Adrenaline Rush Sneak Peek
Updated: Sep 21, 2018
7 years ago…
“Would you ever just go away with me?” I ask Rush, lifting my head up from his chest just enough to peer into his eyes.
“Where? And for how long?” he asks around a yawn, his arm fastening tighter around my waist.
Pop still has a week left on a long ride. As a prospect, Rush isn’t allowed to go on the big rides with them yet, since he still has to earn his place. And part of earning that place is keeping the warehouse clean, guarded, and stocked in their absence.
Only a few others who aren’t really trusted yet are still here. However, there are so few, that Rush and I have been able to actually spend real time together without having to sneak around so hard.
My father would kill him, and my brother may decide to do the same. Never can tell with Drex. He’d either not care at all, or he might kill Rush just for the disrespectful approach. Depends on his mood.
My father would do it just to hurt me. No doubt about that.
Rush doesn’t think that though. He thinks we’re being overly cautious.
Because he thinks he’s one of them, and he’s not. He’s just too naïve to see it.
“I can get money out of the account, and we can go to Bali or something just as exotic and sexy,” I tell him as I drag a finger down his chest. “And we’d stay gone, using some more money I have stashed away for a rainy day.”
He tenses, and I try to distract him by dragging my hand down farther. He captures my wrist, halting my descent, and looks at me like I’m crazy.
“Why would we do that?” he asks seriously.
Because he doesn’t see.
And I don’t want to get him killed by opening my mouth too soon.
“If I bought two plane tickets tonight, would you go?” I ask him.
That story will be printed tonight, and by tomorrow, the cops will be coming to arrest Herrin. He won’t have a chance to get out of it. The paper has all the proof, even if my brother refuses to listen to me.
Drex’s head has been twisted, since Pop has actually doted on him all these years, grooming him to be the perfect protégé. Drex can’t step outside the bubble of lies long enough to examine the truth.
Maybe if I’d been doted on, I’d be just as fucking clueless, because I wouldn’t want to see. Just like he doesn’t.
He wouldn’t even hear the evidence, let alone see it. He doesn’t want to know, because that would mean he’d have to face the truth.
And life as he knows it would be blown all to hell.
Unlike me, he likes his life.
Just like Rush.
Just like them all.
Rush continues to hesitate, thinking over my question. “I’d rather we just stay here. I’ll eventually earn my cut, and we can ride with them. Your dad won’t mind us together once I’m really in the club.”
The smile on his face is just too honest. Even though he was tossed around and kicked out of home after home until Sledge took him in last year, he’s still too naïve about just how cruel people can be.
“If I said I wanted to leave it all behind and just go be normal, happy people, would you go with me?” I go on, needing him to agree so I can tell him everything and we can get out of here before Pop gets arrested in another state tomorrow night.
He runs his finger down my cheek, a confused smile on his lips.
“No. Because we’re not normal. We’ve both seen shit that prevents us from being like the Barbies and Kens out there. This is home, Kara. And it’s the first time I’ve ever really had a home.”
“Home is just a blanket word used to describe a sense of belonging, and we can belong anywhere we want to together,” I tell him with a soft smile. “Let’s just go far away from here.”
I start to lean up to kiss him, but he moves out from under me with angry, jerky movements.
“What the hell is going on with you?” he snaps as he stands and starts pulling on his jeans with his back to me.
Sitting up and keeping the sheet clutched to my chest, I take a shaky breath.
“Seriously,” he snaps, not looking at me as he dresses. “You’ve been acting weirder and weirder for months now.”
It’s like pulling off a strip of wax. It’ll take too long to slowly try to peel it back from the edges. It’s better to just rip it off.
“A few months ago, I discovered that Herrin killed my mom, and—”
He bursts out laughing, and my heart sinks as he turns around and looks me in the eyes with an incredulous expression.
“Your mom was a junkie. And—”
“My mom and Drex’s mom both died from a drug overdose, and you think that’s a coincidence?” I ask bitterly, tired of trying to coax him into this when he should be willing to go without hesitation if he really cares about me.
It should be a simple choice between me and the club. I suppose it is, since he’s already chosen.
His look softens, and he shakes his head before running a hand through his longer hair, getting it away from his face.
“Look, I know you got issues with your dad, but accusing him of murder just because you need someone to blame isn’t fucking healthy or rational.”
Gritting my teeth, I drop the sheet and start pulling on my own clothes. I should have been gone an hour ago. If that story leaks before it’s printed, Pop will have me dead before I can get out of town.
“When he didn’t have his dick lost in a club whore, he was with Esmerelda getting his dick sucked. My mom was clean and sober for two years and left him because she got sick of catching shit he passed along. But you know Herrin doesn’t like worrying about a loose end, and once you’re in, you’re in for life. He did it, Rush. I’m not making shit up. He killed her and kept me because I was his. We need to go because—”
“No!” he shouts, cutting me off. “No,” he says calmer. “You don’t know what it’s like, Kara. You have no idea what it’s like to be wanted by no one and survive daily for no reason other than you hope tomorrow might finally have something good to bring. Tomorrow finally came for me, and now I’m here. You take all this for granted.”
Something sours in my mouth as I stare at him like I’ve never seen him before. I never questioned his loyalty. I always thought it was to me from the first day we landed in bed together almost six months ago and started sneaking around.
Now I feel like an idiot.
I was just convenient—same age, the P’s daughter, and just fucked up enough to deal with his fucked-up-ness. Bad enough to want sex as much as him. The rest of everything between us has apparently been some stupid teenager’s fantasy I made up in my head.
“I take it all for granted?” I ask quietly, even though it’s just me parroting his words for my own sake.
“Yes,” he says, tossing his arms up. “You walk around and whine about how Herrin is, yet you have no idea what it’s like to live without his money, protection, and actual concern. You’re a princess to those fuckers who would kill anyone for looking at you wrong. You have no idea what it’s like to live without that shit or to be on your own. You’re so fucking spoiled that you look for shit to be wrong just so you have a reason to complain. But you’re nothing but fucking clueless.”
I nod slowly, my eyes dropping to the floor.
“Clueless,” I state as though I’m testing the word. “Sounds like a more accurate depiction of you. But hey, what do I know? You’ve been here a year, and I’ve been here my entire life. Clearly you know the club, my father, and my life better than me.”
Snatching my shoes from the floor, I start to head toward the door, but he grabs me at the elbow.
My eyes drop to the contact, and even as I seethe, my heart breaks a little with the reminder of how I’ll never feel his touch again.
The phone in my back pocket is buzzing, but I ignore it, waiting on whatever Rush will do next.
“Don’t leave mad,” he finally says, stepping closer.
“You don’t really get to tell me how I feel,” I state evenly as my eyes lift to meet his. “I have a father for that.”
Ripping my arm away from him, I watch as the shutters come down over his eyes, and he blows out a breath while shaking his head.
“Whatever,” he says, looking away. “We’ll talk later after you calm down or stop ragging or whatever in the hell has put you in such a shitty mood.”
Snorting derisively, I shove open the door and stalk out, not looking back. I make a quick stop by my clubhouse room, grab my backpack, and strut out of the warehouse like it’s any other day.
No one asks questions.
No one pays attention.
No one notices anything.
Except Germaine who is walking in as I walk out. He tilts his head as he frowns down at me.
