Release Date: July 17, 2016
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His name is Beat, and I should hate him.
Bound, blindfolded and bruised, I'm tied in his basement, waiting for the men who stripped me from clothes and humanity to collect his debt to them. Me.
His name is Nate and I should hate him, but I don't.
I'm not supposed to know his real name, even worse, I'm not supposed to care. He is nothing to me but means to an end. The plan is simple: break free, collect the pieces of my broken soul, kill the bastards and run away.
His name is Nathaniel Thomas Vela, and I've never seen his face, though I hear that it's beautiful.
Behind the rugged and handsome exterior, there's a quiet murderer, a killer who thinks guns are for pussies and ends people with his bare hands.
His name doesn't matter, neither does his face, but what does matter is my heart. And right now, sadly, it's his.
A wise, vile man once told me that it moves differently according to circumstances. Sometimes it’s slow. But sometimes. . .it slips so fast between your fingers, your life is over before you had time to reflect on it.
See, life is like an hourglass. Sometimes you’re up, and sometimes. . .well, you’re down.
And right now I’m down, baby. So. Flipping. Down.
“My idea of fun is killing everyone. . .”
I hear him before I see him, his voice sing-songs in a whisper. He loves whispering. A whisper is much more powerful than a scream.
“My idea of fun, is killing everyone. . .”
I gasp. No. Shit. God, no.
“My idea of fun, is kill…Oh. Prescott, darling, fancy bumping into you this late at night.” His posh English accent cuts through my ears. Seb’s hands find the back of my neck and he thrusts me face-first into the nearest graffitied wall with a thump. I drop the stress ball I was squeezing a second ago, knowing that now I need it more than ever.
Warm blood snakes from my forehead into my mouth and I lick it wordlessly, careful not to show any sign of distress. He twists my arms behind my back in one hand and shoves my head into the wall with the other.
“Here, Love, you look thirsty. Might want to get another taste of your own blood. After all, that’s the only thing you’ll be feasting on for the next few days, I suppose.”
My head is smashed against the concrete before swinging back from the impact. Seb spins me around so I face him. A polite smile tugs at his lips. He grabs my pink duffel bag—a girly Nike—and tucks it under his arm. The sleepy Oakland pavement seems absurdly narrow and suffocating now that he is here next to me.
Pointy nose, non-existent lips, delicate frame and pasty skin, wired with blue and purple veins. He sways his hips when he walks, his fingers long and thin like a ballerina’s. Likes: flamboyant suites, Gucci loafers, screwing young boys, preferably between the ages of thirteen to nineteen. Dislikes: the law, sloppy attire. And me.
“Let me guess—blow? Meth?” He tilts his head down, his grin spreading like a contagious disease. “Crack-cocaine?”
“If I tell you, I’d have to kill you.” I head-butt him on a whim and feel his skull crashing against mine, ignoring the sharp, white pain that’s dotting my vision. “And that’s just too tempting.”
Fisting my hair with a snarl, Seb jerks me toward a white van with tinted windows that’s blocking my way out of the street. I guess our small talk is over. “Still got a sense of humor, I see. Lovely. You’ll need it where you’ll be.”
I spit blood on his suede shoes. My head feels like it’s split in two, but I’d never let him see how much it hurts. Seb rolls open the sliding door of the van and shoves me in. I roll across the dusty floor, my back hitting the opposite door.
He towers over me, leaning his narrow waist against the van.
“I see Blackhawk’s aristocratic life is still not enough for little Prescott. Oakland? Really?” He shakes his head with a laugh and slams the door. The vehicle rattles. So does my heart.
Time is definitely not on my side right now.
We ride for about an hour before the van comes to a full stop. I spend the journey trying to crack the doors and windows open, bang the divider between the back and front seats and knock on the walls until my hands are swollen and purple.
Hysteria burns my throat, sending flames of panic through the rest of my body. I know exactly who he is taking me to.
