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Only daughter of the volatile President of the Black Shamrocks MC and long-suffering sister to four overprotective brothers, Madelaine O’Brien has survived circumstances that would have broken a lesser woman.
Mik ‘Mad Dog’ Kennedy is her salvation, her reward for continuing to fight, and the matching piece of her soul.
With her life finally happy and on track, will the reappearance of the monster from her past be the event that finally breaks her? Or will he be the catalyst she needs to put it all behind her, once and for all?
They say when life gives you lemons; make lemonade. What happens when life keeps sending you demons who refuse to stay buried? Do you lie down and accept defeat or rise to the seemingly unwinnable challenge, and start SEIZING CONTROL?
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“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” ~Unknown~
This has been my motto for the past four years. I was certain I’d proven to myself, and anyone who mattered, that I’d let my past strengthen me, not destroy me. I’d survived every woman’s worst nightmare and I was still standing. I was chasing my dreams, my family was thriving, and so was my relationship. As far as I was concerned, I exemplified the positive essence of the saying.
Unfortunately, everything I thought I’d overcome was about to rear its ugly head. He refused to stay in the past where he belonged. He was determined to conquer me and keep me for himself—to control me, alienate me from my loved ones, and force me to submit to his will. His latest attack was going to prove his most lethal, and he was going to teach me that, even though he hadn’t destroyed me in the past, he had absolutely defined me.
Cutting the engine, I breathe a deep sigh of relief as I lay my head back on the headrest. Organised chaos is the only way to describe the situation at work today. I love my job, but I’m bone tired. My back hurts from sitting most of the day, and I have a throbbing headache from spending too much time reading obscure briefs and debating vague angles.
Grabbing my phone to text Mik that I’m home, I find thirteen missed calls from him and four messages telling me to wait at the office until he gets there. Just my luck. I forgot to turn my ringer back on. He’s not going to be happy about my lack of communication. I’m going to hear all about it when he gets home.
In my defence, I switched my phone to vibrate to minimise interruptions during my back-to-back meetings this afternoon. Namely his interruptions, since my headstrong man doesn’t respect the rules of traditional workplaces. He calls and texts multiple times a day, even when I’ve told him I’ll be too busy to talk.
The thought of the overreaction I’m going to face when he gets home brings a cheeky grin to my face. The phrase “Control Freak” was coined to describe my fiancé. I can hear his low, gruff voice already, lecturing me for not waiting for him and not returning his calls; for putting my phone on vibrate in the first place. Then I’ll be lectured for leaving work without an escort, and for taking what he deems “unnecessary risks” with my safety.
I completely understand where his protectiveness comes from, although it does grate at my need for independence at times. Because I understand Mik’s need for strict safety precautions—having barely survived what happened when I was eighteen—I don’t often step outside his carefully constructed lines on purpose. Not listening this time is purely due to forgetfulness and exhaustion. It’s unfortunate, but it’ll end up being worth it since every lecture he gives me ends with us tangled around each other in bed. My stomach tightens with delighted anticipation of how this evening is going to end.
I’m jolted from my thoughts by my flashing and vibrating phone. I decline the call in favour of sending a text, not wanting to deal with the beginning of his tirade over the phone. Mik is much more receptive to my feminine manipulations in person.
ME: Already home. Just saw your messages. Sorry xx
A reply flashes on my screen less than a minute later.
His abruptness leads me to think that he’s texting me as he rides his Harley. I can picture him weaving in and out of traffic in his rush to get to me. Shaking my head at the dangerous habit I’ve been unable to get him to break, I pull my keys from the ignition. The chronic worrier always returns my texts and calls straight-away. He’ll always drop whatever he’s doing to be with me, should he feel the slightest inclination that I might need him. Gratitude fills me that, four years after he saved me, he’s still as protective as ever.
It’s unusual not to have Mik, or one of the enforcers, pulling into my driveway right behind me. I normally have an escort to and from work each day and I wonder what was so important that none of them were able to be here with me.
