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Sneak Peek



I glanced down at my left wrist. The pain was nothing. I wound the rope tighter and gave it another sharp, seesaw tug. The coarse fibers chewed at my skin.

Not enough.

I gave the rope another tug, and then another. I didn't stop until it came away slick and dark.

With a clinical detachment, Bishop looked down at my wrist. "So that's what the rope was for?" He shook his head. "You poor fucked-up bastard."

"Like you're one to talk," I said.

I'd grabbed the rope on my way out here. What I should've grabbed was barbed wire. Except I didn't exactly have any lying around.

Bishop looked unimpressed. "It's not gonna win her back, you know."

"This?" I shrugged. "It's not about winning her back. It's about penance."

He glanced toward the house, dark and quiet. "If it's not about her, then why are we here?"

We stood side-by-side on the darkened sidewalk, hidden in the shadows of a tall oak tree. I stared past the long driveway to zoom in on the big two-story brick house. Something in my gut twisted.

That was where she lived. The girl I loved. The girl I lost.


There it was again, that gnawing ache where my heart used to be. I glanced again at the driveway. Her car was gone. Where was she?

A friend's house? A hotel? I swallowed. The hospital? I gave the rope a vicious yank, and then another.

Bishop's voice cut through the mist. "That's enough."

He might've been my brother, but he wasn't my boss. I twisted the rope three times over and yanked twice as hard.

"For fuck's sake," he muttered. "At least switch wrists, will ya?"

Silently, I unwound the rope from my left wrist and wrapped it around my right. I gave it the same seesaw tug. And then another.

Bishop shook his head. "My brother, the psycho."

"Half brother," I said.

"Yeah. And all psycho."

"No," I said. "Not psycho. Fair." I glanced over at him. "It's what we do, right?"

"No. I'm pretty sure this is a first."

"Get real," I said. "If I were some other guy, this is exactly what we'd be doing to him. I know it. You know it." I tugged again, savoring the burn as it tore into my flesh. "Why should I be different? Like I’m so fucking special."

His voice was quiet. "You didn't know."

"That the cuffs were tearing up her wrists?" I heard myself swallow. "Yeah? Well, I should've known." I looked down. "And what kind of monster does that shit? You know how long I left her there, in those fucking handcuffs?" My voice broke. "Hours." I gave the rope a vicious tug. A strand of rope splintered from the rest, drooping slick and loose at my side. 

With a sound of disgust, Bishop snatched the rope and moved it out of my reach. "That's it. You're done." He coiled the rope loosely around his wrist, but he didn't tug.

He didn't need to. He wasn't a monster.

I was.

I didn't deserve her. I never had. And she sure as hell didn't deserve what I'd put her through.

Chloe had it all. Looks, money, and the kind of class I'd never have, no matter what my bank account said. I'd known her, really known her, just a few weeks. But I'd loved her for years. Not that she ever knew.

These past weeks, I kept waiting for her to put two and two together, to come up with my face, to remember. But she never did. And I never told her.

"My guess?" Bishop said, "She's at work."

I gave him a look. Why the hell would she be there? To forget what happened? To forget about me? She sure as hell didn't need the money. That much was obvious.

"No." I shook my head. "She's not there. Not after what happened."
At the memory, I felt a dull, deep pain that had nothing to do with my bloodied wrists or bruised knuckles. God, I'd been such an asshole. Why?

But I knew why. I'd been so damned determined to not be played that I'd fucked up the only thing that had ever given me peace.

Peace, now that was a foreign concept. I used to watch her when she slept, curled on her side, or curled in my arms. The memory made me want to scream.

I blew out a breath. Sleep. That had been scarce too. Until Chloe.

For her sake, I should walk away for good. She'd be better off. She already had it all – looks, personality, probably a nice family too. Not that she'd ever brought me around to meet them. I knew why. She was ashamed. And who could blame her? Shit, at this point, I was ashamed of myself.

And now she was gone. But for how long?

Best-case scenario, she was at some friend's house, telling her what an asshole I was. Worst case – My stomach twisted. I didn't want to think about it.

"Just in case," Bishop said, "we'd better find a new drop point."

But what if she was at work? Would I be able to see her? Make sure she was okay?

"No," I said. "The drop point stays."

"So you want her to see this thing? Is that it?"

I shrugged.

"You know what you're acting like? You're like some cat who just tore up the couch," he said. "So what you do is drag home a couple of dead mice and fling 'em at the owner's feet. Look, a present. But I'm telling you, it's a mistake."

"Fuck you," I said. "Our mice aren't dead."

"Yeah. And you sound real happy about that." He gave me a serious look. "But about that cat, you know what happens, right?" He paused. "The owner freaks. Especially if it's a girl."

"Yeah? So what's your point?"

