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He immediately sputters, “She’s not with me, I swear. I’m back in Cali!” I hang up.

I know fear when I hear it. He doesn’t know where Tina is.

I look over at Nat and shake my head.

The only other option is Omarr. If that motherfucker hurts Tina in any way, I’ll kill him. And Uncle Jerm won’t do a thing about it now that there’s a price on his nephew’s head.

I take Nat into the conference room and call for the guys. Max, Trick, and Ghost appear in the doorway smiling and joking until they take in Nat’s appearance. All of their faces drop. They know something’s happened.

I announce, “Omarr snatched Tina this morning.”

None of them say a thing so I continue, “We need a plan. I’m pretty sure I know where he’ll take her but he won’t take her til later tonight. Thanks to my father, I have details on the place. Who’s in?”

All the guys nod their heads and we get to work.


Night falls and we’re ready to go ahead.

If I know Omarr’s style well enough, I’d say he likes Drama. He’ll most likely put on a show.

Ghost contacted Uncle Jerm, explained the situation and asked him to lower security for the night. After Tina saved his life, he was willing to go one further and offer his assistance in any way he could help.

We make our way to the factory in separate cars. The girls have been forbidden to come.

They weren’t happy about this but there is no way I’m putting them in danger. It’s bad enough I have to put my boys in this situation. At least the guys know what they’re in for.

I park right in front of the warehouse. The guys are going round back. I step out of the car and make my way to the office door. Once inside, I take a deep breath and open the connecting door to the factory.

As soon as the door opens, Omarr has his gun on me. He’s standing behind Tina, who is taped to a chair. I look into her eyes and see fear, clear as day.

Don’t worry, baby.

Omarr smiles, steps forward and announces theatrically, “The man of the hour! Take a seat, Nik. We’ve been waitin’ on you. Haven’t we, baby?”

Tina shrugs and makes a confused face. It’s genuine.


Omarr is bat shit crazy.

I walk forward and ask, “Where do you want me?”

Omarr points to the chair next to Tina and says, “Try any funny business, I’ll shoot you and make her watch you die.”

I sit in the chair and he straps me into it with duct tape tightly. Omarr glares at me for a moment before turning to Tina. He says, “Okay, baby. You got some explaining to do. How did Uncle Jerm get our conversation?”

She stammers and lies “N—Nik bugged my room, sweetie. I had no idea he didn’t trust me. I’m so sorry. He sent the tape to Uncle Jerm. I came here as soon as I found out and told him it was a fake. He believed me, baby.”

Good girl. Play along.

Omarr looks sympathetic and sighs, “I knew it. I knew you wouldn’t give me up.” He strokes her face lovingly and states, “You love me. You wouldn’t do that to me.”

And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

I clear my throat and shoot a hard look Tina’s way. I lie saying, “You gold digging whore. I knew I couldn’t trust you. You think that was the only bug? I had ‘em everywhere. The only reason I kept you around was because I like the way you suck cock.”

Tina scowls at me and hisses, “Omarr, let me out of this chair or so help me…I’ll leave you.”

Omarr’s eyes widen and he shouts, “No! You’re never leaving me!”

Tina puts on her best bitch and retorts, “Let me out of the fucking chair, Omarr!”

Omarr’s brow furrow and he sighs, “Okay, jeez, Tina. Don’t be such a bitch.”

He cuts the tape off her wrists and helps her up. As soon as she stands, she slaps him. Hard. The noise echoes through the warehouse and he rubs his cheek. He blurts, “What the fuck was that for, Tina?!”

She blinks a second then gets in his face and roars, “You kept me tied to a chair all fucking day! That’s not how you treat someone you love, O. That’s how you treat someone you don’t like! Now, do you love me?” He looks properly chastened and nods. She says calmly, “Good. Then you’ll never do that again. Will you, sweetie?” He shakes his head and she goes on, “Good. I love you, baby. But you’re seriously fucked up. I’m going to make you better, you hear?” He nods and smiles at her with pure adoration.

I’ve never seen Omarr let a woman put her hands on him without disappearing and turning up in landfill weeks later. He truly thinks he loves Tina. Or loves the idea of her at least.

Tina stands behind Omarr and wraps her arms around his waist.

