Enslaved by Aria Peyton by Aria Peyton - Read Online

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Enslaved - Aria Peyton

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Epilogue

Tiffany

Tiffany rolled her eyes at the muffled grunts and moans floating up to her from the ground floor of the family home. It was Christmas, and like every year, her mum had ditched her dad, left him sleeping alone in their bed, and was shagging Santa Claus in the lounge room. Probably under the tree or bent over near the fireplace. Tiff shook her head of the mental images she’d acquired at age twelve when she’d unsuspectingly stumbled across her mother doing Santa Claus.

Underneath the mistletoe, no less.

She’d believed in Santa until that point, her mother being a staunch champion of his existence. Didn’t take Tiff long to figure out why. Unable to handle the sounds of their pleasure for the next few hours—as that was how long it seemed to go—she opened the windows to her room in the attic and climbed out onto her balcony. Breathing in the warm Australian summer air filled her with a peace she couldn’t attain locked inside her room, pretending not to hear her mother’s debauchery.

With another deep breath, she turned and set to climbing the ladder leading to her place of solace on the roof. Luckily, the corrugated steel roofing wasn’t too steep, but the ladder made her feel more secure regardless. Tiff reached the apex of the roof and started to climb down the other side to the gully between the peaks of their roof line.

A grunted snort alerted her to their presence before she saw them. On the flat part of their roof were deer. Reindeer, to be precise. Large brown creatures with majestic antlers rising from their heads. 

She stopped midclimb and scrutinized the team. Tiff was well aware of Santa’s existence, but she’d honestly never given any thought to how he got there each year. Silly of her. In the ten years she’d known, she’d not once considered. Now she did. She finished her climb and turned to face the creatures and their sleigh gracing the dark blue steel rooftop. 

They shifted on their hooves as she approached, snorting and tossing their heads gently. Careful and slow in her advancement, she eyed them all, their harnesses, reins, and the way they watched her, then looked away when deeming her to not be a threat. Only one didn’t shy from her gaze as she took him in. And for anyone who wanted to dispute the presence of antlers, it was a him. She checked!

With a glance again at the lead reindeer, she slowly walked down the team, fingering the nameplates on each harness as she went. Reaching the end of the line closest to the sleigh, she heard a snort from up front. Tiff turned to look at the source of the noise and saw a disgruntled frown on the deer. She frowned too. Could reindeer look grumpy?

Strange.

Tiffany turned back to the sleigh, trailing her fingers along the silken wood as she climbed carefully over the harness train to the other row of animals. Another huff had her glancing up again. The deer at the front had his head turned towards her, watching. Most bizarre. She could swear the look he gave her held annoyance.

Keeping her glance shifting between each reindeer as she passed it and the one at the front giving her odd looks, she made her way back to him. Eyeing him tentatively when she reached him, she extended her hand, half expecting the grumpy one to take a bite. He surprised her though by nuzzling her hand with his soft, deep red nose and inhaling deeply.

He lifted his head slightly, pushing her hand up his face, just like her old dog used to do. Taking the hint, she stroked his nose and cheeks, working her way up to his ears and antlers, amazed at how soft and velvety they were. Stroking along those decadent-feeling horns, she felt him move his head slightly, bringing his eyes level with hers.

Breath caught in her lungs as their gazes met. She couldn’t look away from the intense green depths of his orbs. It was strange. All the other reindeer had brown eyes and the animal within them was clear. But this one? This one was different. The sentience she could sense within the gold-flecked green eyes pulled on her, reeling her in to remain staring into them without any clue of time passing. They looked almost human.

He blinked, and she felt the world around her shift and return. The warm air on her skin, the sounds of crickets chirping and cicadas buzzing in the night, an owl hooting in the distance. 

Her hand was still stroking his face, having acquired a mind of its own while her brain was off in la-la land. He exhaled deeply, tilting his face into her touch, eyes closing. The contact seemed to calm him, so she continued. Mesmerised by the gentle nature of the creature before her, she moved around to face him straight on and raised both hands to his face, stroking and patting his soft hair. He gave a deep sigh, and she spoke.

What’s the matter, Rudolph?

His eyes shot open, ire flashing within them, and an angry snort huffed from his nostrils. She stepped back, shocked at the reaction, but quickly collected herself. Cocking her head, Tiffany pondered his reaction.

