* Mason *
This was it, he thought, staring into Clover’s eyes shining with a love he never deserved. Why hadn’t he told her about Pearl? Selfish, right down to the last minute, he faked a coughing fit to prolong the moment she would never again trust him.
For years he and Pearl swore if they found someone they loved they’d stop messing around and end their agreement, but when Clover came into his life, shit kept piling up and his priorities changed.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Bentley threw open the double doors of the bedroom. He walked out, returning a few minutes later dragging an unconscious and hogtied woman.
Clover paled, and he grew afraid she would pass out. “What the actual fuck?” was her first response.
“Pearl,” Bentley waved at the rail-thin woman with a flourish. Damn, what diet fad was she taking this time? “Mrs. Thistle. Mason’s lawful spouse of five years.”
Tears streamed down Clover’s face, and the shame was so thick he floundered for the right words to fix her perception of how things looked. His wife and Clover were never supposed to meet. They separated ages ago. He wanted to explain everything, but Bentley would only twist it to his advantage.
“So on to my dating site,” Bentley chirped, pleased with himself. He shifted his view to see he was untying Pearl enough to prop her up by the door. “I offered Mason a cut, and he made wifey here invest.”
“We sold the shares!” he growled, avoiding meeting anyone’s eyes, especially Clover’s.
“You contributed nonetheless,” Bentley smirked, kneeling in front of Clover, “Now you know who you’ve fallen for, Jade. A big fat adulterer who lies and will continue to do so to get what he wants.”
“We’re estranged!” he shouted, “She has a boyfriend! It’s just paper. Why don’t you tell the truth you fuck!”
Clover screamed when Reese jumped to her feet, slicing the knife across his upper left arm. Bentley peered over his shoulder, seemingly amused by her vicious reaction. Mason gritted his teeth at the sting as his blood dripped down to the floor. Dammit, he had hoped Bentley’s belittlement would stir Reese’s anger to defy him.
“Please,” he flinched at Clover’s pleading tone. He didn’t deserve her to beg for mercy on his behalf. “Please Bentley, don’t hurt him.”
He rose from his crouched position, pursing his lips before holding out his hand toward his psychotic minion, “I can’t have you ending the party yet, pet.”
Reese amazed him when she smiled demurely, giving him the hunter’s blade without hesitation. He got lucky that she wielded it clumsily. Bentley on the other hand knew exactly how to use one. He remembered how the maniac carried a wicked sharp switchblade in college.
“Ah, yes… it’s always paper with you, isn’t it Mason? You were the best at finding loopholes. Like framing me for Abby’s attempted suicide?”
This old accusation? Years had passed, and still, the asshole denied his part in Abby’s meltdown. He noticed Clover struggling to compose herself, stopping himself from assuring her all would be fine. As Bentley pointed out, he was in control. Once again, he failed to protect her from a man he once considered a brother. Neglected to warn Pearl, who had no idea of the danger surrounding her.
“Bentley,” Mason cleared his throat, “I made Reese a promise.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her step closer. Yeah, he seethed, I didn’t forget bitch. Their only hope for escape was a crazy girl who worshiped Bentley’s psycho ass.
“What’s that?” he crossed his arms suspiciously.
“I’m sorry. Really, I am. But didn’t we move past our issues? I mean,” he fumbled for a second, not wanting to piss him off any more than he was, “She left a note addressed to you. Not me. There was nothing I could have done because of the evidence against you. My testimony meant jack shit to the board.”
Bentley frowned, “That’s it?”
“I apologized,” he ground out, “The past doesn’t define our futures. It’s our choice to carry on or dwell over shit we can’t change.”
“While you and Peter went on to get degrees, I had to do everything the hard way! Do you honestly believe I gave a fuck about Abby? Maybe you’re right,” Bentley swung the knife in Pearl’s direction, “Your wife and your girlfriend are our current concerns. I’ve made more money than I can spend selling true love in the flesh. Abby’s lack of self-preservation when we played her against each other finalized my decision to leave behind my baser morals. Embracing my family’s legacy sent me on a journey where I met the one destined to sit at my feet.”
