The revenger, p.11
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       The Revenger, p.11
 

           Debra Anastasia
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  “Come here, love. If you’re going to be wagered, I feel like you should have some say.” Jack winked and grinned encouragingly.

  Savvy shook her head and stood, walking over to the poker table, which had become the center of the party. Boston’s face was a mask of disinterest, so she wasn’t sure what was expected of her.

  Jack held out his hand, and she stepped up next to him, the only spot available. He wrapped a possessive arm around her waist.

  “Let’s restate the wager now that the beautiful woman has graced us with her presence. Oh, look, Saggie! She can be right next to me and not take a swing. I must be magic.” Jack smiled up at her.

  Savvy knew enough not to smile back. She’d walked into a very dangerous interaction and inadvertently handed Jack the advantage. The shimmering crowd of silver ladies made a chorus of comforting noises. Savvy couldn’t help but sneer at the sight of a grown man being pampered because he wasn’t getting his way.

  Sagan ignored the women and caressed his pile of chips with the steady ease of an expert. He licked his lips and looked at Savvy, his emotions well hidden.

  She wished she could place the feeling he gave her; it was such a mixture of pure want and murder.

  Jack stood up and threw his arm around Savvy’s shoulders. “You win, Saggie boy, and I’ll give you fifty-thousand dollars and your choice of any car in my garage.”

  Jack leaned close to Savvy and let her blonde curls cover his whispering lips. “Don’t worry, gorgeous. I always win.”

  He turned back to the table and all its spectators. “If I beat you like my teenage dick, then I get to stroll on the beach with Savannah for one hour.”

  Savvy’s head spun. This wasn’t about her. It was about these two very deadly men. She searched the crowd for Boston and caught sight of him sprinting up the stairs. He’s abandoning me now?

  Finally Sagan stood, brushing the women away with a crisp gesture.

  “Like Jack said, I’d need your permission for this wager, Savannah. I wouldn’t have a lady go against her wishes.”

  Sagan’s gaze tried to tell her something, to threaten her against siding with Jack, but with no Boston and a buzzy head, she shrugged and told the truth. “My permission isn’t something you’ve sought before, but I’ll give it now.”

  Sagan fumed silently. He dropped his chips, and they scattered on the table. The silver girls flinched. Each and every one of them gave her a dirty look. Jack buried his slow, sexy chuckle in her hair, as if they were lovers.

  This is so not good.

  Sagan’s stare unnerved her, but Savvy refused to take back what she’d said.

  His jaw tensed. “Well, Jack, I’m all in, then.” Sagan tossed his cards on the table and took sip from his drink.

  “That’s one hell of a hand, Saggie.” Jack’s body remained relaxed despite the straight on the table.

  Sagan snickered. “And if I know you well enough, you’ll have an impossible hand because you cheat, bastard.”

  Sagan turned and left. Jack released Savvy long enough to flip his hand and reveal that he had, in fact, a flush.

  “Look! I won, fair and square! Saggie, are you mad because I’ll get to play with your new toy first?” Jack shouted the last bit and turned to face Savvy with a huge smile, like he hadn’t just demeaned her. “That sounded bad. I’m just busting his balls.” Jack took her hand and led her to the closest French door. “We better get out of here before he changes his mind.”

  She hesitated at the stairs to the beach, wondering at their very easy escape.

  Jack knelt in front of her and worked the clasp of her heel. “You won’t need these to walk on the beach.”

  With her shoes off, Savvy gave up trying to gauge what was going to happen. She padded across the porch and down the stairs. Jack offered his arm, and she almost took it, but then shook her head. She could do this herself.

  *~*~*~*

  Silas tried to hear his thoughts around all the mindless tittering of his ladies. He closed his eyes and hoped Savannah would wise up and turn Jack down.

  But when he opened his eyes, he looked past all the shiny, glossed lips to see Boston running back down the stairs. Guaranteed he had been making sure Bugs had security for Savannah. One of the girls rubbed his bicep and whispered comforting nothings in his ear, but Savvy had disappeared down the steps to the beach. He clenched his fists.

  Son of a bitch.

