Kept, p.22
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       Kept, p.22
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         Part #3 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks
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  Hayley was sitting on the ground in front of a Dumpster, bloody and bruised. Again. She held a gun in unwavering hands, dry-firing into two obviously dead bodies. Her eyes were blank and the only other sound in the eerie silence apart from the incessant click, click, click as Hayley robotically continued firing was the sound of her harsh, terrified breathing.

  Silas heard running footsteps behind him but still couldn’t look away from the horror in front of him.

  There was an audible inhale and other sounds of complete shock, and then Drake’s voice drowned out any sounds Hayley was making.

  “What the fuck happened here?” Drake roared.

  The question jarred Silas from his stupor and he ran to Hayley, his legs so shaky that he collapsed to his knees as soon as he reached her.

  “Hayley!” His tortured cry spilled from his lips. “Oh God, baby. Let me look at you. Can you tell me what happened and how badly you’re hurt? Where you’re hurt?”

  She didn’t even acknowledge his presence. She just continued with the steady click, click, click as she fired over and over, her eyes dull with pain and terror and so cloudy that he knew she was no longer even aware or cognizant of her actions.

  Maddox leaned over her other side and gently eased the Colt out of her hands. Behind Silas, Drake was issuing orders for cleanup. He hadn’t looked at Drake even once and had no idea who had come with him.

  Silas ran his hands over her body, trying to determine the severity of her injuries. Most of the blood appeared to be from her face, where her nose was busted and the corner of her mouth was cut open and bleeding steadily down her neck, but her shirt and pants were both open, leaving him to fear the worst. That he hadn’t gotten here in time to spare her the pain and degradation she’d suffered at the hands of Vanucci’s men. Dear God, what had they done to his sweet girl?

  “Hayley? Baby, I need you to talk to me. Where are you hurt? I’m here. You’re safe now. Just talk to me, princess. Please,” he begged.

  Silas pushed Maddox away so he could gather her gently in his arms and lift her off the filthy pavement. But as soon as she left the ground, she became a wildcat, struggling and swinging but still not saying a word.

  “Hayley! Stop before you make your injuries worse. It’s Silas, I’ve got you, sweet girl.”

  If anything, his words made her fight harder until he was forced to lower her back down. Restraining her would only cause more damage. He would just have to keep talking until she came back to herself and recovered from the initial horror of her attack.

  Easing back a little, he slid his hand around her slender throat, caressing the tender skin in hope that the familiar act would calm and steady her.

  “You’re all right now, princess. I promise.”

  Her hand came up and slapped his away, and her eyes finally met his.

  “You promise? You promise?” Her harsh whisper sent chills down his spine. “We both know what your promises are worth. Don’t touch me,” she said, recoiling from his hand.

  This time Silas didn’t care that tears stung like fire and threatened to burn a path down his face. Her words were like the sharpest knife, slicing directly through his heart. She was absolutely right. His promises meant nothing to her. He’d made her many and had broken every single one. He wanted to beg her forgiveness here and now, but the most important priority was to get her to a doctor so the severity of her injuries could be determined.

  Maddox edged closer to Hayley. “We need to get you help, Hayley. You’ve got one hell of a bruise on your face and with the way you’re holding your side, I can tell you’re hurt.” He took in her disheveled clothing and the blouse she was now gripping closed. The rage and pain on his face was obvious. “What did they do to you? Did they . . .” He trailed off, probably not able to voice the word that Silas hadn’t allowed to truly cross his mind until that moment. Rape. Had these men raped his beautiful sweet girl?

  “No,” she whispered raggedly. “They tried . . .” Her gaze bounced helplessly around, finally landing on the bodies a few feet away. “Are they dead?”

  Her voice trembled and tears began silently trickling down her ashen cheeks. Silas wanted to howl and vent his horrible, all-consuming grief. She’d suffered terribly because of him. Not once, but three times, because in each instance he had failed her when she’d needed him most. How could he ever hope to gain her forgiveness when he would never forgive himself?

  Drake was squatting next to the bodies, carefully going through their pockets, when he heard Hayley’s barely whispered question.

  “Yes, honey,” he said in a soothing voice. “They’ll never hurt you or anyone else again.”

  Using his foot, he rolled one of the bodies over.

  “This is Vanucci’s oldest son. Stupid fuck can’t take a shit without Daddy telling him how. I don’t even want to know why he was allowed out of the house, but he’s an inept little chickenshit, and we have that to thank for Hayley being alive right now. The other is Vanucci’s second-oldest son. My guess is they were making their move and trying to prove themselves to the old man.”

  Maddox held up the gun he’d taken from Hayley. “Not the usual firepower carried by these assholes. A revolver? They don’t leave their houses without assault weapons or a gun capable of carrying at least a dozen rounds.”

