Authors: Tiffany Snow
“Relax,” Kade soothed. “You’re strung as tight as a bow.” He pressed the palm of his hand against my abdomen, his thumb brushing lightly over my skin.
That wasn’t helping.
I squeezed my eyes shut. “I just need… some space,” I said.
Kade’s hand froze. Without saying a word, he pulled away to lie on his back, bending his arms behind his head. I could practically feel the anger and tension rolling off him in waves.
I turned over so I was facing him, then hesitated. I didn’t want to hurt him, but neither did I want to encourage him. “I just… need some boundaries,” I tried to explain.
He didn’t say anything, so I tried again. “I care about you, but we’re just friends, Kade. I belong with Blane.”
“Who are you trying to convince?” he asked. “Me? Or yourself?”
When I didn’t answer, he abruptly stood. “I’ll be back,” he said, shrugging on a shirt and grabbing his gun and jacket. He didn’t even bother buttoning his shirt before he was out the door and gone.
I couldn’t sleep after that, so I took a shower. Kade still hadn’t returned by the time I got out and had pulled on a T-shirt and sweatpants. I checked my cell phone and saw that it was really late, and I had three missed calls, all from Blane.
Feeling guilty for missing his calls, and for a great many other things, I set my cell back down on the table. I thought about Kade’s parting shot to me and shook my head. He was wrong.
The door opened and Kade stepped inside. He shot me an unreadable glance.
“We have to go,” he said. He began throwing my things into the suitcase.
“Right now? Why?” It was barely after four in the morning.
“The guy—Parker—knew I was coming.”
I digested this as I searched for shoes. “How do you know?”
“His phone. I checked it. He got a text.” Kade zipped the suitcase. “He was told to kill me.”
“By who?” I grabbed my purse, shoving my cell phone inside.
“I don’t know, but someone knows I’m in town, and by now I’m guessing they’ve figured out I’m still alive.”
“But why?” I was alarmed. Kade was moving fast, and that more than anything else told me there was definitely something to worry about. “Why would they try to kill you?”
“Because I’m getting too close. Too close to finding out who was pulling Sheffield’s strings, trying to get Blane to lose that case.” He set the suitcase beside the door. “I’ve booked you on a flight back to Indy. It leaves in two hours.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll lead them a different direction.” He peered carefully through a slit in the side of the curtains.
My stomach wound itself into knots at his words. “Why can’t you come with me?”
“They know who I am, they’re looking for me,” Kade said flatly. “Getting on a plane would lead them right to me, and to you. I shouldn’t have brought you here.”
I couldn’t think, couldn’t process all he was saying. “But… but… how? How do they know about you?”
Finally, he turned to look at me, and the ice in his gaze chilled me. “Only a handful of people knew what I was looking for. Someone betrayed me, and they’re going to wish they hadn’t.”
Fear lapped at me. I couldn’t decide if Kade thought he was invincible, or if he just didn’t care whether he lived or died.
“You can’t take them on alone,” I protested. “Let me stay. I can help.”
“Forget it, princess,” he said, looking back out the window. “And it looks like we’re going to have to travel light and exit out the back.”
Leaving the suitcase, he grabbed my arm and hauled me toward the bathroom, where he opened the window and popped the screen onto the concrete outside.
“And this is why I stay in cheap motels,” he said, boosting me up into the window.
I dropped onto the concrete in a crouch, remaining that way until Kade landed silently beside me, his gun in his hand. He took my hand in his and we crept along the back of the building.
It was dark and sinister at this hour of the night. The motel was near a residential neighborhood of old, run-down houses separated from us by a rusty chain-link fence. A lonely streetlamp cast a weak pool of light nearby and I heard the distant sound of cats fighting, their yowls giving an eerie quality to the scene.
“Stay here,” Kade whispered to me, dropping my hand and moving away.
I grabbed a handful of his jacket. “Where are you going?” I couldn’t keep the fear from my voice.
“Two guys were in the parking lot. I want to know who sent them.” He gently but relentlessly unclenched my fist from the soft leather. “Don’t worry. Stay put.”
I watched him disappear soundlessly into the darkness.
I waited, my heart beating a staccato rhythm while my palms grew damp. The air was cold, but I barely felt it, so focused was I on listening for Kade’s return. Reaching inside
my purse, I searched blindly for my gun before my fingers closed around its cold metal. I pulled it out and flicked off the safety, cradling the butt in both hands.
A gunshot made me jump, my nerves already on a razor’s edge. I sprang to my feet and ran, praying Kade was all right.
Rounding the corner of the building, I took in the scene at a glance.
A man lay motionless on the ground, a pool of blood spreading beneath him, while another grappled with Kade. I drew closer, trying to see if I could get a shot in, but they were moving too fast and I was afraid I might hit Kade.
In one sudden maneuver, Kade had the man in a headlock. He gave the man’s head a vicious twist, I heard a sickening crack, and the man dropped lifeless to the ground.
“Point that gun somewhere else, would you?” Kade ordered, breathing hard.
Stunned, I numbly obeyed. “I thought you were going to talk to them, not kill them,” I said, my voice cracking.
“They weren’t feeling chatty,” Kade said sharply. “I’ve learned it’s better to be the one left standing.” His eyes narrowed as he looked at me. “And I thought I told you to stay put.”
Distant sirens drawing closer saved me from having to reply.
“Let’s go,” Kade said, grabbing my hand.
We hurried down the street, turning a corner and going several more blocks until the sirens faded away. The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, giving everything the pale gray cast of early dawn. I shivered in the cold morning air.
“Put this on.” Kade handed me his jacket.
I shook my head. “It’s cold. You need it.”
Kade abruptly stopped walking, took the jacket, and placed it over my shoulders. “Don’t give me any shit. The least I can do is keep you warm.”
