Kept, p.6
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       Kept, p.6
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         Part #3 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  yanked at her bra, baring one breast to his touch and the other to his friends’ gazes.

  “Hell, this is better than money if you ask me,” the third man smirked. “I haven’t had me a piece of ass this sweet in a long time. I want her first.”

  Hayley went wild, struggling frantically as the implication of his words sank in. She’d die before she let them rape her right here on the street. She tried to scream but she nearly blacked out when she was struck again.

  Two sets of hands groped her roughly, mauling her sensitive flesh. Fingers bit into her nipples, twisting painfully and pulling until she cried out in pain. Once more a dirty hand clamped down over her mouth, rendering her silent as the other two men began tearing at her clothing. When they went to tear her jeans open, she kicked and writhed, desperate in her bid for freedom. A fist rammed into her ribs, completely robbing her of breath. Blackness encompassed her and perhaps she did lose consciousness for a brief moment because the next thing she heard was a terrible sound of fury. Like a wild animal attacking its prey.

  Suddenly she was free and she slithered to the ground, her legs too weak to hold her up. She lay huddled there, curling her legs up to her chest in a defensive position as howls of pain erupted and the sound of fists meeting flesh, the cracking of bones breaking drifted to her.

  Through her hazy vision, she saw a man systematically taking apart the three men who’d attacked her. He was untouchable, dispatching them with minimal effort. She should have been terrified at the way he meted out violence as if it were second nature to him, and yet she felt . . . safe.

  Then he turned, presenting just enough of his profile for her to recognize him. Her mouth fell open in shock and she winced at the pain the action caused her swollen lips.

  Silas.

  He’d come for her. He’d saved her. Those men couldn’t hurt her anymore. How had he known?

  She closed her eyes, tears squeezing from underneath her eyelids. Then gentle hands touched her tentatively, seeking a response.

  “Hayley? Princess, are you all right? Open your eyes, please.”

  Silas’s pleading tone penetrated the fog of pain that held her firmly in its grip. Her eyelids fluttered open and she moaned at the discomfort the effort caused. Hearing the worry in his voice forced her to acknowledge his plea, and gradually she blinked his face into focus.

  His expression was at once savage with fury and full of relief and so much regret as he gathered her carefully into her arms.

  “My violin,” she gasped.

  He turned from her a moment, his gaze seeking the area around them, and when he turned back, there was apology and sorrow in his eyes.

  “I’m sorry, princess.”

  Tears flooded her eyes and she could no longer be strong. She broke into heartrending sobs, Silas’s savage curses echoing as if from a great distance away.

  “This is going to hurt, princess, and I’m so damn sorry, but I have to get you home so I can take care of you.”

  “The case,” she gasped out before he could cradle her more fully into his arms. “Is it destroyed too?” She bit her lip to prevent telling him why the case was so important. But it didn’t seem to matter to him. His sole focus was on her.

  “It’s here,” he said softly, picking up the case that was broken at the handle but otherwise intact. “Be brave for me, princess. I’ll get you out of here and then I’ll take care of you and you’ll suffer no more pain.”

  She was too numb with grief to pay attention to the horrific pain splintering through her ribs as he gently lifted her into his arms. He stood to his full height, carefully arranging her so her head was pillowed on his chest. Then he strode into the night, his step brisk, her weight seemingly negligible as his long strides ate up the distance to his building.

  11

  Silas shouldered his way into his apartment, carrying his precious bundle. He dropped the broken violin case on the couch and then cradled Hayley in his arms and took her into his bedroom.

  He was shaking with fury, on the verge of becoming completely unhinged. Never was he anything but in control, but coming across those fucking bastards abusing Hayley on the street, threatening to rape her—they would have raped her had he not gotten there when he did—the carefully constructed control that he’d held so tightly ever since he’d killed his parents had shattered. And yet he still had the paralyzing fear that he hadn’t gotten there in time. What if one of those bastards had raped her?

  As gently as he was capable of being, he placed her on the bed, cursing when she cried out in pain. Her tears were killing him, but he was helpless to know what to do to make her stop. Every single tear was a dagger to his heart, so much so that he rubbed at his chest in an effort to alleviate the pain. Pain that went deep, so deep he hadn’t a hope of touching it or removing it.

  He tenderly pushed her damp hair from her face, wincing when he saw the terrible bruises already forming and the blood that ran from her nose and mouth. He wanted to go back and kill them all. Hell, they might already be dead. He hadn’t exactly been mindful in his rage. Shit. He needed to call the boys and have a cleanup crew there before they were discovered. But that would have to wait a few more minutes while he tended to his princess.

  “Hayley, I need you to tell me where you hurt. Where you’re injured. What did they do to you?”

