Six years ago, Chad’s hunt for a dangerous treasure turned deadly when his family home was set on fire, his parents killed. Faking his and his sister Amy’s death to protect her from further retaliation, he set her up in a new life with a friend’s help, letting her believe he’d died.
But now the men who hired Chad to find the treasure have found him, imprisoning and torturing him to learn where it’s hidden. A dark-haired beauty named Gia helps him escape, promising him access to his worst enemy. And as he tries to unravel the deep secrets of the past, he starts falling for her…only to discover she’s not what she seems.
Unable to trust anyone, Chad focuses on only two things: protecting his sister Amy and getting revenge. Is love even possible in the midst of heartache?
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Present day . . .
DRIP. DRIP. DRIP.
“Fuck! Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
I lift my aching head that feels like it weighs a hundred pounds on my stiff neck and stare at the concrete walls of what has become my cage. Where is that fucking noise coming from?
Feeling like I’m losing my mind, I tug at my hands, which are tied behind my back, the rope biting into my flesh. The chair at my back biting into my shoulders. “Fuuuuuuuck!”
My head drops between my shoulders and I stare at the ground.
Red dots clutter my gaze, and I focus on the red puddle beneath me. Blood. Oh, yeah. I’m bleeding. That’s why the strand of my hair hanging in my eyes is red instead of blond.
The door opens with a loud grinding of metal and I squeeze my eyes shut, ready to die, hoping it’s time. If Jared did what he was supposed to do and saved Amy, it will be. She deserves to live. I do not. But I will not go out a coward. Defiantly, I lift my head, and I think I blink. My eyelids are too swollen to be sure. Considering there’s a gorgeous brunette in a slim-cut black skirt that hugs her curves in all the right places standing in front of me, maybe I’m dead already. Her creamy ivory skin and pale blue eyes are pretty angelic, so, yeah, I think I’m dead. Fuck, though—I still hurt all over, so I must have gotten what I deserve. I’m in hell, and the devil is a hot bitch playing games with me. But I could think of worse nightmares. Like my life.
Or not. The dead don’t bleed, and since I sure the fuck am, I guess that means she’s not here to be my new personal assistant in hell. My happy bubble bursts, and I give my new bitch a smirk, eyeing her with a nice long inspection meant to make her feel uncomfortable, and to send me to my hell with at least a little pleasure.
“Sweetheart, you’re going to need a whole lot more than stilettos and great legs to get me to talk, though I’m pretty sure I have some moans left in me. I’ll let you have a few, too.”
She pulls a knife out from behind her back. “Ah,” I murmur. “You like it kinky, do ya? I guess this is where things get interesting.”
“Yes, Chad,” she murmurs, her voice as sexy as her legs. “It is.” And then she and her knife move just where I want them—nice and close, the steel pressed to my jawline, my five-day stubble providing a layer of protection I doubt she’s counting on. Her eyes meet mine, and they are cold, blue, and unreadable, the kind of eyes that make a man want to fuck a woman until she begs for more, just to prove he can do it. I wait for the blade to cut me. I hope for it, but it doesn’t come.
“Get naked, sweetheart,” I order roughly, intending to rattle her, to get under her skin, and to ensure I win this hand of poker, not her. “At least then you’ll have my attention. It’ll give whoever’s watching through that camera in the corner the thrill of a lifetime, too.”
Apparently unintimidated, she settles her hands on my shoulders, the blade still in one of them, and I’m just about to make a smartassed comment about her breasts when she brings her knee between mine, giving my groin a calculated nudge. “Now do I have your attention?” she hisses.
“Good try,” I reply glibly, pretending I didn’t just have an oh shit moment, “but I prefer your hand, or other body parts. I’m certain you would mine as well.”
A frustrated purring sounds in her throat, sexy enough to get me hard if she hadn’t just caused my balls to retract damn near to my nipples. “This isn’t a game,” she bites out, thankfully dropping her knee rather than planting it—but her fingers, and the handle of the knife, remain on my shoulders. “Sheridan might need you alive to get what he wants,” she continues, “but you underestimate him if you think he won’t start chopping off body parts.”
