Brutal Protector by Serena Lyons


Prologue: Faith - Recap

Ipush my bedroom door shut behind me, so tired that I don’t notice the unfamiliar smell in my room until it’s too late. The scent of expensive cologne and cigar smoke makes my nerves stand on end just a half-second before a leather-gloved hand clamps over my mouth.

Adrenalin floods my body. I struggle as my attacker clamps down harder. I’m determined to get free. This is the same person who chased me earlier. The one who put me in the hospital the other week. I won’t be so lucky to escape alive this third time.

I jerk harder, determined to get free, but my attacker’s other arm grabs my body and pins me firmly against him. His hand is pressing so hard on my mouth that I’m sure my teeth are puncturing it. That doesn’t matter now, my lips could be torn into shreds for all I care, as long as I get out of here alive. I need to get free or raise the alarm. I twist and turn, using all my strength to try to break free.

“Faith, Faith, Faith,” a low voice sing-songs in my ear. “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.” The hand around my front loosens, seems to drop away.

My heart leaps. This is my chance. I’m just about to make another play for freedom when something cold and firm replaces the missing arm.

My breath catches and ice floods my veins as I look down. There is a knife pressing against my torso. A deadly sharp knife.

“As you can see, I came prepared this time.” My captor giggles and goosebumps erupt all over me. “Got to be a Boy Scout, you know.”

I freeze, my mind racing. How the hell am I going to get free? The door is shut, the whole staircase is asleep in the dead of the night, and he’ll knife me as soon as I try to wake anyone.

“That’s better. You need to learn that silence pays. If you hadn’t started shouting about Millie’s death on that stupid website, I wouldn’t need to be here now.”

I gasp without meaning to. This man—Millie’s killer, presumably—has linked the website to me? “I don’t—” I’m silenced by increased pressure from the blade against my belly.

“Shut up! Your makeover might have fooled some idiots, but I’m not stupid. What are the chances that feisty little Faith from Millie’s past starts Westforde at the precise moment all the rumours start up about Millie’s death here? Please.” He snaps, his knife pressing harder into my stomach every time he emphasises a point.

I don’t say anything. He sounds too angry to placate, and he’s right, there’s no use denying what I’m up to. I need to buy time. And I need to know who the hell he is.

“Quiet for once?” He sneers. “That’s a nice change, but I’m going to have to make sure you stay that way. Now don’t say a word, or I’ll slice you open.” He presses harder against my belly, enough that his knife cuts into my sports top and my legs begin to shake. He’s not messing around. “Clever girl,” he says as his grip on my mouth loosens.

I gulp in the fresh air, trying to calm myself, to think about how I’m going to escape, but before I latch on to anything sensible, he’s pressing something into my mouth.

“No—” I try to yell, but my voice is muffled by the soft fabric he’s silenced me with. My heart jolts and I start hyperventilating. I can’t breathe. He’s going to suffocate me. Did Millie feel like this? Was she this scared at the end? I feel sick.

“I said be quiet.” He presses the knife against me and this time I feel the edge press through my clothes to the swell of my belly. Then a sharp, stinging sensation like a bee has just bitten me.

He’s nicked my skin. I can smell my blood, feel a warm trickle down my belly. He’s not joking around.

“Oopsie daisy,” he laughs, sounding more pleased than upset. “I did tell you to be quiet.”

I turn to ice. He’s not playing; he wants to hurt me.

“Now move your hands behind your back.” He orders. There’s something so familiar about his voice, I’m sure he’s someone I know, but I’m too amped up to work out who he is. All I can hear is generic posh. All I know is he most definitely isn’t Callum. Not that I needed that proving to me anymore.

Fuck, why didn’t I stay at his house tonight? Why was I so stubborn that I insisted on coming back here? Tears sting my eyes. This is going to destroy Gran. My mam dying nearly killed her, there’s no way she’ll get through—

“I said behind your back!” My attacker’s voice is cold and cruel.

I whip my hands behind me and feel something thin fasten around them. Something plastic. Bile works up my throat as I realise what it is; wrist ties, just like Millie’s autopsy hinted at.

I try to gather all the air in my lungs, to scream as loud as the gag in my mouth will let me, but then he pushes me without warning. My heart jolts like I’m in a nightmare—which I guess I am—and my face snaps against my bed. I try to use my legs to struggle up, my arms useless, but he jumps on my back, pinning me to the bed. My cut stomach flares with pain as my wound splits further open, but it’s nothing compared to the fear in my mind. Are these my last few minutes alive?

Thank God I stepped out of that gate and kissed Callum. My thought surprises me, but it eases me too. At least that’s something good to hold on to right now.

My captor presses a knee into my back, bringing me back to my nightmare. “I knew you wouldn’t make this easy. Millie definitely got all the genes for cooperation.” He hisses.

His words make no sense. I try to turn over, but something sharp presses into my neck. Something finer than the knife. Cold liquid seeps into my neck, into my veins, and I start to understand what’s happening.

He’s drugged me.

I’d bet my life that he drugged Millie too, but I’m not sure anyone would consider my life an interesting wager anymore. The poison that will kill me could already be floating through my veins. Hot tears blind my vision and drip on to my bedspread. I twist my head to the side, towards the window, trying to focus on anything other than my inevitable doom.

“We just need to wait five minutes.” My captor sing-songs above me. “Then you’ll be out for the count and I can get you out of here and somewhere less suspicious.” I can hear the pride in his voice, know that if I could see his face it would be smiling—I picture a horror movie-like grin of wickedness.

Less suspicious for what? My brain screams as I try to fight the drugs making me weaker and weaker. What have I done? Is this what happened to Millie? Did she feel as powerless as I do, and as vulnerable? Did she know what was happening to her too?

I want to move, to scream and thrash, but I can’t. I’m too tied up and my body doesn’t seem to want to follow my orders anymore. God knows what he injected into me.

I move my eyes back to the window. The moon is visible between a gap in the clouds, and it feels like a small victory. I can look at that, focus on it instead of him, I can choose my own exit. As I stare at the shining orb, the night seems to seep from the window into my brain.

Darker, darker, darker.

Clouding the edges of my view until my vision is a tiny slit in front of me.

“Say goodbye.” The cruel voice chuckles behind me.

And then I don’t see anything.