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The Darkest Hour, Page 26

Maya Banks

Page 26


  “Please,” she begged.

  She arched, she twisted, she writhed. He cupped her to him and began thrusting hard and fast. Oh God, yes. Finally.

  He had been tender. He wanted to be tender, but right now she needed him to be strong. Hard. Fierce. To remind her of all she’d missed.

  Her protector. Her warrior.

  She threw back her head, squeezed her eyes shut and gripped his shoulders so tight she was sure she’d leave marks.

  The friction was so wonderfully torturous that it was almost too much to bear. He was swollen and hard. So hard. He filled her again and again, his body driving relentlessly into her.

  Tension built. They both gasped and squeezed.

  “Come with me,” Ethan whispered. “Be with me. Love me. ”

  The gentle words were a balm to her soul. She closed her eyes, gathered him close and simply let go.

  His hips powered against hers. He tensed against her and gripped her as hard as she held him. Their bodies were meshed so tightly that there wasn’t a centimeter between them. Their limbs were entwined as their hips undulated in frantic rhythm.

  He buried his face in her neck and whispered her name. “Rachel. ”

  She flew. It was the only word to describe it. She soared. Euphoric, so light. She could almost feel the rush of the wind in her face. She lifted her face to the sun and felt the warmth on her skin after so long in the dark.

  And then she floated down, and Ethan was there to catch her. She drifted lazily, finding home in his arms. Home. Finally home.

  His lips found hers. He kissed her long and sweet. Hot tears slipped down her cheeks, mingled on their tongues.

  “Are you all right?” he asked.

  She kissed him again, too overcome to say anything. She wasn’t sure she had words for what she was feeling. So she said nothing and nodded.

  “I love you, baby. Never doubt that. ”

  She touched his face, stroking his firm jaw. “I won’t. ”

  Carefully, he withdrew from her body and rolled to the side. He gathered her close, so close she could feel every beat of his heart.

  “Thank you,” she whispered.

  He stiffened slightly in surprise. His eyes were puzzled when he looked at her. “For what?”

  “For making me feel love again. ”

  He leaned his forehead against hers and drew his fingers through the strands of her hair.

  “You’ll never know anything else again,” he vowed.


  THE dream was dark and ugly. It hit her on a deep emotional level that frightened her. Ethan was there, but he wasn’t her comforter or the warrior she’d imagined for so long. He was furious with her.

  The desperation that gripped her was born of the knowledge that whatever they were once to each other, it was long gone, buried under broken trust.

  She faced him, frightened, knowing this was it. The end of their marriage, of their love. She wasn’t strong enough to face him, but he gave her no choice. He wanted her to know. Why was he so adamant?

  The eyes she so loved were not filled with warmth and support. They were hard and resolved.

  “No,” she whispered. She didn’t want to see him this way. It was just a dream. A nightmare. It wasn’t real. Was it?

  You’re a fraud. Your marriage is a fraud. He doesn’t love you.

  The voice whispered into the most vulnerable part of her soul. It twisted and turned through the paths, spreading despair in its wake.

  “No. No!”

  “Rachel. Rachel, wake up, baby. It’s just a dream. Come back to me. ”

  Gentle hands caressed her face, wiping away the tears on her cheeks. Her eyes fluttered open and she blinked to adjust to the darkness.

  “Hey,” Ethan said softly. “It’s okay. You’re safe, Rachel. ”

  He gathered her in his arms and hugged her to his chest. Her heart drummed relentlessly against his chest, and she struggled against the panic still on the fringes of her consciousness.

  Why was she having this dream? It was growing stronger, not weaker. Shouldn’t her panic be going away the more time elapsed after her captivity? And why was she dreaming about Ethan this way?

  A therapist would probably feed her a line about her unconscious fears rearing their ugly head when she was most vulnerable.

  She snuggled closer to Ethan, holding on as tight as she could, as if by sheer will she could point and say, See? He doesn’t hate me. He’s here. He loves me.

