USA Today Bestselling Author

Karen Kelley

Axel Powers is a monster and he’s determined to possess Marissa. But there’s one man who’s even more dangerous than Axel, the only man she knows who can help her, but after what she did, will he ignore her plea when she turns to him?
Blade is ready for a little R&R after finishing a particularly gruesome mission, but when he gets a call from someone he hoped never to hear from again, he’s just curious enough to know exactly what could mean life or death to Marissa. Probably nothing, but revenge for what she did has been burning inside him a long time—too long.

He just doesn’t expect to find a woman on the verge of panic. Now what does he do? Ten years ago, he would’ve laughed and walked away, told her she was getting exactly what she deserved. That was ten years ago.

But when he learns the extent of the danger Marissa is facing, and exactly who she’s running from, he’ll risk his life to protect her.
Dark secrets, nail-biting suspense, wickedly hot alpha hero, Feisty heroine, enemies to lovers, opposites attract, explicit love scenes. 18+. May contain a few triggers for some readers.

Chapter One

Axel grabbed her arms and jerked her against him. With a sinking feeling, Marissa knew this wasn't the dream job she'd hoped for. She pushed against his shoulders, but he only laughed.

God, how could she have thought Axel Powers was attractive? Surfer looks—that had been her first impression. Light brown hair, tanned, killer smile. The malice shining in his cold, blue eyes pretty much changed all that.

“Let go of me,” she hissed through gritted teeth, heart pounding with fear and disgust.

“No, I don’t think I will.” His grip tightened on her arms. “I rather like the way you feel.”

Struggling wouldn’t faze him. He was at least six feet tall, towering over her five feet, six inches. He had broad shoulders and enough muscles to easily dominate her—which he was proving he could right now.

Desperate to escape his grasp, she attempted to reason with him. “I was hired as your assistant, nothing more.” She hated the pleading note that crept into her voice.

Her words only seemed to fuel his appetite to dominate her. He slapped her hard. She gasped as burning pain spread over her cheek and down her jaw. Before she could even attempt to fight back, he violently shoved her against the wall, her head slamming against the hard surface with a thud. She cried out in pain as she ineffectively fought against him, but his grip only tightened.

“Didn’t I tell you? Assistant means you’ll do whatever I want, whenever I want.” His hot breath on her face sent shivers of fear over her. Tears stinging her eyes, Marissa knew she had to get out of there.

“Then I quit!”

Her words only seemed to amuse him. “That’s not an option.” He studied her face. “Damn, I wanted you from the moment I saw you—the new woman in town. Yes, I know everything that goes on around here. You’ll do well to remember that.”

What had she gotten herself into? She should’ve run when she’d looked up a few days ago and saw Axel watching her. There’d been something in his eyes, a calculating gleam, as if he played a game of cat and mouse, and she was the mouse. She’d wondered if she’d only imagined it.

Apparently not.

His gaze raked over her. “I have an important meeting that, unfortunately, can't be postponed. I expect you to be in my bed waiting for me when I return."

“And if I’m not?” Marissa asked, hating that her words trembled.

His smile didn’t reach his eyes as he leaned in close, his lips crashing against hers in a brutal, bruising kiss. She tried to move her face away, but he gripped her chin until he finished assaulting her.

“Then I’ll make your life a living hell,” he whispered before finally releasing her and stepping back. “I’ll be back in one hour.” He paused at the door, his gaze locking on her. “And don’t try to run. I’d find you, and I guarantee you won’t like the consequences of your actions.” With his warning hanging over her like a guillotine, he left the room, closing the door behind him.

Any strength left inside her suddenly drained away, and if not for the support of the wall, she would’ve collapsed. One hour. She only had one hour to figure out what to do. One thing she knew for sure, she wouldn’t be waiting in Axel’s bed! He could go to hell.

Think! She needed a plan. First, was he serious when he said he would find her and bring her back? From the hard glitter in his eyes, she was pretty sure he meant what he’d said. It hadn’t taken her long to figure out he didn’t like sharing his things, whether it be a bottle of fine brandy or the gold pen on his desk. Marissa had a feeling she was his new toy. Not if she could help it! She could go to the police. They would be able to help. She felt a little better now that she knew what she was going to do.

Before she left his office, her gaze fell on the computer. Axel had told her not to bother with his documents. He didn’t want her touching anything inside his office, warning her it was off limits. She only came in when he wanted something—like today, except Marissa was what he’d wanted.

Her office was in the adjoining room. So, what was on his computer he didn't want her to see? It could give her enough leverage so that he would leave her alone. The info might even get him arrested. Axel had to be dirty. It would serve him right if they put him behind bars. She took a seat at his desk.

