“GAGE SAID YOU WOULDN’T BE HERE, BUT I’m glad you are.” For every step forward he took, I couldn’t stop myself from taking one back. He repelled me, and I couldn’t let him get close.
My fingers by my side twitched to reach for the gun, but I didn’t want to act too soon. After he was several steps into the room, I started to step to the side instead of back, hoping to make my way around to the door. My pace was slow, matching his. He was a lion that might attack at any sudden change.
“I’m not staying.” I spoke just to break the silence.
He stopped walking then, eyes dropping over me. “You should. Just because Gage doesn’t have time for you, doesn’t mean I don’t.”
“I don’t need your time.” His words lit my fuse, hitting too close to the truth. I took my chance then to walk out the door, keeping my wide arc around him.
When I reached the handle, he was suddenly there, gripping my arm, pulling me back. “Don’t go yet.”
My other arm dipped low, almost not reaching the gun as he yanked me up, but when I turned to face him, it was out and pointing at him.
“Let go of me.”
He dropped me, but then did something that shot an electric pain through my wrist. And my gun was no longer in my hands. All I had left was a throbbing arm and a new wave of fear.
But I was still at the door, so I reached behind me. He slammed me against the frame with one hand on the center of my chest, and my gun against my cheek.
“That was really, really stupid,” he hissed as he took the gun away, slipping it somewhere on him. Then he gripped my shoulders, his face was too close to mine, body pressed into me. “I had thought you smarter. When I realized you hadn’t told Gage, I thought maybe you would be different. You certainly seemed different.”
I had to turn my head to the side as his breath heated around me, his nose almost skimming mine.
He used one hand to grip my face, turning me back towards him. “But I think you’re weaker than ever before. It’s a shame what you let him do to you.” His other hand slid down my arm and up my legs, his height giving him the reach to feel the top of my boots without giving up leverage. “You have any other weapons on you?”
“No.” I closed my eyes against his touch, but I could still feel it with every cell.
His hand slid higher up my inner thighs, slow and firm, and then he swirled it out to my hips and skimmed in the band of my jeans, fingers trailing over my skin.
His breath was harsh and hot as he leaned into me, lips now at my ear. “I only wanted to talk. Why do you always have to fuck things up? Push me too far?”
Then I was falling, landing on my side as he threw me into the room. Every action I saw of his was slow and deliberate, but he attacked in bursts too quick to see coming, like a shark.
I scrambled to my feet. His eyes flashed with lightning, warning me that the storm was only just beginning.
“I didn’t know what you thought. I didn’t know if you blamed me. I was only trying to protect myself.” I kept one arm out as I backed away. This room had too much empty space, a couch along the wall, a pole in the center with a small platform, all reflected in the mirrors on the ceiling. There was nothing to use to my advantage.
“What would I blame you for?” He stopped walking, but his eyes followed my movements.
My heart was in my throat, pounding, choking me, but I tried to talk him down, or myself down. I couldn’t tell what was happening, I couldn’t read him at all. “Going to prison.”
He smiled, a small slick smile, and his eyes darkened as he took a step towards me. “No. I don’t blame you for that. I know whose fault that was. What else?”
I shook my head, still making my slow retreat to the door. “You might have thought I told Gage. And you said you would hurt me.”
“Tch” He sucked his teeth. “I never said I would hurt you. And you didn’t tell Gage, so you have nothing to worry about. In fact, he’s given up the club too, so it looks like I owe you.” His head cocked to the side. “Stop running, it makes you look guilty. But you didn’t do anything wrong, did you?”
My feet stilled, listening to the command before I could even think. The adrenaline pounding in my head left little room for real thought, and his words took what little space there was.
“This is wrong. I shouldn’t be here.” I wasn’t even talking to him; it was my thoughts mistakenly spoken out loud.
“Then why are you here?” There was an excitement in his voice as he stepped towards me. All of a sudden, he was back in my face, his hands on my waist.
I tried to pull away, or push him away, but he wrapped his arms around me, pinning my arms beside me in a constricting hold that took away my air.
“Relax sweetheart.” His voice sent shivers over me, ice dripping into my veins as his nose slid up my neck. “Admit it,” he whispered the demand in my ear, squeezing me till tears slid from my eyes. “You wanted to see me, you heard I was out, and you couldn’t resist. You don’t have to hide that with me.” One hand slid around my waist, fingers splayed over my stomach. He met my eyes for a moment, an understanding sparking in them. “It’s true.” His grip loosened some, and I tried to break free, but he pulled me back in, trapping me in his arms. “Shh-shh-shh.”
