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Fucking holiday. Fucking Rob, Jack swore in his head. “Literally,” he answered himself out loud. Turning his beat up red caravan around and pulling up in front of the apartment building, Jack groaned loudly and nearly pulled away. The place was rather ritzy and he felt even more the fool, as he reluctantly climbed out of the van. Jack’s long black trench coat shifted, and confusion flooded the valet’s face as he caught a flash of Jack’s long bare leg and golden spangled sandal. Jack handed the keys to the smirking valet. “Shut the fuck up,” he snarled to the kid who hadn’t said anything, as he pulled a black duffel bag out of the van.

The overly tanned, overly paid attendant just shook his head and chuckled as he got into the van and drove away from the entrance. Jack pulled the paper out of his trench coat pocket and double checked the address, praying he had made some kind of mistake. “Nope,” he snarled. “This is just great. Rob is such an asshole.”

Jack trudged up to the main door and it was opened for him by a uniformed man whose idiotic grin was almost enough to make Jack slug him. He stomped past the door attendant and headed for the elevator as quickly as he could. The sooner I get this over with the sooner I get to go back to some semblance of having dignity, his brain growled as he thrust his finger at the button and waited.

When the door opened Jack stood out of the way as a well dressed older couple exited, staring at him. Jack glared back momentarily, before walking into the elevator and hitting the button for the 6th floor. It seemed as though the elevator took an eternity to get to where he was going. The cheesy muzak only added to Jack’s stress level. With each beep that indicated he was passing another floor, Jack’s stomach lurched with the fear that the doors would open and someone would get into the enclosed space with him. The feeling that everyone could see straight through his trench coat was overwhelming and he cussed some more under his breath while he waited.

Finally the doors opened on the 6th floor and Jack stepped out with trepidation, heading down the hall toward apartment number 609. There was loud rock music blaring through the door. Oddly enough that seemed to help Jack calm down a bit. Maybe this chick would be a nice normal girl who would understand and not laugh her ass off at him. Then again this chick was with Rob so being nice and normal was unlikely. Hell, if I were anyone but me I’d be laughing at me! He took a deep breath as he stopped outside the door, dropped the long black duffel bag on the floor, stripped the trench coat off and thrust it into the bag, then fished around for the rest of the outfit.

Finally dressed and with a card, some chocolates, flowers and a small black box with a red ribbon in hand Jack rang the doorbell. He stood nervously waiting for someone to answer, praying that no one would come down the hall and see him like this. There was no immediate answer, so he rang the bell again. Fucking music’s too loud, he thought. Putting everything precariously in one hand and under one arm Jack knocked loudly on the door. Nothing. Knocking again he heard someone behind him clearing her throat. Jack turned around to see a girl in the doorway across the hall leaning on the door frame and smiling luridly at him as she giggled and eyed him up and down.

Steph considered that she might be losing her mind. Ever since their father had put her and her three sisters in this apartment Sue and Stacy were getting out of control. They spent all their time going out with their dad’s credit card, staying up late, and then waking up in the afternoon to start getting ready to do it all over again. Neither of them showed any consideration for the fact that Steph was trying desperately to get a degree. The only reason they were living here at all was because her father didn’t want her moving, alone, to the city.

Knowing full well that Sue wouldn’t turn the stuff down if asked, Steph was trying to remember why she wasn’t in jail for murder. Sue had been playing tons of ridiculous Valentine’s Dayesque music all day and had been trying on costume after costume for the party tonight. She has spent so much money on costumes that their father had called to tell her to pick one and return the rest.

Steph threw her books down and got up with the full intention of destroying the stereo. She knew that Sue would just come home with a new one. But in the mean time Steph would get a few hours of quiet. Maybe she’d even get a chance to finish her paper. As she walked through the living room an off-beat pounding caught her attention and she walked uncertainly toward the door.

Steph turned the knob and pulled the door open to find herself looking at the well muscled back of a man in what appeared to be a teeny tiny white cloth skirt tied with gold cords and gold sandals, with wings strapped to his back. The skirt was only barely long enough to hide his butt cheeks. There was a small bow and quiver of arrows with hearts for points. Steph couldn’t help but smile.

Jack started swearing under his breath again. He was knocking loud enough to get the neighbors, but he couldn’t get the stupid chick he had been sent for to open the damn door. He actually started to blush as the girl in the other doorway began to comment on his attire.

Dennise licked her lips as she stared at Jack. She never would have thought she’d see a grown man dressed like Cupid outside of some ignorant joke greeting card or a bad theme night a strip club. But there he was, tanned, ripped, dark and handsome, standing across the hall from her door. “If they don’t want to let you in, I’d be more than happy to let you come over here,” she said, putting way too much emphasis on the word “come.”

When she noticed that Dennise was standing in the doorway across the hall and was tormenting the poor guy, Steph decided that she should at least save him from the clutches of the hell bitch next door. “I do believe that if Dennise weren’t already a slut you’d be enough to turn her into one,” Steph yelled over the blaring music.

Dennise glared at her and then backed into her own apartment, closing the door behind her. Dennise often went out with Steph’s sisters. But Steph wasn’t invited. The women just didn’t get along.

Jack turned around to find himself staring into the bluest eyes he’d ever seen. The woman in the doorway which had been his original target was tall and slim. She had brown hair, pulled up into a pony tail and was wearing a Medical University t-shirt and jeans. She was the type of woman who could make a sweat suit look sexy. For a brief instant he had forgotten his mission and his getup and just stared at her.

Steph raised her eyebrows and gave the mute Cupid and expectant look, hoping to prompt him into telling her why he was here and dressed like this. But when he finally snapped into reality and opened his mouth to talk all she could hear was Meatloaf wailing out, “I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that…”

“Just a minute,” she yelled at him over the music then turned and vanished back into the recesses of the apartment.

Jack watched the goddess disappeared and then suddenly became acutely aware of himself again. Please, if there is a God, that wasn’t Rob’s chick, he thought. Then immediately he began swearing again. Even if she wasn’t Rob’s girlfriend, there was no way she’d be interested in dating him. First, there was the fact that she had to have money to be living here. Second, she had to have some brains if she was attending MU. Third, and most importantly she’d have to be a loon to consider any guy who showed up at her door dressed like Cupid and carrying chocolates, viable dating material.

Suddenly there was silence followed by horrific crashing and some screaming. Jack had no idea what had happened, but he dropped the stuff he was holding and took off into the apartment to the rescue. Locating the source of the screaming he found the beauty from the doorway standing over a completely devastated stereo system and an older less attractive version of her screaming what a bitch she was. There wasn’t any doubt that the two women were sisters. If the looks didn’t give it away, the way they were fighting would.

The unexpected appearance of Cupid in her bedroom actually managed to stop Sue’s ranting. Her eyes roamed over his body and a smile turned her lips. The shrill screaming became simpering and she straightened her far too tight hot pink top as she faced Jack. “Has Cupid found me at last,” Sue smiled.

Jack didn’t know if he should be more concerned by the look on the older sister’s face or the fact that the younger one had so thoroughly trashed an expensive looking stereo system. He cleared his thought. “Didn’t it have a volume button?”

Steph rolled her eyes. Jack couldn’t help smiling at her. There was something gorgeous about the indignant look she got on her face. “The volume seemed to have this nasty tendency of working its way back up whenever I turned it down. Cupid, is it? What do you want? You weren’t invited in.”

Jack shifted at the acknowledgement of his costume. “Sorry. I heard the crash and the screaming. I thought someone was hurt.”

Sue was already noticing that once again she was being overlooked and her younger prettier, sister, was getting all the attention of the handsome half-naked man in her bedroom. It was a mystery to their entire family how Sue’s features could be so similar to Steph’s, but just off enough to make her the unattractive one. Sue smiled. “Don’t mind Steph,” she cooed. “She has an undiagnosed ailment. It seems to start at the stick up her butt and travel out her mouth. None of her classes have managed to educate her on what to do about it.”

Fuck, Jack thought. She is Rob’s chick. “Uh, yeah,” he responded to the ungraceful attempt at an insult. “I just need to deliver something.” Realizing that he had dropped everything he walked back the way he’d come.

The door was standing wide open, the flowers were strewn about, and it looked as though he had trampled on the box of chocolates. “Shit,” Jack scowled despondently. There was no way that Rob was going to let this pass as a reasonable payment for his debt now.

The two women watched as Jack bent down and started to clean up the mess. There was no way to not find the site funny. Jack was tall, built, and dressed in a little white skirt with gold cords and wings. What girl wouldn’t laugh at that?

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Jack groaned and started crawling around and looking under the stand and chair, near the door. Then he crawled out into the hallway and started throwing the stuff out of his duffle bag. “There’s no way,” he began to panic.

Sue and Steph were both laughing out loud now. “What is it,” Steph managed to get out.

“Yeah, ha ha,” Jack glared. “Steph is it? Well, Steph, I was sent by Rob. I’m supposed to present you with the shit you’re currently standing on, read a ridiculous poem that he purchased on-line and ask you to marry him and go to some damn costume ball tonight to announce the engagement to the world. In about 10 minutes you’re going to get a phone call and he’s going to ask for your answer. I have currently managed to lose the fucking ring.”

Sue and Steph stood there watching Jack search frantically around the hall and the entrance to the apartment for the small black box he had dropped when he ran to see what was wrong.

Sue was the first one to come to her senses and start to help Jack look for it. “Are you sure you brought it?”

“Yes,” Jack said in annoyed exasperation. “I had it in my hand when you screamed and I ran back to see what had happened.” He stood up and looked around the floor farther into the room, in case it skidded somewhere. “I’m a dead man.”

“Steph what’s wrong with you,” Sue said, wide eyed. “If Rob bought you a ring it’s probably huge! Help look for it.”

