Sea Kissed by Spencer Spears

1

Ari

The last thing I expected to get for Christmas was kidnapped.

Partly because I’m Jewish. But also because who expects to get kidnapped? They don’t give you notes about these things in advance, so you can jot them down in your Bullet Journal.

Tuesday evening—drinks with family at ice hotel, get distracted by northern lights on walk back to room, have burlap sack thrown over your head, and get injected with something that knocks you out until you wake up in a closet God-knows-how-much-later with a killer headache.

Or at least, I don’t think they give you notes for that. This was my first time being kidnapped, though, so I wasn’t exactly an expert.

When I woke up in the closet, I had no idea what time it was, how long I’d been out, or where the hell I even was. There was a blindfold over my eyes—an honest-to-goodness blindfold, like the kind you see in old movies—and I had a gag in my mouth, and let me tell you, none of that was as fun as it looks in porn.

Of course, if it had been porn, the gag would have been some hot burly guy’s jockstrap and it would have tasted like man-sweat and pheromones, and not like deviled eggs left sitting out on a picnic table for three days. Make that number one on my list of complaints.

Well, number two. Because I should probably put getting kidnapped in the first place at number one.

I only knew it was a closet because of the overpowering smell of chemicals and cleaning fluid, and because I discovered, as I explored it, that the space wasn’t large enough for me to lie flat in. I had to sort of thwop my body against the walls and shelves, trying to gauge the size of the room, because my hands were cuffed behind my back, and my legs didn’t seem to understand the signals my brain was sending and flopped around like dying fish when I tried to get them to move.

I wasn’t a complete stranger to handcuffs. I’d lost my virginity to this guy who worked for my dad’s company when I was in high school, and after a few initial vanilla encounters, he’d asked if I were interested in spicing things up a bit.

Of course I’d said yes. I’d just turned eighteen three weeks prior and the guy was the textbook definition of silver fox. What did you expect from me?

So I’d spent the next few months getting handcuffed to various things and fucked in all manner of positions. Never with a gag, though, since the guy had wanted to make sure I could say a safe word if I needed to tap out.

I never did.

I discovered, that year, that handcuffs were actually kinda fun. As was getting spanked while wearing them. Spanking was a lot more fun when it was consensual and preceded a thorough dicking down than when I was four and it followed me cutting half my sister’s hair off with kitchen scissors. Being called ‘Daddy’s little cumslut’ at the same time didn’t hurt, either.

But I digress.

The point was, I knew my way around handcuffs, but the kind I was used to left a lot more breathing room around my wrists. And I’d usually been handcuffed to things. Now, my hands were cuffed behind my back, and the metal dug into my skin so hard I was pretty sure it was cutting off my circulation.

Eventually, I found the closet door, and after ascertaining that it was locked, I slumped against it and tried to think my way out of the situation.

First things first, how had I ended up here? It still felt like someone was jamming an ice pick into my brain, but I did my best to remember what details I could.

Ever since I was a kid, my family had taken a big trip the first week of December. My parents said it was so they could work over the holidays while giving their employees time off, but I’m pretty sure it’s also because places are less crowded in early December than right around Christmas.

This year we’d gone to Iceland, and it had felt special because both my older sisters, Leah and Letty, had been able to come. Leah was in politics and almost never got time off anymore, and Letty was in the military and usually couldn’t even tell us where she was, let alone make it home for family vacation.

Plus, my Uncle Eddie was supposed to join us halfway through the week, and I hadn’t gotten to spend time with him since I was little. My dad had a big fight with his family when I was younger, accusing my grandfather of destroying the environment, exploiting his workers, and enriching himself off of other people’s suffering. He’d been ex-communicated ever since.

I mean, my dad was right. That side of my family was crazy rich with Texas oil money, and my grandfather’s company was terrible. But originally, Eddie sided with my grandfather, so my dad lost contact with his whole family. He took the money he’d inherited up till that point and invested it in clean energy technology. Started his own company and did his best to make the world a better place ever since.

