“I know, because terrible things were done to me.” Star’s hand tightened on the knife.
Won’t feel sorry for him.
“I learned to protect myself, though, and always went back for revenge. Now I help others who can’t help themselves. It’s a public service, really.”
“You also hurt innocents.” The words slipped out.
Star shrugged. “Is anyone ever really innocent, Mr. Blue? No matter our age, we’ve all hurt someone in some way.”
“Some of us are sorry about that.”
“That doesn’t make the pain go away.” Back on topic, he said, “Your flesh is battered and bruised and won’t fetch me any money, but it will make a nice trophy for my case. You’ve caused me considerable trouble, Mr. Blue.”
“You deserved it,” Blue gritted.
“For defending my empire? If anything, I should be commended. I couldn’t let you come along and cause my clients to doubt my capabilities. Couldn’t let them wonder how I could possibly punish their enemies when I couldn’t punish my own.”
A twitch in Blue’s fingers.
He tried again. His finger rubbed against the plastic blanket spread out underneath him. Finally! He’d begun to heal. His power wouldn’t be far behind.
Star narrowed his eyes. “I would have injected you with painkillers so that you wouldn’t feel the worst of it, but I’m recording this to show to anyone who thinks to come against me in the future, and I’m going to need you to scream. I’ll start with your toes and work my way up. Afterward I may or may not put you out of your misery. You’ll have to beg. John did.”
“I’m going to enjoy killing you.” Come on. Come the hell on! Another twitch, this time in his wrist.
“No need to be rude, Mr. Blue. Especially since I control the fate of your girlfriend as well as your friend. Instead of hurting her in front of you, I did you the courtesy of placing her in the care of my son. He’ll make sure she experiences . . . pleasure.”
A tide of rage spilled through him, and his shoulder twitched. “How sweet of you.”
“Yes. It was. And now for your pain.” Star hunched over Blue’s left foot and slid the tip of the blade just underneath his skin.
Blue’s nerves were in the process of coming back to life. He felt the sting and hissed in a breath.
Star worked slowly, dragging out the terrible sensations. Finally he straightened and brushed his bloody hands together for a job well done. “The first toe is finished. Now for the second. The secret is in the angle of the wrist. Too far this way and you’ll tear. Too far that way and I’ll take muscle, too.”
As the blade slid underneath the nail of the second toe, Blue’s entire leg jerked to avoid the pain.
“Steady now. I’ll call the guards in to restrain you further if I must.”
A white-hot lance rode the waves of every nerve in his body, and Blue cried out. He’d never felt anything so terrible, and his rage grew. John experienced this. For hours.
“So dramatic,” Star said with a nod. “Keep it up.”
The blade began to move, and Blue waved his fingers. They were his to control again. He turned his head left, right, the bones popping. Good. No problems there, either. He bit the inside of his cheek to stop another grin.
His power hadn’t returned, but he was back in the game.
He had one chance to do this. Only one.
He closed his eyes and drew what strength he possessed into his core. Then, arching his back, putting his weight into his shoulders and elbows, he jerked at the straps confining his wrists. The material snapped apart.
Frowning with confusion, Star straightened.
Blue jolted upright and fit his fingers around the man’s neck, squeezing. Drawing from the man’s strength and health, his muscles began to plump; Star’s began to wither.
Eyes wide, Star desperately tried to pull away and, when that failed, remembered he was holding a scalpel and stabbed Blue in the neck. Blue experienced a sharp sting, felt a warm spurt of blood.
But only a few seconds later Blue healed and the injury appeared on Star.
The man’s blood filled Blue’s hands and slicked his skin, and he lost his grip. Star clutched his neck and stumbled away from him, gasping for breath.
Blue yanked at the ankle straps, then stood at the side of the gurney.
Star fell to his knees, his strength depleted. Still, he managed to whip a gun from the back of his pants and aim. “You stay right where you are, Mr. Blue, or I’ll kill you.”
“The time for orders is over.” Lunging, Blue swiped the weapon out of his hand and turned it, pointing it at his opponent’s heart. “You were saying?”
Suddenly the door burst open and Evie raced inside, dragging Tiffany behind her. She took one look at the scene and cried out with relief. “Blue! Thank God!”
“Evie.” Somehow, his smart, intrepid woman managed to escape Tyson on her own. Of course she had. And, rather than saving herself, she came looking for him.
I have the best taste in women.
“The guards are dead,” she announced. “All of them. There could be more outside the home. I couldn’t tell. Get the answers we need, kill him, and let’s go.”
He swallowed a laugh. How easy she made it sound.
“Tyson,” Star gasped.
She smiled evilly. “Resting upstairs—for now. If you don’t tell Blue what he wants to know, well, I’ll let you fill in the blank.”
“If you hurt him . . .” the male growled.
“Oh, trust me. I’ll hurt him. The broken nose and destroyed ball sac were just the appetizers.”
Tiffany covered her mouth with her hands. “Not Tyson. Please, don’t hurt Tyson.”
Distracted by her, Blue didn’t realize Star palmed a second gun. One he aimed at Evie. He tapped at the trigger, and a stream of yellow light shot out.
Evie dodged, barely escaping.
Furious now, Blue aimed his own weapon at Star. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
He, too, tapped at the trigger. Intending to harm irreparably, but not to kill. Not yet.
With a shout of denial, Tiffany jumped in front of Star, acting as his shield, taking the flames into her own body. Her heart fried instantly, her eyes widening as her knees buckled. She tumbled to the floor.
“No!” Star shouted, horrified. “No!”
Blue leapt into action, kicking the second gun out of the man’s hand, then grabbing him by the shirt to lift him off the ground. His legs dangled in the air.