At the mention of my bastard captor, all fun and games are over. My jaw clamps down, shoulders hunching beneath her touch. “Your boss knows the rules of my organization. If I show up anywhere near the people who can get him what he wants, and I’m less than a hundred percent, I’ll be considered compromised. It’ll be snatched out of my reach faster than I could make you scream my name, and that’s fast, baby.”
“There are ways to hurt you that won’t be seen. You know it. He knows it. He’ll make you talk.” She leans forward and presses her cheek to mine. A sweet, floral scent teases my nostrils as her long brown hair slips over my face and she whispers, “I can’t let you tell him where it is.”
She shoves herself off me, standing with the blade at her side, blood, my blood, staining her pale cheek, tension blasting off her and punching me in the chest. She looks determined, pissed off even, and for survival’s sake, I have to assume she means to act on her proclamation that she must ensure that I not talk. Which leaves me with only one question: What will she do to keep my mouth shut? The thought has me suddenly giving new respect to the knife in her hand.
“He can’t make me talk,” I promise her. “He’s tried.”
“You’re good,” she counters, using my words against me. “But I promise you, you’re not that good.” She doesn’t wait for a response, walking around me, disappearing out of sight for a moment before one of her hands comes back down on my shoulder. I don’t fight. It’s a worthless effort, and I don’t believe in wasting energy. Instead, I steel myself for the blade that’s sure to pierce my flesh at any moment, and I’m calm—at peace, even. I’ve done a lot of shit in my life. Somehow, this feels profoundly like the right way to go, dying to protect a secret I should never have unearthed in the first place. A secret that could either destroy, or save, the world. I don’t want to be the one who makes that decision.
No. Not me.
I’m fine with dying to protect this secret, I think, but as soon as I have that thought, an image of Amy’s face fills the empty space of my mind, and the innocence in her eyes shreds me. I left Jared a message asking him to protect her. I don’t know for sure that he got to her in time, and even if she is okay, who knows for how long? I fucked up, and now Sheridan knows she’s alive. He’ll go after her. He’ll think she has the secret only I hold. And others will go after her, too. I’m the only one she has to protect her, even if she doesn’t know I’m alive.
My fight returning, I try to look over my shoulder. “Don’t be a coward, woman. Face me if you mean to use that knife.” The instant I make the demand, a loud blast shakes the ceiling above us, confirming what I suspected: I’m in some sort of basement. Another flash of a second and smoke starts forming by my feet, fast filling the room.
The woman shakes my shoulders, shouting, “What did you do? What did you do?” when we both know a smoke grenade just went off. Since my hands are tied, she’s responsible. But I give her credit, and an A for acting skills. She appears in front of me and grabs chunks of my longish blond hair in her hands, jerking my head to the side. “What did you do?”
My eyes narrow on hers. “Payback is Rosemary’s baby, bitch,” I promise, a moment before the smoke consumes her and me.
She releases my hair, her hands coming down on my knees, and it’s clear she’s squatting in front of me. “What the—” I begin, swallowing my words as she cuts free one of my legs and then the other.
She leans into me, pushing herself to her feet, and as much as my instinct tells me to stand up with her, I’m not doing anything to spook her before she cuts my arms free. Her hand goes to my shoulder, as if she’s afraid of losing me in the smoke, and freedom is so close I can taste it; adrenaline is pouring through me like liquid fire. She grabs my forearm, and every muscle in my body is tense as I wait for my bindings to be cut. Instead, there’s a new plastic cuff attached to my wrist that I instinctively know is about to be connected to her arm as well.
“Don’t even think about it,” I growl, using all of my energy to jerk the chair which barely moves. The original binding between my arms goes slack and I’m on my feet in an instant, the weight of another arm connected to mine evident. I can’t see my new ball and chain, but I damn sure can grab her. Yanking her hard against me and cursing, I reach for the knife, only to hear the clanging of steel on the concrete somewhere in the smoke cloud.
