The entire ACOTAR series is on our sister website:

We will not fulfill any book request that does not come through the book request page or does not follow the rules of requesting books. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Comments are manually approved by us. Thus, if you don't see your comment immediately after leaving a comment, understand that it is held for moderation. There is no need to submit another comment. Even that will be put in the moderation queue.

Please avoid leaving disrespectful comments towards other users/readers. Those who use such cheap and derogatory language will have their comments deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked from accessing this website (and its sister site). This instruction specifically applies to those who think they are too smart. Behave or be set aside!

Safe Harbor: Chapter 6

HANNAH smiled and waved for what seemed like the thousandth time in ten minutes.

She was at maximum overload and had signaled her agent, Greg Simpson, numerous times that she needed to leave. He was having none of it, deliberately ignoring her frantic motions. It had been difficult enough to do the show, let alone attend the party afterward, and Greg was aware of it. She had a good mind to spill his drink right down the front of him so he’d have to leave. She sent him a little warning buzz, but he just flashed her a quelling glance, turned his back on her, and continued talking to Edmond and Colese Bellingham, the up-and-coming designers of the season.

Hannah sighed, knowing he was angry with her for her decision to quit. She blew a quick kiss toward Sabrina, a model she genuinely liked. Sabrina smooched back and rolled her eyes, before turning her attention back to one of the many actors surrounding her who didn’t have a chance in hell with her.

‘Hannah, you look gorgeous tonight,’ Russ Craun greeted her and leaned in to give her a kiss, handing her a glass of sparkling liquid as he did so.

Hannah turned her head to ensure his lips landed on her cheek, glancing at her watch as she took the glass. Her sisters usually gave her a little boost to keep her from having a full-blown panic attack when she was working, but they’d all been out of town and she was very shaky.

Russ was a friend, a high-profile football player with a reputation for high jinks, yet she’d found him to be very sweet. He attended quite a few of the same parties and he always made an effort to talk to her without doing anything more than harmless flirting. More than once he’d come to her rescue when men were crowding too close around her.

‘Russ! It’s always so good to see you.’ She looked around him. ‘Who’d you bring with you tonight?’ He usually dated young, pretty actresses who hung on his arm and stared adoringly up at him. They never lasted long, but they looked good in the magazines and kept his name on the front page of the newspapers.

‘I came alone, hoping you didn’t bring a date.’

Hannah laughed. ‘You know I never bring a date.’ She took a small drink of the champagne and let the fire slide down her throat. She wasn’t much of a drinker, but she needed something to get her through the next few minutes until she could extract herself from the crowd and get to the safety of her hotel room.

‘Why is that?’ Russ asked, taking her hand and leading her through the enormous room.

The party was pulsing with life and music, the sound loud, the conversations pushing the noise level even higher. He opened the balcony doors and led her outside. ‘That’s better.’

Hannah nodded in agreement and stepped close to the railing. Setting her glass on the polished marble, she gripped the edge with both hands and threw her head back to inhale deeply. ‘Don’t you love the night? The stars are like gems.’ She lifted her arms toward the moon, her long hair spilling around her, her face lifted to the darkened sky.

‘Do you do that deliberately?’ Russ asked. ‘The moonlight spills over you and puts you in the spotlight. Your hair turns platinum and gold and you look like the most beautiful woman in the world with soft, tempting skin and mysterious eyes and the most sinfully kissable lips I’ve ever seen.’

Hannah blinked at him and then burst out laughing. ‘Tell me you don’t use that line on your girlfriends. They couldn’t possibly fall for it.’

He grinned at her. ‘What woman wouldn’t want to be told her lips are a sinful temptation?’

‘That was my skin, my lips are sinfully soft,’ she pointed out.

‘Hasn’t your boyfriend ever told you that you’re a sinful temptation?’ he asked.

Hannah hesitated. The question always threw her. She didn’t really have a boyfriend.

She’d never really had a boyfriend. There was only one man she was interested in and he would eat her alive. She blushed thinking about it. He already had. But Jonas wanted someone very different and Hannah could never be that person. She’d tried. He hadn’t noticed that she’d tried, but she had. Just looking at Jonas hurt. She touched her lips. She could still feel his kiss. A sizzling, dazzling moment that stopped her heart every time she thought about it.

