Breaking love broken lov.., p.12
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       Breaking Love (Broken Love #4), p.12

           B. B. Reid
 
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  “Your business practices are nothing more than carefully worded threats. Over eighty percent of your acquisitions were hostile. Instead of cultivating relationships, you’re making enemies.”

  “We are not in the business of selling dreams, son. We’re conquerors and conquerors do not ask for permission.”

  “I don’t want to be a conqueror. I want to be a smart man and smart men know how to pick their battles.”

  “And a smart man knows how to pick useful allies. You’re still in contact with Keiran Masters.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “I’ve heard you’ve been gallivanting about the city with him again looking for a woman who is not your fiancé.”

  “That woman is my friend who was kidnapped from my apartment in broad daylight by very dangerous men. Keiran’s woman is her best friend. Naturally, he offered to help.”

  “His kind of help will land you in prison, boy.” His eyes narrowed with scrutiny. “Maybe you do want to marry Rosalyn.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous. No man would want to marry Rosalyn.”

  “Then sever your relationship with that criminal, and I’ll call off the proposal.”

  “No.”

  “Excuse me?”

  “I’m not going to do it. Keiran is more than my friend. He’s my brother. I’m not giving him up because you want to protect your image.”

  “It’s about time you found your balls.”

  I looked up to find Keiran in the doorway. The dark hoodie he wore over his head mostly obscured his expression so I couldn’t tell what he was thinking.

  “Son, we’re having a private conversation—”

  “That I’m ending now. Father, I’ll talk to you later.”

  “Don’t dare dismiss me for him.” I met his glower straight on, unfazed by his anger. “Leave.” After a few more moments of staring, he realized I wasn’t backing down and stood to his feet.

  “I will speak to your mother about this.”

  “Tell her I said hello.”

  The office door slammed to a close. I expected Keiran to say something, but he simply made his way to the couch and slouched with his head against the back of the couch and eyes fixed on the ceiling.

  “Something bothering you?”

  “Lake wants to stay behind for a few more days.”

  “Doesn’t she have finals coming?”

  “She does, but she’s worried about Willow.”

  “Really?”

  “Why are you surprised?”

  “Her reception has been kind of cold.”

  “Yeah, I asked her about that, and she nearly bit my head off.”

  “Maybe you should check her purse for your balls.”

  “Cute.”

  “So what are you going to do?”

  “We’re going. She needs to study, and I want her alone so I can fuck her properly. I can’t do that with a toddler insisting on a slumber party every night.”

  “Get used to it. You and Lake have been going strong for four years now. Wedding bells are ringing. Baby comes next.”

  I don’t think I’ve ever seen fear in Keiran, but his complexion paled considerably, and he leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “Do you think she’ll want that?”

  “She’s a woman and she loves you. Of course, she will. Wait… don’t you?”

  “I would love to make her mine on paper but a kid…”

  I was pretty sure if Keiran weren’t already sitting, he would have fallen. “There’s no need to panic. There is still plenty of time.”

  “I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready for that. I can’t create a child knowing what’s out there ready to hurt them. I used to think it could be possible, that I could give her a family, but I can’t ignore that less than a year ago, I had a hit on my head. I’ll never know if there will be another and when it will come. I lay awake at night wondering how I’m going to protect her.”

  “You can’t plan your life around what-if. The right thing to do is to give you both what you need. Lake trusts you to protect her, but she also trusts you to give her happiness. Don’t fuck it up. Trust is a hard thing to earn after it’s lost.”

  I expected him to react. Instead, he went back to staring at the ceiling. Instinct and years of friendship told me he had more on his mind and judging by the hard set of his jaw I knew it was nothing good.

  “There’s something else.” I watched him carefully, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  “Mitch is dead.”

  Forget the shoe. Keiran had just laid an atomic bomb in my lap that would detonate at any moment. “Fuck man. When?” Already I was mentally preparing for the legal battle ahead if Keiran was caught. He had been in too much trouble with the law to walk away for the umpteenth time.

  “About a week ago.”

  “How? You weren’t in Nevada.” The lingering question was in my tone which he sensed. I watched his shoulders tense with frustration.

  He cracked his knuckles and flexed his fist before settling perfectly still again. “It wasn’t me.”

  “Come again?”

  “I didn’t kill my father,” he spelled out slowly. “The police showed up on Keenan’s doorstep while they were out. I haven’t told him yet.” His frown deepened and his chest moved with harsh breaths.

  I knew better than to think he mourned the motherfucker who almost succeeded in stealing his humanity, but the deep lines in his forehead told me his father’s death bothered him.

  “This is good news. Mitch is dead and you get to keep your hands clean.”

  “Do I?”

  “So you’re saying you’d avenge him?”

  “Fuck. No. I’m saying my back may have just become someone else’s target.”

  “You know they say the enemy of your enemy is your friend, right?”

  “Or just a bigger enemy.”

