Throughout it all, Blake’s expression didn’t change. Not even a little bit. The most disturbing thing was that the knife looked … right in his hand. The violence fit him.
He must have felt the weight of my gaze, or maybe I’d made some sort of sound, because his eyes suddenly snapped to me. He stiffened, and something close to unease flashed in his eyes.
“Kensey,” said Blake in a smooth, calming tone. It was also a warning not to move. He held up his hand and barked, “Enough.”
His men stopped and turned toward him. I realized that I knew two of the four—Rossi and Greg. Spotting me, Rossi winced while Greg mumbled a curse.
“Get him out of here,” Blake ordered without looking at them.
They immediately scooped the carpet-covered guy off the floor and dumped him into the back of a black van. I distantly registered that Rossi and Greg rounded the building while the others drove away, the rumble of the motor echoing in the garage. My attention was mostly on Blake, who’d yet to move—as if I was a cornered wild animal that he was wary of spooking.
Common sense told me to run. We were alone. He had a knife. He’d just stood by, emotionally unmoved, while his men dispassionately beat up another guy. But I didn’t act on common sense even half as often as I should, and I didn’t do it then either.
“Kensey,” he said softly. He took a step toward me, and I drew back.
“Don’t look at me like that. I’d never hurt you.” He only then seemed to realize he was holding the blade. He swore and dumped it on the ground. “That prick roofied a girl’s drink and almost managed to drag her out of the club. He had that fucking knife in his jacket. It’s safe to say that good things wouldn’t have happened to that girl if he got her away from here.”
The tight feeling in my chest got worse, because I could imagine exactly what would have happened to her. “Have you called the police?”
Blake took two slow steps toward me. “I have my own way of taking care of things. The members here know that.”
“They know that they might get wrapped in a carpet like a warped sausage fucking roll?”
“She didn’t want to report the incident. Said she didn’t want it to go public for reasons she wouldn’t share. You would have preferred that I let him walk with no consequences?” He correctly took my silence as a ‘no’ and stepped forward again. “She was only twenty-one, Kensey. He would have hurt her. He either planned to hold that knife at her throat while he raped her, or he meant to cut her.”
Inwardly, I flinched. I knew what the burn of the knife felt like as it sliced through skin like butter.
“Even if I’d called the police against her wishes, the bastard has the kind of money that means he’ll never have to see the inside of a prison cell.” Blake took another step forward; there was only a small space between us now. “You saw this in me, baby. You knew I was no choir boy or a stranger to violence.”
I gave a hesitant nod, because he was right. I’d seen the danger on day one. As he stood there, I could see what he was waiting for; what he was expecting from me. Judgment. Condemnation. Rejection. And dumb as it might be, I really didn’t want to hurt him. I had the feeling that enough people had already done that.
My gaze ping-ponged around, looking at anything but him … and involuntarily landed on the ugly blade that was lying on the cement.
“Look at me, Kensey. Baby, look at me.”
Finally, I did. And I saw understanding dawn on him.
“It was the knife, mostly, wasn’t it? It sent you to another place for just a minute, didn’t it?” His voice gentled. “Ah, baby, I’d never hurt you.”
The thing was … I believed him. “The night I was almost mugged … it happened in a parking garage.”
His eyes briefly fell shut. “Fuck.” He blew out a breath. “I’m going to come to you now, Kensey.” And then he was holding me, one hand splayed on my back while the other curved around my nape. He kissed my temple. “I’m sorry you saw that. I am. But I’m not sorry he’s in a world of pain right now.”
Honestly, neither was I.
Pulling back, he whispered his lips over mine. “We’ll go talk in my office, where we’ll have some privacy.” He squeezed my nape. “I just need to move that knife first. Can’t leave it there.”
I waited as he grabbed it from the floor, opened the trunk of his car, pulled out a black plastic bag and shoved the knife inside it. Then he tossed the bagged blade in the trunk and slammed the hood closed.
Even as a part of me insisted I was pathologically stupid, I let him then lead me back into the Vault, across the dance floor, and up a small flight of iron steps. As we stepped inside his office, the first thing that snared my attention was the framed aquarium on the wall that could be easily mistaken for a media screen. The soft carpet was a few shades lighter than the shark-skin gray walls. The large space might have been dull if it weren’t for the backlit shelving displays, ceiling spotlights, potted plants, and the bright neon colors of the aquarium.
The white leather sofas near the tinted window overlooking the main floor matched the two office chairs near the desk. To my surprise, the black marble surface was obsessively neat. No stray pens or papers or mail. The stationery, laptop, printer, and phone were all perfectly positioned and dust-free. Whoever kept this place tidy and smelling of lemons was as much of a neat freak as I was.
The office was stylish and impressive—no doubt about it. But it had no real personality. There were no pictures, knickknacks, or even sticky notes. Nothing that reflected the persona of the man who was now leading me to the chair in front of his desk.
“Sit,” he said gently. As I sank into the buttery leather seat, he positioned himself directly in front of me and leaned back against his desk. “You’re a tough girl, Kensey. Any other woman might have freaked the fuck out and ran away screaming.”
“Would you have cut him with the knife?”
He looked insulted by the question. “No.”
“Why roll him up in a carpet?”
“So that there’s no mess.” Blake adjusted his tie. “He’ll be dumped outside a hospital, which is more than the bastard deserves.” He reached out and stroked my hair. “Again, I’m sorry you saw it. Why did you come outside looking for me? Curious about my call?”
“No, I—” I closed my eyes and groaned. “Shit, this is all so fucked up.”
Blake crouched in front of me. “Baby, I can understand why this would hit you hard. You already have a sociopath in your life; you don’t need more dark shit. But I’m not some kind of soulless fuck-up, Kensey. Me and my men don’t beat people up for shits and giggles; it’s not fun for us.” He gripped my chin, pinning my gaze with his. “I’d never harm a single hair on your head. You might not feel able to believe this right now, but you’re never safer than when you’re with me.”
I couldn’t say the same for him. Not when I’d brought Ricky Tate into his life. The asshole might not necessarily be a physical danger to Blake, but he was still a major fucking problem that could disrupt his life, especially if I insisted on staying in said life.
“I mean it, Kensey. You’re safe with me.”
“I wouldn’t have come up here with you if I thought differently. But this, us, has to end now.”