Authors: Carmen Faye
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons--living or dead--is entirely coincidental.
Player copyright @ 2016 by Carmen Faye. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
The damn key wouldn’t go into the lock and I was running out of time. I fiddled only for a couple of seconds before I lost my cool. I looked over my shoulder. Still no sign of them, but they wouldn’t be long. If this key didn’t go in now, I was kicking the door open, motel policy to hell. It wasn’t as if I was going to be around long enough for them to slap some kind of fine on my ass, and I’d been careful with my identity, paying for the room in cash. That was how I always did it. In my line of work, you could never be too careful.
No one was going to find the intimidating-looking guy with the leather clothes and steel-toed, shitkicker boots unless they had the guts to follow me. And I’d made sure that the few people who had noticed me had wanted to steer clear of me. I didn’t have to be a badass biker to instill fear.
The door finally complied, and I pushed into the room. The door slammed against the cheap wall, probably leaving a dent in the plaster. I didn’t give a shit.
I found the gun under my pillow, checked the clip, and shoved it in the back of my pants. Sweat trickled down my temples, and I rubbed it away with the sleeve of my t-shirt. My shirt stuck to my body where I was sweating in other places. Between my shoulder blades. Around my hips where the belt hugged my pants to my body. I went through the drawers and pulled out everything I owned. Next time I was living out of my bag instead of making myself at home.
I only had a handful of clothes in the drawers, and I shoved them into the knapsack I’d been using as a bag like a vagrant. It didn’t do much for my image in casinos, but the clothes inside it were enough to make me look legit.
Neat pants and collared shirts. I also had jeans, t-shirts, and a nice pair of shoes. The leather-studded jacket wouldn’t fit, so I shrugged into it instead. The heat pressed down on me almost immediately. The weather here in Nevada just wasn’t the kind of weather that allowed for leather jackets during the day. But there was no time.
I could just imagine what my tombstone would look like. R.I.P Rip Peterson. RIP Rip. If they even gave me a tombstone. Maybe thugs like me deserved to end up in a ditch.
I pulled the black duffel bag from underneath the bed, zipped it open, and took out two wads of cash that I stuffed into my pockets. Always good to have money on hand in case I needed it for something like food. Or a bribe. The bag was almost overflowing with wads and stacks of money, as arranged or messy as whichever night I’d won it.
The sight of all that cash made me giddy. My stomach rolled with the familiar mix of urgency and stone-cold greed. That amount of money was enough to buy me the kind of lifestyle any guy like me dreamed of.
I just wasn’t going to use it for that. Not yet. Casinos were my playing field for now—until I could cash out.
Still, the money was damn inviting, begging me to spend it. Cold hard cash. The green sheen of the notes against the black material of the bag was a sight to behold. I ran my fingers over the money, momentarily lost in the power under my fingers, the riches, the wealth. And I’d done all of this by myself. No help from the Stone Cold Club.
All they’d ever done for me was cause me pain and misery. Assholes. And they were on their way to do it again. Stone Cold because they were heartless killers who didn’t care about the destruction they left behind.
If Emmett were here, he would be cheering, urging me to pack faster. The sight of all this money would make him just as manic as it was making me. But that would never happen, would it? The club had made sure of that.
Fuck, I missed that kid. His goofy smile, the way he always looked so damn innocent, even when he was swiping your shit right in front of your eyes. He could scale a fence like no one I’d ever met in my life. Quickest fingers with a lock, too.
He’d been a gem when it came to burglary.
Even when we’d gotten caught and we’d ended up in jail, he’d gotten everything he wanted. They’d all liked him from the start; they saw the same potential and easy-going vibe he had about him that I did the first time I saw him. Criminals go for that kind of thing. And they all loved him as much as I did.
Gunshots interrupted my train of thought. It was still a ways off, but if they were shooting they knew I was close, and they were taking out anyone in the way. Shit. I zipped up the duffel, ran out of the room, and got into my Mustang. I dumped the bag with the money in the foothold, knapsack on the seat, and turned the ignition.
