"Let me get this right. You aren't Emory."

"His name is Everett," Lux says.

Emory----or Everett---for that matter doesn't look at me in my face. In fact, he is avoiding me almost completely. His face is down on the ground. This was a guy who had become the top stripper at a popular nightclub. He was in a profession where he literally had to look people in the eyes and flirt with them all day. But he is avoiding eye contact with me like the plague.

"And you are----" I ask the new boy.

He's handsome. I believe he mentions that his name is something like Andreas. He's a latino boy with a pretty face. The kind of guy that easily looked like a sweat around the way type of guy. I understood why Everett was into him.

"I'm the boyfriend."

"Well damn..." I state.

"You think it's cool to just come here and blow shit up?" Lux asks this Andreas guy.

I'm surprised Lux of all people would be the one sitting here upset that someone came into our situation and "blew things up" but then again he and Everett were basically partners in their lie at this point.

"Lux you're not making things better right now..."

Andreas drops his good-natured attitude and now just turns to a really irritated asshole, "Exactly. This is my man. I'm going to go wherever the fuck he is----"

I'm standing there just feeling out of line.

"Maybe you two need to talk. I should leave," I respond.

The tension is thick. You can almost cut it. It gets even thicker when I start making my way out of the room and Everett tries to stop me. Up until that point I've been trying to be just as cold and aloof as he was knowing deep inside my emotions were fucking exploding. When he grabs me however my face betrays how I really feel. I pull away hard.

"I don't want you to leave," Everett tells me.

"Really? Because I'm pretty sure you bought me a ticket so I can do just that..."

"The ticket was to protect you. And not from my secret----from the Crowned Prince," Everett tells me.

He says it as though lying and pretending to be someone else this entire time has made anything better. I'm so angry that I want to hit him but I don't. I just stare at him and the face he gives me back was almost as bad if I had actually hit him right in the face.

"I want to be with you."

"Are you kidding me----" Andreas asks.

Andreas is PISSED. I can actually relate to him. I can relate when Everett stammers trying to get all his lies in order. Andreas doesn't give him the chance though. He slaps the fuck out of Everett. It's a stinging slap too. There's only four of us in the room but I feel so goddam embarrassed for him. Normally I would have defended him but the person I would have been defending was Emory. I didn't know who this boy was.

"I didn't want to do this----here like this," Everett admits to him.

"So you're dumping me?"

Shit. This was painful. The way Everett looks at him just says it all without having to say a lot. I've seen that look. The look you give someone who you probably know deep inside loves you painfully but you have no interest in making that love reciprocal. I know that look because Emory gave me that look multiple times.

"I didn't want to do it like this but the problem is you continue to push this narrative that just isn't real. It hasn't been real for a while. You knew you shouldn't have come here but you did anyway. That's just an example of why this isn't working."

Andreas looks heartbroken. I actually feel bad for the guy. I feel even worse when he turns around and starts to storm off.

Everett takes two steps to go after him but stops and suddenly as though being compelled turns back to me examining my face.

"You can go after him."

His voice is deep, gloomy and almost agonizing, "This is where I want to be."

My retort is strong, angry and almost vicious, "Well this isn't where you belong. You're a stranger here."


"Damn this is awkward," Lux points out as though the rest of us can't even feel it.

"Can you give us a second----alone?" Everett asks.

Lux sighs clearly wanting to see how this all played out. He gets up and starts walking to the door but before he leaves us alone he quickly adds, "Whatever you guys are going through----please don't lose what's the priority here. Emory and his wife have been taken and are being held god knows where by a sick man who thinks his money can give him anything he wants. Let's not lose perspective on what's important."

He says that almost as a warning looking at Everett and seeing the hole Everett is digging himself into in his mind. At first, I'm lost in that same hole but as soon as Lux leaves the room the reality of what he says hits me like a ton of bricks.

"Wait----what? Emory----"

"He's alive. We think, at least," Everett reveals.

"And my sister?"

"She's alive too---only----"

"She was taken?"

There he goes again. Quiet.

"Yes. She is being held as insurance that we don't go to the cops."