“Your Pop called and said to make sure you stayed in today,” he tells me.
“I am staying in. I just need some tampons,” I say with a teasing smile that has him rolling his eyes.
He groans as he pulls out his phone, reading whatever text has just come through. “Hang out here. Let me piss and I’ll take you tampon shopping,” he says on a long, annoyed breath as he walks off, assuming I’ll be a good girl and just wait like I was told to do.
Like I usually do.
As soon as he disappears into the back, I hurry out the door and start jogging.
My phone buzzes again, and I pull it out as I head toward the bus stop. But the loud roar of motorcycles has me whipping my head toward the horizon.
I can’t see them yet, but I hear the thunder they bring before the lightning.
That can’t be good.
The bus stops, and I hop on, planning to take it to the actual bus station. But as I get a seat and we start moving, that ominous thunder grows louder. I can feel the vibrations even inside the bus.
Snatching the hat from my bag, I pull it low over my forehead, and wrap a scarf around my mouth as I peer out the window. Waiting for them to rattle the bus on their way by so I can see the cuts and be certain.
But I know it’s them. I’ve heard the ever-changing thunder my entire life. You know the unified sound their bikes make together. You know when someone new is riding with them. You know it like you know your favorite song they overplay on the radio until you start to hate it.
And even though I know it’s them, my stomach roils when I see them start whirring by with Herrin right out front.
With my father right out front.
The Death Dealers are back from a ride that should have lasted another week.
My phone buzzes again, and with shaky hands I juggle it out.
The name that flashes has me scrambling to answer.
“Demetri, what the hell—”
“If you’re not out of town, do not take the bus, the train, or an airplane. Rent a car and get the fuck out that way, because Herrin knows, Kara. And he’s not going to jail. I can already tell it.”
“What do you mean he knows?” I hiss, trying to keep my voice quiet as my eyes dart around the bus, searching the faces to see if anyone is already scoping me out.
“My editor came back and said he had to pull the story for some bullshit reason. He claims there aren’t enough sources to run a story like this, and the other two sources pulled out when he spoke to them. So I took it all to my friend in Homicide that I was telling you about. He told me to get out of town, and to get you out, because once he started this, it wouldn’t be pretty.”
“We already knew that,” I tell him, another shaky breath leaving me.
“Yeah. What we didn’t know was just how tied in with the cops your father really is. This all happened three days ago. Today, I get a call from a friend who knows I was working the story. He lives up north, and said he saw the Death Dealers cruising back earlier this morning. He just called me about an hour ago, and I’ve been calling you ever since.”
My entire stomach is in knots.
“So someone already warned him,” I say on a whisper.
“And the story is being squashed. No doubt that evidence will go missing. It was all circumstantial as it was. Public outrage was our only hope of even getting this shit taken seriously.”
Swallowing hard, I look back, realizing maybe I’m more naïve than I thought. Because I really thought Herrin would pay for his crimes, when no one else has ever made him pay before.
“Seriously, Kara. Rent a car. Get out of town. Hell, steal a fucking car if you have to. Just don’t use public transportation of any kind, because he’s looking already. Death Dealers are popping up at all the closest points.”
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Why did the guys just let me leave the warehouse? Did they know? Or were they just too low on the tier to get that knowledge?
They’d never call Rush. He’s just a prospect. Leo was there, and he’s barely a half-ass mechanic with a goofy grin. Most of the harder guys weren’t there. Just the family guys who might have lied for me…
We pull up to a stop, and Snake, one of my brother’s guys, is standing at the stop. His bike is parked up on the sidewalk, resting there like it’s a personal parking spot.
My stomach sinks as he steps on and says something to the driver. The driver glances in his rearview mirror, a nervous expression on his face, as Snake starts walking from seat to seat, looking around like he’s searching for someone.
Searching for me.
With all the bravado I can muster, I start talking in a thick, exaggerated southern drawl, changing up the tone of my voice just enough to sound realistic but certainly not like me.
“Yeah, Daddy. I’ll be home later today,” I say, causing Demetri to suck in a breath.
“One’s there?” he whispers.
“Yeah. I’m on the bus right now. I was going to head downtown, but I think I’ll get off at the next stop and wait for you at Misty’s apartment,” I tell him as Snake works his way to be halfway down the bus.
I’m at the very back, so it won’t be long until he reaches me.
Pulling on my sunglasses, I lower the scarf, and fix my hair out of my hat to make it look like a short bob cut instead of longer hair that is being hidden.
“Shit,” Demetri growls. “Stay on the phone with me.”
“She’s your girlfriend, so I doubt she’ll mind the chance to see you if I crash at her place instead of bus hopping just to get across town,” I go on as Snake huffs, glancing this way and flicking his gaze all over.
His gaze hesitates on me, but I continue faking my southern drawl and carry on with the faux conversation.
“Yeah. I will. I’ll also tell her happy birthday for you,” I go on, running out of improv material.
Snake turns around without going all the way to me, and I shudder out a breath as he hurriedly walks back through the rows. He nods at the driver before hopping off, and he boards his bike, driving off.
“He’s gone,” I whisper, my entire body turning to rubber as the bus starts moving again.
“Meet me at the Karina two towns north. It’s a pay-with-cash place and stay there until I get there. You hear me?”
“You need to go too. You were trying to help and now your life is at stake.”
“I’m the one who approached you with my theories and got you to start collecting all the evidence from the inside, Kara. I’m the one who dragged you into this. And for that, I’m sorry. Because of my arrogance, you’re a fifteen-year-old kid whose life is in my hands now. Meet me there. It’s two towns over, okay?”
“Tomorrow,” I tell him. “It’s too hot to get out tonight. By tomorrow, the impatience will get to Herrin and he’ll start expanding his search to Mexico. It’s the obvious thing for me to do instead of going north. I even planted a brochure under my mattress. All his guys will be pulled off the north city exits then, and I can get out.”
“Fine. But hurry. Halo is no longer a safe place for you or me. I’m getting out tonight. I’m almost out now. I’ll call you later.”
Hanging up, I stare out the window, my entire body shaking. I thought I was stronger than this. I thought nothing could scare me, not even Herrin. I was so certain that I bet my life on it.
But I never took into account that I’d be alone.
I was always sure I’d have Rush at my back from the day this all started, back when Demetri approached me three months ago at school while he posed as a substitute teacher just to get close to me.
Now it’s all going to hell, and I’m facing it alone.
And I don’t even know what will happen to him now that I’m gone, but I know he’ll be safe as long as he keeps his mouth shut about being with me.
I don’t have to worry about Rush.
He’s a survivor.
A much better survivor than me.
Because I bit the devil thinking he wouldn’t bite back.
After two hours, I start panicking, because Demetri was close to being out of town, swore he’d call, and now he’s not answering his phone.
A loud pounding at the door causes me to squeal as I drop the phone from my hands, and I stare at the door with a thunderous heartbeat pummeling my ears and causing my eyes to twitch in time with the pulses.
“Kara, open the fucking door now!” Drex shouts.
I dart to the door and sling it open, my entire body shaking as Drex barges in and shuts the door behind him.
“How did you find me?” I ask on a rasp.