Summoning the energy to get out of my car, I pull my oversized work bag out behind me and wander to the mailbox. Pulling out the envelopes and flipping through them, I find that all but one is addressed to Mikhail Kennedy—as always, his detested given name makes me laugh. One single piece of mail isn’t addressed to either of us. The plain white envelope is unsealed. Tipping the contents into my palm unearths a USB with Lainey scrawled on it in black lettering. As I’m contemplating it with growing unease, a white work van pulls across my driveway.
“Hey, miss, are you ready for us?” The big man in the passenger seat yells at me, leaning out the window.
“What do you mean?” I reply, walking toward the van, my thin heels clicking on our concrete driveway. I slip the USB and Mik’s mail into my bag and sling it over my shoulder. A sliver of foreboding runs through my mind, manifesting as an icy shiver that flows through my body. I carefully edge my right hand into my bag and wrap my fingers around the butt of my handgun. My illegal, unlicenced handgun.
Stopping a few metres from the van and cocking an eyebrow, I wait for a response to my question. Almost unconsciously, my thumb begins to play with my engagement ring, a nervous habit I’ve developed since Mik slid the ring on my finger just over a year ago.
The man in the driver’s seat starts speaking, but I can’t hear him. He’s gesturing toward a piece of paper in his hand. Considering signage for a plumbing business decorates the side of the van, I decide they must have the wrong address. Giving myself a mental shake for being suspicious of nothing, I pull my hand from my bag and walk to the passenger window.
“I didn’t book a plumber.”
“We know.” the driver sneers, a sinister smirk crossing his face.
My heart lurches at his tone, chills running down my spine, and I turn to run. Two steps are all I manage before the van’s side door bursts open and two men leap out, each latching onto my arms, and dragging me kicking and screaming into the van. They slam the door shut as the van drives off at high speed, wheels squealing.
Screaming at the top of my lungs, I fight for my freedom with all I have. I manage to kick one of my attackers in the face before I feel a sharp pinch in my arm. Twisting around, I see an empty syringe sticking out of my bicep. That can’t be good. My head grows fuzzy and my eyesight starts to dim. In the developing drug-induced darkness, I vaguely hear a man whining.
“Fucking bitch made my nose bleed. Fuck.”
Turning to search for the source of the comment, I’m hit in the temple with sickening force, and left with no choice but to embrace the beckoning darkness.
Blinking slowly because the light hurts my eyes, I lift my head to see if I can determine where I am. I vaguely remember being carried out of the van, and then being thrown onto a bed before I lost consciousness again. It didn’t feel as if I was out for long in the van, so I hope I’m close to home. Feeling slightly better at that thought, I try to make sense of my situation. Everything is muddled in my head from whatever I was injected with.
Forcing myself to keep my eyes open despite the pain shooting through my temple, I discover that I’m in a large bedroom. A man’s bedroom, by the look of the dark bedding I’m lying on. Male clothes lay over the foot of the bed, and the smell of cologne lingers in the air. The cologne smells familiar to my addled brain, causing my stomach to churn.
My strange reaction to the scent disturbs me, but before I can examine why, the bedroom door opens and in strides a large, muscular man with a shaved head and black tribal tattoos covering his arms. He glares at me, hatred shining from his hard eyes. Gathering as much energy as I can muster, I glare back. I can tell he’s the piece of work I kicked in the face, the dried blood on the front of his shirt and bruising setting in under his eyes giving that fact away. I make a point of grinning at him, lifting my eyebrows in amusement as I slowly drag my gaze over his face and blatantly examine the damage I inflicted.
“I see you’ve finally finished with your beauty sleep,” he snaps, advancing on me. “You looked pretty fuckable lying there moaning away like a bitch in heat—”
“You touch me and I’ll have you killed,” I cut him off. I’m not bluffing. I know plenty of people who can dispose of anyone I ask them to. “Where am I? What the hell do you want with me?”
