A bride sold to a brutal husband.
The arrangement was simple:
Marry Wilder Feldman. In return, I’ll escape my nightmare.
Wilder is one of the heirs to a wealthy and secretive family business.
But he’s cold. Rough. Ruthless. And now, he’s drowning me in his darkness.
I’m trapped in his game, destined to lose.
But I don’t play by his rules. Discovering his family’s secrets will give me the upper hand, and eventually, my freedom.
Yet the deeper I go, the harder it is to find the light. I should run away; my life depends on it. But I find myself craving his callous desires, his brutal affection.
There’s no mistaking it: my husband is a monster.
But maybe I am too.
Author’s Note: His Brutal Game is the first standalone novel in The Feldman Brothers Duet. It contains extremely dark and violent content.
Triggers: sex work, sexual assault, physical abuse (of both main characters by secondary characters), family rejection/abandonment, trauma, dubious consent
Kinks: dubious consent, restraints, toys, virginity, water torture
Interconnected Standalone: The couple gets their HEA, but the Feldman Farm plot continues throughout the duet.
Red streaks of water raced down the metal basin. Dust muddied the edges of the drain like a riverbank after a storm. The first orders were completed. I turned off the faucet, then wiped my hands on my jeans. Fans circled overhead. I glanced at the incinerator, the carcass sealed inside. Everything was in its place.
The front doors slid open. A dagger of sunlight swung through the barn, casting long shadows from the rails separating each pen. My brother’s dress shoes scraped on the cement. He adjusted his cuffs, then checked his watch.
“Where were you last night?” Sawyer asked.
For our family business, the Feldman Farm, to grow like my brother wanted, we had three new hires to train. A cattle herd our size didn’t require the extra men, but that was not our sole business. Still, we trained the new hires around the cattle. If they could handle themselves around a cow protecting her calf and our tests of loyalty, then they were promoted to other positions, eventually moving to the Dairy Barn. We had never had a dairy cow on the farm before, but we still called it that for show. I swung around to the lifeless pen.
“Training the new hires,” I said.
A few seconds passed as he watched me clean up the corral. I shoveled the rest of the scraps from the ground into the wheelbarrow, to take to the incinerator. Made sure the camera was powered off. Dumped the trough in the basin, then rinsed it with a hose until the water ran clean. Waited for my brother to leave. The Dairy Barn wasn’t his office; it was mine. Though Sawyer was several years younger than me, he acted like turning thirty meant he owned the family business, as if our father would actually relinquish his crown to the Feldman Farm, an empire that did far more than farm livestock.
All Sawyer’s birthday meant was that it was time for the Trial to start, an event in our timeline that the two of us had been waiting for since we were children: the Feldman Trial.
“It’s disrespectful,” Sawyer said.
I pulled my lips back, baring my teeth. “You were the one who hired them.”
“You weren’t training. You were ranching,” he said, calling me out. ‘Ranching’ was part of our cover; it had to do with the other orders. “You’re obsessed.”
“Good,” I said. That was how it should be.
Sawyer wanted to own the business, to give our family the power to take over the country, and eventually expand internationally. He had worked in the Dairy Barn, but now he was used to dealing with the other side of the business. Networking. Making deals. I specialized in our actual services, knowing that the only way we could conquer the world was by making sure that every livestock order was completed to the buyer’s requests with exact precision.
Both of us were tall, with the same gray-blue eyes as our father, the same black hair. Where I had tan lines from working in the pastures and bulging muscles covered by a layer of fat, Sawyer was muscular and toned, and never without a tailored suit.
He gestured at the wheelbarrow.
“Those orders could have been completed this morning. Easily.”
“And now I’m ahead,” I answered.
He rubbed a hand across his face. “You’ve got to take every aspect of the business seriously. Not just that.”
“I do what I do best.”
“You use it to avoid everything.”
I clenched my fists. “Stop crying about your damned birthday.”
He chuckled to himself, dismissing my remark. Anger boiled inside of me. But now wasn’t the time. If I needed to take out my aggression, the Feldman Trial would start soon, and then we would be on the same playing field once again.
“Like I give a shit about that,” Sawyer said. “But that was one of our last chances to discuss the Trial without—”
The door to the barn opened again, light blasting inside.
“You missed one hell of a party last night, my boy,” a loud, gravelly voice called. Every muscle in my body tensed. Forrest, our father, came striding toward us, his gray hair styled, his presence dominating. He would understand my absence. You didn’t double the family business without making sacrifices like my father had. “Must have been an important order for you to stand us up like that,” he continued.
Us. Him, and Sawyer. He didn’t like my decision to work, then. I lifted my head and leveled his gaze. “Someone had to take care of it.”
“You’re right,” he said, matching my tone. “Though one of the ranchers could have handled it. But anyway,” he slapped his hands together, “I was looking forward to today more. Our Feldman Trial.” Sawyer and I waited, both of us nodding silently. “Now that you are both in your thirties, we can hold a brotherly competition, to see who reigns supreme when it comes to our business.” Sawyer opened his hand, waiting for the list, but our father shook his head. “Not yet, my boy. But we’ll see who can finish their orders first. Now, each list is tailored to your abilities. Sawyer, since you take part more in the financial side of things, your list will be significantly larger than your brother’s, but one that will leave you time to deal with your regular duties.”