  “It’s mine,” Hayley said dully. “I want it back.”

  Silas’s muscles twitched as he held back the overwhelming urge to pull her into his arms and hold her forever. She wouldn’t accept that from him and it was no less than he deserved but it still killed him. Then her words sank in and the panic he’d been fighting bubbled back up. “What?” he roared, then spun toward Drake. “She can’t even legally carry that gun here. This will never go down as self-defense with half the fucking cops on Vanucci’s payroll and the fact that if the Vanuccis grease enough palms they’ll easily pin this on her and claim they were the victims.”

  “Easy, Silas. A cleanup crew is on the way. This will all be taken care of and there will be no blowback on Hayley. We’ll cover her. I promise. Just get her to our doctor and have him look her over. This part is handled.”

  Silas reached once more for Hayley, but she went rigid and turned away from him, curling into a ball in front of the Dumpster.

  “Princess, you heard Drake,” Silas said in a soft voice. “I have to get you to a doctor. I swear we’ll work everything out just as soon as I know you’re all right.”

  Holding one hand out to ward him off, Hayley used the Dumpster to push herself to her feet. Once she was up, she straightened as much as she could, still holding her ribs, and stared him down as tears splashed onto the ground, mixing with her blood.

  “I have two words for you, Silas.” She barely managed to get it out through stiff, swollen lips. “Fuck. You. And your promises. I’m no longer your responsibility. That was your decision. You were done. Now I’ve made my decision. I’m done.”

  Silas absorbed every verbal blow, knowing he deserved them and so much more. He stood there, soul shredded, as Maddox talked to Hayley in a low voice, easing closer as he might with a spooked horse.

  “Sweetheart, listen to me, please. You’ve been badly hurt. You and my brother aren’t in a good place right now. I get that. But you do need a doctor. Let me take you there. If you go to the hospital, it might get reported. No one can know you were here, honey. You’ll end up in prison for that gun. Do this for me. Please. I can’t just leave you here alone and hurt.”

  Hayley’s shoulders slumped and she closed her eyes. “I’ll go,” she conceded. “But only if you take me.”

  As she pushed away from the Dumpster, her legs buckled and Maddox was there before Silas, sweeping her up against his chest. Maddox met his eyes briefly, and then Silas watched him stride quickly from the alley, carrying Silas’s entire world in his arms.

  “Silas?” Drake called. “I need your help. The guys are almost here. Let’s get your girl covered, and then you can start digging yourself out of the hole
you made. I’ve been there, man. It’ll be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, but crawl if that’s what it takes. It’s worth it. Because nothing is harder than living without the other piece of your heart.”

  37

  “Where the fuck is Hayley?” Silas roared over the phone. “I just went by the clinic and no one’s there.”

  Maddox sighed and there was a momentary silence that made Silas even crazier.

  “Hayley refused to go to the clinic. The only way I could get her to agree to allow the doctor to see her was to take her to a hotel room and call the doctor from there.”

  “Where?” Silas asked in an icy voice.

  “Uh, I don’t think—”

  “Where, goddamn it?” Silas shouted.

  Maddox blew out his breath and then related the name of the hotel and room number. Silas accelerated and drove as fast as was possible, pulling up to the hotel fifteen long minutes later. He strode past the reception area and got onto the elevator, punching the number for the thirtieth floor.

  Moments later he was banging on the door and growled menacingly when Maddox answered, his big body filling up the doorway so Silas couldn’t push by.

  “You can either let me see her or I’ll go through you,” Silas said stonily.

  “She doesn’t want to see you, man,” Maddox said, sympathy in his eyes.

  “Then she can tell me that to my face. Now move.”

  Reluctantly Maddox allowed him by and Silas strode into the suite, his gaze locking onto the bedroom door, which was slightly ajar. He paused at the door and peeked through the crack to see Drake’s doctor finishing his exam of Hayley’s battered body. Silas closed his eyes, the sight of all the blood and bruising more than he could bear. How much longer would she have to suffer for who and what he was? For all the mistakes he’d made with her from the very beginning?

  He pushed open the door just as the doctor was giving Hayley the last of his instructions, and he walked swiftly toward the bed, motioning the doctor out.

  Hayley lay against a mound of pillows, her dark lashes resting on her pale and battered cheeks. He slid onto the bed, sitting so he faced her and gently picked up her hand, lifting it to his lips. Staggered by the emotion welling in his chest, he felt a peculiar wetness on his cheeks.

  As soon as he touched her, Hayley’s eyes flew open and she snatched her hand back so quickly that it rocked her midsection and she emitted a pained gasp. She held her hand to her chest, covering it protectively with her other one, and tried valiantly to scoot away from him.

