Can Zolt and Irelyn mend their broken relationship and find a way back to each other? Or will Marcus succeed with his plans to forever separate this fated pair?
Preview the First Three Chapters Now!
Chapter One: Cold Light of Day
“Open the door now, Zolt.” The incessant pounding on the door and the sound of my brother
Brody’s pissed off voice pulled me out of my drunken haze. I peeled one eyelid open and groaned.
Where the hell am I?
The bed moved and I turned my head and groaned again. The last twenty-four hours came back
in startling detail, and it wasn’t pretty. Irelyn had left me for Marcus of all people because I had
unleashed crazy Zolt on her. Now, I was in bed with a woman I didn’t even know, in an apartment I
hadn’t expected to ever see again. If that wasn’t enough, my head throbbed like a bass drum spurred on
by the hangover from hell.
“Zolt! T-bone is going to break it down if you don’t fucking open it!”
“Who’s Zolt?” the woman next to me asked.
“Nobody,” I mumbled. Fucking nobody!
“Zolt! Last chance.” Brody’s voice boomed through the door.
I looked over at the bong, wishing we hadn’t smoked it all. Hell, we'd even drained the several
bottles of tequila we’d brought with us. The only thing left was a couple of enticing drops at the bottom
of the bottle.
Though the action fruitless, I reached down and picked up one of them, tipping back the very
last drop into my mouth. I growled my irritation and threw the bottle to the floor.
Letting out a low grumble, I returned my head to the pillow. There would be no numbing myself
until I got home.
Yeah, I was a mess; I had indulged myself in an epic bender. The need to get lost and forget the
shit of the last two days had trumped better judgment.
“John, who is that banging on the door?” A feminine hand stroked my chest and I cringed.
Majorly hung-over, the naked girl next to me wasn’t as appealing this morning as she’d been last night.
She didn’t smell like her. She didn’t look like her.
She simply wasn’t Irelyn.
With my eyes squeezed closed, I waited for the door to fly open. It would happen any minute.
The cavalry had arrived to save my sorry ass. It didn’t matter that I didn’t care, nor deserve, to be saved.
“He asked me to marry him, Zolt, and I said yes.”
Those words would haunt me for the rest of my life. I’d ruined the one thing that meant
everything to me. I’d fucked up so badly that being with Marcus seemed like a better alternative. In my
chest, my heart was a shredded heap of sinew and muscle. No amount of no-name blondes, alcohol, and
pot would ease my pain.
Irelyn Wilkes had saved me that day on the football field. For six years, I’d thought her a
hallucination. The best day of my life had been the day she became real. Until now, losing my football
career had been the worst thing to happen to me. That paled in comparison; losing my angel, my seraph,
hurt much worse.
The door slammed open and the sound of heavy footsteps approached the bedroom.
I stared at my naked self, knowing the polite thing would be to cover myself with a sheet, but I
didn’t give a fuck. Let my brother Brody and T-bone see me in all my glory. If I were a gentleman, I’d
cover up Blondie next to me, but I didn’t care about her either.
Brody walked into the bedroom and assessed the situation. He picked up one of the empty
bottles and shook his head. “Shit, Zolt. Are you insane?”
“John, who are these men? I didn’t agree to do multiples,” Blondie complained, pulling the sheet
“Don’t worry, sweetheart, not interested,” Brody replied with a hint of disgust in his voice. “Get
up and go. The party is over.”
“John, do you want me leave?” she asked.
I nodded. The attraction of last night faded in the cold light of day. Brody’s lecture would
commence any minute. I rolled over and pulled the pillow over my head. I was in no mood to be
scolded for acting out, even if I deserved it.
“Here’s ten bills, take it and leave,” T’s deep voice commanded. “Forget you ever met him. If
you don’t have a ride, I’ll arrange for one.”
The mattress dipped as Blondie got off the bed. “I have my car. There was something wrong
with him, anyway. He couldn’t get it up and kept calling me Irelyn.”
“Just go.” Brody sighed.
After a few minutes of clothes rustling, the door opened and closed.
“Get up, Zolt. It’s time to come home. I can’t fucking believe you. Seriously, do you really think
smoking pot and binging on tequila with a woman you don’t know was a good idea?”
“Shut up, Brody. I don’t need a lecture. Leave me alone.” I pulled the pillow tighter over my
“So help me, God, Zolt, get your ass out of bed or T and I will drag it out. Irelyn needs you.”
“What?” I threw the pillow aside. “She left me for Marcus. I’m certain she wants nothing to do
“Wrong. Irelyn is in trouble. If she’d left you of her own volition, then why did she leave her dog
and her Mustang behind? Besides you, those were the two things she adored the most. Rachel says she’s
not returning her calls either. I’m telling you, she’s in trouble.”
“She said she was wearing green, Brody. Green means good. She’s good. She's happy,” I said, my
voice breaking. “She has what she wants and it’s not me.”
“Irelyn lied to you,” T said. “We believe Marcus forced her into this. He’s holding something or
someone over her, and we have to help her before he hurts her or worse. He had Sloan arrested on a
trumped-up charge in front of the dress shop to get him out of the way.”
I sat up, suddenly terrified for her. Though we hadn’t been together very long, and there was so
much we had yet to learn about each other, the one thing I knew for sure was Irelyn would not leave her
dog, her car, or her friends behind. She and Rachael were like sisters. If I’d thought instead of reacted, I
would have figured it out.
“I brought fresh clothes for you. I’ll give you a shot of B-12.” Brody sat on the edge of the bed
and grabbed my wrist, taking my pulse. “How much did you drink?”
