The Blood Debt Read Online Clarissa Wild

Categories Genre: Contemporary, Dark, Erotic, Mafia, Romance Tags Authors:
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Total pages in book: 1
Estimated words: 98470 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 492(@200wpm)___ 394(@250wpm)___ 328(@300wpm)
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Read Online Books/Novels:

The Blood Debt

Author/Writer of Book/Novel:

Clarissa Wild

Language:
English
Book Information:

She signed a vow in blood, Now he’s come to claim her promise.
Jasmine Baas, daughter of a Dutch mafia lord.
The girl who locked away her heart. The girl I’d kill for.
Until life was almost ripped away from me, And I forgot everything I ever was.
But I still remember craving her more than anything.
For three whole years I waited. Plotted my revenge on her family. Lured her into my trap.
She made a promise to me once. A promise signed in blood.
And whether she likes it or not … I’m going to make her keep it.
A thrilling dark enemies-to-lovers romance.
WARNING: This book includes scenes that may be disturbing to some readers.
Books by Author:

Clarissa Wild



Music Playlist

“Jealous Sea” by Meg Myers

“In The Woods Somewhere” by Hozier

“If I Had A Heart” by Fever Ray

“Into The Fire” by These New Puritans

“Grá” by Wardruna

“Love And War (Slowed & Pitched)” by Fleurie

“Breathe (Slowed)” by Fleurie

“Go Fuck Yourself” by Two Feet (Slowed & Reverb)

“I See Red” by Everybody Loves An Outlaw

“The Rocket Builder” by Johann Johannsson

“Nature” by MISSIO

“Losing My Mind (Instrumental)” by MISSIO

“Letting Go” by MISSIO

“Eyes On Fire” by Blue Foundation

“Burning Desire” Lana Del Rey

“Hurts Too Good” by Ruelle

“Muddy Waters” by LP

“Middle Of The Night (Slowed)” by Elley Duhé

“Forever” by Labrinth

“The Pioneers (M83 Remix)” by Bloc Party

“Hourglass” by Survive

“Treasures” by Snow Culture

“When The Party Is Over” by Billie Eilish

“Streets” by Doja Cat

Chapter 1

Liam

* * *

Never in my life did I think the only girl I ever fucking craved would point a gun at my head.

Her blond hair sways in the storm, raindrops clattering down on her face, which is now more beautiful than ever. She still looks exactly like she did in my memories, with those almond-green eyes, that sharp nose, and pink, plump heart-shaped lips. Kissable. To die for.

“Whatever you’re thinking—don’t!” she yells at me as sweat drops roll down her forehead.

My hand forms a fist at the thought that she’d ever shoot me.

But I wouldn’t put it past her after all the things I’ve done.

My eyes flicker to the scene behind her, to my brother, Luca, clutching her sister Jill’s hand as they hold the ledge for dear life. I’m torn between running over to help him … and watching her fall to her death.

But something stops me from moving.

Jasmine’s eyes flame with rage as she holds the gun steady even though the rest of her body shakes vigorously in the cold rain pouring down on us.

“Luca … I’m sorry,” Jill says behind her, her fingers slipping away.

A satisfying end to a miserable story as Luca loses his grip, and she tumbles down.

But then my brother does the unthinkable.

He jumps right after her.

My pupils dilate, and in an instant, Jasmine spins around and shrieks, noticing them both missing. She runs to the edge, still clutching the gun as she goes to her knees, and yells, “JILL!”

Instinct pushes me to the ledge, and as I peer over, I watch my own brother dive to his death.

“LUCA, NO!” I scream, the pain immediate like a knife to the heart.

Because he was and still is my fucking brother. And it was my own selfish need for vengeance that made him fall.

If I hadn’t tried to throw Jill over the ledge, he wouldn’t have lunged after her.

Too fucking late.

SPLASH!

Their bodies hit the water. Hard. And I’m left with an indescribable agony tearing out my soul.

“Jill!” Jasmine cries out in pain, her voice going through marrow and bone.

I crawl away from the ledge, swallowing the tears as I get up, unable to face the consequences of my own actions.

Jasmine turns to face me, rage becoming her. “You … you did this!”

My jaw clenches as I step back farther and farther away from her, from the ledge my brother just threw himself off to save his wife, the same fucking woman who caused all of my misery.

Jasmine gets up, swiping the tears off her cheeks as she points the gun at me, trying her best to aim with shaky hands.

I won’t force her to make this choice.

Not today.

Not ever.

“Don’t make me do this,” Jasmine growls.

I shake my head. “I won’t. But I won’t ever stop. Not until I have what I came for.” My tongue dips out to lick my lips. “You.”

And as I take one last look at the only woman I’ve ever wanted, I turn and run.

Jasmine

* * *

My sister tends to Luca as he mopes around in the hospital bed while I stare out the window. He hates being there, but he’s lucky he survived after catching Jill mid-fall.

All I can think about is Liam.

He’s out there, waiting for another shot to kill my sister.

Waiting for another chance … to take me.

I swallow, but it still feels like my throat is clamped up.

It’s only been two days since I found out Liam was still alive. Two days since we all found out Jill hadn’t actually killed him by accident. Two days, and my entire world feels like it’s been turned upside down.

I don’t think Liam came back just to get revenge.

I clutch the windowsill, tears welling up in my eyes as I remember the words he said on that hill.

“I won’t. But I won’t ever stop. Not until I have what I came for. You.”

The mere memory of his words makes my body explode in goose bumps.

Was I so blind to the truth all these years?

Or did he just say that to manipulate me?

I shake off the jitters.

I can’t let his words get to me. He was gone for three years and only came back to try to kill my sister. I turn my head to look at her as she gleefully accepts a demanding kiss from Luca, who is still the same oversexed guy even after almost dying.

And it almost makes me jealous.

Almost.

But love isn’t for me.

I’m the girl who’s supposed to take over my parents’ not-so-legal business.

Love has no place in this harsh world we belong to. At least not the gentle kind.

Sighing, I turn to look out the window again. I never thought any of this would ever happen. Or that it would affect me so deeply. My heart aches and I don’t know why.

But all I can think of are those soul-crushing eyes and that voice that’ll haunt me in my dreams.

I stare outside at the people walking across the pavement and the cars driving by until one of them stops near a red light. And a guy with pristine eyes peers up through the window from the back seat. Straight at me.

My lips part.

My breath hitches in my throat.

No, it can’t be true, can it?

Those eyes … I’d recognize them among a million others.

Liam.

Liam

* * *

I gaze at the hospital as the cab comes to a stop in front of a red light. When my gaze rises to the top floor, where a girl stands in the window, my heart momentarily stops beating.

Because it’s her.

The girl who haunts my every waking thought.

Jasmine.

Our eyes connect in blazing recognition, and in an instant, I feel all the love I once felt for her crushed into a single atom. And I fucking remember all the ways I wanted to make her mine, even when she did not want to be mine.

Her eyes are filled with shock and awe. And something else … fear.

Fear for what’s to come.

Fear for what I might do.

What I’m capable of.

And when I lift the key up from my neck and hold it up to the window, her jaw drops.

The light switches to green, and the cab begins to drive. Two seconds is all it takes for her face to disappear from my view.

But I know she saw me … And we both know there is no going back now.

One day, I will claim what’s mine.

And she will offer it to me out of her own free will.

Jasmine

* * *

After saying goodbye to Jill and Luca, I rush home as fast as I can and run to the yard behind our house, scooping up the freshly dug ground with my bare hands until I hit the hard wood. With dirt-ridden fingers, I lift out the old box. The one I’d been hiding for years. The one only two people know about. Myself … and Liam.

Because that key he held up in front of the car window wasn’t just any key.

It was one of two keys that opened this tiny box.

With shaky hands, I fish my own keys from my pocket and search until I find the one, prodding it into the lock that opens with ease.

Inside are small papers.

Promises we made to each other.

Promises we intended to keep.

An old one from five years ago reads: ‘If our parents force us to marry, we’ll be kind to each other.’

Beneath that are our thumbprints in blood.

I remember signing this, blissfully unaware of how fate would twist us in a direction no one could ever imagine. Back when all of us believed Liam and I would be the ones to take over our parents’ companies as the eldest heirs.

I fish out another one that reads: ‘We will always let each other have what we want. No matter the cost.’

On the edge of the little paper is a muddy spot. A fingerprint.

The hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight.

Because beneath all the other tiny little papers filled with promises we once made is a new one. A torn paper etched with harsh lines made by pure blood.

* * *

No matter the cost, Jasmine.

There’s only one thing I want more than your sister’s death.

You.

Chapter 2

Jasmine

* * *

Age 12

* * *

“What’s this?” Liam asks as he strolls around my room.

But when I see what he’s grasping, I race over to him and slam the lid of the tiny wooden box he just opened shut. “N-Nothing.”

God, I wish my parents hadn’t invited those boys over for a quick lunch while they went out to a restaurant with their parents. It’s not easy to focus when they’re around. Especially with Liam—he’s always so up in my business, and I always lose the words I want to say whenever he asks me something.

He frowns. “Are you hiding something?”

“It’s mine,” I reply, staring him down. I don’t wanna say something I’ll regret.

“Okay, sorry,” he says. “I was just interested.”

“I … I keep my secrets in there,” I say.

Damn. I shouldn’t have said that.

Why do I always do this? And always around him.

His face lights up like the lights on a Christmas tree. “Like actual secrets? Can I see them?”

“No,” I say, and I steal the box from his hand. “They’re my … wishes.”

“What kind of wishes?” he asks. “C’mon, I wanna know.”

“Why do you care?” I retort.

He grabs a pen from my carefully arranged stack along with a piece of paper and starts penning something down.

“What are you doing?” I ask, peeking over his shoulder.

He glances at me, and it makes me step farther away. “You’d like to know, wouldn’t you?”

My nostrils flare, and I clutch the box even tighter. Damn him. “That’s not fair.”

“Yeah, it is,” he says with a big grin on his face as he tucks the paper into his pocket. “I wanna know what’s in there. You wanna know what’s on here. Fair trade.”

I grumble a little and slam the box down on the desk. “Fine.” But before I let him touch it, I add, “But you have to add your secret to the box too.”

A smile slowly spreads on his cheeks. “Deal.”

I sigh as my heart beats in my throat when I reach for one of the two tiny keys in my nightstand and open the box with it. Liam leans in close, watching like a hawk as I pull out some of the papers I put inside. A blush creeps onto my cheeks when he grabs one and reads it out loud.

“I hate going to school.”

It sounds so dumb when someone says it out loud.

“Who doesn’t?” he adds, snorting as he picks up another one. “I wish my parents would notice me.”

I close my eyes from the shame.

“Don’t they?” Liam asks.

I snatch the paper from his hand. “It was a silly wish I wrote down when I was eight.”

“So you’ve been doing this for a while, huh?”

I nod.

“When? After something happens?”

I tuck my hair behind my ear. It’s hard to talk about this.

“I told you they’re my secrets.”

When I open my eyes, I can’t even look at him. I’m expecting him to laugh, so when he smiles, it makes my heart jump.

“I guess we all have our way of coping with our life,” he replies.

He holds up his note so I can read it out loud. “If our parents force us to marry, we’ll be kind to each other.”

I’m momentarily at a loss of words. I haven’t thought about it in ages, but now it brings back all the memories I fought hard to forget.

“You think they will?” I ask, tears welling up in my eyes.

“Why else would our families spend so much time together?” He looks at the note like it’s a promise he made not just to himself but also to me. And something about that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

“They haven’t talked about it in ages, but I know they’re still thinking about it,” he mutters. “I know them. And I know what they’re capable of.”

He turns to me and gently grabs my hand, squeezing tight. The feel of his touch makes me forget all the words I wanted to say. His eyes alone have the power to shut me up, but his hands … his hands make me feel free.

“Don’t keep secrets as a burden. Turn them into a promise,” he says.

And he stuffs the note inside the box and closes it.

I gasp. “What are you doing?”

“Now it’ll be a box of promises,” he says, taking out the key and holding it out to me. “What do you say? Wanna fill it up together?”

I don’t know why I ever thought he’d laugh at me or make fun of me. Liam is the only boy who ever put a smile on my face. So I nod with delight and fish the other tiny key from my nightstand and hold it out to him.

“Here,” I say, stuffing it into his hand. “This is yours now.”

“Are you sure?” he asks.

I look up into his eyes, wondering if I can ever live up to the promises we make. But something about making promises together is far more exciting than keeping secrets alone.

“As long as you don’t tell anyone else,” I say.

He makes a fist, clutching the key tight with a beaming smile on his face. “I won’t. Promise.”

I grab the pen and flick it back and forth between my fingers, daring him. “Write it down.”

His brows playfully rise, but he still snatches the pen from my hands and scribbles it down. “Promises are promises.” And he stuffs the note inside the box and locks it away.

“There. Now you can remind me whenever I mess up,” he says.

“But it’s just a piece of paper,” I say, snorting because all of this was just a silly little girl’s way of storing her most private thoughts.

“It can be more,” Liam says. He opens the box and takes out all the notes he just wrote. Then he fishes his knife from his pocket.

My eyes widen when he stabs his own thumb. “What are you doing?”

“Making it real,” he says, and he smears the drop of blood all over his thumb before pressing it down onto the paper. “There.”

“But that …” My skin erupts into goose bumps.

I’ve seen that before.

On one of my father’s deals he made with the De Vos family.

Blood for blood.

“You can’t do that,” I say.

“Yes, I can, and I have,” he replies, pressing his thumb down on all the notes, one by one, until no more promises are left.

“But that’s a blood—”

“Debt,” he interjects.

A blood debt.

A promise that can’t ever be broken.

Because the signer must die if they do.

He grabs my hand and holds out the knife. “Now it’s your turn.”

That’s right … the blood debt must always come with two signers.

Oh, God.

Can I really do this?

The knife feels so heavy in my hands, just like our fate when I make these promises actual vows.

“Do you want to turn your secrets into something better, something worth living for?” he asks.

I nod as he covers his hand with mine and inches closer with the knife to my own thumb.

“Then make them a reality.”

Before I know it, the pointy end has punctured my skin and a drop of blood forms on the tip. Pressing my thumb and index finger together, I spread the blood until my thumb is red.

My eyes flick to the papers on the desk, and I swallow away the lump in my throat before I press my thumb down on each and every single one of them.

I look down at our creation … the paper mingling with our blood … the vow I just made to end not just his life but mine if either of us breaks these promises.

But the feel of his warm hands on my shoulders breaks the trance. “We’ll add a new promise every year.”

Every year. Wow. “But what if we can’t keep them? I don’t want to die.” I glance at him over my shoulder, the courage in his eyes impossible to ignore.

He smiles arrogantly. “Then we’ll make each other keep them.”

Present

* * *

“So how are you doing?” Jill asks as she stirs her coffee.

I pick up my cup and take a sip, but my fingers can’t stop shaking. “I feel fine. You?”

“You don’t look fine …” she murmurs. “If you wanna talk about it—”

“How was your honeymoon with Luca?” I ask.

I know it’s rude, but I don’t want to talk about Liam, and I know she’s fishing.

“Oh, amazing! The beaches on the Canary Islands are gorgeous! And we had our own little cabin in the middle of nowhere. I had a massage, and we did all sorts of stuff. It was fantastic,” Jill rambles with a big smile on her face. “But enough about me.”

“No, tell me more,” I say. I really don’t want to be the one talking right now, or I might spill the beans.

“Have I told you yet that Luca gave me a late wedding gift?” The smirk on her face has me intrigued.

“No, what was it?”

“My own business!” Jill squeaks like a mouse and looks all giddy as she puts down her cup.

I gasp. “No, really?”

“Yes!” She jumps up from her seat to grab some papers from a cabinet. “Look.” She sifts through the forms. “That’s my name on my very own tailoring business.”

“Tailoring?” I look up at her. “Wait, you mean like those outfits you used to make?”

She’s beaming. “Yep.”

“That’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you,” I reply as she proudly shows me pictures of the place and tells me about the designs she imagines herself creating. I’m glad she’s finding out who she is and what she wants to do in this world. Besides being a mobster’s wife, of course. That will always come first, and we both know that.

Jill clears her throat and says, “Uhh … be right back. Bathroom break.” She laughs it off, but it’s awkward as hell as she rushes off to the toilet like she suddenly became viciously ill.

She must’ve eaten some bad stuff on that vacation.

I don’t enjoy seeing her in pain, but this is a good opportunity for me.

The second she’s locked the door, I jump up from the couch and slip into Luca’s office. Without a lot of time, I go around his stuff quick, leaving no stack of papers unscathed. I search through his closet and his desk, rummaging every drawer until I find what I’m looking for. Pictures of Liam … and a date and stamp of the location where they were taken.

“Jasmine?”

My eyes widen. Shit. She’s already done. And now she’s going to find me in here, snooping through their stuff.

Fuck.

I stuff the papers I need into my pocket. In panic mode, I race toward the door.

“Oh, you’re here.”

Jill’s sudden voice makes me turn around.

“I was just admiring Luca’s office,” I lie. “Anyway, I actually gotta run.”

“Already?” she says as I walk past her.

“Yeah, I’ve got some things to take care of. Business, you know,” I reply, laughing it off, but I’m terrible at lying, and she knows. “Besides, I don’t wanna bother you and Luca when you just got back from your honeymoon.”

I don’t like lying to my sister, but if I told her the truth, she’d try to stop me.

She’s already sacrificed enough for me.

It’s about time I was the big sister.

“Oh, okay,” Jill says as I hurry toward the front door. “Well, text me when you get home safely, all right?”

“Will do, bye!” I wave and exit the penthouse.

When the door closes behind me, I pause and close my eyes.

I’m sorry I’m leaving without a proper goodbye, but I hope you’ll forgive me.

I’m doing this for you, Jill.

I breathe out a sigh … only to rush down the hall to the elevator, smashing the buttons as fast as I can so I can get out of here before I run into Luca.

Because if either of them finds out I stole some important information, they won’t be happy.

My heart practically beats out of my chest as the elevator finally stops, and I hop out and head straight for the exit, where I parked my rental. No driver, no guards, no one from the family to intervene or disclose my secret to my parents.

Because when I get into that car and start the engine, no one will stop me from going after the one thing that’s haunted me for the past three years.

Liam.

Here I fucking come.

Chapter 3

Liam

* * *

Two and a half years ago

* * *

When I slam open the door and march into Brauhaus Jonas, the sound of chatting people suddenly disappears. Even though everyone in this goddamn bar is glaring at me, I still park my ass on a seat right in front of the bartender. “Bier.”

The guy looks at me as though I’m the devil incarnate, but I’m just trying to lubricate my thirsty throat with some fucking beer. So I look at him and growl, “Bitte.” Please.

I look at the board on the wall to my left. There are some leaflets on there, but one in particular catches my eye. I get up, my footsteps clonking through the establishment, as I make my way toward the board and rip off the little paper. On it is a tiny little wooden cabin situated near a snowy mountain, between almost magical green-as-fuck pine trees. At the bottom, it says “for sale.”

“That offer’s been there for a decade. Looks can be deceiving, Liam.” Always this bartender with his unsolicited advice. “It’s a five-hour car drive to no-man’s-land.”

Car. Drive.

A flash of blinding light strikes me to my core.

Nothing but snow is outside this bar, yet I feel the water rising, my body floating in the cold, and the air in my lungs evaporating.

A loud scream fills my ears, and I cover them with my hands.

I see only one thing in front of me.

The face of a girl with short blond hair and eyes like those of a demon.

Treacherous.

Murderous.

My fists ball as the image slowly fades away again, just as it always does.

I march toward the door, clutching the paper in my hand, not giving a shit about the beer I ordered but never drank. Before anyone even says a word, I close the door behind me.

What little memories I have left of my life always vanish as quickly as they come.

But there is one thing that never leaves me.

Rage.

Three years ago

* * *

I never imagined death to be so peaceful.

As the water gushes into my lungs, I feel strangely neutral about death. The car sinks to the bottom while my lifeless body sways along with the waves, my eyes turned inward at my own soul as it departs my body.

Sudden cold hits me hard. Arms envelop me, wrapping me in warmth, push and shove me around, my body like a wet rag. And none of it fazes me.

Until…

I see her.

The girl with the long, flowy blond hair, sharp nose, and plump, pink, heart-shaped lips … the girl who makes my frozen heart beat loudly again.

A single gasp emanates from my mouth. My eyes burst open in a flurry of emotions, water spurting out of my throat as someone pounces on my chest. Blinking, I cough and heave, my own life flashing by me in a second.

And then … nothing.

“Hij leeft nog,” someone says.

He’s still alive.

I don’t know why I understand the language. It’s not the same language as in my brain, yet I understand. How? Why?

Looking around, I only see strange faces leaning over and peering at me like I’m a dead man walking.

“Hoe kan dit? Hij had al lang dood moeten zijn.”

How is this possible? He should’ve been dead already.

Someone checks my pulse while I look around at my surroundings, completely out of it. There’s wood all around me, painted in red and blue, and the floor sways as much as the water did when I was still submerged.

Fuck.

“Gaat het? Hoe voel je je?” someone else asks.

Are you okay? How do you feel?

Are they talking about me?

One second, I was underwater, and then the next, I’m sucking oxygen into dry lungs that sting with every breath. Fuck. It feels like I got run over by a truck.

“Hoe heet je?”

What’s your name?

“Uh …” I mutter, my voice rough on the edges, just like my body feels. “I … I …”

I want to answer, but no matter how hard I try … I can’t. Why? Why don’t I fucking know my own name?

“Kan hij wel Nederlands?” another guy asks.

“Yes, I can fucking talk Dutch.” I cough a couple of times. My lungs feel as though I’ve breathed in iron. “But I prefer English,” I add even though I have no fucking clue why.

In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t know anything at all.

Not about where I am or why or how I even got here.

“Can you tell me your name?” the guy asks again.

“Liam.”

I know my name … I just don’t know how I know.

“Where do you live?”

I frown, confused about why I can’t recall even though it feels like it’s on the tip of my tongue.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know your own address?” The guy asking me looks as confused as I am, and it only makes me more uneasy.

Someone shines a bright flashlight in my eyes. “Hij ziet er niet goed uit.”

He doesn’t look okay.

The third gets up and fishes his phone from his pocket. “Ik bel wel een ambulance.”

He’s gonna call an ambulance. Hospital. Connections. People. Danger.

No!

I instantly lunge up and grasp his wrist, forcing him to stop. “Don’t.”

He looks at me like I’ve gone insane.

“Don’t call the hospital. No ambulance. Nothing,” I say.

“Dude, what the hell is wrong with you,” he says, jerking himself free from my grip. “How did you even get up that quick?”

“Just don’t,” I say. “I can’t go there.”

I don’t know what possessed me to attack him, but I do know one thing.

Hospitals and anything official like police stations are dangerous, and I don’t even fucking know or remember why I know that information. It’s infuriating.

I clutch my own head and press hard to try to force myself to remember, but not a single memory comes to the forefront of my mind. None.

“Fine, if you’re sure,” the guy says, tucking his phone back into his pocket. “But I’m not gonna get in trouble for it.”

He walks off and leaves me with two others, who seem suspicious of me, and I can’t blame them. I don’t even know if I can be trusted.

“Where am I?” I ask.

“On my boat,” the first guy I saw says as he strokes his beard. “We hauled you from the water. We thought you were dead.”

I gasp for air at the thought, but my lungs still feel like sharp knives have been embedded inside. I try to get up again, but the guy holds me back. “Whoa. Easy there.”

“No, I have to go,” I mutter. Even though I don’t know why, I feel the urge to stay on the move.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” he asks. “Just let us call the hospital.”

“NO!” I bark, crawling back as far as possible until my head hits the back of the boat. “No fucking way.”

“Okay, fine, we won’t,” he says, holding up his hands. “But you gotta get checked out. We’re not professionals. Fuck knows how long you were out there in the water. How did you even end up in there?”

Uncontrollable fury forces its way through my veins, but I don’t fucking know why, and it pisses me off. All I can remember is a shrill voice crying out and a bright light just before the crash. And then … death.

My heart pounds.

Something, or someone, is responsible.

And something inside me urges me to get up and move.

As I crawl to my feet, the second dude walks up to me and plants his hand on my chest. “Whoa, calm down. You’re not nearly strong enough to walk.”

“I don’t care. How do I get off?” I ask.

“You don’t,” the first guy says, coming at me too. “We’re still hours away from our destination, and I’m not turning around just because of one fucking guy.”

“But, boss, he’s obviously in need of help—”

“He made his decision,” the first guy interjects. “And I’m not willing to risk our shipment over some dumb incident.” He spits on the deck. “He’s alive thanks to us. That’s all that matters.”

“Thanks for saving me,” I say, trying to find my bearings while the boat sways back and forth.

The boss looks at me with suspicion. “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”

“So what do we do with him now?” the other guy asks.

The boss eyes me, his stance growing more rigid by the second. “Rest up inside for now. When we arrive at the docks, we’ll figure out what to do with you.”

“Wait,” I say, and he turns around. “Can you take me with you?”

He frowns. “Where?”

“Anywhere,” I reply with a stone-cold face. “As long as it’s far away from here.”

Because I fucking feel like I’m a dead man walking.

Present

* * *

I pause for a moment and look up at the little wooden cabin surrounded by dark pine trees that cast a shadow over the moss-covered roof. My home.

I never thought I’d see this place again, yet here I am, back in one piece.

But not without scars.

I walk up to the door, limping heavily.

The doctor who took out the bullet and sewed up the wound said the pain should subside within a couple of weeks. I can only hope I can trust him even though he was a veterinarian. Of course he asked questions, but I answered with money, and luckily, it was enough.

Still, the pain makes it a bitter pill to swallow.

Groaning, I set my bag down near my door and open the noisy lock. The door squeaks open, and I take a whiff of the musty, earthy scent inside. Calm carries me away like a fish finding its way back to the sea.

Everything still smells the same, looks the same, albeit covered in dust.

But one thing has changed.

Me.

I haul my bag inside and sit down on the chair to check out my leg. The wound still oozes, but it looks like the danger of infection has passed. It’s going to be one nasty scar.

The one reminder I didn’t need of my brother’s death.

I grumble to myself.

At least I can comfort myself with the thought that the girl is also dead.

With a sigh, I reach into my bag and fish out the picture I brought with me. An old photograph outside our family home of Luca and me with our parents standing proudly behind us. A picture-perfect family … or so I thought.

Until my brother brought back the memories buried long ago.

Clutching the picture, I go back outside and walk to the back of the cabin. There, I go on my knees and dig a hole just deep enough for the picture to stay dry. “I’ll miss the memory of you. Goodbye, little brother.”

I cover the picture with dirt and close my eyes.

I never expected him to sacrifice himself just to save that girl.

That girl who ruined my life.

Jill.

But that was his choice, not mine.

However, his death will not be in vain.

I’ve already made sure of that by leaving a tiny trail of bloodied notes only one person could ever find.

Jasmine.

My heart begins to pound in my chest as a wicked grin forms on my lips.

I can’t fucking wait until I have her in my clutches. And I mutter to myself, “Soon… She’ll finally be mine.”

Chapter 4

Jasmine

Three years ago

* * *

“He’s gone.”

My mother’s words reverberate as I sit here on my bed, trying to make sense of the world that has caved in all around me.

It’s only been hours since Jill awoke from her frightening nightmare.

A nightmare that feels unending, even for me.

Because even though she survived the car crash, he did not.

I stare at the wall, blinking and blinking, but no tears come.

Even though I desperately want them to.

I’m frozen in place, stuck in those two words.

He’s. Gone.

My body begins to quake.

My lips quiver.

My hand tightens around the knife.

And I scream louder than I ever have before.

Present

* * *

I drive as fast as I can, passing several cities before stopping only for gas and some food and drinks. I’ve been on the road for hours, but I won’t stop until I get to my destination.

I pick up the piece of paper lying next to me that has Liam’s picture on it along with a timestamp and a location. It’s in a remote area near the mountains in the middle of the woods. Standing in front of a small wooden cabin, he has a beanie on his head, and his beard is fully grown. He’s become almost unrecognizable, yet I know those eyes. Those eyes have haunted me since the day I thought he’d died.

The image is incredibly blurry, but one thing’s for sure … the look in his eyes is murderous.

I swallow hard and put down the picture.

Despite my fear of what’s to come, I won’t back down.

Even though this blood debt could mean the death of me.

Liam

* * *

Lying down on the mossy ground, I stop breathing as the deer comes into view. It nibbles on the branches of a new tree sapling, barely a few years old. Its eyes rapidly flick across the area to spot potential predators, but it hasn’t noticed me yet.

My thumb moves to the trigger in slow motion, sweat drops beading on my forehead as I aim.

BANG!

The loud sound of my rifle going off triggers a string of forgotten memories flooding my brain.

* * *

“Keep your eyes open when you shoot, boy,” my father says. “And hold that damn thing steady. Don’t be so fucking scared.”

“Why do we have to learn this again?” I ask, gazing up at the little creature perched on top of the tree branch near the edge of the yard.

“You know what we do, son. Stop asking questions you already know the answers to.”

I keep my eyes on the animal even though my mind is somewhere else. “But what if I want to do something else?”

“There is nothing else. There is only family. Our line of business is taken to the grave. The only choice you have is who you kill before they kill you. Now stop crying about it and shoot the damn squirrel.”

I aim and press the trigger. The sound is deafening to my ears.

“Well done,” my brother, Luca, says with a smirk. “I’m surprised you even managed to pull the trigger.”

“Fuck off,” I say, throwing him an equally devious smirk.

But my eyes trail away from his to the yard behind him, where two grown women and two girls my age sit and talk at a table. One of them looks at me, and when she smiles, my heart thumps louder than any gunshot ever could.

* * *

The memories come in waves and leave just as quickly as they appear. I never know when they were from or how old I was. But I force myself to remember as I close my eyes and take in all the little bits, no matter how harsh they feel to my empty brain. Because even bad memories are better than none at all.

I sigh as I get up from the ground.

The deer has collapsed, a clean wound clearly visible in its skull. A gentle death without a second of pain. Not at all what my father used to teach my brother and me. But if I have to kill, I will do so with fucking kindness in my heart.

At least when it comes to animals.

Because humans … they deserve every ounce of pain coming for them.

After hours of painstakingly cutting up the deer and putting it in the freezer, I finally go back inside my warm house and strip naked, throwing all the dirty clothes in the bucket filled with soap and water before stepping into a bath.

The water tempers my blood and cools the anger still swirling through my head. I close my eyes and let the water take me over. There is nothing but darkness. Just like inside my heart.

Everything about being in the water like this makes my heart beat faster and faster until I hear that one scream again. The one that always makes me sit up straight as a frigid chill rolls down my back.

Images flash before my eyes again of a car driving fast, too fast, careening off the road, crashing into the water.

And the last thing I see is the driver of the car … A girl with plump lips and her half-long blond bob swaying in the wind as the water hits my lungs.

Jill Baas.

I blink a few times to make the image disappear, but nothing will quench the fire raging in my heart.

Fuck.

Even after her death, she still haunts me.

If she even is dead at all.

But who would survive a fall like that?

Then again, my brother jumped in after her. What if he managed to save her?

Grunting, I force myself to forget.

Nothing I do will change what happened. Nothing.

SNAP!

My ears perk up like those of a hound, my head turning toward the sound.

Another snap that sounds like a twig being stepped on makes a vicious smirk spread on my face.

I jump out of the bath and rush to put a towel around my waist, then pull the plug. Even though I’m not nearly clean, I’ll finish this bath later.

Adrenaline pumps through my veins, excitement egging me on as I snatch my axe off the table and make my way outside wearing nothing but a fucking towel around my wet, naked body.

But I am more than fucking prepared.

Because whoever is outside, lurking around my property, is not a friend.

And maybe, just maybe, the one girl I’ve been hoping for has finally arrived.

Chapter 5

Jasmine

* * *

Sweat drops roll down my back as I tread into the shadowy forest, the looming pine trees blocking most of the sunlight. Adrenaline courses through my veins, causing shivers down my spine with every step I take. Every little sound is another trigger, a tiny mole crawling down into its hole, pine needles rolling across the mossy ground, birds’ wings flapping high above my head.

I pause to look around and listen, my hand on my phone in case I need to let someone know where I am. My head instinctively turns to look back at my car still parked on the side of the road, but the farther I go into the woods, the less it becomes visible, and something about that makes my heart turn icy cold. I’m in the middle of nowhere, and no one knows I’m here.

No one but me.

And him.

I swallow away the nerves as I approach the cabin while firmly clutching my gun. The gun I stole from my father’s arsenal when the guards weren’t looking. They won’t miss one tiny little gun, but it might help me save myself.

Because lord knows what I’ll find.

That man I once knew is gone forever.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. I stalk farther and farther into the forest until the road is no longer visible, and all I have left is the pine trees and critters to accompany me.

In the distance, a cabin becomes visible.

I suck in a ragged breath.

Even though it’s not nighttime yet, the darkness surrounding me hums with a kind of electrical current that scatters goose bumps across my skin.

CRACK!

I freeze from the sound of a twig snapping in half.

My heart goes a million miles an hour.

Oh, God. What if it’s him? Am I ready?

I point my gun in the direction of the sound. Straight ahead, near the cabin.

TRSSKK! CRACK!

More noisy rustling … until an axe slowly appears from behind a tree, glinting in the dark.

I gasp in shock, barely able to keep the squeal inside as an almost ungodly muscular but beastly looking man steps out from behind the tree wearing nothing but a short towel around his waist. His long beard and hair are wet and stick to his muscular, tattooed body. His square face is smeared with dirt and blood, and his hooded brown eyes are locked on mine.

Liam.

I can’t even process it’s him because of the state he’s in.

But the second he raises his axe, I regain my senses and aim for his head.

“Don’t come close, or I’ll shoot!” I yell.

He doesn’t say a word, doesn’t even stop, and my hands begin to shake.

I’ve shot a gun before, but never at an actual human being, and the thought is already making me nauseous. But if I must … what other choice do I have? He’s dangerous. He tried to kill my sister, he’ll never stop, and I have to protect her.

C’mon, Jasmine, you can do this.

I click off the safety and yell, “I mean it!”

He stops and looks me dead in the eyes like a killer would when he’s found his target, and something about that makes my entire body start to tremble.

His lips part, his tongue slowly licking his canines as a lopsided smile appears on his face. “Don’t … move.”

His voice is gravelly. Darker than I remember, even from that night he came for her. And the mere sound reminds me of just how far he went to get what he wanted.

I can’t trust him.

My foot instinctively rises.

CLICK!

My eyes widen. The sound came from below my own feet.

Too late to run.

The second my mouth opens to gasp, I’m covered in ropes. It all happens in the blink of an eye. I lose control over the gun, and it drops from my hands right onto the forest ground as a net wraps around my body and forces me into the fetal position. My body is all coiled up, trapped inside the rope, and the gun is out of reach.

Fuck!

“Get it off me!” I scream, fighting the ropes that push me further and further into myself, desperately trying to get away before …

He’s here.

Right in front of me.

Staring straight into my soul.

Fuck.

His feet are spread wide, his posture intimidating and aggressive.

Tilting his head, he wears a smirk on his filthy face as though he enjoys seeing me stuck. “I told you not to move,” he growls.

“You put out a trap for me?” I yell, incensed he’d go this far.

He swings the axe, and I shut my eyes, praying for a quick end, but it doesn’t come. Instead, he slams it down and lodges it straight into the ground.

“Not for you … but it’s a nice catch, I have to admit.”

Nice?

How could this ever be considered nice?

And who the hell puts down actual traps?

Fuck this. It doesn’t even matter. I jiggle my way around the rope to try to reach my phone.

Suddenly, he reaches down and snatches it straight out of my pocket. “I’ll take that.”

“Give that back and let me out right now,” I growl. “Or I swear to God I’ll—”

He goes down onto one knee in front of me and interrupts me, “You’ll what? Point your silly gun at me?”

My eyes immediately home in on the metal lying mere inches away from me, but the second I try to reach for it, he’s already snatched it off the ground. Not that I’d ever be able to grab it, rolled up like a goddamn sausage ready for the oven.

He holds it up, dangling it between two fingers like it’s disgusting. “This … this is what you came to kill me with?” He snorts and chucks it away onto the ground. “Pathetic.”

I spit, but it doesn’t hit him in the face. Instead, it lands on the ground right in front of his bare feet. “Fuck you.”

He smirks. He never used to smirk. “If you want to … I’ll let you.”

My cheeks turn rosy red, and I hate it. I hate it with every fiber of my being. “You wish.”

He laughs, but it’s not how I remember. It’s in a roaring way. Almost beastlike. And it makes goose bumps erupt on my skin. “We’re far beyond wishes now, Jasmine. You’re here now …” He leans in to grab the rope, and he pulls me closer. “Which means you read the note I left.”

I can smell his breath, the stench of blood, whose blood I don’t know, but the thought that he could be a cold-blooded killer makes my heart thump in my throat.

“I came to finish what you started,” I growl back.

His face darkens, his jaw tensing. He sucks in a breath, letting it out slowly as he looks down at me with disdain. Suddenly, he grips the rope and gets up on both feet, hauling me behind him like some big, lumbering giant.

“Wait! Stop!” I try to grasp onto something, a twig, a tree, a piece of moss, but the sheer force he applies to drag me along prevents me from latching on to anything at all.

But worst of all, he treads on as if it doesn’t even faze him. As if he doesn’t even notice I’m trying to stop him.

Panic fills my bones. “What are you going to do to me?”

He glances at me over his shoulder, a wicked glint in his eyes like he’s become the devil himself. “Everything I’ve ever wanted.”

Chapter 6

Liam

* * *

Finally, after all these years of waiting, I have her in my clutches. The one girl who always managed to escape my grasp. The one girl who never wanted me … but I wanted her more than I could ever handle. So much it felt as though I was suffocating just like I was the day I almost drowned.

I’ll fucking make her pay for denying me all these years ago.

I swallow hard as I drag her along the pine cone–covered ground, her grumbles and moans a nuisance to my ear. Because they’re moans and grumbles of pain and anger instead of desire.

But I will hear them soon enough.

I don’t fucking care how long it takes or how much I have to do.

I will fucking have what I want, and what I want is her, and she knows it.

I look at her over my shoulder, but my glance is only met with hatred. The same kind of hatred I felt for her sister before she died. I’m not surprised.

Nor am I surprised she brought a gun. As the daughter of a mobster, I would’ve expected nothing less. But I didn’t expect her to lose her grip so quickly. Or that she’d bring such a tiny one.

I snort to myself at the thought of Jasmine trying to kill me out of revenge.

It’s almost poetic. The killer murdered by the victim’s sister. I’d almost call it justice.

But I’m not ready to die yet.

And she’s not ready for what’s in store.

I left a lure in her little box of treasures … and she bit just as I knew she would.

Now she’s here and all mine.

And I’m not fucking letting go.

Jasmine

* * *

“Please, let me go,” I mutter as he drags me across the cold, harsh ground.

Pine cones are stuck in my hair, and some have already ripped out, but my pain doesn’t seem to matter to him at all.

“Liam!” I yell to get his attention. “Please.”

He glances at me over his shoulder with a vicious smirk on his lips. “You know, I do love the sound of you begging.”

I’m too stunned to speak but not too shocked to get flustered by that comment.

Damn. He was never this straightforward when we were younger.

Then again, a lot has changed for both of us in the three years he was gone.

“You don’t want to do this,” I say as he drags me back to his cabin.

“Oh, yes, I do,” he replies, the sincerity in his voice making goose bumps erupt on my skin.

He opens the door and hauls me inside like fresh meat.

Oh, God, what if he intends to gut me?

Blood is already on his face. God knows who it belongs to, but if he can hurt and kill other people, there’s no telling what he could do to me.

Especially in this remote area at this little cabin the size of a vacation home. There’s a small kitchen in the corner with huge knives that make my skin crawl, probably ones he could use to butcher me. And the big, wooden hand-crafted table in the middle surely looks big enough for a body.

Fuck.

“Please don’t kill me,” I mutter. “I’m too young to die.”

He snorts. “I’ve killed enough, don’t fucking worry.”

Oh, God. I knew it.

That blood.

“Who did you kill?” I ask.

If I’m gonna make him pay, I have to do all of his victims justice. I need to remember their names and tell their family once this is over. Once I get out of this mess.

“A deer.”

What?

A … deer?

He kicks the door shut and suddenly grabs the rope with both hands and lifts me up. My squeal is cut short by the way I’m thrown over his shoulder.

“Put me down right now!” I growl, but of course, he ignores me.

He carries me toward a small room in the back, behind a bunch of boxes and a one-person bed. A door he opens, and he puts me down on the floor in the middle. This room only contains a giant box, and it’s goddamn freezing in here.

“Wait, what are you doing?” I ask.

“Showing you your room,” he mocks, waving his hand. “Enjoy.”

When he attempts to close the door, I crawl toward him as best as I can with these ropes constricting every muscle in my body. “Wait! Don’t leave me like this!”

“Like what? Like you’re my prisoner now?” He gazes down at me with pure animalistic rage, and I don’t understand why he’s like this. How he could’ve changed so much.

“Like you’re not Liam,” I say, tears staining my eyes.

“The Liam you knew died the night your sister drove us off that cliff,” he growls back.

“She didn’t mean to,” I reply. “It was an accident.”

“An accident …? Just like that gun you pointed at my head?” He scoffs.

My lips part, but I don’t know what to say because he’s right. It wasn’t an accident that I brought that along. But it’s not fair to compare those two.

“You were gonna kill me, weren’t you?” he asks. When I don’t answer, he narrows his eyes. “Figured.”

He attempts to close the door again, but I yell, “Wait! Yes. Yes, I was.”

He snorts. “You think that’s what I want to hear?”

“I told you what you wanted to hear. Now please untie me.”

“No.”

I can’t ignore the coldness in his voice.

Tears well up in my eyes. “Why? Why are you doing this?”

He can’t even look at me. “You saw the notes.”

I swallow away the lump in my throat. “You want me.”

And there is nothing in the world that will stop him from trying to claim it.

Not even if he has to kill my entire family to get to me.

Well, he got what he fucking wanted.

“But you knew that already.” The arrogant look on his face makes me want to lash out. “Why else would you have come?”

“Because you threatened my family and me,” I growl.

He pauses and breathes out a sigh. “I deserve your rage.” He looks at me again. “But what I deserve doesn’t matter. Because good guys don’t fucking get what they want.”

He slams the door shut before I can answer, leaving me on the cold, harsh floor, stuck in the fetal position. And I cry out in both pain and anger. “You’re right. You’re not the Liam I knew. You’re a fucking monster!”

Liam

* * *

She’s right. I am a monster. But I am who I am, and nothing she says will change that.

I made peace with what I’ve become a long time ago.

I don’t remember a lot about my life, but what I do remember makes me want to smash holes into walls.

I tried plenty of times to regain the memories I’d lost. But all that returned to me was anger for what had happened to me, and rage toward the one who caused it. The only specks of happiness between were times spent with Jasmine. Bits and pieces floated around in my brain like droplets of paint on an empty canvas of a life where I was once happy.

Until everything was stolen from me.

Grunting, I sink back down into the bath I was enjoying before she came and bury my head underwater where it’s peaceful. Quiet. Cold. Emotionless. And I wait. And wait. And wait.

But there is no scream.

No squeal, no shriek, nothing to wake me and bring me back to the surface.

Why?

My eyes burst open underwater, but the memory of the car crash doesn’t come to haunt me.

Instead, all I see are two beautiful hazel eyes, wistfully staring down at me, begging me to come get her.

I burst out from the water, gasping for air.

Fuck.

I thought the images would stop once I had her in my clutches.

Guess that won’t be the case.

I quickly wash off the dirt and blood and clean myself up before I jump out of the bath and dry myself off. Time to get dressed and claim what’s mine.

Chapter 7

Liam

* * *

Grabbing a knife from my kitchen, I head into the room she’s in. The moment her eyes find mine, they grow big and flick back and forth between me and the knife. Her panic is hard not to notice, making me pause halfway toward her. She crawls back in her net, cowering in the corner, far away from me. Something about the sight of her whimpering makes my cock twitch.

It never fucking does.

Not for anyone.

Except her.

Even when she wasn’t here, she’d awaken the beast inside me in my dreams. And now that she’s finally here, in the living flesh, I’ve wanted nothing more than to sink my teeth into her skin and my dick into her wet, velvet pussy.

But something about the look in her eyes stops me.

I take in a deep breath and approach her with careful steps, despite the sound of them being harsh and heavy. I can’t help my size, but I can help my aggression.

The closer I get, the more she flinches. “Stay away from me!”

I hold out the knife, but she continues to inch away.

“Don’t hurt me,” she says, and she squeezes her eyes closed as the knife enters the net.

But instead of poking her skin, I cut the rope, freeing her from the trap. Her eyes burst open in surprise, and she stares at me like a weak little lamb caught in the wolf’s jaws. But there’s still an inkling of resistance in her gaze as though she’s taunting me to see how far I’m willing to go to get what I want.

Good. I like her feisty.

When she shuffles forward, I point my knife at her throat, forcing her to stop. “Don’t. Move.”

She flinches, and her hair spills over her blouse, which has two buttons missing. My eyes are instantly drawn toward her chest and the plump tits barely hiding behind it. I instinctively trace a line down her neck with my knife as I can’t stop myself from inching closer and closer and closer to what’s been kept from me, what’s forbidden. And as it slips into the crevice between her tits, her breathing rises, and rises, and rises.

She sucks in a breath. “What do you want?”

A smirk forms on my lips. I’m surprised she’d ask when she already knows the answer. “You.”

“Then why are you keeping me in this room like a prisoner?”

“Same reason,” I reply, tilting my head. “Because you’d escape if I didn’t.”

She sucks in a heavy breath. “You’re making assumptions.”

“Tell me I’m wrong then,” I retort.

She turns her head and raises her nose as if she’s better than me, but we both know she’s not.

“Why did you come here then?” I ask.

“To end what you started,” she replies. “Like I said, you threatened my family, and I don’t take that lightly.”

“Jill’s already dead. My death won’t fucking change that.”

She throws me a look, and her breathing momentarily stops, only to resume like a goddamn hiccup. “You could go after my parents too.”

“Why do you care about your parents?” I inquire.

“Because I love them,” she replies. “And they love me.”

“Bullshit,” I quip, retracting the knife.

She finds the courage to lean forward with a brazen response. “How would you know? Do you even remember anything at all?”

Her words sting like the knife I’m holding, and it makes me clench it even harder. “I remember … enough.”

“Do you even remember me?”

“Yes, I do,” I growl, my voice harsh and so loud it pushes her back into the corner. “You’re the only goddamn thing I remember.”

The silence that follows is deafening, even to me.

Because all I see are the unspoken words and pain in her eyes accumulated in a single tear droplet.

But all I know is what I feel inside, the desire, the hunger … for her. “I remember all the memories that involve you. And all the ways I wanted to make your body mine.”

Jasmine

* * *

I’m too stunned to even speak.

All I can think of are those words.

Make your body mine.

Every syllable, over and over, until my cheeks flush and my whole body begins to shake.

Fuck.

I can’t let him get to me. It’s a trap, and he’s trying to lure me in, just like he did with the net. I can’t trust him.

But then why is he looking at me as if he wants to eat me alive and then some?

His hand suddenly rises, and I brace for impact. But the second his fingers touch my cheek, my eyes open from the sheer gentleness in his touch. Whatever it was I expected, this definitely wasn’t it.

“You still look exactly like I remember,” he mutters, almost as if he’s lost in a daydream.

“You don’t,” I reply. “The Liam I knew was gentle. Kind. Not a monster.”

His eyes narrow, and his hand retreats, and for some reason, it leaves me as cold as the room I’m in, wishing I hadn’t said anything.

“I’m finally doing what I want. The Liam you knew followed the rules. And where did that leave me?” He slams the knife into the wooden floor, and I let out a short squeal from the scare. “At death’s fucking door.”

“Jill told me she was scared you might get hurt, so she took you in that car to get to safety. It wasn’t meant as an attack.”