He held tight while I struggled in his arms, and then he gave up and jerked me, fingers digging in my arms. “Stop,” he commanded. “You’re going to need me more than ever if you’re pregnant.” It almost sounded like a threat.
“Why?” I stopped fighting, stilling my body but not my racing heart and not the tears flowing in silent pleas.
“Sweetheart, don’t cry. I’ll help you,” he murmured, loosening his grip on my arm but pulling me close, like he was providing comfort instead of trapping me. “Gage can’t protect you, let alone—”
The door flew open, and Gage stormed through. Rusnak dropped me as Gage lunged for him, fist connecting with his face. Rusnak was pushed back with each blow, and Gage kept coming forward, never letting up until he was on the ground. Then Gage was swinging both fists, pulling them back and releasing them in a wide ark. Rusnak’s head snapped from side to side. The attack was silent, only the rasps of breath could be heard under the bass of club music flowing through the walls and open door.
My legs wobbled beneath me, tension breaking as I watched Rusnak’s face bleed, wet splatters across the dark carpet with every hit from Gage.
Then others rushed into the room, men I didn’t know, and two pulled Gage back, the third going to Rusnak.
Gage tossed one man off of him, shoving him away with the shake of his shoulder.
The other man pulled out a gun and pressed it to his neck. “Hvatit.”
But Gage whipped around, flipping the gun from the guy’s hand into his own and backed him up with it. Then he turned to Rusnak, who had his own gun out.
“Don’t be stupid, boy.” Rusnak was on his feet and he spit blood onto the floor. “Don’t throw it all away over some girl.” He held the gun pointed at Gage with one hand and flicked his other hand, signaling for the men to back off.
“You know there’s more to it,” Gage ground out between teeth. “This has been coming for a long fucking time.”
My stomach was already a whirlwind, but now it contracted painfully as I watched his finger grip the trigger.
“Do it and she dies.” Rusnak swept his arm, pointing his gun at me. The long barrel was directly at my head, I could see into the darkness. “You might get off your shot, but so will I.”
Gage’s eyes barely glanced towards me; all his focus was on Rusnak.
Rusnak must have saw the answer in Gage’s look because he started walking towards the door.
Gage kept his gun trained on him but didn’t stop him, instead he nodded in the direction of the exit. “Get out then, but this isn’t over.”
“It’s not.” Rusnak’s gun stayed on me as he touched the tips of his fingers to his bloody nose and inclined his head to Gage. “I owe you one.” Then he disappeared out the door with his men following behind him.
Ian closed the door as he entered. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Get Sal to meet me out back. And get the others. I have to make some calls, and we have to go.”
Ian left without another word, and then it was only Gage and me in the room. He wouldn’t look at me, and I couldn’t speak.
We both stood there, tension on fire between us. Then he combusted. His fists flew at the wall, leaving dents and holes with every swing. I flinched with each punch, sure the anger was directed at me. I had no doubt it was when he charged at me with burning eyes.
“What the fuck were you doing with him?”
I could only shake my head as I stumbled back to the couch against the wall, landing on my butt.
“Why the hell are you here? I told you to stay away.”
I kept shaking my head, my body going into shock. Painful pinpricks covered my skin and all my muscles wobbled like Jell-O. This couldn’t be my fault. I didn’t even know what this all meant, what Rusnak meant. I was fucking terrified, and he was yelling. My stomach contracted again and I gripped my middle, folding over my hand. “You didn’t. You didn’t say anything. You didn’t make it to the appointment, and I was worried. I didn’t know.”
His chest rose and fell with force, but he stood up, no longer leaning over me. “Your appointment?” He shook his head, eyes closed for a split second. “Fuck, I forgot.” His eyes dropped over me, icy as ever, but I wanted to read concern in them as he sighed. “You’re not supposed to be here. You need to leave. Now.” He gripped my arm and pulled me to standing. There was nothing gentle in the way he tugged on me, he left no room for refusal.
“I’ll walk on my own.” I tried to pull away, not able to stand anyone’s touch. My skin was burned with the memory of Rusnak on me.
“Now’s not the time to fight me, not after the shit you just caused.” He pulled me in front of him, pushing me down the hall to the back exit, forcing me to keep going or be tripped up by him and dragged.
