Authors: Talyn Scott
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic Erotica, #Suspense
Copyright © 2014 by Talyn Scott.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover art by www.g12design.com
Level 69 Trilogy Book Three
Dylan Easton stood with his arms open, his water soaked clothes weighing heavily on his body. Avery to his right, blood flowed from shrapnel embedded in his arm, hands clenched at his sides. Fire was gaining around the main house, and it was only a matter of time, maybe fifteen minutes tops, before nothing would matter if they didn’t get out of here. And they weren’t going anywhere without Payton. It went without saying that if she died here; they’d die, too. Because neither would ever live without her, not after she’d shown them how to love. This meant Dylan and Avery needed to figure out how to get her away from a madman before they all went up in flames.
Dylan took another step, his terrified gaze staring into the cold murderous depths of his head of security. But he managed to keep his voice level, even reasonable, considering the bastard had a small handgun pointed to Payton’s head. “Michael, let her go.”
“No.” Michael moved his hand slightly from the front of Payton’s throat, and she sucked in a gulp of air, though her body remained unconscious, completely limp.
Avery and Dylan took in small breaths with her, relieved to see the bluing around her lips somewhat diminish with her intake of oxygen. Dylan steadily glanced around, noticing one bodyguard on his haunches beneath a hedge of Ficus. The man bleeding from a head injury, he reached inside his jacket to pull out his weapon.
Dylan gave him a slight nod no, willing him not to do anything stupid. With the blood pouring in the man’s eyes, his aim had to be way off, and he’d undoubtedly hit Payton.
“Michael, put down the gun,” Avery said just as levelly. “Tell us…why you and Marla set these fires.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Michael asked, his voice a strange combination of frantic sadness.
Avery spoke evenly through his teeth, his horror-filled eyes flicking between Michael and Payton, “The only thing obvious is that you were one of our many employees sleeping with Marla. Otherwise, I’m clueless as to why you and Marla would result to such heinous violence.”
Michael pointed his reply straight at Dylan. “When you dumped her, Marla fell into my lap for good. Not that I enjoyed your leavings all that much, but she served a higher purpose once I explained my position. And when you told the world you were marrying this little bitch,” he explained, shaking Payton, “Marla agreed to do anything I asked.”
Shadows flittered all around, the police had stealthy arrived. For a split second, Dylan thought of lunging in front of Michael and Payton, getting himself shot so they could swoop in and grab her, but then he completely froze when Michael’s trigger finger started shaking, his hand sinking the business end of the gun into her tender skin. If either of them moved, Michael would shoot her. But if they didn’t, he was still going to shoot her. “For a price,” Dylan kept talking, hearing sirens approaching in the background. “Marla may come from a bit of money but she never does anything that isn’t self-serving. So if she knew I wouldn’t take her back, you must have promised her monitory gain.” He inched closer. “Money is her god, so how would you get your hands on enough of the green stuff to pay her off for arson and attempted murder. That’s one hell of a services rendered.”
“You think you’re the only one who can buy whores? Besides, Marla wanted a little payback for being dumped, for the humiliation Avery caused her inside Level 69.”
Avery inched closer, backing Michael and Payton to a half wall separating the pool deck from the deadened rose garden.
“Back off!” Michael snarled.
Dylan held up his hands. “Take it easy.”
When sirens echoed down the road, nearing the front gate, he looked wild around the eyes. “You called the police?” he asked Avery and Dylan crazily. “How could you do that?”
Dylan had faced many absurd and cruel people in his time, but never one who was blatantly certifiable. “There’s a big fucking fire you and Marla set ravaging this estate.” He managed to inch closer. “Any motorist driving by would call the fire department, but I still don’t know why you did this. Why you,” Dylan kept going as Avery took a smooth step, “the man I trusted to run my security, tried to kill me with the help of my ex-mistress?”
“Marla only wanted your money, then revenge. But I
…I wanted everything,” he explained brokenly, sweat beading across his forehead as the fire neared the main house. “Helen was a glorious kill.”
