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“Sure thing and you call if you need anything. Maddox is just a few floors up, so if you get freaked or anything, just call him. I know he comes across all broody and moody, but he’s one of the best to have by your side.”

I can tell she isn’t in the mood for me to stick around, so after a quick goodbye, I shake Ash awake, and we head out. Even though I didn’t live here that long, it’s still hard to leave the one place that I’ve thought of as my sanctuary. I wave at the doorman and head out to my car, grabbing my phone to call Beck before I head home.

Home.

My home with Beck.

As in, my house that I share with the man I love.

I’ve got the biggest smile on my face when he picks up. Asher just drops into the passenger seat and leans his head against the window. Still silent.

“Hey,” He growls into the phone.

I shiver when I hear his voice. There really is no way to describe how that man sets me on fire.

“Hey, you. I’m leaving the apartment now. I’m going to stop by the store before I head home. I figured I would make that stuffed chicken that you love so much for dinner tonight, and I have a few things to pick up anyway. Is there anything you want me to grab?”

“No, Wildcat. All I need is you.”

“Is Maddox still over?”

“Actually, we’re not there. He needed me to check something on the computers at the office, so I ran down here real quick. I should be right behind you after I finish with all of this.” He sounds so stressed. With everything he’s been dealing with, I’m not surprised. Not only losing Coop, but now, Emmy. Work, worrying about me, and not knowing who the hell attacked me is eating him hard. We haven’t heard anything since I shot Adam. For all we know, that asshole is done with us, but Beck won’t let it go.

“Emmy?” I ask, because really there isn’t any need to say anything else. He knows I’m going to worry about her. That’s why he didn’t want me to know.

“Yeah, Emmy… I’ll fill you in later, but according to her letter, she’s not coming back. She’s going to stay with a friend or some shit in Florida. There’s more, but I’ll tell you when I get home.”

There’s that word again. Home. God, that feels good.

“Promise me that you’ll tell me, Beck. I need to know what’s going on, or I’ll never stop worrying about her.”

“I know. I didn’t mean to keep it from you earlier. I just worry about you, Dee. You can’t blame me there. With all this shit swirling around, I just need to protect you. I can’t explain it any better than that. I need to protect you, even if it’s from your own mind.”

How can I be upset when he puts it like that?

“I understand, I do, but I’m a lot stronger than you think. I love you for wanting to make sure that I’m okay. Just don’t shut me out. If things start to get too much, I promise to let you know.”

“Yeah, you sure are. Fuck, I’m so proud of you.” I can hear the smile in his voice, and it matches the one on my face.

I never thought it would feel so good to let me be free from all the webs I was trapped in. Being loved by John Beckett is the best feeling in the world.

We finish up our call, and I pull out of the parking garage. With a smile on my face, I hurry to finish my errands so I can get home and into my man’s arms.

Chapter 30

“Ash?” I’m half-tempted to leave his ass sitting in my car. Hell, I’ve been sitting here for the last ten minutes attempting to get him up. If it weren’t for the awkward angle that his head has fallen, I would just leave his ass here. Well, that and I’m pretty sure he still smells like a bar and sex. Not a pleasant combination when you’re stuck in a car together.

“ASHER!”

There… I see a twitch this time.

“Seriously!” I sigh in frustration, “Asher James Cooper, wake the hell up and get out of my car!”

He peeks one dark blue eye open and just glares at me.

“Please?” I whine. His lips twitch slightly, and I let out the breath I’m holding. For the first time in two weeks, his lips have tipped up from the frown that has taken up a permanent residence on his handsome face.

“Next time, you don’t have to scream so loud.” He opens the door and unfolds his large body from my car. I expect him to just start trudging up the path to the front door, but he turns and walks to the trunk. He stands there for a few minutes, looking around. Even in his hangover and grief, he still seems to be keeping alert. Or at least he’s trying to.

I shake my head and climb out, walk around the car, and reach to pull the groceries from the trunk. Asher’s large paw crosses in front of me, and just scoops the massive amounts of groceries up. I watch him walk into the house, and I hear the sounds of him deactivating the alarm before I realize he has left me one bag and the milk. Seriously? That man was passed out two seconds ago, and now, he’s heaving my massive amounts of groceries like it’s nothing.

Not even attempting to understand how the hell he’s managing, I start to walk up the path. Even with the small load that he left for me to carry, I still have my arms full between my purse, briefcase, and groceries. My phone starts ringing in my back pocket as I walk over the threshold and into the house.

Maybe if I hadn’t have been so distracted listening to Love Sex Magic, the ringtone Beck set for when he calls, I might have noticed how still the house is.

I don’t even have two feet inside the house when I stop dead; everything I am carrying falls to the floor. I feel the milk explode and splash against my legs, but I can’t move. I just stand here, looking into the ice cold eyes of the man who beat me, and then left me for dead.

