Kept, Page 20Maya Banks
Maddox swore a string of curses that would have a grown man paling. Silas closed his eyes and finished punching in the number and started the process of giving Hayley what Thane wanted his sister to have. The good in life and not the shit he and his brothers lived in every day. Thane had been right about that much. Theirs was a life that no woman should ever be forced to live.
He closed his eyes as sorrow swept over him such as he’d never felt. Forgive me, princess.
Hayley walked to the side exit of the school that Silas and the others had told her to use from now on and peeked out the door, surprised when she saw not one, but two cars parked close by the entrance. Maddox and Justice stood by one, arms folded over their chests, looks of utter seriousness etched into their features. Silas stood alone by another and when he saw her, he gave her a quick motion for her to come to him.
She dashed for the car, surprised when suddenly Maddox was there to open the passenger door for her. To her further shock, before she got in, he suddenly enfolded her in a bone-crunching hug that stole all the breath from her. Grateful her wound was completely healed, she returned his hug, uncertain of what else to do.
“You have my number,” Maddox said in a somber voice as he loosened his hold. “If you ever need anything, you call. Got me?”
She nodded, her mouth open as he turned and stalked back to the car where Jax waited.
“Get in, Hayley,” Silas ordered shortly, galvanizing her into action.
She slid in and shut the door, putting on her seat belt, and then glanced curiously in Silas’s direction. “What on earth was that about?”
His gaze was shuttered, and that sent a shaft of hurt streaking through her. Eyes that had always been warm and open to her were now replaced by the cold stare he gave everyone else. The one encased by impenetrable ice.
What in the hell was going on?
Not answering her puzzled inquiry, he pulled into traffic, never once looking her way or speaking to her. Not even asking about her day. Nothing.
Dread settled into her chest. Had something else happened? Had Zander taken a turn for the worse?
“Is Zander all right?” she asked anxiously.
“He’s fine,” Silas snapped.
She shut her mouth, unable to hide her reaction to his coldness. She turned away, not wanting him to see the sudden tears that sprang to her eyes. Okay, so he was having a bad day. She could deal. She just wouldn’t speak to him until he was over whatever was up his ass.
She leaned her head against the window, careful to keep her gaze averted from Silas. She was so lost in her thoughts that several minutes later, she realized they weren’t driving to his apartment. She lifted her head, studying her surroundings in confusion.
“Silas, what’s wrong?” she demanded. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll know when we get there,” came his short response.
Okay, he was seriously pissing her off now. Whatever his problem was, it had nothing to do with her or anything she’d done. How could it have been when she’d been in class all day and hadn’t seen him since she’d arrived at school that morning?
She glared at him, but he never acknowledged her or diverted his gaze from the windshield.
A few minutes later they pulled up to a high-rise building in midtown, and she arched her brow but didn’t bother to speak since Silas was giving her the silent treatment. He merely got out and motioned for her to do the same. He didn’t even touch her as they walked into the building, and each time she moved close to him he purposely distanced himself.
By the time they got into the elevator, she was so pissed she was ready to take his head off. He drummed his fingers impatiently against the rail as they soared upward and she could swear he emitted a sigh of relief when the elevator stopped on the twenty-seventh floor. He got off and left her to follow as he strode down a hallway to a door at the very end. To her surprise he produced a key and inserted it into the lock, opening the door and motioning her in.
As she cautiously entered, her eyes widened when she realized this apartment contained the furnishings from her old apartment she lived in before she moved in with Silas. She turned to look at Silas, confusion clouding her mind.
“Are we moving?” she asked.
“We aren’t moving,” he said icily. “You are. I’ve had all your things moved here. The apartment is in your name and the utilities have been prepaid.”
Panic and heartbreak shattered her attempt at maintaining her composure.
“What?” she whispered. “Silas, I don’t understand. What is wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong,” he said in a bored voice. “We’re done. Finished. Over.”
Utter devastation rendered her motionless. Only her knees and then her hands began to shake in reaction. What? He might as well have been speaking Mandarin for all the sense he was making. Over? No. They had made love this morning and he’d left happy. When they texted during her lunch break, they’d made plans for this weekend. Now it was over?
“I don’t understand. Did I do something wrong? Silas, just tell me what—” His harsh laugh cut her off.
“My God, Hayley. You can’t be this naïve. Where did you see this going? Marriage, two kids and a minivan in the suburbs? That may be what happens in a podunk town in Tennessee, but not here, at least not with me. I wanted you in my bed and I got you there. And you were good, babe, no doubt. But I’m done.”
Babe? The utter condescension in his tone was her complete undoing. He hadn’t once called her princess. His sweet girl, darling girl or beautiful girl. Just babe. As if she were some chick he’d once flirted with and then laughed with his friends about later.
