Ruthless (Lawless #1) - Lexi Blake

Prologue

DALLAS, TEXAS

Riley Lawless sat in the chair they’d offered him, but he wasn’t alone. There had been only two chairs in the small office at the police station and there were four of them, so he’d settled Mia in beside him.

Four of them.

There used to be six.

“I’m tired, Riley. When can we go home?” Mia asked, her blue eyes wide.

Riley exchanged a look with his oldest brother, Drew. What was he supposed to say to that? He still couldn’t believe what had happened himself. How was he supposed to explain it to Mia? She was barely six. They’d had a Barbie birthday party for her two weeks before. She’d worn a princess tiara and opened her presents with a grin that showed her first missing tooth. Their dad had forced them all to attend. Three boys amid a sea of six-year-old girls.

Where was his father now? He didn’t understand anything.

Brandon looked to Mia with tears in his eyes. “I don’t think we get to go home ever again, Mia.”

Drew put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “We’re going to be okay, Bran.”

Riley wasn’t sure how that was possible. Had it really only been two hours before? Had it really happened at all? Maybe he was dreaming. His mind drifted back.

The sheets tangled in his feet as he tried to sit up. Confusion. There was a crackling sound he didn’t understand. He fought his way out of the sheets and sat up in bed. The computer he shared with his brother was still on, the green light of the screen illuminating the room. Riley rubbed his eyes.

Something was wrong. He could smell smoke.

The light on the computer died suddenly and so did the one on his small fish tank.

Bran?

His brother was on the top bunk. Riley scrambled up the ladder that connected their beds.

Bran, wake up.

There was a pounding on the door to his room and he thought about all those horror movies he wasn’t supposed to watch but he did when he was at Tommy Ferguson’s house because Tommy’s mom always took a sleeping pill and then nothing would wake her. Bran sat up, and Riley could see him even in the darkness. He reached for Riley’s hand. Bran was only eight. Riley had turned twelve months before. Riley gave him a squeeze. Bran was his responsibility.

Hide. Get in the closet and hide, Bran. I’ll deal with what’s happening.

That crackling sound was so much louder, but nothing was as loud as the door exploding as it was kicked open. Riley tried to cover his brother’s body with his own, his heart pounding.

An eerie red light filled the room and smoke came pouring in. In the midst of the haze, a tall figure appeared.

Drew. He was carrying Mia and his face was smudged with dirt. His voice was husky, older than normal when he spoke.

Come on. We’ve gotta move. I think the back stairs are still clear. If not, we’re going out a window. Move it. Now.

What’s happening? He didn’t understand.

The house is on fire. We have to go.

But Mom and Dad? Shouldn’t their dad be the one ordering them around?

Drew shook his head and Riley realized the world had flipped and he didn’t recognize where he’d landed.

He took Bran’s hand and followed his brother.

“Don’t think about it.” Drew looked down on him, bringing Riley back to reality. The grim expression on his face made him look so much older than fourteen.

“I want Daddy.” Mia started to cry.

Drew immediately picked her up, settling her against his lanky frame. “I’m sorry, Mia. But it’s going to be all right.”

Riley wasn’t sure how. He got to his feet. “I’m thirsty. They said there was a water fountain outside.”

“Don’t be gone long,” Drew said in a voice that let Riley know he was in control.

Riley didn’t really want a drink. He was fairly certain he was going to throw up.

A man and a woman, both in blue uniforms, sat at their desks talking. The rest of the building seemed almost eerily empty. “Poor kids. Their dad tried to kill them all. Did you know he’d locked all the doors and propped them closed from the outside so the kids couldn’t get out? The bastard wanted to make damn sure those kids died with him. Found the window he used to get back inside, but the kids wouldn’t have found it because of how he lit the fire before he offed himself.”

“Yeah, well, I heard what he did to his wife was even worse,” the female