Okay, so you’ve got the red nose, but your name’s not Rudolph? The reindeer gave a shake of his head and a contemptuous snort. Unable to help the grin at this response, she kept stroking his face. All right, not-Rudolph. So, do you have a name? Realising how stupid she sounded asking an animal for his name, she shook her own head. Silly question, I know, she murmured, lowering her eyes. He nudged her hands, forcing her to look at him. Their eyes met and she felt herself again getting lost in the swirls of gold. 

Whispers flitted through her mind, and a few images flickered like an old movie reel. "Robert," the voice told her.

Robert? she uttered aloud. His eyes opened wide, sparks sending the gold flecks tumbling in the green. Your name’s Robert? The majestic head nodded, and Tiffany wondered for a moment if she was still asleep on her bed instead of out on their rooftop. A wet, raspy tongue sweeping across her forearm swiftly brought her back and confirmed that this was, in fact, real. 

Their eyes met again with a shift of his head and more images flickered to life, making her gasp at the scene playing out inside her mind.

Robert

My mate. He’d finally found her. Thank God.

The wide-eyed stare she currently gave him confirmed she was seeing memories of his childhood and subsequent capture. Instinct told him that the only person with the power to effortlessly pluck those images from his head was his mate. And there she was, standing before him in a pair of shortie pyjamas on a rooftop in Australia.

They’d been there every year for as long as he could remember, which was strange considering this luscious woman before him obviously hadn’t been a child in years. Come to think of it, they were waiting longer than the average toy drop-off too. 

Why have I never noticed that before? He knew they’d been there every year, but as he tried to sift through memories of how long they’d stayed each time, he couldn’t find any. Fresh images that weren’t his own assailed him instead—a woman on her knees, Santa pounding into her from behind. The distinct revulsion at the discovery.

He brought himself back to the now and made sure his eyes locked with hers, grounding him, giving him an anchor in the storm of emotions brewing within him that so obviously were not his own. Her blue eyes met his and he felt the anxiety retreat, washed away from the turbulence within.

"Who’s the woman?"

Her expression showed surprise at his question before disgust emerged, and she spat, My whore of a mother. His mate didn’t hold back any animosity towards her maternal parent.

Such poetry. He snorted. She smiled and rubbed his muzzle some more. Rob needed to work out how he could convey to her what he needed. Would the images suffice? He relaxed his mind, dropping shields he’d learned long ago to erect, allowing her to access the information. Her eyes widened slightly, then more until he feared they’d bug out from her head. Fascinated, he watched as she received his personal data and absorbed it. 

Without the use of words, he’d have to rely on her seeing into his mind and hope she was able to understand what he was thinking. As he stared into her beautiful blue eyes, he realised she’d stopped stroking his face. He couldn’t blame her though, not really. It was a dreadful history of abuse and misuse she’d seen, a considerable amount of information to process.

He knew she was his mate, but would she feel the connection? It was just another worry to add to the pile among the rest. As Robert was lost in his thoughts, he heard a jingle, then a clatter as the pressure around his nose and head released. Confused, he looked around, breaking the intense connection with her. Her. He didn’t even know her name. Shame about that. A whispered word reached his ears, her soft, sultry voice caressing his senses.

Tiffany.

He looked back to her so fast her hands slipped from his muzzle. She was smiling at him. My name’s Tiffany. You did want to know, right? She suddenly looked unsure of herself and lowered her eyes.

"Look at me."

Her eyes met his again, shock evident within them. Holy shit, it worked! Her mouth gaped momentarily before a smile broke out across her face, lighting up his whole world. She truly made the dark night shine. 

We can communicate!

He nodded, and a final clatter and jingle sounded, loud in the still night air.

I released your harness. Is that okay?

He nodded again and smiled within. By the surprised look on her face, it clearly hadn’t translated well into a reindeer facial expression. He sighed. One day he’d be able to smile again. At least now he knew there was someone worth smiling for.

His mate.

Tiffany

His mate? Hearing snippets of his thoughts, in addition to the barrage of images she’d been plagued with just before, was the weirdest experience ever. Strange didn’t begin to cover it. The low timbre of his voice rumbled through her brain and her ears begged to be let in on the experience. Tiffany hoped she’d be able to help him; she couldn’t wait to hear his voice properly, and see the smile he’d attempted.

It definitely hadn’t translated onto his reindeer face; those thoughts of his were correct. The bared teeth and raised lips made for a slightly scary sight, but she recovered quickly from her shock once she’d heard his feelings on her reaction.