The door to the backseat swipes open and Seb stands in front of me again, equipped with two of his muscle men, one on each side. Godfrey’s bulldogs, no doubt. I draw a breath and sit at the corner of the van, making a show of examining my nails.
These very men taught me how to look darkness in the eye and defy it, even when I stand no chance. If I show weakness, they win.
I will die a graphic, painful death wordlessly just to spite them.
“Happily.” He shrugs, snapping his fingers once and nodding toward me. The two gorillas climb into the van and pull me out, each of them clasping an arm. I’m not dumb enough to try and break free; they can tear me limb from limb and make potpourri out of my skin, so I just watch the floor as they carry me—my toes floating above the sidewalk—into a warehouse I don’t recognize in an area I’m not familiar with.
Once inside, the florescent lights hit me hard.
Then Seb hits me harder. Elbow shot straight to my cheek.
I collapse to my knees, blood trickling from my split lip and my chin, and it’s when I’m on all fours that I catch the footfalls of Godfrey’s orthopedic shoes. Rumor on the street is those are the only ones he wears nowadays—his legs will never be the same after what I did to him the night of the barn—and they’re squeaking against the tiles like chirpy mice.
“Prescott. So nice of you to drop by.” He rolls the word drop on his tongue, not allowing the pun to escape me. I may be down on the floor, but my chin is still high and defiant. “Funny, I don’t remember you paying me any visits when I was in state prison.”
I raise my head proudly, my eyes adjusting to the bright light, and toss a bloody, scarlet smile, compliments of his right-hand man.
“Don’t be sad. I promise to visit your grave regularly.”
He flashes his teeth, even though he is anything but amused, and jerks his index finger sideways. “Sit her arse down, tie her up to this chair.” He cocks his chin in the same direction. I let the muscle guys do as he said, watching him through hooded eyes as I calculate my next move. Godfrey looks delicate, brittle. San Dimas prison did the job I couldn’t finish, and weakened him even more. His limp got worse and his cheeks hollower. But I know better than to think it’d work in my favor.
It’s when the king is about to be dethroned that he is the wickedest.
Sixty-something, English, head overflowing with cotton-white hair and a matching moustache, hobbles toward me, each leg creating a semi-circle as he puts it forward. Likes: Money, watching others writhe in pain and his son, Camden. Dislikes: when people cross him…and me.
Godfrey has a quad cane with tennis balls shoved onto each end. He clutches it in his hand to the point of pale knuckles. White stretch walker shoes, Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian button-up shirts are his uniform. He always looks like a retired tourist.
The police are less likely to pick on a tourist.
“What’s in the bag, darling girl?”
“I busted your knees, your hands are fine. You can unzip it and see for yourself,” I chirp, and am immediately rewarded with another smack from Seb. My body crashes against the dirty floor, a coat of dust sticks to my tongue.
“Camden misses you.” Godfrey’s voice floats above my head. Calm. Collected. Crazy. “He’s coming stateside next month. Eager to see you.”
Eager to kill me, more like. I shudder into my Prada dress.
“I’m guessing that’s why my heart is still beating in my chest?” Said organ pounds so fast it almost burns a hole through my skin, spattering on the floor.
“Yes.” Godfrey bends down to my eye level and taps my nose, feigning endearment. “And no. I’m going to let my son do as he pleases with you after you stew in misery. Beat you, shag you, gang-rape you. He’d be more than happy to tick all three boxes. But after he’s done with you, you’ll be delivered back to my loving arms. And trust me, Prescott, there’s no fun in a bullet to the head. I have quite the plan for your death. You’ll be made an example, a lesson for all to see.” He trails his long, delicate finger on my neck, stubbing my chin to tilt my head upwards.
Our eyes click, the air between us super charged—light a match and the whole place would explode. A wide smirk spreads across his wrinkly face.
“It’ll be a beautiful death. Gaudy, dazzling and inventive. A bit like you, come to think of it.”
