Title: Take Me
Author: Sara V. Zook
Release: July 12, 2016
Cover Designer: Susan Garwood from Wicked Women Designs
The depths of his soul are as black as his eyes.
He’s a thief and a murderer. Add kidnapping to the list now that he’s taken me, forced me away from my father’s house in the middle of the night. There’s no room for mercy in his dead heart. He’s driven by purpose, and I keep messing up his plans. So he hates me. He punishes me. He’s my captor, and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
But then he’s forced to make a decision—keep me or let someone else have me?
He’s still my captor, but also a kind of savior now too.
Somehow things have changed between us. I can see it in his eyes. He doesn’t like it, but he can’t stop the motion from going forward. He wants me in a different way, and it’s killing him to give in to his desires. I’m beginning to see that sometimes even a dead heart, even one belonging to Creed, can be revived.
“I need all the money,” I growled. The old man just stood there, terror written all over his face, as I continued to aim the gun at his chest.
I did need all the money. Every last fucking penny.
“I…I…” he stuttered.
“Don’t try to bullshit me.” I narrowed my eyes at him. That’s all he could see—my cold, dark eyes. The rest of my face was covered up in a black spandex mask, my body covered in black also. None of my tattoos were exposed. “Where’s the safe?”
I watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down. He wasn’t moving. He was studying me, testing the waters to see how serious I was. I shoved the end of my gun in his ribs. There. Him feeling the cold steel against his skin should make his fear spike. “How much does that money mean to you?” I questioned him, my tone low and bitter. “Tell me, is it worth your life? You think you’re gonna take that cash with you into Hell once I blow a hole through you?”
The old guy held up his hands, his eyes pleading with me. “Please. I don’t want trouble.”
“Then you’d better get a move on.” I pulled the gun away from him to give him space to move. My temples were starting to throb. A dull pain was always there, always right under the surface, but seemed to come alive when I was really stressed or really pissed off. Both were occurring right now. I wanted to reach up and massage the sides of my head; instead I mentally shook off the pain. Nothing was going to interfere with what I had to do tonight. Nothing.
“This way,” he whispered, moving cautiously in front of me.
I followed him, glancing at a large antique grandfather clock in the hallway as I passed by. 1:05 a.m. “Who else is in the house?” I asked him.
“What?” He stopped in front of a closed door.
“Who else is in the house?” I repeated, irritated that I had to do so. This guy was really pushing my buttons. I’d anticipated being out of here by now.
The old man’s bushy gray eyebrows furrowed together. “Just the housekeeper. She’s asleep.”
“Where’s her room?”
His eyes moved past the railing that overlooked the second floor below. “Downstairs?” I asked.
I didn’t like the fact that someone else was here. Made me nervous as hell. This situation was already dangerous. I didn’t need to ante up. Now I had to keep one eye on Mr. Moneybags here and one eye on the stairs.
“Open the door,” I commanded him.
We stepped inside an office. It was messy, with papers scattered all over the desk, newspapers carelessly tossed on the floor beside it. Bookshelves lined the walls. Then I spotted it. In the very back corner of the room was a black safe. I gave the old man a look and then gestured toward it with my gun. He quickly made his way to the other side of the room and began fiddling with the combination lock.
The seconds ticked on in my head. This was taking too fucking long. I turned sideways so that out of my peripheral vision I could see into the hallway in case that housekeeper decided to take a little middle-of-the-night stroll.
I turned my head right. My gun was still pointed left. A woman—no older than middle to late twenties—stood in the entranceway of the office in a short white nightgown, her long brown hair slightly disheveled, her hand pressed tightly up against her mouth as she gasped at the scene unraveling before her.
“Don’t move,” I growled at her, my tone fierce and lifeless.
I could see the silent scream emanating from her mouth as she slowly brought down her hand, her eyes now shimmering over in tears as she focused on the gun.
“Your housekeeper calls you Dad?” I cocked an eyebrow.
The old man’s face filled with dread. “I…I…”
“Here comes the stuttering again.” I reached out and took hold of the woman’s thin arm, pulling her farther into the room. “Next to him.Now.” I glared at the man. Tick.Tick.Tick. The seconds were flying by and the damn safe wasn’t even opened up yet. “I’m going to ask you one more time.” I gritted my teeth together. “Who else is in this fucking house?”