  He kissed the top of her head and stroked over her chilled skin. She wore nothing after their lovemaking, and his hands should have felt like magic on her flesh. Instead she tensed, dread filling her.

  Maybe she really was crazy.

  “Baby, talk to me,” Ethan murmured. “What’s got you so scared? Can you tell me about the dream?”

  She closed her eyes again. What could she say? Gee, Ethan, I dreamed you were a real bastard and that you hated me. That would certainly make him feel good.

  But she had to tell someone.

  The idea of going to the therapist Ethan had gotten information on scared her. It made her feel out of control and helpless. But maybe it was time. Maybe she couldn’t do this alone.

  “WHAT the ever-loving fuck?”

  Sam stopped shoveling cereal into his mouth long enough to cast a suspicious eyeball at Garrett, who was reading the paper.

  Garrett slapped the newspaper down on the counter with enough force to slosh milk over the side of Sam’s bowl.

  “Chill out, dude. What’s got your panties in a knot this morning?”

  Garrett scowled back at Sam, his eyebrows drawn into angry thunderclouds. Oh yeah, Garrett was pissed. This went beyond his usual grumpy-ass demeanor.

  Garrett drew in several steadying breaths. Worried now, Sam shoved the bowl aside and reached for the paper.

  “Spill for God’s sake. ”

  “Page three,” Garrett seethed.

  Sam thumbed over to the page in question and quickly scanned the contents. He stopped when he saw the Kelly name splashed predominately across the headline.

  “Whoa. ”

  “Yeah,” Garrett said in disgust. “Read it. ”

  Sam read through the article touting Rachel’s miraculous return from the dead. When he got to the part about the role KGI had played, his fingers tightened until the edges of the paper crumpled in his fists.

  “God damn. ”

  “Keep reading,” Garrett said grimly.

  Nothing was left to chance. Rachel’s drug addiction was mentioned, but nowhere did it say the drugs were forced on her. Just that she battled the effects of cocaine and heroin addiction. It was even suggested that her memory loss wasn’t real, that it was a ruse to incite sympathy.

  Sam couldn’t think beyond the rage building. “Who the fuck told them all this crap?”

  Garrett snatched the paper and then stabbed a finger at part of the article. “Read!”

  The words wobbled back and forth until Sam grabbed Garrett’s wrist to steady the paper. There in the article it cited a close family member as the source.

  “That’s bullshit,” Sam exploded. “No fucking way. There is no goddamn way one of us sold Rachel out like that. ”

  He got up, knocking the stool over, and paced back and forth in the kitchen, so furious he wanted to break something. He yanked his gaze back to Garrett, who didn’t look any happier.

  “Who do you think did this?”

  “It wasn’t me. It sure as hell wasn’t you. It wasn’t Ma or Dad. It damn sure wasn’t Van, Nathan or Joe. Who does that leave? No one knows this kind of shit. How the fuck would they know that much about KGI?”

  “Sean does,” Sam muttered.

  The two brothers exchanged looks and both reached the same conclusion.

  “No way he did it either,” Garrett said. “He loves Ma and Dad. He’s practically one of the family. ”

  Sam stared at
Garrett as sudden realization swept over him. “Rusty. ”

  “Son of a bitch,” Garrett swore. “I’ll kill her. Mom can’t save her ass this time. ”

  “This’ll hurt Ma,” Sam said.

  “What did the little bitch think she was doing?”

  Sam sighed. “Rusty has seen Rachel as a threat from the beginning. She’s young and messed up and she resented the attention Rachel got when she came home. I guess this is her way of taking her down a notch or two. ”

  “She goes,” Garrett said coldly. “No one betrays the family like this. I don’t care what Ma says. Once Dad finds out, he’ll agree. Rachel will be devastated when she sees this. ”

  “I need to call Ethan. He’ll need to know, and he’ll want to confront Rusty with us. ”

  Garrett nodded, his lips still a tight line of fury.

  “Morning,” Donovan called as he sauntered into the kitchen.

  He eyed Sam and Garrett suspiciously as he opened the fridge and took out the orange juice.

