The water is warm and soothing around us. The scent of lavender calms our senses and relaxes our muscles. But there is nothing more comforting than feeling her warm, naked, wet body against mine.
She’s loopy, exhausted, her eyes closed as she leans against my chest, and I dribble water down her shoulder, the pearly white bubble bath lathered down her front, the tiny bubbles popping.
I kiss the back of her head and inhale deeply, wanting to commit her vanilla scent to memory. “You okay?”
“Hmm-mmm,” she hums, and her eyes flicker open. “You?”
I scoff. “I’m more than okay. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Were you jealous?”
“Now that’s a stupid fucking question if I ever heard one. I hated watching him touch you, seeing your cheeks hollow around his dick.”
“Then why did you do it? Why put yourself through that?”
I swallow, staring at the pearly bubbles clinging to her arm. “I knew you needed it. It was the only way to cut the tether that kept you from letting go of your past. You needed to experience the good side of sex and pleasure, something they ruined for you.”
“It’s still hard,” she says, pained, “thinking that I can enjoy the things that ruined my childhood.”
“There’s a difference between your desires and their depravities, Leandra. No one is getting hurt. By giving in to your desires, your fantasies, you’re not hurting anyone. They did.” I lift her chin, so she looks up at me. “They hurt you, and that wasn’t okay.”
A sheen of wetness glimmers in her eyes, and she reaches her arm around my neck, lifting herself and locking her mouth to mine. “Thank you,” she murmurs against my lips, and those two words make me feel the kind of warmth I’ve never felt before. It’s like liquid, slowly spreading through my chest, filling every open space and drowning the darkness.
She settles back. “So, you’re never going to tell me who it was?”
“Not even when I leave?”
I stiffen. “Leave?”
“You know,” she says softly. “When I leave after our deal is done.”
My heart turns inside out, and my gut is instantly filled with concrete. Thinking of her leaving is the equivalent of hearing nails being dragged across a blackboard. Unbearable and borderline painful.
The possessive fucker in me starts hammering against my skull, screaming at me that there’s a better chance hell would freeze over before I ever let her go.
Hearing her speak as if this is all still just a bargain, a deal, it makes the blood in my veins thicken with a rage I’m not sure I can control. There is no way I’ll allow her to walk out of this fucking house when she’s no longer my wife. There’s no way. Not a fucking chance. She’s mine—the wife I didn’t want but now refuse to give up.
God, I need to breathe.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m going to get us a drink.”
Leandra sits up as I lift myself out of the water, my feet leaving wet footprints on the tiles. I grab a towel, rough it through my hair before wrapping it around my waist.
“Will you go grab my robe for me in my room?” She leans back in the water, the soap suds clinging to breasts, the gentle waves giving me a glimpse of her rosy, pink nipples.
“Sure. I’ll be right back.”
I kiss her cheek and stomp out, straight to the whiskey tray, and pour myself a drink, slamming it back in one gulp. The alcohol stings as it settles in my stomach, but it does nothing to ease the storm brewing in my chest. My head is a minefield, and there’s no telling which thought will have me erupting in a fit of rage—especially if she continues to talk about her leaving, like the last few weeks never fucking happened.
After swallowing the second drink, I grab a pair of sweatpants and walk to her room, scrolling through my missed calls.
Thank fuck I don’t run into anyone in the hall. I’m not in the mood for idle chit-chat or some trivial fucking sarcasm from my brothers. And I’m definitely not in the right frame of mind to see him. Turns out I’m a jealous fucker, and he knew that when he agreed to do this with us. But he also knows to keep his distance for a while—especially now while I feel this warped with the epic mindfuck that is Leandra Dinali.
Her name is Leandra Del Rossa, and I plan on keeping it that way.
I scan her room, searching for a robe. Her bed is neatly made with not a single crease on the sheet. The room is so tidy, one would never think there’s actually someone staying in here.
I open the top drawer of her dresser, rummaging through it in search of a nightgown. My finger brushes against a pair of white silk panties, and my cock stirs as I imagine her wearing it while I fuck her from behind, the panties bunched to the side and looped around my fingers.
