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“How do you want me to do that?” the senator asked.

A good negotiator asks more questions than he gives answers to…I remembered my father always saying.

Tanner laughed and licked his bottom lip. Sucking it into his mouth he bit down on it and scrunched up his nose.

“You can fucking die.”

Chapter Thirty

King

The first thing I heard was a whimper. A small mewing coming from somewhere in the houseboat.

Pup.

I scanned the room, but I didn’t see her, my eyes instead landing on the senator, who was standing between the kitchen and the main room with his back toward me.

I cracked my knuckles. “Where the fuck is she?”

My answer was the resounding explosion of a gun-shot that tore through the senator’s chest. His back exploded. Pieces of his suit along with flesh and blood splattered warm and wet against my clothes and skin. The senator fell backward onto the floor, his eyes rolled upward into his head as he gurgled and strained to breathe. Blood pooled in his mouth and spilled down the side his cheek.

What the fuck?

I looked up from the dying senator at my feet, to where the shot had come from. Standing in the kitchen—gun now aimed at me—was Tanner. The senator’s gold watch on his wrist. “You?”

“You looking at this?” Tanner asked, holding up his wrist and gesturing to the watch. “Nice, right? The senator gave it to me last night after the party. A wedding gift for his new son-in-law.” Redness crept from his neck to his face. His eyes dated back to me and he pushed out the gun as he spoke. “But I guess it wasn’t as good as the gift you gave, Ray,” he spat.

“Where the fuck is she?” I roared. I took a step toward him and he cocked the gun, stopping me in my tracks. “Tell me where she is now and I promise that when I kill you, I’ll make it quick.”

“Sit fucking down and cuff yourself to the chair, and maybe I’ll tell you where she is.” He gestured to the single wooden chair in the center of the room.

“Fuck you.”

“Let me rephrase. Sit in that fucking chair and cuff yourself to it or I’ll shoot her just like I did her daddy. Only I think I’ll aim for her fucking head, seeing as that’s where all the trouble seems to be coming from,” Tanner said, an evil glint in his eye.

I reluctantly did as he asked and sat on the chair. He tossed me a pair of cuffs. “To the chair. Behind your back.” I cuffed one hand and then the other, looping the chain through the back of the chair. Tanner circled around me and tightened the cuffs. “You know, I’m kind of glad the asshole I hired to kill you couldn’t do the fucking job I paid him to do, because how does the saying go? You want something done right—you have to kill it yourself.”

“What’s your fucking play here?” I asked.

“This isn’t a fucking game, asshole. This is my life. A life that you are trying to take from me. You didn’t think I was just going to step aside and let that happen now did you? She’s supposed to be my wife.”

“No she fucking isn’t,” I said, clicking the cuffs in place. It took all the self control I didn’t know I had not to destroy the kid with my bare hands.

“Yes, she fucking is! We said vows goddamn it!” Tanner stomped his foot on the floor and his face turned bright red. “I have her father’s fucking blessing!”

He looked around my chair to the senator who lay lifeless on the floor. “Or…should I say, had.” Tanner smiled his toothpaste ad manic smile. His eyes were blood shot and rimmed in red.

I pulled on the cuffs, itching to damage him in any way I could but they didn’t budge.

“Listen, you fucking amateur, there ain’t no way you’re getting out of this without feeling blowback from someone. Even if you kill me and her you don’t get out of this clean.”

“Me? I’m not getting away with anything. I’m just the son-in-law. I was just as shocked as everyone else to hear about the senator’s murder.” He exaggerated his surprise with his hand over his mouth. “But I was also so glad to hear that the man who killed him, Brantley King, the criminal with a rap sheet longer than a football field, was also found dead.”

“Clever,” I said sarcastically.

“Shut your fucking mouth!” he spat, shaking the gun at me.

“Where the fuck is she?” I asked, again.

His smiled returned. Tanner walked over to the closet and opened the door. Out tumbled a mess of white-blonde hair streaked in red. She was tied to a small white patio chair. She crashed onto the floor with a hollow thud. My heart seized when I didn’t see her move, but started back up again when a few strands of her hair that had fallen into her face were pushed away when she exhaled.

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