By: Jayne Blue


I sank to the couch and rested my head on the back of the cushion. Brax’s hands. Broad and strong as he spanned my waist with them and lifted me onto the back of his bike. I hadn’t been brave enough to take a ride with him that night and always wondered what would have happened if I had. He was leather and sin and wild heat. He awakened a fire in me that night under the bleachers that I’d spent the last fifteen years trying to douse. It was there though, a tiny kindling just under the surface. A reminder of how terribly wrong everything can go if I ever got reckless like that again. And yet here I was, offering myself to him all over again.

God. He’d felt so good. He touched me in all the right places. He was strong and dangerous. Skilled and raw all at once. Just the fevered memory of his lips against my most sensitive flesh still kept me awake some nights, groaning his name in the darkness.

But I knew what he was. He’d been more honest with me that night than any man I’d been with before or since. It’s the reason I went to him all those years ago. For revenge. To prove something to myself. I wanted to break free from everyone’s expectations of me just for one lust-filled, wild, incredible moment. I’d gotten more than I bargained for that night.

Now though, could I do it again? We weren’t teenagers anymore and things like that came with a price. And I’d just offered myself to a man I knew was dangerous. A killer, if I believed some of the rumors I’d heard. Did the ends justify my means?

“Goddammit, Doug,” I whispered as a sob tore from my throat.

It had taken everything in me to stop Brax tonight. I wanted him, just enough to be dangerous. Except now, I couldn’t afford any mistakes. I could trace the crumbling of everything I believed about myself and the people I counted on to that one, reckless night I spent with Brax. Maybe the price I’d offered to pay him was way too high.

I curled up on the couch and felt the first heavy weight of sleep settle over my shoulders. I could call Brax tomorrow and tell him the deal was off. I’d come to my senses and wanted to do what the cops told me I should. Wait. Stay out of it. Let Doug reach out when he was ready.

No sooner had I thought it when my phone vibrated on the coffee table in front of me and skittered toward me. My heart jumped into my throat as I picked it up. Then it sank to my feet as I saw the caller ID.

“Doug?” I sat up. The air went from my lungs. “Doug, where are you? Are you all right?”

“Nic? Thank God. Nic? Can you hear me?” His voice sounded a million miles away and desperate. I think I aged a decade in that span of a few seconds and Doug got a decade younger. He sounded like he did when he was little.

“I can hear you. Where are you? Are you okay?”

I heard street sounds behind him. A car horn honking. “Nic. I need your help. It’s bad this time. It’s not my fault.”

When I spoke again, my voice went flat. “How much, Doug? What is it this time?”

“Fifteen grand, Nic. Please. And you can’t say no. I swear to God I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Will you just come home? Or tell me where you are. I’ve been worried sick.”

“Nicole, they’re going to kill me. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Doug choked back a sob and the blood in my veins turned to ice. I believed him. Something in his voice was different, more desperate. I clawed at the couch. It felt like the ground might open up beneath my feet and pull me into a dark, bottomless pit. I took a steadying breath and tried to remember what the cops told me to do if he called again.

“I’m trying to help you. But I need to know where you are. Doug, if someone’s trying to hurt you, we can call the police.”

“No! I told you. No police. Just. Please. Can you put the money in my bank account? If you don’t, I’ll be dead. They’re not messing around this time. I swear I’ll never ask you for anything like this again. It’s the last time.”

He’d said that to me so many times before. I sighed and shut my eyes tight. “Doug, I don’t know.”

He started to cry and the bottom dropped out of my heart.

“Jesus, Doug. Calm down. Please tell me where you are. If you’re in real trouble, we’ve got to call the police. I don’t care if you get arrested, Doug. I just want you safe.”

Then Doug yelled something I couldn’t understand. I tried to get him to slow down, but the line went dead. My heart hammered behind my ribcage as I screamed his name into the phone even though I knew he was long gone.

With shaky fingers, I tried to redial Doug’s number, but I got an automated message that his mailbox was full. Pulling my knees against my chest, I shivered. It was as if the temperature in the apartment just dropped twenty degrees.

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