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Wretched: Chapter 22

NICHOLAS

It’s been four days since I’ve seen Eveline.

I left shortly after she tied me up and flipped my world upside down, and I’ve been spiraling into bottomless depths ever since. She made me come harder than I ever have with any woman, and then she lay on my chest and cuddled up to me like I was her man.

But then something happened.

A thought whispered in my brain. That I would give it all up in a heartbeat if I could stay like this forever.

And thoughts like that are unacceptable to me, so I used the one thing I knew would hurt her and pretended like I was leaving to find her sister.

It had the intended result.

Her eyes, which up until that point had been soft and vulnerable, slammed shut. And when she looked at me again, there was nothing left but an icy tundra where nothing could survive.

I debated on confronting her the next day, but fought against the urge.

Then I ran into her on day two. She wouldn’t even look at me, making a quick excuse about needing to talk to her dad.

By day three, I realized that pussy was fucking with my head, and no matter how good it is, she’s still my enemy. We have absolutely nothing in common outside of our sexual compatibility.

And now it’s day four. I’m sitting across from her dad in the back office of The Yellow Brick, and my mind can’t focus. I’m too busy wondering where she is, what she’s doing. If she still hates me as much as I know I should hate her.

“We’re going to Chicago.”

I focus in quickly on Farrell, his words shocking me into the present.

It’s always been a possibility, having to go back to Chicago while I’m pretending to be someone else. Working an undercover case in the same state where you live is risky at best. But the pros outweigh the cons. They needed someone local who could be convincing in their knowledge of the area. The Irish mob isn’t exactly known for welcoming outsiders.

“What for?” Zeke asks, his eyes glancing to me and then back.

“A charity auction, of course.” Farrell grins around his cigar. “I’m a phila… phi… someone who does good deeds, and the mayor’s reelection is coming up.”

“What’s in Chicago for the mayor of Kinland?” I ask.

“It’s a night on the water,” Farrell says behind a cloud of smoke. “For an important cause.”

“What’s that?” Zeke laughs. “Sucking rich people’s dicks and lining their pockets?”

“There will be a lot of important guests there. Oscar’s set up something for us with the Cantanellis.”

I sit straighter in my chair. This is a surprising twist. “The Italians?”

His eyes sharpen. “Unsurprisingly, they’re tired of not being able to compete with our product. They’ve been… less than accommodating with their requests that we stop distributing in their areas.”

Unease wraps around my chest. “You’re moving in on their territory?”

He shrugs. “I’m simply sitting down to negotiate terms.”

“Are you planning to give them your supplier?” I ask, leaning forward in my seat.

Farrell’s smile drops and his thick two fingers come up to take the Black & Mild from his mouth, tapping it into the crystal ashtray, his eyes narrowing. “Let me worry about my supplier. It will be there, and that’s what matters. You worry about keeping Dorothy safe.”

My heart stutters.

“No Evie?” Zeke questions.

“Evie’s busy,” Farrell snaps.

My middle pulls tight, my mind once again wondering where she is and what she’s doing.

The door bursts open, a sweaty Liam rushing in, his eyes bloodshot and his outfit crumpled.

“Skip,” he pants.

Farrell laughs, pointing his finger at Liam. “Look at this out-of-shape motherfucker. What’s got you running?”

“Cillian’s missing.” His voice is flat, but I sense the manic in his tone.

Farrell’s face grows serious, all amusement draining away. “And my product?”

Liam’s fists clench and he shakes his head.

Zeke tenses next to me, our eyes meeting for the briefest of moments.

Farrell sits back in his seat, picking back up his Black & Mild, the smoke swirling around his head and evaporating in the air. He removes the cigar from his mouth and waves his fingers back and forth, running his tongue over the front of his teeth. “Walk this back for me, Liam. You come to me.” He points to his own chest. “You tell me you’ve got someone we can trust. Someone loyal. Someone who can make us more than what we’ve been getting. Am I right so far?”

“Yeah, but—” Liam starts.

My senses sharpen, and everything that’s been plaguing my mind up to this moment disappears. This conversation seems important.

“But nothing.” Farrell shakes his head. “You know, Evie says you’re the rat.”

Liam’s face scrunches. “What? No, I—”

Farrell jumps up from his seat, grabbing a gun from underneath his desk and popping Liam twice, right in the head. His body drops to the floor, eyes wide and staring.

My stomach heaves.


The wind whips across the water of Lake Michigan and rolls through the city, making the cold sting my cheeks and freeze my hands. My breaths come in visible clouds of air and I rest against the graffiti-covered concrete wall, watching Seth pace back and forth in the back alley.

It wasn’t easy to get away once we got to Chicago, but here I am.

“When’s the meeting?” he asks.

“This weekend. Saturday night.” I rub my hands together before stuffing them in the pockets of my jacket. “Figured we could set something up. No way he isn’t going to bring product for them to sample.”

Seth blows out a breath. “Man… you know that’s not what we’re after.”

“Listen,” I continue, frustration squeezing my insides. “No one’s gonna tell me shit. Zeke’s been there for years, and he still has no clue. Let’s bring them in, shake them down. We can get Farrell to crack.” I pause.

Seth purses his lips. “We can set you up with the PD again, but Cap doesn’t want to make any stupid moves.”

I shake my head. “PD is compromised as fuck. Definitely have leaks in Kinland, which means he probably does here too.”

“What about his daughters?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I say, the icy tendrils of dread wrapping around my neck. “They might know something.”

He groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You know a ‘might’ isn’t enough. Galen wants the big dog, and if we move too early, we could lose it all.”

“I’m dying here, Seth,” I plead, desperation pushing the words from my tongue. “Do you know what it’s like to stand by and watch people get hurt, watch laws be broken and do nothing?” I press my fingers to my temple. “It fucks with your head.”

“You’ve never had a problem before,” he states.

“Yeah, well I’m having a problem now,” I bite back.

“Is this because of the girl?”

I jerk away from him. “What?”

“Eveline Westerly.” He steps toward me, cocking his head. His hand reaches out and rests on my shoulder, and I grit my teeth, pushing down the urge to shove him away.

“Are you in too deep, Nick?”

A burst of anger explodes through me and I grip his shirt, twisting until he’s slammed against the wall. Red clouds my vision. “How many fucking times do I gotta tell you not to call me that? Jesus Christ. You trying to get me killed?”

“But that’s who you are,” Seth seethes. “You’re Nicholas Woodsworth.”

He shoves my chest, and my hold loosens. “Born August seventeenth. You had a shit childhood with a junkie mom who made you grow up too fast, and you’ve got a sister waiting at home. One who loves you and asks about you every day.”

I release my grip on his shirt, stumbling back as I stare down at my hands, my stomach rolling.

What the fuck is happening to me?

“I—”

“You know,” Seth cuts me off. “You even talk like them now.”

I’m still staring at my hands.

“I get it, man. I know it’s hard, and in my heart of hearts, I believe no one can do this job like you. You’ve got the gift.” He hesitates. “But the reason you’re so good is because you don’t feel things the way other people do. You’re a machine. You don’t get attached.”

I snap up my head, meeting his worried gaze.

“So if you’re starting to?” he continues. “That’s something we need to address.”

Licking my lips, I shake my head, ignoring the way an ache is spreading between my temples. “No, I-I’m fine. Just stressed. I’m sorry.” Flexing my shaky fingers, I swallow, determination settling like a heavy brick in the center of my gut. “I think Dorothy may know something.”

Seth’s eyes shoot up. “You sure about that?”

I shake my head, huffing out an exasperated laugh. “No, but if she does… if we offer her immunity, she might take it. Just—just give me some time with her.”


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