  I stared at him at a loss for words knowing he could very well be right. Keiran trusted little and suspected everything. The worst part is he was always right. Except when it had come to Lake… It is clear that she had always been the rule rather than the exception. The day Keiran went against his better judgment could very well kill him.

  “You have to tell Keenan and soon. Are you going to go after whoever killed him?”

  I was hoping the answer was no, but I knew better than that. Keiran didn’t like loose ends and he didn’t take chances. Especially now that he had someone to live for.

  He turned to face me and in his eyes I could see the killer born from slavery and pain. “Do I have a choice?”

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  SUMMER BEFORE SENIOR YEAR

  WILLOW

  SINCE THAT FIRST night weeks ago, Dash had made every excuse, plan, or a ploy to get into my room or for me to come out. The very next day, he had come back, claiming to not understand the assignment given to us in our time management course. Since I’d refused to give him my number, he had been forced to come over.

  Only when he was inside did I discover he had already completed the assignment.

  He placed me in handcuffs again and made me watch another movie with us crammed together on the twin bed. Only this time was different for several reasons.

  This time, he took the liberty of removing his shoes and locking our feet together. The movie was also different. It was a romantic comedy called Bridget Jones’ Diary.

  That had been one of my favorite nights for one particular reason.

  When Mark Darcy admitted to liking Bridget Jones just the way she was despite all her bad qualities, he had played it back and turned up the volume. As I listened, he placed kisses on my neck and when Darcy repeated it, Dash had whispered it in my ear.

  Luckily, my roommate had been gone, and over the weeks, I found that she was always gone when Dash came over but never when I needed time alone.

  The very next night, he claimed to have left his computer charger. He placed me in handcuffs, brought over Twilight, and removed his shirt and shoes.


  By the fourth night, I assured him there was no need to handcuff me. He then attempted to bribe me with a kiss instead of the handcuffs. I was going to choose the less dangerous route, but he took the decision from me by trapping me against the door and introducing me to his tongue once again. That night was the first time he slept over. We were moving into dangerous territory at full speed.

  I looked myself over in the mirror once again and couldn’t recognize myself. My hair had been tamed into disciplined waves that flowed down my back. The white sundress hugged my body and actually looked flattering against my curves. Plain white flip-flops and a long gold chain completed the outfit. Although I felt foreign in my own body, I liked what I saw so maybe Dash would, too.

  I wanted to call Lake for advice but didn’t know how she would respond to my friendship with Dash. He was best friends with the enemy after all, and in a way, it made him the enemy, but being here alone made it easier to accept his friendship. I had no idea what would happen when we both returned to Six Forks.

  We’d been hanging out for weeks in secret. I would only agree if we were in my dorm. Today when he asked, I finally decided to go on a date with him. I had no idea where we were going, but the butterflies in my stomach hadn’t let up since I agreed.

  I opened my door and was greeted by a face that looked like Dash but a body that was not dressed like Dash. The bright yellow shirt with thin purple stripes was accessorized by a purple bow and suspenders. His jeans were plain dark and cuffed at the bottom with purple loafers to end his outrageous outfit.

  He looked gorgeous.

  “Why are you dressed like… um…”

  “You?”

  “I suppose.” He looked entirely too conformable in what people like him wouldn’t be caught in.

  “Why are you dressed normally?”

  “Are playing with me?”

  “You don’t have to answer to everything with hostility you know.”

  “I don’t trust you.”

  “Why?”

  “Because you’re friends with him.”

  “Him?”

  “Keiran Masters.” His eyes narrowed and his lip curled with disdain completely transforming his features into someone unrecognizable. I was stumped by his fierce expression given their relationship.

  “What do you have to do with Keiran?”

  “You know what.”

  His hands snatched away from my waist as he took a step back and growled, “You fucked him.”

  “What? No! I’d rather die.”

  “Those are strong words. Then what do I know?”

  “He’s a bully.”

  “I see… and he has bullied you?” I faltered at the anger in eyes but also the recognition.

  “If he had?”

  “I would have to speak with him.”

  “Why?”

  “Because he hurt you.”

  “He hasn’t… not directly.”

  “You’re speaking in riddles.”

  “You mean you really don’t know?” For the first time, he was silent without something witty, smart, or charming to say. He actually appeared to be fighting for words.

  “No.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t know.”

  “How can you be best friends with him and not know about the one person he actually hates?”

  “I don’t want to talk about what’s back in Six Forks or Keiran. What I want is to take you on a date, but first, I want to give you a gift.”

  “A gift? For what?”

  He ignored my questioning and took my arm in his hand. He placed a kiss on the inside of my wrist and then clasped a thin, platinum bracelet around my wrist. I pulled my arm away to inspect the bracelet.

  It was simple yet elegant, breathtaking, and nothing like I expected.

  Transparent purple stones adorned the platinum chain. It was a beautiful, unexpected sight. I fingered the bracelet and admired the angel wings. Beside it was the letters ‘D’ and ‘W’. The right arm of the W was hooked around the curve of the D.