  He knew there was agony in his voice, and guilt. He should have acted sooner. He’d known something was wrong when she didn’t come home on time. He’d played it off, telling himself that she was running late, that something had come up at work or that she was at a friend’s when he knew none of that could be true. She never came home that late, and if he’d listened to his gut, something he never ignored, he would have been there before those assholes assaulted her.

  She opened her mouth in an attempt to speak but gasped and closed her eyes. Even breathing seemed to be torture for her.

  “My ribs,” she finally gritted out. “God, Silas, it hurts to breathe. I hurt everywhere.”

  His blood froze and he instantly unfastened her shirt, pulling it away to reveal the already darkened flesh around her rib cage.

  Son of a bitch!

  “Princess, this is going to hurt, honey. I’m so damn sorry, but I need to see if anything is broken. Damn it, I should have gotten to you in time!”

  Her bloodied lips trembled, but she nodded bravely and a surge of pride overtook him. And then to his utter shock, before he could carefully palpate her ribs, she reached up with a shaking hand to touch his jaw.

  “This wasn’t your fault, Silas,” she whispered. “I won’t have you blaming yourself. How could you have known? I’m not your responsibility. Thank God you came at all. If you hadn’t, they would have r-raped me and probably killed me.”

  Tears welled in her eyes again and slithered down her battered face. Rage flooded his veins and he wanted to smash his fists into the walls repeatedly, but he had to take care of Hayley. He had to calm down so he didn’t scare the ever-loving fuck out of her.

  “I’m sorry, princess. I’ll try to be gentle. Be brave for me, my sweet girl.”

  She bit her lips and then nodded.

  He carefully ran his fingers over her bruised and battered ribs, swearing violently under his breath when she flinched and closed her eyes, holding herself stiff. But she didn’t utter a single noise. He admired her strength and resilience, knowing she was in unspeakable pain.

  “Goddamn it,” he swore when he felt at least two ribs that were fractured. She needed medical care, not just for her ribs but for the injuries to her face. It was likely she’d fractured her nose and possibly her jaw as well.

  Already there was significant swelling to her nose and jaw. She looked like a mess and yet she was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Those sons of bitches deserved to die for daring to touch what was his. And she was his. Even if it wasn’t possible in the real world. But to him, she was his, even if it was never meant to be.

  “How bad is it?”
she whispered, her words slurred around swollen lips.

  “You have broken ribs. Not sure how bad, but I’ll have a doctor come over to examine you. You’re in no shape to go to a hospital. He’ll need to examine your nose and jaw to make sure nothing is broken there as well.”

  “I hurt,” she said quietly.

  He knew she was in a great deal of pain to have made the admission, and the words broke his heart and made him want all the more to go back and make sure he’d finished the job. The street trash didn’t deserve to live for even laying hands on her, much less brutalizing her. But he had to get it together. She was his top and only priority. If the bastards survived, he’d track them down and avenge his princess.

  When had he started referring to her as his princess? He wasn’t a man prone to endearments. Evangeline was the first person that he’d used affectionate pet names with, but they were meaningless and harmless. He called her doll and sweetheart, but then all of Drake’s men had done so and they were not touchy-feely men at all. But Hayley was different. She was . . . special.

  “Let me get you something for pain and then I’ll call the doctor to come right over. While we wait, I want you to rest and let the pain medicine settle in, and you aren’t to so much as move until the doctor arrives. Do you think you can swallow some pills, or do I need to crush them up and dissolve them in a little water so you can drink it down?”

  She licked her bloodied lips, wincing, and then cast him an apologetic look. “I don’t think I could swallow a pill. I’m sorry.”

  He leaned down so their noses were nearly touching, his expression fierce. “You have nothing to apologize for. I’ll be right back with your pain medicine, and then I want you to rest while I call the doctor.”

  She nodded wearily, her eyelids already fluttering downward. He hurried away into the kitchen and shook two pain pills from the bottle he kept for the migraines that plagued him at times. Using a spoon, he carefully crushed the pills until they were little more than dust, which he then poured into a small cup of water, stirring until it was completely dissolved.

  He returned to his bedroom where Hayley lay, her expression one of utter exhaustion and her features strained with pain.

  “Princess,” he said in a soft voice. “I need you to drink this and then I’ll let you rest while I make some calls. Can you do that for me?”

  She stirred and when her eyelids fluttered he could see pain dulling her usually vibrant, sparking-with-life eyes. It enraged him that she’d been brutally attacked and that he hadn’t been there to protect her. Never again. She was under his protection even though she didn’t know it.

  She struggled to get upright, but he gently stopped her, instead cupping the back of her head and lifting just enough that he could place the rim of the small cup to her mouth.

  “Drink all of it, my sweet girl. The pain will get better. I promise.”