He glanced over at Clover, who gawked at the unconscious blonde. He sagged, imagining what was going through her mind. Bentley obviously thought if he tore apart Mason’s character, she would no longer trust him. Until he spoke to her, he’d put up with his games, but he wouldn’t stand by and allow these sociopaths to hurt Clover or Pearl.
He met Pearl a month out of college and at first; she made him ecstatic. They married after only knowing each other for sixteen months, then her personality switched like a light going off. She painted an earnest picture of how their life would play out after tying the knot. But it had been his wealth and status she sought, not him. Sure, she showered him in affection when he grew agitated after she would take off for weeks at a time. Mason clung to their hot makeup sex instead of facing facts before walking into their house one day to see her blowing some dude wearing his robe. He moved out that night after she admitted to cheating on him throughout their entire marriage. He hadn’t even been sore by her deceitfulness since she’d turned into a hateful bitch, allowing their divorce to hang in the background because she owned twenty percent of his damn company. Sometimes when he was drunk or feeling bitter, he’d waste hours pouring over the dissolution agreement locked in his safe, but never followed through, figuring it could wait.
As soon as he fell for Clover, he should have come clean, but with everything Bentley put her through, didn’t want to upset her. He planned on telling her sometime this week, only Bentley beat him to it. Did the bastard think fate brought him to Clover because the universe seemed to work against them? Had he placed the funeral nail in their relationship by waiting for her life to stabilize before causing her more stress?
Shit! he glared at the man responsible for their ongoing misery, When this is over I’m never keeping secrets from her again.
He stiffened when Pearl moaned, coming around at last. Why did he involve her? Bentley knew for a fact Mason hadn’t anything to do with her in years.
“Hi, Pearl,” Bentley knelt in front of her, “Reese, fetch a glass of water for Mrs. Thistle.”
Reese scurried away without a word as Pearl’s gray eyes focused on her surroundings. Her long blonde hair was a tangled mess, and she jerked in the ropes around her hands and feet.
“What are you doing, Ben?” Pearl stared at Mason in confusion while asking, ignoring everyone else.
“Just clearing the air before Jade and I leave on our honeymoon.”
“The fuck you are!” he went nuts at the thought of Bentley taking Clover, trying to tilt the chair one way, then the other, “You aren’t going anywhere with her!”
“If you fall, I’m leaving you there,” Bentley warned, “Anyway, welcome to the party, Pearl. Have you met Jade?”
His girl remained tight-lipped, thankfully. Mason was glad she wasn’t playing his games. He could now tell how she won over the crazy fuck. He kept struggling to tip over. His goals were to break the wood and slip out of the zip ties. He just needed one hand around Bentley’s throat.
“Why did you drug me?” Pearl sounded offended, which puzzled him, “You’ll pay for this later.”
“Eh, I had too much on my plate to worry about you fighting my pet.”
“Oh, God!” Clover gasped, “You’re screwing his wife!”
Mason froze and looked at Pearl. She tilted her chin up high. Even now she acted as if she were better than them. It had taken him years to wake up to this side of her. He felt disgusted with himself for marrying the wretched bitch.
“Untie me,” she snapped. “I don’t care what you do. He and that fat slut are no concern of mine.”
Bentley hauled off and slapped her. He flinched at the screech she emitted, continuing to upturn his chair, hoping to land hard enough to snap the frame. Clover screamed something as Bentley grabbed Pearl’s neck, tossing her a few feet across the room. She landed awkwardly with a pained yelp.
“So easy to beat on innocent women!” he shouted, “Let me loose, and fight someone your own size!”
“No one here is innocent,” Bentley turned back to him, “Jade, I won’t allow anyone to disrespect you. It’s too late for…” he paused, his head snapping towards the bedroom doors.
That’s when he remembered Reese had left to get water and had yet to return. Did she come to her senses, running for help? He applied his full weight into leaning forward one more time, and tensed in preparation when he succeeded, the floor rushing to meet his face.