Suddenly, he’s all up in my face, like a hound smelling its prey. “What else do you know? Tell me!”

“I … I …” I want to, but he’s so close I can’t even formulate a response, let alone remember what she told me about what happened that night.

“You’re lying, aren’t you?” he barks.

“No!” I reply. “I swear, I’m not.”

He picks up the knife again and points it at me. “You’re trying to manipulate me.”

“I’m not.” I hold up my hands. “I’m telling the truth.”

“Then whose fault is it that I almost died and lost all my memories? Hmm?”

“Our parents!” I blurt out. “They were going to force you to marry her, but neither of you wanted it, so she freaked out. And then Luca found out, and you two got into a big fight, and … Jill drove off with you.”

His nostrils flare, but he doesn’t say another word.

I tilt my head to look into his eyes. “It’s been three years since the accident.”

He rubs his face, his brows creasing as though he’s having a hard time keeping the past and present separate, and I can’t help but feel a bit of pity.

But when he looks at me, those eyes that were once so full of wonder and happiness only contain rage now. “But you weren’t there when it happened.”

“No, but she told me,” I reply.

His eyes narrow. “And you trusted her?”

“She’s my sister. Of course I did.”

His head tilts back, and his tongue dips out to lick his lips. “For a girl who just lost her sister, you don’t seem that devastated to me.” He brings the knife to my face, sliding it down my cheek painfully slow.

I shudder in response.

That’s right. He doesn’t know Jill is alive.

Doesn’t know his brother is still alive.

And if he finds out he failed, he might go back to finish the job.

“I’m keeping her memory alive.” I hate lying, but it’s a necessary evil.

“You’re doing a piss-poor job of keeping yourself alive, though,” he retorts, sliding the knife down my throat until I swallow, and the blade barely punctures my skin.

He leans in so close I can feel his breath on my skin. “You think I want to hurt you, don’t you?”

I nod a few times, pushing myself as far as I can into the wall so the blade doesn’t cut into me. But I can’t stop the whimper from leaving my mouth.

A wicked smile forms on his face, one I wish I could smack off, but I don’t have the guts. And my eyes can’t help travel down his ripped pecs and abs to his tight jeans, which barely fit his muscular body.

Fuck.

I immediately turn my head, forcing myself to look elsewhere.

Big mistake.

Because he takes it as an invitation to lean in even closer, practically smelling my skin. Goose bumps erupt on every inch of my skin.

“I could …” he murmurs into my ear, the blade sliding down my chest, pointing at my heart. “If you don’t behave.”

His hand suddenly curls around my throat. I gasp for air as he squeezes, holding me tight while gazing at me with full intent on letting me know who’s in charge. “For a girl who didn’t want to be trapped, you sure as hell stumbled into my grasp quite easily.”

“Please,” I mutter, but it comes out in a short gasp.

“Please, what?” he muses, tilting his head.

He’s smiling at my inability to breathe. Asshole.

When his thumbs release slightly, I suck in the greedy gulps of air. He looks so deep into my eyes that it’s hard to look away. But I have to force myself to focus and remind myself why I’m here. What I’m trying to protect.

And when I part my lips, my voice signs my soul away. “I’ll do anything.”

The left side of his lip quirks up into a filthy smile. “I won’t let you take that back, little devil.”

Devil? Who? Me?

But before I can process what he just called me, the knife slips farther down my chest, and…

RIP!

All the buttons of my top fly away as the fabric parts, leaving only a bra between him and my naked skin.

His hand leaves my throat, but I still can’t breathe.

Because it moves down my neck all the way to my chest, along with his greedy eyes, and my cheeks flush red from the idea of him looking at me like that.

“My memories aren’t what they used to be, but I do remember looking,” he murmurs, his hand traveling down across my breasts. I shudder in place as my nipples grow taut under his touch. “Wondering what it would feel like.”

The cold blade pushes against my skin, and when I hold my breath, he tilts it underneath the band of my bra.

He wouldn’t, would he?

This isn’t him, this isn’t how Liam would act, this isn’t—

SNAP!

I’m frozen as he rips the bra away as though it was easy for him. Natural.

But the shock is quickly replaced by piles of shame and red blotches all over my body.

Because he’s literally staring at my breasts.

And his tongue dips out slowly, tracing the seam of his lips.

“Wondering what you would look like.”

Fuck. Me.

I don’t know why, but the way he looks at me and talks about me is almost… sexy.

What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t even consider that at all, yet—

He pinches my nipple, and a tiny squeal leaves my mouth.

“What you’d sound like,” he muses, but he doesn’t stop. He only turns up the pressure, twisting until I’m digging my heels into the floor.

“What’s the matter, Jasmine?” he muses, pinching my other nipple too even though he’s still holding the knife. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Don’t,” I mutter, embarrassed as hell that he’d do this out of the blue.

“It’s too late to back out,” he replies, twisting so hard I can barely keep the squeal inside. “We both know what you said, what you offered to me.” He leans in, practically sniffing the fear straight off my body. Because fuck, if he manages to get me so confused just by twisting my nipples … what else is he capable of?

“Are you afraid?” he whispers, leaning in so close I can feel his body press against mine. “Afraid I might take more than you bargained for?”

I shake my head, but I immediately regret the decision as my eyes travel down his body to the sharp V-line going into his pants and the bulge clearly growing underneath. And it’s not just any bulge. It’s long. Giant. Growing all the way down into his pants.

When he groans into my ear, a small whimper still manages to escape my mouth. “Because I can’t fucking wait to hear you beg.”

I can’t even respond, can’t even think straight, as his teeth grasp my earlobe, and he actually nibbles on it.

I can’t handle the sensations, the excitement humming through my body, the inevitable rush going all the way down to my … clit.

Fuck.

“Do you feel it, Jas?” he murmurs, sucking on my earlobe.

Jas? He hasn’t called me that in ages.

He presses his lips onto my neck, and my heart skips a beat. The kiss is slow and greedy, like a wolf licking its food before devouring it. “Do you feel the need rising?”

“N-No,” I reply, my voice weak and unsteady like my breathing.

His hand slides down my chest, all the way to my pants until he hits that place, and I almost die right here on the spot.

Not even the refrigerator in this room can keep me from heating up.

“Don’t lie to me,” he whispers as his finger circles on top of the fabric.

But that’s just it.

I’m not just lying to him.

I’m lying to myself too.

Because the second he started touching me, I felt it. Everywhere. Not just in my pussy.

And I hate it. I hate how my body betrays me.

“I’m not.” Another lie.

Within an instant, his hand has moved from my breast to my throat, sinking the blade into my skin. Warm droplets of blood roll down my neck.

“After all these years, you still deny me the truth,” he growls.

But before I can process what he means, he’s already back to circling my clit so hard I can barely keep it together. He’s not even touching my bare skin, yet he knows exactly how to touch me to make me squirm underneath him. All while never breaking eye contact and never lowering the knife. And I can’t help but stare right back at him with equal fervor.

If I can’t win this with pure strength, at least I can try to win by not surrendering.

Even though he makes it so damn hard.

The way he slides his thumb up and down my pants has gotten me hot and heavy.

“You can lie all you want, but I am still going to take what I want, Jas,” he groans. My breathing becomes more difficult with each passing second.

“So what’s it going to be?” he muses, licking his lips as I slowly unravel before him. “Are you going to admit you feel like a little fucking lusty devil?”

My eyes widen at his choice of words.

He’s never, ever said anything even remotely this toxic to me.

Yet those words just came out of his mouth as if it was no big deal.

Who is this man? And what the hell did I miss these past three years?

He pushes the knife farther into my skin, forcing me to lean my head back while he continues to toy with my clit as if it comes natural to him. “Because if you don’t say it, I will make your body spell it out.”

I whimper from his touch, even when I don’t mean to. “But I—”

“You what?” he interrupts, enjoying just how hard he makes me squirm. “You thought I’d be satisfied with you on your knees? Even though I do love the sight.” The groan that follows makes my pussy throb. “No, Jas, you said anything … so I’m going to take everything.”

“No, I can’t—” My voice hampers in my throat from his fingers pushing up against my clit, forcing me to focus on just how good it feels.

“Show me what it looks like when you come,” he groans. “After all these years, I deserve to fucking know.”

Even though it feels heavenly, I’m enraged, not just with him but with myself too. Because it isn’t supposed to feel this nice, and it definitely stings that he’s treating this like some long-lost fantasy.

But when he circles my clit so expertly, even on top of the fabric, it’s almost impossible for me to think of anything else but my impending climax. I know it’s coming. I recognize this feeling from when I used to play with myself, but this … this is so much worse. So much deeper, faster, harder, like an unstoppable wave that quickly approaches the shore.

“That’s it, Jas. Give me your fucking orgasm. Now,” he growls.

His dirty words send me over the edge, and I fall apart, even when I fought so hard to keep the ecstasy at bay.

He is relentless.

And I can see it in his eyes, my own goddamn defeat handed to him on a platter.

“Beautiful,” he murmurs.

It felt amazing … but the rush of dopamine is quickly replaced with anger.

Because he just took something that wasn’t meant for him.

My first ever orgasm at the hands of someone else.

With a dirty, lopsided smile, he stands and tucks the knife back into his pocket while staring down at me like I’m some prize he just won. And I’m sure he’s not even done with me yet.

But then he turns around and walks toward the door, and I can’t help but speak up. “Was that it? You’re done?”

Liam stops in his tracks.

Shit. I should not have said that.

He glances at me over his shoulder. “Are you asking for more, Jas?”

My eyes widen, and my face turns as red as a beet.

God. That did not come out the way I wanted it to. “No, I—”

He laughs. “Three years … three fucking years and you still don’t know.” He shakes his head.

“Don’t know what?” I ask, trying to ignore the wetness in my panties … The wetness he created with his fingers.

But instead of answering, he says, “Don’t worry. I’m not nearly done with you.”

And before I can ask what he means, he walks out the door and shuts it behind him, leaving me to stew in my own raging desires.

Chapter 8

Liam

* * *

Hours later

* * *

I grab my saw and march outside into the frigid cold, heading straight toward the wood in the back of my shed that I already cut up. I grab a few blocks and place them on my work table in front of the cabin to cut them up into smaller pieces. But no matter how hard I saw, the adrenaline does not leave my body. And the hard-on straining against my jeans refuses to go down, even as hours have already passed since I last touched her.

Grunting, I work even harder, shaping the sticks to the appropriate size. I hold them up and lay them over the window to make sure they fit. But every time I look at that goddamn window, I see her staring right back at me with those big hazel eyes and that button nose of hers. It makes me want to march right back into that room and grab her, pin her down to the floor, claim her mouth, use her tongue, and take her every goddamn hole.

“Fuck!” I growl, and I chuck one of the wood blocks away out of sheer anger.

I can’t stop thinking about her, not even when I forcibly do something else.

Why has she invaded my every fucking thought?

I always thought the images would end once I finally had her in my clutches, but they’ve only worsened.

Especially now that I’ve touched her and seen her come from my own goddamn fingers.

Just thinking about it makes my dick twitch in my pants.

I’m not gonna get rid of this urge until I do something about it.

One final glance at the window over my shoulder. She ducks for cover when our eyes connect, but I know she’s looking.

And I don’t even fucking care anymore.

I throw down my saw and all the little blocks of wood, and I rip down my zipper to pull out my thick, long cock. Not even the cold air matters anymore as I start stroking my length with both hands. I don’t care if it’s wrong or right. All I care about is getting rid of this feeling. This need. This insatiable craving I have for her.

Just thinking about how she whimpered from my touch, her red-hot glowing skin, gets me all worked up and ready to pump right into my own goddamn hands. That’s how horny watching her fall apart made me.

It doesn’t take long for the pre-cum to appear, and I slather my length with it, sliding my fist up and down my shaft with ease. I groan out loud into the woods, not giving a fuck who hears. There’s no one around here anyway. Nothing but the trees, the birds, maybe some bears or wolves …

And Jasmine.

Just the thought of her watching me gets me all riled up.

So much that I’m panting, jerking off vigorously into the cold, moaning out loud.

And I can’t fucking help but let it all out. “Fuck!”

My cum jets out onto the ground, covering the moss with thick layers. But in my head, I picture her lying in front of me, legs parted, tits out on display with her mouth wide open while she begs me for more.

What I wouldn’t give for that to be true.

But reality is harsh, cruel, and as cold as this weather. That woman in there wants nothing to do with me, yet I want everything to do with her.

Fuck.

I tuck my cock back in my pants and zip up again.

It’s not nearly enough to satiate my wicked cravings, but it’ll have to do. The pent-up lust is gone, but the rage remains. And when I look over my shoulder, she’s right there, staring at me with wide-open eyes and her jaw practically on the windowsill.

A filthy smirk forms on my face.

Did she watch me come?

Did it give her as much pleasure as it gave me when I watched her?

She looks mortified, but it only adds to my enjoyment. Maybe my brother wasn’t the only fucked-up one in our family.

Jasmine

* * *

Despite the fact that he knows, I can’t stop staring.

Can’t stop looking at his naked, muscular back as it tenses with every breath.

He isn’t wearing a shirt in the fucking cold, but even that doesn’t faze me.

Nor the fact that his jeans barely manage to cover his thick ass.

No, the only thing that shocked me was how smug he looked when he glanced at me over his shoulder. He didn’t even care that I was watching as he jerked off.

My God.

I don’t see much except his back, but the way his hands move in front of his pants tells me enough. I can’t stop staring at every straining muscle on his back as he plays with himself, his ass squeezing tight in those barely fitting jeans. He groans out loud, and I can even hear it from inside, the sound making goose bumps scatter on my skin.

Because it’s the exact same sound that came out of his mouth mere hours ago when he was toying with me and watching me come.

Holy shit.

I can’t look away.

His hand goes faster and faster, and he arches his back and tilts his head to the sky.

Another loud groan and there it is.

Gushing out, one jet after another.

Like a tsunami of cum.

All glistening on the ground.

And I’m watching it all happen through the window.

Feeling it down there between my own legs.

I should be ashamed of myself for even staring, but I can’t look away.

It’s as if his presence alone forces me to watch. To enjoy the show.

This is so messed up.

He isn’t just any man. He’s fucking Liam De Vos, son of a renowned mobster, and I definitely should not be looking at him like that, knowing what he’s capable of. Knowing how he was raised.

I swallow hard, but even as he tucks his length back into his pants, I still can’t look away. Can’t stop my fingers from touching my own damn lips as I imagine myself kneeling in front of him on the ground, mouth open, tasting his cum.

What the hell?

I shake my head and slap myself hard.

I did not just think that.

Nope.

Right then, he glances at me over his shoulder, and I’m left with nothing but shame riddled on my face. The lopsided smirk on his face grows and grows.

Oh, God. He definitely knows I saw him now.

I guess I’m all in.

No way back anyway.

I’m here, locked up in this damn room until he decides what he wants to do with me.

And he’s sure as hell made his intentions known.

I gulp down the lump in my throat.

Why is this so hard when I know what’s at stake? If I don’t keep him away from both his family and mine, there will be hell to pay.

He doesn’t know Jill is alive, but I still want to protect her, and the only way to do that is to give in.

Suddenly, he turns around, his hands filled with small slats of wood he just cut up along with a screwdriver, and he marches toward me. I stumble away from the window just in time before he smacks a slat against it, the sound knocking me off balance. I fall onto the floor butt first as he screws the slats straight into the wood, covering parts of the tiny window until there are only small slits I can see through.

Like a prison bar made of wood.

Chills run across my spine.

He wants to keep me locked up here.

I get up from the floor and knock on the window, but he ignores me. “You can’t do this. Let me out of here.”

Of course, all he does is stare at me like some grumpy bastard. With screws clenched between his teeth, he bars the only window I had to the outside world.

“Are you serious right now?” I mope, making sure my breasts are hidden underneath the ripped-up shirt before his eyes slide over me just as his hands did only hours before, and something about that makes me swallow. Hard.

My gun is somewhere on the ground outside, far away from my reach. The only shot I had at winning slipped right through my fingers. And he took my phone, so I have no way to reach anyone for help. God fucking knows where he hid it.

Why did I even think any of my ideas would work?

I should’ve just killed him when I had the chance.

At least then, I wouldn’t have to deal with these insufferable lusty feelings he’s created.

I sigh out loud as he puts the last slat in place and throws me a final look through the small slit in the middle. As he turns around, I get up, rush to the window, and slam my fists against the glass.

“Let me out!”

It falls on deaf ears as he walks off to wherever.

How long will he leave me here in this cold room without food, a drink, a blanket, or even a proper bed? He can’t do this.

“Hey! I’m talking to you!” I yell, but I doubt he can hear it through this window.

I grumble to myself and set my eyes on the door. I jerk the door handle, but of course, it’s locked. There must be something I can do to get out of here.

My gaze falls on the only thing accompanying me in this frigid room … a giant box that looks like a freezer. It’s just big enough to stash a human body.

The thought gives me shivers.

Still, it’s my best bet to find something, anything, I can use to break out of here. So I get close, click open the lock, put my fingers underneath the lid, and push it up.

I shriek out loud and immediately drop the lid.

Inside is a butchered carcass. Chopped into pieces. And it definitely wasn’t human.

My heart beats a million miles an hour, and I swallow to make the fear go away as I approach it once again and peer inside. It’s definitely an animal, bloody too, and it smells. I pull up my nose at the sight of the deer’s head.

Did Liam kill this poor thing? Is this the deer he was talking about earlier?

Suddenly, my eyes fall onto a small, glinting piece of metal lying underneath the deer’s head. What could it be? I lean in closer, but the stench is extremely off-putting. Oh, God, I’m gonna be sick.

I pinch my own nose with one hand and look away as I push the deer’s head aside and fish out what was underneath. Bile rises in my throat, and I quickly close the lid and step away, coughing wildly.

When the nausea subsides, I look at the metal in my hand.

It’s a knife.

And all the fear and disgust have suddenly made a place for bravado. This is my second chance. My last chance to make it out of here. Unscathed, I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.

Would I be able to stab him if push came to shove?

I wasn’t even able to shoot him.

I stare at the knife in my hand, wishing I had the same kind of fearlessness Jill showed when Liam almost killed her.

I’m not like her. I’m not nearly as strong and courageous.

In the face of danger, all I do is freeze and stare.

Stick my head into the sand and cease to exist.

Or at least pretend.

But right now, I am the only one who can keep Liam at bay. My sister’s safety depends on it.

So I clench my jaw, tighten my grip, and waltz to the door. And I ram the knife into the wood over and over, leaving cuts and splinters with every puncture. If he won’t come inside, I’ll go to him first. I don’t care how long it takes.

WHACK!

I retract the knife and stare at the tiny hole I’ve made.

I made an actual hole in the door.

Oh, my God.

I snort-laugh at my own strength but quickly regain my senses and lean against the door to peer through it. There’s not a soul in sight.

Is he really gone? Did he just leave me all by myself in this cabin in the middle of the goddamn woods?

Suddenly, the door caves in on me, and I’m left hanging in the air, falling forward.

Because the door is pulled open, backward, and my body can’t catch itself from falling… Straight into him.

It takes a moment to register.

His arms wrap around my back, and my face presses against his muscular pecs.

My eyes slowly turn up to meet his darkened gaze.

“Guess that’s one way to fall into my arms.”

Chapter 9

Liam

* * *

One second feels like minutes as we stare each other down, frozen in time. But I feel her, skin to skin, body to body. Every inch of me is hyperaware of her. All the hairs on my body stand up, electrified by her presence, her touch, her deepening gaze. A droplet of sweat rolls down her forehead as her pupils dilate.

Suddenly, Jasmine attacks with the knife. I grasp her wrist in midair, stopping the knife just before it enters my throat.

“Cheeky little devil,” I say. “Still trying to kill me?”

She hardens herself against me, but she’s no match for my strength as I push against her, forcing her back into the room. She fights me all the way until I slam her against the back wall and twist her wrist until the knife clatters to the wooden floor.

Where the fuck did she find it?

Her eyes trail to the big fridge in the room, and I follow her gaze. Only when I see the opened lock do I remember I left a giant hunting knife inside. The one I used to cut up some of the meat.

And she tried to attack me with it.

A smirk forms on my lips.

Clever girl.

Trying to find whatever way she can to get out of the mess she made.

When I turn my head to glare at her again, she seems flustered, as if she knows I caught her in the act.

“Don’t steal what doesn’t belong to you, Jas,” I say.

“I could say the same about you,” she rebukes.

I lower my head and snort. “I didn’t steal you.” I gaze up from underneath my lashes. “You came to me.”

“I walked into a trap,” she says.

“Yes, you did,” I reply, not giving a shit. Even though that net wasn’t meant for her, it sure did end up being convenient.

“I should’ve killed you when I had the chance.”

Well, that almost hurts. “You think you have the guts?”

“I don’t have a choice.” She grinds her teeth. “This will all be over once I put a bullet in your head.”

I smirk. She’s gotten so feisty. Unlike the girl I remember. But I like this new side of her. “You think I’d let you?”

I grab her throat. “I could offer you so much more, yet you choose to want to kill me.”

“Just like you chose to let your own brother die.”

Her words, which come out in a mumble from the tight grip around her neck, are still like a knife to my heart.

“My brother chose his own fate. That wasn’t my decision.”

When I loosen my grip a little, she immediately lashes out. “You made him choose!” she rebukes, her face red and messy like her hair.

“He knew the hatred I felt for Jill, and still he chose to try to stop me,” I reply.

“He’s your goddamn brother,” she says. “Don’t you feel anything?”

My nostrils flare as I lean in closer. “You think I don’t feel?”

There’s a short moment when the only sound filling the room is our mingling breaths.

Her lips part. “You’ve shown me nothing but hatred too.”

As if she twisted the goddamn knife while it was still stuck in my heart. Goddamn.

BANG!

I slam my fist into the wall.

She jolts up and down from the scare.

“You’re wrong,” I say through gritted teeth. “Dead wrong.”

“Why else are you keeping me here like a goddamn prisoner?” she retorts.

“You came here out of your own free will,” I reply, my voice hoarse with emotions I don’t want to feel. “You chose this, just like your sister and my brother made theirs.”

A fire burns in her eyes. “I didn’t choose to be locked up here.”

“Shouldn’t have tried to fucking shoot me then,” I reply.

This shuts her up for a moment, but the disdain never leaves her face. “Fuck you,” she spits after a while.

“Oh, I’ll make you beg for that, trust me,” I growl back.

Her pupils dilate as if she’s questioning whether I’d actually dare or if I’m just bluffing.

So I lower my hand from her neck to her chest while my other hand is still firmly planted on the wall behind her. “And when I do, I will hear you scream my name.”

Her whole body vibrates as my hand slides down her tit, achingly slow across her nipple, which she’s tried to hide behind her ripped-up shirt, and farther down across her navel to the place she once thought was forbidden.

But nothing is off-limits to me.

Not anymore.

I remember the way I felt around her before the accident. Constricted. Chained. Like an animal, caged for his own well-being. But I could smell her heat from a mile away.

The second I touch her sensitive parts, she writhes, despite the rage seething from her eyes.

She wants this.

Badly.

If only she didn’t fight it like the pretty little princess her parents made her out to be.

“You’re mine now, Jas,” I murmur, my hand sliding up and down, toying with her straight through the fabric of her pants. “Mine to do with as I damn well please.”

“You’re sick,” she retorts, but all it does is make me laugh.

“Maybe I am … or maybe I’m just tired of following the rules,” I reply, and I swipe my hand up and down her pussy, just like before when she melted in the palm of my hand.

Just a single push against her clit has her squirming right up against that wall, and the mere sight of her makes me hard in an instant. It’s been a while for me, but it has never, ever been as sexy as it is with her.

Maybe it’s the absolute look of hatred in her eyes, or maybe it’s the way her body seems to beg to be forced to surrender.

One way or another, I am going to get my fucking way.

Playing by the rules never got me anywhere.

And now that I have her in my grasp, I’m taking my time to enjoy what’s mine, no matter how evil it makes me.

“Do you like this?” she asks. “Do you do this often to unsuspecting girls?”

“Never … but I will for you,” I reply, keeping eye contact as I toy with her little clit. “Bad girls who try to kill deserve to be punished.”

She’s struggling to stand, but her face won’t reveal any sort of trouble, oh no. She keeps her eyes fixated on mine as though it’s her sole job to pretend my touch doesn’t affect her.

But I see the truth.

I see the twinkle in her eyes.

The little twitch at the left side of her lip.

The tiny breath escaping her mouth.

Deep down, she wants to be tamed.

“The question is, do you like it?” I quip, circling her clit with my index finger until she’s all hot and heavy. “Because you can spin pretty lies with your mouth, but your body speaks the truth.”

“Is this what you wanted? Why you lured me here?” she says, struggling to even speak without slurring her words. “Why you’re keeping me a prisoner? So you can use me as your personal toy?”

I listen to her pant as I lean in and dip out my tongue to lick that sweet neck of hers that just begs to be kissed. But I won’t grant her that kind of loving yet.

Oh no … I want her to beg for it.

“I want far more from you, but for now, I’ll make do with watching you squirm from my fingers playing with this lusty pussy.”

She swallows away the words like I just deposited cum in her throat, but we’ll get there soon.

“You even talk like him,” she says through gritted teeth.

“Like who?”

“Luca.”

Just the mere mention of his name makes me want to put my fist through this wall.

But I don’t because my house is more important than my war with my dead brother.

“I’ll forget I heard that for your own good,” I say, tilting my head as she challenges me with her eyes.

“Why? Afraid I might be right?”

I rip down the zipper of her pants so quickly she squeals.

And I swiftly spin her around on her heels, shoving her up against the wall with my body, nudging her feet wide with a kick.

“You think you can get to me?” I say, grabbing her tit with one hand. “I don’t live by the rules. Not anymore. And I’m not ashamed of the man I’ve become.”

My other hand dives into her pants, and she gasps out loud as I tear aside her panties and go straight for the clit.

I don’t fucking care what she thinks or how it makes her feel because the second I dive between her legs, she’s as wet as a goddamn pool.

A filthy smirk forms on my face. “You think I’m the only dirty one here. Wrong.”

My fingers are swift and dexterous as I play with her until she’s shivering in place. Her clit is swollen, and her panties are soaking wet. My cock tents in my pants as I push up against her.

“You feel that, Jas? I’m so fucking hard for you,” I groan against her skin, my tongue darting out to lick up the beads of sweat.

I can’t stop myself from claiming her.

I must have her.

At any cost.

Even if it means losing a part of my soul. I’ll gladly make a deal with the devil to own her.

She’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted.

The only thing that kept me alive.

And now that I have her in my clutches, I’m going to enjoy it thoroughly.

So I lower my fingers and thrust inside. Her mouth forms an o-shape even before the guttural moan slips off her tongue, but the sound gets me rock hard.

I’ve dreamed of this day every night of my life.

Every fucking night I jerked off and came to the idea of kissing her, licking her, claiming her every hole.

And now she’s here in the living, breathing flesh, ready for the taking.

“I want you, Jas,” I whisper into her ear, drowning in lust. “And I won’t stop until you give me all the fucking orgasms you have to give.”

My dick drips pre-cum against my pants from her soft whimper. God, I love the sounds she makes. Love every inch of her skin as it hums with desire from a simple touch.

If I’d known she was this sensitive, this needy, I would’ve done this a long time ago.

With every thrust, she gets closer and closer to the edge. I can feel it from the way her muscles clench around my finger, desperate for another release.

“That’s it, Jas. Give it all to me,” I groan, forcing myself to ignore the hard-on in my pants so I can focus all my attention on her.

“Don’t,” she mutters, her face smashed up against the wall.

“Don’t what?” I smile against her ear as I flick my finger around her desperate little clit. “Don’t stop?”

She can’t even say the words, can’t speak without a moan slipping out, so instead, she closes her mouth and bites her lip. All it does is make me grin like a fucking devil.

“You’re mine, Jas. Every part of you belongs to me now, whether you like it or not.”

I thrust back inside, this time with two fingers instead of one, and it sets off a chain reaction in her body. Her cheeks flush, thighs tensing up as she arches her back, her nipples hardening against the wall.

And then I feel it … deep down inside her … sweet relief.

Fuck.

The feel of her coming around my fingers is almost too much to take, and even I can’t stop the guttural moan from escaping my mouth.

“Good fucking girl,” I say, clutching her throat as I take my fingers out and circle her clit for a little while more until she’s physically shaking.

And when I’m done enjoying the lust-ridden look on her face, I pull my hand out of her panties and bring it to my nose. The scent of her arousal gets me high and makes my eyes roll into the back of my head. My tongue instinctively dips out to take a lick, the taste to die for.

“Fuck …” I groan, savoring the moment.

But I need one more thing from her.

One devilish desire.

Her body writhes against mine, her ass clearly pushing up against my cock, desperate for more, even if she’d never say it out loud.

“You stopped,” she mutters as if she can’t believe I have even an ounce of self-restraint.

I don’t. I lost that three years ago.

But there is one thing I want more than a quick and dirty orgasm.

What I want can’t be taken.

It has to be given.

Surrendered.

“I’m gonna give you a choice, Jas …” I whisper into her ear. “You know what I want. What I crave.” I softly brush her hair aside. “Submission.”

Chapter 10

Jasmine

* * *

Never in my life have I had an orgasm as amazing as the one I just had.

And he didn’t just give me one. Two. In a single day. Both so earth-shattering that I struggle to stand. All with just two fingers.

My God.

He worked me so expertly I couldn’t resist even if I tried.

What the hell is happening to me?

Why did I let him do that?

I turn my head to look at him as my body quakes against his.

This man is nothing close to the Liam I remember. He’s a downright monster, the villain in my story. And only one thing will satisfy his needs. Me.

I gulp down the lump in my throat.

Even if I try to fight him, I won’t win. He’s much stronger than I am with those ripped muscles pushing me against the wall. I’m like a mouse compared to him. Easy to crush. Easy to use for every one of his wicked whims.

My pussy clenches at the thought.

There’s no way I’m gonna win like this.

“So what’s it gonna be, Jas?” he says, grasping a strand of my hair to twirl around his finger. “You wanna be locked in here forever?”

I shake my head vehemently, the cold pushing me to make rash decisions. But I’m shivering and dying for warmth, food, comfort.

It’s exactly the kind of position he needed me to be in.

Weak.

Easy to break.

Damn him.

My eyes flick back to the knife on the floor.

A filthy smirk forms on his lips. “You still want to kill me, eh?”

Suddenly, he turns, picks up the knife, and waltzes out of here, twirling it in his hand.

“Hey, wait!” I yell as he leaves the room. “Where are you going?”

“I guess you have to learn the hard way.”

When he slams the door shut, I run to it and smash my fists against the wood. “Don’t leave me here!”

“I gave you a chance, Jas,” he says, looking at me through the small peephole I managed to make with the knife. “Should’ve taken it when I offered it.”

I stare him down with disbelief, rage fuming in my body. I throw it all out there against the door. “Fuck you!”

“Oh, don’t worry, I definitely will,” he replies, adjusting his pants right where his hard-on is. And my eyes can’t help but trace the outline of the length and the girth hiding behind those jeans, and my God, it is huge.

But there is one thing even larger than the log in his pants.

The filthy smile on his face.

And it makes me grunt and smack my fists onto the wood again, yelling, “Fuck you!”

He laughs. “Keep saying that and your wish might come true sooner than you think.”

When he walks off all gloating like a motherfucker, I’m still seething with hatred, wishing I could just kick open this door. But it’s locked from the outside, and there’s literally nothing in this room I can use as a weapon. Nothing.

Except maybe some antlers still stuck to a deer’s head.

Nope.

Not a chance in hell I’d ever touch that thing.

Moping to myself, I turn around and waste my time kicking the wall and throwing every last inch of strength into punching the door. Of course, nothing works. I could destroy his house, and he wouldn’t give a shit.

“Let me out of here!” I roar out loud, but it falls on deaf ears.

We’re in the middle of nowhere.

No one is going to hear me scream.

Except him.

And he’s made it very clear he loves the sound.

I pause for a moment to catch my breath and rub my forehead. I could fist the window instead, but then I’d be even colder than before, and I don’t want that. Besides, he made sure I wouldn’t escape through that route by covering it in slats. Asshole.

I thought this would be a quick job.

Tough. But quick.

Shoot him.

End the problem.

But the second I saw him, I froze.

It’s as if something in the back of my mind told me, begged me not to kill him. To give him a chance. And look where that got me.

Stuck in a goddamn freezer room. Just my luck.

I plop down on my ass and fold my arms, shaking off the jitters from the cold. I have to calm myself down and focus on getting out of here so I can do what I came here for. But the longer I sit, the more my memories travel back to him touching me, the looks we shared, and the way he groaned in delight at seeing me fall apart.

Fuck. I have to quit thinking about that.

I flop down onto my back and grumble out loud while lying on the hard wooden floor.

He did that on purpose just to mess with my head, to show me what he could do to me.

“You know what I want. What I crave. You.”

His words reverberate over and over in my mind.

Does he just want me for my body? Or something more? And does it even matter?

I shouldn’t care.

I don’t.

But a part of me is still thinking about it.

Because if he wants me that badly, maybe I can use it to get out of here.

My eyes widen, and I sit up straight, staring at the door.

That’s it.

That’s my ticket out of this mess.

My lips part, but then I force myself to stop before I say anything he could hear.

Am I really willing to offer myself?

To give him me, my body, just to get out of this room?

“No, no, I can’t do that. It wouldn’t be right,” I mutter to myself.

There must be something else I can do, right? Maybe I can charm him into letting me out and then run like hell. Find that gun still lying somewhere outside in the forest and use it to defend myself.

And … kill him to save my sister.

All the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

I have to focus on the now, not the later. I’ll deal with what happens to him after I get out.

But how long can I last in this frigid cold room?

Maybe that’s the whole point.

The reason he put me here.

My entire body shivers.

If I don’t surrender willingly, he’ll make me suffer instead.

Hours pass, and the longer I’m here, the more I’m beginning to lose my mind.

The deer in that freezer is not looking so terrible anymore. If I could just cook it on a fire …

God, what has this man done to me?

I’m shivering like mad, my entire skin covered in goose bumps as I sit here huddled in a corner, clutching my legs close to my chest to shield myself from the cold. Nothing I do helps, and nothing in this room will help me warm up. On top of that, there’s no water, no food, nothing.

I look up at the tiny hole I made in the door. Every so often, he peers through to see if I’m still here. If I’m still not ready to give up.

And every time, I look away with my nose held high.

But with every passing second, it’s becoming more and more difficult. Locked in here, I’m losing control of my mind, and all I can think of is satiating my hunger and thirst, and my need for warmth.

Slowly but surely the thought creeps into my mind … would it be so bad?

Would it hurt if I gave up?

Would he hurt me if I surrendered?

Would I even mind if it meant I’d get what I needed?

I swallow, but my throat is still dry as a desert. I can still feel his grip on my throat hours later. But more importantly, I can still feel his fingers inside me.

A part of me wants to pretend and say I didn’t enjoy it. At least, that’s what I tell myself even though I know it’s a lie.

And deep down … I know I’m wondering what else he could possibly have in store for me.

I quiver again, but I’m not sure if it’s from the cold or from the mere idea of him having his way with me. But if I stay here any longer, I might lose my mind.

So I get up from the floor and march to the door, peeking through the hole. He’s cleaning some of his bloodied clothes in a bucket of water on the table without a shirt on. His hands go up and down, rubbing the soap in, and I suddenly become aware of just how muscly his arms and shoulders are.

And just how much I long to be let out of here.

“Please …”

It slips out of my mouth before I even realize it.

But he heard. He definitely heard.

Because his head is turned over his shoulder and his eyes instantly home in on mine.

I stumble back.

Within a few seconds, a key is shoved into the lock.

CLICK!

I step away farther, my teeth clattering.

The door opens slowly. His boots show up first, along with those tight jeans … and then his fully naked, buff, tattooed chest. And I can’t look away, even if I tried.

Warm air wafts into the room through the open door, and I soak it all in. The scent of a crackling fire entering my nostrils almost makes me groan. I didn’t know I could miss the heat as much as I do now.

His eyes have never stopped boring a hole straight into mine, even when his head is lowered and he looks at me from underneath his eyelashes. But the undeniable hunger in them forces me to watch.

“Please … what?” His voice is low and gravelly.

I lick my lips, trying my best not to show how cold I really feel and how desperate it’s made me. “Please let me out.”

“So you can try to kill me again?”

I don’t know what to say, so I opt for a lie. “I won’t. I promise.”

He narrows his eyes at me. “Promises mean nothing to me. Actions do.”

“Nothing?” I frown. “What about the papers signed in blood?”

“Exactly. What about them?” he retorts. “They were promises too.”

Shit. I really dug a hole for myself there.

“You signed them, Jas … with your blood.”

His words feel heavy, as though he’s trying to reach inside my chest and rip out my heart.

He is right, though. I did sign them. I remember vividly.

And now he’s intent on making me keep my promise.

“What do you want?”

“You.” It comes out in a single breath. No hesitation. No regret. And something about that feels visceral. Powerful.

“How?”

His hand clenches into a fist, and I can’t help but zoom in on it and all the veins protruding from his skin.

“On your knees.”

A part of me actually contemplates doing it even though I know what it could lead to. What he could make me do.

But what other choice do I have?

It’s either being stuck in here forever or doing what he tells me to do.

Remember why you came here. To protect your sister, you have to kill him … or give him what he wants.

So I slowly sink to my knees in front of him, using one hand to keep the small piece of fabric he destroyed perched over my boobs so I don’t completely expose myself.

“Now what?” The question comes out in a short breath.

He comes closer, each thunderous footstep like that of a bear. He towers over me like a goddamn beast, and I can’t help but swallow hard.

His hand reaches for my face, and I close my eyes, expecting a slap for my attempt at murdering him. I’m not prepared when he places the softest caress along my cheek. My eyes burst open at the sound of his gruff voice.

“Now … you show me how badly you want out of here.”

His thumb slides down my cheek and drags down my lips, lingering near the bottom where he tugs my chin down enough to open my mouth. And his thumb dips in, sliding across my tongue. And I can’t help but gaze up into his dark, smoldering eyes filled with hunger. Greed.

A show of power by a man obsessed with owning me.

The low rumble emanating from his chest sets my body on fire.

When his veiny hand moves to his jeans and rips down the zipper, I know exactly what he desires from me. What he’s been craving since I first came here. And I can’t help myself when my eyes travel across his thick abs all the way down to his V-line that disappears into those same jeans, and he pulls out what has to be the biggest cock I have ever seen even though I’ve only seen them online.

My God.

The length, the girth … and it’s not even hard.

I swallow down the lump in my throat as it bobs up and down right in front of me.

Fuck. How am I supposed to—?

My thoughts are interrupted by the devilish smirk growing on his face as his thumb presses down harder on my tongue. “Hungry?” My face glows red with shame. “Time to put that filthy mouth of yours to good use.”

Chapter 11

Liam

* * *

The second she looks at my cock like a desperate little girl in awe at the size, I know I’m in for a thrill. For years, I’ve dreamed of having her in front of me on her knees, begging me to take her.

Sure, there’s no begging. Yet.

But I can wait.

What I can’t fucking wait for is to sink my dick deep into her throat, and I’m gonna start right now.

“Open your mouth,” I say, tilting down her chin.

She looks up at me with disdain in her eyes but eventually sticks out her tongue, and the sight makes me harden even more. Her eyes flick back and forth between my cock and my eyes, unable to resist the sheer size of it.

I know I’m big.

It’s going to be even bigger when it’s inside her.

And I can’t wait to watch her find out.

In fact, I haven’t seen anyone look at me the way she looks at me and my hard-on, so full of amazement and in awe of the size. Not like any of the other girls I’ve been with. Then again, she’s not like them at all. They wanted me, while she wants nothing to do with me.

And that only makes her sitting on her knees hotter than anything I’ve ever seen before.

I grin like a motherfucker as I step forward until my length is at the tip of her tongue. Just the thought of her tongue twisting around my hard-on sends a jolt of lust down my spine, and my dick bobs up and down against her bottom lip.

“Lick,” I groan.

Her tongue dips out farther, and when it touches the tip, I almost explode right there and then.

But I hold back and force myself to swallow my damn excitement so I can enjoy her tongue swiveling around my length. And fuck me, it feels so damn good I could thrust inside right this very second.

But I want her to work for it.

Yearn for it like I have yearned for her all these years.

“Show me how badly you want it,” I say as I swipe some hair from her face. “Suck me like you mean it.”

Her eyes twitch, but she still inches forward and finally takes me into her mouth. I groan with pleasure, arching my back. The sensations of her wet mouth enveloping me are too much to take.

God, I would kill for this.

I have.

It was fucking worth it.

And I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat as long as she’s mine.

“Is this what you want?” she suddenly mutters between sucks and licks. “To treat me like a whore?”

I tilt my head and take my length from her mouth so I can lean over and look her in the eyes. “No, Jas. If I wanted you to be a whore, I’d spit in your mouth.”

She looks shocked. And the strawberry red blotches appearing on her skin don’t go unnoticed.

“Who do you think you a—?”

“I’m the fucker who’s going to take what you were never willing to give,” I interrupt as she averts her eyes. “Now … do you want to stay here forever?”

She shuts up pretty quickly.

Good.

I want her to know I’m the one who holds all the cards. Not her.

I don’t care if she’ll hate me for using her.

We’ve already gone past the point of no return.

It’s about time I got what I wanted.

I grip her hair and make her look up at me. “Now tell me … how far are you willing to go, Jas?”

She grinds her teeth, and the defeat in her eyes is like a drug to my soul. “Fine, I’ll do it.”

A filthy smirk spreads on my lips, and I force her mouth back over my dick. “Then suck it like your life depends on it.”

Jasmine

* * *

No matter how many times I’ve imagined myself doing this, nothing could have prepared me for the feel of his long, hard dick on my tongue, thrusting inside.

It’s huge, and when it hits the back of my throat, I gag.

He smirks. “Having trouble already?”

“No,” I reply, refusing to show my only weakness to him.

He doesn’t need to know I’ve never done this before.

Ever.

Not even a single lick.

But I still try my best, slathering his length with my spit as he pushes in and out over and over. Every time he slides in a little deeper, I struggle to stay put. My legs quake as my pussy starts to throb, but I ignore it and push any filthy thoughts to the back of my head even though they’re fighting to break out.

“Keep licking and sucking like that, and I might give you what you want,” he growls.

His eyes command me to look up, forcing me to stay present in the here and now as he begins fucking my mouth as though it already belongs to him.

But I’m only doing this to get out.

Not just this room … but this cabin … so I can find that damn gun and finish the job.

At least, that’s what I tell myself as he uses my mouth for his own damn pleasure while I try my very best not to feel a thing. Even though, deep down, the devilish hunger in his eyes is doing something to me that I can’t explain.

“You like this as much as I do, don’t you?” he asks.

I shake my head, but it’s a lie, and it seems from the dirty grin on his face he knows it too.

“Lie,” he says, his voice so low it brings goose bumps to my skin.

I pull away to say, “You asked me to do this.”

“No,” he says, and he tugs my hair so harshly I’m forced to tilt my head back. “I’m not asking. I’m claiming.”

Damn.

He pushes my head down and immediately dives back into my mouth again.

No one has ever spoken to me like that before. Nor have I ever felt my clit thump without it being touched, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I have to ignore it. No matter the cost.

He’s a villain. A monster. Not someone I should ever, ever want.

But every time his cock dips into my mouth, my pussy clenches, and I get this rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. It’s hard to disregard, and his dick is even harder to ignore as it pumps in and out of me.

“That’s it, Jas. Let me fuck that pretty little mouth of yours.”

He coats my tongue with pre-cum, and the salty taste isn’t even off-putting even though I expected it to be. In fact, the taste is making me wet, and it embarrasses me so much I struggle to stop my cheeks from flushing.

“You can lie to me all you want, Jas, but your face tells me the truth,” Liam groans, thrusting in and out of my mouth faster and faster. I have trouble keeping up. “You want this. Your pussy is getting wet as fuck, isn’t it?”

I don’t answer because he’ll only use my words against me, but my God … is it hard. Just like his goddamn cock.

Why can’t I stop this lust from taking over my body?

“That’s it, Jas, surrender to me,” he growls, his voice becoming more and more unhinged.

My eyes begin to water. His thrusts turn hard and fast, hitting the back of my throat. I almost choke on it, but I’m trying so hard not to let him notice.

He can’t know the truth. I can’t let him find out.

So I stay put and force myself to swallow the tears as he slams into my throat, clutching my face like he means business. He’s using me to his heart’s content, and I’m letting him.

Have I really gone insane?

No, there’s no other option, no other choice.

But then why am I getting hot and bothered?

“Your tongue feels so fucking good, Jas. I want to coat it with my cum.”

My eyes widen.

Is he planning on…?

No, he couldn’t possibly, right?

I struggle to breathe as he pumps inside.

His hand grips my hair so tight that I can’t move away. I can’t even breathe. He’s relentless, completely overtaken by his own lust. And for some reason, I can’t look away from the feral look in his eyes. The look that says “you are mine.”

And when he thrusts inside once again, hitting the back of my mouth, he roars out loud, and a warm jet of seed fills my throat.

Oh, God. He actually did it.

He came inside my mouth.

I cough and heave, but he keeps coming, and he won’t let go.

Our eyes connect in a moment of visceral lust as he buries himself deep inside me, forcing me to witness the power he has over me.

The sheer desire he has for me.

And the wild animal he’s become.

Still, it won’t stop jetting out of him. It’s like a constant stream, filling my throat to the brim.

“Swallow,” he groans, sinking his tip in deep.

I shake my head, but I don’t have a choice.

I can feel it dribbling down.

And I swallow, and swallow, and swallow away all the salty cum, feeling his thickness inside me every step of the way until all of it is gone.

Fuck.

He finally pulls out of my mouth, and I bend over and cough, sucking in the much-needed air.

“Good girl,” he says, his voice as smug as the look on his face.

I throw him a glare, breathing ragged breaths. “Fuck … you.”

He snorts but then quickly grips my chin. “If you ask nicely, maybe I will.”

I spit in his face.

I can’t help it.

I needed to let out the rage.

But shit, I already regret it the second after.

He closes his eyes and wipes it off painstakingly slow. “You’ll regret that.”

He looks at me as if I just signed my own death certificate.

Dread fills my bones.

Suddenly, he releases me from his grip, tucks his half-hard dick into his pants, and walks to the door.

“Wait!” I yell.

But the door closes, and I’m left all alone again in this cold, empty room.

I sink to the floor and bang on the wood out of pure frustration and regret. Because I gave him what he wanted on a platter and got nothing in return. “Fuck!”

Chapter 12

Liam

* * *

Standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom, I stare at myself. Her spit is no longer there, but I can still feel it, burning into my skin like a mark that just won’t fade. The man in front of me looks like an untamed beast. A monster. Just as she says I am.

Grunting with annoyance, I splash my face with some cold water. There are still many chores to do, like cleaning the house, prepping dinner, drying my clothes, and stacking the wood. But now, I have a woman to take care of on top of that.

A woman shivering on the cold floor in a room adjacent to mine.

My eyes instinctively aim for the door. She’s just out of reach and still so fucking far away.

She’s mine yet …

I clutch the sink and stare at myself.

This beard I’ve grown for the past three years is looking right back at me, and I fucking hate it. So I grab the razor and start chopping away at it until nothing is left but pruned stubble, maybe an inch thick.

I wash my face again and look at myself while scratching my chin. It feels empty. Exposed. Less of a caveman, more like a man … a mobster.

My nostril twitches.

You are nothing like them. Nothing.

But that girl in there … she seems to think I am.

I take in a deep breath and march into the kitchen to grab a big chopping board and knife along with some potatoes, and I start thrusting away to release some pent-up rage.

When she spit in my face, I wanted nothing more than to force her on her knees, rip off her lingerie, and thrust into that sweet, velvety pussy of hers.

But something stopped me.

Something intangible, like a fire burning between us.

