Six (Men by Numbers #2) - Ker Dukey

Jordon was supposed to meet me an hour ago, but no one’s here.

There’s something in the air tonight. I can’t put my finger on it, but nervous energy pulses throughout my body and I have no idea why.

Fuck it, I’m not waiting any longer.

It took me an hour to get here, so it will take an hour to get back, and I promised Haley I’d stay at the apartment with her tonight.

She’s missed me, and it’s because I’ve been distancing myself lately.

She knows I’ve been seeing someone else, which is different for me.

She said she sensed it in her soul that I’m in love with someone else—and she’s right.

She and I have never been in an exclusive relationship. We were just each other’s comfort and best friend.

We took care of each other and I’d never stop loving her, but my love for her was different from how I felt about Jordon.

Jordon hit me like a livewire dipped in water—it was fast, shocking me through to my marrow.

It taught me about myself and that you can’t control love.

The only problem is we’re members of rival gangs and it would never be tolerated by either side.

The stairwell to our apartment is abuzz with people, front doors ajar from other occupants spilling out into the corridors.

Sullen eyes watch me as I mount the stairs, the humming from whispers echoes off the walls, and every molecule of my being screams not to go any further.

With my stomach in knots, I stop when I reach my floor and see a crowd by the door of our apartment—our neighbors with their hands covering their mouths and water leaking from their eyes.

I can’t move. My blood turns to lead. I don’t want to see what they’re looking at.

I don’t want it to be Haley, but the rapid beat of my heart warns me it’s her.

There’s furniture knocked over and glass broken in shards on the floor.

We didn’t own much, but what we did was now tainted and ruined.

This place was thought to be our safe haven, or it was supposed to be—a home we could call ours, something both of us never had growing up.

My heart pounds with every step I take toward the naked, bleeding girl slightly resembling my Haley.

A crimson shadow seeps from beneath her as open wounds leak from her flesh. “Hay,” I choke, my body collapsing to the floor as I pull her broken body into my own.

Finding Haley violated and tortured all because of me and my love for someone who was never supposed to own it. She was fifteen when I met her, fresh faced and full of energy, and now, at eighteen, they had raped every morsel of the girl I’d grown to love, admire, and want nothing but great things for.

This is what I gave her.

This is her fate for loving a man who loved another.

For loving me, the guy who didn’t protect her after promising to always be there for her.

What have I done?

“Haley?” I call out to the broken girl whimpering on the floor of the apartment we share.

“Haley?” my voice carries across the room, but it’s cracked and shattered—unfamiliar to my own ears.

There’s a beeping in the background, and my body goes on full alert.

“What did you do?” she gurgles through blood dripping from her mouth, her body bare and painted in colors it shouldn’t be.

Her skin should be pink, not blue and red.

“You knew this would happen. Wake up.”

“What?”

“Wake up, Six.”

“Six?”

“SIX?”

I wake with a jolt, my hand reaching effortlessly for the blade kept under my pillow. With the other hand, I grab the intruder around the neck and bring them down on to the bed. In a quick flurry of movements, I straddle them with my blade to their throat. The room bleeds into focus and I become fully aware I’m not stuck in the dream world any longer when I recognize the wild, erratic eyes of Misty Cooper, my new bar manager.

She stares up at me, her soft, small frame pinned beneath me.

Just above the sound of her heavy, restricted breathing is that persistent beeping from my dream.

“I didn’t know you were here,” she whispers, her voice barely audible, and hands outstretched in surrender.

I remove the knife from her throat and stand abruptly from the bed.

Shit!

Placing the blade down, I hold my hands up to show her I’m not a threat while trying to force the weary hold of the dream from my brain.

Sitting up, her eyes widen, and then dart to her lap.

I hate