Jagger broken doll book.., p.9
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       Jagger (Broken Doll Book 2), p.9

           Heather C. Leigh
 
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  I’m sorry, Jag.

  A phone rang and my eyes flew open. Clearly irritated at the interruption, my torturer stepped away from the table to pull the device from his pocket. He no sooner put it to his ear than his mouth dropped open in shock. Before he could speak to whoever was on the other side, the door burst open with a loud crash.

  “El Cuchillo! Hay una problema!” From the very edge of my peripheral vision, I saw Raoul run into the room, his face red and his eyes wild. He ran up to Cuchillo and they bantered in rapid Spanish. Phone forgotten, their voices rose until they were shouting at each other. Unable to keep up, I closed my eyes again and tried to ignore the searing pain that burned every inch of my body.

  From far away, there was shouting, in both Spanish and English. Gunfire broke out, some shots so close my ears rang. Close by, I heard the dull thuds of bodies hitting the ground and the slaps of fists on flesh. A gurgled, choked cry came from the hall and I couldn’t stop the tears that welled up from rolling down my face. It sounded as if the world was ending around me while I remained helpless.

  Naked, bound, and sliced up from head to toe—that was how I was going to die. From the sounds of it, whoever found me was certainly as bad as Cuchillo.

  “Where is she? Goddammit!”

  Because my ears were still ringing from the gunshots, the words sounded as if they were being spoken underwater, yet I’d recognize that voice anywhere.

  “Jag.” The effort from speaking made me cough violently, my vocal cords so swollen I was unable to manage more than a whisper. “Jag.”

  “Miri?” He was close. Oh my God. Either I was dead and in heaven or I was about to be saved.

  The tears flowed harder.

  “That motherfucking bastard!”

  I looked up through blurry, tear-filled eyes. “Jag?” My voice was no more than a rough whisper.

  “Baby, it’s okay.” Warm hands ran over my forehead and brushed away the moisture on my cheeks only to be replaced by more. “I’m here. I’m so sorry, Miri.”

  “I-I…”

  He bent over to murmur in my ear, comforting hands never leaving my face. “Shhhhh, don’t talk, doll. I’ve got you.” Jag straightened up, but his warm touch remained. “Someone bring me a goddamn blanket or sheet or something!”

  I must have faded in and out of consciousness, because I woke to find myself free from the table, wrapped in a shirt that smelled like Jag—like home. Something heavier was thrown over me and next thing I knew, I was in Jag’s arms, pressed against his chest. I snuggled in close, reveling in the rapid beat of his heart against my cheek. Despite wanting to know what was going on, I was drained. The low vibrations that rumbled when Jag spoke lulled me right to sleep.

  Jag

  Exhaustion weighed down on me. Like Atlas, it felt as if the entire world was balanced on my shoulders. I struggled to keep my body going when lack of sleep and stress had depleted my energy and I was on the verge of collapsing. Miri was the only thing that kept me pushing through the fatigue. Weak, dehydrated, and horrifically abused, my beautiful doll was broken, and I wouldn’t rest until I made her whole again.

  A quick rap on the door of the master bedroom, and an older man with wise brown eyes and confidence radiating from his stocky figure entered without waiting for my consent. My body tensed, ready to fight. Then I recognized the doctor I kept on retainer for emergencies that couldn’t be brought to the authorities’ attention and relaxed. The doc checked Miri last night after I called him from the car as I raced back to my house, scared shitless that my doll might not make it.

  The doctor gave me a stiff nod before moving to Miri’s bedside. I leapt from the chair I had pulled up next to the bed. I needed to stay close to my girl all night, but was too afraid of hurting her to climb onto the mattress and hold her like I wanted to.

  “Doc.” I acknowledged the older man as he unpacked items from his messenger bag with the efficiency of someone who had done this many times.

  “Good morning, Boss. How did she do last night?” He fiddled with Miri’s IV drip, his smooth, practiced movements never faltering while he peppered me with questions about Miri’s condition.

  “I don’t know, Doc. Okay, I guess.”