  Slowly she sipped, making a sour face as she swallowed the contents. When it was all gone, he lowered her back down and fussed with the pillows in an attempt to ensure her comfort.

  “Are you comfortable?” Then he swore. “Of course you aren’t comfortable, but what is the best position to take the pressure off your ribs?”

  “I’d rather lie flat and never move again,” she mumbled, her pain-filled eyes already closing in exhaustion.

  He arranged the pillows and blankets, cocooning her so she was as comfortable as he could make her.

  “The medicine should take effect more quickly since I dissolved it in water. Hang in there, princess. You’ll start feeling relief in a few minutes.”

  “Thank God,” she whispered. “I hurt everywhere, Silas.”

  He had to work to control the absolute fury that threatened to explode. He turned to leave the room so he could make his calls, but her soft voice stopped him.

  “Silas?”

  He turned around immediately. “Is there something you need, princess?”

  She swallowed, and her eyes went shiny with the evidence of tears again.

  “Thank you for coming for me. For saving me,” she whispered.

  Her sincere gratitude only heightened his guilt. “It’s my fault you were attacked. I should have been there sooner,” he said gruffly.

  She looked at him with faint puzzlement. “But, Silas, how could you have possibly known? It isn’t your fault.”

  He turned and walked out, knowing damn well it was his fault.

  His first call was to Drake’s doctor, who ran a clinic in Drake’s apartment building, and he demanded that the doctor drop everything and get over to Silas’s place as soon as possible. Then he called Maddox and briefly told him what had happened and that he needed a cleanup crew, and the details and the location. Then he said he needed the rest of Drake’s men to get to his place immediately to ensure that nothing like this happened again. Maddox seemed bewildered because Silas was not a man who ever got rattled, and Silas knew he sounded like he was on the edge, but Maddox didn’t probe, merely telling Silas to consider it done, and that those not on cleanup duty would be over within minutes. But he didn’t question Silas. That wasn’t the way it worked in their tightly knit group. When a brother called with a request or a demand, no questions were asked. It was simply done. They always came, always taking each other’s backs, prepared to do whatever necessary to help.

  Family.

  What Evangeline had made them all. And Hayley was part of it even if she had no idea she now had family or that any one of them would die for her. Just as they would for Evangeline or for one another.

  While waiting for the doctor to arrive, he slipped back into his bedroom, expecting her to have succumbed to the medication he’d given her. To his shock and dismay, she was sobbing as if her heart would break.

  He flew across the distance and carefully arranged himself on the bed next to her, cradling her gently in his arms so as not to jar her ribs. Hell, he hadn’t even cleaned the blood from her, but he hadn’t wanted to do anything for fear of hurting her or making it worse until the doctor examined her.

  “Princess, what’s wrong?” he said urgently. “Are you still hurting? Do you need more pain medication?”

  She buried her face in his chest, her tears wetting his shirt as she shook against him.

  “It was all I had left of him,” she sobbed. “Oh God, Silas, what am I going to do?”

  She pressed her face more firmly into his chest as if to stifle her cries, but he pried her away, not wanting to do further damage to her battered face.

  “You’re breaking my heart, baby. Talk to me. Tell me why you’re crying. You have to know I’ll do anything to fix this for you.”

  It seemed a stupid request, but he knew this wasn’t about the attack. There was something else that had devastated her and if someone else had hurt her, he’d hunt the bastard down and kill him with absolutely no remorse.

  “You can’t fix this,” she said dully. “I wish with all my heart you could, but no one can. No one can make my dream happen now, and now I can’t fulfill my father’s dying wish.”

  She broke off into another round of heartbreaking sobs that made his own heart ache as he shared her pain.

  “Tell me about it, Hayley,” he said gently. “The doctor won’t be here for another ten to fifteen minutes. Tell me what’s upsetting you so badly. Besides the obvious.”

  “They destroyed my violin,” she choked out, tears streaming down her bruised and bloodied face. “And now I have nothing. No way to fulfill my dream. I can’t afford even the cheapest violin, and while I can borrow one for classes at school, they have a strict policy about them leaving the premises, which means I won’t be able to practice at home. It’s over. Everything he worked so hard to make possible for me is gone, and it’s my fault.”

  “Oh, baby, no,” Silas protested. “You can’t blame yourself for what those bastards did to you.”

  Hayley continued on, lost in her bittersweet memories.

  “It was just him and me after my mom died, and w
e were poor, desperately poor. It was everything we could do to make ends meet and have food on the table. He worked long hours at a local paper mill. Every opportunity for overtime, he was on the job, saving to buy me a violin. He wanted so badly for me to follow my dream of playing and becoming a master violinist. But then he got sick. Cancer. I wanted to quit school, get a job so I could pay our expenses and get him the care he needed. I wanted to be with him so he wouldn’t die alone. I couldn’t bear the thought.”