  “Careful, princess,” he said in a low voice. “Don’t hurt yourself. You need to be as still as possible so you don’t cause yourself any more pain.”

  “You’re the one causing me pain,” she said in a ragged breath.

  He sucked in his breath and looked away as more tears slid silently down his cheeks.

  “I have so much I want to say,” he said. “I’m so sorry, my beautiful girl. I’ve made so many mistakes. I never meant to hurt you time after time. I can’t do anything right when it comes to you. You knocked me on my ass since the moment you entered my world, and then you became my world.”

  She held up a trembling hand to stop him. “Don’t bother,” she said scornfully. “You have nothing to say that I want to hear. I can’t trust anything that comes from your mouth. I’ve been nothing but honest with you, Silas. I’ve kept all my promises. Can you say the same?”

  “I—”

  She shook her head. “No, don’t say anything. I don’t want to hear it.”

  “Princess, please. Let me explain,” he begged. “Things were heating up and there was so much danger to you—to all of us—and all I wanted was for you to be safe and happy. To have the kind of life you should, and not one where everything is so fucked up with me. That’s why I sent you away and made you believe that I no longer wanted you. And oh God, that killed me, baby. That’s the only lie I’ve told. When I told you we were over and pretended you weren’t someone I wanted to be with when you are the only person in the world I want to spend my life with.”

  “You are such a hypocrite,” she seethed, effectively cutting off his impassioned plea. “Do you remember when your brother bled all over me? When he and I were both shot? I tried to leave you. Because I only wanted you safe. I never wanted to be a liability to you or a way for your enemies to get to you. But you wouldn’t let me. You made me stay and you made me love you and then you made the unilateral decision to push me away. No one made that for you. You could have been honest with me and told me what was going on. Did that ever occur to you? That I have a mind and a brain of my own and that I should have been allowed to decide for myself whether I wanted to accept the risk of being with you?”

  Silas’s mouth fell open, wincing at the unvarnished truth. Every single word she spoke was a truth arrow that struck with pinpoint accuracy.

  She shook her head, plunging ahead before he could summon something—anything—to say that would change her mind.

  “You think I’m weak and helpless. That I can’t so much as take a piss without you telling me how and when. Here’s some information for you, Silas. I’m not weak. I’m not a brainless twit. Giving you my love and my submission was my choice. I can live just fine without it, and quite frankly I’ve lived this far without a man controlling every minute of my day. I gave that to you because I wanted to and because it made you happy, and making you happy made me happy. But I don’t need it and I don’t need you.”

  He sat motionless, bleeding on the inside as he stared at the determined set of her face, read the truth in her eyes. There was no going back. He’d pushed too far this time, and he’d lost the one thing in his life he’d ever truly cared about.

  “Please leave,” she whispered. “I hurt enough, Silas. Please, just leave me alone. Is that too much to ask of you?”

  Slowly he shook his head and stumbled to his feet. “No, princess. It’s not too much to ask. I just want you to be happy and safe. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. If you want me to leave, I’ll go. I . . .”

  He choked back the words of love that threatened to strangle him. They were of no use to him now, and what did he know about love in the first place? With one last, long look at the woman who held his entire heart and soul in her hands, he turned and walked away, shuddering with every step.

  It wasn’t until the door softly closed behind him that Hayley fell apart, burying her bruised and battered face in her hands as sobs painfully racked her thin frame.

  “Honey, you’re breaking my heart,” Maddox said nearby, as his arms suddenly went around her. “Cry all you want to. I know it hurts.”

  She buried her face in his shoulder as her entire body shook with pain that wasn’t just physical.

  38

  “I’ve been over every single file that Ghost brought us from the Vanuccis,” Justice said. “Reports from Hatcher, a list of all the dirty cops on Vanucci’s payroll and a list of hits. The good news is it’s all accounted for, which means no mole in our organization. Bad news is I still have no fucking clue how they knew about Gia.”

  Silas frowned. “And Hayley?”

  “They must have tagged her early on, man. Sorry,” Justice said with a wince. “You know how careful we all were about being seen with her, the hoops we went through each time we went out to ensure we didn’t have a tail. Never taking her to any of our regular places. You keeping her in the apartment most of the time. Maybe it was dumb luck on their part. It may have just been a case of them being in the right place at the right time.”

  “Hatcher overheard a phone call.” Thane’s gruff voice came from the doorway.

  Silas and Justice both turned to see Thane push off the frame where he’d been leaning, the five-o’clock shadow looking more like a five-day growth, pronounced fatigue and stress evident in the deep grooves of his face.

  “I was talking to Gia here when no one was supposed to be around. When Hatcher showed up unexpectedly, I promptly ended the call, but he must
have been listening for a while before he made his presence known. It’s the only possible explanation.”

