This is Love, Baby (War & Peace #2) by K. Webster

“Of course you know, this means war.”

~ Joe Adamson, Bugs Bunny: Fifty Years and Only One Grey Hare

I PACE THE living room and let out a rush of relieved breath when I watch the green flashing light on my phone app start making its way back toward Oakland.

He has her. He fucking has her.

But not for long.

Stalking over to the mantle, I tug a framed picture down. The prick smiles back at me and my anger explodes. That motherfucker…

I stop that train of thought and remind myself I need to save my energy. Having a meltdown and destroying the house because of what he did won’t do any good. I need to preserve my anger. For Gabe. Because when I get my hands on that asshole, I’m going to fucking gut him.

Run along to your stupid cabin, old man. When you least expect it, I’m coming for you.

My phone chimes and I close the GPS app that shows the movement of his car to check my texts.

Mom.

I swallow down my rage. Where was she months ago when I needed her most?

Mom: Could you at least come home to have dinner with us, Brandon? We miss you.

Fuck her. Growling, I type back my response.

Me: You know I won’t rest until I find her. I’ll take a raincheck.

She fires back a nasty retort. Always the same with us.

Mom: Son, you’re going to have to accept that she ran away. If she’d been stolen, like you said, it would have been all over the news. A broken nose doesn’t mean she was taken. You know my stance on this.

The rage bubbles up inside of me again—I’m angry all the time these days. I don’t think I’ve smiled aside from when I look at pictures of her. Baylee Winston. My girlfriend.

Me: Fuck you, Mom.

This time, I smile. After months of searching for her and following Gabe’s every move, I will finally have her back with me.

I press a kiss to her picture in the frame and set it back on the mantle. Then, I stalk over to my duffle bag. I throw some of her clothes, a few bottles of water and some snacks inside, and the 9mm pistol I’d stolen from Tony.

For over four months, I have worried about her.

For over four months, I have wondered if she was suffering.

For over four goddamned months, I cried myself to sleep over her.

Gabe stole that time from me—time I’ll never get back with her. He stole my girl right out from under my damn nose and with it, he broke a part of me I’m not sure can ever be fixed.

Now, it’s time to show him how much he underestimated me. That I’m not some kid who can be pushed around. He’ll live to regret he ever stepped foot in her bedroom that night. Regret he ever took my love from me.

It’s time to make him pay.

And, it’s time to get my girl back, once and for all.

MY CHEST ACHES.

The living, beating organ that seemed to pump only for War has begun to shrivel up and die along with him. No more pattering from simple touches, stolen glances, or murmured words. The strong cadence has dwindled to a sad, irregular beat that will never again be counted.

My heart is dead.

Crushed.

Flat lined.

He didn’t deserve this!

Tears burn my already irritated and swollen eyes as memories from our time together flash by me. My heart has shut down and my brain has taken over. Memory after perfect memory of the man I loved flit by like a horrible slide show meant to mentally torture its victim.

I’m that victim—a victim of my own memories.

They slay and cut me with each passing thought.

His lips which were always moving. Always counting.

Those wise, navy-colored eyes—eyes that held so much pain but were kind and pure.

The soft, tender touch of his fingertips along my breasts and ribcage as he explored my flesh with a mix of hesitation and wonder.

Pain threatens to rip me in two. This useless heart of mine is pounding. Thunderous. And excruciating. Now I understand how one could die of a broken heart. It’s happening to me. I’m drowning in despair.

The devil slayed my heart when he killed my War.

And now I’m back. With him. Gabe, the monster who haunts my nightmares.

We hit a bump and I attempt to focus on the present. To focus on a way to get away from the man who has stolen me for his own selfish perversions—again—and to push down the pain I feel over losing the man I loved.

It’s dark in the trunk he forced me into. When he shot War and then dragged me out of the house, I’d been hysterical and tried to bolt from his grasp. Since I was behaving like a rabid animal, he treated me like one by trapping me in here for the drive to who the fuck knows where. A stale, stagnant odor lingers in the stuffy air, choking me. And, though I’ve never had a thing with small spaces, I swear if he doesn’t let me out of here soon, I’m going to wig out.