Falling in deeper, p.32
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       Falling in Deeper, p.32
 

         Part #11 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black

  agreed to a deal that exchanged her testimony for his freedom, he’d done before he truly knew her. People sometimes found themselves forced to make difficult choices. Those decisions defined who they were as people, the moral makeup of their character. Corey had proven his was every inch rotten. He blamed everyone else for the misfortune he’d begun. Lily didn’t completely blame him for dealing drugs. He’d had so few choices as a kid trying to keep a roof over his family’s head and food in their mouths. But for leaving them to fend for themselves when Canton had turned his vengeful heat on them? Yeah, no one else was to blame more in this situation than Corey.

  “Oh, boohoo,” Kev mocked.

  “Shut the fuck up,” Dan sneered.

  “I can’t listen to you whine anymore,” Corey growled. “We’re getting started now. And the first thing I’m cutting out is your tongue.”

  “Sweetheart,” Emma ventured. “Before you get too busy, Jacinda has Canton in the room downstairs. I think she’s currently blowing him, but if you want to drug him so we can have fun with him later . . .”

  “You didn’t do it?”

  “You said you wanted to.”

  Corey sighed with impatience and shoved a fall of dark hair out of his face. “Damn it. All right.”

  “Hey, I’ll go,” Kev volunteered, his brows waggling in a leer. “I want to see how hot my woman looks giving this dude head. Maybe she’d be willing to do us both before we cut his dick off and blow his brains out.”

  “Good thinking.” Corey nodded. “While you’re gone, we’ll get this slut stripped and tied down to the bed. She needs to start paying.”

  “I’ll knock when I’m back.” Kev crossed the room.

  Emma followed him, opening the door for him. Lily looked at the blue sky and the beckoning golden sun for those few precious seconds. The other woman dead-bolted the door behind him, shutting Lily in the dark again with a roomful of psychos.

  Her tears had slowed. She felt cleansed. And ready to fight. If she didn’t succeed . . . well, she was also ready to face whatever came next.

  As Emma crossed the room, she lifted her face to Corey for a kiss. He slipped off his shoes and absently brushed a peck on his waiting wife’s lips, like today was a normal day for an average married couple.

  He and Dan would soon detach her from the chair to move her to the mattress, and Lily knew that might be her only opportunity to escape. She studied the room again. The door was a good six or seven steps away. Kev had longer legs and it had taken him four to reach the handle. Her purse fell into a similar category. A bit closer, but maybe too far to run before someone caught her. That meant she was going to have to fight her way out of this room with her bare hands if she wanted to survive.

  And she did—so very much. Not just because the imperative to live beat strong in her chest and raced fast through her veins. She wanted more from life. To laugh and cry and love. She wanted to see Stone, tell him she forgave him. And she hoped he understood. She wanted to see if they could have something real if she gave him her all. Could he ever love her, as he’d claimed? She ached to touch him, yearned to share tomorrow with him. And someday, god willing, she wanted to have another baby.

  As Emma sat on the other bed, she stared raptly, ready to watch the live rape and murder as if it were a pay-per-view event. Corey came at Lily with the shears. He snipped them a few times in her face, laughing when she shrank back involuntarily. Then she forced herself to stop reacting, start planning.

  The nightstand with the rest of those gleaming sharp implements was maybe three steps away. Still far but her best bet. She’d have to find some vulnerable spot on Corey’s body and hit him before they got her to the bed. The juvenile hadn’t arrived yet. Kev and his considerable muscle would only be gone a few minutes. She couldn’t assume that Stone or anyone else could find her here, no matter how hard they might try.

  It was now or never.

  Lily swallowed as Corey cut through the zip tie securing her left ankle to the chair. He made quick work of the restraint holding her left wrist, then tossed the shears to Dan, who did the same on her right side. Together, they hoisted her to her feet.

  Corey wrenched her arm behind her back, until she gasped and stood on her tiptoes to prevent him from dislocating her shoulder or breaking her arm. “Don’t try anything.”

  Or what? He already meant to rape and kill her. Frankly, he couldn’t threaten her with much worse. She might as well risk it all.

  Squeezing her eyes shut and saying a prayer, she pretended to lose her balance and toppled forward. Corey automatically reached out to catch her. Before he could shove her back to her feet, Lily bit the fleshy inside of his biceps and clamped down with her teeth as hard as she possibly could. Almost instantly, she tasted his coppery blood.

  He snapped his arm back to dislodge her hold and glanced at the red indentations of his wound. “Bitch.”

  But she wasn’t listening to him. She was lunging for the nightstand, trying not to stumble. She barely managed to snatch up Kev’s big serrated blade. Lily knew she only had a fraction of a second to whirl to her left and hopefully plant this blade in Corey’s belly. But she’d fallen too far forward and couldn’t quite get her balance quick enough to turn and defend herself. Instead, when she arced the blade through the air, she missed Corey altogether.

  On her right, Dan leapt onto the bed and came at her in a full tackle. Lily screamed and managed to sidestep him at the last instant, gratified when he fell between the two beds and hit his knee on the base of the nightstand with a thud. In feinting, she ran right into Emma, who shrieked and tried to scramble away.

