A masked man walked in carrying her long-sleeved T-shirt. He reached into his pocket and she instinctively flinched, but didn’t turn away. Maybe he was just going to kill her.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man muttered. “But if you try to escape, I’ll put a bullet in your head and I won’t lose any sleep.”

Iris recognized that voice. She tried to figure out from where, but her thoughts were so muddled.

“Where…am I?” Though it was difficult to force words out, she slurred them worse than she felt, hoping to play up the effect of whatever drugs this guy had given her.

“Doesn’t matter.”

He moved around behind her, his feet shuffling against the floor. When she felt his hand on her left arm, her head snapped around. Under normal circumstances she would have sensed him about to touch her, but she could barely keep her eyes open. Before she could guess what he intended, he quickly and expertly cut the restraints on her wrists and ankles.

“You can put this back on.” He dropped her shirt into her lap and crossed his arms over his chest.

With the mask, it was difficult to tell much about him, but she knew he was Caucasian, had familiar blue eyes, and likely had dark hair, if his eyebrows were any indication. And that damn voice…God, why wouldn’t her brain work?

“Get dressed,” he ground out when she didn’t move.

Her fingers fumbled as she tugged the long-sleeved T-shirt over her head, the cold and the drugs making her clumsy. “Are you planning to rape me?” The question was automatic and while he could lie to her, she was pretty sure she could read his expression. Monsters like that got a gleeful look in their eyes when excited.

His blue eyes widened in disgust before he cleared his throat. “No. None of this is about you.”

Then why had she been restrained only God knew where and why had someone taken her shirt? And where was Wyatt? “What is it about then?” As she spoke, she felt a bit more normal, if tired. Her words weren’t as slurred and her surroundings seemed clearer.


In her experience, nothing was ever that simple, but she kept her mouth shut. Mainly because she didn’t trust her voice. Just talking had taken enough effort.

He grabbed her elbow in an unforgiving grip and yanked her to her feet. “Come on.”

Despite what he’d said, panic settled deep in her core as different scenarios ran through her head. He’d said he wasn’t going to rape her, but what if there were others with him? She still had no clue what was going on or why she’d been taken. Though she could guess it had something to do with Wyatt. Maybe the guy was serious about money being a motivation. But then why try to kill Wyatt multiple times? No…there had to be more. “Where…are you taking…me?” She intentionally stumbled over her words.

“Somewhere more comfortable.” His voice was monotone, but she got a flash of some seriously white teeth. Like the guy was on a toothpaste commercial. Maybe he had veneers or… It was Zac Thorton. She recognized those freakishly white teeth from the night they’d had Sato arrested.

Iris’s heart pounded out of control, but she couldn’t afford to let him know that she knew who he was. He was wearing a mask after all, which might mean he didn’t intend to kill her.

Even though all her instincts told her to lash out and attack, it was hard enough to walk. And she knew he had at least two weapons on him. He still held the knife and she could see the outline of a gun under his shirt. It was tucked into his pants. He hadn’t been bluffing about shooting her.

She’d end up shot or stabbed if she tried to fight now. No, better to wait and strike when the time was right. She was silent as they entered a drab, concrete hallway. She tried to get a feel for where they might be, but there were no windows.

The concrete floor beneath her bare feet was dirty, making her cringe as they walked. After turning down another hallway, Thorton abruptly stopped in front of the first door. “In here.”

When he opened the door, she stared in surprise. The room was almost bare, with a simple mattress in the corner, but it wasn’t the dungeon-like conditions she’d expected. Not that it eased her anxiety much. She still had no idea what to expect from him and she hated that she didn’t know where Wyatt was—or how she’d ended up here.

“I told you I’m not hurting you. Once your husband pays, you’ll be free to go.”

Husband? So Thorton knew that she and Wyatt were married. It wasn’t exactly a secret, but still…he would definitely use this against Wyatt. She didn’t respond and he continued.

“Someone will be standing guard at all times. If you need to use the restroom, there’s one right through there.” He pointed to a door on the opposite side of the small room.

He shut the door before she could respond, but she didn’t buy that ‘someone’ would be guarding her other than Thorton himself. Why hadn’t she seen anyone else so far? If he had a strong force of men backing him, he’d be showing it off to her for the pure fear factor.