Steph glared at her sister. Then, with a fearful expression, she began searching the floor. They looked everywhere. There weren’t that many places that it could have ended up. The chair and side table by the door were checked under repeated, as if one more set of eyes might see it where the others had not. When the phone rang, they all stopped looking for the engagement ring and stared at it. The pause between rings seemed to drag out.

Sue pushed Steph toward the phone. “Answer it!”

Steph shot Jack a confused sympathetic look. She wasn’t sure if she was asking for help or reassuring him. She didn’t know how this guy had gotten mixed up with Rob. But she did know that it was a dangerous place to be. Rob was wealthy, arrogant, and violent. The only reason she knew the guy was because her step mother had introduced them. Rob had been chasing her ever since. He had even followed her to school, enrolled in her classes, and chased off every guy who came anywhere near her. Steph’s step mother had even managed to convince her father that it would be a good idea to encourage Steph to get together with Rob. Steph had yet to figure out what her step mother’s motivation was, but she was positive there had to be something to the entire set up. Hell, for all Steph knew, her step mother had slept with the creep and now he was blackmailing her into talking Steph’s dad into okaying the engagement. That would be about standard for her step mother.

The phone rang again. Steph took a deep breath and walked over to the phone. “Hello?”

Rob’s voice slimed through the receiver and Steph held it away from her ear. Sue rolled her eyes. Jack watched Steph shift uncomfortably and move the phone from one ear to the other as she listened.

“No, Rob,” she said matter-of-factly. “No, it has nothing to do with how that guy did it. He was very romantic. I don’t think he could have found a way to be more romantic. I’m just not interested. I’ve told you that. It wouldn’t matter how you did it. The answer is no.”

Sue squealed, when she heard Steph’s answer. “What are you doing?” Sue glared at Jack as if it was his fault. Then she went over and took the phone. Steph only partially protested. “Rob? Yeah this is Sue. I’ll talk to her. Just call back later.” There was another pause and then Sue hung up the phone, turning on Steph. “Are you insane?”

Steph raised her eyebrows. “No, I’m graduating.”

Sue’s eyes narrowed and the glare she leveled on her sister was dangerous. Jack could feel that he shouldn’t be here, but he still needed that ring to give back to Rob, at the very least. Or he needed to establish if he should be leaving town. That last thought was far too serious for Jack’s comfort.

“Steph,” Sue insisted, glancing at Jack and then taking Steph by the arm and pulling her further into the apartment so that Jack wouldn’t hear the rest. “Dad is cutting us off. You know that. The minute he finds out that you turned Rob down, we’re screwed.”

“You’re screwed. I’ve only got a couple months until graduation,” Steph wrenched her arm away from her sister. “I’ll get a job. I’ll be fine. You’re just going to have to move back home. It’s not the end of the world. You need to grow up Sue. You can’t live off other people your entire life like some kind of remora.”

“A what?”

“You heard me. Go get a dictionary,” Steph hissed. Then she disappeared down a hallway.

Sue glared after her. Then she seemed to realize that Jack was still there and instantly turned on him. “Haven’t you left yet? I’ve never seen such a miserable Cupid.”

“I’m not going anywhere until I have that ring,” Jack returned and then started looking around again. He was grateful that Steph had made it sound like it wasn’t his fault and hadn’t reported that he’d destroyed the flowers, crushed the chocolates, and lost that huge ass diamond. But it wouldn’t matter if he returned to Rob empty handed. He owed the bastard enough money. He’d have to be sworn into indentured servitude for this.

When he looked up again Sue was gone and Steph had reappeared. She had changed into a fitted dark blue sweater that hugged her breasts and made her eyes almost glow. She let her long brown hair down and it fell in soft waves over her shoulders. He could have believed he was staring up at an angel.

“Please tell me you have something else to wear,” she said.

“Huh? Uh, yeah. Why?” Jack was confused.

Steph smiled and eyed him up and down appreciatively. “As much as I’d love to go shopping with a ripped, tanned Cupid, we may draw some attention. I don’t really think either of us want this reported back to Rob.”

“Okay,” Jack stood up from the floor and dropped the wings off his shoulders. “You wanna tell me what you’re thinking. Right now I’m missing something.”

“Well, the ring is gone. It’s not here. You need to give it back to Rob or he’ll think you stole it. My guess is someone stole it,” she indicated the open door. “Maybe Dennise. The bitch has been watching us the entire time. I don’t know. But I want this over as soon as possible. That means sending you and that damn ring back to Rob. Do you know what it looked like?”

Jack nodded. He really didn’t know what to say.

“Alright then. The bathroom’s down the hall,” she said as she pointed. “Go change and let’s get out of here quick. Besides, I need a break from Sue and the books. Hurry up before Stacy gets home.”

Great, there’s a third one too, Jack thought. “Not that I’m not grateful for the effort. But that ring was massive. Can you just replace something like that,” Rob asked skeptically.

Steph smiled. “I can until my dad finds out I turned Rob down. Hurry up.”
Jack grabbed the duffel bag and headed down the hall for the bathroom. He returned shortly in a pair of beat up jeans and a black t-shirt stretched over his chest like a second skin. He had swapped his sandals out for a pair of cheep tennis shoes.

“Much better,” Steph said with approval. Her smile was enough to make him melt. “Let’s go. We’ll have to take your car,” she said as they got into the elevator. “Mine’s always watched.”

“What makes you think mine isn’t,” Jack grumped. He felt like a complete jerk. He didn’t know what was worse; owing Rob or letting this girl save his sorry ass. “Look,” he said. “I don’t think I want you doing this. I’ll go back to Rob and tell him what happened. I’ll take what he decides to do to me and move on. I don’t need to owe anyone else anything.”

Steph noted the tone in his voice. He may not have said much, but it was enough to tell her that he was in some kind of trouble with Rob. “Don’t go thinking this is all about you. Knowing Rob he’ll try using this against me if he doesn’t get the ring back. He’ll tell my dad that I have it and intend to hawk it for the money or something else like that. I don’t need any more hassle right now. It’s in my best interests as well as yours.”

Jack shook his head and gave in. He really didn’t’ have the ability to argue in his position. They headed out of the lobby of the apartment building, got his van from the attendant, and drove into town. “I don’t know where someone goes to shop for a ring like that,” Jack admitted as they came to a red light.

Steph grinned at him. “How can Cupid not know where to get engagement rings?”

“Funny,” he growled. “Jack.”

Steph started to laugh. “Well, Jack head downtown. I know a place that should have something at least similar to what we’re looking for. Please tell me that it wasn’t a complex ring. Rob isn’t the type to do anything special, just big.”

“You got that much right. It was just a huge diamond on a silver band. I think he said it was 3 carats.”

Steph scoffed and shook her head. “I don’t even like diamonds. I always said that if I picked out my own ring it would be a star sapphire. There’s something magic about them,” she said as if she was speaking to herself. “God Rob is such an ass. How did you get involved with him anyway, Jack?”

He didn’t answer her question. He was thinking about how she sounded a lot like his sister when Steph talked about the star sapphire. That only made him less inclined to settle his debt with Rob using Steph. “Where downtown is this place?”

“On 5th and Lewis,” she said with a hint of curiosity to her voice.

The rest of the ride was silent. Jack drove despondently. The deal had been that if Jack could get a ‘yes’ out of Steph his debt would be erased and Rob would disappear. Jack could see pretty clearly that the mission had been doomed to failure from the beginning. Rob had probably known that and was enjoying further humiliating Jack with all the Cupid bullshit. He spotted the jewelry store and pulled into the lot behind the Halzberg Diamond Co. The man dressed in the giant pink and red valentine heart costume pacing the sidewalk in front of the store with a SALE sign gave it away. In short order they were out of the van and inside the store, perusing rings to find one that looked like missing ring.

They looked at several large diamonds on platinum bands. Finally Jack spotted on that looked identical to the one that Rob had been flashing. “That one,” he said.

The stuffy yet overly enthusiastic salesman’s eyes sparkled as he pulled the huge rock out of the case and placed it before them on the velvet pad. “Sir, has impeccable taste,” he commented and was rewarded with a double glare from both Steph and Jack.

Steph sighed. “Just wrap it up.” She handed the confused looking salesman her dad’s credit card and flashed an expectant look his way. The man scooped up the ring and the card. It wasn’t his place to question the situation. Then he disappeared down the counter to do as he had been told. “I just hope dad hasn’t cut it off yet,” she whispered to Jack with a grin.

Jack rolled his eyes. He didn’t find anything amusing about the fact that she could just randomly charge so much money to her dad’s card and seem so nonchalant about it. Gorgeous and so far out of my league it’s not funny. Rob or no Rob.

Steph felt a little guilty when she saw the look on his face. She wasn’t stupid, but this was first time she considered what his van looked like, how he was dressed, and the possibility that he didn’t have money to flash around. Suddenly it occurred to her that money may well be the reason he was mixed up with Rob.

A ringing from Jack’s pocket had him stepping off to a quiet corner, away from Steph as he stared with concern at the caller ID. The salesman returned with the ring in a small black velvet box, Steph’s card, and a receipt to be signed.

Jack watched Rob’s name flash across the cell’s face. He flipped the phone open and hit send. “Yeah.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m on my way back. I stopped for something to eat,” he lied.

“Bullshit. I don’t like being lied to, Jack. You know that.”

Jack heard a whimpering noise in the background. “What was that?”

“Nothing you don’t deserve,” Rob sneered and Jack could almost see the sneer that was probably on his face. “It seems that Leesha came to visit me and she thinks that you shouldn’t be involved.”

“You asshole,” Jack seethed. “You touch her and I’ll go to the cops.”

“You go to the cops and her body won’t ever be found.”

Jack didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have the money. She wasn’t capable of convincing Steph to marry Rob and he couldn’t morally do that anyway. But Jack knew that Rob was serious about killing his sister. “What do you want?”

“Just my money Jack,” he said almost pleasantly. “I’ve decided that you need some motivation to get it for me. So I think that Leesha is going to stay here for now. I know you’re with Steph. I know also that she has access to a lot of money. You can either get me Steph or the money you owe me. The two things are about equal.”

