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’’You sure you want me to take you to Jaxon\s?’’ I nearly jumped at Damien\s deep voice. I looked over at him, seated comfortably behind the wheel of the car. It then occurred to me I might be sitting beside a murderer.

’’Where else would you have me go in this wonderfully safe town?’’ I sarcastically asked.

’’Home,’’ he stated simply.

’’What home are you referring to?’’

’’Winthrop, Sara. Just say the word and we\ll grab your shit and go back to your safe world.’’

I looked at him perplexedly. ’’You\ e supposed to follow Jaxon\s commands.’’

’’There are exceptions.’’

I was silent for a while.

The car finally slowed to a stop in front of a tall, luxury apartment building. Damien kept the car running, patiently waiting with his eyes forward for my direction. My body was pushing for me to open the door and get out, to go to Jaxon\s apartment and wait for him to join me. But my mind was scattered like the rain that had started up again, pelting the car softly.

I let out a slow breath, gripping the seat with a hand on either side.

’’That man that attacked me,’’ I started slowly, looking out into the quiet dark street. ’’Did you kill him?’’

’’Yes.’’ The answer came so quick, I almost thought it was my imagination.

I discreetly looked over at him, even though I\m sure he could feel the intensity of my gaze. ’’Because Jaxon told you to.’’ I was mindful to make that into a statement. I didn\ need clarification. It was apparent. Still, I had to say it, almost like I needed to hear myself clarify my worst fear.

’’The man was spineless. He didn\ deserve to live, so I\m not carrying too much guilt. Still, I\m not going to tell you the others were just as dirty.’’


He exhaled, drumming his fingers along the steering wheel before he turned his dark stare on me. ’’I\m giving you the option to get out of this, Sara, because I know you\ e smart. You\ e better than this kind of life. You think you\ll be in an exclusive relationship with Jaxon? That he won\ be with other women while he\s with you?’’ I opened my mouth to respond, but he shook his head. ’’Don\ speak. Listen.’’

The rain picked up, and with the interior car light on, the outside world looked like a black hole we were sucked up in.

’’I\m not going to deny he loves you. He does. I\m sure he wants all the things you want too. But he\s part of the Scorpions now. Which means everything that\s his is theirs, too. Do you understand what I\m saying? Answer me.’’

’’Yes,’’ I whispered, fighting the tremble of my lips.

’’Do you know what that would mean if you were his?’’

’’That-that I\d be theirs, too.’’

He gave me a single nod. ’’Exactly. Just as they expect to have a piece of you, they demand of him to have a piece of their women just as well. There is no way out of this, Sara. Once you\ e in, you can\ get out.’’

It felt as though I were divided into two beings: one burning up bright for a man I wanted with everything inside of me, and the other who was clutching her shattered heart in her hand knowing there was no way I could go forward with this.

’’Why are you telling me all of this?’’ It didn\ make sense for him to go against the loyalty of his men to warn me of how horrid they were.

’’Because you have a choice, but you don\ have a lot of time to make it.’’ I didn\ realize my hand was shaking until his large hand wrapped around it.

’’If this is how it is, what made you join?’’ I asked him.

He laughed bitterly. ’’I didn\ have the luxury of choice.’’

’’You were forced?’’

’’No, but it meant something worse if I didn\ .’’ I wanted to ask what, but when his face contorted to sadness, I decided not to pry.

I wondered why fortune smiled upon me at critical times. I certainly didn\ feel deserving of it. When I starved as a child, I was taken in by Lucinda. When I was lonely, Jaxon befriended me. When I didn\ have a job, one found me. Twice. And now this. A warning that held the weight of my future in its grip. Without Damien\s brutal honesty, I\d have blindly trusted Jaxon. I\d be in the apartment that very moment having no clue what I would be getting myself into.

’’Home,’’ I breathed out before my wants could convince me otherwise. ’’Take me home.’’

Twenty Three

Tears fell from my eyes as we drove past the building. On our way to Lucinda, I idly consoled myself that at least I\d tell her goodbye this time. I didn\ imagine she\d want an explanation. The writing was on the wall.

