Authors: Violette Dubrinsky
Never tickle a sleeping dragon…
Past events have changed Ramsey Stone. In place of the warm, loving masseuse now stands a ruthless man with one pressing goal: revenge. No matter the cost, Ramsey will have his vengeance.
Jezebel Carter has come to the realization that the man she knew and loved doesn’t exist. Heartbroken and angry, Jezebel is forced to give up everything she holds dear because of Ramsey Stone, and even that may not be enough.
As Ramsey pursues his vengeance, Jezebel becomes a target. Can Ramsey put his quest for vengeance on hold long enough to realize that Jezebel needs him?
Copyright © 2013 by Violette Dubrinsky.
All rights reserved. The illegal distribution of this book by any entity (individual, corporation or robot) will be deemed fraudulent.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/)
Interior book design:
Bob Houston eBook Formatting
Any resemblance of characters to people, living or deceased is unintentional. All trademarks herein are the property of their respective owners and used only for the sake of creating a believable work of fiction.
The Dragon is the sequel to
, which should be read first in order to understand what is happening in this story.
This story was a labor of love, one I wouldn’t have completed in such a timely manner were it not for the help of my “dream team.”
So, thank you to my amazing beta-reader, KC, whose hilarious and insightful feedback, inclusive of many gifs to capture her emotions (chuckles),was instrumental in getting this story finished so quickly.
I also want to thank my editor Danielle for paying such loving attention to this story and doing the edits in record time.
And to my pre-readers, Crystal and Merenda, you ladies are truly awesome and I appreciate all of your hilarious comments.
This book is dedicated to the readers who have been with me from the very beginning and those I’ve picked up along the way, especially those who patiently and
(chuckles), waited for
Also, to the wonderful ladies of the Fantasyland, who put a smile on my face each time I drop in to see what’s happening (and there’s usually much happening).
"Never tickle a sleeping dragon"
Sequel to The Masseuse
exercise hall for taekwondo
man without a penis
meat dish made from beef short ribs
female term of respect for an older male
“Speak politely to an enraged dragon.”
“Who hired you?”
The room was quiet but for the sounds of erratic breathing, occasional cries and moans, and his low, even voice.
“I told you. I don’t know.” The words were garbled and rushed, a result of the beating the man had sustained on his way to the soundproof room, and the beating he’d had as he waited for him to show. “I don’t know!”
“You still don’t know?” he wondered aloud, standing and moving to where the man was bound, his hands and legs spread eagle against the tiled wall. He’d been stripped down to his boxers, and the brutal cold of the freezer was causing frost to appear wherever he sweat. As such, he looked like a slab of freezer burned beef, raw and frosted.
“I told you, man.” He attempted to move his arms, but sighed when the chains refused to budge. “I never met him. He found me online, dropped the money off at a pickup spot.”
That was new information. “How much?”
“How much did he pay you to kill that little girl?”
The killer’s eyes widened before they trailed the length of his body. He saw a man dressed in a fitted black suit, thin black tie, pressed white shirt and dress shoes, a clean-cut man from the looks of things. “Who are you?”
He smiled, a careful, sinister lifting of the lips. “How much did he pay you?”
He nodded. “Fifty thousand dollars?”
“Yeah, look man, I was just doing my job. That’s it.” The man swallowed nervously and his eyes began to twitch. “Just doin’ a job.”
He smiled again. “I’m sure you were…Austin. That’s your name, right? Austin Leeds? The name on your birth certificate?”
The man swallowed again but nodded once. He went by Melvin Jones in the streets. It hadn’t taken more than a day to locate the car, and once that had been accomplished, it had taken a few more to figure out who’d been driving it. Austin had been careful, but he’d underestimated just who would be looking for him. The police had their methods; he had his own. Austin had not been the first person shackled to that wall. He wouldn’t be the last.
“You see, Austin, I normally don’t care what people do to make money.” He moved away from the shivering and terrified man. Carefully, he shed his jacket, placing it on the back of the fold-up chair. “A man’s got to eat, right?” When Austin didn’t answer, he pinned him with a glare. Quickly, the man croaked out ‘right’. “As I was saying, I typically do not care what you do in your cutthroat, underground world, as long as your world does not collide with mine.” He removed his cufflinks next, placing the platinum and onyx pieces onto the chair.
“L-l-ook, you want a cut? That’s it?” When he didn’t answer, Austin continued, “This your territory? Look, man…okay, okay! I’ll give you 10%.”
He easily removed his tie, before unbuttoning his shirt, and carefully draping it over the jacket. The biting chill on the air instantly assaulted him, but he ignored it.
“The little girl…her name was Lillian Elizabeth Stone and she was eleven years old.” He smiled when Austin’s eyes grew wide and he swallowed loudly. “She was my niece.”