We were still crazy rich—turns out clean energy can be just as lucrative as fossil fuels—but my dad was trying to undo some of the damage his family had caused over the past couple centuries.

So when Eddie had gotten in touch with him a few months ago, saying he wanted to make amends, my dad had jumped at the chance. My mom was a little more skeptical and wondered if Eddie’s sudden desire to reconcile was financially motivated. But my dad missed his family, and had, as my mom put it, a stupidly big heart.

I must have had one too because I was excited to see my uncle again after all these years. But I never even got the chance.

We’d spent the first day of our trip at those fancy hot springs and mud baths. The second day, we’d gone dog-sledding, which I’d always thought was more of an Alaskan thing, but I guess some enterprising Icelander had realized Americans will pay money for anything if you can convince us it’s exclusive. The third day…

I squinted into my blindfold, not that it made a difference to the complete and total nothingness that I could see, and tried to remember the third day of the trip. Something about a cave—no, a volcano. That was it. We’d toured this dormant volcano, and then we were going to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah that evening.

My dad was a lapsed Catholic, and given the way things stood with his family, he’d happily embraced my mom’s traditions. Hanukkah wasn’t actually for another week or so, but since my sisters were available now, we’d decided to have our own version a little bit early.

We’d gone to the bar at an ice hotel after the volcano tour, and I’d innocently slipped a bit of hákarl—fermented shark meat, a national delicacy in Iceland, God knows why—into Letty’s glass before she’d taken her shot of brennivín, which led to her gagging and threatening to kill me in my sleep.

She’d even called me by my full name—Ariel Joseph Sachs-Vaughn—the way my mom used to when I was in trouble. It’s kind of a mouthful, and no one ever knows how to pronounce Ariel right anyway, so I’ve gone by Ari for as long as I can remember.

Since Letty did actually possess the ninja skills to carry out her threat, I’d apologized profusely and promised to make it up to her with my gift that night. A lie, of course. My gift to her was a creepy painting of a crying clown that I’d found at a Goodwill back in California and hidden in my luggage. But she didn’t need to know that yet.

My parents were still ridiculously in love, even after thirty years of marriage and kids, so they were canoodling like teenagers in a corner of the bar, and Letty and Leah had started up an old argument over who was really at fault in The Great Strawberry Lip Gloss Disappearance of 2004.

Spoiler—it was neither of their faults. I was actually the one who’d stolen it, at the tender age of seven, and I’d eaten half the tube before I realized it didn’t taste very good.

They were so engrossed that I ended up leaving them at the bar and heading back to the hotel where we were staying, by myself. I’d gotten maybe a hundred yards down the street before I’d stopped in my tracks, staring at the aurora borealis lighting up the sky. I’d been so wonderstruck that I hadn’t even realized someone was behind me until I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“I promise, no more shark meat,” I’d said, turning around to roll my eyes at Letty, who I figured was the most likely person to have followed me out of the bar, only to discover the person behind me was definitely not Letty.

Not unless she’d changed into all black and pulled a ski mask over her face in the past five minutes. Which, I supposed, given Letty’s job, was entirely possible.

I’d opened my mouth to crack a joke about that when I felt a prick on my upper arm and looked down to see a syringe sticking out of it.

“What the—”

I couldn’t even finish my sentence before the world went black.

Which brought me back to the closet. Which, as an out and proud bisexual guy, I felt was a bit rude, if we’re being honest. Couldn’t they at least have put me in a powder room or something? Whoever they were.

I had no recollection of what had happened between getting jabbed with that needle and waking up here, but if the rumbling in my stomach was any indicator, I’d been out for a while. Which meant that unless Letty was exacting a particularly disproportionate punishment for that piece of hákarl, something serious was going on.

That was when I began to panic.