Her body tingled, went warm at the thought of the other things Jonas Harrington had done. His hands on her, his mouth on her, his body filling hers, moving inside hers. She fought to keep from blushing, because the things Jonas had done would make anyone blush—but she couldn’t say he was her boyfriend. They’d had great sex. Mind-blowing sex. The kind of sex she hadn’t known existed, but as always, they’d fought and he had been furious and disappointed and cutting. No one could cut her down the way Jonas did.

No, she couldn’t say he was her boyfriend.

‘Don’t tell me you don’t have a boyfriend,’ Russ said, crowding her close to the rail.

Hannah disliked most people touching her. She detested that odd little quirk in herself.

She wanted to be friendly and easy the way Sabrina was, but any company started the beginnings of a panic attack and a crowd like this was devastating to her. It was humiliating to be a grown woman, successful at business, but be unable to control herself the way even a young child could.

‘Why do you always make a try, Russ, when you know I’m going to say no to you?’ she asked, holding her ground for pride’s sake.

His grin widened, became devilish. ‘Two reasons, Hannah, my little temptress. First, I might get lucky and you’ll change your mind. And second, I love that trapped look you get on your face right before you decide to let me down gently.’ He reached around her, caging her body, as he picked up her glass and handed it to her. Raising his own, he winked. ‘To another rejection.’

Hannah watched him take a drink, a small frown pulling at her mouth. ‘Don’t be silly.

You ask me out when you have a woman on your arm. You’ve never been serious.’

‘Of course I’m serious. Any man would be serious over a chance at you, Hannah. Who is your mystery man and why doesn’t he ever come with you?’

Hannah touched the glass to her lips, but didn’t actually drink, a trick many of the models used when attending major events. ‘This isn’t his thing.’

‘You mean guarding you from other men isn’t worth his time? Because if you belonged to me, I’d be right at your side, making sure men like me didn’t come near you.’ He took another drink, tilting his head to study her face. ‘Maybe he doesn’t deserve you.’

Hannah shrugged and this time she did take another swallow. It burned all the way down, but she needed a little false confidence with this strange and unexpected conversation.

Jonas would probably laugh if he knew she thought of him as hers. Worse, he’d be angry with her and accuse her of using him to keep other men at arm’s length—and maybe she did. There had never been room for any other man. Jonas had occupied all of her thoughts from the moment she’d met him—and she feared it would always be that way—even long after he married someone else and settled down to have a family of his own. They’d had mind-blowing sex and he was going to marry someone else and she was going to end up an old strange lady with cats all around her.

It made her want to cry. The liquid in her drink began to bubble and she automatically put her hand over the rim of the glass. She had to stay in control and any thoughts of Jonas always stole her control. She could still hear her own soft cries as his tongue made a leisurely foray over every square inch of her body. She took another swallow and let the fire settle in her stomach.

‘See, there you go.’ Russ brushed his fingers across her face as if wiping away her expression. ‘You look so sad. I don’t like you looking sad, Hannah. Give me a shot. I wouldn’t put that look on your face.’

She forced a quick smile. ‘Russ, you’re a flirt and a bit of a hound dog. I’ve never seen you with the same woman twice. I would last one night and you’d be on to the next one.’

‘Maybe I just need a good woman to straighten me out.’

‘You’re fine the way you are, Russ. When you find the right woman, you’ll want to settle down.’ She glanced at her watch, anxious that the growing fear in her was from the knowledge that the boost her sisters had given her to stave off the panic attacks was wearing off. They’d been too long out of the country and her anxiety level was rising faster than normal, her lungs fighting for air when she should have felt so much better outside away from the crowd.

To stay calm, she took another cautious sip of the champagne. She didn’t touch alcohol very often, and the drink hit her already churning stomach hard. Heat and then cold swept through her. She was suddenly nauseated. Her heart reacted, racing as she turned away from Russ, handing him the glass as she did so.

Russ set the glasses on the rail and took her arm. ‘You look like you’re dizzy. Are you okay? I can drive you to your hotel.’

Hannah remained silent, assessing her body. She was a Drake and Drakes had special gifts. Her body violently objected to the drink all of a sudden. How strange. She pressed her hand against her mouth and tried to step back away from him. Russ tightened his hold as she swayed.

‘Hannah? Are you ill?’

‘Miss Drake. Lovely to see you again.’