“Okay. Okay.” He gently grazed his daughter’s back with his fingertips. “There’s no one else, I assure you.”
My eyes moved back to the girl, who was on the verge of hysteria.
“I didn’t mention her because…I was just trying to protect her.”
“Your protection method is going to get her fucking killed,” I told him. “Any more surprises, and I shoot her.”
She let out a shrill cry.
“Honey, calm down.” He pulled his daughter into his side to try to soothe her. “Everything will be all right.”
“The money,” I reminded him.
“Who is he?” the woman asked as her father returned to plugging away at the combination.
“I don’t know.”
“You can’t just give him your money.”
“I have no choice.”
“Why is he here?”
The throbbing pain in my temples doubled. “I can fucking hear you.”
Her eyes locked with mine, and instead of startled fear, they were now outlined in rage as if she were suddenly challenging me. I’d interrupted her conversation with her father. I’d interrupted her peaceful dreams. I ran my finger along the edge of the gun trigger.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
I ignored her. “You have two minutes to load this up.” I tossed the empty duffel bag onto the floor.
“You’re not going to get away with it.” She was glaring at me now through blue eyes that spilled tears onto her cheeks.
I gave her only the briefest glance. “Now it’s one minute. You can thank your daughter’s mouth for that.”
The old man let out a huff as he opened the safe. I could see all the neatly stacked green from the other side of the room. It wasn’t a very wide safe, but it was long, and it was definitely filled with cash. Jackpot. Thank god. I hadn’t been sure what exactly he was going to have here at his house. “I’m working as fast as I can. Briston, please stop.”
Briston. I’d heard the name slip from his mouth. Interesting name.
I watched as he emptied out the contents of the safe into my duffel bag. He was working quickly now. Everything was running smoothly. A few more minutes and I’d be on my way to the warehouse. All of my sleepless nights and time spent planning this were well worth it.
“That’s it.” The guy’s eyes locked with mine. I could tell it was killing him to part with his beloved money. Not like he couldn’t just get more.
“Zip the bag,” I ordered him.
He did as he was told. The daughter stood by his side, her arms now wrapped around herself as if just now realizing she was dressed in practically nothing.
“Throw it at my feet.”
The bag was nudged by the old man’s foot. It skidded across the smooth wooden floor and landed at the edge of my boots. Damn. It was almost too good to be true. Here was the money I’d needed all this time—within grasp. All I had to do was pick it up, get to my vehicle, and get the hell out of here in a hurry. Picking up that bag would change my life. Then again, breaking into this guy’s house and holding him at gunpoint was another life changer—if I was caught—which I had no intentions of happening, so it was time to end this little rendezvous while the ball was still in my court. I tossed the bag over my shoulder and began to back out of the room, my gun still pointed ahead of me.
“You won’t get away with it, you know,” the daughter said to me. There was pure venom in her voice. “People like you, you always think you’re smarter than the rest of the world, but you won’t get far, and then what? You’ll spend the rest of your life behind bars.”
I smirked under my mask, which of course they couldn’t see. The girl had audacity, I’ll give her that.
A loud burst of Spanish being spewed out behind me had my gun arm swinging around and pointing toward the hallway. There stood a short, rotund woman with curly black hair, her arms waving around madly in the air. I could only assume that this was the housekeeper. She became silent momentarily once she saw the gun aimed her way, but then recovered with another round of Spanish I couldn’t understand. That’s when I spotted it—a cell phone gripped tightly in her hand.
Panic overtook me. The woman was thrashing her arms around so much I couldn’t tell if the phone was on, if she’d already dialed someone, and I sure as hell couldn’t understand what she was saying to tell if the police were already involved.
“Stop moving!” I screamed at her.
But she didn’t stop. She just kept rambling on.
“Get her to stop!” I yelled.
“Cecelia!” the old man shouted out at her. Then he rambled off some Spanish, too.
No, no, no. What was he telling her? What were they communicating?
I exhaled loudly through my nostrils as my grip tightened on the gun. The housekeeper was still carrying on, her lips moving a mile a minute. I should shoot her. I needed to shoot her. I steadied my aim. I watched her stop jabbering long enough to gasp.
Shit. I couldn’t do it. But I had to do something.
