The Hidden Heart
Cara Montero had been kidnapped and then rescued by her sister Aly and Ram Torres. Now free but traumatized, knowing she was going to become a sex slave sold to someone in Asia, she wrestles with PTSD symptoms. When Ram and Aly have to leave, she feels as if she’s been abandoned, relying heavily on them.
Tyler Hutton, ex-SEAL, is assigned to take over and be there as a bodyguard and support for struggling Cara. He’s destroyed his marriage two years earlier because of his own PTSD and doesn’t expect to be powerfully drawn into desiring more than a professional relationship with Cara. He considers himself broken, just as Cara sees herself as shattered. Can two people who are drawn to one another find a pathway to connect their hearts and openly admit they are falling in love? Or will the dark past overwhelm the fragile, hidden hearts that yearned for a lifetime together?
One soldier had told Cara Montero at the shower facility that she was special, which apparently meant she would get better treatment than the other women imprisoned with her. The Asian male who had bought her wanted her skin in perfect condition, no bruises, her hair and body clean. Cara was afraid to ask the soldier more, but because he seemed in a good mood, she did. He said it was because even though she was twenty-four, which was “very old” for a high-class sex slave, the Asian wanted her. Then, the soldier took a last drag on his cigarette, tossing the butt beneath his combat boot. He looked at her lustfully, telling her that if his boss hadn’t already sold her for a million dollars, he’d like to get a piece of her for himself.
Now, caged with her companions, Cara huddled with the two women, trying to calm their trembling bodies. She suddenly saw herself back in Tucson with her parents. How happy she’d been then! She and her sister had grown up so loved, cared for and supported. Family meant everything to her and yet, here she was, a thousand or more miles away, alone, helpless and afraid.
In another week, the ship to Asia would take them all away, probably forever. And then? Cara simply couldn’t fathom what would happen to her. The other three women did not know their fate. Only she did. But Cara was sure they had been sold, too.
The door to the villa opened and shut. Cara’s head snapped up, her eyes focused. There was the head soldier—she didn’t know his name, but he terrified her. He was even crueler than his companions, clearly enjoying the pain he inflicted on the women. And he was walking quickly toward their cell. Only a dark brown tarp lay across the top of it, keeping rain off them when a storm passed nearby.
The soldier, bald, six-foot five-inches tall was a Russian with flat, gray eyes and a four-day growth of bear—and his gaze was fixed right on her. She often heard the guttural language interspersed with Spanish, and sometimes, English slang.
Oh, no! Cara slowly stood up, her hands against her roiling stomach.
He opened the door with a jerk and stepped in. “You!” he snarled in poor Spanish. “Get over here!”
Cara froze. They were going to rape her! She saw the hardness in the man’s eyes and noted his powerful muscles. He had an AK-47 hanging off a strap in front of him.
“Get over here!” he bellowed, and took a threatening step toward her.
Stunned, she forced herself to walk around the two women who were whimpering with fear, holding tightly to one another. Her heart was pounding so heavily she didn’t know if she could make it to where he stood, his hands imperious on his hips, his glare eating into her like acid. Cara knew if she didn’t obey instantly, they’d grab her by the hair and jerk her off her feet. They had never slapped her since she’d arrived. Was all that about to change now?
Lowering her eyes, head bowed, she walked to within six feet of the soldier. Earlier that day, three cars had driven up to the double wooden doors of the villa. The soldiers had opened the doors and allowed the visitors into the spacious area. Cara had seen one man leave each chauffeured car. All three were dressed in expensive business suits, and she could only guess what they were doing here. In the past weeks since her capture, she’d sharpened her hearing, listening to snatches of conversation from the soldiers.
She’d found out that Emilio Azarola was a Sonoran drug lord who sent drugs across the border to America and kidnapped young girls, some as young as age twelve. They came from various cities, some from the United States, and others from cities and towns in Central and South America.
Azarola’s sex trafficking trade was growing, which was why this Huge cell that was roughly two-hundred square feet, had been built: it was a holding cell for his captives until their ships pulled into the dock. From there, children and young women would be shipped to the Middle East or Asia.
The soldier glared at her. “Come with me.”
Shocked that he wasn’t going to grab her or yank her by the hair, she hesitated, at a loss for words.
“Move!” he snarled, making a sharp gesture.
Cara leaped out of the cell and stood. There was no place to run, to escape this place. Furtively, she looked around, trying to see if such an escape was possible. There was nothing to indicate escape. Disheartened, she saw him looking at her, stripping her from head to toe with his colorless grey eyes.
Now she knew what it felt like to be a mouse about to be pounced on by a coyote.
“Go to that door,” he muttered, walking toward her, threatening her with his height and bulk.
Instantly, Cara moved, but she suddenly felt weak, her knees turning mushy. Oh, Dios….protect me….protect me…