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Dina is off limits. She’s my MC brother’s little sister, and she’s innocent. She comes to me to bury a body, and I want to unravel her beautiful brain. I’m the Steel Bones president, though. I don’t get what I want.


He drops me. I land on my feet—barely—and stagger, but before I can bolt, he has me again. His huge, calloused hand wraps around my throat. His grip is so tight I can feel my pulse throbbing. I clutch his wrists on instinct. He’s not squeezing.



My heart gallops faster, my entire body rigid. I want to fight. Scream. Claw at his bare, hairy chest. It’s so hard to remain still.

But he’s not going to kill me. I have what he wants. He’s posturing.

If he was going to kill me, he would have already done it. It would be so easy for him to break my neck. I can feel his strength. He’d snap my spine like a twig.

This is intimidation. I have the information he needs, so I have the upper hand. He’s trying to regain dominance. He can’t kill me.

He could torture me, though. I’d fold in no time. I freak out at gross textures and bad smells and loud sounds. I force myself to meet his eyes. It hurts, but I hold for the count of ten.

“I’m not going to tell anyone else, either,” I promise. “If you help me.”

“You’re blackmailing me.”

“You’re strangling me.” My gaze drops, and I exhale. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

He sighs and eases his hand down my shoulder. His touch is rough. Abrasive. But it’s not irritating. It makes me shiver.

“How did you get in here?” he asks.

“Your bedroom?”

“The clubhouse.”

I shrug. “The front door.”

“You walked right in?”

I nod.

“Did anyone see you?”

“No.” I don’t think so. I kept it moving.

“How did you find my room? Do you have the floorplans?”

“I opened doors until I found you.” I grimace, remembering a pimply ass pumping between a woman’s spread thighs. She was propped on the edge of a dresser, an arm slung around the guy’s neck, scrolling on her phone. It was sad and also very slurpy.

“No one called you out?”

I shake my head. His security is pretty lax, especially for a quasi-criminal enterprise. I imagine they don’t commit felonies on site, but still, it’s sloppy.

“What’s your name?” he asks again.

“I think we should keep things anonymous. You know, because of the co-conspirator thing.”

“Why aren’t you scared?”

“I am.” On impulse, I grab his hand and hold it to my chest. My heart’s pounding.

“Why don’t you seem scared?”

I lift a shoulder. “Alexithymia.”

He snorts. “You seem to know what you’re feeling.”

I blink. He knows what alexithymia means? I’m surprised, but I guess he is a genius. Perfect verbal score on the SAT means he knows a lot of random words.

Alexithymia is the inability to identify or describe your own feelings. It’s why I had a chart of facial expressions hanging above my desk until I graduated high school. And why I had a shelf of “social stories” as a kid, the kind where a little girl lost her kitty and felt sad. Then, she found the cat, and she felt happy.

I hated those stories with a passion. The little girl was way too irresponsible to care for a pet.

“Racing heart. Cold sweat. Gun on night table. Threat of strangulation,” I tick off on my fingers. “Fear.”

It’s not rocket science. I have trouble with subtle or new emotions, but the big ones—fear, sadness, shame, happiness, anger. I’ve got those down.

“So, you want me to help you kill your uncle. And then you’ll give me the evidence against Watts and Wade?”


“And you won’t say anything about what you think you know? About Half Stack Mountain?”

“No. I promise.”

“Oh, you promise, do you?” He’s saying what I want to hear, but his tone—it doesn’t match. “And then you disappear wherever you came from, and we never speak again? Strangers on a train?”

“Yes. Strangers on a train.”

“Sit.” He presses my shoulder, gentle but insistent, and I sink to the chair. My system is wrecked from being flooded with wave after wave of adrenaline. I’m getting shaky. I need water. And a break.

He crosses the room. I’m so overstimulated that I close my eyes. Just for a second. Just to regroup.

A safety clicks.

My eyes fly open. He’s aiming the Sig Sauer at my head. A cry flies from my lips.

“I’m a good shot,” he says, calm and even. “It won’t hurt.”

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