Fatal Truth: Shadow Force International (12 page)

Crazy was an understatement. War was chaos and death. A news studio was chaos and drama that escalated every simple story into life and death extremes. “It’s an interesting place.”

“Interesting being a catchall term for weird.” She smiled and undid the top button of her coat. “Don’t worry. I know. They live and breathe negativity. That’s the news. Anything for ratings.”

“Do you do anything for ratings?”

Her chest lifted on an inhale. “I inform people, educate them, and unfortunately, the people and companies I investigate are usually hiding some pretty nasty stuff. I don’t need to exaggerate or walk the line of creative nonfiction. And I always do a monthly spotlight on someone or something positive. Like that Hopland PTG story. There are psychologists who dispute her findings, but my show will focus on the positive side and possibilities that post-traumatic growth is indeed a real thing.” Her gaze shot to the closed partition between them and the driver. “Anything on Parker?”

The limo took a right. They might beat rush hour and make it back to Savanna’s place in time for him to give her another lesson on her new state-of-the-art security system before dinner. “Still looking into aliases. If we can get our hands on those aliases, we can check to see if any of them have been in use recently and where.”

“You can find that out?”

“We don’t want to alert anyone that we’re looking into her official career, so it’s a delicate fishing expedition. Could take a few days.”

“Is there anything you and I can do in the meantime?”

His answer was interrupted by her phone ringing. She looked at the caller ID and frowned. He reached for the phone, but she’d already hit the talk button. “Hello?”

The caller spoke and Savanna’s gaze jerked up to meet Trace’s. She tapped the speakerphone and the instant rush of knowledge at the sound of the familiar voice made him grit his teeth.

“I told you to drop the Westmeyer investigation, Savanna.” The president
tsked
. “You really should have followed directions.”

“No one tells me what—”

The line went dead before she could finish.

“What the hell?” she said and then grinned. “I think someone’s unhappy I smashed his listening devices.”

Sounded like more than that to Trace. “Tell your driver to get off this route.”

“What? Why?”

“Just do—”

Crash!

The incoming car T-boned them, the impact sending the car spinning sideways. Glass rained down on them, the squeal of brakes and metal grinding on metal filled the air.

Savanna screamed and everything went into slow motion for Trace. The sound of her scream ripped down his spine. She threw her hands up to cover her head, the car spinning, spinning, spinning, a wild, out-of-control merry-go-round, slamming both him and Savanna around like rag dolls.

Bogota. Just like Bogota
. In a split-second, Trace’s instincts took over. He pressed the emergency button on his arm watch, then threw his body across the divide, grabbing Savanna and taking her to the floor.

E
VERYTHING HAPPENED SO
fast, Savanna wasn’t sure how she ended up on the floor of the limo with Coldplay on top of her. What she was sure of? She couldn’t breathe.

Not because he was smashing the air out of her. No, he seemed to be holding himself up off of her ever so slightly, forming a cage with his body around hers.

She was out of breath because she was looking at him eye-to-eye.

Those eyes were mesmerizing. Potent.

Powerful.

She was sure the car had stopped spinning, but her head still seemed off balance. Coldplay’s nearness and the feel of his large body pinning her to the floor, made her lightheaded.

“What just happened?” she said.

His hat had come off and she could finally see his hair. Short, dark, thick. Cold air rushed inside from the broken window.

The sharp stab of memory assaulted her out of the blue.
I know him
.

She must have hit her head during the fall. Yet, there was no way she’d even tapped her head—one of Coldplay’s hands cradled her skull, protecting it.

But he seems so familiar
.

Coldplay gently removed his hand and rose up on his arms, shards of glass sliding off his back and shoulders as he peered out the still-intact window above them. Then he glanced over his shoulder at the broken window.

“Someone rammed your car.” His voice held pure malice. “Are you hurt? Anything broken? Did you hit your head?”

Her head had been completely cushioned by his big hands. Her fingers and toes all moved: nothing hurt except for a slight sting under her ear. But shit, she was shaking. “All systems go,” she said, giving him the best smile she could work up.

He squeezed her arm, not smiling back. “Stay here. Keep your head down.”

The privacy divider was still up, although the far side was half crumpled from the impact. “Is Martin okay?”

“I’ll check on the driver in a minute.”

A man his size should have difficulty crouching in the tight space between the seats, yet he pulled it off, staying half-bent over her as he swiveled to scan the exterior of the car. “The other driver is gone.”

“Gone?” Outside, people were shouting, car horns honking. She started to sit up, felt dizzy, and laid back down. “Are you sure their car didn’t just spin out of your line of sight?”

He moved slowly like a cat ready to pounce, sliding up to sit on the seat and angling his head to get a better view. “Nope. We landed on the other side of the intersection. The trunk is up against the traffic pole. Lots of cars around, none of them damaged.”

“They hit us with the force of a tank and then just drove away? Flippin’ DC drivers.” She made a disgusting noise, feeling the ooze of warm blood on her neck. “We should report it. Can you find my cell phone?”

“Already called it in.”

“What?” Had she blacked out when she hit her head?
I didn’t hit my head.
There was no way he’d called anyone. “When?”

“Before I hauled you to the floor.”

She chocked out a half-laugh that sounded harsh in her ears. “
During
the accident? You made a call while we were flying around in the backseat with shards of glass keeping us company.”

“Miss Bunkett!” It was Martin, peering in through the broken window. His dark skinned glistened with sweat even though was thirty degrees outside. He held his right arm close to his body. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Sitting up was easier this round, but Coldplay put a hand on her shoulder when she tried to move into the opposite seat, keeping her sitting on the floor. “Are
you
okay? Did you hurt your arm?”