Tears welled and ran in rivulets down her cheeks, and she made no effort to hide them or wipe them away. Done? Maybe she was that naïve. No, she hadn’t envisioned a minivan in the suburbs, but she had thought she’d spend the rest of her life with this man. As his wife. As his cherished submissive. And now he was done?
Finally, the pain and loss bubbled up and found a voice as tears streaked her cheeks. “What is wrong with you? You’re done, and I have no say in it? I tried to leave! I tried and you wouldn’t let me. You told me this was my home, that you were my home. That I didn’t have to be alone anymore. And now you’re done? Was this some kind of fucking game to you? Was I just a game? Why the hell would you refuse to let me leave if you were planning to dump me? Why go through such an elaborate charade, or is it just that no one dares to leave you and you’re the only one allowed to do the dumping?” she asked bitterly.
“Think what you want, Hayley,” he said with a bored-sounding sigh. “But it is what it is. I’m leaving and I don’t want you in my life—or bed—any longer. Don’t embarrass yourself by making a scene, Hayley. I don’t want you. Do I need to spell it out?”
Numbness had completely overtaken her as she absorbed the dispassionate way he stood there shattering her as though she were nothing. Had never been anything to him.
“No,” she whispered. “No need to add to my humiliation more. I loved you, Silas. I gave you everything and I never once asked you for a damn thing and certainly not a fucking minivan, children or a house in the suburbs. The only thing I’m guilty of is being too stupid to live by believing someone like me could ever matter to someone like you. I hope the next woman will make you happy, since apparently I was a miserable failure in that regard.”
For the briefest of moments, she thought she saw shards of pain splintering in his eyes, but just as quickly he donned that unflappable, emotionless look, and he turned and walked out of the door and out of her life, leaving her in pieces all over the floor of the place he expected her to live in.
It took every bit of willpower she possessed not to call after him, not to go after him and beg on her knees if that was what it took. To ask him what she had done that was so wrong that he’d treat her so callously and with such a lack of regard. He’d discarded her like yesterday’s trash, and maybe that was what she was t
o him. Certainly no one worthy of a place in his life.
She sank to her knees, covering her face with her hands as sobs escaped her numb body.
The next week was interminable for Hayley. She went through the motions of each day like a robot programmed to do its master’s bidding. She didn’t eat, didn’t sleep. Instead, she lay awake in her big bed, alone, hot tears making her nose swell and head ache vilely as she replayed every moment she’d spent with Silas.
She trudged to the subway station two blocks from her new apartment building and rode it to the stop a block away from the school and walked through the crowded streets with unseeing eyes.
It was the very day after Silas had so cruelly shattered her heart that she discovered something else was every bit as absent as her soul was. The passion and zest she had always felt for her music was utterly gone. Even she winced at the flat, uninspired notes pulled lifelessly from the magnificent violin Silas had bought for her.
By the fourth day, one of her professors had pulled her aside after class, his expression one of bewilderment and concern as he questioned what was going on with her. She hadn’t known what to say. She just didn’t care. About anything. The one thing that had always brought her joy in life was now the source of unending pain because all she thought of when attempting to play was Silas and how much he’d loved listening to her perform.
Making an instant decision, she’d informed her professor she was done and was going to her advisor at once to withdraw. Her professor had begged her to complete the semester so she wouldn’t have to retake it all over again, but she wouldn’t be swayed. It was the first decision in a week that brought her any relief or peace.
Two hours later, utterly exhausted, she trudged her way through the lobby of her apartment building after an emotionally draining meeting with her advisor, who, like her professor, had implored her to think about what she was doing and that her scholarship would most certainly be revoked if she simply withdrew from classes. Hayley had merely shrugged and left, opting to walk the entire way instead of taking the subway.
After getting off the elevator, she walked listlessly to her door and shoved it open, having not even bothered to lock it on her way out that morning. She went rigid as soon as she was inside, loathing floating through her entire body. She hated this place. Despised it and everything it stood for. Silas buying her off after casting her aside.
He’d treated her no better than a discarded whore. She glanced down at the violin case she carried and suddenly couldn’t bear to even look at it anymore. She stormed into her bedroom and tossed it onto the still-made bed and then went to her closet and began yanking out the items of clothing that truly belonged to her, and she made damn sure she left every single thing that Silas had ever given her in its place in the closets, the drawers and the apartment.
Yes, she’d made the worst mistake of her idiot, young life by trusting a man who didn’t deserve either her trust or her love, but that didn’t mean she had to spend the rest of her life paying for that mistake. And the very first thing she was doing to climb out of her shell of misery was cutting ties with everything having to do with Silas Goodnight.
This wasn’t her apartment. Nothing in it was hers except the few threadbare items of clothing and her mother’s dishes. Everything else could rot or burn to the ground. She didn’t give a shit about any of it.