  Now he had to decide whether to suck up his pride and chase them. The range of his ring was about a mile, he’d been told. They wouldn’t get a mile away, would they? Fuck.

  The last thing he needed was Savannah’s strength unleashed and her getting away. Jack would see what a talent she was and use her against him for sure. As he pushed his way through his women like a cloud of mosquitoes, he cursed himself for not having the balls to kill Jack sooner. He made his way up the stairs after Boston.

  *~*~*~*

  Toby took a slow slip of the coffee Teresa—she’d told him her name was Teresa—gave him. Everything she’d told him was unreal. Unbelievable. If he hadn’t seen what Savvy could do with his own eyes, he would have never stayed in the passenger seat.

  “So just to recap, you’re undercover for an agency you won’t name, and I have to cooperate if I want to keep this new energy from becoming an advanced, horrible weapon?” He twirled the cup in his hands. His fingers hurt from the heat, but the warmth didn’t stop his shivers.

  She didn’t respond. She seemed a little annoyed by his questions and his insistence on repeating every bit of information she gave him.

  “What about my sister in all of this? You say she’s being held against her will, and I’m the only reason she hasn’t gone ballistic. Do you know how this Compound E affects humans?”

  He put the cup back in the drink holder. He could hear the low beat of music turned down almost to silence.

  “I can’t promise your sister’s safety. My bosses honestly don’t care about her. For them, it’s all about the substance and stopping Silas Sagan from developing it into something more.”

  Toby opened the door. He’d heard enough. He had the bastard’s name, and he would find his sister. He looked over his shoulder as he put his feet on the pavement. “Thanks for nothing. Seriously, this has been a great mindfuck.”

  Teresa didn’t chase him, and he didn’t bother to close her door. He crammed his helmet back on his head and pulled out his keys when he got to his bike. He needed to call the cops and hit Google hard.

  The only evidence that she was behind him was the warm barrel of her gun against his neck. He stopped.

  She walked around him slowly, tucking her gun back in its hiding spot behind her back as she did so. She flipped up his face guard, and he knew all the pain he felt was apparent in his eyes.

  “I’m supposed to kill you,” she said. “I’m supposed to make sure your death makes the news and that somehow, your sister goes apeshit with the grief of it. When she does, we’re going to use the distraction as an opportunity to decimate the target.” She looked at her feet and rubbed her temples at the same time. “I’ve proposed something else—and it might get your sister out alive—but I have to get them to see it my way first. I’ll need your help for that.” When she looked up at him, he could see her pain as well.

  “So either I help you or you kill me? Is that the extent of my fine options on this beautiful evening?” Toby didn’t look away from her gaze, unflinchingly absorbing her emotions.

  “I’m not going to kill you. Not tonight, anyway.”

  Teresa and Toby stood in the center of the empty road, the night noises of distant sin seeping around them. Teresa held out her hand, daring him to take it.

  *~*~*~*

  Jack was a flirt. He used every opportunity to tell Savvy how attractive she was as they walked. The full moon lit the beach with an eerie glow.

  “Does any girl fall for that crap? I mean, you heap bullshit like a farmhand.” Savvy felt like a rubber band had tightened around her
chest, stretching and pulling as though it grew thinner and thinner as she walked away from the house. She tried to not let it affect her breathing.

  “It’s gotten me into panties a time or two.” Jack turned and walked backward so he could look her up and down.

  “Are you wearing panties now?” Savvy tried to sound effervescent and light, but the lack of an army following them down the beach had her curiosity piqued.

  Jack gave a self-deprecating chuckle. “And the lady wounds the knight.”

  Savvy rubbed her chest; with every step the pressure increased.

  “Are you okay?” Jack held out his hands so she had to stop. “It seems like you’re having trouble breathing. Here, have a seat.” He motioned to the driftwood behind them.

  Savvy sat gratefully, but the pressure didn’t release. She put her elbows on her knees and held her head. Maybe I’m dying. Maybe I’m not human anymore. “I just drank too much,” she told him. “Tell me something to keep my mind off of it.” Savvy tried to slow her breathing and release the tightness.

  “I’ll hold your hair if you hurl.” Jack reached behind her and twirled it around his fist.