You’d think that would have happened the minute I woke up blindfolded, handcuffed, and gagged in a janitor’s closet, but sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. There’s a reason my sisters both have kickass careers and I still live at home with my parents a year and a half after graduating college. They got the brains of the family and I got the…well, chutzpah, if you’re being polite, and cheerful idiocy if you’re not.

Still, I tried to reason with myself. A terrorist plot to seize and kill all current inhabitants of Reykjavik seemed a little unlikely, as did the idea that some enemy of my parents had decided to abduct and murder my entire family. If I were being rational—no mean feat, tonguing a gross, non-porny, non-jockstrap as I was—the most likely scenario was that I’d been kidnapped.

The fact is, my parents are rich. Very rich. And as their youngest—and let’s be honest, least competent kid—I was the ideal target if you wanted to extort money from them. That had to be what was going on.

The thought should have been comforting. After all, if people wanted to get money from my parents, they needed to keep me alive and moderately unharmed.

But what I lacked in smarts, I also lacked in pain-tolerance, and made up for in anxiety, and suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking about all the parts of my body that could be sliced off without technically killing me, and sure, I might be a bratty bottom, but that didn’t mean I didn’t like my dick, and want to keep it attached to me.

How air-tight was this closet, anyway? Was it possible I might suffocate before any dick-slicing took place? And why oh why did ammonia have to smell quite so similar to fermented shark meat, and what if I puked and then drowned in it before I could even suffocate?

I mean, I was twenty-three years old. I was, by society’s standards at least, an adult. If ever a situation called for being strong and calm and competent, this was it. It was time to think of a way out of here.

Unfortunately, as an English literature major, I’d always been a little more Henry James than James Bond, and the only way I knew to get out of handcuffs was to beg for Daddy’s load and to promise to be a good boy.

Somehow, I doubted that would work in this situation.

And on top of that, I was pissed. Not on my own behalf, but on my parents’. My parents were good people. They weren’t cartoon billionaires who twirled their mustaches and concocted plans for world domination. They were trying to do good in the world, and they loved their kids, and they’d probably pay any amount of money to get me back, and it wasn’t fair to put them in this kind of situation.

I’d just tipped over the line from impending-panic-attack to how-dare-you-make-my-mom-worry-about-me when the closet door opened abruptly. That was probably why, instead of waiting and assessing the situation, I launched myself at the person who’d opened it, and tried to take them down.

Operative word being tried, because blind and cuffed as I was, I couldn’t do much more than hump their shoes. And I’m not here to judge anyone’s kinks, but the whole boot-licking thing has never been my particular cup of tea, so it was more embarrassing than anything else.

A disembodied hand grabbed my collar and shoved me back against a shelf of bottles and jugs. The cuffs clanged against the metal of the shelf and something that felt like a broom handle clattered sideways, smacking me on the head as it fell.

The hand moved from my shoulder to my face and ripped the blindfold off. I blinked, staring up at the figure crouched in front of me, trying to distinguish his features. The guy—I was pretty sure it was a guy—was silhouetted by the light shining in from the hallway. The light needled my eyes, and my vision swam.

He was dressed all in black, and when he turned his head to glance back out at the hall, I made out a rough beard, a nose that looked like it had been broken three times, and a heavy brow—a combination of features that practically screamed ‘evil henchman.’

I almost felt like I should compliment the guy on finding a line of work that fit his face so well, and a hysterical giggle escaped me.

Well, tried to escape. It only made it as far as the gag, which still tasted rotten and sulfurous and turned my stomach. But the man must have heard something because he looked at me, and then smacked me across the cheek for good measure.

“You gonna behave if I take this off you?” he asked, tugging on the gag a little.

I nodded frantically. As the guy worked on loosening the gag, I did my best to scan my surroundings in greater detail, looking for some way of getting free. The best thing I could come up with was pouring bleach into his eyes, or at least bashing him over the head with a bottle. But both of those would require the use of my hands, which were currently cramping, still shoved against the shelf behind me.

