Desire for Love (The Club #13) (7 page)

The problem was, the
caring and respectful attitude he’d displayed the last couple of days had
kindled a tiny flame of hope in her heart. One she’d never imagined she’d ever
feel. Add that to the strong sexual attraction pulling her like a magnet into
his vicinity, she’d allowed herself to wonder what it would be like, loving
this guy. And being loved by him in return.

But his silence in
justifying his actions told her he was just like any other guy she’d ever met.

They turned into her
street and a few minutes later, the pick-up rolled to a stop outside their
house. Slush and mud lay in thick mounds covering the grass. Icicles hung like
ragged banners from the house guttering and the branches of the Drake Elm tree.
Some kids had attempted to make a snowman a few doors down but there was no
sign of anyone playing outside now. Smoke rose from the chimneys of a couple of
houses and the footpaths were deserted of life.

Studying her home as if
she’d never seen it before, Madeline realized how run-down the building
actually was. The entire street for that matter was hardly any better.
I’ll
feel better once I’m inside and the boiler’s on.
It’s only the cold
weather that’s making me feel so low.

“I’ll help bring your
bags inside,” Harrison said and swung out of the car.

Madeline grabbed the
blankets, while her brother carried his backpack and a duffle bag. They all
trooped up the path to the front porch where Matty unlocked the door and after
a muttered, “Thanks, dude”, rushed inside leaving an awkward silence behind
him.

“Yes, thanks for helping
me.” Madeline drew in a deep breath. The cold air stung her lungs and she
shivered.

“No, worries.” He stared
at a point above her head.

“Listen…” she began when
he didn’t speak.

“About that bet—”

“Forget it,” she cut in
sharply.
I don’t want to hear his stupid excuses
.
Let it go. Let him
go.
Blindly, she turned for the door.

His hand clutched her
upper arm. “I want to explain, but I don’t know if you’ll believe me.”

Her heart just about strangling
her throat, Madeline managed, “Try me.”

“When I heard about the
bet, I paid off the bloke who they’d voted on to have sex with you.”

She squeezed her eyes
shut.
I don’t know if I want to hear anymore.
Her hand fumbled for the
door handle.

“I did it to protect
you.”

Her eyes snapped open.
She flung off his restraining hand and whirled around to glare at him. “So
paying a guy in order for you to have sex with me, was your way of protecting
me?”

“It wasn’t like that.”
His eyes pleaded with her to understand. His rigid posture screamed extreme
tension. “I saw you weeks ago, at a baseball game. You were watching your
brother play and I was there with Aaron and his family.”

He wet his lips.

Madeline fingers curled
into the palms of her hands. “And?”

“Geez. You’re not going
to believe me.” He shook his head. His eyes were shadowed, their brilliant
color dimmed. “Can’t you trust me when I tell you, I only have your best
interests at heart?”

A little of her rage and
disappointment dissipated in the face of his obvious distress.
He’s acting
so genuine, but is it real?
Oh Lordy, I so want it to be real.
“I
admit you’ve been…I guess…supportive since my life went down the sewer.”

“That’s a start.” He
dropped the bags in his hands and they landed with thumps on the floorboards.
Reaching out, he cupped her face, tilting her chin upwards while his thumb ran
lightly across her lower lip. When his mouth came down to meet hers, she didn’t
turn away.

His kiss was tender,
protective. To Madeline, his caress felt like he was promising her forever. But
then it was over before it had really started and already he was moving away,
stepping off her porch, walking down the path.
Out of my life.

Then about to open his
pick-up’s door, he yelled, “I’ll be back, babe. And soon.”

He threw her a broad
grin.

Then he was gone, leaving
her standing at her front door staring down the street, wanting desperately to
run after him.
Is this what love feels like? This gutted, agonizing roil of
pain clashing with my hope and longing to trust him?

“Hey, sis,” hollered
Matty from the living room. “Your mobile’s ringing. Aren’t you going to answer
it?”

Chapter Seven

“I
don’t think you should go. I think you should wait until Harrison comes back.”
Matty stuck his lower lip out in the way he used to do when he was a toddler
and about to throw one of his, thankfully, few tantrums.

If he really is coming
back.
The words clung to the tip of her tongue
but she caught herself before she could utter them. Her brother spoke as if he
had no doubts of Harrison’s return.
If only I could be that positive.

