Their virgin princess, p.37
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       Their Virgin Princess, p.37
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         Part #4 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
Page 37


  Talib had turned a dull red. Cooper briefly wondered if they still chopped off heads in Bezakistan. “Yasmin offered to head the charity in Alea’s stead. She was also the first one to call and to beg me to pay whatever ransom they asked for. ”

  “She was a jealous child,” Rafe said, running a hand through his hair. “She had everything given to her, but she couldn’t stand the fact that Alea lived in the palace. That Alea was called princess. Her mother and father were incredibly wealthy. Our parents were close to them. After Alea’s mother and father died, Yasmin’s parents offered to take her in, but my mother wouldn’t have it. She told me she was afraid Yasmin would make Alea’s life difficult. I would have thought she’d have grown up and gotten over it. ”

  “I don’t believe she has. She only married Oliver because she thought Alea wanted him. I overheard her talking to some friends at her engagement party,” Kade said.

  “And you never bothered to mention this?” Talib asked.

  “I thought she was just a jealous bitch. I didn’t realize she was crazy enough to have Alea kidnapped,” Kade shot back. “Do we know where Yasmin is in the palace?”

  Cooper felt his blood run cold. “She’s in the palace? Why the fuck is she here?”

  Dominic answered that one. “I thought it was best to bring her here. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on her. I suspected either she or her husband was involved about a week ago. I had Talib invite them here to discuss the further search for Alea. We told her that she could be critical to the effort. I knew she couldn’t resist being the center of attention. ”

  “So this time she just intended to kill Alea?” Lan asked.

  “Oh, no. That plane was insured heavily, plus she managed to bilk her brother-in-law into opening up his accounts so she could upgrade security. I had someone tailing her and listening in on her cell phone conversations for a couple of days. She pocketed the cash. I’m a little worried though because she recently took out a twenty million dollar life insurance policy on her husband. I think once she decided Alea was dead, she no longer needed Oliver Thurston–Hughes. Since she signed a prenup, eliminating him would be her only way of taking as much of his family’s wealth as she could. I intend to have a discussion with Oliver as soon as this meeting is over. ”

  Tal reached for the phone on the conference table in front of him. He pressed a single button. “I need you to put Yasmin Thurston-Hughes under lockdown. Yes, that’s right. She does not have freedom to roam the palace. Cut her phone lines and her Internet access. Do not allow her to leave under any circumstances. And find her husband. Bring him to me in the conference room. ”

  Dane stood, placing both hands on the table. “Do you want to explain why you chose to cover this up until now?”

  Dominic went positively arctic. “I didn’t cover up anything, Mitchell. We just got confirmation today. At any point in time, she could have bolted and she has the resources to disappear. I wanted her brought here so she couldn’t escape. Besides, it was rather safe since Alea wasn’t in the palace. Now she’s under guard, and I suspect you three won’t let her out of your sight. She’s locked up in her room. She’s not allowed visitors. ”

  “I never said she couldn’t have visitors,” Tal said, picking up that phone again.

  Cooper didn’t wait for the order. He shoved his chair back and took off running. He prayed Alea was safe and sound and locked away, but his instincts were screaming otherwise.

  Even as he shoved through the doors and into the vestibule, he felt Dane and Lan beside him.

  Whatever happened, he wouldn’t be alone.

  * * * *

  Alea looked down at the floor and wondered how long Oliver had. He was bleeding badly, curled on his side. She couldn’t see exactly where he was hit, but it had been somewhere in the torso, perhaps his stomach or right at the bottom of his rib cage.

  Oliver probably didn’t have long, but then she wasn’t sure she had much time, either.

  “You’re home for just a few hours but you’re already all over my husband. ” Yasmin stared down at the man she’d promised to love and cherish, a disgusted look on her face.

  “I have never touched Oliver. Not ever. ” Alea tried to keep her voice calm. Where was the guard? How had Yasmin gotten in? She looked over to the door.

  Yasmin’s lips curled into a wicked smile. She was dressed to kill in all black, from her tight slacks to the shirt that clung to her. It had a plunging V-neckline that showed off her nearly skeletal chest. Yasmin had always been obsessed with being thin, but she was gaunt now. She sported a pair of leather gloves on her hands. She’d obviously been concerned about leaving fingerprints. “The guard isn’t going to help you, cousin. He was a little too trusting of females. He let me get really close, so I shot him. Do you like the silencer? It really helps. And of course you never touched Oliver. He never wanted you, you stupid cow. Who would want you when they had me? God, Lea, you were even in a brothel and no one wanted you. ”

  Panic got shoved down in the place of anger. “You were behind all this?”

  “Of course. Look, all of our lives, you’ve always gotten everything. Poor little Alea. Her mommy and daddy died so she gets to be the princess. You were ugly and fat and everyone felt sorry for you. But it should have been me. I’m princess material. I should have been the one who lived in the palace. ”

  Alea seriously wanted to slap the bitch. Yas was seriously screwed in the head if she thought that losing her parents and being an orphan had all been made better because she had Her Royal Highness in front of her freaking name. But she couldn’t do what she wanted because that gun would take out more than just Alea. It would take out her baby. Her baby with Cooper, Dane, and Landon. She had to stay calm and give herself time until she could find a way out or her men came for her. Someone would come for her. As soon as that meeting was over, they would be beating down her door.

  Unless they were still furious at her for what she’d done and wouldn’t talk to her tonight. They might go back to their rooms and let her stew. She wouldn’t blame them. She’d basically told Dane that she didn’t love them. She’d put him in a horrible position.

  Oh, god, she couldn’t die like this. She couldn’t die when they thought she didn’t love them.

