Dagger’s Edge

Brute Force Book 2

Ivan Resnova wants nothing more than to escape his hard, brutal past. Starting over is not so easy once you’ve been a powerful crime boss but now, instead of being punished for his alleged crimes, Ivan fears that the one woman he can’t forget is in danger of paying the price.

Crimsyn “Syn” Delaney thought the danger she’d faced was over, and that she could resume her life. She never imagined it would return with a vengeance and throw her back into Ivan’s world. But when an attempt is made on her life, she needs Ivan more than ever to keep her safe―even if she is in danger of falling deeply and dangerously in love…

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Journey came awake Gagging, the horrible taste in her mouth so vile she could barely stand it.

As she fought to bring her stomach under control, she remembered the moment she’d realized the danger she was in, along with her friend Teylor. They’d been in the garden talking. She’d needed help, needed someone to help her escape the engagement she was being forced into when everything had gone dark.

Gregor. She remembered the voice of Gregor Ascarti, one of the men who worked for her father, telling her she’d been warned to keep her bitch mouth shut. And she had been warned. Beau had told her when she’d overheard his conversation with Gregor not to speak of it.

Fear strangled her now. She struggled to make sense of where she was, to understand how she’d come to find herself in a dimly lit metal room.

Sitting up on the thin mattress, she forced her head up, forced her eyes to adjust to the dimly lit room. As she did, she could see her friend Teylor, struggling to sit up on the makeshift bed across from her.

“Teylor?” she whispered, her voice shaky. “Oh God, what happened?”

She blamed herself for this. In her desperation to be free she’d endangered her friend. Her only friend.

A broken sob escaped her as she fought back her tears. Tears. They wouldn’t help. They never had in the past.

“We’ve been kidnapped,” Teylor answered her, sounding far more lucid than Journey felt.

The battery-powered lights were dim, but Journey could see enough to be assured her friend was okay.

Teylor pushed her dark red hair back from her face and stared around the metal-enclosed room they were in.

“Where are we?” she asked, terror racing through her.

Teylor met her gaze, her expression almost resigned.

“It’s a shipping crate,” she stated. “The type they use for overseas shipping.”

A shipping crate? Journey fisted her hands in the long shirt of her ball gown and fought to hold back her screams.

“Teylor, what’s happening?” she whispered, trying to make sense of the danger she sensed they were in, and her uncertainty in the face of it.

Before Teylor could answer, the sound of metal scraping against metal drew her gaze to the end of the crate where the door was slowly swinging open to reveal Ascarti and several other men Journey had seen meeting with her father, her grandfather, and Beau.

Other than Ascarti, she wasn’t certain who they were, and she had a feeling she didn’t want to know.

“Let’s go,” Gregor Ascarti ordered, his voice as rough and ugly as his face, as the other two pointed their weapons toward her and Teylor.

“You were supposed to be dead,” she heard Teylor tell Ascarti softly as they passed him.

He grunted at the statement. “If you’d had your way, I would be. Fortunately for me, I think I might have actually survived. Unfortunately for you, perhaps. Now let’s go.” He waved a handgun indicating both of them should step into the darkness outside the shipping crate.

“How did you get into the gardens?” Teylor asked him.

“A little inside help,” he answered her, amused. “Now be a good girl and let’s finish our business. Then I can go about recouping my money from that little hit your friends made against my stash.”

“What hit?” Teylor asked as Journey fought to figure out what the hell they were even talking about.
Ascarti laughed. “Let’s go, Ms. Fitzhugh. Someone is very interested in talking to you.”

Journey stiffened as Teylor pulled her closer to her, the name tugging at her memory and filling her with a sudden dread.

She’d heard the name Fitzhugh several times in the past, and if she remembered correctly, it was one tied to a very violent and depraved person. As well as a much beloved family member and missing cousin.

They were led across a wide-open space to a brightly lit office, the doors thrown wide, and as Journey stepped inside, all she could see was the three men she’d always believed would protect her. Her grandfather Stephen, her father, Craig, and her fiancé, Beauregard Grant.
She heard her own cry, the denial that slipped from her lips, and felt her would being destroyed one second at a time.

