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She was young, innocent and inexperienced. He was a professional slave trainer, adept at kidnapping girls and turning them into submissive playthings to be sold at auction to the highest bidder. In his cabin hidden away in the mountains, he spent months at his craft with each girl, using whips, bondage, and a rigorous regime of pain, punishment and, sometimes, reward.
Ashley was different. In her, he saw something he had always wanted. Starved of emotional contact, much as he had been in his childhood, Ashley’s terrified responses held a deep sexual arousal to even his most uncompromising demands. She was special.

Ashley glanced at her captor. Here was a man who would never need to be told what to do. In his domineering, confident bearing, she felt a strange familiarity of the guidance she was used to. Any decisions were taken out of her hands and all she had to do was follow his orders.


“Charlie’s not weak,” Ashley began her denial.


“Charlie was too scared to fight back, even though he had to know I was coming for you. The pathetic fool started crying when I tied him up. Do you really think he has the balls to organize some kind of search for you? He’ll accept the authorities’ decision when they tell him in a few days they have no idea how to find you, and he’ll melt back into his nondescript life until he finds another outcast at college to pick up.” Garrett’s words were intentionally cruel, but for some reason it seemed important for him to usurp any feelings she had for her former boyfriend.


Garrett watched her flinch and her eyes fill, and he realized she shared his thoughts about Charlie’s inabilities. She also believed his taunting suggestions about her own imaginary failings. If she had been brought up differently and she had learned a measure of confidence, Garrett figured she probably could have dated almost anyone she chose. Instead, she stayed safely on the sidelines, waiting for whatever life threw her way. This time, it had been Garrett.


Ashley said quietly, “If I’m such a loser, why don’t you let me go?”


“You might be worth at least a little cash after I train you. One of the ranchers might decide to buy you as a servant.” Garrett almost laughed at her shocked expression. “Hell, I didn’t grab you for myself, stupid. You and your friends are part of a long list of the many commodities we’ve taken and prepared to be sold.” It was the first time he had spoken the words and not meant them. He had every intention of trying to keep the pretty girl with her practically non-existent self-esteem. His rod began to fill and his eyes narrowed as he watched the girl staring into the fire, misery etched into every feature on her face.


His words had frightened her into silence. She had not come close to adjusting to all that had transpired over the past few days, and now an unknown future loomed ahead, making her feel as though she were falling from an endless cliff. A small part of her mind had assumed she was staying with this man, and she was trying to accept what she could. Knowing that her time with her captor was only a stepping-stone to a more uncertain future with someone who would no doubt be equally displeased with her flaws was causing her to sink into an apathetic despondency over her failures.


Garrett realized he had gone too far when the girl had not responded with the frightened reactions he had received in the past from his captives. When the other girls understood they were being subjected to his tortures, only to be sold to someone else when he was finished with them, they either shrieked in terror or fought until he broke them. Ashley seemed to simply give up... Still, there was something in her eyes. Garrett leaned back against the saddle and stretched out his legs, spreading his thighs. He said, “Come here.”


Ashley pulled out of her misery and looked over at him. The look in his eyes let her know what he wanted, and she slowly shuffled away. Her thoughts had already traveled to finding a way to kill herself rather than trying to continue in this unbalanced terror any longer. There was no sense in attempting to appease this man when in the end there would be no way she could ever accept the unknown future ahead of her.


He reached out to grab her braid, but she managed to scramble out of his reach. Ashley rose to her unsteady legs and ran back to the edge of the clearing, trying to remember the path they had taken. Garrett let her go, watching her indecision as she wandered into the trees. When she was hidden he followed, silently stalking her. Some of the others might have actually tried to run, but not this one. Her fear would have her trying to find her way back to the uneasy protection he offered.


Ashley kept finding herself blocked in dead-ended paths by rock walls or trees so thick she was too frightened to go through them. She silently cried in frustration while she searched for the trail. Sharp stones tore at her feet, and she was sure they were bleeding again. Why doesn’t he come after me? I know he can catch me. Ashley looked behind her, and panicked when she realized she could no longer see the glow from the fire. What if he’s decided I’m not worth the effort?


A branch fell to the ground near her and she shrieked, certain a bear or mountain lion was going to pounce. Her frantic thoughts turned to rattlesnakes and wolves, and she was shaking in terror and tried to hide behind a tree. All thoughts of attempting an escape were gone, and she decided she would rather put up with the man’s punishment rather than remain alone and frightened. If she called out, would he come for her? Could he even hear her? It seemed she had been walking for hours.


Garrett smiled and shook his head in the darkness when he saw her crouched down and shaking behind a large aspen. He picked up a branch and tossed it near her, and she shrieked, “Garrett, help me.” She began to cry, and he decided to help her make her way back to the campsite. She had merely circled the tree line for the ten minutes she had been gone.


He tossed another branch close behind her, and she crawled in his direction. Guiding her with thrown rocks that probably sounded like footsteps in her panicked imagination, she made her way back towards the clearing. When Garrett was reasonably sure she would spot the fire, he walked back and climbed into the bedroll, letting her think he had merely chosen to go to sleep rather than to chase after her.


Relief washed through her as she finally spotted the flicker of the flames through the trees, and she pulled herself to her feet. She slowly made her way out of the shadows and stared at the man. He was sleeping, and for some reason it made her angry that he had not even bothered to go after her. She slowly walked up to him and tried to figure out what to do. Another branch crashed close to the campsite, and she dropped down beside him and stared into the trees. She wanted him to hold her again, and make her feel safe. Her trembling fingers reached out to touch his shoulder. Stopping just short of touching him, she lay down and curled on top of the blankets with her back to him, and watched the fire until her eyes finally closed.


After he was certain she was sleeping, Garrett pulled the top cover from underneath her chilled body, and wrapped her in its warmth. She snuggled back into him and once more unconsciously grasped his arm.

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