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And I would give it to them if only so I’d suffocate Darius in the very dirt he so longed to possess.

The email pinged again.

Sarah, it’s about your mother .

My stomach heaved. I didn’t have room in my belly for guilt too, not while I carried enough of a secret. I hadn’t seen Mom in months, and my few messages to her were quick and superficial.

I had nothing to say that wouldn’t break her.

Your husband raped me.

The baby I’m carrying might be his.

I’m going to murder the only man you’ve ever loved and enjoy every second of it.

And that was if she understood what was happening. How much time had passed.

If Darius hadn’t hurt her while looking for me.

I stuffed a saltine in my mouth and waited for the lurching to stop. It didn’t. I called Anthony anyway.

I was a billionaire heiress, and I was making calls on pre-paid phones, hiding in tiny hotels, and traveling from city to city on what was left of the ten grand I pulled out of my account before bolting.

Anthony answered, but his graveled voice wasn’t the mocha smoothness I longed to hear.

“Sarah, are you okay.” He didn’t ask it as a question. After months of my complete silence, he was beyond pleasantries. Anthony demanded an answer. He wouldn’t be the only one. “Goddamn it, Sarah. Just say something.”


They were the first words I spoke in a week to anyone but Hamlet and the hotel’s clerk. It didn’t sound like me, but, then again, I had lost, found, and destroyed myself so many times in the past weeks that I didn’t know which Sarah Atwood even answered. I wasn’t a timid girl any more. I wasn’t a captive.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to be a victim.

“Where are you?” he asked.

No place I trusted myself to reveal. “What’s wrong with Mom?”


“I’m fine. What happened to my mother?”

He hesitated. Every passing second burned a greater hatred in my chest. The only person I loathed more than Darius was me, especially if he hurt Mom because I ran.

“She’s not well,” he said.

“Does she realize it?”

“No. Not entirely. But he realizes it.”

“What’s he doing to her?”

Anthony paused. “As far as I can tell, nothing. But he’s whispering in her ear. She’s trying to change her will.”

“Of course she is,” I said. “But power of attorney passed to me.”

“And Bennett is challenging it.”

Goddamn it. Darius struck at me, luring me from my hiding by using Mom. Only he would be monstrous enough to place a sick woman in the middle of our feud.

“What the hell does he want? She doesn’t have any control over the farm or corporation.”

“You tell me, Sarah. What’s his game?”

“How would I know?” His name choked in my throat. I forced myself to speak it anyway. “I don’t pretend to understand the cesspool that is Darius’s mind.”

“Figure it out. He might get the POA if Bethany’s daughter refuses to show at a court date.”

“Mom won’t change her will.”

“You should make sure of it. Where are you?”

It was a mistake to call. “Email me any updates. I’ll stay in touch. I gotta go.”

“Christ, Sarah, you are an Atwood! You can’t just disappear like this!” Anthony’s voice seared through the phone. “It was bad enough when you were lost in the Bennett Estate. And don’t tell me you were there to recover from an asthma attack.” He interrupted me with a grunt. “No one’s heard from you in two months. That includes the Bennetts.”

“I said I was fine.”

Anthony swore. “Don’t feed me that bullshit. You dropped off the grid the instant the Bennett stock passed into your possession. That doesn’t make sense. You are the largest shareholder outside their family. You practically own the company.”

And the shares weren’t worth the sorrow. I stayed quiet.

“Nicholas Bennett stormed into my office two weeks ago.”

My chest instantly tightened.

“He demanded information about you. Where you were. The last time we spoke. Where you were staying. He nearly had a coronary when I said I had no goddamned idea where you went.”


“I don’t know what he’s planning, but Nicholas will burn your fields to find you, Sarah.”

I believed him, but not for the reasons Anthony feared. “I had an agreement with Nicholas, but…the circumstances changed. I’ll deal with him.”

“What the hell are you doing, Sarah? Just talk to me. Something is wrong.”

“It’s under control.”

“You hate Darius Bennett. You’d let your lungs collapse before accepting his help, but you move to his estate because of an asthma attack?”

“I said it was fine!”

“Did they hurt you?”


How was I supposed to answer that?

Yes. Constantly. Every moment of every day?

Every second I spent with Nicholas shredded my soul and blinded me with a deceptive peace. I trapped myself within his control. But did he hurt me? Was that abuse?

His devotion wasn’t anything like the sadism that hardened Darius’s heart and other more repulsive parts of him.

Nicholas hadn’t hurt me, but, because of him, I now understood pain. I experienced it in more ways than just heartbreak, stolen futures, and submissions forced from an unwilling body.


“I have a plan,” I said.

“That wasn’t my question.”

“I control enough of the Bennett Corporation to influence Darius. I can either use that power to get more money, or we can end this once and for all.”

“End what?”

I swallowed. “The feud between our families.”

“And how will you do that?”

“Tell my acting CEO to get me a quote on how much it would cost to use all Bennett agrochemicals on my fields. Fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, everything.”


“Have them email the proposal. Absolutely anything the Bennett Corporation provides on an agrochemical level, I want to use on my fields.”

“Sarah, this doesn’t make any sense.”

“And don’t tell them I requested the information.”

Anthony sighed. “What are you doing? This isn’t a peace offering. You’d rather those crops withered and died than ever spray with Bennett products.”

“You said it yourself. I’m a shareholder in the Bennett Corporation—so powerful I practically own the company. Shouldn’t I use the products of my investment? What better spokesperson could the Bennetts find?”

“What’s your plan?”

“Get me the quote. We’ll move on it once I have the information.”

“Your board won’t like this.”

“Unlike the Bennetts, my father kept control of his investors. They’ll do as I say, and, if they don’t, they can’t overrule my decision.” I swallowed. “Nor will they want to…once they see what I plan to do.”

“You need to talk to me. Really talk to me. You aren’t well, I can hear it. Tell me what happened.”

“Nothing,” I said. “I’m doing what I always meant to do.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m tearing apart the Bennett Empire, beginning with their Board of Directors.”


“And once they’re gone, Darius Bennet will pay for the sins he committed.”

“Darius Bennett didn’t kill your father.”

“No.” My voice faded. “He’s done worse than that.”


“Get me those quotes. I’ll explain it all later.”

Anthony didn’t take the order well, but I hung up and turned off the phone to prevent him from calling again. Instead, I focused on the reports with their unfamiliar chemical compounds and reactions. I took enough chemistry and chemical engineering classes to be dangerous, but I specialized in genetics. I wanted to work in genetics.



2011 - 2018