He drops me.
I start running to the elevator, but when I spot the exit stairs just three steps away, I sprint over, grab the door handle, and jerk hard, trying to open it, yelling at it, “Come on, come on!” But it’s jammed, and I’m about to kick it open when I hear the elevator gate open and angry bellows behind me.
“Get over here, you f**king cunt!”
Which is when the door I’m struggling to open finally gives. It swings open, outward, and I’m so attached to the knob, I follow it, taking a giant step forward—only to find there are no stairs, only a five-story fall, my body plunging into nothingness as I hear the most blood-chilling, desperate call I’ve ever heard in my life—“NO! PRINCESS!”—and I crash into blackness.
My world bottoms out.
I watch Melanie disappear through the gaping hole of the open door. Something takes over me. I hear myself yelling one more time, “PRINCESS!” as I charge for the empty space. My brother lunges at me, tackling me against the wall, grabbing my arm where I’m holding my gun. I overpower him easily, slide my SIG between us and aim it right in the center of his rib cage.
He howls, and I drop his writhing body to the ground and drop the gun as I run to the empty doorway. My chest is tight. I can’t breathe. Five stories below, I see a pool of golden hair.
Derek steps out of the elevator and is instantly by my side, unrolling a piece of rope as I bark, “Lower me, I don’t want to crush her.” I grab one end of the rope as he slowly lowers me one floor, and then two, until there’s no more rope, and from two stories up, I leap down, crashing to the ground with a curse. “Call an ambulance!” I yell at Derek.
“Princess.” I roll to the side and crawl over to her. “Princess.”
She’s pale and lifeless. Streaks of blood cover her cheeks, streaming from her lips and nose. She mumbles something unintelligible.
“Baby,” I say as I reach out to touch her neck for a pulse.
I feel it, fluttering faintly under my fingers. My heart hurts in my rib cage. It hurts so f**king bad. For the first time in my life, I feel impotent.
“Melanie, stay with me.” I sound like a pu**y. Begging. But holy shit, she can’t leave me. She can’t f**king leave me.
I check the back of her neck; it’s not broken, but I’m not moving her. I don’t dare. I simply cup her head in my hands because I thought I’d never see this f**king face again and I stare at it. And stare at it. Her eyes closed, her smile gone, the blood trailing from her lips. Before I know it I duck my head and press my lips to hers, kissing her bloodied lips, my voice roughening as it starts breaking, “Baby, I told you to stay away from me.”
She’s not moving. I can’t breathe.
The room closes in on us, sucking out the oxygen. I can’t f**king breathe. “Melanie, look at what I’ve done to you.” I brush her hair back with my gloved hands. I growl in anger then pull my gloves off, shoving them into the back of my jeans, then I take her hair, silk in my hands as I tug the strands into a braid so that she won’t have to worry about her hair on her face.
I feel like I’m losing control, like I’m about to snap and nothing will ever hold me together again.
“Stay with me,” I still beg, lifting her hand to my lips and kissing it, over and over. “Don’t leave me again. Stay with me.”
I want to see her eyes. Those save-me green eyes. Holy shit. I need to see her smile at me. Laugh at me. Call me an ass**le. Tell me she loves me.
When the basement elevator doors open, I’m shaking with rage as I look up to watch Derek shove my brother in my direction. My god, I’m going to f**king kill him.
I charge across the room to where Wyatt stands, arms tied behind him, stomach bleeding out. He’s hurt, but it does nothing to calm me. I want to grab all my knives and start cutting up his limbs, bit by bit. I want to hear him scream, I want to spill his blood, I want REVENGE FOR WHAT HAPPENED TO HER.
Raging in pain, I smash my fists into his face. “Why’d you take her? Why? You motherfucker, WHY HER?!”
“To f**k YOU!” he yells back, spitting out blood from his mouth.
“What did she say?” I shake him hard before I slam my knuckles into his jaw again. “Her last words before she fell, what did she say?”
