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The Predator: Chapter 11

Falling

Panic hit.

Her heart stopped.

For a split second.

And then it kick-started with a vengeance, thumping wildly, the ache between her legs throbbing with every mad thud.

Keeping her face clear of all expressions, keeping her body completely still, not showing even the hint of the rampage inside her, aware of her father’s shrewd eyes sharp on her for any indication of guilt, Morana raised a quiet brow.

‘Who’s Tristan Caine?’

Her voice stayed steady; her insides shook.

Before her father could respond, the other exit of the restaurant at the end of the street opened and Morana saw her father’s eyes turn to it. Steadying herself, not to make any moves that could give her away, she turned along with him and saw the men of the Outfit walk out the door, towards the other end of the lot where their cars were parked. Four men exited in a file before Dante stepped out, his huge body that was his namesake athletic in his suit. Morana saw him turn and stare at her father.

Her father nodded once, in that polite warning way reserved for enemies who were in his territory and he couldn’t do a thing about it.

Dante nodded back, all tiredness from previously gone, in that polite way that gave her father the finger.

Morana resisted the urge to smile at the way it riled her father.

Dante’s eyes shifted to her then, for a second, and he nodded to her, in the way she’d always seen him nod at her. Morana didn’t nod back, but standing there with the realization that her enemy was more respectful of her than her own father stung.

Dante moved from the door and Tristan Caine walked out, his animalistic body contained inside that suit, flexing with his steps as he strode with four other men on his heels. He stopped to talk to Dante, presenting her with his profile. Keenly aware of her father standing right beside her, Morana averted her eyes and pretended to check her phone, her heart pounding everywhere in her body, from her chest to her ears to her core. Everything throbbed. She throbbed.

And then his eyes came to her.

Again.

Fuck.

She contained a shiver. Barely.

And then his eyes left her.

She held her breath, and when it didn’t return, she looked up at her father, to find him watching Tristan Caine with narrowed, angry eyes.

Curious, she followed his gaze to the man who’d been between her legs just minutes ago and blinked in surprise.

Tristan Caine was holding her father’s angry glare without blinking, one of his eyebrows raised, his lips curled in a small sneer that was as fake as her British accent. What was he doing?

She got her answer a second later, understanding the game. It was a game of dominance. And there he stood, asserting his dominance in her father’s territory, completely unruffled. And she knew, deep in her gut, it was about her.

She’d never felt so alive and never wished she could be more dead than she did at that moment.  

‘Get in the car,’ her father spit out angrily, pushing her arm towards the town car. At any other time, Morana would have dug her heels and argued. But not right then. Right then, she practically bolted to the car and got inside, needing to get away from the situation that could explode at any time. Her skin sizzled with the tension hovering in the air and she got in the vehicle without sparing him one glance.

Her father followed, shutting the door and telling the driver to pull away.

Morana grit her teeth and looked out the window, resisting the urge to clench her hands into fists as her father watched. Slowly, her heart calmed down and the shaking inside her stopped as she closed off. She’d been dealing with her father for many, many cold years. She would deal with him now. Ignoring the ache in her body, keeping all and every thought and memory of him at bay, Morana sat straight and just kept her eyes on the fleeting scenery –poised, calm, collected.

Her father didn’t say a word for the entire ride. Not that she’d expected him to. No. All the cool he lost would be in private, not in front of his men where she could insult him again. His reputation was much, much more important than hers.

It was a short journey from the restaurant to the mansion. It was long with her knowledge of what was coming.

The minute the property gates appeared and the car slid into its spot, Morana got out of the vehicle and started walking towards the monster of a mansion, closed behind high fences and weapons that could turn against her at a moment’s notice.

She almost reached the stairs to her suite when her father’s voice boomed from behind her.

‘He couldn’t keep his eyes off you.’

The words, the memory of that gaze lingering on her skin, stroking her naked back, caressing her flesh made her falter on the third step. She quickly recovered before the falter could be noticed and kept her voice cool.

‘Isn’t that why you doll me up?’ she asked, her heart hardened over years of disappointment and hurt.

‘He was gone from the place. You were too. And then he comes back and can’t keep his eyes off you?’

Morana ignored his harsh words that evoked rough, physical memories, and kept climbing up.