“I don’t remember.”
I’d stopped at the first bar I had driven past, went inside, and found Blondie. Fucking, drinking,
and smoking pot had been my goal. After we got trashed, I tried to fuck her but I couldn’t. My cock
hadn’t failed me before last night.
Maybe somewhere in my psyche, I knew Irelyn hadn’t really chosen Marcus, or maybe it was just
wishful thinking. Either way, fucking Blondie had seemed like a betrayal. I wasn’t ready to go there yet. I
wondered if I’d ever be ready.
“When did you eat last?” Brody asked as he continued his exam.
“I don’t remember.”
“You’re hurting, I get that, but you’ve got to find a better, healthier way of coping,” Brody said
as he prepared the B-12 shot.
“I didn’t fuck her,” I said, wincing as he gave me a shot. I was in love with Irelyn. Until I had my
say with her, face-to-face, I wouldn’t be with anyone else.
“Fucking her isn’t the issue. What I care about is you resorting to drinking and using with a
woman you don’t even know.”
I glanced up at T who stood with his massive arms crossed over his chest. His expression
mirrored Brody’s tone, and I could see the disappointment in his eyes.
“You’re right,” I mumbled.
“Of course I am. Take a shower and let’s leave. I’ll drive the Viper home; I don’t want you
“Fine. Wait, how did you find me? I don’t remember telling you the address of this apartment.”
“There’s a GPS locator in your Viper. I couldn’t take any chances,” T-bone answered.
“Rachael, Cory, and Sloan will be at your house in two hours so we can talk about what’s going
on,” Brody added, putting away his medical supplies.
I laid there and let what they said sink in. If they were right, Marcus must be holding something
major over Irelyn’s head to make her do what she did. The thought of her in the hands of that monster
made my stomach roil. I jumped off the bed and ran into the bathroom just in time to toss the contents
of my last meal into the toilet.
How the fuck did I get here? I thought as I leaned against the cold tile of the bathtub. Three days ago,
Irelyn was in my bed and in my life, and I was making love to her. Now, I was sitting on the floor of the
bathroom puking my gut out.
“Get your shit together, Z-man,” T-bone said at the door. “We need to get you home so we can
start planning how to get Irelyn away from him. You can lick your wounds later.”
I pulled myself to my feet and started the shower. Inside, I rinsed the vomit aftertaste from my
mouth, but the sour taste of Irelyn’s rejection remained. It would be a long time before it dissipated.
Turning the water to scolding, I winced at the sting of the hot water on my skin, but I deserved
it. After all, you shouldn’t be able to scrub away your own cocksuckerism behavior without it hurting.
Rachael, Cory, and Sloan were already sitting on my couch in the great room when we got there.
They stared at me with a mixture of pity and irritation. Irritation I could handle; pity just pissed me off.
“I’ve called her at least ten times or more,” Rachael said, her hand squeezing Cory’s.
“More,” Cory said. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it.
“She hasn’t called me back. Nothing. This isn’t Irelyn. Is it true she told you Marcus proposed
and she accepted?”
“That’s what she said,” I bit out coldly. I didn’t want to rehash this.
“Marcus must be forcing her. There is no way she would marry him, Zolt.” Rachael looked at
Cory and they shared an unspoken conversation. Cory gave a one-shoulder shrug.
“Zolt, before Irelyn went for her dress fitting, she said she was coming over here right after. She
wanted to be here when you woke from being sedated. Staying away from you wasn’t her intention.
Obviously, Marcus cornered her at the dress salon.”
“Which is where they arrested me,” Sloan said. His irritation made his Irish accent even more
pronounced. “I should have guessed Marcus was behind it.”
“Whatever he said to her, or threatened her with, must have been major. She’s going to kill me
for telling you, but here it goes: Irelyn said she was in love with you. I guarantee that didn’t change in
less than twenty-four hours.”
“Oh,” I mumbled, staring at Rachael. Tears stung the back of my eyes, and I squeezed them shut.
I was so fucking pissed at myself for losing control that day, and now the if onlys were scrolling through
my mind. If only I had my shit together. If only I had been there with her at the dress fitting. I scrubbed
my face with my hands as my stomach roiled again. “This is my fault.”
“Yeah, you fucked up, Z-man.” T-bone squeezed my shoulder. “But we can’t dwell on who’s to
blame. We need to figure out where Irelyn is and how to get her away from Marcus.”
Cory stared down at his phone and frowned.
“What’s wrong, baby?” Rachael asked.
“It’s Kenna. I’ve called her and messaged her. Nothing. You dropped her off, right Sloan?” Cory
“I did.” Sloan shifted uncomfortably. He was hiding something, and it most likely had to do with
the way he had eye-fucked Kenna the other night.
“Kenna can be flighty, Cory,” Rachel soothed. “She’s probably hanging out with her friends and
lost her phone again. She can be kind of ditsy on occasion.”
“Yeah, maybe. But Mom said she didn’t show up for her dress fitting. The salon called and asked
if she wanted to reschedule.”
Sloan growled at the same time dread turned my blood cold. We looked at each other.
“You don’t think… do you, Sloan?” I asked, knowing we were on the same wavelength.
“Think what?” Brody asked.
“Kenna. Marcus has Kenna,” Sloan answered. “Fuck!”
T-bone glanced at his phone and tapped out a message. “I’m contacting Jackson to see if he’s
“We have to find out,” Cory said, standing up. “If he has Kenna and he has harmed her, I’ll
fucking kill him. I need to contact my Dad.”