“Rob, don’t you think this has gone far enough. Can’t we come to some understanding? Doesn’t our history mean anything?”

“Jack you’re the one who turned on me. Remember? Get me what I want. I’ll tell Leesha you said, ‘hi.’” Then the line went silent.

Steph walked up to Jack slowly. The look on his face was enough to make anyone reluctant to approach him.

Suddenly he looked up. “You ready?”


“Then we’ve got to get going.” He thrust his phone back in his pocket and they went back to his van. “Where can I drop you? Back at your place?”

Steph gave him the box with the ring in it. “Yeah, I guess. Jack what was that call? Rob?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he growled.

Steph had to grab the door and steady herself as he tore out of the lot and back up the street the way they had come. She almost didn’t say anything. “Is there something I can do to help?”

“Got a gun,” he said in a deadly tone before he could stop himself.

Steph shuddered at the sound of his voice. There was something far too serious about it. “Actually, yes I do,” she answered. “But I’m willing to bet there’s a better way to deal with whatever’s wrong than that. Rob’s an ass, but-”
The van screeched to a stop at a red light and Steph almost went through the windshield. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jack growled. “Shut up.”

She glared at him as she put her seatbelt on. “You don’t have to be like that. I’m only trying to help.”

“You want to help? Fine. Marry Rob.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Either that or give him all your daddy’s money. I don’t think he cares whether or not he gets you. You’re just a consolation prize.”

Steph’s eyes bored into Jack as the van sped up again. “So what do you get out of this?”

Jack was pissed and he answered without thinking. “My sister gets to live. What do you think? You wanna save a girl’s life by giving up your own?”

The silence that followed his statement brought the guilt. “Never mind,” he said. “Forget I said that. I shouldn’t talk so much.”

Steph was shocked. “How the hell am I supposed to forget that? You’re serious aren’t you? Why is your sister’s life in danger if I don’t marry Rob? I mean Rob’s an ass but he’s not like that?”
“You don’t know Rob very well. Forget what I said,” he growled.

“No,” she insisted as they came to another stop light. “Explain all this now!”

Jack looked over at her. He didn’t know if she’d be able to do anything about it, but he was running out of options. He knew better than to not believe Rob would follow through on his threat. “Look. I’ve known Rob since we were kids. I was too stupid to keep my distance from the guy. You obviously don’t know how bad he really is. Just suffice it to say that if he does kill Leesha it won’t be the first time he’s had blood on his hands. He thinks I owe him money. It doesn’t matter why he thinks it. He just does and that puts me in a bad spot. He watches too closely for me to go to the cops without risking Leesha’s life. In this particular case I was given the option of getting you to marry him or getting your daddy’s money for him. He doesn’t care which. In exchange, he might not kill Leesha. Usually he keeps his word. He’s got a warped view of integrity.”

Steph sat quietly listening in abject horror of what she was hearing. “This kind of stuff doesn’t happen for real. It belongs in a movie.”

Jack scoffed. “Sure it does.” He pulled up in front of her building and the attendant came walking toward the van. “Get out. Go back to your homework.”

“You can’t be serious. You don’t get to tell me something like that and then drive off.”

“What do you think you can do about it,” Jack asked incredulously and gave her a skeptical look. The attendant was standing outside the car waiting in confusion.

“Well,” Steph said contemplatively. “We can start by going to my father. He’s not a cop. It would make sense for you to take me there. It shouldn’t get anyone killed. We’ll see what I can come up with in the mean time.”

“No way,” Jack snarled. “I’m not dragging anyone else into this. Get out.”

“What are you going to do if I get out?”

Jack sat staring at her.

“I didn’t think you had a plan. Give me a chance. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“I could feel responsible for more than one dead girl.”

Jack’s deadpan tone turned Steph’s stomach. His eyes were desolate. “From the sounds of things I’m already in this up to my neck with or without you. In some respects, you’ve already saved my life. I didn’t know that Rob was this bad. Let me try to help.”

Jack sat quietly staring at her. “You said that you have a gun. Do you know how to use it?”

Steph swallowed. “Yeah, but only on targets.”

“Where is it?”

“At my father’s house. I don’t keep that kind of thing in my apartment. There’s a gun range out there-”

“Fine,” Jack interrupted. “You want to help. If you can get me a gun…” Jack didn’t finish the sentence.

Steph could tell from the look on his face that he was feeling trapped and believed that this was the only way to help his sister. She figured that if she could talk to him a bit she may be able to calm him down enough to think rationally. He was staring into her eyes as if he was trying to decide something very difficult and he almost looked as though he was going to cry. Finally he nodded.

Without a word, Jack shifted the van back into drive and pulled away from the apartment building. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said under his breath as he sped off following Steph’s directions.


Leesha heard the phone call end. Tears streamed down her face beneath the blindfold as she sobbed through the gag in her mouth. Her head was spinning and she wondered how long she had been there.

“Rob, is this really necessary,” a woman’s voice said. Leesha thought the voice was vaguely familiar but in her haze she wasn’t quite able to place it.

“Are you able to get any more money out of our daddy?”

“How much more money do you need,” came the doubtful voice.

“How much does he have,” Rob said.

“This has gone far enough, Rob. The vendetta is over.”

“This won’t be over until he pays for everything he never gave us, using mom like his personal whore, sticking around long enough to watch her have us and then leaving us alone and pennyless. The rich bastard sits in that mansion and pampers that bitch daughter of his, who thinks she’s too good for me. He owes us Valerie. He owes us our entire lives. When did you stop believing that?”

“I started having my doubts when drugs came into it, but I trusted you Rob. Then mom died. Ever since that you’ve been getting more and more aggressive. When you suggested that I get involved with Devon, I still trusted you. The things I’ve done since then, Rob.” There was a tremor in the woman’s voice and a long pause. “I’m still trying to trust you. But Leesha and her brother have nothing to do with any of it. I thought Jack was your friend.”

“He was until he started doubting me. Are you doubting me too Valerie? I thought that if anyone could be trusted, it was you.” Rob’s tone was growing dangerous. Leesha was grateful that it was aimed at someone other than her.

“You’re losing it. Are you on the shit you’re selling? When did you become so unreasonable,” the woman barked as if she was trying to be brave and assertive. Then Leesha heard a cry. “You’re hurting me.”

“Don’t ever question me. Now go home to daddy. I have more business here.”

There was another cry and some forcefully shuffled footsteps. Then a door slammed.

Leesha could feel the long silence before Rob spoke again. Fear boiled in her stomach. She didn’t know how she had ever thought she was in love with him.

“Ah, my little Leesha,” he simpered.

The blindfold was pulled from her face and Leesha could see that she was in a den with large leather couches and heavy mahogany furniture scattered around. There were several men lounging about the room with expectant smirks on their faces and Rob was standing in front of her.

“How are you feeling, love.” Rob smiled sickeningly at her. “Do you need another fix? It’s Valentine’s Day. I might be persuaded to hook you up for a favor instead of a charge, if you beg nicely.” The men around the room smirked.

Leesha thought back to the beginning. She should have listened to Jack when he had told her to stay away from Rob. The whole thing had gone wrong so fast.

“No? Pity.” Rob walked over to a wet bar near the wall and poured himself a drink. He stared at her contemplatively. “You don’t amuse me as much as you used to Leesha. Rick. She’s all yours.” There as a brief chuckle from several of the men in the room and Rob took his glass then left.

Leesha looked around terrified. A large pale man with freckles, shocking red hair, and a scar along his left check that bisected his ear stood up and walked toward her. His freckles would have made him look almost childlike if not for the cruel green eyes that shone down on her mischievously. He unfastened his belt and then unbuttoned his pants. With slow deliberate actions Rick unzipped his pants and pulled his massive member free.

Leesha began to wretch. There was more laughter around the room and the men started joking that they all knew Rick was disgusting, but they never thought the site of his cock could make a woman hurl. The gag in Leesha’s mouth prevented the bile in her empty stomach from escaping completely and there was burning in her nose as more tears filled her eyes.

“That’s fine, sweetie,” Rick said with fake sympathy. “It’s not your mouth I’m after.”

Roughly he grabbed hold of Leesha’s shoulder and pushed her face first into the carpet. She felt almost as though this had to be some kind of nightmare. Her body stopped feeling anything. The sound of ripping fabric seemed to come from all around her. There was more laughter and a horrible pressure somewhere behind her. There were strange sensations that came to her in flashes of detached realization. She knew that the carpet against her cheek was leaving an angry red burn as she was thrust against it repeatedly. She knew that the gag in her mouth was soaked with stomach acid and tasted foul as it burned into her sinuses and at the corners of her mouth. She knew that there was pain in her arms from the way they were bound behind her and being used almost like handle bars by the large man. She knew she was being ripped apart and that he was raping her. I wonder where Jack is right now, she thought.


Jack pulled his poor excuse for a van up in front of the largest estate he’d ever seen, pictures and television included. It dwarfed even Rob’s. “Your dad lives here? You sure this isn’t some resort?”

There were tons of cars in front of the place and there were people coming and going en masse.

“Quite sure. Don’t start. Leave the van here. It’ll blend in with the rest of the delivery stuff. I don’t even know if dad’s home. Everyone should be busy enough with the party prep that we might be able to slip in and out without being noticed. Cross your fingers.” They both got out of Jack’s van and walked up the numerous steps, through the columns, and into the house, dodging bodies carrying various red or pink stuff as they went.

A man who was quite obviously a butler approached them as they walked through the front door. Steph swore under her breath, but smiled broadly as if there was nothing wrong. “Hi, Brent. Is Daddy here?”

“He’s in his study miss,” the balding, uniformed man answered formally, “avoiding the hullabaloo.” He eyed Jack with some distaste. “Would you like for me to get him miss?”

“Uh, no Brent. I’m only going to be here a moment to get something for Sue and then I’m running back out. Forget you saw me,” she smiled.