Wow, that hurts more than it should. I know she’s only playing.

She stands on her tiptoes and whispers loudly, “Look at his face, baby. Doesn’t matter how much he says otherwise, this is hurting him. He loved me, O. I promised we’d hurt him, didn’t I?” She mouths to me I’m sorry.

Omarr chuckles and rubs Tina’s arm. He boasts, “Yeah, I got your girl. How does it feel to lose something you love, Nik? She don’t want you.”

Tina whines, “Omarr, how long is this going to take? I want to go home. I smell and I need a shower real bad.” She pouts, “You haven’t even fed me today. I’m so hungry, baby.”

Omarr slaps his head and sucks in air through his teeth. He looks remorseful as he promises, “Shit, I’m sorry, baby. I’ve been so caught up in this I didn’t even ask if you were hungry. I’ll get one of the guys to get you something right now.”

If I weren’t in this situation I would burst into laughter. The Tina Omarr believes he’s in love with doesn’t exist. This is the complete opposite of what my Tina is. I don’t like this Tina but Omarr seems enraptured with her.

He turns in her arms and lifts her. She yelps and forces a giggle. She demands, “Omarr, put me down!” Which he does, but not before he kisses her.

Omarr closes his eyes and plants a deep kiss on Tina. Her eyes widen and she looks at me, I can’t conceal the look of disgust on my face. Her eyes are apologetic and I nod. I know she doesn’t want to be here anymore than I do.

Do what you gotta do, baby.

He breaks off the kiss and she plasters on a big fake smile. Omarr looks so happy. I almost feel sorry for him.


Tina walks up to me, gets in my face and fake brags, “Bet you want me now, huh? But guess what, Niki? You’ll never have me. Never again.”

I lean a little closer and whisper, “When we get out of this, I’m going to ask you to marry me.” Her stunned face stills, I go on, “And you’re going to say yes.”

Omarr walks into the next room and Tina rushes forward. She whispers, “I’m sorry, honey! I didn’t know what else to do!”

I whisper back, “You’re doing a great job, baby. Keep him busy. I love you so much. The guys are out back, this’ll be over soon. I promise.”

Tina rushes back to her place just as Omarr opens the door. He comes forward with bags of food for her. She opens them, scrunches her face and says, “I smell olives, sweetie. I don’t eat olives. Like, ever.”

That’s about the only truthful thing she’s told him all night.

Every lunch time we swap my tomatoes for her olives. I love that we do that. That’s our thing.

Omarr opens the bag and sighs, “I’m sorry, baby. I’ll have them get something else. No olives.”

She smiles at him and says, “Thank you, sweetie. I’m really hungry.”

As soon as he heads out the door she takes a pair of scissors from the desk, runs forward and cuts underneath my wrists so it still looks like I’m strapped to the chair. She puts the scissors into the back of my pants and runs back to the desk.

God, I love this woman.

Omarr comes back into the room and hands Tina another fast food bag. He vows, “Not an olive in sight, boo.”

She plasters on a smile, kisses his cheek, and says, “Thank you, baby.”

Omarr walks up to my chair, takes the gun out of his pants and aims it at my chest. Tina shrieks, “Omarr, no!”

Omarr frowns and looks towards her. She immediately straightens and tells him ,“Baby, I won’t be able to eat if you do that now. C—Can you wait til I’m done, please?” She sounds a little too shaky and I know Omarr senses it. But he nods and moves to sit with her.

She picks at the food I know she doesn’t want to eat but does a pretty good job at making it look like she’s enjoying it. She even offers bits of food to Omarr who eats out of her hand like a pet. She strokes his head like a little child.

This dude is one serious case of fucked up.

After Tina finishes eating half of the meal, she pushes it aside. It’s just about go-time.

Omarr holds his hand out to her and she takes it. He leads her towards me but stops halfway and tells her, “Baby, stay back here. You don’t want to get his blood on you.”

Then he walks forward and aims the gun at my chest. He puts his finger to the trigger and hisses, “This is for Marcus.” Just as he’s about to do it, two small arms come around Omarr’s neck and two legs wrap around his waist. Tina chokes Omarr with everything she has.

Goddamn it, Tina!

