Liv and I talked about men. How stupid they can be, how stubborn. She said that change is hard for everyone—but for leaders like Logan and Nicholas, it’s particularly difficult. Olivia made a lot of sense—she gave me sage, old-married-woman advice.

Then she offered me her bat.

I love her.

And now I’m in my room, lying on the bed, staring up at the canopy, my phone playing music from random playlists. “Collide” by Howie Day comes on—I’ve always liked this song. It reminds me of me and Logan. How our lives have woven around each other’s through the years. So many memories and moments. We’d circle each other, watch one another, veer away or try to fight it . . . but we were always pulled back together. Colliding. Connecting.

There was never going to be anyone for me but Logan St. James.

And despite how things went down last night, I believe he feels the same way. I remember the caress of his hand on my face, the way he looks as me like I’m the only thing he sees. I hear his whispers in my head, worshipful words, because he cherishes me. I know it; I feel the truth of it deep inside.

The song lyrics make me think of what he must be feeling right now. He said he wanted to be a part of something, but now he’s not a part of anything.

Logan’s lost his place. His footing.

For someone like him, that must be awful. And because I love him, I should be patient and supportive. I was right to call him out for standing me up—that wasn’t okay—but I should have listened more. I should help him find his new place.

Considering I want to be a psychologist, my empathy could use a little work.

I grab my phone and type a text to Logan:

I love you

But before I can hit send, someone knocks on my door. For a second I think it could be Olivia coming back to check on me. Then I start to smile as I imagine it might be Logan—coming to find me at the same time I’m reaching out to him. Wouldn’t that be romantic?

I climb off the bed and go to the door, excited.

But when I open it, my excitement plummets, and so does my smile.

Because it’s not Logan.

He tells me his name is Cain Gallagher. And it’s clear he’s an angry man.

It’s in the hiss of his words and tight clench of his hand around the gun he’s pointing at me. He’s somewhere in his late thirties, medium height, with a thin but strong build, and his eyes are small and sharp like two poisonous darts. He’s controlled, focused and wrathful.

He tells me his mother used to work in the palace, that he grew up here, was even an assistant gardener when he was younger. Then he moved away, got a job and got married, but his life never became what he wanted it to be.

What he deserved it to be.

His mother passed away a few years ago and he moved back to Wessco.

And that’s when things really went south. He lost his house and his career, his marriage fell apart—but it wasn’t because of anything he did. It was done to him.

And somehow, in his twisted rage . . . it became Nicholas Pembrook’s fault.

Because Nicholas had everything, and deserved nothing.

So Cain Gallagher decided to fix things. To make it right, make it even.

It was Cain who set The Horny Goat on fire. It was Cain who sent the letters and left that sick box for my sister. And it will be Cain who takes Nicholas’s wife and children away from him. Today.

I don’t know why he tells me all of this, but I think he’s going to kill me, so it won’t matter anyway. He seems to want someone to know that it was him, that he bested them all.

It would be too easy to say that Cain Gallagher is insane—I don’t think he is. At least, not in the technical sense. He knows what he’s doing. He knows that it’s wrong. He just doesn’t care.

Because he’s so, so angry.

He shoves the gun closer and I can smell the metal, almost feel the cold press of steel. A scream is caught in my throat—because it’s terrifying. I want to put my hands up and cower, I want to pull out of his grip and run, but I don’t. Because I’m so afraid of the end of that gun. Petrified that if I struggle or move the wrong way it will go off. It will end me.

So I don’t scream or fight or thrash. When he tells me to sit in the chair I do, frozen and as still as possible.

I barely breathe.

There’s a knock on my bedroom door and the gun jostles in Cain’s hand. I squeeze my eyes shut and wait for the blast. But it doesn’t come.

Instead, I hear Logan’s beautiful voice.

“Ellie. It’s me—open up, we need to talk.”

Cain moves behind me and aims the gun at the door.

Oh no. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no . . .

“Go away, Logan.”

“Ellie, please. I was a twat, I know . . . I’m sorry. Let me in.”

And I want to shout to him that I understand. That I’ve already forgiven him, that I love him.

But that will only get him killed.

So I lie.

“No, you were right. The princess’s sister and the East Amboy bodyguard don’t make sense—we’ll never last.”

“Elle . . .”

“I’ve changed my mind, Logan. I want the fairy tale. I want what Olivia has . . . castles and carriages . . . and like you said, you’ll never be able to give me that. I would just be settling for you. You’ll never be able to make me happy.”

And it’s as if I can feel his shock. His pain. And I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

The doorknob moves. “Ellie—”

I panic, screaming at the top of my lungs.

“Don’t come in! I don’t want to see you! Go away, Logan. We’re done—just go!”

Please go, I beg silently. Please go, my soul cries.

Go and live an amazing life, Logan. Love deeply and truly. I wish that for him. I want that for him—a life of joy and beauty and laughter.

I hear his footsteps retreating. Leaving me. And I’m glad. My shoulders sag and my lungs deflate with relief.

Until Cain taps my temple with the gun. “Call your sister.”

And the terror pulls my muscles tight again. I start to answer him, and then the door booms open . . .

ONE THOUGHT REPEATS IN MY head. One pledge, one promise:

I’m going to kill this man.

For touching her. For scaring her. For holding a weapon on her.

He will never leave this fucking room alive.

“Get that gun away from her,” I growl, measuring the distance from me to him—calculating the seconds it’ll take to reach him.

Ellie’s eyes are wide with terror, her face bleached white.

“Whatever you’re thinking,” he hisses at me, “however fast you might be, I promise this bullet is faster. It’ll tear a hole in her head before you lay a finger on me.”

He punctuates his words by moving the gun closer to Ellie’s temple, pressing it against her skin. “Shut the door.”

I grind my teeth and shut the fucking door. Because I can’t get to her in time.

Not yet.

He lifts Ellie by the arm, sticking the gun between her shoulder blades and backing up, keeping her in front of him like a shield.

She shakes her head, crying. “Why didn’t you go, Logan? You would be safe.”

“I’ll never leave you.” I swear to her. “Never.”

“Very sweet.” The man spits. He tells me to sit in the chair near the fireplace, to put my arms behind the back. I hear a rustle of plastic before he tells Ellie, “Tie him up. Tightly, or I’ll shoot you both.”

I feel her hands against my wrists, securing . . . zip ties. Fucking zip ties. Almost impossible to stretch or break no matter how much adrenaline and fury is pumping through me.

He yanks Ellie up and pushes her towards the desk, where the phone is. They’re both in front of me now—which is better. If I can see them, it will be easier to make my move when the chance presents itself.

“There are too many guards around your sister’s room. Call her—tell her to come here. Now.”

“And you’re gonna do what, exactly?” I ask, wanting to keep his attention on me. “You think they’re just gonna let you walk out of here with the Duchess?”

“They’d better. If not, I’ll put two shots in her belly. It may not kill her, but it’ll take care of the bastards she’s carrying.” Copyright 2016 - 2024