Breaking love broken lov.., p.8
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       Breaking Love (Broken Love #4), p.8

           B. B. Reid
 
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  The bus ride to Six Forks was part of the routine when I came home. I was no longer running, but I took precautions to ensure I never came face to face with anyone. My mother and stepfather were the only people I allowed to remain in my presence because they were the least close to me.

  The knife in my heart twisted at the reminder that I had not seen my brother’s face in four years. Buddy loved me too much and he would have never allowed me to run. He probably would have succeeded in talking me out of it and for that, I was left only with the option to love him from afar.

  Buddy had just started his junior year at Reno, studying mechanical engineering. Sadly, my only source of news came from my mother and adoptive father. My mother, unfortunately, was only concerned with who he might be dating and my adoptive was a man of few words. His personality took a nosedive with the use of his legs, leaving him bound to a wheelchair.

  The bus ride was short, and as usual, I expected my mother to be waiting, but just as I stepped off the bus, my phone vibrated in my backpack. Annoyed, I angrily fished it and out and read the message I knew it would be.

  She was running late.

  I didn’t understand how she could be late when I arrived at the same time each trip. I knew it wasn’t because of my adoptive father. If anything had been wrong, she wouldn’t have come at all. My mother worshiped my adoptive father because he was hers, and if that meant putting him before her children, then so be it.

  I approached the empty bench, sat down on the cold wood, and huddled into myself for warmth. I usually enjoyed the fall season and the cool air it brought, but the paranoia made the air seem all the colder.

  A yawn and sniffle escaped me when I heard what sounded like my name in the wind. I turned toward the voice and found two men approaching. The instinct to flee brought me to my feet, but once I stood, I couldn’t move.

  “Willow Waters?” the closest one asked again. I looked between the men with unfamiliar faces and felt the cold chill of suspicion suck the heat from my body.

  “Nope. Name’s Darcy.” I retreated with quick backward steps all the while keeping wary eyes locked with their harder, meaner gazes. The moment they stepped forward, I knew they didn’t believe me. I never saw the van until it was in front of me. When the door slid open, I knew the two men were merely a distraction from the real danger.

  The opening revealed a stunningly beautiful woman with dark hair that traveled down her slender back. Her large brown eyes and sensual lips were as intimidating as the hard men who surrounded her from her perch on the bench. She sat as if it were a throne, the van her castle, and I were the lowly peasant prisoner.

  “I have a job for you. One that will pay well.”

  Ok, I wasn’t expecting that. “I’m sorry. I’m not currently in the market for a job.”

  “Acceptance is non-negotiable.” She dismissed me with a nod at the men I’d stupidly forgotten were behind me. I felt a heavy hand on my back seconds before I was shoved onto the hard floor of the van.

  I guess it was too much to hope they would have let me go after turning them down. Before I could fill my lungs with air again, following the hard impact, I was yanked into a sitting position.

  “Forgive my rudeness. My name is Esmerelda.” She offered a smile uncharacteristic of the situation we were in currently.

  “I didn’t ask your name… Oh, fuck. Why would you tell me your name unless you are going to kill me?”

  Calm down, Willow. Don’t have a panic attack now.

  “I’m wanted in multiple countries, including yours.” She sneered at her reference to America, and I wrestled with the need to flip her off. “There is nothing knowing my name could do that hasn’t already been done.”

  Screw it. I’m having a panic attack.

  “What do you want with me?” I struggled over the thickness of my tongue.

  “I told you. I have a job for you, Little Tree.” She crossed her tone leg over the other equally tone leg and twirled her foot casually.

  “But, I don’t want a job.”

  “You’ll want this job. It pays well. You’ll get to keep your life.”

  “What kind of job is worth my life?”

  * * *

  PRESENT

  The darkness was replaced by a blinding light, and my eyes immediately fought to adjust to the seemingly bright light that was truthfully only dim. I raggedly filled my lungs with air to fight off the claustrophobia leftover from the bag in my captor’s hands. His malicious grin spread, revealing his snaggled tooth when I peered up at him. Whatever they gave me had worn off and I was left to fight off the disorientation.

  One glance around revealed Esmerelda, my true captor, standing a few steps away. She watched me, appearing amused by the fight I put up as I was carried into an office. Judging by the high windows and the concrete walls, I guessed I was in some kind of warehouse.

  “You tried to run.” She tilted her head with a small smile, but her tone was chastising.

  “I didn’t—”

  “Don’t insult my intelligence, girl. If your little boyfriend hadn’t snagged you at the airport, I would have. You might even say he saved you… or delayed the inevitable.”

  “I can’t do what you asked, so I guess you’re here to kill me.” This would be the moment I began begging for my life, but the words remained painfully lodged in my throat. She threw her head back and the room filled with the grating sound of her laughter as if I’d just told a joke. When she recovered, her gaze settled on me with a shake of her head.

  “Do you still have the gift I gave you? I assume since you haven’t done what I asked, you do.”

  “Yes, I still have it.” Oh, God. But why do I still have it?

  “Good.” She signaled to the man holding my arms and thankfully, his vicious grip lessened. I knew the damage had already been done, and I would have bruises in the morning if I survived this somehow. “I’m not going to kill you today.”

