After what seems like hours, the car stops moving, and the moment the trunk opens, I start to fight. I kick and punch and scream, but it’s no use. Hands restrain me, and I’m pulled from the trunk. The cloth is ripped from my face, the light blinding. Trepidation pools in my stomach as I look at the group of men. I blink, clearing my vision.

    ″What is this?” a large man with a Russian accent asks the man who is walking toward me. Dread fills me as Emmett’s father stops in front of me.

    ″Amber, it’s so nice to meet you.” He reaches out his hand, and I look at it and back at the people around me. Celine stands beside me, smiling at Emmett’s father. He drops his hand when I don’t take it. “You are a very hard woman to capture. I mean, look at the mess you caused with Nig and Simon,” he says before turning back to the group of men as that news trickles slowly into my system.

    He had those men capture me.

    He nods at one of the men beside me, who grabs my arm. “She is nothing, just my assurance that my son will behave.” I pull my arm away. “Don’t fuss, Amber. You have caused enough already.”

    The warning in his voice has me allowing this thug to take my arm. I don’t know how I ever thought Emmett was scary; he has nothing on his father. His father gives a new meaning to the word ‘fear.’ My legs move, but I can’t feel them. I think I am going to pass out. Another man pulls up the roll door of a truck that’s parked to the left of the large room. I’m hoisted onto the truck bed. The same guy climbs onto the back and takes my hands, tying them up expertly with a thick rope.

    ″Please,” I whisper to him, and he looks at me, pausing momentarily enough to give me a glimmer of hope, but then he tightens the knot, hurting me. He gets ready to climb down but pauses again.

    ″Just do as they say, and you might live.” That’s the warning I get before my world is plunged into darkness again.

    I’m broken.

    That’s the confession that consumes me as I tuck my head into my knees. Tears roll down my cheeks and soak into my jeans.

    Once upon a time, I was happy. Once upon a time, I had friends, a job, and family. Once upon a time, life blossomed inside me.

    More tears spill, worthless, painful, heart-wrenching tears that leave me as I break, break, break.

    I try to conjure up my field of lilies as the mental pain takes me to a frightening height. The haven I built in my mind dissolves with my sanity. I stand in the back of the dark truck, with bound hands and nowhere to go. I think of every bad and reckless decision that brought me to this destination.

    I think of how I buried Lily—not in the ground but under too much alcohol and too many dangerous choices. If anyone told me this story, I would say the girl got what she deserved.

    What did I get?

    A death sentence that I’m waiting for in the back of this cold, dark truck.

    No one is going to ride in on a white horse and save me. I slump back down to the floor.

    No one.

    Because I’m broken.

    My internal turmoil is smashed as light pours into the back of the lorry. I squint, and there he is, standing like a god in a sea of mobsters. He doesn’t do it consciously; he just stands out from everyone around him. My body sags.

    All I can think is that he found me. He came for me. Surely, that means something.

    They take all of Emmett’s weapons from him, and that instills fear in me again. How can he get both of us out of this? My parents, Luke, and even Grace—I haven’t seen them in so long. What if I never get the chance to see them again? Cold fear spreads through me as I think of my grieving mother when they finally find my body. If only I trusted Emmett enough to talk to him, then we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    I look at Emmett, hoping to find calm in his face, but his back is to me. I sense someone watching me. I try to push aside the breakdown. I didn’t think Emmett would come for me, yet here he is. Hope replaces despair, and I sit up a little straighter.

    Someone is still watching me. I don’t look directly at the source, as the guy leaves me with an unsettled feeling. His face is crisscrossed with scars; his eyes bulge in his bald and very pale head. I spotted him very quickly. At first, I wasn’t sure if he was real. He hadn’t so much as blinked. What frightened me the most was that I wasn’t sure who he belonged to. But his orders were clear—he was to keep his eyes on me.

    I glance away and focus on my tied hands. Shifting them slowly I try to break the bounds with no luck.