Lashing out at him with my legs, I land a good kick to his stomach. He grunts, but doesn’t slow his stride toward me. Ignoring my shouted questions, he slaps my legs down. Grabbing me by the arm, he hauls me off the bed, shaking me when I continue to struggle. My feet barely touch the ground as he towers over my five foot eleven frame, even with the added height of my heels.
This guy is massive, and regret fills me when he glowers down at me in rage. It’s going to hurt if he decides to turn violent. Silently, he drags me out of the room, down an expensively decorated hallway, and into an open plan living area.
“Is he here yet?” he barks to the other three men in the room.
They’re all equally as big and scary looking as the guy holding me. I didn’t get a good look at the time, but I’m pretty sure they’re the other guys from the van. “She’s really starting to piss me off.”
“He’ll be here in ten. We’ve got plenty of time to teach her a quick lesson, Duke,” the black-haired guy sitting by himself at the breakfast bar announces to the bastard holding me. His gaze travels from the top of my long blonde hair and down my face, coming to rest on my chest, which is heaving from the exertion of trying to keep on my feet during my trip from the bedroom.
“Good idea.” Duke sneers down at me, his intent written all over his face. His grip on my arms tightens. My stomach drops and my adrenaline spikes. Backing me up against the closest wall, he rips open my satin dress shirt, exposing my blue lace bra. I instinctively struggle, albeit sluggishly because my head is still foggy, but he pins my hands above my head by holding both my wrists in one of his big paws. Groping my covered breasts without finesse, he squeezes and pinches. I’m about to knee him when one of the men sitting on the couch jumps up and pulls Duke off of me.
“If you value your fucked-up life, you won’t touch her. We’re here to snatch and deliver, not for fun,” the man states.
Duke lets go of me as he’s yanked backward by the man speaking. Once I have enough space, I rear back and punch him in the face before kneeing him in the balls. My ample self-defence skills are rising to the surface, the residual fog from the sedative they injected into me clearing somewhat. My attack on his family jewels makes him drop to one knee. His attempts to rise to his full height are hampered by the guy holding him. Even so, he still manages to backhand me across the face, my head jerking to the side from the impact. Pain shoots through my cheek and lip, the metallic taste of blood filling my mouth. My face throbs, but I ignore it, choosing to make a run for the front door. Thank God, I’m able to run in heels, my movements sure and balanced, despite the lasting effects of whatever the hell they drugged me with earlier.
Finally shaking off the guy who pulled him off me, Duke, grabs me around the waist, successfully foiling my escape. When he pulls me back against him, I throw my head back and strike him in the chin. He bellows, but doesn’t loosen his hold on me.
In the chaos, the other men rise to their feet and pull their guns. I vaguely register the weapons as they’re trained on me, concentrating instead on my struggle with Duke. I land a couple of good punches to his face and another knee to his groin. He hits me. The blows are hard enough to enough to stun, even as I use every ounce of my defensive fight training to avoid them. I’m left reeling when I mistime my ducking and weaving. It glances off my temple, and I feel my legs turn to jelly, seconds before an unexpected, booming shout from one of the other men fills the room. Duke uses my wavering concentration to his advantage, seizing me from behind and pulling me to his chest. Using his arms to pin mine to my sides, he slides a clammy hand into my bra and kneads my breast.
“Stop fucking touching her,” the guy, who pulled Duke off me initially orders him once more. His serious, almost professional expression matches the take-no-prisoner’s persona he presents with his crew cut, cargo pants, and khaki T-shirt. He looks like a mercenary. Pushing Duke away from me and grabbing me by the top of my arm, he squeezes tight when I resist.
“Duke, fuck off over there and stay the fuck away from her. I won’t tell you again.” He points at the couch. Duke stares at me, intense loathing in his eyes, before he limps off and collapses on the lounge. “Cain, take her back to the bedroom and watch her.”