“Hold on, Cory,” T said, scrolling through his phone. “Jackson says he’s heard rumors about a
new woman up for auction. Apparently, Marcus has two houses. Jackson’s trying to find out the location
of the other house. Marcus isn’t stupid enough to keep them at his residence.”
“We’re forgetting about Friday night,” Rachael said, standing up to take Cory’s hand. “Marcus is
on the board of the AZ Cardinals Charity Ball. He’ll be there, and he’ll bring Irelyn. It just makes sense
if he’s going to perpetuate this farce about them getting married. Marcus’s pride will dictate that they be
seen together in society.”
“Put me on the guest list, Rachael,” I said. “I’m going, and I’m not leaving without Irelyn.”
“No a good idea, Z-man,” T said. He gave me a discerning look.
“I don’t care, T. I’m going,” I retorted. “If I knew where the fuck that house was, I would go
“Me, too,” Cory agreed.
T-bone squeezed his eyes shut then opened them. “Fine. Maybe you’re right, Z. The best place
to recover Irelyn will be in a public forum. Cory, you and me should meet with your father. I need to
brief him on what’s going on. I don’t want him to do anything stupid. I’ve laid the groundwork from the
inside out. That’s our advantage and we need to keep it.”
“Done,” Cory agreed. “We’ll go home now and talk with Dad. You’ll follow behind us?”
“Let’s roll,” T said.
“Wait, I’ll go too. We should tell your father about Jacob’s involvement. It’s possible the firm
may have some liability regarding the Black Swan settlement.”
I glanced over at Sloan who quietly seethed, his gunmetal gray eyes were black with ire. I don’t
know if anyone else felt the menace coming from him, but I did. His jaw muscle worked, clenching and
unclenching. Something had happened between him and Kenna, and I empathized with him, I did.
Feeling powerless to help the woman you loved was fucking hell.
Chapter Two: Paying the Price
The sound of the door slamming reverberated throughout the room that was to be my prison.
My hand trembled as I covered my mouth, too shocked to scream at what I saw covering the walls of
the small room Marcus locked me in. If I thought the man I had trusted my virginity to had a semblance
of humanity about him, I had been sorely mistaken. The floors were bare concrete, no bed, no chair,
A strong metallic stench permeated the space, and I guessed it was the smell of blood. Several
crime scene photos of my brother’s broken and bloodied body were splayed everywhere in living color.
Chris’s bashed-in face and empty green eyes stared at me. Wherever I turned, they were there. I glanced
at the ceiling to find the worst of them. It covered the width of the room, magnifying the brutality of the
attack that killed him.
Marcus’s cruelty was boundless, and I was painfully reminded of the lengths he’d go to get what
Nausea overtook me, and I ran to the bathroom and vomited. The same photos covered every
flat surface, including the bathroom. There would be no sanctuary while I remained captive in here.
“Why?” I asked through my tears as I sat on the floor and leaned against the bathtub. I wanted
to rip them down and destroy them. But I couldn’t, and I needed to find a way to endure and not obsess
about how I’d given my virginity to the man who murdered my brother.
Zolt’s handsome face flashed in my mind and I closed my eyes. He was my reason for letting
Marcus take control of me—he and Kenna. I pushed the thought of her out of my mind. Thinking back
now, he had taken it easy on me when he took my virginity. Kenna wouldn’t be afforded the same. Her
body was going to be sold as if she were a slab of beef. My heart broke for her. My heart broke for me.
The sound of crowd noise filled the room, and I pushed myself to my feet. After rinsing my
mouth, I went into the bedroom to see what new torture Marcus had arranged.
On the large TV on the wall, footage from Zolt’s injury played on a loop. The crushing sound of
the dirty hit—the bounty against Zolt bankrolled by Marcus—echoed off the walls. I covered my ears
with my hands and squeezed my eyes closed. Marcus knew how to drive his point home, and how to put
me in my place, making sure I conformed to his expectations.
I lay curled up on the floor with my arms over my head, trying to drown out the noise of the TV.
The tears I held back finally broke loose. I wanted to be strong enough to survive this, but I didn’t know
if I was, and I was afraid Marcus might succeed in breaking me.
I cried myself out, letting myself give in to the fear, grief, and despair that filled me. Then I
stopped, determined to find my strength. Staying vigilant and praying that somehow Zolt would see
through my lies were my only options. When this was over, I needed to be able to return to him and beg
for forgiveness. If Marcus broke me I couldn’t do that. Whatever he threw at me, I decided to survive it.
I kept in the forefront of my mind an image of Zolt and me together. Hopefully, Kenna had something
similar to help her survive too.
Some indeterminate time later, the door unlock and open, and I heard it shut and lock again.
Quickly I sat up expecting Marcus. To my surprise, a beautiful girl wearing a gray pencil skirt and white
button-up blouse carrying a tray of food. She was striking with ebony hair and piercing blue eyes. The
only thing that marred her beauty was the nasty scar that ran the length of her jawline, but even it didn’t
overwhelm her attractiveness.
“Hi,” I said and straightened my dress. “My name is Irelyn.”
“Hi,” she returned and set the tray on the table, not making eye contact with me.
“Thanks for bringing me food.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll be back in an hour. Marcus requests that you eat everything on the tray.”
She turned and walked to the door, unlocked it, then left, locking it behind her.