“It’s nothing,” he assured her and she hoped that was true.

Coldplay retrieved his ball cap from the opposite seat and snugged it down on his head. Reaching over her head, he grabbed the handle of the door. The one that still opened. “You sure you’re okay?” he asked, his steely eyes sizing her up.

In the distance she heard the muffled sound of sirens. “Just a little shook up.”

The sound grew sharper when he opened the door, nodding as he stepped out, those intense eyes now scanning the area. The sirens muffled again as he closed the door behind him.

“I don’t know what happened,” Martin was saying, no longer looking in the window at her. He seemed to be talking to Coldplay over the roof of the limo. “The light was green, I swear. That truck came out of nowhere and ran the light.”

“Did you get a look at the truck?”

“Um, not really. I think it was a white cargo van.”

Savanna hauled herself up into the seat Coldplay had vacated, the lightheadedness fading. She brushed glass off the seat and touched the spot on her neck that burned. Blood was coming from a cut under her earlobe.

“Call it in to your company,” Coldplay told Martin, continuing to scan the area. His voice sounded clear even through the window. “Our only concern at this point is to keep Miss Bunkett safe and in the car.”

Bystanders gathered. One—an older man in a suit and long, wool coat—pushed through the crowd on the sidewalk. “Is anyone hurt? I’m a doctor.”

Coldplay moved so fast, Savanna did a double-take. His coat outlined his broad backside that tapered down to a narrow waist. He filled her line of view, completely shielding her from the gawkers and the doctor. “Everyone’s fine. Please step back. Help is on the way.”

“But I’m a doctor,” the man said as if that should give him instant access to her.

Her fingers were sticky with blood. She had nothing to wipe it off with. Leaning over, she used her shoe to clear a patch of broken glass and cleaned off her fingers on the carpet.

“Your services are not required,” Coldplay said, his deep voice clear as a bell. “Move on, sir.”

From the corner of her eye, she saw the glint of metal.
My phone
.

Martin said something about letting the doctor have a look at her and Coldplay shut him down, telling him to get back in the driver’s seat and report the accident to the studio.

Accidents brought out the best and the worst in people. Coldplay’s manners had gone right out the door.

The passenger side of the car was smashed in right where she’d been sitting. The edge of the phone stuck out under the crumpled-in plastic. She grabbed the corner of the case and gave a tug. Outside, the sirens were still blocks away. She heard the squeal of brakes and the slamming of doors close by though.

“Jesus,” a man’s voice said. “She okay?”

“Yeah,” Coldplay answered. “You got here fast.”

“Smoothie run. I was only three blocks away.”

The phone wouldn’t budge so Savanna adjusted her grip, putting both hands on it and tugging hard.

Pop
. The phone came out with a little crunch, the glass front cracked beyond repair.

And that’s when she remembered. The phone call right before they were hit.
I told you to drop the Westmeyer investigation, Savanna. You really should have followed directions
.

Her stomach clenched and her jaw clamped. Her fingers shook and not from the cold air rushing in through the broken window. At the same time, hot, disgusting bile rose in her throat. Blindly, she reached for the door handle, but the damn thing wouldn’t budge, of course, because the door was jammed.

Get out!
She had to get out of the car. Now.

Sliding across the seat, she fumbled with the other door, finally finding the handle and throwing it open. The door whacked Coldplay in the ass and Savanna just missed his shoes as she vomited all over the sidewalk in front of a live audience.

Chapter Nine

_____________________

______________________________________________________

T
RACE EVACUATED
S
AVANNA
with the help of Callan Reese, leaving Martin and the witnesses on the street to deal with the cops. He and Savanna would give their reports later.

He didn’t buy the smoothie run as the reason for Reese’s proximity to them when the accident occurred, but he was grateful for the help anyway. Together, they got Savanna to a safe location—Shadow Force International’s headquarters—where Trace could examine her wounds properly and protect her at the same time.

He’d get to the bottom of Reese tailing them as soon as he had Savanna comfortable.

Which he hoped would be soon.

“This is going to sting,” he told her.

They were sitting in the window seat of Beatrice’s office on the top floor. Better light for Trace to see the cut on Savanna’s neck. She didn’t jerk away as he touched the alcohol-soaked cotton ball to the wound. She sat stoic, the only sign it hurt was the way she bit her bottom lip.

Tough woman. The pain would fade, the cut would heal. He respected her show of bravery, the discipline she was employing to stay stationary.

His own discipline was shaky. He was too close to her lovely skin—too pale after the accident and the cold—and those luscious lips that called to him to be kissed. The lips she was biting.

“You don’t believe it was a hit and run, do you?” she asked, her fingers fiddled with the gold bracelet on her wrist.

He wiped off the blood where it had stained her neck, his fingers itching to trail the gentle slope down to her shoulder. “It was a warning.”

“From the president.”

It was a statement, not a question. “Yes.”

“He tried to kill me. Over a story. We could have both died.”

“He doesn’t want you dead. If he did, the driver of the truck—the assassin—would have gotten out and put a bullet in both of us. Like, I said, it was a warning.”

She shivered under his hand. “In broad daylight with witnesses. Crazy or stupid?”

“Neither. None of those witnesses were paying attention until the truck hit us and they were busy watching our car, not the truck. Everyone will believe it was a hit and run, and all of the testimonies will be convoluted. Traffic cams in the area will have no good shot of the driver. The truck will show up at some point abandoned, probably set on fire to destroy any possible DNA evidence.”

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