I heaved a sigh of relief as soon as the gag came loose, and then, mad at myself for being so docile, demanded, “Who the hell are you? What do you think you’re—”

A second smack cut me off, and I fought tears. I probably should have expected that. In movies, the hero could always laugh when he got beat up, and say something snarky to prove how tough he was. But I was no hero.

“No talking,” the man snapped. He reached behind him and grabbed a bottle of some strange, Nordic sports drink, and unscrewed the cap. “Open up.”

I complied, not even ashamed of how compliant I was being right then because holy shit, I was parched. I opened as wide as I could, swallowing as quickly as I was able, and of course my brain took the opportunity to point out that it was a good thing I’d had so much practice opening wide and swallowing over the years, which prompted a completely inappropriate laugh, which made me splutter and spray Icelandic Gatorade everywhere.

The guy jerked the bottle away and raised his fist. “You gonna keep it together, or do you want a punch? I’m supposed to keep you in one piece, but I don’t think anyone will care if you’re missing a tooth…or twelve.”

I elected not to make a joke about fisting at that point, which I thought was fairly mature of me, and reminded my stupid, inappropriate brain that this was not porn, and pissing this guy off was not going to lead to fun, sexy times for anyone.

Or at least not for me. To tell the truth, this dude kind of looked like he might get off on violence. But that wasn’t a theory I felt the need to test personally.

“I’m sorry,” I said, doing my best to sound harmless. “I just—I can’t—if I could hold the bottle, it would be easier.”

The guy considered this, and after a long moment, nodded. To my astonishment, he felt at his waist for a keyring and then bent me forward so he could undo my cuffs. Not the smartest thing to do, but maybe all his developmental hormones had been spent making his ham-hock fists and hadn’t left much for his brain.

What he should have done was re-cuff my hands in front, giving me enough mobility to hold the bottle but not to do anything else. What he actually did was let the cuffs fall to the ground behind me, and then caught both of my wrists in one of his own massive hands. He used the other to place the bottle between my palms.

“Drink,” he said, his voice cold.

I considered trying to wriggle free, but decided that for the moment, I was more concerned with getting something to drink. So I brought the bottle to my lips, sucking liquid from it greedily as the man in black held my wrists together. It would have been kinky if it weren’t quite so terrifying.

Then the ground fell away.

For a second, me, the man in black, the bottles of bleach, and the off-brand sports drink were all suspended mid-air. Then we crashed back down to the floor, thumping at slightly different frequencies. The last little bit of liquid in the bottle splashed all over my already grimy sweater, then trickled to the ground.

“What the shit?” I said before I remembered I wasn’t supposed to talk. “What the hell was that?”

I pushed myself upwards and—idiotically—further back into the closet. I should have used the moment of distraction to try to get away from the guy, to get loose and run out of whatever building we were in, but my lizard brain was yelling that it was safer to cower next to buckets and mops than to brave whatever else was out there. It felt like the ground was still moving with aftershocks.

The guy in black had fallen to his knees during the shift, and when he pushed back up, he straddled my legs and began feeling around for the handcuffs. Desperate to distract him, I kept talking.

“Was that an earthquake? Where the hell are we? And how long have I been out? Did you take me to Japan or something?”

California had plenty of earthquakes, too, but I somehow doubted my abductors would take me back to my home state. A private jet could have gotten me out of Iceland, though, and if I’d been unconscious for long enough, who knew where we might have touched down.

Though for all I knew, we might not even have left the island.

“Does Iceland have earthquakes?” I asked, looking around again as though the dim closet and too bright hallway were going to provide fresh answers.

The guy laughed. Cruelly.

I know that sounds dramatic, but seriously. It was like rocks being poured down a disposal, and he gave me a leer that wasn’t the least bit sexual, but still made my dick shrink ten sizes and sent my balls trying to climb back up inside my body.

“Iceland?” he said, still laughing. “We haven’t been in Iceland for twenty-four hours.”

