Chapter 4

Rose

When I opened my eyes, I was alone.

I jerked myself upward, leaping off the bed in one jump, my mind racing.

No. No. No. This couldn't be happening. Not again. I raced towards the door, noting that it was a dark oak, and looked thick and strong. I grabbed the silver handle and, twisting it, tried yanking it open.

It didn't budge.

My heart beat faster. The hair on the back of my neck prickled. My mind whirled, my breaths coming in and out so fast that I grew dizzy. I yanked, again and again. Trying to wretch the thing open.

When it didn't move an inch, I swirled on my feet and took in the room. The walls were painted a pale lavender. The color was soft and should be comforting, but it only seemed to squeeze the nerves in my stomach tighter. There was a bed and a desk, with a rolling chair.

I remembered now.

The Kings had taken me.

I clasped my hands to my chest, heaving great big breaths, knowing that I had to do whatever I could to get out of this situation. The Kings didn’t release their prisoners alive. My fingers twisted in the material and I suddenly realized that my white dress was gone. In its place was a fitted back shirt.

Panic made me yelp, and I scrambled to yank the shirt over my head and to the floor. I quickly backed away, hitting my back against the wall. My fingers brushed against lace and I looked down, realizing with a wave of relief that I still had my bra and underwear on.

For some reason, the sight of my own underwear, my white lace panties and bra, gave me comfort.

It was a ridiculous notion, that if they'd raped me they would've discarded my underwear, but it was a possibility. Also, it wasn’t sore between my legs.

I eyed the shirt suspiciously, trying to decide if I should put it back on or not.

My eyes drifted upwards and I suddenly realized there was a window in the room. The bright light filtering into the room told me it was daytime. How long was I out?

By the ache in my stomach, it’d been at least several hours.

Peeling myself off the wall, I ran to the window and tried to open it. Again, the stupid thing didn't budge, and I screamed out, slamming my fists against it. When it didn’t break, my eyes scoured the edges, noting the screws that kept it bolted shut.

Grabbing the rolling chair from the desk, I stood on top of it, taking a few minutes to keep it from wobbling, and tried to twist the screws with my nails.

When Dimitri took me, my cowardly, dear old daddy hadn’t even bothered to call to tell me, or even to say goodbye. Men had just showed up at my apartment, threw a black bag over my head and dragged me, kicking and screaming out into the waiting car in the back parking lot. They threw me into the trunk, uncaring if they were seen or heard.

They didn’t pack any of my belongings or even let me say goodbye to any of my friends.

From then on, I belonged to Dimitri. I was to do and say and act exactly as he pleased, my new owner.

And now, as much as I hated him, I'd been snatched up once again, taken by the very men I despised and feared in equal measure.

I wasn't safe here. These men would kill me, or worse, rape me. Sell me off to the highest bidder to a man who wouldn't bother to make sure I'd achieved a happy ending before he shoved his dick inside me.

Rage coursed through me.

I had been so close to getting out of the life. Once I had my degree, I could’ve gone anywhere. Escaped this life. Have dreams. Possibly a family.

God, I was stupid. You never escaped the mafia, except at the end of a steel barrel.

Ugh! I slammed my fist against the window. This wasn't working!

Giving up on the screws, I jumped to the floor, then grabbed the chair and hurled it at the window, screaming.

I wouldn't let them take me. Wouldn't let them rape me.

I would never let them sell me.

I'd rather die first.

The chair bounced off the window, not even making a crack.

I tried it again, this time slamming it into the glass over and over. I was going to break this motherfucking window if it was the last thing I ever did.

I didn't care that I was making enough racket to wake the dead. My mind was consumed with one thought:

Break the window. Escape.

Break the window. Escape.

I was so overwhelmed with the idea, that I didn't hear the door open, or the steps that came towards me.

I jumped when strong arms wrapped around me. They tightened so harshly that I immediately dropped the chair.

My feet flew in the air as my captor jerked me off my feet. Legs flailing, I kicked out, wiggling my body, screaming at the top of my lungs. "Let me go! I won't let you rape me!"

A dark voice chuckled, rumbling against my back. The arms around me were a steel trap. Unmovable.

Fuck! I was sick of being so weak. If I ever got out of here I was going to take every self defense class I could find.

