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Mine to take, p.2

Mine to Take, page 2

 part  #1 of  Mine Series


Mine to Take
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  Her dancing had gotten her out of poverty. Into the bright lights of studios and stages in New York. Her dancing had given her a new life.

  And taken her from his.

  “The money is a problem.” She wasn’t looking at him anymore. He wanted her eyes on his.

  He leaned toward her. Caught her hand.

  That made her gaze fly right back to his. “I’ll find a way to pay you,” she told him. “I can do it, just give me some time.”

  His going rate—for his newest junior agents, not for his personal services because he didn’t go into the field any longer—was three hundred an hour. “We’ll work it out.”

  He had plenty of plans for her.

  His fingers threaded through hers. His hand swallowed hers. His skin was rough and dark, tanned from the time he spent in the sun. Her hand was pale, almost fragile. So very breakable.

  Hadn’t he always thought that about her? From the first moment he’d seen her, when he’d rushed into that room, hearing her scared cries…

  Don’t, please don’t!

  She’d been his to save then.


  “What are you thinking about?” Skye whispered.

  “The way it used to be.”

  Her lashes were long. Her dark green eyes were so sexy. Her breath slipped out a little too quickly. “I wasn’t sure you’d even remember me.”

  Only every damn minute. There were some things a man could never forget.

  “You should have come to me sooner.” He hated to think of her out there, afraid.


  “The last time we spoke,” her voice seemed to stroke right over him, “you told me to get the hell out of your life. Coming back wasn’t easy.”

  The car slowed.

  His jaw had locked. You’re not getting away so easily this time.

  “I think we’re here,” she said and tugged on her hand.

  He didn’t release her. “You said you didn’t have a lover.” Good. He didn’t want to think of her with some other bastard.

  Her gaze held his.

  “You will, Skye.”

  She shook her head. “Trace…”

  His name was a husky murmur from her. Denial and need all tied together.

  Her lips were too close. She smelled too good. Sweet vanilla. Good enough to damn well eat.

  He took her mouth. Not gently. Not softly. Because he’d never been that kind of guy. Trace knew he wasn’t the tender lover type.

  He’d fought for every single thing that he had. He’d keep fighting.

  His tongue thrust into her mouth. She tasted even sweeter than she smelled. Her lips were soft and lush, and she was kissing him back. A low moan rose in her throat, and her tongue slid lightly against his.

  He’d been the one to teach her how to kiss.

  And to fuck.

  He deepened the kiss, needing more, so much more from her than he could get right then. She’d come to him because she was afraid, but he wasn’t interested in her fear. He wanted her passion. He wanted her.

  She pulled back. Her lips were wet and red from his mouth.

  His addiction. The one that he’d never been able to ditch.

  No matter how much money he got, no matter how many women came into his bed, Skye was the one he wanted, the one that he would have.

  There was a price for everything in this world. He knew that lesson well.

  Skye would pay a price.

  So would he.

  It was a good thing he could afford that price this time.

  She nearly jumped from the car when he let her go. He exited slowly, far too aware of the ache for her—and of the arousal that wasn’t going away.

  Sunlight glinted down on him. Early spring, but still cold because that was the way of his city. He ignored the chill and stared up at the apartment complex. Older, in a more rundown area just outside of the city.

  When she’d been in New York, her place had been so much bigger—so close to the lights of Broadway.

  The hospital bills had taken a lot of her money. He knew that. He knew so much more than she realized.

  “Stay here,” he told Reese and then Trace followed Skye to the building. Security at her apartment was non-existent. Anyone could walk right in…

  And they did.

  “I’m on the third floor,” Skye said.

  The top floor.

  “The elevator is getting fixed right now, so…” She turned for the stairs.

  He didn’t move. “Can your leg handle that climb?”

  Her shoulders snapped up. Ah, there it was. Her fierce pride. One of the things that had so drawn him to her. “Yes. I can handle it.” And she didn’t look back as she started on the stairs. But he noticed she clung a little too tightly to the banister.

  He followed behind her, easily closing the distance that separated them, and he stayed one stair behind her, all the way up.

  His gaze noted everything. The peeling paint on the walls. The lights that flickered. The lights that weren’t on at all.


  Then they were on the third floor. There were three other doors on that floor, but she took him to apartment 301. He stopped her before she could put her key in the lock. Trace bent, inspecting the old, golden lock. No scratch marks to indicate that someone had tried to pick it. There were no signs of tampering at all.

  He eased back. She unlocked the door. It opened with a groan of sound, the hinges ancient and obviously in need of oil. Skye hurried inside, stumbling just a little, before she flipped on the lights.

