The shouting began soon after.
It was so loud I wanted to cover my ears, everyone yelling at the top of their lungs. I couldn’t make out a single word. My body was stiff, confused and horrified. Jason McCann wanted me.
Sam was suddenly in front of me, eyes wild and hands grasping my shoulders. “Get upstairs now.”
I stood for a minute, eyes wide. If my brother was so panicked about this, Jason must’ve been serious. Jason wanted me. Now that everything had gone to hell, I didn’t have to go quietly anymore. I turned for the stairs and bolted.
I remembered three years ago, when I was thirteen and Sam was seventeen. Jason and Sam are the same age, and Sam had been mentally competing with him for as long as I’d ever known about Jason. I’d been sitting at the table, joking around with a sixteen-year-old Tyler. I’d punched him playfully in the shoulder when Sam walked in, mad as I’d ever seen him before. He’d been out on a run, and I know now that Jason had been giving them trouble for a long time, and Sam had finally blown. Sam had glared and thrown a few words at Tyler and I, and I’d gotten defensive. My brother had called me crude names, then stormed upstairs, all the while hissing under his breath, “You get whatever you want, just like Jason. Jason gets whatever the hell he wants.”
Jason gets whatever he wants.
My foot landed on the second stair as a gunshot rang out. Everything went silent except for a cry of pain, so loud it made my teeth rattle. I recognized the voice–it was Emmett. I felt frozen, but thawed enough to turn back. My chest squeezed as my eyes fell to him, writhing on the floor with his leg held out from his body. Blood was already gathering on the floor beneath his calf, and my stomach lurched.
Nothing happened for a second, but it felt so much longer than that. Emmett’s jaw was clenched so tight I thought all of his teeth might break inside of his mouth. He wasn’t making noise anymore, but I could tell by the look on his face that he was in way too much pain.
All at once, Markus, Tyler, and Sam all moved for Emmett. But before any of them could get a hand on him, Jason and his guys all raised their guns. Each barrel was trained on all three of the boys as they dropped to the floor, and my chest clenched tighter. No, they couldn’t shoot them. They couldn’t.
“Get back,” Jason growled. My gaze landed on him, his lips curled back in an ugly snarl. “He’ll live until I get what I want.”
“You shot me, you prick!” Emmett forced out of his mouth. He sounded strangled, holding back emotion.
“And I’ll gladly do it again,” Jason snapped back. He glanced over at me, and whatever part of me that wasn’t frozen yet went solid. “Climb back down the stairs, and lets go, Sweetheart.”
“No!” both Tyler and Sam shouted at the same time. They shared a glance, and Tyler was the next to speak. “You’ll get nothing from us. Fuck off. Go home.”
“We’re going to be here a long time, then,” Jason commented nonchalantly, shifting his weight but keeping his gun trained on Tyler. “Your friend is going to bleed out in a while, but I could make his pain easier.”
I felt the blood drain from my face as I realized that Jason was right—there was already too much blood around Emmett. I couldn’t let Emmett bleed out. Jason was here because he wanted me.
“You’re a bastard,” Markus spat at him.
Jason hardly reacted. “I’m not the one who’s going to kill him. You’ll be the ones who let him die by dragging this out. All I need is Phoebe, and I’ll leave.”
“Don’t,” Emmett said through clenched teeth. “I’ll make it. I’m fine.”
I knew he wasn’t. He was already turning pale, and his jeans were soaked up to the thigh in his blood. My fists were clenched at my sides, eyes shifting from the huddle of my boys on the kitchen floor to the four intruders with their guns raised. If I didn’t go with Jason, Emmett would bleed out and Jason would probably kill everyone else in this room. Any way you tried to put it, I’d either be dead or leaving with Jason.
I heard the click of a loading gun and my heart nearly stopped. It was Jason’s, pointed right at Tyler. Tyler was next to be shot. I couldn’t let that happen. The four boys on the kitchen floor meant more to me than I meant to myself. I had to go with Jason.
In the blink of an eye, I saw a change in Jason’s expression—he was going to shoot, and we all knew it. I couldn’t think, but now I could move again.