“Bitch,” I murmur. I’ve lost the only means I had to cut us free. I cup the back of her head, pulling her ear to my lips. “You just made a mistake you’re going to regret.”
Her fingers curl around my shirt. “I couldn’t let you leave me,” she hisses fiercely. “He’ll kill me if you leave me.”
“Don’t be so sure I won’t kill you,” I counter, releasing her and dragging her to the door, which I don’t hesitate to pull open. Sheridan doesn’t want me dead. My guess is he wants me to escape with this woman, whom he intends to have seduce me into taking him to his treasure. Obviously he, too, thinks I’m stupid.
I stop inside the door frame, inching around it just enough to see what my blindfold hadn’t allowed me to see upon my arrival. We’re inside some sort of unfinished office space on what appears to be a windowless basement level. “This way,” the woman says, moving in front of me and taking a step.
Given that my feet are firmly planted, she is promptly jerked back to me, at which point I demand, “What happened to pretending I was forcing you to help me?”
She swipes the long brown strands of hair from her eyes. “There’s no camera past the doorway, and whatever you think I’m up to, I’m not. I’m just trying to stay alive.”
“And keep me from talking,” I add flatly, my belief in her story right up there with my belief in Santa Claus. “How many men up top?”
“Ten in the warehouse and another ten in the lab, but the explosion should have blocked the door between them and us. I can’t be sure. I winged it.”
I arch a brow. “Winged it? You did this on your own?”
“Yes. And I didn’t make any plans. I didn’t have time when I found out what they were planning.” She doesn’t wait for me to ask the question I wasn’t going to be baited into asking anyway, continuing with, “We should be able to take the emergency stairs and exit into the back alley, but we have to hurry. They’ll call for help that will enter the same way we’re exiting.”
“What city are we in?”
Ignoring my questions, she insists, “We have to go,” while looking exceedingly uncomfortable.
“What city are we in?” I demand again, no give in my voice.
“Austin. This is where—”
“Sheridan runs his oil empire. I know.” Close to home, but a long way from Denver, where I was captured. “What part of Austin?”
“Downtown,” she replies as we cross the unfinished concrete floor. “When we go out into the hallway, we’ll take the stairs and then it’s a left to the exit. Right is the door that should be blocked. That’s the main warehouse.”
“What’s outside the exit?”
“An alleyway, but we’re right off Seventh Street. And since that exit is the only way in or out now, I’m really scared that there will be trouble waiting for us. Someone has to have called for help by now.”
“I’m good at handling trouble—something you’d do well to remember, since I consider you to fit that description.” I stop at the exit door and turn to look her in the eyes. “I can think of twenty different ways the next five minutes can go, and in nineteen of them, you die. In eighteen, I’m the one who kills you.”
“Then you’d have to drag my body with you.”
“Good exercise, sweetheart. As Clint says, ‘Make my day.’”
She doesn’t see the humor in my Eastwood impression, and while her glare suggests anger there’s a flicker of fear deep in those blue eyes. The kind of fear I have nightmares about seeing in Lara’s eyes. Maybe Sheridan isn’t so stupid after all, considering it was a woman’s betrayal that got me here in the first place. And this one is smart. “Fool me once,” I murmur, “and I’m a fool. I’ll kick you in the teeth before you fool me again.”
“I’m not trying to fool you—”
“Save it. I don’t want to hear it.” Frustrated, ready to get this woman disconnected from my arm sooner rather than later, I yank open the door at the top of the stairs, inching forward to study the hallway. Sure enough, smoke pours from a steel door to the right. But it’s contained, which tells me either Sheridan’s men hit it with an extinguisher before it could draw attention, or . . . this is all a setup.
Irritated all over again, I drag my ball and chain with me, heading for the exit, already planning how to get rid of her in the next fifteen minutes. We’re at the door and in the empty alleyway in a matter of seconds. It’s dead out here, like we’re in a shopping mall parking lot after closing at Christmastime and we’re the only ones who have nowhere to be.
“My car is parked on the street down there,” my former captor says, pointing to the right. I go left. “My car,” she insists, stumbling in her high heels as she tries to keep up.
