Then he informs me, “It’s time, Meghan.”

Any sympathy I was feeling for him immediately evaporates in a cloud of anger.

“No,” I say firmly while straightening to my full height and throwing my shoulders back.

Alexei may scare the bejesus out of me, but my father is an entirely different matter. He doesn’t frighten me in the least, and standing up to him might be my ticket out of this mess.

“Meghan…” my father sighs, and instantly a dozen more wrinkles that weren’t there a moment ago line his face.

“No,” I repeat, my hands clenching into fists. “I won’t marry him. You have to call this off. I won’t fucking do it.”

Before I even get a chance to finish my refusal, my father makes a motion with his hand, frowning like he expected this.

A big, beefy thug suited up in all black steps around him and begins to approach me. The thug is no one I recognize, so he must be Russian.

Another Russian to deal with me. What the fuck happened to my fellow Irish?

“Don’t make me do this, Meghan, love,” my father says as I back away from the thug, throwing my hands up. “Come along nice and peaceful now, and let’s have us a lovely wedding.”

“If you want the wedding so bad, why don’t you marry him?” I spit back as my spine hits the wall.

“Would if I could,” my father mutters under his breath just as the thug grabs me roughly by the arm.

I try to shake the thug off, and his fingers bite down, digging into bone.

A whimper of pain and anger escapes my mouth, and I lash out, kicking the thug hard in the shin.

The kick doesn’t faze him one bit.

“Now, now, Igor, gentle now. She’s my daughter,” my father says with reproach.

Igor’s grip immediately loosens.

Igor… of course the thug’s name is Igor. Fucker looks like an Igor, I think as I try to yank my arm back.

“Sorry, boss,” Igor says, his Russian accent grating on me.

I’ve heard enough Russian accents today to last me a lifetime. I swear the Russian accent must be the ugliest sound in the universe.

Like nails dragging across a chalkboard.

I give another hard yank on my arm, trying to take advantage of Igor’s loosened grip, but like the annoying bottom feeder he is, he remains latched on.

“Meghan, lass, if you don’t calm down and cooperate, I’ll have to give you something to calm you.”

My eyes snap to my father in disbelief. Is he threatening to drug me, just like that monster Alexei?

“You wouldn’t…” I challenge, but as soon as the words leave my mouth, I know deep in my heart that he would and he will.

I no longer expect him to treat me with any sort of respect or dignity. No, he’s shown how much he truly cares about me by trading me away and forcing me to do this.

Igor looks at my father expectantly, and with another sigh my father nods his head in agreement of something.

“I don’t want to. Believe me, I don’t want to resort to this, but you give me no choice, lass…”

No choice? I give him no choice? Oh that’s rich, coming from him.

One beefy hand still locked around my arm, Igor reaches into his pocket and pulls a syringe out.

“No!” I cry out as Igor lifts the syringe up to his mouth and bites the plastic tip off with his teeth.

I start to throw my weight forward, trying anything and everything to get the brute off my arm.

Igor spits the plastic tip out and orders me to, “Stay still.”

Ignoring him, I slam my heel down on his foot and watch with satisfaction as he lets out a yelp of pain.

My satisfaction is short-lived though when his grip tightens. No matter how hard I fight him, he has no trouble straightening my arm out against my will.

I slap at him and even make a grab for the syringe. As soon as I do, he lifts it high out of my reach and gives my trapped arm a twist.

The resulting pain causes my knees to buckle beneath me.

I drop to the floor.

Igor looms above me, and I watch in horror as he pushes the syringe toward my arm.

Reaching up, I try once more to slap the syringe away.

He gives my arm another twist and yanks the syringe out of my reach.

The pain is unbearable. My arm feels like it’s ripping away from my shoulder.

Looking to my father once more, I finally resort to pleading.

“Daddy, please,” I beg with tears swimming in front of my eyes. “What would mother think?”

My father reacts as if I punched him in the gut. The color drains from his face and he seems to shrink in on himself.

I wasn’t afraid of my father, wasn’t afraid to stand my ground on this, because he’s always been my safe place. With my mother gone, he was the one person I could always turn to. The one person I could always count on to at least take care of me…