  The apartment was small but so very Skye. Bright colors lit the walls, comfortable furniture filled the interior. The curtains were pulled back near the windows, letting the light spill inside.

  The place smelled of her.

  He advanced toward the windows. The fire escape led all the way up to her floor. The windows were locked there, and, again, he didn’t see any sign of tampering.

  “I know what you’re doing.” She stood a few feet behind him. “The detective—Griffin—didn’t find any sign of a break-in, either. But I’m telling you, someone has been here.”

  “Did I say that I didn’t believe you?” He glanced back at her.

  Skye shook her head.

  “Take me to your bedroom.”

  She rocked back a step.

  “That’s where he goes, doesn’t he?” Trace didn’t let any emotion enter his voice. Now wasn’t the time for emotion.

  Skye spun away and walked down the narrow hallway. She opened another door. “It’s…here.”

  He brushed past her and stepped inside the small room. The bed was wooden, an old four-poster. A chest of drawers—one that had been painted a bright blue—waited to the left. A matching dresser stood to the right.

  Nothing looked disturbed in her room. “When is the last time you think he was here?”

  “Last night,” she said as her gaze went to the bed. “When I came home last night, my—my underwear was left on the bed.”

  He stared at the bed.

  “I didn’t leave them there,” she continued, voice tight. “I know I didn’t. Someone is playing some kind of game with me.”

  “I don’t think it’s a game.” Trace glanced away from the bed and back at her. Skye hadn’t moved away from the door. “I think someone is stalking you.” He paused. “Someone like this can be very, very dangerous.”

  Her eyes were on his.

  “To break into your home, to follow you…” He lifted his hand and brushed back the hair that had slipped over her shoulder. “It sounds like the guy is fixated on you.”

  “You’ll find him, though?”

  “I will. My agents will watch your place. No one will get in here again.”

  Her breath whispered out. “Thank you.”

  “I’ll get better locks on your doors and windows.” He’d do a hell of a lot more than that. “You’ll be safe here.”

  She nodded quickly.

  “You’d be safer…”
He had to say it. “If you came back home with me.”

  Her eyes widened. “Trace…”

  “It’s not like it would be the first time, Skye.”

  She retreated. Her back hit the door frame. “No. I didn’t come to you…for that.”

  That. The storm of lust and need and want that had consumed them before.

  The uncontrolled desire had almost destroyed them both.

  “I need your help, Trace, but that’s all.”

  It wasn’t all he wanted. But he’d give her this moment. Soon enough, she’d be coming to him.

  I know her weaknesses.

  Trace inclined his head. “Then I’ll get your protection started. It’s the least I can do for my old…friend.” Once more, his body brushed past hers. The tension rolled off her as he headed into the hallway.

  “We were, once.”

  Her voice halted him.

  “We were friends before we were anything more.” Her words were soft, like a whispered confession.

  Yes, they had been friends, but they’d lost that, long ago.

  He pulled out his phone even as he headed for the front door. As soon as the front door closed, he demanded, “I want agents at Skye Sullivan’s apartment.” The address came from him as a curt bark. “New locks. A video camera and alarm inside.” She didn’t even have an alarm. “I want a team watching the place.” He remembered the way her hand had gripped the banister. “And I want the fucking elevator fixed.”

  His orders would be obeyed. His staff jumped at his command. He wasn’t the abandoned, penniless kid anymore. He had the power now.

  Trace glanced over his shoulder at Skye’s closed apartment door.

  He had the power, and he was going to use it.


  The dream came again. It snuck up on him when he was tired or when she got into his mind too much.

  He found himself back in that old house. The one with the roof that sagged. With carpets that had been worn bare.

  Another home. Another place.

  His first night there.

  “Don’t, please…”

  The voice had called out to him.

  He’d been on his feet before he’d thought twice. On his feet and on his way to her.

  The dream took over.

  His fist shoved open the wooden door, revealing a small bedroom. He hadn’t seen that one when they’d brought him in to the house earlier that day. Two people were on the bed. The boy—his new “brother” Parker. The other was the girl…the one with the long hair and the sad eyes.

  The pretty girl who’d been too shy to speak to him before.

  But he was sure her voice had been the one calling to him, begging, “Please, don’t…”

  Only she wasn’t speaking anymore. Wasn’t crying out, not pleading.

  Because Parker had his hand over her mouth.

  “What the hell are you doing?” Trace demanded.

  “Get out, man, get out!” Parker snapped back, but he kept his voice low.

  So his parents wouldn’t hear?

  Trace’s gaze shot to the girl. Tears leaked from her eyes. Parker had one hand over her mouth, and one of his hands pinned her small wrists to the bed.