“Stop!” I shouted. My feet brought me into the kitchen at a sprint, planting myself in front of Tyler. He reached out to me but I swatted his hand away. “Don’t you dare hurt one of them, you son of a bitch!”
Jason laughed tightly. “Big words for such a little girl like yourself.”
“I am not a little girl,” I spat at him. “I’m a bigger person than you’ll ever be.”
He looked taken aback at my blatant insolence, and I almost smiled. If he thought I’d be an easy grab, he was dead wrong. But I felt incredibly vulnerable, standing in front of his gun with nothing to defend myself with. Hell, I didn’t even have shoes on.
“Fine,” Jason said. He kept his gun straight ahead, pointed at me. “If you want to be a big girl and stand up for your gang, then I can play along. You come with me, and no one gets shot anymore.”
My jaw tightened. I glanced back at Tyler, who was shaking his head wildly. My chest squeezed as I glanced from him to Sam, then back to Tyler. If I didn’t leave, both my brother and my boyfriend would die. It wasn’t even a choice.
“I’ll go,” I said.
“Like hell you will!” Tyler growled. I felt him stand behind me, and saw Jason’s hand tighten around his weapon.
I spun and shoved Tyler back, causing him to stumble over Sam’s leg and land on his side next to Markus. The look on his face was like a punch in the gut, and I turned back to Jason to avoid it.
“Phoebe,” Markus spoke up. “He’s just throwing a tantrum. He’ll get bored after a while. Tell him no, and Jason will leave.”
Jason snorted, and I winced. “This isn’t a tantrum,” he sneered. “I mean business. You take my stuff, I take something of equal value. An eye for an eye, Markus.”
“I’m surprised you’re not blind yet,” Emmett struggled between heavy breaths. My chest constricted tighter at the sound of his voice. I had to do this quick, or he would pass out—and with how much blood he’s lost already, I wasn’t sure if he was going to wake up.
“All of you, shut the hell up,” I hissed. “I’m going.”
I looked Jason dead in the eye and ignored the shiver that was building up in my spine. “Get your tools out of the way so Emmett can go to the hospital.” He narrowed his eyes at me for a fraction of a second, assessing if I meant to go with him. Then Jason waved them off, away from the garage door. I glanced over my shoulder. “Tyler, get Emmett to the ER.”
He stood slowly, eyes flitting from me to Jason. His hand reached down and hooked under Emmett’s shoulder, and he hoisted him up without a problem. Emmett was breathing hard and still bleeding, bleeding too much. As Tyler slung Emmett’s arm around his shoulders, I saw his mouth move only slightly in Emmett’s ear. A small grunt came from his throat. I knew then that Tyler was going to pull something. My jaw clenched. I couldn’t let him—Jason would kill him before he got close.
Tyler began leading a limping Emmett toward the garage door. I looked back at Markus and Sam, who were still on the floor. Jason’s guys still had guns on them, so I knew they wouldn’t move. My head swiveled just in time to catch a twitch in Tyler’s arm—it happened whenever he was prepared to fight. My legs moved before I even had time to think as Emmett dropped to the floor next to Tyler, and Tyler lunged.
I shouted at the top of my lungs as my fist collided with Tyler’s jaw. He misstepped and I took that as my opportunity to kick out his left leg. His weight dropped to the floor to the side of Emmett, who tried to brace his fall with a stiff arm.
“What the hell?” Tyler snarled at me, the look of hurt in his eyes pounding against my chest.
Jason and his guys snickered behind me, and my anger burned hotter. “He’ll kill you, Tyler,” I stated blatantly. “A gun beats you every time.” My fists clenched. My nails dug hard into my palms, almost breaking the skin. “Get Emmett to the hospital, and figure things out from there.”
The look of disgust on Tyler’s face hurt, deeper than he might have meant it to. He’d cool down and hear what I was saying later. A bruise from me was better than a gunshot wound from Jason any day.
Emmett let out a grunt of pain. My gaze flashed to him as his eyes rolled back and his head fell back to the floor.
“Take him now,” Markus shouted to Tyler.