Hannah stiffened when she heard the distinctive Russian accent. She turned slowly to find Sergei Nikitin, the Russian mobster, smiling at her with shiny white teeth. He enjoyed the good things in life; his Italian suit and shoes cost as much as a small car.

Everything he had, he had gotten through someone’s suffering.

Hannah felt the evil in him when she was so close, and it didn’t help the nausea churning in her stomach. She glanced past him and her gaze was caught and held by Ilya Prakenskii. For a moment she couldn’t breathe, unable to look away from his cold, merciless eyes. He was reputed to be a hit man for Nikitin, and at one time had been trained by Russia’s secret police. Strangely, Hannah couldn’t feel anything—good or evil—when she was close to the man.

‘Miss Drake.’ Ilya nodded his head, moving past Nikitin to take her elbow and remove her from Russ’s hold. He drew her to him. ‘You look ill. Do you need help?’

Hannah swept back her hair with a shaky hand. She felt dizzy and disoriented. She needed to lie down. She should have been afraid of Ilya, maybe she was, but he was strong and holding her up and she felt confused so she remained still, afraid if she tried to get away, she’d fall flat on her face. If she answered, she might get sick.

‘Hannah?’ Ilya asked again, his voice low, but commanding. He tipped her face up toward his, staring down into her eyes.

‘I was just about to take her home,’ Russ said, frowning at the bodyguard’s high-handed proprietary manner.

Hannah shook her head, one hand pressed to her stomach. Models didn’t throw up at parties right after the biggest fashion show of the season in the United States. Desperate, she wiped the beads of sweat from her face and tried to step away from Ilya.

Ilya glanced over his shoulder to the two glasses sitting on the railing and a low hiss escaped between his teeth. As he reached for Hannah’s glass, Russ stepped back to avoid his arm and knocked into the railing, sending both glasses crashing to the garden below.

‘Stay put, Hannah,’ Ilya instructed. ‘If you want to get back to your hotel, we’ll be more than happy to escort you.’

Sergei Nikitin smiled again, looking more the shark than ever. ‘Of course, Miss Drake, it would be an honor to see you to your hotel safely.’ He turned his attention to Russ. ‘You are the football player.’

His accent had thickened, a bad sign, Hannah thought. She had to take charge or she’d end up obligating her family even more than they already were to the Russians, and she didn’t want Nikitin anywhere near her sister Joley. She might be confused and disoriented and very, very sick to her stomach, but she held on to that much. Sergei Nikitin wasn’t a good man and he had a bad habit of turning up wherever her sister was performing, looking for an introduction.

Hannah made a concentrated effort to step away from Ilya and reach for Russ’s arm. Ilya moved without seeming to move. Glided. Or maybe his muscles just rippled. Whatever happened, he was suddenly and solidly between her and Russ. Ilya spoke in Russian to his boss.

Hannah frowned. She knew Russian and she could have sworn he ordered his boss to watch the rapist while he took care of her. Rapist? She must have misunderstood. Russ was her friend. And where was her agent? She needed to leave. It was all getting too complicated and she was definitely going to be sick all over the Russian mobster’s bodyguard.

Nikitin replied and Hannah’s face lost all color. She felt herself going pale. He told Ilya to throw the bastard over the railing. She understood that with no problem. She didn’t have the strength to fight against two men to save Russ and they certainly had the wrong idea about him. She’d been uneasy all night, but Russ didn’t need to rape women. They threw themselves at him.

‘He’s my friend,’ she said, or thought she said. Her voice was strange—tinny—far away.

What was wrong with her?

Ilya shook his head. ‘She understands Russian, Sergei. Be careful what you say, she might not realize you’re amusing yourself.’

Hannah would have relaxed, but Ilya seemed to be staring Russ down, his piercing blue eyes locked on to the football player with lethal purpose. Russ was very arrogant and she’d seen him intimidate several men, but with Ilya, he either knew the man’s reputation, or something in those ice cold eyes warned him off.

Russ shrugged his shoulders. ‘Hannah, I can see you’re busy. I’ll just tell your agent you’re ready to go.’

Hannah watched him go through the double French doors, leaving her alone on the balcony with a mobster and his bodyguard.

‘We must take her to her hotel where she’s safe,’ Nikitin ordered.

