Blue-Eyed Devil Page 88

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Before I could make a sound, someone came up behind me, and a hand clamped on my neck. The barrel of a handgun pressed cold and hard against the side of my head. I knew who it was even before I heard his gloating voice.

"Got you now, Marie."

CHAPTER TWENTY

When you suddenly find yourself in a dangerous situation, your brain splits into two parts, the part that's actually going through the situation, and the part that stands back and tries to understand what's happening. And those parts are not necessarily sharing information with each other. So it took a few moments for me to focus on what Nick was saying." . . . can't ignore me, you bitch. You can't keep me away if I want to see you."

He wanted me to know he was all-powerful. He wanted to prove I couldn't beat him.

My mouth had gone so dry I could barely talk, while sweat broke out on my face. "Yeah," I said in a suffocated voice. "You definitely found a way to see me. How'd you do it? You couldn't have figured out the combination."

"I used an override key."

Each apartment in the building had two override keys, in case of emergency, or in case someone forgot his or her touch-pad number. One set of all the residential keys was kept in a room behind the concierge desk. The other set was locked away in the management office.

"Vanessa gave it to you," I said in disbelief. That was illegal. It could get her prosecuted. Did she hate me so much that she would risk going to jail just to stick it to me after she'd been fired?

Apparently so.

"I told her I needed to drop some things off."

"Well, you did," I said faintly. "Thanks for the bracelet. But you didn't need to bring the gun, Nick."

"You've been ignoring me — " I m sorry.

" — treating me like I mean nothing to you." The gun jabbed my temple hard enough to leave a bruise. I stayed still, my eyes watering. "I sure as hell mean something now, don't I?"

"Yeah," I whispered. Maybe he had come here with the sole intention of scaring me. But he was working himself up as he always had, letting his temper build. Once he started getting angry, it was an avalanche. You couldn't hold it back.

"You f**king ripped me off in the divorce, and left me in Dallas, with everyone asking about what happened, where you were . . . What do you think that did to me, Marie? Did you give a shit about what I was going through?"

I tried to remember what Susan had told me, that a narcissist needed to walk away feeling like the winner. "Of course I did," I said breathlessly. "But everyone knew you could do better. Everyone knew I wasn't good enough for you."

"That's right. You'll never have it as good as you did with me." Nick shoved me hard, and I slammed against the wall, my breath knocked out. The gun pressed against my skull. I heard the click of the safety being turned off. "You never tried," he muttered, urging his h*ps against my backside. A wave of nausea went through me as I felt the bulge of his erection. "You never did enough. It takes two to make a marriage, and you were never f**king in it, Marie. You should have done more."

"I'm sorry," I said around fitful gulps of air.

"You left me. Just walked away from that apartment in your bare feet, like goddamn white trash, to try to look as pitiful as possible. To make me look bad. And then you got your ass**le of a brother to push a divorce through. Just throw a handful of cash at me, and expect me to disappear. Legal papers and all that shit don't mean a thing to me, Marie. I can still do what I want with you."

"Nick," I managed, "we'll sit down and talk as long as you want if you'll just put the gun aw — " I broke off with a grunt of pain as I felt a blunt white explosion behind my ear, and heard a tinny high-pitched sound. A thin, hot trickle of liquid ran behind my ear and down my neck. He had hit me with the butt of the gun.

"How many men have you f**ked?" he demanded.

No good answer to that one. Anything I said would lead to the subject of Hardy, and Nick's sense of humiliated fury would go into full swing. I had to pacify him. Soothe his injured ego.

"You're the one who matters," I whispered.

"Damn right about that." His free hand gripped my hair. "Dressing like a whore, cut your hair like a whore. You used to look like a lady. Like a wife. But you couldn't handle that. Now look at you."

"Nick — "

"Shut up! Everything you say is a lie. Every time you took one of those pills, it was a lie. I was trying to give you a baby. I wanted us to have a family, but all you wanted was to leave. Lying slut!"

He used his grip on my hair to drag me down to the floor. His temper had heated to full boil, and he was shouting more filthy words, jamming the gun against my head. My mind, my emotions, disengaged from what was happening, the intimate violence that was coming. Just like before, only now with a gun at my head. I wondered dazedly if he would pull the trigger. His body crushed mine as he used his weight to pin me down. His breath was rank and boozy as he muttered near my ear. "Don't scream, or I'll kill you."

I was stiff, all muscles bitterly tensed. I wanted so badly to survive. My mouth flooded with the flavors of salt and metal. The familiar-awful touch of his hand paralyzed me as he started to drag the hem of my skirt up.

We were both so absorbed in our savage struggle, one bent on inflicting harm, one resisting body and soul, that neither of us heard the door open.

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