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Then, handcuffs are clipped around Vladimir’s wrists as he stumbles again, still trying to find his equilibrium. His blue eyes look dazed because the man is clearly seeing stars, but as he’s led off, he turns to me one last time.

“You’re going to regret this,” the Russian snarls before hocking a giant loogey onto the priceless Persian rug. “Fucking traitors always die.”

I flex my fingers, working out the joints in my hand as I smile icily at him.

“We shall see,” is all I say. “The arm of the law is long.”

Finally, the Russian is led off, still spitting and cursing, and Curtis returns to the room, his features stern.

“Brother, that was rough,” he says. “You okay?”

I shake out the fingers of my hand.

“I’ve been better, but I’m glad we finally caught that guy in the act. You saw the girls for sale out there?”

My buddy nods.

“Yeah, it was fucking despicable. You know most of those girls have been missing for more than a year. They were abducted by the Sim crew, and they’ve been kept in confinement since then. This is the first time we caught the Sim brothers red-handed with their fingers in the pie.”

“Good,” I grunt. “But where’s Michelle?”

Curtis nods.

“She’s outside. She’s safe. I think a paramedic is treating her, but there are no injuries. Just so you know though, we got everything on tape, and that includes her … uh, dance.”

I nod.

“I know, but the problem is that she doesn’t know.”

Curtis shoots me a long look.

“Well, then I think it’s time you brought her up to speed on who you really are, not to mention what’s been going on.”

I nod, my frown intense.

“Yes, you’re right.”

With that, I stride out of the room, intent on finding my woman. After all, I’ve kept Michelle in the dark about a lot of crucial things: my identity, my true profession, and the real reason why we came out to this party. But what I haven’t lied about are my feelings for her. I’ve fallen in love with the gorgeous woman, and I only hope she forgives me after she discovers the extent of my lies.



Everything is happening so fast, but it feels like my body isn’t moving. Or at least if it is, I’m moving at the pace of a sloth, and my limbs are numb and sluggish. I try to rationalize what just happened twenty minutes ago, but it’s impossible. The party was busted up. There was a gun to my head. A real gun, and not a fake one. Most importantly, Ben isn’t who he claims to be.

“Oh my god!”

Tears flow down my cheeks and I can’t stop shaking. Someone’s draped a blanket over my shoulders, but it doesn’t help. I feel cold, and the chill goes all the way to my bones. A woman in a cop’s uniform is standing in front of me, and I think she’s trying to say something, but I can’t hear. Her mouth opens and closes, but nothing hits my ears. Oh my God, was I injured somehow? Am I deaf now?

My spine collapses and I feel myself falling to the ground, but two strong arms catch me at the last moment and pull me close as Ben presses his lips to my cheek.

“You’re okay, baby,” he whispers harshly. “Everything’s fine.”

His eyes run a quick survey over my features, taking in the pale skin and dilated pupils. He can feel how cold I am, and immediately gestures to a nearby paramedic.

“Heat packs,” he barks. “She’s cold and in shock. Get some now.”

Within seconds, heat packs are pressed against my hands, and I can feel warmth returning as Ben cradles me against his broad chest. Then, he murmurs into my hair.

“Are you okay, sweetheart? Can I take you home now? You’re physically fine, even if mentally, this has been a shock, I know.”

I manage to nod numbly, and soon, Ben has me in his car, securely strapped in, as we leave Long Island. I look out the window in a daze. Where are we going? Trees, roads, and buildings whiz by, but I’m still confused and nothing makes sense. What’s happening?

Soon, we pull up at a respectable-looking building in Manhattan. It’s not huge or garish, but looks solid with a slightly dated facade. It’s normal, if anything can be called normal again. Ben pulls into an underground garage beneath the building, and I close my eyes, leaning against the headrest.

This will all make sense in a moment. You will wake up, Michelle, and everything will come together.

While taking slow steady breaths, in and out, I focus on the sound of my heart. I will not let my mental illness take over. I’m better now. I’ve been taking my meds and seeing a therapist regularly. I’m going to be fine. Fine. In. Out. In. Out.

Then, there’s the distinct clicking sound of my car door being opened and Ben leans in, his huge mass blocking out the light of the garage.

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