All Her Wounds Excerpt 4

Vivian looked slick to the touch in a black miniskirt and garters. Glittering chains ran from her choker to the pair of handcuff bracelets jingling on her wrists. She wasn’t in the club for more than five seconds before hungry eyes fell on her. Voracious onlookers leaned over their flavored hookahs to steal a glimpse of Vivian, this child of the abyss.

No one could mistake her for anyone but Vivian Xu the “Red Widow” when they saw the hourglass-shaped birthmark on her navel. That moniker was rooted in more terror and pain than anyone in this room could fathom.

It began in a club not so different from the Toxic Mistress, except the establishment only served up flesh and striptease. Vivian needed the cash for school and she unashamedly basked in the feeling of being lusted. There was something intoxicating about the power to take money away from men for simply being yourself, no strings attached. For an expressive soul like Vivian, that power and immediate self-gratification electrified her. It cut through the boredom and the steel walls of discipline that her father tyrannically constructed around her life.

Vivian’s father, Keung Xu, brought that extracurricular activity crashing down when he discovered the wads of cash in her jacket. Perhaps he would have been relieved to find a gram of coke instead of 6,000 Czech koruna. Vivian was furious when he confronted her about the money. She made no qualms about telling him she was taking her clothes off for strangers to make cash. After all, she desperately needed the money for college—and she reminded him that he couldn’t afford to put her through school.

Keung’s reaction was a few notches crazier than she anticipated. Instead of kicking her out of the house, his paternal rage made him enroll her in a sex victims program. Supposedly this would mend her rebellious ways before she continued down a path of immorality.

Truly, had it been a curse or a blessing in disguise? Either way, it was the catalyst she needed to run away and embrace the darkness screaming in her soul. And that darkness screamed for more expression, more rage, more primal satisfaction in any way she could sink her teeth into.

The murky streets of Prague’s Wenceslas Square became her derelict playground. Sometimes she was lucky to come across an abandoned apartment before it was locked and deadbolted to prevent squatters like herself. As cash dwindled, she faced the scathing reality of hunger, cold, and loneliness. The lowest point of her existence was staring her down. Nothing could prove worse than this riptide of desolation.

Prostitution was the last extreme she had left to cross.

Of course, Vivian was never one to join the tribe and operate by traditional rules. She carved herself a niche in men’s fantasies with her uncanny talent for pain and pleasure. Poking burning needles under the fingernails and stringing her clients upside down in leathery restraints was just the advertising pitch for what she was capable of doing to men.

If there was one thing Vivian learned in the bleak world of economics, you must offer what no one else would get close to. Suffering seemed the most unorthodox product to sell; and Vivian enjoyed playing the salesman a little too much. Perhaps the punishing bouts of rage stemmed from anger toward her father or her shocking downfall. Whatever the rhyme or reason, the wretchedness in her veins was sated every night she made one mortal grovel for mercy and agony.

She never invented the moniker “Red Widow” to brand her product line of pleasure. No, the newspapers peddled the urban myth of a female torture master in the neon-lit alleys. Vivian’s hourglass-shaped birthmark and her violent treatment of men was all the fodder needed to christen her the Red Widow.