He shouts this at the smart mouth from the breakfast bar before he turns his back to huddle with the man he was sitting next to when we entered. Cain salutes the order, winking at me like we’re about to share a private joke. I shudder under his lust-filled perusal.
“No problem, Stu.” The mercenary-looking man now has a name. I mentally catalogue all of them. It’ll come in handy later, I’m certain.
The two who’ve huddled are talking in hushed tones, ignoring the rest of us. They appear to be the leaders of this group, so I assume this house belongs to one of them. My first thought when I look at them is that they have military backgrounds, their upright bearing and haircuts a good indication. Either military or MC. They wouldn’t look out of place in a cut either.
My lingering confusion is bugging me. I can’t work out why they’ve abducted me and who this guy is that they’re waiting to arrive. The only thing I know for sure—if this has something to do with my Dad’s MC—he’s going to go apeshit on their asses. It’s a cardinal rule that women and children are not involved in Club conflicts.
Cain saunters over and grabs me by my sore arm, dragging me away from a glowering Duke. I return Duke’s glare through narrowed eyes as I’m pulled passed him and down the hall, sending a prayer to the universe that his balls hurt for at least a week. We’re nearly at the end of the hallway and out of sight of the living area when Cain slaps his hand over my mouth, pushing me against the wall. My head hits the drywall with a sickening thud, and he presses his leg between my thighs. I scream, minimal sound escaping around his hand.
He licks the side of my face as we wrestle for control of my arms. Overpowering me after a short scuffle, he grabs my wrists and secures them above my head with one of his hands. I try to bring my hands back down so that I can defend myself, but Cain’s too strong. Using the leg he has wedged between my thighs, he lifts me up the wall, and spreads my legs with his hips. He moves between them and presses his denim-clad erection against me. My skirt rides up, exposing my lace-covered core. Feeling his hardness against me through my thin panties, I attempt to squirm away. I can’t stand the feeling of him pressed against me, so I kick him in the back of his thighs with my heels. He doesn’t budge.
“Stop fighting me, bitch. I don’t give a fuck what Stu says. You’re too hot to hand over without tasting,” he tells me, his mouth to my ear.
Ignoring him, I yell against his hand because I know he isn’t supposed to touch me. It achieves nothing, the sound too muffled to carry down the long hallway. He releases my mouth only to punch me hard in the face for disobeying. My head bounces off the wall again, shooting stars bursting through my vision. Fear that I’m going to pass out from the impact overcomes me as he roughly grabs my breasts and grinds himself against me. The world dims. Cain breathes heavily in excitement. He tastes of stale coffee as he forces his tongue into my mouth. I cringe at his invasion, despair winding its way through me like a snake that’s squeezing my internal organs.
When his hold on my hands loosens as his groping gains enthusiasm, I wrench them from his slackening grip and lash out at him. My wild swing misses because Cain is pulled off me and thrown to the floor. I hit the ground with a thump from the unexpected loss of his weight holding me against the wall.
I watch in a daze as a large man with dark brown hair pounds on Cain. Hope rises within me, dulling the panic that’s been threatening to choke me since I woke in this strange house, as I realise that I might about to be rescued. It dies seconds later when nobody comes to investigate the growing commotion.
Wriggling my skirt back down my hips, I sag to the floor, clasping the pieces of my top together. My mind races, matched in intensity by the trembling that’s overcome my body. Blood runs down my chin from Cain’s hit, my lip throbbing in time with my frenetic pulse. There’s nowhere for me to run because they’re blocking the hallway, and this scares me almost as much as Cain’s attack.
Abruptly, the man stops beating Cain. Without acknowledging me, he lifts my attacker by his shirt and drags him down the hallway. A shard of fear pierces my chest as I watch him pull Cain’s prone body away with minimal effort.
“Get this piece of scum out of my house. The rest of you can go as well. This part of the job is done. Stu will be in touch to organise the next phase.” His commanding voice sends chills through me—he’s the other guy they were waiting for. The puppet master behind my abduction. “Find someone to replace him. If I see him again, I’ll kill him for touching her. She’s mine.”
