“I don’t understand what we did” Andie’s eye searched the rugged features of his face. Surely they had to be familiar to her? But as he stood there, hands casually tucked into the pockets of his jeans, he could be anyone she’d passed on the street.   Andie brought her eyes to meet his dark vengeful stare. “Maybe I can rectify it for you”   

“It’s not your mistake to rectify. Your parents tried. They offered money, lots of money to spare their lives but this has nothing to do with Max and Catherine.”   

A gasp broken from Andie’s dry lips “But you killed them”   

“Their death was nothing more than sadistic revenge.”   

Andie’s hand smothered the horrifying screech that escaped from her lips. Her parent’s death was meaningless. Tears filled her eyes. This man was sick. Pure evil fed his veins.   

“You’re all just pawns in this.” He cackled “Didn’t you think it was strange that you won a brand new car?”    

A chill ran down Andie’s spine. No one would believe her when she said the car crash was no accident. It was a coincidence they said! But there hadn’t been enough left of the car to determine an actual cause.  “Hadn’t expected it to happen at eighty miles an hour on the corner of the valley…” His thrilled tone trailed away. His excited eyes momentarily distracted by the same memory that chilled Andie to the core. He smiled. “…I hadn’t aimed to hit two birds with the one stone either.” His eyes filled with amusement as he looked at her again “… poor Zachary and Cassia.”   

That accident had been meant for her! But Cassia had fallen down the stairs and Andie’s older brother was driving her to the hospital. Everyone told her she was crazy! But Andie knew it was no accident. Her parents’ murderer had come after her and instead, he’d killed her brother and cousin. They said she was paranoid.   

She’d lived for two years behind the six-foot walls. She’d guarded the house that her great grandfather had built. There was fingerprint identification on all doors. She’d memorized the electronic passcodes to open each and every reinforced glass window. She had CCTV which covered every inch of her land. She never left the grounds without her security team. She was terrified. She was next. And they told her she was crazy!   

“Call for him” He instructed and Andie frowned. “Call for Sebastian” Why did he want her head of security? “Call him!”   

Andie lifted her chin defiantly. There were cameras down here too. Someone must have seen her walked through the door. If he was going to kill her why would she distract the only people who could save her from their rescue operation? “No.”   

His sadistic guffaw rattled in the cave-like room. “Have you ever heard of a video loop, Andie? These cameras and those in the hallway have been playing the same thing for three days. No one knows you’re here.”               

A spec of light brightened in the corridor that led out to the gardens it was gone within seconds. Her heart rate peaked. Someone else had entered the basement. If her team didn’t know she was here then he wasn’t alone. Of course, no one could mastermind the cull of one of the wealthiest families in the city single-handed and get away with it.   

“Tell me why you picked us and I’ll call Seb.”   

“You’re in no place to negotiate with me.”   

“Because you’re going to kill me..?” Andie laughed as a shadow moved behind her parents’ murderer. “I don’t doubt that you will.” His expression faltered “but this time you want Sebastian to see you do it.”   

Andie tried to maintain focus on the maker of her nightmares as Seb crept from the shadows. Her heart stuttered for the briefest of moments. Sebastian was his accomplice? But he’d been with her family since her Uncle George and Aunt Jacqueline’s murders.  Then he lifted a gun, not his usual and preferred gun, towards the back of the intruder’s head.   

“So it seems I am in a position to negotiate with you after all.”  

“Touché, Miss Montgomery” He nodded “But it would be much more fun if Sebastian told you the truth, don’t you think?” The villainous cackle echoed around the cavern again. It chilled Andie to her core. Her head of Security was in on this after all?   “Jack, you don’t have to do this,” Seb spoke like a negotiator at a bank siege.      

“Don’t tell me you’ve gone all doe-eyed for this one too?” Sebastian’s eyes met and held Andie’s. “What is it with you and the Montgomery ladies Seb?” Andie gasped. “That’s every single one of them.”   

“Jack, give it up. The police are on their way.”   

“Aren’t you missing something?” Jack twirled a familiar black handgun in his latex covered fingers “You might want to note the latex-clad fingers holding said missing item of yours. So drop the gun or I’ll do to you what you did to me.”   

Andie looked at Sebastian again. “You were there?”   

Why didn’t she know? She trusted Seb, she respected him, and despite his past failures, she had faith that when the day came he’d save her life. She felt more for him than she would ever admit because he was hired to protect her life and she wouldn’t complicate that for him and he was involved there that night? He knew who the murderer was? Sebastian was involved all along?  

“We were on the biggest protection case of our careers and you bottled out when it mattered the most. You stayed with the girl and left me to handle the attack alone.”   

“We weren’t partners, you were hired to protect Jacqueline and I was hired to protect Cassia.”   

“How many times did I cover for you and Jackie though Sean? You framed me because I knew about the affair and then you used me to get to Max and protect his family.”   

“Seb…?” Andie’s eyes flickered between the two men holding guns. Distorted family history pouring from their lips and none of it Andie knew. She was eight years old when this happened.  “What’s going on?”   

“Oh Princess Andie of Montgomery Enterprises you really should have checked out Seb’s background before you fell for him.” Seb gasped. His eye held Andie’s for a second. “He has a history of falling for the ladies he protects.”   