I should be worried about myself right now, but the only thing I can think of is Asher. He came in before me! He should be right here. Even knowing he isn’t anywhere near fighting form, he should be right here!

Oh, God, please, let him be okay!

“Hello, Denise. It was so sweet of you to leave the bodyguard detail to just the drunk for once. You, my dear, are a hard woman to get alone these days.” He laughs, but he sounds so mechanical, like he isn’t used to ever laughing so he doesn’t know how to make it believable.

I just stand there gaping at him, struggling to battle the talons of fear trying to sink into my skin, and keeping me frozen in place. When he moves to take a step towards me, I finally snap out of my daze.

No, just fucking no! I’m so sick of everyone trying to take my happiness from me. This is going to end now, no matter what!

“Oh, little Dee, I had so hoped you would behave like the last time we were together.”

I jump when he moves to grab me again and when he slips on the milk spilt all over the floor, I take off through the foyer and down the hall. I look in the doorways that I pass before hitting the living room. No Asher in sight. It isn’t until I skid into the kitchen that I see him on the floor in front of the fridge. I use the second it takes to make sure his chest is rising to rip my heels off and move behind the breakfast bar. I stand there with both my heels in my hand and wait, staring at the hallway that I can hear him coming down.

“Dee! Where did you go, little girl?”

Goddammit, even his voice is terrifying.

“You had to be a stupid cunt about this, didn’t you?” He walks into the kitchen, and I stand in front of Asher’s prone form, guarding him with all I had time to grab… my four-inch heels. I chance a look at the knife block, but it’s too far for me to reach without having this fucknut get to me.

“What do you want?! I don’t have your money, you sick fuck! Adam is gone, so what?!” I’m spitting mad, and thankfully the fear I first felt is gone. I’m not letting him win. I hear Asher groan, but I don’t look down. It’s only going to take a second of me taking my focus off of this guy before I lose my advantage.

He stands before me with his face hard and his hands clenched. Once again, he’s dressed in all black, but this time, he’s not hiding his face. It’s quite shocking how handsome he is. His skin is tan, hair thick and black, and those eyes... his eyes are not what you see in a man you would approach at the bar. Instead, his eyes reflect the soul of the devil. I shiver just thinking about all the evil swimming in those pale blue depths.

He starts to step closer to me, but before he can complete the move, I scream and chuck one of my shoes at him, nailing him right in the middle of his forehead. If I weren’t so worried about his reaction, I would laugh at the picture it made. My bright yellow shoe sails across the room, the heel hits his head, and snaps off from the rest of the shoe with the force of my throw.

“You bitch! If I didn’t think it would cause more trouble than it’s worth, I would snap your fucking neck in two for that shit.” He wipes the blood running down into his eyes away before narrowing them at me. “Consider that your last warning. Don’t fuck with me.”

I laugh. Really… don’t fuck with him? Not only have his own hands hurt me, but because of the shit he threw into my lap, we lost Coop. I plan on fucking with him hard.

His eyes narrow even further, and he goes to take another step, but I fling my other shoe at him. He ducks easily, but before I can move, he lunges and grabs me by my waist. I try to fight, but his strength makes it impossible. I’m just not strong enough, no matter how much I struggle. He swings me around until my back is pressed against his hard chest. I start panting when I realize he has the control now.

“You little bitch,” he growls, and I close my eyes tight, trying to keep my body from shutting down. “I’m going to say what I came to tell you, and then I’m going to have some fun. No one makes me fucking bleed without paying the price.”

I try to get free, but he still has his arms wrapped tightly around my body, pinning my arms to my sides so that I couldn’t get an inch if I wanted to. I attempt to kick my legs, but he backs his body against the wall for support and folds one of his legs over both of mine.

Fuck!

“Listen closely, and make sure you actually hear what I have to say. My employer is very pleased that you took care of the whole Adam situation, saved us the trouble of putting a bullet through his head. Unfortunately, that still leaves the unsettled debt, but he’s willing to take the fact that you so kindly sacrificed one of your own in place of a monetary payment. Such a shame about your little friend, but the blood he spilled is good enough for my boss. One less person digging in his business. Now, here’s your little warning. Call off your mutts before someone else gets hurt. I know you would hate to see your boyfriend with bullet holes through his body, hmm?”

His warm breath against my neck makes me gag. My skin crawls where he’s caressing my neck. When he keeps talking about Coop, talking about his life as if it meant nothing, I want to kill him. If he wanted me to submit, he’s going to be sadly mistaken. Every word out of his mouth fuels the rage burning inside of me.

“Do you understand, little bitch?” His hand tightens against my neck when I take too long to answer him, and for once, there is not an ounce of fear.

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