He cuts his furious eyes toward me. “Do you really think sunglasses and a fake accent fooled Snake? Pop has guys out everywhere looking for you, and you lucked up by being spotted by my guy who called me instead of Pop. Not everyone wants you dead. It took me this damn long just to get away without being suspicious,” he bites out.
“Why didn’t you call and warn me you were coming back early if you’re trying to keep me alive?” I volley, eyes narrowing.
He glares at me as he steps closer. “Pop had us start driving balls-to-the-wall nonstop a few days ago. Said we had to get back, but he didn’t say why. You think he’d risk spooking you? He told us to tell no one we were coming back early, because someone might try to ambush us.”
“And of course you guys never question what he says,” I bitterly point out.
“We didn’t find out until we were almost back in the town. Pop has spread men out all over to look for you the second two of the guys told him you’d left without an escort.”
I start chewing on my thumbnail, feeling like an idiot for waiting this long to get out of town.
“What were you thinking, Kara? You went to the fucking cops?” he barks.
Not correcting him, because I’m still not sure what has happened to Demetri, I pretend as though that’s exactly what went down.
“I’m not wrong about this Drex. He killed my mother, and he probably killed yours too. Are you really so blind you can’t see it? How does he have everyone fooled when he doesn’t even try to hide what a monster he is?” I shout, tears teetering on the edges of my eyelids.
He curses before pushing a hand through his hair and pacing.
“I’ve got you a car. Cash is in the back. A couple of burner phones are in there too. You need to get rid of your phone immediately. Kara, you have to get out of here, and you need to do it now.”
“Come with me,” I say quietly, trying not to sound like I’m begging. “I don’t even have a driver’s license, Drex. What am I supposed to do on my own?”
The look he gives me is the most humane expression I’ve ever seen on his face, and he’d never let our father see it for fear that he’d be called weak.
It’s agony. He’s torn.
He doesn’t believe me, but he doesn’t want to send me off on my own.
“I can’t,” he says, not surprising me.
It’s my second rejection of the day. One by lover and one by brother.
The club has them both.
And I’m just the spoiled brat stirring up unnecessary trouble in their lives. The lives they love. The lives they appreciate.
Never mind if it’s all a lie.
It’s easier to hide behind the lie than to fight for the truth.
Standing taller and holding back the tears, I nod like I get it, unable to speak.
“Go. Now. Axle, Dash, and Snake are in charge of this area. When your car passes, you’ll be moving into Sledge’s territory. The map with your route out of town is in the passenger seat. Understand? Even if they catch you, they’ll let you go. But as long as you be cool and drive naturally, they’ll never think to look for that car, and they won’t know which direction you went. Got it?”
Numbly, I nod again, not saying a word.
He grabs the back of my head, pulling me to him roughly, and I remain limp in his arms as my brother hugs me for the first time in my life. We’re not a family of huggers, obviously, so I know this is the last time he ever plans to see me.
I’m being cast out.
All to be forgotten.
It hurts like hell.
But I don’t cry.
He leaves, and I calmly gather my things, listening to the roar of his motorcycle as it revs to life and peals out. I walk down the stairs of the motel with unhurried movements, and walk to the car that beeps when I press the unlock button.
It’s not a fancy car or an old beater. It’s right in the middle, though I can’t tell you the make or model, because I’m too numb to be observant.
I do as instructed, driving the path he traced out of town for me, never getting panicked again because I’m too busy not feeling anything.
It isn’t until I’m two states away and borrowing a gas station bathroom that all the emotion hits me at once. I slide down against the wall as my chest caves in on itself when reality crashes into me like a train.
And I give myself five minutes of solid sobbing in the public restroom, ignoring the concerned women who fail to get the strange crying girl to speak.
After that, I clean up and get out before the cops get called.
I don’t cry again.
At least not over the two men who betrayed me when it mattered the most.
“Anything?” Drex asks me when I answer his weekly call.
The weekly calls only started about a month ago, even though I’ve been at this particular job for much longer.
If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be talking weekly to Drex about a girl we avoided speaking about for years, I’d have shot you in both knees just to piss you off as much as you’d pissed me off with such an insinuation.
Yet here I am, doing exactly that, and no one is mourning their shot kneecaps either.
It’s all been some kind of fucked up mashing of lives over the past year.
“Same as always on her end. Work first thing in the mornings, next she hits the gym, and after that she heads home and starts her nightly ritual of doing random shit. Tonight’s random thing is stringing popcorn on fishing wire.”
He sighs like he’s not amused. “Some days I’m certain he’s found her and is toying with us. Some days I don’t think he has a clue if she’s alive or dead. Some days I think he’s forgotten about her altogether. I hate these head games. You never know what Herrin’s next play will be. I’m not willing to risk her.”
Looking through the window, I watch as she moves around her small apartment that has no blinds. I mean, if she’s not putting up blinds, clearly she wants to be watched.
“For a girl afraid of dying, she’s recklessly vulnerable with her home situation.”
“It’s been seven years, Rush. She’s likely gotten too comfortable and considered the threat to be over.”
“There might be one issue,” I tell him, cracking my neck to the side. “But it’s not with Herrin. It’s the thing I found out about last year.”
“The thing you dug up?” he asks vaguely, like he’s making sure no one can overhear.
“If I dug it up, then I’m sure someone else has pieced it together. Five guys rolled into town about two hours ago asking questions about Karen Canady and where they can find her.”
I hear him mutter a curse, and then some shuffling comes through over the phone.
“Is she aware of them? And are you sure this isn’t related to Herrin?”
“She’s not aware of them, from what I’ve observed. I only caught wind of them because of some of the bugs we have in the local stores. Definitely not Herrin’s guys. They were also asking about their brother and if anyone remembered him.”
“Shit,” he says on a long breath.
“Maybe they’re drawing the same conclusion I did,” I go on. “Eight months ago, Collin Smith drives through a nowhere-town on his way to his family’s hunting lodge. Next thing you know, he’s met a girl and decides to skip the family hunting trip and spend two weeks here instead. In forty-eight hours, he went missing and no one heard from him again, though there were some shady credit card charges at gas stations alongside the interstate.”
“During two days where Karen wasn’t at work,” he says on a sigh. “If she killed him, there was a reason. Either he knew her and was going to blackmail her, or he really pissed her off.”
“I’m guessing it won’t matter to the five brothers who are coming through on their way to the family’s hunting lodge. My guess is they stopped here to pick something up to hunt.”
“Then I strongly suggest keeping a close eye on the situation and turn them into the hunted if that’s the case,” he bites out.
“No worries,” I say with a smirk.
My fist forms as Kara starts taking off her clothes for the whole damn world to see, per the usual. But when she moves through her house, I start moving through mine.
Her bedroom can only be seen from my room, and we’re barely twenty feet apart. All the houses are small with about the same space between them.
She wisely surrounded herself with people who would hear a gunshot, and in this rinky dink town that has very little crime, someone would also immediately report a gunshot.
She slips out of the rest of her clothes, and my eyes rake over her naked body with the same appreciation I’ve felt for months. Her curves are twice as sexy as they used to be. Her hair is platinum blonde, a stark contrast to the raven’s hair she was born with.
Her lips stay lined in red.
Her contacts stay blue.
Everything about her screams, “fuck me.”
No longer is she the fifteen-year-old kid who wrapped herself around me in secrecy every night. No longer is she a kid at all.
But neither am I.
I’m nothing like she remembers.