Maybe Jaxon and I were destined to be star crossed lovers. We\d gone five years without each other and we survived, albeit with bleeding hearts. Still, we survived. We would survive again.

I stuffed the voice inside of me that screamed, I don\ just want to survive! I want to love and be loved! I want to be happy! I want him!

Conflicted, I reminded myself that he was a changed man, and a part of something I couldn\ be part of. There was no way it was going to work. There was no way I was going to sit back and let those women feel entitled to him. Just thinking of that and of Jade Smith fuelled my decision even more. His excuse for even touching her and...

It hit me. A particular thing he said tonight. I knew what I was doing, and I could have walked away. I didn\ , though. At that point you\d moved on and I was trying to forget you.

What the f*k? How had he known I\d moved on?

’’Damien--’’ I started and then screamed, terror rippling through my being in a nanosecond.

The impact happened in slow motion, yet it must have only been a few seconds long. The car head lights coming at his side;the screeching of brakes;the loud booming of metal against Damien\s door;the pain of my neck jolting to one side as my head cracked sharply against the window;the eerie silence that followed.

Dizzy and confused, I opened my eyes. Had I been unconscious? There was a loud ringing in my ears, and a mind numbing pain so great in the side of my skull. I opened my mouth to scream. Maybe I did. Or maybe it was just a whispery groan.

Something moved. The door? I fell to the side, but didn\ land on the ground. Water coated me and hands grabbed at me, and for a second I thought I was being rescued from the crash scene. Until I looked up, blinking away the rain, and saw a face in a balaclava mask.

I screamed again. Yes, it was a definite scream this time because it broke through the ringing of my ears and echoed in the empty streets. Flailing my body around, another pair of arms wrapped around my legs and I was in the air. I experienced the terror of my life when I saw a dark van;doors were opened, one dull interior light on, and me moving toward it. Trepidation multiplied as I realized I was going in it.

I was being taken.

I screamed and cried until I felt the bottom of the van. Voices littered the air around me, nothing comprehendible in my dizzied state. Then a sharp pain in my arm that had me falling quickly into a state of unconsciousness.


I opened my eyes. For a moment, I feared I\d gone blind until my sight adjusted to the inanimate objects around me.

I was on something soft. I moved my arms around, feeling the blanket over top of me and the soft mattress I was on. I inhaled deeply, breathing in the strong smell of a pleasantly familiar cologne mingled with sweat. I licked my lips. My dry mouth tasted faintly of copper. Blood? What the f*k? Where was I? What happened?

Moving was a bitch of a task bringing all kinds of horrid agony to my skull. I felt around me as I sat up. Wooden headboard, more wood beside the bed. Night table, perhaps. I blinked and looked again. Yes, night table.

I was in a bedroom. How f*king lovely. Whose bedroom? And why didn\ this bedroom have a goddamn window? A windowless bedroom that....

I screamed, releasing all the pent up anger and frustration. I\ve been taken. The car accident. Not much of a f*king accident but a deliberate hit to get to me. Why me? Why?!

I fumbled out of the sheets and stepped clumsily out of the bed, tripping over something hard on the floor. I fell gracelessly, landing on a rough, cold ground. F*king cement ground? What in God\s name... I groaned loudly at the sharp pain in my head intensifying with the fall. I swear, I felt my brain jiggle around.

A loud click came from somewhere behind me, then the creak of a door. Then another click and light flooded all around me, paining my eyes. Sluggish and disorientated, I looked around the bare room, meeting nothing but cement walls.

Breath escaped me when my eyes connected with the door. A heavy framed steel door that was opened all the way and accommodating a large, brawny man I recently learned the name of.

Tears fell from my eyes as he stepped inside and shut the door behind him.

’’Wh-Why?’’ I stuttered, crawling backward. Away from him. Until my back hit the wall.

Remy stopped a few feet away from me, looking down at me with those dark eyes of his. His black hair was soaked, dripping water to the floor around him. Judging by his soaked leather jacket and jeans, I\d say it was rain.