I sighed. The woman, who wasn’t much older than me, hadn’t been friendly. Any ideas of
befriending her were dashed. Certainly, Marcus told her not to talk to me, and that cameras monitored
For now, the footage of Zolt’s injury had turned off, but undoubtedly it would come on again,
probably intermittently. Marcus was doing his best to mind-fuck me. Just like I would desensitize myself
to the crime scene photos of Chris, I would do the same with the footage, otherwise I would go crazy.
I went to the tray and frowned. Marcus sent all the foods I hated: pizza with anchovies and some
kind of tarragon chicken dish. I stared at the food fought the urge to scream. However I could, I had to
force this down and keep it there. I wasn’t about to give Marcus a reason to punish me.
The following hours dragged on in much the same fashion. Since there were no windows, I
couldn’t tell what time of day it was. So I took to counting to sixty by one thousands, using my fingers
to keep track. After a while, I grew tired of the exercise, finding it fruitless. The lack of sleep left me
skirting the edge of delirium. I played mental games with myself in an effort to remain sane, counting
the cracks in the concrete, not stopping until I came up with the same number twice.
The ebony-haired woman would bring in a tray once a day of my most hated foods; everything
from liver and onions, fried eggs with runny whites, and some kind of Mexican dish with tripe in it.
Each time, I choked it down while I leaned against the wall, sitting on the floor. With no clock, I decide
to keep time by the appearance of each tray. So far three had been delivered.
As I suspected, the footage of Zolt would come on at unpredictable times. I had to give it to
Marcus; he was a master of the mind-fuck. The lights in the room never turned off, and sometimes I
swear they got brighter. Even taking a shower was hit and miss as the water either scalded or froze my
ass off. If that weren’t bad enough, it changed at a moment’s notice. Marcus didn’t provided any
toiletries: no shampoo, conditioner, or body soap. Not even a toothbrush or toothpaste. The only luxury
was the toilet paper, and God only knew if I would get more when it ran out.
Regardless, I refused to succumb. When it started to be too much, I closed my eyes and replayed
when Zolt and I had been together, torturing myself in an entirely different way.
Several times during the hours, I heard a woman cry out in pain. Though I wasn’t sure, deep
inside, I knew it was Kenna, and whatever awful things she experienced were for my benefit. Kenna was
yet another device in his plan, another way to break me. Only harming Zolt, or worse, killing him would
ever break me.
That Marcus hadn’t shown his ugly face once didn’t surprise me. He was trying to knock me offbalance,
keeping me on the edge, wondering when and if he’d come. Eventually he would, and I’ll admit
I was scared shitless of what he’d do to me when he did. Either way, I’d take whatever he doled out
even if it meant having sex with him.
One of the worst things was the lack of clean clothing, causing me to wear only my panties and
bra, leaving my dress for the times when I rinsed my undergarments out.
My life now consisted of a window-less room, surrounded by images designed to remind of
Marcus’s viciousness and what he’d already taken from me. So I played the waiting game, torturing
myself with memories of Zolt.
The door opened and the same woman came in carrying another tray. On her way past me, she
dropped a note into my lap. Her blue eyes darted to the corner, and I figured she was indicating the
location of a camera.
She walked back to the door and turned to me. “Marcus wanted me to tell you tomorrow is
Friday. You will accompany him to the AZ Cardinal’s Charity Event. I will return to help you get ready.”
She unlocked the door and left. As soon as the door locked again, I stared at the note resting
between my crossed legs, hidden from view. I needed to figure out a place to read it where I wouldn’t be
seen since I didn’t want her to get in trouble because of me.
Taking a chance, I walked to the far corner of the room, hoping whoever set up the cameras
wouldn’t find it necessary to train one on that particular direction. Carefully, I unfolded the small scrap
You don’t know me, but my name is Delaney Carmichael. I’m Marcus’s stepsister. I’m sorry Marcus
has done this to you and Kenna. I’m sure you’ve probably heard the cries. If you wondered if they came
from Kenna, you’d be right. I’ve tended to her as much as he lets me. So far, she’s doing okay.
You have no reason to want to help me, but if you ever find yourself free of Marcus, please don’t forget
“Fuck,” I said to the empty room before placing the paper in my mouth. While I moved from
the corner, I chewed the paper, then went to the bathroom and turned on the tap. Cupping water with
my hands, I took a drink, making it easier to swallow. I couldn’t chance Marcus finding the note.
My heart sank as I thought about the screams I’d heard. At least Delaney tried to help Kenna,
and for that I was thankful. I wondered how Marcus had trapped Delaney and if the scar on her neck
was due to Marcus’s handiwork?
Somehow, I needed to figure out a way to help Kenna and now Delaney. In the pit of my
stomach, I suspected tomorrow night would be my only chance to save myself and possibly them,
assuming I could get away from Marcus long enough to say two words to Rachael.
The next day—at least, I thought it was the next day—the door unlocked. I’d expected it to be
Delaney, coming in with the daily tray or to prepare me for the event. When Marcus stepped into the
room, my heart dropped and terror shot through my brain.
“It’s time, Irelyn.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet.
“For what?” I asked with a shaky voice. The fact that he was wearing a black T-shirt and track
pants told me I wasn’t going to like what he planned. If he found it necessary to be comfortable, I
should be terrified.
And I was.
“Time to cleanse your mind and body of Zolt Hamil. Time to remind you of the manners you
seemed to have forgotten. And time to reinforce good behavior for tonight’s event, no matter what
happens.” His voice came out cold and emotionless and my spine stiffened with fear.
“I’ll behave, Marcus. I swear.”
“Your word means nothing to me, Irelyn when you’ve already proven you can’t be trusted. I
would be disappointed with myself if I took your word at face value. Cheaters can’t be trusted, and they
can’t go unpunished.”
