Jagger broken doll book.., p.13
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       Jagger (Broken Doll Book 2), p.13

           Heather C. Leigh
 
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  Once I realized how useless Milo was, I ended it quick. Despite wanting to make Milo suffer for what he did to Miri, I was suddenly disgusted by the sight of the traitor’s blood. Dark red spatter covered me from the neck down, soaking my clothes and staining my skin. It was all I could do to keep it together long enough to wipe off with a wet towel and change clothes. The long ride home nearly drove me insane with the need to shower and scrub every inch of my body until my skin glowed pink.

  Fucker ruined my favorite Tac pants with his blood.

  Asshole.

  Just thinking about the filth made me twitch. I ran a hand down my suit, making sure it lay flat and unwrinkled. Brick was coming by today for our last meeting, this one to finalize all of the legal documents and get rid of my Austin business and leave the heroin trade for good.

  Then I would take Miri and disappear, give her the life she deserved. Far away from drugs, crime, and everything else I represented.

  After I killed Cuchillo.

  My phone rang and I fished it out of my pocket. It was Frank.

  “Yes.”

  “Boss, Brick just arrived.”

  I took one last moment to straighten my tie and exited the study. Time to end this shit and put Boss to rest.

  Jag was waiting for his turn in the driver’s seat, and I fully intended for him to get his chance. Soon.

  Miri

  With Jag home, Cat and I were allowed to spend time outside again, but only on the grounds of the house. We sat in the gazebo, our legs curled up beneath us, and enjoyed the breeze from the lake. Men in Black were everywhere, so we didn’t talk much. Nothing put a damper on fun like burly men with guns staring at you all the time.

  After an hour or so, Cat spoke. “I think I know what I want to do with my life.”

  I grinned and turned toward my friend. “Really? That’s great. What were you thinking?” She was nearly off the heroin and it showed. Cat was the picture of health. Her skin glowed, she no longer looked gaunt, the shadows under her eyes had disappeared. The only reminders of her horrific past were the track mark scars on her arms and the haunted look she sometimes had. I glanced down at my own scars, faded but still visible on the inside of both elbows, and wondered if I had the same haunted look as Cat.

  “I think I want to work at a women’s shelter or rape crisis center.” Cat pulled in a shaky breath. “I mean, I think I’d be good. I don’t really know what you need to do to be able to work there, but…” She flicked her dark eyes up to mine. “I want to try.”

  I reached over and took her hand. “I think it’s a great idea, Cat.” Tears began to cloud my vision. “Let’s go inside and look up the qualifications.”

  Cat smiled, a real smile reminiscent of the girl I knew before the shitstorm rained down on her—gave me a warm feeling inside. My friend would be okay. Like me, it would take time and she would need a good support system, but Cat would make it. We were the lucky ones.

  We crossed the lawn, two of the Men in Black following several feet behind us, like big, annoying, Yeti-sized shadows.

  Cat stopped and put a hand on my arm. “Did you hear that?”

  I tilted my head to listen, but all I heard were birds chirping and insects buzzing. “No, what?”

  She shook her head. “I don’t know. It was like a thump or something.” I shrugged. “I guess it was nothing,” Cat said.

  Then I heard it. And so did the Men in Black. One man grabbed me and one grabbed Cat, both shoving us behind their bodies at the same time. My ears rang from the loud pop of gunfire coming from our bodyguards. I screamed and covered my head. Cat dropped to the ground and curled up in a ball. I was about to grab her hand and pull her to the house, when the man protecting her staggered back. He fell, collapsing right on top of Cat, pinning her to the ground.

  “Cat!”

  “Go!” my bodyguard shouted at me.

  “I can’t leave her!”

  Without turning around, he reached back and shoved me toward the house. “Go inside!” His gun went off again and I shrieked.

  The back doors flew open and men poured out of the house like angry bees from a hive, all of them brandishing weapons. I crouched low to yank Cat out from under the heavy man, his eyes staring blankly at the sky as a bright bloom of red spread on his chest.

  Shit, shit, shit. He was dead.