I throw the chopped potatoes in a tray and continue chopping other vegetables.

She tried to kill me. She deserves to be in there, even if I promised to let her out.

I blow out another sigh and chuck the vegetables into the tray as well. Some of them tumble onto the floor, and I yell out, “Goddammit!”

I’m not mad. I’m not fucking mad at all.

With the tray in my hands, I march outside to the oven that’s been smoldering for hours and stuff the tray inside. I slam the door shut so hard it almost falls off its hinges.

I have to calm down, but what the fuck do I do?

My axe is right there next to the door, so I pick it up and swing it around on some random tree, pouring it all out until nothing is left, and the tree falls down in the middle of the forest. Then I grab my saw and start cutting it into pieces, leaving the stump for later.

It takes me about an hour to destroy it and turn it into neat round pieces, along with some longer, thicker parts I may use for furniture.

I turn around and blow out another breath, staring out at the forest beyond. Its tranquility doesn’t even manage to quell the storm raging in my mind.

Doesn’t take my thoughts away from the girl sitting in that cold freezer room right now.

Jasmine.

She’s probably cursing me under her breath for leaving her there when I promised more.

But she tried to kill me, and she spat on me. She deserves this …

A pang of guilt shoots through my body.

Guilt I’ve never felt before. Ever.

A smoky scent enters my nostrils, and I turn to the origin. The oven.

Fuck.

I rush to it and open the doors with my gloves, taking out the tray with vegetables and potatoes that are only partially burned. Still edible but too crispy.

“Goddammit!” I growl, and I march back inside and throw the tray onto the kitchen table.

My eyes immediately fly to that one door where my juicy meat is hiding … along with that girl I can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Guess today will be vegetarian. Damn.

I grab a plate and cutlery and sit down at the table along with my homemade food, but I can’t bring myself to scoop it up and put it on my plate.

Something is not quite right here.

Something is missing.

Salt and pepper.

That’s it.

I get up and fetch it from the cupboard, but as I generously pour some onto my dish and sit my ass back down in my seat, I still can’t bring myself to pick up my fork and knife and dig in.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

I peer up at the door again and the tiny hole she knifed. I don’t see even one eye, but I know she’s in there, watching, listening. Waiting.

Hungry.

Thirsty.

Cold.

And here I was thinking my heart died a long time ago.

I sigh out loud, clutching the cutlery so firmly in my hand it starts to hurt.

Then I slam them down on the table, scoot my chair back, and march to her door.

The second I open it, her lips part, but then her eyes immediately shoot up to my nonexistent beard. She looks surprised even though there’s still stubble.

“You look different,” she mutters.

“Shaven,” I reply.

“I was going to say ‘less of a caveman,’” she quips.

My brows rise. “Oh, the caveman is still here. Don’t worry.”

When I step toward her, she spreads her legs, raises her fists, and growls, “Don’t come closer, or I will punch you in the throat.”

I laugh. She sure has a lot of fighting spirit for a girl I could easily pick up with one arm.

She’s definitely going to be a handful, though.

“I’d love to see you try,” I muse. “But no, I won’t touch you. Don’t worry.”

She looks incensed. “You already did.”

She wants to play this game? Fine.

I fold my arms. “You let me.”

She swallows.

“Because I have no other choice,” she replies. “And it didn’t even make a fucking difference. You didn’t keep your end of the deal.”

My nostrils flare. I hate that she’s right.

She shivers from the cold and starts rubbing her own arms. “What do you want?”

I open the door a little farther. “C’mon.”

She narrows her eyes. “Why? So you can lure me into your next trap?”

“It’s not a trap. Promise.”

“Your promises mean nothing if you don’t keep them,” she rebukes.

I tilt my head. “I can’t if you don’t let me, no.”

She throws me a look of mistrust.

But all I can focus on are the goose bumps on her skin and just how good it looks on her. My eyes can’t help but gorge on her curvy body, those perky tits, and those deliciously plump lips of hers.

My God.

Even when I’m hungry for food, I’m still hungrier for her.

“Are you hungry?”

“Why do you care?” she spits back.

“Because I do,” I reply. “I want you on your knees, Jas, not starving.”

Her cheeks flush with that same kind of heat again that appeared when I was claiming her face, and the mere sight makes me stiff, but I will it to go down. First, I need my fill of food before I get my fill of her pussy.

And I definitely will get my fill, whether she likes it or not.

She’s here because of the notes I left for her, and I know for a fact I’m not the only one who’s a lusty bastard, but she can keep lying to herself if it makes her feel better. I know who I am. It’s about time she learned, too.

Her nose rises, and she sniffs the air. “What’s that smell?”

“Dinner,” I reply, and I hold out my hand. “Now come.”

Jasmine

* * *

Frowning, I stare at his hand, wondering what he’s trying to do.

Liam’s brow rises. “What? You don’t trust me?”

“No shit,” I quip.

He laughs. “Fine then. I’ll eat by myself.”

He walks out the door but leaves it open this time. He sits down at the table in the middle of the small living room, if that’s what you can call this tiny cabin. A tray of veggies and potatoes on the table looks fried to death, but the smell makes my mouth water. It lures me toward the door, but I grab the doorframe to stop myself from getting any closer because I feel as if there’s more to this than just food.

Why would he suddenly invite me out here? Did he have a change of heart? Or is this only an attempt to make me more obedient?

“Are you going to eat or not?” Liam asks.

“Can I at least have my phone back first?”

“No.”

I gulp as Liam shovels the veggies into his mouth. The mere sight of food makes me want to steal the fork right out of his hand.

My stomach growls. Loudly. And his hand stops midway through the air while the fork was on its way to his mouth.

His eyes connect with mine.

Shit.

He definitely heard.

My cheeks turn red as a beet again.

“I won’t ask again,” he says. “Eat.”

I mull it over for a second, grinding my teeth before I reply, “Fine.”

And I sit down on the opposite side of the table while my eyes immediately investigate the area. There’s a bunch of tiny cupboards all around the kitchen and a closet in the middle of the room as well. Maybe he hid my phone in there somewhere.

“Where did you hide my phone?” I ask.

He snorts. “There’s no reception out here.”

I frown. Well, there goes my plan.

Might as well check out the rest of the cabin. The exit is to my right, only feet away, and the thought of making a run for it does cross my mind.

“Don’t even think about it.”

His ominous voice fills the room and brings chills to my spine.

“It’s locked,” he adds.

I fold my arms. “I’m just checking out the place. That’s all.”

He narrows his eyes at me, so I look away again and inspect the rest of his residence even though there isn’t much to look at. We’re confined to a very tiny cabin. I’d consider it a cute vacation home if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m being kept as a prisoner.

SCREEET!

The sound of his chair scooting back makes me hyperaware of his presence.

“I can grab you another plate,” he says, clutching the table with both hands, towering over it. Even without his grizzly beard, he still looks menacing … though this stubble does suit his face better. Not that it matters. “Would you like that?”

What kind of question is that?

I fold my arms. “Is this a new game?”

“What game?”

“Where you pretend you suddenly want to take care of me,” I reply.

“Why do you think I don’t want to take care of you?” His face is all serious. I can’t tell if he’s trying to trick me or if he’s being genuine.

When I don’t reply, he walks to the kitchen and grabs another plate, fork, and knife, making sure to keep an eye on me at all times. He returns and places it in front of me while I stare him down, wondering what his endgame is.

He knows I still want him dead, doesn’t he?

“You know this changes nothing between us, right?” I ask.

He quietly sits back down again and scoots the tray my way without saying a word, and it pisses me off so much I pick up my fork and knife and hold them as though I’m about to start a war.

“I’m here for a reason,” I add.

“Oh, yeah? Tell me about that,” he says, angrily shoving a whole potato into his mouth.

Why does it feel like he meant it sarcastically? Not that I care. “Like you don’t know already.”

He throws me a smug look. “Fill me in.”

I snort. “Is this some kind of big joke to you?”

Of course he knows why I’m here. He saw the gun, and I told him what I was planning to do.

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

I slam my knife into the table. “Stop. Just stop.”

“Stop what?” He shoves more carrots into his mouth. “I’m just having dinner. So should you. It’s delicious.”

He’s avoiding the topic. Big time.

“So I can die? No thanks,” I reply.

He frowns. “Die?” He pours himself a glass of water from the carafe on the table. “You think I’d poison you?”

I shrug. “I wouldn’t put it past you.”

He laughs harder and harder until it almost sounds like a bellowing roar. “You really are funny.”

I know he thinks it is, but I don’t trust him. At all. And I especially don’t trust myself around him.

“You think, after all the waiting I did to get my hands on you, I’d want to kill you with food?” He raises his brow at me as if he’s questioning my reasoning, and I almost begin to doubt myself. But he’s the one keeping me captive, not the other way around.

“If you can’t have me alive, you’ll keep me dead,” I reply.

His laughter quickly dies out, and the look on his face turns dead serious. “I know plenty of worse ways to kill someone.”

Yikes. How many people has he killed? Five? Ten? More?

“Poison would be the last on my list,” he adds. “Now eat.”

“Or what? I get shoved back into that room again?” I try not to shiver at the prospect.

He chomps down on his food as he glares at me with annoyance. “Eat.”

No threat. No imminent danger. Yet there’s tension behind this single word, like a thunderstorm looming in the distance, daring me to challenge.

My stomach growls again.

The food is right in front of me, and it smells amazing.

If I had a small bite, would it matter? I’d still be able to kill him, right?

I swallow away my pride and pull the tray toward me under his lawful eye, scooping some of the veggies and potatoes onto my plate. But when I pick up my fork, I can’t stop my hand from shaking.

“It’s food, Jas. It doesn’t bite,” Liam says.

I clutch my fork harder and thrust it into the potato, making sure he sees as I bring it to my mouth and take a harsh bite, clattering my teeth together just to prove a point. I’m too hungry to care about the burnt taste, but I’ll be damned if I ever show him.

Still, he won’t stop looking at me as though I’m some kind of art exhibit he wants to explore up close.

Goose bumps scatter on my skin.

I take another bite. It doesn’t taste as bitter as the previous. More earthy. Like a homegrown carrot. And surprisingly, I’m still not dead.

“Do you like my cooking?”

I look up, but I can’t ever get used to those pristine eyes staring straight into my soul.

“It’s food. It’ll do.”

I mean, I was starving, but I won’t ever tell him that. I won’t give him more ammo than he already has.

I quickly grasp the carafe and fill my empty glass to chug down the water in one go, and then pour myself another one.

“That’s not what I asked.” His low voice makes me painfully aware of the fact that this whole table filled with food is a ticking time bomb.

I take another bite of the carrots. “They’re burnt.”

But I guess any kind of food is better than none right now.

He snorts and rubs his now stubbly chin. “I was busy.”

“With what?” I ask, shoving more potatoes into my mouth. I mean, if it’s offered to me, I might as well take it before I starve to death.

“This house doesn’t run itself, Jas,” he replies. “I know your pretty little ass was well taken care of at home.”

The potato almost falls straight from my mouth.

Pretty little ass?

“Yeah, I remember.” He leans forward on his elbow. “I remember the butlers. The nannies. The cleaning ladies. The personal drivers. I don’t remember much, but I remember the lavish luxury you grew up in.”

“So did you,” I reply.

“I hated every second of it, and you know it,” he says. “Out here, there’s nothing but cold, harsh, rough nights and hunger if you don’t work for your money.”

I stop eating entirely even though I’m still hungry.

“Living out here was your own choice,” I say.

His chair scoots back. Damn. I struck a nerve. “I didn’t choose to become the villain.”

I drop my knife and fork and stand up too. “You chose to come back to kill my sister.”

The silence is murderous.

“You could’ve chosen to look the other way. To let her enjoy her life in peace with your brother.”

“In peace? With my brother?” He snorts. “Don’t make me laugh.”

“You don—didn’t even know them.” I stumble over my words, hoping he won’t notice.

“He was my fucking brother,” he growls. “I knew him better than anyone.”

“Yet you didn’t see it coming that he’d jump off that cliff after her,” I retort.

His lips part but nothing comes out. Instead, his fists ball on the table.

Suddenly, he kicks the chair back and marches over to me. I brace myself against my chair with my back, holding on tight as he gets all up in my face. “They both deserve each other.”

“You’re right,” I reply. “They do.”

His eyes skip from one of mine back to the other, like he’s trying his best to understand but can’t.

“But you took that opportunity away from them,” I say, straightening my back.

“They have each other now …” he says, planting his hand on the table in front of me before he looks me dead in the eye, “in death.”

His thick muscles tense with every breath I take, a constant reminder of how little my resistance would matter. He could kill me, use me, play with me, do with me whatever he’d like … and there’d be no one to stop him. Not even me.

A cold shiver runs up and down my spine as tears form in my eyes. “You’re cruel.”

“So are you,” he replies, tilting his head.

How could he say that?

I gasp. “I didn’t try to kill anyone.”

His brow rises so wildly that I’m forced to swallow my own words.

Fuck.

“You deserve it,” I add, trying desperately to look elsewhere than into his eyes, but it’s so impossibly hard when he’s right in front of me.

“And they don’t?” he retorts.

“You … you …” Goddamn him, I can’t even get my own thoughts straight. Especially not when he’s looking at me like that. Like he’d rather eat me than the food he cooked himself.

“I what, Jas?” he says, inching closer and closer until I can feel his breath on my skin. “I’m a bastard? You’re mad at me?”

I nod, but he doesn’t back off. When my hand slides back across the table to try to find the knife, he grabs my wrist and pins it down.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he adds, never breaking eye contact.

“No amount of food or water or time—”

“Will ever be enough,” he interjects, grasping my other hand when I search for the fork instead. Now I’m really fucking trapped. “I know that thirst for revenge. It eats you alive until nothing is left.”

I want to speak, shout out at the top of my lungs that he’s wrong, that I’m not like that at all, and that I have no need to be because Jill and Luca are alive.

But if I did, he’d go after them in a heartbeat. I can’t let that happen.

So I swallow it back down as he leans in closer and whispers into my ear, “So … You want to kill me?”

My lips part, but when his tongue slides across my skin, I can’t form a single syllable.

He traces a line from my ear all the way down my neck, where he plants a soft, delectable kiss that makes me shudder in place.

And I can’t even say a word as he presses another kiss to my skin, and another, and another, until my neck isn’t the only thing that’s all wet and warm.

His gravelly voice puts me on edge. “Or do you want me to fuck your brains out like I should’ve done all those years ago?”

Oh my … God.

No one has ever talked to me like that before, let alone suggested doing that to me.

But the idea of him pushing up against me, forcing me on the table, wrapping my legs around him as he thrusts inside, still makes my clit throb.

What the hell is wrong with me?

But before I have time to even think about it, he leans back, looks me dead in the eyes, and says, “Now let’s finish dinner.”

Chapter 13

Liam

* * *

There’s never been a more uncomfortable dinner than this one right here, and I’ve had plenty over my twenty-three years of existence on this godforsaken planet.

Not that I remember a lot of them.

Which is probably a good thing.

Still, the icy-cold stare she’s been giving me since I sat back down makes it hard to focus on the food in front of me.

In fact, pretty much anything she does makes it hard for me to concentrate.

I grumble to myself and put down my fork again. “Will you just eat?”

She stares at me but then finally grabs her fork.

Good.

It’s about time she started behaving.

I continue eating, but she won’t touch her food, despite clutching the fork like she wants to snap it in half.

“What the hell was that?” she asks.

I look up. “What?”

“That … thing you did.”

My brow rises. “Thing?”

Her cheeks flush, and she rubs one side with her hand to try to mask it, but I saw.

“Oh …” A smirk forms on my lips. “You mean the part where I licked you?”

“Do you do that to all the girls you invite over?” she quips.

I pause and narrow my eyes. “Are you … asking if I’ve had other girls over?”

“No. I don’t care. I’m just saying, do you treat all of them like this?”

I shake my head, but I can’t stop laughing. “Just say you’re jealous.”

She gasps. “You wish.”

“But the answer is still no,” I say, stuffing more potatoes into my mouth. “There’s only one wish I have, and you know what it is.”

She blushes again. Just the way I like it.

I remember she used to look at me exactly like that when I gave her compliments. I don’t remember many things, but I do remember the way she’d smile at me, hide her eyes behind her flowy hair, and rub her cheeks like she’s doing right now.

“It’s fine if you don’t want to admit that what I do to you feels good,” I say.

She grabs a piece of potato and shoves it into her mouth. “You know I’m only here for one reason.”

I enjoy watching her swallow.

See the food slide down her throat with as much ease as my dick.

I clear my throat and reposition myself in my seat. “Doesn’t mean you don’t feel something.”

She touches the tip of her fork a little too dangerously to my liking. Maybe I’ll let her eat with her hands next time. “I feel nothing but rage.”

“Lies,” I retort.

She’s stewing in hatred of her own desires, and it only makes me laugh.

She wants to deny herself? Fine. She can deal with the consequences.

But I won’t ever stop taunting her.

Even though I hate not having the place to myself anymore, I’ve also missed having someone to bounce off. To start a fight with. And she’s just the kind of girl who will do just that.

“Stay mad then. I don’t care,” I say. “But you’re here now. And I’m not ever gonna let you go.”

Jasmine

* * *

The way he says it, so full of conviction, makes all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

“Why? Why can’t you let me go?” I ask.

“You know why,” he says.

I swallow, but it feels as if the food is stuck in my throat.

Even if I know, it’s still hard to comprehend just how much he really wants me to pay for whatever crime he made up in his head.

He never acted like this when we were younger and still living with our parents. Before the accident.

I sigh and shovel up more veggies, trying to make sense of things while also making sure I take in as much food as I can before he snatches it all away again.

“I guess you do like my food after all,” he says. “Since you’re eating all of it.”

I stop and look at him. I feel like all of this—this food, the drinks, the way he’s talking to me, and letting me sit at his table—is just a show of power. He’s the one who holds all the cards. The one who could take away this food and warmth with the snap of a finger and then put me right back in that cold room again … forever.

“Thank you.” It’s out before I realize it.

He pauses and looks at me from underneath his lashes. “You’re welcome. I’m glad you’re grateful to have a filled belly.”

I have to swallow my pride here. Bite down on my tongue while I’m at it because it’s tough to keep the swear words from spitting out.

Cursing him under my breath will do for now.

He already knows I hate him. Making him my enemy will do me no good right now. I have to figure out a way to keep him on my side. Make him think I could change my mind. Make him trust me. Maybe he’ll ease up then.

And when he finally does, I’ll steal back my phone, take his key, and run like hell.

“So …” I take another bite. “Do you have anything else?”

“What do you mean?”

“Food,” I reply.

He snorts. “This isn’t a five-star restaurant, Jas.” He throws me a judgmental look. “I know what you’re used to, but you’re getting the real world here.”

I have to physically bite my tongue to stop from saying something mean.

“I’m just saying, these veggies would go amazing with some meat,” I suggest.

“The meat’s in the fridge,” he replies curtly.

Meat. Is he talking about that deer he shoved in the freezer?

I place down my fork. I’ve lost my appetite. “Okay.”

“I would’ve prepped it for cooking …” He tilts his head. “But something was in the way.”

He throws me a daring look.

“Me?” I reply.

He takes another bite of his potatoes without saying a word, but I know an accusation when I hear one.

I fold my arms. “Well, excuse me for inconveniencing you by being trapped in the room you put me in.”

“Apology accepted.”

My eyes widen, and my blood begins to boil so violently I swear I’m about to chuck this fork at his goddamn eyes.

And that smirk that follows … oh, my God, insufferable.

“This isn’t funny,” I say.

“It is to me,” he jests.

“Why?”

He slams down his fork, making me jolt up and down. “Because for the first time in a fucking long time, I’m not the only one trapped.”

It takes me a while to continue breathing normally again.

“What do you mean?”

He sighs out loud, gets up, and brings his plate to the kitchen, ignoring my question, which I don’t like one bit. He’s avoiding me, I can tell.

“Tell me,” I say, following his footsteps as he begins to clean up.

But he refuses to answer, and it pisses me off.

“C’mon, why won’t you tell me?”

“Why do you care?” he suddenly replies.

I’m momentarily at a loss for words. “I … I …”

I don’t actually know why I care. I just … do.

“I don’t,” I lie, sitting back in my chair. “I’m just curious.”

“So you can use it against me?”

I frown. “Like I could use anything against you,” I say. “You’re the one keeping me a prisoner, not the other way around.”

He sighs out loud again and even cleans up my plate in silence.

But I refuse to give up. “What could possibly keep you trapped here?”

He throws all the cutlery into the sink and leans over the kitchen counter, shoulders rising and falling with every heavy breath, giant muscles clenched.

“You have no idea what it’s like not to know where you belong and who you are,” he says after a while.

I don’t know what to do with that, and I don’t understand what he means. Does it have to do with his memories?

“What do you actually remember?” I ask.

He glances at me over his shoulder. The menacing look in his eyes still manages to make my heart skip a beat. “You.”

Liam

* * *

Age 16

* * *

I sit at a table to the side of the dance floor, watching her. I haven’t moved from this spot in an hour. Not since she decided to drift away from the table and go talk with the grown-ups instead.

She clutches the glass of champagne her mother gave her like it’s a big deal, and I guess it is. No one ever lets us drink unless it’s a special occasion. My brother and I don’t listen to that rule, but Jasmine does. She’s not a rule-breaker, unlike us.

Sighing, I take another sip of my Coke and stare as she smiles and tries to follow along with our parents’ business talk. Always so eager to impress but never noticed.

“What are you doing?” my brother, Luca, sits down beside me and grabs a bunch of nuts from the bowl on the table.

“Nothing,” I reply.

“Staring at the unobtainable again?”

I grab some nuts and chuck them at his face. “Mind your own business.”

He laughs. “It’s way too fun to mess with yours.”

“Don’t you have a girl to chase?” I raise a brow at him and then eyeball Jill, who’s talking a little too happily with another guy our parents invited to the party.

The look on Luca’s face grows violently dark. “I’ll deal with that fucker later.” He shoves his hand into his pocket, where I know he keeps his knife.

I grab his arm and squeeze. “Not here.”

“Why do you care?” he growls, jerking free of my grip. “Mind your own business, remember?”

Fine. Use my own words against me.

He knows I’m right.

I sit back in my chair and keep watching the scene.

I’m not interested in dancing or mingling at all. The only thing I’m interested in is catching her attention. But she won’t ever notice me, and it’s infuriating.

“Your dick won’t magically float into her pussy, you know,” Luca says.

I throw him a look. “I swear to God, if you don’t shut your fucking mouth, I’m gonna steal your knife and cut off your balls.”

He laughs again. “I’d love to see you try.”

I jump forward and put my arm around his neck, throwing him through the wringer like I always do. We fight like brothers, forcing each other to surrender before stopping. And I always win.

But he’ll never admit that.

“Fine, fine, keep sulking here, for all I care,” Luca says when I finally release him from my grip.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I quip, sitting back down again to take a much-needed sip of my drink. “At least I’ve tried.”

“Yeah, by being a nice guy,” he retorts, shoving more peanuts into his mouth. “Don’t you know nice guys never get what they fucking want?”

I roll my eyes and try to ignore him, but he keeps ranting.

“You’re trying to be too good for her, but it doesn’t work that way. Not with our family,” he says. “We take what we want.”

“Yeah? Like you’ve taken Jill?” I scratch my chin and watch him boil over.

“This isn’t about her,” he spits.

“No, but I’m making it about her,” I say.

I don’t need my little brother to tell me how to charm the ladies.

Jasmine will come to me on her own terms; I just know it. I just have to be a patient gentleman. Not everything in this world needs to be conquered.

Suddenly, he shoves his elbow into my side. “Shh.”

I follow his gaze to see Jill approaching us out of nowhere, and it’s making Luca shift in his seat. He runs his fingers through his hair and licks his lips, but then her eyes home in on me, and I’m just lounging back in my seat to watch.

“Hey, Liam,” she says, tucking her hair behind her ear.

“Hey, Jill,” I reply to be courteous, but I can’t stop grinning because of the devil’s look my brother throws me.

“I was just wondering if you wanted to … dance with me?” The blush on her cheeks intensifies.

The second my lips part, Luca intervenes, scooting his chair a mile forward so it’s between her and me. “He doesn’t want to fucking dance with you, Jill.”

And he grabs a handful of peanuts and shoves them into his mouth.

Jill looks incensed. “What the hell is your problem?”

Not again.

“No, I’m good, thanks. Got a bit of a bad leg today,” I say.

It’s a lie, but I don’t want to make her feel bad.

“Oh …” The smile dissipates from her face, but my brother only looks more pissed off than ever.

“Go run back to your parents,” Luca scoffs.

“I didn’t ask you, asshole,” Jill retorts, sticking up her middle finger at him before turning her back on us and prancing right back into the crowd.

“Way to go, dude,” I tell Luca. “You had to go and piss her off again.”

His nostrils flare. “Shut up. You know she gets on my fucking nerves.”

“Because you let her,” I reply.

“Just like you let Jasmine,” he retorts.

I shrug. “Whatever. It’s not like it matters.”

“What the fuck does that even mean?”

“I’m just saying …” I blow out a breath and stare at the sisters talking with the guests like their parents instructed them to as if they’re two perfect little angels ready to take over Mommy and Daddy’s mobster business.

Meanwhile, I’m over here wishing I could just … disappear.

“We don’t have a choice,” I say.

“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?” Luca responds.

“You know what Mom and Dad said … dating is out of the question for us.”

“Just because they decide who we marry for the business doesn’t mean we’re just supposed to fucking give up,” Luca says, and he shoves me. “What the fuck’s gotten into you?”

“I don’t know,” I say, turning to look at him. “Maybe the fact that you and I both know who they’re gonna pick.”

His face darkens, and he moves away from me with rage in his eyes.

“Hey, it’s not my call. I don’t decide for them,” I say.

“Good,” he says. “You wouldn’t even be able to make the fucking choice between you or me.”

“Maybe not,” I reply. “But we’re not the only family who has to pick.” I look over at the girls again, wondering who will be the one to carry on the legacy.

“Don’t you fucking dare say it out loud,” Luca growls.

“You know it’s a possibility,” I say, looking him in the eyes even though he’s about ready to claw mine out. “If they pick her …”

“And you want me to give you a free pass?” Luca scoffs, and he gets up and throws his chair down so hard it leaves a dent in the floor. “I’d rather die.”

Fishing a packet of cigs from his pocket, he marches off to the door, ignoring the stares, even the one Jill throws him.

There isn’t anyone in this room who hates him more than her.

But at least she looks at him.

Feels something for him.

Because the girl I’m looking at right now, with her long blond hair and pretty hazel eyes probably wouldn’t care if her sister got chosen to marry me instead of her.

And that fucking hurts.

Suddenly, she looks my way, and my heart stops beating.

Her eyes bore into mine, a gentle smile adorning her face.

What I wouldn’t give to kiss that mouth.

Touch that face.

Hear her say my name.

Chapter 14

Jasmine

* * *

Present

* * *

“Liam?” I say.

He glances at me over his shoulder again in a hurried way, like he was interrupted by something, but I can’t tell what.

One second, he was talking, and the next, he was bent over the counter, just standing there lost in thought. I wish I could look inside his head to find out what, but I know he wouldn’t let me inside even if I asked.

But I’m still too curious not to try. “So you remember me. What kind of memory is it? What am I doing?”

He hasn’t told me anything yet, but I can see him disassociate at times as though he’s turning inward to dig for answers. It’s hard to fathom he’s lost most of his memories. All the things that make up a human being … gone. Erased from existence.

Even though he said his brother’s visit brought back some of them, his mind must still be one big jumbled mess.

“It’s at a party,” Liam says, his eyes traveling across the room as though he’s actually back there in his memories and not here. “I’m sitting at a table, watching you.”

Interesting.

It’s too little to recall anything, but I know my parents hosted a ton of parties. His did too. It’s normal when you’re rich and want to entertain your mobster friends.

But I need more than that to bring something to the forefront of my mind.

“Okay … Do you remember anything else?”

I wanna know what else he remembers.

He frowns, clutching the counter. “Stop.”

Goddammit. Just when I finally had a way in. Maybe he’s afraid I’ll use it against him, and in that case, he’s right. I would. I mean, a girl has to do something to free herself out of a trap. And if that means prying into his brain, then so be it.

“I’m just trying to understand.”

“You don’t need to,” he spits back, almost like he’s angry I made him remember.

“But you’re keeping me here. The least you can do is tell me why,” I say.

“I already told you,” he barks.

I clutch my hands together, shaken by his sudden erratic voice.

I don’t know what to say to him. One second, he’s acting like a beast, and the next, he’s trying to be my friend, and then he goes straight back to being a wild beast again. It’s wholly confusing.

“Stop trying to dig into what little memories I have,” he growls.

So I was right. It is difficult for him.

Despite all the things his brother told him about his past when he came to find him, the accident has tainted Liam’s brain so much he’d prefer not to think about his memories at all.

“Okay … sorry.”

I look away because his eyes are as hot as a volcano right now, and I’m definitely not interested in burning myself.

I ogle the door and all the windows again, wondering how fast I could break through before he manages to catch me. Probably not fast enough. And if I tried, he’d most likely put me right back in that cold room again. So not worth it. Yet.

He sighs. “It’s just difficult to hold on to. One moment, the memories are in here …” He points at his temple. “And the next, they fade away again,” he explains. “Piecing them together is hard enough as it is.”

“I understand,” I say.

“No, you don’t,” he says, turning my way. “No one does. And no one ever will.”

The silence that follows only makes me that much more aware of my speeding heart.

Suddenly, he marches toward me and places a hand on the table. “You came here because of that note.”

“To protect my family.”

“Then you will do what I say,” he growls. “Got it?”

I look over my shoulder at the door I broke through once before, reminding myself of the fact that I don’t ever wanna be locked up somewhere that cold again.

Fuck.

I blow out a breath. “Fine.”

His hand reaches for my face, and he gently grabs my cheek and makes me look up. “I will give you a place to stay … give you food and clothes …” His hand travels down to my mouth, his thumb brushing across my bottom lip in a possessive, almost sexy manner. “If you behave.”

I swallow away the lump in my throat.

It feels so wrong to agree, but what other choice do I have?

He holds the key to my freedom, and there’s nothing I can do to steal it away from him.

Nothing except wait until the right moment, the right opportunity.

“Okay,” I say with a raspy voice.

He nods and then sniffs. Wildly. As if he smells something funky. “Come.”

He turns and walks off to the other side of the cabin, across from the room where I was being kept. I follow him inside and stare at the tub in front of me, wondering what the hell he wants from me. Because he keeps looking at me as though he wants me to do something here.

“What?” I mutter, but then it begins to dawn on me. “Oh, you want me to sit in there?” I laugh it off, but his serious face makes me stop. “You’re kidding, right?”

He looks at me like I’ve already lost one of the chances I had to behave. “Why would I be kidding?”

I shake my head. “Nuh-uh, I’m not getting in there.”

“It’s a bath,” he says.

“It’s empty. There’s no tap,” I point out.

His brows lower. “Not in that tub, no. But I do have a sink with running water. You can pour some hot water from there using this bucket.” He holds up a bucket as if he actually uses that thing, and it makes me want to laugh-cry.

“What about a shower then?”

He looks at me with a stone-cold face. Dead serious. “Take off your clothes.”

When I don’t move, he slams the door shut, the sound making me jolt up and down.

“Are you going to behave?”

He’s really going to make me do this, isn’t he?

Fuck.

If I want to have any shot at freedom, I’m going to have to follow his rules … for now.

I close my eyes. “Fine. But turn around.”

He sighs out loud but still does what I ask.

It’s freakishly cold, even here where there isn’t a freezer, and the second I start taking off some of the clothes I’ve been wearing since I came here, I start shaking.

Still, I continue, stripping off layer after layer until I’m naked, exposed … vulnerable.

I glance over my shoulder, but he still isn’t looking.

Even though I know he wants to.

Badly.

I swallow.

Maybe he isn’t all evil.

“I’m done,” I say.

He grabs a towel off the rack and chucks it over his shoulder. I barely catch it.

“I’ll bring some more hot water from my kitchen sink.” He steps out and closes the door behind him, leaving me to my thoughts.

I immediately take a very deep breath.

I guess I should be grateful for the chance to clean myself.

And that I’m on my own instead of having a watchful eye over me.

I grab the bucket of warm water and set it down on a chair next to the tub along with a bar of soap I find on the sink. Then I slide in and settle my body on the cold plastic. I’m shivering like mad, so I quickly pour some warm water over my head. It’s not nearly enough to shake the cold, but it’s better than nothing.

I grasp the soap and smear it all over my body, making sure I clean myself from top to bottom. I hate the way this place has made me smell. Even though I haven’t been here for that long, the harsh conditions … and man … made me sweat profusely.

However, it feels as if I’ve been here for ages.

Maybe it’s the cold messing with my brain.

Or maybe it’s Liam worming his way into my mind until I’ve forgotten how to fight back.

Always the strong one until he shows up.

Until he looks at me.

Nothing’s changed.

Age 14

* * *

“Hey, Jas.”

The mere sound of his voice makes my heart skip a beat.

I look up from my textbook to look straight into his crystal-blue eyes, his beaming smile and jaw-dropping handsomeness, and I am just overtaken by breathlessness.

“Got a pen?”

“Uh …” It takes me a while to actually look down at my pencil case and mutter, “Yeah.”

I hand one over, but the second our fingers touch, electricity shoots through my veins.

My cheeks immediately turn red as I retract my fingers.

“Thanks,” he says with a mesmerizing smile. “I can always count on you.”

A sudden slow clap makes us both look up, but my face immediately sours at the sight of Luca sitting down at a table right beside his brother.

I have never wished for a class to start faster than I have now.

“I am amazed,” Luca boasts.

I roll my eyes. “Shut up.”

“No, no, continue your courtship. Pretend I’m not here.”

“What?” I scoff.

“It was cute, honestly,” Luca jests.

Liam leans over to shove him. “She said to shut up.”

“And miss out on this amazing flirting routine of yours? Fuck no,” he responds, and he plants his feet on the table like he owns the place. “I’m here to enjoy the full show.”

“I’m just borrowing a pen, asshole,” Liam says.

“Like you do every day?” Luca jokes, raising a brow.

My cheeks instantly flare up again.

“Relax, I get it,” Luca adds, shrugging. “It’s not easy vying for attention when you know it’s futile.”

I frown. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He leans back in his seat. “Oh you know, the whole ‘arranged marriage’ thing.” He makes quotation marks with his fingers. “Makes it kind of pointless, don’t you think?”

Liam and I stare him down.

“What?” Luca laughs it off like it’s no big deal, but it is, and he knows it.

We’ve all been avoiding the topic like the plague.

Luca tilts his head at his brother. “I mean, feel free to play around, I don’t fucking care. Maybe our parents will end up choosing you. Or me.” Luca turns to look at me. “And your parents might choose you. Or your sister.”

My body is getting cold. Icy cold.

“You might be the one to marry …” Luca glares at Liam. “But she might not be the one you end up marrying.”

It feels like I can’t breathe.

The door to the classroom opens, and more students pour in, ready for class, and the moment of silence between us is broken.

But nothing can break the silence in my heart.

Because Luca is right.

Nothing I say or do … nothing Liam says or does … matters.

Because in the end, after carrying my heart on my sleeve, when all is said and done …

He still might end up marrying my sister instead.

Luca leans in to whisper, “So enjoy this while it lasts.”

Present

* * *

Sighing, I clutch my legs close together and try to warm up by pouring small amounts of water over my back.

CLICK!

The door opening puts me on edge.

I swiftly wrap the towel over my body and peer over my shoulder.

“I won’t look,” he says.

His back is turned to me as he carries a big bucket of steaming water inside and places it behind the tub.

“There you go,” he says.

I snort. “Gee, thanks for providing me with the bare minimum. Much appreciated.”

“I could just lock you back up with that dead deer if you keep up that snarky attitude,” he retorts, still glancing at me over his shoulder.

My eyes widen, and I duck below the tub line so he can’t see my body. Even though I know he’s already seen most of it, it still feels weird. “Fine. Sorry. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” he says, winking just as he always did back when we were young. And it makes me wonder … what if the old Liam is still in there somewhere, waiting to be released?

“I know this place is not a five-star hotel, but it’s my home … and I’ll do my best to make you comfortable,” he adds.

“Comfortable …” I repeat softly. Why does this all feel like he’s trying to woo me into staying? Almost like he’s trying to be … nice?

But that doesn’t make any sense.

He’s my captor.

He’s keeping me prisoner for his own personal fun, like a pet. Nothing about this is nice.

“Is that what you call this? Comfortable?” I ask, running some more soap across the palm of my hand.

His eyes flick back and forth, following the line I’m tracing across my skin, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good. “I may be a monster, but this monster takes care of the things that belong to him.”

Things … that belong to him?

It sounds so wrong, yet it’s still making me blush.

What the hell is wrong with me?

He steps closer, and I duck farther into the tub, the small towel the only thing hiding my naked body from his lusty eyes. He goes to his knees right in front of me and perches himself on the other side of the tub, just inches away from me.

“I know you hate me,” he says. “But I will never give up.”

“Give up what?” I mutter, confused.

His hand reaches for my face. I’m too stunned to move as he starts caressing me. His touch is so gentle it moves me. “Making you want me.”

My lips begin to quake.

Want him.

I’ve been pushing the thought out of my mind ever since I stepped foot in his domain, but the question lingers in the back of my mind. What if … I do want him? What if I stopped fighting?

But then I remember why I came here.

What I’m protecting.

And what he can never find out.

“Then you can wait until we’re both dead,” I say with a stone-cold face.

His nostrils flare, and his hand leaves my skin. “I will make you regret those words.”

And he gets up and marches out of the room, slamming the door closed behind him.

My skin erupts into tiny goose bumps, so I quickly grasp the bucket of warm water and dump it all over my body.

But no amount of heat can ever get rid of this icy chill inside my heart.

Chapter 15

Liam

* * *

The moment the door closes, I stop and listen to the sounds beyond the door. First, there’s a splash of water. Then a sigh. Then nothing.

I expected yelling. Cursing. Tears.

Anything.

Not … nothing.

It’s like she doesn’t even care.

I close my eyes and let out a deep breath, planting my back against the wood. I can’t stop listening even though there is no sound. I’m waiting, always waiting for the moment when she’ll finally realize there’s no point in fighting. And when she does, I’ll be here, ready to hear her beg.

My hand clenches into a fist, and I fight the urge to punch a hole through the door.

I’m stuck between the need to prove just how badly she wants me and how good I could be for her. But I refuse to give up. Even if it takes me a lifetime to do it, she will hand me her heart on a platter.

Because this isn’t just about her fucking body.

It never was.

I want far more than she’ll ever be willing to give.

But she won’t ever give her heart to me willingly …

Not without a fight.

Lucky for her, I’m willing to fucking wait an eternity.

I already waited half a lifetime.

What’s another half?

Age 17

* * *

“C’mon, let’s get out of here,” I say, and I grab Jasmine’s hand and pull her away from another one of my parents’ “business” meetings inside the house.

“Wait, what if my parents ask for me?” Jasmine says as I drag her out of the living room and into the garden. “They’re on the verge of striking a new deal. I should be there.”

“They can do that on their own perfectly fine,” I reply, walking farther onto the grass.

She stops and jerks free from my grip. “You know it’s important to me.”

I turn and look at her. “This is important too.”

“What’s going on?” She folds her arms.

“Nothing,” I reply, smiling awkwardly, but of course she sees right through me.

“Liam … spill it.” She taps her foot the way she always does when she gets impatient.

“Fine, fine,” I say, holding up my hands. “I just thought, maybe we could dig up the box.”

“The box …” she mutters. Then her lips form an o-shape. “Oh … That one.”

“I wanna add a new promise,” I say, walking farther across the grass into the muddy area until I find the spot. “This is where we buried it.”

She raises her brow at me. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

I dig up the soil with my hands, not giving a shit that my clothes might get dirty. I’m already done with this party anyway. I don’t find anything interesting about my parents' deals, even though she does.

I’d much rather spend more time with her. Even if she doesn’t see it that way.

“C’mon, Liam, let’s go back inside,” she says, rubbing at her arms. “It’s cold out here.”

“In a minute,” I reply, digging until I finally hit the wood. “There.”

I tear it out of the ground and pull it up, brushing off the mud.

“God, I didn’t even think it’d still be out here,” she says.

“Of course. Where else would it be?” I reply, and I look up into her eyes. “No one knows we hid it here. Unless you told someone.”

“No,” she says, making a face. “Of course not.”

“Good.” I fish my key from my pocket. “Because this is our secret.”

“From ages ago,” she says, sighing. “Why do we have to do this again?”

“Because I’m bored,” I say.

It’s a lie. It’s more than that. So much more. But she’d refuse if I told her the truth.

I push the key inside the lock and open the box. The inside smells musty, but the papers are still intact, along with our bloody thumbprints.

“Wow …” Jasmine murmurs, and she goes to her knees right beside me to take one of them out of the box. “I haven’t seen these in ages.”

I nod as she reads one of them.

“They mean a lot to me,” I say, and I look into her eyes until she finally meets my gaze.

But her face is cold, distant, as if she isn’t actually here. “We were kids when we made these.”

“So? That doesn’t make them any less real,” I reply.

She sighs. “They’re fairy tales, Liam. Wishes from kids who didn’t know any better.”

“It is not a fairy tale,” I say. “Fairy tales are fantasy. This is reality. And I intend to keep these promises.”

She sighs. “How?” She holds up the one about marriage. “You don’t even know who is going to marry who. What if it isn’t you? What if your parents pick Luca instead?”

My heart squeezes tight, like she reached out and squeezed it with her own bare hands. “That won’t happen.”

She clutches the paper tight, like it’s her only lifeline. Even if she says she believes it’s all a fairy tale, she still clings to the hope that maybe these promises could save her when nothing else could. “But what if it does?”

I grab her face and caress her cheek. “I won’t allow that to happen.”

Her face contorts, and she pulls away from me. “You don’t have that power. None of us do.”

“My parents listen to me,” I reply.

She gets up and turns around. “They won’t, trust me.”

“I will make them pick me,” I growl, getting up too.

Suddenly, she spins on her heels and turns to face me. “I don’t want you to!”

I’m flabbergasted, too shocked to even respond.

“Why would you say something like that?” she growls. “Why would you want to sacrifice yourself for your family?”

I wince. Out of all people, she should understand. “It’s not a sacrifice. It’s duty.”

She snorts. “Don’t give me that shit, Liam. You know as well as I do you want nothing to do with their business.”

“No, but if I have to, I’ll—”

“Well, I do! I want to be the next in line,” she spits. “And I don’t want you to save me.” I can see the pain in her eyes as they fill with tears, but nothing I do or say will make it go away.

“Stop playing the knight in shining armor,” she adds, her voice fluctuating in tone from all the emotions, and it tears me apart.

So much that I go back onto my knees in front of the box, rip out an empty piece of paper, and take out the pencil we left inside. And I scribble down the words as fast as I can, not giving a shit that they are barely legible and come out crooked as fuck.

“What are you doing?” Jasmine mutters behind me, but I take no second to answer.

When I’ve put down the dot, I fish my knife from my pocket and puncture my skin, pressing down my thumb onto the paper without giving it a second thought.

I hold up the paper. “Read it. Out loud.”

She stands, taller than ever but broken inside, the gentle wind flowing through the thin fabrics of her lilac dress almost enough to make her bend through the knees.

“We will always let each other have what we want. No matter the cost.”

Present

* * *

There aren’t many memories clear as day, but those involving Jasmine couldn’t be any clearer to me. Like a tether to a reality that once was mine.

What I want is her.

The memory of her.

The girl I used to dream about every single night.

The girl who used to carry the biggest of smiles, even when she carried a heavy weight on her shoulders.

My nails dig into my skin. But a memory is just a memory. And that girl sitting there in that tub hates me more than anyone else ever could.

She’s nothing like the girl I remember.

The girl I fought so hard to ensnare.

I killed her sister and my brother, and now she’s going to make me pay the fucking price. Did I make the wrong choice?

I shake my head and laugh it off, even if it isn’t funny. Fate always has its ways of punishing you exactly the way you deserve.

Because what I desire the most is something I’ll never fucking have.

I sigh out loud.

Nothing in this life comes easy. But I won’t fucking give up. I refuse.

I’ll make her see me. I’ll make her want me.

And I’ll make more than just her body mine.

Chapter 16

Jasmine

* * *

When I’m done bathing, I quickly dry myself off with the towel, hoping he doesn’t come in before I’m dressed. Just because he’s already seen most of my body doesn’t mean I want him to see me naked. And it definitely doesn’t mean I want to prance around in the nude.

A bundle of clothes lies on a small stool near the door. I hold them up in front of me. It’s a pair of baggy pants and an oversized shirt that smell like him, the scent making me lean in to take a whiff. It smells … earthy, like wood and soil, and raw nature … Almost sexy.

I swallow a raunchy thought back down and put it all on, ignoring the scent that’s forcefully entering my nostrils. It reminds me too much of the boy Liam used to be, way before he became … well, whoever the fuck he is now.

I still wonder what happened to him to make him like this. Why he lost all of his memories. Even though I listened to the story he told on the cliff, I was way too busy trying to save my sister from being murdered by him.

But now that she’s safe and sound at home, nothing is stopping me from finding out more. What else am I going to do while locked up in here?

I grab the door handle but pause because the pressure on my hand suddenly became ten times heavier. Like the mere thought of facing him after all these years makes my heart beat in my throat.

Get over yourself, Jasmine. Man the fuck up.

Keep your eyes on the job.

Get him to like you.

Find your phone. Escape when he’s distracted.

I blow out a breath and push through, opening the door to find him tossing more wood into the small fireplace in the cabin. When he looks up, my cheeks instinctively flush.

“Hi …” I say.

God. Could I sound any dumber?

“Hey,” he responds.

Leaning on his knee, he gets up, the fabric of his shirt stretching to the limit around his muscular shoulders. And I just do not know why I’m focusing on it.

“How are you feeling?” he asks.

I push my hair behind my ear. “Uh … better, I think.”

“Good.” The smile that follows reminds me of the old Liam. The one I used to share so many memories with … now turned into a ghost of his former self.

“It’s nice not to smell like moss and forest gunk,” I add, not knowing where to look.

He snorts. “Yeah, you did kind of smell awful.”

I make a face. “You did not just say that.”

He approaches me, getting all up close in my aura without giving a shit, and I’m too stunned by his sudden closeness to even speak, let alone flinch. He leans in, closes his eyes, and sniffs. The groan that follows sets my body on fire. “Much better.”

“Uhh …” I don’t even know how to respond to that.

His hand reaches for my face, and it catches me off guard when he touches me so gently I almost melt right in front of him.

Why does he affect me so much? I don’t understand. I swore off men long ago. And here he is, making me feel things I don’t want to feel.

Suddenly, he grabs my hand and pulls me to the fireplace, planting me down in a big, brown, hairy chair right in front of it. “Sit.”

Okay, well, it’s not like I have a choice anyway.

He grabs a blanket from a basket in the corner and throws it over me. “You’re cold.”

“How did you…?”

Then I remember his calloused hand delicately caressing my cheek, and suddenly, I don’t feel so cold anymore.

Stop. Focus on the task at hand.

“So are we on speaking terms now?” I ask as he cleans some dishes in the kitchen.

“We were never not speaking,” he replies.

“Well, I mean, you refuse to tell me why you’re keeping me here.”

He places down the plate a little too hesitantly. “I told you … I don’t enjoy talking about my memories.”

“Why not? What’s wrong with them?”

“Nothing,” he says, a little too quickly. “But there are far too few of them.”

My heart flutters in my chest.

Fuck.

I shiver and hold my hands up to the fire. “What do you mean?”

He closes his eyes. “I’ve tried plenty of times to remember more than I do now, but the memories of most of my childhood keep evading me.”

“Well, you got some of your memories back, right? I’m sure you can get more.”

The intense look he throws me makes me cower into the chair.

“You make it sound easy,” he growls. “But you don’t know what I’ve been through.”