“Will be tracked.”
“No. I told you. I’m not with Sheridan.”
“Do you work for him?”
I don’t look at her. “And you know about what he’s looking for?”
“Then your car’s being tracked,” I say as we round a corner and I scan the street, finding it nighttime-empty, all the businesses closed, the streets deserted.
“We’ll be spotted here.” She lifts our wrists. “Look at us.”
“Take off your shoes,” I order.
“What? I need—”
“I don’t have time to argue with you.” My fingers span her tiny waist as I lift her, peel off her high heels with my foot, and then bend down to scoop them up. “We need to get to the other side of the highway quickly,” I say, handing them to her.
“That’s East Austin. It’s dangerous, and—”
I start moving, giving her no choice but to keep up, while I battle limited vision in my left eye from the swelling—even more reason that we can’t be across the I-35 fast enough for me. I can handle a rough neighborhood to escape Sheridan.
We reach the highway and I make sure we dart through traffic against the light, putting distance and the major thoroughfare between us and Sheridan’s warehouse, and quickly trek up a hill toward the neighborhood beyond it.
“This is gang turf,” she warns again. “It’s dangerous. And can you even see? Your eye—”
“I’m fucking dangerous,” I growl at her, “and your boss is equivalent to the kingpin of these so-called gangs.”
“He’s not my boss. Or, he is. It’s complicated. But I’m serious about this neighborhood. We shouldn’t just walk around in this area of town even if it were daylight.”
“You’re right. It’s not safe, but it’s the right place to get lost with a woman cuffed to your arm and not have the cops called on you.” I cut her a hard look. “So I suggest you keep quiet, so we won’t draw attention we don’t want.” We top the hill and I spot the piñata shop that’s been around since before I was old enough to come to Austin to party, and is the marker for gang town. Everything beyond it is a bitchfight waiting to happen. As we approach the shop, a fortysomething Mexican man is closing up the gated area that displays all kinds of colorful hanging objects.
He pauses there, cautiously tracking our approach, and when we stop on the opposite side of the gate his intelligent eyes meet mine, no doubt taking in my beaten face, and then shift to the woman next to me, who is still sporting my blood all over her cheek. He glances at the cuffs, then at me again, and no doubt back to my blood on her face. He gives a snort and returns his attention to me.
“Qué chingados paso?” he demands, in what I translate to mean “What the fuck happened?”
Already having formulated an idea in my head, I answer in Spanish, giving him my quick and outrageous explanation and plea for help. He listens intently, his eyes going wide with sympathy before he murmurs an introduction and a fast invite inside, opening the gate as he does. My ball and chain looks up at me, the streetlight illuminating her expressive eyes. “What did you say to him?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Yes,” she insists, making it clear that either she doesn’t know Spanish, or, again, she’s a damn good actress.
“Too bad,” I say, motioning her forward, and when she doesn’t move, I pull harder on the restraint locking us together and drag her along with me, murmuring an apology to Hugo, as he claims to be called, and explaining to him that she’s “embarrassed.” I pause to face Hugo, who barely contains a smirk as he shuts the gate and steps ahead of us.
“This is dangerous,” she murmurs as Hugo stops at the entryway of a broken-down house.
“He’s not as dangerous as I am,” I promise. We follow Hugo directly into a room that’s been converted into a storefront with a counter and a cash register, and pass through to a very seventies puke-green kitchen. My shadow and I linger in the hallway as Hugo walks to a drawer and removes a pair of scissors. He hands them to me, with instructions to use the spare bedroom and bathroom down the hallway to clean up.
“Telephone?” he asks in English.
“No,” I say quickly, half expecting my companion to argue, but she wisely does not.
A knowing look settles in Hugo’s eyes and he gives me a nod. Thanking him, I accept a first aid kit and urge the woman to lead the way to the single door to our right. She opens it and I follow her inside a small bedroom that is simple but clean, with a door to what Hugo has told me is a bathroom. I shut us inside and toss her high heels, along with the first aid kit, onto the rainbow-colored Mexican blanket that’s spread over the top of a twin bed. She grabs the plastic between our arms, as if trying to stop me from cutting us apart.
