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The Sweetest Obsession: Chapter 24

THE LAST ONE LEFT (OPHELIA)

Confession time.

I’ve never driven a speedboat before in my life.

If you think that’s going to stop me? Ha.

Not after I saw him.

He was hurting her.

Ros wasn’t there willingly, not after seeing my texts. No matter how messed up she is—no matter what he’s done to her—I know she wouldn’t.

She’s a hostage now.

And there’s nothing I’ll let come between me and saving my sister.

Not now. Not ever. And with Nell trapped on that boat with them?

I swear, I’ll ram this speedboat right through the hull if it means saving them.

The yacht’s a big boat, no question.

Its high-powered engine roars as it churns out to sea—charging forward like there’s no one at the helm. But the boat I’ve ‘borrowed’ was made for speed.

I lean into the yoke hard, gripping the wheel tight enough to make my fingers go numb, as if I can urge the boat forward with my entire body.

“We’re closing the gap,” Grant says tightly at my back. He’s been with me every step of the way, not even hesitating a second to vault into the boat after me and kick on the engine. “Get ready.”

The boat skims the waves, ice-cold spray snapping at our faces and the wind cutting with knifelike precision.

“Get ready for what? I didn’t exactly come out here with a plan!” I pant, sucking freezing breaths through my teeth. Closer. Closer. My heart’s about to burst as the yacht looms larger. It’s so close now I can hear the waves slapping against its sides and the angry droning of its engine.

“I’ve got one, Butterfly,” Grant promises, reaching for the wheel. “There’s an emergency ladder they didn’t pull up before taking off. Just noticed it hanging off the side. You’re lighter, so you’ll make the jump better. You let me steer.”

I stare at him, wondering when my life turned into an action movie.

“If I didn’t think you could make it, I damn sure wouldn’t ask. You get on board and slow it down, I’ll be right behind you. Just move fast and don’t let him see you. If he’s armed, you hide.”

This is the Grant I’ve never seen.

Battle-hard. Steely. Certain.

The police officer in action, the protector, the warrior.

Honestly, the love of my life.

That’s never been clearer than right now, cutting through the drama and stupidity.

The man who will stand strong with me through anything and come out the other side bleeding and battered but victorious.

I start to answer—until a scream splits the sky, so loud it rings my eardrums.

I whip my head up and realize we’re almost neck and neck with the yacht, almost on a collision course.

Crap.

“Ophelia, now!” he growls.

Wrenching the wheel, I bring us parallel in a panic, but I can’t take my eyes off the deck overhead.

Nell’s nowhere in sight now.

But Aleksander and Ros are at the front of the ship, wrestling too close to the railing.

Ros yells desperately as she claws at his face—only for him to force her away with a leering, inhuman grin, holding her by the wrists.

Oh, that asshole.

The fact that he’s clearly enjoying this makes me see red.

“Ros!” I cry, only for Grant’s bulk to shove me aside, his hands brushing mine off the wheel.

“Let me. I’ll get you closer. Woman, don’t lose your nerve now,” he demands.

Another twenty seconds pass in breathless, brutal silence before he barks one word.

“Go.”

No time to hesitate.

No energy for the fear clawing up my throat, trying to smother me.

If I want to save my sister and that sweet little girl, I have to act now.

I have to be half as brave as Grant Faircross.

It’s his selfless courage—knowing he’s with me and that he’s had me through this whole awful homecoming—that buoys me.

The speedboat swerves in close to the yacht, slashing forward and then dropping back as Grant adjusts speed.

He angles our boat, tries to keep an even pace until we come up to the rungs of the unretracted ladder on the outer hull.

I take a breath, hold it, and wait.

Closer, closer, inch by inch.

All I need is the magic word.

“Now!” Grant shouts.

I don’t think.

I just gather my body and throw my strength into my legs.

A real-life leap of faith.

For the longest second, the world is empty air under me.

The terror when I realize if I miss, I’ll be smashed between the hulls of both boats like a bug before I hit the water.

Then my grasping hand hits the ladder’s rung.

This loud slap stings my palm and reverberates through my arm, whipping me back from that frozen moment into fast-rushing reality.

Hold on.

Hold on tight.

I grit my teeth and ignore the instinctive panic, latching on hard with my other hand. The stakes are so much higher than doing pull ups back in high school gym class.

My body slams into the yacht’s hull with a hollow boom.

I’m going to have the worst whiplash tomorrow morning, if I make it home alive.

Sucking in hot, rushed breaths, I scramble my feet until I find a lower rung. The water keeps lapping at my soaked heels as I fight for footing.

For a nanosecond, I glance back at Grant.

Flashing hazel eyes lock on mine, burning with certainty and encouragement and a love that almost makes me implode.

Go, go, his eyes say. I fucking know you can do it. Life has been dragging you around, leaving you helpless.

You’re not helpless now, Butterfly.

You can do this.

You can help me save them.

I’m with you.

Always.

I nod fiercely.

Just in time for the boat angling away under his touch as I turn and scale the ladder as fast as I can, pulling myself up in quick, short bursts.

When I hit the top, I tumble over the railing and hit the deck.

For now, I’m hidden from easy view by the raised cube of the wheelhouse.

