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“Gina…Micha told me you’d sent him. Before I put a bullet in his brain, he told me you’d paid him a hundred grand to take me out. He told me you’d instructed him to make me suffer.” I paused to let that sink in. “If he’d just shot me, it would’ve worked. I never even saw him coming. But he tried to hurt me first. And that was his mistake. That was your mistake. I let it go, Gina. I didn’t hold it against you. I didn’t try to get even. I went my own way and left you alone.”

“You left me, Val.” Her voice went thin and low and growling. “You left me.”

“Your father wanted me to be a hit man. He wanted me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I cashed out.”

“You don’t just cash out on us, Val. It’s not that simple.”

“It should’ve been.”

“But it’s not. It’s not. You’re mine.” She leaned over me, touched a long, blood-red fingernail to my chest, over the sheet still covering me. “I let you have some time to think, okay? I let you have your fun. I wanted you to…age a bit. You were too young to appreciate me then, I think. I don’t like boys, and you were just a boy back then. You needed some seasoning, so when you got away, I decided to let you go. But you’re mine. You’ve always been mine. You were my favorite, Val. There’ve been others, of course, but none of them was you. They couldn’t satisfy me the way you did, even back then. I’ve kept an eye on you, you know. You’ve had lots of practice. You should be able to satisfy me now. It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly satisfied with a man.”

I barely suppressed a shudder. “Gina, this is crazy. You have to let me go. I don’t belong to you. I’m in love with someone else, all right?”

She narrowed her eyes, and I saw something else in her gaze: a hint of something dark and manic and insane. Jealousy. “That bitch doesn’t own you. I do.” She abruptly straightened and turned away, examining her fingernails. “But no matter. Alec should have taken care of her by now.”

My blood ran cold. “Gina…what did you do?” She didn’t answer, just twisted her head on her neck to grin at me slyly. “WHAT DID YOU DO?” I shouted the last part so loud my voice went hoarse.

“Disposed of unneeded distractions, my dear Valentine. That’s all.” She bit her thumbnail coyly, a choreographed gesture of icy insouciance.

“If you hurt her, so help me…you’d better pray I don’t get free. I’ll kill you. I don’t hurt women, but if you harm a hair on Kyrie’s head, you’ll pay for it. You’ll regret it.”

“You won’t do a damned thing, Val.” She pivoted on her heel, grabbed the sheet draped over my chest, and flung it back. I was stark naked beneath it, a fact I’d tried not to think about till then. “You’ve gone soft. You always had your friend Harris do your dirty work. Don’t pretend, all right? I know you better than that.”

“If you think for one second that I’ve gone soft, then you don’t know a single thing about me, Gina.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Ah. There’s a bit of that steel spine you used to have.” She perched her hip on the edge of the bed, partially facing me. I glared at her, stared her down, refusing to flinch as her fingers rested on my chest and tickled downward. “Other parts of you used to be like steel, too.”

I tried to arch away, twisting to avoid her touch. “Don’t fucking touch me, you viper.”

There was nowhere to go, and she ignored my efforts to get away from her questing hand, just like she ignored my protest and my insult. Her attention was focused on my body, her eyes roaming and devouring, her lips curled in a cruel smile.

“You used to respond so beautifully, Valentine. I barely had to touch you, and you’d be ready to come all over me. Are you still that responsive? Hmmm?” She wrapped her fingers around my flaccid cock.

I closed my eyes and thought about that day fifteen years ago when she’d sent Micha to torture and kill me. I thought about the pain of his knife in my back, inches from piercing my heart. I thought about the fight, every move agony, wrestling the gun from his fingers. I thought about shooting him in the kneecap and pressing the gun to his forehead until he told me Gina had sent him. How she’d caught wind of my plan to disappear, and had obviously not been willing to let me go that easily. For the first time in fifteen years, I thought about the moment I’d pulled the trigger. Micha had been going for a hideout pistol, so I’d had to shoot him. Blood had spattered everywhere. I’d vomited all over Micha’s twitching corpse. With the knife still in my back, I’d run. Stumbled onto my sailboat stocked in preparation for my departure. I sailed toward Athens, but only made it as far as Milos before I had to stop and find a doctor. I’d paid him ten thousand dollars to fix me and keep quiet about it.

The self-distraction program was working, because Gina hissed in frustration and leaped off the bed. She paced the length of the room, enraged by my lack of response to her ministrations. “You aren’t cooperating, Valentine. That’s not how this goes.”

I barked in laughter. “What did you think—that I’d wake up, kidnapped and cuffed to a bed, and be happy to see you?”

She whirled on me, eyes blazing in fury. “You…will…be…mine. You are mine. I will make sure of it.”

“I belong with Kyrie, not you.” I knew as soon as the words left my mouth that I shouldn’t have said it.

“She was already going to die, but now? I think maybe she will suffer first. I think maybe I will have her brought in. Maybe I will make her watch me fuck you. Maybe I will take what I want from you and then kill you, and then kill her.” She leaned over me again, caressing my chest, my thighs, my cock, and my testicles, her touch gentle in contrast to her words. “I’ll do it myself, too. I’ve had plenty of practice at that, you know. I’ve got a few rather lovely techniques.” She licked her lips, shifting tactics abruptly. “But first? I’ve got to get you hard. I’d rather not drug you, but I will if I have to. Let’s try this first. You used to love this.”

She lowered her mouth to me, started working me gently and insistently, skillfully. I kept my mind occupied, thought of all the worst moments of my life, all the painful, embarrassing, horrible memories. Anything to keep from responding. I focused on the horror of my position, on the anger. On the shame.


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