I can't take it at this point. I hit him too. I don't slap him as Andreas does though. I punch him right in the fuckin stomach. This fucking asshole knew my sister was kidnapped and he wasn't saying anything. At this moment I just feel fuckin stupid for trusting him in the first place. He takes my punch and just stands there shaking it off. What's worse than anything is that his stomach is so damn hard that he hardly seems to be moved much by the punch. Emotionally though, he's wearing the pain of this moment on his face.

"I wanted to tell you," he states, "Can you sit?"

"Fuck no."

I try to leave. I don't get far. He swerves in front of me. Grabbing me and pinning me to the wall. His body presses up against mine, too emotional to let me leave but too chicken shit to show that he's holding me against my own will so he loosens up just a little.

"Please sit. Listen to what I have to say. If you want to leave after that----fine. I won't stop you. All you have to do is say you don't want to see me. All you want to say is you'll never want to see me again and I'll give you your wish."

"I never want to see you again."

"You can say that AFTER you listen to me."

He sits me down, forcefully and sits next to me. He's sweating. I can see the beads rolling down his eyebrows. I've spent so much time with this boy but for some reason, it feels like I'm just meeting an intruder for the first time. I feel beyond betrayed.

"Make it fast."

"I came here after I thought my brother died."

"What gives you the right to just PRETEND to be him."

"It wasn't my first time."


"It wasn't my first time pretending to be him," he explains, "Both of our dreams growing up were to go to the military. See---my dad was in the army. It was his dreams for his boys to follow in his footsteps. But for me---I had asymptomatic arrhythmia."

"I don't even know what the fuck that is."

"A bad heart. I had a bad heart and my brother had a good heart."

"Looks like not much has changed."

Everett ignores my smart comment, takes a deep breath and continues this half-assed `explanation' that he has about how he ended up in this fucked up situation in the first place, "We both got our medical results to go to the military but I knew that I would be rejected. So I swapped our results. I stole his. I went on to become a decorated sharpshooter in the military."

I give him an eye, "You? A sharpshooter?"

"Believe it or not, this stripping thing was always Emory's thing. It was his fall back. While I was winning medals he was stripping. You can imagine how our father felt. He disowned Emory and I became the family golden child."


Emory had never told me any of those things. I knew that he didn't talk to his family. I knew that he mentioned a few times having a brother that he didn't trust. He never mentioned it was a twin brother. He never mentioned much of anything about his family in detail. Now I understand exactly why. What Everett did to him was foul.

It was unforgivable.

"You stole his life."

He nods. I'm surprised he's taking ownership of it in the way that he was, "My relationship with my brother was never the same. I always carried around this. My badge of honor. My pride and joy. I planned on one day apologizing to him. I planned on giving him this badge so that he could wear it on his heart. So that he could share in my honor."

For a moment I feel bad. He had good intentions, I guess. I could imagine feeling that his brother died in a lifestyle that he wouldn't have been in if it wasn't for Everett. Everett pushed him to strip as the only way he could make money and get out of their dangerous neighborhood. I feel bad for Everett but I feel even worse for Emory who was now being held prisoner with my pregnant sister.

"It's not too late," I state, "To give him the badge---if he's really still alive."

All my heart I was hoping it was true. Could it really be that Emory was still alive? Could there really be hope?

"I'm want to believe that. I had to come here. I had to find out what happened to him. In the military, I thought it was my duty to fight for my country. But I'm here to fight for my family. And that was my sole focus, finding out what happened to my brother----until I met you."

"Are you done?" I ask.

He nods, seeming nervous on what I'm going to say, "Yes."

"As I said----it's not too late," I tell him.

"It isn't?"

"Not for you to give your badge to your brother. But it is too late for you and me."

He shakes his head at that moment, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I'm not Emory."

"That's not the point..."

The point was that he lied. The point was that he pretended. The point was that he continued to keep secrets the whole time he knew me. One of those secrets being the fact that my fucking pregnant sister was in the custody of someone whom he already KNEW kidnapped his brother.

"Is it?" he asks, getting up, "Because it feels like it. At the end of the day. I'm not Emory. No matter how much I try to take his life. No matter how good I am at the things that he was supposed to do. Being a dancer. Being there for you. I can never really fill his shoes. And that's my fault for ever thinking I can."

