Fuck Mark. I’m more than willing to spend a few nights in jail if I can talk to her for just a minute. Try to make her see reason. I never should have let him take her from the hut. I had no idea he was going to take her off the island so quickly, that they would find us so fast. My plans crashed all around me. I was supposed to have two more days with her, but I was stupid. I’d learned my lesson. Mark wasn’t to be trusted when it came to his little sister. None of her brothers could be.

Just like I would do anything to have her, they seemed to do anything and everything to keep her from me. I growl at the thought of anyone thinking they can.

Having been driven to the edge of madness, I raise my foot to kick the front door. But before I make contact, it flies open. Mark fills the doorway. I give him a hard look, and he holds his hands up before stepping aside and motioning for me to come in, taking me by surprise.

“How’s your hand?” he asks, shutting the door behind me.

“How’s Seth’s face?” I shoot back. My hand hasn’t been fine. I’d fractured a knuckle on his brother’s jaw after I watched Mark take off with my Madeline. Seth made some remarks that just didn’t sit well with me, that I was using Madeline and other things. I push back the thoughts, not wanting to punch another one of her brothers. She’s clearly already pissed enough as it is.

Mark cocks a half smile and starts walking down a hallway. I glance around to see if I can spot Madeline anywhere, wondering whether I should just go in search of her. He stops and turns to look at me.

“We need to talk first,” he says with a grim expression on his face, making a shiver of fear snake up my spine.

“Is she--”

“Come on.” He motions for me to follow him down the hallway until we turn and enter what I’m guessing is his office. He doesn't go to sit behind his desk but walks over to a little bar, makes himself a drink, and shoots it back.

He holds the glass up in an offer, and I shake my head. I don’t want liquor on my breath when I go to talk to Madeline, which will be happening. I’m in the same house as her. I don’t know what is keeping me rooted to the spot and not ripping through the house looking for her.

Oh yeah, the grim fucking look on Mark's face and the fact that he’d let me in without so much as a fight.

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“She hasn’t left the house since we got back,” he finally says.

“I know.” If I didn’t have someone watching the house, then I was watching it. Just waiting for her to step out. People had come and gone, all of whom I’d had checked out, but they all linked back to Mark.

He sets the glass down on the bar and runs his hands through his hair.

“She hasn’t been herself. I think I fucked up.” He leans back against the wall. “I lied to her.”

That has my stomach clenching and taking a step forward. I know Madeline has a reason to be mad at me. Hell, I fucking manipulated things to get her to me, but I’d hoped that she’d see why. That once she got to know me, she’d see I wasn’t who she thought I was. That we fit together. I needed her. The thought of her not needing me makes every part of me ache.

At first I thought I’d give her a few weeks, but she never left her home, and it seemed like it was worse than I thought.

“When we got back to the hotel she was different. Hell, in the cabin she snapped at me. That’s not Maddie. She’s sweet and soft. That just wasn’t her. Then, like I was saying, when we got back to the hotel she didn’t seem too interested in leaving. I could see the inner battle she was fighting, so…”

“So…” I push, needed to know what he’d said to her.

“I told her that you’re cold and how you tend to work.” He pauses, but I say nothing. What is there to say to that? I’m great at my job, and sometimes I have to be a bastard to get things done. Yeah, I was cold sometimes, but not with my Madeline. She melted any cold that I had. Has from the moment I’d laid eyes on her. Set it all on fire.

“Then she asked me about you and other women. If you’d ever done what you’d done with her to them.”

All the breath in my lungs freezes. I knew this was one of the reasons she held back from me in the beginning, believing some fake playboy image that wasn’t me.

“I said yes,” he finishes.

Before I know what I’m doing I punch Mark right in the jaw, that all-too-familiar sting shooting through my hand. He doesn’t fight me, just takes the punch. The wall behind him keeps him from falling, but I turn away from him as I try to get myself under control.

“I think she’s in love with you, and I broke her heart.” I can hear the remorse in his voice.

“Then why didn’t you speak up earlier?” I growl.

“Thought she’d get over it but…” I turn to look back at him as he wipes blood from his lip. “She isn’t.”

“So you’re not going to fight me on this?” I eye him. I don’t get why he’s finally giving in.

“I didn’t want her with you because I thought you were cold and could never love her like she deserves to be loved. She’s soft, not like the rest of us.” He walks over to the sofa and sits down. “She’s the heart of this family. Even more so with Mom gone. And I didn’t want to see that broken, but it is. I think I only made things worse.”

I can see why he thinks I might be cold with her, but he has no fucking idea. There was nothing like that with Madeline, but it’s not him I have to convince of that. She’d seen it herself already, until he’d made it all a lie for her.