’’Why?’’ I repeated, louder this time.

His eyes roamed around my face and body. He didn\ look angry. There was certainly no intensity behind his gaze that made me feel like he had similar motives to his dead brother, Brett. Instead, he appeared incredibly calm, moving over to the bed that occupied most of the small room.

His heavy frame settled down into the mattress, elbows propped on each knee. He clasped his hands together and continued to stare at me. Deliberation scribbled all over his face. All I heard in the room was the drip, drip of water hitting the ground and my frightened, quickened breaths.

’’My brother,’’ he finally spoke, his baritone voice loud and hard as the walls around us.

I gulped audibly, tasting further the coppery taste in my mouth. ’’What?’’

’’My brother,’’ he repeated, as if that was answer enough for me.

’’What about him?’’

’’You tell me.’’

I looked around again. Nowhere to go in what appeared to be a well concealed room. Was this man going to kill me? I knew what he wanted, but what would it mean for me if I gave him the information?

’’I don\ understand you,’’ I simply stated, trying to bring the kind of firmness in my tone that would sound convincing. I\m sure I pulled it off well, only he continued to sit in that exact position, boring holes into my face, waiting...

’’I don\ know what you want,’’ I lied.

Another long stretch of silence.

Uneasiness rooted me in one spot. The chill in the room had me bringing my knees into my chest. This was the calm before the storm. For a fleeting moment, I wondered how the f*k my life had taken such a drastic turn. Was I ever at all in control of it?

’’I\m going to ask you one more time.’’ I felt chillier by the sound of his voice. His calmness, I realized, was deceptive, for he looked like the kind of man whose anger was unforgiving.

’’What happened to my brother?’’

There was no disguising my fear. I\m sure he could hear the drumming of my heart, and if not that, could see the trepidation cascading out of my eyes along with the tears.

This was it. To lie, or not to lie;that was the f*king question I kept asking myself. How is it that one moment can feel like an hour? As if the world slows and revolves around you as your life hangs in the balance.

What to do? Tell the truth and expect some kind of hope for survival? Yeah, right. Men like him - the Jackals - they don\ play fair. They lie, manipulate, and do all the dirty one could think of. Ridding the world of one woman was just another notch in their book of sins. Dump \em and move on type of thing. If I lied? Who would I be protecting? The Scorpion gang? As if their world meant anything to me because, let\s be honest, they weren\ a bunch of nuns. They did the dirty too.

Still. The truth would lead to Jaxon and I couldn\ stomach hurting him. The last thing I wanted was for him to cop a death wish for killing the man that was moments away from raping me. He did the right thing, I realized.

’’I don\ know,’’ I whimpered brokenly. There was no convincing him with that tremble of words.

His jaw clenched and his hands tightened around each other. His tongue flicked out, tracing the bottom of his red lip and his dark gaze circled the room around us. What the f*k was he going to do?

’’I don\ know why you\ e protecting them, and I don\ know what the f*k a girl from Winthrop would be doing in a place like theirs with that killer of a man holding your hand. But I\m not going to play your game. You were warned.’’

I let out a cry when he stood up and stepped toward me. I tightened my knees to my chest. Shaking all over, I closed my eyes and continued to sob.

’’From recollection, you were a lot more funner flirtin\ and shit in that bar all those years ago. Even Daniel praised you. Tough cookie gone soft, I see. Which means this game\s going to be run my way. You\ e the property of the Jackals, and it\s about time you understand what that means since you\ e heading down that route anyhow.’’

What the f*k was he talking about? Flirting? Jackals? Daniel? Fear overtook the confusion. I was waiting for him to do something. Maybe grab me. Beat me. Rape me. Something!

’’Why are you sitting there all confused, birdy?’’ he asked, crouching down in front of me as I looked up at him. ’’Didn\ your mother ever tell you what you are?’’

Birdy? Birdy? Birdy! ’’I don\ know what you\ e talking about.’’ That was sincere, for once. I truly hadn\ a f*king clue.

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