  “You’re too kind,” I answered half-heartedly. My sarcasm wasn’t lost on her. Her lips fell from the teasing, fake smile to an honest line of displeasure.

  “It occurred to me that simply threatening your life wasn’t enough. You obviously cannot be motivated by just your life, so I’m taking the liberty of offering your family as well.”

  “M—my family?”

  “Your mother, father, and your cute little brother.”

  “Don’t touch my family, you poisonous bitch!” I charged but got nowhere before I heard the slap from snaggle tooth—hearing it more than I felt it. “Is that all you got?” I mocked even while my skin felt as it had just caught fire.

  “I’m afraid I certainly will. 45 Sandwell Lane. The pitiful little house on the corner.”

  “What?”

  “I know where your family lives—and every move they make,” she answered slowly as if I were short a brain. “And I intend to kill them if you do not complete the task.”

  “The task? Killing a man is not a task and my family has nothing to do with this.” I wanted to argue that neither did I, but I was already in too deep.

  “Yes, but every war has casualties and sadly, I did not start this war. Your friend did.”

  “He’s not my friend.”

  “Then you shouldn’t have a problem.”

  “I can’t kill him.”

  The older woman pushed away from the table and approached me with slow but sure steps. “You can, Little Tree. And, darling, you will because, if I have to kill him myself, I won’t stop there. I’ll kill the little gem-eyed bitch he betrayed my husband for and I’ll kill his family—including the adorable little darling. I’ll even kill that handsome hunk of meat I stole you from. I’ll kill everyone, my dear. Make no mistake about that.”

  I shook my head and gritted my teeth as if it could stop my tears from flowing. “It’s impossible.”

  “Nonsense. I’m only asking for one life. His life for all the rest.”

  “I’m not a murderer.”

  “But you ar
e. If you don’t kill him, you will be responsible for many more deaths rather than just one.”

  “Fine. I’ll do it.”

  “You said that last time. I want proof as reassurance before your family is safe again.”

  “Proof?”

  “Yes, bring me something of his.” She smiled.

  My nervousness raced alongside confusion. “Like a piece of jewelry?” Did Keiran even wear jewelry?

  “No, something better than that. Bring me a piece of him.” She snapped her fingers at the men as if they were dogs, and a man with a deep and ragged scar across his chin stepped forward with the sack. “Oh, one more thing.”

  “W—what?”

  “When you kill Keiran… should you kill Keiran… you might do yourself a favor and take care of your boyfriend, too.”

  I sucked in air and prayed she wouldn’t order me to kill Dash for my family, too. “Why would I do that?”

  “Do you really think he will ever forgive you after you’ve murdered his best friend? Men rarely admit to loving one another, but chances are, he loved him long before he made his way between your thighs. One guess where his loyalty lies?”

  Her parting advice haunted me during the entire ride. I couldn’t see where we were going, or even move being sandwiched in between two overly large bodies, so there was nothing I could do but replay it in my head.

  “Here. This is a good spot,” one of the henchmen grunted. Sweat formed above my top lip despite the frigid air in the van. The van stopped abruptly, and I would have fallen forward if rough fingers hadn’t grabbed me just in time. The sound of the van door sliding open greeted me, and then the even colder air blasted me just as the sack was taken off my head. I was pushed out of the van and hit the ground.

  “Complete the job and keep your mouth shut,” he ordered. The door slid closed and tires screeched as they sped away.

  I watched the van disappear, leaving me abandoned on the side of the road. Truthfully, I would have rather taken my chances with the dark streets and cold air. I looked up at the abundance of streetlights and tall buildings and realized I was back in the city.

  With no shoes.

  No coat.

  No wallet.

  And no phone.

  It had been hours, so I knew Dash must have been alerted to my disappearance and the destruction of his apartment. A chill ran up my spine at the memory of the sound of guns shooting and people screaming as they ran for cover. I had no idea where Dash’s men had come from, but it had been a brutal fight—one they had lost due to their unwillingness to harm the innocent bystanders. It was the advantage Esmeralda’s men had on them as they literally sprayed the area with bullets.

  I’m not sure how long I walked, but after at least two hours of walking aimlessly through the unknown city, my feet were screaming, and the shooting pain from walking on the hard concrete made me want to scream as well. I considered hitching a ride as if I were on a country road rather than a city street but quickly discarded the thought when the vision of me trapped in someone’s trunk formed.

  Although, there was the possibility I could be dragged in an alleyway instead…

  “Willow?”

  I looked around and spotted a large black SUV pulling along side of me. It was déjà vu all over again.

  Shit. I debated running, but the lack of shoes told me it was a bad idea.

  “Don’t run,” the familiar voice ordered. I stopped and stared as the back door opened and long legs encased in black jeans stepped out.

  “Keiran?”

  Oh, shit. I looked around, expecting the van to appear and shoot up the street as they did the apartment building. He never got the chance to answer when a second body emerged from the vehicle. I felt as if the blood literally seeped—no, poured from my body when I recognized Dash and the fierce expression he wore.

  Run. Fucking run.