  “I don’t know what—um… why?”

  “I saw this and thought it was something you should have. I had it personalized with our initials.”

  Our initials.

  The phrase sounded like a commitment, but I knew better than to read too much into it with someone like Dash. He could have anyone he wanted so the reality of him settling for me would never be anything more than fantasy.

  I looked up from the bracelet in time to see the flush on his cheeks. “Why, Dash, I do believe you’re blushing,” I cooed in an imitation of a southern belle.

  “I will only ever blush for you.”

  “And what about acts that would make me blush?”

  “Are those only for me as well?” I laughed at my joke but was cut short by the look of promise in his eyes.

  “You should know better by now.” His voice had deepened further with lust.

  “And what should I know?”

  “Everything I am is only for you.”

  “I wish I could believe that, but it’s too powerful a promise for two strangers.”

  “We aren’t strangers.”

  “We barely know each other.”

  “You know me better than most.”

  “How is that?”

  “Because I trust you. Being the son of one of the richest men in the country doesn’t afford me the ability to trust easily.”

  I thought about the question nagging in the back of my mind since he approached me on campus three weeks ago. “Should I trust you?”

  “No.”

  I swallowed past the thick apprehension in my throat. “Why?”

  “Because I don’t have good intentions when it comes to you.”

  “What are your intentions?”

  “If I were trustworthy, I wouldn’t tell you exactly what was on my mind and exactly what I wanted from you.”

  “Even if I wanted you to?”

  “One of us has to know better.”

  “Or we could do the wrong thing together.”

  He reared back in surprise. “Am I seducing you or are you seducing me?”

  “Anything you can do, I can do better.”

  * * *

  PRESENT

  Sheldon took me shopping for a change of clothes just as Dash had promised. I expected it to be a brief trip out, but we spent the entire day out. Four years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a chain store. I had always preferred to make my own clothing, but with each year that passed, I looked less like me. I no longer felt like me anymore.

  We stopped for lunch and she filled me in on everything that had happened over the years while I’d been gone. Out of everything, I was mostly surprised to find that Keiran had been a large part of Sheldon’s strength during her pregnancy and after. And when she revealed what happened to Kennedy, I realized keeping my predicament a secret was endangering more than just my family. Later, when Dash arrived to pick me up, I knew what I had to do.

  “Are you ready?” he asked when he walked through their front door. I studied the stress lining his face and heard the fatigue in his voice.

  “Not quite. We need to talk.”

  He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck impatiently. “We can talk at my place.”

  “We can’t. It involves them as well.” Keenan had been sitting nearby, playing on his phone, and pretending not to listen.

  He lifted his head and said, “I’ll get Shelly.”

  I couldn’t break my gaze from Dash’s so I nodded that I had heard. “What is this about?”

  I shook my head. “They need to hear it, too.”

  Keenan and Sheldon entered the living room, and I took a deep breath that was supposed to be calming, but all it managed to do was to get caught in my throat along with the words.

  I ran through everything that happened Saturday and Monday night, calling for every detail, but the ability to start escaped me. I stood up to pace and found it easier to speak with each step.

  “The da
y of the wedding, I came home to visit my mother. I’m not sure exactly what happened or how she knew me.” I wasn’t making much sense and was rambling to keep up with my racing mind. At the back of my mind, I realized my heart pounded out of pace and my palms began to sweat.

  “Slow down,” Dash ordered. “Who knew you?”

  “Not who. Them.”

  “You said she.”

  “There were men who found me and forced me into this unmarked van. She is their leader. Anyway, she said she had a job for me and I could live if I completed it. She drove me to your parents’ home after that and they dumped me there.”

  “What did she want?” Keenan demanded.

  “She, uh… she wants Keiran—” My tongue twisted and my gut knotted.

  “She wants Keiran?” Sheldon’s voice was full of surprise.

  “No. Um… She wants him… dead.”

  The room filled with silence. Everyone’s mouths were agape as they stared at me. Keenan was the first to speak.

  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Keenan mumbled. “This is the second attempt on his life in less than a year.”

  Sheldon had filled me in on Kennedy’s kidnapping a few months ago. She was ransomed for Keiran’s death and whoever was behind it wanted Sheldon to make the hit.

  “Who? Do you know who?”

  “We know who physically took Kennedy, but we don’t know who was behind it.”

  “Where are the people who took her?”

  “Extremely dead.” Keenan smirked.

  “They could have known—”

  “They didn’t know anything.”

  “Well then, I think I know who did this.” They all looked as if I’d grown an extra head.

  “How?”

  “She told me who she was. She said it didn’t matter.”

  “Who is she?”

  “Esmerelda.”

  “Esmerelda Phalan?” His lips twisted with disgust and confusion.

  “We didn’t exchange last names, but whoever she is, she’s dangerous, and she knows who we all are.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Because when she took me the second time after I had tried to leave, she threatened my family if I didn’t kill him. She’s been watching all of us.”

 
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