“Get some rest,” he murmured before kissing her forehead. “I’ll take care of Travis and Cammie while you sleep.”

She closed her eyes, though she knew sleep wouldn’t come. She didn’t want it to. She had too much to ponder and she needed to be left alone to plot her course of action. Maybe today wasn’t the day he planned to dispose of her. But tomorrow? How could she know?


DONOVAN waited and worried. Something was bothering Eve. He was sure of it. When she’d returned from Sophie’s she’d been listless, and lines of pain were etched on her face. He’d wanted to call Maren, but Eve had insisted she didn’t need her. He’d tried to give her an injection, but she’d refused that too.

He’d even called Sophie back, demanding to know what had happened while she’d been over there, but Sophie had told him only what she’d related when she’d first called. That Eve wasn’t feeling well and had wanted to go back to Donovan’s.

She’d lain on the couch for most of the afternoon and into the evening, though he hadn’t known if she’d truly slept. Her features had been too tense for him to believe she’d drifted off. Either that or her sleep was fractured with bad dreams.

He’d awakened her, wanting her to eat dinner with him and Cammie and Travis, but she’d refused that too. So she’d remained on the couch while he had a quiet dinner with the others and he’d soothed Cammie when she’d asked him what was wrong with Eve.

But he couldn’t soothe himself.

After dinner, he put Cammie to bed with Travis and then went back into the living room to Eve.

“It’s time for bed,” he said in a soft voice as he sat on the edge of the couch close to her head. “Do you think you can sleep?”

She looked . . . unhappy. And that bothered him. But she nodded and allowed him to help her to her feet. He guided her into his bedroom, and she stiffened when he started toward his bed. Did she think he’d want to make love to her? Did she think him so insensitive that he’d place his wants and needs above hers?

“Eve, you aren’t feeling well,” he said gently. “I just want to hold you so you’ll feel better.”

She relaxed a little, but he could still feel the rigidity in her body as he tucked her into bed. Taking only time to take off his shirt and jeans, he crawled into bed next to her, automatically reaching for her.

For a long time she lay there, quiet, but he knew she didn’t sleep. She lay in the crook of his arm, her head pillowed on his shoulder. But she stared sightlessly up at the ceiling and she hadn’t relaxed.

After two hours in which neither of them slept, he finally turned to her.

“You’re not resting,” he said quietly. “You aren’t sleeping. Let me give you an injection, Eve. You’re in pain and it’s not necessary. The medicine will help you sleep and take away the pain.”

He could swear that tears flashed in her eyes, but the low light streaming from the bathroom wasn’t enough for him to be sure.

Without waiting a response, he got up and went into the bathroom, where he kept one of the med kits. He prepared a syringe and then returned to the bedroom, where she hadn’t moved from the place he’d left her.

She obediently rolled over, presenting her hip, and once he injected the medication, she rolled back, pulling the covers up over her body in an almost defensive gesture. He discarded the syringe and then crawled back into bed, worry for her nagging relentlessly at him.

She relaxed some as the medication took hold and he pulled her closer to him, pressing his lips to her clammy forehead.

Whatever was worrying her, he’d get to the bottom of it tomorrow. But then tomorrow was also the day he’d arranged the meet-up with her stepfather. That had to be done and out of the way. Only then could he move forward with her and prove to her that she was safe. That he’d never allow anyone to harm her or her siblings, nor would anyone ever take them away.

And then it occurred to him that for all her worry earlier and for her reluctance to leave him to discuss his plan with his brothers and KGI, she hadn’t asked him about it. After securing his promise that he would tell her everything, she hadn’t brought up the subject even once.

He frowned in the darkness. Was that what she was fretting over? Or had she simply forgotten once the headache had taken hold? Or was the headache a result of her stress and worry?

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he’d tell her everything. Just as soon as her stepfather was out of the picture for good.


EVE was awakened by Donovan gently shaking her from sleep. Her eyelids fluttered open and she blinked the remnants of the drug-induced fog from her vision. She hadn’t wanted the injection but recognized the futility of trying to sleep when she was so wrapped up in her anguish. She needed a clear head for today.

“How are you feeling?” Donovan asked in concern.

She sent him a wan smile. “Better.”

She knew he didn’t believe her, and she wasn’t that good an actress. He looked reluctant but also grim and determined. It was the determination that frightened her. As though despite any misgivings, he was determined to go through with his plan. Did she glimpse a gleam of conscience in those eyes? Apparently not enough for him to second-guess his intentions.

“I have to go out for a while,” he said. “But I’ll be back soon. Rusty is coming over to stay with you awhile. Just until I get back.”

She didn’t ask where he was going. She didn’t have to. Fear beat a steady rhythm in her chest. Her pulse thudded violently at her temples and she could feel the headache returning and with it the heartsickness that had filled her to bursting yesterday and well into the night.

“All right,” she said quietly, her heart breaking with every breath.

He leaned down and kissed her forehead, leaving his lips there for a long moment.

“This will be over soon, honey. I promise.”

With that, he drew away and got up from the bed, walking toward the door.

She waited only a few moments before rising to look out the window as he drove out of the compound. Then she turned quickly away and went to her bedroom to pack a small bag. Just enough to carry in a backpack. A few changes of clothing. The little cash she had from before. Her mother’s jewelry.

She then went into the kitchen, knowing Rusty would show up soon. She dug out paper and a pen and hastily wrote a note for Travis and Cammie. When she had finished, her eyes burning with tears, she folded it and went to their room, where they were still sleeping.