Brent gave her a suspicious look, but nodded obediently before turning back to directing human traffic.

Jack was snickering with a glower on his face as he followed Steph down one hall and then another. Eventually the crowds thinned out as they entered an area of the house that would not be involved in the party.

“The rooms where daddy keeps guns and stuff like that are this way. We’re going to have to hurry. Brent’s under orders to tell daddy whenever one of us comes home. He’ll be off to report on me as soon as he gets a chance.” Steph caught the look on Jack’s face. “What’s your problem now,” she snapped.

“I don’t think your butler liked me,” he laughed sardonically. “You know I thought the traditional stereotype of the snooty, balding butler was just that, a stereotype. But put some white gloves on that guy, a little white towel across his arm, have him carry a silver tray and you’d be all set.” He laughed some more.

Steph stopped, smiled, and looked back down the hall. “I know. Brent’s a little stuffy. But he’s good and he’s been here my entire life. Be nice.”

Jack stared at her. She wasn’t what he would have expected of someone who came from this kind of life. She seemed sweet, honest, and empathetic. Not that he thought everyone with money was a rich asshole. But Steph didn’t have any real reason for helping him with this and here she was. Their eyes met and held each other for a moment as they stood there. Jack swallowed as his mouth went dry and Steph began to blush for no reason. It was a woman’s voice from down the hall that broke the tense silence.

Steph grabbed Jack by the shirt and pulled him through a door, closing it behind them. The room was dark. Steph was holding onto Jack as though something was frightening her and she leaned into him as she listened at the door.

“What-” Jack started.

“Shh, we’ll get caught.” Steph interrupted with a harsh whisper. “It’s my step mother.”

As they waited in the dark listening at the door, Jack realized that Steph’s entire body was against his. She was breathing hard and her breasts brushed against his chest with each breath. He couldn’t help his reaction to having her so close. He could smell a light flowery perfume in her hair and could feel her fingers digging into his arms as she tried to hear if anyone was coming.

After several moments of standing there and waiting, Steph finally calmed down. “I don’t think she’s coming this way.” Suddenly Steph noticed how close she was to Jack. She could feel his hard muscles through his shirt and his hands had managed to come to a rest on her waist. There was something prodding her hip where she was leaning against him. Her breath caught in her throat.

“Then we should get going,” Jack whispered back.

“Yeah,” Steph answered uncomfortably and stepped away from him. She cracked the door a bit to look around, then stepped out, and led the way back out into the hall. They carefully picked their way through the massive house to Steph’s father’s gun room.

Steph led Jack through a set of double doors and into a virtual arsenal. “There’s no way daddy would loan us any of this stuff. We gotta be quick. The one over there is mine.” Steph indicated a decent sized shot gun she had been taught to use for no real reason. She had practiced with the hand guns, but none of those were actually hers. The shotgun had been a joke gift from her sister, who had been incredibly miffed when Steph actually took to using the weapon. “Are you sure this is how you want to handle the situation? Jack, you honestly don’t seem the type to be able to kill someone.”

“How do you know? You only met me today.” He walked around the room looking at the shelves of guns. “Does it have to be yours? I think I prefer that one,” he said looking at a small handgun that would be easily hidden if he tucked it into his pants at the small of his back.

“I don’t suppose it matters which one,” she answered disappointedly. He was right. She didn’t know why she trusted and believed him. She didn’t really know who he was or what he was like. Something in her told him that only a good person would go this far to save a loved one from danger. “Don’t you have anyone you can go to for help?”

“No,” he said. “It’s been me and Leesha for a long time. I got into Rob’s gang when I was young and stupid.” He looked the case over. It was locked. “You don’t happen to have a key for this do you?”

Steph pulled a ring of keys out of a desk drawer and walked over to the case to unlock it. “You sure about this?”

Jack stared at her hard and expectantly. Steph sighed and opened the case. They didn’t really have time to argue about it. Brent would have told her father that she was home by now and he would be looking for her. Jack took the gun out and tucked it into the back of his pants. “Thanks, now get yourself somewhere far away from Rob.” With that Jack started toward the door.

“What?” Steph grabbed a handgun out of the case and took off after him. “You can’t leave me out of this now.”

Jack stopped and turned to Steph. “I’m going to kill Rob. That’s it. You don’t need to be there for that. You have too much going for you to be stupid enough to get involved in a murder. You tell the cops that I stole the gun. Go back to school Steph. Have a good life.”

He turned and headed for the door. Suddenly it swung open and Steph’s father and step mother walked in. “Steph,” her father said. “What is this?”

Jack stared at Steph’s step mother and a wicked smile slid across his face. Before Steph could answer her father, Jack started to laugh. “Hi Valerie. It’s been a long time.” He laughed almost manically. “This is your step mother, Steph?”

Edward McNeil was near attacking the insane sounding man standing near his daughter.

Jack pulled the gun out of his pants and pointed it at Valerie. “I wonder if Rob would exchange my sister for his,” he said in a deadly tone. “There’s your answer Steph. The reason Val is so interested in getting you married to Rob is because Rob is her brother. Val always does what Rob tells her too.” Jacks voice took on a hurt tone when he said that and his eyes glazed over a bit as he looked at Valerie. “Is this where you’ve been the last couple years Val? You know a card would have been nice.” Jack was sounding more and more sarcastic and agitated.

Valerie stared back with a strange resignation in her eyes. The entire disgusting mess was one thing while she could pretend that she was someone else. Now that she was caught a sickening, defeated feeling was rolling in her stomach. Worst of all, it had to be Jack. She didn’t know what to say to him. He was right.

Jack waved the gun emphatically at Valerie. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. The real funny part about all this is that I heard Val had been sent off to marry her own daddy. Apparently some rich guy got their mom pregnant and then took off on them. Rob’s plan involved getting Val into her own daddy’s bed and then killing the guy off. I never would have guessed that Rob would want to marry his little sister too,” he added and looked at Steph, who was watching the scene play out in wide eyed disbelief. “What Val? Couldn’t you manage to work your way into the will? All the money being left to the girls?”

Steph’s father turned on Jack and viciously. “Who the hell are you.”

“An innocent bystander,” Jack said and waved his gun at Valerie. “And an overly trusting fool.”

She shook her head and tears started to stream down her face. “It doesn’t matter Jack,” Valerie said. “Rob is steadily going downhill. You may find that he’s not nearly as interested in protecting me as he used to be. I already tried to get Leesha out of it. Using me won’t work the way you might think. It’s all about the money now. After everything that’s happened,” she looked fearfully at Edward, “I’d almost rather be dead, anyway.”

Steph was shaking her head. “Then it’s true? Daddy?”

Edward was shaking his head. “It can’t be. I won’t believe it.”

Valerie smiled sardonically through the tears and shrugged. “Is there any point in apologizing?”

“Where’s Leesha Valerie,” Jack demanded angrily.

She returned her tearful gaze to Jack. “Rob had her when last I saw her. He sent me back here to keep working on Edward. I don’t know what happened to her after that.”

Jack looked at the faces of the people in the room. “So it seems we’re all feeling pretty shitty and Rob is the cause. I’m off to solve the problem.” With that Jack headed out the door.

“Daddy,” Steph started under her breath.

Her father turned away and left the room with his head hung low. He didn’t have it in him to speak to anyone about this at the moment. Steph watched her father leave. She was left alone with Valerie. They had never gotten along. Valerie was this beautiful young manipulative woman. Her father had never seen it. “Is money so important? Why would you do this?”

“What does it matter?” Valerie looked off in the direction Jack had gone. “He’s going to get himself killed.”

Steph didn’t know whether to hate or pity Valerie. There was something in her face that made Steph fell bad for her new found half sister and step mother. She pushed the disgust down and ran past Valerie after Jack. By the time she made it through the halls, the caterers, the decorators, and the extra servants, out the front door, his van was already gone. “Shit,” she swore as stood trying to think of what to do next. Call the cops? Would Rob know and then kill Jack’s sister?

Valerie came up behind her. “I know where he’s going,” she said.

Steph turned around and looked at her skeptically. “Why would you want to help?”

“Jack and I go back some. I owe him. Are you up to this?”

Steph glared at her. “Are you?”


Jack pulled into the drive at Rob’s estate, which now paled in comparison to Steph’s dad’s. He shook his head. Something about what he had discovered seemed to justify in his head what he was planning to do. He would be saving Leesha and Steph. He couldn’t get Steph out of his head. Her eyes kept looking back at him in his mind. Maybe in another life time, he thought.

Steph was right. Jack really wasn’t the killing type. But he figured that every man has that place he could be pushed too. Jack was currently feeling a couple chilling hands on his back shoving him insistently toward that place. He checked his pocket for the black velvet box that held the ring, his ticket in to speak to Rob. Then he tucked the gun into the back of his pants.

The walk up to the front doors was surreal. Jack didn’t feel like himself any longer. When the door opened Jack was greeted by one of Rob’s many thugs, who had at one point been Jack’s friend. “Hi, Benny,” Jack said despondently. “I need to talk to Rob.”

“Of course you do, Jack,” Benny said with amusement. There wasn’t a single man in the group who hadn’t been thrilled when Jack had lost his prestigious position as favorite. They were now operating with his continual over active conscience. “Come on in.”

No one bothered to search Jack. They all thought they knew exactly what they were dealing with. Jack walked through the huge house, determined to get Leesha and get out as quickly as possible. He was taking a mental count of who all was here as he walked through the familiar halls. There were too many men around. He was going to have to be careful about this.

Walking into the den, he found Rick lounging back on one of the large brown leather couches. He was watching a horror movie on the huge television and he had a mostly empty glass in his hand. He looked up at Jack as he walked in with Benny on his heels. “Jackie, my friend. How are you?”

“A man might think we were still on good terms by a greeting like that,” Jack said matter-of-factly. Jack walked across the room, pulled the ring out of his pocket, and put it down in front of Rob. Then he sat down in a large arm chair across from him. “I thought you might want that back.”

