I’m surprised to find Jay sitting on the couch next to Daya, both tapping away on their computers. He jumped about ten feet when we walked in, still clearly spooked by the manor.
“Which ghost fucked with you?” I ask, smirking.
“Dude, I swear to God, I was taking a piss, and something breathed
down my neck. I was just waiting for it to try to give me a reach-around.”
Daya looks at me, a droll expression on her face. “I told him to come talk to me when he goes in the attic. I’m still mad at Addie for that one.”
Addie’s eyes widen. “It was one time!” she defends. “And nothing happened to you,” she finishes on a mutter, plopping down on the couch across from her. I take a seat next to Addie while Sibby growls and slams a drawer in the kitchen, mad about something. Again.
“I lost my peace of mind. That’s what happened to me,” Daya retorts. “That demon could’ve gotten attached to me, and then I would’ve brought it home and lived in torment for the rest of my life.”
“Could you blame it? You’re the whole package,” Addie says, grinning when Daya narrows her eyes.
“Flattering me only works sometimes.” “Is it working now?”
“Have you guys seen my pink knife?” Sibby screeches from the kitchen, frantically opening and closing drawers and cupboards.
I’ve grown to care for Sibby deeply, like an irritating, psychotic kid sister. But fuck, I’m going to have to find a home and job for her. Give her a purpose in life outside of annoying the ever-loving fuck out of me.
“Did you ask Jackal?” I ask, arching a brow when she looks at me with narrowed eyes. She knows damn well I’m referring to the time she felt the need to share with the class that Jackal fucked her ass with her knife. As if anyone wanted to know that.
“He only used it on me that one time, and I think I’d remember getting a knife shoved up my—”
“Maybe you dropped it somewhere in your room,” Addie cuts in urgently.
She huffs. “I already checked there, but I’ll look again,” she mutters, trudging towards the stairs with a frown. The only other thing capable of sending her into a tailspin outside of losing her henchmen is losing that knife.
Jay clears his throat, cheeks red as his gaze flickers to Sibby, partially intrigued and partially disturbed.
“I think I know who Claire’s partners are now, finally,” Jay announces, bringing the topic away from ghosts and getting fucked with knives by imaginary people.
My brows jump in surprise. “Yeah?”
We’ve concluded that if we can get to her partners, it’ll be much easier to draw Claire off her comfy little island.
I’m ready to say fuck it and bomb it. I could get ahold of the resources, but it’d take too long. And as tempted as I am to gather as many people as I can in the Z organization and invade her island, she has a small army there, and I’m not willing to sacrifice so many valuable lives for the bitch.
Not when I can sacrifice the lives of her partners instead.
“As you know, she’s been communicating with two sources, but their IP addresses were untraceable, and the identities hidden. But sending the drone out was successful, and I just got intel that she booked a flight for those same two people to visit her. Their names were on the flight log,” he tells me, pulling up the information and twirling his laptop to show me.
Gary Lawson and Jeffrey Shelton.
“They’re both lobbyists,” Daya chips in.
“Fitting,” I murmur, looking over the pictures of the two men on Jay’s screen.
Typical, creepy-looking old men who get hard-ons for little children and making Americans as miserable as possible while living lavishly.
“When are the flights?”
Jay grins, his hazel eyes blazing with excitement.
“Tomorrow. They’re departing from a private airport in Los Angeles.”
I turn to Addie and notice a tiny twig sticking from her hair, along with pieces of bark, dirt, and a small leaf. There are also small blood spots that are beginning to soak through her blue t-shirt, though she’s trying her best to conceal them. Worst of all, there’s already a deep bruise forming around her throat, and I’d be a goddamn liar if I said that didn’t make my dick hard all over again.
It takes effort to bite back my smile. She looks thoroughly ravaged, and she’s attempting to appear as if she hadn’t been.
Glancing at me, she shoots me a look that says, shut up, or else. The grin begins to slip through.
Such a scary little mouse.
But just this once, I’ll listen.
Which is really hard to do when Daya is staring at her, too, brows raised. Addie just thins her lips, and I have a feeling they’ll be discussing in detail just how intimate she became with what nature has to offer.
“That gives us just enough time to intercept their flight.”
Addie cocks her head to the side, curious. “What are you planning on doing exactly?”
Now, I let the grin loose, the savagery bleeding through.
“I know exactly how we’re going to make her come to us.” Her brows knit in curiosity. “Which is how exactly?”
I train my gaze on Jay, and though he looks just as curious, he also looks wary. Shithead never approves of my plans. Which is stupid. They’re awesome.