She'd seen him enter his password, so she typed it in now. She didn't take the time to read all the files. She just started downloading them, but from what she could tell, it looked as though he might be involved in some illegal activities. Not that she could say for sure.

When she heard someone talking outside his door, she quickly pulled the flash drive and came to her feet, not even bothering to shut down the computer. Whoever had been speaking, walked past the door without stopping. She breathed a sigh of relief, but her hands were still shaking. As she came to her feet, she glanced out the window. Axel was leaving. She had one hour before he returned.

She hurried from his office and went inside hers. She had a room on the estate, but she didn't think she would have time to pack a bag. All she’d brought with her were clothes. They were replaceable. She grabbed her cell phone off her desk, slipped it into her pocket, and then grabbed her purse, dropping the flash drive inside.

Before she left, she took another deep breath and exhaled, then stepped out of her office. Axel Powers could screw himself! She pasted a fake smile on her face when the housekeeper came out of one of the other rooms.

"Mr. Powers asked me to run some errands for him in town. I'll be back soon."

The housekeeper didn't return her smile. She only nodded. Marissa had noticed that the people who worked for Axel rarely smiled. She understood why now.

As soon as she reached her car, her pulse began to slow. Okay, that hadn’t been so hard. Her relief was short-lived when she tried to start her car and the engine refused to turn over. “Damn, damn, damn!” She slammed the palm of her hand against the steering wheel.

Intentional? Maybe. No, more like probably. No, this wasn't the end of it. She refused to let Axel win. She got out of the car and hurried to the garage, going to the box on the wall. She grabbed another set of keys with only one objective: get to the police station. From there, she would figure out what she needed to do.

The drive wasn’t long, only about ten minutes, but she kept looking in the rearview mirror, expecting to see someone chasing her. A couple of times, she veered dangerously close to the edge of the road. Calm down, she told herself. Yeah, that wasn’t happening. She didn't breathe easier until she parked the car and went inside.

"I need to speak to someone about Axel Powers," she told the woman behind the desk, who raised an eyebrow at her request.

"That's a nasty bruise you have on your face," the woman whose nametag read, Dunn, remarked. She was young, maybe early twenties, with red hair and freckles.

Marissa reached up and felt her cheek, then flinched when her fingers touched the tender skin. "He attacked me. I need to file a complaint,” she firmly stated, but tears filled her eyes.

She snorted. "Against Axel Powers? Are you sure that’s what you want to do?"

"Quite sure." She could feel some of her bravado returning. She was going to make Axel pay. He couldn’t treat her, or any other woman, as if they were put on earth just for his pleasure.

"Follow me. I'll take you to one of the detectives."

She followed Dunn down a long hallway noticing the closed doors on both sides. At the end of the hall was a door marked exit. A bland, pale green paint colored the walls, and the place reeked of stale coffee. She would hate to work there every day.

The woman knocked on a door with opaque glass. The name, Detective Baker, was written in bold, black letters. A moment later, a deep voice told them to come in. Dunn opened the door, then quickly explained what was going on. The detective, a man in his late fifties with gray hair and a mustache, looked surprised. He motioned for her to take a seat, and Dunn left, closing the door behind her.

"I’m Detective Baker. Are you sure you want to file a complaint against Axel?" he asked, with more than a hint of skepticism.

He was the second person to ask her that. As if Axel was some kind of god or something. It didn't matter. She raised her chin. "What would you do in my situation?” she asked, her voice trembling with anger. “He hit me, and then told me he wanted me waiting for him in his bed when he returned."

The detective’s expression grew serious. "You do know he’s a powerful man in this town, don't you?"

"Does that mean you won't help me?" she said, her voice rising in alarm. She started to stand.

He waved her back down with one hand. "Settle down. I just thought I would mention it. If what you say is true, then of course, I’ll help you. That’s what I’m here for. You'll have to fill out some paperwork, though.” His chair squeaked as he came to his feet. He rummaged inside a file cabinet. “Never anything here when I need it. I'll have to get the papers. Would you like a cup of coffee or anything?"

She shook her head. "No, I'm fine." At least, she was now.

Detective Baker left the room, and she finally began to relax. Axel couldn't hurt her here. She didn't care how powerful he thought he was. No one was about the law. She glanced at the clock on the wall. The minutes slowly ticked by. She shifted her position in the chair but didn't breathe easier again until the door finally opened and the detective returned wearing a grim expression.

"I also have a flash drive," she blurted. "I think he's involved in illegal activities." She reached inside her purse and brought it out.

He took the flash drive, barely glancing at it before tossing it into a drawer in his desk, then taking a seat once again.

"I spoke with Axel on the phone, and he made some pretty serious allegations against you, young lady," his tone solemn.

She sat straighter. "About me? What did he say?" Her heart began to race.

