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SNEAK PEEK of Stolen Beauty By Tasha Ivey

Stolen Beauty
by Tasha Ivey
Release Date: She is shooting for End of Feb 2014 

Cover will be changing as well before release. 

**** This is unedited and subject to change before Publication*****

Chapter One


It’s not the musty scent of mildew or the bone-numbing cold that I hate the most about being locked in this basement cell they call a room. It’s not even the constant whimpering and crying that I hear from the girls in the rooms next to mine. No, it’s the sickening, writhing fear of the unknown, pulsing at the heart of every conscious moment. And even though sleep is rare, the possibilities of what could happen next are at the forefront of every dream. I don’t know who will walk in that door. I don’t know what those sick bastards have in store for me, and it’s seriously screwing with my head.
I don’t even know how many days I’ve been here anymore, but I’m guessing it’s been a couple of weeks now. I tried hard for the first few days to keep track, but ever since I was thrown into this windowless, concrete prison, it’s been impossible to know when the days begin and end. It’s just one never-ending nightmare that I can’t wake up from. No sun to chase away the shadows of this bad dream. No friendly faces to reassure me that it’s not real.
This is real. More real than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.
But I’m the one who made the decision that set me on the path straight into my own personal hell. Not that I would’ve ever known at the time. To think it all began because I took that stupid waitressing job a few months ago at Spoons, a local dive that I’ve been frequenting since I was a child. Not exactly a “living the dream” moment for me, but it is work and has helped me start chipping away at my insurmountable student loans. Had I taken my dad up on his offer to work in his CPA firm, I wouldn’t be here right now. Wherever the hell this is.
It was the simple, innocent act of a stranger stopping in for lunch that sent my life into this inevitable tailspin. The first time he came into the diner, I think I had only been there two or three weeks. Caleb wasn’t anything like the usual crowd. There was something inherently different about him. Mysterious. Intriguing. Sinfully hot.
We made eye contact as soon as he pushed through the heavy glass door, and he smiled pleasantly at me before choosing a booth in my section. He didn’t say much that day, only giving me his order and pleasantly requesting a new bottle of ketchup after he’d struggled in vain for a minute or two to pound out the last bit stuck in the bottom of the bottle. But the thing that made him stand out in my mind from then on was the note I found scribbled onto the back of his receipt when I went to clean the table.
“Your smile just made my day,” it said. And underneath was a twenty dollar bill.
He came back the next week, but that time, he had more to say. “I hope you didn’t think I was too forward the last time I was here,” he said as I handed him some extra napkins. “I just wanted to let you know how much your smile meant to me. I was having a bad day.”
“Goodness, no. I thought it was sweet. You saying that made my day, so we’re even.”
His eyes flicked down to my nametag. “K-a-i. How do you pronounce that?”
“Like ‘eye’ with a ‘k’ at the beginning. Kai.” People are always asking me that, so it’s a question I’ve formed an easy response to.
“Unique. I really like it. I’m Caleb.” He offered his hand, and I took it, praying that I didn’t have anything sticky on my fingers from the armload of breakfast platters I’d just carried out. “Nice to meet you officially.”
“Likewise.” I wasn’t used to my customers paying any real attention to me, so that was a nice change. Most of them just yelled “Coffee!” at me as I passed, waving their empty mug in the air with grim desperation. Not that I blame them. Without my standard two cups to start my day, I have serious doubts that I could restrain myself from dumping it on their heads when they barked their orders for more.
No, Caleb wasn’t like my usual customers at all. After our introduction, he began stopping in a few times a week, usually around my break time, and we’d sit in the back booth and chat about our families and interests over a plate of gooey cheese fries. With those fathomless blue eyes and heart-melting smile, he was easy to open up to. He was always genuinely interested in everything I had to say and seemed perfectly content to hear me babble.
He made me feel good about myself. Like I wasn’t as painfully awkward around men as I had always suspected. Every time he came in to see me, it was like he convinced the confidence hidden deep beneath my raging insecurity to make itself known. I liked who I was with him, even if it was for only a short thirty minutes a few times a week. I looked forward to those little pockets of time, and when he wasn’t around, I daydreamed about the way he would peek up at me through the disheveled, blond hair that had fallen over his brow when he looked down. The way his broad hand would cover mine in a gentle squeeze before he left, promising to see me again soon. The way he smirked when he caught me enjoying the perfect fit of his jeans as he walked away.