Oh, fuck! Whatever he planned for me wasn’t going to be fun. Given Kenna’s screams, I assumed
it would be physical, but he wouldn’t mark my face. Visible bruises were too hard to explain away—
mental ones were much easier to hide. He already needed to cover the dark circles under my eyes and
my pale complexion.
I followed Marcus into a dark room. When he turned on the lights, I almost fainted. The room
was small and mostly empty except for the St. Andrews’ cross on the far wall and the rack of different
floggers, whips, and canes.
Oh. My. Fucking. God!
“That’s right, Irelyn. I wish I didn’t have to resort to this extreme, but you’ve left me with no
choice. As a reward for your good behavior tonight, I’ll allow you to drop to your knees suck my cock
when we return.”
I wanted to laugh—turn to him and laugh in his face. But nothing about this was funny; it was
terrifying. Even so I clung to the idea Marcus wouldn’t beat me bad enough to disable me. The man
mastered everything he did, and certain beating women was on that list. He’d know how far to go, so
that every time I moved or breathed, I’d remember my punishment.
“Take off your panties and bra and then stand facing the cross. Put your wrists and ankles in the
restraints. Quickly!” he demanded.
I forced myself to do as he bid though my legs had turned to jelly with fear. Marcus’s footstep
sounded behind me. Once he fastened my restraints, he walked away, I assumed to select his implement
“You really do have a beautiful body, and I’m torn about how much to punish you. If we had
time, I’d beat the shit out of you for making me look like a fool. Lucky for you, I need you to
accompany me tonight. I also need you to make a good show of it.”
A whoosh of air moved my hair and a loud snap sounded just above my head. I jumped and
almost peed myself.
“But,” Marcus said as he trailed what I figured was a flogger of some type down my back. “That
doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind in the coming days. However, I do think fucking Zolt Hamil out
of you will be the best course of action. Since we have limited time, that, too, will have to wait.”
Marcus stepped back from me, and I heard the flogger whoosh through the air a couple of times.
I held my breath and waited for the first blow to land, commanding myself not to cry out. It
didn’t work. I hissed out in pain each time the flogger landed.
“This is for making a fool of me!”
“This is for defying me.”
Over and over, the flogger cut through the air, coming down on the small of my back just above
my ass with a loud clap!
“This one is for fucking Zolt Hamil!”
“This is forgetting that you are mine!”
I hissed out with every lash of the flogger as Marcus recounted my crimes against him. After five
lashes, I lost count and let myself float away into a merciful darkness.
Chapter Three: Taking Back What’s Mine
“Quit fidgeting with your tie, Zolt. You look great,” Rachael admonished as we rode in the limo
to the stadium.
I placed my hands under my legs, but too many thoughts and ideas whizzed through my head,
and my nervous energy had me on the edge. Giving up, I pulled out my hands and shook them out.
Sleep had eluded me since Irelyn left, mostly due to the return of my nightmares. They were no
longer centered around my football injury. Instead they’d morphed into tortured images of Marcus with
Irelyn, him doing things to her that she hated.
“Sorry,” I said and forced a smile to my face, telling myself to stay focused, but my lack of sleep
dimmed my mind. Still, I needed to keep the chains moving down the field just as I did when I played
football. This would be our only chance to get Irelyn away from him; if we failed tonight, we failed
permanently. “Everything is ready?”
“Yep. Dad will call Marcus to the stage and present him with a long-winded speech thanking for
his generosity. Fucking bastard,” Cory spat.
I felt for Peter, Cory’s dad. Turning his daughter’s safe return to T-bone had to be difficult. But
simply put, he had resources the authorities didn’t or couldn’t have. And Sloan was a man on a mission.
With Jackson Wyatt on in the inside and Sloan on the outside, it was a matter of time before we brought
“While Dad makes his speech, some friends and I, along with T-bone’s men, will stand in front
of Irelyn, allowing you to take her off the dance floor. Then, we’ll run interference for you while you
and Irelyn get in the limo,” Cory said.
“Not you, Cory. You stay with Rachael the entire time. Don’t leave her alone for a moment,
even if it means going to the ladies’ with her.”
Cory nodded and kissed Rachael. “Not for a minute.”
“The fucking irony of it all is the AZ Cardinal’s charity is dedicated to women’s causes. It kills
me we have to thank him,” Rachael said, her face twisting with disgust.
“Agreed.” I turned to Cory and gave him a sad smile. “I know this is hard for you and your
family, given the situation with Kenna. What I’d like to do is beat the living shit out of Marcus and make
him tell us where she is.”
“T-bone said his man on the inside will find the place tonight for sure. Maybe we’ll be lucky and
get them both back.” Cory held up his hand and crossed his fingers.
“Here’s hoping,” I said, praying to God that would happen. We all knew, though kept it
ourselves, that if we were only successful with Irelyn and not both, Kenna would pay the price. The one
thing we had going for us was that Marcus still planned on auctioning Kenna to the highest bidder. With
that in mind, I had to believe he’d keep her in one piece.
Just in case, I crossed my fingers, too.
The limo pulled to a stop and I inhaled deeply, holding it before blowing it out. The gala had
been under way for over an hour. Dinner had already been served and dancing would begin just before
the charity auction began. This was the perfect break for Cory’s father to call Marcus to the stage.
Now was our chance.
We walked in separately. Cory and Rachael made their way to the stage to where both of their
parents waited. I limped to the back of the dance floor and searched the crowd. Several people pointed
at me, and I heard my name being whispered. I ignored them all.
