By: Tara Crescent

“What’s the matter?” I knew Lucien and I could recognize the signs. Something was disconcerting him.

“Nothing about this mission makes sense,” he exhaled. “I still can’t figure out what Hamilton does for Dylan McAllister.”

“He’s his finance guy,” I responded automatically.

“Is he? And why does he personally need to go to Hanoi to visit Dylan? Money moves online nowadays. Everything can be encrypted. Why fly hours and hours to visit in person?”

I didn’t want to think about this. I wanted to stay in my fantasy world. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Why does it matter?”

“Did he ever visit Abeokuta?” Lucien ignored my question and asked one of his own.

“No.” I didn’t want to think about Abeokuta.

“Has Sylvia Anliker visited yet?”

Another topic I didn’t want to think about. “No.”

He heaved a sigh. “Ellie,” he said. “Be careful. I don’t have a good feeling about this. I didn’t want to tell you this, but you know the two girls he bid on at the auction house?”

I felt a prickle of fear and dread at my neck. “Yes."

“I can’t find them. It’s as if they don’t exist.”

Breathe, Ellie, breathe. “Do you think they are dead?” My voice was flat. Utterly lifeless.

“We have to assume that it’s a possibility. Or perhaps he sold them to a collector.”

A collector? An image of Dylan automatically flashed into my head. Was Alexander Dylan’s procurer? That would explain the in-person visits. Was Alexander the one who had arranged for my kidnapping eight years ago? He would have been in his twenties then. With enough money, anything was possible, and god knows Alexander had enough money and more.

“I can take care of myself,” I said, but it was a lie and I knew it. For just a few days, my fear of Alexander had disappeared as I lived in my little fantasy world. But it was back and stronger than ever.

“Check in every two days,” he said flatly. “Don’t miss a check-in, or I’ll have to act.”

I felt a spiral of panic coil in my belly. Lucien could raise an alarm after two days. But by then, I could be anywhere in the world. I could be dead. I could take care of myself if I was fighting someone one-on-one. But I had no gun in Paris. No knife. No backup near at hand. I wasn’t equipped for this fight.

“Has he asked you to Hanoi yet?”

“It hasn’t come up.”

“Do you want out of this situation?”

“No.” I had to deal with my fear. Surmount it. Conquer it. For me to be able to sleep at night, Dylan McAllister had to die. Without my revenge, I had nothing.

The bubble had burst. My heart was slowly breaking, but I ignored it. I’d put my true mission on the backburner long enough. Alexander was exactly who he was and every fantasy of mine had been foolish and ridiculous. “I’m good. I’ve got to go.”


Elodie was preparing to go out as I entered the house. I’d gone for a walk after my talk with Lucien, hoping the fresh air would help clear my head. But it hadn’t helped at all. Paris was a city filled with lovers and my heart had just been broken. I couldn’t take it.

“Jenny,” she said to me, looking harassed. “I have to leave early. Will you tell Monsieur Hamilton that I’ve put dinner in the refrigerator?”

“Sure, I’ll tell him, Elodie,” I responded automatically.

My brain was whirring. I’d be alone in the house for the first time. The study was always off-limits to me; the door always locked. I’d never been invited in, except on the day we’d negotiated my submissive contract. But Alexander’s secrets were in that room. His computer. Paperwork. If he was in fact the person who had arranged for my kidnapping, that room might contain some proof.

I tried the handle of the door and as expected, it was locked. I stopped to think, though my heart was pounding in my chest. Elodie did a bit of light housework every day. She’d mentioned that there was a house cleaning crew that came in. All of them would have keys to the room. Somewhere in this large house, there had to be a key to the study.

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