    The Russian advances toward me, I drop my hands. “No funny business!”

    ″Get away from her!” Emmett is there, blocking the guy who was instructed to watch me. If I leaned out, I could touch Emmett, and I want to so badly.

    ″Everyone needs to calm down.” Emmett’s father appears, along with Kirill.

    ″Andrei, stand down,” Kirill speaks. Andrei moves away from me without taking his eyes off me. And that is terrifying.

    ″No one is going to touch her.” Emmett’s father squeezes Emmett’s stiff shoulders before looking at me and smiling. “You’re safe, Amber,” he assures me. If I’m so safe, why the hell can’t he let me go? Why the hell does he need me here?

    ″Don’t use her name.” Emmett speaks with such forced control that no one speaks of me again. Emmett doesn’t look at me but walks away toward Nathan.

    The men gather near the crates, the leaders leaning together, complimenting the merchandise and the drug trade. They speak of how it’s booming for them. I close my eyes briefly. I don’t want to hear this. Hearing this will get me killed. Andrei hasn’t joined everyone. He stands at a distance, watching me. It still bothers me, but the fact that Emmett had JP watch him makes me feel better, if only just a little.

    ″We have an even better trade in Russia. It’s not millions but billions of dollars, and we want to bring it here,” Kirill says. I can’t see him, but I recognize his voice. “It’s the reason I set up this meeting.” The noise of a gun chamber being pulled ricochets around the warehouse. “Guns and drugs are good for business, but pussy? That’s where the money lies.”

    ″Have you got any merchandise for us to sample?” a Latino voice asks, which is the Blood group’s leader.

    ″Andrei…” The rest of the sentence is spoken in Russian, but I’m relieved when Andrei finally looks away from me and leaves the warehouse.

    My heart thumps at what I might see. I seek out Emmett, but he’s glancing at his watch. Then, as if sensing me, he looks up and right at me, and my stomach churns. I don’t see the calm in his face that I need right now. All I see is his fear, and that sends panic racing through me at an alarming rate. If he’s afraid of what’s going to happen, then I really don’t stand a chance. At that moment, I know my life will end here tonight. My breathing becomes harder, and tears burn my eyes and throat. I bite my lip, pushing back the hysteria that’s building in me. A metallic taste fills my mouth, and I let my abused lip go.

    The roar of an engine has me blinking the tears away as Andrei drives into the warehouse. He jumps out of the white van and moves to the back, where he pulls open the doors, and the startled squeals of frightened girls cease almost immediately. They get out one by one, each one shielding her eyes from the harsh lights. Each one scantily dressed. Each one is afraid. I’m glad I’m sitting down. The weakness that overtakes me would have me on the floor. My hands shake as I watch these innocent girls being paraded around in front of the men. They are all extremely beautiful and young. All in the prime of life. A life that, if these men get their hands on, will be short-lived.

    ″Here is your new merchandise. Russian beauties who will work hard and fast.” Some of the men laugh. My stomach tightens with disgust. Kirill speaks in harsh Russian, and the women stand a little taller. The fear doesn’t leave them, but they try to appear calmer.

    ″I consider myself a businessman. A very successful one.” Emmett’s father points at the girls. “This is not something I want to get into.” I’m surprised. He has a heart. “They don’t last long. It gets messy. They need to be fed, and they need somewhere to stay. That means it gets expensive.” Okay, so he doesn’t have a heart.

    ″It sells, and I can’t do this without you.” Kirill takes a step toward Emmett’s father. Both groups move with their leaders. “We had a deal.” Kirill’s face deepens in color, and Andrei forces all the women back into the van.

    One looks at me with such hopelessness in her eyes, and it twists my gut. She disappears into the van as the tension grows between Kirill and Emmett’s father. Looking around, I realize that everyone is distracted. This is my moment.

    Don't forget to open next weeks newsletter to read chapter twenty-four.

    Love Vi