Death Marked (Fate Bound Saga #2)

By: Madeline Freeman

Fate Bound Trilogy #2

Chapter One

I swallow around the lump in my throat. I hate that I’m so nervous, but at least the humans around me can’t smell it.

I inhale and hold my breath for a beat before releasing it. I stride forward in time with the music coming from the live band. Despite it being a Thursday, the place is filled nearly to capacity with men in tight-fitting jeans and women in low-cut tops. The tables nearest the stage are loud and rowdy, but the sheer number of people back here by the bar makes me feel almost claustrophobic. I almost long for the little dive I used to frequent.

But that was another life.

There are no seats, so I choose two men to squeeze between. The blond on my right is in his early thirties. The one on the left is younger with too much product in his hair for my taste. But he’s the one who smiles.

I lean forward and give a halfhearted wave of my hand, but the bartender pays me no mind. Taking a half step to the side, I brush against the man on my left. “Sorry.” I offer a broad smile as I turn to him. “It’s so crowded here tonight.”

He looks me up and down in an openly eager way. I keep my lips upturned as he takes in every carefully selected piece of my appearance. My chestnut hair was painstakingly curled into beachy waves by Lillie, and Maggie did the smoky shadow on my eyelids and chose a lipstick far darker than I would have picked on my own. The blue halter dress is too short and the cutout on the front shows more of my cleavage than I’m comfortable with. But the look is having the desired effect, so I disregard my insecurities.

The man’s eyes linger a little longer than polite on the curve of my breasts before he makes eye contact again. “What are you drinking?”

“Long Island.”

He leans forward and waves his hand with far more gusto than I did. Within thirty seconds, the bartender is in front of us. “A Long Island iced tea for the lady, and for me... Jack and Coke.”

My stomach clenches and I’m sure the smile on my face falters. Of all the drinks he could’ve ordered, why did it have to be that?

As the bartender mixes our drinks, my companion begins talking. I catch his name—Tommy—but beyond that I can’t make myself pay attention. I’m not doing anything wrong—not really. I’m not cheating. If I want to meet my objective, I need to do this. The familiar lines chase themselves through my mind, but they don’t comfort me. They never do.

As Tommy finishes off his drink and slides his hand around my waist, I can’t quite ignore the guilt swelling within me.

“You wanna get out of here?” I murmur in his ear.

I lead the way to the stairs. When we reach the ground floor, Tommy scoops up my hand and opens the main door. He tries to tug me toward the parking lot, but I don’t follow.

“My apartment’s not far from here,” I say. “About three blocks.”

His grin is so wide it’s almost a leer. “Well, all right.”

My heart thuds harder with each step and my mouth goes dry. My hand is shaking, but Tommy is too distracted to notice.

I scan the street. Traffic is light and the bar is the only business open at this hour. The windows of the surrounding storefronts are all dark. A few voices echo against the buildings as people leave, but no one walks in this direction.

There’s a narrow alley between a barbershop and a used book store and I pull Tommy into it so fast he almost trips. He releases my hand, but my grip is enough to keep us connected.

When I round on him, a grin stretches his lips. “Couldn’t wait to get me alone, could you?” He slides his hands down my sides before digging his fingers into my hips and yanking me toward him. When I don’t budge, his face twists with confusion.

I shove him against the brick exterior of the barber shop and bar my arm across his chest. “Don’t move. Don’t make a sound.”

He wriggles against my arm. “What?”

I clench my teeth. Damn. Narrowing my eyes, I try again. “Stand still and don’t talk.”

Tommy continues to struggle. “What’s happening?”

Footsteps echo in the alleyway, but I don’t turn my head. I know who’s approaching. I can smell him.

“Poor guy.” Luke’s voice is as smooth as ever. “Probably thinks you’re some kind of dominatrix or something.”

“Wait—what’s happening?” Tommy shifts against my arms. “Who’s that? Are you... Are you gonna rob me?”

Luke continues his slow, easy pace until he’s standing right behind me. “Be silent. Stop moving.”

Instantly, Tommy’s body goes limp. He stands stock-still against the wall, his eyes darting back and forth. When I remove my forearm from across his chest, he remains where he is.