My skin prickles with goosebumps and a chill travels down my spine.

“How does blowing up that restaurant and killing innocent people protect me?” I ask, hoping to push him more towards reason.

He doesn’t even blink before he states gruffly, “Not a bastard in there was innocent.”

“Yeah, but how do you know? How you can be sure?”

Both brows pulling down, he practically growls as he pushes his hips into me. “Because I know, Meghan.”

That answer just isn’t good enough for me. I need proof. I need something, anything, to relieve my conscience.

“Did you look them up beforehand? Was that entire thing planned?” I continue to push.

Gabriel makes a frustrated noise. He’s pressed so close, I can feel almost every muscle in his body tightening with tension.

Grabbing me by the face, he stares hard into my eyes as he says, “You’re just going to have to trust me on this.”

Trust him? How can I trust him when he didn’t even let me in on what he was doing in the first place?

I open my mouth to tell him just that when he cuts me off. “If you don’t, we’re dead men walking.”

That brings me up a little short.

I blink up at him. “What do you mean?”

His lashes lower and his eyes pierce through me like two sharp shards of ice. “It’s them or us, Meghan.”

Them or us… a familiar excuse I’ve heard my father give for his decisions. His whole reason for going after the Italians and starting the feud in the first place. A feud that took my mother’s life.

All of a sudden Callum’s face flashes through my mind, followed by all the dead men in the church. My father… my father was shot. I don’t even know how injured he was. He could be dead for all I know.

I start trembling as the reality of what happened yesterday washes over me. So much has happened to me since the wedding that I haven’t really had time to think about it. To process it.

Scowling, Gabriel drops his hands from my cheeks and reaches down, gathering me up in his arms and pulling me close. I stiffen at first, not wanting his comfort, but I’m so cold all of a sudden, and he’s so warm.

I’m drowning… sinking… and the only thing I can grab onto is the fucking shark in the bloody waters.

His hands travel over me, tender, soothing.

Too fucking tender and soothing for a man so willing to commit murder.

“I don’t want anyone else to die,” I admit softly.

Especially in a fiery inferno…

I shudder, unable to repress the memory of what happened to my mother… what probably happened to those people in the restaurant.

Gabriel releases a huff of air that whispers across the top of my head and gives me a tight squeeze before he pulls back.

Eyes finding my eyes again, he looks almost regretful as he asks, “Not even Alexei?”

I suck in a breath and just stare at him, the truth of that question slamming into me.

Fuck.

I do want Alexei to die, and it probably makes me the biggest fucking hypocrite in the world.

I try to look away, try to hide the truth inside me, the bit of shame I’m feeling, but his gaze traps mine, holding me captive.

“People are going to die, Meghan. A lot of people are going to die before this is over with, but I’m doing my damnedest to make sure it’s not us.”

I stare at him, my own personal battle raging inside of me. Part of me still wants to rebel at all of this. To refuse to accept it because it’s morally wrong.

If this were a book or movie, we’d find some way to take out the bad guys without anyone else getting hurt.

But this isn’t a book or movie… this is my fucking life we’re dealing with here.

“Fuck…” Gabriel suddenly groans and leans down, pressing his forehead against mine. “You’re so fucking sweet and innocent.”

Instantly I try to scoff. Me? Sweet and innocent? I’ve been accused of a lot of things in my life, but never those two words, especially together.

His voice drops to a growl. “Don’t try to argue with me on this. You are.”

I roll my eyes and his grip tightens on me.

“You are,” he insists. “You’re fucking pure compared to me. And if there was any way I could spare you from all this shit, if there was a safe cage I could lock you in to protect you, I would.”

Bristling at the thought of him locking me in a cage, I narrow my eyes at him. “Just try it…”

Gabriel chuckles, and before I can completely comprehend what’s happening, his head dips down and his mouth covers mine.

He forces a kiss from my lips. Pulling and sucking with determination until I finally stop fighting and start to give in. “And that’s exactly why I need you. I need you by my side, Meghan.”

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