I reluctantly pushed my arms into the sleeves.
He turned away, looked down the street, and let out the same piercing whistle he had last night. A moment later, a yellow taxi pulled to the curb.
“Time for you to go,” he announced, taking my elbow.
“No,” I said, planting my feet. “I’m not going to just leave you on your own, Kade.”
The very idea had me rebelling. How could I just get in the taxi and leave him behind? An unknown entity was tracking him down, bent on killing him. The thought made my stomach roll, nausea rising like bile.
“You are going,” Kade insisted, dragging me to the car and ignoring my struggles to free myself from his grip.
The driver rolled down his window.
“No matter what she says, or what she threatens, take her directly to the airport. Understand?” He handed the man three hundred-dollar bills.
“Yeah, I got it,” the driver said. His watery brown eyes peered interestedly at us while his work-worn fingers took the money and pocketed it.
Kade opened the back door. “Get in.”
“I said, get in.”
“And I said no!”
Kade’s eyes took on a dangerous glint that made me quake inside, but I stubbornly stood my ground. If there was anything I could do to help ensure his survival, then by
God I was going to stay and do it, and he would just have to deal with it.
He moved closer to me, and I retreated until my back hit the cold steel of the taxi. I kept my eyes warily on his, my pulse leaping, though I couldn’t say if it was from fear or his proximity.
“You choose to stay with me, then I’m going to fuck you.”
My jaw dropped. “What?”
“You heard me. That’s the only reason I keep you around. I mean, come on, princess,” he continued derisively, “you’re more of a liability than an asset in this line of work. But having an easy lay within reach is convenient. It’s just a matter of time before you spread your legs for me.”
The blood drained from my face as I stared at him. It had been awhile since he had wounded me so precisely with his words. I’d thought he had come to like me, respect me, care about me. I’d let down my guard, and his words had a devastating effect. The little voice inside my head sighed a sad “I told you so.”
“Blane doesn’t have to know,” he said, his hand cupping my breast through my thin T-shirt. “I’ll fuck you, then you can go back to him, and only you and I will know he got my sloppy seconds.”
The crack of my palm against his cheek was deafening in the quiet of the empty street.
“Go to hell,” I gritted out, furiously blinking back tears. I pushed him away from me and scrambled inside the taxi, anxious to get away from him and lick my wounds.
“Go,” Kade commanded the driver, who wasted no time in stepping on the gas.
Twisting in the seat, I looked out the back window. Kade still stood in the street, watching. The wind ruffled his hair and, though I knew he had to be cold, he didn’t move. His face was an unreadable mask, the condescending smirk was gone, and realization slapped me upside the head.
“Wait!” I cried out. “Go back! Turn around! I need you to go back!”
“No can do,” the driver said flatly. “You’re going to the airport. He already paid.”
I gripped the back of his seat. “You have to take me back!”
The driver shook his head, resolutely ignoring me. I shifted back around, but Kade was no longer there, only empty space where he had stood watching me leave.
I should have known, should have seen through it, that Kade would have said or done anything to get me into the taxi, even if it hurt me. He’d rather I believe his lies and think the worst than have me subjected to whatever danger hunted him.
If only it hadn’t taken me those precious seconds to realize that.
I managed to pull myself together enough to get back to Indy. I dumped my gun in a trash can, since the case I had to get it through security was back in the motel room. The flight was a blur, as was the cab ride back to my apartment.
After collecting Tigger from Alisha, I collapsed on my bed, numb. I stared at the ceiling, Kade’s grim expression as he watched me leave replaying in my mind until I fell asleep.
When I woke, it was late in the afternoon and my head felt like a mariachi band had set up shop there on Cinco de Mayo. I dragged myself into the bathroom and felt better after showering and brushing my teeth. I figured since I’d nearly been killed twice in the last twenty-four hours, no one had better gripe about me taking the day off.
I heated up a TV dinner in the microwave and sat on the sofa to eat it. Tigger curled up behind my head next to the window. Flipping on the TV, I sat back to watch the news. I’d decided I wasn’t going to think about Kade, or the worrying would drive me insane. There was nothing I could do.
The food stuck in my throat, and I had to swallow heavily to get it down. Resolutely, I took another bite and tried to focus on what the blonde news anchorette was saying.
“The nephew of famous billionaire philanthropist David Summers is pleading not guilty to charges that he raped a local woman. The trial will take place here in Indianapolis.” The footage showed a well-dressed guy, maybe twenty-five, being led away in handcuffs to a police car. He seemed remarkably at ease, even flashing a grin to the press.
The picture changed, showing a man whose face I knew very well.
“Our sources tell us that Indianapolis attorney Blane Kirk has taken the case. It has long been rumored that Kirk may be interested in running for political office. He may cement his political future if he successfully defends Matt Summers, whose uncle—David Summers—is known to take a very active role in the political action committee Improving America Now.”
I choked on my food. What the hell was this? I got that the people Blane defended weren’t always rainbows and unicorns, but really? Did he take the case because of the connections this Summers guy had?
The fact that the defendant was accused of rape hit too close to home. Blane didn’t know the details, but he did know I’d had a close call a few months back. Only Kade’s presence had prevented me from becoming another statistic. I knew that everyone was innocent until proven guilty, but I couldn’t dislodge the sour feeling in my stomach.
My appetite gone, I dumped my food into the trash. I couldn’t imagine Blane defending someone guilty of rape, even if they did have connections that could help his political career. Even I had heard about David Summers, and I knew next to nothing about politics. I had little to no interest in the machinations of Republicans versus Democrats. I voted once every four years for president and that was it, something I’d never divulged to Blane. I had a sneaking suspicion he would take a dim view of my lackadaisical attitude toward the governance of our country.