  “Oof!” I was knocked off balance as my bodyguard tumbled back. He flailed as he fell, his gun smashing into my head as he went. I groaned and crumpled in a heap on the grass, the man landing next to me. My vision wavered in and out and nausea burned at my throat.

  “Miri!” Cat screamed.

  I tried to reach her, but couldn’t. The side of my head was wet. I brought my fingers to my temple and they came back covered in blood. Blinking, I attempted to clear my head. It was useless, the yard was spinning around me. The last thing I saw as my eyes closed was Cat, shoving the dead man off her and running to my side. As the world went dark, a flurry of gunshots rang out and I had one final thought before blacking out.

  Jag. Jag would help me.

  Jag

  The buzzer on my study door rang, sending a streak of irritation through me. I left explicit instructions that I was not to be disturbed while in my meeting with Brick and our lawyers. Obviously, someone felt as if my order didn’t apply to them. The buzzer rang again, and this time whoever was pushing it depressed their finger for so long the drawn out sound was grating.

  Tamping down a wave of hostility, I pushed to my feet.

  “Excuse me,” I said to my guests, buttoning my jacket as I crossed the room. On the video panel next to the door I saw George outside, slamming his hand on the buzzer over and over in a panic.

  Adrenaline flooded my body. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Fumbling, I deactivated the lock and the door hissed. George barged in, covered in sweat and pale as a ghost.

  “Boss! El Cuchillo… they’re here. Outside!”

  “What?” I asked, George’s words not quite sinking in.

  “Backyard,” he panted. “El Cuchillo is attacking. Killed a bunch of our guys.”

  “Fuck!” I ran to my safe and grabbed my Glock. With my study completely soundproofed, I didn’t hear any gunshots. “Where’s Miri?” I demanded, storming out of the panic room. Brick and the lawyers were forgotten.

  “Boss…” George said, his voice wavering. “She’s outside with her friend.”

  My blood ran cold and my heart tripped. Miri, outside, gunfire. I sprinted for the backyard. The kitchen doors were already open so I barreled through them without giving two thoughts as to my own safety. Men were everywhere, some of them mine clad in their dark suits, others strangers wearing everyday clothing. All of them were either firing weapons or lying on the ground.

  “Son of a bitch,” I growled. “Where is she?”

  George stopped behind me. “I don’t know. They were at the gazebo, but in this mess, they could be anywhere.”

  I ran along the side of the house toward the garden. From there I could follow the garden path and use the tall plants and shrubs as cover while making my way to the gazebo. A shot whizzed by my head.

  “Fuck.” I threw myself to the ground, diving into a dense clump of tall yellow flowers. “Jesus Christ.” That bullet was close. I pushed into a crouch and found the path. One step at a time, I crept forward, gun raised and ready. What I wasn’t ready for was the sight I met just off the path a few feet away.

  “Oh God.” My stomach heaved and the bottom fell out. Two of my men lay dead while Cat, crying and hysterical, was trying to pull a semi-unconscious and very confused Miri into the bushes. I leapt forward and grabbed Cat’s arm. “What happened?”

  “I don’t know,” she wailed.

  “Run for the house,” I barked. “George, take her inside.” I didn’t look back to make sure they complied. My only focus, all I cared about, was Miri. I flipped her over and my world shattered. Her head was covered in blood, a small pool on the grass beneath her. Miri’s eyes
were glazed over, her pupils huge. A shot rang out nearby and I threw my body over hers, willing to die to protect my doll. As long as I was still breathing, I would never allow her to suffer pain again.

  I went to hoist Miri over my shoulder so I would have a hand free to use my gun, when white-hot pain sliced through my chest, stealing my breath. Before I had time to process what happened, the agony exploded ten-fold. Gasping, I stumbled and fell to my back, dropping the gun to clutch my shirt over the source of the fire that was ripping through my body. My hand was hot and wet.

  Shot. I was shot. I failed her. Failed my doll.

  I’m so sorry, Miri. With tremendous effort, I rolled on top of her, determined to protect her until my dying breath. I turned my head so I could make sure her face was the last thing I saw as I left this earth.

