My anxiety is through the roof, but we don’t know how else to do this. I’ve got to go in there. I’m the one who will get the reaction out of these guys. Me. I press my hand to my chest, where I can feel the violent cadence of my heart against my palm, and try to slow my breathing.
Up ahead of us, Kingston had cut the lights to his SUV the minute they got to the club’s driveway. We roll into the parking lot so slowly it’s painful. Tension is high. I know it’s the same in the other vehicle. We park in the back row of the lot, our dark-colored cars not likely to attract attention from here. Hopefully, this will all be over soon.
Duke murmurs, “Archer’s pulling everything up now on his laptops. He wants to make sure there are no surprises. Mase, he says it’s cool if you go ahead and pick all the locks now. He’ll watch you and let you know if anyone is coming your way.”
Mason nods, pressing a lingering kiss to my lips, then leans into the front seat, whispering in Duke’s ear before capturing his mouth, too. His hand goes to Bear’s shoulder, squeezing it firmly.
“Remember, watch your phone for instructions.”
“Yep, I’ll be waiting at the far door once I make sure we’re ready.”
He’ll be sneaking in via the hallway with their secret rooms. It makes me nervous for him. I’m nervous for myself. Nervous for the guys following me in. Worried we’ll fuck it up. Worried someone will get hurt. Worried they’ll somehow keep getting away with it.
Mason slips quietly from the SUV, and we watch him dart to the side of the building and begin the process of picking all the locks on the doors.
Bear reaches back, putting a hand on my knee. “You good? We don’t have to do it this way.”
“No. We do. Because it will be that much more satisfying.”
His lips curve. “You just get as much info out of them as possible. Get them to admit whatever you can.” He squeezes my leg with his big hand. “And if things go south, get the fuck out. Don’t stick around to try to help. That’s why we’re following you in. We’ll handle it. You shout for help, we know you’re in real trouble.”
“And you won’t come before that.” I eye the two of them, wondering how long they’ll let this go on before they can’t stand it anymore and come to my rescue.
Duke nods as he alternately watches the phone screen and follows Mason’s stealthy movements as he works his way around the back of the building. “It kills me to send you in with them at all. They don’t deserve to breathe the same air.” He looks at me in the rearview. “But yes, we’ll wait until you ask for help, unless something really drastic happens, in which case, Archer will tell us. You’ve got this. I know you do. They aren’t expecting us, and definitely not you—and you aren’t the girl they think they know, anyway. We’ve got your back. All of us.” He swallows hard, tapping his fingers against the steering wheel. “Archer and Elliot will be out here with the computer equipment, so you run to them if you need to. They’ll watch for your exit and direct the cops where to go.”
Several minutes later, we’re a go. We get out, and I stare at the big building. I’m going in the same door we did when we were here Wednesday, heading all the way down that hallway to the poker room. The guys are entering from all different directions and waiting on instructions from Archer. Mason, Bear, Duke, Kingston, and Cannon—all five of them will be in there with me. What I don’t have is assurance that the place will clear out or that there aren’t weapons somewhere. Guards. Something we aren’t expecting or aware of.
Kingston and Cannon each give me a nod before taking off to their designated entrance. Bear and Duke put their arms around me, whispering words of encouragement. And then I’m pulling open the door and leaving them behind for the moment. I creep down the hallway, taking in the same sights and smells as the first time I was here and try not to let them affect me.
It feels a bit like there’s a wild monkey in my chest wielding a sledgehammer on my heart. I ignore it and head directly to the open doorway where light spills from the room. I draw in a breath, straighten my spine, and walk in, hands on my hips. I cock one to the side, my eyebrow arching as I survey the room.
The poker tables are full tonight. The alcohol is obviously flowing, and the room is hazy with cigar smoke. I scan many players and spot Murdock and Derek right away, even though their backs are turned to me. Both are in suits and playing poker. Tristan is nowhere in sight. Here goes nothing.