Rob nodded. “Good thinking,” he said. “Where you been all day Jackie?” There was no missing the dangerous tone in Rob’s voice.

Jack was used to it. “Well, I dressed up like a fool. Delivered you presents to the chick you wanted. Spent some time trying to talk her into what you wanted. Did you ever consider her sister. Sue I think it was. She seems quite taken with you.”

Rob watched Jack with an amused smile. “What did you do at her house Jack?”

Benny was smiling as well. Jack knew he was in trouble. He couldn’t afford to get himself beat up or locked up. He had to stay on descent, if tentative terms for now. “Fine. I wasn’t going to tell you. I admit it,” he said.

“Admit what?” Rob’s eyes narrowed.

“I lost the fucking ring. I don’t even know how it happened. One minute I had the damn ring and the next it was gone. Your chick got scared that you might think she would have to marry you since the ring was gone. We went out to some jewelry place, replaced the one that had disappeared,” Jack indicated the box on the table. “She didn’t want to deal with her sisters anymore tonight because the one called Sue was trying to talk her into marrying you. So she conned me into dropping her at her dad’s place instead of at hers. Now here I am.”

Rob sat back and handed Benny his glass. The thug headed for the wet bar to refill the glass. “I do want to believe you my friend.” Rob shook his head. He didn’t even bother to look at the ring. “I’ll give you a break. Stick around for a while. I’ll check on your story. If it turns out you’re telling the truth, I’ll give you another chance.”

Jack smiled through his glare. “Thanks,” he said. “Can I at least see Leesha?”

“Maybe in a bit,” Rob said, taking his refilled glass from Benny.

Jack could feel the dismissal. He got up and headed for his room. He needed a plan to deal with this. First he needed to figure out where Leesha was. He couldn’t kill Rob and then run around the damn place trying to figure out where she was.


Valerie and Steph walked through the front door. They were expected. Rob was still lounging in the den as they were led into the room. He smiled up at them. “Change your mind about turning me down Steph?”

“No,” she said angrily. She was looking around with some confusion.

Valerie knew better. Rob was too observant. She had the distinct feeling that bringing Steph here was going to turn out badly. “They know Rob. Jack told them.”

Steph turned on Valerie. “You bitch!”

Valerie waved at Benny and Steph was promptly grabbed and held still. “Rob, you’re going to have to find another way about this. There’s no way I’m going to get Edward back from this. I don’t think the other two sisters know yet.”

“Glad to see you’re still acting intelligently Val. I was starting to worry.” Rob stood up, grabbed the black velvet box off the table, and approached Steph with a maniacal smile. “So here’s how this will work.” He pulled the ring out of the box and held it up in front of Steph. “I’m gonna have a little talk with Ed and determine whether the threat of the entire city finding out that he’s married to and has been fucking his own daughter is enough blackmail to keep his mouth shut or I’m going to have to kill him right away. I would prefer to plan it a bit better and make sure I know where every penny of his fortune is going. But I’ll do what I have to at this point.” Steph’s eyes filled with terror as Rob continued talking. “I know that I can have Sue if I want her. But I’d much rather be fucking you Steph. So I’m going to give you a choice. Either you marry me and I leave Sue and Stacy be. Or I have you and Stacy disappear and I marry Sue.” He flashed her a sparkling smile.

Steph had never felt so trapped in her life. She was trying to figure out how her life had gone from studying and classes to this in one afternoon. “You can’t kill them,” she said softly.

Rob picked up her hand and pushed the large diamond ring down her finger. “Valentine’s engagements are so romantic. When we get to the party tonight I expect you to be beautiful and excited, flashing that rock around like a happy bride to be should.” He dropped her hand and walked back to the couch. “Have Steph put in my rooms for now,” he said to no one in particular. “As long as you’re cooperative with what I want , when I want it, you can trust that your sisters are safe. I’ll consider the level of your participation an indication of what I’ll have to look forward to in our marriage Steph. The happier I am, the safer your sisters are. I think that’s pretty clear.”

Steph was trembling. She didn’t know if she could do what he was suggesting. But she couldn’t let him hurt her family either.

Rob drained his glass again. “I’ll deal with Jack, later. You did good Val. I was getting tired of waiting for this to be done anyway.” He propped his feet up on the table and went back to watching his show.

Benny dragged Steph out of the room and Valerie walked over to a chair to sit down. “What are you going to do to Jack?”

“Why,” Rob said off hand. “You want him?”
“Maybe,” Valerie said.

Rob shrugged as if he didn’t really care. He was about to get what he had wanted. Edward would be dead and Rob would have all the old fool’s money. He was feeling generous. Jack was only an extraneous loose end. “To some extent I owe the guy. If he hadn’t interfered I’d still be waiting for daddy to decide to sign his money over to you or trying to be reasonable about getting Steph to marry me before killing him off. So if you want him, have him. He wasn’t going to be useful any longer anyway. The minute he finds out that Leesha’s dead, he’s going to lose it.”

“What?” Valerie was trying to not sound horrified. She wasn’t sure when her brother had become so completely heartless. It had been such a slow transformation that she only recently began to see the monster he had become.

Rob was still watching his show. It had gotten the part where the monster was tearing a group of would-be heroes to shreds. He took a drink out of his glass. “Yeah, she slit her wrists a little over an hour ago. I don’t know where she got the knife from.”

Valerie nodded. “I guess that’s one less loose end,” she said softly.

“My thoughts exactly.” Rob smiled over at his sister as if he were talking pleasantly about nothing in particular. “Jack’s in his room. If I were you, I’d have him moved to somewhere more secure, before he finds anything out.”

Valerie nodded again. “Thank you Rob,” she said and got up to go.

“No problem,” he smiled. “I take care of my own.” He looked away from the screen. “You have your dress for the party tonight and everything ready?”

Valerie nodded. “I’m assuming you’ll deal with Edward before I have to face him again?”

“Sure, sis. Consider him dealt with,” he was feeling happier than he had in a long time. He was finally going to get the bastard back for everything he had been through. Rob watched Valerie turn and head for the door. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Valerie forced a smile and walked back to her brother. She leaned down and kissed him on the cheek before leaving.


Leesha’s body was still on the blood soaked bed. Valerie stood over the body. She didn’t have a lot of time. Rob wouldn’t like the fact that she was in here. But she needed to see for herself. In a way it was the final confirmation that there was no saving Rob from himself. Valerie reached down and stroked Leesha’s hair. “Some Valentine’s Day, huh? Remember when we were kids and used to pretend that you’d marry Rob and I’d marry Jack and we’d be sisters? Funny how people change.”

Valerie sat down on the edge of the bed crying. “I wish I could arrange a funeral for you Leesha. But chances are you’re gonna end up in the river or a ditch. I want you to know that I’m sorry. I never really thought he could do stuff like this. I don’t think you saw it coming either, did you? I promise I’ll do my best to get Jack out of here. I promise.” Valerie took Leesha’s hand in her own and held it gently. It was sticky with drying blood.


Steph was pacing back and forth. She was more than a little panicked. There’s nothing I can do. Every noise out in the hall had her turning fearfully to see if Rob was coming in. When the door actually swung opened and a woman Steph didn’t know came walking in, for a moment she had some hope that someone had come to get her and take her away from here. The hope didn’t last long. The woman was carrying a large box with a pink bow on it. “Rob wants you to wear this to the party tonight,” she said simply, dropped the box on the bed and left.

Steph took a deep breath. She needed to play along. Maybe if she got to the party she’d be able to find a way to warn people. There would be lots of officials and other important people there. Steph calmly walked over to the bed and opened the box. Inside was a pile of silky white material and golden cords. She picked up the costume and watched the white material flutter in waves to the floor. A greek goddess?

She held the costume up to herself and looked in a floor length mirror that lined on wall. The costume was probably expensive to judge by the feel of the material and looked as though it would show ever curve to her body almost obscenely through the thin fabric. I’ve never been inclined to wear anything like this in my life, she thought with disgust.

Steph’s gaze went from the dress to her face. Her eyes were puffy and swollen from crying and her hair needed to be brushed. “Well, cooperation will keep everyone safe for now,” she said. Throwing the costume back in the box she picked it all up and headed for the bathroom. At least she’d be dressed before he got here. That would leave less room for the other stuff she was afraid of.

Rob walked through the bedroom door with a box under his arm, similar to the one that he had sent in for Steph, as the bathroom door closed behind her. He smiled to himself. He had been certain that there would be an argument over going to the party this evening. Pleased that his threats were being so effective, he tossed his own costume down on the bed and began dressing himself.

Steph was horrified as she stared into the mirror. There was no denying that she’d need a different bra and underwear with this costume. The material was too thin and the pink lacy set she had thrown on that morning was showing blatantly through the material. Her mind raced to come up with a solution. The last thing she wanted to talk to Rob about was needing underwear. She opted for taking her underwear and bra off to see what it would look like without anything on under it. Steph stared at herself in the mirror. She had never felt so exposed while wearing clothes before. The dress covered everything well enough. But the material was so thin that her nipples poked obstinately through the top. Steph turned one way and then the other trying to see if the dark hair on her mound was noticeable through the white material. Deciding that what she saw would be less detrimental to her well being than discussing underwear with Rob, Steph pulled the rest of the pieces to the costume out of the box and began adorning herself with the golden bracelets, necklace and rings. As Steph finished tying the golden cords across her chest and was looking for a brush so that she could take care of her hair Rob’s voice startled her.

“Well, does it fit?” Rob finished pulling leather armor on. He had chosen a gladiator costume for himself. Steph had been in the bathroom forever. He figured that either the costume didn’t fit or she was hiding.

Steph stared at the door for what seemed like forever. Finally she composed herself and walked out into the bedroom. “Yeah,” she said calmly. “But I need a hair brush and some makeup.”

