She cries out when I enter her roughly; her hands grasping for the edge of the desk but it’s too far out of her reach so she presses her fingertips against the flat wood for grip. Wrapping the back of her long hair around my hand twice, I pull her neck back as far as it’ll go, and I fuck her from behind with violent abandon.
“That’s it, Niklas,” I hear her breathy voice somewhere amid the rage that my mind has become. “That’s it…take it out on me. All of your anger, your hatred—this is how I like it, violent and cruel.”
I thrust harder—I didn’t know it was possible—and she calls out my name, over and over; her voice choked by pleasure and pain and the breath slowly being cut off the farther back I pull her head toward me.
“Fuck me like you want to kill me, Niklas.”
I grip the back of her head and force the side of her face down against the desk; pressing my full weight on top of her, my back against hers. I can’t see straight; all I see is red.
And Victor’s face.
And Claire’s face.
A tear tracks down my cheek. I grit my goddamned teeth and thrust harder. Francesca cries out, and I don’t stop until I come. And when I’m done, I pull out and lay on top of her; her back rising and falling with heavy breaths; she pushes her ass toward me, wanting more.
But I have better plans.
“You were right,” I whisper against her ear, lying on top of her, my chest sweating against her back. “Revenge on my brother is the only way I’m going to able to get past what he did.”
“Yesss, Niklas,” she whispers silkily, pushing her ass toward me harder, as if my talk of revenge and punishment and death gets her off. “You should kill him.”
I kiss the back of her neck, drag my tongue across her sweating flesh, bite the skin.
“I’m going to destroy him,” I say, and bite the other side of her neck. “Starting with where it’ll hurt him the most. But I’ll never kill him because he’s my brother and I love him.”
“So loyal,” Francesca says as if mocking me. “What will you do then?” she asks. “Where will it hurt him the most?”
I think of Izabel and say with honesty, “His Order,” before pushing a letter opener into the back of Francesca’s neck. Her body stiffens beneath mine; she chokes and I shove the metal in deeper until I hear a pop. Blood pours from the corner of her mouth into a small pool on the desk; a stream of crimson runs down the back and sides of her neck, soaking her dark hair. A few more laboring breaths and the life leaves her eyes.
I get dressed and leave her like that, lying naked across the desk on her stomach with a letter opener jutting from the back of her neck. And on my way out, I flip the lock closed before shutting the door, hoping like hell that’ll buy me at least a few minutes to get out of this place before anyone realizes what I’ve done.
But I’m stopped cold when I see one of Francesca’s sisters, the nameless one who had her eyes on me during the first meeting right before I called out the real Francesca.
There’s a gun in her hand.
“I’ll show you the safest way out of here,” she says, and then places the gun in my hand—it’s my gun, I realize.
What the fuck…?
“Come on.” She grabs my elbow and pulls me along. “There’s not much time.” She releases me when I start following her, and we take a back elevator, probably used only by the employees of the mansion, down to the ground floor. We walk briskly through the kitchen, past a dozen workers who, by the worried looks on their faces, know that whatever we’re up to isn’t anything they want to be a part of.
The sister leads me down a set of steps into a dark basement, pushing our way past industrial kitchen equipment and boxes piled to the ceiling, until we make it to a door.
“Go around the left side of the mansion,” she says with urgency in her voice. “You’ll see your car parked. I’m going back upstairs to buy you more time. If Mother goes into that room, you won’t get off the property.”
I want to ask her why she’s helping me—ask her her name even—but there’s no time for that shit. Only stupid people do that in the movies.
“Thanks. I think.”
“It’s me who should be thanking you,” she says.
She smiles, pushes open the door and I leave without another word. Only when I get inside my car, drive off the property without being shot at the gate, and get two miles from the mansion do I let out my breath. My fingers are white-knuckling the steering wheel; a vein throbs in the left side of my head—thumpthumpthumpthump in fast succession.
“You did what?” Izabel’s eyes are blazing.
Nora is laughing, shaking her head. “Oh wow, Niklas, what a way to piss your brother off.”
“Nobody asked you,” I snap.
She laughs again and looks down into a magazine.
