Seduced and Ensnared
him thanks for information with alcohol. Or gems. And since he didn’t have any jewels on him…
    The troll took the glass and sniffed. “Ah, Jack. Developed a hankering for this from your father. He always kept a bottle around for me.”
    Stella took her glass and tossed back the entire amount then inhaled deeply and straightened, wriggling a little on Cam’s lap. He fought back the lust he felt building, knowing this wasn’t the time.
    “I’d always wondered about that,” Stella said with a shaky voice. “Daddy never really drank but that bottle was always there. I can remember wondering why he needed to replace a bottle he never drank.”
    “Your dad was a good man. Well, I do appreciate the drink. And now that I checked in, I gotta get back to my mountain.” The troll set the glass on the table and gave a little one-hand salute that looked vaguely obscene. “Since it looks like you’re in good hands, I’ll get back to my hole. Got a line on a good vein. Stay safe, Stella. I’m sure I’ll see you again.”
    The little man turned on his heel and walked away, closing the door behind him.
    Cam kept quiet, waiting for Stella to say something, anything. She didn’t move, just sat there staring straight ahead. Her silence was killing him. He wanted to know what she was thinking, wanted to say something to make it better, but he didn’t know what she needed to hear.
    Finally she said, “Did you know?”
    He didn’t need to ask what she meant. He knew she was talking about Edgart’s claim that Bonnini had killed her parents. He didn’t even consider lying. “I suspected.”
    “But you don’t have proof?”
    “There probably is none, except Edgart’s statement. I’m sure Bonnini covered his tracks. I know the police investigated the deaths but with Bonnini telling them how your mother had always been unstable and no one contradicting him, they had no reason to suspect anyone else.”
    Stella still didn’t look at him and he wondered if she was going into shock. Her already-pale skin was at least one shade past gray and her eyes just stared across the room.
    “Stella, let me take you back to my house. We’ll be safer there and—”
    “Safe?” Stella snorted, shaking her head. Her temples throbbed, her stomach churned and every muscle in her body ached from being clenched so tightly.
    According to Cam, she’d been a fool her entire life. The thought that she’d been living and working with the man who’d killed her parents made her ill. The fact that she’d been grateful to and even loved the man made her want to throw herself in a vat of bleach.
    Even now one small part of her brain screamed in denial but she thought that was probably the child in her, the one who remembered the Christmas mornings she and her uncle had spent opening presents and the birthday dinners they always shared together. They all meant nothing. Because a troll claimed her parents had been killed by her monster uncle.
    She laughed, a harsh bark, and Cam tightened his arms around her. She wished she could dissolve into a river of tears, just curl into a ball and cry until she passed out—but that wasn’t like her. Her parents may have coddled her but her uncle hadn’t raised her to be weak. At least she could thank him for that…or not. Because what she really wanted to do was kill him.
    Stab him, choke him, shoot him, blow him up. Throw him off a cliff, hang him from a meat hook but most importantly, make it slow and painful. So painful his heart exploded from it.
    Just like her heart threatened to do now. It pounded in her chest like a bird in a too-small box and her lungs contracted into tight little balls that ached with every breath.
    Her eyes burned but she had no tears. She swore she could feel her blood running through her veins, furious and hot with each pump of her heart.
    “Stella, sweetheart. Breathe. Come on, babe, you’re scaring me.”
    She heard Cam but he sounded muffled, as if she was encased in ice.

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