  10

  Jag

  Fuck.

  My entire body felt as if it had gone through a wood chipper before being haphazardly glued back together by a three year-old. My eyelids were thick and crusty and it took a moment, but somehow I managed to peel them apart. Bright light stung my sensitive retinas. I blinked to adjust to the glare, but it still hurt, a dull throb behind my eyes that seemed to radiate right into my brain stem.

  The room slowly came into focus. It was just so goddamn bright. White on white on white. White tiled ceiling, white walls, white lights… I had no clue where I was. Concentrating on breathing, I tried to calm down, waiting for the rest of my senses to return, and fuck if I wished they hadn’t. My nerves prickled awake and my chest began to burn, which quickly escalated into a sharp, lancing pain. One that never let up, not for a single second. With each shallow breath I took, the pain actually got worse, which I wouldn’t have thought possible.

  Using extreme care, so as not to jostle anything, I turned my head to the right and my hazy eyes wandered over that half of the room. Hospital, my mind slotted the unfamiliar space into its proper spot. There were two doors, one closed and the other cracked open wide enough to see a small bathroom. Gritting my teeth, I turned to my left and gasped, then groaned at the streak of pain caused by the sudden movement.

  “Miri?”

  My voice was no more than a ragged croak. I swallowed, unable to believe the sight was real. Oh thank fuck. She’s not dead. My sweet, angelic, redheaded doll, was curled up in a recliner next to the bed, fast asleep.

  “Miri?” I tried again, but couldn’t put enough force behind it for her to hear me. Frustration built, leaving me aching and angry. Holding back a scream, I lifted a heavy hand and placed it on her arm. Flames tore through my chest, leaving me panting and sweating. I moaned on an inhale as I struggled to stay still in order to quell the fire engulfing my entire torso. It felt as if my insides were being scorched to ash.

  “Jag?” I heard Miri speak, but all I could do was close my eyes, grit my teeth, and wait for the torture to recede. “Oh my God, Jag!” I heard the rustling of clothes and opened my eyes. Miri came into view above me. Her tired face crumpled in a combination of distress and relief. “You’re awake,” she sobbed. “Thank God.”

  When the pain had lessened enough for me to speak, I could only get out two words between labored breaths. “What… happened?”

  “Oh Jag,” she cried. Miri hovered, her hands held over my prone figure, hesitant. Unable to decide where she could touch without hurting me. She settled on my face, caressing my cheeks and skimming her fingers over my mouth before pressing a soft kiss to my lips. “You were shot.” Miri sniffed, her bloodshot eyes glassing over. “You almost… you almost died. I can’t… I can’t, Jag.” Tears overflowed, rolling down her face to drip onto my thin hospital gown. Miri wiped her cheeks with her sleeve.

  “I’m… okay,” I whispered.

  Miri sat on the edge of her chair, held my hand, and broke down for real. “You’re okay,” she cried, the reassurance for herself more than me. “You’re okay. Oh God, you’re okay.”

  I closed my eyes and ignored the lump in my throat. Concentrating hard, I was able to conjure up bits and pieces of that day. When a memory hit, my eyes flew open. “Miri. You were… hurt. Blood… So much blood.” The effort to force out so many words at once sent brutal, molten hot stabs of fire throughout my chest and shoulder.

  “I’m fine, Jag. Just a bump on the head.” Miri huffed out an unamused laugh. “Apparently head wounds bleed a lot, so it looked worse than it was. The doctors checked me out and made me sit overnight for observation. I was freaking out the entire time, wondering if you were alive. Cat sat with me, but I… I was so worried.”

  I glanced at her forehead. The small cut was scabbed over and the bruise had faded to a hideous green. Wait…

  “How long… have I been here?” Once more, I groaned at the sheer intensity of the pain. I knew I was on some heavy-duty painkillers, but it still felt as if someone shoved a red-hot, glowing iron rod right into the wound.

  Miri gave me a sad smile. “Four days.”

  I lost four days? Four days Miri was unprotected. Four days someone could have come in here and killed her or taken her.

