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Excerpt

Excerpt

The Delilah Complex

Warm, engulfing, darkness surrounded him. Flesh moved over him.
Naked legs held him, vise-like, rocking him, rocking him, lulling
him back into haze. Shoulders, neck, torso, blocking all light. Hot
breath on his neck. Soft hair in his face, soaking up his
tears.

He was crying?

One wrenching and embarrassing sob escaped in answer.

No. Take me back to the threshold of coming.

Let me loose in you.

Please.

The pleasure was too much pain. He wasn't taking, he was being
taken. Sensations were being suctioned out of him. No control over
the pulsing now.

He didn't know what time it was or how long he had been sleeping.
Or even if he still was sleeping. He only knew that he had never
been used like this and never cried like this before. Never cried
before at all. Now he was reduced to weeping because ---

He didn't know.

Why was he crying?

He could taste someone else on his lips. Smell someone else in his
nostrils. A sour smell. A sweat smell. Not sweet. Everything stunk
of stale sex. He wanted more.

Please, come back.

Nothing for a few more minutes. Or another hour? Ribbons of sleep.
Weaving in and out of unconsciousness. Fighting through the
interwoven dream web. Or had he awoken at all?

Must be in bed. His bed? He didn't know. Focusing, he forced his
fingers to feel for smooth sheets but only felt skin. His own.
Moist and frigid. He tried to move his hands away from his chest,
to his sides, but he couldn't.

What was happening?

Remember something, he told himself. Try to catch
something from last night.
No memory.

So he had to be sleeping. All he had to do was wake himself up.
Open his eyes. From there he'd sit up, stretch, feel the damn
sheets, put his feet down on the carpeted floor and get to a shower
where he would wash away this fog.

But he couldn't be at home.

The body had not been his wife's.

Was it any lover he'd ever known?

He fought, ignoring the tears, to open his eyes. To push one more
time through the last vestiges of the milky-blue fog. Part of his
brain, the small section that was functional and was informing the
emotion that led to the weeping, knew that something was
desperately wrong. This was not just about fucking. Hot streams of
tears were sliding down his cheeks and dripping off the sides of
his face. His rib cage hurt from the crying.

He gulped air, hoping that would help clear his head, and became
aware that the air was icy.

Weak, helpless, spent, he lay there.

Why was he crying?

Because…

Because…

The hands stroked his hair. Cupped his skull. He felt himself
stiffen again. Tears and erections. What was wrong with him?
Fingers played with his curls. Where each hair follicle met his
scalp, his blood singed, sending shivers of pleasure down his neck,
his spine, to his solar plexus.

Please. Take me back inside of you.

He moved to reach up and brush the wetness off his face, but his
hand wouldn't lift. A metal bracelet, hard and icy, dug into the
flesh of his wrist.

Silver cuffs flashed in the darkened room.

When had he been chained?

He tried to lift his head and shoulders and felt another pressure
holding him in place. A band across his chest prevented him from
rising. Falling back, his head hit the thin pillow. Not the
overstuffed down pillows on his own bed, but a poor substitute that
offered only a few inches of padding between his head and the
inflexible cot.

Was this more of the dream? It didn't matter, as long as the
fingers kept playing so exquisitely with his hair. He tried to move
his legs so that he could thrust up, but the same pressure that
radiated across his chest also held his ankles. The same sound of
metal against metal rang in his ears.

On his back, naked, shivering, he gave up wanting to
understand.

The fingers were torture now. The rhythm of the stroking was making
him harder. He opened his mouth, wanting to lick the skin he could
smell.

His tongue wouldn't move. He tried to speak but his mouth was
filled with a dry thickness that absorbed the sound. How could his
tongue be so swollen?

He worked at it for a few seconds, then tasted the cloth gag.

Suddenly the fingers stopped.

He saw a glimmer of silver. Bright in the room's darkness. Heard
the murmur that razor-sharp metal makes as it cuts, exacting and
fast.

The only thing he was capable of bringing forth from his body was
more tears.

Weak. Like a woman, he cried.

Because he, Philip Maur, who was fearless, was scared. Scared to
death.

The lights on the subway flickered off and then returned. In front
of me someone gasped prematurely, as if expecting disaster.

"Boom! Boom! Boom!" A man shouted in the rear of the car.

We all turned but there was nothing to see. An irrational outburst
from someone who had already disappeared into the crowd.

