Jagger broken doll book.., p.16
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       Jagger (Broken Doll Book 2), p.16

           Heather C. Leigh
 
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  Once I sorted everything out, I relaxed enough to fall asleep. Content in the knowledge that by tomorrow night, Jag and I would be together, my dreams were filled with fantasies of the man I loved holding our baby, a big smile on his handsome face.

  Jag

  I pushed away from the table and stretched my back. Every muscle down my spine was in knots after spending most of the day hunched over my—thanks to Sammy—encrypted laptop. It took forever to move the money in all my various accounts to overseas banks, each one opened using my new pseudonym.

  Without the mindless task to keep my mind busy, anxiety lingered in the periphery of my consciousness, a constant nagging presence I couldn’t seem to shake. If I could just hear my doll’s voice I was sure I could contain the ominous foreboding, but talking to Miri was something I couldn’t risk. I was afraid that hearing her voice would have me to abandoning my mission and returning to her side, leaving El Cuchillo alive and us looking over our shoulders for the rest of our lives.

  Miri’s safety was the one thing I wasn’t willing to risk. Not for anything.

  “George said there’s been more gossip on the streets about your whereabouts,” Frank said, sliding his phone into his pocket as he came in the back door of the tiny house.

  “Good,” I replied. “I can’t stand it here. It feels like the walls are closing in.”

  A hint of a smile curled the corner of Frank’s mouth. “Not used to having your freedom restricted, Boss?”

  I shot Frank an irritated glare. He knew damn well I got cabin fever if kept inside for long periods of time, hence the motorcycles. I was a man who required open air, fast speeds, and lots of adrenaline. I was not cut out for surveillance. Plus, the house we rented was a shithole, all cluttered and musty smelling. It made my skin itch.

  “Something like that,” I growled, pacing the tiny kitchen, crossing it in three strides before having to turn around. “That’s it,” I said, throwing up my hands. “This is no good. I gotta get out of here. Frank.”

  “Yeah, Boss?”

  “We’re going for a ride.”

  Frank arched a single brow. “A ride?” His tone was wary.

  “Yes, a ride.” I snagged the keys off the table by the door and tossed them at my driver, throwing him the don’t fuck with me look I had perfected years ago. “I don’t give a shit where we go, but I need to get out. We’ll stay in populated areas and keep our eyes open.” I flexed my wrists, comforted by the sheaths that held my blades as well as the cold steel of my Glock holstered inside my waistband.

  “Whatever you say, Boss.” Frank palmed the keys and reluctantly followed me to the car. A minute later, we were headed toward the sorry excuse for what this tiny piece of hell on Earth considered a “town.”

  * * *

  The mini-mart was small and pathetic, but busy. Its close proximity to the eight thousand plus student campus of Texas A&M International meant a constant flow of young people giggling and grabbing loads of junk food and alcohol, the staples of a college student.

  I wandered the aisles, keeping a close eye on the door while Frank waited outside, doing the same. Going by the bits of gossip we spread on the streets in Austin, our plan was working. A network of spies heard rumors of our location as well as ones of El Cuchillo possibly still being somewhere in south Texas.

  The man was so fucking predictable. I had to stop from laughing out loud.

  “Excuse me.” I tensed and was about to flick out a blade when I caught the big doe eyes of a pretty little co-ed. She blinked and her lips spread into a smile, revealing perfect, too-white teeth. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” she apologized, biting on her lower lip while looking up at me from under her thick lashes.

  “No problem.” So much for watching my back. If a twenty-year-old girl could sneak up on me, I would be dead before I even saw Cuchillo coming.

  “Live around here?” she asked.

  Huh? I stopped glancing around the store and focused on the girl. Christ. She was dressed in a cleavage-revealing shirt that must have been three sizes too small and a pair of shorts so tiny they were probably illegal in several states.

  “No,” I answered as I took a step back, my gaze constantly flicking back to the door. “Just driving through.” I turned my eyes on the co-ed, using my cold and uninviting stare. Shit. The last thing I needed was some college girl remembering where I was and what I looked like.