  “You’re a prince.” Savvy turned to look at him. “Tell me why you’re allowed to waltz into the mansion, cheat at cards, and steal Sagan’s toys without a bullet in your head.”

  He kept his fist in her hair, and she might have protested if she hadn’t been fighting for each breath.

  “Saggie and I? Tssk... We were in diapers together.” Jack shifted his gaze from her eyes to the endless water.

  Savvy tried rubbing her chest again, but still no relief. “Was this recently?”

  If satin sheets had a sound, it would be his chuckle—and it was addictive. “You’re a little wiseass. I like you. No, it wasn’t recently. You see, we were buddies. His mom was a housekeeper in his dad’s mansion. His dad was much like he is now with all the women. Young Silas was cast aside. They only kept him around as a failsafe in case his father’s more anointed offspring didn’t survive to take over the dynasty.”

  Jack kicked out his boots, crossed his ankles, and let go of her hair. He peeked at her, and she tried to seem calm. She actually thought her heart might be slowing down to a scary rate, but the information Jack offered might be valuable, so she tried not to panic.

  He continued. “Then, turns out they didn’t. The old man put a gun to his oldest son’s head and killed him ’cause he wanted to become a painter, not an evil, vicious bastard.”

  Savvy shook her head. To kill your own child? She felt the flutter of her rage, like a dragon waking from sleep.

  “One after another, Silas watched his all half brothers and sisters die. His father’s enemies took out most of them, though the old man’s temper claimed a few. And when Big Poppa Baron was laid up with lung cancer, well, that was Silas’s time to shine.” He paused, still looking out over the water. “We promised to look out for each other, to be brothers, when we were kids. Sometimes he lets his guard down, and I can still see the guy who was my best friend. Not so much anymore, though.”

  Jack shrugged. Savvy wanted to ask for more, but she couldn’t really keep her mouth moist.

  “And he didn’t let me walk out with you,” Jack clarified. “Both of us have a sniper rifle trained on our skulls right now. I guarantee there are at least ten guards hiding in the shadows. He doesn’t trust me that fucking much.”

  With that, a huge Jeep invaded the sanctity of their impromptu confessional, headlights glaring.

  “And speak of the assholes! I bet those are some of his guys; we need to get out of here.” Jack stood and held out a hand.

  But Savvy couldn’t stop looking at the Jeep. She could see a red glow coming from it that she realized was an aura around each of the men. What the hell?

  A dog came flying out of the moving Jeep and tumbled in the sand.

  “Shit. I hate these guys. They’re the worst of Silas’s sorry lot. Let’s go.” Jack reached down and touched her arm.

  For a moment Savvy ignored the pain in her chest. She was mesmerized by yip of the dog, which looked injured, a cowering lump of multicolored fur. Then one of the men threw a beer can at it, hitting it in the side. Judging from the immediate collapse and horrific yelp, the can had been full.

  The men’s auras glowed stronger as they laughed.

  Savvy looked at Jack and gave him one warning. “Run.”

  He nodded, clearly assuming she meant together, and took off at a light jog. Savvy stood and smiled. She staggered forward against the pressure in her chest until she felt the snap. She fell to one knee as power flooded back into her system. The dog met her gaze and seemed to know he needed help. He didn’t move.

  When Savvy stood again, she could hear Jack hollering her name.

  Red.

  Redredredredredred.

  Red.

  She stepped in front of the dog in time to catch the second beer can before it found its mark. Her accuracy stopped the laughter from the three in the Jeep. Savvy smiled, concerned only that a sniper would take her out before she could rip them all to shreds.

  Chapter 19

  Trooper

  Savvy crushed the can and tossed it aside, spraying cheap beer everywhere. The three men tried to diminish the odd fear she suspected they felt by forcing some laughter. But she could tell they knew. Their fun was over.

  With no bullet in her head yet, she took her chances and hopped on the hood of the Jeep. There should have been words now, a righteous pronouncement, but she had nothing to say. Dogs had been Sara’s favorite animal. The men’s auras dripped in front of her like raw meat—pulsating even.