“Gary Lawson and Jeffrey Shelton are going to get in a confrontation with Z. And guess who loses?”
“Them,” Addie guesses confidently. “No, baby. Me.”
Addie bounces on her toes, nervous energy radiating from her in waves. She’s been restless since we had arrived at the airport a couple of hours ago.
We flew to L.A. as quickly as we could, just to give us time to plan and prepare. Now, we’re waiting in the private jet on the airstrip, and she’s started morphing into the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes.
“Why don’t you take a seat? They’re comfortable as fuck,” I suggest.
To emphasize my point, I kick my feet up on the little brown wooden table in front of me and recline back.
“How can you be so relaxed right now?” she asks, but she’s looking at the seat like maybe it wouldn’t hurt if her ass sat in it for just a second.
“This is the least exciting thing I’ve ever done while on the job.”
She arches a brow, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think she was offended.
“Well, that’s fucking rude,” she says dryly. Definitely offended. I grin.
“Would you like to go up to the front seat and fuck next to the dead pilot?” I query, very interested in what her answer will be.
She always surprises me.
Right as she opens her mouth, distant voices arise, distracting her like a dog spotting a cat.
Damn. I’ll have to pull that answer out of her later.
The voices draw nearer, and she instantly stands, rolling her shoulders to release the tension lining them. She hasn’t gotten accustomed to going on missions yet, and her anxiety persists, despite her being able to fight. There are some days she gets through my defenses even and knocks me on my ass. But the way she looks right now, it’s as if she’s about to appear before a judge and get sentenced to life or some shit.
“Don’t underestimate yourself, Adeline,” I draw lazily, my muscles languid and relaxed. They usually are when blood is about to spill all over my hands.
“I’m not,” she defends. “They’re old, saggy men. Their security guards
“Are my men,” I finish. Addie’s mouth forms an O.
“You sneaky dog,” she whispers, a smile tipping up her plump lips.
Those caramel orbs stare at me with an amused glint.
We both quiet as the two men and their respective guards approach the steps and start climbing, the metal ringing beneath their weight.
“She’s going to have to come back to the states eventually,” one of them mutters, sounding irritated.
The first person that breaches the entryway is Michael, and I almost laugh when he slides his gun from his holster and points it at me.
Jeff and Gary follow behind, with another one of my men, Baron, taking up the back.
“What is going on here?” Gary exclaims, the two old men pausing and backing up the moment they spot us.
I lift a hand in a hello gesture. “I’ve come to turn myself in, Gary. Why else would I be here?”
“Turn yours—what on earth are you talking about? Who are you?”
“Ah, terribly sorry,” I say, grinning. I reach over to the seat beside me, grab my mask, and hold it over my face. “How about now?”
It’s comical how quickly they pale, and their eyes widen, recognizing my mask from my television appearance.
Tossing it to the side, I tease, “Did you like my presentation? I was really nervous.”
Gary sputters, unsure how to respond. I stand, and they immediately back away, two bumbling idiots that bump into Baron in an attempt to create distance, but the mercenary is like a brick wall.
Jeff turns to Michael, his face now beginning to redden. “Why aren’t you shooting him? Shoot him!”
Michael just stares at him blankly, causing his face to purple. Then, he drops his gun, smiling when Jeff begins to sputter incoherently.
“I see you’ve gotten comfortable behind the smokescreen,” I observe. “Content in shouting demands, and secure with no one ever knowing who you are.”
“Laziness,” Addie tacks on. Her body is relaxed now, and in place of her anxiety-ridden stance, she’s a suave feline, her claws extended and ready to slice some throats open.
The prey becomes the predator.
She’s the most beautiful creature I ever did see.
Gary trains his glare on her, lasers shooting from his eyes, but if he expects that to intimidate her, he’s sadly mistaken.
“And who the hell are you?”
She turns to me, a silly smile on her face. “I really wanted to say something cheesy right there. Your worst nightmare,” she mocks, eyes widened comically as she faces Gary again.
He snarls at her, clearly unamused. I, on the other hand, am smiling like an idiot.
She waves a hand casually. “No, really, I’m the diamond you all are so fond of. I’m kind of offended that you don’t recognize me. Especially because you guys are on my ass so damn much.”
Jeff’s face drops, clarity surfacing now that he realizes who she is.
“Obviously it was Claire’s brilliant idea to go after my parents, but did either of you have anything to do with that, too?” Addie asks, a darkness slithering over her features. Gone is the lighthearted humor.
Gary can’t even hide the sick triumph on his face. Addie catches the look immediately, and without saying anything further, she raises her gun and shoots him directly in the kneecap, face blank.