  Her pretty mouth pulled into a pout. “Oh. Okay.”

  “I have to go,” I said brusquely. With that, I spun on my heel and strode toward the front counter. It took much too long for the young guy in front of me to pay for his shit and move his ass before I put a bullet in it. I was losing my patience. Fast.

  Finally, he left, and the nearest customer was several yards away. I tossed a pack of gum on the counter and met the nervous cashier’s spooked eyes.

  “Anyone been by?” I asked.

  He shook his head violently. “N-no s-sir. No one.” I suppressed the urge to grin. The fear rolling off that kid was so thick, I could just about taste it.

  When we first arrived in town, we not-so-nicely approached the clerks at several gas stations and convenience stores to “ask” for their cooperation. A few hundreds to grease the wheels along with a veiled threat or two and we had a bevy of spies working for us. They were instructed to send anyone looking for us to the shitty little house we were renting, then immediately call one of our phones to let us know we had company on the way.

  I dropped a hundred on the counter and took the gum. “Call me when they show up.”

  “Y-yes sir,” the cashier said, eyes still bulging out of their sockets. Didn’t stop him from sliding the bill off the countertop and into his pocket.

  Satisfied, I stepped out into the sticky heat and unhooked my sunglasses from the collar of my shirt, sliding them on.

  “Nothing,” I told Frank.

  Wordlessly, he headed for the car.

  On to the next stop. If Cuchillo was in Austin, asking about me, and the word on the street that I was outside Laredo spreading like wildfire, it was only a matter of time. When that time came, I would be ready and waiting to give that son of a bitch exactly what he deserved.

  Miri

  “Cat?” I called from the bathroom. “Cat?”

  “Miri?” A soft knock accompanied the voice on the other side of the door.

  “Come in,” I groaned.

  The door pushed open and in an instant, Cat dropped to her knees next to where I slumped over the toilet.

  “Oh my God, Miri. What happened?”

  “I don’t feel so good,” I said right before I dry heaved into the bowl. Cat reached out and felt my forehead.

  “You’re burning up. Is it…?” Her eyes flicked down to my still-flat stomach.

  “I-I don’t know.” I clutched my midsection and curled up on the floor, crying out in pain.

  “Miri, this isn’t good.” Cat leapt to her feet. “I’m getting help. Just… just stay there.” My best friend bolted from the room. I could hear her shouting for help. While she was gone, I grabbed the heating pad I had plugged in earlier out from under the sink, and pressed it to my face and neck, getting my skin nice and hot. When footsteps and voices grew louder, I chucked the pad back under the sink and shut the cabinet door.

  “See? Do something!” Cat cried from behind George’s large figure as he loomed in the doorway. I groaned as convincingly as I could and hunched further into myself, hands protecting my belly.

  “Miri,” George said, stepping toward me with his hands up, like I was a wounded animal. “What’s going on?”

  “I-I…” I drew in a long breath and let out a heartbreaking moan. “Oh God. I’m pregnant,” I whispered. “The baby.”

  George blanched and wasted no time scooping me into his arms. He carried me out of the bathroom and down the hall while barking commands. “Scratch, go get the car. Drake, grab your gun and get the elevator! Move!”

  Controlled chaos broke out
in the penthouse, each man carrying out his orders quickly and efficiently. Cat was somewhere out of my line of sight, sobbing. I swallowed back the guilt I felt for deceiving my friend. I hated hurting her, but I had to get to Jag. If Cat knew what I was planning to do, she’d never allow it. She’d narc to George in a heartbeat if it meant keeping me safe, no matter how much I begged and pleaded with her.

  Minutes later, we were all piled in the big black SUV, headed for the nearest hospital. I did my part, moaning and clutching my stomach the entire way. At this point, I was so nervous, my skin was legitimately clammy and my hands were trembling. Cat was beside herself and George had a pinched look on his face.

  “No, asshole, take her to Seaton.”

  “Shut the fuck up, Scratch. I’m driving.”

