Okay, so here’s a sneak peek of Draw Blood. Apologies, but it hasn’t been proofread yet, so there might be a typo or two below. It’s a bit dark, but here’s a slice of Ten’s backstory. You’ll find several “interludes” in the book where you learn more about what Ten endured.
This book contains some disturbing scenes and images surrounding child sexual abuse and human trafficking.
It isn’t for the faint of heart.
You’ve been warned.
Twenty years ago…
“One day you’ll go there.”
The boy crouched in a corner, knees drawn to his chest, flipping through a dog-eared travel magazine, dreaming of a future, which would probably never come.
It didn’t stop him from fantasizing though.
The well-worn pages featured panoramic pictures of the great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. They looked mysterious and inviting—mist hovered around the peaks and the trees were a symphony of color, red, gold, and a dark rusty brown so much nicer than the bare, crumbling cement walls surrounding him.
A fire pit nestled next to a cabin, and it looked inviting. The boy wished he were curled up in front of it, warming his toes. He could hear the crackle of the flames, almost smell the burning pine logs. Closing his eyes, he imagined being right beside it.
Anywhere but here.
He’d often fantasized about what the interior looked like. He pictured warm feather beds piled with quilts and a crackling fireplace in every room. The living room table would have big platters full of food—all the chicken wings he could eat, and mashed potatoes on the side, maybe an apple pie for dessert.
His stomach rumbled at the thought alone. Sometimes he felt like it was trying to gnaw on the rest of his insides and he pressed a hand against his empty tummy, to quiet the gurgling, but it didn’t work.
It never did.
Elijah was twelve years old, at least he thought so anyway. Like so many things about his past, it was nothing but guesswork and speculation. He’d been told many things, but didn’t know what to believe.
He’d read the magazine cover to cover several times. Once again, Elijah longed for something to read, anything to occupy his mind. Most days, he felt like he was going crazy.
Then he heard footsteps on the stairs, heavy and thudding, the sound of doom.
He stashed the magazine under the stained old mattress he slept on and scrambled to his feet, preparing for the worst, because nothing was ever easy for him. Nothing.
His gaze lowered to the floor, focusing on the man’s mud-caked boots. The boy preferred not to linger on his face or the wedding ring on his hand. He didn’t like to think about Paul at all.
Paul only visited once a week, thank God.
“I brought you dinner.”
He dropped two paper bags full of groceries near the steel door. Elijah didn’t need to look inside. Paul brought him an assortment of cheap junk food like potato chips and snack cakes. The stuff he chose didn’t need to be refrigerated. Every once in a while, if he was lucky, Paul brought a jar of peanut butter along with some crackers.
After the pan left Elijah would stash the food on creaky metal shelves on the other side of the room. There wasn’t much to the place—a mattress, shelves, and that’s about it. On one wall was an industrial sink which the boy used for drinking water and to clean himself up, after Paul left. He hadn’t had a real shower in months.
The boy had no idea where the abandoned building was, but it must be far from civilization. Elijah was stashed away in the basement. Whenever Paul visited, he always tracked dirt in with him. It fell from the treads and after he left, the boy swept them up with his hands and deposited the muck in the trash bag hanging on a rusted nail near the one window.
The glass blocks were so thick he couldn’t make out any distinct images through them. His first few weeks here, he’d screamed himself hoarse, calling for help but no one came for him.
They never did.
Elijah didn’t fight him, he’d given up trying long ago.
As always, he had to rely on himself to survive. Maybe it was better that way. He was strong enough to stand on his own and didn’t need anyone else. If Elijah survived this, he promised himself he’d get bigger and stronger and he’d never need another living soul.
Paul manacled one wrist and the boy bit the inside of his cheek.
You can do this, just get through the next few minutes, and it’ll be fine. The bastard never lasted long anyway.
“What’s your name, boy?”
He clenched his teeth. “Elijah.”
Now the boy hung from the chains mounted between two pillars, like a damp sheet flapping on a clothes line, arms stretched above his head. Elijah was painfully thin, covered in welts and bruises. Healed scars mottled his back and shoulders.
Paul backhanded him. “What did you say?”
“You heard me.”
Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. His lips were cracked and painful and his feet were bare. The cold seeped into him, buried itself in the marrow of his bones. It was a soul-deep chill, like the finality of a grave.
The man’s belt came down on his left shoulder with a stinging bite.
“I said, what’s your name?”
They’d played this game several times and apparently Paul never tired of the repetition. At this point, it was something of a script, a play they acted out again and again.
If Elijah gave in too soon, he’d be whipped bloody. And if he played along, he’d “only” have to endure the belt. And then afterward, Paul would fling him down on the soiled mattress and fuck his ass.
“Elijah.” He felt no connection to the name and never would. Elijah was weak, a prisoner, a victim, and the boy just knew he was made of stronger stuff.
One day, he would be the predator, not the prey.
The belt came down again and he winced.
“Tell me your name.” Elijah could hear the catch in his voice, the excitement. Hurting him turned Paul on. The sick bastard got off on inflicting pain. Elijah knew, without having to look over his shoulder, that he had a hard on.
It was time.
“I don’t have one,” he whispered.
“That’s right. You’re nothing, nobody.”
The words held a ring of truth.
“Damn right. You’re nothing but a place to put my come.”
“You ain’t even a person. You’re just a thing, aren’t you? A dirty whore I use when I take a notion.”
It never failed to amaze him. Somehow, the words hurt more than the actual beating.
The man grunted with satisfaction and Elijah recognized the whirr of his zipper being pulled down. Paul released Elijah and dragged him to the bed with trembling hands, so eager for what came next.
As the man mounted him from behind, Elijah squeezed his eyes shut and tried to think of something else, anything but the greasy cock pushing into his bowels.
If I somehow make it out of this dark and clammy hole in the ground, I’m gonna choose my own name.
Yeah, I like the sound of it.
People will call me Ten for short.