The old man’s eyes pop, and he instantly collapses in a fit of screams and blood. Jeff bumps into Baron again, sweat gleaming from his receding hairline as he stares down at his partner with an ashen complexion.
“You fucking bitch!” Gary exclaims. Anger licks at my nerves, so I shoot his other knee, eliciting another pained scream from his throat. Michael and Baron shake their heads, staring at the pair like they’re the dumbest people alive.
I’d have to agree.
“Now we’re going to have to carry you out, Gary. You’re such an inconvenience. So, here’s how it’s going to go. You’re going to come with us, and we’re going back to Seattle and to a nice, secluded location where I am going to be tied up and gagged. Maybe I’ll let my girl get a few punches in on me, too. Addie here will be tied up as well, but no one is touching her.”
Even in his state, Gary looks up at me with incredulity.
“Then, you’re going to call Claire and let her know that you’ve captured Z and the diamond. Tell her to come to you instead now that we’ve been apprehended.”
“Why on earth would we do that?” Jeff asks, his face twitching from a mix of emotions.
“I think it’s time Claire comes out to play, don’t you? She’s been hiding long enough.”
Jeff and Gary glance at each other, the latter sweating rivers down his flaming red face from the agony.
“I don’t want any part of your scheme,” Jeff starts, but I raise a hand, cutting off whatever useless shit was about to pour from his mouth.
“That’s the thing, Jeffrey. You don’t have a fucking choice.”
Jeffrey still thinks he has a choice.
The entire flight and drive to the location in Seattle, he pleads his case. It was all Claire’s idea. They just endorse her business ventures and help her with logistics and money.
Blah, blah, blah.
It isn’t until Addie crawls from the passenger seat to the back and presses her gun into his knee that he finally shuts the fuck up, clicking his dentures so tightly together, they just might become permanent.
Michael drives us to an abandoned wine distillery corroded from nature. It reminds me of Parsons Manor, almost. Scrawling with overgrown vines, threading up the side of the gray stone walls. And a lone building in a field of grapes and tall green grass.
The van jostles from the uneven dirt path, nearly swallowed by the plant life surrounding it. Gary is on the floor, cradling his bloody knees, growing paler with each bump. Baron wrapped them up to stem the bleeding, but he looks on the verge of passing out. Once that happens, he won’t live much longer.
If he dies, he dies. We only need one of them anyway.
Michael parks the van outside the building and jumps out, going ahead of us to break down the boarded doors, while Baron helps me carry Gary’s useless body out of the van.
The inside of the distillery is just as haunting as the outside. The vines have infected the interior walls as well. Weeds poke through the cracked foundation, their own stems stretching across the floor.
It’s a massive open space, some of the machinery left over, rusted and pockmarked. Exposed pipes are threaded through the ceiling, and a few of them are beginning to break and droop.
I drag Gary off to the side and position him directly under a hanging pipe, letting Jesus decide if he wants to send that heavy piece of metal crashing down on his head. If he pisses me off enough, I might even shoot it down myself. I drop him unkindly, ignoring his curses while Baron escorts Jeff inside, having him stand beside his crippled partner.
Addie’s carrying three metal chairs in with several ropes wrapped around her arms. I’d offer to help, but she’d have my balls for it. I’d gladly hand them over anyway.
She’s grown into her strength and independence so much since she survived trafficking, and there are times my chest physically aches from both pride and the need to fuck her.
She glances at me, a carnal smile on her face as she sets the chairs down and opens them up. I stalk toward her, delighting in the way her little body tightens with need. A black and blue ring stains her throat, and every time I see it, the beast trapped in my rib cage thrashes.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you’re excited to hurt me,” I murmur, desire flaring as I watch her round hips sway.
“You’ll be the helpless little kitty cat,” she coos, grinning wider when I give her a dark look.
“Will you still think so when you’re trapped between my teeth?” I grab her by the throat and bring her in close, her caramel eyes dilating with lust. I brush my lips across the side of her mouth, drawing out a shuddered exhale.
“I was only ever helpless when I fell in love with you. And you may hold all the power over me, little mouse, but I’ve never been defenseless. Don’t mistake my lack of control for weakness. All the ways I’ve hurt you have always been intentional.”
She bites back a smile right before her fist rears back and lands directly in the side of my cheek. My vision blackens for a brief moment, and then my equilibrium teeters as she spins me around and pushes me back into the metal chair.
My weight nearly sends it crashing backward, but her foot catches on the chair between my legs, stopping me from falling but coming very fucking close to crushing my dick.