“Uh huh,” muttered
Madeline, taking one last look at Matty’s mutinous face before turning away and
grabbing her car keys off the kitchen counter. “I won’t be long. Sasha said it
was urgent and to do with the missing money. I need to do something to help
myself. If what she says is true, then I’ll have physical proof that Roberta
was the instigator behind the bet and a thief, not just the one throwing about
accusations.”

“There’s another storm
front heading for Karim.”

“I’ll be careful. Anyway,
I won’t be gone that long.” She crossed the room and kissed his cheek. “You
could unpack for us or even better, do some school work. Do something for me
first, though. Call Harrison and tell him where I’ve gone.”

“Will do, sis.” The
relief in his voice made her smile.

“Thanks, Matty. I’ll see
you later.” Lifting a hand in an airy wave, she walked out the door, ensuring
it locked securely behind her and sloshed her way to the Chevy.

The drive to the Club
took longer than she expected as the slush on the roads had frozen to ice. She
kept her car to a bit above a crawl, ignoring the horn of an irate driver
behind her and who eventually swung out and overtook her before speeding off
with a spurt of mud and ice spinning up into the air.
What a jerk.
Without her wheels chained, it would only take for her tires to lose traction
for a split second and her car could spin out of control.

By the time she arrived,
her hands felt like they were locked into position on the steering wheel so tightly
had she clung during the journey through the city. She parked nearby and
approached the building where she scanned herself in, barely acknowledging
Harding’s surprised greeting. Sasha had said that she’d meet her in the
honeymoon suite on the second floor of all places.

It was warm inside the
Club and as she climbed the stairs, Madeline peeled off her overcoat, slinging
it across her arm. She reached the next landing and walked through the open
door and into the Deuzieme Bar. The room was empty. No one manned the bar.

Frowning, she peered
along the passageway that led further down the building to private rooms, the
Shibari Room, the Group Rooms, and the Training room and VIP Lounge at the very
end. Where was everyone?

She slipped her hand into
her coat pocket and pressed the video recording on her smart phone.
Right.
Let’s do this.
The thick carpeting swished underfoot as she walked to the
first door on her right. The handle turned under her hand and the door opened.

She took one step
forward.

Something crashed onto
her head. Pain shot straight down her spine. Her knees buckled and the world
turned to black.

***

It was pain that greeted
her first when she regained consciousness. She inhaled a shaky breath. With her
eyes still closed, she raised a trembling hand and gingerly felt over her
scalp. Her fingers came away wet. A sickly stench caught at the back of her
throat and she gagged.

“You broke our trust.”

The voice was familiar
but it took Madeline several seconds to place it while she fought free of the
nausea. She forced her eyes open.

“You.” Her voice shook.
She tried to rise but found her ankles had been cuffed together. When she
looked down, a violent tremor shook her body. While she’d been out for the
count, her pullover had been removed along with her jeans. She laid on the soft
carpet clad only in her underwear. Her overcoat remained where she’d dropped
it, next to the door. “What have you done?”

“I’ve done nothing.”
There was a heavy emphasis on the word…
I
... “Look at what you forced me
to do.”

Madeline followed the
pointing finger. Her gaze fell on the lifeless figure splayed out on the
spanking bench. Blood dripped in slow drops to sink into the carpet. She
screamed, “Oh, my God Roberta, please God, what have you done to Roberta?”

Sasha sank to her knees
beside Madeline and gave a gusty sigh. “It was you, honey. All you,” she said
mournfully and trailed the back of her hand over Madeline’s breasts.

“Get away from me.”
Madeline slapped at the other woman’s arm but there was little strength in the
movement. Sickness rose. This time, Madeline rolled to the side and emptied her
stomach.

“I can’t believe I ever
found you attractive,” Sasha said in a wondering tone. “Look at you now. Puking
over a woman who made your life hell.” She sniggered.

After wiping her mouth
with the back of her hand, Madeline sat up. “You set me up and framed Roberta
for it.”

“I can’t believe how easy
it was, Roberta was sooooo furious with you because you cost her that payout.
She was more than willing to believe anything I told her.”

“You talked her into
contacting the police.”

“I surely did.” Her voice
rang with pride. “It all went beautifully. You had to be punished, honey. But
then you disappeared. I went over to your house but you’d gone. I intended to
plant the thousand dollars inside but I didn’t want to break the lock.”