“Look, man, I don’t ask questions. I just do jobs. I didn’t know she was your niece—”
“Her funeral was today,” he interrupted, remembering the beautiful service, and how gorgeous the day had been. Although August days in New York tended to be stifling, today had been moderately warm with a nice breeze. Lily would have loved it.
In no great rush, he walked to the left side of the room. Unlike most of the room, which was lit by dim white light, the left side was shrouded in darkness. Running a hand along the wall, he flicked the switch to activate the light. Almost instantly, Austin began to tug and pull at his shackles.
“Wait! Wait! I’ll give you all of the money! Please…please! I have children—”
“Good for you,” he called, perusing the contents attached to the wall with a keen, knowing eye. He ran a finger over things, gripped the handles of others. “Pray a contract killer never runs over one of yours.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Ah,” he murmured, removing his choice from the wall. He weighed it in his hands carefully, before nodding and walking over to Austin. The red, frost-bitten, terrified hit-man began to breathe in quick hitches. “What were you saying, Austin?”
“I-I-I didn’t know.”
“You didn’t know what?”
“I didn’t know she was your niece.”
He smirked. “You still don’t know who I am.”
Austin’s mouth opened, but just as quickly, he snapped it shut. In the next moments, he asked, “Who are you?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it?” More than a little annoyed with Austin’s unproductiveness, he gently swung the object in his hand. Austin’s eyes lowered, his gaze transfixed by the polished steel. “I’m going to give you one more chance to tell me who paid you to run over my niece, and then I’m not going to be very nice about it.”
“I-If I knew, I’d tell you man, but I don’t—”
Gripping the bat’s handle, he reared back and swung hard. As the steel connected to Austin’s right kneecap, the man’s face blanched, his lips pulling back, before a blood-curdling scream left his lips.
“Who paid you, Austin?” His voice was loud enough to be heard over the other man’s pitiful cries.
Austin shook his head and tried to speak, but nothing came out.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
“Maybe this will refresh your memory.” Rearing back, he swung the bat again, aiming for the already mangled kneecap. Austin passed out under the pain. Moving back to the newly lit corner, he retrieved the smelling salts, gripped Austin’s matted hair, and waved the bottle under his nose.
As Austin’s gaze focused and the pain registered, his eyes filled with tears. “Please, please don’t kill me…”
He only smiled. Unless Austin was stupid, he had to know that his prospects weren’t looking very good. “Who hired you?”
“I told you. Please. I don’t know. I swear I don’t know.”
Releasing Austin’s grime-filled hair, he moved over to a black duffel bag and retrieved a towel and a small black pouch. Wiping his hands clean, he tossed the towel over his shoulder and approached the other man.
“I’m losing my patience, Austin,” he began easily. “You seem like a relatively smart man, so I’m going to level with you.” When Austin’s head fell forward limply on his neck, he forced the other man to look at him. His eyes rolled in his head, and he waved the smelling salts under his nose again. “Focus, Austin. All I need is a name and the pain will stop.”
“You…gonna…kill…me?” Austin asked weakly.
“Yes.” He saw no point in lying to the man. Austin Leeds had been running around on borrowed time for close to a week. “Before the end of the day, you will die.”
Austin snorted and shook his head. “Why would I…tell you…anything?”
“Ah.” He released Austin’s hair and allowed the man’s head to fall forward. “You’d like to be given an incentive?”
Austin lifted his head briefly. “Let me live…and I’ll tell you…whatever you want.”
He shook his head and grit his teeth. “You sealed your fate when you murdered an innocent child.”
Austin’s head fell forward again. “Kill me then...’cause I’m not telling you nothin’.”
He didn’t respond for long moments. Austin soon grew confused and lifted his head, exactly what he was waiting for. With a small grin, he began to speak, “You’ll tell me everything I want to know or not only will you die, you’ll die painfully, and not for a very long time.”
Austin swallowed nervously but found courage. “I ain’t afraid of pain. Only way I’m giving you a name is if you let me live.”
“Is that so?”
“Yea!” His head fell again, the effort from keeping it up obviously too much.
He nodded. “And what about Marybeth, Terry, and little Austin?” The man’s head popped up so suddenly he wasn’t sure how it didn’t snap off his neck. “Did you forget about them already?” Reaching into his pants pocket, he retrieved a bent family photo and held it up for Austin’s inspection. “Where’d you get that?”
“Your house.” He smiled. “Nice house you’ve got upstate, definitely a change from the studio you keep in the city. It’s cozy and warm. And your wife…very pretty with that long red hair and those big green eyes. Irish?”
“Did you hurt them?” Austin demanded, fear shining out like a beacon from his eyes. When he only stared at him, he repeated the question angrily.
“Not yet,” he drawled, “but I will if you don’t give me what I want.”
“Who are you?” Austin demanded angrily.