The snarky little bitch in me wants to respond with “you don’t know what I’ve been through either” … but that wouldn’t be helpful when trying to escape. At least, that’s what I tell myself is the reason for me asking all these questions.

“Then tell me,” I say. “Tell me what these last three years have been like for you.”

He narrows his eyes. “Is this some kind of trick?”

I shake my head even though he’s right. “No, I’m just trying to understand.”

“There is nothing to understand,” he says with a clenched jaw. “Not about hell.”

Liam

* * *

Two and a half years ago

* * *

I pinch the wire and try to make it go through the hole for the millionth time. My patience is thinning more than usual, and when I can’t take it anymore, I scream and chuck the hook away.

“Fucking fish,” I growl. “Better off eating the fucking moss off the ground.”

I didn’t know how hard it would be to fish on my own without proper tools and an actual fucking boat, but now I do.

I don’t think I’ll ever get to eat anything other than the berries and mushrooms this forest has to offer.

Why did I want to move out here again?

I sigh and fish my knife from my pocket, staring at the blade for a while. I wonder if I could kill an animal. If I could eat something that was alive mere minutes ago.

This knife won’t cut through a deer.

Though it’ll definitely kill a sparrow, if I threw it at him.

The thought makes me laugh.

But my own smile glinting in the blade causes painful flashes in front of my eyes.

A woman, brushing her pretty blond hair. My eyes, staring back at me in a mirror embellished with a flower.

“But I promise I will always be here to protect you.”

Words that came from my mouth.

But I don’t remember ever saying them.

What the fuck was that?

The blade in my hand shakes vigorously.

Visions such as this one come and go like droplets of rain pitter-pattering down on my head during a storm. Together, they form a cobweb of images, barely sticking together by a thread.

Are they memories of my previous life?

Who the fuck even knows.

I can’t ask anyone.

I don’t fucking want to either.

I close my eyes and try to focus on the here and now, but it’s hard when all I see is her. The girl in the mirror and her solemn eyes, those soft, delicate lips, and that precious smile she gave me that still manages to make my heart beat faster, and faster, and faster, and—

THWACK!

I chuck the knife at a nearby tree.

Straight through the middle of a branch.

It doesn’t surprise me anymore. Even though it should.

Because what fucking normal, everyday man could throw a knife and split a branch in half?

Not a fisherman.

Not a businessman.

Not any normal man …

Except a monster.

Weeks ago

* * *

I carve through the meat and splay it all out on the table in front of me. Another bunny should feed me for at least a day if not two. I’ll hunt more later.

When I’ve hanged it all to dry in the sun, I grab my axe and chop more wood.

CRACK!

The sound is minuscule, but I’m immediately on edge. With my axe at the ready, I turn and look around, broadening my shoulders to make myself look big.

These forests may be abandoned, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional human snooping around.

“Someone there?” I ask.

Birds fly overhead.

I stop breathing and listen.

Another crack makes me hyperaware of my surroundings.

However, the face that appears from behind a tree almost makes me lose my grip on the axe in my hand.

His sharp nose, dark, hooded eyes, half-long hair, and vicious smile make me do a double take. Because he looks so goddamn familiar … almost like … me.

“Liam,” the man says, his voice unsteady. Rough. Familiar.

Liam?

He knows … my name?

How?

My grip on my axe tightens, and I storm at him, ready to strike. “Who the fuck are you, and why do I feel like I know you?”

The man holds up his hand in defense. “Wait! I’m your brother.”

I frown and pause, the axe staying put midair. “My brother?”

I have a brother?

A sharp, stabbing pain makes me step back and almost drop the axe.

Visions of that night flood back into my brain. The night I almost died.

“You’re kissing him?!”

His voice is as loud and clear as it was back then when he directed it at the girl who drove me off a cliff. And I know now he is responsible for my suffering.

I shake my head to make the memory go away.

“You,” I growl, holding my axe steady. “Give me one good reason not to fucking plow you down right now.”

He holds up a picture. The face of a girl stops me in my tracks.

Her long, blond hair and striking hazel eyes make my breath falter.

I know her.

I snatch the picture out of his hand and stare. Stare, for as long as I can, before the memory slips away from me again.

It’s her.

The girl from my dreams.

“How did you get this?” I growl at the guy. “Who are you?”

He’s still holding up his hands as if he’s trying to come in peace, even though I can feel the hatred flowing through my veins.

“My name is Luca. I’m your brother. I’ve been looking all over for you,” he says, out of breath. “You’ve been missing for three years.”

“Missing?” I growl. “No, I was hiding.”

“Hiding?” He frowns. “Wait, what?”

“Who is this?” I say, holding up the picture in front of his face. “Tell me!”

“Jasmine,” Luca replies. “You don’t remember?”

“I remember her face, not her name,” I bark back. “But your name … that reminds me of hell.”

I really want to put my axe in his skull right now, but he knows this girl. He could bring me to her. Maybe then I can finally understand who I really am. Where I belong.

“Take me to her,” I say.

He laughs. “I don’t think that’s a good idea right now.” He holds out his hand. “How about you and I just talk for a while, hmm?”

“Talk?” I sneer. “About what?”

“For starters, why you didn’t come back home?” he asks.

“Home?” I respond. “I don’t fucking know where that is. All I remember is that it’s fucking dangerous.”

Luca sighs out loud and shakes his head. “Fuck … no wonder you were gone for so long. And why it took so long to find you.” He laughs and kicks some of the leaves, then rubs his face. “Fuck me, just my fucking luck.”

I clearly remember this dude yelling at me for something I did. Something involving a kiss. And it being the reason for my trauma.

“Why would you come looking for me?” I ask. “Because I remember you. I remember your voice. I remember you … chasing me off with that girl … who then drove me off a cliff.”

“Jill,” he says in a single breath.

But that name … it sparks a kind of hatred I’ve never felt before. Like a smoldering fire finally being fed enough oxygen to grow into a blazing fire.

And I grasp the dude by the collar and growl, “Tell me about her. Tell me everything.”

Chapter 17

Liam

* * *

Present

* * *

I turn around and look at Jasmine, but all she can do is stare, and it’s making me feel exposed.

I’ve never told anyone about my first encounter with my family.

Nor of the impact it had on me to learn all of my own history from someone else.

“How did Luca even find you?” Jasmine asks.

“Private detective. They traced all my locations from the crash site and went from there.”

“Why would he go through all that trouble?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say, drying off a glass. “Maybe he thought he could get his brother back.”

It’s quiet for some time. “Maybe he really did care about you after all.”

“Maybe.” I frown, gazing at my own reflection in the glass. “Or maybe he just wanted an easy way out of responsibility for the company by bringing me back.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Believe what you want. I know my brother. I know what he’s capable of,” I say, smacking down the glass as I look directly into her eyes. “Everything he told me kick-started my memories. Even the bad ones.”

She slowly puts her hand in front of her mouth. “He told you about Jill. The fight. The crash. That’s why you came for her.”

I frown and continue scrubbing the rest of the dishes again until everything is pristine.

“That’s why you waited three years,” Jasmine adds. “You couldn’t remember.”

“I wasn’t waiting,” I respond. “I was surviving.”

The look of pity in her eyes makes me want to lash out.

“Don’t,” I growl, marching toward her. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“I wasn’t—”

“Do not fucking pity me,” I say, pointing at her. “I don’t need your pity.”

“I … I …” she stutters, repositioning herself in her seat to get farther away from me, and I realize I may have scared her.

Fuck.

I don’t want her to be afraid of me.

I close my eyes and blow out a breath. Then I walk off to the bed and put on more blankets and another pillow.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“Prepping the bed.”

“Why?”

I pause and look up. “To sleep. What else?”

She looks at me like I’ve gone mad. “So you’re just gonna … sleep now?”

I tilt my head. “Yeah … with you.”

Jasmine

* * *

Sleep?

With me?

My eyes widen.

He’s not attempting to … get me to have sex with him, is he?

Suddenly, I picture him in the nude, cock swaying back and forth, while he climbs under the sheets with me, and I can’t stop the blush from spreading all over my face.

“W-what?” I mutter, completely befuddled.

“Are you tired or not?” he asks with a grumpy voice.

I nod, still confused.

“Then we sleep,” he says, and he sits down on the bed like it’s no big deal.

So he doesn’t actually … want to sleep with me?

He just wants to sleep… together?

“You can’t be serious.”

He frowns, annoyed. “It’s a bed. It’s for sleeping.”

“Oh, no.” I sit up straight in the seat. “I’m not crawling into the same bed as you.”

His brow rises. “You want to sleep in the freezer room instead?”

Just the thought makes a shiver roll down my spine, and I shake my head.

He props up the pillow and points at it. “Then you will sleep here. With me.”

I don’t think I’ve got much of a choice here.

It’s either sleep on the cold, freezing floor or huddled up in a small bed together with … him.

I look him up and down, and I suddenly become aware of just how huge he is. As well as the cock dangling in his pants that was in my mouth before…

Good God.

Why do my eyes do this to me?

I blink a couple of times to make the image disappear, but it’s hard when he’s looking at me like he’s waiting for me.

“Are you coming or not?” he asks.

I chuck the blanket off me and get up out of my cozy chair. “Fine.”

I could’ve just slept here on this seat, but of course he won’t allow that.

I approach him and swallow down the nerves while he watches me vigilantly and lifts up the blanket. I sit down on the bed and slowly lie down on the pillow. I’ve got to admit, it’s quite comfortable and soft … until he crawls over me and lies down behind me.

It all happens in the span of a few seconds, but the second his body presses against mine, I lose all of my cool. Every inch of skin touching his sends hot vibrations up and down my body, and I can’t stop focusing on his presence. His breath in my neck. His head lying down on the pillow right beside mine.

My lungs constrict as he pulls the blanket over both of us. His hard-on pushes up against my ass. My pussy clenches the second he hums with satisfaction.

Fuck.

I thought I could fool him with ease, but it’s proving far more difficult to keep calm myself. Why am I so affected by him? I shouldn’t be. He’s a bad fucking guy. A monster. He isn’t anything like the Liam I used to know, and—

His hand suddenly touches my waist and snakes down my belly. And I can’t. Fucking. Breathe.

“Hmm…” There’s that rumble again. The one filled with raw desire.

And it makes my body heat like a wildfire.

Focus on the job, Jasmine. Get to know him. Make him trust you so he lets you go. Then you can kill him.

Can I?

If push came to shove, could I pull that trigger?

You have no choice. He’ll kill your sister if you don’t.

Dammit. Why does this have to be so difficult?

I sigh out loud.

But he’s already snoring.

My God, that was quick.

What do I do now?

Should I try to make a run for it? Try to find my phone to call for help?

I lift my arm, but every inch of movement makes him pull me closer to his body, forcing me into the hardness of his muscles … and his bulge.

I gulp. Even in his sleep he’s hard as a rock.

Is he dreaming of me?

Stop it, Jasmine.

Since when did I become such a horny bastard?

His hand suddenly slides up the side of my body, and when he reaches my breast and squeezes my pussy clenches.

Oh, God.

I’m heating up from his body firmly pressed against mine, and now he’s groping my breasts too. I can’t stop myself from getting turned on.

So much that I begin to gyrate against his dick.

It’s wrong.

It’s immoral.

I should definitely stop.

But I can’t. I fucking can’t stop myself from rolling my hips against his, from biting my lip, from enjoying the feel of his hand on my breast, of his sleepy body still being turned on by mine.

There’s something severely intoxicating about feeling him be hard for me … and only me.

And the longer I go on, the more he begins to groan, even in his sleep. I’m getting all hot and bothered, and my hand dives between my legs. Even if I should, I can’t control myself anymore as I start playing with myself through the fabric of my pants.

I’ve only ever done this when I was at home, alone, never with anyone else … let alone a man’s hard-on.

It’s so bad, and it only makes me even wetter knowing I shouldn’t be doing this. But my fingers have a mind of their own as they slide up and down my slit and circle my clit until my breath becomes ragged and my brain becomes fuzzy.

Memories of him claiming my mouth invade my mind, and my lips part instinctively, desperately, yearning for that feeling again. That need to let go and submit.

And I let myself go in the moment, rolling my hips around his hard bulge until my clit swells and an explosion of ecstasy warms my body.

Right then, another groan, louder than the one before, escapes his mouth, and his dick begins to bob up and down in his pants. Again and again. Until I feel that same, warm wetness against my ass.

My eyes burst open and I roll away a little.

His pants are clearly stained.

Oh, my God.

Did I make him … come?

“Uhnnn …” he groans again, his eyelids fluttering open.

My cheeks turn red as freshly plucked strawberries.

Oh no. Oh, God no.

“What … what was that?”

“Nothing,” I mutter, and I quickly turn around again, hoping he won’t notice.

He clears his throat and brings his hand down my body, all the way to where the wetness clings to his pants.

“Hmmm …” The rumbling from deep within still makes goose bumps scatter across my skin. “Seems I got a little too excited having you in my bed.”

“What do you mean?” I mutter, pretending I don’t know what he’s talking about.

He turns me around to make me look at him. “I think you know exactly what I mean.”

He knows.

He fucking knows.

Oh, God.

The shame.

“I … I …”

Liam licks his lips, a devilish smile appearing on his face. “Did you enjoy yourself?”

I vigorously shake my head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I could literally die right now and not care. Nope.

He leans in. “I hope you did.” And he winks.

He actually fucking winks.

Is it hot in here or is it just me?

I roll around again and close my eyes, wishing I was somewhere else, because this kind of embarrassment is too much to take.

Until he crawls out of bed and takes off his pants … right in front of me.

Good God, that sculpted ass of his, I don’t think I can ever get used to it.

He walks to his closet and fishes out a fresh pair of sweatpants, while my eyes can’t stop ogling the damn thing swinging between his legs.

I’ve really lost it this time.

Yup. Completely lost it.

He turns around and I immediately close my eyes again to avoid confrontation. Every single one of his footsteps make my heart thump, though.

He crawls on top of me again, and I just about die as he lies down behind me again … and throws his arm over my body as if I didn’t just make him come in his sleep.

Too late for regrets.

Still, I shiver from feeling his body against mine, because my clit is still humming from the amazing orgasm I just had at my own damn hands.

“Are you cold?” he asks, gently nudging the blanket up farther.

I’d almost say it was charming … if he wasn’t my captor.

I clear my throat to try to remain calm. “No. It’s just … there isn’t much room to move.”

“I’ll make a bigger bed soon.”

“Make?” I laugh it off, but he sounds serious.

“Yes.”

“You make it sound easy,” I say.

“That’s because it is,” he quips.

I roll my eyes.

“I make a lot of things.”

Well, I guess this conversation is better than having to admit I just used him for my own pleasure. “Like what?”

“Chairs. Tables,” Liam replies. “The one you sat on … I made it by hand.”

I can’t help glance at him over my shoulder. “You made that?”

He nods, a gentle smile on his face. The same gentle smile I remember from back in the days, when everything seemed so much easier. “Cut the leather from a deer.”

Yuck. Not the kind of conversation I want to have after what just happened. “Okay. TMI.”

He snorts. “Yet you liked that chair perfectly fine before I told you.”

“I did yes. I just don’t like the thought of sitting on a murdered animal.”

“Murder?” He leans up on his elbow. “I kill to eat. I use the bones and fur for crafting. That’s not even remotely close to murder.”

“It’s dead so …” I shrug.

“But you eat meat too,” he says.

“It just creeps me out. That’s all.”

I don’t like where this conversation is headed. I wish I never said anything at all. I should’ve just gone to sleep.

But Liam won’t stop. “So killing an animal is murder, but killing humans is fine, according to you?”

“What?” I turn to look at him. “I never said that.”

“But you came to kill me.”

My lips part, but I don’t know how to respond to that.

“That’s …” I turn back around again so I don’t have to look at him.

“What? Different?” He snorts.

I frown. “You tried to kill my sister.”

His grip on my waist tightens, fingers digging into my skin.

And my eyes shoot open.

Oh, God.

“What did you just say?”

My skin begins to crawl.

“What?” I reply. “You know why I’m here.”

“No …” His voice is so low it brings goose bumps to my skin, as he forces me to turn around and look at him. “You said … tried.”

The look in his eyes is murderous.

Insane.

And I am not fucking prepared.

One second feels like hours when staring into the eyes of a beast of a man ready to kill.

I chuck the blanket off and jump out of bed, but he’s right there in front of me, following my every footstep.

I don’t wait another second as I run to the door and jerk the handle, but it won’t open. “Fuck!”

I turn my back to the wood, only to come face-to-face with him.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he growls. “Not until you tell me exactly what you meant.”

“I’m not telling you anything,” I spit back, and I slip out underneath his arm right as he’s about to grab ahold of me. I run to the kitchen, pull open the drawer, and grasp a knife, pointing it at him.

“Stay back!”

He holds up his hands.

In it is the key I’ve been dying to get ahold of, the key that opens the door to this cabin.

“You want this?” He dangles it as if it’s a piece of candy.

I swallow. Hard.

“Then tell me … is she alive?”

I shake my head. “I misspoke.”

“Bullshit,” he snarls, clutching the keys tight. “Tell me the truth. She’s alive, isn’t she?”

“Why do you think I’d come here?” I spit back.

When he steps closer, I lunge at him with the knife, catching him off guard. He maneuvers to avoid being sliced, but the key drops from his hand in the process, and I catch it. I storm to the exit, open the door, and rush out, but his roar makes my heart skip a beat. “JASMINE!”

Chapter 18

Liam

* * *

How could I’ve been so blind to the truth?

Jasmine was here for a reason.

Her sister … Jill … is still alive.

Adrenaline stokes the flames of rage in my body as I storm outside, following Jasmine’s footsteps until I’ve caught up with her. In the dark of the night, there’s barely anything to guide her, and when her foot catches on a tree stump, I know I’ve won.

I know this place, these trees, this forest. I’ve made it mine for three years.

There’s no way in hell she could ever outrun me.

In one quick jump, I grasp her by the legs and topple her.

She squeals. “Get off me!”

I pin her down on the ground and knock the knife out of her hand. I lean over and whisper into her ear. “Is Jill alive? Tell me the truth, or I swear to God, I will keep you locked up in that freezer forever.”

I’m right on top of her. There’s no way out of this. Not for her.

Tears well up in her eyes. “Yes.”

Nothing compares to the fury coursing through my veins right now.

“I should’ve killed her when I had the chance,” I whisper into Jasmine’s ear.

A single tear rolls down her cheek, but her eyes look anything but sad. “She’s alive thanks to your brother. Luca saved her. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

I frown and spin her around underneath me, forcing her to look at me. “My brother … he’s alive too?”

Clenching her jaw, she nods. “No thanks to you.”

So they both survived the fall.

How?

“You told me they were dead,” I growl, incensed she’d try to deceive me.

“I never said anything like that. You convinced yourself they were,” she quips.

I roar out loud again and punch the ground beside her with both fists. “You fucking lied to me!” She doesn’t even flinch while I hover close to her face.

“What else did you expect?” she murmurs, pushing away the tears glimmering in the moonlight. “You think I’d just tell you she survived so you can go and kill her again?”

“She deserves death,” I say, staring her down, but she won’t look away.

“So do you,” she retorts, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt to hear from her mouth.

“You still want to kill me, even when your sister is alive?” I growl.

Her face darkens. “To protect her!”

I’ve never seen this tenacity in her before, and it takes my breath away for a moment.

When I left that note for her, I thought she’d come to get revenge, and here she is, trying to stop me from having my own.

What a fool I was.

I pick up the knife and get up from the ground, leaving her there as I march back to the cabin.

“Where are you going?” she asks. “I thought you were going to—”

“Kill you?” I glance at her over my shoulder. “Do you think I could?”

She shudders in place. “Then what are you going to do?”

“Prepare.”

“For what?” she yells as she crawls up from the ground.

“To finish what I started.”

Jasmine

* * *

I don’t think twice as I run up to him and grab his hand right before he pushes down the door handle of the cabin.

“Please …” I mutter.

Liam pauses and looks at me over his shoulder, nostrils flaring.

“Don’t.”

I don’t know what else to say. What else to do to make him stop this quest for revenge.

I’ve tried. God, I’ve tried so many times to stop him, kill him, to win this fight with guns and knives and sheer force of will. I even tried with my body. But he is stronger, faster, more determined than I could ever be.

There’s only one thing I have left to offer.

The look in his eyes is murderous. Like a beast unchained. Violent. And I know it’s because I lied to him. Because I tried to protect my sister over myself.

But there is still a way.

One way.

“I’ll stay.”

The words come out in a simple breath, but they’re a sentence for life.

His eyes narrow, and he turns sideways as my grip on his hand tightens.

“You’ll stay …” he repeats.

I gaze at the ground, unable to look him in the eyes while I sign my own life away. “Yes.”

Liam turns to face me fully.

This was my last option. The failsafe when nothing else worked.

But is it enough?

Will he stop chasing after her?

“Why?” he growls. “You’ve tried to kill me over and over.”

“And I failed, over and over,” I reply, misery laced in my voice.

I failed to keep the only secret I vowed to keep.

And now, I must pay the price.

He throws me a look of suspicion. “Why should I trust your word?”

“Because she’s my sister … and I love her,” I respond, tears welling up in my eyes.

“You’re willing to give yourself to me to save your sister’s life?” he says through gritted teeth.

I look up into his darkened eyes. “It’s what you want, isn’t it? Me.”

His shoulders rise and fall with each deep breath he takes. “That girl should be dead.”

Dread fills my bones.

His lips part. “But …”

My eyes widen, and I hang on every word that flows out of his mouth.

His hand tightens into a fist. “You will do anything I want and everything I say.”

It feels as if the earth is caving in underneath my feet, but what other choice do I have but nod and say, “Yes.”

His lip twitches. “I won’t ever let you go. You understand?”

I nod and swallow away the lump in my throat.

Liam turns again and opens the door, saying, “Deal.”

My knees buckle, and I sink to the ground, unable to breathe.

I just signed my life away.

My freedom.

Everything.

All to save my sister and to stop him from trying to kill her a second time.

Oh, God.

Tears roll down my cheeks, and I can’t keep them at bay anymore. The thought of being locked up in there, in that heartless, freezing room makes me sob like never before. But it was the only solution, the only choice I could make.

“You’ll stop fighting. Stop trying to escape. Stop trying to kill me,” he says.

I close my eyes and let more tears tumble to the ground. Even if I did try, I could never win.

He won’t let me.

“Say it,” he growls. “Say it out loud.”

This time, it’s my turn to save someone.

I’m the big sister.

Jill protected me from Luca. Now it’s my turn to protect her from Liam.

But damn, it doesn’t make this easy.

“I’ll stop fighting. I won’t run. I won’t kill you.”

“You will stay with me for the rest of your life,” he says. “I wanna hear you say it.”

My body.

My soul.

The only things keeping him from murdering her.

A heavy price to pay for her life.

But worth it.

“I’ll stay. Forever.”

I shiver on the ground, burying my face in my hands so I don’t have to share my tears. Because even if I just gave myself to him, these tears are mine and mine alone. In them, I find power. Resilience. Restraint.

If it saves my sister, I’ll do it, no matter how harshly he treats me.

I can take it.

I’m strong.

I’m a Baas.

I’m…

His.

Chapter 19

Liam

* * *

I step inside the house and breathe deeply, trying to control my rage. I’ve never been more ready to head out there and hunt for what’s mine, to finish what I started, to have my revenge.

But she … she defies all I ever believed about myself.

I look at her kneeling on the ground, face buried in her hands, and the sting of tears she refuses to show gut me like a knife.

She did this.

She lied to me.

She made me believe Jill was dead.

All so she could have a shot at killing me.

My nostrils flare as more rage bubbles to the surface, and I stare at my own hands. The hands of a killer. Or at least, I thought I was. Until today.

Everything I believed to be real was a lie.

All because she’s trying to protect the one girl I hate more than anything.

My hand balls into a fist.

I should punish her for lying. For trying to kill me a third time. For not upholding her end of our blood debt.

But when I turn to look at her and see her body rise and fall with each hiccup, each restless breath, all the fury leaves my body like a storm finally calming down.

She’s giving me what I want.

Finally, she’ll be mine.

No fighting.

No killing.

Just … her and me.

It’s what I wanted all along. More than anything. More than … revenge itself.

I blow out another breath and rub my face before I head back outside again. “C’mon.”

She looks away and brushes her thumbs along her cheeks. Not one second does she look me in the eyes as she gets up from the muddy ground. She brushes the dirt off her baggy clothes, the ones I gave her, but still refuses to look at me.

Fine.

If she wants it that way, she can have it.

“Look at me,” I say.

And finally, for the first time in a long time, she does what I say without revolting.

But the shimmer in her eyes is long gone.

Replaced by nothing but repulsion. And it fucking hurts like a jab to the heart.

I grab the door and hold it open for her. “Get in.”

With slumped shoulders, she enters the cabin, and when I close the door again, she jolts up and down from the sound.

I sigh and approach her, placing a hand on her shoulder to turn her around.

She gives in easily. Too easily.

I sigh and hold out my hand. “Key.”

She hands it back without a single complaint, like a gazelle finally giving up hope to ever make it out of the lion’s jaws.

Good. It’s about time she finally realized there’s no point in resisting.

Her eyes find that door again, the one she busted open, and her lips part. “Please …”

“What?” I say, raising a brow.

“Don’t put me back in there,” she says.

When I narrow my eyes, she swallows, and it’s hard not to focus on it. Because it feels so fucking good to know I have this power over her. To hear her beg.

But this kind of begging isn’t the one I’m searching for.

I stare her down.

She lowers her eyes and starts walking toward it, shoulders slumped, body shivering.

I grip the doorway. “Where do you think you’re going?”

She stops and looks at me over her shoulder, an inkling of hope in her eyes.

And fuck me, it sets my heart on fire.

“I never said I wanted you back there,” I growl.

Her pupils dilate. “But you said you’d lock me up—”

“If you didn’t tell me the truth,” I say, lowering my head. “But you did.”

She looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind, but I know what I want.

What I’ve always wanted.

I walk back to the bed and sit on one end, coaxing her to join me with a single look. “Come.”

It takes her a few seconds to start moving. When she’s right in front of me, I grab her hands and sit her down beside me, forcing her to lie down.

I pull the blanket over her body and tuck her in.

Then I get up and sit down on the big, fur-encased chair near the fire and watch her.

“I don’t understand,” she whispers.

“What?”

“Why would you let me sleep here?”

“I want you to be mine, Jas,” I say. “I don’t want you deprived.”

She looks confused. “But I tried to kill you. Again.”

“And I was planning to kill your sister. Again,” I reply.

She sighs out loud.

“How do you know I won’t run?”

“Because you know what I’ll do if you escape.”

More silence. Deadly silence.

She knows what I’m capable of.

What she bargained for.

“You can take the bed,” I say after a while. “I’ll sleep here.”

Even though I know she was the one who made me come in my sleep, I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable about it and have it happen again … unless she wants it to.

But now is not the time.

She clutches the blanket close to her face and settles into the pillows, but I still saw the blush she’s trying to hide. “Thank you.”

“Don’t get used to it,” I reply, closing my eyes.

I can still hear her smile. “Good night.”

“Night,” I respond.

But I already know I won’t sleep for a single second.

Not tonight.

Jasmine

* * *

My eyes burst open as sunlight shines through the windows.

Judging from the light outside, I must’ve slept at least a few hours.

I guess I was too exhausted to care. And this bed is so warm, the pillow so comfy … even though it smells like him.

I take in another whiff, his scent penetrating my nostrils. The smell brought me comfort last night. But now? Now all it does is remind me of everything I’ve lost.

I clutch the blanket closer to my body because I suddenly feel cold to the bone.

This Liam is so far detached from the Liam in my memories. It didn’t always used to be like this between me and him. I remember a time where he was nice to me and where I looked up to him. A time where I could confide in him and tell him all my secrets.

A time where I could once imagine us together.

Age 16

* * *

“Hey … why are you so quiet?”

Liam’s voice makes me turn my head. I was only staring at the rain outside. The noise blocks out some of the voices from downstairs, where my parents are in a heavy fight with the De Vos family over a particular client. I am definitely not looking forward to hearing it up close and personal … but I guess there’s no escaping it someday.

“What’s wrong?” Liam asks, while sitting on my bed.

He’s always so concerned with me, but I don’t want him to worry.

“Nothing,” I say, and I hop off the windowsill.

“You sure?” he asks. “If there’s something bothering you—”

“Stop worrying about me,” I interject.

He smiles. “Don’t you know I always worry about you?”

“What’s there to worry about?” I grab my brush from my beauty table to coil it through my hair and make some curls. “I’ve got a life of luxury, remember?” I throw him a cheeky smile.

“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that—”

“I’m just messing with you,” I interject, winking.

“You’re normally never this distracted … what’s going on?”

“I told you, nothing,” I say.

He gets up and grabs the brush while I’m midway through, and he stares at me through the mirror. “Tell me.”

“I … I …” I stutter.

I don’t want to say it.

Not out loud.

But his hand suddenly touches my waist, his fingers gently pushing into my skin, and my cheeks begin to flush with heat.

It’s impossible to ignore.

“They invited me over to their business meetings,” I say.

Liam’s eyes narrow. “That’s good news, isn’t it?”

I nod, but I’m still sweating.

He raises his brow at me. “Is it?”

I nod again. “I feel like they finally trust me enough.”

“Of course they do,” Liam says. “You’re their daughter.”

“No, but I mean … they never invite Jill to join,” I say.

He frowns. “Well, that’s not very nice of them.”

“Oh, no, but it’s good,” I say, swallowing away the lump in my throat. “It means they’ll pick me.”

“For what?”

“To run the business,” I say, never breaking eye contact, even though I’m so desperately trying to look away. But his penetrative stare makes it impossible, even when it’s through a mirror. “As the next heir.”

“You mean …”

I nod. “At least, I think so. Mom hasn’t said it out loud. But I figured if they were inviting me to join …” My eyes trail off.

His grip on my waist tightens, and he spins me around, forcing me to face him eye-to-eye, and it’s so intimidating I forget to breathe. “Promise me you’ll tell me everything you know.”

I nod. “I can try.”

“I want to know when they decide which one of you is going to marry,” he says, and he tips up my chin. “And promise me you won’t exert yourself.”

“I won’t. I’m just doing the best I can, that’s it.”

“I know you,” he replies, looking so deeply into my eyes it’s as if he’s staring straight into my soul. “You give your all until you have nothing left.”

“That’s a good thing,” I say.

“No, it’s not,” he replies, his voice strained with emotions. “Not when your heart is on the line.”

“My heart doesn’t matter. The family does,” I reply.

His face begins to darken. “Don’t say that, Jasmine. I don’t care what they make you do, but don’t you ever say your heart doesn’t matter.” He grabs my chin and forces me to look up. “You hear me? You matter.”

“But—”

“And I want you to remember that. Always.”

Tears stain my eyes. “What if your parents pick your brother?”

His jaw tightens, and his lips thin. “I have no control over what my parents do …” He places his hands on my shoulders. “But I promise I will always be here to protect you.”

Present

* * *

He lied.

He couldn’t protect me.

Not from Luca … or himself.

I turn around in the bed and sigh to myself, moping around while trying to get back to sleep. But when I close my eyes, all I see is him and the boy he used to be … as well as the man I thought he would become.

Why did it have to be like this?

Why couldn’t Jill just have stormed off on her own and not taken Liam with her?

My eyes burst open, and I sit up straight in bed.

No. I can’t blame Jill. She didn’t do it on purpose.

She wanted to take Liam out of there … Luca was picking a fight with him, and it was about to get messy.

But what if she had let them fight it out?

Would he still be the Liam you once knew?

I rub my face and slap my cheeks, but it won’t stop me from thinking about all the things I shouldn’t be thinking about.

Nothing can change the past. Nothing.

What’s done is done.

Still, I can’t stop my eyes as they trail toward Liam. He’s still sitting in that chair, eyes closed, arms tipped over the edge, legs splayed in front of the fire. With his half-long hair covering half his face, he looks like a mess yet … familiar.

Like somewhere, deep inside, there might still be a memory of the boy I once knew locked away. Waiting … waiting to be released.

And I can’t help but throw the blanket off me and traipse toward him, careful not to wake him until I’m right in front of him. I hover close to his face, wondering what’s going on inside his mind.

What does he dream of when he sleeps? Twisted nightmares of killing Jill?

Goose bumps scatter on my skin.

Or does he have filthy dreams?

Dreams … of me?

I don’t know what possesses me to get this close.

But a part of me wonders if there could’ve ever been something more.

If the Liam I knew is still in there, somewhere.

Because why else would he sleep here on this chair instead of in the bed with me?

Especially now that he’s got me where he wants me. Now that I’ve sacrificed my own freedom to keep my sister alive.

I swallow hard and let my eyes travel over his body. He’s taken off his shirt halfway through his sleep, allowing me to look at all the intricate details of his tattoos. He didn’t have these before he got into the car accident … before the almost drowning.

And it makes me wonder if he got them because of it.

Because there’s a drawing of a car on his arm and an ocean beneath it.

I look at his marred face, my hand instinctively reaching up to touch him.

The accident hit him harder than I anticipated. Harder than anything I could ever imagine going through. No wonder it’s gotten him so fucked up.

Suddenly, his eyes burst open and instantly connect with mine.

He quickly grasps my hand just before I touch his face.

I gasp in shock and jerk my hand away so fast I fall on my ass right next to the fire.

He sits up straight and looks down at me from his leathery throne. “Jas … You didn’t think I was asleep, did you?”

My eyes widen. “But you—”

A filthy smirk spreads on his face. “I know how to lay low.”

My nostrils flare. Guess he caught me being a creepy stalker. Fuck.

He gets up, shoulders broadening like a beast awakened.

“What were you doing?” he asks.

“Nothing,” I say, maybe a little too quickly.

He approaches me, each footstep resounding through the wooden walls of this small cabin. I cower into the corner with my eyes closed, wishing I never crawled out of bed because I don’t know what he plans to do with me … but it can’t be good.

But when I open my eyes again, all I see is a hand stretched out to meet me, along with a warm smile on his face.

Chapter 20

Liam

* * *

She seems shocked I’d even offer her a hand.

Maybe I’m a monster, but monsters can be kind too.

“C’mon,” I say.

She stares at it for a second as though she can’t believe I can be nice too.

But I don’t want her to hate me. I just want to know what makes her tick.

And a part of me couldn’t resist fooling her while she got out of bed and attempted to sneak up on me. It’s a shame she tried to touch me … I liked feeling her eyes on me.

Liked the idea of her exploring every inch of my skin.

Her eyes are still transfixed on me as her hand slowly reaches to take mine. When our fingers touch, electricity shoots up and down my body, but I ignore it as I lift her from the ground.

“Let’s go fix some breakfast,” I say, and I turn around and walk off to the freezer room.

“Wait … you’re not going to punish me?” she asks.

I look at her over my shoulder. “For what? Ogling?”

She gasps, brows drawing together. “I was not ogling.”

“Peeping. Stalking. Perving. Anything else you wanna call it?” I say, shrugging. “It’s all the same to me.”

“In your dreams,” she quips, her reaction making me laugh.

I smirk. “That’s my girl.”

Her pupils dilate, and right before I look away again, I could definitely see her cheeks flush with heat.

It’s always a thrill when she pushes back. I don’t know why, but it’s exhilarating, and it makes me feel alive. Like I could bring down the world and then some.

And I remember that feeling.

I remember it seeping into my bones every time I spoke with her way back when.

Back before my world was destroyed.

I sigh out loud and reach into the freezer to take out some of the meat I chopped up, and I bring it back to the kitchen.

“What … what are you going to do with that?” Jasmine asks as I throw it onto the table and grab myself a big butcher’s knife.

“Cutting our food.”

Her face turns white as snow. “I … I’m not eating that.”

Halfway through chopping up the meat into tinier pieces, I pause. “Why not?”

“Because … it’s a fucking deer.”

My eyes narrow. “So?”

“It’s a wild animal.”

“It’s dead,” I reply.

She looks like she’s about to vomit.

“You okay?” I ask.

She puts her hand over her mouth. “I’m fine. But I am not eating that.”

I frown. “Why not? It’s food.”

“It’s frozen,” she quips.

“It won’t be after I’ve chucked it into the oven behind the house,” I retort. “Have you never had wild meat before?”

She shakes her head.

Fuck, she’s more sheltered than I thought.

“Unless you wanna tell me you’ve suddenly become a vegetarian,” I add.

“No, no, that’s Jill.”

The mere mention of her name makes me stab this knife straight into the meat.

“Don’t …” I say. “Don’t say her name.”

She swallows as I look her in the eyes.

“Ever again,” I add after a while.

She breaks eye contact and steps away. “Fine.”

With rage seething deep inside me, I pick up the knife again and continue my work, but Jasmine wistfully staring out the window distracts the fuck out of me.

I sigh out loud.

I don’t want her to fucking hate me, but everything I say and do does just that.

“Hey,” I say, and she only briefly turns her head to look at me. But her eyes are no longer filled with that passion I’ve grown used to, the fire that blazed ever since we were kids.

How do I bring it back?

“Wanna go out there and hunt with me?”

“No thanks,” she replies, and she looks away again.

Goddammit.

I chuck the knife into the kitchen sink and head outside with the meat on a plate, throwing it all into the oven to roast. It’ll take a while for the deer to be done, so it’ll probably be for lunch.

I go back inside and grab a few of the sandwiches out of the bag I took out of the freezer two days ago and put them on a plate.

“Hungry?” I ask her.

She only responds with a shrug.

Fuck.

I didn’t think I’d miss our fighting, but I guess anything is better than this ghost of a girl.

Sighing, I throw the plates down onto the table as well as sugar, milk, butter, and several different types of cheese and cured meats.

“Sit,” I say, scooting back a chair.

She does what I ask without complaining and stares at her plate as if she doesn’t know what to do with it.

“Eat,” I add.

Finally, she does just that, buttering her bread before stacking some cured meats on top and taking a hesitant bite.

But it doesn’t feel right.

It’s almost as if she’s turned into a robot.

A ghost of her former self.

What the hell is going on?

Is she disappointed in the food?

“You don’t like bread?”

“It’s fine,” she responds.

“What do you normally eat at home?” I ask. “I can get more fresh vegetables and fruits later.”

She shrugs. “Doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does,” I say, looking her in the eyes. “To me, it does.”

Her eyes fixate on mine, like she’s trying to tell me something without using words.

She shoves a piece of sandwich into her mouth like it’s nobody’s business. “Why?”

“Because I care,” I say. “I’ve always cared.”

She rolls her eyes and chomps down on her sandwich.

“Hey,” I say, forcing her to look up. “I mean it.”

She snorts. “That’s rich coming from the dude who wants to keep me here as a pet.”

“You chose this, not me,” I say, clutching my knife so hard it pushes into my skin. “If it were up to me, I would’ve gone back to end what I started.”

“Oh, so you’re allowed to talk about her, but I’m not?” She raises a brow. “Double standards.”

“I’m not talking about anyone. I’m talking about the choice you made,” I reply.

“To save her,” she says.

“Commendable … but stupid,” I say.

Her face contorts. “Did you just call me stupid?”

Fuck.

Maybe I shouldn’t have used that word.

“I didn’t mean—”

She gets up from her seat and heads back to the bed, where she sits down and throws the blanket over her head.

“Hey …” I say, but she’s ignoring me.

“I’m not here,” she says.

I snort and shake my head, placing down my knife. Maybe I was too quick to say the fire had left her. I get up and go to her, lifting the blanket. She’s shoving the sandwich into her mouth like a little squirrel hides nuts, and seems surprised I caught her.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

She looks up at me with doe-like eyes that stokes another flame … one inside my own damn body.

“I’m not stupid,” she says.

“I know,” I say, letting out a sigh.

“And I’d make that same decision over and over again if it meant saving someone I love.”

Love … that’s not a word I’d ever use, especially not for anyone in my family.

This conversation got serious too fast.

“You’d do the same if you were in my shoes,” she says.

I pull the blanket off her. “I doubt that.”

“I saw the way you looked at Luca when he fell,” she says as I turn around and walk back to my food. “You didn’t want him to die.”

“He deserved it,” I respond.

“But did you want him to fall to his death?” she asks.

I can’t even eat my food in peace.

“Maybe,” I say.

“Why? Because you hate him for loving someone else more than his own brother?”

My eye begins to twitch. “I’m going to eat now.”

While I bite into my sandwich, she continues. “You’re avoiding the conversation.”

“I’m hungry, nothing more,” I say.

“You just don’t want to talk about feelings.”

I tilt my head and swallow while gazing at her eyes. “Hmm … You know, I know someone else who refuses to talk about feelings too.”

She frowns. “Who?”

I put down the rest of my sandwich. “You.”

Her entire face turns red again. “What are you talking about?”

“You know damn well what I’m talking about,” I say, and I shove the rest of my sandwich into my mouth, get up to clean the table, and march toward her.

She looks at me with those same skittish eyes as if she’s afraid I might take more than she has to bargain for. But I already played with her body … and she definitely played with mine.

But I want more than that. So much fucking more.

If only she could see it. Understand it.

Own up to her own desires.

And fuck me, I’d do just about anything to see her smile for once.

I grab her arm and pull her up. I have just the idea.

“What are you doing?” she asks as I haul her out of bed and head straight for the door. “Where are we going?”

“Out,” I reply, throwing open the door.

She digs her heels into the wood, forcing me to turn my head.

“Out? As in … out of the cabin?”

I nod. “Isn’t that what you want?”

Her eyes graze over the mossy woods outside, a yearning hiding behind them. “Well … yes, but I didn’t think—”

I plant a hand against the doorpost. “What? That I’d let you out this quickly?”

She swallows and then nods.

I lower my eyes at her. “I want to keep you …” My hand instinctively reaches for her face as I cup her chin. “But I don’t want a robotic doll. I want the real you.”

My hand slides up her cheek as I gently caress her for the first time since she submitted.

And fuck me, does it feel good.

So good, I’m getting a hard-on just from touching her face.

Especially when, for just a moment, it’s almost like she leans into the palm of my hand.

But I need more than this. So much more.

I need more than I could ever take.

It’s worth the wait.

I sigh and remove my hand from her face and the other one from the doorpost. “C’mon.”

I walk outside and lead the way.

“What about the deer?” she asks.

“It’ll take a while before it’s done. We’ll be back by then.”

“What are we going to do?” she says.

“I made you a promise, so I’m gonna keep it.”

“A promise?” She traipses behind me through the woods.

“I told you I’d get vegetables and fruits,” I say.

“You can find those in the woods?” she asks.

I laugh and shake my head. She doesn’t know a lot, does she? It’s cute.

“No, Jas,” I say as I walk up to the little shed I built a few months ago, and I tear off the thick plastic sheet covering my precious motorcycle. “We buy them.”

She ogles the bike like it’s the first time she’s seen one. “Wow.”

A proud smile spreads on my face as I jump on and kick-start the engine, then pat the back seat. “Hop on.”

Chapter 21

Jasmine

* * *

With my arms wrapped around his waist, we cruise around the mountains and through the forests across all the narrow roads. His cabin wasn’t too far from the road, but I never imagined he’d be the one to ride a motorcycle.

Then again, there’s a lot I apparently didn’t know about him.

For example, he’s into tattoos, hunting, living in the woods … and a very horny son of a bitch.

I snigger to myself as the bike slows down.

“We’re here,” Liam says.

I peer over his shoulder at the village ahead. It’s a small town with barely twenty houses, all white and brown, with flower arrangements tumbling down the windowsills everywhere. The houses are all built on a slope, and there’s a small stream of water next to the house in the lowest corner. If you ask me, this town is beyond cute. Idyllic, like a painting on a canvas. And with the sun shining brightly and the sky above so blue, I could almost, almost forget I’m a captive.

Liam parks his bike on a small parking lot next to the first house and helps me get off. His warm hand enveloped around mine is hard not to think about as he pulls me along through the village. Something about all of this is oddly … romantic.

And it throws me off completely.

“What are we doing here?” I ask as we walk around the plaster houses where people are going about their lives, chatting with neighbors, gardening, and hanging laundry.

“Shopping,” Liam answers, pointing at a street to our left. “There’s a market there.”

I throw him a look. “I never pegged you to be the market type. I thought you were a recluse,” I joke. “Living off the land.”

He raises a brow. “Well, I hate people, but I still need food. You’d actually see this guy growing vegetables?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. You hunt deer for fun. I thought you’d have a thing for food.”

“I like hunting. Not cooking,” he replies. “Big difference.”

I snort. “I know. I could taste that.”

He squeezes my hand, and a playful smirk appears on his face. “You think you can cook better than me? I’d like to see you try.” He tugs me along to the small stalls. “Go on then. Buy something.”

He pushes me toward the produce, and I stare at it, completely befuddled.

“Hallo. Was willst du?” the stall owner says.

I may speak Dutch, but I don’t speak German. “Uhh …” I point at a bunch of veggies and fruits, and the man puts them in the bag for me. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” the man replies with a German accent. “That’ll be sixteen euros.”

Liam fishes his wallet from his pocket and hands the man some cash.

“Thank you very much,” the man says. “Enjoy!”

I grab the bag and check out the other stalls.

“That went well,” Liam says. “You don’t speak German?”

Obviously not. “I failed most of the classes.”

His brows furrow. “As a Dutchie?”

I want to smack him so badly right now. “Surprise, I’m not perfect.”

He smirks. “Guess we both failed at something then.”

I frown his way. “What do you mean?”

The smile on his face makes me feel petty. “Nothing.”

Is he laughing at me?

I throw him a punch to the shoulder. “Stop being an asshole.”

“You said my cooking was bad,” he retorts.

“Fine.” I roll my eyes. “I guess I deserved some payback.”

“You’re right, though,” he says, still smiling like a motherfucker. “It was bad. Which is why I can’t wait to see what you come up with if you’re up for it.”

He winks.

And for some reason, that makes me blush. Hard.

“So what’s next?” I ask, trying to stop thinking about how handsome he is when he smiles.

He walks back to his bike and opens the back compartment. “Something special.”

I narrow my eyes at him as I chuck the bag inside, and he closes the lid again. “Sounds secretive.”

“It’s a surprise,” he says as he hops on again. “Get on.”

I do what he says and wrap my arms around him. It almost feels normal. Familiar. Comfortable.

Too comfortable.

“Hold on tight,” he says. “It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”

We go up the mountains near the village, closer to the cabin, across an unkempt dirt road surrounded by trees and bushes. I feel like we’re headed straight into the middle of nowhere, out in the wild, where no one will be able to find us, and something about that makes me feel uneasy.

But his warm body against mine keeps me steady. He said he wants me more than anything, which means I’m safe with him. At least, as long as his hands aren’t on me. Or his tongue.

I shiver with delight.

The bike stops behind a thick tree, and just up ahead is a big clearing with rippling water. I can’t see it, but I can hear it.

“We’re here,” Liam says, and he helps me get off again like a true gentleman, holding out his hand and all.

I almost feel like I’ve ended up in the twilight zone. Like I’m not really someone’s pet captive at all. Because as I step toward the clearing, my eyes land on the most beautiful, pristine little lake I’ve ever seen.

“Wow…” I mutter.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” Liam says, walking closer too. “I found it on one of my trips off trail. But once you know the landmarks, it’s not hard to find.”

“Is this for real? Am I imagining things?” I rub my eyes because this place just doesn’t seem real. Surrounded by pine trees and big rocks, the lake seems untouched. Unspoiled by humans. Too good to be true.

Liam laughs and grabs my hands, leading me closer. “C’mon.”

I pause and let go of his hand as he turns to face the water.

And starts taking off his shirt.

And his shoes.

His socks.

Pants.

Underwear.

Until there’s nothing left but buff, naked skin in broad daylight. And my eyes gobble up his muscular shoulders, back, and that little crevice leading to his round ass.

Whoa.

He really went there.

And I guess my eyes did too.

He glances at me over his shoulder, smirking like a badass before stepping into the water and diving in.

And I’m just standing here, eyes wide open, wondering if I’m the one losing my mind.