Thank God for small favors.

Every second Aleksander doesn’t see me is one more bite of hope.

I can still hear Ros, though.

She sounds miserable.

I can’t make out what she’s saying, but as long as she’s talking, as long as she’s making noise, she’s alive, she’s on this boat, and I can still bring her home.

Crouching low, I creep along the deck, flattening myself against the wall of the wheelhouse and reeling with every step on the rocking waves.

We’re going too fast, I think.

No one’s paying much attention to piloting the ship. Another problem.

At first, I’m thinking don’t wait for Grant.

Just get to navigation.

Stop the boat.

Then get between Aleksander and Ros—until another scream floats over the deck.

“Leave her alone you—you weirdo! Leave Miss Ros alone!” Nell screams.

Just past the wheelhouse, I catch a flash of blue with rainbow—Mr. Pickle—right before a pint-sized blur flings itself at Aleksander and my sister.

Baby, no!

With one brutish hand still locked on Ros’ wrist, Aleksander whirls around just in time to catch Nell cannonballing against his forearm.

He blocks her and shoves her back.

She goes tumbling to the deck with a heartbreaking cry.

“Well, well,” Aleksander leers, glaring down at Nell with a smile full of murder. “What do we have here? You’re a little young to drown, brat, but if you want to play rough…”

“No! Don’t you dare!” Ros cries, jerking violently on her wrist. “Don’t touch her!”

Aleksander whirls on her with that same awful grin.

“Oh? What will you do for me if I don’t, dearest sissy?

Gag.

I’m going to be sick.

He effing knows.

We knew it before, but to have this horrid confirmation…

He knew who and what she was the whole time.

And it’s no wonder she’s fighting him with everything she has, rejecting this man like a poison when before she was glued to him.

Ros goes still, staring at him with a pale, horrified look.

All the blood drains from her already pale face.

“You’re disgusting,” she whispers. “All this time, stringing me along, I… I kissed you.”

My gag reflex almost overwhelms me this time.

Especially when Aleksander leans closer, smirking, bringing his mouth near Ros’ while my sister turns away cringing.

“And you loved every filthy, fucked up minute of it. How wet did you get, Ros? Why won’t you just admit you find this exhilarating?”

Holy shit, enough.

I can’t take it anymore.

I’m about to do something monumentally stupid.

Anything to make it stop.

There’s no warning, though.

One second, Ros is frozen in place, her familiar green eyes wide with terror.

The next, a resounding slap echoes over the boat.

Her hand smashes across Aleksander’s cheek so hard his head twists.

There’s my moment.

Aleksander reels, probably seeing double, his face blooming red, ugly-handsome features transformed into a mask of violent rage.

His grip tightens on Ros’ wrist and his hand flies up to strike her.

Before he can regain his balance, I charge forward.

I may be short.

But I make a way better cannonball than little Nell.

I slam into them with all the force I can muster, flinging myself between them and shoving Ros back from Aleksander, forcing him to let her go from pure shock.

Thank God.

We all go tumbling down.

Aleksander in one direction, me and Ros in the other.

As my sister and I hit the deck, clutching at each other, tangled up in the silk folds of her white dress, my heart scrambles.

Nell’s scream cuts through the chaos.

Ros gives me a panicked look before we’re moving again.

Only to freeze almost instantly.

Aleksander rises up on one knee like a snake that just won’t die, his hand snaring Nell’s hair, dragging her against his body.

Something metal materializes in his other hand—a compact black pistol from inside his designer white tux.

Shit, shit, no.

He can’t.

He won’t.

I start inching forward again, then go completely still as Aleksander smirks, aiming the gun dead at us over Nell’s shoulder.

“Ah-ah-ah. Not very smart, little sister. One little flick of the hand and it’ll be her just as easily as you.”

“You animal,” I hiss. “She’s just a little girl. Leave her alone!”

“She was old enough to follow us into trouble, wasn’t she? Such a clever little thing…” He makes the most disgusting kissy face toward a trembling Nell and my heart wrenches. “Too smart for a little brat. If she wants to fight like an adult, she can die like one, too.”

“No!” I thrust a hand out. “No, look, you can do anything you want with me. I swear, we won’t say a word, we just—please don’t hurt her.”

I’m at a loss. Reduced to begging this demon for a miracle because I don’t think he’s capable of mercy.

He looks at me flatly.

I think I see what makes his gleaming green eyes so different from mine and Ros’ now.

Unlike ours, his are totally empty.

Soulless.

His smile, a horrible clown mask splitting his face until it looks like plaster cruelty.

“Liar,” he spits. “I know when I’m outgunned. Well. Not literally.” He taps Nell’s shoulder with the pistol and she cringes. My gut bottoms out every time his finger shifts. “The moment I put the gun down, you’ll charge me. Two against one is hardly fair, is it?”

Shit.

I don’t know what to do.

I have to talk my way out of this. I have to buy time. If I just have a few more minutes—

Except I don’t need them.

Because the next time I breathe, the odds are three against one.

My heart leaps as Grant comes vaulting over the railing behind Aleksander, a wild man with his face bristling with protective rage.

I’m not breathing as over two hundred pounds of pure grizzly force barrels down on Aleksander Arrendell like a tank.


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