  How the fuck do you answer a question like that? My girl was kidnapped, stolen right out of my arms, her skin sliced open over fifty times along with a deep graze from a bullet, and according to the doctor, raped by those fucking bastards.

  Miri was doing better than me right now. She was sleeping soundly from the sedatives Doc had her on. Me? I was running on less than three hours of sleep per night since she disappeared and was nearly erupting into a violent fit from my need for revenge.

  “Her vitals are strong.” The doctor ran his hands down the wounds on Miri’s arms, inspecting each one. “Everything is closing up nicely. No signs of infection. The cuts are small; most of them shouldn’t scar.”

  “Good,” I snapped. “I don’t want her to have to be reminded of what that sick motherfucker did to her.”

  The doctor glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. “Her head has taken many hits. We don’t have an MRI, but I’m confident in saying she has a pretty serious concussion. If you’re lucky, your girl may not remember everything that happened to her.” With that, he packed up his instruments and slung his bag over his shoulder.

  The doctor put his hand on my arm and looked into my eyes. “I’ll be back tomorrow unless you need me sooner. You have the medications and my number.”

  “Yeah. I’m good. I’ll call if I need to. Thanks, Doc.”

  I escorted the man out and closed the bedroom door. Dr. Marcus Abrams had worked for my organization on the down low for years. His younger brother was a lieutenant once, killed by a rival before I became Boss. When I took charge, I avenged his brother’s death and then some. The doc was so appreciative he would be loyal until the day he died.

  I sagged against the door, my emotions welling up thick in my throat. I swallowed, trying to dislodge the tight lump to no avail. My chest constricted and my eyes burned. I sucked in a ragged breath and crossed the room, falling to my knees at Miri’s side. With my forehead pressed to the back of her hand, I succumbed to the fatigue, to the guilt from failing her, and the joy I felt from getting her back.

  Then I did something I hadn’t done since I lost Rose.

  I let myself feel. I mean really feel—anything and everything I held at bay all these years. The remnants of my cold, black heart shattered, the once empty space filling to the brim with love, slowly beating back to life. As the raw pain pumped through my veins for the first time in years, I broke down and cried. Seconds, minutes, hours later… I heard a soft sound.

  “Jag?”

  I lifted my head and met green eyes.

  “Miri?” My newly awoken heart leapt in my chest.

  “Hey.” A tiny smile pulled at the corner of her dry, cracked lips and my brand new heart broke all over again. I blinked back more tears and pressed a gentle kiss on her hand. Reaching out, I brushed a finger down the side of her face.

  “God, Miri. I thought I lost you.” My voice cracked. I struggled to keep my composure so I wouldn’t upset Miri.

  “I’m here. Really here? This isn’t a dream?”

  A sob escaped as I smiled. “Yeah, you’re here.” Unable to resist, I stood and bent over to brush my mouth across hers. “I love you, Miri. I should have said it sooner. I’m so, so sorry I let them take you.”

  “Stop,” she said, focusing her determined gaze on me. “It wasn’t your fault. I’m the one who left when you said it wasn’t safe.”

  “No—”

  Miri’s eyes widened. “Cat? Where is she? Did she get out?” My girl easily redirected the conversation to her friend, effectively slamming the door on my guilt trip.

  “She’s fine, doll. She’s here with us in a guest room.”

  Miri’s eyes glassed over and tears overflowed, running in rivulets down her cheeks. “Thank God.”

  I took
Miri’s hand and lifted it to my chest. “I need to know…” I swallowed down the bile that churned in my stomach. “What did that fucker do to you?”

  Miri closed her eyes and shook her head, then clutched her temples and grimaced. “Ow. I’m not sure I remember it all.” She swallowed and I noticed her hands shaking. “But what I do… I-I just can’t, Jag.” Her breath hitched and the pulse monitor began to beep faster. “Don’t ask me that, not yet.” Miri’s breaths became shallow and another alarm went off on the monitor.

  “Okay. It’s okay, doll. You don’t have to talk about it.”

  I threaded my fingers in her hair and caressed her scalp in a frantic attempt to calm her down. My gaze ran over her arms and upper chest, scanning each and every shallow cut that bastard El Cuchillo made on her beautiful skin, and I struggled to contain my fury.