“Move your hand or I’ll cut it,” I warn, blood trickling irritatingly down my cheek. “We don’t have much time, and we can’t leave with these cuffs on.”
“You can’t leave me.”
“Says who? Besides Sheridan.”
“Me.” Her voice quakes. “I say.”
I narrow my eyes at her, or I think I do. I can’t feel one of my eyelids, and—damn it to hell—blood drips down onto my arm. “What’s in this for you?”
“I told you. I don’t want him to get what he’s after. And how do you know that man isn’t just buying time to call the police or some gang?”
I ignore her question, and my desire to ask her a few of my own. “Move your hand.”
“You’re bleeding again, badly.”
“Move your hand.”
“Please,” she whispers. “Don’t leave me behind. I gambled on you helping me when I chose your silence over Sheridan’s demands. He doesn’t forgive or forget, and I don’t know how to hide from him. I don’t know what to do.”
The desperation in her voice does nothing but irritate me. It reminds me of that lying bitch, Meg. I’d fallen for her desperate damsel-in-distress routine, and she’d been nothing but Sheridan’s puppet. The thought spurs me to anger and action, and I reach under her arm and grab her elbow, twisting our arms and forcing her to let go of the cuff. Wasting no time, I cut the plastic tying us together and then make fast work of the bracelet remaining on her arm and then the three on mine. Unwilling to let her get her hands on the scissors, and not ready to let go of my only weapon, I shove them in my pocket.
My hands come down on the wall on either side of her head and I find myself staring down into her sky-blue eyes, a fear in their depths that she seems to try to hide with a defiant lift of her chin. Her attempt at bravado is my undoing, a reminder of my sister’s youthful, spirited replies. Amy is nothing like this woman, who is maybe five years younger than my thirty years old, with experience and secrets in her eyes where Amy is innocence and truth, but it doesn’t seem to matter. This woman, this stranger and enemy, keeps making me think of her anyway. And that’s a dangerous path I’m not letting myself travel.
“You’re in the forest with wolves, woman, and even if you think you’re one of us, you’re not. We’ll all eat you alive. Get out of my forest before I’m the one who has you for dinner.”
Shoving myself off the wall and away from her, I swipe some blood from my face and grab the first aid kit from the bed. I’ve only taken a step toward the bathroom when it hits me that she could be wearing a wire, or a tracking device. “Scared, my ass,” I mumble, angry at myself for being even somewhat gullible.
Rotating to face her again, I shackle her wrist with my hand and haul her with me to the door. It amounts to a toilet and a sink, which suits my needs just fine. Pulling the woman in front of me, I place her in front of the sink and mirror, stepping behind her, my hands framing the dip at her waist, and I am far from oblivious of the curvy but slender hips and the round, rather perfect backside. No doubt, both assets are reasons Sheridan would pick her for this job.
Fuming with the thought, my eyes meet hers in the mirror and I see a panic in hers that no one can fake. Good. She should be panicked right about now. “What are you going to do?” she demands.
“Dinner came early.”
She tries to turn but I counter her move, stepping into her, using my thighs to pin her legs. Shifting to hold her more snugly in place, I fit her backside to my front, her soft round rear fitting against my groin. My cock reacts like it’s just been given a reward, thickening instantly, apparently not giving a flying fuck that she’s Sheridan’s bitch, even if I do.
“Let me go,” she demands.
“You just ordered me to do the opposite in the other room.”
“I told you not to leave me behind, not to pin me against a bathroom sink.”
She tries to shift again, and my zipper stretches to painful limits. “Enough,” I grind out shortly through clenched teeth. “I need to be sure you aren’t wired, or wearing a tracker.”
She stills, her eyes meeting mine in the mirror again, her dark brown hair lying haphazardly over her brow. “Wire? Tracking device? No. No, I don’t have either.”
“Forgive me if I don’t take you at your word.”
“What you are going to do?” she asks again, the panic in her eyes from before now radiating in the quiver of her voice.