  Justice swore and Silas’s scowl deepened. Fucking traitor had been the source of unending grief to them all.

  “Hey, man,” Justice called softly to Thane. “What’s the latest on Gia?”

  Thane slumped on the couch and put his face in his hands, rubbing wearily. “In and out of consciousness. Every time she wakens for any length of time, she has panic attacks so bad they have to sedate her again. No one has even been able to question her yet, so all they have to go on are the physical findings of the exam they did on her,” he said bitterly.

  “Why don’t you let one of us stay with her tonight,” Justice offered. “You look beat. You need to get some rest. You can’t keep up this pace.”

  Thane cast a meaningful look in Silas’s direction. “Don’t think I’m the one you need to be worrying about. How long’s it been since you got any sleep, Silas?”

  Silas stiffened and rose from his seat. “Got shit to do,” he muttered, ignoring his brothers’ knowing looks.

  As he walked away, he heard Thane mutter, “I think I’m going to pay someone a little visit.”

  Silas walked mechanically to his car and drove to his apartment, thinking about a fifth of whiskey—or three. Then maybe he could forget his pain and the overwhelming sense of loss that accompanied his every waking hour. And perhaps for the first time since he’d pushed Hayley out of his life, he could actually sleep.

  * * *

  Hayley sat curled up in the comfortable chair in the hotel suite after downing one of the painkillers the doctor had left her, more for the pounding in her head than the pain in the rest of her body. The ache in her heart she didn’t even bother trying to fix. Some hurts you just didn’t get over and there was no medicine or quick fix. No magic cure-all, except time and distance. Yeah, well, both happened to suck.

  For two days after Silas had walked out that final time, she’d been sequestered in this hotel room, grief and sorrow overwhelming her. She’d cried herself to sleep more times than not, and she moped around like someone who’d lost all hope. Her only visitors were Silas’s brothers, a steady rotation through her room, and after the first mention of Silas when she’d vehemently made it clear his name was not a welcome topic, no one else had brought him up.

  She sagged to the side, her brain processing things a bit slower now that the medication had taken effect, and just as she’d closed her eyes in an attempt to forget everything for just a little while, a soft knock sounded at her door.

  She cursed under her breath, not wanting to move from her comfortable position. Thankfully, before she had to, the door opened, and to her surprise, Thane stuck his head in. She squinted in his direction, unsure if she was seeing him properly or if the drugs had muddled her perception, because the man looked about how she felt.

  He gave her a lopsided grin as he came in and shut the door behind him.

  “Hey, kiddo. You up for some company?”

  She shrugged. “If you don’t mind that I’m a little loopy at the moment.”

  He strode over, his long legs eating up the distance between them, and settled in the chair across from hers.

  “How you feeling apart from loopy?” he asked softly.

  She shrugged again, angry that she only wanted to cry.

  “I’m sorry I haven’t been by before now. I didn’t find out all that went down until after it occurred. I’ve been spending all my time at the hospital with Gia.”

  She frowned. “Who’s Gia?”

  “My stepsister.”

  “What happened to her? Is she going to be okay?” Hayley asked in concern.

  Thane’s mouth dropped open. “That giant idiot didn’t tell you what happened?”

  “If the giant idiot in question is Silas, we haven’t had much of anything to say to one another,” Hayley said stiffly.

  Thane shook his head. “Gia is my stepsister, but no one knew about her. I had hoped to keep her away from the kind of shit we deal with on a daily basis, but the Vanuccis got to her and beat the hell out of her. Nine days ago, they dumped her out of a car in the back parking lot of the club. It wasn’t a good day for any of us, and I said some pretty nasty things about the fact that no one any of us cared about would ever be safe and would never live free and happy. Silas took it harder than most.”

  Hayley sucked in her breath as comprehension dawned. “That was the day he showed me the door.”

  Thane grimaced. “Yeah. I wish now I had kept my mouth shut.”

  Anger seized her as a whole lot more suddenly made sense.

  “That moron,” she hissed. “God save me from idiotic men. Giant idiot is far too nice of a description for him.”

  Thane lifted his eyebrow, obviously perplexed by her reaction. “Uh, I didn’t mean to get you all riled up, kiddo. I just thought you should have all the facts.”

  “Oh, I know the facts,” she said in disgust. “Believe me, I get the picture. I swear, men so incredibly stupid.”

  As she said the last, she struggled up out of her chair, wobbling unsteadily. Thane was on his feet immediately, his arm going around her to steady to her.

  “Whoa there, sunshine. Where do you think you’re going?”

  “I’m going to go knock some sense into a dumbass’s thick head.”

  “Uh, not that I don’t firmly believe he needs it, but I’m not sure you should be going anywhere at the moment, honey. You’re about to take a header.”

 
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