The car coughed and sputtered before it started, but then it roared to life and I threw it in reverse, flooring it.
My tires squealed on the blacktop as I pulled out, gravel spitting to the sides, and then squealed again when I shifted gear and shot forward. My Mustang was old, but it was a good getaway car. It had been my baby from the start. Some things just couldn’t be replaced by something better, more expensive. No matter what kind of high life I ended up living, my Mustang was coming with me.
I headed for the entrance to the interstate just as the white Merc pulled into the parking lot.
I was getting sick of the sight of that car. No doubt Diego was driving it—Stone Cold’s hitman. He was out to get me, take what I owed out of my flesh. He aimed a gun at me. I saw that black metal mouth point at me, Diego’s arm hanging out of the open window. I watched him in the rearview mirror and pulled onto the interstate just as the first bullet spit out of the business end of the gun and whistled past me. A near miss was still a miss.
A truck honked its horn behind me. I’d cut right in front of it.
“Don’t twist your panties,” I said, looking at the truck in the rearview mirror. The cabin was too high for me to see the driver’s face through the back window. When I checked my side mirror, I noticed the trail of cars that drove behind Mr. Slow. The Merc pulled up and couldn’t get into the traffic. Diego would have to wait for the queue to pass before he pulled in after me. Jumping onto the shoulder was a no-go. Too much broken glass to accommodate his fancy tires.
I pushed down on the pedal and flew down the interstate. The oncoming cars whizzed past me, and I left it all behind, the motel, the stupid Merc with Diego in it, the casinos I’d saturated.
And soon Nevada.
Diego was shooting to kill. I had no illusions about that. And I really didn’t want to die. There was too much money out there to be had—too much to steal, to cheat.
Emmett would have laughed at the close call. He always thought it was funny. I was willing to bet he kept laughing until he died.
The thought of him dead sobered me up. The manic chaos with which I’d left the motel bled into quiet rage. He’d been too young to die. Too young to rot in jail, too. They should have let him go, instead of me. But he wasn’t as good as I was at all this. At cat burglary, maybe, but that never made anyone rich. His innocence wasn’t just skin deep, and that got him in trouble from time to time.
And a while ago that had gotten him dead.
I slammed my fists down on the steering wheel so hard I heard a crack. I didn’t know if it was my knuckles cracking or the steering wheel, but I stopped. I didn’t want anything broken; I had money, but I couldn’t spend too much of it for a while. And hospitals were out, so no shooting and fighting and beating myself up. Avoid suspicion. All that.
I fished in the knapsack with one hand, looking for my phone, and found it. I pulled it out and dropped it on my lap, keeping my eyes on the road. I glanced down at the screen. No messages or calls. Hardly anyone had this number. I’d changed numbers a while ago to get off the radar, so Stone Cold couldn’t get a hold of me. Nothing like running from the people who’d saved you.
Nothing like people thinking they’d saved you when they’d really just done you in.
I took a deep breath and craved beer. A cold one would go down nicely right about now. Or something stronger. I glanced in my rearview mirror again. That truck was far behind now, just a speck on the horizon, and no doubt Diego was still stuck behind him, if he’d tried to pursue. With all the oncoming traffic, he wouldn’t have been able to overtake me. Roads were dangerous these days. All I knew was that my ass was safe for now.
Still, I wasn’t going to risk pulling over, even if it was just for a beer. I wouldn’t stop until I crossed a state line.
When I was nice and straight with the next car, I picked up my phone again and swiped my thumb over the screen and found the “maps” icon, opening up the application. I wanted to get to California. I hadn’t been there in a while, which made it a new playing field. Casinos popped up and disappeared again like mushrooms, and good ole Cali was going to be a nice one.
Besides, maybe I could find me a woman to take my mind off of things for a night; I could get some while I was at it. Money could buy a lot of things, and women were in ample supply. Every time. They weren’t even that expensive.
Yeah, as soon as I got to California was getting myself a cold beer, some good sex, and a night’s rest before I hit the tables again. It would take the club a while to track me down again. I had the whole anonymity thing down.