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The Carrero Contract - Finding Freedom (Carrero book 9)

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CAMILLA WALTERS and ALEXI CARRERO embark on the final instalment of their trilogy. Love confessions hanging in the air and yet a fog of mistrust and confusion clouds the way. So much has passed and yet so much still to resolve. Danger still lurking in dark corners, threatening her life and all she is building. A mafia based enemies to lovers tale that has gripped our hearts and pulled us on a turbulent journey to this moment.Love him or leave him, put the past to rest or let it destroy what could be. Can she ever forgive him and allow her heart the happiness it deserves?. Can Alexi truly be what she needs? Contains some mature, adult content, and language.

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Chapter 1

“What?” Everything in me halts to some weird frozen moment, suspended in time, and my manic panic calms instantly to surreal numbness. One questioning word jerked out of me in response to his statement.

Standing in the lift facing him while he holds the doors wide, only feet apart and so close to escaping, I can almost taste it. Tears stop, and my body stills. I openly stare at him in complete shock. Brain stuttering on his words and unable to react whilst in a state of disbelief.

I cease my noisy breakdown and hold very still. Breath paused, emotion idling while I wait. The hysteria of a moment ago fades to this eerie silence between us as I pause for an explanation, an expansion of his sentence. Of meaning to him saying the word love, to me, of all people.

He can’t love me. It makes no sense.

He hates me.

He hurts me; he always has.

But he told me he loves me and will do anything to keep me.

My brain is melting. I don’t know how to process any of this.

It must be a game plan. This is who he is—a manipulator. He is a cruel, sadistic devil, and he doesn’t love. He could never love me. He shunned my confession of the same thing not so long ago. This can’t be real.

I lean back against the lift wall heavily to steady my sudden lead weight of a body and jelly legs and give myself space to try to process some of this. I can’t believe we have come full circle, and here we are again.

In the same apartment where I poured out my soul at his feet, he pushed me away into the cold and lonely solitude of a broken heart, where I put a gun to my head and tried to ease myself of the pain he inflicted. This place where he shunned my love. He now has the nerve to tell me he loves me. If that isn’t some sick twist, I don’t know what is.

I’m almost afraid to breathe. It’s like his words have stopped everything around us and between us, and even time itself is hovering in some suspended alternate reality.

Alexi looks panicked, eyes on me widening as he glances away down to his feet nervously and then back at me hesitantly, swallowing hard. The atmosphere fills with his trepidation and consumes the air around us. I don’t know how to feel, but the delay seems like an eternity, and the waves of his emotion are upping the tension of every ticking second.

Waiting for him to lie again and cut me down over and over. That’s what this is, surely? A well-planned devious manoeuvre. To crush my soul again.

I don’t know why he needs to keep hurting me. It’s agony. A form of torture, and I wonder if this is all part of another sick move. I don’t know what I ever did to him that was so bad he needed to destroy me this way.

“I said …” He clears his throat finally, an awkwardness overcoming him, and he can’t seem to keep still. Nervous energy overtaking, moving almost in a fidgeting manner as he inhales heavily, almost willing himself the courage he doesn’t feel.

This is not the Alexi I know, and it only deepens the knot of something large and painful growing in the pit of my stomach.

Fear maybe. Anxiety? Anger?

This is a glimpse of someone entirely new. It’s a far cry from the self-assured manipulator I know and hate. A side he keeps well hidden from the world, and I don’t know if it’s even real. A side throwing me off-kilter, and I’m suddenly faced with a stranger and a head full of doubts and chaos threatening to choke all oxygen out of my body.

A rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. Knowing I’m about to be mowed down in another Alexi head fuck. I should run. Go. Not wait for a reply, but my feet won’t move, and I hold my body still in anticipation. My dumb heart is clinging on by one thread that maybe it isn’t a lie.

Stupid pathetic girl.

I should know better.

It’s always a lie.

My heart races, clinging tightly to the things in my hands for some sense of grounding in reality. Hurting myself with my shoes and bag only remind me I was running away to save my sanity. I shouldn’t have stopped.

But like a fool, I am here staring at him, holding my breath and waiting … endlessly.