Fuck. That was definitely not the answer I was hoping for. Not only was I nowhere near my family, I’d been out cold for an entire day.

“Now shut up and let me cuff you again,” the guy said.

Also not words I particularly wanted to hear—at least not in this context. The floor still felt like it was shifting underneath me, and I wasn’t too steady to start with, but this might be my only chance to get away. Summoning up every ounce of my sister Leah’s stubbornness, and my sister Letty’s bravery, I threw myself at the guy, hoping to knock him off balance and get around him.

All I actually did was push him back a few inches for two whole seconds. Then his hands were at my throat. And not to keep beating a dead horse, but I was starting to think that people who got choked in porn weren’t getting choked for real because let me tell you, there was nothing erotic about this. Not in the slightest, not even if the dude had been rawing me and hitting my prostate with every thrust.

I knew I should go limp. That if I stopped struggling, I’d have a better chance of getting his hands off my neck, but I just fought harder. My vision had just started to go dark around the edges when the floor gave way again.

The man in black let go in surprise, and miraculously, my body moved when I told it to. I was up and shoving past the guy while he was still lying on his back. Even more miraculously, I had the presence of mind to knee him in the balls as I went by.

The guy moaned as I scrambled over him, out into the bright lights of the hallway. The hall was way shorter than I’d expected and led to a closed door on either end. Turning left for no reason other than that the ground pitched me in that direction, I sprinted—well, wobbled—down the hall and threw the door open to find a set of steps.

There was a door at the top, and I could hear howling wind on the other side of it, along with a dull roar I couldn’t quite place. Were we in the middle of a tornado and an earthquake at the same time?

I wasn’t thrilled about that idea, but still, the stairs led outside, and away from Stranglehands McGee back there in the basement, so I hurled myself up them and flung the door open when I reached the top.

I stopped in shock. I wasn’t emerging from the basement of a building.

I was on a boat.

And not a very large one, from what I could see. Waves crashed to the right and the left of me—which was starboard, and which was port, I wondered, before realizing that was the absolute least of my problems. I was on a boat, at night, in a thunderstorm, in the middle of what appeared to be the fucking ocean.

How the hell was I supposed to get away?

“Get back here, you little shit,” growled a voice behind me, and I turned to see the man in black lurching up the steps below.

Heart in my throat, I stumbled forward, no idea where I was going. Rain lashed my face, and I wasn’t fast enough. The man in black caught up. He grabbed me by the back of my sweater and slammed me against a wall so hard that I swore I heard something crack.

“You think you’re slick, huh?” the guy said, his hands going for my neck again. I tried to cry out, but my throat was on fire, and he was crushing more of my airway with every millisecond. “Where are you gonna go? We’re in the middle of the North Atlantic.” He leaned in close. “You’d better believe you’re gonna pay for—”

“Enzo! Where’s the boss?” Another voice cried out in the darkness, and a door opened a few feet down the wall to reveal a second figure stepping out of what had to be some kind of cabin. “That’s the second time the Coast Guard’s radioed. We’re gonna have to tell them something.”

“That’s your problem, Vince,” the man in black—Enzo, I supposed—snarled. “I’m a little busy.”

My vision was going splotchy again, but I could still see enough to make out Vince’s face through the rain. It was thinner than Enzo’s, and looked sardonic and bored, where Enzo’s was twisted in anger.

“It’s all of our problem if the Coast Guard decides they want to board our boat,” Vince snapped. “And didn’t the boss say we weren’t supposed to hurt the kid?”

“Oh, I’m sure he won’t mind a few bruises. Maybe a broken bone. As long as nothing’s poking through the skin.”

Without warning, Enzo removed one hand from my throat—and punched me in the stomach. I gasped for air. I mean, I was already gasping, but the tiny amount of oxygen I’d had left escaped my lungs in a sudden wheeze with that punch.