  “George—?”

  “They told me George stood watch outside my room the entire time I was admitted for them to check my head wound. It’s just a bump.” Miri squeezed my hand. “There are guards outside yours as well. I’ll call George so he can tell you what happened.”

  “No. No George… Just you.” Miri paused, then nodded and leaned over to kiss me again. “We’re leaving.” She tilted her head and gave me a strange look as if I were crazy. I almost laughed when I realized Miri had no clue what I was rambling on about. “Leaving Austin, Miri. I’m retiring… We’re leaving.”

  She gave me a small smile and pushed my damp hair back from my forehead.

  “Shhhhh. We’ll talk later when you feel better. Sleep.”

  That sounded good. I did as she asked and drifted off, pulled under in a fog of morphine.

  Miri

  Once they weaned down the morphine to a minimal amount and Jag was able to stay awake for longer periods of time, the police came and took his statement, much to Jag’s annoyance. Usually, all the cartel’s injuries were treated by his private physician to keep the authorities from getting involved or giving them any reason to investigate his business.

  Unfortunately, a gunshot wound to the chest wasn’t something that could be taken care of without surgery and a real hospital. Jag was put out and somewhat hostile, but he answered the detectives’ questions the best he could without pointing fingers at any of his men. George stopped by earlier and assured Jag the house was cleared of anything incriminating before the police were let on the scene. Still, Jag was embarrassingly uncooperative at times, and by the time the disgruntled detectives left, my brave man was frowning, stewing in a very dark mood.

  A quick rap on the door and a too-perky nurse burst into the room. “Good afternoon. I need to check your vitals.” Like all the other nurses and doctors who filtered in and out of Jag’s room, this one hid her fear of Jag behind her overly saccharine happiness. It seemed everyone in the hospital knew who or what Jag was, and no one was comfortable dealing with him. Who could blame them? If I didn’t know him, how good he was at heart, I wouldn’t want to be in the presence of someone with Jag’s reputation—a violent, powerful drug lord. One who could make someone disappear with the snap of his fingers.

  Jag scowled, but humored the twitchy woman as she took his blood pressure and checked his monitors.

  “When can I leave?” he growled, his bark sending the nervous woman about three feet in the air.

  “Ummmm, I-I can get the doctor for y-you.” She shrank back a few steps.

  “Do that,” Jag barked. The poor nurse scurried from the room as fast as she could. I glared at Jag. “What?” He gave me a fake innocent look that wouldn’t fool anyone with half a brain and a pair of functioning eyes.

  “Could you stop being so, so… mean?”

  His eyes widened as he looked at me, incredulous. “Mean?”
<
br />   “Yes, mean.” I held eye contact with the stubborn man, refusing to be cowed.

  Jag made a rude noise, but didn’t bother arguing. I took that as a win and decided to change the subject. Holding one of his hands in mine, I brought up our future. “Are we really leaving?”

  “Of course.” He sounded surprised I would ask. When I didn’t say anything, Jag sat up in bed. His skin blanched and his mouth pressed in a tight line as he tried to hide his discomfort. “Come here, doll.” He held his arms out.

  I jerked away. “What? I can’t, I’ll hurt you.”

  Jag rolled his eyes and waited. “Miri, I’ve been in this bed for God knows how long and I need to feel you. Get up here and sit with me.” It wasn’t a request. Besides, I missed him so much and needed his touch. I scrambled off the uncomfortable chair and carefully climbed onto the bed. “No.” Jag frowned when I tried to sit next to him on the edge of the mattress. He grabbed me under my arms and started hauling me onto his lap. When he winced, I took over, climbing onto him and placing one of my legs on either side of his hips. “Just rest your head on the good side.” He closed his arms around me and I did as he said and laid my cheek against his chest.

  I closed my eyes and breathed him in. Beneath the scent of hospital and antiseptic and medicine, I could still smell Jag—that warm, masculine scent that was unique to him. Jag sighed and slouched back against the pillows, taking me with him. I snuggled into the crook of his neck, so grateful to still have him with me, alive if not one hundred percent.

 
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