Tick, tick, tick.

A new kind of agony.

“I love you.” He says it huskily, softly, with less conviction, more haste and apparent fear. Three little words that steal my air with a pain so intense it feels like he has stabbed me in the chest.

His voice is lower and raspier as though he struggled to get the words out a second time, and he cannot look me in the eye as confidently as he did. Eyes finally coming to rest on mine, and for the first time in all the months I have known him, Alexi looks scared and so very young. He looks like those words are terrifying, and he reveals the most crucial secret he has harboured for a lifetime.

It has the same effect as punching me in the throat unexpectedly, and I try to shake it away, frowning at him while my insides bleed out and my head is filled with foggy confusion. My whole body prickled with cold shards of dizziness.

Shell-shocked. Thrown, I have no clue how to digest these foreign words from the devil’s tongue. Lie or no lie? Believe or don’t believe?

“Why are you saying that to me?” I reply desperately. Voice strained and raw. All the stilled emotions are coming back in force all at once, in a tidal wave, and I’m so overwhelmed with a dozen conflicting feelings. Trying to pull apart my tangled confusion.

I need to figure out what angle this gives him or why he is trying for this instead of letting me leave. If there is more to his games, I have re-opened that door.

I should never have had sex with him. I knew it would change everything once more. Start another round of his specific kind of cruelty. This is how he gets his kicks.

“Because I mean it … I …” He sighs through his words heavily, still acting like a completely different man. One who is almost shy and awkward and not him. Not Alexi Carrero by any means. It fuels my suspicions and rakes the burning embers deep down inside. Anger and hatred grow in the doubts at this contradictory show.

That inner fire in me is battling to be dominant, and she takes a grip on me steadily and firmly, giving my soul a massive shake and rattling my senses into high alert.

This could be a trap of devious proportions, and he could be poised and ready to rip my soul from my body all over again. Just for shits and giggles. Just because he enjoys destroying me over and over. Just because this is who he is.

“Stop it. This is lower than low. What the hell do you get out of this? Why do you need to do these things to me?” I snap at him, tears drying on my skin as a sense of self-preservation floods me instead. My brain is trying to grasp the most obvious answer—Alexi and mind games. It’s all this could be.

“I’m not lying. Why do you think I have spent weeks trying to show you that things are different? I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I knew this would be the reaction if I came out and said it. I needed you to have a reason to believe me first, so I had to prove it to you. I knew you would run otherwise because you had no reason to trust me.” He moves towards me suddenly, but I recoil and sink slightly into my weak position, shifting to the corner of the lift in a half-crouched foetal position. Still so afraid of this man’s ability to maim me. He pauses, seeing my apparent fear as it envelops me, and holds still. Raising his palms a little to indicate he won’t come any closer, he has to grab the door as it starts to close again quickly. Keeping his hands locked firmly on the sides of this box-like prison.

Angry or not, this man still has the power to ruin me in heinous ways, and I’m still trapped in his lair and the focus of all his attention. I’m no fool. I’m vulnerable and unable to hold my own against him. He proved that so many times in the past. He doesn’t need to touch me to end me.

“Believe you? BELIEVE YOU? Why the fuck would I believe you saying this shit to me, Alexi? You spent months torturing me, making me feel worthless. You sent me away. You broke me into a thousand pieces and told me I meant nothing to you to my face. Why would I believe you suddenly did a U-turn and changed everything you felt about me?” I gasp and thrust my words at him, sounding more venomous than I feel inside. Pulling myself back up to standing, I stay jammed in my little space to keep him far from me.

“I know, Cam … I know! My head was a mess; I had no idea how I felt when everything was so fucked up and confusing, and I didn’t want to trust you in any way. You fucked me up. You made it, so I was all over the place, and I didn’t know what I was doing or feeling, didn’t know what I had. How could I admit I loved you when I didn’t know what was real? I didn’t trust you. I didn’t know what this was between us.”

He looks at me pointedly, voice hoarse and eyes steadfast on mine. His apprehension fading away, and hints of domineering arsehole peeking back through. Somehow it gives me more courage to see the familiar in him.