I was still too startled by the fact that she was holding that phone. I reached over and took it from her, sending it flying to the floor, and watched as it shattered in pieces from the force of my adrenaline. I still didn’t have a clue as to if she had made any calls. I wasn’t taking any chances.
“You,” I growled out, reaching over to the daughter and taking her by the wrist.
“What are you doing?” the old man cried out.
“Ow! Let me go!” she shrieked.
This was the only way I was getting out of here right now. They’d back off and leave me alone if I had a hostage. But shit, this wasn’t part of the plan. Then again, plans fail and new ones had to be formed.
I brought the woman in front of me and held the barrel of the handgun to her back, pushing it into her skin so she’d know it was there. She gave out a tiny yelp, her eyes pleading with her father to do something, anything. But no, there was nothing he could do. I’d just taken control of the situation once again. I was leaving—with her.
The old man was in panic mode as well. “No. Please! I’ll…I have more money I can get you. Name your price. Please! Don’t hurt her!”
I gave him one last glance out of the corner of my eye. It was as if I was waiting for the sirens to start echoing in the distance. There was no way I could do this now without taking something as leverage just in case. I’d think about where I could dump her off later. Right now it was all about escape, getting out of here without cuffs, alive.
“Move,” I instructed her, pushing her toward the door.
“Dad!” she shrieked.
The Spanish woman’s mouth started rambling again. Too.Much.Noise.
I forced the woman out into the hallway, my grip tightening on her arm as she winced in pain. “Daddy’s not gonna save you from me,” I whispered into her ear. I forced her down the stairs and to the wooden double front doors. The old man and housekeeper were side by side, fear very evident in their eyes as they stared down at me. “I’m going to make this simple. No one has to get hurt if you just leave me be. Don’t try to follow me. Don’t involve the police, and everything will turn out just fine.”
“Please,” the old man pleaded one last time before I slipped outside into the darkness.
The woman struggled against my grip.
“Stop fighting me.”
“You’re hurting me,” she snapped.
I was beginning to get very heated under all this spandex. I gave the woman a little shove and released my hold on her. “Fine. Walk,” I instructed her. “But if you try anything, the gun’s still on you.”
She stumbled a moment before regaining her balance. My eyes scanned down her bare legs and feet. The rocks underneath her steps had to be bothering her, but why should I care? Her being here with me only intensified my irritation. She was going to not only slow me down, but I now had to figure out what to do with her, how to deal with her. Something about the attitude I’d already seen from this girl told me it wasn’t exactly going to be a breeze.
My car was parked up ahead along a back alleyway. It wasn’t anything extravagant. It was a plain black sedan with tinted windows. Anything to try not drawing attention to myself. I opened up the trunk.
“I’m not going in there,” the woman snapped.
I glared at her, the gun still pointed her way. “You’ll do what the fuck I tell you to do.” I tossed the duffel bag inside and slammed the trunk lid back down. Then I walked around to the passenger side. I had had no intentions of shoving her in the trunk, but the idea was appealing to me now. “Get in.”
She hesitated. “Look, I don’t need to go with you. You’ve gotten this far…”
I put my palm on the top of her head and forced her inside. Then I slammed the door shut and hurried to the driver’s side. I had to get going. There was no time for this useless chitchat.
I put the gun on my left side so it was out of the woman’s reach. I glanced in the rearview mirror. No police lights flashing—yet. With my foot on the accelerator, the car leapt forward.
“I hope you burn in hell,” the woman stated between gritted teeth beside me.
The mask was making my face sweat and itch as I raked my fingers across my chin on top of the fabric. “Do me a favor and shut the fuck up.” I reached across her. She jerked back as if I were going to hurt her. Smirking, I took hold of her seatbelt, pulled it across her body, and fastened it tightly in place.
Sara V. Zook pursued her dream of becoming a writer and after earning her bachelor’s degree, sat down to create her first novel in which Strange in Skin was completed in three short months.
She’s the author of the Strange in Skin Trilogy, Clipped, A Magic Within, Evanescent, Reminiscence, her mobster release, Six Guns, A Chaos Within, and her first contemporary romance, The Pull and its sequel The Push.
She resides in Pennsylvania, where she was born and raised, with her husband and three small children.