Ice-cold shivers ran down my spine as the very recognizable sounds of intense sexual pleasure drifted toward me. Styx was with another woman? He had switched straight from me to someone else? After everything that had happened between us…

My feet were leaden I as shuffled to the secluded corner, the sounds of heavy breathing and whimpering moans increased with every step. Gathering my courage, fearing the worst, I forced a quick peek round the wall and instantly wished I had turned away and left him to it.

My heart missed a beat when I saw he was with a peculiar-looking pink-haired woman. It was clear what she was doing, on her knees, braced at his most private parts as he leaned back against the wall, eyes closed, his face scrunched up.

I could not stop it. No matter how hard I tried, a cry forced its way up my throat. My hand covered my mouth, but I could not contain the sob. I felt utterly devastated at what he was doing here, right in front of me. I felt like screaming in disappointment and rage. Here was the evidence I had not wanted to believe of Styx: all men are the same. They take what they want, when they want it… from whomever they want.

Styx had shunned me and turned straight to her to “fix” his problem, less than hour after leaving his room. In his mind, he must see me as damaged, lost in this world, the fact of which I was well aware. In his mind, I must not be worthy of the task of giving him pleasure.

Styx abruptly stopped, held her wrists in his hands, and swung his stunned gaze in my direction. His beautifully rough face contorted in panic and there was a whooshing in my ears. I was unable to hear anything but white noise. I was unable to do anything except stand and stare—stare into his hazel eyes, those eyes that always entranced me, stare at the betrayal unfolding before me. I truly believed that Styx was different… I was sick and tired of being wrong.

Feeling like I stood there for an eternity, I jumped as an arm lay across my shoulder. The action forced me out of my stupor. Beauty was hugging me close, glaring at Styx and that woman, who was still on her knees. The woman kneeling on the floor smiled wickedly. She said something to me, but I could not hear what, not in my state of shock. Letti, who was stood behind Beauty, had heard though. As my pretty blond protector pulled me away, the large heavy woman walked menacingly toward the pink-haired girl.

Quickening our pace, Beauty and I walked down some corridors and up a flight of stairs, but not before she fisted Styx’s cut and, in disgust, threw it to the floor.

“Where are we going?” I eventually asked. Only here, when we were out of earshot, did my senses and clarity of thought make their unwelcome return. They brought a crushing hurt.

“I need to check on Rider. Tank’s still on the road. He sent me a text asking me to check Rider was okay. I ain’t fixin’ to take you back to Styx’s apartment. He can stew a little on what he did back there. Might force him to come to his damn senses. Stupid drunken ass!”

Tensing up, I swallow hard, expecting the worst; I slowly and deliberately asked, “Did he… join… with her?”

Beauty’s blond eyebrows arched. “Join?”

“Yes. Did Styx and that woman have sexual intercourse?”

Her sapphire-blue eyes widened, then relaxed. “Nah, honey. Doubt he even touched her. She was getting off all on her lonesome. Putting on that f**kin’  p**n  show she just has to do.”

I felt my shoulders relax as pent-up tension drained away. I expelled a sigh of relief. Beauty jerked on my arm. “Hey, still doesn’t get the dick off the hook. He was fixin’ to do something with the slut. Christ knows why, when he has you! He’s drunk off his ass, pissed at today, grieving for Lois. I can tell, ’neath it all, he’s real worried ’bout the state of the club. Still doesn’t excuse that f**ked up shit though,” she said as she stabbed a thumb in the direction of their tryst.

I knew why he had been in that hallway. The very sight of my scars repelled him, diminished his affection for me. Was he scared that how he had reacted was a fundamental wrong, somehow a grievous slight against me? But… but… but to go directly to that woman was something I would find difficult to set aside lightly.

Beauty planted her hands on my shoulders. “Leave him be a while. Wait it out. He’ll be back. Then it’s up to you, girl. But just between us, the guy is nuts about you. He just don’t know what the f**k to do with his feelings yet. He’s never ever been with anyone like he is with you. He talks to you. We all see it. He watches you, protects you. Ain’t normally his way. Kinda sweet, really, in his own f**ked-up way.”

Her hands rubbed at my arms soothingly. She reminded me of Lilah—her kindness, light coloring, her protective spirit. For the first time since I escaped The Order, I actually missed home. I missed my best friend. Missed my quiet little sister, Maddie. I missed feeling like I belonged.

“You okay?”

I nodded at Beauty’s concerned face. She turned to knock on that familiar dark wooden door behind us.

“Yeah?” a distant voice called out.

“Rider, it’s Beauty and Mae. Can we come in?”

There were a few moments of stretched-out silence before a quiet, “Yeah, sure.”

Beauty cracked open the door. Lying in the center of his large metal bed at the back of the room was Rider, shirtless, only wearing jeans. A tight cream bandage covered his injured shoulder.

“How are you feeling, honey?” Beauty asked softly and walked over to Rider’s bedside.