  Corey latched onto Lily’s left wrist and started tugging. This time, she was ready, twisting around to slash the blade down at him. She sliced through his forearm. A deep wound opened. Blood welled quickly and flowed from the gash.

  “What the fuck?” he roared and released her to clap his hand over the wound, glaring at her as if she had done the unthinkable. “Oh, that’s it, bitch. If Kev doesn’t get here in the next two minutes he’s going to miss your last gasp.”

  Lily didn’t doubt that he meant every word.

  When he lunged for her again, she went for the weak link, rolling onto the bed and scrambling behind Emma. The woman looked over her shoulder left and right, screeching wildly, as she tried to see the threat to her safety. Dan jumped for Lily again too, and she knew she didn’t have time to be polite or gentle. Emma certainly hadn’t been either of those with her. Neither would these men. So Lily grabbed the woman’s long ponytail and tugged hard, exposing her throat. In the next breath, she put the blade, still wet and red with Corey’s blood, against it. A drop fell onto Emma’s breast and rolled into her pink tank top.

  Corey and Dan both froze.

  “Leave her out of this. She has nothing to do with this shit,” Corey grated out.

  “I’m still breastfeeding!” Emma shrieked.

  Lily ignored her. “I had nothing to do with any of this shit, either. Just because you don’t want to pay for your sins doesn’t mean I will. Will you make your wife pay, you selfish bastard? Then mourn her loss and blame me for wielding the blade? Yeah, you’re the kind of coward who would, without admitting that I wouldn’t have been here to slice her throat open if you hadn’t plotted your ridiculous revenge in the first place.”

  “Step away from my wife and I won’t kill you.” Corey tried to barter.

  Obviously he thought she was stupid. “Not happening. Emma and I are going to back out of the room and leave. If you make a move in my direction, I’ll slice her in half.”

  Lily wasn’t sure she could actually do it, but she had to at least threaten and bluff. And if the worst happened, she would have to try. She would also have to hope that Kev wasn’t on his way back up and that his juvie friend didn’t show. With luck, maybe some law-abiding citizen would see her fleeing for her life and offer aid.

  Neither man said anything right away, just looked at her with wary, worried eyes. Fi
nally Dan stepped forward. “I’ll take her place. Let my sister go, and you can take me hostage.”

  “So you can fight back and try to manhandle or overpower me? No. Stand up, bitch.” Lily gave Emma a taste of her own medicine.

  With a high-pitched whine, the blonde rose to her feet on shaking legs. “Don’t hurt me.”

  Lily scoffed. “If I had pleaded for your mercy ten minutes ago, you would have laughed. Luckily for you, I’m not bitter or bloodthirsty. I’m also not stupid enough to love a man capable of cold-blooded rape and murder or psycho enough to encourage him. As far as I’m concerned, you get what’s coming to you. But I don’t have any interest in hurting you unless you force me. Now, we’re walking . . .”

  As Lily sidestepped toward the door, she dragged Emma and kept her back to the wall. Her hostage served as a buffer between her and the two men watching her every move.

  They neared the door. Emma stumbled, her feet tripping over each other. On purpose?

  Lily caught the woman with her free hand. “Be careful. This knife is awfully sharp and you wouldn’t want me to cut you by accident, would you?”

  “No. No. No,” Emma panted, her heart beating so hard it was a wonder everyone in the room couldn’t hear it.

  As Lily tugged her near the door, she reached for the dead bolt and unfastened it; then she grabbed the handle to the door with shaking fingers. A nervous sweat sprang up all over her body. Anxiety stung her veins. Her heartbeat gonged in her head. Freedom was so, so close.

  Before she could open the door, she heard car doors slam in the motel’s parking lot. One man shouted, the sound primal and disruptive. Another yelled back an obscenity that made her jaw drop. Seconds later, someone fired a gun.

  Everyone in the motel room froze, even Lily.

  “Wait. Don’t . . .” Corey instructed, even pleading a little. “I don’t know who’s shooting out there but that’s no one I know. Dan, look out the window, will you?”

  Lily thought about objecting but decided if Emma’s brother was peering outside at whatever mayhem was going on in the parking lot, he wasn’t paying attention to her. Still, she kept sharp in case this was some sort of trick.

  Dan rubbed at his knee where he’d hit it as he climbed back over the bed, sending his sister a concerned glance. She whimpered. Boy, for a woman who’d been so eager to see her sexually assaulted and ripped to shreds, Emma sure had turned mousy and squeamish at the first sign that she was in danger.

  “Go on,” Lily ordered Dan when he edged too close to his sister. She drew the knife tighter against the woman’s throat.

  Corey stepped into the space between the beds and glanced out as Dan drew the drape aside and scowled. “Five guys out there fighting. Oh, that looked like a hell of a punch.”

  “Who are they? Can you tell why they’re fighting?” Corey demanded.

  “I don’t know.” Dan shook his head, leaning closer to the dirty glass. “They aren’t punks wearing colors or anything.”

  “Who has the gun?” Corey asked.