Ilya shook his head. ‘I can help her. Give me a couple of minutes with her, Sergei. If her agent shows up, distract him while I see what I can do.’

‘Her sister must know we helped her,’ Nikitin reminded him.

Ilya didn’t answer, simply wrapped his arm around Hannah’s waist and half carried her to the far side of the balcony away from his boss. ‘That man is no friend of yours, Hannah.

He drugged you. I’m going to rid your body of it, but it’s going to burn like hell. Do you understand?’

She didn’t understand any of it, but she knew Ilya Prakenskii had the same gifts the Drake sisters did. She knew how they worked and that he was capable of removing a drug from her body. She also knew he was a very dangerous man, and anytime one worked with psychic abilities, or magic, whatever term one used, there was vulnerability on both sides.

The Drake family were already in debt to Ilya and he had a path straight back to Joley.

She was one of the most powerful of the Drakes. She didn’t want him knowing anything about her just in case she had to protect her sister.

Hannah shook her head. ‘No.’ It was very firm. She’d deal with the drug. She could push it out of her own system now that she knew what she was dealing with.

‘Yes,’ he countered. ‘You’re in no condition to try it yourself. You know these things can be tricky. Hold still. And the next time you accept a drink from a man, friend or not, use your gift to make certain there’s nothing wrong with it.’

No wonder the man set Joley’s teeth on edge. Hannah was no amateur—and neither was Joley. Ilya might think he was more powerful, but the Drakes could take him if they had to—as long as they didn’t open themselves up to his magic. She tried to pull away, to stand on her own so that she could reverse whatever was wrong with her, but she was too dizzy.

Ilya’s hand settled on her stomach, his arm around her, clamping her in place. He was enormously strong and having him take her over with so many people within screaming distance kept her silent. She felt warmth flow from his palm, through her skin, and into her churning stomach. She didn’t want this, but there was no way to stop the flow of power from him to her. She felt their spirits connect. She flinched away from him, catching glimpses of things she didn’t want to ever see or know about—dark, ugly things that belonged buried.

She felt heat, her temperature rising. Worse, she felt him in her head. Instinctively she knew what he was after. Even while he was healing her body, he was searching for memories of Joley—of her power—her abilities. He wanted to know the precise strength.

Frantic, Hannah shoved at him, raising her arms toward the wind.

Ilya caught her wrists and yanked her hands to her sides. ‘There is a price for everything.

This is my price.’

Hannah shook her head, furious. ‘You betray everything you’re given and you don’t deserve your gifts. Stay out of my head. I wouldn’t trade my sister for my own life, my dignity or my virtue.’

His hand slipped around her throat. ‘You know nothing about me.’

Hannah stared at him, refusing to look away or be intimidated. If he wanted to throw her off the balcony for telling the truth, let him do it. She wasn’t giving up Joley, not for anything. ‘I know I don’t want you near my sister. Whatever game you’re playing, know we will defend Joley with our lives—not just me, but every single Drake, man or woman, child or adult, alive today.’ It was the absolute truth and she let him see the reality in her eyes.

‘I am familiar with danger, Miss Drake.’

There was no doubt he was. She felt it in him, read it in his memories—terrible things—things she couldn’t comprehend in her world. She’d grown up with loving parents, her family close, the village where she lived close-knit and protective. His life, from childhood, had been one of violence.

He frightened her. Not her normal panic over nothing, but truly, deep down to the bone frightened. She knew her sister drew men like a magnet. She was elusive and wild and screamed sex on stage. Hannah glanced at his boss. Sergei Nikitin had been pursuing Joley across three continents. Was that what Ilya was up to? Was he going to use his psychic talents to put Joley in Nikitin’s very dirty hands?

‘Let go of me,’ she demanded. The heat from his palm had turned scorching, searing through blood and bone and invading every tissue of her body, but she felt better, her head clear. There was no doubt she’d ingested a drug. After all the security lectures by Sarah, she felt stupid. She never drank, was always careful, and now, when she needed her wits about her, Ilya Prakenskii had not only witnessed her stupidity, but had to save her from it.

‘I’ll let go if you don’t do anything stupid like call the wind.’

Hannah threw back her head, eyes glittering, fairly shooting sparks at him as her temper began to rise. She always stayed in control—unless Jonas provoked her. Tempers weren’t a good thing when one wielded power, but the bodyguard deserved everything he was about to get.

