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Ican’t help it. The second I hear that pounding on the door, I fling my arms around Colten’s shoulders. “What do we do?” I whisper, clinging to him.

He holds a finger to his lips, staring at the door for a second before gently but insistently unwinding my arms from around him. Again, he motions for me to stay silent, then goes to the dresser where a pair of sweatpants is folded up. He steps into them on his way to the door. Before he gets there, there’s more pounding, and I can’t help whimpering a little when I think about who’s probably on the other side.

He looks at me, holding up a hand like he wants me to stay where I am before he peers out the peephole. Some of the tension drains out of him, but not all of it. “Yes?” he barks out.

“I need to talk to you, sir.” Who is that? When she coughs, I realize it’s the woman from the front desk, somebody who sounds like she smokes three packs of cigarettes a day. It’s definitely her raspy voice I hear.

He hesitates a moment before unlocking the door and opening it a crack. “Are you alone?”

“Who the hell are you people? Yes, I’m alone, and I need to speak to you.” He opens the door, and she steps into the room, finds me on the bed, and her lips set in a thin line. “Somebody was looking for both of you.”

I grab one of the pillows and hold it tight against my chest. Colten folds his arms, looking from the woman to me, then back again. “You’re sure about that? Who was looking?”

“I didn’t get a name,” she snaps, “but they were looking for a young blond girl and a guy who looks like he could be twice her age. Even said she might be wearing a red dress.”

“What did you tell them? Can you describe them?”

“They looked like they were no good. Two big guys, black clothes, sunglasses when it’s practically nighttime.”

Colten looks at me, then shakes his head slightly. “Not him.” I know who he means. I doubt a mafia boss’s son would come looking for me on his own. He’d have people doing it for him.

“What did you tell them?” Colten asks her.

“I said I never saw you. And I asked them to either get a room or leave my office. They left a few minutes ago. I waited until they were gone to come over here and let you know.”

“Thank you for doing that. You know, you could have told them the truth.”

She waves a hand, snickering. “You know how many people I have coming around here looking for my guests? Angry wives, jealous husbands, you name it. I don’t tell tales. It eats into my bottom line.”

“Just the same, we’ll be leaving. Thank you for your help.” With that, he opens the door, and she leaves. Once the door is locked, I jump up from the bed and start grabbing bags. This time, I don’t bother asking where we’re going since I’m sure he doesn’t know any more than I do. We just need to get away, is all. Somewhere Marco wouldn’t look for us. But where is that?

It isn’t until we’re in the car and on the road that Colten makes a decision. “I’m not taking you back to some shitty motel. We’re going to a hotel with security, and if I have to make up a story so they’ll screen potential visitors, so be it.”

“When is he going to stop?” The question goes unanswered, probably because he doesn’t know how to answer it. It was rhetorical, anyway.

He does another one of those crazy driving things again where he makes turns seemingly at random, doubling back over his route more than once before finally pulling into a garage attached to a high-rise hotel in the heart of the city. It’s much nicer than anywhere I’ve ever considered staying before, but I guess he can afford it. If the money from the auction came through, we can both afford it. I haven’t even thought to check. Crazy how what seemed like the most important thing in the world last night is secondary now that my life is really in danger.

While we’re at the front desk, Colten has a hushed conversation with the clerk. I don’t make out much of it, only that he wants to be sure nobody gets up to our room without permission. The girl’s wide-eyed by the time he finishes speaking. “I’ll make a note of that in our system. You have nothing to worry about. You’ll receive a phone call if anyone comes asking for you, and no one will give out your room number.”

“Thank you very much.” With that, he takes a key card, and the two of us carry our plastic shopping bags to the elevator. We are painfully out of place in our sweats, but right now, that doesn’t matter. I just want to be somewhere safe. Only once we’re alone on the elevator can I let out the breath I was holding. At least one of us seems to know what to do. I could never manage this on my own.

“Wow. This is gorgeous.” The beautiful room is enough to take my breath away when we step inside. It’s a junior suite, according to the girl at the desk, meaning there’s a living room and bedroom, along with a small kitchenette. Fresh flowers are scattered around in crystal vases, and a gorgeous view of the downtown area spreads out beyond the windows.

“It was all they had for a walk-in.” He leaves the bags on the striped sofa before immediately closing the curtains and shutting out the view. I doubt anybody would be able to see us in here, but I’m not going to argue with him.

“Thank you for this.” Pressure fills my chest, and a lump forms in my throat when I see how stressed he is. “This is all my fault.”

He whirls around, and for a split second, I think he hates me. That he wants to kill me. What other reason could there be for the murderous look on his face?

“Don’t you ever say that. You didn’t do anything wrong. Say it. Tell me you did nothing wrong.”

“I did nothing wrong,” I whisper, though I don’t quite believe it.

“This is all on him. You should be able to live freely. You don’t belong to him just because he thinks you do. This is all on him. Got it?” All I can do is nod in agreement since words fail me. I didn’t know he had this side to him. I would like to get to know it better.