Tiffany didn’t think all his thoughts were meant to be reaching her, but the strongest ones seemed to project, while others just danced around the periphery of her brain. The images she’d seen had threatened to bring her to her knees, such was the intensity of the stream.

In all the fantasy and paranormal books she’d read over the years as a dedicated bookworm, she’d never encountered a telepathic reindeer with sentient thoughts. It was quite fascinating, the connection she felt with him, the thoughts and image sharing. Tiffany would like to know more about this enthralling creature, despite his current status as Santa’s Rudolph.

Images of a small boy playing with his family had bombarded her. Happy boy, parents, siblings, birthdays and Christmas celebrations. Family. The bleakness. Dark times. Kidnapped on Christmas Eve. Being stuffed in a sack as he waited on the couch for Santa to appear, only to find out that Santa had been the one to snatch him.

Her heart broke for the boy taken away from love and affection, forced to live in a stable among animals, to remain there until he turned into one himself. A tear had slid down her cheek as she’d looked into his eyes, all while witnessing his life play out before her mind’s eye.

A sob escaped her despite her efforts to hold it back.

Oh, Robert.

Casting his sad eyes down before meeting hers again, she could truly see the humanity within them, and even imagined his desperation to break out once more.

Were you enchanted to become a reindeer? The way his eyes roamed around but wouldn’t connect with hers told her something was up. Robert? Reluctantly—she could see the defeat in his posture—he sent her more images. His family shifting into reindeer, frolicking in the snow of their mountain home. A small boy being reassured it would be his turn soon.

You’re a shifter? He nodded. But I didn’t think they were real. He snorted at her and chuffed. It sounded oddly like he was laughing at her. Are you laughing at me?

At her incredulous tone, he stopped and looked around her, and Tiffany could imagine the feigned innocence and casual whistle that would’ve gone with the expression if he’d not been in animal form. As he shook his head at her, she laughed at him. You’re a terrible liar.

Fire blazed in his green eyes, the gold flecks shimmering

and glinting with… something not quite definable. Tiffany went onto her tiptoes, kissing his hair-covered nose and rubbing her cheek against his.

I think that’s really cool, she murmured, The shifter part, not the lying part, of course. I’m not fond of liars.

He shimmered beneath her hands and face, and for a fleeting moment, she felt bare skin below her fingers. She reeled back in surprise and lost contact. The skin she could now see quickly covered again in fur and the excitement she’d witnessed briefly in his eyes disappeared.

Disappointment washed over her. An unexpected fat tear rolled down her cheek and landed with a tink on the metal rooftop. It was followed by another, then another as a storm she hadn’t felt brewing broke inside her.

In the silence of the warm night, every drop on the roof echoed in her ears. She hoped her mother couldn’t hear her tears falling.

Shit! Her mother!

Tiffany’s eyes snapped open in alarm, on the verge of panic, but when Robert’s eyes fixed on hers again, drawing her in, her dread calmed. She breathed deeply and rested her head on his nose once more, feeling his calming aura encompass her. Embracing the serenity, Tiff ran her hands up and around his wide neck, hugging him as best she could with their height difference.

My mother will be finished with him soon. Something within me doesn’t want to say goodbye to you, but what else is there to do? It was more a rhetorical question for her to ponder, but whispered words wove through her mind.

"Set me free or come with me."

She rubbed her face on him, chastising herself for the repetitive motions but finding a unique comfort in the soft fur against her skin.

What do you mean set you free? I unharnessed you already

"Break the hold he has on me."

I don’t know how.

"Come with me, then."

How? An image of the back of the sleigh hit her. The spot in the back where the giant sack was kept had a utilities box. But…. Lost in thought, Tiffany stared into the distance as options weighed down on her. Shortie pyjamas didn’t qualify as being dressed for snow if they went back to the famed North Pole, and she hated cold weather anyway.

Her only option was to figure out how to help him shift back so they could escape together. A minute passed before she thought of something that may suffice. After hastily untethering Robert from the remaining harnesses, she told him to stand off to the side.

Tiffany enquired as to which side Santa entered his sleigh from, and when he indicated to the left, she proceeded to take one of the other reindeer from the opposite side and tether it in the front. It may be too conspicuous if the lead was missing, but Santa mightn’t notice a grunt missing quite as soon.

