That bastard. He’d set up her computer. Lyle knew how computer illiterate she was. He’d told her she didn’t need to know more, that he knew enough about computers for both of them.
They had laughed about it at the time.
All along he’d been watching her, stalking her.
He’d been the one sending her threatening notes. He’d tried to kill her cat.
His expression earnest, Scott went on. “When that virus hit the site’s computer, I knew someone with access and knowhow had uploaded it. Lyle fits the bill.” Everything Scott said made perfect sense.
“I’m going to go get Gavin. Don’t go anywhere. I believe you, Scott. Thank you.” She was just about to turn when a bang cracked the air around her. Scott grunted, and his face became strangely blank. Red bloomed across his shirt.
Blood. He’d been shot.
“You’re not going anywhere, Hannah.” Lyle stepped from behind the house and pointed the gun at her.
Scott slumped forward, his head hitting the table with a nasty thud. Bile crawled up her throat.
Lyle Franklin stood roughly five feet seven inches tall. His hair was cut far too short for his round features. His eyes were too close together, giving him a slightly seedy look. His body was awkwardly thin, as though he’d never outgrown his teenage years and would never have the body of a man. But Hannah didn’t doubt for a second that he could overpower her. His arms looked scrawny compared to her men’s, but Lyle had already proven he had plenty of nerve and few qualms.
“Y-you killed him.” Hannah couldn’t believe he’d shot Scott right in front of her. How could he be lying there dead? She’d just been talking to him moments ago. Scott couldn’t be much older than her. He should have had a whole lifetime to look forward to, but now, because he’d tried to help her, he’d taken his last breath.
“He was trying to keep us apart, dear. I can’t allow that. How can I call myself your man if I let other men come between us?” Lyle lowered his arm, letting the gun rest at his side. But Hannah didn’t doubt that he could have her in his sights in an instant.
She had to be careful. “Did you kill Preston, too?”
His small eyes softened, and he smiled as though inordinately proud. “I did it for you. I heard what he did to you, trying to force you to kiss him. I couldn’t let him live after that. If I’d been there, I would have protected you, Hannah. That’s what I do. I protect you.” By trying to kill her cat? By terrorizing her? She could try to reason with him, but she doubted negotiating with a lunatic would work. He was either here to rape or kill her—or both.
“In fact, I’ve been watching over you for a while now. I knew the moment I saw you that we were meant to be together. You felt it, too. Don’t try to deny it. I saw the way you looked at me that day.”
She barely remembered that day. Hannah wanted to scream, but the trail of mayhem and murder was too long to risk making him angry. Heck, the proof of his evil was still warm and slumped over the patio table. She took a tentative step back.
Lyle’s face hardened like he was about to explode in a tantrum. Unfortunately, his tantrum included a gun. “Don’t run, dear. I’m done playing games with you. If you run, I’ll chase you down. I want our first time together to be special.”
Oh, God. She needed time. Her men would come for her. Sooner or later, Gavin would come looking for her. Slade and Dex would figure out her stalker’s identity, and they would try to find her.
And Lyle would shoot them.
The thought of Gavin’s big body slumped over, never to rise again, made her nauseous. Why hadn’t she told him she loved him?
She loved all three of them, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to let this deranged creep kill them.
Hannah looked around, seeking any sort of weapon she could use against him. Then she noticed Scott’s body jerk slightly. His chest still moved up and down with shallow breaths.
Thank you, God! He was still alive.
Lyle sighed and moved toward the man at the table. “Motherfucker. He’s tougher than I gave him credit for.”
Lyle lifted the gun.
“Don’t,” Hannah yelled. She couldn’t stand there and watch him kill Scott.
Lyle’s eyes narrowed. “You want to save him, Hannah? He wants to split us up.”
“No, he just wanted to talk to me. You know, we were supposed to have a meeting yesterday to talk about how the CEO can work better with his teams. It was just business.” God, she hoped he hadn’t heard much of their conversation.
His face turned vicious, and he gripped the gun more tightly. “You like your co-workers too much, Hannah. Didn’t I tell you to stay away from those perverted brothers?” Scott’s previous words buzzed in her head. Lyle had watched her through the webcam. She’d had her computer open the night before. He might well have seen her give her virginity to Dex, then turn around and fully embrace Slade while Dex felt his way up her body and whispered hot encouragement.
“We should discuss this Lyle.” If she could keep him talking, he’d be too busy to shoot people.
“The time to talk is over. I loved you, Hannah. I protected you. I was your angel.” He heaved an angry sigh. “But you’re just like the rest—a whore willing to spread her legs for rich men.
Tell me something, Hannah. How could you let those perverts degrade you? Spank you and shove that…thing up your ass? I would have treated you like a princess. I wouldn’t have let anyone else touch you. But they passed you around like a toy. How do you like being someone’s live blow-up doll?”
“It wasn’t like that.” She tried to keep her voice calm. Scott’s hand twitched. Still alive. How was she going to get him out of this before he bled to death?
He sneered. “I watched it. I heard it. It was disgusting. You let them turn you into a whore.” Then his face fell, and he looked close to spilling furious tears. “I just…tried to love you.” Arguing with the crazy man holding a gun seemed very dangerous. “I know.”
“I tried to save you. I knew what they were like.”
She nodded. “You tried to tell me. I didn’t understand. But I do now. I’m listening to every word.”
He stared at her, his black eyes narrowing. “I didn’t want to do it like this. I’d rather love you gently. But you don’t like it that way, do you, Hannah? You’re a little slut. I’m going to have to prove I’m more of a man than the three of them put together, aren’t I?” She didn’t like the sound of that. “They won’t let you take me.”
