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By´╝ÜKathryn Kelly

“Kendall? How do you know…?” Her voice trailed off, a memory of a lunch date she and Kendall had coming to her.

Noah licked her cheek. “I see you’ve put it together,” he said, low, sounding like the man named Counts who Kendall had introduced her to. “Noah Carson Counts at your service, Ophelia.” He tightened his hold on her. “Let me assist you a little more. I had a sister named Daphne. One of your brother’s Bobs. I haven’t spoken to her in weeks. Know why?”

Oh, yes, she knew why. Some might even hold Fee accountable. It wouldn’t matter that Kendall hadn’t given her a choice.

“It’s time to get Outlaw’s attention once and for all. If my sister’s expendable, his is, too. Once I square up with him, all will be good, and I’ll still accept his help.”

Fee frowned at Noah’s words, fear traveling through her. She didn’t have a good track record with men. Either she fell for dudes with commitment issues, some type of emotional trauma, or she chose abusive assholes.

After Cash and Stretch, she’d told herself she was done with guys. She’d join the other team or be celibate for the rest of her life.

Of course, watching Johnnie and Kendall go at it gave her trauma. For two people who loved each other, they couldn’t go for long without arguing. Definitely not the type of relationship she wanted.

“You traipse into my house, uninvited, as if you’re my old lady.” Noah’s voice broke into her thoughts. “Not only haven’t you come with what I want to hear, but I just found out about Daphne. Or…have you decided to give me pussy? Is that why you stopped by?”

She shook her head, attempting to inch past him, not liking the vibes wafting from him. The building anger in his eyes alarmed her. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d say hello.”

One moment changed the course of life. The mundane became the maudlin that only time healed. Fee had had several such instances that turned her world upside down. Christopher’s and Zoann’s shootings. Her mother’s death. Fee’s abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. The murder of her sisters and nieces.

Each time, she lived in blissful ignorance, never guessing the next minute would upend everything.

Unlike now.

A moment before Noah lunged, she saw his intentions by the reddening of his face. The change in his features might’ve been funny, if it wasn’t so scary.

She sprang for the door. Except he stood between her and freedom. He tackled her, slamming her to the wood floor. Pain jarred her head, back, and legs,

Tears filling her eyes, she raised up on all fours and crawled toward the door. Noah’s boot met her stomach before he dragged her to her feet, then punched her down. She gasped and curled into a ball.

Noah grabbed her bag and opened it, pouring the contents out. Coins pinged on the floor, followed by her cellphone, a pen, her wallet.

She closed her eyes, popping them open a moment later at Noah’s growl.

“Condoms?” He loomed above her. “Fucking slut.”

If she didn’t move, he’d kick her in the head. Forcing herself into motion, she grabbed his ankle and lifted herself up, shoving him backwards at the same time. She caught him off-guard and he slammed to his ass, granting her freedom.

Not bothering with her belongings, Fee skirted him. Catching the back of her shirt and the waistband of her shorts, he lifted her again, ignoring her wiggles and screams.

“I can kill you and bring your body to Outlaw. If he thinks I recovered you and want to help find your murderer, I’ll get his attention and gain his trust.”

“Christopher isn’t stupid,” she snarled. “He’ll know. He’ll figure it out.” Her brother figured everything out.

Noah lost his hold on her again, dropping her to the floor. Ignoring her pain, she scrambled to her feet, cursing the lack of an available weapon.

As he came toward her, Fee met him head on, raising her foot to deliver a kick to his junk.

She positioned herself too soon. he grabbed her ankle, unbalancing her again. She crashed to the floor. He kicked her thigh, grunting in satisfaction at the sound of her agonized cry.

Sobbing, Fee tried to drag herself to the door. If she could get outside, she’d free herself of this nightmare. Instead, he gripped a handful of her hair and tipped her head back.

“Now, you die,” he spat, puffing out breaths.

Placing the blade of a knife to her neck, he sliced, ignoring her struggles, screams, and tears. The cut stung, burned, and throbbed.

Warm wetness slid down her throat, sensation in her body floating away, her surroundings blurring. The blade of the knife descended toward her thigh, piercing it. She gurgled a cry, tears sliding down her cheeks.