“Rush, you there?” Drex asks, reminding me I’m on the phone with her brother.
The idle thought of jerking off to the sight of her is immediately nixed.
Clearing my throat and smirking, I answer, “Yeah. Just got distracted. Any word on that Demetri guy you were looking into?”
“Yeah. He died seven years ago. Same night we got back into town and I sent Kara off safely. I still haven’t found the story he intended to print. I wouldn’t have known about him at all if Sarah hadn’t had her hacker friend do some digging on everyone Kara was in contact with back then.”
I take a deep breath, not wanting to recall the fucking day from hell when the life I was finally happy with was suddenly ripped to shreds. I hated her at first.
Actually, I still hate her when I think about it.
Then I hated myself.
Still do in some ways.
Then I hated Drex.
Still do most days, if I’m being honest.
But the one person I’ve hated the most through all of this? Herrin. And I hate him every single second of every single day with every single breath in my body.
My jaw grinds as I start speaking again. “Herrin got to him that fast?” I ask quietly.
“Yeah. He’d have gotten to Kara too. They were both too naïve to know what they were up against.”
“But you knew. And you still didn’t bother to come find me,” I point out.
“I had no idea you were with her. I thought you two were friends, but you played dumb during all that,” he growls.
“I played dumb because I didn’t want Herrin getting any information out of me. And I sure as fuck didn’t trust his golden boy son,” I say, and then I groan when he starts laughing under his breath.
“Can we skip this argument just once?” he finally asks, still sounding amused.
“Fuck off,” I tell him before hanging up.
It’s good timing, because she walks out of the bathroom, still naked, after presumably doing various girly things as part of her nightly ritual. I hate that the windowless bathroom hides her from me when she goes in there.
When she climbs onto her bed, she shoves the sheets down, settling in for another nightly ritual I love watching.
In fact, it’s the favorite part of my fucking day and has been for months.
She reaches over, grabs her bright pink vibrator, and I step out of my boxers after pushing them off as I grab the lotion and work it all over my painful hard-on. Leaning one arm against the wall beside my window, I fist my cock in my hand as she goes straight to work.
She runs the vibrator up and down, using her own arousal to coat the tip and prep it for her. Her body starts to move as she teases herself, giving herself the only foreplay she can get without a second party.
I’d kill a fucker if there was a boyfriend in the picture I had to watch touch her. It’s fortunate she’s single.
That vibrator moves inside her, and the little bunny ears at the top start moving doing their own job. I’ve broken in a time or two and studied that vibrator up close, wanting to know each detail about it so I could really appreciate my view at night.
Her back arches as the purple vibrator works her toward orgasm, and my hand pumps harder so I can catch up with her. When her mouth opens to make a sound I can’t hear—but distinctly remember like it was yesterday—as her body arches and her free hand fists the sheet beneath her, pleasure starts at the base of my balls, shooting up my spine, and I explode, shooting my release all over the wall in front of me and not giving a shit.
It joins the rest of the mess I’ve been making for months. I pity the fucker who has to clean it up when I’m finally gone.
After cleaning myself up, I move to my bed in the dark room. The windows have been specially tinted on my house specifically to keep anyone from seeing in without the lights on. They have a reflective surface during the day when the sun is shining.
It makes stalking a little easier. She makes it easy too.
Half the time I want to fuck her. The other half I still want to turn my back the second I know she’s safe.
If she’d told me she was actually going to run that night, I would have gone with her. At least that’s what I tell myself. If she’d have told me every-fucking-thing, I know for certain I would have gone.
But she didn’t.
She gave me half the information and a conversation that sounded hypothetical. Then she fucking left.
And when she was hurting and feeling alone, and finally reached the point where she wanted to call someone and ask them to come to where she was, it wasn’t me she called.
The only time Kara Caine has tried to reach out in all these years was the one time she called her brother.
She didn’t call me.
I have one job to do that Drex knew I’d never let anyone else handle, and that’s making sure she’s safe from Herrin without uprooting the life she’s made for herself.
So that’s all I’m doing.
At least that’s what I tell myself.
“I’m going to be running a little late today,” I tell Julia as I park behind the restaurant and hurry toward the street.
“How late?” she asks on an annoyed sigh.
“Not sure. I’m never late, so don’t act like it’s that inconvenient. I have an appointment at nine this morning, and it could be short or long, depending on the news.”
She mutters a curse and snaps at Pauly to get his ass in gear because the eggs can’t cook themselves.
“Fine. Whatever. Just try not to be too late. You know Pancake Tuesdays are the busiest.”
“I know. That’s why I keep pushing for Pancake Thursdays too, because Pancake tips are the best.”
She groans like she wants to kill me, but I love the busy days. The days go quicker and I make a hell of a lot more in tips.
“What’s the meeting about?” she pries. “If you’re thinking about taking that job over at Henrietta’s diner—”
“I’m not,” I butt in, jogging toward the back of the coffee shop and spotting my nine o’ clock sitting in the exact spot I expected, back turned to me as he feigns interest in the paper.
“Good. Then hurry.”
Hanging up, I move quickly, snatching up the table just behind him, and steady myself as I finally bring this stupid little game to an end. It’s gotten tedious at this point.
“I keep waiting for you to make yourself known. I’ve never had a stalker before, so what has attracted you to me?” I ask, glad my voice is steady and doesn’t shake, even though it’s taking all I have not to tremble.
The tedious game I’m referring to is the waiting game, and he still hasn’t made a move.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice him visibly tense, and he doesn’t answer right away. So I prattle on, pretending to be unaffected.
“I mean, the coffee is mediocre at best here, so I know you don’t come to this exact table just to drink it all day on the days I work. Especially since the lettering on the window here obstructs the view to your face from the diner, but still allows you to easily see through my work’s windows. So who are you? The devil or the devil’s advocate?”
Turning, I move my face close to the back of his neck, and he cracks his neck to the side without turning to face me as he pulls out his earbud.
I’m giving myself away, but if he’s been watching me for months, he’s not too convinced that I really am Karen Canady.
Tattoos slither up the back of his neck, and I try to figure out who he is without asking. I’ve never seen him up close, but I’m not an idiot. He started showing up a few months ago, and he’s grown increasingly obvious with his stalking from over here.
I’m paranoid, so I notice shit like this.
“Neither,” is his gruff reply as he shakes out the paper and starts feigning interest in it once more.
As much as I don’t want to out myself, my paranoia can’t handle this anymore. I need real sleep, and I can’t get it when I have a gun under my pillow with my finger poised on the trigger, waking to the sound of every creak, crack, and tap in my house.
“You’re going to have to do better than that. You see, I’ve been in this town for a while. They don’t know the Death Dealers. The MCs who pass through here are actually the normal, good-guy kind. You know, the guys who ride for fun, do incredibly charitable work for the communities…like raising awareness for autism, and other good things like that. They may look rough but they hug like teddy bears. This place doesn’t have the fear they need to give a shit who you are, and I’m five seconds from calling the police if you don’t tell me who you are and what you want.”
He snorts as though he finds this all amusing, and I stand up and move around the busy coffee shop to sit down in front of him. I steel myself for whatever comes next.
The paper lowers immediately, and my breath runs out in a harsh burst. I didn’t steel myself enough to see the ice-blue eyes that are staring back into mine.