In fact, I was going to take Krav Maga or whatever badass karate class so that I could kick ass and take names.

But for now, I had to get out of Coulter’s grip.

I suddenly went slack, which surprised him so much that he fell forward. I raised my arms, easily sliding from his grasp and slithered onto the floor.

I didn't wait for him to recover from his surprise. I jumped to my feet and bolted towards the door. Jerking it open, I stuttered to a stop.

Two men stood outside it, facing me. They had no weapons in their hands but they were both large. Unusually strong looking.

These men weren’t the kind of strong that was formed in the gym but by running through the streets, fighting with other strong men. Possibly squeezing large necks through their strong fingers.

I dropped to the floor again, quickly crawling on my hands and knees. I hoped I could surprise them and squeeze in between them.

I didn’t even get close. They both reached me at the same time. One of them yanked me up by my arms and the other one grabbed my feet.

I kicked the one at my feet, aiming for his nuts. He easily side stepped me. “You won’t fool me again.”

So, it was the same goons from before.

He caught my flailing legs and shoved his large body in between them. His large hands grasped my thighs tight. My struggle was useless.

Oh God. This was it.

They easily carried me to where Coulter was waiting for me.

He was fully dressed in a dark black suit, pants, and a starched white button up shirt. The pants still had creases in the legs and the shirt didn’t have a wrinkle in it, as if it was made to withstand helpless, struggling maidens every day.

His tie was silver, and somehow it brought out those damn golden eyes that I loved-hated so much. The knot was loosened. Not from the struggle with me, but it looked like he’d pulled it down after a long day of being a dick, then coming home, hoping to find a compliant kidnapped woman in his room.

My eyes fell to his sleeves that were rolled up, where I could see a gorgeous display of tattoos on one arm.

I bit down on my exhale, loving the sight.

God, they were sexy, just like him.

The Golden Boy.

His hair was a halo of gold-brown, mussed up just enough to look sexy, with golden brown skin, and those stupid gold eyes.

He looked like he was born under a golden sunset, with piles of golden coins surrounding him.

I hated him. Hated how my body reacted to him, my breath hitching and my heart pounding faster. My fingers itched to run through his hair, to muss it up even more just so he would have something imperfect about him.

It was too much for me, and I had to look away from his shine, cursing myself.

I should've lived out my college days eating bon bons and getting fat so every single man would blanch at the sight of me.

My thoughts came into a sharp focus as Coulter moved towards me, a glint in his eyes. He walked with the confidence of a man who had everything he ever wanted handed to him on a silver platter. Money, power, prestige.

His predatory gaze told me that he knew he had all the leverage in this situation, and that if I wanted to keep my life, I'd keep my mouth shut, except to form the words, ‘yes, master’.

That's what Dimitri wanted anyways.

Yah, that wasn’t happening. This stupid, sexy, asshole was going to find out really quickly that I wasn't going to be his docile little lamb any time soon.

He was going to have to break me first, and that was never happening. I would kill myself before I let a man do that to me.

"You look better with the ski mask on." I twisted my lips up in a smirk, exuding confidence I didn’t feel, still being held by the two goons. In reality, I felt ridiculous and helpless, just hanging here like a spent piñata.

He paused for a second, and the lips of his mouth pressed into a firm line. But it didn’t seem like he was suppressing his anger.

Instead, it appeared as if he was trying to keep from laughing. It only made me angrier, how my being kidnapped and held against my will was entertaining to him.

I gave him an angry, disgusted look and he came towards me again, this time with a more determined look on his face.

He walked like a predator now, his focus solely on me. My throat was suddenly dry. I knew that I was his prey, caught in his trap, and, just like with Dimitri, there was no escaping.

When Coulter was by my side, he didn't speak, just lazily took me in, his eyes roaming shamelessly down my body. They lingered on my neck. Really? My neck? Then on my breasts.

Now that was more like it. I was a good ‘C’ cup.

I gulped. Not that I wanted him to like them.

They didn’t linger there long, but roamed from my lacy bra to my panties, then down my legs.

I'd never felt so exposed in all my life, not even after I'd undressed in front of my first boyfriend back in the eleventh grade, a secret I'd kept from my father.

I wiggled uncomfortably. "Put me down."

Coulter's goons only tightened their hold and Coulter’s hand went to my legs, his fingers brushing softly over the skin of my thighs.