“Andie doesn’t listen to his bullshit” Seb warned her. “I was twenty-two. Just finished my three years of service and the army wasn’t for me. George hired me as a glorified baby sitter because I’m fast on my feet and know how to shoot a gun. My instructions were to pick up, run, and fire only if Cassia’s life depended on it. I promise you Andie I wasn’t having an affair with your aunt. She’s twenty years older than me and it’s instant dismissal. Jack knows this.” Seb looked at Jack “It’s why George fired him.”      

Jack smiled at Andie in a way that told her Sebastian was telling the truth. “Yes, I was very fond of Jacqueline, though she wasn’t that fond of me. But Seb used my gun to shoot George and when she dialed 999 he shot her too.”   

“You’re crazy.” Andie shook her head. Seb wasn’t a cold-blooded killer.   “Seb had a fling for your mother too and he provided lots of comfort to Cassia after your parents died, Andie. He must have thought all his birthdays had come at once when you decided that your bodyguard would have to sleep in your suite with you, it’s only natural that a relationship would develop in such close proximity.”   

What? How did he know all this? Creases pulled along Andie’s forehead. They’d never been intimate, never kissed. They’d come close once. But he was ever professional. She hated that she doubted him now. But how else would this mad man know if he didn’t have an informant on the inside and didn’t they go way back? “Is this true?”   

“Of course it is, all of the evidence is in the safe in his office.”   

“You’ve set me up.” Sebastian gasped.   

“So he’s going to shoot himself, Andie. Then he’s going to shoot you. Then I’m going live a very happy life knowing that the police will find this document-” he held up a plastic-wrapped folded piece of paper “-which says you hired me to sniff out the rat in your security team and I’ll be exonerated. I’m sorry but you’re just a pawn in all this too.”   

A deafening explosion erupted in the basement. The noise ricocheted off the walls. A second explosion caught up with the echoes and sounded like rapid gunfire in wartime. Time slipped into slow motion. Andie’s pupils widened. She watched as Jack’s body fell dropped to the ground and a bullet sliced the air towards her.   

Her breath caught in her throat. Her head screamed at her to move. She couldn’t. Her feet were frozen in fear.   

A sharp burn ripped into Andie’s shoulder and her heart felt like it was about to burst. The searing pain exploded inside. Andie grabbed at the wound. Her fingers began clawed at the agony, begged for relief as the cotton absorbing the clammy dampness against her hand. She was going to die.   

A stream of white light filtered down from above. It caught the speckles of dust glittering under the beam. Her vision was swallowed by the brightness. Was that it? Was her time up? Is that ‘the light’?   Andie’s legs weakened. Her entire body went limp and dropped to the hard floor awash with a cold sensation. Her eyelids lowered as her vision blurred. Her breath shortened. Her chest tightened and her mind started to mist.   

“Police!”   Someone was calling her name. They were telling her she had to hold on. She had to stay with him. She needed to stay with Sebastian. She needed to protect Seb. The voice was coming from inside the light. “Andie! Andie, it’s Detective Lambert. Speak to me!” 

“No…” Andie muttered on the edge of darkness “Not Sebastian.”  

“I knew he was coming for you,” Sebastian whispered into the damp autumn afternoon. He shouldn’t be here. The Executor of the Montgomery Estate would not appreciate trespassers but once the news had hit the media last week he had to come.   

He stared at the newly engraved headstone. Her life was the hardest loss to bear. Promises he’d made in her hours of grief, pledges he made in her time of need, and broken them all.   He’d known, Jack had bragged how he’d fool George’s psychiatrist with his covert-ops training to get the security gig with George Montgomery. But no one would believe a kid when he said Jack wasn’t stable. Or when he’d said Jack would be back.   

And despite Andie’s last words Seb had been a suspect for months. They wouldn’t let him see her. But this… her death, it was his fault. “I should have been better prepared.” Seb sighed and placed the wildflowers on the newly disturbed ground. “Your whole family died because I failed to protect you. All of you.”   

“They died because of some nutcase and his vendetta.”  Seb gasped at the sound of her voice. He spun around, tumbled to his knees as he looked up. It couldn’t be! She looked the same. She spoke the same. She stood in that same regal ‘I’m always right and you’re always wrong’ prissy stance that wound him up because she was wrong nine out of ten times. “Andie?”   

“Not anymore.” She corrected him.   

The air gushed from his lungs as Sebastian leaped to his feet. He wrapped his arms around her. “You’re real.” He muttered when his arms didn’t go through her apparition. “You’re really real.”   

“You sound disappointed” She muttered and then laughed at his scowl “He survived his bullet” She whispered “its better that he thinks I didn’t survive mine.”   

Sebastian nodded. But what happened now? Was he expected to go on with his life knowing she was getting on with hers without him? That their almost kiss earlier in the year hadn’t meant as much to her as it had to him? Or maybe it had and the circumstances had torn them apart? He couldn’t live like this. The ‘what ifs’ alone would drive him crazy.   

He followed her eyes as Andie looked over her shoulder. “Lambert trusts you.” She whispered as his eyes found the detective leaning against the hood of an unmarked car “I trust you.” She turned back to him with a smile that made his pulse race. “It would be one hell of a first date, don’t you think?” Was she asking him to give up everything and go with her? “Once in a lifetime offer, Sebastian, are you in?”

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