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Stranded is the second book in The Auctioned Series. Before you read further, you should read Auctioned.
“You have my word, Gray. I will get you off this island, and I will bring you home.”
It was supposed to be an easy in-and-out job. Nothing Darius Quinn hadn’t done before. But this job had something none of the others did: Gray Nolan.
Like Murphy’s Law advised, anything that could go wrong, would. A mission to save one hometown favorite son was turning into a quest to rescue thirteen traumatized young men against odds so steep, he’d need an oxygen mask to scale them.
Facing new dangers and an uncertain future, Darius keeps Gray close and is soon forced to accept that this has become much more than an assignment. For a man whose reputation was built on being ice-cold under pressure, Darius is beginning to discover how good it feels to burn.
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In all the years Darius had brought people home from hostile environments, whether they’d been kidnapped or they’d worked there and needed protection, the assignment had been over as soon as they landed on American soil. He’d never had to deal with any aftermath or ramifications of the rescue. He’d had his own issues to deal with, not to mention his next gig in sight.
Gray Nolan was different. Granted, Darius hadn’t brought him home yet. They were still on the yacht. The despicable men and one demon of a woman from the slave organization had been killed, but there was more work to do—a few more dangers to face.
More blood to wash off.
Either way, after understanding that Gray didn’t believe he was free yet, Darius knew he was in deep shit. He found himself wondering how he could convince the kid he’d been released. Gray wasn’t a slave. His body was his own. He’d been treated worse than cattle, and he’d been sold off like an object, and it was over. Except…Darius had never thought in those terms before. It was someone else’s job to play head doctor and heal wounds on the inside.
Gut feeling told Darius this was far from over. Even when they got away from this godforsaken yacht and they’d eliminated their next threat, he could picture himself following Gray’s journey, well past their return home.
Darius grumbled to himself. How quickly his plan had been shot straight to hell. One of the first things he’d told Gray after explaining he was there to rescue the kid was that Gray was only a job. It’d been a way to set boundaries for himself. Bringing Gray back to his family was a payment, a gig, nothing else.
Lying to himself had worked for about five fucking minutes.
“Well—okay, then.” Ryan’s voice cut through the thoughts spinning in Darius’s head and came to an abrupt stop in the doorway to the bathroom. He raised his brows at the floor.
Darius frowned, paused the redressing of the wound along his bicep, and followed Ry’s gaze. Had his brother adopted a civilian state of mind or something? Seeing a dead guy shouldn’t cause any reaction whatsoever.
“What’s up?” He went back to wrapping a new bandage around his arm. “Don’t faint on me, little brother.”
Ryan snapped out of it and rolled his eyes. “When the past year has revolved around shitty diapers, it takes a minute before stepping over dead bodies becomes normal.” He paused. “I thought we were gathering all the bodies in the dungeon, though.”
“I gave that a second thought,” Darius replied. With the bandage in place, he tore off a strip of tape with his teeth and secured the wrapping. “Regardless of the state it’s in, the authorities will eventually recover the boat. We might wanna have the bodies scattered about. Keeping them all in one place indicates less of a battle and more of an annihilation.”
Ryan accepted that with a firm nod, then extended—ah, fucking finally. Darius gave an almost inaudible sigh of approval at the sight of his regular everyday gear. His brother knew him well enough to bring it.
“Thanks, buddy.” He tucked his old, trusted gun—scratches and signature and all—into his jeans at the base of his spine. His combat knife got strapped to his calf, and the folding knife was slipped into his back pocket. A gift for his fortieth birthday a few years ago from their father.
“May this folder never see a war zone, son.”
Darius ignored the slight twinge in his chest and put on a new beater. The other shirt, along with his old bandage, had gotten ripped less than twenty minutes ago when one of the boys had suffered a panic attack while they were removing the trackers from the staff kids’ necks. The boy had freaked out from the pain, and he’d latched on to the nearest person, who’d happened to be Darius.
It was yet another reminder how unprepared he and his brother were to bring everyone to safety, all while successfully removing any trace that they were the ones who’d brought down Valerie and her merry band slave owners.
“Did you eat?” Ry asked.
Darius inclined his head. He wasn’t about to take on drug dealers on an empty stomach.
Sweet Jesus, this day could piss off. They’d handled the slavers, the owners, and now they were moving on to drug dealers. What was next, aliens?
“How’s the kid doing? Gray?” Ryan went on, presumably to pass time. They were expecting a call from their baby sister on the satphone, and there wasn’t a whole lot to do while they waited.
“He’s in and out of it. He’s…” Darius trailed off and exited the bathroom with a pensive frown, trying to come up with the right word. “Quiet, I guess. Restless and numb.” Refusing to believe he’s free. But mostly, he was quiet. The knucklehead had needed something to do earlier, so Darius had told him and whoever was up to it to load the tender with supplies they probably wouldn’t need in the end, because rescue was hopefully not far off. Food, medical supplies, a raft, whatever could be useful.