I gulp, chancing a glare at Seb and the muscle men. They stand behind Godfrey cross-armed, their masochistic glee barely contained by their tough charade.
“But first things first—accommodation.” His tone turns cheery and he straightens his stance, clapping his hands together. “Prescott Burlington-Smyth had me locked up in prison for a few good years. . .and now she’s going to have a taste of her own bitter medicine. She’s about to learn a lesson about time. How awfully slow it moves inside four, thick walls of nothing. Bring me Beat and Ink. Now.”
Two men charge into the warehouse in perfect timing. Godfrey always was one for punctuality. One is a chubby, short man in a ski mask and blue coveralls. The other is a tall, built guy. He’s wearing black, ripped skinny jeans like a second skin, with a book rolled into his back pocket, military boots—unlaced—and a matching black hoodie. His straight dark hair is modernly slicked back, a Guy Fawkes mask covering his face. You can see from his form, posture, and the lazy way he carries his muscled body, that behind the mask is a man who sees more pussy than a pack of Tampax.
Godfrey saunters behind an office desk and falls onto a chair, resting his cane behind the table. Seb hands him my Nike bag as the masked men slouch on two plastic stools in front of their king, ignoring me completely. The chubby one in the ski mask straddles the back of his chair. Years of living in the back alley of life made me fluent in body language, and what his body says is perfectly clear—he’s scared. Black hoodie guy, on the other hand, stretches his legs forward, the ridges of his bunching biceps and triceps visible even through the thick fabric of his clothes as he hooks his arms behind the back of his chair. Relaxed. Comfortable. Peaceful.
Well, he is the size of a tank. I need to be careful with this one. One punch from him and I’d be liquefied.
“See Little Miss Goldilocks over there? She’s my job for you.” Godfrey cocks his head my way as he unzips the bag. He takes out the drugs I was about to sell, a Glock, Taser, pepper-spray, a fake passport, one hundred dollar bills wrapped together and stuffed into a sock. He also takes out the plane ticket to Des Moines dated for a month from now, placing everything on the desk like incriminating evidence. Lifting his crusty old eyes back to me, he pulls his lips downwards, faking a devastated frown.
“Shame, really. So close to escaping your fate. . .yet oh-so far.”
If Godfrey thinks I am going anywhere without his blood all over my hands first, he is suffering from Alzheimer’s on top of his new physical disabilities.
No. I wanted to stick around until the very end, kill him, Sebastian and Camden, generate some money and find my brother.
Where the hell are you, Preston? It’s not like you to disappear without a word.
Beat and Ink turn to look at me for the first time. Their masks mean I can’t read what they’re feeling, but I sure know what they’re seeing.
And they’re not seeing a typical drug dealer who spent the last five years selling coke and crack in the bowels of Stockton.
My long, honey-blonde waves, perfectly trimmed and impeccably shiny, are now matted to my bloody forehead and neck, big hazel eyes running in their sockets as they inspect them back. I’m wearing a designer, gray mini-wool dress that compliments my curvy body. Soft wide thighs and narrow waist. I look like the perfect victim. Scared. Beautiful. Innocent. . .
Though, I’m anything but the latter.
Ink goes back to staring at the drug lord. But Guy Fawkes—or Beat, as Godfrey refers to him—throws another glance my way before folding his log-wide arms over his pecs.
“The fuck, God?” he snarls.
They nicknamed him God? Is he leaving me with brain-damaged people?
“The fuck is you not asking any questions, Beat my lad. I expect you to keep her in the basement until Camden arrives next month,” Godfrey orders dryly. “And if you want your balls left intact, she better not run away.”
Beat shakes his head, chuckling on the brink of laughter. At least someone finds humor in my dire situation.
“I’m not down with this shit.” His leg bounces under the table. It’s so long and muscular, it sends the table shaking every time it hits it. “Thought you needed help with blow and weed, not kidnapping and trafficking.”
Ink coughs, shifting unnervingly in his seat. “Yo, man,” he says, leaning into Beat’s shoulder with a whisper. “It’s Godfrey.”
