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fall

BOOK: fall
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FALL (The
Billionaire’s Rules, Book 11)

By Kelly Favor

 

© 2015 All Rights Reserved

 

Ivy was lying on the hammock out on the
balcony of Cullen’s Cape home, as the sky grew dark.
 
Stars glimmered bright in the sky and
the wind off the harbor was brisk and chilling.

But in a strange way, she liked the cold
cutting through her clothes, making her shiver, making her eyes tear.

She needed the discomfort, the pain.

You
like the pain.

That’s
why you were drawn to Cullen Sharpe in the first place.

This was different, though.
 
Cullen and his father had left her alone
at the house, and the only communication from him had been a note on the
counter and those fateful words…

DON’T
TRY AND FIND ME

Ivy hugged herself as she rocked slowly
back and forth in the hammock.
 
Why
was she still there, hanging around when everyone had gone?
 

She wasn’t sure.
 
There was just a feeling deep inside, in
the pit of her stomach.
 
It was
telling her to stay put and wait.

Unlike before, Ivy couldn’t shake the
feeling that Cullen was going to return to her.

He’s
coming back.
 
He’ll be here
soon.
 
Don’t give up on him.

So there she stayed, shivering in the
descending darkness.
 
Night fell and
she could no longer make out the ocean.
 
All that was visible was the beam from the lighthouse across the way.

It would’ve been romantic, Ivy thought,
to lie out here in this hammock with Cullen’s body warming her, holding her
close.
 
They could have looked at
the light emanating from the lighthouse across the harbor, and snuggled, and
whispered sweet nothings.

Except that wasn’t what was going on.

There was just the sound of the ocean and
the darkness, and that one beam of light flashing off the water from the
lighthouse across the harbor.

Finally, she grew too cold to stand it,
and she got off the hammock and retreated back inside the house.

It was beautiful but empty without Cullen
to give the place life.

She wondered where he and his father had
gone together.
 
With all the money
at their disposal, they could be en route to Bolivia or Russia or China by now.

Yet, as Ivy cooked herself the bacon that
she’d purchased earlier at the small market nearby, she realized that there was
no panic at the thought of Cullen’s whereabouts.

Maybe
I’m just in shock.

Maybe
I’m in denial.

She waited for the pain of losing him to
set in, but she didn’t feel it.

That’s
because he’s not gone.
 
He’s coming
back.

Ivy smiled as she sat down at the counter,
crunching on the bacon strips and staring out the windows at the inky
darkness.
 

She felt his presence as if he was with her.

It didn’t make sense, but then again, she
didn’t need it to.
 
She was just
glad to feel at peace.

Once she was finished eating, Ivy grabbed
a well-used afghan and curled up on the couch.
 
She didn’t bother turning on the
television.
 

The house was silent but for the various
noises that came out of an old house set on the water: wind rattling windows,
surf pounding the shore, the creaks of settling wood.

Somehow, it was comforting.

Maybe it was just the smell of the
blanket, the couch—knowing that
he
had been here and it was as if he’d never really left at all.

When she woke up early the next morning,
Ivy felt stiff and a little anxious.
 
She couldn’t say why, exactly.

Maybe the numbness was wearing off after
all.

Ivy got off the couch and rubbed her sore
neck.
 
She checked her cell
phone.
 
There was a text from her
mother but no one else.

Are you okay?
 
Please let me know, Ivy.

And then later:
 
I’m so sorry I let you down.

Ivy didn’t bother responding to her
mother’s texts, although she did feel a slight pang in her chest when she saw
the words on the screen.

Maybe
you should at least say something back.
 
She’s still your mother.

But Ivy wasn’t ready.
 
At some point she would respond, but not
yet.

Not today.

Ivy went back into the kitchen and began
the process of brewing coffee, remembering how Cullen and his father had been
right here the previous day, making coffee and chatting, and then a few minutes
later—gone.

He’s
still gone.

She pulled out her phone and thought
about calling him, but then she remembered what his command had been on that
piece of paper.

DON’T
TRY AND FIND ME

“Okay,” Ivy said, nodding to
herself.
 
“Okay.
 
I’m going to listen for once,
Cullen.
 
Mister Sharpe.”
 
She smiled, almost laughing at the
absurdity of it all, but then felt that he really would be proud of her.

Maybe
this is just a test.

But
if he really loves me, why does he keep testing me?

She didn’t know.
 
She didn’t know anything anymore, except
that she still loved Cullen Sharpe and would never give up on him.

Ivy stood in front of the window by the
balcony and watched the waves on the ocean and the sky turning lighter and
bluer and the clouds passed by, shimmering as the sun burned through them.

And then there was a loud banging sound
from the door.

She turned, spilling her coffee onto the
floor as she startled.

BANG.
 
BANG.
 
BANG.
 

It was someone knocking.
 
She put her mug down on the table as she
passed by it, and went to open the door.

“Who is it?” she said.

There was no response at first.
 
She hesitated.

“Police.
 
Open up.”

“Shit,” Ivy whispered, and then she
opened the door and a thrill of fear went through her stomach.