Omarr tries to fight her but she has her head behind his so he can’t even hit her with the butt of the gun. He turns ashy as he tries to shake her off. I see his eyes widen and he falls hard onto his back. crushing my girl.

Tina gasps. She’s winded and can’t pull in a full breath.

Enough is enough.

I can’t wait for the guys. I have to act now.

I’m up and out of the chair. I take the scissors and plunge them into Omarr’s retreating back. He turns, howls in pain, lifts the gun, and shoots Tina.

Everything turns to slow motion.

Tina’s body jerks backwards and I feel her blood spatter across my face. Her face shows a mixture of shock and pain. Within seconds she’s lying unconscious in a pool of blood.

Tina’s a bleeder.

She’s going to bleed out.

I kick Omarr in the lower back. He howls again, rolls to his back, aims and shoots the gun again. I feel the bullet hit me but I want him dead so badly the pain doesn’t even register. Pure adrenalin courses through my veins. My vision starts to fade out and I fight hard to keep my eyes open. I stumble forward, take the gun from his shaking hands and shoot him in the forehead. I watch as the light fades from Omarr’s eyes. I feel a moment of intense satisfaction followed by the hollowness of dread.

I stagger forward and fall into the huge pool of blood next to Tina’s body.

I’m so sorry, T. I would give my life for yours.

I see darkness and shadows form over our bodies. Hands are all over us.

As I lay next to Tina, I take her limp hand and think if this were going to be the way I died, at least I was in the hands of someone I loved.

My vision fades to black.


I wake with a start.

I can’t see! And I’m being smothered!

Reaching up with my weak arms, I feel around and pull at what’s covering my eyes. I take them off and look at them.

Eye patches?

What am I? A freakin’ pirate?!

I try to swallow but something blocks my throat.

I start to panic. I can’t breathe.

A shrill beeping pierces my ears and I moan into the obstruction in my throat.

I’m frightened!

Tears fill my eyes, I begin to shake and silently sob.

“Hush, dearie, hush. It’s alright now, girlie. You’re just disorientated. Open your eyes for me, honey.”

I calm slightly at the sound of a smooth voice. I open my eyes and it takes a while to focus.

I see an older, round nurse at my hospital bedside.

She smiles and tells me, “I’ve been waiting a long time for you to show me those pretty eyes of yours.”

I’m so confused.

How did I get here? What happened?

I make the sign for choking and my nurse chuckles. She says, “Yes, you have a tube in your throat. I can get that out for you now but you’ll be sore so try not to speak.” She walks out of my room and comes back a few minutes later with another older woman. The woman smiles big and says, “Dear me, you gave us a real fright, Valentina. There were times we thought you wouldn’t make it. You lost a lot of blood. We did four blood transfusions. How are you feeling?”

Ahh, I have a tube in my throat, doctor, and I don’t know sign language.

I make the sign for choking again and the doctor touches her forehead and chuckles, “How about we get the tube out and then you answer me?” I nod and she smiles.

The nurse and doctor work together and I gag on the tube as it comes up and out of my throat. I breathe deep and even that hurts. The doctor asks me, “How are you feeling?”

I whisper, “Tired. Sore. Confused.”

Wowza, that hurts.

I put a hand to my throat and my face pains. The doctor looks at me sympathetically and says, “You’ll be sore for a while, sweetie. Getting shot is never an easy thing for the body to recover from.”

Oh my god, I got shot.

The memories drift back.

Omarr kidnaps me. Nik comes for me. I get shot.

That’s all I can remember.

I whisper, “Nik.”

The doctor smiles softly and says, “Maybe you should wait for your friends to get here. I called Natalia Kovac as soon as I was told you were awake.”

I nod but I can’t help the anxiety that coils in the center of me.

She didn’t want to talk about Nik. I hope he’s okay.

I’m left alone to my thoughts for a while. Just when I feel at peace the door bursts open. Nat stands there and when she sees my smiling face she collapses to her knees in the doorframe and sobs hard.

Seeing my friend in pain hurts me, too. I can’t stop the tears from falling down my cheeks and my throat hurts like a mother. Ghost appears behind her and picks her up. He places her next to me on the bed and I hug her weakly. She sobs into my shoulder. I look up at Ghost. He smiles and pushes my hair behind my ear.