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Death. It was all I could smell. Putrid. Acidic. It took everything in me not to spew my lunch all over my boots. Bodies lined the walls. Guts spilled on the floor from where they hung from the rafters. Blood seeped into the cracks beneath them, disappearing into the ground much like the souls of its victims.

Women—all different shapes and sizes—filled my vision. The predators had started off young but now, they were going after all ages. Young. Old. It didn’t fucking matter. Not to these sick fucks. They preyed on the weak. The lesser sex.

Voices sounded in my head, urging me to move forward. The women, they needed to be saved. They had no one looking for them. I couldn’t leave them behind. There was so much death; I could hardly breathe.

A heavy hand landed hard on my shoulder, forcing me to take a step back. Hot air coated my ear, the stale scent of liquor stinging my eyes.

“This is the result of our true desire,” the voice purred in my ear. “Everyone has a dark sadistic side to them. Sometimes people allow it to come out and play; other times, they ignore it. I chose to embrace mine. There is no grey when it comes to our world. It’s either black or white. Whether they explore it or not, is up to them.”

My body vibrated, my heart echoing in my thoughts. Mustering up the courage to speak, I swallowed hard. Once. Twice. “Anything goes, I take it?” Relief flooded through me that my voice hadn’t cracked. I wasn’t scared of him but even I was man enough to admit that I was terrified of the situation at hand. If I found someone I knew in this shit, I would react first, think later. There would be no questions asked as to what I would do to him. To these men.

“Anything at all.” Charles Brian walked further into the room of decay. The walls were stained with every form of liquid a body could release. “We leave these bodies in here for extra practice until the smell gets to be too much. And before you jump to conclusions, no, we do not fuck the dead. We’re sadistic, but that’s a line even we won’t cross.”

Yeah, because that should have made me feel better. It should have helped me undergo this mission with strength and confidence. But it didn’t. Nothing did. Until the bastards were caught and put six feet below ground, nothing would ever be the same.

“You’re a quiet one,” Charles pointed out. “I like that. It leaves more to the imagination. But before I speak with the boss regarding your entry into the organization, you will need to tell me a bit about yourself.”

Every time he turned his back to me, my fingers twitched. My palms became itchy with the need to wrap around his neck and squeeze. But instead, I ground out, “What would you like to know?”

“We need to know what you like.” He winked. “The usual.”

Everything in me said to hit him. To put an end to the meeting, head back to base and be done. “I like whatever you have available,” I replied, regretting the words. Knowing that would lead Charles into a whole new territory of questioning, I braced myself for it.

“Ah. An open book,” Charles clapped his hands together. “Perfect.” He smirked, walking to the back of the large room. He didn’t look over his shoulder to see if I was following—he knew I would.

My feet moved of their own accord, not giving me a chance to hesitate.

Charles Brian wasn’t your typical bad guy. He was young. I would give him thirty, tops. The guy was Hollywood good looking. Blond and blue eyed. Well built. It would be easy for him to get his prey. Show them some attention from someone who wouldn’t normally approach them and they went willingly. It wasn’t their fault. These bastards preyed on the insecure. Charles was the epitome of evil. He played the good boy perfectly until he got you in his clutches. Then the true darkness would shine through.

His eyes showed the truth. They were dark—soulless. I knew Charles was chosen to run the house because of his lack of remorse. But, he didn’t know me. He didn’t know that Vice-One had been watching him for months. Or that we knew how he worked. We could have caught him in the beginning, as soon as he had a girl at his side, kneeling on the ground with her head lowered. Blood and dirt marred her pale skin.

The image of her burned in my mind, seared there to remain forever.

Even though we had done everything to make sure Charles would never know that we were on to him, there was always that thought of what if. Maybe he did know. It was all a game. Cat vs. Mouse. Predator vs. Prey. But who was the captor, and who was the victim?

“How many girls do you have here?” I made sure not to seem nosy. Charles would become suspicious if I asked too many questions, but I needed to know how many females we had a chance of saving. If any at all.

“Why do you ask?”

He didn’t answer right away. Why would he? “I need to know how many whores I have a chance of destroying.” As soon as the words left my mouth, my stomach tightened. I might have had a poor excuse for a male role model growing up, but there was no way I could ever mistreat a woman. Now if they were into name calling in the bedroom, I would let the insults fly, but that was all on them. Consent at its finest.

“Good man.” Charles pushed open the door. “Twenty-eight. But, of course, that number can change at any point.” He winked.

