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They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions… in my case they're deadly.
- Hidden Identity
- Friends to Lovers
- Second Chance
- Brothers Best Friend
I tried to walk away from my family—from my name and all the carnage that was my birthright. My dream of freedom, unbound by our past, ended up being more lethal than I imagined. I swore hell would freeze over before asking them for anything again. But the snow is falling and I'm out of options… except for one.
I'm going to need help from the one man I swore I would never ask for anything—my brother's head of security. Calling him might save me from a fate worse than death.
The stairway to heaven runs right through hell... and into the arms of thedarkest soulI know.
It happened the moment I stepped through the
threshold and closed the door. He came out of nowhere, his hand wrapping around
my neck and covering my mouth.
“Don’t scream or you’re dead.” The putrid smell of onions and cigarettes laced the heavy Spanish accent.
He had to be here because of Javier. I wasn’t stupid to believe he was only trying to scare me. Men like Javier didn’t leave witnesses behind. I flailed my arms, trying to loosen his grip, but he was a
big guy and manhandled me with ease. My heels scraped across the floor as he pulled me into the kitchen. He punched me in the side, and a muffled cry escaped me.
“You’ve pissed off the wrong man,” he grunted. “Now
you’re going to disappear.”
He tugged me against his sturdy frame and tried to
haul me toward the back door. I knew if he got me out of the house, I wouldn’t live to see another day. I wiggled and squirmed, desperate for him to let go. My mouth managed to open enough to bite down on the flesh of his arm, causing
him to tighten even further. His forearm dug into my windpipe, threatening to cut off my air supply. I gasped as my nails instinctively started tearing out
bits of flesh, trying to get free. He tore at my hair, nearly ripping it from the root. It was as though I could sense every nerve ending in my body
individually. I fought to keep the tears at bay, knowing there was no time to be weak.
My hands reached out for the counter, latching onto the edge in an effort to break free. He hit me again, but I wasn’t going without a fight—I couldn’t. Just as I lost hold, my hand brushed a butcher
knife. My fingers wrapped around the wood handle as I yanked it from the surface. Everything my father and brothers had taught me came rushing back.
I knew the moment the blade entered his thick hide. He let out a grunt, swearing in Spanish as he let go of my body, and the knife slipped free. Instinct kicked in and I turned him into the prey. I jolted forward, pushing the pointed metal into his gut. We toppled over together, me
landing on top of him, the knife held fast in my palm. His eyes widened with shock. He was not expecting me to best him.
“Fuck you.” I pulled my arm back and plunged the
knife back in. The sickening sounds of squishing resounded in the room as blood poured out around the stainless steel now tinted red.
He never had a chance to respond. His breathing became strained as he struggled for air. I scrambled backward, my back slamming
against the cabinets. The blade dropped from my hands as I sat watching him take his last breath. I’d never killed a man before. That was my brothers. Not me. But as his eyes glazed over and became hollow, I realized I’d become the person I had been desperately trying to avoid.
His blood stained the floor and covered my skin. I sat staring at his still form for what felt like an eternity. Until my cell phone, which had fallen on the floor during our struggle, rattled across the floor. I cut my eyes to the offending object bouncing against the wood and slowly scooted toward it.
Alex was calling me. Knowing he would probably worry if I didn’t answer, I dried my bloody hand on the rumpled dress I was wearing and answered.
“Hey.” I forced my voice to relax.
“Okay.” It came out a bit more sarcastic than I wanted.
“Date two. Remember? I said I’d call so we could plan it.”
“Right. Sorry, I was just about to grab a shower. Yes, let’s plan something.” My eyes strayed to the corpse bleeding out on my hardwoods. “Text me when you’re free, and I’ll check my work schedule and let you know.”
Alex got quiet on the other end. “Are you having second thoughts?”
No. I’m just staring at a man I just killed.
“Absolutely not. I guess I’m just tired. How about I shower and call you back? Then we can decide when and what?”
“If you’re sure.” He seemed hesitant.
Sure, there is a dead man in my kitchen, and I can’t tell you because you’re a cop.
The internal war was raging inside me. I should have told him I had changed my mind, but the selfish part of me wanted to hang on to the normal he gave me, not the fucked-up life I was staring at.
“Alright. Call me when you’re done.”
“Talk to you soon. Thanks for tonight, Alex.”
Even if it ended with me shoving a knife into one of Javier Costa’s men.
I gripped the phone in my hand after disconnecting. Right now, the only matter I needed to concern myself with was
the dead man lying three feet from where I sat. The logical thing would have been to call Alex back and tell him what I’d done, but in doing that, I’d have to tell him who I really was. Not to mention I’d be painting an even bigger
target on myself—and possibly get him killed.
I was unable to take my eyes off the carnage lying before me. A large stream of blood clung to the fabric of his shirt as it oozed beneath his back. There was only one thing I could do. One person I could call. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to reinvent myself, the fate of being an Anastasi would always catch up to me. Sitting there with the silent reminder of who I was, I knew there was no more running. It had found me—even if by
coincidence, the underbelly of society had sucked me in.
I loosened the grip on my phone and stared at the
darkened screen as if it was the talisman of death. Once I pressed the button, there was no going back to what I’d been working hard to create in this small town.
I had to laugh at the thought. I’d come here because of the simplicity of the town. It was small, but still filled with enough life I wouldn’t get bored. It was the total opposite of Vegas—yet, here I sat. I pressed my eyes closed and
took a calming breath. A tendril of panic wormed its way into my chest. What if he didn’t answer? And if he did, what if he refused to help?
I couldn’t think about that. He was my only hope. I swiped the screen alive, willing it to breathe life into the room. The number I’d refused to delete mocked me from my contacts, as though the inanimate
writing was laughing at me beneath the thin glass screen.
Pressing the cellphone against my cheek, I held my breath and waited. For a moment, the air seized in my lungs when the familiar voice filtered through the line.
I couldn’t speak. The words falling dead on my tongue.
“Look.” His irritation lacing his tone. “I know someone’s there… I can hear you breathing.”
I drew in a stuttered gasp and swallowed. This was the moment everything would change. The past would collide with my future, blurring the lines I’d meticulously drawn out for myself. Lines that were being blown to smithereens with three words.
“I’m in trouble.”