  “If I interrupted violence, by all means I’ll step back. Always nice to see bloodshed first thing in the a. m. ”

  “Rusty sold Rachel out,” Sam said bluntly. “It’s all over the paper. ”

  Donovan frowned, shut the fridge and walked over to pick up the paper. As he read, his frown deepened.

  “Son of a bitch. ”

  “Yeah,” Garrett said.

  “What’s that you’re holding?” Sam asked Donovan, noticing for the first time the papers in Donovan’s left hand.

  Donovan glanced down as if he’d forgotten them.

  “An email I printed off. Possible job. I know we said we were laying off for a while, until things are good here with Rachel, and Cole and Dolphin have had time to heal. ”

  “But?” Sam asked. “I hear a definite but in there. ”

  Donovan flushed guiltily. “I might have told them we’d take it anyway. ”

  “What the fuck?” Garrett’s face went red and his cheeks puffed out as if it was all he could do not to explode. “Am I the only dumbass who still thinks this is a partnership around here?”

  Sam held up a hand before Garrett went completely apeshit. Guilt ate at him. Garrett would have a coronary if he knew what Sam had ordered Rio to do and that Sam would be going back to South America.

  “Okay, tell us, Van. What’s the gig and why did you already agree to it?”

  “It’s a kid,” Donovan said painfully. “An abduction case. Parents are frantic. No ransom demand. Cops have exhausted all leads. Wife is convinced it’s her ex-husband, an avenue the cops have pursued but hit a dead-end. The ex lives out of the country, so she wants someone to whom that wouldn’t pose a problem. ”

  Sam blew his breath out in a long exhale as he and Garrett exchanged resigned looks. If it involved a kid, Donovan was a goner. No way he would have turned it down.

  “Okay Van, you need to give us details and then you need to tell me how the hell we’re going to swing this. ”

  Donovan leaned against the counter and folded his arms over his chest, the papers still held tight in his hand. “Rio is free. He hasn’t pulled a mission in a while if you don’t count the pussy recon mission we sent him on. Steele’s still giving him shit over that. ”

  Sam shook his head. “Rio and his team can’t do this. ”

  Garrett swung around. “Why the hell not?”

  Sam ignored him. “Half of Steele’s team is out of commission for the next little while, and I still don’t think it’s a good idea for us all to leave when Ethan and Rachel are going to need all the support they can get, particularly after this morning’s little news story. ”

  Donovan plopped down on the stool across the bar and put his elbows up on the counter.

  “Okay, I can take P. J. , Renshaw and Baker. You and Garrett can stay here and look in on Cole and Dolphin. ”

  Sam looked at Garrett, who didn’t look entirely happy with the setup, but then that was Garrett. He didn’t like anything he hadn’t been in on and planned from the start. And Garrett was still staring holes through Sam, which told him they weren’t done with the Rio issue.

  “Let me see the email,” Garrett grunted.

  The corner of Donovan’s lip curled, but he kept the grin off his face, which was good since it just would have pissed Garrett off more.

  As Garrett read, he let out a curse. “Christ, the kid’s only four years old. You neglected to mention that the ex is a convicted child molester. ”

  Donovan shrugged. “Whether he is or isn’t, I’d still want to go in after the kid. The mother is out of her mind. Her current husband adopted the daughter. He’s raised her since she was an infant. He’s destroyed by the fact no one can help them. We’re their last resort. I couldn’t tell them no. ”

  “You know where he’s holed up, Van?” Sam asked.

  “I have a good idea. Did some digging. Hacked into his finances. He’s living it up in some shithole in Mexico. We can go in. He’ll never know what hit him. I figure we can get the kid and be back in forty-eight hours tops. ”

  “Looks like you better give Steele a call and let him know what’s going down. He’ll want to go. Make it clear he’s out of commission for a while. It’ll piss him off that you’re taking his team, but he’ll get over it. You’ll need time to get geared up, get the intel you need and get your men together. You don’t go in blind, Van. You wait until we have all the information and then you go. ”