It sent a jolt of electricity burning between them, right into the center of my being, and suddenly my whole body was on fire.

I was burning from the inside out, all with one simple touch from this man.

I suddenly wanted to know what his lips tasted like. Would they be soft and sweet, or hard and demanding?

I glanced at his lips. They were the perfect fullness. Of course. I wanted to nibble on them before I sucked them into my mouth.

My eyes moved to his eyes and I jolted even more when I saw the fire in his gaze.

Was it possible he felt the same way I did?

Was his body burning with a need to touch me? To feel my body pressed against his? To know what my kisses tasted like?

To know what it would be like to feel me come undone under him?

Because I certainly wasn't wondering those things.

I struggled even harder. "Let me down. I swear I won't try to run."

“It wouldn't matter if you did.” He grinned and even his teeth were perfect, except his smile was predatory. A shoulder came up and the heat left his gaze in an instant, replaced by a cold wall of indifference. "You can’t escape me, Rose." He leaned over, his hand pulling a strand of my hair from my face and tucking it behind my ear. My skin burned from where he'd traced it across my skin. “The sooner you come to accept that, the easier your life will be."

“Wow, you really seem concerned with making my life easier.”

He smirked, but didn’t answer. Straightening, he motioned to his men to let me down.

I felt better as soon as I was steady on my feet. More in control, even though it was a stupid thought. I didn't have any more control now than when I was hanging there.

I straightened and stared into his eyes, giving him my most intense gaze. “So what’s next? Got a poisoned apple for me? Going to lock me up in a tower without a door?”

Again, he looked amused and I clenched my fingers into a fist. God, it would feel satisfying to punch him in the face right now.

Except, hitting your captors only made things worse for you. I understood that all too well now. Men who kidnapped women had no qualms about hitting them back.

When he didn’t answer, I leaned into him, my spittle flying in his face as I demanded. “Well? You’re the one who took me. What do you want with me?"

His face was suddenly hard, and he sneered at me as he responded. "Absolutely nothing."

Chapter 5

Coulter

The woman was terrible.

Absolutely infuriating. Resentful. Ungrateful.

I wanted to tie her back up, drag her useless body back to Dimitri, and dump her on his doorstep.

She acted like she already hated me, and I'd yet to even do anything bad to her.

And stealing her from that sadistic asshole didn’t count.

I saved her, and the only thanks she gave me was spitting in my face.

Ironically, her name suited her well.

Rose. Beautiful and seductive on the outside but try to touch her and she prickled and barbed.

Groaning in annoyance, I shut the door behind me, ignoring her pounding while Knight quickly locked it.

I was already questioning my decision to take her and the heat hadn't even begun to come down on us. Even though Dimitri didn't suspect us yet, Bourbon was going to lose his shit when he discovered the truth. That I'd kidnapped the woman who belonged to our once enemy. The same man Bourbon had worked so hard to bring to the table to do business together.

Honestly, I'd be surprised if he didn't try to kill me.

To my horror, despite the startling resemblance, Rose was nothing like Lily.

Lily had been kind and sweet, the light in my dark world.

Rose was stubborn, angry, and had a smart mouth. I would never be able to take her anywhere, not if I wanted my men to respect me.

I walked down the hallway, sighing, the signs of my past life everywhere haunting me. We were in the guest house where Lily used to live when her mother worked for us.

I never spent a lot of time here, as Lily mostly hung out at our house. But when I did, it was the only place I'd ever felt like I could truly relax. Be myself.

My father would’ve never thought to look for me there, and I was always extremely careful to keep it that way.

It had been my sanctuary and my escape.

And now, it haunted my every step.

I hadn't been here in years but the smell, the furniture, almost everything was still the same.

Lily. It reminded me of her in every way.

I felt Knight and Dante’s presence behind me, their disapproving stares prickling at my back. I'd had no choice but to bring her here, it was the only place no one would ever think to look for her. I didn't have rooms convenient for keeping people hostage, not like my father.

I went into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. Per my instructions, Dante had stocked it earlier. I'd texted him the moment I'd made my decision back at the hotel. Sighing, I ran my hand through my hair as I considered what my next step was.

"What are we going to do with her?" Knight leaned his elbows on the kitchen island.