‘What were you doing with Tristan Caine?’

Her father followed after her, for the first time in her memory. He never came to her suite. It had always been summons for her.

Morana reached the landing and turned to him, gritting her teeth, the anger in his voice fuelling the cold inside her, the wheels in her head turning.

‘I was having sex with him,’ she told him, her eyebrows raised in challenge.

She saw his arm come up to hit her, hover mid-air, and drop back down.

Her heart pounded, the cold, cold ice in her heart seeping deeper as she stood her ground.

‘Tell me the truth,’ he demanded, his jaw clenched and eyes mad.

‘I told you,’ Morana insisted, prodding him. ‘I was having wild sex with him in the bathroom with you right outside.’

Her father sighed. ‘No, you weren’t. You’re not that kind of a girl. I raised you better.’

Morana scoffed a laugh at that. ‘You didn’t raise me at all.’ She was exactly that kind of girl. The heart of the daughter in her – the young girl who’d never won either her father’s love or approval – ached. Morana hardened it again.

Her father narrowed his eyes. ‘What about the man on the bike? Who was he then?’

Morana smirked. ‘Oh, I slept with him too.’

Technically, she had.

‘Enough!’ her father glared at her, his voice cutting, his accent deepening in the anger. ‘If you think I will not bring a doctor to have you checked, you are mistaken.’

How dare he?

How fucking dare he?

Her blood boiled.

‘I dare you,’ Morana snarled, her lips curling in a sneer. ‘You even think of bringing a doctor to violate me, I’ll shoot her in the head and anyone else who comes near me.’

‘I’ve given you too much independence,’ he grit out, his dark eyes raging. ‘Too much. It’s time it’s put to a stop.’

‘Try to lock me in,’ Morana clenched her teeth, her voice lowering, her eyes glaring at the man who had spawned her, ‘and I will dump a heavy file on you right in the FBI’s lap and serve you up like meat.’

Her father gritted his teeth.

‘Oh, I’d die too, but I’d take you down with me,’ Morana told him, uncaring about her own death. ‘Keep your nose out of my business, or I’ll put mine in yours. And you wouldn’t like it, Daddy.

The sarcastic emphasis on the word couldn’t be missed. The threat lingering in the air couldn’t be missed. The utter, black rage in her father’s eyes couldn’t be missed.

‘You should have died,’ her father spit out, the words like bullets to her chest.

What? What was he talking about? She couldn’t ask.

Morana turned to leave but he gripped her arm tightly, swinging her around. ‘I’m not done!’

The sudden motion made her totter on her heels. Before she could blink, her right ankle twisted and her left overbalanced at the edge of the landing, her entire body moving backward. Deja-vu suddenly flashed through her, of the moment she’d been tipping over the stairs at the penthouse and Tristan Caine had gripped her neck and prevented her fall. Her father was gripping her arm, and she kept her heart from pounding.

And then it happened in a split second.

In that split second, Morana knew the stark difference between her father and Tristan Caine.

His grip loosened.

Deliberately.

She fell back, her eyes widening.

Down the stairs.

Down and down and down and down until there were no more steps to fall from.

It was over in a series of mere seconds.

It was over before she could realize it had started.

And then it began.

Every single bone started to hurt. Every single joint started to ache. Every single muscle started to pain.

Morana lay there, on the cold marble floor, as cold as the house, as cold as the man who stood at the landing, his face an odd twist of remorse and iciness. She didn’t know whether her body hurt more or her heart, all those shattered hopes splattered on the cold floor beside her. But she knew, in that moment of utter betrayal of the worst kind, in that moment of finally letting go of the little girl she’d held on to, she knew this was a good thing. Because she knew there was no hope now. Not anymore.

Slowly sitting up, Morana bit back a sharp cry of pain as her ribs protested, removing her heels from her feet and threw them to the side.

As fluidly as she could, she picked up her clutch from the ground where it had fallen with her and stood up on wobbling legs. Her teeth dug into her lips as she locked the pain away for later. Without another word, another glance, picking up all her dignity as sharply as she could, Morana took a step towards the door.

Sharp tendrils of pain shot up her legs, up her spine. Her body was making her feel each and every stair she had tumbled over. The ache between her legs that had been the highlight of her night was buried under all the other painful sensations.