“Father.” She would have raced to him, would have fought the truth, if she were given the chance. Instead, rough hands gripped her shoulders, pulling her back and throwing her onto a tattered leather couch along with Teylor.

Her grandfather and father and Beau stood watching them silently. Grandpa Stephen was propped against the edge of an old desk, his arms crossed over his chest, his expression hard and cold. Her father grimaced in disgust as she whispered his name again, a plea that this not be true filling her voice. Only Beau remained aloof, unaffected as he stared at her.

Her grandpa was watching Teylor rather than her though, an amused, faintly condescending smile on his face.

“I remember that look,” he told Teylor. “The same look your dear mother had when we caught up with her in Nicaragua. I believe she may have actually cried, though.” The pleasure in his voice was terrifying to Journey. “And I would have thought by now you would have explained who you are. The daughter of our dear, departed Francine. Tehya Fitzhugh.”

“That’s not true,” Journey cried out, shocked, certain her grandfather had to be mistaken.

Teylor wouldn’t have hidden from her. It was the same as a lie and she knew how Journey felt about lies.

“It’s true,” Teylor, or rather Tehya, sated softly. “And they’re the reason Mother died.”

It couldn’t be true. They had to be playing on of their elaborate game like they played with their children. They couldn’t kill. They wouldn’t have. But they had. She saw in their faces, in the cruel, vicious smirks on their faces.

She turned to her grandfather, her father, enraged. “What are you doing? Father? Grandfather? Have you lost your minds?”

The look her grandfather flashed her was one so hard she could only stare back at him, terror flashing through her.

“If she opens her stupid mouth again, gag her,” her father ordered the men standing behind her.

Gag her? She stared at the two men she had always loved. She hadn’t been close to them—they were very standoffish, even on a good day—but they’d always looked out for her, hadn’t they? She’d believed they’d loved her, despite their often-harsh demands. At that thought, vague memories of when she was younger, of conversations that had made little sense to her, began to swirl within her mind.

Conversations that had frightened her, made her distrust them before the fear had forced her to forget the words.

As she stared at them furiously, she was aware of Beau unfolding his crossed arms and allowing them to hang carefully at his sides.

“You killed my mother,” Tehya said then, the words sinking into Journey’s soul with slashing horror.

Her grandfather chuckled then. “She thought we were there to help her. That her father had sent us after she contacted him.” He smiled with satisfaction. “She was rather upset to learn that wasn’t the case.” He turned to her father then. “We did enjoy our last hours with her though, didn’t we?”

Journey stared at them, uncomprehending. Her aunt had been found in the jungle, tortured and raped to death. She lifted her gaze to Beau, praying she’d somehow heard wrong. The gleams of the regret and compassion in his gaze, the pity, sliced at her soul. And in that moment, she hated him. She hated him because he knew, he knew what they were, and he still stood with them.

Journey was afraid she was going to be sick now. This was her family. They weren’t exactly loving. But this … this was beyond cruel. They were monsters.

“Now, my dear, it’s like this.” Her grandfather’s expression became harder, something evil glowing in his gaze. “If you want to ensure your dear cousin Journey has a reasonably content life from here on out, you’ll answer my question and do so without a fuss. Refuse me, dare to attempt to lie to me, and she’ll die with you.”

They wanted to use her now? Use her against her cousin? Just as they’d sold her to Beau and used her against him over the years?

“I’d rather die,” Journey cried out, enraged now as she surged to her feet in an attempt to run, to escape what was happening.

Hard hands caught her, the two men behind her attempting to hold her still as they struggled to restrain her. She fought with everything she had, desperation, fear, and a rage unlike anything she’d known racing through her. They struggled to hold her still until Beau stepped to them, grabbed her arms, and jerked them behind her, enabling one of the men to tape her lips securely.

She glared up at the man they’d forced her to accept as her fiancé. The man they thought they could force her into marrying and she hated him. He’d been a friend once, long ago. When she’d been a child. He’d never been someone she’d dreamed of being with or marrying. That fantasy was reserved for someone far darker than this man. Someone far more dangerous.

Hatred and fury spilled from her as tears of rage ran down her cheeks. She kicked out, her foot connecting with Beau’s leg, though there was no reaction, not even a wince to give her a measure of satisfaction.