Crouched on all fours, I crawl to the end of the hallway and peek around the corner. Cain’s lying on the floor near the front door, still unconscious, while the others stand near the breakfast bar with their backs to me. They’re watching the newcomer ransack my handbag. Even from behind, he seems familiar. Ominously familiar. I’m still trying to place him when he leaves the room and my range of sight.
My handbag’s presence means my handgun and my phone are here somewhere. The first burst of real hope I’ve had since I regained consciousness explodes within me. If I can’t get away right now, I might be able to get to my phone to call Mik, or get to my gun to protect myself.
Duke and the blond guy—whose name I haven’t learned—turn away from the breakfast bar, nodding to Stu in farewell. They pick up Cain, taking one arm each before they drag him through the front door, closing it behind them without saying another word. My heart leaps when I don’t hear the telltale click of a lock when it engages.
Glancing around for the remaining men, hope grows when I don’t see any of them. The buzz of a phone vibrating on silent breaks the silence in the house. My heart jumps into my throat when I spot my phone lying on the kitchen bench. I’d bet everything I own that Mik’s calling me nonstop to see where I am. My man would be home by now, and losing his mind since I’m not there when I told him I was.
Lord, I’d give anything to go back in time and wait at the office for him like he asked.
My addled mind is finding it hard to wrap itself around what’s happening. I take a few steadying, deep breaths, exhaling slowly through my nose to calm myself.
Peeking again, I see that they’re still gone. It’s now or never to make my run for the front door.
I button my shirt up as well as I can and slip my heels off so I don’t slow myself. My favourite pair of Manolo Blahnik’s are about to be sacrificed for my escape, and my father will be replacing them.
Edging around the corner of the hallway, I spare one last glance in their direction before rising from my crouched position and running as fast as I can to the front door. I make it without detection, twisting the handle of the door with urgency. My shaking hands make a mess of it, impeding my escape.
“What the hell?” a deep voice exclaims, and someone rushes toward me.
Turning the handle with increasing desperation, I squeal with delight when the door finally flies open. My first step toward freedom is thwarted when I’m grabbed around the waist and slung over a large shoulder. My breath leaves me in a rush from the impact.
A large hand swats my ass with a stinging slap, causing me to gasp in shock and pain. The sudden intake of breath forces the cologne from the bedroom to flood my senses. My sedative affected mind finally remembers why the smell made me feel nauseous. Terror rising within me, I struggle in earnest, kicking my legs and punching my captor in the back with all of my strength.
“Now, now, Lainey. Calm down, darling girl. You don’t want to end up hurting yourself, do you?” His deep, velvety smooth voice mocks me.
Realisation dawning, it sinks in that my abduction has nothing to do with the MC, and everything to do with me and the stupid choice I made when I was eighteen.
No. This can’t be happening.
My body shakes uncontrollably. Feeling light-headed, I’m afraid I’m going to faint. My mind races without aim, refusing to accept the truth in front of me.
Brendan’s my worst nightmare. I’ve spent the last four years putting myself back together after escaping this man, and just as I start feeling safe in the life Mik and I have been building, he turns up to wreck it all.
“Put me down, Brendan. Please,” I plead in a shaky voice, scrambling to find some much-needed composure. “You’re not supposed to be anywhere near me, you know that. If you let me walk out of here now, I won’t tell the police and your parole will be safe.”
He chuckles at my request, and slowly lowers me down his body, thrusting his hard bulge against me when our pelvic areas meet. My feet have barely reached the ground before I’m backing away from him.
It’s fruitless. He won’t let me go. Grasping the tops of my arms, he pulls me onto his lap as he sits down on the brown leather settee. All fight leaves my body at his touch, my anxious shaking increasing.
Hearing the door locks engage and buttons being pressed on a keypad, I realise that my pleas to leave are going to fall on deaf ears. I’m stuck for now—not only because of the locked door and security system—but because this man scares me to death. I know if I mess up my escape again, he’ll make me pay in a painful and humiliating way.
