“You’re fucking insane.”
I stared at the man who’d kidnapped me, trying to piece together how he might think this would ever work. My hands were cuffed together at the front of my body, and there was no way I’d be able to escape again. Hell, I’d barely managed to escape the first time. What I hadn’t considered was that this whole island was my prison. Just because I’d gotten out of the room where he’d been keeping me for the past week didn’t mean I’d ever been free.
Hayden’s hair was still damp from the rainwater and the little swim from his boat, which I’d forced him to take when I’d tricked him into thinking I’d boarded. I’d hidden on the other side of the jetty, with my heart pounding and my breath trapped in my lungs, waiting until I’d seen him go below deck, searching for me, and then I’d slipped out and unhooked the boat from its moorings. I hadn’t considered that he’d have lifejackets and other flotation devices. I’d hoped he’d have been carried far away from the island during the storm, but instead he’d abandoned ship and swam back into shore to find me.
His shirt was still wet and clung to his abs and pectoral muscles in a way I was trying not to find distracting. He was gorgeous, rich, and I’d sucked on his cock earlier that day to distract him, before stabbing him with a pencil. Though I knew I should push that memory out of my head, I couldn’t get the sexy, salty taste of him off my tongue, and my core clenched with desire at the thought. No, I didn’t want him. I couldn’t allow myself to want him. The man was as crazy as my father.
Maybe that’s why you’re attracted to him? Perhaps there’s a little part of you that’s so messed up by what your father did that now you can only relate to people who are equally screwed up.
I didn’t want to think such a thing was true, but I couldn’t pretend there wasn’t a chance. After all, I’d never had any kind of relationship with a man. There had been sex, of course, but nothing emotionally intimate. But when Hayden had told me the story of how he’d found his mother after my father had murdered her, my soul had reached out to his, wanting to comfort him, even after everything he’d done to me. Because he was right when he said I wasn’t innocent in all of this. Yes, I might have been twelve when I’d lied to the police, but I was old enough to know better. The knowledge sat like a churning coil of snakes in the pit of my stomach. I’d known my dad wasn’t innocent. I’d found women’s belongings hidden in our house—stuff I knew didn’t belong to my mother—and I’d watched him from my bedroom window as he’d sneaked out of the house at ungodly hours, thinking he was leaving me, my brother, and my mom all sleeping soundly. Did my mother know about his nightly trips out when she’d lied? Did she know about the other women’s belongings hidden behind the kitchen kickboard? Or had she simply lied because she’d found it impossible to believe he was capable of doing such a thing, had lied because she was desperately trying to keep her family together? Or maybe she had simply convinced herself that he was home night after night, curled up beside her in bed, and not out with his hands wrapped around the throat of some poor, innocent woman.
Either way, the lie had been enough to kill my mother, and she’d chosen to die rather than live with it. I, however, had chosen to keep going, and even now I was faced with the son of the final woman my father had killed—a woman who would never have died had I simply spoken up and told the police the truth—I found I still wanted to live.
I turned my attention back to Hayden’s crazy plan.
“My father isn’t going to escape,” I told him. “He’s in a high security prison.”
But, frustratingly, Hayden nodded. “Oh, he will. I’ve got people on the inside who’ll make sure he’s able to.”
“And then what? You really think he’s going to try to rescue me?” I shook my head. “I think you’re forgetting who my father is.”
Hayden’s green gaze bored into mine. “He always loved you—you and your brother, but mostly you. If I give him enough to find you, he’ll come after you.”
“And that’s when you’ll kill him?”
A slow nod made up part of his answer. “Exactly.”
I thought of something. “Wouldn’t this have all have been easier if you’d had him killed while he’s still inside?”
A muscle in his square jaw tightened. “No. I want to be able to do it. I want to look directly in his eyes and make sure he understands why he’s about to die. And I want him to understand the fear and horror of knowing someone you love is in the hands of a psychopath. I want him to torture himself about all the terrible things I’m doing to you, just like I tortured myself about those final hours of my mother’s life.”
“How is he even going to know where to find me?”
A hint of a smile quirked the corner of his lips. “Oh, that’s where you’re going to help.”
My stomach lurched, and I shook my head. “No. I don’t want anything to do with that man.”
What was he going to do? Dangle me on a piece of string to lure my father out of hiding, and then kill him? I didn’t want to see my father, not after all these years, but I didn’t want to watch Hayden kill him either. My mind whirred. I wondered if it was possible to get a warning to my father, somehow. I almost laughed at myself. What the hell did I think I was going to be able to do? I couldn’t help myself, never mind help him. And did I even want to help him, anyway? Wasn’t I doing exactly the same as I’d done back when I was a child—protecting him when he didn’t deserve my protection? Maybe he deserved to die, and Hayden deserved to be the one who killed him. But the last thing I wanted was to be involved.
“When is this all going to happen?” I asked instead, aware I had no choice. I’d already tried to make a break for escape, and look how that had ended. I was now in handcuffs, and Hayden had seen me naked. Worse than that, I’d put myself in a compromising position to try to win my freedom. What if I’d given Hayden the idea that because I’d been the one to start things between us physically, he was now allowed to do whatever he wanted? I was cuffed, and it wasn’t as though I’d be able to fight him off if he decided he wanted to end what I’d started.
