Forbidden Princess (Retribution Games #2) - Ella Miles Page 0,1

brains blown out.

I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to remember Odette before this picture, but this is the image that will haunt me. And I deserve to be haunted.

I saved the wrong girl. I wasted time believing that Ri was the key to finding Odette, when I should have found Odette on my own. I should have spent every moment on her. I deserve to be punished.

The room slowly comes back into my view.

I don’t know how long I’ve been kneeling in pain. Tears continue to speed down my face like hot oil, and my agony tears through my lungs with each excruciating scream.

Lennox is the only one still standing. He rubs his face, not looking at anyone, afraid he’ll completely break if he does. Gage and Hayes are gripping onto each other as they quietly sob.

But Caius—he sits stone-faced, his back leaning against the wall of windows. If he cried or showed any emotion, it has long left his face.

“Who was it?” Caius asks, his voice cool as ice.

I stare at the photo. There is no obvious evidence of where she died or who shot her. She’s still in her wedding dress, which somehow makes it worse. My blood boils thinking about the life we could have had together—if only. So many if onlys.

“My guess is Corsi,” Lennox says, wiping his tears on the back of his shirt sleeve.

The room silently nods its agreement, but I shift my focus to the letter and read Corsi’s assessment.

We found her body in the basement of the Phantom Brotherhood. She died the night of your wedding. They took no chances. Ares knew he couldn’t get my daughter to marry him and that I would never honor an alliance between his crew and my empire. But he knew that you were powerful enough to pique my interest. He thought that with your wife dead, you would be happy to marry my daughter and form an alliance that would benefit him. As you know, I ensured that Ares met his fate. And you have my blessing to seek retribution against the entire Phantom Brotherhood.

You have my sympathy on the loss of your wife and my gratitude for the safe return of my daughter. It’s been a pleasure working with you.

—Vincent Corsi

I crumple up the piece of paper and toss it at the door with a growl.

All eyes fall on me.

“Corsi blames Ares.”

“No way. That bastard didn’t have the balls or the foresight to take her and kill her,” Hayes says.

Everyone mumbles their agreement.

“It has to be Corsi,” I say.

I stand up, pacing the room as I think through what happens next.

“Of course it was Corsi,” a deep voice says from the doorway.

Slowly, my eyes drift to him, scared to death to face this man. He’s wearing slacks and a sharp buttoned-down shirt. A cane at his side helps him stand, a cane he wasn’t using at the wedding. His gray hair seems to have whitened, and the lines around his eyes seemed to have deepened overnight. He’s frailer than he was a week ago. That’s what your impending death will do to you. And I suspect the news of his daughter’s death with be what finishes him.

I open my mouth, but I can’t speak. I can’t tell him. I’ve barely accepted the truth myself, and only because I have the damn picture.

“I know my daughter’s dead. I was working in the conference room. I heard your screams—people only make that sound when they lose the other half of their soul,” Michael Monroe, Odette’s father says.

“Sir, I’m so sorry. I failed at protecting her. I’m not worthy—”

“Shush,” he silences me as he steps into the room with a strength I don’t understand. He picks up the crumpled paper, and then walks over to take the picture I still grip in my hand. He slowly loosens my grip to remove the picture. I should stop him from looking; it will break him.

But he doesn’t shed a tear. If others observed a father not crying at the loss of his daughter, they might call him cold, heartless, a monster. But Michael Monroe is none of those things. He’s just strong. He has to be in order to be the leader of the Retribution Kings.

After studying the picture and letter, he looks to me. “What will you do for my daughter now?”

“I will get retribution. I will go to the ends of the earth to ensure everyone who had a hand in her death pays for their crime.