After a month of harmless flirting over cheese fries, he finally asked me out on an actual date. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, but I suppose my unhealthy amount of self-doubt never let me believe that a guy like that would have any interest in a relationship with me. I mean, it’s not like we looked at all like we belonged in the same species, let alone an actual couple.
If I compare the two of us, Caleb looks like he fell right out of a gym advertisement, and I’m a squishy, overripe pear with feet. I was cursed with my mom’s figure: average sized breasts, a moderately thin waist, and then all hell breaks loose when it comes down to my hips and thighs. It’s nothing short of a small wonder when I can find jeans that are narrow enough at the waist, but are also big enough to shimmy over my thunder thighs and incredibly voluptuous behind. I’m convinced that some of the Kardashians’ DNA wound up in my genetic code somewhere. For Caleb to have asked me out, he’s obviously an ass man because I have it in spades.
I didn’t see him again for several days, but he called me the night before the date to make sure we were still on. I was a nervous wreck at work the next day, but I couldn’t wait to finally see him outside of the diner. My older sister even came over to help me get ready; she not-so-secretly lives for dressing me up like a human Barbie.
I promised to call her when I got in that night, then I was on my way, complete with my black DKNY sheath dress (my recent I-was-just-dumped-by-my-two-year-boyfriend splurge), studded Michael Kors pumps (a girl needs pretty shoes when she gets dumped, too), and about 5 pounds of makeup and hair products. Despite the fact that I rarely dress up and was extremely uncomfortable, I actually felt like the supermodel that Caleb should have on his arm.
“Wow. Just . . . wow.” Caleb said with an air of surprise when I found him at the restaurant’s bar. “And I thought you were sexy in your diner uniform, but this . . .” He lets out a low whistle. “Damn.”
“And you look just as handsome as you always do. I couldn’t let you put me to shame tonight.” It’s true. He always looks good. He works in an office near the diner, so he’s usually dressed in slacks and a crisp dress shirt. But that night, he was wearing a light charcoal suit and a thin jet black tie, making him all the more striking.
He rolled his eyes playfully. “Baby, I have to admit that ‘shame’ is all I should be feeling right now with the thoughts that are running through my head. Drink?”
“Sure,” I squeak out, fighting the burn of heat creeping up my neck. “A Grey Goose and cranberry, please.”
And, unfortunately, that’s one of the last things I remember.
I have little flashes of memory, but not enough to piece anything together. I remember a waitress leading us to our table and Caleb pushing my drink across the table at me when we sat down. By the time my meal came, I felt really strange, which I chalked up to having alcohol after not eating all day. Caleb seemed concerned that I was coming down with something, and he offered to drive me home. I vaguely remember riding down the freeway in his car, but I didn’t wake up at home. No, I woke up the next morning tied to a chair, covered in my own vomit and missing a shoe. To make matters worse, as if they weren’t bad enough already, I was missing my panties, and judging by a familiar soreness, I was quite certain that I’d been raped.
Yeah, I definitely woke up in hell.
I screamed and cried out, hoping that anyone could hear me, that someone would get me out of here. I knew my sister would be worried since I didn’t call, but I also knew that she’d think that I spent the night with Caleb and wouldn’t be too alarmed right away. All day, I sobbed, pleading for help until my voice was gone and my body was heavy with exhaustion. By the time night fell on that first day, I knew I was going to die at the hands of my captors, even though I didn’t understand why they took me.
Ah, but if only that was all that has happened over the last couple of weeks. It was my fourth day that I realized that I was being prepared for something. After four excruciating days of waiting, four days of only drinking water from a recycled milk jug, four days of relieving myself in a plastic bucket while a masked man watched, four days of raw, throbbing wrists from the constant attempt to free myself from the ropes . . . finally, I had the slightest glimmer of hope that I was going to be let go.
The same masked man I’d been seeing every day dragged me down the hall, his thick, callused fingertips digging into the tender flesh under my arm as he dared me to struggle against him. His warning sent an icy trickle down my spine. I knew he wasn’t making a threat; he fully intended to make good on it.
