19

YOU JUST WOULDN’T BELIEVE how long I’ve wanted to do that,” Jax said in a voice that sounded better than he remembered, and he remembered it as mesmerizing.

Alex wondered if she could have hunted Bethany from another world and followed her to his bedroom in order to catch her without all of her protection.

“She mentioned something about that.”

In a flicker of lightning he saw a hint of satisfaction curve her mouth.

Alex had wanted Bethany dead, and he grasped that she was involved in something that would result in harm to a great many people. She had promised the thug with her that he could cut Alex up, and then changed her mind and decided to do it herself just because he had insulted her. Still, he had never seen anything as gruesome as her death.

Jax must have read the look on his face because she addressed his unspoken thought. “Alex, it was quick. What she would have done to you with her knife would have lasted hours. In the storm no one would have heard you screaming and crying. She would have enjoyed your suffering.”

Alex swallowed and nodded. He was relieved that she had put it in perspective.

“Jax—” He glanced to the rain lashing at the window. He turned a puzzled frown on her. “How come you aren’t wet?”

“It wasn’t raining where I came from.”

He saw wisps of vapor, silhouetted by the flashes of light coming in the window, curling up from her arms and shoulders just as they vanished.

The last time he’d seen her she had basically told him that he was on his own and that she was going to go tend to her own business. She had warned him that trouble would find him.

He wondered why she’d had a change of heart. “What are you doing here?”

Her gaze was still locked on his. “We happened across some of what they had planned. I got here as fast as I could.”

“I’m really glad to see you. I mean, really, really glad.”

“Well, since you’re finished with your sick little part in this coupling, pull up your pants and let’s go. We need to get out of here.”

“I didn’t take any part in it, and don’t you think that if I could pull my pants up I would?” When she didn’t answer he signaled with his eyes toward his wrists. “Cut me free. Please?”

The thought of what Bethany had told him about Jax crossed his mind. Watching Bethany die in such a brutal fashion left him shaky and sick to his stomach. In his whole life he’d never seen anything so horrific. He was covered with splatters of her blood. Only moments before, her living, breathing body had been pressed up against him. Now she lay on the floor dead and he was covered only in her blood.

With the way Jax was staring at him, he wondered if he might be next.

At last withdrawing her gaze from his, she glanced up at his wrists. In flashes of lightning she could see that he was tied to the bed and finally grasped the reality of the situation. She looked back at him and at last smiled just a little.

“Sure.”

As she bent close to him to cut the zip ties, distant flickers of lightning lit her growing smile. By the nature of it he thought that it revealed how happy she was about his helpless condition — not because he was helpless, but because it told her that he was telling her the truth that he hadn’t been a willing part of it.

As she leaned across him to cut the tie on the far side, he caught a hint of her fragrance. It complemented everything else about her.

Alex would have given just about anything not to have been this close to Bethany. He would have given just about anything to stay this close to Jax.

“Thanks for coming, Jax,” he said softly. “I guess I owe you one — in addition to an apology.”

She paused to look down into his eyes from only inches away. She was pressed lightly against his chest. He could feel her steady heartbeat.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t have gotten here sooner, Alex. I really am.”

“You got here in time.”

She slowly shook her head. “Not in time to save your grandfather.” Her words hit him like a blow. “You mean that Bethany had something to do with that?”

Jax stretched farther to finish cutting his wrist free, then straightened. “I wasn’t there, but I was able to catch a glimpse through the mirror in his workshop. I saw Queen Bethany and I saw fire.”

Alex sank back against the bed. He’d buried his grief, but hearing that Ben had likely been murdered not only resurrected the anguish, it also awakened a smoldering fury.

Ben hadn’t died from natural causes. He would still be alive if not for Bethany. Maybe Ben would still be alive were Alex not somehow involved. But how could he have avoided being born a Rahl?

As Jax cut his ankles free, Alex yanked out the barbs and pulled up his pants. It was a great relief. She had the grace not to make a point of his embarrassing situation.

“Queen Bethany? What do you mean, ‘Queen’?”

“In our world she was a queen. A very troublesome queen. She hurt anyone she didn’t like, and she didn’t like a lot of people. I had to come to this world to get close to her.”

Her words caught him by surprise and reignited his sense of caution. He wondered if he had been part of some grand scheme after all — a scheme to assassinate a troublesome queen. He wondered if he had been nothing more than human bait.

“What’s a queen from your world doing in my world?”

Jax considered him for a moment. “She apparently had some use for the House of Rahl.”

“What use?”

Jax arched an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you didn’t understand what she was intent on doing here tonight in this bed.”

“I get that much of it.”

Alex reminded himself to cool the heat in his voice. It wasn’t her fault that Bethany had tied him to the bed and intended to kill him after she finished getting what she wanted. It wasn’t Jax’s fault that Bethany had murdered Ben.

He buckled his belt as he collected his thoughts. This woman had, after all, just saved his life. She could have just as easily let him spend the last few hours of his life being cut up by Bethany.

Somehow Alex couldn’t think of Bethany as a queen. He could barely think of her as an adult.

“What I mean is that I don’t know why she had a use for the ‘House of Rahl,’ as you put it. I don’t know what’s going on.”

“We have that in common,” Jax said under her breath as she glanced down at Bethany’s corpse lying in a spreading pool of blood.

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