The shock of those words nearly made Avery stumble, but Dylan fought to stay composed. “And her baby,” he reminded. “Helen was pregnant.”
“I couldn’t have planned that better myself.”
“Tell me why,” Dylan pressed. “Why would you kill her?”
“She was healing you. You were happy.” He shook his head no. “And you didn’t deserve to be happy.” Another small explosion went off, and the fire ripped through a fence. But Michael seemed unfazed.
“Okay,” Dylan demanded roughly, “what exactly did my happiness or lack of happiness mean to you?”
“Can’t you see the family resemblance?” He laughed manically.
Dylan’s stomach rose to his throat, but he asked calmly, “What family resemblance?”
“I’m your father’s bastard.”
Spittle shot out of his mouth, his disconcerting anger allowing Avery to advance another two steps. “Prince Dylan Easton, the acceptable son who got everything, while I waited for my father’s crumbs. But even they never came!”
Dylan’s eyes flicked to Payton’s right when hers opened in quiet alarm. “I don’t believe you.”
Michael’s entire frame shook; sweat poring down his hand and slicking his trigger finger. “Dear-ole-dad refused to acknowledge his other kids, only you!”
Other kids? Dylan knew better than this. “No, he would have acknowledged a child that was his.”
Michael’s eyes widened. “Now, who’s the liar?” He cocked his head, his eyes moving back and forth. “I planned to kill you after you didn’t die in Tower Amore, but the way you suffered daily was a balm to my soul.” Avery took another step as Michael continued, “So I inched my way up the Easton ladder, fighting for the position to be at your side for a ringside seat to your misery. You know the adage, keep your friends close and your enemies closer?”
“I’ve never followed that belief.” Dylan swallowed hard when Avery took another step.
Michael laughed crazily. “I watched firsthand as years upon years you fought the cops. They suspected you of my arson. Isn’t that ironic? Yet they still couldn’t quite place their fingers on any damning evidence.”
Dylan nodded slightly. “You lived for my pain.”
“Yes, it was far better to see you suffer than to kill you, the son who was accepted by a father who couldn’t bear to look at us. Then Helen snapped you out of it, out of the grief, out of the anguish. Well, I couldn’t have that now, could I?”
“Helen was innocent in all of this, just like Payton.”
“You should have stuck with your faceless mistresses, the ones who couldn’t reach your blue-blooded heart.” He shook Payton, and her eyes flashed wider. “But you went and told the world you were marrying Payton Calloway.”
“I don’t understand the attacks…the poison.” Dylan lifted his hand slightly, thinking Avery was within grabbing distance. But then he noticed several officers circling the back of the old rose garden, with their guns drawn. “If you were going to set another fire anyway.”
“I loved hearing your fear, answering those endless phone calls regarding your precious Payton. Michael, hire more guards. Money is no object, just keep her safe,” he mocked. “You truly love her.” Payton’s eyes locked onto Avery— though Michael still didn’t realize she was conscious — and her brow came down in warning as her body continued to hang loosely in his grip. “Toying with you was fitting, wasn’t it?”
“If you say so…”
“Then Marla explained how I could challenge your father’s will in probate court.” Michael suddenly stopped talking and then gasped in outrage, finally getting a good look at the officers closing in on him. During his brief distraction, Payton’s undamaged arm stretched to the half wall.
“Police!” Someone shouted from behind Dylan. “Drop your weapon!”
“I’ll kill her!” he shouted back, as Payton secretly wrapped her fingers around a rusty garden tool sitting on the half wall, a three-pronged cultivator. The gun swiveled on her temple as Michael cocked his head to look down at her. Four things happened at once: Payton made a fist and slammed the prongs into the right side of Michael’s face with startling strength, Avery screamed no repeatedly while launching himself at Michael, Dylan shoved Payton against the half wall and covered her with his body, and the fucking gun went off.
The police descended, and Dylan rolled her sideways. “Are you hit, baby?” He curled his body around her. “Talk to me!”
“I’m not hit, but Avery?”
