Author: Kirsty Moseley After what seemed like forever, but could have been five minutes, I heard shouting from outside the door, followed quickly by gunshots. My head snapped up as my mouth dropped open in shock. Gunshots. Oh my God, the police have come for me! Oh thank you, thank you! I jumped up and moved away from the door as I heard more shouting. Apparently someone was in the building; they were talking heatedly about repositioning or something. I smiled hopefully. Please, come on, please! More gunshots. I pressed against the wall, waiting and waiting. My eyes were focussed on the door expectantly. Any second now, a couple of secret service agents would burst through. I chewed on my lip excitedly. I’d never complain about having guards again. Nothing happened for ages. I was starting to lose hope because I couldn’t hear anymore shooting. Had it been a mistake? Had they searched the building but not been able to find me? Had they left? Or maybe Carter’s men had won and had killed yet more agents, more people could be dead because of me. Suddenly, the door burst open. I looked up, startled, seeing two of Carter’s men dragging someone into the room. The guy was clearly unconscious and his feet dragged on the floor. My heart stopped as I took in who it was they were dragging. No! Oh God, please no! I ran over as they dropped his lifeless body into a heap on the floor. “Call an ambulance! Jimmy, call someone! No, Ashton! Jimmy, help him please?” I begged, the tears flowing again now. “He’s not dead, Anna. They had to knock him out. He killed seven guys. He’s gonna wish he was dead by the time Carter gets here,” Jimmy replied, shaking his head grimly and walking out of the room. I ran to the door. “Jimmy, please! Help him, please!” I screamed, banging on the door until my fists hurt. I ran back to an unconscious Ashton. Blood covered his face, his hands were red and bruised and a gash on the back of his head was slowly leaking blood onto the floor. I pressed my shirt on it to stop the bleeding; it didn’t look too bad, but he probably needed stitches. A sick sense of foreboding and history repeating itself washed over me. I closed my eyes, horrified. This was just like in my dream. The broken, bloodied face that I never wanted to see was now cradled in my lap. “Ashton, please wake up, please,” I begged, wiping some of the blood from his beautiful face. This was exactly the thing I couldn’t have happen! I couldn’t watch someone else that I loved die right in front of me because of me. “You stupid, stupid, adorable boy! Please wake up, please.” I cradled his head on my lap, rocking him gently as my heart broke all over again. After a while he opened his eyes slowly, groaning, looking around groggily. My heart sped up. “Ashton, are you okay? Oh God, what the hell are you doing here? Why did you come?” I cried, bending and kissing every inch of his face. He seemed confused for a split second before understanding shot across his face. He immediately jumped up, wincing as he did so, and pulled me to my feet. He pushed me against the wall, pressing his back against my chest, protecting me whilst he patted his pockets. “Stop it! There’s no one here,” I croaked, gripping his hand. He turned to face me. I could see the pain in his eyes, but he was trying to keep it from me. I lifted his shirt, and I could see ugly, purple marks all over his stomach, making bile rise in my throat. “Anna, are you okay? Baby Girl, please say you’re okay,” he begged, pulling me to him and wrapping his arms around me tightly. I closed my eyes as his smell filled my lungs. The familiar scent that was purely Ashton Taylor and no one else. I loved and missed that smell so much. “I’m okay. But why the hell did you come here? Ashton, I can’t see this, I can’t! This is the only thing I can’t cope with. I sent you away so this wouldn’t happen! Why did you do this to me?” I sobbed. My legs wobbled and finally gave way, so I slumped down against the wall, pulling my knees up to my chest and hugging them tightly. Carter was going to come in and have him beaten to death in front of me, and there would be nothing I could do about it but see it every time I closed my eyes. Ashton slid down the wall next to me, trying to hide his grimace of pain. “I couldn’t leave you, Anna, I had to try. I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you,” he muttered, gripping his hair roughly. I could see he was trying not to cry, and it broke my heart; he never even got sad, let alone cried. I moved and wrapped my arms around him tightly. “Please don’t. Everything’s going to be fine, we just need to think of a plan,” I lied, knowing it was hopeless. I jumped up and ran to the door. “Jimmy, please! Talk to me please?” I begged, kicking the door in frustration. “Anna, just settle down. Carter’s just called, he’s not too far away now, it won’t be too much longer,” he answered. “Jimmy, you know who my father is, I could get a pardon for you. I’ll tell him all the things you used to do for me. Or, I have money, I could give