I won’t die like this. Not like this.
My gaze doesn’t leave his as he angles his head, reaching up to grip the hood of the trunk with both of his hands. The sun’s gone down and wherever we are, there are trees. Lots of trees.
Staring up at him, searching for a clue as to where we are, it’s hopeless. Yellow light slips through the crisp dead leaves above us, giving way to a deep blue sky that’ll soon turn to black night, and there isn’t a damn thing else to see.
Nothing but his handsome face, and the way his broad shoulders pull that jacket a little too tight.
Let him think you’ve given up. Don’t die like this. Use him. Use him to find out what happened to your sister.
The voice in my head comes out as a hiss. And with the reminder of Jenny, tears prick at my eyes. Through the glossy haze, I see the man’s expression change. Jase’s hardness, his cockiness, it all dims to something else.
My breathing slows, and the adrenaline wanes.
My fight isn’t over, but I’ll give in for now.
“We’re going to have a conversation, Bethany.” Jase’s words sound ominous and they come with a cold gust of wind from the late fall air. Both send a chill down my spine and leave goosebumps in their wake.
“Nod if you understand.” His hardened voice rises as he gives me the command. Loathing him and everything he stands for, I keep perfectly still, feeling the rage take over anything else. His eyes blaze with anger as he grips the hair at the nape of my neck, pulling my head back with a slight sting of pain and forcing me to look at him. “You need to play nice, Bethany.” If I could punch him in the throat right now, I would. That’s how nice I’m willing to play.
He lowers his head into the darkness of the trunk, sending shadows across his face that darken his stubbled jaw and force his piercing gaze to appear that much more dominating.
A heat flows in my blood as my breathing stutters and he brings his lips down to my neck. They gently caress my skin and with the simple touch, a spark ignites down my body. A spark I hate even more than I hate Jase himself.
His next words come with a warm breath and another tug at the base of my skull as he whispers, “You’re going to listen to me, Bethany. You’re going to do what I tell you… everything I tell you.” The way he says the word everything dulls the heat, replacing it with fear, and for the first time, I truly feel it down to my bones. Standing up a little straighter, but still keeping his grip on me, he asks with a low tone devoid of any emotion, “We’re going to have a conversation, isn’t that right?” He loosens his grip on the back of my neck as he waits for my response.
I wish his gorgeous face was still close to mine, so I could slam my head into his nose.
With a tremor of fear running through me and that image of him rattling in my head, I nod.
As a small smile drifts along his lips and he nods his head in return, I welcome the cold gust that travels into the trunk.
He may think he can use me, but I swear to everyone, living and dead, I’ll be the one using him.
Hope is a long way of saying goodbye.
I told that to Jenny a few weeks ago. No, it was longer than that. It doesn’t matter when, because by then, I’d lost my faith in her. Disappearing for days on end and talking about a man who had what she needed … my sister was never going to get help. I begged her to come back home, and she just shook her head no, and told me to hold on to hope.
I wanted her to stay with me. To get better.
I could have helped her, but you can’t help those who don’t want to be helped.
I can still feel her fingers, her nails just barely scratching the skin down my wrist as I ripped my hand away.
The memory haunts me as I think in this moment – this terrifying moment of waiting for his next move – I think, I need to have hope that it’s not over. I need to have hope that I can get the fuck away from this man. That I can make him pay if he had any part in her death. Jase Cross will fucking pay.
The last thought strengthens my resolve.
“You’ll be quiet,” he tells me as if he’s certain of it, a hint of a threat underlying each syllable, and I nod.
I nod like a fucking rag doll and try not to show how much it hurts when he rips the duct tape off my face in one quick tug. The stinging pain makes me reflexively reach for my mouth, but I can’t; that act only exacerbates the cuts in my wrists, still cuffed behind my back. I try not to heave when he pulls the wet cloth from my mouth, finally giving me the chance to speak, to scream, to fucking breathe.