Eyes I never thought I’d see staring through me again.
Most people only know him by one name. Even his closest friends assumed it was his real name. Even the club assumed that one name was actually his.
But I know who he really is.
Rusty Asher, only known to the Death Dealers as Rush, sits in front of me, eyes on mine like it’s no big deal as he smirks and arches an eyebrow.
His body is different than I can remember, but since he’s sitting down, it’s hard to be sure how different. Gone is the long hair, and in its place…a more spiky look. Gone is the soft look in his eyes, replaced by a harder, less naïve glare.
Gone is the boy I knew if he’s come to this town, and in his place, someone who was sent by Herrin to finally take me out.
My hands ball into fists under the table as I try to regain my composure. I guess I only thought I was ready to confront this. Pop really is a demon to use Rush for this.
“So it’s you,” I state, sounding much calmer and less betrayed than I feel. “In the end, he sent you.”
Rush, for whatever reason, rolls his pretty/hard eyes. “Herrin didn’t send me. Drex did. I can’t talk about this here, so if you want to chat, let’s find somewhere with fewer people,” he tells me, his voice sounding deeper, rougher, and much…different than I remember.
I really don’t like the way my stupid body tries to respond to it. I know better than to be that ridiculous. The past is the past.
The present is constant paranoia and Death Dealer drama.
“I’m sure you’d like to get me somewhere with fewer people,” I say with a bitter smile, trying not to show him how much this actually hurts. “But I’m also sure you understand I didn’t survive seven years just to die now by the hands of a guy I once begged to go away with me.”
I take his coffee, drink a sip, still playing the part of a girl who isn’t inwardly pissing herself like a wimp. Fear always spikes my sex drive. I’m fucked up like that.
I blame my raising.
He just smirks. Rush was never a smirker unless it involved some exaggerated praise for his juvenile bedroom skills.
Now he smirks at something like this?
“Lots of things have gone down this past year,” he says, pulling his coffee back and sipping it as well. “I’ll fill you in later. For now, don’t you have a job to go to?”
Standing like it’s no big deal he plans to get me alone, I shrug, pretending not to be fazed by the fact he mentioned later a little too assuredly. “Suit yourself. Get trigger happy, and you won’t get out of town. They go so far as to track down jay-walkers here. Strict town, this one,” I chirp.
Putting the devil’s advocate at my back, I turn and walk out. My entire body is humming with nervous energy that I hide as I walk out of the coffee shop and cross the street to the diner like I haven’t a care in the world.
That didn’t go at all the way it was going in my head.
Julia is hustling between tables, and relief crosses her face when she sees me. I don’t say anything as I go to clock in and put on my apron. She meets me in the back just as I put my pen behind my ear.
“I’m so glad you’re here.”
“You still have that hiring file updated?” I ask her, ignoring her sound of relief.
Frowning, she nods. “Yeah, but I can’t really afford to hire anyone new yet. The renovations—”
“Remember when I told you I had some issues with my mom that might one day cause problems, and that I might have to leave with very little notice?” I interrupt, concentrating on retying my apron instead of meeting her eyes this time.
“Sheesh, Karen, you told me about that when I first hired you…like seven or eight years ago…and never spoke about your family again. Now you bring it up?” Her hand comes down on mine, and I look up into her worried eyes. “Are you in trouble?”
Ha! Understatement of the century. Time to bump up my acting skills.
“Of course not,” I lie with a tight smile. “Just some family stuff I need to take care of out in New York.”
Lies. All lies. Everything this town knows about Karen Canady is one solid blanket of tightly woven lies to cover up Kara Caine.
“How long will you be gone?” she asks.
“At least a year, but I hope to be back sooner than that.” Another lie.
I’ll either be dead or gone for good so I can start over as another girl in another small town.
Rush can’t do anything to me while I’m in here, so I have at least a couple of hours to work out my next move.
“When do you leave?” she asks, sounding defeated.
I wouldn’t call us friends, but she does. I’ve always been careful not to get too close. I never wanted to feel comfortable enough to spill my secrets to a friendly ear, only to have it thrown back in my face and cost me my savings or my life.
“Tomorrow morning.” Another lie.
At least I finally know who my perverted neighbor is. I see his shadow move through the house, always following me and never turning on his lights.
Always watching me.
It’s a little weird now that I know it was him and not just some random flunky my father or brother sent to spy on me…or simply slit my throat.
Rush certainly isn’t one of my brother’s guys.
I spent all that time putting on a little show for him, planning to draw him out and force him to try something so I could put a bullet in his head. When he never made a move, I started wondering why he was content to just watch.
Now I don’t care. I sure as hell can’t shoot Rush. Almost anyone else, but not Rush.
“Call me before you leave,” Julia tells me, patting my shoulder. “I’ll get your paycheck ready.”
I give her a soft smile and nod before heading out on the floor. Charity almost bumps into me, and her eyes fill with relief and annoyance when she sees me.
“About time you show up. Table two has had five guys on it for most of the morning. You take them, because I’m sick of doing refills, and it’s your section. They won’t leave more than five dollars for a tip. I know the type.”
Instead of saying anything to her—the way I usually do when she tries to boss me around—I grab the coffee pot and the water pitcher. Plastering on my waitressing smile, I move through the routine, feigning indifference to my stalker across the street.
I take orders, give refills, moving quickly through the rows of my section. When I finally reach the table of five, they all turn to look at me.
Which is creepy.
But a slow smile spreads my lips when I realize who they are. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them.
One of them glances at my name tag. “Karen Canady?” he asks, a slow smile creeping up.
“Yeah. How’d you know my last name?” I ask.
They seem homegrown and country bred. Just backwoods enough to be brutal and bold, yet refined enough to where you know they’re also clever. If you pay attention, that is.
“You’re the employee of the month,” the blond says as he gestures above his head to my row of endless pictures. “Apparently, you’re always the employee of the month. Underachieving in life, Karen?”
I flash my smile again.
“You guys need refills?” I ask instead of answering.
The one closest to me pushes his coffee cup toward me, and I top it off, as another says, “Your name sounds real familiar, though it took me a minute to place it,” one says, but…the words sound like bait instead of truth.
My gaze flicks up, and I literally bat my lashes. “Oh?”
I top off another coffee, and start filling water glasses as he answers.
“Yeah. Actually, I think I heard it the first time about a month ago. You see, we’re passing through on our way to our family’s hunting lodge, and I came through last month to see if I could get any answers about our brother.”
“Mmm,” I murmur as I narrow my eyes.
“Your name came up.”
“Oh?” I ask again. “Maybe I could help. I know most everyone in town, so strangers stick out.”
I don’t like the grin he gives me. Too obvious. Maybe they’re not too clever.
“Oh, and do you know this guy?” Troy…er…I mean the blondish-redhead says…with zero finesse.
It’s easier to feign unfamiliarity when you don’t think of people you know with names.
“His name is Collin Smith. He’s our youngest brother. Ever seen him?” he asks, pushing the picture and name at me.
I don’t react at all. My features remain exactly the same as I slowly feign interest in the photo.
“Hmm…he does look familiar,” I say as I study the blond in the photograph.
“But I can’t say if I actually remember him or not. When did you say he came through?” I go on.
Five hard looks meet mine when my gaze swings up, and not one of them looks impressed with my acting skills. To be fair, my awesome skills only get used when I want to use them.
