Claimed By the Killer by Lisa Lovell
I stare into the wide, horrified eyes of the balding bastard in front of me.
I have to forcibly restrain myself from smashing his face in. His eyes dart around in a panic. No doubt looking for his security detail. Too bad for him that Norscott has them on the ground and out of action.
“Who. Took. Her?” I say the words slowly and clearly. I don’t want it on my conscience if I kill the fucker because he didn’t hear what I was saying.
“I- I-” he stutters. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve twisted my fist into his collar tightly enough to choke him or if he just doesn’t want to tell me. I’m not waiting to find out.
“Who took her?” I yell in his face and then sideswipe him with the barrel of my rifle. He screams and sags against me. I sense that he may have just soiled his fancy tuxedo. I would feel sorry for the spineless bastard if I didn’t know why he was here in the first place. Buying a sex slave. A woman snatched from her world to serve him and his depravity. It’s a fact that rankles when I dwell on it. I did the same to Kayla barely a month ago.
But I’m making up for that now. We’re saving these women. And I’m going to find her if it’s the last thing I do. I flip the rifle up and jam the business end between his eyes. Yep, that tux is ruined.
“Claude!” he bleats. “Claude Doubel!”
For some reason, the name pings my radar. I rack my memory banks, pulling at fragments of information I’ve stored over the years.
Claude Doubel runs a specialty porn production house. Snuff movies. They’re going to kill her! My blood pressure shoots straight through the roof.
“Where?” I bellow into his face. I’m not wasting time with more threatening actions now. My finger’s on the trigger, and the wrong answer is going to get his head blown off.
“I don’t know where! I swear it! The last I saw, they were heading toward the front deck,” he shrieks. He’s sniveling like a kid. “I don’t know any more. Please! Please don’t kill me!”
I stare into his face, and for a second, I almost pull the trigger. But it would be a complete waste of time and ammunition. I fling him away from me, spin on my heel, and sprint toward the door that leads out.
On my path, I plow through the chaos. Some of the “guests” are putting up a fight. It’s futile. Norscott’s men have as little tolerance for their kind as I do. Armed with steely determination and an assault rifle, I make short work of it. Until I bound through the doorway and down the passage along the side of the yacht and run headlong into the Russian equivalent of a brick wall.
Yegor Baranov’s cold eyes meet mine for a fraction of a second, and there’s a flash of recognition before he launches into me. Fuck. I barely have time to brace myself before he hits my chest like a tank. The wind is knocked out of me in a rush. He has his arms locked around my torso, and I’m flat on my back, no time to raise my weapon.
Vasiliy’s second-in-command was raised on the streets. And he liked it there. Brute force is wired into his DNA. Without hesitation, he rears back and aims his forehead straight for my face. It’s a headbutt that might have left me reeling if I hadn’t twisted away at the last second. Yegor’s head cracks into the deck, and I know he’s seeing stars.
It’s just the advantage I need to pry myself from his loosening grasp. I’m not on top of my game yet. I’m feeling stitches tearing open. Norscott’s battle drugs are good but not a miracle cure. I’ve been flat on my back for over a week.
I haul myself to my knees, reaching for the assault rifle. But even half-stunned, Yegor has the sense to fling out a hand and knock it out of reach. I manage to get to my feet before he’s found his own, and I suck in air and spin to face him. He’s slid a hand behind his back, and when it reappears, it glitters. A vicious blade now weaves in front of him as he advances on me with murder in his eyes.
“Give it up, Blackmore,” he sneers. “It’s too late. She’s gone.”
I narrow my eyes. I know he’s just trying to bait me to distract me. I do a rapid sweep of the area around us and pivot to reach for a broom propped against the wall. Yegor chuckles darkly as I swing it out at him.
“Planning to make a clean sweep, Blackmore?” he says, feinting at me with the blade.
“Just taking out the trash, Baranov,” I reply. I flip the broom handle up and snap it over my knee. He seizes the gap and charges, slashing at me with the blade. I parry with the broom handle and feel the sharp edge of his knife thunk into the thick wood.
Yegor twists his grip on the haft to yank it free and spins back to face me again. We face off for a second. We’d be equally matched under most circumstances. But I’m feeling myself flagging. And the man fights dirty. I crouch slightly, waiting for him to give a sign of his next move. And there it is. A flicker of his eyelid as he lunges again.
I sidestep him and smack him sharply across the back of the neck with the wooden bar. To his credit, he barely misses a beat, but I know it had to hurt. He’s snarling when he lunges again. I get in a vicious jab to his ribs, but not before I feel a searing pain across my bicep when he catches me with the blade. But the rib shot took the air out of his lungs, and I’m about to follow it with a blow to the jaw when I hear a scream.
I know that voice!
I swivel in the direction of the sound. There’s another scream, followed by a muffled curse.
It’s her! She’s onboard!
Seeing my attention diverted, Yegor launches himself at me, blade first. At the last second, I raise the broken handle to divert a thrust that might have taken my throat out. For agonizing moments, we grapple frantically, Yegor straining to slash the blade at my neck. There’s yet another scream, and it galvanizes me. I have to get to her! But I won’t do it while there’s still breath left in my opponent.
Using every ounce of strength left to me, I fling the man from me. Thrusting myself to my feet, I swing to face him, just in time to ward off a ferocious kick to my hip. I grab his ankle and flip him onto the floor. And then I’m on him.
Grasping the broken broom handle in both hands, I wedge it firmly under his chin and wrench back. Yegor grunts as the wood crushes into his windpipe, but he fights back like a tiger. White-hot pain flairs across my ribs as he flails back at me with his blade. But I don’t release my grip. I can hear him gasping hoarsely, trying to reach for air.
I twist my fists on the wooden handle and hear a sickening crunch as his windpipe shatters. He’s gurgling through blood, but he’s still fighting me. Weakening, though. I’m slowly suffocating him, and his blows are missing their mark. I grit my teeth and hold on. The minutes seem to be dragging like an eternity. Every second could be a second too long, and the motherfucker just won’t die!
I haul back with all my might and feel his chest give a heave. He’s dropped the blade now and scrabbling at my forearms, but with barely enough strength to break skin. I feel the moment he gives up, and the life leaves him. It’s like watching a mighty beast let go. But there’s no time for regret now. I fling him away from me and leap to my feet, sprinting in the direction her voice had been coming from.