“Please just tell me what you want from me. I have a little money saved up if that’s what you want. A car. Some jewelry. It’s all yours. Just let me go home. I swear I won’t say a word or try to press charges. All I want is my freedom.”
He stopped just short of a dark hallway and jerked me around to face him. His breath seeped out from a lethal smirk barely seen through the hole in the thick mask, and I had to force down a gag from the nauseating scent of beer and greasy meat. “Well, baby, I’m afraid your freedom would cost more than anything you could come up with. Unless, of course, you’d like to exit in a body bag. Those are free.”
I gasped, the reality of what a dangerous situation I was in hit me like a freight train. “No. I’ll be good. I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Damn straight you will.” His smirk hitched up higher on one side. “And you can start right now.” He pulled me into the first doorway and flicked on the switch, flooding harsh florescent light all over the dirty white tile of the bathroom. Behind me, his gun clanked against the porcelain of the sink. “I’m going to untie your hands and feet, but don’t do anything stupid. You won’t be the first bitch I’ve shot, and I’ve got a greedy trigger finger.”
I nodded, hesitantly. “I—I won’t. Promise.”
The thick, nylon strands scraped along the angry rope burns circling my wrists, but just the fact that I wasn’t bound anymore gave me a slight surge of relief. Which was short-lived.
“Now, strip,” the man ordered, reaching around me to turn the shower on.
I watched in horror as the water sputtered in protest before coming out in a steady stream. There wasn’t a shower curtain or door, and my captor didn’t seem like he was about to go anywhere anytime soon. “But I—”
“Shut the hell up, you stupid whore, and do as I said. The sooner you get this over with, the sooner you’ll be leaving here. Take your clothes off and get yourself cleaned up. Now.” Grabbing the gun from the sink, he put the lid down on the toilet and sat, balancing the black chunk of stainless steel on his wide knee.
Determined to fight the quiver in my chin, I tried to make myself forget he was watching. I reached behind my back, and my sore shoulders strained to contort in the position needed to reach my dress zipper, but I finally slid it all the way down, exposing my back. I kept my empty gaze on a single tile and allowed the dress to fall from my shoulders and slump into a pile in the floor at my feet.
“Mmm . . . keep going.” His voice snapped me back out of the few seconds of oblivion I’d managed to hide in.
And when my eyes flicked in his direction, I knew it was an oblivion I wouldn’t find again. His meaty hand was slipping into his open fly, pulling out his obvious erection. The horror of that sight was nearly my undoing. I didn’t know if he planned on joining me in the shower or if I’d make it away from there without him forcing himself on me at some point. For a brief moment, I considered begging him to just kill me and get it over with. My eyes fell to the gun on his knee, and seeming to know what I was thinking, he stopped pawing at himself long enough to pick it up and point it at me.
“I said to undress. I’d hate to have to put a hole in that pretty little head of yours.”
My hands seemed to find purpose all on their own as they reached around to release the clasp of my bra. My eyes, however, were locked onto the barrel of that gun. A newly broken part of me deep down much preferred being in the path of a bullet’s trajectory rather than knowing that man was getting his rocks off on me showering. But I should’ve known he wouldn’t see it my way.
“Good girl,” his gruff voice cajoled before returning the gun to its prior resting place. “Now get in and get cleaned up. And take your time washing that sweet ass you have.”
Sick dread expanded into overwhelming waves as I stepped into the hot spray. I turned my back to him, determined to shower quickly and get the hell out of there. Being tied to that damn chair was a picnic compared to this. Stepping all the way under the shower head, I wet my hair, biting the inside of my lip to quiet the scream threatening to escape. The stabbing pain of the hot water hitting the open wounds around my wrists made dark spots dance around the edge of my vision. But I fought through the pain. I fought through the sounds of the man’s groans and the rhythmic slapping of skin. I washed my hair and body quickly, all while tears streamed down my face. I didn’t know what else was in store for me there, but I did know that I wouldn’t let that be my end without trying to survive it. I deserved more than that. My family deserved more than that.
“Not yet,” the masked man grunted when I reached down to turn the water off. His big hand clamped over the back of my neck, keeping me bend over.
