Shadow of DangerBy: Kristine Mason
For my mom, Joan.
Thank you for being a wonderful mother and friend.
For believing in me.
For encouraging my imagination.
I miss you.
Special thanks to Jamie Denton, Christy and Charlie Esau and Mary Ann Chulick. Thank you for all of your help and advice! Big shout out to my cover artist Kim Van Meter, KD Designs.
Twelve years earlier...
“Now what are we going to do with her?”
The trace of amusement in Garrett’s voice had him pausing mid-buckle. The man was a depraved, sick fuck, and today, he’d dragged him into hell.
And he liked it. Loved it. Knew he’d crave it again and again. The struggle, the fight, the dominance.
He ignored Garrett and focused on finishing zipping and buckling his pants. An effort considering his hands were clammy and swollen, covered in blood, and shaking from the adrenaline still pumping through his veins.
“Well,” Garrett drawled. “Whaddya say, Toby?”
Garrett was the only one who called him by that name, and he hated himself for loving the way Garrett’s voice rushed over him, caressed him. Hated himself for wanting something so twisted and immoral.
Instead of answering, he stared at the naked woman on the floor. Her groans were muffled by the dish towel they’d stuffed into her mouth earlier. Blood flowed from her nose and now covered the pears and apples design on the old rag. Her cheeks had doubled in size and were already purpling. One of her eyes had swollen shut, while the other remained nothing but a watery, puffy slit. Bite marks, and black and blue handprints, which could have been either his or Garrett’s—didn’t matter—marred her pale, nude body. His dick hardened at a sight that should have horrified him. But the memory of the way he’d taken her, the forbidden way, the way no woman had ever allowed him, was so damned fresh in his mind, he could still feel it.
“Toby,” Garrett murmured. “Wanna take her again?”
He finally looked at Garrett. He tried to ignore his wide shoulders, muscular chest, and the sheen of sweat coating the other man’s massive biceps. He couldn’t, though. Not with the way Garrett’s big dick twitched and hardened as he lay sprawled on the ratty sofa staring at the woman.
He grabbed Garrett’s jeans from the floor and tossed them to him, then looked at the whore they’d spent the afternoon playing with in disgust. No, he didn’t want her again. But he did want another just like her. Still, Garrett was right, what the hell were they going to do with her now?
She’d seen their faces, knew their names. She might be some white trash, gutter whore, but if she went to the cops, the long arm of the law would hunt them down, which seemed like a big waste of taxpayer dollars to him. Whores deserved shit. They deserved to rot in hell, every last one of them. Selling their bodies for drugs, or to pay a few bills, maybe feed their bastard kids, or make rent in some hellhole not fit for a fucking cockroach. Did their plump little whore have any bastard kids hanging around, hungry and living in filth? Did she use them for her drugs, for her money, for her slutty clothes?
Fury, so sweet and raw, clawed inside him, settled low in his gut and made his dick swell with something more than sexual excitement. He knelt down and pulled the towel from her mouth. He knew what to do with her. Knew what she deserved, what every whore deserved. But did he have the nerve?
Garrett launched off the couch, shoving his long legs into his jeans. “What the hell are you doing, you stupid ass? If that bitch screams my neighbors will hear.”
“They won’t hear shit. Her jaw’s broken, and she’s barely conscious. Ain’t that right?” He knocked her head with the back of his hand. Her one eye rolled back, but her ragged moan had him nearly coming on the spot. Yeah, he liked this new power, how it invigorated him, breathed life into his dismal existence.
As Garrett moved closer, he forced his gaze to the corner of the room. Trying desperately to keep his eyes off of the other man and the way he looked shirtless, his jeans hanging open. He’d been told, too many times over the years, that he wore his emotions on his sleeve. What he was feeling now, Garrett could never discover. Ever. He’d kill him if he knew.
“She’s seen us and knows where I live,” Garrett snarled as he looked down at the whore. “If she’s found here, we’ll have cops all over our asses. So...” He shrugged and smiled. A slow, easy, arousing smile. “I guess we’ll just have to make sure she can’t talk, won’t we?”
He hated the way that smile made his dick even harder. But he hated the woman even more for not being able to satisfy his true lust.
He looked down at her again. Garrett was right. They couldn’t afford to allow her to walk away—to live. And knowing Garrett as he did, he knew the man could and would fix this for them.
Garrett draped an arm over his shoulder. “It was a hell of an afternoon, huh?”
He merely grunted. Garrett’s close proximity, his touch made it difficult for him to speak.
“Yep, I think we got something good going today, don’t you?”