As I wade through the chaos, one pair of eyes after another turn to see where I’m going. The volume in the room increases, the ripple of excited taIk cascading through the room. I pay them no mind. As I walk past one young girl, I catch her by the shoulder and whisper, “Get out of here. Tell the others.”
She freezes, staring at me with doe eyes, then slowly nods.
As I approach the table where Derek and Murdock play, the dealer looks up. Blinks. Clamps his lips together. Not his business who shows up at these things, I guess.
Putting a hand on both their shoulders, I bend down between them. “I’d say it’s nice to see you, but it really isn’t.”
“What the hell are you doing here, Lennon?” Derek eases his heavy chair back and turns, as does Murdock.
“I was hoping for a word with you. Tristan too.”
The feel of them looking me up and down like a piece of meat for sale makes me want to vomit. I carefully back up a few paces.
Murdock laughs. “Little girl, you have guts, I’ll give you that. My son told me.”
“You mean Hunter, right? Since Mason isn’t yours. Thank fuck.” I let a laugh trip from my mouth.
His brows go up, and his jaw works to the side as he appraises me. His voice comes out a low, ugly rumble. “I like girls with potty mouths.”
“Keyword girls, right?” I let my gaze drift back to Derek. “You, too, huh?” I stop to look around, stalling for time, and notice some of their patrons slipping out. “Where’s my stepfather, by the way? I’d kinda like to talk to him about what happened to me the last time I was here with him.”
“I’m sad I wasn’t here for that.” Murdock’s eyes twinkle. “Would you like the chance to show me what I missed out on?”
I know this is what I need him to do, but my stomach revolts. “You couldn’t keep up with me. Can’t keep up with any of the girls here, though, can you? That’s why you have to slip a little something into their drinks. Take them to that back room over there.” I nod my head in that direction. The rest of the poker players who were cautiously observing take off. I don’t have a clue if they’re from Bainbridge or simply have deep pockets, but it doesn’t matter. They don’t stay and watch.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, Lennon,” Derek grunts.
“No? That surprises me, Derek.” I look around, and there’s not a single girl in sight. “Looks like all the underaged girls here got the message about your limp dick.”
He slaps his hand on the table and stands, walking close to me. Like a snake, his hand darts out, and he grasps my arm, his meaty fingers gripping my forearm so tight I wince.
“Hasn’t always been so limp, though, has it?” My brow goes up a fraction. Come on, motherfucker. Take the bait.
Murdock has also gotten up, eyeing the two of us. “Don’t let her goad you, Derek. Seems like she’s good at it.”
“That’s because she knows how to wrap men around her finger. She’s fucking all of Bainbridge Hall, little slut that she is. No wonder she’s back for more. She wore the boys out, then came back around, sniffing for the mature men. Likes them a little older.” Derek huffs out a laugh.
That was a bit of a slip. Okay. Good. More like that.
“What the hell is happening?” The voice of my stepfather makes my stomach turn, and Derek uses that to his advantage, spinning me around and holding my back against his chest.
Eyeing the bruising on Tristan’s face, I shoot him a saccharine smile. “Does your nose still hurt? Looks painful.” Chuckling, I twist my head so I can see Derek. “Your son taught me how to do that.”
Derek clears his throat. “Your lovely stepdaughter decided to pay us a visit, Tristan.”
I take this chance to look my rapist right in the eye. “The stepdaughter you raped. Yes, I’m here. And I know what you did to me. I remember. How’s the scar on your jaw? Did you grow that beard to hide it? Scared I’d see it and figure things out?”
“Lennon, you’re confused, sweetheart.”
“Yeah. If that were true, it’d be easy to have me put away in some mental institution. And that’s what you figured you’d try to make happen.”
“It’s because you need to be there. To get healthy again.”
