“Even so, I’d do it.”

He peered down at me, disbelief in his eyes. “How did I ever manage to catch you?”

“If I remember correctly, you didn’t play fair.”

He smirked.

“Just tell me we’ll be okay, that Teddy will be okay.” I pulled him closer and rubbed my cheek against his stubble.

“We’ll get through it. Together. The same way we’ve done each trial.” He kissed to my mouth.

“I’m scared.”

“I know.” He kissed my forehead. “But they’re the ones who should be afraid.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

STELLA

“STELLA!” SIN’S VOICE HISSED in my ear, and I shot up from his bed. “They’ve sent a car. The trial’s today. Fucking Cal surprised us.” He dropped a kiss on my lips. “This changes nothing.”

“They’re coming.” Lucius stood in the doorway, peering down the hall.

“Hurry to your room. Get ready. I’ll meet you downstairs.” He kissed me again quickly and pulled his sheet free, wrapping it around me.

I rose, clutched the sheet closed at my chest, and hurried away with Lucius.

“What’s going on?”

“Just more fucking dickishness by Cal.” Lucius’ back was tight, his pace hellish as we turned the corners toward my room.

“Get in your bed, quick. Cal wants to surprise you himself. I held him off with coffee. Go.” Lucius pushed my bedroom door open. I slipped through and jumped into my bed as he closed the door. The sheet slipped off and I kicked it down beneath my blankets.

My heart raced, and I glanced to the dresser. I hated the thought of Cal catching me naked. The hall was quiet, so I slipped out of bed and pulled my drawer open. Then I heard footsteps.

Fuck. I crept back to my bed empty-handed and slid under the sheets. Feigning sleep with my eyes barely open, I turned my head toward the door and lay on my back.

I breathed long and steadily, completely at odds with the frantic beat of my heart. When the door handle turned, I clutched my pillow. It opened farther and Cal peeked in, a large grin spreading across his face as he “caught” me sleeping.

Lucius peered at me over Cal’s shoulder, his face pinched. Cal opened the door the rest of the way and eased toward my bed. Chill bumps broke out across my skin, and I wanted to curl up into a defensive ball. Instead, I closed my eyes so he wouldn’t realize I was awake.

The bed shifted, and his hand brushed the hair from my face.

“Stella.” His voice was soft, with a hint of merriment.

I opened my eyes and tried to shrink away from him, but he closed his fist in my hair.

“That’s no way to greet the day.” He tsked and let his gaze slither down my neck to my bare shoulders. “Sleeping nude?”

I pulled the blanket to my chin. “Why are you here?”

“Today’s your big day. The final trial. Excited?” He rested his hand at my throat.

I didn’t answer, silently willing him away.

It didn’t work. He leaned closer. “I thought you’d at least try and convince Sin to let me have you.” He wrapped his fingers around the blanket and pulled it down.

I resisted, trying to keep myself covered. When he pulled my hair so hard I thought it might rip out, I let go. He shoved the blanket away and surveyed my body. I crossed my arms over my breasts. He pulled them away and pinned my hands to my sides. I was helpless, the same way I’d been so many times at the hands of these people. I wouldn’t let my fear win. Hatred burned brighter.

“It doesn’t matter now. It’s too late. The last trial is here.” His malicious eyes took in all of me. “Still, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.” He let one hand go, and I moved to cover myself.

He slapped me, my cheek stinging as the crack shocked the still air. “Don’t fucking move.”

I lowered my hand back to my side, humiliation burning and rising to the surface, painting my skin red.

“Better.” He trailed his hands around my breasts and down to my waist and then lower. He smirked and ran his fingers across my pussy as I clenched my legs shut. “Red like I thought.” He met me eyes again. “As I was saying, I have a trick or two left. Your stepbrother has been kind enough to let me have you for a week before he takes delivery.”

I fought the instinct to hit him as he took my nipple in his mouth. He groaned and bit down on it as I tried to keep breathing.

“Lucius?” Sophia’s voice carried down the hallway.

Cal popped his head up and winked at me. “I’ll taste the rest soon enough.”

He stood, and I wrenched the blankets back in place.

Sophia and Lucius air kissed in the hallway as Cal strode out. “Get ready, we’re leaving in ten minutes,” he called over his shoulder.

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