I was pretty sure Vince frowned, though it was hard to tell through all the rain. “I still think you should—”

But I never found out what Vince thought, because a large wave knocked into the boat just then, splashing water all over the deck and making us all lose our footing. I fell to the ground and then, realizing a little belatedly that I was free, scrabbled my way across the deck, trying to put distance between myself and the two men.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Enzo said, grabbing my ankle just as I reached the railing along the edge of the deck.

I kicked backwards and connected with some part of his body. Pulling myself upright, I leaned against the railing and looked out, panting. There was nothing—just rain and waves and a night sky so dark I might as well have been wearing that blindfold again. Every part of my body hurt, and the rain felt like hail as it battered my skin.

I turned around, looking for something I could use as a weapon, only to have the full weight of Enzo’s body crash into me as he reached the railing as well. His right hand went back to my throat and a part of my mind wondered—irrationally, unhelpfully—if he had any other moves. I almost wanted to tell him it was getting old—except for the part where I could barely breathe, let alone talk.

“What the fuck is going on out here?”

A new voice shouted from somewhere across the deck. It sounded…not familiar, exactly, but resonant, somehow. I searched for its source and located a third figure, coming up the same stairs I’d emerged from minutes earlier. It was too dark, and he was too far away to see clearly, but he sounded pissed.

“I leave to make one phone call, and everything goes to hell? Enzo, where’s the kid?”

Enzo’s grip loosened as he turned to answer the man at the top of the stairs—who was no longer at the top of the stairs, actually, but coming closer. Something about him seemed so familiar.

Not just his voice, but his bearing. A thick rope of dread coiled in my gut. I couldn’t explain it, but this guy freaked me out far more than Enzo or Vince, and he hadn’t laid a hand on me.

I struggled to free myself. No plan in mind, just a desperate, animal drive to get away. The deck was so wet and the waves sloshing over the side made it impossible to get purchase anywhere. Icy water splashed into my shoes and socks, chilling me to the bone.

The third man glanced over in Vince’s direction. “And what the hell are you doing out here? Who’s steering if you’re back—”

“Boss, it’s the Coast Guard again. I was coming to find you. If they call the police—”

“It’s fine,” the man snapped. “I told you I’d handle it and I will. I’m not going to let the fucking Coast Guard, of all people, or the local rent-a-cops, stop me from—”

I lost the rest of what he was saying when another wave, larger than the rest, knocked into the side of the boat with force. It soaked me from head to foot and sent me slipping downwards.

My elbow connected with Enzo’s ribs, purely by accident, but it earned me another punch, this one to my shoulder, which exploded in pain when his fist connected. But I only had a second to be aware of the pain before it receded from my mind completely.

The third man, Enzo and Vince’s boss, finally stepped close enough for me to see him.

It was my father.

I had to be dreaming. Maybe Enzo had punched me in the head, and I was hallucinating this. Maybe I’d hallucinated the whole thing, and I was about to wake up back in the hotel in Reykjavik. That would explain why my dad’s voice didn’t sound quite right. Hell, that would explain why he was kidnapping me at all.

Except it wasn’t a dream, because I wasn’t waking up.

I stared at my dad in shock, waiting for something to happen, for him to realize that he’d come close enough for me to recognize him, for someone to acknowledge the complete insanity of what was going on.

I stared and stared, which was why I didn’t notice the giant wave that rose and crashed against the far side of the boat, sending water sluicing across the deck and freeing me from Enzo’s grasp.

I should have run. Should have moved. Should have done something, anyway, instead of just falling to my stomach and staring up in horror as another wave knocked into the boat—and sent me overboard.

My head hit the lower bar of the railing as I slid underneath it, nearly blinding me with pain as I fell into the water. I looked up, the boat receding rapidly as I began to sink beneath the waves, and my last nonsensical, completely unhinged thought was that my own father hadn’t even had the decency to gag me with a sweaty jockstrap, and I was going to die with the taste of spoiled eggs in my mouth instead of man sweat.

Then everything went dark.