It feels like my bones are cracking from the monster inside me, fighting to get out, and a growl works past my lips. Just as I go to charge back at her,
she’s grabbing me by the throat, pushing me back down, and climbing on top of me, straddling my waist with her thick thighs.
My hands land on her hips and squeeze while she leans forward.
“Don’t mistake my submission for weakness, baby,” she breathes into my ear, voice husky with desire. “All the ways I’m going to hurt you will be intentional.”
Before I can begin to form the threats rising up my throat, her lips are crashing into mine, not only silencing my dark promises, but completely ripping them to pieces.
Her mouth moves over mine savagely, and I’m lost to the way she commands me. I could flip her so effortlessly, but I fucking love bowing to the dark little goddess.
Grabbing my hands, she forces them behind the chair, clamping them together.
A sharp pain pierces my bottom lip, her teeth sinking into the tender flesh and drawing blood. Before I can snap back, she pulls away and looks over my face with pride.
It’s only then I notice the rope is tightly secured around my wrists. If I wasn’t seconds away from ripping her throat out and fucking her blind, I’d be impressed.
“Black eye and a bloody lip. I think that’s enough kicking your ass for now.” She firmly slaps my cheek in a good job, sport type of way before lifting off of me and settling in the chair beside me.
All I can do is stare at her and fantasize about the ways I’m going to punish her for that later. But just as well, my cock is harder than granite because that was probably one of the hottest things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Every time I think I’ve never been harder, she goes and proves me wrong.
Sensing my insidious thoughts, she rolls her shoulders, feigning boredom.
Addie has always been a runner—especially from the truth.
“If you’re done with your foreplay, let’s finish this, yeah?” Michael says, standing next to a red-faced Jeff with his arms crossed and a bored look on his face as well. The punk is also a liar and probably adjusted himself while I was distracted.
Gary is still groaning on the floor, and Jeff shifts uncomfortably next to him, eyes bouncing everywhere else, avoiding my stare.
Taking a deep breath, I try to focus back on the situation. “Doesn’t look like we hit the femoral arteries, so he’s going to have a very slow death. We’ll let him suffer there in the corner for now.”
Michael nods and grabs Jeff by the arm and hauls him in front of us.
“Tie me up, Baron,” Addie says to my mercenary, who’s been leaning against the wall to my right. She’s smirking because she knows damn well how suggestive that sounded.
“Are you trying to get me killed?” Baron asks, his deep baritone voice pitching higher.
Addie rolls her eyes. “I won’t let him kill you.”
She shouldn’t be so sure about that. But I keep my mouth shut and my stare sharp when he gives in, knowing that him or Michael are the only options to tie her up, considering she already bound my hands.
Baron makes quick work of the rope, stepping away before I can find a reason to cut his hands off. Who am I kidding? I don’t need a reason.
Michael turns to Jeff. “Give me your phone,” he demands, then rudely snatches the device from the old man’s hand the second he pulls it from his pocket.
“All right, kids, look like your asses just got kicked by two old men that throw their backs out just from lifting their small dicks to piss.”
He could’ve just said, say cheese and had the same outcome.
I glare at him, and Addie turns her head away, squeezing her eyes shut like she’s too ashamed to have her picture taken.
“Make it a little shaky with a shitty angle, and voila, a typical picture taken by a degenerate,” Michael says, smiling in victory after he snaps the photo. Then he turns the phone to Jeff.
“What would you typically say if you took a picture like that?”
Jeff glances at the image. “That we wasted money on all the other stupid fucks and should’ve done it ourselves from the start,” he spits. Once he realizes that he helped Michael’s message appear authentic by literally taking the words out of his mouth, his eyes darken with rage.
Michael’s fingers fly over the keyboard, mouthing the words aloud as he types them just to piss Jeff off. Then he pauses and looks to the old man with a shit-eating grin.
“Hey, how do you spell ‘stupid’?”
A vein pulses on Jeff’s forehead, giving Michael an, are you fucking kidding me? look. Michael just stares, intent on making him spell the word. Snarling, he spits each letter through gritted teeth.
When finished typing, Michael slaps him on the back of the shoulder roughly and says, “Thanks, man. Would be lost without you.”
Addie snickers, and now I’m going to have to cut Michael, too, just for making my girl laugh.
“Z has officially been captured,” he announces, clicking the Send button with triumph. “And now… we wait.”
“I hope you’re not stupid enough to tell Claire they kicked our asses,” I tell Michael, nodding towards Jeff.
He waves a hand. “Don’t worry, princess, she’ll know it took the entire military to bring down the big bad wolf. Your reputation won’t be tarnished.”
“I’m not worried about my rep. It’s simply just not believable.”