Yes. I was going to cause trouble. I needed to.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll be bringing down the rain of trouble very soon, believe me. You just focus on being there for Drake. I’ll focus on causing him shit.”
He laughed. I laughed too. Mine was bitter and cold and cynical. His was hopeful. Young. Desperate and needy and optimistic.
Enough that I reached out and gripped his shoulder before rising to my feet.
“You need to get on the road to get some distance,” I said. “You have thirty minutes before I cause chaos.”
He was on his feet in a flash, his smile bright.
I helped him package himself together and disappear in his truck, waving him down the driveway like I’d see him again without so much as a question of doubt.
But it was there. Running deep.
The thought that I may never see my younger brother again.
I could only hope I’d survive that long.
Rebecca grabbed my arm defensively as Mr Sinister gestured me to follow. I met her eyes, and hers were full of sadness as we both realised afresh that there was no way to avoid the inevitable. We were doing this. All in. Both decided, in mind if not absolutely in heart, to see out our contracts and make the best of our financial situation. She let go with a brief nod, words unnecessary.
I needed to hang onto that. I needed to hang on to helping Phoebe. Needed to hang onto anything but Brandon Grant’s memory and get with this.
I could do it. I had to do it.
My forced strength went some way towards a rush of fresh confidence. I didn’t feel quite so exposed in my nakedness as I followed the big bad wolf into the outside hallway. I had my chin surprisingly high as I joined him in his walk down the corridor with one of his security team following behind us.
“I trust you slept well alongside Miss Lane?” Mr Sinister asked.
“The room was plenty warm, thank you, sir,” I replied and forced a hint of a polite smile.
I focused on keeping track of the layout of the place when we took a sharp right through one doorway and shortly after took another. I didn’t know quite where we were destined for as we ascended some stairs and took an additional hallway with no windows. This place was big. Really big.
“Your contract will be continuing straight through,” he said. “Keeping yourself in good physical condition using your mealtimes and sleeping arrangements will certainly be necessary.”
I nodded. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“Miss Lane is partway through an additional contract here, I’m sure she gave you the details.”
I made sure to give another nod, but he wasn’t looking. I used the moment to check out his features in closer proximity. He looked harsher still from last night as I examined him from side on. Attractive but stern and weathered. His nose was strong but his jaw was stronger. He was pointed. Striking. Cold.
“We have a broadcast of yours scheduled for this evening,” he said. “You’ll be prepared, yes?”
Another nod. “Yes, sir.”
I couldn’t hold back the shudder as it crawled up my spine. I covered my naked breasts with freshly folded arms as we kept walking, striving to act as though the position was comfort, not cowardice. I couldn’t help how I felt, even if it made me an utter idiot. I didn’t want to think about being with and around men who weren’t Brandon Grant. It didn’t matter what light Rebecca had shed onto how little he was likely to actually care for me, I cared for him. Still.
I wanted him. Still.
I needed him. Still.
But that was no good. No good at all.
“Our methods are harsher at this location,” Mr Sin carried on. “I’m sure Mr Grant gave you many a taster of what was to come, but here we have tighter schedules and practices. You’ll need to be at least equally committed to fulfilling your purpose for the rest of the days to come. Believe me, we’ll be pushing you.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, but my voice sounded far away.
He pushed open a door to the left and gestured me inside. I stepped on by him and found myself under lighting dim enough to make me blink to adjust. I was still getting my bearings when he pulled open some curtains along the far wall. I couldn’t hold back the gasp as I registered what was back there.
A one way mirrored screen revealed a whole fresh host of dungeon implements and furniture. My legs felt like jelly as I surveyed the hanging shackles and remembered how it felt to be chained taut and high. There was a zip of thrill at the memory… the memory of him… the memory of us… but here it felt different. So much different.
It felt… sinister.