The edge of dominance, p.12
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.12
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         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black

  “That just means she likes you.”

  Still looking shell-shocked, he bent and quickly pecked Bryn on the cheek.

  “Lovely.” Bryn wasn’t smiling anymore. “Now, then… You’re all here for a reason. I’m sorry I’ve no more time to explain, but it’s important you understand you’re family to one another, whether you’re blood or not. You’ve trouble ahead, and each and every one of you has a role to play during these tough times. Seth and Kenneth, you’ll be essential. And Liam, dear, follow your da’s example. He taught you well.”

  So his mother had come for some reason other than the baby. Damn it all.

  Liam rubbed at the back of his neck. “Sit down and tell us more.”

  “No time for that. I hated to barge in on you earlier, but I’m afraid I’ve waited too long as it is.” To his surprise, his mother looked Hammer’s way. “Macen, brace yourself.”

  Hammer froze. “Oh, shit.”

  Liam went rigid with dread. “Mum, don’t. We can’t take any more. We’ve been through too much, and we’ve got a baby on the way.”

  Bryn made a beeline for Raine, wrapping an arm around his lass’s delicate shoulders. “No matter what happens next, you mustn’t blame yourself. None of this is your fault.”

  “Mo grá, ease off,” Duncan suggested. “You’re scaring everyone, especially wee Raine.”

  “I’m only here to help,” Bryn assured. “She’ll see that soon enough.”

  “What trouble is coming?” Hammer sidled closer, his face grave.

  “How does she know there’s trouble? Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” Raine demanded.

  “Of course Liam didn’t explain that, either.” Bryn slanted another chastising stare his way. “Well, dear, I’m fey.”

  Raine blinked. “You’re not a fairy.”

  “No, dear. We’re psychic. It runs in the family…” She sent Liam a pointed stare. “When everyone remembers their gifts.”

  He shook his head. “Mum, don’t…”

  “Sorry, son.” She turned to Hammer. “Macen, dear. Call your lawyer and do it now.”

  Fear gripped Liam’s gut. “Lawyer?”

  Hammer turned ashen. “Why?”

  Suddenly, she sighed with regret. “I’m sorry. Time has run out.”

  Right on cue, the doorbell rang.

  * * *

  “Answer it, Macen,” Bryn said softly. “It’s for you.”

  The gravity in her tone made Hammer’s gut tighten with dread. He darted a glance at both Liam and Raine. She still looked a bit confused, but dread racked Liam’s face.

  With a curse, Hammer clenched his jaw and pulled the door open.

  Two uniformed officers stood on the porch. “Mr. Hammerman?”

  He reared back, confusion needling his brain. What were the police doing here? He had no other family they could report as dead. Had there been a break-in at the club? Or had River somehow escaped custody?

  “I’m Macen Hammerman. What can I do for you?”

  “We need you to come with us to answer some questions.”

  He scowled. “About what?”

  “We’ll explain at the station.”

  That made him wary. “Legally, I don’t have to answer questions.”

  “True, but you can either come with us voluntarily or we can make this official and arrest you.”

  Hammer’s heart stuttered. “For what?”

  The officer looked at him in disgust. “Kidnapping, rape, sodomy, and oral copulation with a minor, pimping, human trafficking… Do I need to go on?”

  The ground beneath Macen crumbled. Shock and panic deluged him. This was not happening.

  River. The motherfucking prick had given the cops his “proof,” whatever that was. Hammer noticed the officers weren’t calling Liam a rapist, so this must have something to do with the fact that he’d taken Raine in as a minor.

  “No!” Raine exploded. “None of that is true. There’s been a misunderstanding. A mistake!”

  Hammer blessed her for wanting to save him, but he feared it wouldn’t help now.

  He turned a grim expression Liam’s way. “Call Sterling Barnes. Have him meet me at the station.”

  “I’m on it, man.” His friend looked pale and worried.

  “River did this.” Raine rushed to the door and faced the cops. “Whatever my brother is saying, it isn’t true. I’m the supposed victim, but I swear I’m here of my own free will. I always have been. Don’t take Hammer away when he’s done nothing wrong.”

  “Everything will be sorted out at the station,” the officer assured dispassionately. “Mr. Hammerman, if you’ll come with us?”