Within minutes I found Irelyn standing next to him. Even though she faced forward, I knew it
was her. The memory of her naked back was burned into my gray matter. I had kissed every inch of it
before, after, and during sex, and I would recognize her body anywhere. Just the sight of it made my
heart skip a beat. Something about the way she stood that struck me as odd. Her stance seemed
unnatural and uncomfortable. Her shoulders were hunched in, and she kept her head down. Gone was
my Irelyn that always carried herself with absolute confidence. My sixth sense kicked in, telling me
something was terribly wrong.
Peter Campbell took center stage, calling everyone to attention. Then he asked Marcus to join
Marcus looked around and frowned before plastering a fake smile to his face. He leaned over
and grabbed Irelyn by her shoulders, pulling her close where he whispered something in her ear.
I watched her stiffen, and then mouth “yes”. As soon as he moved through the crowd to the
stage where Peter waited for him, I saw her visibly relax.
My insides quaked with nerves. And just like the old days, I shook out my hands and my nervous
energy. I locked onto my target and made my way toward Irelyn.
Just as we’d planned, several men surrounded her, blocking Marcus’s view of her.
“Irelyn,” I said and placed my hand on her shoulder.
She spun around and gaped at me, wincing as if in pain. “Zolt? What are you doing here?”
“Saving you.” I grabbed her by the hand and started to pull her through the crowd.
“No, Zolt. You can’t,” she said, halting our forward progress. “That is, I’m fine. Just leave.
“Quit fucking lying to me, Irelyn,” I growled, nervously glancing to the front where Peter
Campbell droned on about Marcus, talking until Cory gave him the signal.
I could see Marcus scan the crowd. Though he still wore his fake smile, his narrowed eyes
suggested that not seeing Irelyn pissed him off.
“You don’t understand, Zolt. I’m wearing red. Kenna’s wearing red. You’re wearing red,” she
said, her voice breaking with the last three words.”
“I do understand. We know you lied, and we know about Kenna. T-bone is on it. Come on, we
don’t have time to dick around.” When I placed my hand on her lower back to guide her forward, she
cried out in pain. “What the fuck?”
Irelyn stared up at me, her eyes wide and pupils dilated with pain and fear as they filled with tears.
“He punished me,” she said in a small, pain-filled voice.
“That mother fucker! I’ll kill him.” I squeezed my eyes closed and sought the calm and control I
used to command when I played.
“Please trust me, baby. Please,” I said calmly and opened my eyes. “We have to leave now before
Marcus tries to stop us. Please.”
Irelyn glanced up at the stage then back at me. She took my hand and let me guide her through
the crowd. The trembling of her hand in mine nearly stole my resolve not to beat the shit out of Marcus.
Before anything, I needed to get Irelyn out of here and safe.
As we walked, I pulled out my phone and speed-dialed our driver. “Pull the limo around now!”
“Irelyn!” Marcus’s voice boomed through the sound system. “Join me. This means nothing
without you by my side. You belong with me.”
Irelyn stopped and turned toward the stage. Peter Campbell shifted uncomfortably on the stage
as Marcus glared in our direction.
She looked at me, then Marcus, then back to me. Torment darkened her gaze, and for a moment
I worried she would decide to stay.
“Irelyn,” I squeezed her hand. “Please. Let’s go. We have to go.”
“He’ll hurt her. I—”
“Trust me. Trust that we will get Kenna out. You have to come with me.”
“Irelyn!” Marcus said again more forcefully and held out his hand.
The entire room turned in our direction as this crazy situation played itself out.
“As I was saying,” Peter Campbell continued much to Marcus’s dismay, who scowled at the man
next to him. But Peter kept talking, continuing with his false praise even placing his arm around
Irelyn shook her head then turned to me. “All right, I’ll go with you.”
“Thank God.” I guided her through the onlookers to the door. By the time we were outside, the
limo was waiting with the door open.
Irelyn cried out as she climbed into the back and I cursed.
Crazy Zolt wanted to take over, tell the driver to take Irelyn to my house while I went back
inside and fucked Marcus up. But crazy Zolt wasn’t in control tonight.
I slid in next to Irelyn and the driver shut the door. A minute later, the limo pulled away.
Irelyn sobbed into her hands, leaving me at a loss for what to do as my heart broke.
“Baby, please don’t cry.” I tried to pull her to me, but she cried out again.
“It hurts Zolt. It hurts so much.”
“What did he do to you?” I ground out.
“H-he flogged me. Said I had to be punished.”
“M-maybe two or three hours ago,” she stuttered through her sobs.
Mother fucker! Mother fucker! Mother fucker!
My jaw clenched, and I gritted my teeth, trying to stay in control. “It will be okay. I’ll make it
I dug into my jacket pocket and pulled out my phone, dialing Brody.
“Brody, I have Irelyn. We should be there in about forty-five minutes. Listen, Brody, Marcus
beat Irelyn with a flogger. She’s in a lot of pain. I have no idea how bad it is, but you need to be
I disconnected the call then texted Cory, telling him we’re on our way to my house. I felt at a
total loss on how to help her until I noticed the collar around her neck. Instantly, I knew the one thing I
“We’re getting rid of this. You’ll never have to wear it again.” I unhooked the collar, pushed the
button and rolled down the window. With the power I used to use to throw spirals down the field, I
flung it out into the black night.
“Thank you,” she said, gracing me with a grateful smile.
“You are so very welcome.” I kissed her lips, restraining myself from pulling her to me. “How
about a shot?”