“C’mon. Get in,” Liam coaxes me.

I shake my head. “Nuh-uh. Way too cold.”

“It’s not cold. It’s mildly chilly.”

“Frozen, you mean,” I respond.

He tilts his head. “Frozen?” And he stands up straight, showing me his giant hard-on, which hasn’t shrunk in size even a little bit, and it’s making me gulp. “If it was that cold, I would’ve noticed.”

I put my hand in front of my eyes. “You did not just do that.”

“Afraid of some dick now?”

“No, just yours,” I quip.

He laughs. “It’s not like it hasn’t already been in your throat.”

My jaw drops, and my hand disappears from my face. “Oh, my God.”

“Liam is good enough, Jas.” He winks, and I just cannot with his arrogance. “But I’ll make you scream my name soon enough.”

Now it’s impossible to stop the blush from spreading all over my face and neck.

“Stop,” I growl.

“No. Not until you get in here.”

“With you all naked like that?” I retort. “Pass.”

I’m not going to tempt myself like that. But my God, it’s like he wants to play the devil’s part.

“Jasmine … Get in.” His voice is much less playful.

“Or what?” I raise my brow.

The smile vanishes from his face. “Did you forget about the promise you made?”

I swallow. No, I didn’t, but I was hoping he had.

“Get. In.” His voice is low. Commanding. “Now.”

Clenching my jaw, I stare at him for a moment. Then I begin taking off the shirt I got from him. And the pants. Along with my shoes. My panties and flimsy bra are the last things to go. But no matter how hard I try to hide myself, he won’t stop staring. And it’s making my body heat so fast I can’t keep up. The way he looks at me is nothing short of possessive. Like he’s just found the best piece of meat he’s ever seen, and he’s ready for the hunt.

I walk toward the lake, his gaze never leaving my body.

His Adam’s apple rises and falls as he swallows.

Fearless, I step into the cold water, knowing full well what he could do to me. How he could touch me. Kiss me. Use me. Splay me. Fuck me.

The water is cold to the touch. My nipples instantly harden from the chill, but nothing can quench this fire growing inside me when he looks at me like that.

I pause midway toward him, hiding my body underneath the water, wondering what he plans to do with me. Why he lured me to this spot to begin with.

Because it’s definitely not a coincidence. He’s got ulterior motives.

“What do you want, Liam?” I ask.

“Why are you still asking?” he replies, wading closer. “Isn’t it obvious?”

I push down my nerves with sheer will and force myself to focus on the beautiful scenery, but my eyes keep coming back to his fully naked, ripped, tattooed body.

He inches closer and closer until there’s little to no space between us, and it suddenly feels as though this entire planet isn’t big enough for both of us.

His hand rises, one finger stretched out, touching my skin with the tip, and it sets off a chain reaction in my body I’m not prepared for. His hand goes up my chest and up to my face, still inching farther until his hand is around the back of my neck.

And he draws me closer. Closer. Even closer. Until his lips are right next to mine, hovering dangerously close.

Fuck.

I can’t.

I pull away, my heart going a million miles an hour as I swim out to the middle of the lake until I come to a stop in front of a rock formation that makes it impossible to swim across.

A hand on my shoulder spins me around forcefully, and I’m face-to-face again with the one man I vowed to destroy.

He comes close enough until my back is pressed up against the rock, and he plants both hands beside me, trapping me inside.

“Why did you bring me here?” I ask.

“Because it’s beautiful …” He leans in. “It reminded me of you.”

Fuck.

How could I not blush and smile from that?

Even if he’s a monster, he’s never been so kind to me.

It confuses the fuck out of me.

One moment, he’s the devil incarnate, and the next, I could almost … kiss him.

“I like seeing you smile,” he says, his voice ragged and strained. “I don’t want you to be angry with me.”

“Then why do you keep trying to hurt me?” I ask.

He knows what I mean.

This isn’t just about Jill or my choice to save her by sacrificing myself.

This is about him wanting to make me suffer.

Wanting to see me bleed, beg, cry.

All because I tried to kill him.

But I didn’t have any other choice.

He does.

Yet when I look at him, I don’t see that same stone-cold killer I saw before. The one who could think of nothing more than to murder the people I love.

Water droplets roll down his brows and lips, and I could almost lean in and suck them off.

Fuck, no, stop thinking like that, you—

Suddenly, he whisks me up in his arms and plops me up on the rock right in front of him. It’s cold up here, definitely colder than the water.

Until he looks up with a smoldering gaze and gently parts my legs.

I gulp as he bends over and presses a kiss to my knee. And another one onto my inner thigh, going higher and higher and higher, dragging his lips and rugged stubble along my skin.

When I whimper, he looks up. “Is this hurting you?”

I shake my head, and he promptly continues showering my thighs in kisses all the way up to where my pussy is already clenching. My body is overheating from the mere idea of him perched between my legs, let alone the fact that he’s probably hard and ready to fuck.

And I definitely should not be thinking about that right now.

But he makes it so hard when he kisses me so passionately that I almost melt away right on this very rock. Especially when he grips my ass with both hands and digs his fingers into my skin like he’s ready to eat me out.

He looks up with greed and hunger in his eyes. He hasn’t even kissed me there yet, let alone touched me, yet I’m already as wet as can be at the mere thought.

Oh, God.

What has he done to me?

My head tilts up, my back arching as his tongue dips out to lick the rim of my pubic bone.

And then …

Nothing.

I look down.

He’s gone.

Vanished into the water, leaving nothing but a little bubble popping at the surface.

What the fuck?

The second he reappears, he’s already marching out of the water again with a grand smile on his face like it’s no big deal. Like he didn’t just leave me stranded on a rock with a throbbing clit, drowning in desire.

Fuck.

Fuck him and that fucking bike he drove here on.

Chapter 22

Jasmine

* * *

The entire way back, my clit is throbbing against the motorcycle’s seat, and I fucking hate it. I hate what he’s done to me. I hate that he’s made me want his tongue there so much I can’t stop thinking about it. But what I hate the most is the fact that he disappeared on me right when I was about ready to give in.

My clothes are completely wet, as are his, but he doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. Meanwhile, I’m still a grumbling mess on the back, and I am so glad the motorcycle noise drowns out the sounds exiting my mouth. I’m forced to hold on tight to his thick, rippling abs protruding through his shirt, and the feeling alone keeps me wet and buzzing with desire.

Fuck.

When we get home, I’m going to lock myself up.

I don’t care what room, even if it’s in that tiny cabin. Anything will do as long as it’s far away from him.

Because being close to him … that’s when things get dangerous.

My body is clinging to his, and it’s making it hard to breathe.

Hard not to feel my own heart going haywire.

Hard not to think about the way he kissed my thighs and licked my pubic bone.

Fuck.

The bike finally comes to a halt near the road, and I hop off even before he’s done bringing it back to the shed. But I can’t stay here a second longer.

“Hey,” Liam barks as he gets off too and pushes the bike off-road toward the forest, where I’m already stomping through. “Where are you going?”

I shove aside some thick branches from a bush. “Away.”

He laughs as he pulls the bag with groceries from the motorcycle. “In the middle of nowhere? Good luck surviving out there.”

“I don’t care.”

When I keep walking, he adds, “You’ll starve out there.”

“I know where the village is,” I say. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

He quickens his pace. “Did you forget the fucking deal you made with me?”

I glance at him over my shoulder. “Did I say I was going somewhere?”

His eyes narrow. “You said ‘away.’”

“Yeah … away from you,” I retort, and I turn my head again and keep walking toward the cabin.

He puts his bike down near the shed while I go to the oven and take out the deer meat before it turns black. It smells delicious, but right now, I can’t think of eating anything other than … him.

Good God.

I’ve really gone off the deep end.

I place the tray with the deer meat on a metal coaster so it can cool off. Then I walk to the cabin door.

Behind me, Liam puts the bag of groceries down on a table outside. Some more noise follows. The sound of a rope being flung over a tree branch makes me briefly turn my head to watch. I don’t know what he’s doing there, but I don’t care either.

It’s about time I got the hell away from him.

The rustling of his footsteps through the leaves and a gruff voice makes me pause. “Stop.”

My hand hovers over the door handle.

I can’t push myself to disobey him.

If I don’t listen, he’ll kill my sister. That’s the deal I made with him.

I stay … and he gets anything and everything he wants from me.

But fuck, I never realized what that meant.

How hard he’d make this.

How much I’d start to yearn for things I shouldn’t ever crave.

“Don’t walk away from me,” he says.

I grind my teeth.

“You’re mad at me,” he adds.

No shit.

After what he did, he should be glad I haven’t punched him yet.

“I’m fine,” I lie.

“Stop lying to yourself,” he says. “You’re not fooling anyone.”

I turn to face him. “What do you want?”

There’s a darkness in his eyes that’s impossible to ignore. “What I’ve always wanted …”

Me.

And that makes me furious as hell.

“First you treat me like a captive, then you’re suddenly all nice and show me around town like I’m your girlfriend or something, and then you, you—”

My words are cut off by my own rage bursting out in the form of a roar.

“I what?” he says, stepping forward through the forest slowly, meticulously planning his footsteps while his gaze is on me at all times. “Tell me.”

“You brought me to that water just to make me get naked, and …”

I can’t even say it out loud without feeling like there’s a cotton ball in my throat.

“Say it, Jas,” he says, stepping even closer until it’s impossible to look at anything other than the bulging, tattooed muscles hiding underneath that flimsy, wet shirt.

“You made me … you made me … ugh!” I’m blushing like crazy, and I hate it. “Why do you do this?”

“I made you …” he murmurs, walking even closer until we’re only a few feet away. “Want me.”

I suck in a breath.

No. That can’t be true. Right?

“You’re playing with my mind,” I retort, trying to ignore the thumping going on in my pants. “I never gave you permission to do that.”

He snorts. “You make it too easy, Jas.”

“We made a deal. I would stay and do what you wanted. Why don’t you just take it?”

His head tilts. “Take it?”

Shit … Did I just say that out loud?

I shudder in place.

“I … I—”

Suddenly, he storms at me and pins me to the door with one hand on my throat and the other on my pussy.

I gasp in shock.

“Take you … like this?” he says, his voice low, heady, intoxicating.

And I don’t even know how to respond.

All I can do is whimper.

God, what did he do to me?

He spins me around and pushes me up against the door. “You want me to lick this pussy like it was always mine?”

Oh, God.

I don’t know why, but this dirty talk is such a turn-on, and it’s so goddamn wrong I can’t handle it.

His hand dives between my pants which still cling to my body after the swim. He doesn’t seem to mind as he swipes his hand along my pussy and groans.

“All you had to do was ask,” Liam growls, and he tears me away from the door and drags me all the way back to a tree … the same tree he just threw a rope over mere seconds ago.

What is he planning to do?

I struggle in his arms, but I’m no match for his strength as he grabs my wrists and forces them up against the tree.

“What are you doing?”

He hooks them in place and ties the rope around them. “You want me to take? Then I’ll fucking take from you.”

I’m fucking tied to the tree by my wrists while my feet can barely touch the ground. There’s no way to run, no way to escape, no way to fight, no way to—

All the voices in my head are silenced.

Because his hands are on my waist and tugging down the pants he gave me.

Slowly tugging it down, curling it over my hips, all the way down until my soaking wet panties are the only thing left between him and my naked pussy while he’s on his knees right in front of me.

He tears my pants off, along with my shoes, and then peers up into my eyes just as before when I was sitting on that rock, wondering what it would feel like if I would just … let go.

A filthy smirk forms on his lips as he leans in and presses a sultry kiss to my ankle.

And drags his lips up higher … and higher … and even higher.

Oh, God.

His lips are tantalizing, hot, and so goddamn slow it makes me squirm.

And I can’t help but look down as he gazes into my eyes with the same burning desire brewing in my body.

Why did I say those words? How did I let this happen?

One second, I was cursing him under my breath for doing all of this to me, and then the next, I’m foaming at the mouth at the thought of him … kissing me.

Fuck.

I’ve lost all my senses.

I’m tempted to kick him, but suddenly, he grabs both my legs with a firm hand and spreads them. Wide.

“Anything and everything I want,” he says with a penetrative stare, never letting his lips leave my skin.

“Is this what you want?” I ask, the pitch in my voice getting higher and higher as his kisses reach my knee.

Liam’s tongue dips, and he licks up a droplet of water still clinging to my skin right above my knee. “I think you’re asking the wrong question here …”

“Don’t,” I growl.

“Don’t what?” he groans, kissing me on my inner thigh while clutching my legs. “Don’t make you realize what you need? What you crave so desperately?”

I jerk the rope, but it’s no use. I can’t possibly win from a goddamn tree.

A soft but sexy laugh leaves his mouth. “The more you struggle, the harder I get for you, Jas.”

I gulp as my clit just throbbed.

Fuck.

He’s really put a spell on me.

“All this torture has made you a little too hot and bothered,” he muses, showering my thighs in kisses until he’s right there where all my nerves bundle into one single spot. “But I won’t torture you any longer.”

“I shriek when he rips off my panties with ease, tearing them to shreds this time.

“You won’t need these if you’re mine,” he groans.

But before I can rebuke, his lips are on my pussy, and I swear to God I almost die. Right there. On the spot.

I’ve found my tree. They can bury me right here. Put down a headstone that says, “This girl died from a single lick.”

That’s how good it feels when he kisses me there. And oh, God, when he adds a tongue, my eyes almost roll to the back of my head.

“That’s it. Let yourself go, Jas,” he growls. “My tongue owns this pussy now.”

Goose bumps scatter on my skin.

No one, and I mean no one, has ever talked to me like that.

Not because I wouldn’t let them … but because I never had anyone even touch me there, let alone lick.

And the combination of these two facts is turning me into a sex-crazed whore because all I can think of is shoving his face further into my pussy.

What the hell is wrong with me?

How did this happen?

What has he done with me?

I try not to flinch, but it’s so hard when he starts circling my clit with his tongue. It’s driving me mad to the point of wanting to moan.

WHACK!

A sudden slap to my inner thigh makes me shriek.

“Stop resisting,” Liam says.

“No,” I quip. “I have to.”

Another slap sends me off the edge.

“No one’s here to judge you, Jas,” he says, alternating kisses and licks until I can barely breathe normally. “But I will punish you if you don’t give me what I want.”

“Punish?” I snort. “As if this isn’t—”

SMACK!

Each slap reverberates into my pussy, making me all the more aware of just how badly I want this.

“You think this is punishment?” he growls. “You haven’t even seen the worst.”

“Oh, God …” I mutter, tiptoeing around on the ground.

“God won’t save you now,” Liam says as he grasps my ass tightly, fingers digging into my skin. “But I will.”

His tongue is going wild on my clit. It’s so different from his fingers. Better. Worse. Like a tsunami of sensations I can’t even fucking handle, and he doesn’t care.

“You like this,” he groans. “You’re wet for me.”

“It’s wrong, so wrong.”

“It’s not wrong if it feels right, Jas,” he responds.

“What if someone finds us?” I’m grasping at straws here.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere. No one is going to find you here.”

The way he says it, so full of raw passion, it’s like pure obsession, and it turns me on like nothing else ever could.

No amount of fantasizing could prepare me for the reality.

For this.

For him and his goddamn delicious tongue slathering my pussy.

Fuck, I don’t think I can hold on much longer.

“And no one will ever lick you the way I’m licking you now,” he groans, lapping me up as if there’s no tomorrow.

“Fuck,” I mutter, unable to hold it back.

“Yes, that’s it, Jas. Give me your fucking orgasm,” he murmurs against my pussy, gazing up at me from underneath his lashes. “Look at me.”

I do what he asks without question.

Not because of the deal, but because of how good it feels. And fuck me, I’m about ready to sign my soul away.

“I want you to see it’s my fucking tongue that gave you the best fucking orgasm of your life.”

I gasp from his words.

“Now come for me.”

I can’t … I can’t hold it back.

With a loud moan, a wave of ecstasy rolls over me, filling me with warmth and excitement. My legs shake, my body barely able to stay upright as the waves flow through me. The only thing keeping me here in the present is the rope wrapped around my wrists … and his mouth firmly pressed against my pussy.

“Fuck yes,” he groans. He keeps licking, lapping up all my juices while groaning with delight, and it only adds to my pleasure.

Only when the orgasm has subsided does he pull away and lick his lips. “Fuck me … Delicious.”

All the heat that was in my body instantly moves to my face.

His hand swipes along my clit, and my thighs instantly squeeze together from how sensitive it is. “My pussy.”

SLAP!

I squeal, feeling the sting of his hand against my pussy lips. “Why did you have to do that?”

“Because I like it,” he says, smiling like a motherfucker. “And you do too.”

“What? I never said I—”

He stands up and grabs my throat, silencing me with a single move. I can barely even gasp as he leans in to whisper into my ear. “Stop. Lying.”

He plants a soft, delectable kiss below my ear, sealing the deal, while his hand still toys with my pussy like it always belonged to him, and it’s driving me insane with lust.

Why, why, why do I have to be like this?

And why is it so easy for him?

He smirks against my skin, and I fucking hate how it feels, hate how arrogant, how desperate he makes me.

But what I hate the most is how my own damn body has betrayed me.

Because he’s right.

I want it.

More than anything.

And I don’t want him to stop.

Until he waltzes back to the bag of groceries he just plopped onto the table and pulls out a carrot … and a devilish smirk forms on his lips.

Oh, God.

Chapter 23

Liam

* * *

A mixture of lust and fear settles in her eyes, and it gets me riled up like nothing else.

I stalk toward her, dangling the carrot in front of her.

“What are you going to do with that?” she asks.

A devilish smile forms on my face. I’m not going to answer a rhetorical question.

Oh no … I want her to simmer in the unease of excitement, the thrill of what may come.

I go to my knees in front of her and circle her clit with my tongue again.

“Oh, God,” she murmurs.

When her clit begins to swell, I pull back and watch her squirm against the ropes for a hot second. I look up at her writhing in place. “More?”

She bites her lip but refuses to answer.

Lucky for her, I know a perfect solution.

I slide the carrot up and down her wet pussy.

Her eyes widen. “We were going to cook with that!”

I don’t give two shits. “So?”

“It’s wrong,” she mutters.

I just look up at her as I play around with her pussy using the carrot. “You think everything is wrong.” When the carrot is wet enough, I slowly push it into her pussy. There’s a slight resistance, but when her lips form an o-shape, and an obvious blush spreads all across her cheeks, I know she enjoys the feel. And I push the carrot in and out until it’s covered in her juices and her legs begin to shake. “But wrong could feel so right if you let it.”

I know she loves it. I can see it in her eyes, the lust growing behind them. She keeps denying the obvious, and I’m over it.

“But it’s food,” she mutters, struggling not to react to the obvious pressure building inside her body.

I press my tongue against her clit again and circle around it while thrusting the carrot in and out. “Anything can be a toy.”

She gasps but can’t even form one syllable as I push the carrot in farther and swipe my tongue back and forth across her sensitive clit. The deeper I go, the more her head tilts back, and a moan still slips through the cracks, despite her reservations.

“See? You like this,” I muse with my mouth on her pussy.

“It’s so … thick,” she murmurs.

“Imagine what my cock would feel like in your aching pussy,” I say, gazing up at her embarrassed face. And I keep licking until the carrot is coated in her juices. I don’t want to stop, even if she thinks it’s immoral. I want her to beg.

“F-Fuck,” she mutters, her legs quivering.

“That’s it, Jas. Be a good little girl and come all over this goddamn carrot,” I growl.

She mewls with delight as I thrust it deep inside and lick her little clit until it bursts. I can feel the orgasmic waves through her skin, which pulsate with need. A loud moan escapes her mouth, and she almost collapses into the ropes.

I pull the carrot out of her and lick it off, her juices too sexy for me to pass up on.

“What the—you’re licking the carrot?!” she mutters. “That was just—”

“Inside you? Yeah, I’m not gonna let a drop go to waste,” I reply, and when I’m done, I take a bite. “Delicious.”

I chuck what’s left of the carrot aside and stand up tall, planting my hand against the tree behind her. I like being up close and personal with her. Like watching her squirm to avoid the obvious feelings she has for me when I lean in to press a sultry kiss onto her neck.

I smile against her skin, licking up a droplet of sweat that rolled down. The saltiness quickens my pulse and makes my cock throb.

I’ve wanted nothing more than for her to give in. To beg for more.

But we’ll get there soon enough.

Right now, I want her to feel what it’s like to crave so desperately until she can’t take it anymore.

With her hands tied like this, she can’t say no, can’t push me away, can’t fight me, can’t run away.

She has to face her desires now.

And I get to face mine.

Because fuck me, what I wouldn’t do for this pussy.

What I haven’t already fucking done for this fucking pussy.

My pussy.

My hand dives in again, and I swipe along her slit, enjoying the wetness I created. Wetness only meant for me. And it makes me so fucking hard my pants begin to tent so badly they can barely hold me back.

I’m hungry. Greedy. Groaning into her ear as I touch her because I’ve wanted nothing more than her for the past three years.

Longer even.

All my life, I knew she was the one.

Yet … she never gave me a fucking chance.

My lips drag a line all the way from her neck to her lips, and I lean back, hovering within reach yet not close enough to kiss. Her head arches forward, meeting my lips, but I pull back inch by inch until her eyes burst open, angry, obsessed.

And the smirk on my face only grows deeper, filthier.

Now … she knows.

I step back a few feet and look at her body slowly twirling in the ropes as she tries to balance herself. She cannot get out of this one, and she knows it too. I can see it in her eyes. She fucking hates it, and it makes me want to spin her even harder.

“Let me out of here,” she growls.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” I retort, licking my lips at the sight of her dripping pussy. “But I don’t think you understand what you agreed to.” I tilt my head. “And I think you know that too now.”

“Fuck you,” she spits, still struggling.

“Oh, I will fuck you, don’t worry,” I reply, and her cheeks turn red as a strawberry. “But first …” I zip down and pull out my throbbing cock. “I’m going to enjoy myself thoroughly, and you’re going to watch me.”

She gasps in shock as if it still surprises her I could be this dirty.

But she hasn’t even seen half of it yet.

With a filthy smile, I start rubbing myself in front of her, spreading pre-cum all over my length for added pleasure. Even though she says she hates me, her eyes still eagerly watch my fingers slide across.

“Hungry for a taste?” I muse.

“You wish,” she retorts, averting her eyes with shame.

“Look at me, Jas,” I command, and she does exactly what I want because she knows she has no other choice. “Watch me come like I watched you.”

Her face only reddens even more. “Why?”

“Because you asked me to take what I want,” I reply, jerking myself off in full frontal view of her beautiful body. “And I want you to look at me.”

Even though her shirt is still on, it’s soaking wet, and her skin is visible through the fabric, including her taut nipples.

God, what I wouldn’t give for her to beg me to lick those.

“I only said that because you drove me insane,” she retorts.

I flick my tip and then step closer to her. “Now you know how it feels.”

She shudders, goose bumps erupting on her skin. “What do you plan to do with me? Leave me to hang?”

“What do you think I’ll do?” I reply, coaxing her to spill her dirty secrets. “Lick you some more?” I lean in and drag my tongue along her collarbone. “Fuck your every orifice?” I swipe my finger along her clit, and she mewls with delight. “Come all over you?” I rub my dick up against her thigh, and she struggles to stay put.

“You’re a filthy fucker,” she says.

“Damn right, I am,” I jest.

There’s nothing she can say that’ll ever hurt me more than the fact that she never wanted me the way I’ve wanted her.

“You want me to free you from the ropes?” I ask.

She nods.

“Admit you want me.”

She clenches her teeth and shakes her head.

“Then I’ll keep using you over and over again.”

I flick the head and spread my own pre-cum all over, going quicker and quicker until I’m about ready to burst.

“Admit it, Jas,” I growl.

“Fuck you,” she spits back.

“Keep lying to yourself, Jas, and maybe you’ll start believing it eventually,” I say, stepping back right as she’s about to lean into me again. “But you can’t fool me.”

I rub myself fiercely until all my muscles strain, and my cock is rigid like steel, and all I can think of is showering her with my cum, hearing her moan just from the feel of my hot seed dripping down her wet pussy.

She’s still horny, still wet to the touch.

Every time I lean in to swipe my fingers along her clit, she squirms in the ropes, and a soft moan escapes her mouth.

I know she wants me, even if she’d never say it out loud.

But I laid the trap when I brought her to that lake, made her strip, and propped her up against the rock. When I left her, yearning, deeply, hard.

Just as she left me yearning for all those years.

And now we both know everything she ever said about not wanting me was a goddamn lie.

“How far are you willing to go?” she asks.

“As far as it takes,” I reply, jerking off to the memory of licking her wet little pussy raw. “And I’m going to take you with me.”

She shakes her head. “I’m not like you.”

“Yes, you are. You’re just too afraid to admit it,” I say.

“I said I’d stay. I didn’t say I—”

“You’d do anything and everything I wanted,” I remind her.

Her lips part, but there’s no response. The only change is the fact that her eyes find it hard to focus as they flick back and forth between my face and my long, hard dick, begging for a release.

I know she wants it.

All she has to do … is beg.

“Think you can take it? Want me to fuck you raw?” I raise a brow. “Want me to show you how hard I can really make you scream?”

She keeps her lips sealed.

One moment, she begs me to take from her what I want, and the next, she denies ever wanting anything.

“Fine,” I bark. “I’ll choose for you.”

Jasmine

* * *

Suddenly, he spins me around by my waist, twisting the rope so I’m facing the tree and my naked ass is facing him. His grip on my waist is firm as he tugs me back, forcing me to bend over.

That’s when I feel the tip perched right at my entrance.

My eyes widen.

Fuck.

It’s about to happen.

This can’t be real.

Is this how I’m going to…?

My pussy clenches as he inches closer and takes a whiff of my hair, the scent making him groan. But all I can focus on is that thick, long hard-on poking me.

My legs push together, tightening harshly as sweat drops roll down my face, and I close my eyes, waiting.

He pauses. The tip is still buried between my pussy lips near the edge of no return.

And I can’t. Fucking. Breathe.

This is it.

Suddenly, he pulls back.

My eyes burst open.

I glance over my shoulder, but he’s long gone.

He marched straight back into the cabin.

THWACK!

The door is slammed shut.

Not a single word.

And I’m left with a heart thumping into oblivion as I realize he left me hanging from a tree … naked.

Chapter 24

Liam

* * *

I storm into the house carrying the bag of groceries, and I throw them down onto the kitchen cabinet, breathing like a bull ready to attack. Rage and lust fuel me, drive me to take it all out on a chair at the table, which I throw halfway across the cabin with a loud roar.

Nothing, and I mean absolutely fucking nothing, can quell the need rushing through my veins.

My cock is still thick and throbbing, hard as a rock, but I refuse to touch it.

Because the one thing I wanted to do, the one thing I’ve fantasized about for years … is out of my reach.

Why?

Because the second I inched forward and the tip of my dick touched her pussy, she clenched her fucking thighs … as if she was terrified.

Fuck.

“LIAM! TAKE ME DOWN!” she yells, but I can’t focus at all.

I pace around the house, seething with fury and indescribable horniness.

What I wouldn’t give to bury myself deep inside her fucking pussy and own it.

I’ve dreamed of this day. Lived with the fantasy day in day out until I couldn’t take it anymore.

And now I finally realize why she’s been so apprehensive.

So in denial.

I pause and stare at myself in the mirror.

I was almost there.

Almost ready to take…

Something she wasn’t willing to give.

Three years have passed since I saw her.

Three fucking years … and still she hasn’t …

My fist clenches.

“LIAM!”

I should go to her.

I fucking should.

But my dick is still throbbing with need, and if I go to her now, I won’t be able to hold back. She’s unable to fight back, ripe for the taking, wet for me, and I can’t fucking resist the temptation.

But I fucking have to.

Because if this is true, I won’t ever be able to win her heart any other way.

“Don’t leave me here!” Jasmine calls.

Her voice hurts my soul.

Fuck, I want nothing more than to go out there and face her.

But I physically have to hold myself back by clutching the doorpost to my bathroom. I have to wait. Wait and sit it out until the storm has passed. Until I’m no longer on the verge of shooting its load all over the fucking place.

Because dammit, I was this close.

This fucking close to ruining her forever.

I shake my head and snort.

Fuck me.

Can she really be …?

I have to ask. There’s no other way to find out the truth.

“Liam!” Jasmine yells, again and again.

After a while, her calls grow softer. Weaker. Like a little dove losing its ability to fly. And it hurts like a fucking knife to the heart.

“Please …”

I groan out loud, rubbing my face while my dick is still hard as a fucking rock. And I fish my knife from my pocket and head toward the door.

When I slam it open, her eyes shoot up to mine, riddled with fear. She definitely noticed the knife in my hand as I march up to her.

“What are you going to do?” she squeaks as I hold up the knife. “Please, don’t hurt me.”

“Are you a fucking virgin?”

The question is simple, but her reaction is not, especially not the look on her face as she turns white as snow.

Her lips part but nothing comes out except a few stutters.

“Answer me,” I bark.

“No,” she quickly says.

“Lies.” I point the knife at her chest. “Tell me the fucking truth.”

She shudders in place, nipples hardening from the cold. “Don’t. Don’t do this.”

“Too late,” I say. “Now tell me, or I swear to God I will leave you hanging here until tomorrow morning.”

Her eyes widen. “No. You wouldn’t.”

My nostrils flare. “Try me.”

“No, no, please,” she says as I walk away.

I pause and backtrack. “Then tell me what I want to know.”

“Why does it matter?” she says, swallowing when I push the knife underneath her chin.

“There is nothing in this world that matters more to me.”

“Not even my sister?”

I hate her even mentioning her.

But there’s something I hate even more… her not realizing how important she is to me.

“I told you what I desired the most,” I say, lowering my eyes so I can look into hers. “You.”

Her lip tremors. “I …”

I lean in closer. Close enough to make her hold her breath. “I won’t ask again. Are you a virgin, Jasmine?”

Slowly but surely, she nods.

Once.

Like it’s the worst fucking secret she could ever keep.

But fuck me, it’s the most precious gift she could ever give me.

I close my eyes and shake my head.

“I don’t understand. I didn’t even say anything,” she mutters.

“You don’t have to.” I open my eyes again so I can look at her and marvel at her untouched beauty. “Your pussy told me enough.”

She looks stunned. “What?”

“No woman who’s so fucking hot and bothered that her wetness drips down her legs is ever going to clench her thighs when she feels a cock.” I grab the rope and pull her closer so she can’t look away. “Except you.”

She’s shaking, and I don’t know if it’s from the cold … or from the fact that she just admitted she’s never been fucked before.

But my God … if this isn’t the best fucking day ever.

“Jasmine Baas, a fucking virgin,” I say, smiling broadly. “What else did you lie to me about?”

“I didn’t lie,” she says.

“You told me you touched yourself before,” I say. “Was that a lie too?”

She shakes her head.

“How do I know you’re not lying now?”

She’s blushing hard now, and I love the look on her. It suits her. “Not everything I say is a lie.”

“Hmm …” The memory of me touching her clit for the very first time when I locked her up in my cabin comes to mind. She was so sensitive, even then, and I thought it was just because she’d had a dry spell. But now I’m beginning to wonder if she’s ever been touched at all.

“I’ve told you what you wanted to know,” she says, interrupting my train of thought.

I stand in front of her, my dick throbbing with desire, wanting nothing more than to claim her right here, right now. Instead, I grasp the rope above her wrists and cut through it in a single swipe.

Her body falls to the ground, and I grab her just in time before she tips over from the sudden change in balance. One arm around her back and another underneath her butt, and I lift her up into my arms.

“Why … why are you carrying me?” she mutters as I carry her back to my cabin. “I can walk perfectly f—”

“Your knees were caving in on you,” I rebuke. “I’m carrying you.”

Jasmine

* * *

I’m too stunned to even speak as he brings me back into the cabin and slams the door shut with his foot. He sets me down on the big, furry chair in front of the fire and goes to his knees in front of me. As my lips part to say something, I’m thrown off again when he grabs my foot and … massages it.

He’s actually fucking massaging my foot.

What the hell?

I’m suspicious of this sudden kindness. One moment, he’s a freak with wild sex-crazed eyes, and the next, he’s all sweet and gentle with me.

Even though I know he must still be bursting with desire.

Unless he finished himself off in here after he stormed off a minute ago.

Damn, why does the mere thought make me angry?

I shake it off, but I can’t stop myself from looking at his hands as they knead my feet and legs, which went numb from the cold. And maybe also from being hung by my wrists.

But all that seems to fade into oblivion when Liam looks up at me with those beautifully haunted eyes of his. “Did anyone else even touch you?”

A blush spreads on my cheeks. “What … like this?” I shake my head.

He smirks. “I’m glad I’m the first to touch these feet,” he says. “But I meant more than that, and I think you know.”

It’s becoming harder and harder to breathe.

“I …” I don’t know how to answer.

I can’t believe we’re talking about this.

I’ve already told him something I never wanted to tell anyone, let alone him out of all people.

All because I couldn’t stop my thighs from clenching when he tried to take me.

He was almost there … almost inside me …

The blush only grows redder.

He squeezes my ankle, pulling me from my thoughts. “Have you ever even been with anyone?”

I frown. “You want me to list all my boyfriends?”

His brow rises. “Did you ever have any? Or are you just going to make them up now?”

“You sure care a lot,” I quip. “Jealous?”

The smirk on his face only grows bigger and more obvious. “Jealous? Of what exactly?” His tongue dips out to lick his lips. “Their amazing skills?”

I just know he means the way he just made me come so hard I could almost scream out his name.

And why did that make me all hot and bothered again?

Dammit.

He snorts. “Because I don’t think any of your ‘ex-boyfriends,’” he says, sliding his hand slowly up my calves, “have ever made you come as hard as I did with my tongue.” I swallow back the excitement, and he takes his hand off my leg. “If they even existed at all.”

He gets up and walks off to the bathroom, and my eyes are glued to his body … because he’s sporting a clearly rock-hard dick without a care in the world.

And I can’t stop fucking staring at it. Mouthwatering.

Jesus Christ.

“Sure, go ahead. Make it a joke for all I care,” I bark.

He comes back with something that looks like an ointment, and he kneels in front of me again and grabs my hands, tugging them down so they’re right above my lap. Then he begins rubbing it into my skin. It’s warm and feels kind of nice.

Unlike the sting of him finding out I am still a virgin.

“Nothing about you is a joke to me,” he says after a while, looking up at me from underneath his lashes. “It never was.”

I gulp.

Hard.

And I don’t even know how to respond.

He’s suddenly being so sincere that I don’t know how to react.

And the fact alone that he’s rubbing my wrists makes me feel all warm and … fuzzy.

Which is definitely wrong as hell.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask.

“Because I take care of what’s mine.”

Goddamn, there’s that blush again. I just can’t keep it at bay, no matter how hard I try.

But worst of all is the devilish smile that follows on his face whenever he spots it.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I say.

“Like what?”

“Like you think I’m … I don’t know.”

He tilts his head. “Cute?”

Oh, God.

I pull my hands away and hide my face. That’s how embarrassed I am right now.

Why is this so goddamn hard?

It’s not supposed to be like this.

This captivity thing wasn’t supposed to be this … complicated and confusing.

Suddenly, he splits my hands apart sideways, peeking in through the slit, entering my lonely world as if it comes easy to him.

“Don’t hide that pretty face from me,” he says. “You have to stop trying to be so tough all the time.”

He’s so close to my face that I could almost taste him. And it actually makes my heart beat a million miles an hour.

“I … I don’t understand,” I mutter. “Why are you so nice to me all of a sudden?”

“Because I don’t want to be a monster,” he replies, and it breaks me.

Completely.

Because this … this is the Liam I remember.

His lips part. “All I want is for you to be mine.”

I close my eyes and snort. “But you already made me yours. I’m here. I said I’d stay.”

He grabs my chin. “I want more.”

“Well, you could’ve taken it,” I say. “You roped me down and hung me from a tree. You could’ve easily—”

Liam plants a finger on my lips. “And that’s exactly why I didn’t.”

I stare at him in shock.

Is this … why he asked me if I was a virgin?

He’s still on his knees in front of me, looking up with that gorgeous face, making me wonder why in the world I ever said no to this man.

Fuck.

I’ve truly lost it this time.

“I don’t understand why it matters if I’m a virgin or not,” I say, still embarrassed.

“Your first time should not be like that,” he says, and he gets up and walks off to the bathroom again with that ointment.

But damn, my body is still overheating, and I don’t know how to shut it off.

When he comes back, I don’t know how to act.

Especially not because he’s still sporting that massive boner.

It just won’t let up.

And that makes me wonder if it hurts him not to take me like he wants to.

I swallow down the nerves as he sits down on a chair near the table and looks at me. “Does it hurt?”

“What?”

I point at his hard-on, which makes me want to hide again.

“I’ve grown used to it.”

Used to it? “What do you mean?”

He stares at me. “It’s happened every night for three years.”

My pupils dilate. “Every night?”

“Every night … when I dreamed of you.”

Fuck.

Because of me?

No, maybe this is just a freak symptom of the accident and his trauma. “Maybe the accident made you more—”

“No,” he interrupts, still staring at me as if he wants to eat me up and then some. “Even before then. I remember the way I felt. The same way I still feel every single day of my life.”

I feel as though someone just marked my pussy like a goddamn tattoo that says “mine.”

Not once did he show me this kind of obsession when we were still young.

“But you never told me anything like this back when we were still living with our parents.”

“Would you have believed me if I did?” He raises his brow.

I lower my eyes, almost feeling ashamed of myself.

He gets up from the chair and comes closer again, kneeling in front of me so I can’t look away. “I have never, ever wanted for anything more.”

Does he mean my body?

Or … more?

“But why me?” I mutter. “You could have any other girl you wanted.”

“I’ve already had plenty, believe me …” he replies, and it feels like a slap in the face for some reason. “But all of them tasted like bland meat. They couldn’t satisfy me …” His hand reaches for my hair, tucking a lone strand behind my ear. “Not like you could.”

And he leans up on the chair, hands clutching the armrests, back stretched, lips pursed to meet mine. And I can’t help but lean in too, waiting until he finally takes what he’s wanted to take for so long. Even if it’s wrong, even if I shouldn’t want any of this.

His lips are intoxicating, too hard to resist, and I just want to feel free to…

Want.

Desire.

Spin out of control and let it all. Fucking. Out.

But he suddenly leans away again, and the moment passes.

And I’m left with a hunger I can’t satiate.

He walks away, still carrying that boner like a medal, and I can’t fucking look away.

Damn him for doing this to me. And damn him for making me want him so much I can’t even fucking breathe anymore.

“You have no right,” I say.

He pauses. “No right to what?”

“To leave me hanging like this,” I mutter. “To leave me with this … this need.”

He groans. Out loud.

Like it physically hurts him to hear me say this.

And I can tell from the way his cock bobs up and down he’s been holding back something that’s about to be unleashed.

But I can’t stop myself anymore.

I don’t want to stop whatever’s about to happen.

Even though I’m terrified.

“To make me feel this way,” I add.

He glances over his shoulder. “Like what?”

“Like you could’ve taken my virginity long ago.” It’s out before I realize it.

He licks his lips again, but his tongue lingers, almost as if he’s contemplating what to do. His head tilts, his shoulders broadening as his muscles begin to twitch. “Don’t do this now, Jas. You don’t know what you’re unleashing here.”

“Show me,” I reply without a second thought.

Because I need to know.

I need to know how bad this can get.

If I can even do this.

If I can stay.

Forever.

He looks at me with narrowed eyes … Only to storm at me the next second.

And I just stand there, frozen to the floor as he grabs my face and kisses me.

Time feels as if it’s standing still for a moment, and all I can think of are his lips and just how good they feel claiming mine. It’s greedy. Hard. All-consuming, like the last kiss on earth. And it quakes me to my core.

But then my brain kicks in.

In a moment of clarity, I pull away from him and slap him.

Hard.

A little too hard maybe.

Because when I remove my hand, there’s a clear red mark on his cheek. And the way he looks at me reminds me of a goddamn bear ready to fight.

Oh, God.

Regret hits me like a brick.

But even as my hand still hovers close to his face, he doesn’t move a muscle. He doesn’t even flinch. All he does is stare. And it sets my body on fire.

“I … I …”

My mouth feels as if it’s filled with cotton balls, the sentence I was uttering evaporating from my mind the second he leans in to my hand and says, “Do it again. Slap me. Harder. Show me how angry you are. Give me all your hate.” He grabs my hand and pushes it against his face. “Because fuck me, you’ll need all of it to stop me now.”

Fuck.

No matter how badly I want him to suffer, to hurt, to feel the same pain I’ve felt, my hand refuses to move. Refuses to slap him again. Refuses to make him pay.

Even though I definitely should for everything he’s done to me.

And even though none of this is right, or fair, or … sane.

All I can think of is that kiss and the fire I felt deep inside, growing stronger and stronger with every passing second while his lips were on mine.

So I lower my hand farther and farther, sliding it down his tattooed chest, all the way down his ripped abs, until I reach his V-line. He holds his breath, gazing straight into my soul.

My brain begs me not to cross that line, that line of no return.

Because if I do this … I know for a fact I won’t be able to escape his grasp.

But my body has already made up its mind.

My hand dives deeper and deeper, lowering the rim of his pants along with it until I hear that familiar rumble again from deep within his chest. The one filled with unkempt desire and roaring needs kept on a chain because of the things I said.

The things I did.

Because I clenched my legs.

Showed my cards.

Exposed my own dirty secret I’d been keeping for years.

And instead of taking advantage of it or laughing at me, he showed restraint.

But I don’t want him to stop.

I want him to devour me.

So I shove down his sweatpants until it rolls over his cock, which bobs up and down as it’s released.

The hunger in his eyes is insatiable, growing stronger with every passing second.

“This is what you want, isn’t it?” I mutter. “Pleasure.”

And when I wrap my hand around his length, he grabs both my hands.

“No.”

Suddenly, he pins me to the table, hands shoved to the side. The look in his eyes scary. Not because they’re violent … but because they’re filled with a kind of greed I have never seen before.

“What I want,” he groans, “is this fucking pussy offered to me, willingly.”

Without blinking, without so much as a single thought, my legs part. “Fuck me then.”

But I am not prepared for the onslaught of emotions swirling through my body the second he moans like a beast unchained and smashes his lips on mine.

Chapter 25

Liam

* * *

My mouth is on hers before she even realizes it, and I kiss her hard and deep, taking in every ounce of her rebellious spirit until nothing is left but a meek little lamb in my arms, desperate for more. I don’t even care that she hates me or that she wants to make me suffer as badly as I have made her suffer. That she would rather end my life.

All I want is to take, take, take, and fucking take everything she has to offer and more. And I don’t care if it’s right or wrong. I couldn’t be more of a monster than I already am for taking her freedom.

But when I take my lips off hers, I don’t see hatred reflected in her eyes. There is actual fucking greed. Greed for more.

“You want me to take this fucking pussy?” I groan, and I grab her by the ass and lift her to set her on the table. “You think you’re ready for it, little virgin?”

She frowns. “Don’t call me tha—”

I grab her hair and tilt her head back. “You’re mine, and I will call you whatever the fuck I want,” I growl.

Suddenly, her hand rises, and she slaps me again.

The sting of her hit against my face is hot.

Just like her tenacity.

A broad smile forms on my face. “See? You can do it,” I say. “Hit me like you mean it.”

She slaps me again, but it only brings a smile to my face.

“Good girl.”

She stops, her hand hovering close to my face, her lips parted, eyes big. “What did you just say?”

I tilt my head. “Good girl.”

A sparkle lights up her eyes.

Oh … she likes it. She likes it a lot.

I place both hands on the table and lean in. “You like being a good girl for me, don’t you?” She whimpers when my hand slides up her thigh. “You secretly dreamed of being taken like this.” I let my hand trail up her thigh, skipping her pussy to make her want me even more, just like I want her. “You want to let go. To let someone else take control.” My hand reaches under her wet shirt, where her nipples grow taut again from my touch. “To be someone’s little … slutty … good girl.”

I rip off the shirt with ease, and when she attempts to squeal, I cover her mouth with mine. My tongue claims hers, rolling around in her mouth with fervor. She tastes divine, and I can’t fucking get enough of her now that she’s finally let me kiss her.

A tiny moan escapes her mouth.

“You like this,” I muse.

“No,” she quips.

But she hasn’t bitten me.

Hasn’t pushed me away.

“Liar,” I quip.

“I hate you,” she growls.

I chuckle into her mouth. Tasting her feels like a fucking high that won’t go down, no matter how many times I kiss her. And the longer our lips stay entwined, the greedier I get.

My lips travel down to her tits, and I take one of them into my mouth and suck so hard she moans out loud. The sound makes me groan with her, my cock oozing pre-cum from sheer excitement.

I shove her down onto the table with a flat hand, spreading her legs with my body as I step closer. She squirms beneath the palm of my hand, her body zinging with desire.

“You may hate me, Jas. But you want me. Desperately.” My fingers slide down her aching body. “And I’ll fuck the lies right out of you, don’t worry,” I say.

It’s like a fucking drug to me to see her unravel as I slowly bend over and press sultry kisses between her tits, dragging my lips all the way down to her pussy.

When she arches her back to meet my lips, I pause and look up at her eyes laced with need.

God, nothing has ever tasted sweeter than her willing little body.

Groaning, I stand up tall, towering over her as I spread her wide and push my tip against her entrance. Her eyes grow wide, just as before. And even though I know she’s scared, she won’t even spill a peep.

Always the strong one.

Always the one who needs to keep herself in check.

And even though my balls are practically blue, I still lean over her and grab her face. “Say the words, Jas. Tell me you want it.”

She seems shocked I’d even ask. “Why does it matter?”

“Because I want you to give your body to me,” I say, my tip perched at her entrance. “Willingly.”

She swallows and then nods slowly.

I grab her hair and tilt her face up so I can whisper into her ear, “Out. Loud.”

“Fuck me,” she whispers.

Two simple words.

Yet the power they hold …

Fuck.

I grasp both her hands and pin them to the table. “I won’t allow you to take it back.” I hover near her swollen red lips. “You’re mine now.”

I thrust in with no remorse, soaking in every inch of her orgasmic face as I claim what no one else has ever taken.

And fuck me, the look on her face almost makes me come right then and there.

But I force myself to keep it together so I can enjoy it for as long as possible because nothing is as sweet as seeing the only woman you’ve ever wanted mewl with delight.

“Oh, God,” she moans as I pull out again, only to thrust back in.

“Oh, I’ll be your fucking god tonight,” I groan.

Her pussy is tight and soaking wet and fits perfectly around my length. And every time I thrust in, her legs widen for me as if she’s inviting me to push in farther. She loves this. I can tell from the sheer look of ecstasy on her face.

“You fucking love my cock,” I groan. “Even when you say you hate me, you need it like a desperate little girl.”

When she attempts to lean up and slap me, I grab her wrists and pin them to the table, fucking her hard. “Bad girl. It’s about time you learned to surrender.”

I grab her wet shirt and use it to tie her hands together above her head.

Then I rise and splay her with my hand, watching her plump tits bounce with each thrust inside. Every inch of her body is on display, and I still can’t get enough of her. I want to drown myself in her. Take her over. Claim every inch of her fucking soul.

That’s how much I need this woman lying beneath me, taking my dick like such a very good bad girl.

God, if she’d been like this back in the day, I would’ve taken her a long time ago.

“You should’ve told me you were this needy and desperate for a cock, Jas,” I growl, thrusting in and out with fervor. “I would’ve given it to you in a fucking heartbeat.”

When she parts her lips, I press a finger onto her mouth before she spills more lies.

“No more fucking lies, Jas. I need you to be a good girl now,” I say as my finger slides down her lips, down her sweaty body, slipping down into her wet crevice until I reach her aching little clit. The second I touch her, it’s as if fireworks go off inside her as she squirms beneath me, wriggling with lust.

“That’s it, Jas, give me all you have to give,” I say. “I want it all.”

