The revenger, p.10
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       The Revenger, p.10

           Debra Anastasia
 
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  Even though the music vibrated the room and the people around them were grinding and gyrating, Jack assumed a formal, ballroom dance position.

  “Are you okay? Do you need me to get you out of here?” he murmured.

  Savvy looked at his face, confused. Who the hell is this guy?

  Boston walked by and touched her hip. When she met his eyes, he shook his head. He didn’t need to speak for Savvy to know going with Jack could be deadly for Tobias.

  “No, but thanks for offering. Who are you? I didn’t think anyone talked to Sagan that way.” Savvy took another look at her white knight. He had high cheekbones, a deep tan, and white teeth framed by a neat goatee. His long hair was held back in a ponytail.

  “Hmm…I guess you could say Silas and me? We’re not the regular kind of friends. But I have to point out, he’s usually beating the willing ladies away, especially those that are his.”

  Jack was a strong leader, and Savvy did her best to follow him across the dance floor. He smiled as he spun her and returned his hand to her lower back. It felt warm.

  She remembered Boston telling her this night was dangerous for many reasons, including the presence of Sagan’s enemies. Savvy knew right where Sagan was; she could feel his existence with her entire body. She shivered as she felt his hot gaze demanding her attention. He’d come in from the balcony.

  When Jack turned them, she watched as Sagan cleared a table of his hangers-on with one angry hand gesture. He picked up a glass of clear liquid and met her eyes across the room. He was furious. Savvy watched the worried looks fan out from one person to the next like he was ground zero.

  Dancing with Jack was playing with fire.

  “I don’t belong to anyone. What kind of ass-backward caveman mentality is going on here?” Savvy shook off her dread and looked back into Jack’s handsome face.

  He dipped her and leaned close to her lips. She turned her head, and he whispered, “Say the word, and I’ll take you from him. I hate to see a woman mistreated.”

  She sighed and patted his shoulder thankfully as she answered. “I’ll keep that in mind. I think dancing with you is not the greatest choice right now.”

  Jack’s eyes looked troubled, but he released her instantly. He halted a passing waiter and grabbed two glasses of champagne, passing one to Savvy. She drained it like it was water and set the glass back down on the tray.

  Jack still held his full glass with an amused look on his face. “I was going to toast our new friendship, but wow, you’re thirsty.”

  Savvy took his glass and pounded it too. Jack began to chuckle. “Well, princess, I’d better leave you to your own devices. Your captor is looking surly. My offer stands.” He looked at her knowingly, then bent at the waist to kiss her hand.

  If her brain wasn’t so full of bubbles and alcohol, she might have wondered if he was genuine or not. Instead, she just giggled.

  Boston swooped in as soon as Jack had cleared. “You better get over there. He’s going to go ballistic.”

  “I don’t even want to pretend to care.” Savvy knew her voice was a little slower, slurring even.

  Sagan sat alone at his table. He glowered at her, fuming.

  “You can care or not care all you want, but remember: he’ll take his anger out on everyone, not just you.” Boston waved her in Sagan’s direction.

  Chapter 17

  Playing With Fire

  Toby’s night thus far had been a sickening repeat of the numerous nights before it: No Savvy. No sign of Savvy. No evidence she’d ever existed. He’d shoved her picture in the faces of patrons at crappy bars and tattoo parlors—anywhere he could. He’d gotten vague answers from cracked-out bums, but no leads.

  His sister had vanished. Savvy had wanted to die for so long, maybe she just ceased to exist out of sheer determination. She could be dead. She’s probably dead.

  He wished he could control his mind and forbid it from imagining the things that could have befallen his sister. The thought that reoccurred most often was that Savvy had figured out a way to end herself with her crazy strength. Anything out of the ordinary called to him now. No scenario seemed too far-fetched. Maybe he was manufacturing leads because he needed hope to hold on to.

  With all this swirling in his head, Toby had to pull over when he saw her: a solitary woman standing on the sidewalk in the worst part of town. She looked like she was waiting for him.