In record time, Tiff had reorganised a random reindeer to the front and hustled Robert over to a dark portion of the roof, just in case she couldn’t fix him before Santa arrived. He shuffled as quietly as hooves possibly could before lowering himself onto the roof, as far into the shadows as he could.

Looking around the rooftop at her ladder and imagining

Robert in reindeer form trying to climb the rungs made her chuckle. She couldn’t help the snicker that escaped her and desperately tried to stifle a mirth-filled laugh as her mental image continued. Rob gave her a sideways glance, which she could only surmise meant Shut the hell up! She snickered even harder and had to shove her fist between her teeth to stifle the sound.

Unsuccessful, she kneeled down and grabbed hold of Rob, burying her face in his side, shaking uncontrollably with laughter. He snorted at her and she felt him shake his head. Tiff thought Sorry at him, as she didn’t dare try to speak through her chuckles. The whisper surprised her.

"It’s okay. If I could laugh, I would too at those thoughts."

She stopped dead in her laughing tracks, realising what he’d said. You can see that? she asked him. He nodded and replied with Funny girl to her mind. Her chuckles resumed and she laughed until her sides hurt. Relaxed and comfortable, she snuggled her tired self into his side and hugged closer to him, nuzzling her face against his. She rubbed her nose into his fur and whispered, You don’t have to worry about Santa again. You’re mine now, before falling asleep on him.

Robert

Robert never thought three words could be magical. Never. His beliefs changed the moment she uttered the words to him and gave him her utmost trust by falling asleep against him. He felt the tingle first, then the shimmer. Yes, he felt a shimmer. It was sort of like pins and needles covering his skin, but never in just one place.

The sensation danced across his skin, weaving and tumbling as it soaked into every pore, every molecule. His vision dimmed and twisted, his limbs creaked and cracked, his sense of smell enhanced and his hearing changed slightly.

As the world seemed to get bigger, he could feel the woman against him move. Instinctively, he reached out for her to stop her from falling, almost letting her go when his arm extended instead of the accustomed foreleg and hoof. He let out a whoop of joy before biting his teeth together—normal human teeth—and swallowing his excitement.

Rob flexed his arms and legs, careful of his mate in his lap. He wiggled his fingers and toes and silently giggled to himself, the grin on his face huge. One last check before he’d revel in his change; he looked down at his torso and legs, muscled from the constant exercise regimes Santa forced his sleigh pullers to undergo, still clad in the ragged clothing from the night he was kidnapped. Torn and faded now, much too small for his fully-grown frame, his rags at least gave him a modicum of dignity and cover.

He lay back on the slope of the roof behind him and took in the view above. The stars winked at him, all twinkly and bright. The lack of street and town lights out there afforded him a much better view of the Milky Way. Orion, Scorpio, and the Southern Cross were three constellations he remembered learning about in his childhood. For that hemisphere, anyway. If Robert looked straight up and to his left, he could see Orion from his vantage point on the east-facing rooftop.

He’d always had a love of the stars and planets, such an avid fascination in the universe, and a sound belief in life on other planets. Before being abducted. Who’d have ever thought he’d be abducted by Santa? He shrugged. There was nothing to be done about it now except keep himself out of the fat man’s clutches. That was going to be the tricky part.

Rob bent his knees to test his flexibility before rolling back and forth on his bottom. Testing his mobility as a human was paramount for his next feat. He lowered Tiffany gently to the roof before rolling back, gathering momentum to stand up. He bent and twisted his body, checking his range of motion, feeling every pop, click, and crackle as he stretched the long-unused-in-this-form muscles. Satisfied all was well, he bent and picked Tiffany into his arms, cradling her close. Tentatively, he made his way across the rooftop to the ladder she had scaled and oh so carefully ascended it.

Robert successfully made it to the top before the turning-around-in-order-to-climb-down part had him flummoxed. He’d have to wake her, but he really didn’t want to yet. Deep in thought, he let his head come up and his eyes focus on the land before him.

The view from there was magnificent—rolling hills, still green somehow despite the famed scorching temperatures of the country, stretched out before him, and not another house in sight. No wonder Santa stopped there to get his rocks off each year; there was no one around for miles, no witnesses to a sleigh and reindeer on a roof.

With a shake of his head, he looked down at the young woman in his arms. Admittedly, the older woman in his vision was not quite as beautiful as Tiffany, but he still couldn’t blame the old arsehole for his mid-delivery stopovers.

As he was completing the