Book Four in The Hellbound Brotherhood

Find out why New York Times bestseller Maya Banks hails McKenna’s books as “A non-stop thrill ride…”

Whatever it takes to protect her…

Security expert Nate Murphy came to Shaw’s Crossing to kick ass and help the Trask brothers fight off their enemies. He didn’t expect to get knocked off his feet by the elusive, gorgeous Elisa, a mysterious woman who works for one of his friends. Elisa’s holding something back…something big. Nate’s an ex-soldier and ex-bouncer whose specialty is breaking heads…but the fear in Elisa’s eyes makes him want to crush whoever put it there. If only she would tell him the truth…

Secrets and lies…

 Elisa Rinaldi is hiding from a killer. The small mountain town of Shaw’s Crossing had seemed like a good idea at the time, but getting attached to the people there was not, particularly the hard-eyed, hard-bodied Nate Murphy. When dangerous trouble engulfs her new friends, suddenly the press is everywhere. If she shows up on TV or online, she’s dead.

She has to leave Shaw’s Crossing—after a parting gift to herself. One unforgettable night with Nate, and she’ll do the right thing…even if it breaks her. The passion between them leaves Nate gasping for breath. Then Elisa vanishes. Nate can’t rest until he finds her. He means to solve her problem once and for all…by any means necessary.

Elisa will risk everything to get her life back and be with the man she loves. But now her mortal enemy is playing a game of cat and mouse…

And the stakes are both their lives…

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Chapter One

The bell over the door to Demi’s Corner Café tinkled. Elisa turned away from the chalkboard menu she was drawing to announce that the Café was closed for wedding prep, and for two weeks afterward, for Demi and Eric’s honeymoon.

The words stuck in her mouth as Nate Murphy walked in, following Fi Garrett. He was acting as Fi’s bodyguard today. She coughed to get her voice working. “Hey.”

Best she could manage. Nate Murphy fried her circuits, even when he just quietly stood there doing nothing in particular.

In her own defense, he was larger than life. Six foot two, at least. Big and lean and taut and built. Broad shoulders, narrow hips, black wind-blown hair grown out long from some long-forgotten haircut. Dark, intense eyes that tracked everything and tucked away all the unconscious info she let drop. He missed nothing.

He had sexy beard stubble on his strong jaw. A hooked nose with a bump on it. He didn’t smile often, but when he did, his sensual mouth stretched into a blinding grin, and sexy lines carved deep into his cheeks. And that deep voice, oh God.

Listening to him was like being petted by luscious, silken fur. She wished he’d say something. Except that she’d stammer if she tried to answer. Or, God forbid, giggle.

“Hey, Elisa!” Fi said with a smile as she came over to admire her chalkboard handiwork. “Wow. Is that the menu for the wedding feast?”

“Sure is,” Elisa said. “We decided to live dangerously.”

Fi made an appreciative sound as she studied the chalkboards. She was bright-eyed and rosy and looked surprising relaxed, considering the danger she’d just lived through. Her color was high from the cold, her long red hair whipped and tangled from the winter wind. “Looks delicious,” she commented. “Sage and sausage tartlets…squash ravioli…stuffed mushrooms…my mouth is watering already.”

“We hope it’ll be good.” Elisa followed Nate helplessly with her eyes as he came in the door after Fiona. “This is the first time we’ve done something like this without Demi to run it, but she’s trained us well. So knock on wood.”

“I’m sure you’ll all be great,” Fiona said.

Fi Garrett was Anton Trask’s fiancée, soon to be Eric and Demi’s sister-in-law. A couple weeks ago, she and Anton had barely survived a violent run-in with Redd Kimball, the Trask brothers’ vicious long-time enemy, presumed dead for thirteen years. Kimball had survived the encounter and was still at large with bad intentions, but that hadn’t stopped Anton and Fi from declaring victory. Anton had only recently gotten out of the hospital, but his brother Eric had decided that Anton was well enough to attend his wedding.

So the party was on, tomorrow. With a vengeance.

Nate was behind her now, blocking the light from the window and making her intensely self-conscious. She glanced back, saw him looking at the chalkboard, trying not to smile. She knew what he would say before he even opened his mouth.

“Looks great,” he murmured. “Except that the mushrooms are a little, ah…”

“Phallic,” she supplied, grabbing the vinegar and water soaked cloth and wiping her first attempt away. “Yeah. I noticed that. I’ll fix it.”