I choke on his words, though, pain and bitter anger rising inside me. So much rage for what he said to me. The utter bullshit in that little speech.

“It was always real. I never lied to you. I never once played games with you. You had me even when I didn’t want it to be so. You changed everything for me … and you ripped down all my defences until I was nothing. You made me love you, you complete fucking idiot, and then you destroyed me. I did nothing wrong. I never deserved that.” I wail at him in frustration, heartbreak and despair. Angry that it all comes down to this. That he thought I was playing him all that time. That his cruel wanker side was on the full offensive because he believed I was nothing more than a manipulating whore out to get his money, his power, or maybe his heart so that I could become his puppeteer. Just a devious gold digger in his eyes who came with a bad reputation for being that.

He has no clue how wrong he was, how deep my feelings for him ran, or how I tried to be someone else for the first time. Someone who could hold her head a little higher. I wanted to be better than I was.

“I know that now. I do, and I’m sorry. I don’t know how else to say that to you.” Alexi seems completely submissive again, backing down at my spew of pain. Shell-shocked in his posture and not his usual confident sadistic self. Every part of him almost screams at me that this is not an act.

My head and heart are torn at whether I should believe this.

I don’t know this man in front of me right now, and my head is swimming, reeling, and knocking everything out of whack. I’m engulfed with so much hostile energy as it brims inside me, needing a release. I can’t trust him. Anytime I do, he flips me upside down and crushes my soul, and I shouldn’t believe him.

Maybe because of the climactic emotional breakdown followed by an overly majestic orgasm at this man’s hands … I’m now suffering a pent-up release of everything all at once, manifesting in sheer rage. I am bubbling up like an explosive volcano, and I desire to smack him around his stupid head with my shoes.

Alexi silently stares at me as though he has no clue how else to be, or maybe this is part of his game. His plan.

Fuck knows what this even is anymore. I don’t know.

My internal fear and chaos erupt beautifully, and I am unable to hold it in. All the memories and thoughts, conflicting and confusing facts. I push off from my corner, stand tall and come at him with all the fire and fight that dragged me out of those dirty London streets so long ago.

“You’re a liar … you are a fucking liar. I was there. I remember all of it. You don’t do that to someone you love. You don’t treat people like you treated me and tell them it’s because you loved them. You don’t fucking come back from all that with a little sorry.” I’m seething and spitting teeth, unable to conceal my fury anymore. Hating that his excuses are to justify what he did to me.

Nothing justifies what he did. He can never understand the depth of what he put me through. A permanent black hole in my soul is devil-shaped, and nothing in the world can fix that.

It’s better to be angry at him because rage stops my weakness from believing his sweet little words and love confession. It prevents me from being a dumb hopeful and falling for his bullshit all over again. It stops me from hoping that I can ever mean something to anyone and being stupid enough to get sucked in.

“I can explain….” He starts, but I don’t let him finish. That inner psycho is gaining strength. So not doing this shit with him again.

“EXPLAIN!! EXPLAIN WHAT?? That you are a twisted sadist who screwed me over in every way he could and now tries to pull this shit on me? I’m supposed to believe you now because you decided to stop playing with my emotions. Am I supposed to swoon at your feet and forget it all because … Oh, my Lord … the sadistic prick actually loves me?” I spit it at him, tears clouding my vision from the sheer force of everything coming out. Voicebreaking, but I don’t care. He has me stripped naked and raw in all my painful glory, and now he can suffer the consequences of that.

It’s nothing but a game. I repeat this to myself like a mantra, trying to block out how his soulless eyes devour me.

“It wasn’t like that. It was … complicated.” Alexi looks around him uncomfortably, uneasy at his lack of control of the outcomes, but I don’t care. I want him to feel awkward and uneasy. He has no clue what it’s like not to be the man moving the chess pieces. The one in control. It’s nothing compared to how he made me feel for months.

I want him to feel overwhelmed and out of his depth. If I could wound him the way he has injured me in the past, I would, but I know I don’t have it in me. I’m not the girl I used to be. He changed that. I can’t be the cold bitch I once was, even if he deserves it.