Bruised, battered, she walked out of the house on bare feet, keeping her spine straight and not sparing anyone any glance, her rigid frame screaming for her to relax and let her skin breathe.

She didn’t.

She stifled the groans and let her skin turn blue, angry welts appearing all over her arms and legs and back, the gravel of the driveway cutting the skin of her feet. But she kept walking to her car, her only friend in this world of pain, and pulled out the keys from her clutch, thanking heavens she always kept it with her.

Throwing the clutch and her phone on the passenger seat, she got inside, the action resonating in every single bone in her body, muscles she didn’t know she had hurt.

But she clenched her jaw, keeping every sound at bay, her eyes flooding with tears that rolled down her cheeks, burning the skin of her cheeks where the marble had cut.

Pulling out of the driveway without sparing the cursed house a glance, she drove out into the road in the deep night, the moonlight bathing the way, trees lining on either side as she just drove and drove, away and away, her tears torrential.

A sob escaped her throat, rapidly followed by another, and another, and another till they became uncontrolled, the noises loud in the silence of the car, mingling with the familiar purr of the engine.

She drove mindlessly, trying to keep all thoughts at bay, everything inside her breaking with each sob. She didn’t know where to go. She had no friends, no people who cared about her, not one place she could go to when she needed to stay. She could go to a hotel but with the battered clothes and bruised skin, the police might become involved and that couldn’t happen. She couldn’t go anywhere public. Not even a hospital.

No one tailed her as she drove. Why would they? Her father had dropped her. What if she had broken her neck? What if she had died? Did she really not matter at all?

It was a few minutes of her harsh thoughts before Morana realized where she was heading – the penthouse.

Subconsciously, she had steered her car towards the penthouse. Why? That was the last place she could go, should go. Especially after the night. Especially as she was.

And yet, she didn’t hit the brakes.

She was two minutes away and over the bridge, and even as she knew she shouldn’t go there, she continued to drive.

What would it mean? She was going to him. He had told her she wasn’t out of his system, and in all honesty, neither was he out of hers. But they were still who they were and their hatred hadn’t gone down.

She remembered those glass walls, remembered that truce for one night as he’d sit beside her, an almost decent man. Could that truce prevail again? Should she even ask for it? Because she was not her best, neither physically not emotionally. And yet, as the building came into view, as the guards waved her in, recognizing her from before, Morana parked her car and sat in silence.

The comforting scent of her car, the sounds of her own breathing made her calm down a little.

But she didn’t take a step out.

She couldn’t.

She wanted to move, to walk, to get out. She couldn’t.

Wiping her tears from her cheeks even as more escaped, Morana sat in the car quietly in the darkened area, her chest heaving with sobs. Sitting there, she let herself cry, let herself weep in a way she’d never allowed herself to do. She cried for the girl she had been, the girl who had died after the fall today. She cried for the lost hopes she’d been clinging to, for the lost dreams of maybes. She cried because she had no one to give her a shoulder and hold her as she cried because she had to wrap her arms around herself and hold herself together, in the basement of her enemy. She cried.

The sound of the elevator dinging had her wiping her tears. She looked up, alert. She didn’t want anyone to see her even as a part of her wanted someone to.

Swallowing, she watched as Dante walked out in the suit he had been in at the restaurant, his phone held up to his ear, his voice low as he talked to someone. He headed to a black SUV two cars away from her, and she saw him still as he spied her vehicle lingering innocently in the lot.

‘Morana?’

Shit.

Morana quietly opened her car, berating herself for not even knowing how bad her face looked with the injuries. She got out and closed the door, and saw Dante’s eyes take her in, from head to toe, his eyes widening slightly in concern.

‘I’ll call you back,’ he spoke into the phone, his voice hardening as did his eyes, anger flashing through them.

Morana remembered what Amara had told her, about the two men being protective of women. She remembered Dante offering her comfort when she’d had to stay the night. And tears welled up in her eyes again, because that comfort, that concern, was a stranger to her.

He took a step towards her, still keeping his polite distance, his handsome face twisted in anger.

‘Who did this?’

It touched her. The fact that he was the enemy and yet he wanted to hurt the culprit. It touched her deep. 

Morana gulped.

‘I fell down the stairs,’ she spoke quietly, her voice shaking just a bit. She really, really hoped he didn’t ask her what she was doing there. She didn’t have an answer.

He searched her eyes for a long moment before his eyes softened. ‘I will be away for the night. You can go upstairs and rest, Morana.’

Morana felt her grip tighten on the car door handle, her lips trembling. She shook her head. ‘No. I’m okay. I’ll go stay with some friends.’

The fact that he didn’t call her out on the obvious lie, that her presence there of all places was the indication that she had no friends, gave him a point in her books.

She shook her head again, and he cursed. ‘Tristan’s up there.’

Her eyes flew to his, her heart pounding. She didn’t know why but it did. Anger burnished her.

Why? Why the hell did it matter? Why was her stomach in knots over it? Why had she come here of all places?

‘Look,’ Dante’s gentle tone broke through her spiraling thoughts. ‘Just let me call Amara. Stay over at her place if you’re not comfortable at mine. You’re hurt and Amara won’t hurt you.’

Morana was coming undone at his genuine concern. Unraveling bit by bit.

Her lips trembled but she shook her head. As tempting as the offer was, she couldn’t drag Amara into this mess, not knowing that she couldn’t protect herself, not knowing her history. Perhaps that’s why she’d come here. Because she knew he could protect himself, that he had dragged himself into her mess. In a way.

‘It’s okay,’ she told him, opening her car door, ready to leave. ‘I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone’ – him – ‘about this.’

Dante stared at her for a long moment, before suddenly moving towards the private elevator with a loud ‘Fuck it!’

Morana watched, shocked, as he typed in the code and looked at her, tilting his head towards the open door.

‘Go up.’

Morana stood rooted to the spot, stunned.

‘Morana, I don’t have all night and I cannot leave you like this,’ Dante told her quietly, his eyes beseeching. ‘Please go up to the penthouse and rest.’

She was the enemy. She was the woman his blood brother hated for a reason he knew of.

And yet…

Swallowing, she locked her car and moved towards the elevator on aching legs, her heart beating hard.

She looked up at Dante, her lips trembling. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered, meaning every single syllable from her heart.

Dante nodded.

She entered the familiar elevator and pressed the button. The doors closed on Dante’s face. The mirrors stared back at her.

And Morana gasped.

Her dress hung off her shoulders, her hair a mess around her face, her cheeks cut and knees abraded, the skin of her hands and legs and shoulders turning bluer by the second, her lips swollen from her own bites and eyes puffed red from the tears.

She looked like a wreck. No wonder Dante had let her in.

And Tristan Caine was up there.

And she was going up.

What the hell was she doing?

Nerves attacked her, her chest constricting as panic hit.

No. No. No.

She couldn’t let him see her like this. She couldn’t enter his territory, not like this.

Heart hammering in her chest, her phone clutched tightly in her hand, keys digging into her palm, Morana raised her hand and let her finger hover over the button for the parking, ready to hit the moment the elevator stopped. She was going to turn her tail and go back to her car and go to some seedy motel if she had to. But she was going back. She was not letting him see her like –

The elevator stopped, the doors sliding open.

He stood right at the entrance, waiting.

Morana hit the button for down quickly, before he could see her.

The doors started to close.

Her heart thundered. 

She hit the button again.

The doors kept sliding shut.

Almost there.

And just when they almost closed, his hand inserted itself in between.

Morana bit her tender lip, her heart pounding, pressing her back into the mirrored wall, her body aching, her lungs unable to draw in a deep breath. The long-forgotten ache between her legs throbbed at the proximity to its perpetrator, her eyes glued to the large hand that forced the doors apart again. She could see callouses on his long fingers, the ridges and hard lines. The hand was wrapped in a bandage from when he’d bled on her, from tonight when she’d made him bleed.

Her heart picked up pace seeing that hand.

And then the doors slid apart.

She straightened her back, her ribs hurting from the action, and stood as tall as she could, which didn’t amount to much on her bare feet.

He came into view. Shirtless.

She gulped.

Blue.

Blue eyes locking onto hers, making her breath catch, before moving down her cheeks, down her neck, to her breasts and hands and legs down to her bare feet. And standing there as his eyes took her in, Morana realized the utter difference between his perusal from earlier at the restaurant and the perusal right then. This perusal was heated but not with hatred. It was heated with fury. Sheer, utter rage that made his eyes blaze as they roved over every single inch of her skin, before coming back up to her eyes.

Morana didn’t know how that made her feel. She was so used to the other kind of heat from him, this was putting her off-kilter, more than she already was. She let her eyes take in the bare muscles of his torso, the muscles she’d ogled the other day right in the apartment, the sight of his scars and tattoos as much a shock as it had been then, along with those magnificent muscles under it. But it was the still unbuttoned jeans that, combined with him waiting for her, made her realize he’d thrown clothes on quickly and woken up from rest in the buff.

The sight of his blue, angry eyes made her take a deep breath, her body sapped of energy even as she stood there.

His nostrils flared, lips pursing, and he took a step to the side while holding the elevator doors back, the silent invitation to enter clear.

Swallowing past the lump in her throat, Morana took a few steps into the dark living room illuminated by gorgeous moonlight, the stunning, clear view of the city and the sea making her breath catch for a moment.

She heard the elevator ding upon closing, and stilled, her heart stopping for a second as realization dawned upon her.

They were alone.

Completely alone.

And she stood in his living room, and he was somewhere behind her.

What was she supposed to do? She couldn’t curse him, she couldn’t thank him and the limbo between the two urges tired her.

Morana held her breath, waiting for him to move.

He did. Towards the guest room.

Morana tracked his movements with her eyes, watching his muscles flex as he moved his body, his frame tensed, coiled. She would have appreciated the raw beauty of him had her own body not been aching, had her own heart not been bleeding.

He disappeared into the room for long moments while she stood pinned to the spot, not knowing what to do. Then, he came out, keeping his eyes away from hers, heading towards the stairs that led up to his master bedroom.

And then, he vanished into his room.

Morana heard some sounds, angry sounds, of doors opening and slamming shut, and headed towards the guest bedroom on slow steps, sapped of all energy, her shoulders slumping.

So, he wasn’t the most hospitable man. Nothing she didn’t already know. But at least he hadn’t turned her away. She wasn’t sure if she would have been able to take that humiliation tonight, on top of everything else.

The moment she entered the bedroom, she blinked. The bathroom door was open, steam billowing out from a full tub while a large black t-shirt and drawstring pants lay draped over a chair, the sheets on the bed turned down.

Morana stood there in the doorway, blinking back the sudden tears welling up in her eyes, her heart unable to understand the man. He hated her, she had no doubts. He had claimed her death and he had tried to fuck her out of his system. He had not spoken a word to her, not even looked at her, and yet, there lay the evidence of a kindness that was completely at odds with everything she knew about him.

Pursing her lips, she picked up the clothes and headed to the inviting bathroom, closing the door behind her but finding no lock. Shaking her head, she looked around the large room, the brown and cream tiles a comforting sight for the sore eyes, the tub sunken in a block of deep mahogany granite, two towels on a stand beside it. Morana shoved her dress off her body and onto the floor along with her underwear, turning sideways to look into the mirror above the sink.

Blue and purple crisscrossed all over her torso, the sides of her ribs tender.

Her father had done that. Without raising an arm, without actually abusing her, he had punished her. And she was seeking refuge with a man like Tristan Caine. How messed up was her life?

Closing her eyes, she dipped her toe in the warm, perfectly warm water, before slowly gripping the edges and sitting down in the tub.

A groan left her the moment she did, tears of pleasure at the intense relief of having such warmth envelop her muscles flowing down her cheeks. She leaned back against the tub, relaxing into the water, closing her eyes, and forgetting, for one brief moment, about everything.

Her phone buzzed beside her.

Peeking with one eye, she opened the message and blinked in surprise.

 

Tristan Caine: Do you need a doctor?

 

Why hadn’t he asked her himself?

Surprised, she typed back a response.

 

Me: No. I’ll be out of your hair in the morning.

 

She waited for a response after that. It didn’t come.

Shrugging, feeling oddly conflicted but deciding to leave all the thinking for the morning, she stayed in the tub until the water cooled, and then slowly, languidly rose. Her body hurt even more, and yet, the knots in her muscles were relaxed after the bath. Quickly drying herself off, Morana pulled on the borrowed clothes. The t-shirt hung on her small frame, almost to her knees, the scent of something musky wrapping around her as she walked out to the bedroom.

The sound of voices drew her towards the closed door, voices coming from the open kitchen.

‘You have a plane for Tenebrae in an hour, Tristan,’ Dante’s voice came through.

Morana’s heart sank. She didn’t know why it did, and it made her angrier. Why did she care?

Tristan Caine stayed silent. What was up with him?

Morana heard Dante sigh. ‘Look, I would have gone, but father specifically asked for you. You know when he summons…’

‘I’m not his dog,’ Tristan Caine grit out.

‘Neither am I.’ Dante’s voice hardened. ‘But we have innocent people to watch over. So, go to Tenebrae. I’ll handle stuff here in the meantime.’

Tristan Caine didn’t say a word, and Morana retreated back into the comfortable bed, sliding into the sheets and switching the lights off.

Her phone buzzed again.

 

Tristan Caine: How much of that did you hear?

 

Morana swallowed.

 

Me: Enough to know you’re leaving.

 

Tristan Caine: Relieved, are you?

 

Me: Doesn’t bother me either way.

 

There was a pause for a heartbeat before another message came.

 

Tristan Caine: There are painkillers in the drawer.

 

Morana looked at the message for a long time, before closing her eyes and going to sleep, no worry in her heart. If Tristan Caine killed her in her sleep, it’d probably be a mercy.

 


 

It was the sound of some kind of crash blaring through the apartment that woke her up.

Morana sat up on the bed suddenly, all the aches in all the muscles coming back tenfold as a groan left her, her eyes blinking into the dark. How long had she been asleep?

She looked at the clock beside the bed and blinked. Eight hours. She’d been asleep for eight straight hours.

The door to her room suddenly opened, and Tristan Caine stood there, his eyes blazing with such strong fury that she trembled. Wasn’t he supposed to be in Tenebrae?

‘Give me your car keys,’ he growled.

Morana blinked, her hand automatically going to her clutch before she stopped. ‘Why?’ she asked, slightly suspicious.

‘Because your car has a fucking tracker and your father is tracking it here as we speak.’

Morana felt her jaw drop, before she got down from the bed, his clothes hanging loosely on her. His eyes never took in the clothes or any other part of her body. He just stood there, all harsh lines and hard angles of a man, his hand held out as he waited for the keys.

Keys to her car.

Swallowing, Morana turned the keys over, her stomach tying itself up in knots, biting the urge to ask him what he intended to do with it. Tristan Caine turned away without a word and handed the keys over to Dante.

The other man looked at Morana, his face hard as well, before he nodded at her and left. Morana stood in the doorway, lingering, with no clue of what to do or say as she watched Tristan Caine, in a sharp dark suit that hugged his body, making calls on his phone. He didn’t look at her again, not once, just like last night.

She stayed silent for five minutes, a million thoughts running through her head. Could the Outfit be installing a tracker in her car instead? Could they be exploiting this as an opportunity? Could they be using her too?

She shook her head. If the Outfit had wanted to do it, it could have been done while they had gotten her car fixed. And Dante, or he for that matter, had not faked that outrage last night at the sight of her injuries. She could still feel her tender, bruised skin, and pain in her body. It would be a long time before she healed completely.

But why wasn’t Tristan Caine in Tenebrae? Last she’d heard, he had to be there.

And she had to get out of there – of the apartment, of the life. She’d had enough. Codes be damned, she had to leave and go someplace far, far away.

But she needed her car. Damn it.

The sound of his phone ringing made her clear her thoughts.

‘Yes?’ he spoke, crisp, cold, completely unlike the man who’d pinned her against the door and propositioned her.

Morana took a deep breath, realizing that she was sore between the legs too.

‘Fuck! Stop him. I’m on my way.’

He was out before she could utter a word.

Morana blinked and went to stand beside the window, looking down. She could see tiny, little cars at the end of the road. She could see three other vehicles leave from the building and reach them.

‘Morana,’ Amara’s voice came from beside her as the other woman joined her. Morana looked up, surprised she’d missed the woman coming in.