Glares exchanged between the two before Tyler lifted Emmett. He didn’t even look at me as he staggered out the garage door. The room was silent until after we heard the Land Rover start and pull out.
I was the first to say anything. “I’m getting my shit together, and then I’ll leave.”
“Phoebe,” Sam started, but I cut him off with a look.
“Don’t try anything, Sam,” I ordered.
And with that, I brushed past him and stomped up the stairs. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it would burst out of my chest. I was leaving with Jason McCann, a known killer and an unforgiving asshole. He was dangerous—I was risking my life for the boys I loved. I didn’t care if they hated me after this, though. As long as they were alive, my conscience was clear.
I threw open the door to Tyler’s room and immediately made for the dresser. I always kept a pad of paper and a pen over there, for a reason that I didn’t know. My hand tore off the top sheet and I scribbled a short note on it.
I’ll figure something out.
I left the pen on the dresser and placed the note on his pillow, running my hand over the sheets we’d woken up in this morning. My hand trembled, a combination of exhaustion and adrenaline. It didn’t make any sense, but then again nothing in the past ten minutes had really fit together right either. Why did Jason want me? Anything he wanted, he could have. It made my head spin.
My reflection in the mirror across the room caught my eye, and I sighed heavily. I was in the same clothes I’d been in all day—Tyler’s shirt and the cardigan, with shorts on underneath and mismatched socks. My hair was a mess, hanging down in tangles. I quickly changed out for skinny jeans and a leather jacket, then brushed out my hair and threw it into a bun. I left the socks.
I pulled out a duffel bag from under the bed, then grabbed my combat boots lying next to them. I pulled them on, then filled my bag with clothes, enough for a week. I’d have something figured out by then, right? Of course I would. Either that, or Tyler would tear Jason’s place apart brick by brick.
The gun Tyler had given me caught my eye, poking out of the top drawer of the dresser. My chest tightened and I reached for it. I made sure the safety was on, then slid it in between a jumble of clothes in my duffel. I had to be careful.
I heard the door slam open and turned to find Sam standing in the doorway. His eyes were burning with rage as I zipped up my duffel, then turned toward him. I felt myself brace for his raised voice.
“What in the hell are you thinking, Phoebe?” he hissed, quieter than I was expecting.
“I’m trying to save all of your asses,” I answered, less forceful than I meant it.
“We were going to handle it,” Sam snapped. “Until your fear gave in!”
“Kiss my ass, Sam!” I retorted. “Jason had a gun on every single one of you, and the only reason he didn’t pull the trigger on Tyler was because I got in the way. Don’t you dare tell me that I didn’t save your lives.”
“I can’t believe you’re giving in to that son of a bitch! You’re better than this, Little L.” I heard the desperation in his voice. Even though I knew he wasn’t going to admit it, I knew he was scared for me.
I shook my head, slinging the duffel over my shoulder. “If I don’t go, you’re all as good as dead.” I paused as my feet carried me to the door. I slid past Sam and stopped in the hallway. “Tell Peter I said ‘bye’, wherever the hell he is.”
I started to turn, but Sam’s hand caught my forearm. Before I let out a noise of protest, he pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. I was tense for a moment. We hadn’t hugged in what felt like forever, and I almost forgot that siblings should actually show that they care more about you than the average person. I relaxed and leaned into him.
“I don’t want you to get hurt,” he admitted, resting his chin on the top of my head. “Jason is tough, but he’s an idiot. The second he lays a hand on you, I give you permission to kill everyone in that house.”
I laughed dryly, and the pain in my chest almost brought tears into my eyes. I blinked hard, making sure they didn’t get far. “Don’t worry. I will.”
Sam pulled back, studying my face. “I just can’t believe he’s bullying us into this.” He cursed under his breath. “He’s getting to us because we don’t like using guns. This is ridiculous.”
I gave him a wry smile, stepping back toward the stairs and closer to the asshole that wanted to take me from my home. “Jason gets whatever the hell he wants, right?”
Sam’s fists clenched at his sides. His eyes shut tightly, then opened again. The same hate he’d always had for Jason was back.
“Just don’t let him kill you, okay?”
I took a deep breath. “Okay.”