Thank you, Harrison.
Heaven only knows what Sasha might have done once she was inside my home. She
could have attacked Matty.

Sasha pointed to where
her handbag dangled from the back of her chair. “As soon as I’m finished with
you, I’ll place the cash inside your coat.” She laughed. “I can’t believe how
easy it all was.”

Madeline shifted her
legs, bending her knees a little.

“Don’t move.” Sasha
picked the knife up off the floor and waved it in the air. “I offered you
friendship. I offered you love. We were going to be together forever. And then
you betrayed me. You fucked that man. You enjoyed it! I saw it all.”

“There was never anything
between us, Sasha. There never could be and I’m sorry for that.”

“No, you’re not. But you
will be. Sorry, that is.” Sasha giggled. “It’s a pity. We could have been good
for each other.”

Madeline flung her head
back and screamed.

“You’re wasting your
time,” Sasha said in a sing-song voice. “After I took care of Roberta, I
changed the rosters around and told the staff the bars here were off-limits.
There is no one on this floor. Only you.” Sasha pricked Madeline’s stomach
through the layers of her clothes with the knife.

Madeline froze and tried
not to flinch at the sharp sting of pain.

“And me.”

The other woman raised
the knife above her head. Her eyes blazed with baffled fury.

She’s going to kill me.
Madeline had seconds to act.
I can’t run but I can fight.
She flung
herself to the side just as Sasha slashed the knife down.

Madeline kicked out with
her bound feet, connecting with Sasha’s groin, and the woman shrieked.

From somewhere in the
building, the fire alarm exploded into raucous life.

Footsteps pounded on the
stairs.

Sasha came at her again.

Light glinted off the
wickedly sharp blade.

Madeline twisted at the
waist. The knife slashed along her forearm. Tears of pain spilled from her
eyes. Grunting, she reached out, her groping fingers found and closed over her
overcoat. She flung it with all her strength toward the other woman who yelped
as it hit her face, throwing her aim off.

Madeline screamed again
and crawled as fast as she could to the props table.

Harrison bellowed her
name.

Help was close.

But Sasha was closer.

The woman rose to her
feet and rushed toward Madeline.

Madeline swiped up the
whip and with a snap that cracked the air, lashed the throngs at the hand
holding the knife. The leather wrapped around Sasha’s wrist and Madeline
tugged.

Hard.

The knife fell to the
floor just as Harrison burst through the doorway. Harding and two other suits
followed hot on his heels. Harrison reached Madeline first, running his hands
up and down her body, demanding to know where she was hurt, tying a clean
handkerchief around her bleeding arm, then carefully examined the wound on her
head. When she smiled at him, he crushed her to his chest.

Over his shoulder, she
watched as the security team overpowered Sasha who beat at them with her fists
and attempted to rake their faces with her nails. The two suits man-handled her
out the door while Harding went over and covered Roberta’s body with a sheet
before snapping open his phone and calling the police.

Shuddering, Madeline
buried her face in Harrison’s jacket accepting, as his warmth enfolded her,
that she’d finally found where she belonged.

“Strewth. I didn’t think
I’d get here in time.” Voice hoarse, he nuzzled her neck. His body shook.

Or was she shaking? Did
it really matter? She pulled away a little to gaze into his face. “You really
do care, don’t you?”

“Silly sausage,” Harrison
said tenderly. “Would I go to all this trouble if I didn’t?”

“Then it really was…love
at first sight,” she whispered, staring wonderingly into his glowing eyes.

He nodded.

“And the bet?”

He muttered, “Love does
that to a bloke, makes him do all kinds of dumb things.”

Laying a trembling hand
to the side of his face, Madeline shook her head. “I think what you did was
wonderful. You saved me from myself.”

He took her lips in a
searing kiss that just about curled her dead-straight hair. When they broke
apart, both breathless and smiling idiotically at each other, Harrison said,
“Mum is going to love you.”

“Matty?” She searched his
face, looking for any hint of evasion. Nothing but old-fashioned honesty and
love shone like a lighthouse beacon from him.

Harrison grinned. “Mum is
going to love him, too. And so will Dad. And my brothers and sisters, not to
mention my cousins.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of
family.”

“You’ll handle it, babe.
You have a lot of love to give.” He folded their linked hands over her heart
and winked. “And I’m just the bloke to teach you everything you need to know.”

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