Their virgin secretary, p.38
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       Their Virgin Secretary, p.38

         Part #6 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
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  He was going to owe that damn dog a treat. Sir kept barking, making himself a target as a big shadow moved through the open door. Kellan got the glimpse of something metallic in the moonlight.

  Mike wasn’t packing an umbrella. It looked like the asshole was way better armed than him.

  “Shut the fuck up, dog.” The big guy took aim.

  Oh, that was so not happening. Belle would murder him if he allowed that fucker to kill her ridiculously ugly, seriously brave little mutt. Like it or not, Sir was the family dog and he wasn’t going down tonight either.

  With as much force as he could muster, Kellan brought the umbrella down on Mike’s head. It met with a crack just like the last time.

  Unfortunately, Mike was harder a target to fell.

  With a growl, he whirled, his eyes narrowing as he raised the gun.

  Sir rushed forward and suddenly snarled at the guy’s ankle. He shouted out as Sir’s teeth sank into his flesh. The gun fell from his hand, thudding to the floor.

  Kellan attacked, punching the man with a quiet grunt. He tried to get to the gun, but Mike threw him back with a fist to his face. Pure pain flared, making his head spin. He heard Sir yipping, but as he opened his eyes, all he could see was that big fist coming toward his face again.

  “Mother fucker,” Mike cursed before making contact again. “I’m going to kill you.”

  Then he heard the shocking sound of a gun discharging. It cracked through the small space. The punch that might have knocked him out never came.

  Mike’s whole face went blank as he listed to one side and fell.

  “Are you okay?” Eric asked quietly, reaching out to help Kell up.

  “You idiot!” Gates yelled down. “Someone’s going to call the cops if you don’t keep the goddamn volume down. I told you to shut the dog up, not shoot him.”

  Fuck. If “Mike” didn’t answer, Belle would be in trouble. He lowered his voice and tried to sound like an idiot douchebag. “Sorry. Dog’s no trouble now.”

  Eric had picked Sir up, who was enthusiastically licking his face, but at least he was quiet.

  There was a long sigh. “Get your ass up here. I have one more place I want to look before we finish up. Tell Helena to get everything ready.”

  The door shut upstairs.

  He looked at Eric. “Give me the gun. You’ve done your part. I’m going to go get our girl. You make sure no one else comes after me.”

  Eric nodded, and Kellan started up the stairs.

  To save his woman. To make sure his family was safe again.

  Chapter Twenty

  Tears filled Belle’s eyes. They’d talked about killing her little dog. Her sweet little Sir was just a puppy. She’d heard the gunshot…then she hadn’t heard Sir bark again. She tried not to sob.

  Gates had yelled to Mike about finishing up, so he’d shot her dog. He would kill Tate next, regardless of whether or not she found the list. They were determined to take everything from her, even her life. Belle felt helpless, and it was a small consolation to know that Tate wouldn’t suffer. Knowing that nothing but death awaited for her and Tate infuriated her. Damn it, she refused to go down without a fight.

  Unfortunately, Gates had never taken the gun off her. Even when he’d been yelling at his cohorts, he’d watched her carefully. “Move the mattress. I want to see what’s under the bed.”

  “You’re going to kill me anyway.” Maybe it was time to take a stand.

  “No, I’m not. If you give me the list, I’ll walk away,” he said in what Belle bet he considered a soothing tone. She noted that he didn’t point that gun elsewhere, though a tremor shook his arm. He wasn’t a young man. He likely wasn’t used to holding heavy objects for long periods of time.

  “I’m not stupid. I know you won’t leave me alive.” She listened for the sounds of movement downstairs. It was faint, but she could almost hear them moving, the wood floors creaking as Gates’s two accomplices searched the downstairs. Well, Helena was searching, but Mike seemed to be preparing for her inevitable murder. How did they plan to finish her off? Another hanging murder designed to look like a suicide?

  Belle couldn’t wait to find out. She had to make a move. She wasn’t sure she could live knowing Tate was dead. How much time had passed? Where were Eric and Kellan?

  Gates shrugged a little, giving up his previous act. “Fine. Of course, I’m going to kill you. If you give me the list, I’ll make it quick. If you give me trouble, I’ll draw it out. You won’t like that. I can make you feel pain like you’ve never felt before. I’ll give you over to Mike. He seemed to really like you. Although you might enjoy that since you like sleeping with a lot of men.”

  She ignored his insults. They didn’t matter. She had to think. Her brain raced. She’d screwed up his plan by having Tate in the house. He’d wanted to catch her alone. He’d intended to only have to deal with one body.

  And with the history of this house, it would be easy. The story itself would be so spectacular—history repeating itself and all—that the truth might be easily concealed and forever buried.