She writhes from my touch, unable to look away. But her legs are still tightening around me with every thrust, and her eyes are still filled with uncertainty, even if she loves it. She still can’t fucking let go.

SLAP!

She squeals as I hit her thigh. “Beg.”

“No,” she growls.

“Do it,” I say, still circling her clit until it’s swollen and about to burst.

“Never,” she hisses.

So I take my thumb off her clit and pull out of her, just to watch her unravel.

I’m still hard as lumber, but I step back and wait.

She leans up, pushing herself up on the table by sheer force of will even though her hands are still tied. “What are you doing?”

I tilt my head. “Showing you how bad you want it.”

I step farther away until she can no longer reach me and start rubbing my dick, just as before. Her eyes watch my every move, her tongue dipping out to lick her lips.

“How did it feel when I fucked your aching pussy?” I ask. “Did you enjoy yourself?”

“I did what you asked me to do,” she quips. “You wanted me to do everything you s—”

“Bullshit,” I interrupt. “You wanted me to fuck you. You’ve wanted me since you came here. “You can deny it all you want, but it doesn’t change the truth.”

“I didn—”

“In the bed, you rubbed your pussy against my cock and made me come,” I say.

Her pupils dilate. “I thought you were—”

“Asleep?” A filthy smile spreads on my face. “Yes … but I know what I woke up to, and it felt amazing,” I say. “But nothing, and I mean nothing, will compare to the feel of burying myself in your wet, greedy little pussy.”

She stares at me, dripping wetness all over the table, her face hot and heavy while I jerk myself off until I’m about to burst.

“And if you don’t beg, I’m not going to give it to you,” I say.

Her lips quiver just as her face begins to scrunch.

“You’re a—”

“Monster?” I raise a brow.

Yeah, I’ve heard that before.

“You said you’d fuck me,” she says, desperation filling her voice.

“I said I’d fuck the lies out of you,” I retort, flicking the head of my length, spreading her sweet juices all over. “Bad girls lie. Bad girls don’t deserve pleasure.”

“Liam …” she mutters, her nipples taut just from watching me play with myself.

“What, Jas?” I bite my lip at the sight of her needy eyes gazing at my length. “Can’t take it anymore?”

“Liam,” she continues, parting her legs. “Please …”

I step closer. “Please what?”

She bites her lip, gazing down at her pussy.

So I step close enough until I can tip her chin up and force her to look at me. And I lean in closer and closer until her lips are so close to mine I can almost taste them. Until she parts them, inching closer, practically begging me to kiss her.

“Beg,” I say.

One last time.

“Please … fuck me.”

A dirty smile spreads on my lips. “Good girl.”

And I smash my lips on hers while pushing her legs wide open, thrusting in the moment my tongue swirls around hers. I soak up her moan and bury myself deep inside her pussy until it starts to milk me.

Her arms wrap around my neck, despite being bound. She greedily takes in more kisses as I fuck her hard and fast on the table. I don’t give a fuck if it smells like sex after. I love her scent and taste, just as I know she loves mine. And I would lick the juices off this goddamn table if I could.

“That’s it, Jas, open that pussy wide,” I groan, gripping her ass with my hands as I push her farther down to the base. “Take me deep.”

“Oh, God … it feels so full,” she murmurs, tilting her head back.

I press kisses to her neck and fuck her hard and deep like she was meant to be fucked.

“Good fucking girls own their lust,” I say, licking her skin. “Now moan for me.”

When she does, I reward her with another thrust, which she greedily takes like the slutty devil she was meant to be.

“Mine,” I growl, and I push her down onto the table again so I can enjoy watching her entire body writhe underneath mine as we come closer and closer to climax.

I pin her down and start rubbing her clit again, just as I promised. “Good girls get what they want, Jas. Now show me how good you can be.”

“Fuck, I want it,” she moans, and it turns me on like nothing else ever could.

I flick her clit fast as I plow into her, her pussy clenching around my shaft.

“Beg,” I groan, overtaken by animalistic needs.

“Please, Liam!” she mewls. “Make me come.”

That’s it.

That’s the one.

The one thing I’ve wanted to hear.

I thrust in deep and roar out loud until I hit that spot, that spot I know she has, and when her eyes roll into the back of her head, and her pussy clamps around me, coming as hard at the same time as I do. I fill her to the brim with my seed, fucking her wildly as she comes and comes, wetness pooling between her legs. My cum spills out onto the table as I pull out, but I’m not satiated yet.

With a growl, I spin her around on the table, and she squeals from my sudden burst of energy.

“What are you doing?” she yelps as I drag her off the table until her feet tiptoe on the floor.

I perch myself behind her and spread her ass. “You thought I was done? I haven’t even started.”

I thrust inside again, and the sound she makes is heavenly. My balls slap against her clit as I slam into her over and over, taking every inch of her and more. Filling her up isn’t enough. Taking her isn’t enough.

I want more, more, more!

Fuck. I’m so greedy. All I can think of is using this pussy over and over until we’re both spent. And even then, it won’t ever be enough.

I slap her ass hard until she squeals out loud.

“That’s it, scream for me, Jas,” I groan, fucking her hard.

“Please, Liam,” she murmurs as she glances at me over her shoulder.

But I’m too lost in ecstasy as I make her body yield to me.

For years, I dreamed of claiming her, and now that she’s finally here, ready and begging, I can’t fucking stop myself any longer.

So I plow into her and bury myself to the hilt until my cock begins to throb and my balls tighten. One. Two. Three more thrusts and I come again even harder than before, emptying myself inside her.

My breath is ragged. Unhinged.

And I stay buried in her for a while, soaking up the sweet bliss of pleasure while the excitement slowly wanes along with my hard-on.

I lean over to undo the shirt around her wrist and pull her hands up. My eyes land on two peculiar marks on her skin on the front of her wrists. Two long, white slits.

What the fuck?

She jerks her hands free from my grasp, and I pull away from her. But she lies frozen on the table, like a ghost of her former self, completely stripped of her fearlessness, her bravery.

No reaction. No words.

No breaths.

Nothing.

As though I took her goddamn spirit and snapped it in half.

Fuck.

Chapter 26

Jasmine

* * *

When he steps back, I feel the weight of my own body come back down on me. Like whoever that just was, the lusty girl who just inhabited my body wasn’t me.

But it was me.

It was all of me and all the years of bundled-up restraint coming out at once.

And now I’m here in the aftermath, lying on this table, staring at every speck of dust floating by as if I’m not really here.

Who is this woman I’ve become?

This woman who just gave her virginity so willingly to the only guy she never should’ve given it to?

I close my eyes and sigh, then crawl up, scratching my nails along the table. My wrists push harshly into the wood, the pain a memory I hold so dear. It’s a weapon I use in times of need. A weapon that doesn’t hurt him, but me. Even if I’m not the one who deserves it.

I feel his presence behind me as I stand and slowly turn to face him, my courage waning with every passing second. My eyes lower. I can’t even look at him without feeling incredible shame bubble to the surface. Shame … for my own damn lust.

It’s too much.

I run to the bathroom and lock myself inside before he can catch me.

“Jas?”

I try not to listen. All I want is to forget I was ever even here. Disappear. Pretend nothing happened.

Because if I ever acknowledged what just transpired, what I just begged for, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

Clutching the sink, I look up at myself in the mirror.

Who is this girl? What does she even want?

Enraged, I chuck water at the reflection and then at my own face.

Why would I do this to myself?

Why would I make myself want him so badly I couldn’t say no anymore?

“Jas, are you okay?”

His voice makes me look up at the door. His feet cast a shadow on the light coming through the small gap underneath.

“Jas? Answer me,” he adds, his voice sounding almost … worried.

As though he actually cares about my feelings.

And that alone makes me mad as hell.

Sighing, I stare at the door, all my fury culminating into my hands, wishing I could just storm out there and give him a piece of my mind. But the second I think about it, something is slipped underneath the door, and it catches me off guard.

It’s a pair of fresh leggings and an oversized hoodie.

What the …?

I pick them up and check them out, smelling them. Definitely his.

But I’m all out of clothes, and my only other option is in the car I’ve yet to backtrack to.

I sigh and sit down on the toilet to clean myself while trying not to think about the fact that his cum was inside me and that the mere idea is already making me horny again.

I quickly put on the clothes so at least I’m not naked when I bust out of here. But the mere thought of facing him instantly makes me freeze on this damn toilet.

What’s wrong with me? Why am I so scared of him?

Or rather … what he could do to me?

I shiver in place.

I can hear him breathe behind the door. “Jas … Talk to me.”

I don’t know what to say.

Because all I can think about is the fact that his giant dick was just inside me.

And I begged him for it.

Yearned for it.

Desired it more than anything.

I spread my legs and became wet as a pool just thinking about him taking me.

And when he pulled back and didn’t give it to me, something inside me just snapped.

I needed to have it.

No matter the cost.

Even if it made me … no longer a virgin.

“Did I hurt you?”

I gulp down the lump in my throat.

His voice sounds physically strained. Like he’s actually in pain just thinking about it.

And that makes me get up and slowly unlock the door to open it.

Liam merely stands there, towering over me like a goddamn pillar, staring me down with enough strength to make me cower.

But I already gave him everything I had to give.

He won.

“I’m fine,” I reply, looking him up and down. He’s already put on a new pair of pants. Good. Because that dick of his does damage wherever it goes. “Can you step aside?”

He puts a hand against the doorpost, blocking my way. “You’re lying again, aren’t you?”

I hate that he sees right through me, and I don’t understand. “What do you want me to say?”

When I try to push past him, he grabs my arm and whisks me toward him. “Tell me the truth.”

“I gave you what you wanted,” I say. “Isn’t that enough?”

He frowns. “What I wanted? You act like you didn’t want it as badly as I did.”

Goddamn, he’s gonna make me blush again, and I am not having it. “Whatever you want, remember?”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t care about your cravings and needs,” he replies, and dammit, I’d be lying if it didn’t set my heart on fire.

But I can’t go there. I just can’t.

So I shove my way through him and march back into the cabin. “It was just my virginity. No big deal.”

“It is a big deal,” he says. “And I don’t like it when you talk about yourself like that.”

“Why?” I gaze up at him. “Why do you care so much? You have me. You’ve used my body exactly like you wanted to. What else do you want from me?”

He slams the bathroom door shut. “I want you. All of you.”

His blue eyes have penetrated my soul, and I can’t look away.

Even after I’ve given him my body, it still isn’t enough.

My face scrunches up as tears well in my eyes. I turn around, throw open the door to the outside world, and storm out into the cold.

“Jas!”

His voice makes me stop just beyond a stump, my heart filling with equal parts hatred and desire.

But I can’t ever go there.

In fact, I need to get the fuck out of here, fast.

Because I can’t fucking breathe.

Not in there. Not anywhere close to him. So I run as hard as I can. Back through the woods, along the path I followed to get here.

I don’t care if he follows me.

I don’t care if he finds me.

I just need to … breathe.

I swallow back the tears and push on through the thick woods, pushing aside the branches and bushes in my way until I finally get to the road again.

My car is still there, just as I left it, parked alongside the road in pristine condition.

He was right. No one ever does come by here, or they would’ve found it by now.

I hurry inside and shut the door, locking it before I search for the key … but I can’t find it anywhere.

“Dammit!” I roar as I search the back and throw open the little compartment to throw out everything in a wicked search for the keys. But they’re nowhere to be found among the papers inside … nor on the box that fell out onto the floorboard of my car.

The box I brought along with me when I came here.

A box filled with secrets no one was ever meant to read.

Except him.

My nostrils flare as I check every last inch of my car. But the keys are gone when I know for a fact I left them in here in case I needed to make a run for it.

He must’ve taken them out when I was locked in the freezer room.

I slam my hands against the steering wheel. “God-fucking-dammit!”

I blow out a breath and close my eyes for a second. All I can think about are those striking blue eyes and how full of hurt they seemed to be over what I said.

Frowning, I sigh again and open my eyes, only to find myself staring at that box.

After a while, I pick it up and open it.

Inside are the same little pieces of paper I remember, filled with promises we vowed to keep. Along with my car key. I didn’t put it here. He did.

I pick it up and stare at it.

This is my way home.

My way to safety.

But at what cost?

If I left now, would he try to kill my sister?

Could I get to her in time before he does?

The mere thought makes me want to burst into tears. Because I shouldn’t have to choose. I shouldn’t be forced to make this decision. To shove myself aside to save another.

But I do.

It’s what I’ve always done.

What I do best.

The hand that holds the key begins to shake.

Because the paper it was lying on top draws my attention more than that key ever could.

‘If our parents force us to marry, we’ll be kind to each other.’

The words sounded so familiar once.

Back when everything was clear as day.

Back when I still thought his parents would pick him, and my parents would pick me.

Three years ago, before the accident

* * *

“Let’s sit down for a minute,” my mother tells me, coaxing me to the dining table, away from the guards and cleaning ladies. “Your father and I have wanted to tell you something, but we didn’t quite know how.”

“What is it, Mom?” I frown. “You’re starting to worry me.”

She squeezes my hand. “We’ve made a decision with the De Vos family, and we’ve chosen your sister to marry Liam.”

My eyes widen, and I retract my hand from hers. “No, you can’t.”

“Yes, we can,” she says, lowering her eyes at me. “And it will happen.”

“But he doesn’t even like her,” I reply, totally caught off guard by this sudden announcement. “And I’m the eldest.”

“This isn’t about your age,” she replies. “We made the decision not because we think they fit best together, but because we want to keep you in our family.” She smiles at me. “Because you’re too valuable to lose.”

I swallow. Hard.

“Since you were always so keen on helping us in the business and interested in its workings, I don’t want to lose that asset.”

I’m sick to my stomach.

“We believe Jill would be better suited to appease the De Vos family and make the bond between our families even stronger.”

I scoot my chair back. “Who else knows?”

My mother looks up at me, confused. “No one except you and us. We’re waiting to tell Jill until she’s ready.”

“What about the De Voses? Do they know?”

She nods. “The parents, yes. They will tell Liam and Luca tonight.”

Tears begin to stain my eyes, and I get up from my chair.

“Wait, where are you going?”

“I need some time to myself,” I say as I go up the stairs toward my room, but all I want to do is run.

Run away from this disaster I’ve hurtled myself into.

Escape from the trap I laid out for myself.

But most of all … I want to scream.

Present

* * *

If I’d known back then what I know now, would I have still made the same choice?

I hold my breath.

I can’t change the past. No matter how badly I want to.

I push the paper aside to read the next one.

‘We will always let each other have what we want. No matter the cost.’

My bloody fingerprint is right there, underneath those words … but so is his.

The left side of my lip curls up.

Maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to pick between my own needs and Jill’s life.

What if I could have both?

I get out of the car and open the trunk, where I take out some spare clothes I always keep on hand, like a pair of jeans, an extra pair of panties, a shirt, and a pair of sneakers. But there’s also a little black dress and pumps, which might come in handy now.

I slam it shut and pick up the box again, marching back to the cabin with my head held high.

Liam’s outside, violently chopping wood with his axe as though he’s letting out all of his anger on the stump in front of him.

My heart is going a million miles an hour. He doesn’t look even though I know he can hear me.

But I’m not about to come groveling back like some lost puppy begging for a second chance.

Oh no.

That’s his place.

“We will always let each other have what we want. No matter the cost.”

I say the words loud and clear as I hold up the single paper as proof.

His axe stops mid swing, and he glares at me from afar. “What do you want from me, Jas? Why did you come back?” His eyes flutter back and forth between the box and me.

“Because you’ll kill my sister if I don’t,” I say.

The air grows thick with tension.

“You said you’d always keep your promises,” I say.

His eyes are fixated on mine.

“You want me to stay? To be yours?” I continue. “Then you will let me have what I want too.”

He slowly puts down the axe, flexing his muscles as he turns to face me. “And what do you want?” He tilts his head. “Because I’m more than willing to give.”

I lick my lips.

He’s made me fear him. Rage toward him. Desire the bad guy inside him. Cry because of him.

It’s about time he got a taste of his own medicine.

“I want to be free to do whatever I want,” I say.

If I’m going to sacrifice my body to save my sister, it’ll be on my terms.

He raises his brow. “Like what?”

A devious smile tips up my lips. Time to finally let “protected princess” Jasmine have her way. And as I hold up my car key, I ask, “That town you brought me to … Is there a bar?”

Chapter 27

Liam

* * *

Two hours later

* * *

After eating our amazing roasted deer and a salad Jasmine made, she got dressed, and I drove her to town.

When we arrive, the bar is already bustling with people, but she doesn’t seem the least bit scared. I have never seen her this excited before. At least, not that I remember.

At all our parents’ parties, she seemed distanced, yet the moment she stepped foot into this bar, her eyes lit up like fireworks.

I have to physically hold her back. “Keys.”

She narrows her eyes at me. “It’s my car.”

“I know, but it’s my job to keep you safe,” I reply, tilting my head as I hold out my hand. “Now hand them over.”

She rolls her eyes and sighs but still does what I ask.

Then she marches off straight to where the drinks are served.

“Don’t follow me,” she barks in her little black dress and pumps.

I pause in my tracks.

Well, fuck me.

Ordering me around?

I should be fucking mad as hell, but a big smile forms on my face instead.

She’s got balls.

Especially in that foxy black dress and pumps she put on after she asked me where the nearest bar was.

I like this new Jasmine. It’s as if her losing her virginity has made her blossom, and I’m definitely here to watch her turn into a flower.

Even though I can’t believe we’re actually here, together.

One moment, she hates my guts and threatens to leave, and the next, we’re in her car, headed to a party.

It makes no sense to me why she would want this.

Then again, there’s a lot I didn’t know about her.

Like the fact she was still a fucking virgin all this time.

Shaking my head, I walk to a table in the back so I can watch her from afar. I know she doesn’t want me near her right now. She made that much clear the second she stormed out of my cabin.

But I still can’t help but keep an eye on her. Just to make sure nothing happens.

I sigh as Jasmine sips the drink she ordered, casually smiling at strangers walking past her. It makes my blood boil, but I still manage to keep my cool.

It’s hard to watch her from a distance, but I know she needs her time alone right now. However, when another stranger sits beside her, I sit up straight and glare at him like a beast. He doesn’t notice me, but I definitely see him.

Especially when he puts his hand on her shoulder.

Orders the same drink.

Laughs at her jokes.

Smiles a little too much.

My nails dig into my skin so harshly it bleeds.

As a server walks by, I steal one of the glasses off his tray and slug it down in one go.

“Hallo! Das musst du bezahlen!” the server says.

Of course I have to pay. I fucking know that. I just didn’t want to fucking wait.

“Chill,” I reply, and I take some money from my wallet and slap it down on his tray. “Go serve the rest of your customers.”

I wave him off until he finally gets the memo and leaves me the fuck alone so I can continue to stare at my girl being hit on by other men.

Because if one thing makes adrenaline course through my veins, it’s someone else touching what belongs to me.

When she gets up from her seat and strolls to the bathroom, swaying her hips from left to right, the dude looks at her ass as if he’s already planning on shoving his cock in, and it gets me fucking wild. Wild.

So wild, I jump up and head straight for the door she went in.

Jasmine

* * *

I wash my hands after I’m done and look at myself in the mirror. Damn, I haven’t looked this amazing in years, if I do say so myself. The strict dress code my parents forced onto me really did a number on me. I’m so glad they aren’t here to judge me.

The door behind me suddenly opens.

“What the—?”

Liam walks like a predator on the loose with a smug look on his face, and it makes goose bumps scatter on my skin.

“What are you doing here?” I say as he stalks toward me, licking his lips. I back up while he approaches. “This is the women’s bathroom. You can’t be in here, you—”

I bump into the sink, and he traps me there between his arms.

“I can be wherever the fuck I want, Jas,” he says as he suddenly lifts me and parks me on the sink. “And there’s no place I’d rather be than between your legs.”

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“I think I should ask you the same question,” he retorts, tilting his head. “Because you’re obviously attempting something …”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I scoff, looking away.

He grabs my chin and forces me to look at him. “Are you trying to make me jealous? Because it’s working.”

I’m not trying to smile. I swear. But he makes it so damn hard.

“I can do whatever I want,” I reply. “Remember the note you signed?”

He bites his lip and leans in, pressing his hand into my thigh like he owns me. “Oh, I remember.” My breath begins to falter when he slides his hand up slowly and creeps underneath my dress. “I remember very well it goes both ways …” The second he touches my pussy, I almost moan out loud. “But you never wore anything like this before,” he adds, his thumb brushing across my clit. “And it makes me greedy.”

My eyes close from the surge of heat rushing through my body as he nudges my panties aside and slides his finger across my already wet folds. “I told you what I wanted,” I say.

“I know you did, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take what belongs to me,” he replies, pressing a dirty wet kiss against my neck.

“I don’t belong to you,” I reply, but it’s so hard to even form the words when he plays with me like that.

Suddenly, he pulls out of my panties, leaving me feeling bereft. Naked.

“No?” He leans away with a raised brow. “We’ll see about that.”

He walks off with his hands in his pockets and a clear boner, closing the door behind him like he didn’t just invade my privacy only to remind me of what he can do to my body. To me.

And it makes me livid.

Seething with rage.

Grunting, I jump off the sink and march straight out the door. He’s right back where he was seated before, still staring at me like a crazy stalker, while that man at the bar waits for me to come back.

And even though I’m not even remotely interested in what he has to tell me, all I want to do right now is pull him onto the dance floor and dance like my life depends on it.

So I grab his hand, make sure Liam sees, and drag him down to where the fun begins.

We sway to the music, but my eyes are on Liam’s at all times just like he’s glaring at me.

I know he knows.

I can see it in his eyes, dripping with jealousy.

He knows I’m doing this all because of him.

But I want him to know what it feels like not to have what you want the most.

What it tastes like to sacrifice everything so someone else gets to live.

So I dance with a smile on my face and keep going until the night is lost on me, only pausing to have another drink, continuing my dance with this stranger until I’m drunk on Liam’s jealousy.

And I don’t care either when this man dancing with me switches it up and calls in one of his friends to dance together. Hips sway back and forth in a rhythmic motion, my arm around one guy’s neck while the other grinds behind me.

Liam’s anger is like a volcano about to burst, but I don’t care anymore.

I’m a woman now. I can celebrate however the hell I want to.

“Hey, c’mon, let’s go outside. I wanna show you something,” one of the men says in a German accent.

I blindly agree, wondering where the night will take me, and I go outside with them. They drag me behind the building while I’m struggling to keep up with their quick pace. “Where are we going? Is it somewhere fun?”

“Oh yeah, it’s fun,” the guy says.

Suddenly, one of them pins me to the wall.

“Hey!” I shove him away. “What is this?”

“I thought you wanted to have a little bit of fun,” the guy says.

I look around, but the other one blocks my only way out of this alley.

Fuck.

“Let me out of here,” I growl, but the guy keeps pushing me farther and farther into the alley until there’s no way back.

Panic begins to bubble to the surface.

“C’mon, American girl,” he says with a thick accent. “We can have a little fun.”

“American girl?” I scoff. I was born there, but I grew up in the Netherlands. “I’m Dutch, asshole.”

He laughs. “Sure, and I am the queen of England.”

Suddenly, he grabs my face to kiss me.

I bite his lip and shove him away. “Wow. No.”

“What’s the problem?” he says. “You bit me.”

BANG!

The loud noise makes me shriek.

A gun just went off. The bullet ricochets against the wall, narrowly avoiding the guy’s leg.

“What the—?” he mutters.

A tall shadow looms behind the guy keeping watch, his dark hair hidden behind a pulled-up hoodie. I can barely see who it is in this dark alley in the middle of the night. Until the moonlight hits his piercing blue eyes, and my heart almost wants to cry out for him.

Liam.

Chapter 28

Jasmine

* * *

“Get the fuck away from her,” Liam growls, barely recognizable.

The guy backs away from me, hands up in the air. “Hurensohn!”

“Keep your filthy fucking mouth shut,” Liam growls, still pointing the gun at him. “Now get the fuck out of here before I put a hole in your dick.”

Adrenaline courses through my veins as the guy slowly backs away, keeping his eyes fixated on the gun.

“Fine, you can have her,” he says in a German accent. “I was just fucking playing.”

BANG!

My eyes shoot closed from the sharp sound of another bullet ricocheting off the ground.

The guy shrieks. “Scheiße!”

“LEAVE!” Liam barks.

Both guys run off, and Liam immediately marches toward me. I can’t even process what just happened before he grabs my arm and hauls me out of the alley.

“Is that my gun?” I mutter, perplexed as he puts it back in his pocket.

“Yup,” he replies, dragging me out of there.

So he picked it up off the ground.

“Goddammit, Jas!” he suddenly barks, turning around violently. “I look away for one second, and two fuckers have you pinned!”

I just stand there with a scowl.

“C’mon,” he growls, and he grabs my arm again, dragging me all the way to the parking lot.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“Home,” he says, his voice more like a grunt.

He drags me all the way back to my car and presses the key pad to unlock it, then pulls open the door. “Get in.”

I stare him down.

“I said, get in.”

It’s not a question. At all. And judging from the furious look in his eyes, I don’t want to mess with him right now. So I hop into the passenger seat, and he slams the door shut behind me only to hop into the driver’s seat himself.

“But—”

“I’m driving,” he barks. “Now put on your seat belt.”

I snort. “You literally just shot a gun at someone, and now you’re asking me to put on a seat belt?” I laugh it off but still do what he asks. “You’re a weirdo.”

“I’m trying to fucking keep you safe,” he says, hands firmly on the steering wheel. “Unlike what you were doing.”

“What I was doing?” I scoff as he puts the gear into reverse and backs up so fast it leaves marks on the asphalt.

He drives off like he’s in a mad rush. “Is this what you wanted, hmm? Danger?” he growls. “Because you got it all right.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, holding my seat for dear life. “I was just trying to dance. I didn’t ask to be groped!”

The car feels like it’s going a million miles an hour across the road back through the deep forest.

“Slow down,” I say.

“It’s taking every ounce of restraint not to go back there right now and end those motherfuckers, Jas,” he growls.

My jaw drops.

“So no, I am not slowing down,” he adds. “I am taking you to my fucking home.”

It’s quiet for some time. Neither of us knows what to say, and the silence is unbearable. All I can think of is what just transpired. And just how angry Liam looks as he hits the gas.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to have some fun,” I say.

“You know those guys don’t just want ‘some fun.’ They wanted to fuck with you.”

My nostrils flare. “I didn’t know, okay?”

“Well, I did,” he says. “I could see it from the way they looked at you. How they touched you.” His fist balls. “If they fucking hurt you, I swear to God, I’ll turn this fucking car around and—”

I put my hand on his knee. “No one hurt me.”

He looks me in the eye for a moment as if he wants to decipher if I’m lying or not.

“I promise,” I add.

I don’t want him to go back and do something we’ll both regret.

He swallows. “Did you get what you wanted?”

I turn my head away, guilt filling my bones. “Maybe.”

“You wanted me jealous,” he says. “You got your wish. I wanted nothing more than to gouge their fucking eyes out just for looking at you.”

I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make my pussy throb.

Fuck.

“If you’re angry with me for taking your virginity, just say that to my face,” Liam says. “Scream, shout, hit me, I don’t care.”

“I’m not. It was my choice—”

“Then why did you want to go there? Why would you let those guys dance with you and drag you along?” he asks, pain in his voice. “I can’t handle someone else touching you. I fucking can’t and won’t.”

My lips part, but I don’t know what to say.

“But you already had me—”

“I want more,” he growls. “So much more, but you don’t understand. You never did.”

I stare at him, my eyes filling with tears. “What?”

The car screeches as it comes to a halt. “Tell me why. Why the fuck did you want to go there just to hurt me?”

“Because I’m hurting, okay?! I’m hurting.” I don’t know how else to describe it, but I’m on the verge of tears. “You don’t understand what it’s like to be the one who always has to sacrifice her own needs for someone else.”

Like a bucket, I spill over.

“Whose needs, Jas?” Liam asks, staring me down as he grabs my seat.

“Everyone’s. Yours. My family’s.”

“Jill,” he fills in for me.

And even though I can try to deny it all I want, it’s true.

All of it.

Liam just never saw what was right in front of him … a girl with a bleeding heart.

But now he’s right here in front of me, and there’s no way out anymore. No way to keep on running, keep on shoving it away until it no longer exists.

“Tell me. Tell me the truth, Jas.”

Age 15

* * *

The tears flow freely across my cheeks while I stare up at the moon from my windowsill. Sitting here normally always brings me peace, but not now.

Not now when my mother just reminded Jill and me during dinner what our role is in this family.

That we’re nothing more than prized possessions to be given away as a token, a gift to please other mobsters and strengthen their relations.

They told us a long time ago they were the ones who decided who we were going to marry. I just never realized it would happen to one of us.

More tears sting my eyes, and I brush them away with the palm of my hand, but they refuse to stop flowing. I wonder how Jill is doing. She ran off to her own room and locked the door after fighting with Mom about it.

And me? I just sat there, quietly eating dinner, pretending nothing was going on.

I wish I had the guts Jill had. Everyone knows she’s mad. But no one knows I’m crying right now. I don’t want them to know.

I’m hiding in a corner of my room, just as I always do when things don’t go according to plan.

Plans. I used to make a ton of them. Scribble them down in my secret notebook that I hide between my books so no one would ever find them.

Because what is the point?

What’s the point of making plans when you have no control?

When there’s a fifty-fifty chance you end up becoming someone else’s toy?

I shiver in place and stare out at the moon and stars, soaking in the beauty to feel even an ounce of happiness.

Is there anything either of us can do to change what’s going to happen?

Even if I tried … if I stopped my parents from picking me … they’d marry off Jill instead.

I grab my legs and pull them close, hugging myself tight.

I can’t do that to her.

I’m the eldest.

I need to protect her.

At all cost.

Even if it means sacrificing myself.

There’s only one way to stop my parents from picking her. By being the prodigy. The one they can always rely on. The one who shows the most interest in the business, who’s always there, always ready, always the best.

I straighten my back as the tears begin to dissolve on my skin.

If I can’t stop my parents from using us … I’ll stop them from picking her.

Even if it costs me my heart and soul.

Liam

* * *

Present

* * *

No wonder she was always so closed off, so kept together all the time.

Her parents basically forced her into the role.

Shaped her into a mold they could use for their desires.

An heir to the business, a perfect princess without a single need.

A girl now desperate for some fun, some excitement … freedom.

For love.

And it cripples me.

Physically.

I groan and rub my hand over my face.

No fucking wonder she shut herself off all these years ago. She’s not only been protecting Jill from me but from her own damn parents too.

“You’re mad at me, aren’t you,” she says after a while.

I lower my hand. “No,” I say. “I’m mad you didn’t tell me sooner, but I’m not mad at you.”

She swallows, visibly shaken.

I shake my head and try to push back the laughter, but it’s hard.

“What’s so funny?” she asks.

“All this time, I thought you were mad at me for taking your virginity.”

Her eyes widen, and her cheeks turn red. “N-No, no, that’s not … I wasn’t …” She clears her throat, clutching her own dress like it’s difficult to say.

“Tell me if I hurt you,” I say, my hand forming a fist. “Because goddammit if I did, you have to tell me.”

She blushes hard. “You didn’t, and that’s exactly the point. It should have hurt. It should have been bad. It should have been everything but … fuck.” She buries her face in her hands. “I loved every second of it, and I hate myself over it.”

Now I understand. “That’s why you ran.”

More tears form in her eyes, and it tears me apart. “How could I face you, let alone myself?”

She’s quiet for a moment.

After a sigh, I start the car again and continue driving.

“Thank you for saving me,” she says after a while, her eyes so beautiful I can’t look away even though I definitely should when she looks at me like that … because it makes me want to devour her.

“I would kill a hundred of those fuckers if it meant keeping you safe.”

She tugs at her dress, pulling it farther over her thighs. But every inch of skin exposed is like a feast to my eyes. And the thought that someone else dared to touch it makes me want to murder them.

I guess you can take the mobster out of the mafia, but you can’t take the mafia out of the mobster. Even after three years of forgetting who I am, my body still remembers how to shoot a gun, how to aim a knife.

You don’t unlearn skills that come naturally to you.

Just like you don’t unlearn to want someone you’ve wanted since forever.

Every once in a while, I glance at her, but she keeps looking out the window, avoiding my gaze like the plague, and I wonder why.

All I wanted to do was make her feel good. Make her want me the way I want her.

But every time I get close to unfolding the truth, she pulls further and further away from me.

And I don’t understand why.

Even when she told me she enjoyed what I did, she still won’t look at me.

She’s got her arm perched up against the window, her wrist on full display as her hand is locked underneath her chin. And my eyes can’t help but focus on that white mark on her skin.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“What?” she says, casually tucking down her arm.

“That mark on your wrist.”

Her eyes widen. “What mark? There’s no mark.”

I throw her a damning look. “That’s a scar.”

Chapter 29

Jasmine

* * *

Oh, God.

He saw.

He definitely saw.

There’s no way I can hide it now.

“I’ve seen it before. When you were on my kitchen table,” he says.

I want to bury my head in the sand and forget I was ever even here.

“What is it?” he asks.

“It’s just a scar,” I say, trying to downplay it.

“No, it’s not. You don’t just accidentally get two lines on both your wrists.”

“Stop,” I say.

He parks the car near the edge of the road and grabs my arm, exposing the mark on my skin as if the world should know.

“Tell me who did this to you,” he says, his eyes brighter than the moon high up in the sky.

My lips part, but how do I respond to that question without feeling like daggers are penetrating my heart? It’s impossible.

“I did,” I say after a while.

He seems confused. Angry. Almost as if someone betrayed him.

“Why?” His voice is incensed but controlled like a wildfire kept tempered by sheer force of will. “Did you do this because of Jill?”

“No,” I quickly reply. “It’s not her fault. I just …”

I can’t say it.

I can’t say it out loud.

“Jas …” he mutters.

I feel so fucking stupid right now I just want to scream. “I don’t want your pity!”

Why did I let my guard down like that?

I open the door and get out quickly before he can say something that’ll break me even more. Even though the sky is cracking open and the rain is pitter-pattering on my head, I need to get away from this mess.

“Jas!” Liam calls out as he jumps out too and locks the door behind him. “Talk to me!”

“No,” I yell, letting the rain fall down on me as if it could cleanse my soul.

“Stop.” His commanding voice makes my body quake.

“Or what?” I turn to face him.

The agony in his eyes makes me pause.

Pause … I wish I could have paused my life.

Right there. Back when it started.

Back when I made the choice to save her instead of me.

A choice that would hurtle us both into annihilation.

I sigh. “You were gone for three years, Liam …”

His muscles bulk up. “Was this Luca’s doing? I swear to God, if he made you do this, I will rip out his tongue and feed it to him.”

My eyes widen. I can’t believe he’d threaten to do that to his own brother, the one guy he always tried to protect, even from falling off a cliff … Just for me.

“But he’s your—”

“I don’t fucking care!” Liam roars, stepping forward. “If anyone ever tried to hurt you, I won’t ever forgive them.”

Tears well up in my eyes. “Why? Why do you care? You got what you wanted. You have my virginity.”

“You think that’s what this is all about?” he scoffs. “You think that’s what I wanted? You are so wrong. You still don’t get it, do you?”

He steps closer.

Too close.

“Don’t,” I say, stepping back.

“Don’t what?” he says. “Don’t make you face the truth?”

I shake my head. “No, it’s not right.”

Rain pours from the sky, but it doesn’t even seem to faze him. “I am not your enemy, Jas.”

“Yes, you are!” I rebuke, my body shaking vigorously, but I don’t know if it’s from the cold or because of … him. “You’re the reason for all my misery!”

“Misery?” His nostrils flare.

“I wanted to protect her, but I only ended up hurting myself.”

The look in his eyes is almost too much to bear.

But I can’t do this anymore.

I can’t quench the flames burning my heart, no matter how hard I try.

“And you didn’t do anything to stop it all from happening.”

He frowns. “Stop what from happening?”

How could he be so oblivious?

He really does hate me, doesn’t he?

I roar out loud the feelings I’ve kept tucked away for years. “Your engagement to Jill!”

Three years ago, before the accident

* * *

“Can we talk?” I ask, standing in the doorway to Liam’s house.

He seems surprised I’m even here as he frowns. “Yeah, of course.”

I look over his shoulder to see if the maid who opened the door is gone before I say anything. “It’s about the marriage thing.”

His pupils dilate, and he immediately walks out and closes the door behind him. “Let’s go somewhere more private.” He points at the tree house in the garden.

I follow him up the makeshift ladder and sit beside him inside the cozy little hut that can barely fit two grown people. I sit down on a soft green blanket lying on the wooden floor. We’re opposite each other, and I have to draw my knees up to my chest to fit inside with him.

“What’s going on?” Liam asks.

“My mother finally told me who they’ve picked.” I swallow back the nerves as he’s hanging on my lips. “It isn’t me.”

Liam doesn’t even look the least bit surprised, and I don’t understand why.

But then it hits me.

“You already knew, didn’t you?”

He nods. “Mom told me.”

I frown, feeling a little hurt he didn’t even tell me. Then again, I understand why he had to keep it a secret. Our family doesn’t do well with news.

“But it doesn’t make any sense. You were always the one to show the most interest in the business,” he adds.

“I know,” I reply. “I think that’s exactly why my parents want to keep me on their side.”

He makes a face. “Instead of coming to ours.”

I tuck my hair behind my ear.

I should’ve seen it coming from miles ahead, but I was so oblivious and too occupied with trying to make them happy that I forgot the bigger picture. What’s on the line.

My finger traces the wood below me as I’m unable to look him in the eye. “I don’t think they would’ve agreed if your parents decided to marry her off to Luca.”

“He’s too much of a wild card,” he replies, sighing like it annoys him. “I’m the safer option.”

When I look up, his eyes are full of agony. But I don’t understand why. “Isn’t this what you want?” I ask.

He’ll get everything anyone could ever want for. His parents' empire. A wife from an equally powerful family. A legacy.

“Is it what you want?”

I did not expect him to throw that curveball.

I lower my eyes. “What I want doesn’t matter. My parents decide what’s best.”

He suddenly leans forward and grabs my hand. “It does matter. To me.”

In his eyes, I see the promise we made each other. The notes signed in blood, hidden deep within the earth.

‘We will always let each other have what we want. No matter the cost.’

I swallow, but I don’t know what to do with it. Even if it matters to either of us … we’re not the ones who decide what happens. Neither of us has any choice in the matter. Our parents’ will is law, and mobsters always get their way.

So I pull my hand back. “At least Jill will be happy.”

He frowns. “What do you mean?”

I snort. “Oh, like you haven’t noticed.”

“What?” He taps my knee playfully. “Don’t be so coy.”

“She has a total crush on you.”

His face twitches like he wasn’t aware. “Really?”

How could he have been so oblivious?

“Yeah, she’s been fawning over you for like forever.”

“Hmm…” Liam mulls it over for a second, and I’m not sure whether or not that’s a good thing. “You know, I never thought things would end up like this.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

He looks out over the house. “Well, I’d always planned on seeing the world. Explore. Be free, you know?”

“Your family keeps you here. Grounded,” I say.

He looks my way and smiles. “Yeah.”

“Sometimes life throws curveballs,” I add, trying to lighten the mood.

“And sometimes I wish I could just chuck it right back in fate’s face,” he retorts, and we both laugh.

His hand slides closer to mine again. The second our fingers touch, heat flashes through my body, but I force myself to ignore it, just as always. Because the business, my parents, the family … they come first. Even when it goes against every fiber of my being.

“Do you remember the notes we made?”

His question makes it feel as if there’s a ball in my throat, and I can’t even breathe without feeling like I’m suffocating.

“Because I do. If we were forced to marry each other, we promised to be kind.”

My hand slips out from under his. “Yeah, well promise you’ll be kind to my sister.” As tears form in my eyes, I move out of the little hut. I don’t want him to see them fall. I don’t want to make it even harder than it already is.

“Wait,” Liam says, but I keep going down the ladder.

“Give her a chance. Please,” I say as I turn to walk away. “You both deserve to be … happy.”

“I will. Always,” he yells back as I run off, fighting the tears.

Liam

* * *

Present

* * *

I stare at her tearstained eyes with pure and utter amazement.

All these years, I thought she didn’t care.

That my parents choosing her sister over her didn’t matter to her.

But I was wrong.

So wrong.

“I failed,” she mutters. “I failed to protect her.” Tears freely tumble down her face. “After everything I sacrificed, all the interest I showed in the company, my parents. All the energy I wasted, all the things I never did. Everything I ever did, I—” Her breath hitches in her throat. “It was all for nothing.”

I step closer, and for the first time in a long time, she won’t step away. “You tried your best.”

“It wasn’t enough!” she yells. “She still got married.”

“To the guy she wanted,” I reply with aversion.

“But that’s just it, isn’t it?” she says, shaking her head. “Luca wasn’t the one she wanted to begin with … It was you.” I gaze up at her tearful eyes, filled with regret. “She wanted you.”

“She didn’t know what she wanted,” I reply.

But I don’t think that’s what’s bothering her.

“I know you’re angry with everyone. Your parents. Me. Your sister,” I say. “But what you’re most angry with is yourself. That’s why you hurt yourself.”

Her face scrunches up from the rage, but she could never look any less than beautiful to me. “I can’t do it anymore,” she says, tears rolling down her cheeks, mixing with the raindrops.

She doesn’t move from her spot. All she does is suck in a breath. But it means more than words ever could. Because the pain in her eyes is indescribable.

“I hurt myself because I thought you died.”

Chapter 30

Jasmine

* * *

Finally, the weight is off my shoulders.

It feels as if I can breathe again for the first time in three years.

But the price is high. Sky high.

Because when I look at the man in front of me, in all his raging glory, eyes filled with a mixture of grief and despair, the same pain is pricking straight through my skin like heroine.

“You … hurt yourself because of me?” he says.

He must think I’m weak. I wouldn’t blame him.

I do too, especially now.

More tears tumble down my cheeks. “When Jill told me what happened, how she’d tried to save you from Luca’s wrath, the accident at the cliff … I thought you were gone. Forever.” I almost choke on my words, but I force myself to push through. “I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t lose …”

I can’t finish the sentence.

I just can’t.

Because he’s looking at me in a way that makes me feel exposed.

Naked.

Still, the words pour from my soul. “I couldn’t lose you.”

It’s all true, but it doesn’t make the words any less brutal.

Just like the look in his eyes.

Like it pains him to have to listen to me. And it feels like a stab to the back.

Rain pours down from the sky above, but I don’t care that I’m getting cold and wet. Maybe it’ll numb the pain.

“Jas … I’m alive,” Liam says.

His voice is too painful for me to listen to. Because this is the monster speaking, not the Liam I remember.

“Stop,” I say as he comes so close I have to physically push him away.

“I’m here,” he says, past and present mixing. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“But you’re not that guy,” I say, making a fist with my hand so I can keep him at arm’s length.

Because if I’ve learned anything about myself these past few days, it’s that I can’t trust myself. Or him. And I can’t do that to myself.

I can’t do it to my heart.

“Then tell me who I am,” he says, droplets of rain dripping down from his lashes. “Tell me who I am to you.”

Torment rips through me. “You’re the monster who tried to kill my sister. The man I should hate.”

He pushes closer, despite my fist boring into his hard muscles through his wet shirt. “The man you should hate,” he reiterates, looking down at me. “But you can’t make yourself hate me anymore, can you?”

I bite my lip, trying to stop myself. “Just because you took my virginity, that doesn’t make it okay. I can’t fall for someone who just wants me for my body.”

“Jas—” he mutters.

“No,” I interject. I can’t stop the tsunami of emotions rolling out of me. “All you’ve done is torture me for your own amusement. You roped me down, locked me up, forced me to stay … used me for pleasure …” My pussy thumps, but I ignore it. “Did you hate me so much?”

“Hate?” His brows furrow harshly, as though he can’t believe my words, as though it guts him like a knife.

“It hurts,” I say, my lip quivering. “But nothing hurt more than listening to my sister tell the world that the reason she had to flee in that car with you was because you kissed her.”

3 years ago

* * *

I stare from the top of the stairs as Jill walks into the house with her head between her shoulders, our parents pushing her forward as the maid closes the front door behind them.

Like a prisoner escorted to a cell, she’s guided upstairs.

I make my way back inside my room and shut the door, listening to the sounds of their footsteps. Not a single word or whisper is uttered. It’s like a death sentence has been passed.

My lungs constrict with every breath.

Jill’s back home.

But for how long?

When her door closes, my heart skips a beat.

I wait a few more minutes and then open mine to dart down the hallway to her door. I place my ear against the wood and listen to her cry.

“Jill?” I mutter as I open the door slightly.

When our eyes connect, she immediately brushes the tears away. “Hey.”

“Are you okay?” I ask as I step inside and close the door behind me.

She nods, but after a while, she shakes her head. “It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.”

I approach her, but her eyes only tear up more.

“Don’t blame yourself,” I say.

“Liam’s dead because of me,” she says.

I sit down beside her. “What happened that night?”

“I already told you,” she says. “I drove off in my car, and when lightning struck, the car veered off the road, and I lost control.”

“I know, but I mean … why did you drive off with Liam like that?” I ask.

She looks at me and then averts her eyes. “Luca tried to stab him.”

My jaw drops. “What?!”

“They were fighting, and I didn’t want Liam to get hurt, so I grabbed his hand and pulled him into the car.” She clutches a pillow. “I should’ve just let them fight it out. At least he wouldn’t have died.”

“So you were trying to save him,” I say. “It was an accident.”

“That’s what I said, but of course no one believes me.”

“I do,” I say.

She looks me in the eyes, tears staining hers. “It doesn’t matter. It’s too late. I can’t change what already happened. He’s dead because of my choice.”

I wrap my arms around her and hug her tight.

“I wish Luca had never caught us up there in that tree house.”

My heart stops. “What?” I mutter.

“If I hadn’t kissed Liam, none of this would’ve happened.”

Kissed …

She kissed Liam?

My breath hitches in my throat.

“I miss him so much,” she says, and it stings. It stings so badly, but I keep it all cooped up inside like I always do. “Me too, sis. Me too.”

Present

* * *

His eyes widen and sharpen in an instant.

“I saved myself for you, did you know?” I blurt out.

It slips out just like that.

No taking it back now … because judging from the look on his face, he definitely heard.

“Yeah,” I jest. “Jasmine Baas, the virginal princess, saving her precious body for the only man who never even wanted her. What a joke.”

“Jas!” His yell makes me look up in surprise. “I didn’t want Jill. I never did. I wanted you.”

I feel like his words physically shook me to my core.

“You think what I feel for you is hate?” He curls his fingers underneath his wet shirt clinging to his body and pulls it over his head, chucking it away as if it’s a meaningless piece of fabric. Then he steps out of his shoes, kicking them aside.

What is he planning to do?

Every step he takes toward me makes it harder for me to look away from that gorgeous tattooed and muscled body of his. “No, Jas. What I feel for you is nothing short of pure fucking obsession.”

I gasp and shake my head. “But you kiss—”

He growls, “Because you asked me to give her a chance!”

I don’t feel grounded anymore.

My whole world feels like it’s caving in on me.

He steps even closer. Too close. “And if I knew how you felt about me … I would’ve said no to her and my parents in a heartbeat.”

But it’s my heartbeat that’s racing right now.

This can’t be real, right?

This Liam isn’t the old Liam, right?

This man only wants me for my body. He doesn’t want—

“B-But you said the accident wiped your memories,” I mutter.

“I remember a lot of things,” he says.

I gasp. “How?”

“Because of you.”

The air is knocked out of my lungs.

“Since you came back into my life, the memories came pouring back in as hard as this rain,” he says, pointing up at the sky. “But even before you came back, I remembered you. You’re the only thing that kept me going.”

The sky cracks open, thunder reverberating in my ears, but nothing has ever been louder than my own beating heart pulsating for his.

But when his mouth opens, I am not prepared. “The only one I’ve ever loved is you.”

Oh, God.

I was so blindsided by my need to keep my sister safe from my parents’ company that I failed to see what was right in front of me. And I can’t fucking breathe.