  And she didn’t look like a hooker. He turned off the engine and removed his helmet. He watched her, but remained straddled on his machine. He had yet to see her face, as she was covered by the shadows thrown from the dying streetlight. Her hair looked like knives—short and aggressive—and the hazy blue light silhouetted her small body.

  The quiet night spread between them.

  She seemed to be in no hurry, and she didn’t fidget. She didn’t flinch when a car door slammed nearby. He couldn’t see her eyes, but he could feel her gaze.

  More car doors closed, and a group of men migrated their way. Toby got off his motorcycle. Either the men were with her, or she would be a target. The bits of conversation that floated through the night like a premonition made that clear enough. The woman shook her head once and held up her hand. Toby stopped and took a deep breath. Adrenaline filled his veins and pounded in his head.

  “Look, boys! Ask and you shall receive. I told you we needed some pussy, and look what we have here.” The thug’s statement was heartily seconded by his friends.

  Toby squinted and tried to make a plan, but it all happened too fast.

  The woman pulled a gun from behind her back and turned to face the men coming her way. She didn’t warn them or threaten them, just unloaded her pistol at their feet.

  Toby hopped back on his motorcycle and tried to get his key in the ignition. He looked up to see the gang of men running away like third graders headed for the last open swing.

  “Toby, don’t leave.” The woman finally spoke, and her voice was oddly pleasant.

  He stopped because she knew his name, and goddamn it, maybe that meant she knew something about Savvy. After the show he’d just witnessed, he couldn’t help but see the parallels between this woman and his sister. She tucked her gun behind her back and held up her hands in the universal gesture for surrender.

  Toby put the key in the ignition, but stilled as she walked over. The woman was slight; he would never have pegged her for a gun-toting badass.

  When she was an arm’s length away, he could finally make out her face. She was a delicate beauty, better suited for ballets and art studios than dirty, dangerous streets.

  “Savvy’s alive,” she said as she resumed her patient stance.

  His sister’s name stirred up the adrenaline again. He gave the woman a hard stare. “I’ve had a lot of prank calls and stupid comments regarding my sister. I’m sick of it. How the hell do you know my name?”

  “Come sit with me in my car. It’s more private. I’ll tell you everything I can.” The woman took a step backward, motioning to the black SUV parked at the end of the street.

  It felt like a trap. This was all wrong. This person knew his name, what he wanted to hear most in the world, and that he would be riding down this road tonight.

  She saw the distrust in his eyes and sighed. “You want some proof? Fine.”

  She opened her jacket, and Toby flinched, waiting for another gun. She shook her head and made very slow, deliberate, movements after that.

  “I’m Teresa, and this is why you need to believe me about Savvy.” She held out a picture.

  The night was way too dark, and despite the grating unease in his stomach, he dismounted his bike and walked to the streetlight. She gave him space and kept her hands visible. She didn’t want to spook him—that much was obvious.

  The picture was indeed Savvy. She was running on a beach with a huge, handsome man. Toby felt like he’d been punched in the heart—first with relief, then with anger. Savvy’s jogging on the beach with a boyfriend while I crawl the streets praying
I don’t find her body?

  The woman spoke as if she could read his mind. “It’s not what it looks like. She was taken against her will and stays because she must.”

  “Tell me what the fuck is going on right now!” He spun to face this all-knowing woman in an absolute rage. She knew everything but was saying nothing.

  “Get in the car, and I will.” With that, she walked to her vehicle without a backward glance.

  Toby looked from the picture to the SUV and back again. The police had no leads. The picture in his hands would just confirm their suspicions that Savvy had gone of her own free will.

  But maybe they could trace the man in the picture. I could take this evidence to the news and flush the guy out with publicity.

  The woman started her car. She could very well leave, and he would know nothing more.

  He tucked the picture into his pocket and approached the passenger side door. He climbed in, greeted by a hot cup of coffee and a sad smile.