  Macen gave the cop a curt nod, then settled a tender gaze on Raine. “It’ll be okay, precious. Don’t worry. I’ll be back home in no time.”

  “He will be,” Bryn assured.

  Raine wrapped her arms around Hammer’s chest. “Let me come with you. I’ll fix this. I’ll tell them—”

  “No.” Hammer cupped her face and gazed into her eyes. “No need for you to be interrogated. I’ll sort this out and see you soon.”

  “But—”

  Hammer slanted his lips over hers and silenced her with a hard kiss. He breathed in her scent and clutched her soft, lush body while imprinting every one of her subtle nuances on his heart. “I love you.”

  Tears filled her eyes. “I love you.”

  He turned away and squared his shoulders. Whatever evidence River had presented might look damning, but Hammer was prepared to fight any allegations with his last, dying breath.

  As the cops led him toward their patrol car, Raine rushed from the house with Liam by her side. “I’ll find that asshole brother of mine and make him fix this.”

  Hammer spun; fear warred with anger. “I don’t want you anywhere near that son of a bitch.” He pinned Liam with a silent demand. “Do not let her even talk to that sack of shit.”

  “I’ll take care of our girl.” Liam pulled his cell phone from his pants pocket. “Ringing up your lawyer now, mate. No worries.”

  “Absolutely none,” Hammer lied for Raine’s benefit, then climbed into the back of the cruiser.

  The officers locked him in the backseat. Through the grimy window, he looked back at the two people he loved most and the house they shared, wondering if anything would ever be the same again.

  Concern flattened Liam’s mouth into a tight line. He held Raine, who wore every worry on her pale face. As the car sped away, he couldn’t take his gaze off them.

  Especially when Raine’s eyes slid shut and she collapsed in Liam’s arms.

  Chapter 6

  A mountain of anxiety suffocated Hammer as he waited in the precinct’s cold, empty interview room. He struggled to tamp down his anger and project a cool veneer of indifference. This wasn’t his first rodeo, so he wasn’t about to let the pricks watching his every move behind the two-way glass see him sweat. But inside, he felt the earth shifting beneath his feet in a landslide of shit.

  Kidnapping, rape, sodomy and oral copulation with a minor, pimping, human trafficking… If this didn’t go well, Hammer knew he could go down for life.

  Ignoring the authorities’ prying eyes, he pulled out his cell phone, desperate for an update about Raine. After they’d watched her collapse in Liam’s arms, the bastards driving the squad car had refused to stop so he could see if she was all right. Thankfully, Liam had already assured Hammer that their girl was fine. Emotional distress had merely gotten the better of her for a moment. Still, Hammer wouldn’t rest easy until he was back home with her in his arms. But now, he could only wait.

  For someone to stroll into the room and grill him.

  For his lawyer, Sterling Barnes, to slide into the chair beside him and keep this interrogation from going south.

  For some resolution to this shit storm.

  Macen wished he and Liam had throttled River Kendall when they’d had the chance. Whatever the son of a bitch’s circumstantial evidence was, it must be in
criminating as hell.

  Since even the truth would look damning, Hammer had to hope that mercy and justice would prevail.

  He wanted to pace but remained seated, staring at a fixed point on the table in front of him. It tested his control, but if he gave the goons on the other side of the glass any indication he was going stir crazy, they would only isolate him longer, try to unhinge him.

  When the door finally opened, two plainclothes detectives entered, one tall and thin, the other short and balding. Hammer quickly sized them up. No-nonsense types. Good, he wasn’t in the mood to play games.

  “Macen Daniel Hammerman?” the taller detective asked with a cordial smile.

  “Yes?”

  “I’m Detective Winslow. This is Detective Cameron. Thank you for coming in so promptly.”

  “I wasn’t aware I had a choice,” Hammer drawled.

  The balding man, Cameron, smirked.

  “As a formality, I need to read you your rights,” Winslow advised. “And inform you that this interview will be recorded.”

  While they Mirandized him, everything suddenly became terribly real. But Hammer mentally drew up his armor, refusing to let fear claw into him.

  “Do you understand these rights I have just read to you?” Winslow asked.

  “I do.”

  “With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak with us, Mr. Hammerman?”

  “Sure. Why not?” He shrugged nonchalantly.

  After the detectives recorded the usual preliminary jargon on tape, Winslow pulled out a stack of notes from a satchel.