All this time, I thought he only wanted me here to torment me.

To show me he could have his way with me because I meant nothing to him, and he only wanted me for my body.

But I was so wrong.

So wrong about my own damn heart and his.

I thought I could ignore it. Crush the feelings I have into a tiny little box and make them disappear.

But when I saw him after those three painful years, all of it came trickling back in little by little until I could no longer deny it.

I fell in love with the monster who tried to kill my sister.

And the monster fell in love with me.

Liam

* * *

One kiss.

One kiss was the reason for all this madness.

The destruction behind everything we once held dear.

Now I understand the hatred she felt for me, all the reasons she pushed me away … all of it culminating in that one kiss.

The kiss that never should’ve been given.

She tries to back away, but I grab her hand before she does. “You didn’t want me to marry Jill …” I say. “You wanted me to marry you.”

All these years, when she was so distant, I thought she didn’t want me. I thought she gave her okay for me to marry her sister because she didn’t mind even though I hated the idea.

But she was hiding her true feelings.

All to protect her sister.

Her family.

Her legacy.

She made the biggest sacrifice of all.

Her love for me.

“Jas …” I say. “You don’t have to hide it anymore.”

“Don’t,” she murmurs. She pushes me, creating more distance between us even though I know she wants me there. I can feel it. I can even fucking taste it. I always fucking could, but I never understood why.

Now I do.

“All these years, I thought you were ignoring me because you hated the idea of marrying me,” I say. “But you’ve been forcing yourself to forget about me to stop yourself from hurting. To make it easier to let go.”

“Stop,” she says, but the tears keep coming.

“No,” I reply. “I’m tired of you denying the truth. Jas, let me in.” I grab her face and make her look at me. “You asked me if I hated you. But the only thing I’ve ever hated is how hard you pushed me away when you actually wanted to be mine.”

Her eyes are filled with blinding panic. She suddenly lunges toward me and snatches her own gun right out of my pocket. “Stay back!” she growls as she points it right at me.

Just as before, when she saw me here for the first time.

But I’m not afraid.

And instead of defending myself, I stand tall and proud in the pouring rain.

Because for the first time in forever, I am not ashamed of what I feel deep inside. Of the obsessive love I’ve felt for her ever since she came into my life all those years ago.

“I can’t fall for a monster like you,” she cries. “It’s wrong.” I don’t even flinch when she removes the safety. “You tried to kill my sister!”

Her words are nothing but a plea for help from a heart that’s been bleeding for years.

And I wish I could just grab her face and kiss the pain away.

But that won’t be enough.

“You’re right. All of this is wrong,” I say. “I deserve to die.”

She shudders in place. “Wait … what?”

“You think I’m a monster,” I say. “But this monster never wanted anything but your heart.”

Her pupils dilate, and her lips part. I know she sees me. I know she can. She just needs to understand …

I’m still here.

I’m still me.

Even when I said I wasn’t.

She brought out so many memories I thought were long forgotten.

Just by being here with me.

“So if you really think I’m a monster …” I say, stepping closer until the gun is pushed into my skin. “Kill me. Because I would gladly die for you.”

There’s no way back.

This it.

That kiss was my choice.

But this choice is hers.

And I know she’ll make the right one.

The gun shakes in her hand as she looks me in the eyes, tears staining hers. Her lip begins to quiver as she holds the gun for dear life.

But I’m not scared of death.

Not if it’s by her hands.

“Do it,” I say, cornering her further and further against a tree until there’s no way out.

She shakes her head, barely able to hold on to the gun as it presses into my chest. “Stop.”

“If you don’t kill me now … I won’t be able to stop, Jas,” I say, planting both hands against the tree behind her. “So do it. End your suffering now … before this monster takes the last thing you weren’t willing to give.”

The gun trembles against my chest, her eyes filled with despair. And I wonder if my time has finally come.

But then the gun tumbles from her hand and she wraps her arms around my neck and presses her lips to mine.

Chapter 31

Jasmine

* * *

I’m tired of fighting, tired of always resisting the urge …

The urge to be his.

To love him as he is.

To let him take that part of me I thought belonged to no one.

But my heart was always his, even if I didn’t know it yet.

The second he told me his true feelings for me, all the struggles I’ve dealt with for years suddenly vanished into thin air. Even if I know he’s a monster for trying to kill my sister, I still can’t stop myself from falling for the beast. And I’d be lying to myself if I said I could kill him.

I simply cannot.

So I kiss him with everything I have left to give.

“What are you doing?” he murmurs as my lips unlatch from his, but his eyes are still closed. “You should’ve killed me.”

“I can’t,” I say, completely drinking him in. “Even though I know I should.”

“You definitely should,” he says, eyes opening just a sliver, a hint of arousal sparkling inside them. He grabs my face and presses his lips to mine, claiming them like they always belonged to him. When he pauses, he says, “I’m the monster who tried to kill your sister, remember?”

“Maybe I don’t want to remember that monster,” I murmur.

He grins against my lips, but follows it up with a devastatingly sexy lick against the seam of my mouth. “No … I’ll make you remember the real me instead.”

Liam

* * *

All these years I’ve waited for the memories to return, but it turns out all I needed was her.

I devour her mouth like a deviant hell-bent on destruction because there is nothing I have left to lose. I gave her my heart on a silver platter, expecting her to stop it from beating …

But I never thought she’d rip hers from her chest and hand it to me willingly.

Fuck.

Finally she allows herself to feel what I’ve been feeling for her for years.

It almost feels too good to be true.

I pull back for a moment to look into her eyes. “Tell me who I am to you.”

“You’re … You’re …” she murmurs, her eyes traveling down my wet body, swallowing hard when she reaches the rim of my pants.

I grasp her hair and pin her to the tree, whispering into her ear, “Tell me what I want to hear, Jas.”

“You’re my monster,” she says, pain in her voice.

And I both hate and adore it.

I am a monster.

A monster born from suffering.

A monster set on destroying the only thing she tried to protect.

A monster who would sacrifice the world to save the only thing he desires.

Her.

“I’m your monster … and you’re my undoing,” I reply, pressing a damp kiss against her neck, dragging my lips down until she begins to quiver against me. “Now give me what I want, and I’ll give you what you crave so desperately.”

When my teeth sink into her shoulder, she moans out loud.

“Kiss me … please,” she murmurs, the words as much an aphrodisiac as her scent. “Love me like you say you do.”

God, how I yearned to hear those words.

“I would kill a million people to hear you say those words again,” I say, and I grab her face and kiss her hard and fast, pushing open her mouth with mine, probing inside, twisting my tongue around hers until she moans.

The sound gets me riled up like nothing else ever could. I could hear her moan for the rest of my life and never have enough.

“More,” I say against her mouth. “Let me hear your desire for me.”

Her moans start an uncontrollable fire inside me, and I groan with delight.

I push her further up against the tree and tear at the top part of her black dress until it rips apart at the seam.

“My dress!” She squeals as my hand dives in to grab her tits.

I don’t give a damn if I have to destroy this entire world if it means I get to have her.

“Fuck that dress. I’ll buy you a new one,” I groan, pinching her nipples to make her moan again. “I need to have you. Now.”

“Oh, God,” she says, as I twist her nipples and take one into my mouth, sucking hard.

“God can’t hear you now,” I say with a grin on my face as I look up at her sultry eyes filled with wonder and what-ifs.

What if she just let go?

What if she just let me claim her heart?

And I’ll fucking answer those questions for her right fucking now.

I spin her around on her heels, shoving her up against the tree. I push up the hem of her dress all the way over her lingerie, tugging my fingers under the band.

RIP!

“Hey, those were—”

“Not fucking needed if you’re mine,” I growl, and I silence her with a kiss.

My hand immediately dives between her legs, her wetness an instant turn-on. But I still wonder if what she says was true. If she saved herself for me, and only me.

“Are you mine, Jasmine Baas?” I groan, cupping her pussy. “Say it. Say you’re mine.”

She mewls with delight. “I’m yours.”

Fuck me.

I thought killing the one person who destroyed me was my choice of drug.

But it turns out there’s something far more powerful than revenge …

Her fucking heart on a silver platter.

I groan and kiss her hard and fast, not giving a shit if someone finds us here in the middle of the forest. I can’t keep my hands off her, and I don’t think she minds because she’s squirming against the palm of my hand.

“So no one else has ever touched you like this?” I ask, swiping my fingers along her wet little slit.

She shakes her head again and flushes with heat. “Only my fingers … And yours.”

A dirty grin spreads across my lips. “I knew you were a filthy one …” I say, flicking her clit until it’s swollen. “But to know you saved yourself for me, and I’m the only one who’s ever fucked you …” With my nose in the crevice of her neck I take a whiff of her intoxicating scent, high on her. “That’s the sexiest thing alive.”

I grasp her hands and pin them above her head with one hand while I shove down my pants and pull out my rock-hard dick in one go.

“And now I’m taking what’s always belonged to me,” I groan, and I thrust in without warning.

Her mouth forms an o-shape as she glances at me over her shoulder, and I cover her mouth with mine, taking her moans too.

Every thrust is deeper than the one before as I plunge into her with more lust than ever before. I’ve never craved anyone as much as I crave her right now. I want to bury myself to the hilt, destroy her body with mine, take everything she has to give and more.

I want it all.

“You’re mine,” I groan, clutching her wrists with one hand while the other explores her tit, squeezing, pinching the nipple until she squeals. “All your moans, all your kisses, all of your orgasms … mine!”

I ram into her wet pussy until her head tilts back, allowing me to kiss her even deeper, harder, licking the roof of her mouth until I’m drunk on her love.

Rain pours down upon us, but neither of us gives a shit. Her pussy throbs around my base, and I groan with desire from the feel of her wetness sucking me in. If I had to die and this was heaven, I’d pull the trigger instantly. That’s how badly I crave her.

I pull out my hard-on, only to spank her pussy. “You still have to pay for what you did at that bar, Jas.” My tip is at her entrance, and I want her to feel just how hard I am for her. But she’s not getting it … yet. “You were such a little devil, trying to get those fuckers to touch you just to get me all riled up.”

I spank her ass and she shrieks.

“That’s why you did it, didn’t you? Admit it,” I bark.

“Yes!” she yelps when I spank her again.

“That’s what you get for making me fucking jealous.”

“You teased me so much at the bar …” She says, rubbing herself up against the tip.

“So did you,” I whisper into her ear, still toying with her by simply patting her on her most sensitive bits, coaxing her to bend over further and further.

“Please …” she mewls, her face as red as her swollen little clit.

I play with her until she’s writhing with pleasure. “Please, what?”

“Please!” She squirms against me. “Please, let me have it.”

I tug her hair, tilting her head back. “Let you have what?”

“Please … give me your cock,” she begs. “I want it.”

God.

Her voice. Those words.

The best fucking high in the world.

A devious smile spreads on my lips. “Good girl.”

I thrust in so deep and hard, her eyes almost roll into the back of her head. Her pussy wraps around my shaft, pulsating with greed. She moans out loud, her nails digging into the tree as she drags her hands down while her pussy literally milks me.

Fuck.

It’s too fucking sexy. Too fucking perfect.

I thrust more and more until sweat mingles with sweet rain and salty tears as I kiss her face and bask in her beauty. And I come roaring out loud, jetting my seed into her wet, aching pussy.

“Fuck me …” she murmurs, her breathing ragged. “I think I just …”

“Came?” I fill in for her, and I slap her ass to hear that beautiful sound again. “Good. Now you know how good my cock can feel.”

She gasps as I pull out, my cum spilling out of her onto the ground.

“Such a waste,” I groan, and I pull her away from the tree and spin her on her heels again so I can claim her mouth and lick up the droplets of rain. I want to kiss her everywhere and suck up her tears until she has no more tears left to cry.

Not for me.

“Is it wrong?” she murmurs, kissing me back with equal greediness. “Is it wrong to want this?”

My lips hover over hers. “Is it wrong to breathe?”

She smiles and kisses me again, wrapping her arms and legs around my body. Her heels tumble off her feet and fall to the ground, but she doesn’t seem to care. Groaning into her mouth, I kneel with her in my arms, laying her down on the ground without ever taking my lips off hers.

I want to taste her for infinity, steal every last breath and more.

My lips drag along her neck, my tongue dipping out to lick every inch of her body as my fingers part her legs and dive into her pussy, thrusting in to spread my cum around. “Mine …” I groan.

Her pussy clenches right on beat as if it’s responding to my voice and my voice alone, and it is absolutely the hottest fucking thing in the entire world.

I take my fingers out of her wet crevice and spread my own damn juices all over her clit, rubbing her like there’s no tomorrow.

“What are you doing?” she murmurs.

“You thought I was done?” I say with a smirk. “No, little devil of mine … I’ve only just begun.”

Chapter 32

Jasmine

* * *

I gasp at his dirty words, and I slap him in the face.

Liam stares down at me with equal parts rage and desire, hand still firmly pressed against my pussy.

And fuck me, if it isn’t the hottest thing in the world.

Little devil of his …

Does it really make me angry?

Or am I just trying to defend my family's reputation? Why do I even care?

Because the words did make my pussy throb. Hard.

And if I dig deep down into my icy heart, I can feel it burn brighter and brighter for him.

Fuck it.

I wrap my hands around his neck and drag him in for a kiss. At first, he’s surprised, but then he reciprocates, deepening the kiss with a rumbling groan.

“Fuck, Jas … you confuse me,” he mutters.

“So do you,” I reply.

He licks my lips and coaxes my tongue to come out and play. “But I felt your pussy clench … You like being called my devil.”

“Shut up,” I growl, kissing him back so he won’t remind me of my own fucked-up desires.

He smiles against my lips and continues rubbing my clit like he never intended to stop. “You love to hate me, don’t you?”

“I hate what you make me feel,” I say as his fingers expertly thrum around my most sensitive parts. “Hate how you make me want you so badly I can’t breathe.”

“You don’t even know how much I’ve wanted you,” he rasps, kissing me between each word. “How badly I’ve wanted to kiss you, lick you, take you, bury my cock inside you …” He leans up and thrusts in to the hilt, making me moan out loud. “Own you.”

I gasp as Liam thrusts in and out, amazed he’s already hard again.

I didn’t think it was possible, but apparently, it is.

And fuck me, I am not prepared for just how good it feels to have him inside me again, and again, and again…

My hand instinctively slides up his body, across the ridges of his abs as I admire his body and face from afar, eyes sparkling with love like a midnight ocean. Until he suddenly grabs them and slams them down beside my head. But instead of pinning me to the ground, his fingers entwine with mine as he fucks me with a raging passion that burns brighter than the sun.

Fuck, if I’d known it’d feel this good to do this, I don’t think I’d ever be able to stop.

I don’t even care that we’re outside, fucking in the pouring rain like mad rabbits. Nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to how good this feels.

“Take me, make me yours,” I murmur, completely delirious with heat. “I don’t want to feel the pain in my heart anymore.”

Liam roars and leans up, still buried inside me. With fury, he looks at me as he fishes in his pocket and whips out his knife. My eyes widen at the sight of the sharp blade. He flicks it near my body, then grasps my wrists, turning them up to face the sky and his judging eyes.

I shudder in place as he drags the knife across my skin along the scar lines.

“Do you think they’re ugly?” I blurt out.

The tip almost punctures my skin, but he stops. “Just the idea you could ever think I’d find you ugly hurts as much as this knife could, Jas.”

My heart skips a beat.

“The only ugly thing here is the fact that your heart hurt so badly, you wanted to make your skin bleed,” he says through gritted teeth. “For what your family has made you do. For what my brother tried to do to you. For what I did to you.”

He brings the knife to his own wrists, and before I can say a word, he’s cut two lines into his skin, exactly where mine are.

I gasp as he chucks the knife aside and zeroes in on me. “Remember our notes and how important they still are?”

“Of course,” I mutter, completely stunned, trying my best not to squirm from his throbbing hard-on still perched deep inside me like he’s staking his claim.

“I want to add a new one,” he says. “Unwritten. Between you and me.” Blood drips down his arm. “Promise me you will never hurt yourself again.” He looks at me intently, and I can’t look away, even if I wanted to. “Promise me.”

“I promise,” I say.

The words are so fleeting but more important than any other I’ve ever said before.

He leans over me, his stiffness still firmly lodged in my pussy, as he brings his bleeding wrists to my mouth.

“Take my blood,” he says, his eyes brighter than the moonlight above us. “Make the vow.”

Hesitantly, my tongue dips out, and I take a lick of his salty blood, the metallic taste as I swallow almost … sexy.

His thumb slides across my lip, mixing blood with saliva, sealing the deal. “Good girl.”

And when he grabs my face and kisses me, thrusting in and out with full force, I feel as if I’ve died and gone to heaven.

I don’t care anymore about the repercussions or about how bad it is to fall for the only man I should’ve never fallen for.

Because this man is the only man who cared enough to see me, the real me hiding behind the veneer of courage and toughness. And I want nothing more than to give my heart to this man, this monster I call mine.

I cry out with a happy smile as he thrusts in once more and fall apart underneath him, the orgasm flooding my body with warmth and heat and so much more. He buries himself to the hilt, claiming my mouth, sucking my soul up through my lips, and I let him, willingly, knowing what it’s cost me.

But I don’t care if my family hates me, disowns me, or if my sister will never see me again.

I need this.

I need him.

“Liam, please,” I mutter as his hardness throbs inside me. “I need more. Give me more.”

He leans up and rips open my dress from head to toe, making me shriek. “More,” he groans with desire, grasping my breasts and squeezing tight. “Fuck.” His back stretches as he plants one hand flat on the ground and drags the other down between my legs, thrusting in deep.

Then I feel it … another jet of seed filling me up to the brim. And the look of pure and utter ecstasy on his face is nothing short of magical.

He pulls out, only to reach between my legs and thrust his finger inside.

I’m caught by surprise, a loud moan ending in a gasp as he pulls out his own cum and spreads it all across my body. “I can’t stop,” he groans, just as delirious as I am. “I want to cover you in filth.” His fingers slather my belly and breasts with lots and lots of cum. “I want to mark you, fill you up in every hole … make the fucking world know you belong to me.”

His words end in a growl as he pulls up and drags his long, half-hard cock up my body only to sit down on top of me on both knees, the tip bobbing up and down in front of my face. And I instinctively open my mouth and let him slide in without a care in the world. I’m overcome by an animalistic need to drown in him, and I gulp him down as far as he wants to thrust.

The sounds coming from his mouth fill me with desire. So raw and filled with unkempt lust that’s been boiling under the surface for years, and it’s finally bursting out.

“Taste your own wetness and mine,” he says. “So much fucking cum just for you.”

Fuck, I could come again just from the way he’s talking to me.

He shoves farther and farther inside until I almost choke on his length, but I keep it together, wanting to taste him as badly as he wants to make me taste him. His eyes never travel away from mine, not even as he reaches behind him and starts playing with my pussy. Without even looking, he knows exactly where and how to touch me to make my legs quake with desire.

I moan as he buries himself to the hilt inside my throat, flicking my clit, his salty cum an aphrodisiac to my already aching pussy.

“Yes, Jas, lick me, suck me dry, clean me off,” he groans. “And maybe I’ll come a third time just for you.”

I whimper as he pulls out, only to thrust back in again.

A third time? Is that even possible?

But I can’t even say anything because my clit is throbbing hard from all the toying, and I’m on the verge of falling apart … again.

“Yes, my little devil, you want to come, don’t you?” he groans. “I can feel it.”

I shake my head, and when he pauses to let me breathe, I murmur, “I can’t.”

“Yes, you can.” He slaps my pussy and immediately flicks my clit again, mixing pain with pleasure until I can’t even separate the two anymore. “And you will. For me. Because you’re my good girl.”

“Oh, God …” I mutter with his hard length still in my mouth.

“You do like it,” he groans, drunk on lust. “Just like you like my hard cock in your pretty little mouth. Now come for me.”

I can’t stop it anymore. I can’t.

The orgasm rolls over my body like a forceful wave crashing into me, and my entire body quakes with desire.

“Fuck yes.” Right then, he buries himself deep inside my throat, roaring out loud as he comes with me, coating my tongue and throat with even more salty cum. It’s so deep, I can’t push it back up, and I’m forced to swallow it all down … just like the good girl he says I am.

I’ve really fallen deep … so deep that there’s no way back from here.

“Good girl,” he groans after a while, the words making my heart light up like fireworks.

He gets off me and stands up tall, half-hard dick swaying back and forth. I lie here staring up at him as if he’s some goddamn Greek god for being able to make me come so many times in a row and covering me with so much goddamn cum.

But the look on his face is anything but pleased. “The rain will wash it all away.”

I snort, thinking he’s making a joke, but his face says otherwise.

Liam leans over to pick my cum-covered body up from the ground. He carries me all the way back to the cabin, slamming the door shut with his foot.

I feel like a goddess in his arms. A fucked-into-oblivion goddess, but a goddess nonetheless. Just because of the way he looks at me. As if he could worship me at my feet.

He lays me down on the bed, then takes off his pants in front of me so we’re both naked. Crawling in bed with me, he drags me closer, curling me into a ball close to him.

Even though I’m fully naked and soaking wet from both the rain and his cum, I’ve never felt warmer than I do now.

“God …” he groans, his hard-on finally getting flaccid after all that hard fucking. “You still smell just like I remember.”

I snort. “Only now with an added scent of premium cum.”

He laughs. “I’ll force you to wear it like a goddamn dress if you’re not careful.”

“Is that a challenge?” I muse, my pussy already throbbing just from the thought of being covered in his jizz for the rest of the night.

“It’s already a fact,” he says. “Because you’re staying right here in this bed with me the rest of the night.”

I gasp. “Are you—?”

“Oh, yes, I’m dead serious,” he replies, his voice low and rumbling just as before when he was so obsessed he couldn’t keep his hands off me. “I want you covered in my cum so you know who you belong to. Me.”

He buries his nose in my hair and rubs himself against me, and it’s so incredibly hard not to smile.

But is it really that wrong to fall for someone like him?

To need a monster?

I swallow down the lump in my throat.

“I know what you want to say,” he says. “Don’t.”

“But—”

He plants his finger on my lips. “Some things don’t have to be said.”

I know he feels it too.

But we’re both choosing to ignore it.

He drags me closer and presses a kiss on my back. “I just want to enjoy this moment. Forever if I could.”

A blush spreads across my face. “Liam …”

“I mean it,” he says. “If I could have this for the rest of my life, I would choose this a million times over.”

I turn to look at him. “But could you sacrifice the one thing you want the most to have it?”

He furrows his brow. “I want nothing more than you.”

I look him in the eyes as I say, “We will always let each other have what we want. No matter the cost.”

His jaw clenches. “You want me to—”

“Stop chasing my sister for revenge,” I fill in.

He knew.

He always knew.

This was the cost of my heart.

The one price he was never willing to pay.

And the reason for my misery.

He sighs, lying down on his back to face the ceiling, his long wet hair slick against his face and the pillow. I lean up too, trailing my fingers across the wound on his wrist. The blood has crusted, but it must still sting.

“You made me promise not to hurt myself, but who will stop you from hurting me?”

His hand reaches for my face as he grabs a strand of my blond hair and tucks it behind my ear. “You’ve figured it out, haven’t you?” he says. “My only weakness … You.”

Tears well up in my eyes, but the second the palm of his hand touches my cheek, I still lean in, desperate, yearning.

“You’re willing to sacrifice your freedom for your sister,” he mutters. “You must love her deeply.”

“She’s my sister,” I say. “And she didn’t—”

He places his finger on my lip. “I don’t need a reason. If this is what you want … How can I ever say no?”

My eyes spill over with tears, and he picks each and every one of them up with his thumb. “Really?”

“For you, I will,” he says, and I fall into his arms, hugging him tight.

“Thank you,” I say. “That’s the only thing I want.”

He tips up my chin. “As long as I have your heart.”

With a gentle nudge, he brings my lips closer and kisses them, marking them as his.

And for the first time in forever, I don’t feel guilty for kissing him back.

For giving my heart to this monster of a man.

When the sun shines brightly through the window, my eyes break open. It slowly dawns on me that I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, but the view still manages to boggle my mind. There he is, Liam fucking De Vos, a dead man walking … in all his fucking naked glory lying sound asleep next to me.

His arm and leg are draped over my body like a protective shield, his nose buried in the crook of my neck, lips still puckered from all the sultry kisses that made me fall asleep. And as my eyes swoop over his gorgeous, muscled body, my own naked skin reminds me I didn’t get dressed either.

And judging from the stains on my belly and breasts, I never cleaned myself up either.

Oh boy.

I slip out from underneath him, carefully pulling his hand off my body as I slither out of bed and out of his warm embrace. My nipples instantly harden as I rush to the bathroom and lock myself inside, my heart pounding straight out of my chest.

It feels like it should be illegal to be this head over heels for someone that bad for me.

But I am, and it’s undeniable.

And when I look at myself in the mirror, all I see is that girl from long ago, grinning like a stupid schoolgirl.

Stop it, Jasmine. He’s just a boy.

Just a boy with a giant dick.

I snigger to myself and grab a fresh washcloth, then pour some water into the sink so I can wash. I don’t think he’d mind … would he? It’s been a whole night.

I lather the washcloth with soap and brush it along my skin.

SQUEAK!

The loud noise makes me look up and pause.

THWACK!

That sounded like … a door.

Definitely a door.

But it isn’t a wooden door like the ones in the cabin.

It’s a metal one.

Like a car door.

And it definitely came from outside.

Only one thought crosses my mind, and the washcloth tumbles from my hand in shock.

They’re here.

Chapter 33

Liam

* * *

The sound of a car door slamming shut instantly wakes me.

I get up and quickly grab my pants and put them on.

“LIAM!”

That voice …

My blood begins to boil.

Luca.

I march to the front door and throw it open as I fish my knife from my pocket. My own blood still stains the blade, but there’s no time to stop and clean it.

Because when I step outside, he’s right there, pointing a gun at my head.

“So you are alive after all,” Luca says.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” I growl. “Get the fuck off my property.”

“You’ve got some fucking nerve,” Luca spits back.

I tread closer, eyeballing Jasmine’s gun that’s still on the ground to my left. Luca hasn’t spotted it yet, but if I don’t act fast, he definitely will, and I need to get the upper hand before this conflict gets out of hand.

“First, you try to kill my wife, and now you try to kill her sister?” Luca roars.

Suddenly, Jasmine runs out of the front door too, clothed in only a bathrobe she must’ve found. Fuck. I should’ve locked the door.

“I’m not dead!” she yells at Luca. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Luca continues to approach, still keeping the gun pointed at my head while his eyes are on Jasmine. “Jas, run. Now.”

She shakes her head, confused as to what’s going on.

“I’m not saying this again. RUN!” Luca growls. “I’ll deal with him.”

When she doesn’t budge, he tries to grab her arm.

“The fuck you won’t,” I roar, and I make a sprint for the gun still hidden underneath the leaves, pointing it at his head the second he’s got his hand on her. “Get your hands off her.”

“You stole her, and now you think you get to keep her?” Luca scoffs. “Not a chance.”

“He didn’t steal me,” Jasmine interjects.

I pull the safety off the gun and hold the trigger. “I don’t fucking want to shoot my own damn brother, but I will if you don’t let her go.”

“LUCA!”

The shrill voice from up ahead draws my attention like a siren.

Because I’d recognize it anywhere.

Jill.

And the urge to kill is so strong I almost fire a bullet right then and there.

“Don’t you fucking think about it!” Luca roars at me.

Jill appears from behind a tree farther up.

“I told you to stay in the car, dammit!” Luca barks at her.

“She’s my sister,” Jill growls back, and she immediately locks eyes with my girl. “Jasmine. You’re alive … I was so worried.”

“I’m fine, but you guys need to leave. Now,” Jasmine replies.

“What?” Jill seems shocked.

“The fuck I will. I didn’t come all this way for nothing,” Luca barks as he drags Jasmine away from the cabin.

He holds her so close to his body I can’t shoot without injuring her too. And it fucking hurts to watch her get hauled away without being able to do anything.

“Luca, stop!” Jasmine cries. “He didn’t take me! I came here out of my own free will, goddammit!”

“I don’t fucking care,” Luca growls back, pulling her through the woods.

I follow them on foot. “Luca, listen to her!”

“Stay out of this, motherfucker!” Luca threatens.

“Luca, please, be careful,” Jill begs.

“Get back to the car right now!” Luca roars at her, and he shoves Jasmine into Jill’s arms. “Take Jasmine!”

Jill grabs Jasmine’s hand and drags her along while Luca points a gun at me, preventing me from following them.

“Stay back,” he growls at me. “Don’t fucking follow us.”

“Give her back,” I growl.

“How did you convince her to come here if you didn’t fucking steal her?” he asks. “You threatened her, didn’t you?” He spits on the ground. “After everything I did for you …”

“You made me the way I am,” I say. “You made me remember.”

“I tried to help you! And look at what you did!” Luca growls. “You’re a fucking monster.”

“So are you,” I reply. “You’re taking the only thing I need away from me.”

“SHE WASN’T YOURS TO TAKE!” His voice echoes in the forest.

“Neither was Jill, but you took her anyway,” I respond. “She stayed too.” Birds fly overhead, distracting him for only a split second. “Jasmine belongs with me, and if you take her, I will never fucking stop.”

Luca’s nostrils flare, and it takes him a while to answer. “Home is where she belongs.”

Then he turns around and storms off back to that car they have parked near the road.

But I’m not giving up this easily.

Jasmine

* * *

“What are you doing? Stop,” I say, but she refuses to listen. I jerk my hand free. “Jill!”

“No, we need to get out of here, fast.” She grasps my wrist again, hauling me to the car, pushing and shoving until I’m already inside.

She hops in too right behind me, shutting the door behind her. “Oh, my God, I’m so glad I got you out of there safely,” she says, hugging me so tight I can’t breathe.

I push her away. “You’ve got this all wrong.”

“What do you mean? He forced you to come, didn’t he?” she asks. “I saw Luca’s office. You ransacked it to find Liam’s location.”

I rub my lips in shame. “I’m sorry, but it was important. I needed to find him. I—”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize,” she says. “But you should’ve told me he threatened you.”

“Jill!” I yell, trying to get her attention, and it works. “I chose to come here.”

She frowns. “Why?”

Suddenly, Luca tears open the front door of the car and hops behind the steering wheel, slamming the door shut again before starting the car. “We need to get the fuck out of here.”

What? No, this can’t be happening.

“Don’t,” I say, but as I jerk the door handle, he locks it.

“Have you lost your goddamn mind?” he roars, hitting the gas. “We need to move. NOW.”

“You don’t fucking understand!” I yell as the car shoots off, swerving across the road. “I came here to protect Jill!”

“Jas …” She grabs my hand and squeezes tight. “I’m sorry. I should’ve seen this coming. I should’ve noticed you were carrying that burden all by yourself. It wasn’t fair.”

“He’s not gonna stop,” I say.

“We’re prepared,” Luca says, holding up the gun.

My pupils dilate at the sight. “You can’t.”

“The fuck I can’t,” Luca spits back. “He’s my fucking brother.”

“Exactly!” I retort. “He’s your fucking brother, Luca. You love him.”

“Love?” He laughs out loud. “You call this love?”

“You’re only saying that because he hurt you,” I growl. “Just like you hurt him.”

“Bullshit!” Luca roars. “I didn’t do jack shit!”

“You tried to fucking kill him over a kiss!” I yell back.

Everyone’s suddenly quiet now, including Jill, who just stares at me awkwardly with a huge blush on her face.

“He’s like this because of what happened that night,” I try to explain. “And all his memories came pouring back in when you paid him a visit.”

“I searched for years to find my brother, and look what happened when I finally did. That fucker tried to kill my wife and then tried to take you too.” Luca turns the wheel hard, and I have to grasp my seat to stay put. “Be happy Jill and I came to get you.”

“Jill, please talk some sense into him,” I say, turning to face her in a desperate attempt. “Please, you have to stop the car before something bad happens.”

“We’re trying to save you,” Jill replies. “Please, let us handle this.”

I’m flabbergasted. “Save me?”

BANG!

I shriek. The sound hits me hard as a bullet penetrates the hull of the car.

I look up out of the rearview window. Liam’s chasing us on his motorcycle, and he’s catching up fast.

“That motherfucker,” Luca growls, and he speeds up.

But Liam’s already on our tail, bumping into the car as if he doesn’t give a shit, and it terrifies me. Not because of what it could do to the car, but because of what it could do to him.

His life is on the line.

And he’s willing to throw it away just like that.

“Stop the car,” I bark.

“Are you out of your mind?” Luca growls, swerving from left to right.

“We’re going too fast,” Jill says with a panicky voice. “The road is too narrow, Luca. You need to slow down.”

“Fuck no, he’ll catch up with us,” he says, tearing the wheel so fast I’m flung into my sister’s arms.

“You’re gonna get us killed!” Jill screeches.

Right then, Liam bumps into the back of the car.

“What the fuck is he doing!?” Luca roars. “Does he want to die?!”

“He wants me,” I say. “And he won’t stop. Please. Luca. You have to stop.”

“Or what?” He turns his head to look at me.

“Or we all die.”

The fury in his eyes is all-consuming.

SCREECH!

The brakes hit so fast I can’t prepare, and neither can Liam as the motorcycle crashes into the car. The rear window shatters, and I close my eyes to stop the glass shards from blinding me.

Suddenly, an arm is wrapped around my body.

Everything is happening too fast.

And when I open my eyes again, Liam has latched himself onto the metal of the car through the window. He’s holding on for dear life.

“I FUCKING WARNED YOU!” he screams at Luca.

Jill scratches and claws at Liam’s arm, but I shove her away. When she bites him, he retracts his hand from my arm, but his eyes no longer look human.

He’s gone beyond rage.

Oh, God.

This is bad. Very bad.

His hand wraps around her neck, and he drags her toward him.

“NO!” I scream as she gasps for air.

Luca hits the brakes again, and I’m flung around the car. We come to a full stop, but it’s too late. Liam has hauled her out of the car and drags her by her shirt back to his motorcycle.

Luca jumps out of the car with his gun in his hand, leaving me locked inside.

I jerk the door handle, but it refuses to loosen.

Fuck. Fuck! FUCK!

“I’LL KILL YOU!” Luca screams at his brother.

I have to get out. Now.

I lunge toward the dashboard and press the unlock button so I can open the door and jump out. Luca’s right there, pointing his gun at Liam … but Liam also has a gun to Jill’s head.

I slam my hand in front of my mouth in shock, panic seeping into my bones.

Tears stream down Jill’s face as her entire body begins to quake. I feel like I’ve just ended up in a nightmarish loop I can’t escape from. All of this happened once before … but now the tables have turned.

I once thought Luca was the bad guy for hurting Jill, but he was only trying to protect Jill … even when Liam threw her off a cliff.

But now, I’m faced with the horrible realization that he may have never stopped wanting her blood on his hands.

My knees cave in on me.

“Liam, please, let me go,” Jill begs. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I put you through. I’m sorry for driving us off that cliff. I’m sorry I—”

“Enough!” Liam barks, and he directs his attention toward Luca. “This is on you.”

Oh, God.

This can’t be happening.

I thought I could trust him.

I thought he’d changed.

But it turns out monsters can’t ever stop craving violence.

“If you pull that trigger, so will I!” Luca growls back.

“Go ahead. Think I care?” Liam quips.

I can’t. I can’t deal with this.

“Let Jill go!” Luca screams.

“Liam, please,” I plead, tears streaming from my eyes.

The misery inside me comes out in a yelp as I stare at my own wrists, unable to deal with the pain. Because all I can think about is adding another cut, another stripe of blood to ease the agony in my heart and let it all out.

Chapter 34

Liam

* * *

“Jasmine,” I say.

My voice is choked with emotions, but she still looks up at me through tearstained eyes.

Even though my hand is wrapped around her sister’s throat and Jasmine’s own damn gun is still pointed at Jill’s head.

She was right. I am a monster. The villain of this story.

Because I would do anything to get what I want.

“Please …” Jill whispers. “Please don’t do this. We can talk.”

“There’s no talking, not with him. I tried,” Luca growls, stepping closer and closer. “He won’t be happy until you’re dead.”

“NO!” Jasmine shrieks, and her eyes immediately drop down to her hands again as they squeeze and tighten, all the muscles in her body freezing.

Her emotional turmoil reaches a breaking point.

And it’s happening all over again right in front of me.

So I look Jasmine dead in the eye and say, “Remember our promise.”

Her pupils dilate, her soul singing to me loud and clear.

And I know right then that there is only one decision I can make.

I always thought there were two paths to take in life. Two choices. Life and death.

That there was nothing I craved more than to kill the one who was responsible for all of my misery.

But it turns out my heart had made my choice long ago.

No matter how badly I’ve wanted revenge and death for everything that’s been done to me. If Jill hadn’t driven that car off the cliff, I would’ve still been there. I would’ve still been me.

But I realize now I would’ve never had the one thing I truly wanted.

The only thing I would give my life for.

Her.

So I lower the gun away from Jill and throw it away into the forest beyond.

Everyone gasps, even Luca. “What the f—?”

“I may be a monster …” I say. Nothing has ever felt more right. No decision has ever felt better than this. “But hurting the only person I ever loved is the last thing I want to do.”

Because the pain in Jasmine’s eyes as she thought of doing that horrible thing again wounded me.

Even if she’ll hate me for doing what I did, for chasing her, locking her up, making her fall for me … all of it was meaningless if I kill the people she holds dear.

If her heart will forever be locked away …

If she hurts herself because of me.

So I release Jill and push her forward without a single regret.

If this is it, so be it.

At least I made the right choice for once in this short life of mine.

My eyes lock with my brother’s.

Luca refocuses. Aims.

Jasmine’s loud scream fills my ears. “LUCA, NO!”

BANG!

Jasmine

* * *

The gun goes off faster than I can blink.

I shriek as Liam sinks to the ground.

No. This can’t be happening.

“You shouldn’t have come after us,” Luca growls.

He never stops pointing his gun at Liam as he marches toward him. Not even as Jill has already run to safety and hides behind me.

Luca’s voice echoes through the woods. “This ends now.”

My nightmare has come to life.

Liam can’t die again. I won’t allow it.

Without a second thought, I bolt toward him and shield his body with mine. My hands are splayed wide open as I stand between them, protecting Liam from Luca’s wrath.

“Get out of my fucking way, Jasmine!” Luca growls.

“No,” I spit back, courage sweeping through my body. “Lower your goddamn gun.”

“Jas …” Liam mutters behind me, his painful groans making my heart ache.

“Shut the fuck up,” Luca growls as he tries to get closer.

“Don’t,” I say, shoving him away.

“He fucking tried to kill Jill, and you want to protect this bastard?” Now he points the gun at me. “You wanna die for him?”

“LUCA!” Jill screams as she tries to pull the gun out of his hand, but he holds her at bay with his other hand. “STOP!”

Despite the fact that he could shoot me down just as easily, I don’t sway from my position. I’m not afraid of death. Not as long as I’ve done the right thing.

“He let Jill go,” I say. “He didn’t hurt her.”

“He tried!” Luca barks back. “That’s enough for me.”

“Luca, she’s my sister!” Jill cries out in anger.

“Why did you come here?” I ask, trying to bargain with him. “I didn’t ask you to. You came here out of your own accord. And now you want to kill us both?”

“He took advantage of you,” Luca says.

“I chose to come here and be with him,” I reply.

“Because he threatened to kill Jill,” Luca says, peering at Liam underneath my arm. “Isn’t that right?”

I won’t deny the truth.

But time changes people.

Time has changed him. It’s changed us.

If only I could make them see.

“Why?” Luca says through gritted teeth. “Why would you protect a monster like him?”

“He’s not a monster,” I say through gritted teeth. “He’s wounded. Betrayed. Healing.”

“He’ll never stop trying to kill her,” Luca growls. “I can’t let him go.”

“Even when you held a gun to his head, he let Jill go, knowing what it would cost him,” I say through gritted teeth.

Luca and Jill are silent for a moment.

“Don’t fight over me,” Liam chimes in. “Just kill me if that makes it easier.”

“NO!” I bark, eyeing him over my shoulder. “I will not let you die.” When I return my attention to Luca, I say, “He won’t go after her anymore. I promise.”

“How do I fucking know if that’s true, huh?” Luca demands, the gun in his hand clearly not stable anymore.

“Because I don’t want to hurt Jill if it ends up hurting Jas,” Liam says, and when I glance at him over my shoulder, and he looks at me, I know for sure.

I know now what I choose.

Him.

“Why?” Luca growls at Liam.

But Liam’s eyes never waver from mine as he says, “Because if I die now, at least I made the right choice.” His eyes burn brighter than the sun. “Because I love her.”

His words shatter the frigid armor that protected my heart all these years.

But then his eyes blink faster and faster, and the last remaining bit of his energy wanes as he collapses onto the ground. Eyes closed. Lifeless.

“Liam!” I scream, and I turn around and immediately fall to my knees in front of him, not giving a shit that there’s still a gun pointed at both our heads.

I don’t care if I die. I don’t want him to die.

“Liam, wake up,” I say, tapping his face, opening his eyes which roll into the back.

“Luca, stop,” I hear Jill say behind me, but I’m too busy with Liam to even care.

“Liam!” I shake him and check his pulse. It’s still beating … but barely.

I turn my head toward my sister with tearstained eyes. “Please help him.”

She stares at me for a moment, completely flabbergasted at my response.

But I don’t care who knows anymore.

I bend over his face and whisper as the tears stream down my face. “Don’t die … I love you.”

My tears roll down his forehead as I press a kiss onto his skin, which feels cold to the touch.

Oh, God. If only I’d acted sooner.

Suddenly, Jill pushes past Luca’s arm and throws herself down in front of Liam’s body.

I’m in shock. Despite the fact he’s tried to kill her twice now, she grabs his wrist and checks his pulse.

“He’s still alive. But he’s bleeding too much. We need to get him to a doctor,” she says.

I stare at her for a moment, unable to believe any of this is really happening.

One moment, they’re trying to save me from Liam.

Then the next, they’re attempting to kill him.

And now she wants to save him?

“Don’t look at me. We need to help him fast,” she says, ripping a piece of her own shirt off to tie it just above the bullet wound in his thigh to stop the bleeding.

I brush my tears away and try to move him, but he’s far too heavy for me.

“Where are we going to take him? The hospitals will never accept anyone with a bullet wound. They’ll turn us over to the police.”

“I know a place.” Luca clears his throat, drawing my attention as he lowers the gun and tucks it into his pocket. “Put him in the car. I’ll drive.”

I blink a couple of times, surprised he’d even offer. “Are you s—?”

“Don’t fucking waste time we don’t have,” Luca growls at me as he marches toward us and grabs Liam by the shoulders. “Take a leg each.”

I quickly get up and put my hand around his thick thigh while Jill carries the other, and we’re barely able to lift him with the three of us. Never in my life could I have imagined having to carry a man this heavy just from the sheer amount of muscle. But we still manage to haul him to their car and put him down on the back seat.

“I’ll stay with him,” I say, and I slide into the car and put Liam’s head on my lap.

Luca jumps behind the wheel while Jill clicks her seat belt into place in the passenger’s seat and looks at Luca. “Let’s go.”

He throws her another look, and for a moment, I’m envious of their ability to communicate without saying a word.

But then I remember just how aware Liam was of my feelings for him.

While I was not.

But I should have noticed sooner.

I should have told him everything.

Should’ve stopped them from kissing.

From running off.

From driving that ca—

A sudden hand on my knee pulls me from my thoughts. “Don’t blame yourself,” Jill says.

I try to smile even though I’m crying. “I’m scared.”

She squeezes. “I know. But we’ll make it there in time.”

I want to believe her, but it’s so damn hard when he’s here on my lap dying, and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. I caress his hair, hoping he can feel it.

“We won’t let him die,” Jill says. “Just like Luca and I didn’t let each other die.”

I nod a few times, pushing away the tears as I clutch Liam’s hand and press another kiss to his forehead. “Stay with me. Please,” I whisper. “I need you.”

Chapter 35

Jasmine

* * *

The wait seems forever in this tiny, dubious-looking clinic Luca found on the outskirts of a town in the middle of fucking nowhere. I have no clue where we are or how we even got here this fast. All I know is that our families apparently have connections everywhere, even in Germany.

I don’t know if that should scare me or make me glad. The oozing wound on his thigh looked gnarly, and it definitely hit a blood vessel. I just hope he makes it out alive.

I swallow away the lump in my throat, but it does nothing to ease my nerves.

My sister comes back from the hallway with a cup of coffee and hands it to me. “Thanks,” I say, taking a much-needed sip.

“You okay?” she asks as she sits down beside me on the small chairs in the waiting room.

I nod, but it’s a lie, and when she wraps her hand around mine and squeezes, I can barely keep it together.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

I look up into her tearful eyes. “It’s not your fault.”

Her face contorts. “It is my fault. When I found out you were missing and saw the notes in Luca’s study, I knew exactly where you went. And I begged him to save you for days on end. He finally agreed, and now … here we are.”

“I thought Luca wanted to see him dead after Liam tried to throw you off a cliff.”

She shakes her head. “Maybe … but it was my idea to come here and save you. Luca tried to tell me it was your choice and that we can’t do anything, but I didn’t want to believe him.” She shakes her head, glaring off into the ceiling lights. “I thought Liam forced you.”

I snort. “He did …” I gaze up too, unable to look her in the eyes. “I wanted to protect you.”

Her hand squeezes tighter around mine.

“I just didn’t expect to fall for him so badly,” I add.

She snorts. “You sound like me.”

A smile still manages to worm its way onto my face. “You know, I once thought you were crazy for liking Luca.”

The left side of her lip quirks up. “Guess love doesn’t listen to any rules.”

I roll my eyes. “I wish it did. It would’ve been much easier.”

She laughs. “You’ll get over it.”

“How long did it take with you?” I ask. “Weeks?”

“Days.”

A blush creeps onto my cheeks, and it’s quiet for some time before I finally get the guts to speak up again. “You know, I’m not even mad you kissed Liam.”

She looks away, but I know she’s blushing too. I can tell from the way she grabs her hair and draws it across her face. “I didn’t do it to hurt you. I just needed to know the truth.”

“I know,” I say, and I squeeze her hand back so she looks at me. “I told him to give you two a chance.”

Her eyes widen. “But why? If you felt like this for him all the time?”

I shrug. “I just put our parents and their business first.”

She sighs out loud. “Jas …”

“I know, I know.” I wave it off, but the way she looks at me gets to me.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she says. “You should’ve just told us.”

“What was I supposed to say?” I raise a brow at her. “My parents picked you and Jill, but I want you to pick me and run away with me?” I snort. “Like he’d ever made that choice.”

“Maybe. You’ll never know,” she says.

It’s quiet for some time, and the clock is slowly ticking away. It feels as if we’ve been here a lifetime now. And all this time, my heartbeat’s been insane as I wait for news. Any kind of news.

“I’m sorry this all happened. I should’ve known you didn’t want to come back,” Jill suddenly says with tears in her eyes again.

“Don’t be. You were trying to save me when I was trying to save you,” I reply.

“But it’s all my fault to begin with. I’m the reason Liam’s like this. I’m the reason he lost his memories. If I hadn’t tried to save Liam from Luca after he caught us kissing and driven that car in that state, none of this would’ve happened.”

I pull her in for a hug. “Stop. I know you. You didn’t do it on purpose.”

She cries against my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Jas. I’m sorry for everything. For kissing him. It didn’t even feel good.”

Her comment makes me laugh, and after a while, she laughs with me.

“I’m still glad you two found each other,” she says. “Even if it cost you and Liam everything.”

A pang of guilt shoots through my stomach, and I swallow away the tears I should’ve cried long ago. “I just hope he’ll make it.”

Luca opens a can of Coke, and it draws our attention. He sits down beside us, staring at the wall with a giant scowl on his face.

I look his way and watch him take a sip. It’s deadly quiet. And I just want this tension gone.

“Thank you for helping me,” I say. “For helping Liam.”