Tiny flickers of flame ran up her fingertips, over her hands to her wrists, where his fingers had settled into a viselike grip. He snatched his hands away as the flames flashed over him, hot enough to warn him off. He stepped back.

‘Good party trick. You should have used it on your friend.’

‘Thanks for your help.’

His cold eyes slid over her, his face without expression. ‘I can see how grateful you are.’

‘I am grateful. But I’m not stupid.’ Although she had been for accepting the drink in the first place. ‘I don’t want you near Joley.’

‘Why are you so worried?’

She couldn’t read him. Whether she was touching him, or standing close, she should have been able to read his thoughts and emotions, but he was a blank slate. The glimpses of violent memories were gone. She studied his face. He looked dangerous. It was in the set of his shoulders, the fluid way he moved and the direct, cold eyes.

‘Why would you be worried about Joley?’ Ilya dropped his voice until it was a low whisper, impossible for the sound to carry farther than her ear. ‘She’s a spell-singer, isn’t she?’

Hannah’s heart lurched. She struggled to keep her face composed. She blinked. He noticed. He noticed everything. ‘I’m not certain what you mean.’ There were few spell-singers in the world, not legitimate ones, not like Joley. She could call on the power of the one perfect note that supposedly had been used to create the world. The forces of the world, of the universe itself, could be drawn to do her bidding. In the hands of someone like Sergei Nikitin, Joley would be a weapon of destruction. He had no way of controlling her, or holding her—unless Ilya Prakenskii had the same talent. Was that even possible?

She resisted the urge to wipe her hand over her face, certain she was beginning to sweat.

Was Prakenskii strong enough to control Joley? The thought was terrifying.

‘You look pale, Miss Drake,’ Nikitin said, his smile solicitous. And false.

Hannah’s muscles clenched. She felt trapped. She managed a smile, slipping into her professional mode. No one could look haughtier than Hannah Drake. She even put one hand on her hip and struck a pose, as she flashed her small disdainful smile. ‘I’m feeling much better, thank you, Mr. Nikitin. Did you enjoy the show?’

‘I couldn’t help but think none of the clothes would suit your sister. Joley has her own style. Don’t you agree?’

She didn’t want Nikitin even saying Joley’s name. Without conscious thought, she stepped toward the rail, her hands moving up and out. Prakenskii glided forward, wrapping his arm around her waist, pinning one arm to her side, firmly catching her other arm and bringing her wrist to his face as if examining it.

‘You aren’t injured, are you?’ he asked, his blue eyes like daggers. You will be if you threaten him.

The threat was clear in her head, as if he’d spoken the words out loud. He was telepathic, which she knew. Joley complained he often spoke to her. And now he was in Hannah’s head as well. The situation was getting worse and worse. It was no wonder she’d seen three rings around the moon. It was no wonder she’d been afraid to come on this trip alone. She should have considered that Sergei Nikitin would show up at Fashion Week in New York. He was always where the action was. Few people knew him for what he was.

Hannah refused to engage in a telepathic conversation with Ilya. The more he knew of her, the more power he would wield—and he was definitely looking for information on Joley. All this time, she had thought Sergei Nikitin was interested in her sister. Joley’s public image was wild, a party girl. Recently there had been a terrible scandal, pictures of Joley with her long dark hair, pressed up against a window nude with her mysterious lover draped all over her. Only Joley had dyed her hair dark after the pictures had been taken, and she’d allowed the scandal to hit her full force, when the pictures weren’t of her at all. Nikitin’s interest might not be in the party girl at all and that meant they had a huge problem.

‘I’m flying to Madrid tomorrow to catch your sister’s concert,’ Nikitin persisted, ignoring the fact that his bodyguard was holding Hannah captive.

‘She’s very good,’ Hannah said politely. ‘You’ll enjoy it.’

‘I’ve missed few of her concerts,’ Nikitin said. ‘She’s a wonderful performer. There’s something extraordinary about her voice.’

Hannah stiffened. She couldn’t help herself.

Ilya tightened his hold. Don’t react. He knows nothing of Joley beyond that she’s beautiful.

Could that be true? And even if it was, why would Ilya warn her? She had never been so confused in her life. She wasn’t made for intrigue. She forced her body to relax. Ilya let go of her, but he didn’t step away. She’d already seen how fast he was and she wasn’t about to let him stop her again. It only made her appear weak.

