It was abrupt. It was harsh, and it sent me back to that night.
I was in that dark room, but I wasn’t. My mind was back there, in my mom’s house, in my room. A hand was over my mouth in my home again.
I was remembering …
“Stop fighting and pay attention.”
Who was here?
“Bailey.” A sharp rasp. “I asked you a question.”
I was feeling pulled down, down. I was falling. The smell of that room again, feeling a cold breeze from him as he pressed against me. The sound of his silent footsteps as he caught me before I could run, as he pushed me to the wall.
“They’re going to think I raped you, and you’ll cry.”
I looked to the side, but it was just darkness. I could only feel him, sense him. He had trapped me again. A fog was clouding over my mind, dragging me still down, back into my memories.
I didn’t want to go there, and a whimper left me.
“Bailey.” Softer this time.
A hand slid to the back of my neck. His forehead touched mine, and I felt his chest. My hand raised there, touching him, holding him back.
“I will not let them hurt you. Got it?”
“Your house. Your territory. Your only shot of living.”
I sucked in a sharp breath. A hand moved on my neck—not Chase’s hand, but a different hand. Kash’s hand.
Kash was here.
I was not there.
I was safe. Here. With Kash. Not. There.
His thumb stroking back and forth, sliding up into my hair. A whispered, “Bailey,” before he moved even closer, his head falling beside mine. His cheek against mine, holding there, steady there. Never leaving there.
I sucked my breath in at the reminder of that night.
A gargled cry had slipped from me. I was moving my head back and forth. It was hard to breathe. Harder still. An invisible pressure was pushing me down. The room was closing in on us.
I grabbed for him, my hand splaying out. Up. Over his strong chest, over muscles that I was faintly registering, over tight shoulders, around a rigid back.
He held still over me, above me. His head lifted back and he was watching me. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I felt his gaze.
I choked out, “Kash?”
His arms folded around me, tugging me the last bit of space and holding me against him. He buried his head in my neck, his body slightly trembling. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He breathed out against my skin. “It’s okay. You’re safe. You’re safe. It’s just me. It’s Kash.”
A light turned on.
His hand came back. He was cupping both sides of my face.
His forehead was almost touching. His eyes boring into mine. A fierceness in there that had me pausing, waiting.
“Tell me you’re okay.” His hands tightened on my face. “Tell me, Bailey. I need to hear the words.”
My mind was spinning. Different thoughts were coming at me, snapping at me. They were quick and harsh and terrifying.
I paused, my heart pounding.
I sucked in a shuddering breath. “I’m fine.” I said it faintly, but I was. And I said it stronger, clearer, because I meant it. “I’m fine. I’m sorry. I just—”
His hands were sweeping back my hair and he shook his head, his forehead moving on mine. “You’re fine. I grabbed you fast. I wasn’t thinking. It’s me.”
His arms moved more around me, and I could feel his breath. His lips were so close to mine, but then he was talking. “We can talk later. I promise. But first…” He moved back again, the same glittering fierceness coming back. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Oh.” I rested my head against the wall, my insides sagging in relief for the moment. “Matt said you called, said Peter was coming back also. Quinn wanted me gone.”
His hand had tightened as I spoke, until the last part. “The fuck?”
I didn’t know what to say, so I only lifted a shoulder up and down. “We have security on us…”
“I know. That’s how I found you. I flew in thirty minutes ago.”
Thirty. Whoa. He had come straight here from the airport.
“We’ve been trying to locate the Arcane team after their last attempt. They went underground after losing you.”
That was—wow. That was just wow.
And then, “Their last attempt?” Now my eyes were blazing. “What haven’t you been telling me?”
A sad look had him dropping his hand, but he didn’t move away. He closed his eyes, standing toe to toe with me. Chest to chest. Forehead resting on mine, and he said softly, “This was their third try.”
I hadn’t heard that right.
I couldn’t have.
This was what it felt like to have the world fall from under your feet, because I dropped.
I was mad. I was pissed, but I was also light-headed.
My knees buckled and my body went down, but Kash caught me.
“Whoa. Bailey.” He grunted from the surprise and swiftness of it, but then he was swinging me up in his arms.
“Shh.” He shifted me, cradling me, and his one hand smoothed back some of my hair. He pressed my head to the crook of his neck and shoulder. “Come on. I’ll take you to my place.”
I couldn’t process what was happening. My world had been turned upside down for the final time, and I was out.
The booze might’ve helped.
I felt him move, kicking the door. It was opened from the other side.
“Call ahead. I want my car brought to the rear. We’re going out that way.”
Kash was carrying me through the nightclub.
“Mr. Colello.” An anxious female, maybe a staff member? “Is everything okay? Should I call for an ambulance?”
“No,” Kash clipped out. “I need a clear path to your rear exit. That’s it.”
“Yes, sir. Certainly, sir.”
She rushed off.
The guard veered in close. I heard him say, “Matt is looking for her. He’s worried.”
“Matt?” Every inch of Kash went rigid underneath me.