“I’m going to find out for myself, and we can do that one of two ways.” I turn her around to face me, my legs clamping around hers again instantly, my hands returning to her waist, where I intentionally allow my fingers to flex. “I can search you, and do so intimately and completely”—I pause for effect, the air between us thickening a bit too readily to suit me—“or you can strip down for me and prove you’re clean.”
Her lips part in a silent gasp. “You can’t be serious.”
“As serious as a wolf about to rip out a deer’s throat, sweetheart, and this needs to happen now. Decide. Which will it be?”
“Sheridan wouldn’t have me wear a wire. He’d know you’d do this.”
“Of course he would. The whole idea here is for me to get you naked. He wants you in my bed. And if you’re offering, I won’t decline, but it’ll be me fucking you, not you fucking me.”
“I’m not offering anything.” Her hands press hard against my chest. “Let me out of here.”
“Not a problem,” I say, doing what’s no doubt the opposite of what she expects, releasing her and moving the few inches away the space allows. But we’re still close, a few inches separating us at best, and I can smell the damnable floral scent of her skin. She grips the sink behind her, her chest rising and falling in steady, heavy movements, but she doesn’t leave. Of course not. She works for Sheridan. Even if she wants to go, she can’t.
She says nothing. Does nothing. I give her a grand gesture toward the door. “Feel free. You’re on your own.”
Indecision flickers over her face, that streak of my blood a drastic contrast to her beautiful porcelain skin. Damn it to hell, why am I noticing her skin? Irritated at myself and at her, my hands go to her waist and I literally lift her and set her aside. Stepping to the sink, I grab the towel on the rack and turn on the water.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
I glance up at her. “That question is getting old, but if you must know, I’m cleaning up to get the hell out of here—and so we’re clear, I’m leaving without you.”
“If you think I’m being tracked, why aren’t you leaving now?”
“Because you being wired means Sheridan set up this escape, and he simply wants to keep an eye on us. In which case, I actually have more time, not less.”
“Then you need to know you have less. I’m not bugged. I’m not wearing a tracking device.” She grabs my arm and I face her as she promises, “I’m also not the whore you seem to think I am. But I can’t get naked to prove it.”
The conviction in her voice is pretty damn believable, and so is the desperation in her eyes, but then, why wouldn’t it be? Failing Sheridan isn’t a mistake that comes without a price. And she sure didn’t seem anything but tough in that interrogation room. “Suit yourself,” I say, removing her hand from my arm to face the sink again and bending over to splash water on my face. She doesn’t move or speak, and while I am as aware of her standing there as I am of each breath I take, I ignore her. Using the bar of soap by the sink, I clean up my arms and then my face, my efforts only serving to irritate the gash on my cheek, which starts oozing blood all over again. “Fuck,” I murmur, turning off the water and reaching for the first aid kit, aware that I need stitches I won’t be getting.
“Why are you still here?” I demand, grabbing two Band-Aids out of the kit.
“I don’t know where to go.”
“Away from me,” I say, tearing open a wrapper to bandage up my wound.
“I told you, I don’t know where to go.”
“And yet you acted really damn confident when you were working me over for the camera.”
“My hands were shaking. I was terrified.”
“Well, you put on a good show, sweetheart.”
“I was running on adrenaline. Now reality has hit me.”
“Stop fretting. You made it seem like I kidnapped you.”
“In case I was captured—but Sheridan’s not easily fooled. Please. I need help. I just . . . do what you have to do to believe me. Pat me down. It’s better than getting naked. I think. I hope. Just get it over with.”
It’s all the invitation I need. Shackling her wrist, I pull her back to the sink and in front of me again, my legs once again pinning hers. She twists her fingers in my shirt, her lashes lowered, dark stains on her pale cheeks.
“Look at me,” I order, trying to figure out why I can’t quite turn on the ice in my veins with this woman.
Her eyes open, her chin lifting, and I study her, reminding myself that I have every reason to make this hard on her—except one: the vulnerable, shaken look in her eyes. The woman who betrayed me had convinced me she was Sheridan’s victim, and yet never once had I seen such a look on her face.