Rob’s eyes traveling her body were enough to make her skin crawl. Steph felt her nipples tighten as his gaze lingered on her breasts and she cursed her body for not cooperating. “I figured you’d want that stuff.” He indicated a makeup case he’d thrown on the bed. “I had one of the girls put some stuff together for you. Hopefully it will work. You look incredible.”

Cautiously, Steph walked over to pick up the makeup case. Without warning, Rob came up behind her and pulled her against himself. He felt her tense and begin to tremble in his arms. He pushed her hair to the side as he leaned in to kiss her neck, his hands stroking along her hips and across her stomach. Steph wanted to scream, push him away, and run. But she held still and squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the torture to end. Somewhere in the back of her mind Jack’s face floated into view. Something seemed to be telling her to hold on a little longer.

“See,” Rob said, trying to sound seductive. “I can be as gentle as I can be cruel. You may not like it now. But if you give me a chance, you may come to appreciate what I can offer you, Steph. I don’t want to hurt you. Don’t give me any excuses to.”

Steph nodded emphatically. “I I have to finish getting ready.”

He released her and watched her virtually fall away from him to dart into the bathroom. The door closed behind her and he heard the lock turn. Rob was feeling generous. He’d give her a couple days. If she didn’t settle down by then he’d find a way to make her. Smiling to himself he finished putting on his costume.


Knocking on the door drew Jack’s attention. He got up from his bed and walked over to the door. He’d yet to come up with a descent plan other than waiting until people were asleep that night and go looking for Leesha. But it felt too simplistic and then there was the problem of how he was going to get back to Rob and kill him without traumatizing Leesha any more than had already been done. Overall he was feeling helpless and frustrated. One step at a time. Take advantage of the next opportunity given.

When he saw Valerie standing in the hallway he knew things had gotten much worse. She was dressed in her costume for the party that evening. Even as pissed as he was Jack couldn’t help, but find her beautiful. She was wearing a white clingy dress and her brown hair had been pulled up and hung in ringlets around her face and grazing her neck. The only thing out of place was the puffy red appearance of her eyes. But that only made him want to protect her.

Valerie couldn’t help smiling at the irony. Jack used to look at her like that all of the time. “And I was thinking that dressing as Aphrodite would be a bad idea,” she tried to joke. “Can I come in?”

Jack’s jaw tightened, as he came back to reality, and his admiration turned to a glared. He backed up so that she could enter the room. He at least needed to find out what had happened.

“This is going to sound bad,” she said softly. “If you’re going to do anything about it then you need to stay calm and not overreact.”

He cleared his throat, trying not to overreact at the fact that she felt the need to tell him to not overreact. “How much worse could it possibly have become?” Valerie’s eyes met his and his heart sank.

“Steph and Rob just left for the party. He took a good number of his men with them. I have to go as well. Currently he intends to blackmail Edward into changing the will and then he’ll kill him. Steph is engaged to Rob under the threat of losing her sisters if she doesn’t cooperate. The engagement is to be announced at the party tonight. If anything goes wrong, Rob’s men are under orders to kill all of them except Sue.” Valerie paused for a moment to let all the information she had spewed at Jack sink in. “Do you still have that gun you were swinging about earlier?”

Jack’s brain was swimming. That’s it. He was completely lost on ideas. This would have been the perfect opportunity. Get Leesha and get out before Rob got back from the party. He could have gotten Leesha to safety and come back to deal with Rob later. But there was no way he could leave knowing that Steph was in so much trouble now too.

“Jack?” Valerie was starting to think that she had lost him. “Jack?”

“Why the hell did you bring her here Val,” Jack exploded and grabbed her violently by the arms.

Valerie bit back the painful yelp so as not to bring a guard into the room. “I didn’t know what else to do. It was the only way I could think of getting back into Rob’s good graces so that I could come save you. At least this way Rob hasn’t killed anyone else yet.”

Jack felt a sick feeling in his stomach. “Else?”

“Jack you’re hurting me,” Valerie cried. She forced the tears back.

“Else? Valerie what do you mean ‘else’?”

“Leesha killed herself Jack. Please let me down,” she whimpered.

Jack released Valerie and then sat down on the bed, rocking a bit, not able to hold still. He didn’t want to believe it. Tears welled in his eyes and poured down his cheeks. “I promised her, I’d get her out of here.”

Kneeling in front of him, Valerie pulled a ring off her finger and held it up to him.

Jack took it from her wordlessly. He couldn’t have asked for better proof that what Valerie had said was true. A gray foggy star moved with the dim light of the room in the black depths of the stone. Jack had bought the ring at a second hand antique shop when they were kids and had given it to Leesha for her birthday one year. It had only cost about thirty bucks. Leesha never took it off. She had always said that it was magic.

“Jack,” Valerie said through tears of her own. “Leesha is out of here now. Rob can’t ever hurt her again. But there are other people. I don’t know if I can fix this by myself. I need you to get it together and help me. Rob and his cronies are already on their way to the party.”


Walking into the main room was dizzying. Steph had attended parties that her father had put together since she was a child. Some overpaid decorator had truly outdone this one. The vaulted ceiling was strewn with red, pink, and white streamers. There were hearts, lace, confetti, ribbons, and balloons scattered precisely about the room. Music tinkled from all corners of the guest filled room. Masked people danced and laughed together. A buffet like nothing she had ever seen was set in an adjoining room. Drinks were being served from trays on the hands of wait staff uniformed in red. It was breath taking. The entire scene was a sharp contrast to the hopelessness she felt at the moment. Rob walked her through the crowd, schmoozing select officials and reminding her to smile.

Steph was doing her best to not fidget. She felt like she might as well have been wearing nothing for all the good the dress she was wearing was doing. Leering men and disgusted women watched her pass as she held on to Rob’s arm. It was bad enough that Steph was almost grateful for the protection that standing next to anyone would afford, even Rob.

Out of the thronging masses, Cinderella swept up to them. Dressed to perfection all the way down to the glass slippers, Sue was beaming as she approached Steph and Rob. “Oh my God,” she squealed. “I take it that you finally came to your senses! Let me see the ring!”

Rob smiled with amusement and held Steph’s hand up to be examined by her sister.

“It’s gorgeous Steph.” Sue’s eyes were more than sisterly as she looked at Rob. Steph couldn’t help the revulsion she felt as Rob continued to hold her hand and leer back at Sue. It was almost enough for her to change her mind about sacrificing herself for her sister’s well being. We’re your sisters you disgusting cretin, Steph’s mind reeled. But she studiously kept her mouth shut.

Steph pulled her hand away from Rob. “Where’s daddy?”

Rob was snapped back into his mission for the evening. He had promised Val that he would deal with Edward before she had to. Rob was comfortable with the idea that Ed wouldn’t go telling anyone about the situation. At least not until he had a chance to get his spin doctors involved and fix what the rumor mill would do to the wealthy man’s reputation, if it got out that he had married his daughter. “Yes, where is daddy,” Rob added.

Steph felt her stomach turn when he said it. She couldn’t help glaring at him. “That’s not funny,” she hissed. Smiling back, Rob gathered her hand up again and placed a soft kiss on the back of it.

“He’s not come in yet. It’s a bit strange. I guess he’s still working on his costume or something. You know daddy. He probably waited until the last minute to get one and it doesn’t fit or something,” Sue said still eyeing Steph’s ring finger. “Valerie isn’t here yet either. So, Stacy and I have been playing hostess.”

Rob flashed a secretive warning look at Steph. “I think I’m going to go locate Edward and tell him the good news. If you need anything, love,” Rob’s eyes pointed out several of his personal entourage who were around the crowd, “I ‘m sure someone can help you.”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he was telling her to behave and testing her at the same time. Steph watched him walk off toward a hallway that led out of the public area reserved for the party. Now was her chance. But she wasn’t sure what she could say or to whom. Rob had purposely introduced her to several officials at the party who seemed to be very fond of him. She had been given the impression that Rob had half of this party in his back pocket. Steph didn’t know who she could trust. If she left then her sisters and father would be hurt. If she stayed she was going to end up in a perverted marriage. Sue was still talking at her, but her sister’s voice wasn’t registering past the fact that she was there.


“I can’t fucking believe you talked me into this Valerie.” Jack was walking uncomfortably through the crowd at the costume party. The men were staring with amused snobbery and the women were gawking lasciviously at him. Jack ignored the urge to tug the short white skirt down, knowing it would do nothing for his dignity. His best bet was to walk around with his head held high in the ignorant wings and try to look as though he was perfectly happy to be the recipient of the attention he was receiving.

“Stop complaining. When we find them, Rob will assume that I’m taking advantage of the fact that he gave you to me and won’t automatically figure that I’ve betrayed him. It may be long enough for us to get Steph away from him and for you to get out of here.”

Jack grabbed Valerie’s arm and forced her to look at him. “What do you mean, for me to get out of here? What are you thinking Valerie?” He was suddenly regretting the fact that he had to give Valerie the gun, since there wasn’t anywhere for him to hide it in his skirt.

“Jack, Rob is my responsibility. I’m sorry he’s hurt you so much. I know I was part of that too. The thing is, whoever kills him is going to get caught. Look around this place. Unless you can think of a way to end all this without Rob being dead then someone has to kill him. If any of one us deserves to spend a life in prison, it’s me. Don’t argue for once. You can’t save us all.”


“There they are.”

Jack looked up to see the most incredible vision of a woman he had seen in the whole of his life. Steph was dressed similarly to Valerie, a white dress, held to her body with gold cords. Her brown hair fell long around her shoulders. A golden circlet was twined in her hair and matched the chains around her neck and the bracelets on her wrists. He was virtually struck dumb.

Steph was standing with Rob and showing a ring on her hand to a woman dressed as Cinderella. Steph looked scared and angry. As Jack watched Rob started looking around the room and pointing people out to Steph. Jack hadn’t been noticed yet, but he already knew that any of the men Rob was indicating could recognize him if they got a good look.