He grins a bloodied grin, and I slam him with my knuckles, blood spurting from his mouth. “What did she say, ass**le?” I demand, the pain so deep I feel like an animal. Soulless. Lifeless. A killing machine, nothing more. A brutal rage beats through me.
I’m a raging maniac, stewing inside, hurting inside.
I’m inadequate for her but it can’t stop me.
She’s the soul I don’t have.
I thought I was dead before.
I was only dormant.
She woke me up, but now, if anything happens to her, I’m dead. A walking corpse. He groans in pain when I slam him again.
“You make her beg? You make her beg you to let her go?”
Wyatt sucks in a breath. “Yeah, ass**le, I made her beg.”
“How’d she beg you? For how long?”
“Look, I was angry.”
“How long did she beg for her life? Did she say please? Did she?”
“Minutes. Only minutes!”
“Did she tell you I would kill you? Did she tell you I would skin you alive for harming so much as a hair on her head ?” I slam my fist again and he groans and rolls uncomfortably to the side, bringing the chair with him.
“Z, she fell on her own . . . !” he begs. “I was just keeping her to keep you from finishing the list!”
“You touched her, you f**king cunt, didn’t you?”
“YES! I grabbed her tits, I wanted to piss you off!”
I slam my fists into him, repeatedly, yelling, “Congratulations, I’m pissed. And now. You’re. DEAD!”
I pummel him, then curl an arm around his neck and start squeezing the life out of him.
Promise you won’t kill anyone. The words come back to haunt me. My eyes begin to sting as I remember the hope in her eyes that one night. Promise me you won’t kill anyone.
Growling in defeat, I let go, panting as I catch my breath and drag my arm across my wet eyes.
Promise me you won’t kill anyone . . .
“Zero,” I hear someone yelling. “The ambulance is here.”
I walk to my unconscious girl, still fallen in that same spot, and I drop to my knees, taking her hand in mine. “Remember when I told you I didn’t beg?” I whisper. “I’m begging you. Come back to me.”
♥ ♥ ♥
WHEN I WAS thirteen years old I lost the most precious thing in my life.
Then I built a fortress around myself so that I’d never again lose anything I cared about. Never again feel lost, betrayed, alone, or kidnapped.
I became as cold as ice and as calculating as a robot.
I let no one in.
Loved no one, not even my family.
And it all works out great until you let down your guard.
And you finally do let someone in.
A blonde, green-eyed girl who just laughs about everything.
Who loves everything and everyone.
Who connects with people like she was born to it.
And you start wishing in the deepest part of you that she’d connect with you.
And no matter how demonic you are, what an ass**le you are, that you lie to her, refuse to share the truth about you with her, she does connect with you.
She opens up the gate and walks inside you before you know it, and you feel so f**king full, so f**king blessed, you slam the doors closed and lock her inside, protecting yourself, protecting her.
Until you realize you’re done for.
Until you’re no longer cold, no longer a robot. You carry your weakness deep in your heart and her pain is your pain.
Until her smiles are all you live for.
Until you sit in a hospital chair and wait and pray for the first time in your life to a god that never heard you when you prayed for him to let you see your mother.
You still pray because Zero has no power here. Your money holds no sway here. Nothing counts except your will, and you can do nothing except pray, please, not her.
But it is her.
The doctors walked out to speak to me. To let me know the news.
She’s in a coma.
She’s barely breathing on her own.
She’s somewhere far away where I don’t exist, where I can’t get her, can’t protect her. And I still see her, feel her, hear her. Need her. LOVE THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF HER.
She never knew that I did.
Hell, I didn’t know.
Neither of us knew.
I brush my arm over my eyes when they keep burning, then stare at the text message from C.C. I got several minutes ago, numb to what it says.
Your father just passed.
Without a word, I stand and go stare through the window at her, my one and only princess, then I head down the hall to plan my father’s funeral.
♥ ♥ ♥
I scowl when we reach the compound the day after my father’s funeral, watching Eric cautiously approach with a large, closed steel box.
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