“Don’t erase them on my account,” he protested. “They’re awesome. And they’d get a big laugh.”

“Not the vibe I’m going for.” Her face was hot. Phallic mushroom art might be good for a raucous bachelorette party, but tomorrow’s wedding was an elegant affair, held up at Bluff House, a beautiful historic mansion on the Heights. She wanted the menus to evoke classy-but-rustic, cheerful country charm. So no mushroom dicks.

But it was hard to concentrate this morning, even when the Café was closed for business. Because in spite of the everything happening in the small mountain town of Shaw’s Crossing, Demi and Eric were daring to get married and dash away for a honeymoon. Much to the other Trask brothers’ intense disapproval.

Elisa and the other five members of Demi’s restaurant staff had taken on the task of cooking and catering tomorrow’s banquet, and there was still tons to do. Elisa couldn’t abandon the restaurant to run upstairs and design those menu boards in peace. She had to stay on hand down here to solve problems, put out fires and generally multitask. Not something she’d excelled at in her former life. Juggling a million details at once was a skill she’d learned right here, at Demi’s restaurant.

She’d put all of that training to the test this weekend. Demi deserved a delicious, perfectly catered feast after all the hell she’d been through. Besides, this was the last thing Elisa would be able to do for her friend. So it had to shine.

That was sad and unproductive thought, so Elisa squashed it, focusing on sketching out the new, less-X-rated mushroom composition. Demi would be okay now that she had her adoring Eric to defend her from danger. Anton Trask, Eric’s equally tough brother, would do no less for Fi, as soon as he recuperated. Fi and Demi would protect their men just as fiercely. It was a beautiful thing to see. All that passion and heroism and trust and love on display. Wow.

She wasn’t exactly jealous. More like wistful. A little cynical, maybe, but she truly did hope it would turn out to be real and lasting and true for Demi and Fi. She had her fingers crossed for them. For her own part, she could never risk it again.

After all. Gil had seemed to adore her, too. At first.

“…to put in the freezer at the house, so it won’t go to waste while the place is closed. She told you about that, right? Um…hello? Elisa? Earth to Elisa?”

Elisa dragged her attention to Fiona. “Huh? Sorry?”

“The leftovers,” Fiona repeated gently. “Demi said to go ahead and pick the food up today. I hate to bug you guys while you’re so busy, but Anton’s agitating for lunch, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to pick up that food.”

“Ah. Um, yes,” she mumbled. “Excuse me. I zoned out. Let’s see, I’ve got some squash soup and some black bean soup in the fridge, and some barbecued pulled pork, some prime rib, some honey ham, some eggplant parmesan, some moussaka, and a whole bunch of lasagna.”

“Sounds great,” Fiona said. “All of it. Load me up. I’ll take whatever you give me. None of it will go to waste, the way Anton eats. He’s the big foodie. I’m not much of a cook myself, but I can heat up leftovers like a pro.”

“Hold on just a sec,” Elisa said. “I’ll go fill up a box for you.”

Elisa went back to the storeroom freezer, grabbed a big box and started filling it with the leftover food in the enormous fridge that Demi had set aside for Anton and Fi. Frozen food went in first, and she packed the aluminum containers like bricks.

Thinking about Gil gave her that cold, heavy ache in her belly. That constant, grating fear that she was making a terrible mistake, no matter what she did, or didn’t do. She just couldn’t shake that feeling, night or day. She went to sleep with it, woke up with it. Dreamed with it. It was exhausting.

She had to let it all go, she lectured herself as she packed in quart-sized plastic containers of soup. Her decision was already made. Her friends’ problems had brought too much media attention to this place, and it was time to bounce. Past time.

Her bus ticket was bought, and zipped into the inside of her coat, along with her fake IDs and her stash of cash, saved over months of wages and tips. She was packed and ready, and her bus left at seven AM the day after tomorrow. The morning after Demi’s wedding. From Tacoma, she would pick a destination. Whatever bus left soonest. Maine, Florida, Louisiana. It didn’t matter, as long as it was far away.

She slapped containers into the box angrily. Leaving Shaw’s Crossing made her miserable. She felt at home here, more home than she’d ever felt, despite the trouble her new friends seemed to attract.

Or maybe because of it. It made her feel like less of a freak somehow. Like her crazy tale of woe was in good company, even if none of them knew her story. The Trask brothers had a bizarre history, and Fi and Demi both had their own wild stories to tell. Plus, all of them were so busy dealing with their complicated problems and myriad dangers, they didn’t have time to ask inconvenient questions about hers.