When Rob moved away from Steph, seeing an opportunity, Jack turned to look for Valerie. She had already begun moving through the crowd in the direction that Rob was going. Jack was torn. He didn’t know if he should go after Valerie or try and get to Steph. After a frustrated debate he decided that Valerie was more capable of protecting herself than Steph was at that moment.

He looked around the room again. At least Rob had made it easy. All of his goons were dressed as Greek gladiators. Jack counted six in the main room. He knew that the minute he approached Steph he would get spotted and that would end his rescue mission. Looking around, he noticed a waiter walking with a tray of wrapped sausages on toothpicks. There was a large red fabric napkin laid across his arm. Jack laughed to himself. I might as well embrace the role, he thought.

Jack picked his way through the room to the waiter and stole the napkin off his arm. The waiter rolled his eyes, figuring that the guy dressed as Cupid was probably drunk, and continued his rounds with his sausages. Jack pulled one of his arrows out of the quiver on his back. He snapped the hard plastic shaft in half and used the sharp edge to rip two holes in the napkin and fashioned a blindfold mask out of the napkin.

Once he felt like he wouldn’t draw immediate attention from the guys who knew him, he headed for Steph. His intent was to get her out of the room. He figured that he had been playing it by ear this far, he might as well worry about what would happen next after he got her out of the view of the thugs that Rob had watching her. Then he could go after Valerie.

Dodging a dinosaur, a fairy, and a devil, Jack made his way to the goddess speaking with Cinderella. Steph had a lost, hopeless look on her face. When Jack stepped up in front of her she was taken off guard. An amused smile crept into the corners of her mouth. “What are you doing here,” she whispered as if someone was going to hear.

Jack smiled and shrugged. Her eyes were so warm and bright. Jack wanted to fall into them and lose himself. She was enough to make all the misery go away. “You look incredible,” he said trancelike.

Sue was glaring at him. “Aren’t you that delivery guy who lost her engagement ring?”

Steph returned her sister’s glare. “Mind your own business Sue,” Steph ordered looking nonchalantly around at the goons who were watching. They appeared confused, but they weren’t moving in, yet. A surge of hope shot through her. “Just call me Psyche,” Steph teased. “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. Nice effect. Though I’m fairly certain you’re not what Shakespeare intended. And the holes in the blindfold ruin the drama.”

Jack noted one of Rob’s lackeys getting too close and decided that now wasn’t the best time for playful banter. “Remind me to ask what you’re talking about when we’re not being stalked by killers. So where’s the back door to this place?”

“Do you really think we can get out of here without them charging?”

“I think if we make it look like we know what we’re doing and we’re allowed, they’re less likely to stop us.” He offered her his arm. “Would you like to dance?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Steph beamed.

Jack led Steph in the direction of the dance floor, as if they were going to join the others. Rob’s men were a little confused. They were under orders to not make a large scene. Though they knew Rob probably wouldn’t be happy with Steph dancing with a well built Cupid, it didn’t look like a problem.

Once on the dance floor Jack pulled Steph into his arms and they began to waltz around the floor with the rest of the crowd. Steph flashed him an impressed gaze. “I would never have guessed.”

He smiled back at her. But Steph could see sadness in his eyes too. Something that ran incredibly deep.

As they got to the far side of the dance floor and found that there were no gladiators near one of the main halls out of the public area, Steph stopped the dance and tried to lead Jack slowly out the hall. That move was obvious enough to get the attention of Rob’s men.

“Run,” Jack said calmly and they took off down the hall. Steph led the way through a number of doors, slamming and locking them behind her. But the gladiators were right behind them. After a few turns Jack threw open a couple more doors and pulled Steph behind him through another and closed it just as one of the gladiators came running in. Jack had Steph against the wall and was covering her body with his protectively as they waited for someone to come bursting into the room.

They could feel each other’s heart beating fast and hard through their chests. Fear, anger, adrenaline, and the need for none of what was happening to be real suddenly had them kissing. Savage heat radiated from their lips down their bodies. Steph felt warmth pooling between her legs. For the first time that night she was pleased that she wasn’t wearing underwear. Jack’s hands tore her skirt up her legs and gripped her naked butt as he pressed his hard cock against her.

Steph’s fingers pulled frantically at Jack’s costume, to free his member from the fabric. Jack sucked in a sharp breath and let it out slowly as Steph’s hands wrapped around his shaft and squeezed hard. Jack lifted her up, her back pressed against the wall, and held her as she aimed his cock at her dripping sex. She bit down on his shoulder to muffle her cry as he thrust up with his hips and pulled her down onto him at the same time.

Jack bit back the moan as pain and pleasure mingled. Both of them were convinced that someone was going to hear them and come in. The forced silence only added to the intensity as they tried to use each other’s body to escape their reality.

Steph’s hands tangled in Jack’s hair. His fingers dug into her hips as he steadied her for each upward thrust. Steph felt herself stretching around Jack’s huge member as he plowed into her over and over again. It was all she could do to stifle the moans that were building in her body. Jack could feel her legs, wrapped around him, begin to tremble as her pleasure began to build.

“Oh God Jack,” she whispered breathlessly into the dark. Hearing her say his name almost pushed him over the edge. His thrust became harder, more insistent as he tried to wring the orgasm from her body.

“Come for me Steph,” he whispered against her ear.

Steph’s heart leapt in her throat. Something in the way he had said it made that tiny sentence the most passionate thing any man had ever said to her. Mind and body reeled for a moment and Steph lost control. The moan that escaped seemed loud enough to be heard all the way through the house and over the music at the party.

Steph’s cunt squeezed Jack’s cock with each wave of pleasure and Jack doubled his stroke bringing himself over the edge coming inside her unable to stop his own groan from mingling with hers. Jack braced himself on the wall with one hand as his body jerked its last throws of pleasure. His legs nearly buckled under them. But he managed to hold Steph against him and not fall over, just barely.

The door slamming open brought the two of them forcefully back into the situation. Jack nearly dropped Steph to the floor as he turned to block the punch that had been aimed at his back. Rob’s men had no idea what they were messing with that night. They all knew Jack was good. It was half the reason that Rob had kept him around. But he had lost his sister and now he was protecting Steph. He had too much incentive to cause everyone associated with Rob a great deal of pain.

Steph couldn’t quite see what was going on. It was all a blur. One minute she had been in the middle of the most amazing sex she’d ever had in her life and the next she was standing against the wall praying for her life as the sounds of fists on flesh pummeled the darkness of the room. Feeling along the wall she managed to locate the light switch. When she managed to get the lights on Jack was the only one still standing. His wings were broken, his skirt was askew, and he was wiping blood from a split lip with the back of a hand as he looked down on three of Rob’s men.

Steph was shocked, but suddenly feeling very safe. She ran over to him and wrapped her arm around him. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s three down.”

“Rob went after my father. And he said he would kill my sisters if I didn’t cooperate with him,” tears started as she spoke. It was almost as though the intense pleasure she had felt with Jack only made the pain of what was going on worse in contrast now that it was over. Steph found herself tempted to try and talk him into round two, but knew there wasn’t time.

“Hey,” he said softly and wiped the tear off her cheek. He couldn’t help smiling at her disheveled appearance. Her hair was wrecked, her makeup was smeared and her dress was only half on. “Straighten up and we’ll go see if we can find them, now that we’re not being followed.”

Jack pulled himself together as best he could. There was no way to hide the fact that he had been in a fist fight. The way the both looked they were just going to have to avoid the major party areas.


Rob sat across from Edward at a large desk in the man’s study. He was smiling triumphantly. Edward was staring at a spot on the desk. He didn’t know what he should do. If he exposed Rob, then his own career would be ruined and there was a chance that Rob would do something to hurt his family even more than he already had. But if he went along with it all then Rob would suck his bank account dry and for Steph into a perverted marriage. That idea had Edward’s mind skirting around his own marriage. The thought of how many times he had made love to Valerie had his brain going into shut down. I’ve been fucking my own daughter, he thought.

Rob was getting annoyed. It was pretty obvious that Edward was losing it. His responses were getting increasingly more despondent. “You know Ed. I would have liked to have seen you give Steph away at our marriage. But if I don’t get some kind of agreement from you in a timely fashion then I’m afraid I may have to arrange for you to miss the blessed event.

Edward was incapable of response. All he could think about was the last time he had slept with Valerie. What if she’s pregnant? Oh God, she’s my daughter.

“Shit,” Rob glared. “You can’t seriously be this demented already. Fuck, I bet your damn will divides the money between those three bitch daughters of yours.” Rob looked around the study, wondering if there was a copy of his will anywhere around. He wanted to get a look at it to see if there was anything he could do about getting all the money given to Steph before killing daddy off.

The door swinging open caught his attention. Rob looked over to see Valerie walking in. “Good,” he said, standing up. “See if you can bring daddy back to us while I look around for the will.” Rob walked around the desk and shoved Edward out of the way so that he could get access to the computer on the desk. “He may have an electronic copy or something. Maybe there’s a safe around here,” he mused to himself.

Valerie walked over to Edward. She put her hand on his cheek and guided his eyes to her face. He had a horrified expression. “Think about how I felt,” she said softly. “I knew all along.”

Rob looked up from the keyboard with an annoyed glare at his sister, only to find himself facing the barrel of a handgun. “Valerie,” he said with disgust, “what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Something I should have done a long time ago,” she answered through tears. “How could you have made me do all this Rob? I don’t understand.”

“Stupid bitch. I’ve explained this before. I’m not going through it again. Now put the gun down before I decide that you’re on the wrong side again. You know what happens when-”

The doors to the study slammed open again and Rob took advantage of Valerie’s lapse in attention to knock the gun out of her hand and back hand her hard enough to send her into the nearby wall. Benny and Rick came barreling into the room. “Jack took off with Steph,” Benny said, even before Rob could ask what was going on.

