“Five hundred and fifty,” the man repeats as he inputs the number into the little pad he’s using.

The number was sitting there, waiting for me to bid. And like the fucking asshole I am, I’ve all but laid my dick out on the table, daring anyone to come and try to measure up to me.

We sit there for a full thirty seconds. I know some asshole out there is probably trying to figure out how high I am willing to go.

“You are the winning bidder. The funds are being taken now.”

Standing up from the chair, I say, “Fine.”

A flicker on the screen catches my attention, and even though I know I shouldn’t bother looking back at it, I do.

God dammit. My stomach drops to the floor and if I could kill every motherfucker here with my bare hands, I would.

There, on the large screen, is a boy no older than six. Blue-eyed, brown hair, with fair skin and freckles. He looks like the Norman Rockwell boy.

The bidding jumps quickly to ninety thousand, but then starts to taper off.

“I want to win this bid too. Put two hundred thousand on the table now,” I say, trying not to growl.

“Yes, sir.” He must be used to my ways because he doesn’t even bat an eye.

“What the actual fuck?” Simon says in disbelief.

Thirty seconds later and I’m now the proud owner of Beth and some little boy.

Looking through the rest of the auction roster, nothing else stands out.

I’m already in way over my head, but fuck it. Sometimes you do what you must.

Standing back up from my chair, I walk over to the man and motion to the door for our cubicle.

“I’m done here.”

“Sir, the auction is still going on. I assure you there are more to bid on.”

Towering over him, I look down in his eyes. “I said I’m done.”

I’ll give the Russian prick some credit, he holds out on me for a full second before licking his lips nervously. “I will take you to processing now, yes?”

Motioning to the door, I say, “Yes. Get my client’s property ready for transportation.”

Simon continues to berate me as I stand quietly in a corner office, looking out the small dirty window. Walking to this office gave me a chance to look into the windows of others, and while I’m not the only person waiting in one of these booths, there aren’t that many other people.

Behind me, the door opens, and when I turn around I see Beth getting shoved into the office with a black hood over her head. Her body has finally been dressed in a hospital gown. The boy follows behind her in a pair of pajamas.

Fucking hell.

The little boy has his hands clutched tightly on her arm as he whimpers under his black hood.

“Your property, sir,” my Russian aid says to me.

“Thanks. Can we leave now?”

I can see Beth’s shoulders jerk in response to my words. I don’t know if she recognized my voice, but something in her posture has changed.

Fuck, I need to get them out of here.

Nodding his head, he walks forward. He has two chain collars, the kind they put on dogs, in his hands. Dropping them over the two’s heads, he gives each attached leash a test pull.

The resulting gagging sounds turn my stomach into a raging inferno.

Snapping the leashes from his hands, I growl at him, “Do not harm my client’s property.”

Pulling on the leashes, I walk out of the office and head back down the hall they led me through. I don’t yank on the leashes, but I make sure they don’t have time to lag behind.

Marching through the warehouse then out into the pitch-black night, I head to my car. Keeping them close, I start muttering under my breath when I get close to the car. “I’m out. Two in tow.”

“Roger. One is out of building with two friendlies coming out.”

James’s voice comes through the comm. “Got two Russian dicks watching you through the widows. Another five surrounding the property.”

Getting to the Lexus, I push the boy into backseat and fasten his seatbelt as quickly as I can. Then I grab Beth by the arm and pull her to the front passenger seat.

Whatever she thought when she heard me speak back in the office has been forgotten as she quietly tries to struggle out of my hands.

Her flight or fight response is kicking in as I open the car door.

Grabbing the top of the bag, I yank her head close to my lips and growl in her ear. “Beth, calm the fucking hell down.”

Her body goes limp and I’m thankfully fast enough to catch her. Lifting her in my arms, I settle her in the seat before strapping her into the car.

When I finally get into my seat, I let out a deep breath. Almost done here, I just need to get the fuck out of here.

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