  By the time we stormed the house, Cuchillo was had vanished along with a few of his top men. I would never burden Miri with that information. She’d been through enough. I needed her to feel safe and to heal, mentally and physically. Knowing El Cuchillo was still out there, and most likely gunning for Miri and me, would only stress her out, and that was something I wouldn’t tolerate.

  My phone buzzed in my pocket. I didn’t need to check to know who it was.

  “Doll, I have to go for a few minutes. I’ll be right downstairs.” I stood and kissed her one last time. “There’s a button right here.” I showed her the remote device. “Push it and I’ll be by your side.” She nodded sleepily.

  By the time I reached the bathroom door, Miri’s eyes were closed, her chest rising evenly.

  The alert was sent to my phone when my guest was half an hour out, just as I instructed. I showered and dressed in one of my best suits. In front of the mirror, I methodically knotted the navy silk tie until it was perfect. Next, I fastened a pair of platinum cuff links in place and smoothed my hands down my front. Satisfied, I stared at the man in the mirror. His face was shadowed by fatigue, his cheeks hollow from weight loss and stress. But what wasn’t gone, what remained bright and strong, was the burning fire for revenge glowing behind his dark blue eyes.

  Fixing my angry features into a neutral expression, I looked away from the mirror and glanced at Miri one more time before ducking out of the room. At the bottom of the stairs, I stepped out front door at the same time a large, dark SUV pulled into the drive. George and Milo stood to one side waiting for our guest. The big car came to a stop and the driver hopped out to open the door for his boss. It swung open and Brick and Eric stepped out, along with another man who held a briefcase. Each of them wore suits as expensive as my own. They glanced around with the cautious gazes of men used to being on guard. Brick spotted me waiting on the front step.

  Brick grinned as he crossed the gravel drive. “Boss, good to see you again.”

  “You too. Thank you for coming.” I shook hands with both of the men and rolled my eyes internally.

  Brick couldn’t give two shits about seeing me. He only cared about what he was to gain today. I couldn’t be mad at the guy, though. He fulfilled his end of the deal. He helped me get Miri back, and for that, I’d always be grateful. The price I had to pay meant nothing to me as long as I had my doll in my arms, under my protection again.

  The men followed me into the house, and I led them straight to my study. The cook had food and drinks prepared for my guests and my lawyer was already waiting inside. He rose from his chair and tipped his head at the men.

  “Make yourselves comfortable,” I said as I sat behind my desk. “There are refreshments if you’re hungry and I also have a full bar.”

  Brick sat in one of the deep leather chairs and leaned back, resting one ankle on the opposite knee. “I’d love a bourbon.”

  I nodded at George, who efficiently prepared one for the Houston boss as well as his second in command. Milo eyed the liquor but refrained. I gave them both strict orders not to drink alcohol during the meeting. Only George knew what was coming. Milo didn’t, and he looked confused. He was going to be livid. Drunk Milo was a thousand times worse to deal with than sober Milo, so I made sure he wouldn’t indulge. Once he heard the details of the deal I made with Brick, all hell was going to break loose.

  “So,” Brick said between sips of his drink. “Are we ready to do this?”

  The man waited for my response, as if expecting me to renege on the deal and toss him out on his ass.

  I glanced at my lawyer who gestured for me to continue. “I am,” I replied.

  Brick tried to hide his surprise, but I caught the slight lift of his eyebrow before he could pull it back. “Good. Good.” Brick’s lawyer unlatched his own briefcase and pulled out a stack of papers.

  I opened a large file on my desk and began the tedious process of transferring my entire operation to my Houston competitor so I could retire from the drug business, then start my mission to hunt down and kill El Cuchillo in the most painful, sadistic way possible.

  Miri

  “I can’t believe you’re here.”

  Cat smiled and tucked her long hair behind her ears. We rocked gently on the gazebo swing, the ceiling fan and a cool lake breeze preventing us from sweltering on the hot late summer day.

