Why is this happening?

Minutes ago she was folding laundry, trying desperately not to cry, not to lose herself to the rioting emotions, to the knowledge that she’d made her bed with Gabe and she was going to have to sleep in it. It was just minutes ago. . . .

Fingers dug into the skin of her stomach, curling around the band on her leggings. She felt them being tugged.

Rage, hot and suffocating rage mixed with the terror, pushed her past the pain, past the confusion of what was happening. Her thoughts cleared.

She lifted her hips and maybe the guy thought she was helping him, because he shifted back, letting go of her leg. Nikki kicked out with everything she had in her, slamming her foot into his stomach.

He grunted, falling backward onto his ass.

She wasted no time.

Scrambling off the bed, her feet hit the carpet and she started running. Her movements were sluggish and jerky, slowing her down as she reached the hallway.

Make it to the door. Scream. Someone will hear you. Scream. Nikki screamed—screamed as loud as she could, but it sounded weak.

Weight crashed into her back, taking her down. Her chin snapped off the floor, sending a bolt of pain down her spine. She didn’t stop—didn’t let herself cave for a second to the pain. Not even when he slammed a fist into her back, delivering a kidney shot.

“Fuck this.” He flipped her roughly, slamming the back of her head to the floor.

She drew in another breath to scream, but his hand clamped down on her throat, stealing her breath before she realized she’d taken her last one.

Nothing could’ve prepared her for that feeling hitting every single nerve. Her body heaved as she tried to get air, but the hand around her throat was letting up.

She was going to die. She knew in that moment, he was going to kill her. Her entire life flashed in front of her. She saw her parents. She saw Rosie and Bev. She saw Gabe.

No.

No way was she going out like this.

Her arms flailed and she went for the only exposed area of skin she could see. The skin around his eyes. She went nails first, digging into his right eye as her lungs spasmed.

He howled, letting go of her throat to grab her hand, but she didn’t let go. He yanked back, but her fingers got stuck in the ski mask. He twisted his head, scrambling back on his hands. The mask got tangled for a second and then slipped free as Nikki wrenched in the opposite direction, dragging in deep gulps of air as blood and spit dripped from her mouth.

Rising to her knees, she realized the mask was in her hand. Wheezing, she pushed to her feet as he kicked out at her, missing her and slamming his boot into the wall. Stumbling forward, she looked over her shoulder.

“Parker,” she gasped, dropping the mask.

His head whipped around. Blood streamed down the side of his face—a face contorted in pain and anger. He lurched to his feet. “Told her we should’ve played it the same way we did with his other bitch, but she wouldn’t listen. Said two car accidents would look suspicious. Should’ve taken you out that first night I followed you.”

Understanding filled her and was quickly followed by horror. “Emma? You caused Emma’s accident?” Her words came out weird sounding, mushy, but Parker seemed to understand them, because he let out a roar that sent a bolt of primal fear down her spine.

Nikki spun, forcing her legs to move as fast as they could. The hallway seemed endless. Some part of her, some part focused fully on survival, knew she wouldn’t make it to the door if she tried. It knew that if he got her down one more time, she wasn’t getting back up.

Her conscience clicked off as she made it to the kitchen island. Survival was in control, guiding her hand to where the chisel kit sat, open. She grabbed the biggest one and turned.

Nikki didn’t know how it happened, just that it did.

She was holding onto the chisel so tightly with both hands that when his chest knocked into her fist, she still didn’t let go. Not even when his eyes widened with shock. Not even when his hands and fingers hit at her face, scratching at her as they slipped away. Not even when she felt the warm rush of liquid drenching her hands. Not even when his knees gave out and he fell forward, tearing free from the chisel.

He fell forward, face-first, and his body . . . it twitched a couple of times and then went still.

Nikki still held onto the chisel.

Several seconds passed as she stood there and then the strangest damn thing happened. The logical part of her brain churned on.

She needed to call the police. Yes. That’s what she needed to do.

Shuffling into the living room, her body moved without thought as she found her phone on the coffee table. She picked it up. The phone was slippery in her hands.

Numb.

She was so numb.

Nikki called 911 and she didn’t know exactly what she said to them, but they told her police were on the way and she thought they might’ve asked for her to stay on the line, but she needed to call Gabe.

She figured that he and his brothers needed to know that Parker was in her apartment and that he was dead. That she really believed that Parker had admitted to having something to do with Emma’s car accident. That was important since this . . . this would involve the de Vincents. There would be police. Questions. Scandal.

Devlin was going to be so . . . disappointed.

She didn’t know what Gabe would think.

In the back of her mind, she knew she wasn’t thinking right as she called Gabe. She wasn’t really thinking at all as she inched backward, the phone ringing in her ear. Her back hit the wall and she slid down it.

The phone rang and rang, and Gabe didn’t answer.

Still holding the chisel, she pressed the phone to her chest as she stared into the hallway, watching the blood slowly seep across the tile.

Chapter 32

Gabe reached for his phone in his pocket for what felt like the hundredth time since he saw that Nic was calling him.

He was shocked to see her name come up on his screen. He’d figured that after their last conversation, she’d rather punch him repeatedly in the nuts than call him.

What could she want?

Probably wanted him to take back the furniture he’d sent over earlier. She could hate him now all she liked, but that stuff was hers. They belonged with her.

He heard his phone ring again, but he reached inside his pocket, silencing it without looking at who it was.

Whatever it was, it was going to have to wait until the drama in his house died down enough he could sneak off and see what she wanted. Dev had come home early, and the first thing Gabe did was hunt him down.

Dev tossed back a third glass of bourbon. “I knew.”

“Excuse me?” Gabe said, surprised. He’d just sat there telling Dev everything about Sabrina, and that was how his brother was going to respond?

“I knew that she was chasing after you. I also knew she was batshit crazy when she wanted to be.” Dev walked around his desk and grabbed the bottle of bourbon, pouring himself another drink. “I, however, hoped she would grow tired of chasing you. I’d hoped that she would be . . . smarter than this.”

He gaped at his brother. “Are you fucking serious?”

Dev walked back to his chair. He sat, placing his glass on the desk. “Do I look like I’m joking?”

He almost came out of his seat. “You knew she was on me, fucking with my life—”

“I didn’t know that. The last part,” Dev interrupted. “If I had, things would’ve changed. I would’ve put a stop to it.”

“Would you have?”

His brother’s cold gaze focused on his. “Yes. Family first. Family always.”

“Then what are you going to do about it?” Gabe demanded. “You can’t plan to still marry her.”

“Of course not. It’s over. Most likely would’ve been even if you hadn’t told me or if Nikki kept quiet.” He picked up his glass. “I don’t want the Harrington empire that badly.”

Gabe sat back as he dragged a hand over his head. He was so fucking relieved he could practically kiss his brother. “Well, I’m sorry that your fiancée—”

“Don’t be. I never loved her. I barely tolerated her.”

“What was it then?” Curiosity filled him. “If you knew that she’s been trying to fuck me for about a decade, why did you stay with her? You couldn’t have wanted her company that badly.”

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