There’s a moment when their eyes meet behind the masks, locked in a silent battle. It’s a moment too long, and it will cost them a lot—because I realize that these two are far from friends. Works in my advantage.
“Trafficking?” Godfrey looks both startled and offended, playing with the zipper of my bag. “The only traffic she’ll see is a few passing cars on her way to your house. This girl is not crossing borders. She’s crossing forms, from living to dead. Just keep her in one piece and underground until my son’s arrival. Doesn’t take much more than a few brain cells and working limbs to do that.”
Beat tips his head back, slipping his massive tan palms under his mask and rubs his face in frustration. He glances my way again, and I ball into myself, trying to look like a lost lamb. Ink nods vehemently to Godfrey’s every word like he is reading from the Bible. He’ll do whatever the hell Godfrey tells him to, like the majority of the human population. But the mammoth Beat guy. . .he’s got some backbone.
“No.” Beat stabs a finger on the desk, dragging it from end to end. “This is where I draw the fucking line. I’ll pack a bag and pay you three months upfront for the rent. Count me out. This doesn’t sit right with me.”
Beat stands up to his full height, which is approximately the stature of an average-sized building.
“Oh, don’t play the bloody saint now, Beat.” Godfrey shoots up, hammering him back to his chair, spitting a yell. “You’ve killed before. You can babysit a little blonde girl for a few weeks. No one’s asking you to slit her throat. That’s for us to do.”
Lookie here. One of my mysterious captors is also a killer. Fun times. I’m so happy I met Camden. So happy our fathers were in business, and we ended up hooking up. So happy I’m now tied to a chair in a warehouse, about to be thrown into some psycho killer’s basement. Fun, fun, fun.
“I’m not doing it.” The dark, tall guy states with conviction, his tone eerily peaceful. “Find another sorry ass to drag into your shit-show. I ain’t hurting the girl.”
“We’re doing it,” Ink snaps, nodding to Godfrey and resting a hand on Beat’s shoulder. He is staring at the big guy, but talking to his boss. “We don’t want any trouble, God.”
Beat has none of it. When he stands up again, his chair flies to the floor with a bang that makes the whole room gasp. He storms toward the door before Godfrey’s voice makes him halt mid-step.
“The Aryan brothers are close.” The old man leans forward on his desk, his arms straining to hold him upright without the walking stick. “They’re still on the lookout for you, and all it takes is one”—Godfrey grabs my Glock and points it at Beat, squeezing one eye shut—“little. . .”
He releases the safety with a soft, deadly click, his finger applying pressure on the trigger. “Push.”
His hand moves up and he fires a bullet a few inches shy of Beat’s head. Nausea slams into me and the room spins as I drift in and out of consciousness. I can still hear Godfrey’s voice hovering like dark clouds over restless skies.
Beat hasn’t moved an inch.
“Pshh. Little Prescott meant business when she got armed. Loaded, are we?” He blows air into the barrel mockingly and continues. “Trust me, son, you don’t want to cross your loyal, truest friend. I might decide to lead them straight to your door if you do.”
Color me intrigued and on death row. This Beat guy is full of surprises. I’m going to be a hot target next to this guy. God, I have to find a way to ditch these two clowns. I’ll figure it out when they take me.
“It’s not up to us.” Ink shoots up from his seat, clasping Beat’s arm. “It’s your goddamn life, man. She’s just a nameless chick.”
Just a nameless chick. He has no idea how close he hit home. I used to be a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend and a friend. A poet, a dreamer and an honor student. But now. . .now I’m alone, left to fend for myself, with no one to look out for me. Some would say I’m taking my situation too lightly. I’m not. I’m looking at it from the outside, providing sarcastic commentary. Why? Because looking at my situation through a stranger’s eyes is all I can do to survive. After what I’ve been through, allowing myself to become intimate with this thing called a soul is practically a death wish. No. I’m stuffing reality, jamming it under mundane thoughts, and looking at the whole thing like it’s a terrible B-movie.