"You're going to feed her. Make sure she has some stuff for the shower, and clothes.”

“I don’t even know her size.”

"Does it matter?" I growled. Snapping off the lid to the water bottle, I angrily took a long gulp of the cool water.

"Man, you've got it bad for this girl.” He huffed out a laugh, his brown eyes sparkling with mirth. “She'll never be Lily. You know that right? I don't care how much she looks like her."

"I fucking know that.” I flipped him the bird.

Shaking his head with a grin still on his lips, he pulled his keys from his pocket and walked towards the front door. “Have fun with him, man,” he threw at Dante before stalking out of the house.

Dante didn’t answer him, but kept a meaningful gaze on me. He was much more serious than Knight, and silence descended in the house, except for the pounding on Rose's door.

Shit. I ran my hand over my face. I really hadn’t thought this through.

Knight and Dante were my friends in high school, but we’d grown closer after Bourbon and I had our falling out.

They knew who Lily was, of course, because everyone knew who she was to me.

I'd been fiercely protective over her, and no one else dared mess with her or they'd earn a broken bone and a bent dick.

No one touched her but me. I'd shattered a couple of faces to get my message across. One belonging to a guy who tried to hit on her, the other to a guy who tried to bully her for being the 'maid's daughter.' They both ended up in the hospital, and after that, she never had any problems.

Now, Knight and Dante had taken Bourbon's place in my life, including sharing women between us. They were as familiar with the naked curves of Lucy as I was. The thought made my head snap up and I gave Dante a cold stare.

"We're not sharing her, is that clear?"

He gave me a dismissive look. "Fuck off, Coulter. I don't want her."

I nodded, satisfied, then threw the empty water bottle towards the kitchen sink.

"Seriously though," he said, "what are you going to do with her? She's too hot. If anyone finds out we took her, Dimitri will cut off our dicks and make us choke on them.”

"Don't you think I already know that?" I growled. This was probably one of the worst impulsive decisions I'd ever made, and that was saying something. But yet, I really didn’t regret it. Not really.

I'd do anything to have Lily back.

Anything.

And if a Lily look-alike was the closest thing I was ever going to get, I'd take it. Even if she did bite.

"For now, we'll have to keep her locked up here. It's the only place no one will look for her. In the meantime, we'll find someone else to set up for taking her. I'm sure Dimitri has enough enemies to pin the blame on."

He nodded, thinking. “I have someone in mind.”

Dante came from a very powerful family that had a stronghold in Sicily. They ran everything from weapons and drugs, to women, and they crushed anyone who stood in their way.

And that's why he was my second. He may not have the lineage to put him in line to rule that family, but violence was in his blood. He would kill anyone who dared threaten me. I could already tell by the look on his face that he was already making plans in case Dimitri ever discovered the truth.

The sound of the front door slamming open and footsteps pounding into the house had us both pulling our guns out. We turned toward the doorway, ready to shoot, when Bourbon's angry face came into view.

Well, shit. That happened way too fast.

In two steps, he was on me.

"What the fuck were you thinking?" He grabbed me by the shirt, shaking me.

I flinched by instinct but I wasn’t really afraid.

Despite the many times Bourbon was mad at me, he’d never hit me. Ever.

We may not be friends like we once were, but he’d never let go of his protective instincts towards me.

"I have no idea what you're talking about.” I smirked, which I knew would only make him angrier.

“Don’t play stupid.” He shook me again. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."

I slid my fingers between my shirt and his hand, forcing him to let me go. Then I stepped back, straightening my clothes. "If you want any answers from me, you're going to have to be more clear."

"I know you took the fucking girl, Coulter. Do you know how hard I've worked for an alliance between us?" His fisted hands told me he was using all his restraint to not punch me in the face. "An alliance between the two families would bring us millions of dollars each month, you asshole. But all you ever think about is your dick."

I turned away, huffing, noticing that Dante was staring between us. He would never get in between me and Bourbon but he would protect me from Bourbon if his self-restraint ever broke.

"I didn't take the girl. I don't even know what girl you're talking about."

“Then why the hell are you even here, Coulter?" Bourbon's gaze was like death. He was angry, he really wanted to punch me. Maybe even kill me. "You haven't been here in years."

"How would you know that?" I raised my eyebrow.