“As soon as the plane gets back, and I get word that your father has received the letter you wrote. The next communication has to be worse, and not only that, it will give a hint about what your location is going to be—something only you and he will understand. He’ll make an attempt to break free, with a little help and a push from some of the guards I have working on the inside, and then he’ll come and find you.”
“Please, Hayden. There must be something else you can do. My father is being punished. He’s been sentenced, and he’ll be spending the rest of his life behind bars.”
Hayden snorted. “You think that’s enough of a punishment? I expect he’ll be well treated in there. He’s probably got a whole group of like-minded friends, and he’s spending the rest of his life with a roof over his head and food in his stomach. He deserved the death penalty, and I swear I’ll be the one who gives it to him.”
“And what happens to me after you’ve killed him?”
He narrowed his eyes. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“You might go to prison yourself,” I pointed out, “if they catch you. And not only for killing my father, but for kidnapping and holding me against my will, too. Then what would be the point in all of this?” I gestured around, hoping he’d realize I was talking about the beautiful house and island. “You’ve clearly worked hard to own all of this, and it’ll be taken away from you if you go down for kidnapping and murder.”
Hayden shook his head and rubbed his hand across his mouth. “Can’t you see the only reason I ever wanted to earn a lot of money was so I had the means to revenge my mother’s death? I don’t give a fuck about big houses, or private planes, or any of the other shit that goes with it. But if I didn’t have the money, I wouldn’t be able to pull this off. People respond to cold hard cash. How else would I get them to do what I want?”
He had a point.
“And you’re just going to give it all up,” I continued, hoping to get through to him.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me. The house is just bricks and concrete. The plane is metal and fuel. Even this island is nothing more than a pile of rocks and dirt. None of those things would notice or care if anything happened to me. In fact, no one would. I could vanish off the face of the earth, and no one would give a fuck.”
I heard the pain tainting his voice. “I’m sure that’s not true. What about Loretta? She seems to care about you.” Why the hell was I trying to comfort my kidnapper? I should be happy that he was alone and unhappy. But the truth was that I felt responsible for his loneliness. He was a result of what my father had done to his mother, of what he’d witnessed when he’d found her. And my father would never have been able to do that if I’d told the truth and the police had arrested him that night.
He gave a cold laugh. “Loretta doesn’t care about me. She’s only here for one reason.”
I was grasping at straws. “Because you pay her?”
“Yes, I pay her, but that’s not how we found each other. Loretta is another of your father’s victims.”
I felt as though he’d punched me in the chest, winding me. “What?”
I did the math. Loretta looked to be older—in her late fifties, at least. Had my father seen her as one of his victims? She would have been late forties during his killing spree, which I felt sure was far older than he normally went for. Even Hayden’s mother was slightly older, but she’d been in her thirties, not approaching fifty. It didn’t make sense.
“What happened? He tried to hurt her somehow?” I was trying to make sense of it all.
But Hayden shook his head. “Not her. He killed Loretta’s daughter. She was twenty-six.”
I felt sick. I lifted my cuffed hands to cover my face. “Oh, God.” No wonder the other woman hated me so much. Did she see my father’s face when she looked at me? I’d protected the man who’d murdered her daughter. Fuck, I would have Tased me too, given the opportunity. I was surprised she hadn’t done worse, but then I realized the reason she hadn’t.
“So, she knows about your plan,” I said, lowering my hands to look at him again. “She wants you to kill Patrick Dorman, and she’s happy for you to use me as bait.”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t she be? She knows what you did.”
Shame flooded through me, and I lowered my gaze to the floor. “I was twelve years old. I was trying to protect my dad.”
“You were protecting a murderer. There’s no excuse for that.”
A rush of cold flooded my veins, and I shivered. I’d already felt as though I was in a place of animosity, but now I fully understood the reasoning behind it, I felt their feelings as though they were my own. A part of me wanted to stand in front of Loretta and beg her forgiveness and allow her to electrocute me as many times as she liked. I wanted her to give her pain to me, to let me carry that burden. I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like to raise a child and have her grow up to be a beautiful, successful woman, only to have her torn away so brutally. Just as with Hayden, some of the hatred I’d felt toward her seeped away now that I knew her story.
Perhaps people would argue that I’d only been a child back then. But I wasn’t a child any longer. I’d thought I was trying to do my bit and pay back to society by studying psychology in the hope of eventually helping young people who’d gone through traumas of their own, but perhaps it was all too little too late.
I stared down at my hands, and my vision blurred as tears flooded my eyes and a painful lump choked my throat. “I’m sorry,” I managed to say. “I never wanted any of this to happen. I wish I could go back in time and speak up when I’d had the chance. I wish my father was never a murderer, and I wish my mother hadn’t killed herself. I wish my brother was still a part of my life, and that you hadn’t decided to kidnap me to use me as bait.”
But he growled. “Stop it. I’m not interested in your tears.”
I swiped at my face with the back of my hand.
“We’re stuck here for the moment,” he said. “I don’t know how long the storm is going to last, but my pilot won’t be able to get back to the island until it’s passed. And I’m still waiting on word to see if that last letter was enough to push your father into breaking out, or if we’re going to need to step things up a level.”
My heart lurched into my throat. “Step things up a level? What does that mean?”
The threat in his tone was unmistakable. “I think you know exactly what it means.”