  She broke off in a sob and he slid closer to her and gently stroked his hand through her hair, carefully resting the uninjured side of her face against his chest.

  “But he wouldn’t hear of it,” she said, sorrow heavy in her voice. “I received a partial scholarship to a prestigious school of music in Manhattan, but I refused to leave him and I couldn’t afford the cost of living here much less paying the rest of my tuition, but before he died, my father told me not to worry, that he had provided for me. It was so important to him that I follow my dreams. I think it became his dream every bit as much as mine, and I truly believe he held out as long as he did so he would know I kept my promise of moving to New York to enroll, because he died just after I moved here and I wasn’t with him,” she sobbed. “He died alone. Oh God, I left him to die alone, Silas. I’ll never forgive myself for that.”

  “Shhh, baby,” he said, running his fingers through her matted hair in an effort to comfort her. “You did exactly as he intended. It was what he wanted, and he waited, he held on just long enough to know you would be okay. You gave that to him. Peace. He didn’t die alone, princess. He died knowing that his daughter was going to achieve her dream and his.”

  She was silent for a long moment, and then she slowly nodded. “Thank you for that, Silas. I guess I never looked at it that way.”

  Then tears clouded her vision, and she looked away, grief consuming her once more, but he saw something else in her eyes. Not pain, sorrow or regret. He saw unfettered rage. He was so taken aback that he could only stare in stunned silence at the abrupt change in her demeanor.

  “Hayley?” he asked tentatively.

  “My father wanted so badly for me to be taken care of, for me not to want for anything. He wanted only for me to attend school and not have any financial worries, so without my knowledge, he took out a life insurance policy on himself.”

  Her words took on a bitter note, the hatred in her eyes glowing like neon.

  “When I found the paperwork and filed the claim I couldn’t believe how exorbitant the monthly payments were. I can’t even imagine how he afforded them or what he had to do in order to afford the payments. But the payout would have been enough to see me through school and pay my living expenses without me having to hold multiple jobs.”

  Her entire body went rigid even as the tears flowed in never-ending streams down her cheeks.

  “I hate him,” she hissed. “God, I hate him so much for what he did to my father. To me.”

  Silas’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Who, baby? What are you talking about?”

  “The slick, lying, cheating insurance salesman who took advantage of my father’s desire to provide the means to fulfill my dream. He charged outrageous premiums and then filled the contract with so many confusing conditions, exclusions and fine print. God, the fine print pretty much made it possible for them not to pay the settlement for pretty much any trumped-up reason they chose to come up with. It was a scam. The salesman was a complete scam artist, and he took every penny my father had and then refused to make the payout when I filed the claim after his death. That’s why I can only afford to attend school part-time and have to work two jobs as well as any odd jobs that crop up. I hate him,” she said, her voice breaking on a sob. “I hate him for what he did to my father. For giving him false belief that I would be taken care of.”

  Cold rage filled Silas as he sat there and listened to Hayley’s story, forced to pretend idle interest and sympathy when he wanted—and fully intended—to hunt down the cheating bastard and make him pay. There was no way in hell he was going to let her continue to work herself into the ground, attending school only part-time. Not with talent like hers.

  Determined to track down the bastard and ensure that he paid Hayley in full, plus interest and extra for her grief, for all the weeks she’d worked herself into exhaustion, he forced his voice to sound casual as he questioned her about the salesman.

  By the time the knock at the door sounded, he had more than enough information to find the sleazy asshole, who would pay dearly for fucking over Hayley and her father.

  12

  Maddox, Justice and Zander filed solemnly into Silas’s apartment, casting curious glances at Silas’s agitated state. Silas motioned them to sit on the couches in the living room and then excused himself for a moment, saying that he wanted to check in on Hayley and ensure that the doctor was doing a thorough exam.

  He entered his bedroom quietly, taking in the sight of Drake’s trusted physician cutting off Hayley’s clothing. Rage filled Silas, as did a fierce sense of possessiveness. It didn’t matter that the doctor was elderly, married and a loyal ally. Silas wanted no one to see what he considered his.

  Hayley whimpered in pain as the doctor began his examination, softly asking her questions as a way to distract her from his gentle probing. Then Hayley’s gaze found Silas standing in the doorway, and relief filled her face. Her silent plea beckoned him closer and he found himself at her bedside, leaning down to smooth his hand over her forehead.

  He bent to press his lips to the crown of her head. “It’s going to be all right now, princess. The doctor will take good care of you.”

  “Will you stay?” she asked, her tone desperate, her eyes wide with fear and uncertainty.

 
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