“Of course.” The man, if I could even call him that, disgusted me. I understood everyone had their own vice, their own kink, but Charles Brian was the worst kind. He got off on the weak. Forcing submission before the victims even had a chance to decipher between the two. Did they want to be submissive? Maybe they would grow up to be Dominant. Lawyers. Doctors. They could rule at work and submit in the bedroom. But it was ruined for them. Their right to choose was taken from them before they even had a chance to decide. The BDSM lifestyle would forever be engrained in their minds as something abusive and horrific when in reality it was a beautiful thing.

We walked into a second large room, and I never expected to see what I saw next. Women. All different ages. Bound and gagged. Blindfolded and chained. All of them were naked. Nothing was left to the imagination as their legs were spread apart for anyone’s view. My heart thumped hard, my blood pounding in my ears until all I could focus on was killing the man standing a few feet away from me. But I didn’t. For fear of ruining the whole operation, I stayed calm and silent. Emotionless.

“Ah, my favorite room.” Charles walked up to a cage and banged on the metal bars. The girl didn’t move. She kept her head down, remaining perfectly still. She was trained. Or, she was so far gone, she just didn’t care anymore. Why fight against the devil knowing you would lose anyway? Most would be better off giving in. It would mean less pain for them. But scars would lay on them internally for the rest of their lives no matter how short lived it may be.

“These females are trained,” I said, pointing out the obvious.

“Some of them.” Charles grinned. “But most are so fucked up on drugs, you wouldn’t know the difference.”

“And the customers enjoy that? It would be like fucking a dead body.” I held back the urge to console a small girl who was curled into a fetal position, tears streaming down her face. I stepped in front of the tiny cage she had been placed in, for fear Charles would see the utter defeat written all over her. Not sure what he would do, I shielded her from him for as long as possible.

“As long as their heart beats, it doesn’t matter how coherent they are.” Charles clapped his hands together. “Do you know why this room is connected to the other one?”

“No.” But I could take a guess.

“So they know what happens to them if they step out of line.” A dark shadow passed over his face. “We take them from their cage, lead them through the death, and they instantly submit. It’s the perfect mind fuck.”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. No response could leave my lips that wouldn’t get me into trouble and fuck up the whole operation. I had been undercover for a month, earning my way into Charles’ house. I hated that part of my job, but I refused to sit behind a desk day in and day out. It wasn’t how I was wired. I needed to be out in the field. Although Vice-One was military operated, I ventured out into the human trafficking field. SEALs had nothing to do with that shit, but when Angel approached me with the job offer, I couldn’t say no.

“Anything here you like?” Charles asked, interrupting my thoughts.

Anything. Like those girls were fucking objects and not living human beings. I wanted to say no. The word was on the tip of my tongue, but it would throw Charles off. It would make him second guess my intentions, and I didn’t need that.

I made a point of glancing around the room, walking back and forth between the cages. They were looking down at their hands folded in their laps. Aside from being drugged, they were kept in good shape. Hair clean. Skin washed. Unless the men specifically asked for them to be dirty, they were otherwise well taken care of. If you could get past the idea of them being kidnapped.

“You look like you’re searching for something,” Charles sauntered from cage to cage before stopping at one holding a tiny frail body. The female was curled into a fetal position, her form still and unmoving. “Ah. I think we lost one.” He tapped on the bar, a sly grin spreading on his face. “It’s about time, you little—”


Charles gaze slid to mine, his eyebrow raising.

Clearing my throat, I tried again, “What I’m looking for isn’t here. I’m not into fucking the dead.” And I refused to allow him to speak ill of them as well. The poor thing was better off. My fingers tingled, itching to rip out his eyes so he never had to look at another innocent victim again. To tear him limb from limb, feeding his entrails to the pigs. The worthless piece of shit would meet the end of my knife, sooner rather than later.

“We don’t like fucking the dead, either,” he reminded me.

“But these girls are so far gone, you might as well be.”

“Who do you have in mind?”

“I have someone.” I was grasping at straws. Name after name bounced around in my head but I would never bring them into this hell. Except for one. She would want these fuckers dead as much as me, if not more. “Give me a week.”

“One week.” Charles scratched his jaw. “Fine. I’ll make it a point to meet the toy of your choosing.”

“Of course.” I turned on my heel and left the confines of that room. Back through the stench of death and out into the fresh evening air.

I had one week.

Fuck. Me.

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