This is it, I thought. It’s one thing to know that I was raped while unconscious, but I didn’t have any memory of it. But being fully aware, and knowing it was about to happen? That is fear unlike any I’ve ever known. Deep, fierce, and agonizing.
I scanned the shower shelves for any weapon I could use against him. I wasn’t about to submit to him without a fight, even if it killed me. Even if I didn’t get to walk away from there, he was about to walk away with a couple less balls in his court.
But before I could put much more thought into it, he let out a guttural groan just as something hot and thick shot onto my hip. He released my neck and stepped back, trying to slow his labored breath, and I withdrew further into the shower, silently crying with an odd sense of relief while I washed myself again. Twice.
I didn’t say a word to him while I dressed in the clothes he’d brought for me, and I didn’t resist when he tied my wrists and ankles again. I shuffled back down the hallway, my stride shorted significantly by the way the tied my feet this time. When I began to slow at the room he’d been keeping me in, I was nearly jerked to the ground.
“Oh, you’re not going back in there. I told you that you’re leaving here.”
“You—you’re letting me go?”
He snickered and continued to walk down the hall, finally stopping at the door at the end. The faint glow of the exit sign was my beacon of hope.
Until a black hood was shoved over my head.
“Hello, again, Kai,” a familiar voice uttered in my ear as soon as the door squeaked opened ahead of me.
“Caleb.” Tears threatened to spill over my cheeks as I was torn apart on the inside. I held out some kind of hope that Caleb had been taken prisoner, too. That he wasn’t a part of my kidnapping. But the smug tone and humor surrounding his greeting told me how wrong I was. He’s the one that did this to me. “Just tell me why. Tell me what you want from me.”
One of his smooth fingertips trailed along my bare arm. “It’s nothing personal, sweetheart. It’s just my job. You see, I’m a procurer, of sorts, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to make me a lot of money. I already had a little taste or two of you, and I know my boss is going to love you. Just play along, kid, and you’ll be fine. You might even learn to enjoy the life you’ll have.”
The anger boiling up inside me finally overflowed. “You bastard! This was all a game to you? My life isn’t a game. I have a family who’s going to be looking for me, and I’ll make sure you rot in jail for this, asshole. That is, if my dad doesn’t kill you first.”
“I’m not too worried about that,” he chuckled low, clearly amused by my outburst. “They won’t ever find you, kid. Enjoy the trip.”
The masked meathead shoved me forward again, and I heard a set of keys jingle before a vehicle door opened and I was pushed inside. Judging by the expanse of cheap carpet under my hands, I was in the back of a van, making this whole kidnapping scene even more real.
“Remember.” I could hear Caleb’s muted voice outside the van. “If you have to calm her down, keep it neat. No blows to the face. Call me when she’s delivered and you’ve got the cash. Now, get moving . . . you’ve got a long drive.”
And it definitely was. I was stuck back there for too many hours to count, not that I had any sense of time anyway. It could’ve been six hours, and it could’ve been sixty. I just know that the meathead stopped every once in a while to let me eat a sandwich, drink a bottle of water, and pee in a bucket in the back of the van, all while he held a gun to my ribs.
At least I thought it was water I’d been drinking. But that last one must’ve contained something a little extra because the next thing I remember was waking up here. No musty hood over my head. No ropes biting into my wrists and ankles.
No, I’m not tied up anymore here, but I’m bound by a cage of musty, sweaty concrete and a thick metal door. There are no windows to the world outside. My only light comes from a single bulb fixed to the water-stained ceiling, and even it is controlled by someone outside. I do, at least, have a toilet and sink, and I have a thin mattress to sleep on with a threadbare blanket. Three times a day, a voice barks out from the other side of the door for me to sit on my bed, and when I do, the locks click and the door creaks open. A hand slides a new tray of food just inside my door and picks up the old one before the door slams again and the rasping of the locks signify their turning. That’s all the interaction I’ve gotten for days.
But when I look up into the corner at the camera lens staring back at me, I’m quickly reminded that I’m not as alone as I think I am. I know there’s someone watching me every second, and I also know they’re waiting for something. I just wish like hell that I knew what.

Does that not Entice you to want to read more NOW? 

Make sure you add this one to your TBR list. You are not going to want to miss out on this gem when Tasha  releases it. 

I will be following & Stalking Tasha for more info to post soon !!!!!!!!!

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