Since the terrorist attacks on the city in 2001, we looked out for
the stranger among us who might spell danger. And since the
killings I'd stumbled on to last summer, and the murderer who hid
from me in plain sight, I no longer trusted my ability to identify
a threat.

I used to suffer the hubris of thinking I could identify who was
dangerous and who wasn't, blindly enjoying the fallacy that, as a
trained psychotherapist, symptoms would present themselves to me as
long as I remained aware. But now I know that's not true.

The genuine lunatic, the real psychotic, can fool me as well as
you, so I have become ever more vigilant and ever less sure that I
can protect those I love. Questions keep me awake at night: Will I
be prepared when someone comes for me the next time? Or worse, if
someone comes for my daughter, Dulcie?

Beside me, Dulcie sat oblivious to what I knew could catch us
unawares. A pair of expensive headphones --- a gift from her father
--- covered her ears, and her head bobbed to the soundtrack that
was audible only to her. Silently, my lovely young daughter mouthed
the lyrics to the score of "The Secret Garden," because in four
months, on January 5, she would stand on a Broadway stage and take
on the role of Mary Lennox in a new production of the classic.
Every day now on our way to and from the rehearsal studio on
Lafayette Street in lower Manhattan, she burned the nuances of the
music into memory, working tirelessly on her part.

A thirteen-year-old girl should not have a job, not even if her
talent has bloomed early and she has acting in her blood. But the
price of stepping on my daughter's dream wasn't something I was
willing to pay. And so, more intently than I surveyed the strangers
on the train, more doggedly than I observed my patients, I watched
my daughter. Carefully. Always monitoring. Maybe too closely
sometimes. But if the anxiety or pressure of performing weighed on
her too heavily, I wanted to be prepared to step in.

Since she had been chosen for the part back in June, Dulcie was
thriving, doing better than she had at her private school where too
many label-obsessed kids had goals no more complicated than getting
the next Prada bag. The Bartlett School, even with its emphasis on
the arts and its high number of scholarships, still had its share
of kids with limitless gold credit cards and limos at the
ready.

The train doors opened. A middle-aged businessman entered and sat
in the seat on the other side of me, despite the empty seats across
the aisle. I reached into my bag, pulled out a peppermint,
unwrapped it and popped it in my mouth.

As I'm overly sensitive to smells, public places are sensory
nightmares for me. I bit down. The intense flavor burned as the
cool blue-green scent rose up and insulated me against any possible
assault.

I felt his glance.

A dark-haired woman in narrow black slacks, a long-sleeved white
shirt and a black leather blazer, sitting next to her lithe
thirteen-year-old daughter, who was wearing jeans, a pink T-shirt,
a jeans jacket and a wristful of purple and light green beads,
listening to a CD, was not a threat.

When I turned a minute later and he looked at me, I didn't turn
away. I don't do that.

No, that's not true. I look away from myself all too often,
especially in the four months since my divorce. I ignore what is
not in my life anymore and shy away from facing the one issue I
spend my days helping other people deal with: sexuality. Dr. Morgan
Snow, in denial. It isn't something I'm proud of. But it is how I
cope.

Once more the lights went out and the train came to a dead stop. It
didn't bother me, but I wasn't certain about Dulcie. I didn't have
to search for my daughter's hand. I just reached out, instinctively
knowing where it would be, even in the dark.

"You okay?" I asked her.

"Yeah. It's kind of creepy, though. How long do you think we're
going to be stopped here?"

"Hopefully not long." I squeezed her hand.

She squeezed back and then pulled away to switch on her CD player
again.

The lights flickered on but the train still didn't move. Down the
aisle, a man in a ripped jacket streaked with grime turned and
ogled my daughter's legs. Dulcie didn't notice him, but I did and
stared him down.

Why was his jacket dirty? What had broken his spirit? What had
cracked his self-esteem?

Occupational hazard #1: Reading the body language of strangers.
Like judging a book by its cover, it is tempting to make a
diagnosis based on insufficient information.

A woman with downcast eyes opposite us kept flexing her fingers in
a habitual way that suggested she was slightly compulsive. About
what? It would take hours on my couch to find out, but I could
guess at the darkness that bound her mind like barbed wire.

The lights went off again, suddenly, and we returned to stuffy
blackness.

Excerpted from THE DELILAH COMPLEX © Copyright 2011 by
M.J. Rose. Reprinted with permission by Mira Books, an imprint of
Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved.

The Delilah Complex
by by M. J. Rose

  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778322157
  • ISBN-13: 9780778322153