“They’re investigating Preston Ward’s death. They won’t be around for hours. I was surprised they left you here with the boss. I would have assumed they would protect their little slut, but maybe they’re done with you.”
He hadn’t seen Gavin make love to her in the parlor. Lyle had no idea that Gavin would protect her. If she could just find a way to stall him and get help…
The cameras. During their brief tour of the estate yesterday, Slade had shown her the security cameras that dotted the estate. She let her eyes roam carefully as he continued on his diatribe.
She was a whore, a slut, a bitch. That gun scared the hell out of her, and she couldn’t stop trembling, but his words didn’t touch her. She was loved. She was their woman, and anything she did with them was beautiful. Lyle was the perverse one.
There it was. A small, white camera pointed directly at her. It wasn’t moving, but the red light was on. It was working. Of course, none of it mattered if Gavin wasn’t watching. Even if he was, she feared that all he would see from that angle was her standing alone in the sunlight.
“Bitch, are you listening to me? Maybe I need to put another bullet in Scotty-boy to get your attention.” Lyle put the gun to the back of Scott’s head, and Hannah saw Scott tense. He wasn’t as far gone as she’d feared. Scott had a chance to survive, but only if Hannah played her cards right.
And she really only had one card left.
“I heard you, Lyle. I just didn’t understand everything. You didn’t show yourself before.
How was I supposed to know it was you? It could have been anyone.” The gun eased back, and he looked thoughtful. “I thought you would realize it was me. It was obvious.”
She shook her head. “Not to me.” Not to anyone.
“You’re a lying, little whore. Why should I believe you?” A nasty grin came across his face.
“I’ll tell you what, Hannah. I’ll let Scotty here live if you get in my car. We’re going to go away, you and me. I’ll show you a real man.”
Oh, she couldn’t get in that car. No way. No how. But if she got him away from Scott, she could run.
“A-all right.” Her voice shook.
“It’s not that easy, dear. First, I want a taste of what you’ve been giving the bigwigs. Take off the robe. Since you’re a slut, you can ride without clothes. You didn’t want to be my pure love?
You can be my sex slave. I can beat you just like they did. I’ll show you what kind of man I am.” Hiding her shudder, Hannah feared she already knew. He was a hateful misogynist who was so damaged, he would never heal. She wasn’t sure what had warped Lyle’s soul, and she didn’t care. She only cared that he didn’t kill anyone else.
Trembling, she let her hand find the tie on her robe. She’d wanted to be naked in the sunlight.
She wanted to wait for her men to find her and love her.
Now she could only hope that they would save her.
* * * *
Gavin found just what he needed in the kitchen. Chamomile tea. Hannah’d had a rough day.
He’d tried to back off, give her time and space. But leaving things unresolved between them was eating at him. He had to see her. So after a few minutes that had felt like months, he’d made her a nice cup of the steaming brew. It would give him an excuse to walk into her room. He’d listened in earlier and heard the shower running.
Trying to maim a man with shot glasses was dirty business. He wouldn’t be surprised if Hannah was trying to unwind.
Maybe if he talked smoothly enough, he could coax her into resting her head on his shoulder.
It would be an easy move to put an arm around her and hold her. That was all he wanted.
His inner voice was back, but there was a marked change in it. Gavin found a saucer for the teacup as his new inner voice spoke to him.
You want to ease her back and kiss her. You want to show her you can be as tender as you were rough earlier. You want to prove you can be everything she needs. You can love her and protect her. You can change for her.
It isn’t really change. It’s getting back to who you are.
Gavin liked his new inner voice. He was surprised to find it sounded an awful lot like his Hannah.
He picked up the cup and started down the hall. He wasn’t going to make love to Hannah right now, no matter how much he wanted to. He was going to hold her. The next time he made love to her, his brothers would be there. They would be a team, the way they were meant to be.
There was a distant ping, a sharp, familiar sound. Gavin had spent enough time in Alaska to know the sound of a gun firing. Hunters? They sounded awfully close to the house to be shooting big game.
There was a small room just off the kitchen that served as the housekeeper’s office. It housed a computer and all the keys to the various buildings. Everything electrical in the house could be monitored from the office, including the security cameras.
Gavin let the teacup clatter to the desk as he flicked through the cameras. They had various views of the grounds. Nothing, nothing… His heart nearly stopped when he came to the feed for camera number four. Hannah stood on the patio outside the master bedroom. She wore a robe and faced the camera. Her hand was on the belt, and she slowly unknotted it.
A memory of Nikki assaulted his brain. She would fight him like a mad cat. Then she would tease him.
Just like Hannah was teasing him now.
Her hands fumbled as she released the tie. Slowly, very slowly, she brought her hands up to the lapels of the robe. He couldn’t see her face clearly, but she seemed to be playing for the camera.
She took off her robe slowly, almost stiffly. To tease him even more? Her breasts came into view, nipples hard and pointed in the cool air. She looked beautiful…but then he noticed her tense expression, the terror in her eyes.
Gavin understood instantly. Hannah was nothing like Nikki. She hadn’t invented a reason to fight merely for the drama. If she wanted to make up, she would tell him so straight to his face.
Hannah wasn’t teasing him on camera; she was being forced.
The CB radio squawked, the sound jarring in the quiet room.
“Gavin. Gavin, this is Dex. Can you hear me? Please, God, hear me.” He picked up the radio, but he didn’t take his eyes off the monitor. Who was just outside the camera’s view? He prayed it was one of his brothers playing around with their soon-to-be wife.
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