Taylor's Time!


Oh.

My.

Goddess.

This is such an intense chapter!

There is so much power going on in here, I'm surprised it doesn't jump out of the screen.


Okay, so, warnings - you need these!

Violence.

Graphic depiction of violence.

Language.

And emotions that are gonna rip you to shreds.


Ready?

Here you go.

- Kendra


Chapter Eighteen


Avan's wrists were bound to the wooden post of the bed. A clear tarp had been thrown onto the floor behind him. I couldn't keep my eyes off it. It was Kain who put it there, Kain who stood near Avan now, holding a long thick stick in his hand - a whipping staff.


"For the mess." Kain said, smiling pleasantly.


My brain connected the dots. Avan's tightly bound wrists, the whipping staff, the careful consideration Kain had taken to ensure that nothing would stain the dusky orange carpet. Outraged, I struggled against the men, who held me so tightly that my skin had gone red.


"Get away from him!" I snarled.


As if obeying my command, Kain stepped back, holding the whipping staff in his monstrous hands. He held the staff out to me.


"Strike him." He pressed the staff into my hands.


A chill passed through me, dulling some senses, heightening others. Every sound was muffled by a ringing in my ears. I feltl the grip of the men loosen, felt the weight of the staff in my hands, the rapid beat of my heart.


"No!"


I dropped the staff from nervless fingers.


“No,” I repeated. Then I glimpsed the barrel of a gun out of the corner of my eye. Kain's voice, cold, oily, and dark, whispered in my ear.


"Strike him." One of the men picked up the staff and placed it in my hands. “Or die. You choose. I don’t care.”


I was trapped. I couldn’t see a way out. I had to do what he said.


Still, I hesitated. Avan knelt with his head bowed, the muscles of his back tight, bracing himself for the first lash. His shoulders trembled. When I spoke, my emotions betrayed me. My voice was little more than a choked sob.


"Av?"


Avan swallowed hard.


"It's okay, Angel."


I trembled. My breathing quickened, my chest tight, my knees weak. Avan gave me the nickname "Angel" on the day we'd met. He’d used it ever since, a private term of endearment. How could I possibly hurt him?


Kain heaved a sigh of impatience. I felt the cold steel of the muzzle of the gun against my back. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.


“Now,” he growled.


I opened my weeping eyes and delivered the first lash.


The staff made a solid thud as it hit Avan's body. His head jerked up, back arching in a rapid, unnatural movement. A low grunt escaped from the back of his throat. I cringed and whimpered, nearly dropping the staff again.


"No, no, no," Kain said. "That doesn't count."


I saw the reddish-brown welt already rising across Avan's back and turned away.


Kain pointed the gun in my face.


"You've got to put your back into it." he whispered harshly. "Don't just tap him!"


I swallowed.


If I die, there’s no hope for Avan, I rationalized.


“Back off,” I hissed at Kain, jabbing at him with the staff. He jumped back, surprised. “You want me to do this? Fine. I’ll do it, but I’ll do it my way.”


He grunted, but he gave me the space I wanted. I’d done it; I’d made a demand and he’d given in.


I adjusted my stance, ensuring I wouldn't hit the same spot, then struck Avan, my gentle Avan, with a little more force. He choked back a cry. His fingernails dug into the wood of the bedpost.


I thought I was going to throw up.


Kain grunted in frustration. He stepped forward and pressed the gun to the back of Avan's head.


"Lash him!" he roared. "Strike him now!"


“Get out of the way, then!” I returned his fury with my own, fury at what he was forcing me to do, fury at the pain I would inflict.


I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. They dripped and burned down my cheeks. But Kain complied, stepping away, watching me.


The whipping staff shook in my hands as I gripped it tighter.


Kain grinned, a horrid, evil thing.


"Avan," I whispered, tears still flowing. "I'm sorry."


With a voice trembling and strained, Avan said, "It's okay, Angel. Do what you've got to do."


I loved him. God, I loved him.


A larger welt was rising on his lower back. Kain, trying to keep control but unwilling to get within range of the staff again, kept the gun pointed in Avan's direction, finger on the trigger.


What else could I do?


I closed my eyes, raised my arms, and swung the staff.


This thud was wet. Avan cried out, a brief, agonized scream, and my legs threatened to buckle beneath me.


"Good girl!" Kain praised, gun holstered, clapping wildly. "That's the way to do it!"


The other men hooted and clapped along with him, as if I'd just scored the winning touchdown. I opened my eyes, then looked away, pressing a hand over my mouth. The wound was devastating, a deep bleeding gash beneath Avan's shoulder blades.



Somehow, as the men continued their praises, I found the courage to look back towards Avan. Through the mess of red, I could see just how deep my blow had cut into his skin. The soft tissues, the thin layer of muscle, were sliced clean through, exposed to the frigid air of this basement.


God, I had done that!


Avan coughed, struggling to keep his grip on the bedpost. Blood flowed from the wound with every movement, a thick red trail running down his back and dripping onto the tarp. Soft, choked back noises, like he was resisting the urge to weep, resisting the urge to vomit, fell from his mouth. His knees shook. That one lash had knocked every ounce of breath, his last ounce of strength, out of him.


"One down," Kain said, enthusiastically.


He clapped. And the more he clapped, the harder he praised, the greater the anger rose inside of me.

Was I really going to whip Avan to death out of cowardice? No…


I turned and screamed.


"No!"


I swung the staff this way and that, forcing the men back a step, then another, and another. Kain raised hands as if in surrender, a small smile on his face. There was a spot of blood under his eye. In passing, I wondered how it got there. When I glanced down at the staff, red with Avan's blood, I knew.


"Get the fuck back!" I shouted, my teeth bared.


Avan was saying my name, but I wasn't listening. I needed to protect him, to save him.


"Didn't think you had it in ya," Kain said, chuckling.


He didn't look afraid. He looked amused, as if my fit of rage was nothing but a joke to him. He had the gun in his hand again, but he held it casually, unworried.


Why? I wondered. I still had the staff. I could've struck him, knocked the gun from his hand.



Then what? Was I really willing to take the life of another human being? Could I live with that knowledge, with that guilt? Even when that same human belittled and tortured me and my boyfriend?


Would it eat me alive?


When I looked deep within, I knew the answer. I lowered the staff and said, “No more.”



Kain wiped the blood from his cheek with his sleeve, then cracked each of the knuckles on his right hand slowly, deliberately, before speaking.


"Fine. You win. No more.”


Hope welled in my breast, and for a moment a surge of elation filled me. Then Kain continued speaking.

“For him. But you? You will take the rest of his lashes. He will not be touched."


I opened my mouth to protest but the words were caught on my tongue. Avan went through so much for me. Surely I could bear this burden for him?


Despite the sick feeling that tore through my stomach, I slowly nodded.


They tied me to the support beam in his place, hung directly above the tarp on the floor. My shirt was torn from my body, my arms high above my head. The black hood made it impossible to see where the first lash would come from. I breathed slowly, remembering what Avan once taught me. I shivered from the cold, from the fear.


A whimper escaped me.


No! I won’t give thise bastards the satisfaction! I fell silent, clenching my teeth.


And when the first lash was delivered across my breast and collar bone, my lungs tore open in an explosive burst, but not a sound, not a cry, did I make. Avan's voice was ringing in the background, crying, begging for them to stop.


Better me than him.


The pain was blinding, instantaneous, excruciating.


Better me than him.


Welts rose under my skin. They broke open.


Better me than him.


My vision blurred. My head slumped forward.


Better me than-....





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