He starts walking out. A part of me is aching wanting to stop him, "Em---"

I stop. I'm about to call him Emory. Damn.

I look at his reaction. He knows that I'm about to call him Emory. It was a simple slip up. Or was it?

"Take the ticket. I'll do whatever it takes to make things right and get Emory and Roxana back safely. Get out of here. When I'm ready I'm going to come to get you."


"Can't believe you are leaving," D says.

D is driving me in his car. He's driving me to the airport.

"Wish you could come?"

"They are going to be pissed. You showing up and stealing the spotlight from Lux. Oh, this is going to be your ass."

I was going to the airport but I wasn't going to Puerto Rico. I was going to the airport after D specifically stated that Lux and Everett had been chosen to dance for the Crowned Prince since I'd stopped showing up at work for the week. This was all Everett's plan I'm sure. He wanted me gone. He wanted me away from everything that was going on. The thing is I wasn't going to just leave everything in his hands. I wasn't going to just go hide.

He said he had a duty to his family.

What he forgot is that Emory and Roxana were my family too and I had a duty to them as well. A duty that I wasn't going to give up.

"I'm sure they are going to be quite surprised," I sigh.

Only for a different reason then Lux feeling like I was stealing his spotlight, however. I didn't tell D anything about that. Knowing my friend he would be more than worried about me doing this and crashing this little party.

"You sure you want to do this?" he asks.

I take a deep breath. I'm nervous as fuck.

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"Fine. Here then."

"What's this?"


I get nervous. Did he know what kind of danger I was in somehow? Had Lux or Everett made it slip what was going down with D?


He hands me a USB. I look over at it wondering what the hell this was all about.

"Drake----my man. Every stripper knows that the secret bulletproof vest for strippers is Drake. Got some of his hottest songs on there. You twerk that ass and swing that dick to Drake serenading you, those Saudis are going to cum all over themselves and shower you with cash."

I roll my eyes. If D had any idea the danger I was in he wouldn't be fucking giving me Drake as a weapon. He's clueless though clearly. Just how I wanted him to be.

He pulls up to the private airport. The Saudi Prince has guards outside. Guards who seem to be expecting some hot guys to be pulling up so they let us through.

"Thanks for dropping me off D."

D reaches over and hugs me, "Bro?"


"Rock it out OK?"

I nod, "I'll try, man. I'll try..."

I get out of the car and immediately get swarmed by the foreign assistants who start escorting me to a private plane. I think it isn't until I realize the magnitude of this trip that I realize just how rich this Saudi Prince was. He was dripping with it. I mean----I should have known. What other fucking guys just steal Americans as though it was nothing at all.

As I am escorted to the plane I realize I'm being stopped. I notice whose stopping me. It's Nasim. He looks over at me and he has this look on his eyes. This look that tells me things have just fucking changed completely.

"I'll handle this," Nasim tells the escorts.

When the escorts leave, by the look of the Prince's nephew, I am definitely the first one to arrive. Good thing D knew everyone's business at the club and was able to get me here before Everett or Lux were able to talk me out of this.

"Tell the Crowned Prince I'm the one dancing----"

"Don't be stupid," Nasim states, "That's not happening."

He's on his phone texting someone at that moment. I know who he's texting when I look down and see the name. He's texting Lux.

`Stop it----what are you doing?"

"You aren't supposed to be here. Lux is going to be pissed if he knows that I let you on this plane. I'm not trying to piss him off."

Interesting. I wondered how Lux and Everett knew so much about the Crowned Prince. I wondered how they knew that Emory was alive. It was clear now by the look on the Nasim's face that they had someone on the inside. Judging from the first night when I had seen them together I know that Nasim was helping us out because of Lux.

"I need to be on that plane."

"You need to be home. Things have changed. I just called Everett and Lux and told them to turn their car around. Fuck."


"I overheard my Uncle making plans about this trip. He has been suspicious of Lux and Everett for a while now. That's why he had your sister kidnapped."

"So what?"

"So I called the trip off when I found out what my Uncle had planned. I told them to get out of here. I told them to turn around."


"Because the Crowned Prince never planned on letting Everett and Lux return----alive at least."


"I just got a text...we might need to head back."