you money, please,” I begged, pressing my forehead against the door. “Anna, I can’t, I’m sorry.” “Just get my bodyguard out of here then. He’ll give you money. Please just sneak him out and say he escaped, please?” I screamed desperately. I needed Ashton out of here before Carter arrived, I couldn’t bear to think of the alternative. “Shh! He’s here, Anna,” Jimmy hissed, and I heard him walk away from the door. Before I even had a chance to register what Jimmy had said, Ashton grabbed me and pushed me against the wall, pressing against me, hard. “Just stay behind me. Everything’s going to be okay,” he stated, obviously trying to reassure me with words, but I knew him to well, he had no hope in his voice at all. “No, it won’t. I’m just going to pray that he kills you quickly,” I muttered hopelessly as the door opened. Chapter Forty-Nine The man who haunted my dreams walked into the room. I whimpered and pressed into Ashton’s back, trying to disappear. My eyes raked over him, seeing that he looked exactly the same as I remembered him, although he had a few grey flecks in his brown hair now. Mark, Jimmy, and two other guys walked into the room behind him. I hated the fact that Mark was here. I had seen him torture people for hours before he killed them; he was going to torture Ashton, I just knew it. A sob rose in my throat, but I swallowed it back down. I couldn’t cry, crying was weakness to Carter. “Well, this is the guy, is it? The one who killed seven of my men?” Carter asked, sneering at Ashton. The sound of his voice made me whimper and clutch Ashton’s shirt for dear life. It was just as I remembered and still made my blood turn cold in my veins and a shiver run down my spine. Mark nodded in confirmation. “Yeah, I found some SWAT credentials on him. Agent Ashton Taylor, but then, we already knew his name,” he stated, holding out Ashton’s wallet to Carter. Carter cocked his head to the side, his eyes raking over Ashton slowly from head to toe. “Agent Taylor. Well, I guess that saves me some time, now I don’t have to come and look for you in LA. But why are you here all alone? I thought you’d been reassigned,” Carter asked, raising one eyebrow curiously. My breathing hitched as my eyes widened. They knew Ashton lived in LA and had planned on moving on him? Please let me get him out of here! “He’s my bodyguard, Carter,” I said, quickly stepping out from behind Ashton. Before I could get more than a step away from him, Ashton grabbed my wrist and jerked me back behind him. “Stay behind me!” he ordered harshly. I saw Carter nod, and almost immediately Mark punched Ashton in the stomach, making him double over with pain. I screamed, but he still didn’t let go of me, he held me behind him protectively. I can’t watch this again, I just can’t. I pushed Ashton, making him lose his balance and fall to the floor. I ripped my wrist from his hold and punched Mark as hard as I could in the face, looking at him challengingly. Come on, asshole, hit me back! Come on, do it! He spat blood onto the floor and whipped back his hand, slapping me hard across the face. My eyes rolled in their sockets as pain exploded in my head, making my eyes water. In an instant there was a gun to Mark’s head. “You touch her again and I swear, not only will I kill you, but I will kill your whole family,” Carter growled menacingly at him. And here was my chance. “Kill him, Carter. Please, baby, he really hurt me,” I pouted, holding my face. Please kill him; I can’t have Mark hurt Ashton! Please. “You want me to kill him? Are you getting sadistic, Princess?” Carter asked, looking me over for the first time since he entered the room. “That’s not the first time he’s hit me today.” I raised my chin, pouting and trying to look wounded. A look of hatred went across his face and his eyes flashed with rage. The shot rang out loud in the room. Blood splashed across my face. Mark slumped to the floor, dead. I watched, emotionless. All I could think of was: at least Mark won’t be able to torture Ashton now. “Come here, Princess,” Carter instructed, smiling at me warmly. Without hesitation, I stepped over Mark’s dead body, but Ashton was back on his feet. He grabbed me, throwing me behind him protectively, slamming me against the wall. “You don’t f**king touch her!” he spat at Carter, looking so angry that I was slightly surprised that Carter wasn’t dead already from the force of the hatred coming from Ashton. Carter’s jaw tensed, his eyes locked on Ashton’s in some kind of battle of the stares. “I appreciate you looking after my wife for me while I was away, Agent, but I’m back now, I can take care of her,” he replied calmly. Ashton’s body tensed against mine. “Wife… but…” When he looked back at me with wide, shocked eyes, silently asking if that was true, I pressed my lips into a thin line and nodded in confirmation. I couldn’t deny it while Carter was there. I couldn’t explain that I didn’t want it, that it was forced upon me, that it repulsed me to the very core. Ashton’s jaw tightened as his eyes shone with sympathy.