“Hush.” He forced her head down, keeping an eye on the horrific action while keeping her protected. The side of Avery’s throat was bleeding, though it hadn’t been before, and Dylan’s heart sank. Had he been shot? But Avery’s fist flew out of nowhere and sent Michael backward against the half wall with astounding force. The gun spun out across the pool deck, and an officer caught it beneath his booted heel.
“Don’t move!” The officer seethed, his gun aimed right at Michael and Avery, his eyes following their movements with cautious precision.
Dylan yelled at Avery, “The cops have him, A. Back off!”
Avery wasn’t listening to anyone, his face contorted with years and years of pain, his body channeling the rage of someone finally taking his life back. A whack smacked the brick, followed by a sickening crack, which was Michael’s head in Avery’s vengeful grip. Dylan watched Avery lose his shit on Michael, going lethal with the three-pronged cultivator now gripped in his hand.
“You fucking murderer!” Avery screamed, slamming him in the throat with the garden tool. “That’s for Helen and her baby!” Blood sprayed in an arterial arc across Avery’s chest. Michael howled, his leg coming high and hooking around the front of Avery’s throat, but Avery tore the tool from his flesh, further ravishing Michael’s throat, and his leg fell limply to the side. Avery slammed another powerful strike home. “This one is for Dylan’s parents!”
Michael gurgled, his head remaining immobile though his torso bucked from impact.
Avery’s teeth flashed white in his face covered with ash and blood, raising his hands to deliver the
deathblow. “And this, this is for hurting Payton!”
An officer suddenly gripped Avery’s wrist, another one gripping his chest. “Enough,” he snapped when Avery tried to shake him off. “He’s as good as dead now.” The other one mumbled something about Avery getting away with too much, but he was immediately shushed. After the years their department had spent painting Dylan as a murderer, the least they could do was look the other way while Avery finished him off.
One pointed his gun right at Michael’s face as the two yanked Avery back from his flailing body. Michael continued to gurgle and convulse on the deck, Avery and Dylan watching him die with grim and complete satisfaction.
When Payton twisted beneath him, turning her head to see why all had suddenly gone quiet, Dylan tore his eyes away from the shock of it all and concentrated on his beloved. “Avery’s fine, but don’t look.”
“What,” she took a gasping breath, “about you?”
“Perfect, I’m just perfect.” He held her to him and kissed everywhere he could get his mouth, over and over again. Payton was still here, still alive, and he would never let her go. “God, I love you.”
A tremor ran through her. “I love you.”
He kissed an ear peeking through her matted hair, touching her body gently, and searched for her worst injuries. “I was nearly scared stupid while Michael had that gun pointed to your precious head.”
“You weren’t the only one.”
“Remind me to leave you alone next time you’re gardening, though.” He thought about the way she’d used the garden tool to protect herself. Although he was so proud of her that he could burst, she never should have been put in such a situation to defend herself physically. He wanted to scream. He wanted to be the one who’d delivered Michael’s deathblow. He wanted to start over more than a decade ago and ensure that none of these events could ever touch Payton. But he sucked up his boiling rage and whispered softly, “I’m so sorry this happened to you, so very sorry.” He pushed the hair from her eyes. “Did your arm get the worst of it?”
“I think so,” she answered shakily, the adrenalin of the morning’s nightmare finally crashing down hard on her. She started trembling, uttering words he couldn’t understand beneath the rush of more sirens.
He motioned for the paramedics to move their asses. “Her arm,” he told them, “she can’t move it.” And although the fire department was beating back the fire, Dylan needed to get her far away from the estate. God knew what else might be rigged to blow.
Avery wormed his way from the police as they bagged up a now dead Michael. He scrubbed his face on his shirt, looking hard at Dylan.
She’s okay, Dylan mouthed. The paramedics were seeing to her, and when they positioned Payton on the gurney, she released a pained gasp. Avery fought not to go to her side, his fists twisting his shirttail. He didn’t want her to see him covered in blood, the monster that killed a monster. But Dylan knew she wouldn’t see Avery as a monster, but a savior.