The Flesh Cartel #15: Twenty-Five
In the exciting final season of the Flesh Cartel . . .
With the help of the FBI, Mat Carmichael has let himself be re-taken by the Flesh Cartel. Objective? Rescue his brother, exact revenge, and destroy the entire organization from the inside.
FBI Special Agent Nate Johnson will be playing backup, of course, but to get Dougie out alive, Mat will need to make sure his brother is out of Allen’s clutches before calling in the troops. Now that Mat’s back in bondage, though, there’s no way he can do it alone. He’ll have to ask for help from the only man within the Cartel who cares about Dougie’s welfare: Nikolai. And even knowing it will destroy him, Nikolai delivers.
Bringing down the Cartel should have been the hardest part, but it doesn’t take long to realize that the real challenge has only just begun. Dougie doesn’t know how to be free anymore, and Mat is forced to admit that he may no longer be strong enough to help himself, let alone his brother. But with loved ones in their corner and their love for each other banked but not extinguished, Mat and Dougie learn that you can come home again, no matter how desperate the circumstances you’ve left behind.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:drug use, dubious consent, explicit violence
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
Themes: abduction/kidnapping/hostage (actual), abuse, angst, family, hurt / comfort, illness / injury, interracial/multicultural, jocks / athletes, power imbalance, protection, PTSD, recovery, self-confidence, slave / capture (actual), trust issues
For the first time all year, Mat’s imagination had turned out to be much, much worse than his reality.
What a fucking novel concept.
The Lakewood Psychiatric Facility was actually . . . kind of nice. Sure, his room locked from the outside at night, but it was comfortable and he didn’t have to share it with anyone, and nobody—not even the orderlies or nurses—barged in without knocking and waiting for a reply. And yeah, they were making him take . . . take . . . he couldn’t remember the names of all the pills, and Jesus there were a lot of them. They left him a little uncomfortably fuzzy-headed and sleepy and slow but also kind of pleasantly mellow, and they seemed to keep the nightmares at bay more often than not, which was a decided improvement over the days before he’d gotten here. And there was a lot of talking—individual therapy and group therapy and social chatter during free time from people who couldn’t take a hint and leave him alone to worry about what was taking the damn bounty hunters so long and what would happen if they never came. But even that . . . even that wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was the medication, or maybe it was how tired he seemed all the time, or maybe it was Dr. Astley’s earnest fucking face and endless compassion, but he found himself sharing things he’d never thought he’d be able to repeat if he lived to be a hundred. Found himself crying like a little fucking kid through way too much of it. But also found himself feeling . . . well, not better afterward, but maybe . . . lighter? Less stressed, somehow.
Sometimes he actually found himself forgetting what he was really doing here. That he wasn’t really crazy, that he wasn’t supposed to be sharing his fucking feelings and healing his fucking mental scars and learning to cope with his PTS-fucking-D. And that was fucking terrifying—more terrifying than jumping at every shadow, holding his breath while rounding every blind corner, waiting waiting waiting for some bounty hunter to snatch him. More terrifying than imagining what they might do to him once they had him. Because he’d come to realize these last few days how comfortable he could get here if he let himself, how complacent—lulled by drugs he didn’t need and therapy he obviously, desperately did. And the thought of fading away here, of forgetting . . . that was the stuff of more nightmares than anything Madame or Nikolai or Allen had ever done.
Which was why he kept practicing, over and over and over and over and over again, the story he and Nate and Louise had concocted about what he’d told the FBI, what their investigation had revealed, why they hadn’t believed him, why they’d thrown him in here. The story he knew he’d need to be able to recite under the worst kind of duress, the one he knew he couldn’t afford to forget, or to deviate from even the tiniest hair. The story he’d need to convince the bounty hunters was true before they’d take him back to Nikolai.
Which was also why—through the heart-stopping panic of realizing he’d been actually drugged by the nighttime meds orderly, room spinning and eyes and limbs suddenly too heavy to move, tongue too thick to make a sound—he was actually plain fucking relieved when they finally came for him.
He woke briefly to the sensation of movement—wheelchair, restraints, night-dimmed hallway. Pipes, concrete, strange sounds in the distance—machinery clicking, water running—footsteps, lots of them, wheeling him along. Basement, maybe. Or maintenance tunnels. He tried to stand, to stop them, wasn’t sure why. Wasn’t this supposed to happen? Couldn’t move anyway.
Why was he so afraid?
A heavy hand landed on his shoulder, squeezed hard. Nails dug into his flesh. Pain. He wanted to make it stop, couldn’t move.
“Easy, tiger.” Female voice. The fingers tightened. Sound bubbled up from his chest, a low moan, not the words he’d meant to say. “I told you you wouldn’t like what happened if I had to chase after you.”
Bounty hunter. Bounty hunter was good, right? This was good. He wanted this. Why was he so fucking scared?
“Y’r hurtinme,” he slurred, tried to shake her hand from his shoulder. Wrists strapped to the chair. Couldn’t move. Probably couldn’t have anyway even without the straps.
The fingers tightened more. “Go back to sleep,” she said. Snorted air through her nose. “Hurting you? Honey, I haven’t even begun.”
She wasn’t lying about the whole haven’t-even-begun-hurting-you thing. When he woke next, he was strapped to a chair, and the bounty hunter had a shiny metal tray on wheels, like the one in a dentist’s office, and on that tray was a whole fucking array of torture implements that desperately made him wish he could crawl up somewhere warm and safe like his nuts were trying to do.
No teeth pulling, no fingers cut off, but that still left plenty of options that wouldn’t compromise his value, and he was pretty sure she went through them all. Like fingernails—those were apparently in bounds. Toenails too. By the end of the first . . . day? night? who the fuck knew . . . of endless questions, endless I don’t believe yous, the same story over and over and over again (and thank God, thank God he’d rehearsed it so much), he didn’t have a single finger- or toenail left.
But hey, there was still electricity and waterboarding and good old-fashioned rape. Being female didn’t stop them; they improvised fine with fingers and fists and off-the-shelf cocks. He begged for them, sobbed for them—no acting required, no lies about how desperate they made him. He swore upside down and backwards and sideways that he was telling the truth, he was telling the truth, and he clung to that with the teeth they’d so kindly left him because Jesus fucking Christ if they didn’t stop this soon, if they didn’t believe him soon, he was going to slip. To make it stop, good Christ, anything to make it stop.
But if he did that, it’d only get worse. One slip and it’d all be for nothing. No more chances to make up for those lives he’d taken. No more chances to free everyone. No more chances to wrap his bare hands around Nikolai’s neck and make one . . . last . . . kill.
No more Dougie.
No, one teeny little slip and all he’d have left before him was endless penance, endless pain, until Nikolai broke him. And he couldn’t right all the wrongs that’d been done—to him, by him—if he disappeared.
He couldn’t disappear. Not to pills and therapy, not to Nikolai’s transformation. He was a fighter, or he was nothing. Not to mention, this was one beating he’d earned. What he deserved for leaving Dougie behind, for killing those men, for trying to manipulate Nate with fucking sex, for failing everyone, including himself.
He’d earned the beating, but that didn’t mean he could throw the match.
So he fought on.
Word Count: 19,800
Page Count: 80
Cover By: Imaliea
Release Date: 04/07/2014