‘I agree with you, Mr. Nikitin,’ Hannah said, polite as a child, ‘but then I’m her sister so I’m prejudiced.’

‘We’re staying at the same hotel, and we’re having a party there in a couple of hours, just a few selected friends,’ Nikitin continued, ‘if you’d like to join us.’

Hannah opened her mouth to say no. It was the last thing she wanted to do, party with Nikitin and his friends behind closed doors.

‘What a generous invitation, Hannah,’ Greg said, coming through the French doors just as the Russian issued his invitation. ‘Mr. Nikitin. I believe we met in Paris.’ He extended his hand and Nikitin took it.

‘Of course.’ Sergei turned on the charm, his white teeth flashing, his head inclining graciously, royalty to peasant.

Hannah found it interesting how Greg nearly fawned over him. Nikitin wielded a lot of power with his money and connections. Few wanted to know if the rumors about him were true. He had money, more than he knew what to do with. He often threw that money behind a new designer and he more than once had helped build careers. His parties were famous and everyone wanted an invitation—with the exception of Hannah. She couldn’t ignore the rumors because being close to Nikitin was enough to reveal the ugly way he made most of his money. He appeared suave and sophisticated, but he had his hand in everything from drugs to murder. No one had proved it, and Hannah sincerely doubted that anyone ever would. He knew too many politicians, too many of the rich and famous.

No one wanted to know he was dirty.

‘Greg.’ She was disgusted with the way the man was ready to sell his soul for an invitation. ‘We should go.’

Nikitin glanced at his watch. ‘We have a couple more people to say hello to and then we can all go back to the hotel.’ His focus was entirely on Greg now.

‘We’d love that,’ Greg agreed, taking Hannah’s arm.

It was a sure sign he wanted to go. He knew as well as she did that the invitation hinged on her accompanying him. Hannah kept her smile in place. All she had to do was make it to the door. The balcony didn’t feel safe anymore. Nowhere around Nikitin was safe. She could just go along with the plan, and as soon as they were outside, she could have the doorman hail a cab for her.

She stole a glance at Ilya. He looked the image of the perfect bodyguard, fading into the background, his eyes moving restlessly, watching the rooftops, the windows from the building across the street. It was fascinating really, how he saw everything, heard everything, was aware of things no one else even considered. He was fully aware she intended to bolt the moment she was out of the building. She waited for him to say something, but Ilya simply followed Nikitin and Greg, who kept hold of her arm, back into the room.

The noise was deafening and hit her hard. The crush of bodies gave her claustrophobia.

The room had been packed before she’d gone out onto the balcony, but now there was hardly room to maneuver. People called out greetings and congratulations as they worked their way through the crowd. Greg’s fingers slipped off her arm and she quickly moved away, heading toward the door and freedom.

‘Hannah,’ Sabrina greeted her, catching both of her hands. ‘I can’t believe you’re still here. You look pale, hon, are you all right?’

‘I’m leaving now. A quick appearance and then I’m gone,’ Hannah said.

‘Your trademark. Do you think you can make it to the door? We should have brought a couple of really big bodyguards to get us through the crush.’

Sabrina turned with Hannah and began to work her way through the crowd. ‘I was hoping someone important would ask me to another big event, but so far nobody important has bothered. I swear, Hannah, you don’t even want it and you have this awesome career and I’m dying to be in your shoes and I can’t get anywhere.’

‘That’s not true, Sabrina.’ Hannah was trying to see over the mass of people, judging how far it was to the door.

She was tall, but there were just too many bodies and she couldn’t see beyond the swarm of people crushing them. She glanced behind her. Nikitin and Ilya were following fast, the crowd parting for the bodyguard. Her agent hurried to keep up with them, determined not to be left behind. It was no wonder she suddenly felt sick with fear. They were trying to catch her before she got away.

Ilya called out to her, suddenly breaking away from the other two men and shoving partygoers out of his way. Hannah’s heart lurched and she whipped her head around, nearly bumping into Sabrina as they tried to push their way forward.

‘What’s wrong?’ Sabrina demanded, glancing over her shoulder. ‘Is that man chasing you?’

‘Yes,’ Hannah admitted, too frightened to lie.