“I’ll leave you two lovebirds to your reunion,” Stu says, chuckling as he walks past us and out of sight. I stare, almost with longing after him, willing him to come back and take me with him.
He’s the lesser of the two evils facing me.
Brendan gently grasps my chin, tilting my head until I’m forced to look at him. He looks exactly the same. His eyes are a warm chocolate brown, his skin lightly tanned, and his lips rosy pink and kissable. The dark chocolate brown hair that sets off his traditionally handsome features is still full, luscious, and wavy. Jail hasn’t taken any discernible toll on his looks, which annoys me, because I’m certain that Mik arranged for some of the MC’s boys on the inside to visit him a few times. The evil soul that lurks behind his angelically handsome face is still safely hidden from the world.
“Lainey, what’s today’s date?” he asks, purring the words at me with sadistic pleasure.
The voice that was once one of the most pleasant sounds in the world to me now sends slivers of icy fear down my spine. In a rush I realise the date, and tears of anger and frustration leak from my eyes. I’m angry at myself for dropping my guard. I understand now why Mik didn’t want me to go to work today.
Today is Brendan’s first day off of parole for raping and almost beating me to death just over four years ago. He was sentenced to two years in jail for my assault, with a non-parole period of eighteen months. He’s been out of jail for six months and had left me alone until now, so I’d become complacent in watching my back even if Mik hadn’t. It’s apparent now that Brendan was waiting to be free and clear of the law before he forced our reunion.
“Shhhh, sweetheart. I’m not here to hurt you,” he soothes, rubbing his hands up and down my arms.
I jerk away from him, his touch making me feel dirty, but he curls his fingers around the tops of my arms and pulls me to his chest. Anger coils within me as I take stock of the fact that the only reason he’s sitting here tormenting me now is because I only had him charged with assaulting me on one occasion. I never told the authorities—or my family—about his repeated beatings and rapes, or his blackmail. They believe we had a one-off physical fight and that he threatened my family because I was leaving him.
That was bad enough.
There are only three other people who know the full truth of what he did to me, and that’s how I want to keep it. Mik was always adamant that I should’ve made him pay for everything, but I couldn’t face the embarrassment and pity that telling the truth would bring. I also couldn’t throw Benji under the bus. My reasons seem petty at this moment as I sit unwilling and scared on his lap, wishing that I’d told everyone every horrible detail.
“It’s so good to be able to touch you again, Lainey,” Brendan whispers against my cheek. “I’ve missed touching you more than you could believe. Watching you since I left that hellhole has been torture, especially knowing I had to wait until today to claim you as mine again.”
I gasp at his statement, pulling as far away from him as he’ll let me.
“How have you been watching me? Mik has precautions set up. You haven’t been anywhere near the city or we would’ve known.” The second Mik’s name falls from my lips, I know I’ve made a big mistake. He has a long history of irrational jealousy toward my fiancé.
Brendan’s face changes from loving to irate in a split second. Letting go of my arms, he stands with calculated abruptness. I topple backward off his lap and onto the carpeted floor. He unleashes his anger, slapping me across the face twice, and worsening the damage Cain has already caused to my face.
As I cower, waiting for another slap, he pulls me to my feet by the front of my shirt. I’m barely upright when he grabs my hand and tugs me behind him, through the modern kitchen and into a formal living area. I want to pull my hand from his, but it’s the only thing keeping me upright as he strides in front of me.
There’s a huge telescope pointing toward large bay windows. A room like this should be filled with expensive chaises, televisions, and coffee tables. Instead, it has three desks, numerous filing cabinets, and a large open gun safe lining the perimeter. The walls have paperwork and photos pinned all over them. A quick glance tells me that I’m the subject of most of the photos.
Brendan shoves me into the chair behind the telescope.
“Have a look,” he grunts. “I have been watching you, making sure that dirty biker doesn’t touch you. I was always coming back for you. You’re mine. You always will be, as much as you try to fight it.”
Brendan grabs me by the back of my neck and forces my face toward the eyepiece.
Resistance is futile. I learned this years ago, so I let him position my head where he wants it.
“Given your slutty tendencies, I’m not surprised you ran to him the second I was gone. You will be making up for that and every other damn thing you’ve done to me very soon,” he tells me, certainty colouring his tone.
Attempting to tune out his threats, I peer into the telescope and pray that I’m not about to see what I fear he wants to show me. No such luck since, just as I feared, the house I share with Mik stares back at me.
There’s a large nature reserve between this house and mine containing a playground, bike track, and public amenities. I can see my car in the driveway with Mik’s Harley parked next to it. Mik is pacing on the front deck, running his hand through his hair in jerky, agitated movements. His phone to his ear, I can make out his mouth moving as he speaks.
Dragging my eyes from my stressed fiancé, I take in the whole view. I can see straight through the open curtains into my living room. Brendan has been able to see into my home for God knows how long.
The one place I’ve felt safe for the last four years hasn’t been the sanctuary I thought it was. As usual, Brendan’s managed to make my feelings of safety and freedom nothing but a pretty illusion. I didn’t think my heart could sink any further than it already has in this situation, but this revelation completely knocks the wind out of my sails.
Brendan laughs at my appalled expression, his eyes filling with enjoyment when he sees the situation become clear to me. Even though I know rationally that it’s the wrong move, I can’t stop myself from losing my temper. Rising to my feet, I swing on my heel to face him.
“What is wrong with you?” I question, pushing him as hard as I can in the chest with both hands. He staggers backward a couple of steps in surprise at my attack. “Why won’t you just leave me alone? You need to go away. You’re completely crazy. I’m not yours, and I never will be. I hate you!”
I swing at him, hitting him in the chest and the stomach as I unleash my fears and frustrations. Pulling my right arm back, I punch him as hard as I can in the mouth. Blood bursts from the corner upon impact. I shake my fist out, and swing again.
Five years of fear, anger, and hurt are finally finding the correct outlet.
I’m out of control, and ready to kill him with my bare hands.
I want to hit him, choke him, and humiliate him.
I want him to feel everything he made me feel.
Brendan ducks my follow-up punch and grasps me by the throat, subduing me with little effort. He forces me backward on my tiptoes until my back hits the wall. Then he lifts me until my feet are no longer touching the ground. A sick sense of déjà vu engulfs me as my consciousness recognises the position I’m in.
I scratch at the hand he has around my neck with both of mine; two of my fingernails snap as I try to pull free. Kicking at him with my legs, I attempt to head butt him. I’m fighting for breath, black spots floating through my vision, but I don’t give up. Even lost in my anger, the only thought in my head is that I’m not going to let him hurt me without a fight this time.
He licks the blood from his split lip, before leaning down, and whispering in my ear, “I’ll let you hit me once without punishment, Lainey, because I know I hurt you in the past. Just this once, though. Every time you step out of line from now on, I’m going to punish you or one of your family.”
He licks the shell of my ear before he continues with calm menace. “Is Lachie still catching the bus to practice by himself?”
Shocked, my body falls still at his mention of my youngest brother. Brendan must be watching all of my family—not just me—to know that my fifteen-year-old brother is living in Brisbane now and catches the bus to football practice. My entire beautiful, crazy family moved down here after he hurt me for the final time.
I refused to move home, not only due to the terrifying memories they knew nothing about, but because I was determined Brendan wasn’t going to derail my plans for my future entirely.
My mind quickly dismisses his words, and I calm myself. He doesn’t realise that one of the Club’s enforcers escorts Lachie everywhere for this exact reason. Everyone was worried Brendan would try to use my family against me when he was freed from jail, so Mik has used the MC to put multiple layers of safety precautions in place. Lachie doesn’t know he’s being protected because of me. He’s just been told “Club business”, which is our dad’s go-to excuse when he doesn’t want to explain something.