“Just follow the orders, pawn,” Godfrey instructs, his eyes returning to mine. He is stroking my gun, looking like he is using every ounce of self-control in his frail body not to shoot a hole in my forehead. “Camden arrives in California in thirty days. He has a wedding to attend in London first. We cannot miss it. After all, it’s his.”
My throat bobs involuntarily, my nose nipping like someone’s punched me square in the face. Camden’s getting married? It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen him. Up until now, I stupidly believed that I still knew him. But the guy I left behind wouldn’t marry anyone who wasn’t me. By the time we parted ways, we were much the same. Our guards were up so high, we couldn’t even see beyond the walls we’d built.
I was his sun and his stars, his water and air. And in my eyes, he was beauty and art, witty and smart.
Now I want to kill him, and he. . .he wants to cage me.
Godfrey snaps me out of my reverie.
“Now take the girl away before I cut her open and sell her inner organs to the highest bidder. A few things before you go—one: Do. Not. Fuck her. She belongs to Camden, and if he wants her as a belated wedding gift as a sex slave until she’s dead, it’s for him to decide. Two—don’t buy into her prissy charade. The girl might be of pedigree, but she is the epitome of ruthless, and she will try to run away. I’d expect nothing less from the daughter of a dirty politician. Three—” He takes a deep breath, rubbing his thin eyelids. “Do. Not. Fuck her. I said it before, but I’ll say it again. My son is quite smitten with this one. I want her untouched and, as much as I hate to say it, unviolated. Don’t hit her too hard and don’t rape her. She’s Camden’s.”
This could have been touching if Godfrey wasn’t a kingpin with enough blood on his hands to fill a river, and Camden wasn’t a tailored, spoiled brat who lived off his father’s fortune and name. I hope my ex doesn’t plan on reproducing. The world needs more Archers like daytime TV needs more Friends reruns.
“No one’s gonna touch anyone,” Ink reassures, placing his gloved palm on his heart. He is standing close, too close. I hate it when men get too close.
The pulse in my neck is so strong, I’m worried my veins will burst. Sebastian walks behind me, untying the rope that chains me to the chair.
“Oh, and a word of advice,” Seb states casually with a deliberate tug that wounds my wrists, yanking me up to my feet. “Keep your masks on or blindfold her at all times. If she does get away, she will hunt you down and make fashionable jackets out of your skin. Make sure there aren’t any sharp objects anywhere near her—for the exact same reason. She can fuck you over so hard you won’t be able to walk straight for years.” He rubs the small of his back, probably reminiscing about the last time I saw him.
Seb circles to my front and throws an uppercut straight to my nose one more time before I leave. My head swings backward and my skull finds the wall. I’m shaking, squeezing my eyes shut so I don’t cry.
White summer dress, cold against my warm skin.
Chocolate covered cherries.
Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t. Cry.
“Farewell, little rascal. Next time I see you, I’ll tuck you in goodnight before your eternal slumber.” Seb kisses my bleeding forehead gently, licking his lips—and my blood—with a smirk.
Ink’s mouth drops into a stunned O through his ski mask.
Beat’s smiling mask is trained on Seb. They don’t know that last time I met him, I pushed Seb from the rooftop of a barn.
He was lucky he fell straight into the arms of his boss, otherwise, he’d be as broken as Godfrey.
Beat slingshots Seb against the wall, twisting the collar of his crisp shirt into a heap of wrinkles. “Hitting girls now, Sebastian?” he hisses, grasping Seb’s jaw and squeezing so hard, the impending sound of a bone breaking fills the air. “And here I thought you couldn’t get any worse than you were in San Dimas.”
Seb laughs and pushes the big guy away.
“A girl? She’s the fucking devil. Her ex-boyfriend calls her Diabla. That’s Diablo with a cunt. All yours now. Have fun, mate.”
