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Taken
Author: Lisa Marie Rice

 

1

 

 

Give me your daughter.

Marcus Rey thought the words but didn’t say them. He’d have her soon enough.

Lightning crackled outside the huge French windows, lighting the room with phosphorescent light. Harrington Banner’s study was kept deliberately dark, with only two banker’s lamps on. But the sudden intense lightning showed what Banner was trying to hide.

The study was diminished from its former glory. It was shabby and dusty. Several paintings were missing—lighter spots on the wall. Harrington Banner’s family had collected art, had been known for their possession of a few grand masters, and for possessing ten Picassos, two Renoirs and four Jackson Pollacks.

The missing paintings had been large, big white rectangles in dirty cream walls. Banner had probably sold a few Pollacks, hoping to make a dent in his debts.

He hadn’t. Banner still owed a fuck-ton of money to some very bad people. And now, since this morning, Banner owed that money to him.

Lightning bloomed again, followed by a violent crack of thunder. Marcus let his gaze roam thoughtfully around Banner’s once-elegant study. He had excellent night vision. Chipped Georgian furniture, a stained Aubusson carpet. A Chippendale desk that needed restoring. Empty shelves where first editions had been auctioned off.

Another year of this, and the house itself would be the next to go. Maybe sooner. Harrington Banner was one of those men who were slaves to their appetites. He had three expensive mistresses, his golf club fees were over a hundred grand per annum, he ran tabs at most of the expensive restaurants in the city. Marcus also wondered whether Banner had a cocaine habit.

Probably.

Not much was coming in, either. Harrington Banner IV had an aversion to work. He didn’t mind showing up in his fancy expensive office downtown, but once he was there, from what Marcus could see by hacking into his firm’s ridiculously lax accounts, Banner did fuck-all. He lost money for himself and for his clients and it had been over a year since he’d had a new client.

His golf handicap was great, though.

He’d inherited a fortune and had fucked it almost all away. Right now, Banner was a whisper away from total ruin. Marcus would have happily tipped him over, except Banner had something Marcus wanted.

Badly.

Marcus had nothing but contempt for the man. Marcus had raised himself up from the streets by smarts and by iron self-control. Banner had had the world handed to him and had pissed everything away. Including a wife and child, dumping them cruelly. It was only because of his daughter’s generosity of spirit that she was still speaking to him.

Lightning lit up the room again, like a strobe effect, followed a second later by a loud boom. And another. Rain lashed the windows, making them rattle. The storm was right overhead, as powerful as a war.

Banner started at the boom, perspiration at his hairline. At some animal level, Banner realized that nature was powerful, and not impressed by wealth or power. Certainly not fading wealth and obsolete power.

Marcus hadn’t started at the violent sound. Violence was a part of his life, had been forever. He was never surprised. Surprise had been beaten out of him on the streets at a very young age. He didn’t do surprise. Or fear.

“So.” Banner tried to infuse impatience into his voice, but it wavered. “How can I help you, Mr.—ahem… I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

Marcus almost smiled. Banner knew his name. Everyone knew his name, though no one knew him. His name was never in the newspapers. He never attended parties and was never seen around town. And yet everyone knew about him. He was immensely rich though no one really knew where the money had come from. But money had its own gravity and weight.

“Marcus Rey,” he said softly. “My name is Marcus Rey. And what do I want? I want your daughter.”

Banner jumped in his luxurious leather chair. His eyes rounded. For a second, his mask of bored rich man slipped and he looked panicky. “I-I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me.” Marcus’s voice was low and soft but Banner jumped again, as if he’d shouted.

“This is insane.” Banner placed two soft white hands on his desk, preparing to stand, though he looked like he wanted to puke. “I’m afraid I’m not in the mood for jokes in very poor taste. I’ll have to ask you to–-”

“I bought your debt to Hector Lopez. It’s mine, and now you owe the money to me. I think you know owing money to Lopez is ill-advised. Frightening. But I assure you, Mr. Banner, owing money to me is terrifying.”

He let the words hover there in the air in the dark study. He knew enough about weak men to know that what was going on in Banner’s mind was more frightening than anything he could say. Most of the rumors about Marcus were wrong, but not all of them. Banner should be terrified of him.

Except for the fact that he had the one thing Marcus wanted. Very badly.

Marcus leaned forward, his voice still soft, but he was certain Banner heard every single word. “There is no way you can repay that debt, certainly not by next week, which is when it comes due. And not by next year. You’d have to sell this—” Marcus waved his hand to indicate the study and its contents, but also Waverly Mansion, which had been in Banner’s family for four generations.

Though the grounds weren’t kept well and it was falling into shabbiness, it was still beautiful, like a former beauty queen who’d aged badly, but still had good bones. “You could liquidate all your holdings, and it wouldn’t be enough, not in today’s market. I could make you throw in Waverly Mansion to pay off your debt to me.”

Sweat was coming off of Banner in rivulets. He exuded fear sweat, a sickening smell mixed with his Hugo Boss cologne. Every word Marcus said was true, and they both knew it. And they both knew Banner didn’t have the money, didn’t have close to the amount needed to pay his debts. Right now, he was living off ‘loans’ from his daughter.

“What—what is it you said you wanted?” Banner’s voice quavered, his hands trembled. Marcus had grown up learning the hard way never to show any kind of emotion, most of all fear. Never ever show fear. But Banner had never been in a position where he had no escape.

He owed a lot of money to Lopez first, and now to him. He didn’t have it and had no way to earn it. He was like a rat caught in a trap.

“Your daughter,” Marcus said, his voice hard.

Banner winced. But he didn’t say no.

The fucker.

Marcus felt pure contempt for the man. If Marcus had a daughter and someone had just made an offer to buy her, he’d have slashed the man’s throat the instant the words were out of his mouth.

Banner knew Marcus as a dangerous man. Marcus had carefully cultivated his reputation as a dangerous man. Marcus would rather tear his own throat out than harm Banner’s daughter in any way, but Banner didn’t know that.

“Your daughter will be here soon. She visits you every Thursday. When she arrives, you will introduce me to her as a close friend of yours. A man she can trust.” Banner winced again. But again, he didn’t say no. “If you are convincing, I will wipe out your debt.”

Banner blinked and Marcus suppressed a smile.

“And one further thing, Banner. You will not ask her for a loan. You will never ask her for money again. Ever. You already owe her $250,000 you have no intention of paying back, and she is struggling to pay her mortgage. So all that sponging off your daughter is over.”

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