C A I N
I drove home after speaking to Max, intending to have a shower before going to see her. I didn’t want to see her with the scent of another woman on me; she deserved so much more than that.
I scrubbed my body, shaking my head as I did. It wasn’t just regret I was feeling for sleeping with Bella. It was the realisation that it made me feel guilty- because I had powerful feelings for Max. I dressed in record time, suppressing a yawn before grabbing a snack.
I drove to Max’s apartment, fully prepared for a showdown. Max had explicitly told me to keep away- yet here I was. I considered buzzing her apartment out of courtesy, but when I saw a woman struggling with her bags at the door, I jogged to help her.
“Well, at least you’re a gentleman,” the woman remarked, shaking her head as I held the door open for her. I grabbed one of her bags, checking the door was closed behind me before frowning at the woman.
“As opposed to?”
“I had to do two trips from the car to bring both bags,” she sighed heavily. “I asked this man to hold the door, but he just ignored me. Charming.”
I have that prickly feeling in my chest, the one that I can’t ignore.
“What did he look like?”
“Skinhead. Had a mark on his cheek. Dark eyes,” the woman nods firmly. “My mother always said never trust a man with dark eyes.”
I carry the shopping to the lady’s door, itching to run to Max’s apartment on the next floor up.
“Thanks. Have a good evening.”
“Thank you! I’d offer you a biscuit, but I forgot to buy any,” the woman looked annoyed.
“No worries. I’ve got to go.”
I smile as she heads into her own apartment, the feeling in my chest now substantial enough for me to take the stairs two at a time.
Without thinking, I rap on Max’s door; a typical policeman’s knock. I curse under my breath at my stupidity, but then the door swings open to reveal a frail looking version of Max. She is clutching her phone in her hand like her life depends on it, her eyes vacant.
“Why are you here? I told you not to come, don’t you ever listen?”
Max goes to close the door, but I slam my palm against it, shaking my head.
“No, I don’t. Let me in, Max.”
Our eyes meet, and she moves back barely an inch.
“Max, for fuck’s sake. Can we not have this conversation on your doorstep?” I plead, raising my eyebrows.
Max hesitates and glances around me.
“You can’t Cain,” she whispers, shaking her head. “Please listen to me-“
“So we will do this on the doorstep, fine,” I exhale, folding my arms. “I came here to explain myself, but now I’m worried. If you don’t let me in, that only confirms my suspicions.”
“For fuck’s sake, Cain,” Max hisses, throwing open the door. “You are so stubborn!”
Max walks over to the counter, dropping her head into her hands. I close the door behind me, waiting for her to elaborate. When she chooses not to, I have to make my own deductions. The room has a powerful stench of nicotine in the air; and Max doesn’t smoke. She doesn’t strike me as the person who would smoke indoors even if she did.
“There’s been no news on Alex, yet you have fear in your eyes that tells me something has happened. I doubt very much this version of you was created by me being a dickhead.”
Max laughs hollowly, lifting her eyes to mine.
“No, Cain. I’m not surprised you slept with someone else. I just don’t care.”
The venom in her voice tells me otherwise, but I nod my head solemnly.
“Right. So can you talk to me as a detective, Max?”
“No,” she whispers, her shoulders stiffening. “I can’t.”
I’m struggling with the whole scenario. I’m tired, and I’ve fucked up with Max. Something else is wrong, and Max doesn’t want to tell me what it is.
“Who was the guy who just left your apartment?”
Max whirls around to me then, her eyes wide with terror.
“I- did you-oh God- “she whispers frantically as I reach out, my fingers brushing her elbow as I guide her to the sofa behind her.
“Who was he, Max?”
My heart is thudding in my chest now, and I decide I’m not leaving her side again. Every time I did, something happened to her.
“He said not to talk to you.”
The feeling in my chest turned to ice, and a rage I’d not felt before surged through my veins.
“He doesn’t get to choose that,” I growl. “Is it about Alex?”
Max plays with her fingers, which are shaking. I reach out to steady them and she flinches, wrapping her arms around her body. I hate that she won’t let me touch her, but I’ll deal with that later.
“Max!” I bark, earning myself a sharp glare. “Your sister is missing. If you know something that will help me find her, tell me. Now.”
“If I involve you, he will kill her,” Max closes her eyes, tears slipping down her cheeks as she bites her lip.
“Who will?” I press, determined to get some information from Max.
“Yan,” she mumbles, and my insides freeze.
“Yan?” I echo, reaching for my phone. Max panics, shaking her head as she wraps her hand around mine.
“Cain, don’t tell anyone. Please.”
This was what I was trained for- getting information from people who didn’t want you to have it. Yet when Max looked at me, tears streaming down her face, I almost caved. I wanted to tell her it was fine, and that I could make it all go away.
But I couldn’t make false promises.
“Do you know him?” Max asks, her eyes searching mine.
“Of him,” I correct her, shaking my head. “Yan is part of a gang, if you like. Drugs.”
Max is nodding, and I can’t help but groan.
“How the fuck did your sister end up involved with him?”
“I don’t know, but he has her,” Max lets out a sob, and I wrap my arm around her shoulders. She falls against me, and I’m fucking seething. How dare Yan come into her apartment and scare my woman?
“Why did you let him in?” I ask, smoothing her hair down as I kiss her head.
“I didn’t! He was here when I got home,” Max explains, shuddering.
“Motherfucker,” I hiss, standing up. Max stares up at me as I examine the room, pulling out books and leafing through them before lifting up the rug on her floor.
I continue searching the room, making sure it’s not bugged. Max watches me intently until I crouch down in front of her.
“OK, listen to me. One: I’m not leaving you,” she goes to protest, but I shake my head. “Two, you need to tell me everything that happened with Yan so I can help find your sister. Three, I’m sorry.”
Max bows her head, and I listen as she tells me everything. I can’t believe she has gathered twenty thousand pounds already- but the steely look in her eyes tells me she would do anything for her family. The thought of Max handing over twenty thousand to Yan made my stomach churn; but I understood why she would.
“I need to call Harry. You won’t have to do a damn thing you don’t want to do, sweetheart, but I need Harry.”
Max’s beautiful eyes are clouded with conflict, and I can’t help but stroke her cheek. She narrows her eyes at me before exhaling.
“What if he kills her?” Max asks, and I know this question I can’t answer honestly.
What if he already has?