Brutal Prince: Chapter 25

AIDA

I’m sitting across the table from my new best friend, Jeremy Parker. He passes me the little box I’ve been waiting and hoping for all week long, and I open the lid to peek inside.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe it,” I breathe.

“I know,” he laughs. “This was the hardest one I’ve ever done. Took me three whole days.”

“You’re a miracle worker. Honestly.”

He grins, almost as gleeful as I am.

“You mind if I put the whole thing up on my YouTube channel?” he says. “I was wearing my GoPro the whole time, got some great footage.”

“Of course!” I say.

I close the box, still hardly believing what I’m holding in my hand, and I stow it back in my purse. I give Jeremy a slim envelope of cash in return—the amount we agreed upon, plus a bonus for saving my fucking ass.

“Well, call me if you ever need me again,” he says, giving me a little salute.

“I hope I won’t need you,” I laugh. “No offense.”

“None taken,” he chuckles.

He raises his hand to signal for the waitress.

“I already paid for the meals,” I tell him.

“Oh, thanks! You didn’t have to.”

“It was the least I could do.”

“Alright, I’m off then.”

He gives me a wave and leaves through the restaurant. I cut straight through the patio, then cross the street, because that’s the quickest route to the lot where I left the Jeep.

I feel like my feet are barely touching the sidewalk.

This is so fucking fantastic, it’s got to be some kind of sign. A bona fide miracle.

It’s a gorgeous day, too. Sun beaming down, the tiniest breeze blowing in off the lake, the clouds so puffy and uniform that they look like a child’s painting.

I’m so excited to see Cal. I felt bad not going to see his new office, but this couldn’t wait. I couldn’t chance something else going wrong. He won’t be mad about it when he sees what I’ve got.

Nessa’s Jeep looks brilliantly white in the sunshine. I washed it and filled it up with gas on the way over, as a thank-you to Nessa for letting me borrow it so many times. I even vacuumed the seats and threw away all her empty water bottles.

Still, the Jeep is outshone by the car parked next to it. A very familiar car.

I stop mid-stride, frowning.

I don’t see anyone around. Probably the best thing to do is get in the Jeep and drive away as quickly as possible.

As soon as my fingers touch the door handle, I feel something hard and sharp poke between my ribs.

“Hey baby girl,” a deep voice whispers in my ear.

I stand perfectly still, running through my options in my mind.

Fight. Run. Scream. Try to dial my phone.

“Whatever you’re thinking about, just don’t,” he growls. “I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

“Okay,” I say, trying to keep my voice as casual as possible.

“You’ll be getting in my car.”

“Alright.”

“In the trunk.”

Fuck.

I’m cooperating because it seems like the best option right now—the one most likely to keep him calm.

But I’ve got to do something.

He presses the button on his key fob, popping open the trunk.

I try to glance around without him noticing. The lot is jumbled and half-empty. There’s nobody in the immediate vicinity to see me being stuffed into the back of the car.

So I do the only thing I can think of. I slip off one of my sneakers, the left one. As I sit down in the open trunk, I flip my foot to kick the shoe off under the Jeep. Then I bring my knees up and hide the barefoot under me, so he won’t notice.

“Lay down,” he says. “I don’t want to hit your head.”

I do as he says. He slams the trunk shut, closing me up in the darkness.

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