He kept his head and the lower half of his face covered at all times. More than once, the women would whisper to one another about the scars he must be hiding and how hot they thought it was.
That one, for whatever reason, couldn’t keep his kohl-rimmed eyes off her. And he liked to look at her. A lot.
It was as if he were studying her. Worse, he didn’t give her the heebie-jeebies. No, his obsidian eyes were so much like Liam’s that she wanted him to stare at her. She wanted to be reminded of the man she missed more than life itself.
She touched her belly, the curve more pronounced, and whispered, “Your daddy would be so shocked to see how big my stomach is.”
The Russian made a noise, and she looked his way in time to see his partner staring at her hand. She snatched it away, her heart pounding in her chest.
“She’s for sale,” one of her captors said in English for her discomfort as his sly gaze darted around the room and settled on her. “Two for one.”
“What about the others?” the Russian asked.
Her captor shrugged. “Already sold.”
Ice water ran through her veins. Sold? Her friends had been sold?
Nausea rose in her throat, and she made a little sound of distress. The Russian’s partner started in her direction, but the Russian’s arm shot out and shoved him back into place.
“Don’t be so eager, my friend. There are plenty of women to choose from, besides that one,” he said.
Bella turned away from them and walked outside to a walled garden, grabbing her prayer mat along the way. She got down on her knees and bowed her head. Though she wasn’t the same religion as the people who lived here, they made sure to leave her alone when she prayed, and had even given her a rug to use.
She began to pray in earnest for her friends, for the safety of her baby, and then for herself. Tears streamed down her cheeks as time passed.
A dark shadow fell over her. She glanced out of the corner of her eyes and confirmed that it was the Russian’s partner.
“Can’t you see I’m praying?” she snapped and looked up, refusing to be intimidated. His dark eyes glittered like stars in the evening sky. So familiar and comforting.
“When you are finished, we need to talk,” he said, his accent hard to pin down.
“I have nothing to say to you.” She struggled to get to her feet, the hem of her long dress getting in the way.
The man gently grabbed her arm and helped her up. She jerked out of his grasp. “Don’t touch me.”
“Careful. Careful,” he repeated, holding up his hands. “The baby.”
“You can’t have him.” She stood there, tilting her chin up defiantly. “He’s mine.”
Momentarily put off balance by his question, she answered, “Yes. My mother said my husband and I would have a boy.”
He stepped forward, crowding her into a corner, and placed his large, tanned hand on his stomach. Her eyes grew wide, as he slightly lowered the material covering the bottom half of his face. Then she almost fainted.
“We’re having a boy?” he asked, his voice rough.
“Liam,” she half-shouted/half whispered. Her entire body shook with joy, and she burst into tears.
He kissed her, on her face, her neck, and her jaw. “Don’t cry, love. I’m here. You’re safe.”
“But you can’t be here,” she sniffed, trying to keep quiet. Armed guards roamed the top of the outer walls. “I thought… I thought you never wanted to see me again. And then, when I saw you again, you left.”
“But I’m here now, and I am taking you with me,” he said, his hand like a brand on her stomach. “We’ll talk about everything, including our son, later. I have so much to apologize for, so much to make right with you.”
As did she. “What about my friends, the ones who were—?”
“The vehicle carrying them was intercepted by the good guys,” he said.
She slumped against the wall, another welcome wave of relief washing over her. “Thank God.”
“Still want that one, eh?” her captor asked.
Liam covered his face again, and then turned to face the man. “She’ll do.”
He laughed. “Take her. She’s was eating all my food anyway. I’ll give you a good deal.”
Her mouth fell open, but before she could say anything, Liam whirled around, kissed her once more, and then held out his hand. “Ready?”
“I’ll follow you anywhere,” she said.
A black helicopter, the blades whirling so fast she could barely see them, landed near them. With Liam on one side and the Russian on the other, they got Bella safely inside the machine.
But it wasn’t until they crossed the border into safer territory that Liam began to relax. He held his wife, as much as their safety harnesses would allow in the military-grade helicopter, and closed his eyes.
Bella was safe. Their baby was safe too.
He sliced his gaze to Roman Smith, the man Sebastian had contacted to help him. Hard, blue eyes stared right back.
He looked familiar somehow, as if he’d looked at those eyes before and—
He grunted. It couldn’t be…
“Mr. Smith,” he ventured.
Roman raised a dark brow.
“How do you know Sebastian?”
A half smile kicked up one corner of his mouth. “I was ordered to kill him.”
Bella gasped. “Are you serious?”
“Yes.” Roman didn’t elaborate further.
Liam rubbed his chin. “I’ve contemplated killing him myself on occasion.”
“That is not funny,” Bella said.
He thought it to be hilarious. “Sebastian said that he trusted you with his life. He also said you were the best. Since, he’s still alive, I can’t help but wonder—”
“Keep wondering, Your Grace.” Then Roman closed his eyes and leaned back in the seat, effectively shutting Liam down.
Bella looked up at him with wide eyes. “He’s scary,” she whispered as they landed. Wasn’t that the damn truth? But Roman had also saved his wife.
Liam helped her off the helicopter and then led her inside a small, seaside cottage. Sebastian had bought it for Daisy, because she claimed it reminded her of Shell Cottage from the Harry Potter books.
“He’s your hero.”
She shook her head. “No, you’re my hero.”
He grew uneasy at the thought of taking all the credit, or any of the credit, really. So, he stopped walking and turned to her. “I don’t think you understand. I didn’t organize anything. He arranged the drop off, the disguise… the exchange of money. I just… I made him take me.”