Which had worked fine for her—until Nate Murphy came along.

Nate’s intense interest in her dated from mortifying box-cutter incident. She’d practically severed the guy’s brachial artery with the box-cutter in her apron pocket upon meeting him. Minutes after his arrival in Shaw’s Crossing. What a welcome.

Eric had called on his brother Anton in Seattle for help after the first attacks a few weeks ago, and Anton came immediately, bringing his security expert friend Nate for back-up. No one had expected Elisa to come in that morning, using the key Demi had given her to deliver a tray of sweet and savory breakfast pastries.

She’d seen strange men, guns—and she’d panicked.

Luckily, Nate had fast reflexes. The only harm done had been to the sleeve of his leather coat. Hell of a first impression, but Nate wasn’t put off. Far from it, in fact. He wore that jacket around with the slash in the leather all sewed up with a heavy black thread, like a decoration. A perverse badge of honor.

It was getting harder to evade him. He’d re-awakened her awareness of herself as a woman, at the worst possible time. She couldn’t be teased or tempted or allured right now. It was distracting and stupid. Dangerous.

It was dangerous for Nate, too. She reminded herself of that every time she caught herself straining to hear his voice. Or ogling him as he passed by.

When she came out of the kitchen laden with the heavy box of food, Nate strode over and took it from her arms. “I’ll take this out to the car.”

Fiona waited until Nate was outside before moving closer to Elisa. “This is none of my business, and I’m way out of line,” she said. “But, ah, when are you going to put that poor guy out of his misery? You know you want to.”

The heat in Elisa’s face deepened. “You’re right, Fi. None of your business.”

Fiona sighed and made a lip-zipping gesture. “Yeah, yeah. I know. These things are complicated. Not another word about it, I promise. My bad.”

Fiona’s apologetic smile made her feel guilty. Elisa liked Fi, and wished she could confide in her. The woman was tough and smart. But knowing the story would put her in danger, too. Even more than she was already in, which was considerable.

God knows, compared to Fi’s, her own tale of woe had taken on some perspective. The Trask guys, Fi and Demi all faced trouble on much the same scale as she did, and just look at them, handling it. They fought back like demons. They never gave up or ran away. They never cowered or whined or felt sorry for themselves.

It wasn’t a comfort so much as a stern reality check. She wasn’t the only one living under a shadow. These people did it with style. Thriving, even. Seizing love, sex and happiness in the face of fear. The ultimate fuck-you to their enemies.

Which was great for them, but damn. It set the bar freaking high.

It would be selfish and irresponsible to burden her friends with her story. They were stretched to the limit. She just didn’t dare.

No matter how Nate coaxed her to confide in him.

And flirted, too. Constantly making his interest clear. He was classy about it, of course. Understated and gallant and absolutely relentless. It was so hard to resist his magnetic pull. She felt it right now, deep inside her body, and he’d barely said a word.

It was like the force of gravity. Constant. All-encompassing.

Nate came back inside and gave Fiona a questioning look. “Shall I run you back home?” he asked.

The bell over the door jingled again and kept jingling as a people filed inside. “We’re closed, people,” Elisa called out to them. “Sorry. Back in two weeks.”

“Oh, we’re not here to eat!” A diminutive, heavily made-up blonde with big hair gave her a blinding smile and then turned it on Fiona. “We’re here to talk to her!”

A guy with a video camera lifted it up, and Elisa recognized them, with a flash of dismay. It was a tabloid e-zine camera crew. They still showed up from time to time, following the news blitz about Fiona and Anton’s near-death experience. The first big flush of media interest had passed, thank God, but the smaller outfits popped up regularly, fishing for lurid tidbits of follow-up.

“This is Fiona Garrett,” sang out the blonde, holding out a big microphone toward Fiona. “Ms. Garrett, would you like to tell our viewers more about growing up in that cult at GodsAcre? Is it true that you were forced into marriage when you were just a child? How long were you married? Did you escape?”

“The café is closed,” Elisa said forcefully. “Please leave. Right now.”

The cameraman’s lens swung toward her, as did the blonde’s microphone. Panic stabbed deep, as if the cameraman were pointing a gun at her head.

“Would you like to comment, miss?” the blonde asked. “Were you part of the cult too?”