  “Let’s cut to the chase, gentlemen. What is it you want to know?” Hammer prompted.

  “I understand you own a private sex club called Shadows. Is that correct?”

  “Not precisely, Detective Winslow. It’s not a sex club, but a private BDSM club. There’s a big difference.”

  “But members do have sex at your establishment, correct?” Cameron asked with a lewd gleam in his eyes.

  “If all participants are consenting and no one is at risk, it’s allowed. Come by sometime and see for yourself.”

  “No, thanks. I don’t need to beat my wife so she’ll sleep with me,” Cameron patronized.

  “Let’s move on,” Winslow directed. “Do you know a woman by the name of Raine Elise Kendall?”

  His gut tightened. “Yes.”

  “And what exactly is your relationship with her?”

  “Why?”

  “Because your last six years with her are pertinent to our investigation,” Winslow answered. “Some rather disturbing information has been brought to our attention that could result in your arrest.”

  Thanks so much, River, you fucking asswipe.

  “Such as?” Hammer slowly clenched his jaw.

  “Don’t play dumb,” Cameron sneered. “The officers who brought you in already advised you of some of the possible charges. You know, those pesky kidnapping, human trafficking, statutory rape, extortion allegations… There’s more if that’s not ringing a bell for you.”

  God, even more charges than they’d first mentioned.

  Hammer steeled himself. Six years ago, he’d taken Raine in from the alley behind his club, fully aware how his gesture would look to the outside world and that he could be prosecuted as a sex offender for doing nothing more than helping an abused girl find safety. But as the years had gone on, that possibility had grown distant. It certainly had been the furthest thing from his mind two hours ago when he’d been in the kitchen with Liam, balls deep inside Raine. He’d been sure of his future then, in command of his destiny, wrapped in love, believing that his biggest problems were all in his head.

  In a matter of seconds, all his bliss and hope for the future had been ripped away.

  Terror pulsed in his veins. Denial screamed in his head. He began to sweat. But Hammer forced himself to gird the walls concealing his fear.

  Sucking in a steadying breath, he arched a brow pointedly at Winslow. “Those are some serious allegations. Obviously, someone has made erroneous assumptions about my relationship with Ms. Kendall.” Hammer waved his hand dismissively. “What evidence do you have to substantiate such absurdity?”

  “Plenty,” Cameron sneered. “You wanted to cut to the chase, Mr. Hammerman. Let’s do that. We know that when Ms. Kendall was a minor, you bought and paid for her, like some pet you had bred for your pleasure. After her shit-sack father sold her to you, you moved her in to that club with you and raped her. You like having sex with little girls?”

  “I’ve never had any sexual contact with a minor.” Hammer didn’t elaborate. Anything could be twisted to incriminate him.

  Winslow continued. “According to our investigation, you also kept her prisoner at Shadows, pimping her out to guests and friends. Was Mr. O’Neill one of them? You all live together now. Isn’t that right?”

  Cameron leaned close and pinned Hammer with a lecherous gaze. “Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time you two shared pussy.”

  Hammer itched to reach across the table and rip the detective’s head off. Instead, he gave the man a brittle smile. “Sounds like you’ve already made your mind up. I’m through answering questions until my lawyer arrives.”

  “Yeah. You should definitely lawyer up, pal,” Cameron spat.

  The pair left. After an interminable twenty minutes, Sterling Barnes walked through the door. The detectives were right behind him.

  “Gentlemen, I’d like some time to confer with my client,” Sterling announced.

  After the dipshidiot duo left the room again, Hammer turned to his lawyer, dying to speak.

  Sterling shook his head. “We’re still being recorded.”

  “I know.” Hammer reeled off the litany of charges LA’s finest wanted to level against him. “I’ve never committed any of those crimes.”

  “If they had anything concrete, they would have already arrested, booked, and processed you. Let them finish their questioning, but don’t answer unless I nod. Maybe we can skate through this shit without getting our socks dirty.”

  “Fine.” Hammer swallowed. “Let’s get this over with.”

  Sterling spoke at the mirror. “We’re ready to begin, gentlemen.”

  Seconds later, Winslow and Cameron returned.

  The tall one started in first. “When did you first meet Ms. Kendall?”

  Sterling nodded.

  Six and a half years ago. Friday, August eleventh. “I don’t recall exactly.”

 
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