Poor Callum?

“Why would I be distraught…”

My brain jumps in to answer the question for me before I even finish the sentence.

Flashes of blood and gore flood my mind as the memory comes pouring back in. The smoking gun in Alexei’s hand. Callum sprawled on the floor with half of his skull blown out. His once beautiful hazel eyes that sparkled with life, empty of light and staring up at me accusingly.

Callum is… was… my father’s youngest enforcer. He was so eager to please, and as loyal as a damn puppy. I always knew he harbored feelings for me. I even messed around with him for a bit before I went off to find myself at university.

Fuck. I tried to use Callum to help me get away and Alexei killed him.

“Oh god,” I mumble, and sway on my feet, my white skirt swishing around me.

This nightmare is too damn real.

“Meghan,” Alexei says, sounding a little bit alarmed.

Before I can fall to the floor, his arms are around me, catching me and pulling me close.

His touch, his hold only increases my distress. I try to push him away, but I just don’t have the strength to do it.

His arms tighten. “Don’t fret, my dear. It’s all done and over with.”

Don’t fret? Don’t fret?! A man is dead because I tried to use him. A man I was friends with is dead because Alexei killed him.

Leaning as far back in Alexei’s hold as I possibly can, I glare up at him accusingly. “You… you didn’t have to kill him!”

Alexei’s face hardens as he stares down at me. His eyes are so dark, so cold, they’re practically glinting like black glass.

“Of course I had to kill him. He tried to take what’s mine.”

Any normal girl would probably be cowed by the look on his face, or at least have the sense not to push a murderer when he’s holding her trapped in his arms.

But I’m obviously not a normal girl. I’m not a very smart girl, either, for that matter.

Because I open my mouth and tell him, “But it wasn’t his fault… I tricked him into helping me. He didn’t deserve to die, Alexei. If anyone deserves to die for betraying you, it’s me.”

Alexei just stares at me. He stares at me for so damn long, it goes beyond creepy. The air seems to chill around us, his cold expression sucking all the warmth out of the room, and I have plenty of time to wonder if I just played my last hand.

He could kill me right now and no one would stop him. I have no protection. No one to help. No one to come to my rescue. Now, I don’t even have my father. I’ve been abandoned for the good of the family. We haven’t even spoken any vows yet, but I’m completely and utterly at Alexei’s mercy.

He can do anything and everything he wants to do to me.

But maybe it would be a mercy if he killed me right now, before we walk down the aisle. Then I wouldn’t have to endure our wedding night. I wouldn’t have to endure him forcing me to consummate this marriage.

But I don’t want to die, dammit. I want to live. As stupid as I am, I’m not ready to give up yet.

“Meghan,” Alexei finally says after what feels like an eternity. “I think you’re still suffering from some hysteria. Perhaps another sedative is in order?”

What the fuck? Seriously? He’s giving me an out instead of punishing me for my admission?

What’s up with this guy? And why is he showing me, of all people, mercy? Sure, I’m his bride-to-be, but this is an arranged political marriage. He’s not necessarily marrying me because he actually wants to marry me. He’s marrying me for the benefits. He could easily use this as an opportunity to get rid of me and still have his alliance with the Irish.

So why isn’t he?

I just stare at him in confusion, unable to make sense of him. Then he releases one hand from me and reaches into his tux pocket.

“No!” I blurt out and grab his wrist, fearing he’s reaching for that sedative.

If he drugs me again there’s no way I’m going to have the mental capacity to escape if the opportunity presents itself.

When he arches a brow at me, I realize my mistake.

Softening my voice, I immediately release his hand and hope my impulsive reaction doesn’t cost me my life. “I’m sorry, I mean no more sedative. I’m fine, really. Any more and I might fall asleep. Any more and I’ll be too groggy to say my vows…”

“Are you sure?” he asks, his eyes narrowing with what could be suspicion, but what could also be taken as skepticism.

“I’m sure.” I bob my head maybe a little too enthusiastically. “The moment has passed. It won’t happen again.”

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