Her blood pressure dropped, and her stomach flopped as she turned and ran for the kitchen. People tried to talk to her. She couldn’t follow what they said. She bolted through the back room and onto the concrete steps that led down to the alley, gasping for air. Her vision had dimmed. Her chest was constricting.

God, she hated this. Her legs buckled and she sank down onto the steps, shaking all over. She heard noise in the kitchen. Yelling, shouting. Crashes and bangs. Nate’s deep voice, calmly responding to them.

The sound of it calmed her down slightly. She knew that Nate would keep them away. He would get the situation under control.

It was silly to get so paranoid. It was unlikely that Gil would ever see this media outlet. It was tabloid trash, and Gil was a busy man with high standards, lofty ambitions, better things to do. He made sure everyone knew it.

They probably wouldn’t even use that bit of video that might or might not have her face in it. She hadn’t said anything interesting. Besides, she looked different now. Nondescript. She was thinner, and she’d taken to wearing glasses, just frames with plain glass lenses. She’d dyed her hair back to its original dark brown and let it spring back into its natural fuzzy state of corkscrewing frizz.

Back in the old days, when she was trying to fit the image of an up and coming DA’s wife, she’d lightened and streaked it and straightened it with expensive blow-outs twice a week. Back when she was killing herself trying to be Ms. Perfectly Put-Together. Trying to shoehorn herself into Gil’s life. Trying not to embarrass him.

Never quite getting the hang of it.

But the truth was, if Gil saw her, even with the dark curly hair and her weird, nerdy glasses, he would recognize her. He was as sharp as a tack.

She should have left when the TV crews first showed up, for Eric and Demi’s business, but she’d been sloppy. Not ready to go. She’d talked herself into staying a little longer because she liked this place, these people—and Nate Murphy’s attention. His long, smoldering glances. The constant pull of his curiosity.

It felt so good. But she was being stupid. Time to grab her suitcase and go.

The door creaked behind her. She turned, and saw Nate on the top of the steps, wiping his wet hands on his jeans.

Elisa forced the quaver in her voice to calm. “What was the noise?”

“I had a difference of opinion with the cameraman,” Nate said. “He followed Fi into the kitchen. I objected. So I invited him to leave the restaurant.”

“And did he?”

“He did, but his camera got damaged before he left,” Nate said. “Big shame.”

“Really? His camera?”

“Yeah. Funny thing, but somehow, the broken pieces of the camera ended up in a bucket of water and bleach. Big mess. Tasha’s mopping it up now.”

“Oh,” she murmured. “He must have been, ah…pissed.”

“He was.” Nate came down the steps “But he took my words to heart. Smart decision on his part. I don’t think he’ll be back.”

Her lungs finally filled with air. “So they didn’t shoot any video inside the restaurant today, then.”

“They did not,” Nate said evenly, sinking down to sit on the steps beside her.

He took up all the available space. His hips were lean, but muscular, and his thighs were strong and steely. The big leather coat made him look even bigger. She looked down and saw the stitching on the sleeve again. Looked away.

The alley was a mini-wind tunnel, ruffling his shaggy dark hair. Hers, too.

Nate reached out and brushed aside a lock of hair that had blown across her face. “Your hair’s down,” he commented. “I’ve never seen it that way. So long.”

“Yeah, well.” Her face heated. “Since I wasn’t serving customers, or cooking.”

“Try to relax,” he said gently.

“I’m perfectly relaxed,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be filmed. Thanks for getting rid of them.”

“You’re so publicity shy,” Nate commented. “I’ve noticed it ever since that day in the hospital, when you ran away from those FBI agents who came to talk to Fiona. You’ve been essentially hiding out in the restaurant kitchen ever since then. You won’t even wait tables or seat people anymore.”

Her tension started to build. “I prefer to do food prep in the back right now.”

Nate waited for more. “Come on, Elisa,” he prompted, when she didn’t elaborate. “I drowned that asshole’s camera for you. Tell me what gives.”

“I appreciate the gesture,” she said. “I don’t want to seem ungrateful. But I don’t owe you a damn thing.”

Nate let out a long, resigned sigh. “Right,” he said. “Will you at least come back inside the restaurant now that they’re gone? The last time a woman I was protecting came out into this alley she got abducted by a mass murderer.”

Undeniably true, but Elisa cringed inwardly at thought of confronting Fi or any of the restaurant staff in her raw emotional state. “I’m not coming in quite yet.”

