“We’re here, boss,” comes over the in-car sound system.
The doors open, and I step out. “Stay seated,” I bark to Laurel when she tries to climb out of the vehicle.
“Should I—” starts one of my men.
“Touch her and die,” I reply in an easy, conversational tone which my men rightly take as a serious threat. They all take one step back.
I round the vehicle and pull her out into my arms.
“I thought I was walking on my own now.”
“You’ll be over my shoulder if you keep talking.”
We step into a large service elevator—her, me, and ten of my crew. At the top floor, the foreman hands me two hard hats. I carry Laurel over to the edge of the large empty building floor that overlooks the block holding her dad’s property. The cement floors are so thick that even the sound of my dress shoes is swallowed.
“I heard you were bringing a guest, and so I prepared this chair,” says the foreman. He waves a hand toward a black leather lounge chair that looks like it was stolen from some designer’s corporate office. I set her in the seat.
“This looks fancy,” Laurel says. “But there are no walls or windows here so also not fancy.”
“We’re taking brutalism seriously,” I deadpan.
“If you want to do the honors—” The foreman offers me the trigger.
I place the device in Laurel’s hand. “You do it.”
She looks at the electronic contraption. “What is this?”
“We’re blowing up the building across the street.”
She leans forward. “That’s my dad’s building.”
“Yes.” I crouch down next to her. “You know why people seek revenge? Because it’s fucking satisfying.”
“But is it really?” I ask, staring down at the button. An inner war is battling inside of me. The device is heavy in my hand.
If I push the button, wouldn’t I be the same as my father? I would be taking satisfaction in his destruction. The same thing he did to me for years. My father always loved his business. He boasted about being a self-made man. I never thought him a man at all. The truth was without Mom, he never would have gotten that place open. It was her that made his dream come true.
“Why don’t you find out, little bird?” Kane encourages.
My thumb slides across the shiny red switch. The temptation is growing. The first few nights I’d been kidnapped, I’d felt nothing. The only time I’ve had a spark of anything is when I’ve sparred with Kane. There would be tiny sparks that would light inside of me. I don’t know what to make of them, but I thrive on them. They grow bigger each day. It’s both terrifying and exciting.
When Kane told me my father wasn’t dead, again there was nothing. Should that have made me happy or sad? I’m more mixed up about how I feel after Kane put me down onto my feet in the elevator. He’d given me what I asked for, but yet it had annoyed me for some reason. I really must be broken. My leg is healing, but the rest of me isn’t. I have no clue how to untangle myself inside.
Kane stares at me, waiting for me to make a choice. For once, I have one. I push the button, keeping my eyes locked with his as the world in front of us starts to crumble and the ground shakes. I break his stare to see the dust starting to settle, showing the devastation left behind, a pile of concrete and rubble.
It's all gone. The place that was my hell for so long. At the push of a button, it was wiped away. Deep inside of me, something breaks free. There’s a sense of relief that fills me. Even breathing feels easier. I’ll never have to go back there.
“Now what?” I hand the trigger back, realizing Kane is still only staring at me. What comes next?
“Now we rebuild.” He tosses the switch to one of the men standing around before he plucks me from my seat, carrying me back toward the elevator. “Get to work,” he orders them before tossing my hard hat off and then stepping into the elevator. When the doors close this time, we’re alone. The air is suddenly thick. I fight the urge to lay my head on his shoulder. The fear of rejection is too much to bear. Why do I feel vulnerable now?
“Put me down,” I order.
“No,” he responds without missing a beat. I bite the inside of my cheek so that I don’t smile.
“Whatever,” I mutter, faking annoyance when the elevator doors open and he carries me back to the SUV. “Why am I still here?” I ask as we make our way back home. No, not home. Crap, I have Stockholm syndrome already. Kane doesn’t respond. That frown on his face remains. It’s both irritating and sexy. I don’t know if I want to thump it with my finger or kiss it. I’m leaning toward the latter, but he doesn’t need to know that. “Kane, what—”