  “Me either. I honestly thought I was going to die in there, Miri.” Cat’s voice was shaky and I noticed her hands trembling. I reached for the nearest one and threaded our fingers together.

  “We’re both alive. We’re strong, Cat. We’ll get past this. We can have real lives. Normal lives.”

  I wasn’t sure if I believed what I was saying, but I had to reassure my damaged friend. She was in that horrid house for almost a year, kept drugged and used for sex by who knows how many men. Jag was weaning her off the heroin the same as he did for me. It had been two weeks since we were rescued by Jag and one of the other bosses, a man named Brick who I learned ran Houston’s heroin trade. Because of how long she had been on the drugs, Cat was still on a pretty high dose of H, getting injections three times a day. The blessing was that her blood work came back negative for all disease, which was surprising considering Cat said that to her knowledge, the men didn’t always use condoms.

  “I’m not sure if I’ll ever be normal, Miri.” I stayed silent, giving my best friend the chance to say whatever it was she needed to get off her chest. Cat lifted her head and looked around, taking in the gardens, the big house, and the lake. “Though I gotta admit, this sure is a nice way to get back on my feet.”

  I grinned and squeezed her hand.

  “Jag is a great guy. He’ll take care of you and make sure you’re safe.”

  “Thank you, Miri. For helping me get out of there. I was ready to give up. You… you gave me hope. I’m just sorry you’re the one who got caught when we escaped.”

  “Not me,” I said without even having to think about my response.

  Cat released my hand and gaped. “How can you say that, Miri? They tortured you.”

  I nodded and stared at my feet before lifting my head to look into Cat’s glistening brown eyes. “They did. But…” I took a deep breath so I could explain how I felt. “If I were the one who escaped and collapsed unconscious outside, Jag would never have known you were still in there, Cat. He would have taken me and left. El Cuchillo… he would have either fled and brought you with them, or shot you for being too much trouble before they could rescue you.” I shuddered at the thought. “At least it was a night where there weren’t any other girls in the house.”

  Cat nodded at that. “Still, I hate what they did to you, Miri.” She sniffed and tears ran down her cheeks.

  “I hate what they did to you too. All we can do now is move forward.”

  She put her hand back in mine and we silently enjoyed the beautiful day. Despite everything I’d been through, it was great to be alive.

  * * *

  Cat and I spent most afternoons rocking on the swing in the gazebo. It sort of became a daily ritual. Peace, tranquility, and the ability to talk freely and lean on each other fo
r support without any of Jag’s Men in Black hanging around. Or more specifically, Milo. The big blond terror had a permanent scowl on his face ever since the day I arrived, and his attitude got a thousand times worse after Cat and I were rescued. I could literally feel the hostility and loathing pouring off him, combined with strange looks of confusion, whenever he was nearby, which seemed to be often, as if he were purposely seeking me out with the singular goal of scaring the shit out of me.

  It was working. Whenever I saw him, my head would ache and knives would jab my eyeballs. Memories of my time at Cuchillo’s would flash by, but always so fast I couldn’t catch a single one.

  Getting outside of the house and away from Milo’s toxic hate was good for my mental health as well as Cat’s. Plus, the fresh air helped us relax after being trapped in that horrible room for days on end. We chatted a lot, and not just about our time in captivity. It was way too depressing to fixate on the bad stuff. We recalled the fond memories and good times we had together before everything went to hell, laughing and smiling for the first time in weeks, or in Cat’s case, months.

  One night, after Cat went to bed, I lingered in the library, waiting for Jag to emerge from his office. He’d spent an inordinate amount of time in there over the last two weeks, pretty much sunrise to sunset since I got back. Not counting the full twenty-four hours he stuck to my side and shadowed my every move while the doctor tended to my wounds. After that, Jag came to bed long after I was asleep and left every morning before I woke.

  Whenever I asked if everything was okay, Jag simply responded, “I’ve got it all under control, doll,” and continued to work. I trusted Jag to do what he thought was best, so I didn’t pry. I missed him though. Missed how it was before. I wanted him back, in my arms, in my bed, in my heart. I was ready to move on. But Jag’s time was hard to come by. He was busy all day every day.

 
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