“Thing is, fella at the pawn shop says he remembers him hanging around this diner all day when we told him there was a girl in town that caught our brother’s attention. He knew without a doubt it’d be you,” he drawls, his eyes raking over me.
“Definitely Collin’s type,” another chimes in.
“That fella also said you worked a double that day, and Collin stayed in your section for fourteen hours. That’s a lot of time to forget, don’t you think, Ms. Canady?”
I find it annoying that they neglect to mention the ‘anonymous tip’ they got that told them to go see Perry Waters.
Old, reliable Perry Waters and his nosy people-watching and meticulous note taking. I bet he pulled out a journal, happy to help them if he could.
I hate it when girls wring their hands, but I wish I could do it right now.
“Well, my memory isn’t quite so good. It’s actually not that uncommon for out-of-towners to spend most of the day in here. Free wifi, free refills—as you boys have certainly taken advantage of, from what I hear.” I wink at them, sticking with the small-town charm thing. “The food is good, the coffee is the best in town, and the pie is something people write home about. If you’ll excuse me, I need to see to the other customers.”
A hand clamps down on my arm before I can pick up my coffee pot, and my gaze flicks to the bastard gripping it much tighter than necessary.
“Hate to be a bother, Miss,” the guy says without an ounce of sincerity, “but when our parents died back ten years ago, they left us in charge of our little brother. He’s about your age,” he goes on. “What are you, twenty-one? Twenty-two?”
I just smile tightly.
“As I said, I don’t quite remember him. Faces come and go, and I don’t have the ability to commit them all to memory.”
“I asked your age, sweetheart,” the guy says, moving a little closer as his hand tightens on my wrist.
My eyes lock on his, and I hold his gaze.
This day will be very interesting before it’s over. It’s been a long time since I had an interesting day. Didn’t realize the adrenaline rush could feel this good.
“Everything okay over here, Karen?” Deputy Warren asks, coming close enough for me to see the coffee cup in his hand from my peripheral as he stands close to me.
The guy glaring into my eyes releases me with a sinister grin on his lips, and I straighten, ignoring the throbbing in my arm. It takes more than that to make me flinch at pain. That’s the leftover stubborn pride I have for fear of ever looking even a little weak.
My family would eat the weak alive and then laugh about their tears while ‘toughening them up’ some more.
But…Warren doesn’t miss the marks left behind on my arm.
“These guys are looking for their brother who went missing a year ago, and for whatever reason, they seem to suspect me,” I tell Warren, looking over at him with my faux fearful eyes.
Warren’s eyes widen in disbelief, and the five guys at the table bristle, clearly not expecting me to just blurt it out like that. After all, I’m just a little girl they wanted to intimidate before they follow me home to torture and kill me.
That’s not the paranoia talking either.
“I’m afraid you boys might need to load up soon and get out of town,” Warren tells them coldly, and I step closer, playing the victim even as I restrain my smile.
The diner has grown quiet, all eyes on them now. The tables have turned, because several of the bigger guys in the diner stand, making a show of backing Warren.
The five guys at the table slowly stand, their eyes leveling me with a silent threat. I love it when I do the unexpected and it leaves my opponent in a silent stupor.
That’s what they get for leaving out the anonymous tip thing.
Warren makes sure to put himself between me and them, and everyone in the diner turns to watch them walk out. The five of them leave real damn fast.
The thing about small towns is once you’re one of them, they have your back.
My eyes flit over to the coffee shop, and I see Rush standing outside, propped against the wall as he stares directly at me like he was viewing the entire showdown.
His earbuds are back in, because he’s had the diner wired for a while. I found the first camera two months ago. Clearly I gave no indication that I found it, but for every one I’ve found, ten more are probably hidden around all aspects of my life.
I think it’s cute how Rush apparently feels I’ve lost my edge over the past seven years. This is the first time my adrenaline has spiked in years with the edge of fear/excitement instead of just looking-over-my-shoulder fear.
“This is a terrible start to your last day,” Julia says as she comes over. “Are you okay?”
“Last day?” Warren asks, an air of suspicion in his tone.
“It’s been coming for a while,” Julia tells him vaguely. “She didn’t want a fuss made over her, but her momma needs her help.”
Warren’s eyes soften, and the tiny bit of suspicion flees.
“If those five come back, you give me a call, you hear,” Warren tells Julia.
“Of course,” she answers without hesitation, her voice a little shaky.
Warren leans over to my ear. “Be careful with whatever is coming, Karen. And call me if you need me for anything.”
If it wasn’t such a small town, I’d kiss his cheek for that offer, because I know without a doubt it’d be genuine. But since it is a small town, I’d rather not get his wife pissed at him, since she already hates me.
“Thanks, Warren. More coffee?” I ask, holding up the pot.
He just grins as I top him off, and then he heads back to his seat to talk the “good ol’ boys” club, who all nod at me before they sit back down.
I’m really going to miss this town.
Julia drags me toward the back, and I practically feel the nervous tension bouncing off her when we’re alone.
“Absolutely nothing to worry about,” I assure her.
“Their brother, what did he look like?” she asks seriously.
I smirk. “Pretty cute.”
She rolls her eyes. “You really should take some things seriously,” she grumbles, going back out to work.
If only she knew…
My eyes lift to the window like it’s already a bad habit, but Rush isn’t there anymore. He’s also not at the coffee shop table where he hides behind the letters on the windows.
I have no idea who Rusty Asher is anymore, but I know he looked twice as lethal without an ounce of humor or charm left in his voice or his dead, cold eyes.
Right now, I’d be far more afraid of one man than five, even if I felt like I had to be afraid of the Smith brothers.
I know I’m an excellent actress. I’ve had a lot of experience in that. With any good luck, I’m still smarter than Rusty Asher.
“That little problem is now a big one,” I tell Drex over speakerphone as I finish cleaning my gun and assembling it.
I move on to the next gun when I’m finished, my jaw ticking as I do so.
“How big?” Drex asks loudly, trying to make his voice carry over the obnoxious music in the background.
Sounds like there’s yet another party to keep the guys happy despite death coming at us from every angle.
Fucking Death Chasers is now our new name, compliments of that fucknut Drake. I told Drex to stop letting Eve hang around Drake so much. Lately, she sounds just fucking like him.
“It’s probably going to get messy. They didn’t get a hotel room, so I couldn’t bug the place. The car they drove was parked right in front of the diner window where they were sitting, so I couldn’t get close enough to bug it before they left.” I take a breath and a moment to get my anger restrained. “They threatened her. And I’m guessing shit will be going down tonight since Kara’s planning on splitting tonight, even though she told people in town she was leaving tomorrow.”
“Why the hell is she planning on splitting?” he snaps.
My jaw tics again as I roll my eyes at my own damn self. “Apparently she’s not quite as oblivious to the world as I pegged her to be.” I finish the next gun and start on another. “She made me this morning.”
I ignore the string of curses he releases after that as I start strapping down with all the weapons.
“What now?” I ask him after a beat, even though I know damn well what he’s going to say.
“If she gets gone, she could disappear for good.” The music cuts out like he’s just closed himself off in a room.
“Drex?” I hear Eve asking hesitantly.
“Yeah, it’s me. But keep this fucking door locked when I’m not in here.”