She wasn’t without options. She still had every penny of the insurance check as well as the substantial amount given to her above the promised settlement, and if she was careful, it would last her a long time. Not in the city, but anywhere else that the cost of living wasn’t so prohibitively exorbitant.
Nothing was holding her here now. She no longer had a scholarship to a prestigious academy of music. Her father would most assuredly understand her heartbreak and her inability to continue pursuing his dream for her. All he ever truly wanted was for her to be happy. And staying here was making her decidedly unhappy.
She would move to someplace temporary and she wouldn’t shell out a ridiculous amount in the process. Not when she planned to leave this fucked-up place in her dust just as soon as she formulated a sound plan and figured out where best to go. She was tired of living in the past and she had no one and nothing to go back to in Tennessee. She needed a fresh start in a place where she was just another face in the crowd and nobody knew of her pain and betrayal.
There were a lot of big cities in the south, even ones with schools of music. With the amount of money she now possessed, she could afford to rent a small apartment or even a house and pay her own way through school.
Exhilarated to finally have a plan of action, she made short work of packing her things and used a few articles of clothing to protect her mother’s dishes as she reverently packed them in one of the empty boxes left behind from when Silas had so hurriedly cut her loose and hadn’t wasted a single moment in moving her out of his apartment and his life.
The minute she was finished, she hoisted the box in her arms and then tossed her large gym bag over her shoulder. She glanced around the room, ensuring she was leaving nothing of herself behind before gathering her purse and heading for the door. She stopped, realizing she was still holding on to the keys, and then she turned, launching them toward the kitchen counter, watching as they skidded across the smooth surface before coming to a stop right in the middle, where they’d be easily found.
That’s what I think of your parting gift, Silas. And fuck you too.
She would splurge and spend tonight in the cheapest hotel she could find and use this night to search for vacant apartments in the not-so-great parts of the city, where her money would go further.
As she rode the elevator down, tears threatened as grief and a keen sense of loss sliced through her, cutting her and making her bleed more fiercely than a bullet ever had. But she fought them off, biting harshly into her lip. Never again would she waste another breath or tear on a man who didn’t deserve to breathe the same air she did.
* * *
“Are we boring you, Silas?” Drake asked dryly from behind his desk.
Silas looked up from his phone, where he’d been watching the surveillance footage of the hallway in front of Hayley’s new apartment. She’d left just after returning home from class, carrying what looked to be a large box and a bag and her purse thrown over her shoulder, and he wanted to know where the hell she was going.
“What did you say?” he asked, not masking his irritation with being interrupted.
“We were just discussing strategy for dismantling the Vanuccis’ entire organization. You know, nothing terribly important,” Drake muttered sarcastically. “Anything you’d like to contribute?”
Silas shook his head in frustration. “Not yet. I told you that you had to give me extra time with Ghost now that we not only need names and details of their planned hits but also if Gia was their doing and if so how they tagged her. He has to tread very carefully or it could mean his life plus those of the two men he has in the cesspool with him. What about Gia? Has she said anything yet? Provided any information we can use?”
Maddox leaned against the desk and scrubbed his hands down his face. “I talked to Thane a few minutes ago. He said she’s still heavily medicated, and the few times she’s woken up she’s been terrified so they immediately sedated her. She’s a mess. Hell, he’s a mess. We don’t need to get to the bottom of this just to keep our loved ones safe, we need to do it to keep Thane from burning down the entire fucking city in vengeance.”
“If they come near Evangeline again, I’ll light the fucking match,” Drake snapped. “Find that goddamn info. I don’t care who you have to threaten, bribe or kill. Just do it.”
After looking around the room at his brothers, he let out a sigh and said what everyone else was likely thinking or had at least briefly entertained. “Is it possible that we have another traitor in our organization? None of us even knew about Gia, so what’s the possibility of an outsider
Grunts and what sounded like growls filled the air and Silas acknowledged that no matter how expensive their suits, his brothers were damn close to fucking feral. If one of them had turned on the family, the rest would rip him to shreds. And Silas would lead the pack.
Jax broke the silence that followed, his fury a living, breathing entity. “No fucking way it’s one of us. We made a mistake with Hatcher, and Evangeline paid the price. We learned a lesson from that in the most painful way possible. It won’t happen again. We’ll find this motherfucker, end him, and our family will live happily fucking ever after. End of fucking story. Unless someone has something relevant to add, I’d suggest we get on with this shit and stop planting doubt in the minds of our goddamn family.” Jax paused and looked around. “No? Okay, then. How about we stop talking about what we’re doing and actually get off our asses and get it done.” He shot up from his seat, a savage pissed-off storm brewing in his eyes, and stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind him with enough force to knock it from its hinges.