Now Rob was really pissed. He looked down on Valerie, slumped against the wall. “What is Jack doing here?” Valerie didn’t answer him. “I’m losing patience. Fine, Benny, Rick, help me search for a safe or something that might hold a will. I’ll deal with Jack and Steph after I get this straightened out. If they think they can run from me they’re wrong.” The three men began trashing the room, searching the bookshelves and walls for something that might have a will in it. Edward didn’t even seem to notice and Valerie was being watched too closely to move.


Jack and Steph had to go back through the party in order to get to the area of the house that her father should have been in when Rob had gone to look for him. As they passed through the crowd avoiding gladiators, they neglected to keep an eye out for the other dangerous people at the party. Sue appeared out of nowhere in their way, an obvious chip on her shoulder. “Where have you been Steph? What happened to you,” she asked as her eyes shifted from Jack to Steph and back again. “I don’t appreciate having to cover for you. And what is Cupid still doing here with you? I don’t’ think daddy or Rob will like that.”

“Sue, though you normally don’t know what you’re talking about, this time you are in serious danger of topping even your most ignorant mistake.” Steph looked back at Jack. “There really is only one solution here. Will your sister be in a lot of danger if Rob is exposed?”

Jack flinched. His face fell and his eyes glazed at the thought. With a tone of regret that soaked into Steph he finally responded. “She’s already dead.” But Steph had felt the answer in the way his demeanor had changed before he even said it.

She forced herself to keep calm and remain strong. “Then the only thing left to worry about is daddy’s reputation and my family. God I hope he can forgive me for this,” she said more to herself than anyone else. Sue was looking completely confused and was listening at this point in the hopes of someone saying something that would clear up the situation. Steph’s eyes focused on Sue again. In the older sister authoritative tone that never worked Steph continued. “Will you be a dear and go get a police officer or two of some kind? Preferably one who is real and not just in costume. Then come find us? Rob needs to be arrested for murder.”

Uncertainty flooded Sue’s features, but she could tell that Steph wasn’t joking. For once the tone in Steph’s voice was enough to prompt a reaction. Sue backed away and then began filtering quickly through the crowd for one of the officials who had been invited to the party. Both Jack and Steph prayed that she’d find enough people and make enough of a scene that Rob wouldn’t be able to pull strings on this situation.

“Now we have a time limit. We need to hurry.” There was a resolute determined look to Steph as she took Jack’s hand and pulled him toward the doors Rob had gone through.

There were a few obvious places to check. Steph led the way through the halls she had known as a child and threw open doors as they came to them. An empty den, an empty library, the study. Pushing the doors open just enough to slip through into the study and close the doors behind themselves, Steph and Jack found themselves faced with one of Rob’s more vicious glares. Edward was seated at his desk, defeat creasing his lost features. Benny and Rick were there as well, looking every part the brute force as they stood with crossed arms waiting for Rob’s orders.

Rob growled angrily. “I guess it’s not a terrible thing you’ve interrupted. It’ll save me the time of finding you.” Rob eyed Jack momentarily and flashed him an amused superior look. He never doubted for a moment that he was in complete control of the situation. “There seem to be some issues here. Daddy doesn’t appear to want to cooperate.” Now that everyone’s attention had shifted to Jack and Steph Valerie began moving toward the gun on the floor.

Rob turned his attention back to Edward, causing Valerie to stop and attempt to look innocent when his gaze was too near her to miss movement. “Your children’s futures are at stake here, Ed. All of your children. One way or another you’re going to regret the choices you’ve made. Now I would prefer that you stick around a while so that you have a chance to repent and beg me to forgive you for what you’ve done. But I’ll settle for what I can get. If I have to kill you and every person in your will I can, until I am the only one left. I suggest you come to and start cooperating.”

Jack started walking across the room toward Rob. The gladiators attention went back to Cupid and Valerie again had a chance to move toward the gun. Rob backhanded Edward in frustration when the man didn’t answer. In the commotion Valerie grabbed the gun and pointed it directly at Rob, tears streaming down her face. Rick shouted a warning, seconds too late. A gunshot exploded through the room. Valerie dropped the weapon to the ground and crawled over to Rob’s fallen form, where he was crumbled on the carpet.

His shocked eyes stared up at her as blood poured from a gaping wound in his chest and dribbled from the corners of his mouth. “Why,” he choked out.

“If you aren’t going to protect me Rob, I have to protect myself,” she said softly, holding him.

Benny and Rick charged after Valerie, only to find themselves intercepted. Jack kicked Rick in the middle of the chest, sending him into a bookshelf that fell forward onto him. Benny managed to punch Jack in the back, ripping one broken wing off completely and knocking Jack to the floor. Jack rolled to the side as Benny tried to kick him and then jumped to his feet.

The two men were squaring off for another volley as the doors to the library swung open and two police officers, one dressed as the pink panther and the other dressed in a suit of armor charged in, followed by a frantic Cinderella. They found themselves staring at a surreal scene. Zeus looked on as Aphrodite cried over the dying body of a gladiator, while another warrior lay beneath a bookshelf, and Cupid grappled with a third as Psyche cowered against the far wall.

Benny took one look at the situation, decided that he was outnumbered, and jumped out a nearby window to try and escape. Steph stumbled toward Jack, wrapped her arms around him and began crying against his chest. Jack tried to catch his breath. He wrapped his arms around Steph and held her tightly. “It’s gonna be alright now,” he said as he stared down at Valerie and Rob.

Sue went to her father, who was sitting mute at his desk. The pink panther took off out the window to try and chase down Benny, while the knight in shining armor called for an ambulance to deal with the dying man in Valerie’s arms.


The guests were difficult to get rid of. Everyone at the party wanted to know who had been rushed off in the ambulance and why. The rumors were outrageous and ranged from Edward killing a man who had been having an affair with his young wife, to one of the sisters killing a man who had been cheating on her with one of the other sisters. There was also a rumor about the mess having been a botched robbery. That was the most generous of the rumors and had been offered by close friends of the family. By the time all the guests were gone and the cops questions had been answered it was nearing midnight.

Valerie had been taken away by the police. Steph promised her that she’d find the best lawyer she could. Edward had been taken to the hospital in a different ambulance. Stacy and Sue had gone with him. But Steph had been kept behind by the cops to finish answering questions. Relief flooded Steph’s body as she watched Brent escort the last of the police from her father’s home.

“Jack,” Steph called gently. He was sitting with his head in his hands. At the sound of her voice, he looked up. “Do you have anywhere to go tonight?”

He sighed and sat back, feeling his broken wings crunch against the couch. “I’ll figure something out,” he said, standing up.

Steph wasn’t about to let him leave. Her father was virtually catatonic and currently being fussed over by her sisters, who still didn’t have the entire story. Her entire life had been turned upside down. All she wanted right now was to forget it all. “I don’t want to be alone tonight Jack.”

It didn’t register what she was suggesting at first. Jack’s eyes bored into Steph’s, trying to find her intent. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Steph.”

Before he could say anything else Steph stepped up to Jack, put her hands on the sides of his neck and face, drew him down to her and kissed him. The room spun. Jack let his arms wrap around Steph and his mind go blank. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.

When they parted, Jack allowed Steph to lead him upstairs to her room. Insistent hands and fevered kisses drew Jack deeper into a mindless bliss as they worked their way through the blackness in the room to Steph’s bed. Their costumes were wrestled off in the dark. Jack pushed Steph down on the bed. His lips moved from hers, along her jaw, and neck, down her chest and triggered a moan as his tongue circled her nipple before his mouth closed over the firm flesh and drew it into the hot wet.

Touching became frantic and needy. Steph ground her mound against his hip as he mauled her breasts. “I need you inside me Jack,” she begged, “please.”

Jack released her nipple from his lips and bit her neck gently, before moving back. Kneeling between her legs he felt her hands come out of the darkness, wrap around his cock and pull him to her. She guided him into her sopping cunt. Jack moaned as he slid into her tight heat. Steph lifted her hips to meet him as he moved against her, inside of her. Needy whimpers were forced from Steph’s lips as Jack thrust into her over and over again.

They surrendered to the passion and kept it up as long as their exhausted bodies could handle it. When they finally lay still in the dark neither of them was able to sleep.

“So this is Valentine’s Day,” Steph said softly. “For the rest of my life it gets to be the worst day in my existence. Would you think I’m a terrible demanding bitch if I told you to do something to make it all better Jack?”

He nuzzled his face into the back of her hair. “I thought I already tried to do that,” he teased half-heartedly. “Give me a minute and I can try to do better.”

The smile that Jack caused was accompanied by tears. “That’s not what I meant,” she whimpered.

“I’d do anything you want, Steph. If it’s in my power. Just tell me.”

“I don’t know,” she cried softly. Steph trembled in Jack’s arms. She turned around, her lips searching for his, hoping to prompt another round of love making. That seemed to be the only way of driving the day’s images and thoughts from her mind.

Jack kissed her gently and then pushed her back. He looked over at the clock. “There’s still a few minutes left of Valentine’s Day,” he said.

“God, who cares,” Steph sobbed.

Jack’s hand felt for hers. When he finally located it, he searched for the right finger. Finding a large diamond ring, Jack pulled it off Steph’s finger and tossed it into the darkness somewhere. “Oops, I lost another one,” he said. Then he drew the finger to his mouth and kissed the tip.

Steph laughed through the sobs. “We’re going to have to look for that in the morning.”

“Either I’m about to make today worse or do exactly what you asked me to do,” he said seriously.

Steph felt her heart lodge in her throat. Jack pulled the ring he had given Leesha off his pinky finger, where he had put it when Valerie had given it to him. “It’s not a diamond,” he said as he slid it on her finger. “But if you ask me about it tomorrow I’ll tell you where it came from and maybe that’ll make it good enough,” he said. “Does this help fix it,” he asked, his voice edged with uncertainty.

The tears on Steph’s cheeks grew more insistent. “The worst and most incredible Valentine’s Day of my life,” she said softly.

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