The filthy fucker that I am slips it into my pants pocket, thinking we have the whole night ahead of us. Lots of time to kill with my new favorite pastime. Fucking my wife.
I grab the first nightgown I can find, a little black number, then spot the birth control hidden underneath. There’s only a week’s supply of tiny little tablets left, and my mind races as I pick it up. She’ll need these refilled soon. All the ways I intend to fuck her from here on out, she’ll be taking these diligently every day. Until she leaves.
The beast prowls inside my thoughts, and I’m thinking of the million and one things I’d do to make sure she stays. Fact is, just because I’m fucking an angel doesn’t mean I’m shedding my scales.
I grab my phone from my pocket and swipe across the screen, staring at the packet in my other hand. “Maximo…I need to get my hands on some placebos.”
“Alexius? I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
I hang up the phone and drop the pills into the drawer before closing it.
“Dad, what are you doing out of bed?” I turn to face him and instantly know something’s not right, his face paler than usual, and worried lines creased on his forehead. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“You’ve been keeping things from me.”
“What?” I frown and walk up to him. “What are you talking about?”
He leans against the doorframe, supporting himself. “Alicia,” he says, and my fucking heart stops. He knows. My father knows about the murder.
I bite my bottom lip, the veins in my arms bulging as adrenaline rushes through my body. “Uncle Roberto,” I sneer. “I knew he’d run to you with this. That fucking piece of shit!”
“Alexius,” he barks. “We can discuss you choosing to hide this from me later. Right now, we have bigger shit to take care of.”
“Like the fact that there’s been another murder…at Myth.”
I crouch, pulling my palms down my face as I stare at the scene in front of me. “Jesus,” I mutter. “Tarina.”
“There’s no doubt,” Maximo says, circling her body. “It’s the same guy.”
“No shit.” I straighten and rub the back of my neck.
Tarina’s body is strapped to a pole, her hands tied behind her back and ankles locked to a spreader bar, wrists slit just like Alicia’s.
Caelian steps forward, his eyes wide as he takes in the gruesome image. “What the fuck is this?”
“Where are her eyes?” Nicoli circles around the body.
“Our guess is whoever this guy is, he’s taking souvenirs.” Maximo crosses his arms. “Check her ear.”
Nicoli lifts a brow, then pulls a pen from his jacket before lifting her bloodied hair. “Jesus. It’s torn off.”
“What the fuck is it with everyone and fucking ears lately?” I start pacing, unable to take my eyes off her. Tarina. This feels different. It feels personal, as if this guy targeted her specifically to get to me.
“My guess is this is a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil thing. The eyes, the ear, her mouth that has been sewn shut,” Nicoli speculates.
I whip around. “Is there a note?”
“A note?” Both Nicoli and Maximo look around the room.
“I don’t see a note.” Maximo walks over to a table in the corner, but there’s no note or blood vial.
Caelian slips his hands into his jacket pockets. “He left a note with a Bible verse with Alicia’s body. Why not with Tarina?”
This doesn’t make sense. Everything is done exactly the same as with Alicia. The eyes, the ears, the slit wrists, and I don’t have to reach between her legs to know there’s a cross, too. From where I’m standing, I can already see it protruding from her.
“There has to be a note.” I step closer, inspecting the body. There’s so much blood. It’s already started to crust on her skin, the blood from her eye sockets dried in the shape of tears on her cheeks. My stomach curdles, my veins are ice, and my heart is racing. Her face is…
“What is that?” I point to a tiny sliver of white sticking out between her lips. “Is that…is that paper? Get me a pair of scissors. Now.”
Maximo hands me the scissors, and I step up, cutting through the tough, thick, black thread weaved in the form of X’s between her lips.
“Fuck me,” Nicoli mutters, suddenly pale as a ghost.
I pull the piece of paper from her mouth. It’s wet and covered in blood, folded in a tiny square to preserve the writing from getting smudged.
I open it and swallow hard, reading the words out loud.
The mouth of an adulterous woman is a deep pit;
a man who is under the LORD’s wrath falls into it.
But it’s the second part that sends cold chills down my motherfucking spine, and my heart is nothing more than a large, hard block of ice.
The Lord will deliver you all from evil, and I will be His instrument.
I am, after all…your brother.