Sawyer nodded, pleased with himself. He was always eager to prove himself to our father, to show that even if he was younger, he was better than both of us. I, on the other hand, didn’t care about that. I wanted to do my work. To experience the complete tranquility that came whenever a livestock order was finished.
“And you, my oldest,” Forrest said, acknowledging me. “You will have only three orders to complete. But these orders have been difficult for other rivalry businesses to complete. I admit that I’ve tried to do each one of these, but have come up short. So it’s up to you, my son. And I know you can do it.” A flame of rage crashed through me. He was always so proud to have raised us. “Your uncles and I did the same thing to see who would take over the Feldman Farm.”
Sawyer and I had heard echoes of these stories since we were children, and yet it was only in our adult years that we realized our father was the only one who repeated these stories.
“The lists will be delivered to each of you in a few days,” our father said. “About a week. But until then, you will continue your duties as is.”
Sawyer crossed his arms. “What about the Feldman Offering?”
“Ah,” Forrest grinned. He patted my back. “Wilder has had a difficult time finding someone for that, hasn’t he?”
I narrowed my eyes at Sawyer. He was bitter about what he had given up in the name of the family, while I had nothing that could see the same fate. All I had were the livestock orders. When you held nothing close to you, you couldn’t offer anything up.
“That’s all right, my boy,” Forrest said, slapping my back. “Sawyer and I found you the perfect match.”
I straightened my shoulders. “How?”
My father motioned toward the doors. “Once we finish for the day, we’ll show you.”
In the evening, we drove to Pierce, the nearest city, and went to my father’s favorite meeting place, a gentleman’s club called The Trap. Sawyer’s birthday celebrations had ended here the night before. The establishment never called to me. The women were attractive and they always had a bottle of local whiskey, but what I desired required more control.
The hostess greeted my father and brother with hugs, pressing her breasts into them, and as she went to do the same to me, I crossed my arms, and she winked instead She led us to the VIP section—a long set of couches in a railed off elevated area, with a view of the stage. A pole was in the middle with a dancer twirling around it.
My father ordered us a round of whiskey. I sat to the side, taking in our surroundings. Down on the audience level, there were exits on both sides of the stage, one that led to the back alley and the other to the smoking area. Another exit at the entrance of the club, where we had come in, and presumably another exit for the staff and dancers at the back of the building. Most of the seats were occupied with men grinning up at women wrapped in lingerie. Every customer and dancer had a hollowness in their eyes above their twisted smiles. That forced sense of enjoyment intrigued me. Why pretend?
My eyes sailed over each one, landing on a woman with yellow-blond hair, a stripe of black down the middle, her brown eyes dark as dirt. Chipped white nail polish. A deep purple lipstick on her plump lips. The frayed strap of her red dress. We locked eyes; that same emptiness filled her vision. How could she be at peace with such nothingness? When nothing in our lives mattered? It could end right there if I pulled out my gun.
Forrest knocked his arm into me and I broke eye contact with her. He handed me a highball filled with twice the whiskey of his and Sawyer’s. Always a heavy pour, to remind me that I needed to loosen up. The three of us clinked glasses.
“There’s a girl I’d like you to meet,” Forrest said. “She’s exactly what you wanted.” I waited. What exactly was that? “The physical profile fits well enough.”
My father glanced around, searching for someone. “She works here?” I asked.
“In a way.” A sly smile crossed his lips. “You wanted someone you’d never become attached to, yes?”
“That’s not the point of the Feldman Offering, but if there is anyone who can meet your demands, both as a placeholder wife and your duties to this family, it’s this woman. She’s a prostitute.”
“Sex worker,” Sawyer corrected.
For a second, Forrest narrowed his eyes at my brother, then straightened. “Yes. Sex worker. Nonetheless, she’s used to being paid to make people think she’s in love.”
A woman like that would never be able to show genuine affection. Every moment would always be transactional, and that appealed to me. It made sense. Neither of us would forget our place.
“And you’ve spoken to her about this?” I asked.
“I’m afraid not,” our father said. “But I have spoken to her—” he paused, grinning to himself, “—her guardian. You know I’m very convincing.” Darkness flashed behind his eyes. When Forrest didn’t get his way, he made sure everyone paid for it until he was given exactly what he wanted on a silver platter. Even if it came to a strange woman he wanted to marry me. “It’s been arranged. You’ll marry her in a week.”
A future with a woman, wasn’t something I often contemplated. Why bother? In the end, there was no use for her, besides our Feldman Offering, which kept the Feldmans prospering longer than any family in our line of work.
Our cow-calf operation was only a cover.
As long as I was able to control her—who she was, what she meant, what she stood for—then I would take that chance.
“Where’s my future wife?” I asked.
Forrest motioned to that woman with the yellow hair and the purple lips. Sweat beaded her forehead, gleaming under the stage lights. She was small but solid enough to put up a fight. A vacant smile formed on her lips as she bent toward a man, batting her eyelashes at him. Like she meant it. Like he meant the world to her.
She was perfect.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“Her real name is Maisie Ross,” he said. “But here, she goes by Crystal.”