  The two men in the front were arguing about which direction to go.

  George wedged his huge body between the front seats. “Shut the fuck up! The bullshit stops here. Go to Seaton,” George growled, his voice frightening enough to raise the hair on the back of my neck. “Jag would want the best. Seaton is the best. Now shut your damn mouths and fucking drive.”

  Drake hung a right and took the on-ramp for Loop 1 north. The big vehicle accelerated quickly, its powerful engine rumbling as the SUV easily surpassed the eighty-five mile per hour speed limit.

  “Slow the fuck down!” George barked, startling both Cat and me. “You fucking crash and hurt either of these women, you’d better be dead in the wreckage or I’ll kill you myself.”

  Holy shit. I had no clue how scary George could be. It was both horrifyingly eye opening and somehow comforting at the same time.

  “We’re almost there, Miri.” Cat’s hand ghosted down the side of my face and another stab of guilt pierced my heart. I was the shittiest friend ever. “Just hold on. The baby will be fine.”

  The exit for 35th Street flew by and the SUV barely stopped at the bottom of the ramp before executing a sharp right turn, tires squealing. A minute later we jerked to a stop in front of the emergency room and in the blink of an eye, I was being lifted out of the backseat by strong arms. George brought me right to the intake desk and demanded I be seen immediately.

  The flustered clerk picked up the phone and called for a nurse. Less than five minutes after arriving, I was on a stretcher, being hurried down the hall. The staff kept my entourage in the waiting room, refusing to allow any one of them to accompany us past a pair of ominous-looking doors. I said a quick prayer of thanks for that tiny bit of luck.

  All I needed was two minutes alone and I could slip out of the hospital and make my way to the second level of the parking garage where my rental car was waiting, keys in a magnetic box beneath the front tire. I learned from Jag, offer a few extra dollars and you could get whatever you wanted. That, or threaten people with bodily harm, though violence was more Jag’s thing than mine. Money did the trick in this instance.

  The orderly put me in a room. “I’ll find a nurse to see you,” he said as he left.

  The second he stepped out I bolted from the bed. The hall was bustling with people, not one of them paying any attention to me. The orderly who brought me in wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Walking fast but not enough to draw attention to myself, I wound through the back halls of the emergency room to the main hospital and didn’t stop until I was in the car.

  Hands shaking and nerves frayed at the chance of being caught and prevented from getting to Jag, I put the car in gear and followed the GPS on my phone. Just the thought of seeing Jag again had my stomach calming down for the first time since he left.

  No, I didn’t know exactly where Jag was, but I would search every house until I found him. Doing something besides sitting on my ass waiting for news, had me feeling better than I had in days.

  It might not be the smartest thing to do, but at least this way, Jag would know about our baby. No loose ends left untied.

  13

  Jag

  “This is ridiculous.” I tossed the remote on the wobbly coffee table in disgust. “I fucking hate TV and hate waiting.” I was not a complainer, so I knew the tight confines were really getting to me for me to be bitching about El Cuchillo’s non-appearance after a week trapped in this shithole in the hot as Satan’s ass desert. The landscape here was damn depressing. I missed the trees and rolling hills of Austin. Oh, and coming and going as I pleased.

  Sammy glanced up from the bank of computer crap spread out all over the kitchen table and gave me a dry look. “So go work out.”

  “Right. In that musty, armpit-scented, hundred and fifty-degree garage? No thanks.” There was a bench and enough free weights to get a decent workout if you liked exercising in a sauna, but that wasn’t what I needed. What I needed was to get the fuck out of here. If I could go for a long run, I’d feel a thousand times better.

  Hell, if I could talk to Miri for even one minute, I’d feel a million times better. Half of me couldn’t ignore the overwhelming instinct to protect her, keeping me stuck in this shitty house. Half of me, the half ruled by my heart instead of my brain, was screaming to make sure she was okay, to talk to her, hold her, calm her fears. The need was clawing at my insides, urging me to find my woman and take care. Not letting her out of my sight for the rest of my life. I rubbed my eyes and sighed.