“Now that we’ve taken care of that,” her grandfather sighed before turning back to Tehya. “Did you understand the rules for her continued safety? Or do you have questions? Or do you want to be as stupid as your mother?”

Tehya’s mother. This couldn’t be real. It had to be a nightmare. As they continued to threaten Tehya, demanded a code that accessed her inheritance, Journey could only sob. Impotent rage raced through her, pulling a haze of red before her eyes, making the conversation seem distant, almost slurred.

It was all about money, she realized. Her aunt Francine’s inheritance was well as Tehya’s. Money that should have never belonged to her grandfather and father to begin with. They had been behind her aunt’s kidnapping, her death, all to steal control of the Taite fortune, and now they wanted what had been put back for Tehya and her mother as well.

Journey couldn’t stop crying. She heard every word, but processing it was another matter. How was she supposed to process this? Make sense of it?

She stared at Tehya, daring the woman she knew was her cousin to give them anything. She’d rather die. She’d rather face hell than let them have what they wanted because she knew they were going to die anyway.

For a moment, she wished she’d gone to Ivan Resnova for help, rather than Tehya. Tall, dark, powerful, he’d been at the party as well, and she’d seen him watching her. She should have asked him for help. Ascarti would have never attempted to kidnap them had he face Resnova rather than Tehya.

As she watched, her grandfather’s fist clench when Tehya wouldn’t give him what he wanted and he stared a Journey. She saw the intent in his eyes and hated him for it.

Just before he would have struck her. Beau stepped in front of Tehya.

“Journey’s mine,” he stated. “I won’t have what I want from her affected by your treatment of this one.”

At that demand a hard knock sounded on the door, and moments later more of her father’s men entered the room, tossing two who appeared unconscious to the floor. And within moments, hell began erupting around her.

Lights went out, throwing the room into darkness. Gunfire swept through the room as she felt Beau throw her to the floor, and when it was over, finally over, black-clad masked men had her father and grandfather, along with Beau, in handcuffs.

Journey felt numb, defeated. Her hands were released, the tape removed from her lips gently, and she was pulled quickly from the warehouse to a van outside. As she entered the vehicle and turned back, she saw him.


He strode through the night, black hair surrounding his face, his dark blue eyes finding her, holding her gaze as he paused. The world narrowed down to that one moment, that connection as his gaze held hers. Like an invisible line pulling at them, reaching out for her, needing him to take her away. Just for a little while.

A frown pulled at his brow as he watched her, his lips forced her name, like a whisper that only her soul heard. His fists clenched, his expression hardened, and then he took a step toward her.

The door to the van quickly closed.

“Everything’s going to be okay, ma’am,” a gentle female voice assured her from behind the dark mask. “You’re safe now.”

But she wasn’t safe, Journey thought. She’d never be safe again and she knew it. Nothing in her world would ever seem safe again.

Ivan watched the van door slide closed and paused in the instinctive more to rush to the young woman inside the vehicle. She was like a siren calling to him. She had been for years. And this time, the impulse to go to her was nearly impossible to refuse.

He wanted to rescue her.

Shoving his hands in the pockets of his slacks, he lowered his head, drew in a deep breath, and forced himself to turn away from her. She belonged to another man. Not that the bastard deserved her, but she wore his ring, had promised herself to him. He had no business interfering in that.

Besides, she was the daughter of the men revealed as the enemy he’d searched for for over twenty years. The tow men responsible for the vicious murder of his mother, his aunt’s rapists, the men who had struck at his daughter and attempted to destroy her. She was their daughter. Granddaughter.

And he wanted to fuck her so bad it was like a hunger, he admitted to himself. A hunger he wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

“Looks like you have a little obsession going on there, boss.” Ilya, more friend than assistant, stepped from the shadows, the dragon tattooed over the side of his face flexing dangerously.

“Those eyes of hers.” He grimaced. Green, gem bright. Those eyes pulled at him.

“Hungry eyes,” Ilya murmured, moving into step with him as he headed for the warehouse.

Hungry eyes.

Desperate eyes.

Eyes he saw in his fucking dreams…