“Please,” Nate said, steel in his voice. “It’s not safe. Indulge me.”

“Actually, I’m not going back in at all.” She rose to her feet. “I’m going up to my apartment. I’ll see you later. Don’t worry about me. The door’s right around the corner. Nobody’s going to abduct me between here and there.”

“I’ll walk you.” He stood up, towering over her.

In her rattled state, Elisa could think of no way to dissuade him, so they walked in silence down narrow alley and around the corner. Down the breezeway between the buildings.

They stopped by her entryway. Elisa inserted her key. Nate put his hand gently on top of hers, and she suddenly stopped breathing.

“Elisa,” he said softly. “Tell me something.”

“If I can,” she hedged.

“Are you uptight with me because of that thing with the box-cutter?”

She flinched away from the ugly memory. “I could have killed you.”

“But you didn’t,” he said “It’s not your fault. We startled you. I’m a combat veteran, and so are Eric and Mace. We’ve all had issues from combat stress. Nobody’s judging you.” He paused. “Not about the combat stress part of it, anyhow. You won’t tell me what’s bothering you, and I do judge you for that.”

“Oh, please.” She manufactured a light tone. “There’s plenty of drama around here already. You guys don’t need mine. Trust me on this.”

“That’s exactly what I want,” Nate said softly. “For you to trust me.”

Elisa’s reply evaporated as she was pulled into the hypnotic depths of his dark eyes. Tendrils of warmth slowly stole around her like an invisible embrace. Subtle and seductive. She ached to give him what he asked for. To tell him all her troubles.

Then she saw Willis in her mind’s eye. The awful memory of what happened to the last person she had asked for help. The image stung her like a slap.

Willis’s death would be on her conscience to the end of her days.

She looked down at Nate’s big hand resting on hers, imagining how this would go if things were different. How she’d turn her fingers around and grab his long, warm, callused fingers. She’d twine them through hers and yank him in the door after her, right up the narrow flight of stairs and into her apartment. Her bed up there was just a narrow cot, but she had no intention of lying next to him. She wouldn’t waste time. She’d climb right up onto that guy and let the delicious buzz of desire push all the fear and pain away. She’d ride him into screaming oblivion. Let pleasure wash away the terrors in her past, and the terrors yet to come.

It would be such a fucking relief, to just breathe. Even for a couple of minutes.

She shook her head. No. She would not put Nate in Gil’s sights just for sex.

“Tell me who it is.” Nate’s low voice was caressing. “I’ll fuck him up for you.”

Elisa laughed. “That’s very sweet. So is this your idea of seduction?”

His breath caressed her ear as he leaned closer. “No,” he murmured. “When I start seducing you, you won’t need to ask if it’s happening or not.”

The air hummed with tension. She looked up at him, searching for the right words to put him off, push him away. She didn’t have the words. Or want to say them.

She felt the warmth of his hand against her neck. Stroking her hair, fingers sliding through it. Cradling her head. She was pinned between those two opposing forces. The hunger in his eyes. The huge, cold fear holding her back.

She drifted closer, not opposing his gentle pull…and their lips met.

Emotion jolted through her like lightning. His lips were warm, moving gently over hers. Seeking, asking for entrance, then as she opened to him, slowly daring more. The flick of his questioning tongue got bolder, entering her mouth, probing delicately, like he was inviting her to come out into the light. Drawing part of her soul right out of her body. It rushed out to meet him like a fountain of color, out of control. The seductive invitation of his kiss blossomed into a hot carnal promise.

Yes. Now.

People walked by on the sidewalk. She heard muffled laughter, and pulled away from him, pressing her hand to her tingling mouth, her burning cheeks.

“God, Nate,” she said shakily. “What the hell was that?”

That gorgeous smile was an assault on her senses. “Me, being seductive,” he said softly. “In case you were wondering.”

She stared into his dark eyes. His gaze was so sweet and searching. She ached for more. To just throw herself into it. The longing was so sharp, it hurt.

She’d forgotten her troubles, for the duration of that kiss. They had simply vanished.

This was so fucking dangerous. She had to shut this down. Right now.

It took a moment to get her voice under control. “I need to get going,” she said. “I expect you need to go guard Fiona now, right?”

“Yeah, she needs to get that food home,” Nate said. “Anton’s hungry for lunch. I’ll take her back to Demi’s house, but once she’s there, she and Anton will be covered by Jim and Mitch. So I could take a break, if you wanted to hang out. Talk about stuff.”