‘Who is he?’ Sabrina inserted her shoulder into a slim opening between two men and pushed her way through, dragging Hannah with her.

‘Nikitin’s bodyguard.’

‘Good grief, Hannah, why are you running? Everyone who’s anyone will be at his party—unless you did something to Nikitin. You didn’t, did you?’ Sabrina risked another quick glance. ‘He’s catching up, move faster. Did Nikitin make a pass at you?’

Hannah’s heart thundered in her ears. With every step, terror gripped her harder. She walked faster, bumping into people as she threw quick, nervous glances over her shoulder.

Hannah! Stop right now!

The order was sharp and clear and pain burst through her head as she felt the lash of a holding spell. She broke it, whipping her head around toward the door. It was right there.

Freedom. Two more steps and she would be outside, where she could call on the forces of nature to aid her. She collided with a large body and a hand gripped her arm to steady her.

‘WHY hasn’t she gone back to the hotel?’ Jonas demanded, pacing as he watched the television set. ‘You’d think she’d at least check her cell phone. She didn’t even check her messages after the fashion show. She didn’t need to attend the party. That’s not part of her contract, is it?’

Sarah sank into a chair and stared at the screen. The party was in full swing, reporters interviewing designers and movie stars rather than the models. She caught a glimpse of a couple of the other runway models she knew by name, but Hannah had disappeared into the crowd. The entire scene was crazy. Loud music, outrageous clothes, too many famous people all vying for the camera. There was no way to find Hannah in the crush, unless a reporter wanted an interview and Hannah never gave interviews. Still, she watched, straining her eyes.

Jonas was so edgy he was affecting the Drake family home. The walls rippled with the tension filling the house. It seemed difficult to breathe, the air too thick. Sarah couldn’t look away from the screen, afraid if she did, something horrible would happen.

‘There’s Sabrina.’ She sat up straighter, her eyes glued to the dark, sleek-haired woman as she pushed her way through the crowd. ‘She looks like she’s talking to someone else, just out of the camera’s view, Jonas. I’ll bet that’s Hannah and they’re leaving.’

The camera panned a wider view and Sarah caught a glimpse of Hannah. She appeared to be hurrying, her long hair flowing behind her, her face strained as she glanced back over her shoulder. Several feet behind her, Ilya Prakenskii shouldered his way through the mass, clearly chasing her. Sergei Nikitin and Hannah’s agent followed in the bigger man’s wake.

‘Oh, God, in front of you, Hannah,’ Jonas shouted, suddenly rushing toward the television. ‘In front of you, damn it, look in front of you. Oh, God, no! Hannah!’

He drew his gun, an automatic gesture, but there was nothing he could do as Hannah turned her head and the knife slashed across her face. He watched helplessly, the arc, the man’s determination as he relentlessly kept driving the knife home. Her face. Her chest.

Her abdomen. She brought up her arms, a pitiful defense against a madman. He kept slashing and stabbing, over and over, using his body strength with every swing.

Jonas heard a raw, torn cry of utter, absolute anguish, knew it had been ripped from his soul. He dropped to his knees, unable to stand, impotent to do anything to stop the assault. Behind him, Sarah screamed and screamed.

Blood sprayed over the elegantly dressed crowd and the arm kept pumping, slashing and driving. He heard Sarah vomiting, but he couldn’t look away.

Ilya Prakenskii caught the assailant from behind, dragging him away from Hannah, controlling the knife hand, swinging hard so that the bloody blade formed an arc and was driven deep into the man’s heart. Ilya dropped him, turning to try to catch Hannah before she hit the floor. The camera panned down, but Ilya’s body blocked the shot, leaving only the sight of a river of blood soaking into long spiral curls while the reporter tried to regain his composure.

Jonas sank all the way to the floor, his mind numb, shock spreading. He glanced over at Sarah. She lay on the floor, every bit as still as Hannah had lain, pale, her breathing shallow, eyes rolled back in her head. He felt it then—the staggering weight of knowledge as the Drake sisters became aware of the enormity of the attack. He heard cries of anguish, of a sorrow so deep it matched his own.

He touched his face and knew tears ran down it unchecked. He was afraid he might never be able to stop. The door burst open and Jackson stood framed there, his face grim, his mouth set in hard lines. ‘Let’s go.’


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode