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The Sweetest Obsession: Chapter 23

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (GRANT)

For a law abiding officer of peace, I’m sure as hell breaking at least a dozen laws right now.

Speed limit? I don’t know what the fuck it is in this mad flight to save my little girl and Philia’s sister.

I’m pretty sure I’ve cut a few people off without a turn signal, whipped around a couple semis, and left one red-faced old man shaking his fist and calling in my plate.

Ask me if I care.

Nothing else matters besides Ophelia’s pale, tear-streaked face.

Plus, those heart-wrenching screams I heard shrieking through her phone.

Ros.

Nelly-girl.

Both trapped with that blackhearted would-be-sister-fucking psychopath.

We go tearing through the town of Wrightsville Beach toward the docks without slowing down, weaving in and out of traffic. Horns bleat and tires squeal as pissed off bystanders rage around us.

A few sirens echo in the distance through the noise.

Good. That means the Wrightsville Beach PD actually paid attention.

Wish I’d brought my patrol car instead, but not having it doesn’t stop me from flying through the streets.

I can’t stop now.

I won’t.

Three women depend on me too much.

That’s all that keeps my brain running at the moment.

I’m still reeling from too many big shitty revelations hitting at once.

The sick and twisted machinations Aleksander Arrendell has been playing at, this long game built up bit by bit, carves a piece out of me I’m not sure I’ll ever get back.

Seriously. What the hell?

From day one, I wondered what he saw in her. I never believed the fairy-tale lovey-dovey bullshit coming from this vampire playboy for a minute.

A man like Aleksander Arrendell with fantastically high standards and warped tastes doesn’t just up and decide to shack up with the small-town girl on a whim.

Now it makes sense, and it fucking hurts that it does.

Seducing his own half sister into a marriage just so he can get his rocks off?

Getting her hooked on drugs?

Setting a trap to break her for his own sick pleasure?

That’s what he’s after.

Unfathomable cruelty.

And considering his serial killer brother, I’ve got an ugly feeling a man like him won’t just stop at psychologically breaking a woman, either.

That makes me stomp the gas.

That drives me on, knowing it’s life and death and I can’t have their blood on my hands.

I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t make it in time to—

There!

I can see the water glinting through the buildings.

“Hold on tight,” I growl, throwing out a hand to steady Ophelia as I wrench the wheel.

The truck rockets around the sharpest turn yet, practically rearing up on two wheels.

I’m glad as hell I remember that tactical driving I did for Uncle Sam in my old Guard days.

She doesn’t make a sound when she’s so frozen silent, but she clutches my arm, staring ahead and straining toward the windshield like she can somehow lean into the momentum and guide us to them faster.

I stomp the gas again and the truck lurches forward, bouncing around the turn and onto the narrow road leading down to the docks.

Boats of all sizes line up along the quay like overgrown toys, everything from little speedboats to cargo barges to one big, sleek ship towering over the rest.

The yacht.

Then I see the tiny fingers wrestling against the railing.

Two men, one woman.

Goddammit, don’t tell me I’m too late.

“Ros!” Ophelia sees it too and screams, reaching out toward the windshield, right before one of the men—not Aleksander, but an older man in black—goes overboard.

I whip the truck into the lot and go tumbling out just as Aleksander drags Ros, kicking and struggling and shrieking, into the yacht’s wheelhouse.

Fuck.

The older man hits the water with a splash.

Then the yacht churns to life, the water around it surging white.

The sirens grow louder, police cars careening into the lot, too little, too late.

Because the ship lurches away at a dangerous speed a second later, even as a thin, high scream rises from the rear of it that hollows out my soul.

“Uncle Grant!” Nell screams, clinging to the railing at the rear, Mr. Pickle clutched in her arms.

Ophelia’s out of the car after me.

We bolt for the docks and I hold out my arms.

“Nell, jump! Jump in the water! I’ll come for you!”

She shakes her head frantically. “I can’t swim! I’m scared!”

“Jump, Nell!” Ophelia cries, flinging herself down and leaning over, grasping at the flailing older man who’s swimming clumsily toward the cement edge—the priest who was supposed to marry them, I think, judging by his black garb and collar.

Nell shrinks back and then just shrinks some more, growing smaller as the yacht surges away.

“Uncle Grant…” she whimpers, the wind taking her voice away.

It’s a minor miracle the yacht doesn’t plow into anything on its way through the crowded water. Of course, that means it’s fucking escaping, going God only knows where.

I’m about to say screw it and dive in after her even though I don’t have a prayer of catching up, let alone scaling the damned thing with no equipment, but suddenly we’re surrounded by cars.

Officers come pouring out. Several stop to help Ophelia haul the priest up.

Too many people crowding around in the commotion, in my way, demolishing my heart.

I whirl around, glaring at one of the uniformed men approaching me.

“Call the fucking Coast Guard,” I snap. “That’s my niece up there. This is a kidnapping and they’ve got to intercept that—”

“We’ve already called,” he answers before barking something into his radio. “They’re at least forty minutes out.”

Shit.

Forty minutes too long.

Drenched with sweat, Ophelia pulls away from the tangle of people helping the gasping, red-faced priest and launches to her feet.

“That’s too late!” she yells. “He knows we’re onto them. Grant, he’s going to hurt her. There’s no way they’ll get to her in time—”

“Ophelia.” I catch her arm, despair rolling through me. “If the Coast Guard hauls ass, they’ll—”

“Fuck the Coast Guard!” she cries, ripping away from me.

For a second, I watch as she races across the marina.

There’s no shortage of rubberneckers at this point. People who were fishing, people working on their boats, even people who’d pulled over on the side of the road to stare at the spectacle and the growing riot of police cars.

One rubbernecker stands at the helm of his speedboat.

His mouth hangs open, slack-jawed while he stares through the swarming cop cars at the rapidly retreating yacht.

Only now his gaze flicks to Ophelia as she storms onto his boat.

What’s she doing?

“Ophelia, no!”

I snap out of my trance and dash after her just as she stops in front of him and thrusts out her hand.

“Keys,” she demands.

“Uh. What?” The man blinks at her.

“I need your keys!” Ophelia flings her hand out at the water. “My sister is on that boat with a man who’s going to hurt her, maybe even kill her. So is a little girl I love very much. By the time the Coast Guard gets here, they could be dead. Can I please borrow your boat so I can save them, or am I going to have to throw you out of it with my bare hands?”

Goddamn.

Only Ophelia Sanderson would still say ’please’ while threatening a man.

She’s sobbing by the time she’s done, but resolute.

This tiny powerhouse, jacking a boat from a man twice her size for the people she loves. She stares up at him with tears streaking down her face.

With a soft, sympathetic sigh, the man fumbles his keys from his pocket and hands them over without protest, giving her an almost awed look.

“Do what you gotta do, ma’am,” he says. “Just try to return her without a scratch.”

Ophelia grabs the keys and turns to face me, her chin thrust out stubbornly.

“Well?” she demands. “Are you coming or not?”


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