  Rage pushed through Trace. “Get off her, now.”

  “Get out,” Parker said again, “or I’ll tell my parents to ship your ass out of here. This is my house, I say what—”

  He didn’t get to say anything else. Trace knocked the guy off her. He drove his fist into Parker’s face, again and again. Bones broke. Blood spurted. Trace kept hitting him.

  “Stop! You’re going to kill him!” Her voice. Her hands on him.

  Trace’s eyes flew open as the dream—his past—vanished.

  His hands were clenched into fists.

  Skye needed him again.

  I won’t let her down.

  Chapter Two

  Skye stared at her reflection. Too pale. Too thin. She didn’t look like a star who belonged in the center of the lights.

  That’s not who I am.

  Sometimes, she wasn’t sure she’d ever really been that woman.

  Her hands reached for the barre. She’d installed it herself. Just gotten the mirrors positioned a few moments ago. Right after she’d finished up the paint job. Done it all—herself. There was a grim pride in her accomplishment. She’d sweated blood and tears for this place.

  The studio had taken the last of her money. She’d put down her deposit and paid rent for a half a year. Skye knew that opportunity—that precious six months—was her chance. To do something. To get her life back.

  The studio was hers. She would make it work.

  Only the image staring back at her in the mirror didn’t look so certain.

  Skye rose onto her toes, ignoring the twinge in her left calf. That twinge would soon turn to an ache, but she’d ignore that, too. She’d grown used to ignoring pain over the years. That was the first rule of dancing. No pain. If your body was weak, you ignored the weakness. You danced until your feet bled. Then you went out onto the stage, and you danced some more.

  Her arms stretched. Her back arched. Her first dance class would start in three days. That would give her just enough time to—

  The lights turned off. Every single light shut off at once, plunging her into total darkness.

  Her heels hit the hardwood floor. The circuit breaker. Dammit, this same problem had happened before. Only then it had been daytime and sunlight had trickled through the windows, providing enough illumination for her to see. Now, there was just night to deepen the darkness.

  She kept her hand on the barre as she made her way to the door. The building manager had promised her that the problem had been fixed.

  This isn’t fixed. This is—

  A faint rustle of sound reached her ears.

  Like a shoe. The quick press of a footstep.

  Skye froze. “Is…is someone there?” When she’d left her apartment, Trace’s men had been installing new locks and an alarm system. One of the men had even followed her to the dance studio. She was supposed to be safe.

  The floor squeaked. She knew that squeak. There was a weak spot near the front door. Every time she came inside the studio, she stepped in that spot and the floor squeaked beneath her.

  Not alone.

  She stopped advancing toward the door. Instead, she backed up, fast.

  “Skye…” A rasp of her name.

  Turning, she ran away from that rasp.

  But she didn’t get far. Hard hands grabbed her and locked tight around her stomach. He spun her around and jerked her against his body—and those hands holding her so tightly hurt.

  “I’ve been watching…” His voice was still a rasp. A terrifying rasp. He was bigger than she was. So much bigger and stronger, and he held her easily when she twisted against him.

  But he hadn’t covered her mouth. His mistake. “Help me!” She screamed as loudly as she could.

  Trace’s agent was outside. He’d hear her. He’d—

  Her attacker slammed her into the mirror. The glass cracked and shattered around her. His fingers pressed over her mouth, reminding her of a nightmare from her past that wouldn’t ever stop.

  Her head ached where it had hit the mirror. The wooden barre shoved into her back.

  His breath blew against the shell of her ear. “I will be the one,” he told her, voice low and hard.

  She lifted her knee. Tried to shove it into his groin, but he was already pulling back.

  Even as the sound of footsteps pounded toward her.

  Footsteps—and a light?

  “Ms. Sullivan?”

  She clung to the barre. It seemed to be the only thing holding her up right then. He was here. He was here.

  The flashlight hit her in the face. “Ms. Sullivan, what happened? I heard you cry for help.” It was her guard—Reese Stokes. She recognized his deep voice and that faint Alabama accent. If she could have moved, Skye would have hugged that man right then. Instead, she managed to
say, “He’s here!”

  That flashlight immediately swept the room, cutting through the darkness. But finding no one.

  “He?” Reese asked her as he came closer. He put his arm around her.

  “He’s here,” Skye said again. Trace had warned her, he’d told her…He’s dangerous. He’d been right. If Reese hadn’t been there, what would her attacker have done?


  At that familiar, deep voice, she tensed in Reese’s arms. Trace.

  The lights flooded back on at that moment, coming with a brightness that almost hurt her eyes.

  Trace rushed toward her. He pulled her from Reese. “What the hell just
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