One dedicated attorney.
One beautiful little sister.
This pairing is about to get WICKED.
My main concern is protecting those I love. I keep them out of harm’s way and out of legal trouble. These are my brothers through and through. And I would do anything for any of them. But when one our own is kidnapped and tortured, it’s up to me to take care of her—whether her brother likes it or not.
I’ve grown up with these men most of my life. I know them all inside out. But the chilly Zin doesn’t stop me from wanting more of that sweet taste on my tongue all over again. And he’s the only one I trust right now. He’s been doing my bidding to keep me safe and secure. Now, it’s time for me to make the bid that’s going to change everything.
CHAPTER ONE - JADA
My wrists burned as the rope he’d used to tie me to the hooks he’d pounded into the wall chafed my skin. I was bound facing him so I could witness his pain, he’d said, because I was there instead of the woman he really wanted.
“I told you to open your fucking eyes!” he screamed like he had repeatedly before he cracked the whip that seconds later would slice into my naked flesh.
I clenched my jaw, opening my eyes as wide as I could, knowing if they were closed when the strands of leather connected with my body, he’d make me endure several more lashes, worse than the first.
“Jada. wake up. You’re having a nightmare,” I heard a deep voice say in the split second before the whip hit.
Nightmare? I squinted through one eye, then opened both to look into those of my brother.
“Montano?” I tried to whisper but no sound came out.
He touched my forehead with a cool damp cloth. My stomach rolled with the pungent smell of pine and lemon, but the nausea subsided when he caressed my cheek with his other hand. “It was just a dream. You’re safe, sis. I’ve got you.”
My eyes darted around the room. I could hear the steady beep of a machine but when I tried to turn my head to see it, I couldn’t move. I wanted to ask where I was but I couldn’t form the words. I couldn’t remember the last time I had. Each time I’d opened my mouth, it had been to scream.
When Montano glanced behind me, I tried to turn my head a second time. Again, I couldn’t. Not that I needed to. I knew Zin sat on the other side of the bed. I always knew when he was close. In the past, I’d craved it. I didn’t now.
The door opened and a man walked in who I recognized, even though I didn’t know him well. Bones—that’s what my brother and his friends called him. He was a doctor.
Montano, who those same friends called Onyx, stood and leaned down to kiss my forehead. “I’ll be right outside.” I tried to nod, unsure whether I did or not. It was as though my brain and body were disconnected.
The farther away he got, the cloth’s aroma was increasingly replaced by the sterile stench of bleach on the bed’s linens. Why was my sense of smell heightened to the point it nauseated me?
I watched Bones check the leads of the machines affixed to my skin. The antiseptic on his hands blended with the disinfectant, but I still couldn’t feel his touch. I couldn’t fucking feel anything. Did that mean I was dreaming? Had what Montano said was a nightmare my reality or was this?
“Luisa is here. Would you like me to send her in?” Bones asked.
Luisa. My best friend. The woman the lunatic had wanted instead of me. I’d heard him tell her—or someone—I’d demanded he trade me for her. I knew Luisa. Once she found out he had me, she’d do everything she could to get me out of his clutches, even if it meant sacrificing herself.
“I can let her know you’re not ready,” he said.
I tried again and was able to shake my head enough he noticed. He nodded and left the room.
“Jada?” Zin reached over and stroked my hair. Like with Bones, I could smell the body wash he used and the scent of his shampoo. I could see his hand move but couldn’t feel it. I closed my eyes, wondering again if this was a dream.
“Sweetheart, Luisa is here,” Zin whispered a few seconds later.
My eyes met hers and I without thinking about it, I raised my hand. I studied it’s movement as though it belonged to someone other than me.
“Leave us,” I whispered like Zin had, stunned and relieved when the words came out.
Zin stood, leaned down, and kissed my forehead like my brother had, before walking out the door Luisa had come in.
I flinched when her hand rested on mine, not because it hurt, but because it was the first of another’s touch I could feel. My eyes filled with tears. “I didn’t—” God, my throat hurt. Was it from screaming?—“ask him to trade.” I managed to finish my thought but every word I uttered felt like sandpaper chafing my throat.
She held my hand between both of hers. “Oh, sweetheart, I know you didn’t. I know you would never.”
I rested my head against the pillow. “He…he…”
“Shh,” she soothed. “We don’t have to talk about it now, Jada. We don’t ever have to talk about it unless you want to.”
I closed my eyes and focused on the slow beep of the machine I’d heard when I first woke up, matching each breath I took to its rhythm, wondering if I’d ever be able to speak of the hours I spent held captive by a madman.
If I could, would anyone want to hear my story? I hadn’t wanted to hear Luisa’s. “I’m sorry.” I peered at her through tears as her own streaked down her cheeks.
“There’s nothing for you to be sorry for, Jada.”
She was wrong, not that I could admit the real reason why I apologized. When she returned to the States after being rescued from a shipping container along with several other human trafficking victims, I’d told her we didn’t need to talk about it right away. It hadn’t been to ease her pain. It had been to protect myself from feeling it.
“I’m the one who’s sorry. He wanted me,” she whispered. “God, Jada, can you ever forgive me?”
I wanted to reassure her like she had me, but the words wouldn’t come. Instead, I stared at my hand, studying where the plastic catheter disappeared into the hole in my flesh, delivering fluids into my body. Why could I feel her touch but not it? Why could I turn my head, even raise my arm, but not feel it? Even my torso—where I’d been repeatedly whipped—was numb. Why?
“I need to rest,” I said, pulling my hand from hers.
Her brow furrowed and her eyes scrunched. “Um, sure. Of course.”
I turned away, knowing if I didn’t, I’d beg her to stay, beg her to comfort me, even though when she’d been the one in pain, I hadn’t been able to do that for her.
From the corner of my eye, I saw her stand. “Do you want me to ask Zin to come back in?”
I closed my eyes and nodded, willing the tears not to fall until after she left the room.
“Jada? Are you—”
“Please just go,” I whispered.