“Austin…I’m growing impatient.” He lifted a brow. “Now, I want the name of your contact and his address.”
“I told you—”
He grabbed the other man by the throat, squeezing hard enough to cut off his air. His patience was gone. “No one hires a contract killer without someone setting up the deal. So, I can pick up this aluminum bat and break every bone in your body before paying Marybeth and your sons a visit, or you can give me his name and know that your family will live to see another day.”
He eased his grip on Austin’s neck and the other man croaked out, “Why should I believe you?”
With a shrug, he answered, “Because you have to believe in something, and right now, I’m as good as it gets.” He paused briefly. “What’s the name of your contact?”
Austin spat out a name that was unfamiliar to him. Rueben Griffin.
“No, that was it.”
“Are you certain, Austin?” He paused. “Remember, three other lives depend on your answers.”
“That’s it!” Austin moaned. “I swear, that’s it. Rueben said he had a job, a high paying one. He offered it to me and I took it. That’s it.”
“How did you know which little girl to run over?” His voice was sharp because his anger was steadily rising.
“I got a packet on her. It had pictures.”
“Who was the packet from?”
“Where’s the packet?”
“I burned it. I always burn them after…”
He nodded, pleased with the information he’d received so far. “Thank you, Austin.”
“Are you gonna kill me now?”
With a shake of his head, he reached down and grabbed the bat. Austin’s eyes widened and he began to frantically shake his head. “No…you said you’d—”
“I said I wouldn’t break every bone in your body, and I said I’d leave your family alone. I intend to keep those promises.”
He stared directly into the other man’s eyes. “Today, I buried a little girl. Do you know how she died?”
Austin began to cry.
He was unfazed. “When you hit her with that stolen car, you severed her spine, collapsed one of her lungs, ruptured her spleen, and gave her a concussion that made her brain bleed. She held on for a few days because she’s tough…” He smiled slightly. “…and has always been tough, but a few days ago, she stopped fighting.”
“I’m so sorry, please…” Austin sounded pitiful, but he had no pity, just coldness and rage. “I didn’t know. I didn’t know she was…yours…I didn’t…”
“That doesn’t matter, now does it, Austin? She was an innocent child and you killed her.”
“Please what?” He taunted, easily swinging the bat back and forth. “Please don’t kill you? Please don’t hurt you?”
“Austin.” He clucked his tongue. “You murder people for a living. Stop crying. It’s pathetic.”
The man ignored him and continued to weep.
Moving over to the door, he rapped once before moving back to Austin. Within moments, two of his men flanked him.
“Undo the shackles.”
“All of them?” Someone asked.
“Yes. All of them.”
Austin looked to him in confusion, and then a sliver of hope entered his teary eyes. “Thank you! Thank you!”
As soon as the shackles were removed, his men looked back to him in askance.
“Lay him on his belly.”
“W-w-why? W-what are you doing?”
The two men easily pushed him down, not without fuss and screaming, before stepping away.
Standing over Austin, he narrowed his eyes and looked down at him. “You asked who I was before and I didn’t give you an answer.”
On the ground, Austin only whimpered. “Please.”
“Have you ever crossed a dragon, Austin?”
“Have you ever crossed a dragon?” He repeated it, slowly this time.
Austin shook his head, and tried to look up at him. “I don’t…I don’t understand. Dragons…don’t exist.”
He chuckled, before sobering. “Oh, they exist. They just sleep sometimes or they become tame thinking the world has changed and perhaps dragons are no longer necessary.” He paused and inhaled deep. “But do you know what I realized, Austin? What you helped me learn?”
Austin didn’t answer. He jolted his injured leg with the bat. As Austin screamed, he managed to choke out, “No…what?”
“Dragons will always be necessary. Do you know why?”
When he was about to prod him again, Austin repeated raggedly, “No, why?”
“Because if you’d known a dragon protected the eleven year old girl, you wouldn’t have run her over, would you?”
Austin swallowed, and moaned. “No.”
With that, he lifted the metal bat, and brought it down across Austin’s back. Austin screamed and instantly rolled away.
Lifting his eyes to the two stoic men who watched on, he nodded. “Hold him down.”
They rolled Austin over and pinned him to the ground.
“I’m not going to break every bone in your body, Austin,” he said clearly, lifting the bat again. “I’m just going to repay you in kind. For every broken bone and collapsed organ that my niece suffered, so will you.”
Thirty minutes later, Ramsey Stone watched as the water washed away both dried and wet blood from his hands. He remembered a time not so long ago when he’d sworn to a woman that he had no blood on his hands. When he’d said those words, he’d been telling the truth. He’d had no blood on his hands then, but that had been because he let others deal with this type of work while he struggled to legitimize his inheritance. Then he’d been the consummate professional, the man who believed in brains over brawn, in money over blood…