  Dan cocked his head and frowned as if trying to decipher the scene in the parking lot. He drew in a breath as if he meant to answer.

  Something struck the window. With a loud thump, it cracked the pane. The sound of shattering glass filled the room. The shards fell. Then Dan crumbled, falling on the bed nearest the window.

  With a bullet hole right between his shockingly pale eyes.

  Emma screamed. “Dan. Dan! Oh my god . . .”

  But Dan didn’t answer. He was never going to. He was dead.

  “Jesus!” Corey blinked. “What the fuck?” Then he turned an evil glare Lily’s way. “You did this. Somehow. What did you do?”

  “Me?” Lily’s heart lurched. She had no idea who was out there, firing. That shot couldn’t have been an accident. Someone must have been waiting. A sniper? Friend or foe?

  At this point, did it matter? Corey absolutely meant to kill her. The men in the parking lot might or might not. Lily would take those odds.

  When Corey charged toward her, she lowered the knife and shoved Emma in his direction. His wife stumbled into him, and he was forced to catch her. Lily didn’t stay to watch what happened next. She wrenched the door open, the fight-or-flight response searing her veins with adrenaline. Sunlight rushed in, golden warmth and blue skies wrapping around her as she darted out of the terrible little motel room with a cry.

  Over the second story railing, she spotted familiar faces in the parking lot. Hunter Edgington and Jack Cole both crouched behind the open doors of Stone’s big black pickup, weapons visible through the windows. Police sirens suddenly wailed, splitting the sleepy air of small-town peace, coming closer with each second. Logan Edgington darted to the edge of the parking lot to meet them.

  Axel sprinted across the expanse of blacktop toward her. “Sweet Pea!”

  As he disappeared under the overhang where the stairs originated near the first-floor rooms, she ran—toward freedom, a familiar face she knew represented safety.

  But she wanted the one who made her ache for love and devotion and forever. She wanted Stone. Where was he?

  She heard pounding footsteps ascending the stairs in a full-out run, just about to hit the second floor. Axel couldn’t have reached her that quickly. Had he called out to her because he’d been trying to warn her that the violent juvenile had arrived? Or that Kev was coming for her?

  Knife in hand, Lily crouched in a fighting stance, ready to defend herself to the death. She’d just outwitted two men willing to do her in. By god, she’d take on another. She’d never be a victim again. She intended to do whatever necessary to protect herself, see justice done, and put every one of those fucking bastards in the ground or in prison.

  Instead, a nearly shaved head emerged, followed by a beloved face, then the broadest shoulders and a wide chest she’d cradled her head against during some of the best nights of her life. Tight abs rippling beneath it, his gray T-shirt popped into view. He held a gun in one hand, sprinting, his legs pumping wildly to reach her. “Baby!”

  Relief swelled inside her.

  “Stone,” she sobbed his name as she dropped the knife. It clattered to the ground as she ran down the stairs, arms outstretched, to meet him halfway.

  She threw herself into his embrace, crashing into the solid cradle of his chest, against his thumping heart. Tears streamed down her face, stemming from her heart and wrenching her insides out.

  “I’ve got you,” he vowed. “I always will. I love you.”

  He’d come for her. And she swore to god that she’d never let anything or anyone tear them apart again.

  “Fucking bitch!” Corey roared from the upper level above and behind her. “You’re going to die!”

  She’d barely heard the words and processed them by the time Stone had raised his gun and pulled the trigger.

  Her heart lurched as she gasped and whirled to meet the threat. But Corey was already crumpling to the concrete walkway above, his gun clattering to the ground with him. Then he lay unmoving, his blood splattered wide around his still body.

  “Fuck you,” Stone quipped. “Who’s the bitch now?”

  Chapter Twenty

  BOUQUET of flowers in hand, Lily pushed open the wrought iron gate to the cemetery. God, she couldn’t believe she was here, finally about to see the graves of all her loved ones for the first time.

  The Southern California sky winked blue and hot, but the gentle breeze carrying the air inland from the ocean made it somewhat bearable.

  She’d once belonged in this city but no more. Not that she missed the sticky-hot humidity of the Texas summers, but after weeks of talking to both Bankhead and the feds about the drug-trafficking case pending against Canton, as well as the LA County District Attorney about the various murders and assorted crimes he’d committed, Lily figured he’d be going down for a long time. She’d needed to consent to testify—for Erin, her family, even for Regina in a weird way. Her daughter may not be here to realize that her mom
had decided to do the right thing, but somehow Lily hoped the girl watched from above with pride.

  Most especially, she needed to agree to testify for Stone.

  Last night, she’d spoken to Sean on the phone. He’d explained the FBI investigation taking place and her role in it. He’d apologized for helping to orchestrate the plot to strong-arm her testimony. Thorpe had hopped on the phone next and followed suit. And since Dominion’s owner and resident badass never apologized gracefully to anyone for anything, especially in such a heartfelt voice, Lily realized they were simply men who had made a mistake. Her heart welled because they’d made her feel like an important part of the club and the tight-knit community of its members.

  When she’d first learned of their “perfidy,” she’d been so furious at them for making decisions that affected the rest of her
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