“It might’ve worn down her immune system.” A hard look entered his eyes, and in that moment, he looked almost exactly like Kai. He scowled at his brother. “Lay off her. Whatever you have planned, just stop. She needs rest and relaxation, and being here, being around you isn’t doing it. You’re wearing her down. Literally.”
“Hey…” Tanner moved to stand between the two.
But Kai nodded, pulling away from the couch. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Tanner and Jonah parroted him together, their eyebrows raising.
“You shitting me?” Tanner added.
Jonah only said, “Good.”
“I have to fly stateside anyway.”
That got all our attention.
“Why?” asked Tanner.
“Did something happen?” Jonah said.
“Did you find her?” I chimed in.
Tanner and Jonah turned to look at me.
“What?” came a gargled sound from Tanner.
Jonah got quiet, stepping back.
Kai ignored them. “Maybe,” he said to me.
My heart sank and leaped all at the same time. Maybe Jonah was right. Maybe I needed to stay away from Kai…and then I remembered it wasn’t my decision!
I was being held there, against my wishes, because of someone I used to love. And if he’d found her, it was because of me.
And I still didn’t know who to trust: Brooke or Kai.
Suddenly, I felt lower than low.
“Can I have a minute with Riley?” Kai asked.
“Yeah.” Jonah nodded.
The last was Tanner, a gruff edge in his voice, but he followed Jonah. Jonah left his bag on the kitchenette counter, and I heard them moving for the door.
It shut quietly, and I could feel the emptiness left behind. The air felt more open, but also stifling.
Kai came around to sit on the edge of the couch, diagonal from where I was.
I didn’t look at him. I didn’t need to. I could feel every movement he made, every look he sent my way, every time he started to say something and didn’t. Which he did, three times, while I sat waiting.
I swallowed over a knot. “You found her, didn’t you?”
I’d done that.
“We found him. I told them not to move, in case she’s there. I need to be the one she sees first. She has to see I’m not going to do anything to harm her or her boyfriend.”
My heart squeezed.
He sounded so genuine.
“Are you lying to me?” I still didn’t trust myself to look at him.
“I did that.” Those words wrung out of me. Fuck it. “I gave her up. If you hurt her, I swear…” I glared at him, flinching when I saw concern in his eyes, the bags under them. “I will kill you,” I finished.
There was no heat to my words, just promise.
He waited a beat, then nodded. “I believe you will.” A trace of amusement lingered in his tone. “I told you I’d murder you if you told anyone what I said before. I mean that too.”
I still glared at him, but I remembered.
He would murder me. I would kill him.
Fuck, we were almost perfect for each other—NO! No. No. NO. I would not think like that.
I forced myself to look away, feeling like I had to break cement to do it. “What will you do if it’s her and she’s fine?” What will happen to me?
He seemed to know what I was really asking because he replied, “You can go back to your life. Like normal.”
Except nothing would be normal now.
“Are you going to be okay?” he asked.
I pulled a blanket over my lap. “I’ll be fine. I’ll sleep and get better.” I gestured to Jonah’s bag. “There’s a doctor here. That helps.”
I knew without looking that he was rubbing a hand over his mouth. He was deep in thought; he was going to change something, I was about to be put through the wringer again.
“I was going to bring Jonah with me,” he said.
I looked at him, and I was caught. His eyes captured mine.
“In case Brooke needs medical attention.”
“Oh.” Guilt flared in my chest, warming me. “That’s a good idea, actually.”
He shook his head. “No. He can stay here. I’ll bring someone else.”
Of course. Again. What was one doctor to the head of a mafia family? He probably had a whole slew of them to call—EMTs, nurses, nurse assistants even.
And what was I doing here?
I was envisioning a gorgeous Grey’s Anatomy-like female doctor—street and academically smart, gorgeous, who could save lives with nothing more than a straw. That’s who he’d call to travel with him.
Nope. No jealousy here.
“Just be careful,” I heard myself say when Kai stood up.
He stopped in surprise, but I pushed up from the couch and went to the bedroom, shutting the door with way more oomph than it required.
It was three in the morning.
I heard a soft knock at my wing door, followed by bad déjà vu. I pulled on a wrap, went to the door, and opened it.
Kai stood on the other side.
No guards. Just him.
The hallway light had been dimmed to a soft glow, and he leaned back against the wall, his hands in his pockets, his head down as he waited. He didn’t move, just raised those piercing eyes and asked, “Can I come in?”
My hand tightened on the doorknob. “I thought you’d left already.”
“I’m going in an hour.” He nodded behind me, his voice almost gentle. “Can I come in?”
Want swept through me, filling me, heating me.
Desire had been present between us for a long time, longer than I’d guess either of us wanted. And it was so strong at this moment, maybe it was because I knew he was leaving again, maybe it was the time of night, maybe it was because my walls were down for whatever reason. I tried to erect them, but I couldn’t.
I just wanted him. It filled me so completely that it stopped me from talking for a second.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
There it was. I said it out loud.
He expelled a ragged breath. “Maybe not, but I’d like to come in anyway.”
An ache throbbed in me, and I fought against actually panting. This was ridiculous, but I eased back and moved into the living room.
I didn’t sit. Something told me I should remain standing.
He shut the door behind him with a soft click, but didn’t advance. He remained next to the door, his head down, his hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunched forward.
“I’m about to get on a plane—”
“—and when I land, I’m going to have to do bad things.”
The alarm that had crept up me when he mentioned the plane shifted to a different alarm, a foreboding one. He was warning me.
“I’d imagine. Levi gave up someone the FBI was protecting, right?”
He didn’t answer.
My guess was right.
“And if your sister is with him, you’ll take them both.”
His eyes rose, holding mine.
I felt almost brazen now. “And if your sister isn’t with him, you’ll still take him. Just him.” My mouth parted. My throat constricted.
I was playing a dangerous game, baiting him, but my God, he’d come to me. He brought me here. He’d pulled me into this in the first place.
“And you’ll use him to force your sister to come to you. Right?” I didn’t wait for his answer. “How?” I bit that word out as a demand, jerking toward him. My hands balled into fists at my legs. “How will you let her know you have him?”
He waited for me to finish. His eyes were heated, smoldering. I ignored it. A tingling spread through me, starting at the base of my neck. It intertwined with my dangerous addiction to pushing the envelope, walking the line, seeing how far I could go without toppling over a cliff.
Kai was the cliff.
I just wanted to fall free. Away from him. To him. In his arms. I wanted all of it, and my chest heaved.
I closed in so I was only a foot from him. “It won’t matter. None of it. You might find your sister. You might force her into coming back to your fold, but if you threaten the man she loves, you’ll have broken her. You’ll have broken whatever childlike and pure bond there was between you and her as siblings.” I took a step. “She’ll never look at you the same way.” A second step. My voice lowered, but it held venom. “But maybe you’ve already done that. Maybe you’ve already killed whatever allows a little sister to adore her older brother? This is just par for the cour—”
His hand slid around my neck, cupping the back of my head, and I stopped talking.
Every tendon in me stretched tight.
My pulse raced.
My mouth parted again.
The ache inside of me was agonizing.
I wanted him.
I couldn’t deny it. I’d stopped lying to myself, but I still felt utter disdain for what he did, for who he had to be.
He pulled me to him, sliding my wrap down to fall on the floor. His eyes bored down into mine, just a few inches separating us, and I could feel how he held me suspended.
I felt his pulse too. It was as fast as mine.
“You may hate me. You may loathe me.” His hand slid back from my neck and moved down agonizingly slowly, between my breasts to my stomach.