The implied invitation made her head spin. She could make this fantasy come true, at least once, before she left this place forever. Today. She wouldn’t have to lie awake at night wondering what it would have been like. For the rest of her life.

However short that might be.

Then she saw it again. She was always seeing it, on some level of her consciousness. Flashing lights, crime scene tape. Her friend Willis’s body, zipped into a black bag. All her fault, for involving him. Not understanding the danger. All her fault, for fatally underestimating Gil’s ruthlessness and cruelty.

“I’m not free to hang out.” She edged away. “I’m sorry, but the timing’s wrong. I have a million things to do. I need to finish those menu boards, and help finish up the ravioli, and we have to go set up the kitchen stations at Bluff House as soon as they wrap up the lunch buffet today. I won’t have a second to spare.”

Nate stuck his hands in his pockets and stepped back, his face resigned. “See you at the wedding, then,” he said lightly. “Will you save me a dance?”

“I’ll be working at the wedding,” she told him. “Working like a galley slave.

That’s the Café’ kitchen staff’s wedding present to Demi. A perfectly catered feast.”

“I’ll be on duty, too,” Nate said. “But we should be able to swing one dance.”

“What part of ‘working like a galley slave’ do you not understand?” She gave him an awkward wave as she stepped through the door. “See you tomorrow.”

At the top of the stairs, she unlocked her door, and turned to look. Nate was still there, looking up through the glass, making sure she got safely inside. He gave her a nod and a wave, and vanished.

She felt deflated as she looked at the empty window frame. She wanted to run down the steps and yell after him to come right back. Fulfil all her wildest erotic fantasies. Drive away the dark with his seductive magic. Make good on all that teasing. The pull of those dark, melting bedroom eyes. That mind-altering kiss.

Wake up, girl. She had bigger problems. Sex would have to wait.

Elisa looked around herself at the small apartment. She’d covered the walls with paper, and her sketches and drawings were scrawled all over it, and tacked up everywhere. A small act private act of rebellion, turning her apartment into an artist’s studio. Because finally, she could. No one looming over telling her it was stupid. No one publishing scathing reviews about how it was puerile and derivative.

Dad hadn’t wanted her to paint. Gil hadn’t either. He’d said it was a waste of time. That it embarrassed him to see a rich girl dilettante indulging her ego. That it was painful to watch a spoiled and pampered debutante fooling herself into thinking she had talent.

And she’d let him convince her. For a very long time. No more. Fuck them all.

Usually, being surrounded by a mosaic of her own art was bracing. All part of her constant reconstruction effort. To remember who she actually was. Affirm it.

Today, she found her own painted images bleak and disquieting.

She unzipped her trolley suitcase, already packed and ready, and pulled out her laptop. Time for a visceral reminder of what was really at stake here.

She steeled herself to open the folder on the desktop. She’d studied these videos so many times, and every time, they killed her a little bit more.

She chose an archived clip from a San Francisco TV station and set it to play. It was her husband, Gil, gazing into the camera as he addressed the kidnappers who had abducted his wife. Continually repeating her name. He spoke of how special she was, how unique, how much he missed her. How she was the love of his life. That would have been grotesque even if he hadn’t been looming behind Elisa’s younger brother, who was seated in a chair in front of him.

Joshie. Almost nineteen. He was supposed to be safe and far away, studying compute engineering at MIT, but Gil had dragged him home and displayed him on TV for her to see. Josh’s thin, beaky face was an ashy gray. He was all nose, hollow eyes and greasy dark hair, staring blankly into the TV camera while Gil spouted his bullshit. Gil’s hands rested on Josh’s shoulders. To anyone else, that would come across as an affectionate gesture. Gil’s handsome, chiseled face was solemn as he pleaded for compassion and humanity from whoever had stolen his wife.

Was she the only one who saw the cruelty in his eyes? It was as obvious to her. As if Gil had horns sprouting from his forehead.

There were only three videos with Josh. From that point on, Gil had sadly told the interviewers that Josh was unwell. He was in a facility now, being treated for an emotional breakdown. He’d cracked under the stress of his sister’s abduction.

She had the means to take that lying, murdering bastard down in her goddamn pocket. She had a weapon that would destroy him—and he had Josh.


Gil loomed over her little brother in the video, fingers angled toward Josh’s throat, smiling. His nonverbal message drowned out every other thought in her head.

Don’t. You. Dare.

End of Excerpt