  The rest of my life.

  When exactly did fixing the broken doll who showed up on my doorstep turn into something more? When did Miri become someone I couldn’t live without? Someone I wanted to claim as mine. To mark, letting everyone know she was with me, all others knowing they should back the fuck off?

  Twitchy and frustrated at how long this stakeout was taking, I stood and paced the room. A year ago, if someone had told me I’d be going out of my mind being separated from a woman for a few days, I’d either laugh or shoot them between the eyes. Yet here I was, irrefutably in love with the tiny redhead who’d trespassed on my life and set up permanent residence in my previously empty heart.

  “Boss!” Frank burst through the front door, back from his grocery run much too soon. His face was pale and his voice rang with an urgency I couldn’t ignore.

  I sprang to my feet and met him in the entryway. “Tell me.”

  Frank held up his phone. “Just got a call. Someone asked about you at the Citgo on the loop.”

  Sammy glanced up from his computers, giving his full attention to our conversation.

  I stood in front of Frank and maintained my deadpan facade, but inside, the monster reared his bloodthirsty head and gnashed his hungry fangs. Finally. Cuchillo was here. Boss was rejoicing, more than ready to finish this shit and have long-awaited revenge.

  My eyes narrowed. “Asked about me? In what way?”

  Frank trembled, his lips pressed in a tight line. Something was wrong. My stomach flipped at the sight of my driver’s hesitation, because Frank was not a man who was easily rattled. I knew if Frank was anxious, then whatever he had to say was something I didn’t want to hear. “She showed a picture of you to the clerk.”

  “She?” Reacting without thinking, the façade slipped and I stumbled back a step, clutching my shirt where it lay over my heart. “What do you mean, she?” Shaking off the shock, I regained my composure and snatched the phone out of Frank’s hand.

  “The clerk sent me a picture of the visitor,” Frank said, subtly moving out of my reach.

  I touched the screen to wake up the phone and my now hammering heart plummeted to my feet. Holding my breath, I stared at the image for several long seconds, saying nothing as a myriad of emotions warred beneath the surface of my too-tight skin.

  Sammy finally broke the silence. “What’s going on?”

  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Frank making hand gestures telling Sammy to shut up.

  When the blood finally stopped pounding behind my ears and I unclenched my teeth long enough to speak, the last threads of my civility snapped. A red haze dropped behind my eyes, clouding my vision.

  “What the actual fuck?” I roared. “How i
n the motherfucking hell did she get here?”

  “I-I called George on my way back,” Frank said, sliding back to put more distance between us. It was shocking to watch. This was the first time I’d ever seen Frank show any kind of fear. “George said Miri was sick…” Frank paused when a low growl rumbled in my chest. “They took her to the hospital.”

  “And?” I stepped into Frank’s personal space, unable to contain the rage. “They fucking lost her? No one called me?” My chest was heaving as I tried to remain calm enough to finish the conversation before completely losing my shit.

  “No, Boss. It…” Frank licked his lips nervously. “It appears she snuck out of the hospital. None of them knew she was gone until I called. They… they thought she was in the back being treated. When I spoke to George, they were all still sitting in the waiting room at Seaton. The staff wouldn’t let any of them go back with her. You know hospitals, Boss, everything takes so damn long, it never occurred to George that she wasn’t being seen. That she would leave. And it’s so damn crowded, the staff probably didn’t notice her absence.”

  I closed my eyes and clenched the phone so hard the case cracked. When I… not exactly calmed down, but got my shit under control enough to loosen my grip, I tossed the phone back to Frank. The man caught it and moved even further away, recognizing the ticking time bomb inside of me.

  “If Miri is in Laredo, why the fuck are you standing here instead of finding her and making sure she’s not grabbed by Cuchillo?” I hissed.

  Frank cringed when I voiced his grievous error in judgment. “I-I was in the opposite direction, Boss. And the clerk said s-she had already left the station. The Citgo isn’t more than five minutes away, so she should be here any second.”

 
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