brian and where he might be and if he might need some sort of help, I’m not sure how he can help you.”
He rolls his eyes, turns on his heel, and leaves the cafeteria. Seriously, fuck that guy.
“You’ve got a letter.”
I turn to find Gabe, holding out a piece of mail to me.
“Thank you.” I take the letter from him discreetly and place it under my plate while I eat lunch.
He gives me a strange look but shrugs and walks away. I’m grateful it’s Gabe who gets the mail, and not one of the other owners. Lindsay would have opened it himself and possibly withheld it from me entirely.
I don’t get letters. Who would send me mail here? Who knows I’m here to send me mail in the first place? My heart flutters in my chest. Is it from Brian? It has to be. He’s the only person who has my mailing address. But why the hell would he send me a letter to the house? Is he in some kind of trouble? But again, why a letter? Letters are too slow for trouble. If he needed something couldn’t he just break his calling rule once? Why not just use a burner phone, make the call quick, and then dispose of it?
My fingers itch to rip into the envelope, but I can’t do it at the table with so many eyes on me. So I act like it’s nothing. I eat the Turkey and spinach panini, barely tasting it, take my plate back, and rush downstairs so I can open it in private.
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