Trying not to be too obvious, she drank in her surroundings, searching for a camera. Considering there was only a mattress in the room, any electronic devices would have stood out. The tiny, dingy bathroom with no mirror was more of the same. God, what the hell was this place? Probably an abandoned…something. Warehouse or apartment building? She couldn’t figure it out.

Her mind began working overtime. She turned the faucet handle of the small white sink and splashed cold water on her face. The sensation was wonderful, the iciness a slap to her face. Just what she needed right now. Oh so slowly, a plan began to form. It wasn’t a great plan, but if this asshole wasn’t going to bind her hands, she was going to take advantage.

But first, she had to lie down. Nausea swept through her, making her dizzy. After what Iris guessed was half an hour resting on the mattress—though for all she knew hours could have passed—she was feeling much more like herself. If only that bastard hadn’t taken her watch she’d have a better timeframe. As it was, she felt as if she was working blind.

Her reflexes were definitely slower than normal, but not like when she’d woken up in that chair. She’d tried the main door but it was locked. She hadn’t heard anything from outside though, even when she knocked. Which made her wonder if anyone was even out there.

Not that she was going to attempt to escape that way. That would be too obvious.

Instead, she hurried into the bathroom and locked the door behind her. With trembling hands she hoisted herself up onto the ceramic sink. It was cold against her feet and luckily held under her weight. Slowly, she stretched up, waiting for Thorton to burst in at any moment because he had a hidden camera she hadn’t found.

When nothing happened she slid one of the cheap ceiling tiles to the side. They were yellowed with age and the one she touched crumbled around the edges. Ignoring the dust that scattered over her face and clothes, she reached up and clutched onto one of the support beams. She held her breath as she tested its strength. Letting her body go lax, she became a deadweight and dangled from the beam.

Adrenaline and the need to survive raged through her as it held.

Using the wall as leverage, she pulled herself through and into a sub ceiling. The staleness of what was likely decades of cobwebs and dust immediately assailed her. As she started to crawl across the sub ceiling, she forced herself to ignore the creepy crawlies she saw scuttling about. Not much bothered her, but spiders…a shudder snaked through her as she swiped another cobweb out of the way. Oh yeah, she was getting the hell out of here.

She continued crawling until the ceiling space grew too small for her to go any further. Her heart pounded wildly against her ribcage as she made her next move. For all she knew, she’d be dropping right into Thorton’s path.

Now or never. Reaching down from the sub ceiling, she shoved another dusty ceiling tile away. Beneath her she could see carpet and an industrial sized metal desk. The room was dark, but it had to have some source of light—maybe through an open window.

Holding onto the support beam, she lowered herself into the room. It was empty except for the desk she’d seen from above. Letting herself drop onto it, she inwardly cursed as dust scattered all around her from above.

Fighting a cough, she hurried to the window opening and looked outside. There was a string of what looked like abandoned buildings across the street. Maybe they’d been apartment buildings at one point but now they were spray painted with graffiti and the windows were either boarded up or missing. Considering the space she was peering out of had only shards of glass along the side edges of the panes, she guessed the entire neighborhood looked like this. It was eerily silent.

Where the hell were they? Had he taken her out of Miami?

At this point it didn’t matter. She had to escape and find a way to contact Wyatt. She’d figure everything else out later.

From what she could tell, she was up only one story. Not great but also not too bad. After another inspection of the single pane window, she realized she wouldn’t have to push any shards out of the way to climb through. She had enough room. Iris threw a leg over and propelled herself over the side. She held onto the edge, preparing herself for the fall. It was too dark to see everything below her clearly but she could make out a sidewalk. Letting go, she dropped toward the cement below. Something sharp pierced one of her feet when she hit the ground but she bit back a cry. As she rolled onto the ground, another pain shot through her ankle, but she forced herself to ignore it.

Using a Dumpster as cover, she crouched behind it and took in her surroundings. The row of buildings down the quiet street had definitely been apartments at one time. Now they were clearly abandoned and while there wasn’t much light from the direct area, she could see street lights a block down.

Wincing, she pulled a small screw from the bottom of her bare foot. It hadn’t punctured very deep, but it still hurt like hell. Pushing up, she sprinted along the sidewalk past a row of buildings. Each time her foot hit the pavement, slivers of pain shot up her leg, but she bit back against the insistent throbbing. She was leaving a bloody trail behind her but there was nothing to do about that until she’d put more distance between herself and her captor.