“I didn’t do anything. I didn’t—”
“Bullshit. You’re here when I’ve warned you not to be.” He pushed me out the back door, releasing me into the frigid air I was too far gone to feel. But his breath turned into an icy fog as he yelled, “For once in your life if you’d just fucking listen.”
“I didn’t know he was here.” That’s all I could think. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.
I. Didn’t. Know.
That didn’t mean I didn’t feel the destruction I had caused though. That didn’t make the aftermath any easier to handle. But it didn’t seem like Gage cared at all what I knew or didn’t know.
The crunch of tires and headlights in the night had me jumping out of my skin, but I recognized the car that pulled up. Sal.
“Get in.” Gage opened the back door for me. “Go home.”
“We need to talk. What’s going to happen now?” I stepped towards him, wanting him to look at me— to see me. I needed him to talk to me.
His hand went to my back, pushing me into the car. “Just get out of here.”
“No.” I attempted to plant my feet where they were, but he pushed harder, nearly picking me up to toss me in the car. Maybe he did pick me up because before I knew it, I was in the backseat, and the door closed in my face. I tried to open it and couldn’t, the lock on the inside wouldn’t work. I pounded on the window as Gage signaled for Sal to leave just as Ian and Cherry walked out the back, jackets, gloves and hoods pulled, ready to go.
“No.” I leaned forward in my seat to Sal. “Stop. Stop. I have to talk to him.” I knew I was loosing it, but my panic only mounted as we pulled out of the parking lot. My yells strained as tears filled my throat.
“I have to take you home.” Sal spoke like it was any normal day.
I kicked the back of the seat, it shook as my boot made contact, and then I did the same thing to his seat, over and over. And over.
“Stop now,” he demanded, but didn’t turn to face me.
I couldn’t pull any of my emotions back in. I was melting down, swirling into chaos. I had no control over anything. Not my emotions, not my husband, not anything in my life. I couldn’t even control where I was going right now, and for the life of me, I didn’t know how I had gotten here. How I had become the girl no one listened to. How I hadn’t even realized, until this moment, just how much I had lost of my life. For Gage. And he only cared if I did what he said, if I followed him without question. He only cared when it was convenient and didn’t interfere with his other priorities.
I was full on sobbing, trying to catch my breath.
“Watch out,” Sal yelled, whipping the car to the side.
I looked up in time to see a car stopped in front of us, and then the world was spinning, street lights and night streaking around us. I braced one arm on the seat in front of me and one over my stomach. Then we bounced over a curb, onto the sidewalk, and the car stopped.
We stopped. Still. And we hadn’t hit anything.
All my tears had dried up with the shock of our spin out, and relief swelled in me now. But the bright lights flooding into the car, growing brighter at an alarming rate, made me duck down in the seat and I curled into a ball.
“Oh Fuck,” Sal’s voice was a heavy weight, just as a truck slammed into us at full speed.
The crunching of metal and shattering of glass was all there was. It sounded like hell as the metal twisted and folded around me, over me, through me. It felt even worse, until it didn’t. Until the pain burst and there was nothing. Only night. Only silence.
Hands were on me, pulling me out of the car into consciousness and then dropping me.
There was fire. I felt it through me but could only see the road beneath me. Someone lifted me, someone with grey timberlands. He wasn’t lifting though; he was rolling me over, with his boot.
I choked, heat searing my lungs as if I was held underwater. Taking a breath had me spitting up. I turned to my side and coughed up blood. My eyes attached to it, refusing to let them roll back in my head. I struggled to push myself up but collapsed on my arm.
Please. Please. Please. All I could think as I struggled for a painful breath. Please.
“He’s not in there,” a voice yelled, cutting through the screeching metal echoing in my bones.
“Fuck. We got to go man, cops’ll be here soon.”
Timberland crouched down, lifting my head; I had no control over the rest of me. “She’s still alive.”
“Leave her. We got to go.”
“No. We’ll make sure the message gets through.”
Pain took my vision as he pulled on my hair.
“Can you hear me?”
I tried to groan, but it came out a splutter.
“Good.” His voice became the burning, the pain everywhere. “No one interferes with Shadow. Remember that.”
He dropped my head, and I opened my eyes just as his boot connected to my side. My world exploded, shattering into nothing but a blood stained silence.