“Why are you so anxious to hand me off to a brother you clearly hate when you’re the one who can’t keep your hands off of me?”

Luka fists the neckline of my t-shirt and slowly tugs it down so that it grazes the top of my breasts. He holds it there, keeping me locked against him, and my breath hitches. 

“Don’t you dare question me,” he snarls. “My family dealings are none of your business.”

He completely ignores my other, much more pressing request about his deviously delicious hands, though. Case in point, they’re on me yet again. 

“Your family dealings are going to be my business soon, aren’t they? Once I’m your brother’s wife?” I make a show of clawing at his hands even though I really want them all over me. “I have a right to know what I’m marrying into.”

He cringes at those words, and a tiny tingle of pleasure blossoms in the deep recesses of my heart.

It’s pretty damn clear he doesn’t want me to marry Dima any more than I want to. But why? Is it a competition thing? Or something more? How much dirtier does the family laundry get?

Judging by the way I was assaulted and plucked from my home like a grape from the vine, it is probably way beyond anything I can possibly imagine. There isn’t enough bleach in the world to eradicate the stains that have seeped into the Malikov family fabric. 

And I’m about to be woven right into it.

Fucking fantastic.

“All you need to know right now is that you’ll be taken care of.” Luka releases his grip on me, almost as if his brain finally caught up with his body and reminded him to bottle up the beast.

I actually like the beast, though.

Sicko that I am.

He makes me feel alive at a time when I should probably wish for death, another reason why I’ll boycott the wedding.

Showing up on Dima’s arm means I need to leave Luka first. And for as much as I try to deny it to myself because of the way he bullied me and my family, there is something crackling in the air between us. 

That, or I’m experiencing a very expedited, very acute case of Stockholm Syndrome.

I don’t think a syndrome would come on that suddenly, though. 

I’ve only been his captive for about twelve hours.

“That’s not enough. I need more.” I bend down to pick up a jagged piece of glass that must have skittered across the floor from the earlier intrusion. 

He narrows his eyes. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I want to talk to my family. I want to hear from them that they are safe and unharmed.” I walk over to the kitchen island and place the glass on the granite.

“Fuck that. Besides, they’ll never really be safe with your father running his shit show.”

I whirl around to glare at him, a tiny part of me tempted to throw the slice of glass at him. “Look, I just want to hear their voices, okay? Why is that such a problem? I could have been killed a little while ago, and they need to know that there’s a threat.”

“Maybe your father should have thought about that before he got into bed with some of the scumbags who are now fucking him up the ass.”

“That’s a really graphic image that I could do without, thank you very much.”

He shrugs. “It is what it is.” 

“Don’t be so flip. I’m sure my mother and sisters are panicking about what’s happened to me. Let them at least hear my voice.”

He doesn’t answer.

Instead, he stalks past me and heads into the living room where he sinks into the black leather couch.

I take a few tentative steps toward him. “Luka, I know you want to punish my father, but don’t punish the rest of my family. They didn’t have anything to do with your reasons for kidnapping me. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if my daughter was taken, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.” My voice catches, not because I’m trying to put on a show, which I totally intended to do.

Tears and all.

But when my mom’s fear-filled face flashed across my mind a split second ago, I didn’t need to pretend. I miss her and I need to tell her I’m safe, at least for the foreseeable future. Once I make a break for it, who knows?

Luka fiddles with the television remote and finally pulls out his phone, holding it up in the air.

I clasp my hands together, my eyes widening.

Maybe he’s not such a monster after all.

“See this phone?”

I nod.

“Good, because that’s about as close as you’re gonna get to making a call on it.”