“The lock broke.”
“When the hell did it break?”
“Hate to interrupt this domestic moment you’re having about locking a damn door, but what do you want me to do?” I drawl, hiding my fraying thread of thin patience.
Drex blows out a heavy breath, telling Eve to hold on a minute.
Finally, he says, “I think it’s time to bring my sister home. It’s the only thing we can do, because Herrin might find her the next time when I can’t.”
I finish putting together my final gun a little rougher than necessary.
“Can you handle that on your own?” he asks.
“The five hunters won’t be an issue,” I tell him vaguely. “Other than the mess. I’ll need help cleaning that up.”
“I’ll see if Maya can help out with that. On more than one occasion she’s offered me her ‘cleaning’ crew.”
I pause, hesitating for a second. “Remind me again what it was like before the club got tangled up with the mafia.”
He mutters something I miss, but I don’t care enough about it to have him repeat it louder.
“If Maya can get a cleaning crew out here in time to help me out of this mess, remind me to never piss her off.”
“I’ll go ask her,” I hear Eve saying.
Apparently she’s been listening in, or Drex put the phone on speaker. Don’t even get me started on that situation.
“You didn’t answer me about being able to bring her back. Will that be a problem for you? I still don’t know the extent of how close you two were, but I’m sure she wasn’t real happy to see you if she’s planning to split,” Drex goes on.
I crack my neck to one side and then the other before responding.
“She doesn’t know what’s going on, and as far as she’s concerned, she thinks Herrin sent me.”
The fucker laughs.
“I guess she doesn’t know just how much you hate Pop.”
“I was a prospect the last time she saw me in the club. I thought I knew more than her, and I didn’t. Doesn’t matter now,” I answer, muttering the last part.
After a beat of silence, he responds a little quieter. “Guess not. Things have changed.”
Things took too damn long to change.
“I can get her back to Halo. But she’ll definitely be pissed by the time we arrive. How do you plan to keep her there?” I ask him.
“I plan to give her the one thing she’s wanted for the past seven years,” he answers automatically, causing my lips to twitch. “Are you sure you can handle these guys?” he adds, killing my sliver of a good mood.
“Stop pissing me off, Drex. I said I can—”
My words cut off when I see headlights shining through the window.
I’ve been watching the house and listening to the diner’s audio, because I’m a multitasker like that. All the video footage from the diner is still rolling.
I watched her lock up thirty minutes ago and walk Julia out to her car. I didn’t miss the fact she had her hand in her purse the whole time like her finger was ready on a hidden trigger.
“She’s home. Either they’ll come for her here, or they’ll follow her out,” I tell him.
“Maya said she’d have a crew meet him. Just tell him to turn on his GPS so they can locate him,” I hear Eve saying.
“It’s already on,” I tell her warily. “Wait, that’s all they fucking need in order to find me?”
I really hate the motherfucking mafia. They make me feel like a little kid playing with a gun on my bicycle. Dicks.
“What about more firepower?” I hear Drex asking.
“Doesn’t work like that. That would take longer to assemble, but cleaning crews are all over and always prepared at a moment’s notice, apparently. I decided not to ask for any more details,” Eve explains.
My head drops back, and I silently count to ten while staring at the ceiling, as I wait on the two of them to stop forgetting I’m on the fucking phone.
“Just sayin’, the two of you can chitchat later,” I butt in.
Hearing the sound of her door closing, my head comes down, and I watch as Kara prances through her house like she’s not in any sort of hurry. Her eyes briefly glance to my house, which isn’t something she usually does. She studies it a moment, moving closer.
I’ve taken painstaking measures to ensure this place looks abandoned, assuming she had no clue I was over here this entire time. Now I think she’s known I was watching her all along.
She just didn’t know it was me.
Since Eve and Drex are still talking to each other, I just hang up the phone and stare back at her, certain she can’t see me.
“What are you up to, Kara?” I ask on a whisper as I appraise her calculated eyes.
I was too young to fully appreciate just how calculated she was even as a teenager. She’s truly Herrin’s daughter in that aspect.
Back then she was young and a little too arrogant to properly execute things with smooth finesse. She’s had seven years to learn from her mistakes, shed her lingering naivety, and plan her next move.
Seven years to rely solely on herself and learn to hate us all a little more.
Seven years to become someone completely different.
Just last year she killed a man—now I know it without a doubt. For all I know, she’s killed several.
Not surprising, really, but definitely a sharp reminder that I’m not dealing with just some pretty girl with a convincing smile, who also happens to be sprinkled with faux small-town charm.
She’s a chameleon and knows how to blend in, even when everything about her stands out.
Kara Caine is a lethal survivor expertly pretending to be a delicate fucking flower. She’s the daughter of Herrin and the sister of Drex. She grew up in a home full of criminals, delinquents, and killers.
And she never acted afraid.
Not even once.
At least not in front of me.
I have to remind myself of this quite a bit when I think about all the ways this could go wrong. Because she’s more likely to cut my dick off these days than suck it.
Then she’d probably mail it back to me when she’s three thousand miles away.
She stops staring into the window, but a suspicious smirk forms on her lips as she turns and walks away. She’s quieter today than usual, so I turn up the volume on the cameras I have in her house. Then I turn on the video feed…when there’s suddenly a blanket over her bedroom window.
She definitely fucking knows I’m over here.
My eyes land on the video as she seems to search her room for something, flipping over a snow globe, a jewelry box, and various other small but stationary items.
“Clever girl,” I say to myself as my smile starts to spread. She’s looking for bugs.
She even pulls her mattress off, searching through it. The knife in the bedside table gets pulled out before she uses it to rip her mattress down the middle, gutting it.
Cursing, she runs a frustrated hand through her hair, and she starts searching anew. Her eyes pass over the very discreet camera that is hidden in the eye of her angel figurine.
“If you’re listening, I’d like to tell you to go fuck yourself,” she says as she flips off the covered window.
“Done it quite often, baby,” I say to her, grinning when she starts pulling free the guns she has taped to the underside of her bed and dressers.
She tosses them all in a backpack.
She turns and kicks a boot against the sheetrock wall so hard it dents it. Then she kicks it again and again…and again.
When the wall is broken in several places, she easily knocks away the remaining bits that are hanging as she pulls out a second, dust-covered bag and tosses it on her back as well.
“Now what is that?” I ask as I lean forward, studying the footage closely.
She climbs to the top of her closet, pulling out cash from up there and rolls it into a bundle, before she puts it into her first backpack.
For a solid hour, she pulls out hidden things. She doesn’t speak or call anyone, almost as though she thinks I’ll be clueless so long as she’s quiet.
I guess she’s been out of the game just long enough to miss out on the fact discreet video feed is more frequently used than simple audio.
Her eyes flick to the angel as though she senses me there, and she tilts her head.
“Don’t do it, Kara,” I say like she can hear me.
She starts to go toward it, when her phone rings. Distracted, she turns around and picks it up, reads whatever the text says, and starts packing again.
I immediately pick up my secondary phone, since I cloned her phone a while back. Her texts are usually boring as hell.
JULIA: Those guys haven’t been seen anywhere in town since this morning. Warren called.
I watch Kara peer out her living room window like she’s making sure they’re not sitting right outside on her front lawn.
