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Sighing, I produce one of my video cameras. “Or I could also make this little movie public.” I pull the small chip out of a handy pen camera and play a video of him being royally blown by someone I know with certainty is not his young wife.

“You’re on your third marriage, correct? I believe this third wife wised up and had a prenup drawn too, didn’t she?”

The images keep playing to the man’s complete and utter horror.

He puts his hands on his head, groaning.

I quietly remove the card and toss it over the top of his desk. “Here. You can keep that. I’ve got my own copy.”

He pulls out his checkbook, writes the sum, and hands it over with a trembling hand. “You let someone else see that, and I’m ruined. Do you hear me? Ruined,” he whispers, sweat popping up on his brow.

I grab the check. “My interest isn’t in ruining you. We appreciate your business. But if anyone follows me out? Any word about you and me here? The video still goes live, check or no check.”

A morose silence follows me outside and to the elevator. They don’t get it. These rich men don’t get it. They think they’re untouchable, that they’ll be exempted because of their names. Of who they know.

They don’t get that the Underground wins. The Underground always wins.

♥ ♥ ♥

I CHECK INTO a cheap motel under another fake name. Tomorrow I take another flight, hit up another target, and then I’m almost done.

Shit, I’m exhausted. My muscles weary, my neck stiff. I drop my duffel next to the bed, shove my gun under my pillow, push my knives under the mattress, then I roll over to my back and exhale as I stare at the ceiling.

I think of the way she cooked for me.

The way she gave herself to me.

The way my body surged inside hers and she instinctively pushed back for more of me.

And then—the f**king way I felt when I had to leave, like I just got punched and my girl took the brunt of it.

My life has been the Underground. The Underground as a life and also as a means to find my mother. I’ve blended into it like black blends in the shadows. Nobody needs to tell me—me, king of the f**king Underground—that the Underground wasn’t made for lively little princesses. I. Fucking. KNOW.

Christ, but I want her with me.

I have lusted after this girl for months, but it’s not the lust that keeps me coming back. Somewhere in my gut I’ve always known that she was born for me. In some place, maybe long before I was born and long before I even killed, before my soul was dirty and broken, I was given this angel and I would bet everything I am on the fact that she was given to me so I could protect her. She was for me, and me for her. I’ve had no girlfriends in my life, not even an interest in any. Only f**ks. Only whores. Only bar flings. Nothing that lasted over the few hours it took me to be done with them. As if a part of me knew and I was only biding my time for this one girl to look at me across the rain one day with those eyes—and that right then nothing else would matter even a fraction of what she matters.

It’s two minutes to nine and, though I like being exact, before I know it I’m grabbing my new phone and hitting her number. One ring, two, and she answers, breathless. My stomach rips open when I hear her voice.

“Hello?” she says.

“Don’t ever answer a call from an unknown number unless I warn you beforehand.”

I can hear the laughter in her voice, beneath the scowl, of course. “Then don’t call me from a strange number, you dick.”

I chuckle. “A change of device was in order.”

“Why? Don’t you have enough?”

I shut my eyes, relaxing my muscles for the first time in days. God, she’s special. Made specifically for me.

We’ve been raised differently but it doesn’t matter. She was taught to play games while I was taught to play with things.

And yet here we are. I’m obsessed with her and she sure as f**k isn’t too far behind. Now it’s up to me to take our relationship to the next level. It’s up to me to trust her enough and respect her enough to let her know that I’m not a normal man. Fuck. Me. Running.

You don’t really want to do that, King. You tell her the truth about you and it’ll be permanently OVER.

No. Hell, I won’t let it be over.

“So. Did you just call to hear me breathe?” she prods.

“No, that’s not all.” Last time I heard her voice, she cooked for me, and then she gave herself to me in a way she hasn’t been with another guy. She welcomed me home, ruffled my hair, smiled at me, wanted me, gave me stuff I never dreamed I wanted and I’m now f**king starved like a rabid dog for.