"Because I have a silent alarm on the house. Dante tripped it several hours ago when we were at the club. I know you sent him here. Now tell me, where the fuck is she? We need to take her back now. Set it up like a rival took her and we can make out like we are the ones who rescued her and brought her back to him." His eyes gleamed with this new idea. "Then they'll be even more indebted to us--"

"I don't have the fucking girl, Bourbon," I interrupted him, not wanting him to go down that line of thought. Once Bourbon got an idea in his mind, he never let it go. It's that ruthlessness that made him the strongest heir to our empire, and it was also my downfall when he used it against me.

And this time, I couldn’t let him win. Not when the chance of having what I'd lost so long ago was within my grasp.

She might not be Lily but she was close enough. I wouldn't even have to close my eyes to pretend, not like I did with the other girls.

There was a sudden banging noise, and Rose started shouting. She’d given up earlier but now she’d renewed it with more enthusiasm. She must've heard us arguing.

Bourbon bolted upright, his back ramrod straight. "Tell me you aren't dumb enough to keep her here? On our own property?"

When he put it like that, it did sound like the stupidest idea I'd ever had.

But what else could I've done? It was a split second decision. I had to take her before Dimitri left tomorrow, taking the opportunity with him. I probably never would’ve seen him again, along with Rose.

When I didn’t answer, Bourbon sighed. "God, you're an idiot." His exasperation quickly melded into a stern glare. "We're taking her back."

He didn’t wait for me to answer him, but strode towards the hallway, his long legs eating up the space to her door in seconds. Then his hand was on the doorknob and desperation made me stupid.

“Like hell you're taking her back!” I sprinted after him, tackling him to the ground. We grappled on the floor like we did when we were kids, each struggling to dominate the other.

I landed on top, but he quickly slipped out of my hold by throwing me over his shoulders. Then he was on his feet and at her door before I could take my next breath.

"Wait!" I cried, jumping to my feet, and he stilled, turning his face to me. There was surprise in his gaze at the pleading in my voice. The last time he ever heard me so frantic was the night Lily had died.

But, didn’t he feel it too?

The hope that sprung in my chest the minute I saw her?

Didn’t he want her too?

Even if it wasn’t real, we could at least pretend she was Lily. Even if it was only for a few hours. I'd even fuck her with him in the room, something we never did in the past, but I was so desperate, I'd give him anything at this point.

I made my way towards him slowly, like I would a wild animal.

"We can figure out a way to keep her and to make Dimitri happy. Maybe we can find him another girl, someone he wants more. Fake her death, blame it on one of his enemies."

"We’re his enemy, you idiot." Bourbon's face was hard, but I could hear the vulnerability in his voice. He wanted this too, wanted her. I just had to find a way to make him admit it.

"You know you want this, Bourbon." Coming to stand next to him, I put my hand on his shoulder.

His face snapped away from me and towards the door, scowling at it like it had offended him. Rose was pounding on it, her voice pleading.

And yet, he didn’t try the handle again, didn’t bark at me to unlock it.

And that’s when I knew I had him where I wanted him, I just needed to push him a little bit more.

“You can lie to me all you want, but the minute she walked out of that hotel room with a black eye, I knew you wanted to kill Dimitri just as much as I did. You don't have to say the words out loud. Just let me keep the girl." I lowered my voice to a whisper so Dante couldn’t hear me. He would never understand the bond Bourbon and I had with Lily.

No one ever would. Only us.

"We could share her. Make her pretend to be Lily. You could fuck her. Tell her all the things you wish you could've told Lily. Don't you want that, Bourbon?"

After a long hesitation, he turned to face me, his eyes cold. "Lily is dead. And nothing will ever bring her back."

I nodded, and then I did the worst thing I could ever do to him. Told him the biggest lie of my life.

"Just one night then, Bourbon. One night each, of doing whatever we want with her. Then, we'll take her back.” At the disbelief in Bourbon's eyes, I quickly amended my statement. She knew too much to return her to Dimitri. Plus, she’d be better off dead than to return her to that bastard. “Fine, then we kill her. Take her body to Dimitri, pretend we tried to rescue her. We would look like heroes. This will work, I swear it.” I grabbed his arm, leaning closer to stare into his eyes, and I could see the wavering in his gaze. “Just one night. Isn’t that what you want?”

© 2021 Ivy Mason

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