Lux and I are in a car. We were almost at the airport only a block away when he got the call. The call that let us know not to proceed. The call that let us know what the Crowned Prince intended with his little `private dance'. God knows where he was taking us or why he needed a private plane to get there. It was a bad idea in the first place.

I was already having a bad week. The person who I was infatuated with was pissed off at me and not even talking to me. My ex Andreas was just as pissed off and our amicable break up definitely didn't go as planned with him having a full-out tantrum before storming back to the East Coast wishing nothing but death and destruction on me.

It was the wrong time to wish death and destruction. Because those wishes could be a reality with the way Lux and I were going.

"Head back----to the airport? Are you crazy?" I ask Lux, "Didn't Nasim warn us that the Crowned Prince plans on killing us on that trip."

"You got your gun on you right?"

I had it in my gym bag just for safety. I had it covered up with more jockstraps then a straight security guard would probably want to go through to hide it.

"That's not the point..." I state, "The point is I'm not going back if we know for sure that we're going to be set up. We'll have to find a different way to save Emory and Roxana."

I'm glad that Lux was really wanting to do this. He was a good guy but right now I was wondering if he was relapsing. With Hitter not selling him drugs, it seemed Lux was really going cold turkey. It was nice to see that without the drugs he was actually a much nicer person, but if he was talking about walking right back into a trap then who knew what the hell he was using now.

"You're going to want to go back."

"Why the hell would I ever do that?"

"Your fuckin boyfriend is there," Lux tells me.

I know he's not talking about Andreas.


"Head over to the airport?"

"Yeah. Yeah, let's go."

There was no way in hell I was going to let them get Barry too. My heart is racing when Lux doesn't hesitate to make yet another turn in the middle of the street. I'm jittery as we're heading back not caring that Lux was driving like a fucking madman.

"We should have known he wasn't going to just leave," Lux tells me.

I don't even want to think about it.

"It's my fault."

"It's fine. Nasim says he has him. We are just going to grab Nasim and get the hell out of town. We'll start fresh on the drawing board."


I get quiet. I'm nervous. I know I'm wearing it on my face. All of a sudden I'm wondering if this is just someone else who I've fucked over in life and not really have the chance to properly apologize to. I couldn't bare having Barry in danger.

Lux looks over at me, "He's going to be OK."

"I fucked him over man You were right. I should have been honest with Barry from the beginning. We wouldn't be in this position now if I were."

"You were trying to do the right thing. You might not have had the right methods but it's the thought that counts. It's the heart that counts."

I sigh at the thought, "You must not have heard. I'm the brother with a bad heart."

"Well, I don't think he feels that way."

As we pull up to a side part of the private airport I see Nasim and Barry out there. I feel this huge sense of relief as we pull over and he's looking at me. I look at him. I don't know what comes over me but I hop out of the car.

"You're OK..."

He gives me a look confused. For a moment I'm just standing there forgetting where I am as I'm hugging him.

"You're crying----" he states.

He realizes it before I do. I had been so overwhelmed with emotion that I hadn't realized I was crying. Maybe a part of me just hadn't realized how much I cared about this boy. I came into this life feeling as though I would have been removed from this reality. I was wrong. I had become engulfed in emotion and here I was crying over just the idea that I could lose him.

I don't care if he doesn't hug me back. I don't care if he's still mad at me. At the end of the day, he HAD to feel this emotion I was showing him. He HAD to know this was real.

"I don't mean to interrupt you two," Nasim states, "But you HAVE to go. There are cameras all over this place. My Uncle is fucking crazy..."

"Is that what you really think of me?"

The voice causes me to jerk back, grabbing Barry in a possessive way and pulling him away from danger. The reason there is a danger is these men come out.

One of them happens to be the Crowned Prince.

"Said----" Nasim starts off.

"Traitor," Said argues back.

"Let them go..." Nasim tries to say, "It's pointless Said."

"Let them go?" Said asks, "Why would I do that? We're going to have a party----right?"

"Said please."

Said ignores his nephew and looks at us, "Get on the plane."
"Fuck you---" Barry states.

I wish he wouldn't have said that. In a matter of seconds, guns are coming out. These men meant business.

"Get on the plane. All of you---now."


To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com