I watch as she moves through the hallway and her room without ever passing in front of another window. In fact, she ducks beneath one window and crawls as she makes a pit stop by the garage and tosses the bags into the car.
I can’t wait to tell her I have cameras all over her house so I can watch her feel stupid for the first time ever. In the past, she was always the one pissing me off so much because of how stupid I felt when she unraveled a scheme in front of me.
Either she’s gotten terrible at this, or she thinks I’m an idiot.
After an hour or so, she climbs into the guest bed on the other side of the house where I don’t have a viewing window, not using her purple vibrator for once.
A small grin turns up at the corners of my lips as I grab a bag of zip-ties, eyeing them.
“This will be the worst road trip ever,” I say to myself as I grab what essentials I need.
Propping up, I sit down on my chair, since it looks like it’s going to be a long night.
Her phone rings, and I pick up my earbud, putting it in so I can listen to both sides of the conversation.
“You weren’t in bed yet, were you?” Julia asks.
“No,” Kara immediately tells her. “Something wrong?”
“I forgot to get your paycheck out of the office, and I also forgot the deposit drops for the day. Can you meet me at the diner?”
“Right now?” Kara groans.
Clicking the mouse, I flip to the diner’s feed, seeing all is quiet in the parking lot. Warren is actually sitting out there in his usual spot, watching for speeders near the one red light. He’s there most nights.
“I’m on my way there right now. I can drop your check off if you’re going to be up a while,” Julia goes on.
“I’ll meet you,” Kara says around a yawn.
Her things are in the car, so I can hazard a guess that she somehow set this up when she walked Julia out to the car, using one of the locations where I can’t hear her.
She dresses quickly and puts the phone in her pocket before walking out to her car. She looks through the garage window like she’s waiting to see if I’m going to immediately follow.
I doubt she’s going to the damn diner.
And I really doubt she’s going to let me follow her.
She’s up to something.
“I’m not the same dumb guy I used to be, babe,” I tell her, even though she can’t hear me.
Lifting my phone, I dial Drex.
“What’s going on?” he asks me.
“She’s up to something,” I state warily.
“What’s going on?” he asks again as Kara leaves the garage door open and jogs back in, grabbing a bottle of water and her purse.
“I’m not sure yet. But something,” I tell him as I tug my jeans into place.
My eyes stay fixed on the screen, and I watch as she leans into the fridge like she’s searching for something to eat too.
In the next instant, my stomach roils, because suddenly five figures clad in black burst into the kitchen from out of nowhere.
She doesn’t even see them, and I curse as I leap up from the chair when the first one grabs her by her hair and slings her against the wall.
Racing through my house, I burst out of the back door, sprinting toward hers. My gun is drawn as I slam into the back door. It creaks but doesn’t break.
Silence is on the other side, and my throat bobs as panic tries to claw its way into every piece of me. With kick after kick, I manage to knock the door down, and stumble into…nothing.
The fridge door is closed. There’s no sign of a scuffle in the dining room. Gun still drawn, I check room after room, finding nothing but utter silence.
My hand shaking, I pick up my phone, viewing the footage of the house, screen by screen, to see what I can find. A chill slithers over me when I see her still being attacked in the kitchen.
The kitchen where no one is…
She’s being tossed into the counter right now, and one of them swings his fist, knocking her in the cheek. But it looks…fake.
Because it fucking is fake, you stupid fucking idiot.
Cursing, I throw open the door to the garage, and find the bay door still lifted and her car gone.
A humorless laugh slips out of me, as I stop panicking and start growing really fucking pissed.
I’m even more pissed when a damn smile spreads over my lips, and I wipe it away as the frustration builds. I forgot what it felt like to admire her and hate her for making me feel like a motherfucking idiot.
She did all this to set up a damn distraction?
Lifting my phone to my ear, I call Drex, pausing next to her room when I notice a bright pink poster board hanging above her bed.
My jaw grinds as Drex answers the phone.
“What’s happening? You need the cleaning crew?” he asks instead of just answering the phone.
“No cleanup crew necessary,” I bite out. “Your sister has gotten a little better at her games.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means she set me up. Set me up real damn good and reeled me in. She left us both a note,” I tell him. “And Herrin got a note as well.”
My eyes stay focused on the bright pink sign that has a daisy drawn on it, and in the center of the daisy is the word cocksucker. Right beside it, is a note that simply states, Fuck you, Rusty Asher, you club whore. And behind that is, Daddy’s little girl will kill him before he kills her, because she’s not a little girl anymore.
“What’re the notes?” Drex asks as I throw the angel camera across the room, breaking it open.
How the hell did she do this?
“I’ll send you a fucking picture,” I tell him as my eyes land on a computer in her room.
I move to see the screen, watching as the staged fight takes a nasty turn and the guys fake-shoot her through the chest.
The blood is over-the-top red, and the spray is ridiculous.
“Why a picture?” Drex asks.
My lips curve in a small grin as I dart my gaze back over to the poster board, eyeing the cocksucker daisy the longest.
I snap a picture and send it to him from my other phone, and listen as he snorts, signaling he’s seen it.
“Rusty? I thought your real name was Rush. Why is—”
“I meant for you to pay more attention to the cocksucker daisy drawing. How does Kara Caine know about a tattoo you got since she left?” I point out.
He grows quiet for a second.
“If she knows about that, then she probably knows about our split with Pop,” he finally says.
“I don’t think so. She seemed to think I was with Herrin—” A rumble of laughter from him interrupts me, but I keep on talking. “And she left a note for Herrin, assuming I’d be reporting to him. I’m going to find her.”
“How? Do you have any idea which direction she went?” Drex asks.
“She’d go the one direction she’d think I’d never look for her. South.”
“That’s a great guess, but how are you going to find her?”
I pick up the other phone. “Because I doubt she knows we have new friends who can track GPS and all that good stuff. And you’re going to owe Maya yet another favor. The rest will be easy, because one thing I can do better than Kara is drive fast.”
I can practically feel his smile.
“Do me a favor,” Drex tells me.
“Tell me what you want, and I’ll decide if I want to do it or not.”
“Don’t let my sister kill you before you tell her we were wrong. About everything.”
Gripping the phone a little tighter, I tuck her laptop under my arm and carry it with me as I walk out, hanging up on Drex in the process.
One thing I know Kara Caine won’t do is kill me.
Otherwise, she’d have done it before she left.
Another thing I know is that I won’t be admitting I was wrong about anything until she admits she was wrong first.
I doubt that will happen after I kidnap her, tie her up, and try not to wring her damn neck.
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Releasing September 22nd. 2018
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There was a time when I was a princess with no power. I had no choice but to run, because I wanted control over my own life. However, when you spend your life planning your next escape, you forget to do the living stuff.
At least until the past comes back to remind you why you ran in the first place.
Aside from my brother, there's only one other person from my past who could hold any power over me now.
I...just wasn't expecting him to have gotten so batshit crazy.
The boy prospect who grew up into a scary killer with very little morality left inside him.
I should be a little more terrified about how obsessed he seems to be with me, but...I'm just warped enough to overlook the crazy. Mostly.
It's not a real romance unless it starts with a kidnapping, right?
Yeah, my life has always been a crazy house. The more things change, the more they stay the same...
***Warning: This is a dark romance and not a healthy, wholesome relationship.
**Violence warning **Language warning
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