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Chapter 128 –No Shortage of Balls– Raine's POV

Our first night of travel went smoothly. We were almost to the mountain range and had booked a hotel to wait out the day. It took Cage and I several hours of alone time to even take the edge off of our thirst for each other. Now, everything was ready for us to leave and we sat across from each other, waiting for the sun to descend. I looked to Cage and murmured silently, "I need to call Marku."

His head snapped up, his dark liquid eyes swirling stormily. "Why?"

I spoke gently, trying to calm him down. "Our best shot is to avoid a fight. Maybe if I speak with him, I can get him to understand."

"He will never listen to you."

"Maybe, but don't you think it's worth the effort to try?"

Cage's scowled, but relented, "Fine."

My fingers trembling as I dialed. It rang several times. Adrenaline pushed hard through my body, each ring was agony to wait. Just when I was certain it was going to go to voicemail, Marku answered, his voice cold, "You have no shortage of balls, do you?"

I cringed and spoke softly, "Marku, I didn't want to do it like that. But it was the only way. No matter our agreement, you wouldn't have just let me walk away. I believe you thought you could, but your compulsion to contain me would have been too great."

He was silent for a long moment. I held my breath, praying he would understand. He replied coolly, "You think quite highly of yourself."

"No, I only think what you told me," I countered. "Prove me wrong. Prove I don't mean shit to you and let me go. But you can't, can you? Even now, you can't let me go."

He let out a low growl, "You deceived me. I'm not letting that go."

"Yes, but can you really fault me for my deception? You are a man of war and strategy, not honesty. Since when did a code of ethics play into your game book?"

"I never default on a contract!"

"You would have defaulted on this one. I'm sorry..." I almost said 'for hurting you', but suspected he wouldn't appreciate me pointing out any sign of weakness, so continued with, "I didn't want to do it this way. I just couldn't take the risk."

Again, another long silence and then his voice dropped even lower, ice cold, "Not as sorry as you will be." The line went dead.

My heart sank and a shiver ran down my spine. I stared at the phone. His hurt had been evident again even under all of his fury. If circumstances had been different, maybe we could have been friends, as absurd as that concept was. I sighed heavily. Cage interrupted my internal musings, his tone hard and feral, "Do you care for him?"

My attention snapped to his. His eyes were narrowed dangerously. I replied quickly, "No, not like that! He just showed me a different side. There were times when he said things...things that made him vulnerable. Regardless of what he says or even allows himself to think, I know my actions hurt him."

Cage scoffed, "You try too hard to find the good in people. He has none. Do I need to reminder you what he would have done to Ivy if you had not rescued her that day? Do you want me to spell out the brutal way he would have forced himself on her and left her bleeding and broken? You believed Seraphine was cruel, but she didn't hold a candle to Marku's brutality. His lust to torment is without limit."

"I know he is capable of such terror. I'm not saying he isn't. But there were times when evil didn't seem to be the whole of his personality. I met one of his personal pets. She clearly adored him, so much so, that her arousal filled the room the moment he walked in the door. People can fake their behavior, but not their arousal. And then there was his sister. She was sweet—"

"Penelope is alive?!" he hissed.

His question startled me. "Yes...shouldn't she be?"

A full range of emotions crossed his features...shock, confusion...but the worst was pain.

Oh!

"She meant something to you," I whispered.

He was silent, his eyes unfocused, his mind clearly lost in the past with his memories. The moment lingered agonizingly slowly. His lack of answer was confirmation. I trembled as I waited for him to speak. Finally, his unseeing gaze sharpened, and he answered quietly, "Yes, a long time ago."

Adrenaline raced through my veins at his admission. My palms sweat. When he had explained his past, he made it sound like none of the woman ever meant anything to him. Clearly, this woman had. I forced my voice to remain steady. "What happened?"

"We had already ended our relationship. About a year later, Marku announced her death. We hadn't spoken in over a year, so I didn't question it. Why would he lie?"

I had no answer for him. Marku had introduced me, but never told me not to tell anyone about her. Surely, he knew I would have shared that information with Cage...unless he just assumed I wouldn't see Cage again. But on the flip side, he also hadn't rubbed Cage's romantic past with her in my face either. He could have. He was smart enough to know it would have caused me pain. But he didn't do it.

I wasn't sure what my face revealed but abruptly Cage was out of his chair and kneeling by my legs. He grasped my hands tightly and murmured, "Tigru, you are the only woman for me. The only one I love."

I breathed deeply, trying to find the right words. "I know. You have been more than understanding regarding my history with Alaric and now Marku, I have no room to question or be upset with you about her. It just caught me off guard."

His relief was evident. I bit my lip and asked, "If you had known she was still alive, would it have changed anything?"

He thought about it for a moment, and replied, "No, I don't think so. Like I said, we had already ended it over a year before I thought she died."

The silence was heavy between us. We had avoided speaking about my time with Marku, but I needed to clear the air. "Cage, I have absolutely no feelings for Marku. But we both know physical things happened. I won't keep anything from you and I won't lie to you." The thought of telling him the details gave me a churning pit in my stomach. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I would deny him nothing.

"Tigru, Marku made a point to see me after your second night together...before he showered. He thought I might enjoy your scent all over his skin."

Oh no! I cringed hard, embarrassment running through me.

Cage's eyes blazed with barely controlled rage. "He gave me a short play by play of how you made him come, how you stroked your clit along his cock and forced pleasure on him through your bite."

"No, no, no..." I groaned. I held my belly. I was going to be sick.

Cage snarled, "I don't want to hear more. I don't want to have more mental images of you together, because I won't be able to contain my anger."

"Okay," I whispered, fighting back tears. "I'm sorry."

"I won't deny how furious I was about the situation, but I understood why you did what you did. And I hate that I put you in the position of having to exchange your body for my life." His expression turned from anger to agony.

I dropped to the floor next to him and wrapped my arms around his broad shoulders. "It was only ever you in my thoughts...never him!"

His hands coiled around my waist, pulling me tight. He dropped his head to my shoulder and spoke roughly in my hair, "I know, Tigru...I know."

A knock at the door interrupted us. Disentangling from each other's arms, Cage stood and went to the door. Echo was on the other side and advised, "It's time to go."

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