"He said you broke into his computer and stole some files. I assume that's what's on the flash drive. He said these files contain information about corporate mergers that he's working on. The information could be worth a lot of money if someone wanted to sell it."

"That's not why I took it. It looked like illegal activity to me. You have to open the files," she insisted.

Detective Baker’s expression remained unreadable. "We will, we will."

Why didn’t she believe him?

"He also said you stole one of his cars. Is that true?"

Marissa felt the blood drain from her face. "I only took it so I could get away from his estate. I was scared. He was going to force himself on me. He did something to my car so I couldn't drive it."

He propped his arms on the desk, lacing his fingers together. "You know, stealing a car is a felony offense. It can send you to prison for a long time. Are you sure you want to press charges against him? Maybe it was all a misunderstanding. If you apologize, we can forget all about this, and you can probably go back to work for him. I can talk to him. I’ll even put in a good word for you."

"You're taking his side? He was going to rape me," she ground out.

He shrugged. “Did anyone else hear him tell you that?”

She slunk down in her chair. “No,” she mumbled.

"It'll be his word against yours, and Axel is an upstanding member of this community. He donates a lot of money."

Axel was right. He was powerful. She had a feeling she was screwed. She couldn’t rely on the local police to help her. Axel had bought and paid for them.

The detective’s door was suddenly flung open and the woman from the front desk began to talk rapidly about an ongoing situation. "You better get up here quick. Jackson is back, and he’s threatening to shoot his neighbor. He brought his shotgun with him this time."

"Never a dull moment around here," he grumbled, then looked at Marissa. "Keep your seat and I'll be back in a few minutes. We’ll see if we can get all this straightened out. I'm sure you just let your imagination run wild. I'll have to convince Axel not to press charges against you, though. He might not if you go back with him. He did say you were a good assistant, just a little dramatic." He closed the door behind him.

"You've got to be kidding me," she said as her thoughts raced. There was no way she was going to hang around here and then go back with Axel. She jumped to her feet and started for the door. At the last minute, she turned around and grabbed the flash drive out of the desk drawer.

She eased the door open and heard men arguing at the front. She glanced toward the back and made her way in that direction. Once outside, she scanned the area. All clear. She didn't hesitate but went to Axel's car and got in. If he wanted to accuse her of stealing one of his cars, she might as well use it to get away.

Her heart was still pounding as she passed the city limits sign. She glanced at the dials, making sure she didn’t speed. Getting pulled over might just be the last straw. “Oh, great,” she mumbled when she noticed the car was almost out of gas. She would have to go back into town if she wanted to fill the tank. Not a good idea right now.

She quickly looked around, then pulled down a dirt road. By the time she found a place to pull off, the car was starting to sputter. She barely made it behind a stand of trees, but at least no one would see the car from the road. Now she was stranded. Not only did she have Axel looking for her, but probably the police, too.

What the hell was she going to do? She could walk back to the main road and hitch a ride. The thought of getting into a car with a stranger didn't appeal to her. She couldn't call her parents because they’d gone on a cruise and wouldn't have phone service. She bit her bottom lip and closed her eyes.

She could call Galen. God, she hadn't spoken to him since the funeral. Ten years had passed. Did he still hate her? She already knew the answer. Everyone had said it wasn't her fault, but the look in his eyes that day had tried, convicted, and condemned her to a hell filled with guilt.

She was still in contact with his aunt. She’d once told her that Galen, his Aunt Peggy refused to call him by his nickname, Blade, had joined the Navy, then went on to become a Navy Seal, and then later that he’d left the Navy.

Marissa did not doubt that he'd made a badass Seal. His intense gaze alone could pin you to the wall. He'd always seemed dark and mysterious, and yes, she'd always been a little attracted to him. There was something about the unknown that intrigued her.

Once, she’d seen him grab a man almost twice his size by the throat for calling a waitress a slut. It had all happened in an instant. One minute he’d been sitting in a booth at the diner, then he was on his feet, like a panther attacking. Before all was said and done, the big bully was on his knees apologizing.

But that was a long time ago. Marissa had to hold onto the belief there was something inside Blade that would make him sympathetic toward her predicament.

Besides, he was the only one she knew who could help her. He was also the one man who scared her more than Axel. Still, she hesitated before pulling up his name, actually, his nickname was the way she had it listed. She'd never learned why everyone called him Blade.

“Here goes nothing.” She said a silent prayer and called him, then jumped when he answered.

"Blade here. Who’s this?"

His gravelly voice was the same as she remembered. "It's Marissa. Marissa Finch."

There was just the slightest hesitation. "What the hell do you want?"

"I need your help."

"And you think I'm going to help you?"

"He'll kill me if you don't."

There was another hesitation, followed by an exasperated sigh. "Where are you?"