“No, it isn’t. I’m afraid I have a bad habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Sadness filled her at the memories of her close friends.
“That’s a fucking understatement.” Ice’s snide voice raised her hackles.
“What do you want, for me to apologize for being taken hostage? If you hadn’t planned this lame-brained scheme, I would be safe and sound at my home.” She was practically screaming at Ice.
Ice jerked her up from the chair. “Calm down, baby. Don’t lose your cool now when you’re going to need it the most.”
“What I need is to be released.”
“Why would we let you go now? You’re our biggest bargaining chip,” Ice reasoned harshly.
“When I get out of here, my brother is going to whip your ass,” she threatened.
“He has to catch me first. Besides, I think I can handle a producer who doesn’t do anything except give orders all day.” His hand went to her throat as if he wanted to strangle her. He had just said he needed her, didn’t he? Surely he wouldn’t sabotage his own plans and harm her.
“Like you?” she said tartly.
His rigid body showed he wasn’t happy with the comparison. She waited for him to bark back another caustic retort; instead, she found herself battling her emotions once again.
“Jackal isn’t the only one who watched your dad’s movies. I remember when you were kidnapped, too. The bastard’s fortunate all they did to him was stick him in a mental hospital.”
“That’s where he needed to be. He’s ill.” That was what she told herself every morning and every night to regain the life he had stolen from her.
Ice stared deeply in her eyes. Grace imagined him reading the thoughts she kept hidden from everyone, including herself. His hand around her throat became almost caressing.
“Ice!” Fade called from the doorway.
“Jackal—” he began to order.
“I’ve got her. Go.” She took a deep breath when he released her.
Grace watched as Ice and Fade went to the door leading to solitary confinement and talked.
“How many are stuck in there?” she asked curiously.
“Just one,” Max answered.
“Are they going to be able to get him out?”
“Fade can break into anything. It’s his skill.”
“What’s your skill?” Despite herself, she wanted to get to know these men better.
“I can beat the shit out of anyone.” Max puffed up like it was an accomplishment to be proud of.
He was disappointed in her reaction. “Usually, women think that’s hot. I can do other stuff, too.”
Grace patted his arm. “I’m sure you can. You’re getting really good on the computer,” she praised.
“Don’t treat me like a kid. I’m not stupid.” She had hurt his feelings. The big bear of a man was sensitive to being perceived as stupid.
“I didn’t mean that at all, Max. I was complimenting you. You were my best student. You understood the lessons faster than anyone and made less mistakes. I would have given you an A.”
“What were you going to give Jackal?” Grace turned to the man who sat, quietly listening.
“An F. He was terrible.” Grace rolled her eyes to the ceiling.
Max’s loud laughter brought a smile to her lips. How she could find something amusing in the situation, she didn’t know, but the men beside her made her feel safe. She prayed it wasn’t another deadly mistake she was making.
* * *
“How much longer?” Ice demanded.
“I don’t know,” Fade answered his president. “I’m doing the best I can. They changed the code before I could get in. Now I’m going through layers of steel. Give me time.”
“That money Grace’s family offered just took away our time. This has gone from a local curiosity to a fucking media circus. We have to finish before they come in or the other men take her for the reward.”
“Got you. I’ll hurry.”
Ice nodded, leaving the brother to finish the job, which was turning out to be a cluster-fuck of major proportions. He had known something was up when a beautiful woman like Grace had buried herself at a small university. What woman did that? None he knew of, and there wasn’t much he didn’t know about women.
He heard Max’s laughter and saw his friend and brother happier than he had been in months. He wasn’t the only one Grace made feel that way. The woman managed to surprise him, and that hadn’t happened in years.
After what happened to her when she was barely seventeen, it was amazing she wasn’t a fucked-up mess. Ice was certain her parents paid a pretty Penny to fix the damage Winston had done. The man hadn’t even seen a day in court; he had been placed in a mental hospital since he’d lawyered up. Men like that disgusted him, and he was watching another one move closer to Grace as she talked to Max. While Church thought he was going to pull some sneaky shit, it was just going to get his ass in hot water.