I suck in a breath, bringing the heel of my shoe down on Derek’s foot at the same time I ram him in the gut with my elbow. I tear free of him, and back away from all three, getting them in front of me. I glare at Derek, deciding to take a stab in the dark. I hope like hell it pays off. “I know what you did to Juliette that night, too, you fucking monster.” My eyes shift to Murdock. “You may not have been here. Your son was, though.”
“He told me how much he enjoyed her. Was a little too obsessed, maybe.” Murdock raises his brows at me, a slow smile curving his lips.
Keep talking, you motherfucking idiot. “She clearly didn’t feel the same way about any of you, considering she killed herself.” I let the jab hang in the air, but none of them respond.
“What’s your point in coming here, Lennon?” Tristan eyes me.
I shrug. “All your girls are gone. Your rich poker-player friends got to witness most of that. Seems worth it to me.”
“Enough. Come on.” My stepfather turns his back and walks toward the back room.
My eyes widen as Murdock and Derek back me into a corner, each taking one of my arms and lift me between them as I thrash. But I refuse, refuse to call out for help until I get them to admit aloud what they’ve done.
They manage to get me through the door, into the awful room where Tristan is waiting for me, and onto the table. “What, no candlelight this time? No masks to hide who you are? Where’s my doctored drink?” My breathing is much too shallow and fast. Do not pass out, Lennon. Calm down.
Tristan ventures over to the table with several lengths of rope and ties me to it by my wrists. There are metal rings attached to this one just like there are in the one we found in the hidden room at Bainbridge Hall. I don’t remember if they tied me up the last time I was here, but I’d guess not since I was in a near blackout state. With both wrists bound to the table, my heart rate accelerates.
And then, Tristan grabs my chin forcefully and wrenches my face toward his. He gets so close, his hot breath wafts unpleasantly over my face. “Can’t wait to find out if this pussy is as good as it was when I took your virginity. Are you still tight? Or have you allowed those boys to loosen you up too much?” His tongue licks over my lips. I shudder in disgust and manage to pull my face out of his hold, crying out in fear and disgust.
“Are we taking turns?” Derek grits out, eyeing Tristan’s handiwork. “She got rid of the rest of the girls.”
“I’ll destroy that little pussy, so you two may as well go first.” Murdock looks on in amusement at the horror that crosses my face. He unfastens his pants and takes his cock out. Spitting on his hand, he begins to jerk himself. “I’ve been without for so fucking long, it could get really ugly.” He grunts as he tugs on his dick, hot, twisted heat emanating from his eyes as he watches me try to shift as far away from him as I can.
Derek laughs, then has the nerve to wink at me. “Maybe I should let Tristan fuck that pretty cunt first. I tore your friend up good, if I recall, then Hunter finished her off. The amount of cum in and on you two girls was astounding.” He chuckles darkly.
I breathe carefully, eyeing Derek. They’re getting very loose in their talk. Admitting shit I never thought they would. This is my chance. I wet my lips as I shake my head, then give him a sweet, saucy smile. “Is that why Juliette told me she actually wasn’t sure if she’d been raped?” I flutter my lashes at him. Come on, you jackass.
He grasps my cheeks roughly with one big hand and jerks my face to his. “I told Hunter we should have gotten rid of you at the same fucking time we did her. You won’t be so goddamn lucky this time.”
I blink. Did he just say what I think he did? Terror fills me, and I suck in a breath and scream for all I’m worth. “Help!”
It’s a mere second before the door slams in, and Bear charges through, plowing into his father, tackling him to the floor. Duke walks right up to Tristan, spits in his face, then punches him in the nose, which sends him to the floor, howling.
I can’t see what’s going on with Bear and Derek, but there are several audible blows being exchanged.
My gaze shifts to Mason, who is waiting for Murdock to decide whether or not to come after him. “What’s wrong, Murdock? Don’t want to take me on? Did you ask Hunter who messed up his face and now you’re scared?”
“I’m not scared of you, boy.”
