ALEX THOUGHT OF BEN,and the lessons his grandfather had taught him. Ben had been in terrible, desperate situations. He had faced death. Those were the kinds of situations Alex’s grandfather had wanted to prepare him for. Ben had wanted him to be prepared to face death with resolve, should he ever find himself in such a situation, in order to survive.
Ben had framed it in the mantra “Trouble will find you.” It was a way of reminding him to always be ready, that trouble of any sort could come at any time. His grandfather had often said that trouble usually came when you were alone. Ben had been right.
Alex reminded himself not to give up. Ben had taught him better than that.
He decided that if all he could do was to make Bethany angry enough to kill him rather than follow through with her plan, if that was the only success he could have, then he was going to take that option. He didn’t have only the choices she had given him. He didn’t have to abide by her rules.
He knew that above all else he could not let her have what she wanted or in the end more people would die. He didn’t know how that would come about, but he was certain of the eventuality.
This was not an absurd battle with a headstrong woman. This wasn’t simply a matter of her wanting his child. This was something much bigger, something she and the people with her were willing to kill to get. This was something that he knew he couldn’t allow her to win — even if it meant that he had to die to prevent it.
Jax had come to this world because there was something terribly wrong. She had said that to get here she’d risked being lost in eternal darkness. No one would take such a risk without a powerful reason. This was in some way connected with the trouble that had so concerned Jax.
She had been telling him the truth. If only he had believed her at the time.
Bethany impatiently reached down between her legs to grab hold of him. He held his breath.
“You might as well relax, lover boy. I’m going to have my way and you know it.”
He didn’t answer. He focused on how angry it made him that she thought she could have her way by trying to get him to give in to lust.
To divert his mind from Bethany, from the soft warmth of her, from her insistent attempt to engender that lust, he thought about the night Ben had died.
His mind drifted to thoughts about his mother locked away for the rest of her life in that awful place. She knew something about this, he was sure of it now.
Dread of what was going to happen to him when Bethany used a knife on him to make him regret his words also lurked in the back of his mind. He could imagine lying there with his arms and legs securely restrained as she started cutting him. He would be helpless. He knew that Bethany had no empathy for pain.
In light of such things, it wasn’t hard to ignore her insincere cooing.
“I think I’m actually going to enjoy this,” she whispered in his ear. “Make me enjoy it, Alex.”
It wasn’t at all hard to wish her dead.
In a distant flickering of lightning he saw her back abruptly arch. The movement caught his attention because there was something very odd, very unnatural, even alarming, about the swift, upward curving movement of her naked body and the sudden breath she sucked in.
He was about to hurl an insult at her in an effort to take her off track when another bolt of lightning crashed to ground not far away. As the harsh light coming in through the window fell across Bethany’s face, Alex saw her blue eyes go wide. Thunder shook the house.
Before the light died out he thought he caught the glint of a blade.
For an instant he wondered if she had finally had enough of his resistance, if she had become enraged enough that she had decided to slaughter him right then and there in his own bed and be done with it. Visions of her stabbing him as he lay restrained and helpless ran in a sudden panic through his mind. Even though there was nothing he could do to stop her, he reflexively tensed for the expected thrust of a knife slamming down into him.
Instead, Bethany’s chin lifted even farther as her neck curved back in line with her arched spine.
As the lightning flashed again Alex was stunned to catch just a glimpse of a fist holding Bethany’s hair, pulling her head back. The odd, unnatural arch of Bethany’s back and neck suddenly made sense. His immediate thought was that the man had come back in and had decided to take matters into his own hands.
A bloody blade swept around in front of Bethany’s throat. It sank in deep as it was pulled from ear to ear.
Gouts of blood from severed arteries pumped out through the horrific gash. The fist held Bethany’s head back. Her arms flailed weakly as her chest heaved, her breath bubbling out of the gaping wound with a scream unable to be delivered.
Lightning again flared and thunder rumbled. Founts of thick blood running from the yawning cut funneled down between Bethany’s breasts. Her hands flexed, clutching weakly at the air to her sides. Her mouth worked as she tried to gasp for a breath. Bloody froth from her severed windpipe sprayed everywhere.
Alex was paralyzed by the sight of this woman in her death throes. The killing was so grisly it didn’t seem real.
When light from the storm ignited in a long fit of flashes he could see Bethany blinking in confused desperation as she convulsed.
Her whole body went limp as her last breath of life gurgled from her failing lungs.
The fist holding her by the hair tossed her off the side of the bed. She hit the floor with a bony thud.
In another flash of lightning Alex saw Jax standing before him holding the blood-slicked knife.
She was gazing into his eyes as if there was nothing else in the room, nothing else in existence.