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Page 7 of Alpha (Alpha 1)

I ducked my head, oddly pleased by his compliment. “Thank you, Harris.”

He nodded. “Now, if you’re ready?”

“Everything is packed?”

“All your clothes and underthings, jewelry, and the phone charger. I assume everything else you need is in your purse.” He lifted the suitcases and moved toward the front door.

I followed him, then paused as he opened the door. “What about my apartment?”

He set the suitcases in the hallway, waiting for me to exit so he could close the door behind me. “Everything is taken care of.”

“What—what about Cal? And Mom? And—”

“I repeat, Miss St. Claire: Everything is taken care of. All you need to do is follow me.” He watched me, his pale green eyes calm, patient.

I let out a shaky breath. “All right, then. Let’s go.” I shouldered my purse, shut off the lights, and locked the door.

I followed Harris outside into the late evening sunlight. There was a low, sleek black Mercedes-Benz parked away from the other cars, angled to take up two spots. He set the cases by the trunk and withdrew a key fob from his pocket. The hatch opened, and then he placed the cases inside. He had all this done before I even had a chance to put a hand on the door.

Harris opened the back right passenger door, held it for me as I slid in, and then closed it gently. Within seconds, he was in the front seat, and the engine roared to life.

He drove us to a small airport, passing through a security checkpoint, and then he parked on the tarmac beside a huge private jet. I swallowed hard as I stared out the tinted window at the airplane. Was this really happening? Ohgodohgodohgod. I was nothing short of terrified.

“If you wish to make a phone call, now is the time, Miss St. Claire,” Harris said.

I dug my phone from my purse and called Layla.

“What’s up, Key? Wanna meet for drinks?”

I let out a breath. “I—can’t.”

“Why not? What’s up?”

I blinked hard. “I’m going away.”

“Wh-what? What do you mean? Where? Why? For how long?”

“I don’t know, Layla. I don’t know. The checks? All that money? I’m about to meet the man who sent them.”

“Who is it?” Layla demanded.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything. A man showed up at my door an hour ago and said he was here to collect me. I’ve been collected, Layla.”

“Does he know you’re calling me? Are you, like, in danger?”

I forced myself to breathe calmly. “I don’t—I don’t think so. I don’t really have a choice, but I’m not in danger. Like, I don’t think anyone is going to kill me. I am scared, though. What’s going to happen to me?” I whispered the last part.

“Kyrie…Jesus. This would only happen to you.” I heard her breathe, sounding as shaky as I did. “Where are you?”

“Oakland County International Airport. About to board a f**king massive Gulfstream or something like that. A big private jet. Right now I’m sitting in a Mercedes-Benz.”

“Ohmigod, Kyrie! So whoever this guy is, he’s loaded.”

“Yeah.”

“And you owe him—what, a hundred and twenty grand?”

“Yeah.”

“How are you going to pay him back?” Layla asked.

I blinked hard, fighting tears of fright. “This guy, Harris, he said my benefactor isn’t interested in money.”

Layla sucked in a sharp breath. “He’s interested in you, then. Something tells me you’ll have to put out a hell of a lot to pay back that much money, honey.”

“Layla!”

“Just sayin’, babe. It’s true.”

“I’m not a whore. I’m not going to use sex to pay him back.” My voice shook.

“You may not have a choice.”

“I know. That’s why I’m so scared. I mean, I’m no prude. You know that. But…what if he’s, like, eighty? Or some kind of…sultan? You know? Those girls who end up in slavery in Saudi Arabia?”

“I’m scared for you.”

A knock on the window startled me. Harris opened the car door. “It’s time, Miss St. Claire.”

“I have to go, Layla.”

“Be—be careful, okay? Call me as much as you can, so I know you’re alive.”

“I will.”

“So…I’ll talk to you later, Key.” She tried to sound casual about not saying “goodbye.” I loved her fiercely for that.

“Later, babe.” I used the fake accent that always made her laugh.

She laughed, and then hung up on me. I sniffed, smiling, feeling somewhat reassured by talking to Layla.

Harris closed the door behind me, and then gestured to the movable stairway leading up to the door of the jet. “Ready?”

I shook my head. “Not even close.”

“Understandable. There’s champagne and other refreshments on the plane. Shall we?” He touched the small of my back with three fingers, a gentle nudge.

I ascended the steps on jelly-weak knees, and entered the jet. It was…stunning. Like in a movie. Cream leather seats, flat-screen TVs, thick carpeting, a silver bucket of ice sitting on a special tray near one set of seats, with a bottle of what I assumed was hideously expensive champagne. A flight attendant in a navy blue suit was already on board, ready to wait on me.

I glanced at Harris in shock.

“You’re entering a whole new world, Miss St. Claire,” he said. “One with many privileges. Sit, relax, and try to calm yourself. You will not be harmed, you will not be entering into any kind of slavery. You are merely…changing situations.”

I nodded, unable to speak. I sat, buckled in, and held on to the arms of the seat as the jet taxied and took off. When we were airborne, the flight attendant poured me a flute of champagne, which I sipped slowly and carefully. I needed to take the edge off my nerves, but I needed my wits about me for whatever came next.

The flight was a little over three hours, and then we landed with a gentle bump at a private airfield. I had no idea where we were.

I exited the plane and followed Harris to a waiting car, this one a stretch limousine. He held the door for me, closed it, and then slid into the driver’s seat. He said nothing, only waited as someone else loaded my suitcases into the trunk.

I’d half expected to see someone sitting in the shadows of the limousine, but there was no one. Only long expanses of black leather, lights, and a radio, and more champagne. I folded my hands on my lap and waited as Harris drove. It was a long journey, and we got closer to what looked to be New York. We went over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan. We wove through thick traffic, heading uptown.

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