“See, you might not be scared, but I’m also not a boy. Not like I was when you killed my mother.”
“She was a slut, spreading her legs for everyone. She deserved it. No woman is going to cuckold me.”
“So … you killed her,” Mason rasps.
My heart is breaking. But good for you Mase. May as well make him admit it.
“And I’d fuckin’ do it again.” Murdock steps toward Mason just as Cannon and Kingston appear in the doorway behind him. It makes him stop short.
Mason shoots the man he once called father a nasty smirk. “You got big in prison, Murdock. But I’m not alone to deal with you. And you deserve everything you’re about to get.”
Bear stands up, watching Kingston and Cannon move in on Murdock, until they each have one of his arms. And that’s when Mason steps in and delivers a fist to Murdock’s temple, and it’s an immediate lights-out. The huge man goes down with a loud thump.
I can’t control my smile, despite still being tied to this table. Because look at that. All three of my guys are fighters. The next bit is a blur as my eyes fill with tears. I don’t even know whose fingers are scrambling at each of my wrists to set me free.
“Lennon. Baby, it’s okay. We’ve got you.” Duke pulls me off the table and into his arms. I nod, hanging onto him tightly.
While Duke holds me, the other guys lift a squirming Tristan onto the table and tie both of his wrists to the ring on the left side of the table. They repeat the procedure with Derek, only they tie him to the ring on the right. Just as he’s coming to, Kingston picks his head up and looks him in the eye. “You took my sister from me. I hope you get everything you deserve in prison.” He slams Derek’s head back onto the table once, twice, and a third time before Cannon pulls him away. Kingston’s pain is a palpable thing in the room.
I blink back tears watching them. Cannon speaks softly to Kingston as he leads him out, his arm around his friend.
“We’ve gotta deal with Murdock. Bear and Mase need my help, Stella Bella.” Duke kisses my temple. “Is that okay?”
I nod, allowing him to let me go, even though I’m shaking. I turn around. Damn. The big fucker is still out. It takes all three of my guys to pick his ass up because he’s so muscular. He must weigh a fuck ton. They deposit him on the table, too—on his back, right between his friends. Bear uses more rope, and ties each of his wrists to the rings as well.
The police arrive as we’re exiting the back of the building.
Bear grimaces, then jerks a thumb toward the door we just came out of. “There are three guys trussed up in there on a table.” He quickly explains to the officers where to find them, and we’re told we’re required to wait at our SUVs until they can take our statements.
I don’t know whether it’s because I’m completely overwhelmed or what because I look at the officer and burst out laughing so hard, tears stream down my face. “Don’t worry. We definitely want to tell you every single thing we know. They deserve to be put away forever.”
We walk across the parking lot, arms wrapped around each other.
Archer, Elliot, Cannon, and Kingston are waiting for us. Elliot breaks away and jogs toward us. She throws her arms around me. “That was incredibly brave of you.”
I draw in a ragged breath as it all hits me. With nerves jumping in my stomach, I meet Archer’s eyes over her shoulder. “Did we get it?”
“Fuck.” He runs his hand through his hair, shaking his head. “Every last goddamn word they spewed. You did great. And don’t worry, we told them they’re going to want to pick up Hunter, too.”
“Thank you for helping us.” Bear smiles.
Mason blows out a hard breath. “Yeah. I think we got way more than we bargained for when we showed up on your doorstep. We appreciate it.”
I’m a little nervous for Duke because he’s gotten all twitchy in the last thirty seconds or so. But then, he steps forward, directly in front of Kingston and holds out his hand. “I’m so sorry we lost her like that.”
Kingston’s head tilts to the side and his green eyes go glassy. “Me too. Me fucking too.” And then he pulls Duke against him. They hold on to each other, broad backs shaking, until finally, they thump on each other and let go. They nod, a new understanding forming between them. I don’t know if they’ll ever consider themselves friends. But at least there’s no hate between them any longer.