  She punched through the windshield and grabbed the driver’s hair. As she slammed his head repeatedly against the metal roll bar, she felt a tingling pleasure in her arm. Her power was glorious when it was free.

  One of the three had scrambled out of the Jeep, and as Savvy turned to face the last passenger, she saw Jack in the midst of a brutal brawl with the escapee. A gunshot ripped through Savvy’s chest, giving her good reason to pause for a moment. She waited to see if it would stop her, but it didn’t. She felt no pain.

  With increased zeal, she grabbed the smoking gun from the idiot in the Jeep who’d thought he was being brave. The weapon cracked like a toy in her hand. She smiled as he cowered.

  “What the fuck are you?” He searched frantically for the door latch, his panic making him oblivious to the open top above him.

  He didn’t deserve an answer, and he wouldn’t get one. Only in her head would she respond. She pulled him from the backseat and held him aloft, thinking, I’m a mom without a reason. I’m a person without a life. I’m dead with no escape.

  Savvy was about to crush his windpipe when another shot rang out, piercing the man’s temple and turning him into a heavy sack of bones and skin in her hand. She dropped the spent body and hopped down to the sand. The sound of running footsteps dominated the night. Only here in this upside-down world would corpses and gunshots garner just speed, and not horrified screams.

  Savvy put her hand to her chest and found a river of blood pouring from her wound. The numbness she’d felt during her insane power surge now seemed to be wearing off. She took a huge gasp of air as pain charged in where the numb seeped out.

  Another gunshot ended the brawl between Jack and the final Jeep passenger, and her flirty beach date stood and dusted the sand from his hands. She couldn’t see his aura, though it didn’t seem to matter much anymore.

  She staggered forward until she found the dog. She intended to check it for injuries, to see if she could help it stand, but she collapsed when she reached the little pile of fur. Putting one useless hand on her wound and another on the pup’s chest, Savvy lay her cheek on the sand. She knew the chaos around her should have her attention, but the little dog began licking her face just as the cold waves tickled the bottom of her bare feet. She knew she wasn’t bulletproof now.

  She looked at the soft eyes of the dog and tried to fo
cus on him as pain wracked her body. When she lost consciousness, her hand fell from her chest and landed in the pool of blood her heart had offered to the sand. Kal and Sara were her last thought, and an eager smile spread over her face.

  *~*~*~*

  Boston knew Sagan had killed Joe, asshole #1. He expected that to be the end result for anyone who touched Jack. And he had personally ended the second asshole Savvy had held above the Jeep like she was Godzilla, even though she didn’t need his help at all. His heart had dropped when he saw her stagger and collapse, and he’d run as fast as he could to her side. When he kneeled, he knew something was very, very wrong.

  Sagan arrived on the scene moments later. “What were these idiots thinking? Why can no one follow instructions? Is she dead?”

  Boston didn’t dignify him with an answer as he felt for her pulse. There was blood everywhere, but he hoped it was from the dog. Yet no matter how hard he pressed her neck for a sign of life, no reassuring thump quelled his fear.

  *~*~*~*

  Savvy opened her eyes to blinding sun. The dog she’d been petting scurried to his feet and pranced around like he’d never been hit with a beer can.

  The beach was crowded, and the water warm on her toes. Looking down, she found she was wearing shorts and a tank top. Savvy felt her chest. There was no gush of blood, no gaping whole.

  Then she heard it: the sound she would have given a hundred lives to hear, Sara’s laugh. She shielded her eyes from the sun and searched, panicked that she wouldn’t find her daughter.

  Yes…building a sandcastle with Kal, of all things, she was there. Savvy’s heart gathered the little bits of itself that pain had scattered around her chest and pulled together until it was whole. She scrambled quickly to her feet, jumping around beach towels and knocking over umbrellas until she was close, sure that she could touch them. She kneeled on top of their castle and hooked her arms around them both. They’re here. Skin, voices…God, they’re right here!

  “I love you. I love you so much! Please don’t leave me again. Please. Please!” Savvy pulled her daughter’s solid little body against her chest, smelling her hair, moving it back to see her sweet face. “You’re the most beautiful thing in this world, Sara.” Savvy’s tears wet her daughter’s face.

 
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