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Dread filled me.

York, you should’ve never called Hunter. This is going to get out of hand.

Hunter moved his gaze to my face and hit me with an intense stare. “Let me take care of this. Let me do it my way.”

“I don’t want your way to get you in jail.”

“I haven’t been in jail yet.”

“Due to all those powerful friends you’ve made.”

“Exactly.” He rose as if we’d finally come to an agreement. “We should go. You have a long day tomorrow. You’ll need your rest.”

I twisted in the chair. “I also have an event I must work tonight. And how do you know my schedule?”

“York gave it to me.”

It made sense that my brother/manager would give it to my new bodyguard/adopted brother. It’s just that it all reminded me of being a kid again, and them getting together and controlling everything. That being said, the stalker taking my panties had kept me paranoid this week. Regardless of how crazy and violent Hunter could be, or how bossy York loved to be, I felt good that they were looking out for me.

“No parties tonight, Zuzu.”

I clenched my teeth at the nickname. “I’m a woman now, not a little girl. I prefer Zola.”

Hunter nodded. “You are.”

“What?”

“A woman.” The way he said it made me think of his fingers all over my skin.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

He raised his eyebrows. “For what?”

“For not calling me Zuzu anymore.”

He laughed. “Oh no, Zuzu. I’m just saying that yes, you’re definitely grown up. Too damn grown up, if you ask me.”

“Meaning?”

“I like Zuzu. It reminds me of a simpler time.”

“When?”

“When you weren’t a woman.”

I held my hands out. “Meaning?”

“Come on, Zuzu.”

“Seriously, it’s a horrifying nickname for a grown woman.” I put firmness behind my tone. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t fucking around.

But then he smiled for the first time since I’d found him in my room. And his smile was the sun. Blazing hot, warming the skin. Making my heart flutter.

“I will try.” His grin oozed arrogance mixed with amusement. A sexy sight that no woman couldn’t melt from.

My voice went low. “You’ll try?”

“Yes.” His hand went to my shoulder, picking up the end of my ponytail as he twirled the strands around his finger. “I’ll do my best to not say Zuzu.”

I shivered under his attention but pretended like his touch didn’t affect me. “Thank you.”

After being away from him for so many years, I needed a few more seconds of being in his towering presence and smelling his rich scent.

“Hunter,” I whispered as he touched my hair some more. “I missed you.”

“And I’ve missed you more than you could ever imagine.” He let my ponytail go and opened the door for me. “Are you ready?”

If you missed me so much, then why has it been so long since we’ve talked?

I held in the question and the little hurt that started to rise. Hunter was just being him. Not one thing had changed about him. He ordered, he didn’t suggest. He conquered, he didn’t ask.

Anytime Hunter was around, I knew I was protected and safe.

“Yeah. I’m ready.” I glanced down at my robe. “I just need five minutes to change.”

“Take your time.” He closed the door.

4

Confessions from a Stalker

BROKENHEARTED

I’ve fallen apart. I’m so alone.

It took me several minutes to shower, change, and head to the closest seedy bar. There, beers flowed. Weed smoke dangled in the air, but still that dark gloom settled over me. Wall-to-wall people jammed to a reggae beat, yet an intense weight of loneliness hit me.

It never mattered how packed the spot was.

Even among the crowd, I was alone.

Could I keep myself busy with fucking and killing?

I took a swig of my beer, glanced up at the television, and froze with the bottle in mid-air.

Zola smiled on the screen.

Hmmm. Would the gods be this obvious?

Zola spun around, and my heart ached. It was a commercial for pocket books. She kept lighting a cigarette throughout it.

I’d begun watching her for the past four weeks now. I knew those midnight curls. That lush brown skin. I knew the shape and the fullness of those lips, although I’d never kissed her. Just watched her as she slept.

Staring at the commercial, I gazed into her bright eyes,

I didn’t see salvation.

Emptiness grew inside of me.

I will do this to create balance.

Seeing her in this bar meant something. I’d already been planning and planning. It was just that tonight…I’d considered stopping the entire fiasco. For a minute, I’d believed that these actions might go too far.

But my true salvation would only come from death.

Zola was the key.

She would turn the lock.

The door would open.

I would walk through, and no longer would my heart break.

The commercial ended. I glanced up at the ceiling.

Are you that obvious? What do you want me to do?

The gods didn’t answer.

I returned to my beer.