The remaining men looked at each other, unsure what to make of the usually taciturn Jax being so . . . verbose. Silas hated the sliver of doubt that crept in as he considered why Jax was so adamant. Hatcher’s betrayal had left them all a little dented when it came to unwavering trust. And while he hated it, it cemented his decision to remove Hayley from his life. If he felt he couldn’t trust his brothers, then being alone was the only choice he had.
“Gotta say, he has a fucking point,” Maddox said in disgust. “We’d get a hell of a lot more accomplished if we actually took some goddamn action and stopped all the fucking finger pointing. That shit’s about to piss me the fuck right off.”
Drake cleared his throat. “Jax spent the morning with Evangeline. She’s upset. Zander’s shooting hit her hard. But I promised to stop hiding things from her, so she knows about Gia too. She’s . . . not handling it well. Her blood pressure is up and the doctor has said if it doesn’t stabilize soon, he’ll have to put her on bed rest. And I’m telling you right now, if that happens, I’m moving up our vacation plans and I’m taking her to an island in the middle of the fucking ocean as long as it has adequate facilities for her to give birth in, and I won’t be coming back until she and the baby are both strong, happy and completely recovered.”
Questions about Evangeline’s health flew from the other guys, but Silas cut through them all. “How serious is this, Drake? Does she need to be in a hospital? Maybe you should take her away now and leave us to handle this shit. With you out of the country, you’d have one hell of an alibi and no way you’d take any heat for what we do.”
“Right now the doctor doesn’t believe she or the baby is in any danger, but she is being monitored. And I’m not abdicating my responsibility to my brothers any more than I am to Evangeline and our child,” he said fiercely. “So shut the fuck up. I’m a big boy and I can take any heat that results.”
Silas knew arguing with him would be pointless, but he couldn’t resist needling Drake just a bit. “Whatever she needs, let me know. I’m actually surprised you’re so calm about this.”
Drake’s dark, burning gaze fell on him. “Calm? Lit matches, Silas. Get that goddamn information from Ghost now.”
Drake slowly stood, grabbed his phone and headed out the door, undoubtedly heading home to Evangeline. Silas motioned for Hartley to fall in behind Drake. He’d made it very clear that no matter what Drake said about it, he was never to go anywhere alone and he was never to be without protection any more than Evangeline would be.
“You heard the boss,” Silas drawled. “Get me something I can work with. I’m going to yank Ghost’s chain and tell him I need his timeline moved up and him out of the fucking Vanuccis’ pile of shit yesterday.”
Silas would put his own plans into motion just as soon as he figured out where the hell Hayley was and why she still hadn’t returned home to her apartment.
Silas was out of his mind with worry. Hayley was missing. She hadn’t returned to her apartment since the night he’d seen her leave with a fucking box and a bag slung over her shoulder. He knew because he’d sat up all hours of the night, watching and waiting for any sign of her on the security cameras he’d so meticulously installed so he could keep apprised of her comings and goings. So he’d know she was . . . safe. Out of harm’s reach. At least until they finally took out every last fucking member of the Vanucci family. It could take months. Far longer than he could expect Hayley to sit around waiting on him, especially after he’d cut her loose in such an unforgivable manner. But he couldn’t allow himself a single break in his icy exterior because if he had, it would have all come out and then Hayley, as fierce as she was in her absolute devotion and loyalty, would have never allowed him to push her away. The only way he’d had any chance of pulling it off was by making her believe he no longer wanted her.
As fucking if.
The heart he never knew he possessed lay in pieces, as did the tattered remnants of the soul that was already as black as death and so stained that he could never hope for redemption. Or of having something so precious and pure as Hayley was. She deserved so much better than the man he was, than the man he’d been. The man he’d always be. But no one, no one, would ever love her as much as he did. That was little consolation to him, especially now that he had no fucking clue where she was or if she was even safe, the very reason he’d so coldly cut her from his life but never out of his heart.
Forgoing his daily check-in with Drake and his brothers, he went radio silent and drove like a man possessed to her apartment building, trembling with impatience and in dread of what he’d find when he let himself into her apartment with the spare key he’d kept so he’d always have access.
When the elevator finally stopped on her floor, he ran down the hallway like a maniac, fumbling to insert the key into the lock. He hadn’t had time to install more than the one deadbolt and regular key lock above the knob that came standard with the apartment, but he should have returned the very next day as soon as Hayley left for class and ensured she was absolutely safe in the place he’d moved her to. But fearing she’d read far too much into that action and knowing she’d know precisely who was responsible for the new locks, he’d made himself stay away.
Not so now.
He shoved the door open and walked in, bellowing her name in a voice riddled with fear that he didn’t recognize. He never allowed emotion to rule him, to