Irelyn nodded, and I found the tequila and poured a healthy shot into a glass.
“This will help until Brody can treat you.”
She downed it, coughing a little before handing me the glass.
“What can I do? Would it help if you lay on your stomach? You could stretch out on the bench
“Okay. Could you unzip my dress?”
“Sure, baby. Anything.”
Gingerly, she maneuvered herself to the long side seat and lay on her stomach, her head facing
Once she was settled, I moved to her side and carefully unzipped her dress. When it fell open
and exposed her back, I had to bite the inside of my lip to stop myself from screaming. Several welts
marred her lovely back, and I could feel the heat radiating from them.
My eyes started to sting with tears of anger and impotence. How a man could do this to a
woman, I would never understand, and I couldn’t get over the fact that this was my fault.
I sat back in the seat, leaning forward so I could stroke Irelyn hair. “Did the shot help?”
“A little.” She glanced over her shoulder toward the driver. “Where’s Sloan?”
“He’s with T-bone’s men looking for where you were held. Is there anything you can remember
about where it might be?”
“No. He blindfolded me on the ride over there.”
“Of course he did.”
“Zolt, there’s another woman there who needs help. Her name is Delaney Carmichael. She’s
Marcus’s stepsister. She slipped me a note asking me not to forget her.”
“Okay.” I rubbed my chin. “How can we be sure she wasn’t baiting you?”
“No. It said she was helping Kenna. Zolt, I heard Kenna screams. I don’t know what Marcus did
to her… We have to find her.”
“We will. I promise. Did you keep the note?”
She gave me a sheepish look. “No. I ate it to keep it from Marcus.”
“You ate it?” I started laughing. It was not funny, and but I found it hilarious. None of this was
funny. It was so far from funny that it was tragic. So why I laughed, I couldn’t say, and I felt like a
complete shit for not stopping.
“Zolt, why are you laughing? I was terrified,” Irelyn said, her beautiful red lips curved down into
a frown. “You have no idea what he did.”
“It’s—Because I’m a dick. This is anything but funny.” I kept stroking her hair, hoping she’d
come to understand how fucked up and scared I had been this last week. “I’m sorry. Relax until we get
home. Brody will make it all right.”
“Text T-bone and tell him about Delaney, please.”
I nodded and did as she asked. We stayed silent for the rest of the drive, but I kept touching her,
continually stroking her hair.
When we finally arrived, I helped Irelyn out of the car, making sure her dress stayed in place. I
wanted to carry her, but I worried it could hurt her more than it would help.
“I set up in the spare bedroom,” Brody said.
“She should be in my bedroom,” I said, irritated that Brody had made that decision without
“Because I had no idea what we’d be facing. I figured it was best to give her a room to herself.”
“It’s fine, Zolt. You’ll need to get your rest.” Irelyn gave me a weak smile that made me want to
cry. She was trying to be so strong for me and I didn’t fucking deserve it.
“I’m going to step out while you help Irelyn get settled. Have her lay face down, undressed. You
can cover her with a sheet, but leave her welts uncovered.” Brody left the room and closed the door.
“You heard Dr. Hamil,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “Drop the dress, young lady.”
Irelyn remained silent and let her dress fall.
I covered my mouth and gasped when I saw the extent of Marcus’s handiwork on her lower
back. The man wielded a flogger like a professional. He did just enough damage to cause her extreme
pain but not to completely disable her.
I’m going to fucking kill him, but not before I beat the shit out of him first.
“I’m so embarrassed.” Though she had her back to me, I would tell by the quaver in her voice
that she cried.
“Don’t be, baby. Brody’s a doctor. He’s seen it all before.” But to be honest, my brother seeing
my girlfriend’s sweet ass pissed me off.
If she’s still is my girlfriend.
Irelyn lay on the bed naked, and I covered as much of her as I could, leaving her injured back
exposed. She whimpered the entire time, and I was having hard a time keeping it together.
“Are you comfortable?” I sat on the side of the bed and stroked her face with my finger. “I
mean, stupid question, but do you need anything else before I get Brody?”
“No. Well, maybe a tissue. I’m sure my face is streaked black by now. And can you twist my hair
into a knot?”
“Sure.” I did my best with her hair then handed her a tissue. She was right, her eye makeup had
run, but I still found her beautiful.
“Your face is perfect.” It was true. Just her being back in my house made everything perfect.
She wiped her nose and face then handed me the tissue to dispose of. “Anything else?”
“Okay. I’ll go get Brody.”
“Yeah,” I said with my hand on the doorknob.
“Stay with me while he tends my back. I’m scared.”
I closed my eyes, praying I could keep my tears at bay, and then I swallowed hard. “You got it,
baby. I’ll be right back.”
I opened the door to find Brody waiting in the hall. His short, curly brown hair was standing on
end, looking as though he’d been running his hands through it.
Closing the door, I joined him. “I’m going to fucking kill him, Brody. I swear, if it’s the last thing
I do, I’ll kill him.”
Brody squeezed my shoulder. “We’ll deal with that later. First, we have to help Irelyn. This is
going to hurt her, Zolt. I need you to pull yourself together. You have to be strong for her. Fall apart
With a nod, I followed Brody into the room and shut the door.
“How are you doing, Irelyn?” Brody asked as he pulled on gloves. He was all business, and I was
thankful for that.
“It hurts. My back feels like it’s on fire,” she said as more tears coursed down her cheeks.
