He turned around when I didn’t respond. “Do you understand?”
Just when I thought I could let it go, he provoked me even more. I turned to look at him, my eyes pointed like daggers. This man pushed me around subtly all the time, but I couldn’t handle it anymore. It had slowly piled on, weight after weight. Now the burden was too heavy. “Yes, asshole. I understood you. But how about you sit there and be the quiet little bitch?”
He stilled in the doorway like he couldn’t believe what I’d just said.
The words were out of my mouth, and they couldn’t be taken back now. I’d agreed to be his obedient wife, but I never agreed to be his obedient dog. I’d probably get a smack across the cheek, but I didn’t care. He wanted me to look perfect for tonight, so he wouldn’t want to mark me.
Lucian slowly stepped back into the room, his oily black eyes locked on me. His footfalls were quiet and slow as he proceeded toward me. Without blinking, he stared me down like I was his enemy across the battlefield. “That gown is worth ten thousand euros, and you choose to be so ungrateful?”
“I never asked for this gown.”
He came closer. “You’re covered in diamonds from head to toe. Your wedding ring is worth more than—”
“I don’t care about money, Lucian. Your wealth doesn’t impress anyone, least of all me.”
Now he was directly in front of me, and his eyes were black as coal. Both of his hands rested in his pockets as he stared at me face-to-face. We were the same height in my heels, and that probably infuriated him even more. “You will be my quiet bitch because that’s what you are. You’re nothing but a dog, nothing but a show breed. You will be silent and obedient because that’s your purpose—to please me.”
He fisted me in the stomach hard, hitting me with enough force that I keeled over because the air escaped my lungs with a harsh gust.
I crumpled to the floor, my hands hitting the hardwood with a loud thud. My vision was blurry for a moment because the pain was so extreme. I thought I might vomit all over his shoes. It took a few seconds for the world to become clear again, for the pain to pass so I could process reality.
I preferred the ground to being eye level with him.
“Get your ass up, or I’ll kick you.”
My shaky arms pushed me back to my feet. I rose to my knees then my heels, refusing to show the pain in my expression. I lifted my chin and gave him a fearless look, to make it clear that painful slug didn’t break me.
My resilience annoyed him, so he grabbed me by the neck. He squeezed me hard, his disgusting fingers testing my pulse. It wasn’t the sexy and territorial way Balto did it. This was abuse—plain and simple. “We have an arrangement. You do as you’re told so that piece-of-shit boyfriend of yours can live to see another day. Or have you forgotten?”
I was tempted to spit in his face.
“Things have been going so well, Beautiful.” He pressed his face closer to mine. “Why get fired up now?”
Because I couldn’t take it anymore.
“I let you live a life of luxury. I let you have your freedom. But we’re descending into my world now—and you will play by my rules. When I tell you to do something, you do it. Tonight, you will carry yourself like a queen but speak to no one. You will hold me tight and pretend the other men don’t exist. Those are my orders. Now, apologize, and we’ll be on our way.”
I almost laughed in his face. Apologize? No way in hell was I going to apologize.
“Beautiful.” He squeezed my neck a little tighter.
I couldn’t do it. There would be a harsh punishment, but I’d rather suffer through that than feel the humiliation of surrendering. I should never apologize to a man who treated me like a dog. I’d prefer internal bleeding.
His eyes narrowed when I refused. “Alright.” He gripped me hard and held me in place as he shoved his other fist into my stomach.
This time, he hit me twice as hard.
My back couldn’t bend forward because he held me so rigidly. My neck strained from the cruel way he kept me in place. My lungs gasped for air, but I struggled to take in enough. I was too proud to let my eyes water, to let a groan escape my mouth. So my mind disassociated from everything to protect myself.
He released my neck. “Let’s go.”
I watched him walk out, my stomach tight with pain. Once his back was turned, I allowed myself a breath in privacy, a moment to let my weakness show. But I quickly covered it up before I smoothed out my dress and followed him.