  “You’re planning to hang me.” She’d wondered why Mike had laid out a white sheet on the floor in front of the banister.

  Now that she thought about it, she could see the whole scenario play out in her head. They would make a noose out of the sheet. Pristine white. Like a cloud. They would pervert it and slip it over around her neck before tossing her over the banister and completing the act.

  Belle felt an odd chill go through her, though there was nothing truly sinister about the feeling. Strength. She felt a weird bolt of it run through her, giving her energy, straightening her spine.

  Belle suddenly realized she wasn’t alone. The house might be haunted, but not all ghosts were evil. Some simply wanted to right the wrongs done to them—like the Peterman girls who’d been hanged by their own father. They could right those terrible wrongs by saving someone else, by not allowing what happened to them to happen again.

  A nasty smile lit Gates’s face. “Everyone knows this place is haunted, Miss Wright. Your story will make headlines for a day or two, then it will fade into New Orleans lore. Then you’ll be just another young girl who committed suicide in this house. Just another ghost.”

  But the ghosts weren’t on his side. He couldn’t know that, couldn’t know they had been coming to her each night in her dreams, trying to tell her that they had fought and she should, too. She got that now. They hadn’t come to scare her. The thing in the library, yes. That entity wanted to hurt her, but not the girls from her dreams. They’d come to warn her, to make sure she didn’t suffer their fate.

  A deep peace settled over her as though she was finally in synch with the house she’d come to call home.

  She didn’t have to die. Neither did Tate. She could fight and she could win.

  She looked briefly around the room. It was in complete disarray. He’d forced her to ransack every inch of the place looking for his “list” and now she had to walk gingerly around the piles of her grandmother’s clothes and keepsakes that had absolutely nothing to do with the list.

  She decided to obey him for now, to buy a little more time while she sought a weapon. There had to be something heavy and blunt among all this stuff.

  What if Eric walked in first? Would he walk in and immediately be killed because he had no idea what was going on?

  She had to prevent that, too.

  Belle pushed at the mattress, pretending it was far heavier than it looked. She made a big show of straining to move the thing while she pointed out certain truths to the lawyer. “It’s not going to work. Why would I hang myself?”

  She’d just gotten engaged. She had everything to live for. And she had friends. What Gates didn’t realize was that if anything happened to her, Kinley would never stop trying to find the truth and she would sic her very-good-at-their-jobs husbands on the case. Kinley wouldn’t believe that she would kill herself. Not for a second.

  Gates huffed, his stare
utterly derisive. “You live with three men. Your lifestyle alone will make people shake their heads. Obviously, they didn’t want to stay with a whore, so you did yourself in. I was intent on simply killing you, but if I have to, I’ll take out your boyfriend. But I’d rather let him live because he’ll make a perfect fall guy. I have some interns ready to testify about all the fights the men have over you. Mike is going to tell the cops that he overheard you crying because you couldn’t choose between them. Your boyfriend down there could have murdered you in a fit of rage. Do you want him to live or not?”

  She didn’t believe a word he said. He would kill them both and come up with a story he hoped would hold water. With corrupt officials in his corner, he had reason to be smug, but it wouldn’t work because he didn’t understand the nature of the relationship she shared with her men. He didn’t understand that no one who knew her or Tate would believe a word Gates said.

  Belle pushed at the mattress again. “It’s so heavy.”

  Gates sighed. “Try harder. We’re running out of time.”

  Yes, he was definitely getting tired. She pushed again, pretending great frustration. She finally groaned and stood back up, her hand on her lower back. “I can’t. It’s too heavy. You need to help me.”

  She needed him closer. She needed to close the distance between them.

  She needed to get that gun. It was the only way she could protect herself and Tate.

  Gates stared at her as though trying to decide whether or not he believed her. He was a lawyer, and like her men, he would be damn good at sizing up a witness.

  Belle let her emotions show. Vulnerable. Kellan had once told her that the best witness was a vulnerable witness. Juries liked witnesses who seemed a bit fragile. They wanted to empathize with the person on the stand. Belle allowed tears to fill her eyes, let her shoulders slump as though she was utterly defeated.

  “Move away.” He rolled his eyes as he pointed the gun toward the corner of the room. “I swear, if you want anything fucking done…I should have burned this place down a long time ago.”

  She stepped back to the corner, between the far wall and the open bathroom door. He’d already made her search the master bathroom. She thought about the high window, but even if she could get it open, there was a three-story fall she was pretty sure she wouldn’t survive. Still, there were things she could use as weapons in that bathroom. It was just a few steps away.

  Belle felt that cold chill slide across her skin again. It seemed to press against her as though it tried to tell her something.

  Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of one of her grandmother’s canes, propped against the wall, just a few steps away. Grandma had left them all over the place, and Belle hadn’t gathered them up on these upper floors. Could she reach it?

  “Don’t you fucking try anything, bitch. You stand there.” Gates moved to the bed, gun still in hand. “Mike, get your ass up here. I need help.”

  She heard the stairs creak. Mike was heading up. She had only a moment or two before she would have a noose shoved around her neck and she’d be thrown over the banister, either before or after she was forced to watch Gates kill Tate.

  Her heart started to pound in her chest. Adrenaline flooded her system as she took a step toward that cane. It was right there. One more foot and she would be able to grab it.

  Gates looked up suddenly. “I told you not to move.”

  Belle stopped, thinking on her feet. “Sorry. I fidget when I’m nervous.”

  His eyes narrowed. “Maybe the time has come to call it a day. Helena was right. This is useless. Maybe Ehlers was lying and she never gave your grandmother the fucking list. Stupid cunt.” He stepped forward and pointed the gun her way again. “Maybe I don’t need such an elaborate setup. I can kill you and the one downstairs and make it look as if one of your other lovers couldn’t take the jealousy. Your freaky living arrangements will play in my favor.”

  The footsteps drew closer. Her time was over.

  She had to get out of that gun’s line of fire. She threw herself toward the bathroom door as the crash of gunfire filled her world.

  * * * *

  Kellan cautiously made his way up the stairs, willing himself to be methodical and not simply run in shooting. He had to take it slow, careful. He had no idea where Belle was in that room.

  In the distance, he heard the wail of a siren. His time was running out. The second Gates realized the cops were closing in, he’d want to tie up his loose ends, then cut and run. That likely meant shooting Belle on his way out.

  From the second story landing, Kell looked down at Eric, who stood at the bottom of the stairs, an umbrella in his hand. His friend nodded, silently telling him that he didn’t sense anyone else in the house.

  They only had Gates to contend with, but the fucker had a gun and he wouldn’t hesitate to use it. Kellan was fairly certain the only reason he hadn’t killed Tate yet was that he’d chosen the big guy as a scapegoat. He was likely going to make it look like a murder-suicide. Belle and Tate would need to die in the proper order for that. As a lawyer, Gates would know what the forensics guys would be looking for.

  As he moved up the next set of stairs, Kellan envisioned how he would plan it. He would keep Belle alive, searching for whatever he was looking for. Then he would make sure her prints were on the gun, residue found on her hands when they killed Tate. He’d force her to write a suicide note and hang her himself, just like the house legends.

  Or they could do the opposite, and have Tate “kill” Belle in a fit of jealousy.

  Either scenario was logical, but that plan wasn’t going to work.

  He was on the stairs to the third floor when Gates started talking again. “Maybe I don’t need such an elaborate setup. I can kill you and the one downstairs and make it look as if one of your other lovers couldn’t take the jealousy. Your freaky living arrangements will play in my favor.”

  Kellan picked up the pace because he didn’t like the sound of that. He took the rest of the stairs at a jog. Then it happened.

  A crack split the air. Gunfire. It was so loud. It made Kellan’s blood run cold.

  He took the final steps at a dead run because surprise didn’t matter anymore. He had to get to her, had to find her, save her.

  He heard someone on the stairs behind him. Eric, who apparently refused to wait either. Kellan couldn’t expect him to stand around when someone was firing a gun at Belle. At least he would have some form of backup. If Gates shot him, perhaps Eric could finish the job and save their girl.

  It felt damn good to know he wouldn’t be alone. No matter what happened to him, someone would take care of their family.

  He shouldered into the room with the full force of his body and darted right past Gates, who never saw his face.

  “Mike?”

  Thank god he and the electrician were roughly the same size and had the same coloring. Kellan had just one shot.

  He turned, raised his gun, and fired in one move.

  He wasn’t a cop. He wasn’t a damn sharpshooter. He’d barely handled a gun before and instead of hitting the asshole’s chest, he only managed to get Gates’s left arm—not even the one holding the gun.

  Gates gasped but lifted that weapon and fired.

  Kellan felt something shove him. Someone. Just as the bullet would have hit his chest, someone he couldn’t see threw him, and he fell to the side and hit the ground on one knee, pain exploding along his leg.

  “Kellan!” a feminine voice screamed.

  Belle. He whirled to the sound of her voice. She looked terrified and worried, but she was alive. And that made her so beautiful to him.

  Kellan lifted the gun again and fired, aiming at Gates. He could see Eric moving through the door, trying to sneak up behind the bastard. Just a few seconds more.

  As he fired, he felt something hit his shoulder. There was a burst of pure fire across his skin before an odd numbness settled into his bones and the gun clattered from his hand.
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