  Everything she’d suffered before seemed to fade away. She’d spent so much time holding her pain close to her that she hadn’t embraced the love they gave her. Tears blurred her eyes.

  She had to keep Yasmin talking. The balcony doors were open to her left. Her bedroom was to her right. If she got the chance, she could bolt one way or the other. Yasmin loved to talk about herself. “Why didn’t you just have them kill me? Why have them take me to a brothel?”

  She glanced back at the door, but then turned back, the gun held casually in her manicured hand. “I didn’t care where they took you, but I laughed my ass off when I found out it was a brothel. I had a blast thinking about you taking it up the ass from anyone with a couple of pesos. ” She frowned. “They were supposed to ransom you. I was going to get a twenty percent cut as a finder’s fee and for working Talib on this end. The assholes decided to squeeze me. If you hadn’t been found when you were, I was going to be in serious trouble. They were going to turn me over to Talib. ”

  “And you don’t think Tal is going to be mad that you killed me now?”

  She shrugged a little. “I’ve set everything up so it looks like you killed yourself and poor dumb Oliver. You couldn’t handle the truth. Everyone knows you helped your kidnappers torture those girls. No one will be surprised you couldn’t handle the guilt. And Oliver was having an affair with you. I’ll tearfully testify to that. His brother already thinks very little of him. When he hears about this, he’ll think even less. He’ll open the checkbook to me. ”

  “Is this about money?”

  “It’s about everything, Alea. I’m not about to just accept my place in the world. I fight for more, unlike you. ”

p; Her heart was racing, pounding in her chest like a barreling freight train. She was so mad, but that anger had to come second to survival. Which safe haven was closer? The balcony. But the doors to the balcony were made of glass. She would have to climb down the trellis. The bedroom was the safer bet, but it was much farther away and lacked cover. If Yasmin was any kind of shot, she would hit Alea in a second. What should she do? She had to make the right decision. Her baby was counting on her. And she wasn’t the only one with a baby.

  “What about your baby, Yasmin? How could you kill the father of your baby?” Keep her talking. She could still see the faint movement of Oliver’s chest. He was still alive. She had to hope that he stayed that way.

  A nasty laugh came out of Yasmin’s mouth. “Are you kidding? I’m not pregnant. I’m not some dumb animal who’s going to allow a parasite to suck me dry and make me fat. I pretend to be pregnant every so often and then I tragically lose the baby. To soothe me, he’ll buy me whatever I want for a while. I’m not wrecking my body for some disgusting infant. ”

  So pleading to her maternal side wasn’t going to work. Alea drew a deep breath. Her cousin was lost, truly without any redemption. She wasn’t sure how it had happened, but there was something missing in Yasmin that had allowed her to become a true sociopath. Nothing Alea could do would save her. The childhood they had shared had been a lie. The face Yasmin showed the world had been a mask.

  Yasmin sighed as though the whole exercise bored her to tears. She reached into the pocket of her pants and pulled out a second pair of gloves. “I need you to put these on. ”

  Yasmin tossed them her way, but Alea allowed them to hit the sofa that came between her and Yasmin. The black gloves hit the cushions and fell to the floor.

  “Why?” It was obvious, but Alea would do just about anything to put off that time when she had to make the decision. Her men just needed a little more time. They would be here. She just knew it. She let her eyes roam the room for anything she could use as a weapon.

  “Because if you don’t, I’ll shoot you here and now. ”

  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Oliver move slightly, his head coming up. He was trying to change positions, turning very slowly.

  “It’s not going to work,” Alea said quietly.

  “It is. Men in this country can’t believe a woman would do anything terrible. I used to get away with a lot when we were kids. I’m just moving on to murder. And after this, I’ll be set. The truth of the matter is, I got lucky when those mercenaries found you because they killed anyone who could have identified me as the person who set you up. I really owe them a lot. And now I’ll get an even bigger slice of the pie because I’ll get Oliver’s insurance money, since you’re going to go crazy and kill him. ”

  “I’m not going to cooperate. ”

  Oliver got to one elbow. She could see blood on his hands as he pushed himself up. He was behind Yasmin, his stare finding her back and his fists clenched, red dripping from his palms. How much had he heard? Did he know she wasn’t carrying their child? Did he know she’d never loved him, wasn’t capable of love?

  Yasmin frowned. “Yes, you are because I’ll shoot you otherwise. ”

  Another thing Yasmin rarely did was to really think something through. All throughout their childhood, Yas had come up with outrageous plans only to run up against a wall of logic anyone with half a brain could have seen a mile away. She needed Alea to cooperate, but there was no real incentive to, beyond making Yasmin’s job of getting away with double homicide easier, and Alea just wasn’t in a giving mood.

  “You’ll shoot me anyway, so I don’t see why I should help you out. ” Besides, if she moved, she left the relative safety of the sofa. It was an antique with a high back that reached the middle of Alea’s chest. It had been a piece from her mother’s childhood, handed down from generation to generation from the seventeenth century. It would survive a bullet better than she would.

  Yasmin huffed a breath from her mouth in a frustrated sigh, but a grim light hit her eyes, and she leveled that gun again. “Fine. I’ll put them on you afterwards. ”

  Oliver was still fighting, now almost to his knees. “Am I supposed to have shot myself in the head from ten feet away? You know the rest of the world watches TV. Everyone knows that the police can figure out the distance a gun was fired from. You need to be closer. You need to make this look like I shot myself in the head and my arms aren’t that long, Yas. You always sucked at math. ”

  If there was one thing Yasmin loved more than her clothes and shoes and money, it was complaining about how terrible things had been for her.

  Yasmin’s face went a dull red. “Well, how could I compete with the egghead? I just went to school. I didn’t have an army of tutors to do my work for me. ”

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