She didn’t remain there looking at them for long. It was too painful and she didn’t want them to awaken until she was away. After a silent good-bye that ripped her heart right out of her chest, she propped the note on Travis’s dresser where he would see it, and then she went to find one of Donovan’s guns that he kept in a drawer by his bed.


RUSTY pulled into Donovan’s drive and parked her Jeep beside Donovan’s truck just as he was walking out the door. He looked grim and resolved. Her nape prickled because she knew that look. Whatever shit was going down today was heavy.

Not that Donovan had volunteered anything in the way of information. He’d only said he needed her to come and stay with Eve while he “took care of business.”

Rusty pitied the poor fool Donovan intended to take care of. Though none of her brothers was ever overly descriptive in their accounts of the missions they went on, she’d gleaned enough—and hell, she had eyes—to know that a Kelly man on a mission was a very scary thing to behold.

“Thanks for coming, Rusty,” Donovan said. “I hope to be only a few hours, but I’ll keep in touch. I don’t want Eve to worry, so if you can keep her occupied and distracted I’d appreciate it. She wasn’t feeling well yesterday. I think the stress is getting to her. She had a headache and I had to give her an injection so she could sleep last night. I left her in bed, so don’t disturb her. I want her to . . . rest.”

Rusty could see the very real concern reflected in Donovan’s eyes. She reached out to squeeze his shoulder. It was odd to be offering him comfort since he was usually the one doing the comforting and reassuring in the Kelly family. But he looked as though he needed it, and while he’d mentioned the fact that he had to give Eve an injection to help her sleep, he himself didn’t look as though he’d slept a wink.

“I’ll take care of things here,” she assured him. “Now go kick some ass so Eve and her siblings can move forward with their lives.”

No, he hadn’t volunteered any information on the who and how of his mission today, but she wasn’t an idiot. She knew it had everything to do with Eve’s stepfather and that Donovan would be making his move in short order. She only wished she could be there to see the ensuing ass kicking.

The corner of Donovan’s mouth lifted in a semblance of a smile, but his expression was serious and his gaze focused. Determined. He didn’t acknowledge her statement that it was Eve’s stepfather he was taking care of, but neither did he refute it.

He ruffled her hair and then without a further word, he strode to his truck, got in and roared down the road toward the main entrance to the compound. Rusty watched until he disappeared, a cloud of dust kicking up in his wake.

They really ought to consider paving the roads inside the compound.

She waved her hand in front of her face to clear the cloud of dust that drifted back toward the house, and then she turned and headed to the front door, quietly letting herself in.

But when she walked inside the living room, she stopped dead in her tracks, staring in shock at the sight before her.

Eve, her expression just as grim and determined as Donovan’s had been, was standing a few feet away and she was holding one of Donovan’s pistols. And it was pointed directly at Rusty.

“What the hell?” Rusty demanded, anger surging, her words biting in the silence.

“You’re going to get me out of this compound,” Eve said calmly.

“What the hell for?”

There was genuine bafflement in Rusty’s question. What the holy hell was going on here? She felt as though she’d stepped into an alternate universe. Had the entire world gone mad on her?

“Why isn’t important,” Eve said, her voice like ice.

Her eyes were cold, her expression inscrutable. But the gun never wavered in her grasp, and it made Rusty damn nervous.

“Um, Eve? Just so you know, that pistol doesn’t have a safety.”

If she sounded nervous, it was because she was. She was bloody well terrified. And Rusty didn’t scare easily. But being on the business end of a loaded, aimed gun? Yep, that would do it.

“Then you better make sure my finger has no reason to accidentally pull the trigger,” Eve said in an even icier tone.

Holy fuck. The world had gone insane. Rusty shook her head, certain that this was some bizarre dream she’d walked into.

“I don’t understand,” Rusty said quietly, trying to stall. But how? Donovan would likely be gone for hours. Her other brothers would all be with him, as would Nathan and Joe’s team in all likelihood. There was no one to help her. No one to defuse the situation. Rusty was it, and if she didn’t get Eve to see reason quickly, this was going to be one FUBAR situation.

Not to mention Donovan would have her ass if she allowed Eve off the premises. With her stepfather still a wild card, it wasn’t safe for Eve to leave the confines of the high-security compound. Surely she had to realize that.

“All you need to understand is that if you don’t do exactly as I tell you, I’ll pull the trigger,” Eve said in a cold voice Rusty didn’t recognize at all.

Eve was one of the most gentle, soft-spoken women Rusty had ever met. This was so out of character for her that Rusty didn’t even know where to begin. But whatever she did, she had to do it quick before this resulted in death. Her death.

“I’m mentally unstable, remember?” Eve taunted. “A danger to myself and to others. Surely you know that. It’s in all the news reports.”

“Bullshit,” Rusty snapped. “Where are Travis and Cammie?”

Her response seemed to surprise Eve.

“They’re staying here,” Eve said, her voice cracking with emotion for the first time since Rusty had walked through the front door.

Here was a weakness Rusty could possibly exploit.

“You’d just leave them behind?” she asked incredulously. “If you do, you aren’t the person I thought you were, Eve.”

Pain drifted into Eve’s eyes. And grief. Honest-to-goodness devastation. It was as plain as if Eve wore a sign on her forehead.

“I can help you,” Rusty said in a low voice, one she hoped was soothing and convincing. “Just tell me what’s going on. You have to know I’ll do anything I can to help. I can call Donovan. He’ll sort this out. Whatever it is, Eve. It can be solved. It’s what my brothers do.”