Brendan squeezes his hand tighter around my neck and continues to torment me with his words.
“Do you understand what I’m saying, Lainey? You’re mine, and you’re going to stay with me this time. The people you love are going to get hurt, one by one, every time you try to leave me.” He leans down and stares at me with feral, glazed eyes. “Now nod if you get what I’m telling you. I’ll let you go when you show that you understand me.”
I stay still, fixing unblinking eyes on his, ignoring his demand. The strong, defiant, and wilful parts of my personality that Mik’s spent the last four years helping me put back together won’t let me bow down to this monster again. He can threaten my brothers as much as he wants because I know that they’re safe this time.
There’s nothing he can do. Mik’s going to put this madman in the ground for daring to touch me again. I can feel it in my soul that my wild and unyielding fiancé is going to rescue me.
I continue staring at Brendan. I refuse to give him the satisfaction of making me nod.
He regards me steadily, a smile curling his lips when I continue refusing to give him the reaction he seeks.
“This is what I love about you, Lainey. You challenge me like no one else.”
Nuzzling my ear, his free hand closes around my breast. Vomit rises in my throat.
He knows exactly how to get to me.
Brendan lets go of my breast. He rips the last of the buttons off my shirt with his free hand. It falls open, exposing my bra. Touching me again, the asshole tweaks my nipple until it goes hard, then he pinches it until I whimper.
“Nod if you understand me, darling,” His voice is tender, loving. A contradiction to his nasty touch.
I shake my head, not only at his request, but also to clear the pain. Killing me isn’t going to give him what he wants. I know that I just need to wait him out. I can take any pain he throws at me. I proved that last time.
Licking the inside of my ear, he sinks his teeth into my lobe with enough force to cause maximum pain without breaking the skin. I can’t help myself as I scream as much as my closed-up throat will allow me.
“Nod if you understand.” He repeats after removing his teeth from my earlobe.
As the pain recedes, I regain my will to fight. I pull against the hand around my throat, stomping on his foot with as much force as I can manage. He barely acknowledges my attack, except to slam me back against the wall when I try to knee him in the groin. My bare foot has little effect against his boot.
His body is shaking with rage. He slams me against the wall twice more, not with his full strength, but enough to hurt and make me rethink my bravado.
Maybe I should nod, just to get him to let me go.
Black spots dance across my eyesight when he squeezes my throat once more and shoves me against the wall for the fourth time. My head bounces off the wall. Brendan pushes up my skirt, wedging his thigh between mine. I squirm, trying to keep my legs shut, but he’s incessant, and manages to get his thigh not only between my legs but against my panties. I hoarsely scream at him to stop, head-butting him as hard as I can when he doesn’t.
All I achieve is hurting my own head because he doesn’t stop.
Not even for a second.
When I head-butt him again, he slaps me across the face. As I fall still from the impact, his hand slides to the apex of my thighs. Using the considerable weight of his body to pin me against the wall, he finally releases my throat. I draw much-needed gasps of air, hoping this is over.
Instead of letting me go as I’d expected, he rips my panties off of my body with one harsh tug, and throws them on the floor behind him. My constant struggling achieves nothing as Brendan pins me with apparent ease against the wall. He strokes between my legs with surprising softness, rubbing his hand back and forth, from my clit to my ass. Continuing his circuit as my entire body shudders in disgust, my mind trying to shut down to block out his vile touch. He grins at my reaction.
I thought I could defy him, but I can’t go through this particular form of torture again.
I mentally admit defeat, my head sagging against him. I mouth against his shoulder that I get him, furiously nodding my head as tears stream down my face. He leans away from me and smiles down at me, gloating. He knows he’s broken me and won this round.
“Too little, too late, my darling,” he admonishes, using two fingers to penetrate me with clinical precision. I scream in pain, fighting to get away as he pumps his fingers into me again.