  *~*~*~*

  Savvy could always bring her brother’s face into her mind’s eye, even now— tipsy and suffocating from whatever was in Sagan’s ring. She had to try for Tobias, even though she was melting. She could see cracks in her resolve if she looked hard enough. Sagan was the source of Sara’s screaming, and he wasn’t dead yet. He should be swimming in a pool of his own blood, gasping like a fish out of water by now. Instead, he sat, twirling a bottle at his empty table. Mentally she skinned him, gutted him, and served him to Fate on a platter.

  He chose that moment to look up at her. Their gazes collided, and it felt like a blow to the gut. Her skin tingled as they battled each other in a staring contest. She hated him, yet couldn’t look away. It could only be that this reaction was wired into her nervous system.

  Just a hint of a smile pulled on one side of his lips. The bottle continued its endless spinning, encouraged by his long fingers to keep the rhythm when it slowed. Savvy clenched her fists, then spread her fingers wide. She had nothing to do with her hands. She couldn’t relax; her body was ready to fight, and her posture reflected that.

  The music dulled to a hum, and soon enough, all she could hear was the spinning. The glass screeched softly in her ears, minutely scratched by the metal table’s surface.

  The other side of his mouth joined in the smile.

  She wouldn’t give up—the stare was everything right now. She wouldn’t lose to him, submit to him. Savvy began threading and unthreading her fingers, unconsciously mimicking the tempo of the spinning bottle.

  He bit his lip as if to prevent his smile from getting wider. He failed. He basked in her unwavering attention. That alone should have been enough make her drop her eyes, but she couldn’t do it.

  Her heartbeat was as loud as the spinning.

  The night of the accident, her heartbeat had seemed to take over everything. It had absorbed sound, fear, disbelief. The fraction of a second it took for the truck to slam into her van had been endless, yet there was no time to think. She’d reacted suddenly and violently to the danger and swerved the wheel.

  She’d swerved the wheel, and because she’d chosen left instead of right, she’d lost them. Because she had chosen to protect herself, she’d offered Kal and Sara’s side of the van to the impact.

  Silas Sagan and his dangerous green eyes blurred as she reminded herself of the unyielding truth: her selfishness in her family’s time of need had been the end of everything. The bottle spun and screeched just like the van, glass and metal.

  A drunk house whore, completely unaware of the standoff between Sagan and Savvy, walked through the crossfire of their face-off and broke her concentration.

  She took three quick breaths before she could exhale.

  When she looked back at Sagan, he had not moved—he was still biting his smile. He lifted an eyebrow to let her know he felt he’d won. Savvy put a hand to her forehead, brushing her hair away from her face.

  She made a fist so her shaking would be less obvious. She knew Boston wanted her to sit near Sagan. She tilted her head from one side to the other, trying to alleviate some of the tension in her neck. Then she put one foot in front of another. Sagan might be a bastard, but he was just a man—nothing to be afraid of. She just wished it wasn’t so hard to swallow.

  Savvy pulled out a chair across from him and sat down. She plucked the bottle from where it had been spinning like a gear, and the noise stopped. The music was louder suddenly, her mind finally allowing her to be fully aware of her surroundings.

  Sagan curled his hands into fists, their job removed.

  He was so close now. Only the table stood between her and his ring, a tantalizing temptation.

  “Did you enjoy your dance, Savannah?” He didn’t have to shout because she watched his lips.

  She shook her head.

  “Jack seemed to like it.” He lifted his thumb to his mouth and bit down, like her thoughts on the matter were so important.

  “Take the ring off, and I’ll show you how I feel about all the assholes in this house.” Savvy licked her lips, tasting champagne.

  He grabbed the ring and pulled it as close to off as he could. “I love playing with fire. Wasn’t it fire that took your husband and daughter to their graves?”

  Savvy’s brain snapped. Hearing Kal and Sara mentioned by his evil tongue set her off.

  She stood and her chair clattered behind her. If she hadn’t drunk so much and been in this tight dress, she would have been smoother, but she still made it over the table.