“You’re a prick. A fucking arsehole of epic proportions. A sadistic wanker who deserves me to kick him in the balls and then some!” I yell at him, stabbing at the lift button with my heel in my hand to get away from this and him. I know it’s pointless, he still has his hands holding the doors open wide, so I can’t go anywhere, which angers me even more. Keeping me here against my will. Erupting at him with sheer frustration.

“Let them go!” I snap at him, swinging my shoe at one of his hands to dislodge him, but he stands his ground and penetrates me with those pale greys as though trying to climb inside my head. His demeanour returns to calm, cool, and deadpan as he thwarts my escape. Alexi is steeling himself and closing down, I guess he knows a fight is coming, and maybe I prefer that to this other version of him.

There are wet rivers on my cheeks from tears that have again started falling, and I suddenly feel downright pathetic. That he so easily destroys me, even when I’m fighting him tooth and nail. He killed Camilla Walters and turned her into an emotional wreck with no ability to hold her shit together anymore.

“I’m not letting you walk out of my life again.” He grits his teeth, pushing out his words more sinisterly than is appropriate for love confessions, and I glare at him. Seeing only the monster in his midst. Knowing that even with sweet words in his mouth, he has the ability to wreak havoc on my world.

“I’m not your prisoner, and I am not listening to this emotional bullshit. I know what you are doing, and it won’t work this time. I won’t let you fuck me up any more than you have done, and I won’t stick around to become your plaything once again. If you think this will shackle me to your bed, you are sooo wrong. SO FUCKING WRONG!” I swing again, and this time, Alexi dodges my shoe by lifting his hand and holding the door higher, so it won’t slide even an inch.

It triggers my psychotic side.

“This isn’t like that. I’m being honest. Nothing else. I’m not trying to hurt you or play games with you. I want you here because you want to be, not because I can keep you here.” Alexi dodges another jab at his hand, one more carefully and venomously aimed for maximum stabbing. He finally lets go of the one door completely, still wedging them open. His large body is against one side so that they won’t close. My efforts are so futile it’s fuelling my fire.

“Well then, let them fucking go because I want to leave. I don’t want anything to do with you ever again.” I screech at him and this time, hurl my shoe impulsively at his head in complete desperation. He ducks fast, like a bloody panther with those demonic reflexes of his, so it flies over the top of him. Before snapping back to me, he spins his head to see where it went. Furious frowns across that usually pretty face, coming back to throw shade at me.

“Really?” It’s a sarcastic, disapproving wanker tone of his I hate, and I forget everything else and aim better this time. I have another shoe, and that face deserves a heel embedded in the centre of it.

Won’t be so fucking pretty if he is sporting a stiletto nose job, will he?

All sense and maturity die a sudden death. The second shoe flies at his face, and he has to be lightning-fast to get out of the way, finally releasing the doors when trying to save himself from my missile to his head.

“Yes, really!” I yell after him, throwing my bag too, aiming for the back of his skull with a kill shot for good measure, as the idiot is too good at dodging my throws. Now he has me furious, and logic is winging past his face with my handbag. I want to hurt the tosser physically.

I’m so enraged that he thinks he can do this whenever he wants without consequence. As though he owns my heart, body and soul, and I am nothing more than a pawn in Alexi’s game of chess. I hate that he thinks he has a right to pull me around this way and doesn’t give a shit what it does to me.

“For fuck’s sake, Cam!” Alexi bolts to the side as my bag flies beautifully past his left cheek, almost grazing him, but sadly not. I sigh loudly at how annoyed that makes me, smug though that he has had to pull back, and the doors begin to slide shut while he gets out of harm’s way. Finally, set loose, and the lift can get me the fuck out of here.

They are closing too fast for him to get back to them in time, and as I watch the space condense to an almost impenetrable wall of steel, I suddenly realise I threw my much-needed attire into his fucking apartment like an idiot. A fleeing girl would need shoes and bags containing money, bank cards, ID, a passport, and anything else to start a new life.

I can hardly run around New York in nothing but a sheer dress, and I don’t even have any underwear on.

Jesus Fucking Christ!

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