It wasn’t the police at all.
 
Just two men stood in front of her.

It was the thin-faced FBI agent from
Vegas, and Lucas.
 
Lucas was never
going to leave her alone, was he?

She tried to shut the door but Lucas
forced his way into the house.

“You can’t come in here without a
warrant,” she said, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Fuck your warrant,” Lucas said.
 
His hair was mussed and his eyes looked
blood-shot.

The thin-faced agent stood there,
blocking her exit, his eyes dull and emotionless.

“What do you want from me, Lucas?”

“I want to know where Cullen is, and
where his father is.
 
We know that
they’re together and we’re through playing games.”

“If you know so much then why can’t you
find them?” she challenged.

Lucas glared at her.
 
“I’m the one asking the questions around
here.”

“Well you know more than me,” Ivy
said.
 
Her mouth was dry and she
felt sick.

It occurred to her that Lucas might be
completely insane.

He looked around the house.
 
“Nice place, huh?” he said, brash and
loud.

His compatriot grunted but didn’t
answer.
 
Instead, he stared straight
at Ivy without blinking.

Ivy tried to stay composed.
 
“You’re…you’re making me very
uncomfortable.
 
I’ve done nothing
wrong.”
 

“I’m…I’m…making you uncomfortable?” Lucas
said, making a face and whining as if that was what her voice sounded like to
him.

She licked her lips.
 
“I’m going to ask you once more to
leave, Lucas.”

He grinned maliciously.
 
“And I’m going to tell you once more to
go fuck yourself.”
 
He smiled at the
expression of disbelief on her face.

She began backing away as he came towards
her.
 
“I swear I don’t know where Cullen
is.”

“Bullshit.
 
I’m sick of your lies.
 
And I’m tired of you believing you’re
above the law, just because you’re getting fucked by some rich twat.”

Ivy couldn’t fathom the way he was
acting, the way he was speaking to her.
 
She was getting a horrible feeling, a feeling like maybe Lucas might
just hurt her.

She pulled out her phone, intent on
calling the police.

“What are you doing?” Lucas said.

The thin-faced man called out.
 
“Take her damn phone.”

“Good idea,” Lucas replied, striding
quickly towards her as she tried to get away.

Ivy shrieked, and then Lucas had grabbed
the cell phone from her hands in one quick motion.
 
He turned his back to her and began
going through her messages.

“You bitch,” Lucas muttered.

“What did she do?” the thin man asked.

“She told Cullen Sharpe we were here when
I was at the market with her.
 
She
went and squealed like the little rodent she is.”
 
Lucas kept going through the messages.

“That’s my phone,” Ivy said, tears coming
now.
 
“You can’t do that,
Lucas.
 
You’re invading my
privacy.
 
This is illegal—what
you’re doing.”

Lucas just laughed, as he continued going
through her cell phone.
 
“This is
bullshit,” he said.
 
Suddenly he
raised his arm and whipped the phone across the room and into the wall, where
it shattered.

Ivy shrieked.
 

The sound was explosive.

“Now tell me where the hell Cullen went,”
he said.

“I don’t know!” she cried.

“Stop lying to me, you whore.”
 
And then Lucas had grabbed her by the
shoulders and pushed her into the wall, and his red face was just inches from
hers.
 
“I’m done playing around.
 
Tell us where he is.
 
We know he’s with Preston Sharpe.”

“You should give her a bloody nose,” the
thin man said from nearby.
 
“Or I
can do it, if you’d prefer.”

Ivy felt a surge of terror.
 
This was real.

They were actually doing this to her
right now.

And then there was the unmistakable sound
of the door to the house opening and footsteps entering the home.

Lucas released his grip on her and Ivy
ran away from him.
 

“Help!” she cried, not even knowing who
was coming inside.

Cullen emerged from the stairs, his eyes
wide, his jaw set as he saw the two men standing inside his house.

Ivy couldn’t believe how relieved she was
to see him.

But Cullen wasn’t watching her—he
was staring at the two FBI agents.
 

“Warrant?” he asked.

Lucas barked a laugh.
 
“Sue me, motherfucker.”

“You know this entire house is outfitted
with a state-of-the-art security system,” Cullen said.
 
“Cameras, audio, video,
everything.”
  

For the first time, Lucas and his
companion looked uncomfortable, and they exchanged glances.

“Always a con-artist,” the thin man
said.
 
“Where’s your father?
 
Off helping terrorists like usual?”

Cullen gave the other man a strange
smile.
 
“You didn’t let me
finish.
 
So, I’ve got this
state-of-the-art system and it records everything, and then those recordings go
to the cloud.
 
I can have a nice
video of you two up on YouTube or sent to the press within minutes of you
leaving my home.”
 
He walked further
into the room.
 
“And I have a
feeling it wouldn’t take the higher ups at the bureau very long to send you
both packing when the press starts reporting on your break-ins and intimidation
tactics.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Lucas said.
 
“Get rid of us, two more will just take
our place.”

BOOK: fall
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