The fresh dirt of the stables squished beneath Blythe’s boot as her lungs greedily inhaled the fresh air surrounding her. It felt so good to be surrounded by what she knew. The stables had lately become her place of sanctuary ever since Mackenzie had proposed the idea of her taking partnership with Ramona. Since they had been back from Ireland she had been put straight to work over seeing the training over at her father’s land. From what she could tell, Ramona was very competent in what she was doing. Half of the time Blythe felt like she wasn’t even needed at the stables. Ramona held her ground well and only called upon Blythe when she had questions regarding paperwork or to pose any ideas she may have come up with. Blythe had set up office in her fathers old house. It hadn’t been touched by anyone since he passed away. It took her a few days to go through his belongings. Just about every item took her on a walk down memory lane. When paperwork wasn’t breathing down her neck, it was her favorite pastime to dawn her old riding boots and romp around in her old stomping grounds. Even though Ramona was in charge around here, she never pushed Blythe away for wanting to help. It was crazy to Blythe to think that Ramona was hiding from someone. After all the woman basically commanded cooperation and attention.
From what Blythe understood Ramona came from a large Gypsy family that was scattered all around England. The medium stature of the woman wasn’t anything remarkable, nor was her mousy brown hair with eyes to match. It was her personality that sparked like fire. Everyone on the property respected her unlike anything Blythe had ever seen. Even now as Blythe watched her stand directly in the center of the arena with her hands on her hips and a determined look gleaming in her eye, Ramona completely baffled her. A delicate red shawl was wrapped around her shoulders, contrasting starkly with her jet black pants tucked into muck covered riding boots.
The last few months the two have been a force to be reckoned with training with the horses mercilessly. Since the two had come together so late in the year they missed their opportunity to race in the first two legs of the English Triple Crown. Luckily enough for them, Mackenzie had miraculously pulled (probably more like yanked) some strings and got them enrolled in the St. Ledger Stakes in Doncaster. They only had a month left until the race so they had been working overtime.
“Load ‘em back in the barn, you Goops!” Ramona yelled at her ranch hands. If the exasperated look on her face coupled with the way she dramatically threw up her arms Ramona wasn’t satisfied with the way things were going today. It was true that she was particularly hard on training the horses but it was widely known how well they performed.
Blythe pursed her lips and waited for Ramona to turn around. The wild brown eyes of the woman before her finally landed on Blythe’s. “I think we need to take the weekend off. The both the hands and the horses are overworked. Nothing is getting done properly.” She scrubbed her face with her hands before making her way to the barn.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? The race is just around the corner.” It wasn’t her intention to push Ramona’s buttons, but she knew just how important this race was to not only her but Mackenzie as well. Since she had been so busy out in the countryside with Ramona she hadn’t seen much of him. Blythe spent only a few days at a time at the estate and when she was home he was engrossed in so much work that the only time they really had to spend together was supper time. With the few exceptions of the nights he would sneak into the guest house in late hours of the night.
“No, I’m not sure it’s a good idea. But no matter how hard I push, nobody can keep their damn heads on.” The strain in her voice was apparent but Blythe chose not to push the issue further.
“Okay, well, you’re the boss.” The weather was beginning to overcast and Blythe knew she needed to get a move on if she wanted to make it back to the estate before she was caught in the storm.
A dry chuckle came from Ramona as she waved a half-assed hand to Blythe. “Be back Monday. Go shag that delicious man you’re living with and enjoy these few days off.” Her suggestive brows wiggled up and down.
Blood dripped from the chin of a man tied to a metal chair. The warehouse they were in was silent save for the few creaks the foundation gave when a particular large gust of wind picked up. The mans left eye was completely swollen shut. He groaned with his head leaned forward, the gash across his cheek gushed profusely. It had been hours since he had been snatched off the street and dragged to the abandoned building. With his right eye he peeked up at Mackenzie who was currently rolling up his sleeves to his black dress shirt.