“Yeah, sure.” He casually takes another sip while leaning back against his seat. “Whatever.”

“I mean it,” I say. “I need you to know.”

He looks my way. “Why?”

“Because I don’t want to fight,” I say.

He takes another sip. “I didn’t come here to fight. I came here to take you back home safely like your sister begged me to.”

“I know, and I’m sorry for causing you this much trouble.”

“I tried to fucking shoot you, goddammit,” he growls.

“I know …” I lower my eyes. “I was trying to protect Liam. And if that meant sacrificing myself, then so be it. And I’m sorry for putting you in that position.”

“Stop,” he growls. “Stop apologizing. This is his fault, not yours.”

“This is no one’s fault but mine,” Jill says, standing up from her seat to face Luca. “I asked you to save her when she didn’t even want to be saved.”

“She’s your sister,” he replies. “Of course you wanted to save her.”

“All of this happened because I kissed Liam. Because it pissed you off so much I had to grab him and flee in that goddamn car.”

Luca looks up at Jill in awe while her whole body shakes with tears.

“He lost all of his memories, his core being. He lost himself … because of me. And that’s why he went after Jas.”

Luca grabs her hand and pulls her closer. “No,” he says, lacing his fingers through hers. “I pushed you to run.” He brings her hand up to his lips and kisses the top. “But you were always mine. No matter what Liam did.” His muscles tense. “And I’d rather kill my own damn brother than see you get hurt.”

She blushes. “I know.”

I don’t know what to say.

I know Liam wanted to kill her.

He talked about it many times.

Suddenly, the door in front of us opens, and I hold my breath as a doctor steps out.

“De Vos?” he asks in a German accent.

And even though the man gazes at Luca and Jill, I’m the one who stands up. “Is he alive?”

The man looks at me while time seems to slow down. “Yes.”

Chapter 36

Liam

* * *

The machines beeping all around me are annoying as hell. My eyes can barely stay open, but judging from the white room I’m in, it’s definitely a clinic of some sort.

How did I even get here?

Did Jasmine drag me here by herself?

Or am I dead, and is the afterlife set in a German hospital?

I groan when I try to move. Everything hurts, especially my leg.

Fuck, that bullet must’ve gone straight into my thigh. I still remember the visceral pain, but the rest is slowly coming back to me as well.

My brother coming to kill me.

The chase on my motorcycle.

Crashing into the car.

Holding a gun to Jill’s head.

Jasmine.

My eyes burst open at the sight of her teary eyes in the forefront of my mind. The machines around me begin bleeping heavily as I try to sit up straight.

The door opens, and a nurse steps inside. “Sir? Please lie down.”

I ignore her and tear the wires off my body. “Where is she?”

She steps closer. “Sir, please calm down. You just came out of surgery. You need to rest.”

I grasp her by the collar and growl, “I want to see her. Now.”

“Your family is waiting outside for you,” she replies, half-choked up. “I’ll ask the doctor to get them.”

I set her back down again, and she hurries off like she’s seen a ghost.

Like I fucking care.

Only one thing is on my mind, and I will get it one way or another. And if that means I’ll have to fall out of this bed and fucking crawl across the hallway, I will do just that.

Another nurse comes back in to put the stickers and wires back on without saying a word.

“How long is this gonna take?” I ask.

“What? The recovery?” she asks with wide eyes. “I mean … a couple of days.”

“I don’t have a couple of days,” I say. “Any way to speed it up a notch?”

She chuckles. “No, that’s not possible, sir. But we will do our best to—”

A knock on the door instantly draws my attention away.

“Okay, I guess they’re already here,” the nurse says, looking a bit flabbergasted at the speed things are moving.

As she opens the door to walk out, Jasmine nearly stumbles over her to get inside. She immediately runs to my side and wraps her arms around me, crying intensely. And it warms my heart she’s here to hold me and be by my side.

All the pain is worth this. Just this.

“Jas …” I groan, my voice still hoarse from the tube that they used during surgery.

My eyes lock on with Luca’s, who’s peeping in through the doorway for only a second.

My body instantly preps for the fight, muscles tensing, despite the pain.

But Jill pats him on the shoulder, and they both leave, closing the door behind them.

Jasmine’s cries tear my gaze away and force me to focus on her. She buries her face in my chest, and I let her stay there for a while, knowing this is what she needs.

Even if my body aches on all sides.

Even if the anger is still flooding my body with adrenaline, seeking to destroy the next thing in my path set on keeping me away from her.

For now, I put it all on hold.

For her.

And for all the tears she refused to cry all these years.

Jasmine

* * *

I can’t stop crying, even if I desperately want to. It’s as if a tsunami of emotions all floods out of me at once.

The second I heard his heartbeat, all the worry in my soul evaporated.

“Don’t cry for me …” Liam says, but all it does is make me weep even more.

“You almost died,” I reply, rubbing my face against his chest, smelling his scent to carve it into my brain.

“I’m not worth the tears,” he says.

“Yes, you are!” I yell back, enraged he’d even say that.

His face contorts. “Why would you stand between Luca and me like that? You could’ve been killed.”

“Because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if you’d died,” I say. “Not because of me.”

“Jas …” His hand curls around my neck, and he gently caresses my hair and skin. “I’m sorry. Making you cry is the last thing I wanted.”

God. All I want to do is hug him tight.

But a strangled groan makes me pull back and look into his eyes.

“Sorry,” I mutter. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

He smiles. “I can take your hugs, Jas.”

He tries to sit up straight, despite just getting out of surgery. I doubt it’s a good idea, but I also know I wouldn’t be able to stop him. He’s too stubborn for that.

His hand rises to meet my face, the pad of his thumb brushing away the tears. “The last thing I want is to cause you more pain.”

God. This man.

If only I’d known sooner how he felt for me.

If only I’d been true to myself and admitted my love for him.

Maybe all of this could’ve been avoided.

Liam pulls off a bit of the bandage to check out the wound on his leg. It’s been neatly sewed up, and all that’s left is a bit of blood and a few stitches. “It looks gnarly.”

“You should’ve seen it before the surgery,” I reply.

“How did I even get to this clinic?” he asks.

“Luca and Jill helped me carry you back to the car. It was Luca’s idea to go to this clinic.”

He frowns, bewildered. “Luca helped? I thought he wanted me dead.”

“I’m not sure he truly wants that,” I reply. “You’re his brother. I’m sure on some level he might still love you.”

“I threatened the girl he loved. Again.”

“True …” I sigh and avert my eyes. “I’m sorry for putting you in this mess,” I say, eyes stinging from the salt. “You got shot because of me.”

He grabs my face. “Don’t. Don’t blame yourself for my choices.”

“But I came to your cabin to—”

He puts a finger over my lips. “I don’t want to hear it. I lured you there. And what I did was wrong, and I know that. All of it.” He lowers his eyes at me. “I made you a promise. And I almost broke it. And I’m sorry.”

It’s hard to look at him. “I thought you were going to kill my sister …” I can barely get the words out of my mouth.

“Because Luca said he was going to take you home,” he says with furrowed brows.

I gasp. “But I thought …”

“That I wanted revenge?” He shakes his head. “Believe me, I thought about it. Plenty of times.” His muscles harden underneath my body. “But taking Jill was the only way to get him to stop the car. To get him to release you.”

“But you let her go,” I say, looking up at him with tearstained eyes. “Why?”

He tips my chin up, so I don’t hide my tears from him. “Because I knew it would hurt you. Because you love her, and I love you.”

My heart explodes.

“You made me a promise to never hurt yourself again,” he says. “And I saw the hurt in your eyes when I stood there with that gun … I refused to be the one to make you break that promise. Even if I knew Luca was going to shoot me when I let Jill go.”

My lips quiver. I’m completely stunned. “You … knew he’d try to kill you?”

He nods. “It didn’t matter. As long as you wouldn’t hurt yourself with that knife… as long as you were happy … alive.”

The world is caving in on me again.

This room is too small.

Too small to breathe.

Too small for the size of his heart.

The moment he watched me cry out in pain while he held a gun to Jill’s head, I saw something in him snap.

It was almost as if someone pulled a switch inside his head.

The pain in his eyes was immeasurable, all-consuming.

Just like the thoughts inside my head that screamed at me to grab the nearest knife and open those past wounds.

But he wouldn’t let me.

By sacrificing the one thing he truly wanted, her life … he saved mine.

My pain, my heart, my love mattered more to him than his own life.

And that fact alone makes me lean up and kiss him harder than I ever have before.

The moment seems to last an eternity, but it feels as though every second in his vicinity is another one I want to spend closer and closer until I can no longer exist without him.

He pulls away for a moment only to lock eyes with me. “After everything I did … you still want to kiss me?”

More tears escape my eyes. “I thought I’d never be able to kiss you again. But you’re here, alive … and you chose me over everything else.”

He raises his brow. “So it’s true what you said?”

“What?”

“That you love me.”

My eyes widen, and my face turns beet red.

The only time I ever said that … was when he was on the ground, not breathing.

“But how?” I mutter.

He tilts his head. “It was the last thing I heard before everything went dark.” He cups my face. “And it kept me from giving up the fight.”

I smile and lean into his hand, desperate for more after almost losing it forever. “It’s true. I do.”

A lopsided grin forms on his face. “Then you can say it again.” He pulls me closer until our foreheads touch, and his lips hover dangerously close to mine. “Say it out loud so I’ll believe it. So I will never, ever try to hurt you again.”

Tears well up in my eyes at the thought that my words alone were all he ever needed to stop. “I love you.”

Not even a second later, his mouth latches onto mine, claiming me once again, no holds barred. Even when I know he’s in pain, he refuses to hold back.

“Even when I’ve tormented you?” he groans into my mouth.

“Even then,” I mutter between kisses. “I need you.”

He grabs my face with both hands and pulls me in even closer, and I struggle to stay put on the bed as he kisses me harder than ever before.

“All I’ve ever done was for you …” he murmurs, tearing away for a second as my swollen lips hum with desire. “I’ll do anything for you. And I promise I will never, ever fucking hurt you again.”

“Anything?” My brow rises.

“Do you want my heart? Because I’ll carve it out on a platter just for you,” he says.

I smile against his lips. “No …” I place my hand on his chest until I feel the thrum of his heartbeat. “I want to hear your beating heart every day.”

His grip on my face tightens. “Tell me you’ll stay with me.” He pauses. “Please.”

God.

That just made me die and go to heaven.

He’s never said that word before.

Please.

Monsters don’t beg.

Men with hearts the size of mountains do.

And I would gladly be the only one to own his. “I don’t want to be anywhere but right here … with you.”

He presses another aching kiss on my lips, groaning with pain and pleasure. “God, it’s taking every ounce of my self-control not to fuck you right here on this fucking hospital bed.”

Why does everything become raunchy with us so quickly?

I snort. “Keep it in your pants, mister. You’re not nearly healthy enough to think about having sex yet.”

He pulls me closer until I’m leaning heavily over his chest, his hands keeping my face right in front of him. “Doesn’t mean I can’t still fantasize about it like I have been for years.” A filthy grin spreads on his lips. “And I can’t wait to play them all out in real life.”

Fuck.

That honestly made my pussy throb.

“Ahem.”

My lips tear away from his, and a giant blush spreads on my cheeks as I realize who was there, watching us for God only knows how long.

Luca.

Chapter 37

Liam

* * *

The second his face comes into view again, I almost want to jump out of bed and tear it off.

But I don’t.

Because my fucking brother fucking married Jasmine’s sister. And I vowed I wouldn’t cause her more pain.

But damn, am I about ready to punch him in the throat for shooting me.

Just like he was ready to kill me for trying to kill his wife.

Jasmine leans away and clears her throat. “Luca. I didn’t expect you to come in.”

“Neither did I,” he replies, leaning against the doorpost. “But here I fucking am.”

Jasmine throws me a worried look, but I simply tuck her hair behind her ear and nod. “It’s fine.”

“Are you sure?”

I nod. “If he wanted to kill me, he would’ve done it sooner.”

“But I don’t want you guys to fight anymore,” she says. “I love Jill, and she’s married to him.”

My brows furrow. “You want me to be nice to him?”

“Well, at least try,” she responds.

I grumble. “If I have to.”

She whispers, “He’s your brother. I know deep down somewhere inside you, you still want him to be.”

I roll my eyes. I don’t like the idea one bit, but she does have a point.

We were once brothers. Our love for these girls tore us apart, even when it should never have.

She sighs again and grasps my hand a final time, leaning in for a kiss on the cheeks. “I’ll wait outside.” She walks toward Luca and narrows her eyes at him, pausing in the doorway. “Let it go. Please. For Jill.”

Then she walks off as Luca’s eyes follow her with mistrust.

I’m torn between wanting to argue and wanting to finally settle this.

“You gonna stand there the rest of the day?” I ask, drawing his attention away from her.

He tilts his head at me. “So … you’re alive.”

“Wanna come listen to my heart too?” I jest.

He snorts. “Ask my knife that question.”

I laugh. “That’s more like it.”

“What? You think it’s funny?” Luca asks.

“Does this look funny to you?” I tear my blanket off and show him the wound the bullet left.

He winces. “Put that thing away.”

“Thought so,” I reply, sticking the bandage back on.

The doctor did a good job fixing me up, though. I have to give him that.

“I heard you helped Jasmine carry me,” I say to break the ice.

“Biggest mistake of my life,” he scoffs, planting his foot against the wall while folding his arms. “I should’ve left you to die.”

“You hate me that much, huh?” I say, sighing. I did try to kill his wife on several occasions. “I deserve it.”

“Damn right you fucking do,” he replies. “Don’t flatter yourself by thinking I came here for you. I did it because Jill begged me to.”

“I get it,” I say.

“No, you don’t,” he says, marching over to me. “You should be fucking begging for mercy on your fucking knees for what you did.”

“Well, I would if I wasn’t stuck to this bed,” I growl back.

He stares at me for a moment, as though he’s stupefied I’d even say yes to that.

But he’s right.

I should.

I did some horrible things.

“You tried to fucking kill Jill twice!” he yells. “And now you’re here agreeing with me?” His laughter chokes in his throat as he paces around my room. “God, this was a fucking mistake. I should never have come here.”

“I’m agreeing with you because I realize now what kind of pain it caused Jasmine,” I say.

“Jasmine, Jasmine,” he growls. “It’s always about her, isn’t it? Did it ever occur to you this world doesn’t fucking revolve around her or you?”

“It doesn’t revolve around you either,” I reply.

He stops and glares at me, shoulders slumped, body slanted. “I sacrificed everything to find you. Jill hated me when she saw you alive.” His eyes turn venomous. “When you filled her head with lies.”

“I know,” I say.

“No, I don’t think you do,” he says through gritted teeth. “I should’ve never have come to your stupid fucking cabin and told you all about your own damn life.”

I avert my eyes and look at the sky outside. If only I’d seen before just how beautiful it truly is. A gift. Another chance at life.

“If you still wanna kill me, that’s fine,” I say.

“Like you don’t wanna kill me too,” he growls back.

I frown, sighing as I think about it for a while. “No.”

I never actually wanted him dead.

Despite all the fucked-up shit he’s done, despite the fight we had … he’s still my fucking brother.

“Lies,” Luca retorts, and he rolls his eyes.

“I hated Jill, not you,” I say.

“The fuck you didn’t,” he spits back. “We both tried to kill each other more than once.”

“We were trying to protect the people we loved,” I reply.

“From each other!” he yells back.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? Everything that happened was caused by a single defining moment in our lives.

“The kiss,” I mutter.

“What?” Luca frowns.

“You’re still mad at me for kissing Jill,” I say.

Grinding his teeth, he stares at me with complete and utter rage. “You knew I wanted her for years. And you still went for it. Still chose to destroy me.”

I nod. “I know what I did. I never intended to hurt you, and I’m sorry.”

He frowns. “You’re sorry?”

“Yes,” I say.

“What? You think that’s gonna fix everything?” he balks.

“No, but it’s a start.”

“And you think I can believe your ‘sorry’ after you still went along with her, let her drive you off a fucking cliff?” He makes quotation marks with his fingers.

“She was trying to protect me from you,” I say.

This shuts him up for a moment.

“You pushed me,” he growls.

“I know,” I reply. I won’t take my eyes off him, even if that would be the easier thing to do. “And I’m sorry. I’m sorry I fucking hurt you, Luca.”

His nostrils flare. “What about Jill? She never wanted to harm you either, but you—”

“I was blinded by my own pain,” I interject. “But when you brought my memories back, little by little, I started realizing the bigger picture.”

His hands turn to fists, and I can see it’s taking everything in him not to attack me right now. “Is that why you tried to shoot her in the woods just now?”

“I thought it was, but …” I sigh. “I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at you for trying to steal the only thing I ever cared about.”

His lip twitches. “Jasmine.”

I nod.

Silence falls, and for a moment, it’s peace amidst the violence in both our hearts.

“Did you ever stop to ask what she wanted?” Luca quips.

He’s never cared for Jasmine before, but I’m sure Jill’s worries about her have seeped into his bones.

“I should’ve done it sooner,” I say. “And I know that now. I’ve caused a lot of pain.”

Luca’s nostrils flare again, but his face relaxes a little. “Damn right you have.”

“But so have you,” I retort.

His eyes flash with rage, but he doesn’t respond.

Instead, he strolls through the room and gazes out the window.

“I had to pick up the pieces you left when you vanished,” he says, glancing at me over his shoulder. “Me, responsible for the entire fucking De Vos empire. Can you fucking imagine?”

“I know you hated the idea.”

“I didn’t want any of this,” he says. “But I took over. I did what I had to do.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there,” I say.

“Why do you keep saying sorry?” he quips.

“Because I am.”

“Why do you even care?”

“Because you’re my fucking brother,” I reply. “And I fucking want that back.”

His eyes twitch and widen in a split second.

Then he looks away again.

“Don’t you think you burned that bridge long ago?”

“Blood is blood. We will always be brothers,” I say. “There’s a reason you came to look for me. Why you helped me bring those memories back.”

He just stares off into the distance without responding.

“I might not remember much, but I remember what I told you. I’m still your fucking brother. And our parents drove a wedge between us. Made us believe only one of us could win them over and run the business,” I say. “But I don’t fucking care about any of that.”

He looks me dead in the eye. “Then what the fuck do you care about?”

“Jasmine and you,” I say.

He sucks in a breath. “We may be brothers, but I will never, ever stop protecting Jill. Do you fucking understand that?”

I nod. “I feel the same way about Jasmine. Why else do you think I held a gun to Jill’s head? You were threatening to take Jas away from me.”

“That’s not the same thing,” he rebukes.

“Yes, it fucking is!” I bark. “You just don’t want to see it.”

“She doesn’t love you the way Jill loves me,” he quips.

That’s a low blow, even for him.

“Ask her. Go ahead,” I say. “Prove it to me.”

His lips twitch, and his face contorts, but he never moves from his spot.

Figured.

“Fine. Say she loves you. What the fuck do you want to do now?” he says with a low tone of voice.

“I want to live. In peace. That’s all,” I reply.

“In peace …” he repeats, staring up at the sky. “You know, I would’ve liked that too. And for a moment, there was peace before Jasmine darted off to you.”

“I take full responsibility for that,” I say.

“What does Jasmine think of that, hmm?” he retorts.

“I can’t look inside her mind. But she told me she loved me. And I believe her words.”

“What did it cost her to say those words?” He looks at me over his shoulder. “Jill’s life?”

I swallow. I know I’m a piece of shit for doing that to Jasmine.

But I know better now.

“Jill is alive thanks to her, yes,” I say.

“You held a gun to her head,” Luca growls.

“I let her go.”

“Because I had you one aimed at you.”

“Exactly. So what was my bargaining chip when I let her go?” I quip. “Nothing.”

He’s silent for a moment.

“I knew it would cost me my life,” I add.

His jaw tenses, and he mulls it over for a second. “Why? Why would you choose that?”

I rub my lips together. “Because I didn’t want to hurt Jasmine anymore.”

I’m not going to tell him about Jasmine’s true suffering. That’s her decision.

Luca sighs out loud and shakes his head.

“I want all of it to stop,” I add. “The hurt. The pain. The suffering. It needs to end. With us.”

Luca doesn’t even look at me as he parts his lips. “You think that’s still possible?”

“We make that choice,” I reply.

“Did you forget I shot you?” he retorts, raising his brow at me.

I shrug. “You were trying to protect Jill.”

My eyes narrow. “You’re telling me you’re not even mad?”

I shake my head. “Not anymore.”

“So what now? We all pretend nothing ever happened?”

“I didn’t say that. But I’m done fighting,” I say. “With you. With Jill.”

He snorts.

“I mean it,” I add.

“You think you won’t snap again someday?” he asks.

I shake my head. “I made Jasmine a vow. I intend to keep it.”

“What vow?” He throws me a look.

“It’s personal.”

He scoffs. “Cop-out.”

“Luca.” Finally, I have his attention. “I promise you, I won’t ever touch Jill again.”

“I could just shoot you, you know,” he says with cold-blooded eyes. “It would be easier.”

“You could, and it would be easier,” I reply, meeting his gaze. “But you won’t. Because I’m your brother. And deep down somewhere inside that shriveled heart of yours, you still want me back.”

When he doesn’t say anything, I add, “And I don’t care that you shot me. I deserved it. All I want is my brother and my girl back.”

It’s quiet for some time.

Too long, if you ask me.

Suddenly, he begins to laugh. Hard.

What the fuck?

“We really are a fucked-up family,” he says, still laughing.

I can’t help but laugh at the way he’s laughing. It’s infectious, I have to admit.

When the laughter dies down, I ask, “So you’re willing to give me a second chance?”

He tilts his head. “That’s funny, coming from the guy I shot in the leg.”

A smirk forms on my face. “I’ll forgive you … after some groveling.”

He snorts. “You fucking wish.”

But judging from the smug grin on his face, I don’t think it’s a lost cause.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally stop trying to kill each other.

The door opens, and it’s almost as if all the tension suddenly vanishes from the room when Jasmine walks in. “So, how are things going in here?”

“Fine,” Luca quips, walking back to the door.

She blocks his way. “I didn’t say you had to leave.”

“I’m not interested in watching you two slobber each other up,” he replies.

Jasmine’s face turns red, and I hide my laughter behind my hand.

“So you’re still mad?” she asks him.

“Depends,” he replies.

“On what?”

“Him.” He throws me a damning look.

“Can I speak to her?” I ask.

I know Luca knows who I mean.

He rolls his eyes and sighs. “Fine. But I swear to fuck, if I hear anything, just a single fucking peep, I’ll—”

“Twist these sheets around my neck and hang me to dry out the window,” I fill in for him. “Yeah, yeah, I got it.”

He takes in another breath and then nods and walks out.

“What … was that?” Jasmine mutters.

I shrug. “Oh, we just had a man-to-man talk.”

She narrows his eyes. “I thought he wasn’t sure why he was even here, to begin with.”

“He wasn’t,” I say. “But blood is thicker.”

Jasmine gulps when her sister suddenly peeks into the room. Our eyes connect, and memories instantly flash in front of my eyes like waves crashing into my soul, forcing me to remember the night I almost died.

Almost.

But I’m still here, and so is she.

Jasmine places her hand on Jill’s shoulder. “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

Jill covers Jasmine’s hand with hers and smiles. “Don’t worry about me.”

“I’ll give you guys some time,” Jasmine says, and she leaves the room.

Jill sighs, stepping inside to close the door behind her, but she stays close. Close enough to be able to run out if needed.

“You’re scared of me,” I say.

Her blond, half-long bob frames her face well. “No.”

Her body stiffens, which tells me enough.

“I won’t hurt you,” I say, and I sigh out loud. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry. For everything I’ve done to you.”

She swallows.

“When Luca first came to find me, I was lost. My memories were erased. And when he brought back shreds of my past life, the mention of your name fueled my hatred for what had happened to me.”

She steps closer, despite her reservations, never breaking eye contact.

“I felt such rage toward you and what you put me through. I blamed it all on you and thought if I killed you, my pain would also die,” I explain, sighing again. “But now I know that’s not how pain works. And by trying to hurt you, I inadvertently also hurt the only girl I ever cared about.”

She makes a face. “I didn’t mean to crash the car. Or leave you behind in the water.” Her eyes grow watery. “I tried so goddamn hard to pull you out of that wreckage. It almost killed me too.”

She’s so close I can almost touch her hand, but I refrain out of respect for my brother’s wishes.

“Your death haunted me for years. And when I found out you were still alive, a burden fell off my shoulders, you can’t even imagine,” she continues. “But you tried to kill me. Twice. How could I forgive that?”

I lick my lips, trying to find the words, but it’s hard. Even though the agony still eats away at my heart, I refuse to give into it. For her. Because Jasmine deserves a better me.

“I understand if you don’t. I wouldn’t either. I just want you to know how sorry I am. I was a monster.” My fist tightens. “But I don’t want to be that monster anymore.”

Tears run down her cheeks, and suddenly, she grabs my hand.

I’m too stunned to even say anything.

“I don’t want to hate you,” she says. “I never did. You know I once loved you.”

I nod. “I remember.”

“Even when the love wasn’t reciprocated. I cared,” she says. “And I still do. I even helped Jasmine get you to safety.”

“Thank you,” I say. “Thank you for giving me another chance at life. For believing Jasmine.”

Jill brushes the tears away. “She says she loves you. And I want to believe her.” Jill sits down on the bed. “Show me I can believe her. Earn back that trust.”

I nod. “If you’ll let me …”

“That’s up to Jasmine,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Though, I think she’s already made up her mind.”

“I will prove my worth a thousand times over to Jasmine, as well as you and Luca.”

She nods a few times. “Luca seems cold on the outside, but he still cares, even if he won’t show it.”

“He’s grown a lot since I last saw him,” I reply.

She laughs and lets go of my hand to tuck a strand of her blond hair behind her ear. “You’ve missed a lot.”

“I wish I hadn’t,” I say.

The room grows awfully quiet again.

“So what now?” Jill asks.

“Now, I have to wait until this fucker heals.” I point at my thigh. “And then I go back to where I belong.”

Her eyes widen, and her whole body grows rigid. “Home? As in … back to the Netherlands?”

“The cabin is my home,” I say, and she noticeably relaxes again. “With my damaged brain, I wouldn’t do well in a bustling city.”

“With our damaged family, you mean,” she adds.

I laugh. “I hope they don’t give you and Luca too much trouble.”

“Oh, they have,” she replies, folding her arms. “But we dealt with them, don’t worry.”

“You two make fine fucking heirs to the throne.” I wink.

A sudden knock on the door tears my eyes away from hers.

Jasmine steps inside again and then glances at someone, probably Luca, outside. “See, I told you she was still alive.”

I can’t help but laugh, and so does Jill.

“I’m not dead, don’t worry,” Jill jests.

Luca grumbles from the hallway, and it only makes me laugh harder. “I take it back. He hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Eh, it grows on you,” Jill replies, shrugging it off.

Jasmine frowns. “So you two are suddenly fine with each other now?”

“No, but I will tolerate him.” Jill throws me a look. “And I think you know why.”

“Why?” Jasmine asks, confused, as she walks toward us.

I grab Jasmine’s hand. “No reason …”

When I try to pull her closer, she just looks at me as if I’ve lost my goddamn mind. “Something fishy is going on here.”

Jill laughs and gets up from the bed. “I’m gonna go calm the wolf pacing around outside.”

“I’m serious. What the hell did I miss?” Jasmine asks as Jill leaves the room.

“Nothing but a little groveling,” I reply, dragging her hand to my lips for a kiss.

“Oh …” A sly look takes over her face. “Well, don’t let me stop you.”

The little giggle that follows instantly hardens my cock, and that fucking hurts when I just had surgery.

I grab her ass and drag her closer to me while gazing into her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jasmine. For all the pain I’ve caused you. And I’m ready to grovel for the rest of my life if I have to.”

Tears well up in her eyes, and she leans down to grab my face and kiss me harder than ever before. “If that’s a new promise to add to the box … deal.”

Chapter 38

Jasmine

* * *

Luca and Jill stay in a hotel and buy me some clothes I can wear while I watch over Liam. I mean, a bathrobe isn’t exactly great attire for an entire day. When Liam is finally discharged, we drive back to the cabin in Luca and Jill’s car.

They reluctantly agreed to bring him back to his house after some deliberation. Of course, I may have spouted a little bit about how they owed it to him, seeing as they almost got him killed. Almost, being the keyword. Just like Liam almost killed my sister.

Our family is just a little fucked up. And I’ve made my peace with that. I just want the fighting to stop.

Neither Luca nor Liam have looked at each other since their big talk. And for some reason, Jill keeps looking at me like I have something to do with it.

I sigh out loud as we finally arrive at the cabin, and I open the car door and suck in a much-needed breath of fresh air. It was way too tense in there.

Everyone else gets out too. Liam’s already walking quite well, despite the fact that he got shot mere days ago. He might be biting through the pain, though, judging from the way his body tenses with each step.

“So … what do you want to do?” Jill suddenly asks as she closes the car door.

“What do you mean?” I reply as she walks over to my side.

“Are you going to come home with us?” she asks.

I gaze at Liam, who hobbles to a small wooden chair just outside the house.

“You’ve already made up your mind, haven’t you?” she adds.

A blush spreads across my cheeks.

“How long is this going to take?” Luca barks from the driver’s seat window.

Jill turns her head. “Maybe come outside so you can say bye too?”

Luca rolls his eyes but still opens the door and gets out. “Fine. Bye.”

“I meant to your brother,” Jill says.

Luca sighs out loud but still strides over to Liam and stands there a few feet away from him. “We’re leaving.”

“Okay,” Liam replies.

God, this is awkward.

“Look after Mom and Dad, will you,” Liam says.

Luca shrugs. “Sure.”

“How are they doing?” Liam asks.

“Just as insufferable as ever,” Luca replies.

Liam laughs. “Yeah, I’m not looking forward to that.”

“I mean, I told them you didn’t want to see them again, so feel free to ignore them forever.”

Jesus.

Liam looks up at him. “And you? Do you ever wanna see me again after this?”

Luca tucks his hands into his pockets. “If you’re even a tiny bit less unbearable … Maybe.”

Liam laughs and gets up from his chair. “Hold on.”

He goes inside the cabin and comes out with a pen and some paper, and he scribbles something down and hands it to Luca. “Call me when you get the repair bill for the car.”

Luca frowns and tries to hand him back the paper. “I don’t want your money. I can pay for it.”

Liam sighs. “All right, but if you’re ever curious or in the neighborhood, just call. Even if just to chat.”

Luca doesn’t look pleased, but he still shoves the note into his pocket. “Fine. Whatever.”

Liam places a hand on his shoulder. “You’re still my little brother … brother.”

Luca shakes his head. “You fucking wish you were the bigger one of us two.”

Liam laughs, and so does Luca, and for a moment, I finally feel like maybe, just maybe, these two will learn to hate each other a little bit less.

Luca turns around and marches back to the car, throwing Jill a look. “Five minutes.”

“Five?!” She gasps.

“We have a plane to catch,” Luca replies, and he shuts the car door.

Jill rolls her eyes. “Always in such a fucking hurry.”

I snort. “Maybe he’s allergic to the trees and fresh air.”

“Might be, yeah,” she jests. “Well, anyway …”

Neither of us knows what to say as we both smile awkwardly.

When I look over my shoulder, Liam’s already gone inside the cabin.

He isn’t waiting for me.

Which means …

“You should go,” Jill says, interrupting my thoughts.

“What?” I mutter.

She smiles. “You’re obviously head over heels.”

Now my face looks like a literal strawberry. Good God. “But what about the family, the business? Mom and Dad?”

“They’ll be fine. I’m there, and Luca is there. We have the business covered,” Jill replies, and she pulls me in for a hug. “I just want you to be fine.”

“But you came all the way here to get me and—”

She grabs me by the shoulders. “That was before I knew how hard you’d fallen.” She grabs my face and pulls me closer so our foreheads clash. “Before I knew how much you care about him and how much he cares about you.”

Tears well up in my eyes. “But he tried to kill you. It’s so wrong. I should’ve protected you. I’m the big sister. I shouldn’t have fallen for a guy like him.”

She brushes my tears away with her thumb. “We don’t choose who we love.” She snorts. “If that was a possibility, do you think I would’ve chosen Luca?”

I laugh. I guess she’s right about that one.

“Do what feels right for you,” she says, pointing at my heart. “What feels right in here.”

I nod a couple of times. “Thank you. For saving him. For coming to get me. For everything.”

“Of course.” She pulls me in for another hug. “What else are sisters for?”

Luca rams the car horn. “Airplane!”

“Stop being an asshole, Luca,” she barks.

He hangs his head out the window. “Oh, I’ll show you how much of a goddamn asshole I can be once we get home, don’t worry about that.” An added wink has her all flustered in mere seconds.

“Well, I think that’s my cue,” Jill muses, and she quickly opens the car door. “If you ever wanna come visit, give me a call, and we’ll arrange something. Okay?”

“Of course. If we visit, maybe those two can also put their battle-axes aside and try to get along.” I wink.

“Doubt it, but I’ll poke Luca with the idea every once in a while,” she replies. “Anyway, good luck!”

She jumps inside and closes the door, and I wave her off as the car veers through the woods, back to the road.

When the dust has settled and all that’s left are the sound of birds, I take in a deep breath.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I actually made a choice. And the mere thought makes my heart sing and my cheeks glow.

I turn around and run back to the cabin across the gravelly sand, letting go of everything I once thought I wanted, everything I once thought was right.

Because nothing feels more right than being here with him.

So I smash open the door and step inside.

Liam’s sitting at the table, and he looks surprised to see me. Like he genuinely thought I’d join my sister and go back to my parents' house.

“You asked me a question at the hospital.” As he scoots back his chair, I walk to him, and I position myself between him and the table. “You asked me if I would stay.”

He scoots closer again, narrowing the gap as he grabs my hand and presses a kiss down onto my skin. “And?”

“Isn’t the answer obvious?” I reply.

His brows rise in an arrogant manner. “Just as obvious as the fact that I want to hear it from your mouth.”

I smirk. “Yes.”

He leans in and grips my waist, lifting my shirt to expose my belly button. “So my cabin is now your home.” He leans in to plant a soft kiss against my skin. “Mine.”

“Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?” I muse.

“Oh, I’m not asking anything, Jas,” he groans, pressing another sultry kiss to my belly. “I’m demanding.”

I blush and gasp when he pushes the fabric up. “Wait, Liam, you’re still healing.”

“I don’t care,” he says, pressing a kiss just above my pussy while looking up from underneath his eyelashes. “Are you mine?”

“Yes,” I moan as he plants another kiss just a little bit lower.

But suddenly, he leans back and looks into my eyes as he gets off the chair and sinks to the wooden floor, planting his hands firmly on the ground.

“What … are you doing?” I mutter.

Why is he on his knees in front of me?

He lowers his head and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “There is nothing in this world I want more than you. I’d die for you, and I almost did. And I would make that choice again and again,” he says. I hold my breath as he speaks. “But what I cannot live with is the guilt. For making you come here. For using you. For betraying your trust. For hurting you.” He peers up into my eyes. “I am begging on my knees for your forgiveness.”

Chapter 39

Jasmine

* * *

Tears instantly spring into my eyes.

Not only has he offered me his life to apologize for the things he’s done but he’s also now groveling for my forgiveness too. And my heart is overflowing with love.

So much that I grab his face and lean over to press a kiss to his lips. “I forgive you,” I whisper against his lips.

He smiles as my lips refuse to tear away from his. “I love you.”

“Love me like only you can,” I murmur as he claims a greedier kiss.

The groan that emanates from deep within his body sets mine on fire. As he rises again, his hands grip my waist, and he lifts me and sets me on the table.

“Oh, I will do more than just love you …” he groans as he bites my lip and tugs it gently. “I’ll give you all the reasons to stay and be mine for the rest of your fucking life starting right fucking now.”

He kisses my neck and drags a line down with his lips to my chest, where he grips my breasts and squeezes until I mewl with delight. And he pushes me down onto the table, making me question my sanity as his lips curl underneath the fabric of my shirt and tug it up, all while he’s playing with my breasts.

Suddenly, he pulls away and rips down my pants in one go, making me squeal. My pussy is exposed, and I blush as he views it. But then he grabs the chair and pulls it closer, sitting right in front of me.

“What are you doing?” I mutter, completely flustered by being on display on his table like that.

With both hands, he nudges my thighs apart and leans in, looking up to meet my gaze. “I’m hungry for pussy, Jas … now let me dine.”

Oh my Go—

My brain is silenced the second he dives in with his tongue first, thrusting in and out of my pussy like he wants to eat me alive. And I struggle to even breathe.

My nails are scratching at the wood as he buries his tongue into me, circling around as if he wants to taste every inch of me.

The rumbling moans of pleasure coming from deep within his chest make my clit throb. And he smiles against my pussy, only to start encircling my clit as though he wants to wage war.

And my God, am I ready to surrender.

“Fuck,” I mutter.

“Don’t worry, I will fuck this goddamn pussy raw … after I’m done prepping it and eating it out,” he says, swirling his tongue around like it’s nobody’s business.

“But what about your wound? I don’t want you to hur—”

His tongue thrusting inside has me gasping for air again.

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m feasting, Jas,” he growls. “And don’t ever doubt my ability to ignore the pain for pleasure.”

His finger suddenly joins in, filling me up as he keeps on licking, bombarding me with sensory overload. His eyes are burning with lust when he looks up at me, and I still feel the need to hide my face in my hands out of embarrassment for enjoying it so much.

Until he says, “Look at me.”

My eyes obey instantly with no hesitation.

“Look at how much I love licking you,” he says as his tongue swivels back and forth across my pussy. “Look at how gladly I’ll suck your soul out of your goddamn body and make it mine.”

I moan as he pulls out his fingers and drives his tongue inside once more.

“Now give me everything,” he says. “Come for me.”

His words send me over the edge, and I moan out loud. “Liam!”

The orgasm rolls over my body, which vibrates with desire and complete and utter ecstasy.

All while his tongue is still right there … inside me.

Good God.

Something that feels this good should be forbidden. His tongue is a criminal, and his skills are a goddamn crime. And good God, when he groans … he’s like the devil come to take me to hell.

And I am willing.

Begging.

More.

His eyes find mine in utter bliss as he stands up tall and proud, swiping his mouth with his hand only to lap all of my juices up straight from his goddamn hand.

Fuck.

“You felt that, didn’t you?” I mutter, already getting red hot from the idea alone.

A filthy smirk spreads on his face as he grabs my legs and drags me down the table. “Fuck yes … And now I want to feel it around my cock.”

He rips down his zipper and pulls out his hard-on with ease. And from here, it looks even bigger than before as he slaps it down onto my pussy, slathering it with a mix of saliva and my wetness.

“Keep your eyes on me,” he says. “Look at me when I make you mine.”

He positions the tip at my entrance and plants a hand on my belly to keep me in place as he slowly pushes in. I feel every ridge of his length as it slides in, the feel of him inside me making my eyes almost roll to the back of my head.

I feel like a horny bastard who just wants to be fucked so badly it’s unreal, and that alone makes me want to slap myself.

A sudden slap to the thighs makes me gasp.

“Don’t look away,” he growls. “I see you going into your head. Don’t do it. Promise me.”

I nod a few times, and he slides in farther and farther, even when I thought he couldn’t go any farther. He’s so huge I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it, but my God, it feels good.

“Focus on how it feels,” he says, gripping my thighs until his fingers dig into my skin. “Focus on how badly you want my cock to take you.”

I moan with delight as he buries himself to the hilt inside me.

“Focus on how I can make you come just by thrusting into this wet.” THRUST. “Aching.” THRUST. “Pussy.” THRUST.

I hold on tight as he fucks me harder and harder until the table begins to quake along with us. It feels so good I can’t contain the moans, which makes me smack my hand against my mouth.

Suddenly, he grasps my wrist and forcefully pins it to the table beside my head.

“Don’t. Hide,” he growls, still deep inside me.

“Sorry, I—”

A quick twist to my nipple has me squealing with equal parts pleasure and delight.

“Don’t apologize,” he adds. “Show me those moans. Show me what kind of a bad girl you really are.”

When he thrusts inside again, he smashes his lips onto mine, claiming my mouth with the same tongue that was in my pussy just minutes ago.

He doesn’t stop fucking, doesn’t stop kissing, not even as I’m on the verge of coming again just from him touching that delicious spot deep inside. For a second, he stops moving, gazing at me with wonder, only to smash his lips onto mine again.

And I’m so lost in my own damn lust that I fall apart … again.

Just from that kiss.

My pussy contracts around his length, and he groans into my mouth with strained desire. “F-F-Fuck …”

He pulls out, and I’m left with unbearable wantonness.

“What are you doing?” I mutter, desperate for his kisses as he hovers just far enough from my face so I can’t actually get close enough to kiss. “Don’t stop … please.”

“You just came,” he murmurs, pressing a sultry kiss against my jaw. “Didn’t you?”

He leans up and smiles like an arrogant bastard. “From my kiss.”

Fuck. If that wasn’t the sexiest thing in the world, I don’t know what is.

He leans back and sits on the chair again, only to wrap my legs around his shoulder as if he’s going in for a second round.

“Wait,” I mutter, and I push myself up on my elbows. “But you didn’t …”

He raises a brow. “Come?”

My eyes dart to his still rigid as fuck dick pointing up like a goddamn arrow, bobbing up and down the second my eyes home in on it.

“No,” he says. “But this isn’t about me.” He drags me off the table. “This is about giving you every fucking orgasm you missed these past few years while I was gone. Now let me give you what you deserve.”

When he dives in again, I quickly push up and drag my legs off his shoulders. I scoot off the table, standing in front of him as he looks up at me with awe.

“What I missed … was you,” I say, and I sit down on his lap with his dick perched right behind my ass. The tip bobs against my back, dripping pre-cum, and I scoot back until it’s right at my entrance. “You said you’d make me yours,” I say, looking him dead in the eyes. “Now make me.”

Liam

* * *

When she wraps her arms around my neck and sinks down onto my dick, I feel the devil in me come alive. I was going to control my urges, sit back and enjoy watching her from a distance while she came again and again.

But I’m not gonna hold back when she offers it to me so willingly. “Fine then, take my cock like a good fucking girl.”

I grasp her waist and plunge in deep, watching her mouth form an o-shape just from the sheer size of me deep inside her. God, I could watch that fucking face come alive on my dick all day long.

She gyrates on my lap, her wet pussy soaking onto my thighs. Arousal bursts through my veins as I thrust in and out of her while she bounces up and down. Her tits bounce along, almost slapping me in the face, and I grasp one of them to suck on.

She moans out loud when I nibble and tug with my teeth, all while plowing into her.

“Is this what you want, little devil of mine?” I say, looking up into her eyes as she goes to town on my hard-on. “Does my cock deep inside your pussy make you happy?”

She smirks, but a blush still forms on her face. “Shut up and kiss me.”

She grabs my face and plants her lips on mine before I can even say anything. And I don’t even fucking mind that she takes control. In fact, it’s fucking sexy. “Fuck. Ride me to the fucking moon, Jas,” I murmur into her mouth.

I kiss her hard and fast, just as she fucks me hard and fast, my balls tightening with seed. “You’re gonna make me come so hard. I’m gonna fill you up until you burst.”

“You want me?” she moans between kisses.

My tongue circles around hers. “Fuck yes.”

“Beg.” I open my eyes, and right then, she bites my lip and tugs. “Beg like you made me beg.”

I didn’t think I’d beg for anyone, but I will do it all for her. “Please …” I mutter as she presses a filthy kiss against the side of my lip. “Fuck my cock until I come.”

She moans into my ear and plunges down onto my hard-on, the feel of her wet, aching pussy too much to take. And as she wriggles and writhes, her pussy begins to contract. Just like it did when I stuck my tongue inside her. When I kissed her.

Fuck.

A loud wolfish groan escapes my mouth, and she grabs my face and kisses me hard, sucking up the sound as I come deep inside her. Nothing could’ve prepared me for how good it feels to kiss the only woman I’ve ever loved … let alone having her make me plead to give me satisfaction.

My balls agree as they keep spurting more and more into her until the cum literally streams out of her. And I sink into the chair in complete ecstasy with ragged breaths. With her arms wrapped around my neck, she drapes over me, fitting perfectly into me like a key fitting into a lock, still connected deep inside.

Neither of us moves, and I revel in the moment for a while, wrapping my arms around her naked body while basking in the sunlight filtering through the small window in the back.

Pure and complete … bliss.

That is what I would sacrifice the entire fucking world for.

Epilogue

Jasmine

* * *

While Liam digs the hole, I run inside and grab a pen and a piece of paper from his drawer. When he’s done, he chucks the spade away, and we sit down in front of the hole. There’s a little box nestled between us.

Liam looks at me and smiles as I take off the little key dangling from a necklace around my neck. I open the box and place it in front of us, behind the hole he just dug. Then I hold the pen out to him.

“You do the honors,” I say.

Liam takes the pen and the note from my hand and scribbles something down.

‘We will never hurt each other again.’

A blush spreads across my cheek. “That sounds good.”

He nods as he fishes his knife from his pocket and sticks it into his thumb until a droplet of blood appears and, without saying another word, presses it onto the paper.

Then he hands the knife to me.

Without hesitation, I prick my skin and bleed onto the paper, pressing my thumb down to seal the vow. And Liam puts the note in the box with all the others.

“Your turn,” he says, and he hands me another note from the stack I brought.

I grab the pen and hold it over the paper. But the longer I stare, the less I know what to write.

Or rather … there is nothing I want to add.

Only erase.

I lean over the hole and grab the box, fishing out the one note that’s always been bothering me.

“What are you doing?” Liam asks.

I put it down on my knee and scratch through some words, only to add some more to the top.

‘If our parents force us to we marry, we’ll be kind to each other.’

Liam looks at the paper. “You changed a vow.”

I look at him. “Are we not allowed to do that?”

A cheeky smirk grows on his face. “I don’t know, are we?”

He steals the pen from me as well as the note and scribbles down something I can’t see.

When he shows it to me, my heart grows two sizes.

‘If our parents force us to When we marry, we’ll be kind to each other.’

“Do you want to ask me a question?” I ask.

His brow rises. “I don’t know, do I?”

I roll my eyes. “Oh, my God …”

“You were the one who changed the words,” he says. “So what are you trying to say?”

“I don’t know,” I say, throwing his own words back in his face.

Liam puts the note in the box and closes it, sealing it with my key. Then he puts the box down into the hole he just dug.

He holds the key close to his chest and fishes his own key from his pocket, holding that one out to me. But we’ve never switched keys before, and they both open the same lock.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say.

“It does to me,” he answers, grabbing my hand to put the key inside, and he curls up my hand with his. “Everything you are is mine, and I want everything that’s mine to be yours.”

Fuck me, this man can not only fuck like a god but he can also charm like a god.

“That has to be the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me,” I reply.

“Hmm…” he murmurs, and he grabs my face. “I know something sweeter.”

“Oh, what’s that?” As he leans in real close, I go along, our lips almost touching.

“I love you, Jas,” he says, giving me a tiny peck on the top of my lip.

“How much?” I mutter. He keeps on kissing around my lips as if he’s worshipping every inch of them.

“More than anything in this world,” he says, kissing my chin. “And my answer is yes.”

“Yes?” I lean back and look at him. “To what?”

“Your semi-question.”

My eyes narrow. “You can’t say ‘yes’ to ‘how much.’”

He smirks like the devil himself. “Not that one … The one before that.” He cups my face and looks me dead in the eye. “Yes … I will marry you.”

My face turns red as a beet. “I didn’t ask that.”

“You said ‘if’ …” he muses. “And I’m changing the ‘if’ to ‘when.’ Because it’s most definitely going to happen.”

I feel like a silly girl with a stupid smile that I can’t wipe off my face. “You’re that certain?”

He presses his lips to mine, kissing me with such passion my head spins with glee.

“I thought you already knew,” he murmurs as our lips detach. “I’m going to need you to stay forever.”

I lean back and grab a scoop of sand to throw over the box. “Deal.”

###

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