"If Chloe's there," he said, "she's gonna freak."

"No, she won't. Besides, she deserves to see this." A cold rage washed over me. "After what those guys did to her."

"Almost did to her," Bishop said. "And even that –" He shrugged. "–wasn't as bad as we first thought."

I looked over at him. "You can't be fuckin' serious. Wasn't bad? They tried to drag her into their car, for fuck's sake. You think that's alright?"
"I never said that. I'm just saying, it's too personal. You're all twisted up."

I glared over at him. "Wouldn't you be?"

He turned to study the house. "No."


"I don't get twisted up," he said.

I made a scoffing sound. "Yeah. You're a cold motherfucker. I get it. But you're a fuckin' liar too. If it were your girl this happened to, those guys would already be dead."

"No." A slow smile spread across his face. "They'd just wish they were."

In front of us, the house hadn't changed. It was still dark. Still quiet. There was nothing to see and no reason to linger.

"Think the car's done yet?" I asked.


"Alright," I said. "Let's do this."


Chapter 1

I always knew Keith would show his ass someday. I just didn't expect it to happen so literally. Standing in the frigid parking lot, I stared at the foggy mess that was his car window. Pressed up against the glass were two skinny cheeks and a giant black squid.

The cheeks were real. The squid was inked. Either that, or Keith had a serious problem on his hands. No, make that another part of his unremarkable anatomy. I couldn’t see his hands through the foggy glass, but I'd seen them often enough to know they were squid-free.

About the rest of him, let's just say I was getting a lot better view than I'd ever wanted.

Keith was the night manager at the Two-Bit Diner where I worked as a waitress. That pompous dipshit had been making my life hell for weeks. Just an hour ago, he'd called my cell phone with an ultimatum. Come in to see him within the hour, or lose my job for good.

Standing outside his car window, I pulled out my cell phone and checked the time. I'd met his stupid deadline, but just barely. Again, I glanced at the cheeks. The squid was moving again.

Apparently, Keith wouldn't be returning to his office any time soon.

I'd busted my butt to get here. I'd cleaned up my tear-stained face, squeezed into my trampy uniform, and plastered on the required makeup even thicker than usual, complete with the bimbo-blue eye shadow and enough foundation to hide the fact I was pale as death, with dark circles under my eyes.

My bare legs trembled in the freezing night air. It was the cold, I told myself. Just the cold. Not nerves, not exhaustion, and certainly not the remnants of the worst crying jag I'd ever indulged in.

I'd had a hellish night. Yet somehow, I'd managed to not only get ready, but make the twenty-minute drive in just under fifteen. And now that I was here, I wasn't about to lose my job because Keith wasn't actually in his office.

Screw it.

I knocked on the glass.

Instantly, the squid flew away from the window. A moment later, Keith's surprised face appeared in its place. From what I could see, he was utterly naked, except for his standard striped necktie, hanging loosely around his thin neck.

Somewhere on the other side of the backseat, a woman was squealing at top volume. I chalked it up to embarrassment. Somehow I couldn't envision Keith causing the other kind of squealing, even in the fanciest of hotels, much less a Lincoln Town Car with a pine tree air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.

Keith's eyes were wide, and his thinning brown hair was a disheveled mess. "Damn it, Chloe!" he hollered through the glass. "What the hell's wrong with you?"

Me? I wasn't the one banging some strange chick in the back parking lot.

Then again, that angle wasn't exactly banging-friendly. Maybe their interlude involved more mouth and tongue than – I shuddered. This was Keith, after all.

Stop thinking about it.

I knew why Keith had demanded to see me. Officially my shift began hours ago. Unofficially, I'd been too indisposed to come in.

Tied up.

Okay, handcuffed.

And not in the fun way either.

True, I'd been nearly naked. And true, the guy with the handcuffs was hot as sin, with perfect pecs, glorious abs, and a face to launch a thousand fantasies. But all that aside, the experience wasn't half as much fun as it sounds, even if a million other girls would've gladly taken my place.

I'd been handcuffed because my jerk of a boyfriend – correction, ex-boyfriend, if he'd ever truly been my boyfriend at all – had mistaken me for some kind of greedy, lying scumbag looking to exploit his fame for my own financial gain.

But I couldn't think about that now. I'd rather kiss that squid a hundred times than cry in front of my idiot boss and some random car hoochie.

I swallowed the pain and focused on Keith. He covered his privates with both hands while the girl in the backseat continued to screech. Keith leaned toward her and muttered something I couldn't hear. A moment later, the screeching stopped, and a second face appeared in the window. My jaw hit the pavement.

It was Brittney.

The girl who tried to have me kidnapped.

The girl who almost got me fired.

And apparently, the girl who was screwing my boss.


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