I squat down in front of her, wrapping my hands around her slender ankles, where I linger, reminding myself that I need to treat her like a hostile. This needs to make her uncomfortable—but I can’t help but think of my sister, whose life was ripped out from underneath her by no choice or action of her own. The idea that this woman could be the same kind of victim as Amy does not sit well with me.
Letting out a heavy breath, my hands begin to explore her body, running up her legs to the top of her thigh-highs, where I search the elastic for a hidden device. Next, I move up her hips, and she sucks in the same breath I’m now holding as I run my fingers between her thighs. She’s wearing a thong, so as tempting as her ass might be, this isn’t about sex, or taking advantage of her. If I knew she was Sheridan’s bitch, the story would be different.
Trying not to give either of us time to think about the invasion this is for her if she is truly an innocent in all of this, I stand up and turn her to face the mirror again. She drops her head forward, her long, silky brown hair draping her face. I tug her black silk blouse from her skirt and my fingers tunnel underneath, deftly searching her slender waist, her ribs, and the sides of her breasts. I hesitate only a minute and then do what has to be done. I search the most obvious of potential hiding places for a tracking or recording device, cupping her breasts, and when I feel nothing but curves and woman, I shove down the lace cups, ensuring there’s nothing inside. She pants. Hell, I think I do, too, and I remove my hands, tangling my fingers in her hair and parting it, searching her neckline.
Finally, I turn her to face me all over again, planting my hands on either side of her. She stares down, as far from playing seductress as you can get, but then, she’s probably doing just that—playing me. Still, she’s not wearing a device, and I find myself saying, “I had to do that.”
Her gaze jerks to mine, her cheeks flushed. “I know,” she whispers, delicately clearing her throat. “I get it. I . . . appreciate that you didn’t— ”
“Don’t. Don’t appreciate anything, because I will turn on you in a minute flat if you give me even a flicker of a reason to do it. I don’t trust you.”
“I don’t trust you.”
“You shouldn’t. What’s your name?”
“Is that your real name?”
I don’t miss the two beats of hesitation or the lowering of her lashes before she says, “Of course it’s my real name.” Her gaze finds mine. “Is Chad yours?”
I ignore the question, which hits a nerve I don’t examine right now. “What were you doing with Sheridan in the first place?”
A knock sounds on the door of the bedroom, and I shove myself off the counter. “Clean the blood off your face,” I order, not waiting for a reply as I head through the small room to greet our visitor, my nerve endings buzzing, and my damn cock hard. Cautiously, I crack the door open to find a teenage boy who resembles Hugo standing in the hallway.
“Trouble, señor,” he says in English. “There are men searching the neighborhood. My father turned down the lights and bolted the door, but he says you should leave out the back.”
I curse under my breath and scrub the whiskers I can’t wait to shave. “We’re going.” I turn to get Gia but she’s already here, her shoes in hand.
“I heard,” she says. “And ‘we’ better mean you and me together, because you aren’t leaving me. Not after I just let you search me.”
The smart thing to do would be to do just that—leave her. The odds of her being part of a setup are a good 90 percent, which leaves only a 10 percent chance she’s a victim and/or an ally. And it’s not like I’m a saint here. In fact, I’m a pretty damn accomplished sinner, but I choose the targets of said sins with care. I didn’t choose this woman, and I know how dangerous Sheridan is. If she really crossed him, he’ll kill her.
I grab her wrist and pull her to me. “You do exactly what I say, when I say it. Understand?”
She swallows hard. “Yes. I understand. I will.”
I grab her hair, twining my fingers in the long, silky strands, and force her gaze to mine. “Fuck me over and I’ll fuck you ten times harder and faster. And not in the way that feels good.” My warning issued, I release her. Still holding onto her wrist, I enter the hallway, Gia—or whatever her real name is—in tow, and I swear I can almost see Sheridan’s laughing face and hear him calling me a fool all over again. But it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve made up my mind. This woman is coming with me, at least until I decide what to do with her.