The ricochet of Godfrey and Seb’s laugher dances against the naked walls of the warehouse as Ink leads me to the door by the arm. Beat is hot on our heels, and panic takes over my feet, making me stumble like a drunk.
I don’t want to leave.
I don’t want to stay.
Not that it matters. I’m screwed either way.
“We need to search her for potential weapons.” Ink tugs at the fabric of my dress. Beat grunts from behind us. We pour into the thinning summer night, the stars above me dimmed by pollution and the coat of tears I resist shedding.
My stress ball. I need it. Now.
“I volunteer,” Ink snorts, his palm stroking the curve of my ass hesitantly. Scared.
My brain kicks into action and I realize what’s about to happen.
“I’d like Beat to search me.”
We stop in front of a rusty Toyota Tacoma—I think it was red at some point—and Ink fumbles for the keys in his coveralls.
I don’t want to fuck my way out of a bad situation. It’s always been a hard limit for me. But this time, I just might make an exception in order to save my life. Godfrey wants me untouched. The minute one of them sleeps with me, I have leverage over him. The master plan would be to run away, but considering their physical advantage, it’s wise to have a plan B.
Now, I’m not sure which one of these idiots is more likely to hand me the Out-of-Jail card. Ink seems affected by my looks, but too mortified by Godfrey and his crew. Beat, on the other hand, isn’t intimidated by the English gangster, but doesn’t look like a guy who is struggling for pussy. Offering him sex would be like selling STDs to a street hooker.
“You don’t get a say in this shit,” Ink announces with borrowed authority. I can hear the uncertainty leaking from him. He’s what I call an easy job. If it were just him watching over me, I would have been dancing in Iowan cornfields far away from here by now, Sebastian and Godfrey’s heads tucked in that Nike bag.
“You make me uncomfortable.” I yank my arm away.
“What, and the other guy makes you warm and fuzzy?” He sounds genuinely offended.
Beat inches closer behind me, and I feel the heat of his body drifting into mine. He’s close. Hot-jock-leaning-against-your-locker close. It’s going to be hard to bypass someone his size.
“You think I’m nice?” His breath moves through the plastic of his mask, tickling my ear. I shudder down to my toes. His mouth smells like peach. How bad can a guy who smells like a peach be?
“Nice-r.” I clear my throat, my eyes still trained on Ink in front of me. Ink shakes his head, indicating that I’m dead wrong. The air becomes chilly. Why hadn’t I noticed it’s so chilly?
Because it’s not. It’s August in California, and I’m cold because I’m frightened.
“Let’s test your theory. I’m going to touch you now. Move without permission, and I’m breaking your arm.”
My busted lower lip splits open again as I scowl. He definitely looks like a guy who makes good on his threats.
“Okay.” I lick my bloody lip, my voice tender.
Beat kicks my legs open and brings my arms up, patting me down dryly, like airport security. His rough fingers stroke the curves of my shoulders as he moves down from my skull to my outer breasts, circling them lazily. Down to my stomach, lower to my tensed inner thighs, then he pushes the fabric of my mini dress away to make room for his warm paws.
Every muscle in my body is ready to plow forward, to run away, to try and hurt him; the memory of every experience I’ve had that started this way demands for me to take action. But this. . .it doesn’t feel like a violation. The sour taste of bile has yet to explode in my mouth.
His hands move down my legs, stroking my ankles. . .then he stops.
“Got something inside?” He squats down, hooking one of his thumbs into my ankle boot. His masked face is eye level with my pelvis, and warmth spreads along my bones like hot wax.
“No,” I lie. There’s still a slight chance he won’t check.
But he checks.
Beat jerks my boot off and a Swiss army knife falls with a clank on the concrete pavement. I let out a sigh and drop my head. Shit.
Frozen yogurt with Preston down at the local mall.
Curling up on the egg-swing with a Mia Sheridan book.
Water lilies blooming over the artificial pond in the Burlington-Smyth’s garden.
A genuine smile from a stranger.