  He must have guessed my intent because his steps quickened, closing the distance between us with a hard gaze that made me cower. Thankfully, I held it in and kept my own expression impassive. That lasted only until his hand caught my neck in a savage grip. He seemed to catch himself a moment later and loosened his grip, though it stayed like a collar or a leash to keep me in place figuratively and literally.

  “You want to tell me why you’re walking up the sidewalk as if you weren’t kidnapped after my apartment was broken into and my men were shot to hell?

  “Maybe you should tell me. Your men. Your apartment.”

  His eyes narrowed to slits, but the suspicion in his glare was clear. “And they just let you go?”

  I shrugged and swallowed the nagging thickness in my throat screaming at me to tell him the truth. I was so tired and only wanted a warm bath and bed to crawl into—maybe even to wake up the next morning and forget this entire ordeal.

  “Angel, tell me what the fuck is happening with you.” His tone was desperate now, making me feel even more helpless. “Are you in trouble?”

  “If I were, what could you do about it?”

  “I would protect you.”

  “Protect me? I’m not yours to protect.”

  “Someone has to do it,” he gritted. It was a wonder he could even speak beyond all the jaw clenching. Dash was gorgeous on a bad day, but he was breathtaking when he was angry. He was normally so charming and full of boyish smiles.

  “How chivalrous of you, but here’s a newsflash. Your apartment and your men would have been just fine if you had left me alone to begin with. I shouldn’t be here.”

  “So where would you be?”

  I was locked in his demanding gaze and, once again, fought the need to confide in him. It seemed that all I’d done since he forced his way into my life was fight. The reminder of why he did was a bitter truth I didn’t welcome.

  At the moment, I truly wanted to kill Keiran because I loved Dash once upon a time, and it was exactly what he had counted on.

  “Falling out of love.”

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  DASH

  I COULDN’T DECIDE between kissing Angel or beating her until she was black and blue. It took effort to remember why hitting a woman, particularly the woman standing in front of me, was a bad idea.

  The real question was if my need to hurt her was because she was so careless with her life, or because she admitted to not loving me?

  Love was something we’d never discussed, but at some point, I believed it was there. I’d never told her because I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted.

  I reminded myself it wouldn’t matter, anyway. I was engaged to Rosalyn. Someone I knew I would never love.

  “Let’s go.” I gripped her hand in mine and felt the icy stiffness of her fingers leftover from walking through the cold air. It pissed me off more than it should. I shouldn’t care about this girl.

  Keiran stood by the truck, watching us with a curious expression. His eyebrow lifted. In that simple gesture, there was a flurry of questions, and I didn’t have any answers.

  Tonight, I’d lost ten years off my life. On top of that, I was exhausted, pissed, and horny with no avenue of relief. I shook my head once and he returned it with a nod. It was good that he was still in town. Lake likely wanted to stay behind for Sheldon and help field some of the tension from her ruined wedding day.

  I kept my gaze on Willow as I helped her into the truck and promised myself I would make her talk for my sister whose wedding day had been ruined.

  I climbed into the truck after Willow was situated while Keiran climbed into the front seat with Fisher. We were only a ten-minute drive from my apartment, but I instructed Fisher to drop Keiran off before taking us to a hotel. By now, the penthouse had been cleaned and restored, but the violation of my home was too fresh to return there. The enemy’s knowledge, whoever they were, knew where I lived, as well. What’s to stop them from returning?

  Not knowing who my enemies were made the threat all the more powerful and unpredictable.

  We pulled up in front of what was now Keenan and S
heldon’s home half an hour later. Willow was curled into the corner of the opposite side fast asleep, so I took the opportunity to speak with Keiran.

  Keiran waited outside the SUV doors, sensing my need to talk while I continued to stare at Willow. I ordered Fisher to remain in the car and quietly shut the door.

  “What do we know?”

  “Nothing,” I breathed.

  “This could be the work of whoever took Kennedy.”

  “Why would they go after Willow in my apartment?” I shook my head when the pieces began to form themselves. “No. This doesn’t feel like it’s their work.”

  “What are you thinking?”

  “That Willow knows more than what she’s saying. She wasn’t surprised at being kidnapped and not to mention, we found her on the street unharmed and free.”

  Keiran didn’t immediately reply. I could read the inner turmoil in his eyes as he stared into the night’s distance and the twitch and hardening of his jaw. “We don’t know her anymore, do we?”

  “It wouldn’t be by our choice. Either she’s behind it, or she’s involved. Either way, she’s in trouble.”

  “So we help her,” Keiran decreed. “But, you have to make a choice.”

  “What choice?”

  “Between your life and hers if it comes to it.”

  “Why do I need to do that?”

  “Because we don’t know her anymore. Right now we need to have her best interest at heart until she shows us we are wrong.”

  “What do you suppose I do?”

  “Forget that you love her and get the information you need. By any means necessary.”

  “I don’t want to hurt her.”

  “If she’s behind this, she’ll be counting on that.”

  I didn’t reply because the myriad of emotions and responses I had all resulted in the same conclusion. Keiran might be right. If I wanted to protect her, I’d have to be ruthless. I leaned my head against the window and gazed up at the stars.

 
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