“You mad I haven’t called?” I ask huskily, dropping my voice in case I’m going to have to do some explaining.

“I hardly noticed!”

“So you are mad. Princess, I didn’t want to leave you, not like that.” I drop my voice as a shit ton of regret tightens my chest, and I stare out the dingy motel window and think of my new Seattle apartment. I want it bad. I want my bed with the thousand-dollar sheets and the million-dollar girl cuddled right beside me. “Baby, talk,” I hear myself plead.

“What for?”

“Just talk.” Exhaling, I press the receiver closer and cling to her voice. All the sunshine in it. The way it squeezes my heart, my gut, and my balls, all in one fell swoop. The way I need it to remind myself that what I did today was just a job. A role. An act. Not all of me. She’s the only one who gets to see all of me.

“I don’t know what to say,” she finally whispers. “I want to know why you left, how you are.” Her tone gentles in a way that sends all the yearning in me spiraling outward like a hurricane. I exhale through my nostrils, trying to keep the blood in my body out of my already straining cock.

“I had work to do, but I’m good now,” I explain. “Come on, princess, talk to me.”

“Okay then. I’m lying in bed in my panties and bra.”

My brain nearly explodes. Fuck me with that. My heart slams against my rib cage and my dick punches into my jeans. I instantly picture her: lying in bed, her h*ps hugged by those panties, eyes heavy lidded, and suddenly I’m in that bed, right with her, and I’m holding her braid to keep her still while I f**k her sweet, hot mouth with mine.

“Isn’t that why you called me? Aren’t you horny?” she asks when I don’t reply.

I throw my head back and roar with laughter. I’ve laughed more with her in months than I have on my own in years. “Princess, I’m horny with anything that has to do with you, but that’s not why I called.”

“Oh. Why then?”

I keep picturing her in that bed. Yeah. With me right next to her. “You wearing your braid yet?” I have to know. I still can’t figure out how she so easily grabs so many strands of hair and winds them all perfectly together, silken, gold and lovely when they fall in that braid against her slim white neck.

“Yes, I am.”

“You chewing your lip?”

She giggles softly. “Yes.”

I smile in wolfish delight. “I want to suck that lip, baby, but what I most want right now is to be there, kiss the shit out of you, and f**k you without a rubber. I’m going to get tested, so next time I f**k you, I’m not wearing one. Would you like that?”

“Yes, please. One Greyson without a rubber, and can you make that an express order?”

My chest floods with tenderness at how playful she is. “Yes, baby, I will, but I didn’t call to hear myself talk. I want to hear you. So talk to me, princess.”

“What about?”

“What else? About you, baby.”

“All right, so that girl who wanted my Mustang? She went up a thousand and I accepted.”

I groan and slam my palm to my forehead, then drag my hand roughly down my face. “Princess, I’m telling you . . . sell something else. Not your car. You need your car.”

“It’s all I have to sell, Grey.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yes, I’m sure. My car is all I have to sell.”

“The necklace I gave you, that’s not sellable?” I bluntly come out and say it.

“No.”

“No? Why not?”

“Because it’s all I f**king have of you!”

My heart thuds once at that admission, then keeps on thudding from the frustrating urge to assure her, in person, that’s not the case. “Nah, that’s not true.”

“It’s all I have, Greyson. I spend days alone and all I have to know you exist and remind me you’re going to call are these stones. They’re all I have of you.”

“You got me, princess. Jesus! Do you not see what you’re doing to me? You have all of me, Melanie. I’m states away and I feel like half a man, I feel like I’ll tear something apart if I don’t see you soon with my own two eyes . . .” I trail off.

What the f**k am I doing? Is this f**king Oprah here? I press my palm into my forehead and breathe. Shut the f**k up, you f**king pu**y!

She softens her voice like she understands. “Greyson, when are you coming home?”

Home.

God, I love that she calls wherever we are together “home.”

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