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“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” she cries out. “I don’t want to hurt him.”

I pause, hoping she means it, but I don’t know what to believe anymore. “I’m not sure it matters anymore. He’s pretty done from what I can tell, and I don’t blame him.” I continue toward the door.

She shouts after me, “You don’t get it! You don’t even see! I’m done! I’m the one who’s done!”

She has no idea how right she is. Somehow, some way, after tonight, I’ll make sure she’s done playing these games. I only hope that some semblance of the person she once was can still be salvaged.

Leaving the room and pulling the door shut behind me, I’m surprised to find Tristan standing there in the hallway, and concerned that Sara isn’t with him. As I glance around, he says, “She’s still in the Hive.”

I’m not comforted by Sara’s being left alone with Isabel, but he continues, “You need to know that I checked out with Amber a long time ago.”

My gaze traces the red, angry scratches down his cheek. “Then why are you still here?”

“Because I was sure I was the one thing that kept her from self-destructing. I’m not anymore, and I need out before I go down with her.”

He’s become who I was with Amber, or maybe it’s who he’s always been with her. Maybe that’s all she allows anyone to be. “Then get out before you do.”

“If only it were so easy.” His expression tightens. “She threatened suicide.”

That hits me hard, Amber’s shouts of “You don’t understand” and “I’m the one who is done” taking on new meaning. “When?” I ask. “And has she ever done this before?”

“Tonight, and no, never before. I would have said something.”

“And the trigger was what?”

“When I told her I’d leave her and the tattoo parlor if she came here, and she knew I meant it. Was it manipulation? Maybe. But the bottom line is that she’s spiraling, and I can’t control where it leads.”

I inhale a heavy breath and let it out. “Then we have to check her into a treatment center. I’ll make calls and see if we can admit her tonight.”

“She won’t agree.”

“If we fear for her safety, I’m not sure she has to. But we need to get out of here before we can do anything. I’ll wait in the observation room in case you need me. Call or text me before you leave, and I’ll make sure Sara and I are gone before you pass through.”

“I’ll do my best,” he says, pushing off the wall. “But she’s not predictable.”

“Understood. I’ll be ready to move fast. Just do what you can.”

He gives a nod and then enters Isabel’s chambers, and I head to the Hive. Shoving the door open, I pause in the entryway, holding my breath.

Sara stands in the center of the room, directly behind the still-captive Isabel, and she’s holding the whip.

I slowly move forward, between her and Isabel. She doesn’t look at me. She just stares down at the thick leather that dangles to the ground, and I’m certain she’s thinking of the day she’d found me in Mark’s club being beaten, and then falling to her knees in front of me. She was never supposed to see me that way. She won’t ever see me that way again.

“Sara,” I say softly, a gentle command in my voice willing her to look at me.

Her gaze lifts sharply to mine. “You aren’t this whip. We are not this whip.”

My hand closes over hers on the whip. “I know.”

“No. You don’t.”

“Smart girl,” Isabel purrs. “Smarter than you, mon cher.”

Sara jerks back and steps around me, lifting the whip, her wrist cocked to use it. Grabbing her wrist, I insert myself back between her and Isabel, and in this instant I fear for Sara and for us, more than I ever have. “It’s not worth it. She’s not worth it.”

Her lips and hands quiver. “She needs to feel what she makes other people feel.”

“She won’t do it,” Isabel taunts. “She’s too weak and submissive.”

Sara takes a step forward, and I shackle one of her legs with my knees. “Don’t listen to her,” I warn. “This isn’t you, Sara, and you’ll regret it.”

She starts to tremble all over and her eyes glaze. “I just . . .” She presses her free hand to her face. “I just . . .” She looks at me. “She makes me . . . angry.”

“I know,” I murmur, taking the whip from her and dropping it to the ground, then lacing my fingers with hers and leading her toward the holding room.

“He’ll always need a whip,” Isabel snaps. “Anything else is a lie.”

Those words follow us into the other room, and I can almost feel the fear they create in Sara, but there is too much to say, and too little time, before Amber and Tristan become an issue. The instant we’re inside the private viewing room, I turn Sara to me.

“Before we leave I need to make a call here, where we’re not monitored, but we have to be ready to move. Tristan’s trying to get Amber out of here. He’s supposed to call me before they leave, but she’s still volatile. I can’t be sure we’ll have much warning.”

“Can’t you make the call outside?”

“No, once we leave, we’d need Isabel to let us back inside. Amber threatened suicide, Sara. We need to stay close in case Tristan needs us.”