“I know. I’m going to insert an IV and give you some pain meds. Thankfully, T-bone has wicked
connections and was able to get everything we need. I’d prefer to do this in a hospital, but they might
“But you can tend her back, right?” I asked and worried my lip my thumb and forefinger.
“I can,” he answered as he inserted the IV. “Sorry if this hurts, I haven’t inserted an IV in a
while, so bear with me, Irelyn.”
“Okay,” she said weakly.
I watched with horror as Brody inserted her IV, thanking God he was able to do it on the first
“Okay, we’re good to go. Do you have any drug allergies I should know of?” Brody asked as he
adjusted the IV settings.
“No. No allergies.”
“Good. I’m going to give you morphine for the pain and an antibiotic, as well. Are you on oral
contraceptives?” Brody looked at me and I shrugged. We’d never talked specifics about her birth control
other than her mentioned being on it.
“No. I have an IUD.”
“It should be fine,” Brody answered. “Since an IUD works in two ways, it’s almost foolproof.
Nothing to worry about. Though I’ll caution you against sexual intercourse until you’ve healed.”
“Okay.” Irelyn’s gaze flicked to mine and I smiled at her. Sex was the last thing I was thinking
about, but I had to give Brody props for covering all the bases. The last thing we needed was to deal
with an unwanted pregnancy. Hell, we hadn’t even talked about kids.
We hadn’t talked about many things.
Brody picked up a vial and inserted a needle, drawing out some liquid. “This is the morphine.
I’m going to start with ten milligrams. Tell me if you get nauseous, and I can give you something for it.”
“Okay,” Irelyn said again.
He inserted the needle into the IV port. “While we wait for that to take effect, there are some
personal questions I need answered. Do you want Zolt to leave?”
“No. I want him to stay. If you’re going to ask if he raped me, that answer is no. Today was the
first day I actually saw him.”
I let out a relieved breath.
“Good. That makes things easier. Are you feeling the effects of the morphine yet?”
“Yes. The pain is less. Thank you.”
Brody let out his own breath. “I’m going to cleanse the area with an antiseptic wash so I can get
a better look at the wounds. This is going to hurt; there’s no way around that.”
I took off my jacket and untied my tie, tossing them both on a chair. Then, I sat cross-legged on
the other side of the bed from where Brody worked.
“Turn your head, baby. Watch me. Keep your eyes me.”
Irelyn turned her head and our gazes locked. Even red-rimmed and makeup smeared, her eyes
were still those beautiful sable-browns of my dreams. “You looked very handsome in your tux,” she said
and smiled just before Brody began tending her.
“Thank you. But I would have looked much better with you on my arm.” I took her hand and
held it tight while Brody cleaned her wounds. Every time she screamed, she squeezed my hand. I’m not
going to lie, she had my hand in a death grip and it hurt like hell, but I didn’t care.
Somehow, I found the strength to keep it together as Brody tended her, doing a full physical
exam. With each of her cries, I felt my heart break just a little more.
“Okay. I’m done, Irelyn. You did great. Just great. There’s only one I’m concerned about. The
skin is broken and weeping, but I’ll keep an eye on it. The best course of action will be to keep you
sedated and on pain meds so you can heal.”
“What about eating, Brody? She has to eat,” I complained.
“I’ll prepare a high-calorie, nutritionally-balanced shake that she can drink for the few hours
she’s awake. It’s only for a few days at the most. The less ambulatory she is during the first days, the
faster she’ll heal.”
“That’s fine, Brody. I trust your opinion,” Irelyn said. “Besides, I’ll lose a few pounds. That’s
never a bad thing.”
“Your body is perfect as it is. You don’t need to lose any weight.”
“It’s going to be okay, Zolt,” Irelyn said and tried to stroke my face. She winced at the
movement and dropped her hand before it reached its destination.
I hated that she was trying to comfort me.
“I need to step out and get the sedative. I’ll be right back,” Brody said and left the room.
Stretching out on the bed next to her, I caressed her face.
“I’m sorry, Zolt.”
“Lying to you. Saying the things that would hurt you the most. All of it was lies, but Marcus said
he would hurt you and Kenna if I didn’t do what he wanted.” Her tears were in full flow now and her
voice sounded hoarse.
“Don’t, Irelyn. It’s in the past. You’re here where you belong. We’re safe from Marcus.”
“I love you, Zolt. I need you to know that.”
Tears swam in my eyes, making my vision blur. My heartbeat thrummed with her words and
their implication. I didn’t want to break down in front of her, but I was having a hard time keeping
“I love you, too, Irelyn.” I gently kissed her soft, tear-moistened lips. “Now rest, baby. Just rest.”
Irelyn closed her eyes just as Brody returned to administer the sedative.
I stayed lying next to her, holding her hand until she fell asleep. Then, I went to the backyard
and sat on the steps leading down to the lawn.
In the darkness with my face in my hands, I did something I hadn’t done in years.
About the AuthorDawna Raver didn't always want to be a writer, but now the voices in her head won't shut up and the stories keep coming.
She's an author of new adult romantic fantasy and contemporary, erotic romance. When she's not spending time in her fantasy world, Dawna loves football, reading, and pretending she's a top chef in the kitchen. Oh, and fawning over her dogs and husband, sometimes in that order.
Severed Colours, Book 2, A Colour Wielders Novel, released on November 18, 2013.
Indulging in Irelyn, a contemporary romance, written under D.L. Raver releases February 5, 2014.
Indulging in Irelyn - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20738998-indulging-in-irelyn
Colour Wielders - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17261634-colour-wielders-a-colour-wielders-novel
Severed Colours - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18584326-severed-colours
Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Dawna-