I flinch at that. “Not even July?” I wince.
He pooches out his lips, thinking for a moment. “Only after I clear with Wes that he’s already told her.”
“Deal.” I sigh. I lay my head on his shoulder, letting his warmth seep into my skin, the nausea from earlier lessening the longer he holds me close. “So what’s going on, Z? What was the secret meet-up about tonight?”
He moves us until he can pull out his phone from his pocket, and hides the screen from me as he says, “These pictures are graphic, kitten. Don’t look unless you think you can handle it.”
I nod, but I already know I’ll look. It’s just my nature.
He hands me his cell, and I gasp in shock.
It’s an image of a woman not much older than me and July. She looks like she hasn’t bathed in a long time, and her clothes are dirty. She’s tied up, her nose bleeding, one eye swollen shut, black, and blue. There are also bruises on her arms in the shape of handprints.
“Mellissa Hornel. Twenty-five and a college graduate. She went missing three weeks ago. Had a date with a guy she met online. She never made it home, and three days later, she showed up for sale.” He pauses. “Flip to the next one.”
I do as he says, holding my breath. This girl is younger than Mellissa. Her blonde hair is tied up in a ponytail, her lip is swollen, and you can tell they tried to cover the bruise around her eye with makeup.
“Stacy Landon. She got a new boyfriend not knowing he’s the son of a fucking piece of shit. Her parents filed a missing person report even though the police refused to believe she didn’t run away. Her boyfriend’s dad put her up for sale three days ago. Tonight, Wes was going to buy her. But our plan was… thwarted, as you say.”
I look up at him. “Thwarted?” I squeak, dreading his response, because I know… I just know… I was the one who thwarted their carefully laid plans.
“There’s nothing… nothing, kitten… that would keep me from putting you first and foremost in my life. Not one thing. If I got a single hint that you’re not safe, not where you’re supposed to be, while I’m trying to take care of something, I’m going to drop everything I’m doing that second to make sure you’re okay.”
My lip trembles. “It’s because of me that girl didn’t get rescued tonight,” I whimper.
His hold on me tightens. “We’ll get another chance. We’re not going to stop until we stop this fucker,” he assures, and I nod against him, closing my eyes and eventually falling asleep in his arms.
“Fuuuu—fluke my life!” I growl at my cell, and Z chuckles. He doesn’t understand why I’ve been trying to retrain myself to watch my language. It’s not like we have a baby coming or anything. I side-eye him. “Stop laughing! It’s another one.”
And just like I knew he would, he stops once he knows who’s calling. This is getting totally out of hand.
I told my parents our big news about a week ago. I had expected anger. I had expected their lectures and disappointment in me. I had expected and prepared myself for all the things.
Or so I thought.
What I hadn’t expected was for my father to try to set me up with men he deemed worthy of our family.
Here I am, carrying the child of the man I love and who loves me, who I live with, and my father keeps giving out my phone number to random guys and telling them to ask me out.
And let’s just say Z does not find it amusing.
So that’s why I hold the phone away from him, where we’re lying in bed, when he tries to reach for it. “No way! You are not answering. It’s not their fault my dad is a completely messed-up douchebag. I don’t want to make the poor guy pee himself. I just want the calls to stop,” I whine.
He holds out his hand. “Kitten, give me the phone.” When I still just shake my head, he says sincerely, “I promise I won’t make him pee himself. I’ll be nice and courteous.”
I bite my lip, narrowing my eyes at him. He always keeps his promises, so I finally hand him my cell, watching as he slides his thumb across the screen to answer.
“Hello,” he answers politely, his deep voice resonating throughout the bedroom. “Yes, this is Kayan’s phone, not the wrong number.” A pause. “Not your fault, Mark. Unfortunately, you’ve been lied to. Fortunately for us, Kayan and I are very happy in a committed relationship with our first child on the way.”
My body breaks out in chills from head to toe at “first child,” and my face goes soft as he keeps his calm tone.