Page 33 of Corrupt Kingdom

“You don’t think I own my shit, little girl?” He steps closer, looking down his sharp but crooked nose at me. I can’t imagine how many fights he’s been in for it to look like that. I don’t want to, especially since I’m throwing attitude at him. I square my shoulders, refusing to back down to fear.

“Well, apparently not.” I let my lip tip up, calling him out on the lie.

“I know what you want me to do. You want me to tell you something. Anger me enough, right? But let me tell you this. You are a distraction, and I don’t like you. If it was up to me, I’d get rid of you. Because, believe it or not, I don’t give a shit what happens to you. Only him. And I will take you out if need be.”

His words drip with so much malice I know I need to believe him, and while I want to be scared, I refuse to. Instead, I stand taller and smirk. “Do your worst.”

He looks me up and down, and I know without a measure of doubt this man would squash me like a bug if given the opportunity.

Luckily, the moment ends as footsteps can clearly be heard approaching. It must be Cyrus, finally.

I look toward the beach, but still I don’t see the boat. Is that what this goon is doing? Running interference?

Interesting. The boat must be my best bet for survival. If I can swim to it, I have a chance of escaping.

“What is going on here?” I hear, and we both turn in the direction of Cyrus. “Z?” When he doesn’t answer, Cyrus’s jaw tightens.

“Go to your room, Ivy.”

“I’m not a little girl.”

“I said leave.” His deep voice bellows, leaving no room for protest. Whatever words that are about to transpire, I want no part of. I normally wouldn’t turn tail, but even as stubborn and bullheaded as I am, I know when to pick and choose my battles.

18

Cyrus

“What was that about?” I storm up to Z, and he has the audacity to look confused. I don’t like the fact that he’s here, nor do I like the fact that he spoke to Ivy.

“Nothing.” He shrugs.

Once I’m standing directly in front of him, I stare down at him with my eyes narrowed, and his widen in return. “I know you don’t agree with what I’m doing here, but it is not your place to question me,” I snarl.

He looks toward the house, and something passes over his features. It’s too fast to gauge what it is, but eventually, he nods his head in submission. Good. He should know his place. This is my business, my operation, he needs to know where he stands.

“Z, you are one of my most trusted men. Is this going to be a problem?”

“No.” His mouth opens and then closes. He has more to say. Probably something that will get him killed if he’s not careful one day.

“Speak,” I order.

“It’s just . . .” He pauses, thinking, and then he must decide it’s worth the risk to his life to continue because he opens his mouth, and says, “We are so close. I don’t want this to be fucked up over a girl.”

He’s not wrong. Fuck. I agree. But I’m not going to let him know that.

“We’ll do things my way. Do you understand me?”

His head bounces up and down again in agreement.

“Good.” I look toward where Ivy went and back at Z. “Now leave. I’ll call you when I need you to come back.”

The air around us is tense, and I can tell he wants to say more. Instead, he doesn’t speak. His shoulders rise and fall, and then he sighs. I watch as he walks away, back down the path toward the docks where Maxwell will pick him up.

I, on the other hand, head back to the house.

Once inside, I head up the stairs toward where her room is. I had ordered her to her room like a petulant child in a time-out. I wonder if she followed that order or if, once again, she will be a problem.

Ivy is a distraction, but there is something about her that makes me want to keep her locked up here, even if it’s not in my best interest.

You like her fire.

She’s like the sun.

Both definitions of it.

When I finally get to her room, I lift my hand to knock and then pull my hand back. This is my house, and she’s my prisoner, so I don’t have to alert her of my presence. Throwing the door open, I notice that all the lights are off. It’s pitch black in here. Other than the small streams of light coming in through the curtains, it’s hard to see.

“Why are you in the dark?” I move into the room, standing by the foot of her bed. “Sulking?” I ask with a smile she can’t see on my face.

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