“We found him hiding behind the hay shed behind the back.” Byron informed Mackenzie. He wasn’t scared of Mackenzie, but it was best that he keep some distance when he was in such a mood. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Since childhood Mackenzie had never been afraid to result to violence to achieve his way. His behaviors can’t be blamed on him alone. The environment he had been raised in had been no better. The only difference was he had grown enough to learn how to do it correctly without consequences.
“Was he the only one alive?” Mackenzie’s eyes were glued to the man in the chair.
Byron nodded, but kept his hands in his pockets while he leaned against one of the old steel beams holding the building up. “The other two men we sent in were down at Thornton’s ranch working. They reported in saying no news or sightings of Thornton.”
A disgruntled sigh slipped through Mackenzie’s lips. He didn’t have time to be doing this. Word had come from Ramona saying that she had called it off for the weekend so he knew she should be on her way home soon. They were still about an hour out from town and another thirty minutes to the estate. It only took her about two hours to make it from her father’s property to their estate, which would be cutting it close for him. “Tighten the chains.” The men behind him nodded and stepped forward to follow orders.
The black tattoos on Mackenzie’s forearms swirled upwards and disappeared under his sleeve. “Where the fuck is he, Parker?”
Parker moaned in reply, his lips too bloodied and swollen to respond. Mackenzie nodded and watched as one of Antonio’s men threw a solid punch directly into the mans already bruised face. He let out a scream that echoed against the steel walls.
“He wasn’t in the house. Someone tipped him off that we were coming. Where the fuck did he go?” Without another reply, Mackenzie gave a nod that sent Antonio’s man the approval to hit him again.
This time Parker sputtered blood that landed on the top of Mackenzie’s leather shoes. He ran a hand down his face, gripping his beard tightly before reaching for the dull knife sitting on the table next to him. “Someone told Thornton that Murphy and his boys were on the way. By the time the fire engulfed the entire house along with everyone in it, he was already in the wind. You were the only one that worked inside that house. So, I’ll ask one more time.” His slow, calculated steps toward Parker had the man shaking in his chair. “Where. The. Fuck. Did. He. Go?”
Unintelligible gurgling bubbled from Parkers throat as he tried his hardest to form any sort of work. Blood flung from side to side as he tried to shake his head in protest of Mackenzie. “I guess we do this the hard way then.” It infuriated Mackenzie to no end that both he and Antonio had trusted this rat enough to send him undercover into Thornton’s house. The deal was that Mackenzie would fight to expunge Parker’s record, and in return Parker would be their inside guy. Murphy had agreed to attack Thornton at his estate, but under Mackenzie’s orders he couldn’t kill Thornton. The plan was to burn the house along with everyone but Thornton and leave him just burnt enough that he wouldn’t be able to recover by the time the St. Ledger Stakes rolled around. Parker failed them because he had neglected to inform Murphy that Thornton had taken off about an hour prior to the fire. It was obvious that Parker had tipped off Thornton in enough time to let him escape.
Without any hesitation Mackenzie reached forward and gripped Parker by his left ear. “I want you to tell Thornton that this will not be the last time.” He yanked Parker closer to him so their faces were mere inches away from each other. “So help you God, if I ever see your face again.” Before anyone in the room could blink, Mackenzie brought the knife down and sawed off Parkers ear. The screams reverberated off of every wall, sounding like the ninth circle of Hell. Even the other men in the room cringed while they watched Mackenzie.
Once he was done, he wiped his arm across his forehead. Parker was still screeching and writhing in agony. The severed ear was dropped into Parkers lap. “Get this mess cleaned up.” Before Mackenzie turned around and waltzed out of the building to head home to Blythe he turned around and sent the dull knife straight into Parker’s thigh. “Don’t fuck up this time.”
Wowza! Here’s a side of Mackenzie we haven’t seen before. What do you guys think? Maybe not so prince-charming anymore? Comment and tell me your thoughts! Thanks so much for reading! As always, stay safe and don’t forget to vote!