  Sagan stood, backing against the wall, and he caught her as she leaped at him. Savvy swung, landing a good punch to his jaw before he clamped his arms around her.

  Instead of being scared, he was chuckling, though it wasn’t a happy sound. Their struggle didn’t go unnoticed, either. The DJ cut the music.

  In an instant, the loud, definitive sound of a gun being cocked coupled with the feeling of a cold barrel being pressed against her head. She stopped trying to hit Sagan, and he tightened his grip.

  Savvy looked away from his face just inches from hers. She felt like a trapped panther, her urge to kill cresting her anger.

  “Savannah, Boston here will kill you the second I give him the order. Then our games will be over.” Sagan hugged her to his body, punishing her with his squeeze.

  “Kill me?” She laughed, finally looking into his face. “Understand this: that would be a blessing, not a curse.” Maintaining eye contact with her captor, she addressed her bodyguard. “Do it, Boston. Pull the trigger.”

  The thought of her own demise caused Savvy’s heartbeat to slow. A peace settled over her, and her smile now echoed Sagan’s previous expression of pleasure. He loosened his hold on her and waved one hand at Boston. He pointed the other toward the DJ. The gun barrel was removed, and the music came back on.

  “I think you need to understand how dangerous I am, Savannah. This bravado will only be tolerated until it bores me.” He let her go completely and righted the chairs on his side of the table. He held one out for her to sit.

  She sat, burning to give him the finger, bite his ear off—anything.

  Instead of sitting next to her, he leaned down to speak in her ear. “You sit here and think about what you’ve done. When you’re ready to apologize, I’ll be at the poker table.”

  Chapter 18

  Redredredredred

  Savvy did as she was told by default. She sat with the party swirling around her because it took a few minutes to come down from the high Boston’s weapon had created in her. For a moment, she’d glimpsed the end of her pain. As her breathing returned to normal—well, normal for this place—Sagan’s vapid, brainless whores fluttered back to their spots at the table, waiting for his return. They treated Savvy as if she wasn’t there.

  Fine by me.

  She could see him from the corner of her eye at the head of the poker table. The quiet game seemed out of place in the party atmosphere, the tension of high stakes palpable.

  She turned her attention to whore-
filled table. The women around her were barely dressed, and their skin looked perfect, though their eyes were dead.

  The smallest decided to acknowledge her. “You might think you’re hot shit, but Mr. Sagan is mine.” Savvy looked into the distance above the woman’s teased hair.

  Another on her left voiced an opinion. “He’s ours. We keep him happy, and if you ever punch him again, you’ll be dealing with us.”

  Savvy had to sit on her hands so she wouldn’t act on the vicious beatings she envisioned. I could snap every neck at this table if he didn’t have on that fucking ring. She covered her mouth. How vile am I?

  Savvy wondered how the same brain that had pondered the difference between a fleecy, stuffed puppy and another with hard plastic eyes for Sara could so easily be this evil. The contemplation made her stomach churn. She turned, neatly puking in the potted plant just behind her chair. What am I now?

  “She’s so disgusting.”

  Savvy didn’t care which whore thought so. Boston came to her side and took her hand. She thought he was being sweet until she remembered he’d just had a gun to her head—and failed to actually use it.

  She looked at his face as he clasped the sandy diamond bracelet to her wrist and handed her a minty piece of gum. He wore a shameful expression and looked like he had a lot to tell her. She shook her head, dismissing him. His betrayal wasn’t his fault. It was hers for trusting him.

  Boston stepped back into the shadows, and the whores began tittering as Savvy followed their gaze. Jack was sitting down at the poker table, being dealt in. A very male threat passed between him and Sagan. One after another, the other players folded their hands, leaving only Jack and Sagan remaining.

  She picked out Sagan’s bet amongst the chatter. “Fifty thousand.”

  The whores left the table like a swarm of hungry bees. They surrounded Sagan like a bad music video. A crowd formed around them, closing the drama from Savvy’s eyes. She tried to ignore the poker game until her name was mentioned. The crowd parted, and Jack was pointing at her.

 
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