You know, I’d been nervous the first time I walked into the Armory. It’s an intimidating place and the men are rough and scary looking. Now I kept waiting for the numbness to lift and the fear to set in.
They hustled me along a barren, dimly lit concrete hallway lined with doors that looked like prison cells. One of them stood open, and I saw a small cot with a nasty little mattress. Definitely a prison cell. I wondered what’d happened to the last person in there, then decided I really didn’t want to know.
I’d tried to make death quick for Reese, and as painless as possible. I could only pray he’d do the same for me.
Gage shoved me through a door farther down the hallway. Two bare-bulbed work lights hung suspended from rusty hooks in the ceiling. A rope hung down, too—it’d been strung through a metal loop bolted into a massive support beam. Gage nudged me forward, looping the rope around the chain between the handcuffs.
Bam Bam caught the other end and pulled it, stretching my arms up and over my head. Shit—were they going to hang me from the ceiling? I’d just reached the point of discomfort when he stopped. Bam tied off the rope to another loop bolted to the wall. Horse watched me the entire time, as if he expected me to say something. Were they waiting for me to beg for mercy?
They’d be waiting for a while. The thought made me smile, and Gage finally broke the silence.
“Are you on something?”
I looked at him, startled. “What do you mean?”
“You’re way the fuck too calm,” he said slowly. “Did you take something? If you’re about to OD, tell me. Drowning in your own puke isn’t the way you want to go.”
I shook my head.
“It’s just that this is a huge relief,” I said. His face showed the first emotion I’d seen. Surprise. That struck me as funny, and I started laughing—not gentle, dignified noise. These were real, genuine belly laughs. The kind where you snort your drink out your nose because it catches you by total surprise, and then your friends make fun of you and everyone catches it and you’re all laughing like crazy people. You know what I’m talking about.
But these men weren’t my friends and they weren’t making fun of me. They were staring at me like I’d lost my mind. Maybe I had.
“Christ, she’s falling apart,” someone muttered. That was even funnier. I snorted again, then choked a little bit on my own giggles. I laughed so hard my throat hurt and tears streamed down my face.
A wall of cold water hit me, shocking me into silence.
I shook my head, blinking rapidly. Reese stood in front of me, an empty bucket in his hands. His eyes were cold and there was so much coiled tension in his body I could feel it, like electricity crackling through the air during a storm.
The bucket fell to the floor with a jolting clatter, and he kicked it out of his way.
“Shut the fuck up.”
Eyes wide, I shut the fuck up because this was Reese, but not a Reese I’d ever seen. This couldn’t possibly be the same man who’d laughed with me, made love to me …
I couldn’t find my Reese in this man’s face.
That first night at the Armory, he’d scared me. Then I’d fallen for him, and while my brain remembered he had darkness inside, my body convinced me it wasn’t true. Now I realized I’d never seen the real Reese at all—I’d only seen hints of his true capacity.
This was the reality of Reese Hayes, and it was darker than I ever imagined.
He terrified me.
Expressionless, Reese stepped toward me, reaching down and slowly wrapping his fingers around the hilt of the big hunting knife he wore strapped to his leg. The thing was huge, and it’d freaked me out the first time I saw it. Then I’d gotten used to seeing it and it became just another part of him.
Apparently the part he used to murder people.
The wicked blade glinted as he brought it up, testing the edge with his thumb.
“You’re going to kill me,” I whispered, feeling my own mortality wrap around me like a suffocating blanket.
He didn’t answer. Nope. Just started walking around behind me, circling out of my line of sight. I glanced toward the other men, wondering if they’d stop him or say anything, but their eyes were dead, and I saw my own end clearly reflected back at me. One of these Reapers would bury my body later tonight. Nobody would ever know what happened to me, and I would never learn what happened to Jess, either.
“Will you wait until we find out whether she’s alive?” I asked hesitantly.
“Not the time to be askin’ favors, sweetheart,” he said with quiet emphasis. Suddenly he caught my hair, jerking my head backward hard and fast. The knife flashed, and then I felt the blade digging into my throat. A line of fire crossed my neck. This was it. Reese Hayes was about to slit my throat.
I waited to die, the sound of his breath harsh in my ear. Then he laughed.
“You don’t get off that easy, bitch.”
That’s when I realized he hadn’t severed my windpipe … The blade still pressed at my throat, and I felt a faint trickle of blood slide down my neck. He’d cut me, but not badly. Just enough to part the skin.
“Now tell me everything,” he whispered. “Don’t leave out anything, whether you think it’s important or not. Got it?”
I started to nod and he jerked my hair back violently.
“Bad idea to nod when you’ve got a knife at your throat,” Horse said casually from across the room. “Might wanna be a little more thoughtful in your movements right now, London. Just a suggestion.”
“Yeah,” I said, my voice so hoarse that it came out with a croak. I cleared my throat, then tried to talk again. “Um … you know Jess got mad at me and went down to her mom, Amber? Well, the guy Amber was living with is holding Jess prisoner. You already know she was scared of the men at Amber’s house, told me she wanted to come home. That was Wednesday morning. Then my house blew up Wednesday night, and you brought me out to your place.”
Reese’s fingers tightened in my hair hard enough that I wondered if I’d have any left in a minute. The knife shifted painfully.
“So you know about that,” I continued, almost thankful for the cuffs holding up my wrists. I wasn’t sure I could’ve stayed on my feet without their support. “The next morning I called Jess and she said she’d changed her mind. That was in your bedroom, remember? Looking back, I think they’d taken her already. She didn’t sound like herself, something was off. That night I came out here for the party—” Reese growled, low and deep in his throat. He jerked me into his body, still holding the knife to my throat, and I felt his cock hardening against my ass. Must’ve been remembering our time together out in the courtyard.