With the palm of my hand carefully placed on the doorjamb and the other splayed against her door, I lean in to tell her that there are no answers for her in The Red Room. I want to tell her that my brother isn’t the man she’s after, but before I can say a word she hisses at me, “I know all about Marcus and the drugs and why you assholes had her killed.”
The change in her tone, her expression is instant.
My pulse hammers in my ears but even over it, I hear the strained pain etched in her voice. Her breathing shudders as she adds, “You’ll all pay for what you did to my sister.” Her voice cracks as her eyes gloss over and tears gather in the corners of her eyes.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I tell her as the rage gathers inside of me. Marcus. Just the name makes every muscle inside of my body tighten and coil.
Before I can even tie what she’s said together, I hear the click of a gun and she lets the door swing open, throwing me off-balance.
Shock makes my stomach churn as the barrel of a gun flashes in front of my eyes. She leans back, moving to hold the heavy metal piece with both hands.
Fuck! Lunging forward, still unsteady as dread threatens to take over, I grip the barrel and raise it above her head, shoving her small body back until it hits the wall in her foyer and she continues to struggle, pushing away from me and getting out of my grasp.
The gun goes off and the flash of heat makes the skin of my hand holding the barrel burn and singe with a raw pain. Her lower back crashes into a narrow table, a row of books toppling over and a pile of mail falling onto the floor as I stumble into her and finally pin her to the wall.
My chest rises and falls chaotically. My body temperature heats with the adrenaline racing through me.
Her small shriek of terror is muted when I bring my right hand to her delicate throat. My left still grips the gun. I can’t swallow yet, I can’t do anything but press her harder against the wall, smothering the fight in her as best as I can.
She struggles beneath me, but with a foot on her height and muscle she couldn’t match no matter how hard she tried, it’s pointless. Her heart pounds hard, and I feel it matching mine.
“Knock it the fuck off,” I grit between my teeth.
She yelps as I lift the gun higher, ripping it from her grasp. Both of her hands fly to the one I have tightening on her throat. On instinct, like I knew she would. Did she really think she could get one over on me?
“You tried to shoot me.” I practically snarl the words, although they’re nearly inaudible.
Struggling to catch my breath, I don’t let anything show except the absolute control I have over her. The door is wide open and I’m certain someone could have heard, although it’s a Monday and during work hours. It’s why I chose this time to pay her a visit.
A faint breeze carries in from behind and I take a step back, pulling her with me just enough so I can kick the door shut and then press her back to the wall. Her pulse slows beneath my grip and her eyes beg me for mercy as her sharp nails dig into my fingers.
The way she looks at me, her hazel eyes swirling with a mix of pain, fear and anger still, makes my chest ache for her, because I see something else. Something that fucking hurts.
She doesn’t want mercy. She wants it to end. I can see it so clearly. I’ve seen it before, and the unwanted memory is jarring in this moment.
A second passes before I loosen my grip just enough so she can breathe freely.
Through her frantic intake, I lean forward, crushing my body against hers until she’s still. Until her eyes are wide and staring straight into mine. The sight of her, the fear, the desperation… I know I’m not letting her go. Not yet.
“You’re going to tell me everything you know about Marcus.” I lower my lips to the shell of her ear, letting my rough stubble rub along her cheek. “And everything you know about the drugs.”
My mind is whirling with every reason I should walk away. Every reason I should simply kill her and leave this mess behind. She tried to kill me; that’s reason enough.
But I don’t want to. I need more.
With a steadying breath, my lungs fill with the sweet smell of her soft hair that brushes against my nose.
I comb my fingers through her hair and let my thumb run along her slender neck before I lean into her, letting her feel how hard I am just to be alive. Just to have her at my mercy.