‘Amara,’ she nodded, watching as the woman took note of her injuries, her eyes compassionate.

‘I’m sorry.’

Morana swallowed, looking back out the window.

‘What’s happening?’ she asked, curious and worried.

Amara took a deep breath. ‘Your father came looking for you. He tracked your car here.’

It hit her at that moment, watching it from the glass wall.

It had been a setup.

She had been a pawn and she’d fallen exactly with the plan.

Her father had been testing her, seeing where she would go. That was why he’d insisted she leave her car behind for dinner, why nobody had been tailing her. She should have suspected something, but her own grief had blinded her. And she had come straight here. To Tristan Caine. To the biker. Fuck.

It hit her at that moment, watching the two sides stop at the road, that she belonged on no side of the line. She belonged nowhere, not with her father and certainly not with the other man who was reputed in the mob for being the predator.

What was she doing?

Panic hit her chest. She couldn’t stay.

‘Amara, do you have your car here?’ Morana asked quietly, feeling the other woman’s eyes turn to her.

‘Yes.’

‘May I borrow it?’

‘What for?’

‘I need to leave,’ Morana clenched her hands to keep the panic at bay. ‘I have to get out.’

The other woman blinked in understanding. ‘I can’t let you go, Morana. Especially not with the situation as it is right now. It could turn into a blood bath. And Tristan would never forgive me.’

That snagged her attention. Morana looked at the woman sharply. ‘You know why he hates me, don’t you?’

Amara nodded. ‘Yes, but it isn’t my story to tell.’

‘What can you tell me?’ she asked bluntly.

Amara tilted her head to the side. ‘How much do you know about the time the Alliance ended?’

Frowning, Morana tried to recall. ‘Not much.’

‘Look it up. That’s all I can tell you.’

Morana sighed, knowing the woman wouldn’t divulge any secrets. She even admired that.

Keeping her eyes on the scene below, Morana saw the cars turn back and return to the building, and straightened her spine, picking up her phone.

 

Me: I need my car.

 

Tristan Caine: For?

 

Morana raised her eyebrows but replied quickly.

 

Me: Leaving.

 

Tristan Caine: Where exactly do you plan on going?

 

She had no idea, but she sure as hell wasn’t telling him that.

 

Me: I’m leaving the city. I have a friend I’ve spoken to.

 

Tristan Caine: Unspeak to your friend. If I’m not leaving this city, you sure as hell aren’t.

 

Morana grit her teeth, her anger burning in her gut again.

 

Me: You don’t get to decide that, Mr. Caine.

 

Morana walked towards the couch, dropping her body onto it, glaring at the elevator as her phone buzzed again.

 

Tristan Caine: We have unfinished business, Ms. Vitalio.

 

‘Apparently, you’re not out of my system, Ms. Vitalio.’

 

His words rattled her mind. Last night. It had just been last night. It seemed like a lifetime. Deliberately misunderstanding his words, Morana typed a response.

 

Me: I’m done with the codes.

 

He obviously wasn’t because if he was framed, his neck was on the line.

The elevator doors opened just as her phone vibrated. Morana looked up to see him enter the room, his lithe, muscular body fitting right into the sunlit apartment, his blue eyes finding hers, the energy in them burning her. Blue locked with hers, the color beautiful in the bright sunlight, shining and focused, right on her.

Morana took a deep breath and broke their gaze, looking down at the text he’d sent.

 

Tristan Caine: I wasn’t talking about the codes.

 

Tristan Caine: I meant our business.

 

Her heart thumped. She didn’t look up, aware that he stood just feet away in the room, talking to Amara. She didn’t need this. Not right now. Not on top of everything else.

 

Me: We are done. Is my father is gone?

 

Tristan Caine: With more bruises on his face than yours.

 

Morana’s eyes flew up, locking with his.

He’d hit her father? Was he insane?

And seriously what was she doing? Predators scented injured animals and attacked. He’d attacked her father. 

And yet, there she was, in the den of the deadliest predator, one who had told her in no clear terms that she was his prey and his prey alone. There she was injured, bleeding, and vulnerable in so many ways. Yet, she’d never felt safer.

Panic hit.


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