“I can’t tell you without putting you in danger.”

“But you want me to help you.”

“That’s right.”

“Blind faith. What the hell, I’m in. How fast do you need me?”

“Yesterday.”

“Tell me what to do.”

“Not on the phone.”

“You know where to find me. Don’t go getting yourself killed before you get to me.”

“I’m not planning on it.”

We end the call and I push myself to my feet, walking to the back of the house, not bothering with the light as I step onto the porch and lean against the wall, using darkness as a cloak. Think, Chad. Think your way out of this. You found the cylinder when no one else could. You can find a way out of this. I push myself off the wall to pace for a minute and a flicker of something to my left catches my eye—a flashlight, maybe? Every nerve in my body screams in warning, but I tell myself I’m being ridiculous. Sheridan wants the cylinder. He won’t kill me. My next thought is hurl-worthy, the obvious danger I should have considered: He could try to make me talk through my family.

The idea has me inching down the steps and squatting, pulling the leg of my jeans up and removing the Glock holstered at my ankle that my father had insisted Lara and I learn to shoot back in Egypt. Intending to seek the shelter of the wall, I inch a step forward, but freeze when I hear a sort of crackle and snap. A second later the house explodes, and I am thrown into the air. Time seems to stand still—no sound, no reality—until I hit the ground with a hard thump that rattles me to the bone, pain radiating through my body.

For a moment I’m dazed, unsure of what has happened, but then I lift my head to take in the sight of the house, burning at every corner. Emotions erupt inside me. “No! No!” Terror, pain, and grief overtake me and I am on my feet running, numb to my own injuries but bleeding fear. This isn’t happening. It can’t happen. I will not lose my family. I will not. I can’t. I won’t! I charge up the stairs and enter the burning house.

ONE

Present day . . .

DRIP. DRIP. DRIP.

“Fuck! Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

I lift my aching head that feels like it weighs a hundred pounds on my stiff neck and stare at the concrete walls of what has become my cage. Where is that fucking noise coming from?

Drip. Drip.

Feeling like I’m losing my mind, I tug at my hands, which are tied behind my back, the rope biting into my flesh. The chair at my back biting into my shoulders. “Fuuuuuuuck!”

My head drops between my shoulders and I stare at the ground.

Drip. Drip.

Red dots clutter my gaze, and I focus on the red puddle beneath me. Blood. Oh, yeah. I’m bleeding. That’s why the strand of my hair hanging in my eyes is red instead of blond.

The door opens with a loud grinding of metal and I squeeze my eyes shut, ready to die, hoping it’s time. If Jared did what he was supposed to do and saved Amy, it will be. She deserves to live. I do not. But I will not go out a coward. Defiantly, I lift my head, and I think I blink. My eyelids are too swollen to be sure. Considering there’s a gorgeous brunette in a slim-cut black skirt that hugs her curves in all the right places standing in front of me, maybe I’m dead already. Her creamy ivory skin and pale blue eyes are pretty angelic, so, yeah, I think I’m dead. Fuck, though—I still hurt all over, so I must have gotten what I deserve. I’m in hell, and the devil is a hot bitch playing games with me. But I could think of worse nightmares. Like my life.

Drip. Drip.

Or not. The dead don’t bleed, and since I sure the fuck am, I guess that means she’s not here to be my new personal assistant in hell. My happy bubble bursts, and I give my new bitch a smirk, eyeing her with a nice long inspection meant to make her feel uncomfortable, and to send me to my hell with at least a little pleasure.

“Sweetheart, you’re going to need a whole lot more than stilettos and great legs to get me to talk, though I’m pretty sure I have some moans left in me. I’ll let you have a few, too.”

She pulls a knife out from behind her back. “Ah,” I murmur. “You like it kinky, do ya? I guess this is where things get interesting.”

“Yes, Chad,” she murmurs, her voice as sexy as her legs. “It is.” And then she and her knife move just where I want them—nice and close, the steel pressed to my jawline, my five-day stubble providing a layer of protection I doubt she’s counting on. Her eyes meet mine, and they are cold, blue, and unreadable, the kind of eyes that make a man want to fuck a woman until she begs for more, just to prove he can do it. I wait for the blade to cut me. I hope for it, but it doesn’t come.

“Get naked, sweetheart,” I order roughly, intending to rattle her, to get under her skin, and to ensure I win this hand of poker, not her. “At least then you’ll have my attention. It’ll give whoever’s watching through that camera in the corner the thrill of a lifetime, too.”

Apparently unintimidated, she settles her hands on my shoulders, the blade still in one of them, and I’m just about to make a smartassed comment about her breasts when she brings her knee between mine, giving my groin a calculated nudge. “Now do I have your attention?” she hisses.

“Good try,” I reply glibly, pretending I didn’t just have an oh shit moment, “but I prefer your hand, or other body parts. I’m certain you would mine as well.”

A frustrated purring sounds in her throat, sexy enough to get me hard if she hadn’t just caused my balls to retract damn near to my nipples. “This isn’t a game,” she bites out, thankfully dropping her knee rather than planting it—but her fingers, and the handle of the knife, remain on my shoulders. “Sheridan might need you alive to get what he wants,” she continues, “but you underestimate him if you think he won’t start chopping off body parts.”

Lisa Renee Jones Books | Romance Books | The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Series Books
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