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Ed held something cold and sharp at the base of my throat. “Try to fight me, cunt, and I’ll slit your fucking throat,” he warned through tight lips.

With an unsteady hand holding the knife, he ripped down my sweats and panties in one forceful yank. Each of my gasps elicited another sting from his knife.

I closed my eyes. This is what happens when you wish for death, right?

Sometimes, wishes come true.

I only hoped that he would kill me when he was done so I didn’t have to relive this moment for the rest of my life.

Not even a day had passed since I made my promise to protect her and I’d already failed.

Ed shuffled around with his pants, and I braced myself, coming to terms with the fact that I was going to die under a bank awning in a little town in the middle of nowhere.

As no one.

Then, Ed was gone. His weight suddenly disappeared.

There was a shuffle, then a loud explosion that echoed through my ears. A familiar sound.

I wanted to lift my head to see what was happening, but my neck wouldn’t cooperate, and my head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.

Strong arms reached around my back and under my knees, lifting me effortlessly into the air, cradling me against a hard chest. I tried to fight off whoever it was, but I couldn’t manage anything more than a wiggle.

“I got you,” a familiar deep voice murmured into my hair.

King.

“I thought you were letting me go.” I said, my thoughts all swimming around each other in my head, smashing into one another.

“I changed my mind.” King’s muscles barely tensed under my weight. He covered me with a leather jacket and wasn’t the least bit strained when he walked out into the rain.

The world around me grew fuzzy. “I thought my life was supposed to flash in front of my eyes?”

“Why would you think that?” he asked. In my weakened state, I didn’t know if the concern in his voice was genuine or something I was making up.

“Because that’s what happens when you’re dying,” I answered.

“You’re not dying.”

“Oh, good. Because I don’t have a life to flash in front of my eyes. I thought whatever higher power exists up there was just showing me you instead.”

“Why would you see me if you were dying?” he asked. When I didn’t answer immediately King shook me and said something about trying to stay awake, but I couldn’t listen. I believe what I said next was very similar to, “Cause you might be all angry and stuff, but you’re really pretty to look at.” I yawned. “Why did you come back for me?”

I used all the energy I had left to open an eye and glance around King’s shoulder. Ed was slumped against the ATM, staring blankly ahead.

A bullet hole between his eyes.

King held me tighter and lowered his mouth to my ear.

“Because you’re mine.”

Chapter Ten

Doe

I awoke submerged in warm water. Every ache and bruise and sore throbbed in the healing heat. When I opened my eyes, King was hovering over the edge of the tub, washcloth in hand.

I gasped and sat up quickly, sloshing water over the side and onto the floor. I scooted to the far edge, crossing my arms over my breasts. King forcefully grabbed my wrist and pulled, removing the only protection I had against his gaze. With his other hand, he trailed his calloused fingertips from my collarbone to my breast. When he made it to my nipple, he pinched.

HARD.

I yelped.

“I’ve already seen them, pup. No need to hide them from me now.” King was shirtless, his ab muscles rippled and his tattoos became animated with his every movement.

“You killed Ed,” I blurted out. The events from the night before tumbled over each other into my mind, one horrific detail after another.

“Ed?” King asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“The guy last night,” I clarified. “The one you…”

“Killed,” King finished. “I didn’t realize you two had gotten to know one another.” King raised the washcloth. I flinched. “I’m just wiping off the mud.”

“You don’t sound very remorseful. You seem fully convinced that you have the right to be judge, jury, and executioner.” I said.

“A simple ‘Thank you, King, for saving my life.’ would do.” King said. “But what you should know, and what Ed found out, is that if you fuck with me and what’s mine than yes, I am the judge. I am the jury. And sometimes, when the situation calls for it, I am the motherfucking executioner.” My stomach flipped.

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