The Bargain:Vargas Cartel Series, Book 1

By: Lisa Cardiff

Murmurs. Whispers. Papers shuffled. A door opened.

I tried to move, but I couldn’t.

I opened my eyes, but everything was black.

I wanted to scream, but my mouth was full.

I jerked my body forward, but fire roared through my shoulders. Holy shit…I was tied to a chair. Ropes bit into my wrists and my ankles, burning my skin with every quiver and twist of my extremities.

I didn’t have a fucking clue where I was. I didn’t recall anything. My mind spun in relentless circles searching for a memory, a clue, anything to explain where I was or what happened to me. Jumbled thoughts whipped through my brain in rapid-fire succession.

Spring Break.


Dancing in a nightclub.

A Prairie Fire.

An Irish Car Bomb.

A Red Headed Slut.

A Buttery Nipple.

So many others I couldn’t name them all.

One song blurring into the next.

Dancing on the bar.

And him.

Someone ripped the hood from my head, taking a few strands of hair with it. Bright light seared my eyeballs. I squeezed them closed, willing them to adjust to the light. When I opened them again, a bone-jarring jolt of recognition raced through me. I saw him…the guy from the bar. Ryker. Dark, almost black hair, icy gray eyes, straight nose and angular features, enhanced by the careless, dark stubble on his face. What the hell?

He snatched my hair, twisting it around his hand until my scalp stung. One calloused finger trailed down the side of my face almost reverently. I twisted my head to the side, but he yanked me back.

He chuckled, his too lush lips forming a twisted smile. “What’s wrong? You liked my touch last night.”

I screamed, but the dusty rag in my mouth muffled my voice. I tried to spit it out, but my mouth was too dry. Tears erupted from behind my eyes, and water streamed down my face.

What did he want? Was he going to kill me? Did he plan to rape me?

Just like that my stomach revolted. He won’t rape me. He already had me. Images of my dress around my waist, his pants unzipped, and my body pressed against a dirty stucco wall as he moved inside of me flickered through my mind. I gagged and inhaled at the same time. My lungs burned. My heart jackhammered against my breastbone. My ears howled. Black dots clouded my vision. My head rolled forward.

“Calm the fuck down. You’re going to faint.” He ripped the rag from my mouth, and I opened my mouth, preparing to scream, but he moved faster. His hand had slammed over my mouth before I had the opportunity to summon a single syllable.

“If you scream, I’ll shove that rag back into your mouth so hard you’ll lose your front teeth.”

My head bobbed up and down like a bobble head doll.

Slowly, his hand lifted from my mouth, and my mind cleared. I remembered who I am and what that meant. “You’ll regret this. Do you know who I am?”

His lips curved into a smile, not the carefree, sexy smile he used on me at the bar. It made me feel dirty. I wanted to scour my skin for hours. “You’re Hattie Covington.”

I didn’t remember sharing my full name last night. I never shared it. I preferred to be anonymous. My name carried too much baggage, especially in my circle of friends, but Ryker wasn’t part of my circle and he certainly wasn’t my friend. Far from it. He was a random guy from a random bar. “And do you know what that means?” I hissed through clenched teeth. I wanted to sound strong and brave, but my voice cracked on the last word, shredding the illusion.

He tipped up my chin, brushing his finger across my lower lip. I flinched, but he didn’t notice, or if he did, he didn’t care…probably the latter.

“Ah, that’s cute. Do you and your friends really say that?” he mocked with far too much amusement.

“My dad is the Attorney General of the United States,” I yelled.

“And that’s exactly why you’re here.”

Chapter One

Three weeks ago…

“What time do you want me to pick you up tonight?” Evan asked as we strolled out of our last class of the day. Evan and I started dating in college. We were both political science majors and both of our dads were career politicians. We moved in similar circles, our parents knew each other, one thing led to another, and we started dating. We even applied to the same graduate schools. Everyone expected us to get married sooner rather than later, and we probably would—Evan had been dropping hints about asking me to marry him for the last couple months.

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