Sian sits quietly in a window seat with her legs drawn up, knees pressed to her chest.
“I can’t believe you did this,” Izabel says 53642.70 ¸ exasperated. “This whole mission was for nothing—nothing except your revenge. Victor will—.”
She stops herself.
“He’ll what?” I challenge, feeling like I know exactly what she was going to say. “What’ll he do, Izzy, kill me? Go ahead and say it; you know you want to.”
She swallows her words, crosses her arms and rounds her chin.
“I was going to say that he’ll be furious.”
I throw my head back and laugh out loud.
“Cut the shit, Izzy—I know what you were going to say, and I know why. But don’t worry,” I go on, “he won’t kill me; not this time anyway. He’ll be pissed that I fucked up his payday, but he’ll let it go”—I point at her quickly—“I have you to thank for that.”
“Yeah—you. He didn’t kill me before because you stopped him. And he won’t kill me now, because he knows you won’t forgive him for it.”
“That’s bullshit—he’s your brother, Niklas, that’s why he won’t kill you. I have nothing to do with it.”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
Izabel shoots into a stand, her hands clenched into fists at her sides. “Is that why you came on this mission? That’s it, isn’t it?” She steps up into my face. “Your plan all along was to go so you could screw everything up to get back at Victor—for something he shouldn’t be blamed for!”
Trying not to let her screaming get too me, I shake my head and look away; take a deep breath. “Believe what you want, Iz; you’re going to no matter what I say.”
“Oh, it’s pretty damn obvious to me, Niklas”—she points her finger in my face—“everything you’ve done was for yourself—selfish, childish fucking asshole! You made Nora play the slave role so you could beat her”—she jabs the tip of her index finger into my chest angrily; her eyes swirling—“and then you fucked her to shame her—”
“Hey, nobody shames me,” Nora cuts in. “It’s all either of us wanted, Izabel.”
We ignore her; Izabel glares at me, I glare back. I want to grab that finger of hers poking me in the chest and shove her into the seat behind her, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
“And the only reason you made me play your girlfriend was so you could use me to get back at Victor”—her palm lays across the side of my face hard and a slap rings out; stunned by the hit, I just stand here, looking back at her, wide-eyed—“that kiss…” She can’t go on.
Instead of retaliation for hitting me, I want to know what she was going to say, even more.
“What about the kiss?” I ask; my cheek is stinging.
Izabel’s hand drops to her side. She looks wounded…wounded.
She shakes her head and readjusts her rage-filled expression, quickly covering up the one that made her vulnerable, the one that hurt me inside.
“Then the money,” she goes on, looking away, disappointment twisting her features. “I thought you helped Sian because…” Her eyes lock on mine again, and in them is the same disgust and hatred for me that I always saw when I looked at her after we first started working together. And that shit hurts more than anything—I know now I’m the one of us who must look wounded. “The only reason you saved her life was to—you’re just an opportunist; you spent every bit of that money because you knew it would piss Victor off. And you had no intention of ever looking for Olivia Bram!”
“That’s enough, Izzy.” A long deep breath rattles in my chest; my hands collapse into fists; I grit my teeth.
She steps into my face again, puts her finger in my face again, boldly, accusingly, unforgivingly. “You’re the person I knew you always were, Niklas—a lowlife piece of shit who thinks of nobody but himself—”
“I said that’s enough…” Breathe, Niklas, just fucking breathe.
“You’re nothing; you’re just a—”
My hands shoot up of their own accord and fall heavily on Izabel’s shoulders and I shove her into the chair; the adjustable back bouncing against the weight and coming to an abrupt stop. Izabel’s eyes are round; her hands grip the plastic arms of the seat; her head is pressed into the back as if she can’t push herself far enough away from me. With my hands still on her shoulders I lean in closer, inches from her stunned face. “You’re wrong!” I bark, putting pressure on her shoulders, shaking her. “I came on this mission because you wanted me here—I came here for you! Not for Victor; not even to take revenge on him! I came to protect you!” I point in her face, right between her eyes. “Everything that happened, with the exception of killing Francesca—.” I can’t even say it; I can’t because…I don’t know. Why do I care to defend myself to her? Fuck her! She doesn’t know me!