Beat stands up slowly, his gleeful mask zeroing in on my face. It all looks like a scene from a horror movie.
And I’m the victim.
“You know I can hurt you without leaving physical marks.” His thumb brushes my lower lip, like he’s about to kiss me, and chills run marathons up and down my arms. “Don’t test me, Boots. I can make sure you suffer in more than one way your country club ass isn’t used to.”
Maybe it’s because his finger is on my bleeding lip, and maybe it’s because his tone is the most peaceful I’ve ever heard, but the threat runs deep.
“I’m so s–sorry.” I stutter my way into heated cheeks. He doesn’t answer, just shoves me lightly in Ink’s direction, announcing in a flat tone, “Let’s blindfold her. No way in hell I’m driving with this shit on my face. Wait here.”
He strolls to the other end of the deserted parking lot, giving us his back, while Ink digs his fingers into my arm like a nervous child. Ink is twitchy, fidgety and judging from the wet pools under his armpits—scared shitless. I watch as Beat pulls off his black hoodie in the darkened corner of the lot. His back is defined with arches and muscles. Tan, and not only from the sun.
Manual worker, probably not Caucasian, I make a mental note in case I’ll need to identify him in a police station someday. Still optimistic, as you can see.
Half of Beat’s back is tattooed to its last inch, and the other half is completely ink-free. The tats end along his spine, making him look like half a man, half a machine. I watch his hard body flexing as he produces my Swiss knife, flips it open and uses it to rip his black shirt into long pieces.
He works the knife skillfully. Every movement is methodical, deliberate, almost like he is piecing it together into something magnificent, not tearing it apart to become a weapon against me.
Maybe he’s a butcher. Everything about him sounds dangerous.
Just got out of San Dimas Prison.
Got beef with the Aryan Brotherhood.
Just imagining Godfrey’s neck, instead of Beat’s shirt, being ripped into shreds makes my thighs quiver.
“You did this to him?” I point my chin to Beat’s half-tattooed back. Ink snorts smugly.
“Damn right I did.”
Ink is a tattooist. And a stupid one at that, because milking intel from him was as easy as getting a cab driver to tell you their life story.
Beat strides back bare-chested, his hoodie swung over his tattooed shoulder, with strips of black cloth clutched in his palm.
“Hands,” he orders sharply. I raise my hands forward, wrists glued together. He takes one piece of black cloth and binds my hands to one another. It doesn’t hurt, but I won’t be able to break free.
And Mr. Tied-Me-Up-and-Not-to-a-Bed took my Swiss knife.
I spin on my heel and he wraps a second black cloth over my eyes. Utterly blind and completely helpless, the realization that I’m in trouble runs deeper. Beat and Ink might not be as dangerous as Godfrey and Seb, but they’re still capable of doing very bad things to me.
“Hop in,” Ink rasps behind me. The truck door swings open by the sound of it, but I stay rooted to the ground.
“I have no idea where I’m going,” I seethe. Beat grunts again. I feel him pick me up—the bulge of his biceps hard and round—and rest my frame on the beer-scented seat. My dress rides up, and I know they can probably see my panties. I try to wiggle it downwards.
“Can you pull my dress down?” I only manage to swallow some of my humiliation, my voice soaked with raw shame. A moment of silence ticks by before I feel the tips of his fingers pulling the hem of my dress toward my knees. A shiver breaks up my spine, crawling its way to my skull. Probably just fear, I tell myself.
He shoves me by the shoulder so that I’m lying in the cab and slams the door behind me.
“Don’t lift your head unless you want me to shoot a hole straight into it.” Ink barks, and someone slams the passenger door shut. “Enjoy the ride.”
“I fully intend to,” I bite, my eyes staring at the pitch black cloth with a woodsy, masculine smell. They underestimate me. That’s exactly how I like my rivals.
They think of me as a rich bitch, a frail little toy.
Little do they know that I’m not a toy, I’m a storm.
And I’m going to rip their lives apart.