Riding the edge, p.18
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       Riding the Edge, p.18
 

         Part #4 of Wild Riders series by Jaci Burton
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Page 17

  Author: Jaci Burton

  “Unaware she’s transporting drugs across the border, of course. ”

  “Of course. ”

  What a fucking asshole. Rick hid his disgust with a smirk. “No wonder she’s in love with you. ”

  “Hey, man, I treat her like a princess. I buy her presents, feed her, clothe her, cater to her, and once a month she gets a free trip. What more could she want?”

  Honesty? Integrity? A man who actually cared about her and wasn’t putting her future on the chopping block for his own selfish gain?

  “I can’t imagine. So what’s the deal? What are you running?”

  “Cocaine. We’ve got a great supplier and he gives me plenty of product. I just sent the money over. It’s a nice clean transaction, and so far no hassles with the Border Patrol. ”

  “You’ve been lucky. How are they hiding it?”

  “I had several hiding spots made in the new car I bought Lacey this year. And the scent is masked in case there are drug dogs. It’s slick, I’m telling you. ” He leaned in closer. “We’re running a ton of coke here in the city alone. I’m looking to branch out territory, take it statewide and then beyond. You came back at just the right time. I’d really like to tap into your Chicago connections. ”

  His nonexistent Chicago connections. “You got it. Anything you need me to do, just let me know. ”

  As if he finally relaxed, Bo leaned back in the chair. “I have some really good guys working for me, but none that I’m close to like you and I were. I’d like to have you as my second-in-command someday. If you’re interested. ”

  “You know I would be. ”

  Bo nodded. “You’ll need to prove yourself, of course. Not just to me, but to the higher-ups in the Hellraisers national organization. Once you do, then you’ll progress fast and I’ll have you positioned right where I want you. ”

  “Okay. What do you need from me?”

  “I need you to do a run for me into California tomorrow. ”

  Rick just bet he did. What he wanted was to make sure Rick had no ties to Ava, so that he could ship Ava off with Lacey into Mexico. If Rick objected, then there’d be trouble.

  This was make it or break it time.

  The problem was, everything was now on the line—the assignment, Rick’s cover, and Ava’s safety. Rick would have to be very careful how he played the game moving forward.

  “That sounds fine. ”

  “Good. ” Bo paused, looked around, then back at him. “So tell me what’s the deal with you and Ava. ”

  Rick shrugged. “Ava’s just a fuck. I don’t even know her. I figured she was a Hellraiser babe. ”

  “Nah. She’s Lacey’s friend. Pops in to see Lace every now and then, but otherwise she’s nothing to the Hellraisers. I just wanted to know if she meant something to you. ”

  Rick had to play it cool, had to know where Bo was going with this. “To me? She doesn’t mean anything at all. ”

  “So she’s disposable. ”

  “Hell yes, she’s disposable. I don’t keep women in my life. Never have, never will. ”

  Bo’s smirk sent a warning signal his way, especially when Bo lifted his gaze over Rick’s shoulder.

  Rick turned around.

  Fuck.

  Ava was standing right behind him. And the shocked expression on her face told him she’d heard what he’d just said.

  Ava swallowed, but there was a lump in her throat the size of a baseball.

  She was just a fuck. Disposable. He didn’t even know her.

  The things he’d said shouldn’t hurt, because he was right. He was right about all of it.

  But goddammit, it did hurt. It hurt bad. She didn’t know which was worse—being stunned over hearing Rick tell Bo how he really felt about her, or finding out how she felt about him.

  When had she started to care?

  Rick pushed back from the table. “Ava. ”

  She held up her hand. “Don’t. Just . . . ”

  She pivoted and turned, pushing past an open-mouthed Lacey. Hoping like hell that no one followed her, she punched the button for the elevator, grateful that the doors pulled open immediately and no one was in there. She hurried in and jammed the button for the second floor, her gaze fixated on the lobby in front of her, searching out Rick or Lacey.

  The doors closed and she exhaled.

  When she got to her room, she bolted the door and took a moment to lean against it.

  You’re waiting for him. You want him to come after you.

  You are so stupid, Ava, because he isn’t going to. Weren’t you listening downstairs? You’re disposable.

  What was she so upset about anyway? She’d come here to see Lacey, to find out how she was doing and see if she could repair their friendship.

  That part, at least, seemed to be going well. Lacey had asked her this morning to go to Mexico with her. A short, two-day trip, but Lacey said she often went, stayed overnight at a wonderful resort and got the full spa treatment, then headed back. A gift from Bo, Lacey had said, because Bo traveled a lot on business—what business that was Ava had no idea—and he felt guilty leaving Lacey alone so much.

  Of course if Lacey was in school she wouldn’t be lonely and bored, but that was a topic Ava intended to bring up once she got Lacey all to herself in Mexico. So she agreed to accompany her, in fact couldn’t wait for some one-on-one time with her best friend.

  Time to focus on Lacey, not on Rick. She’d already wasted too much time with Rick, and look where it had gotten her? She’d conjured up ridiculous notions that he cared for her, that she cared for him, as if they had some kind of relationship, when in fact all they’d had was sex.

  She might have been nothing but a fuck to him, but guess what? That’s exactly what he’d been to her. A hot guy she could stretch her sexual muscles with. He’d at least been fun for that.

  Now that it was over, she’d concentrate on Lacey.

  And forget all about Rick.

  Easy, right?

  Rick dragged his fingers through his hair and paced, trying to figure out how the hell he was going to make this right.

  The first thing he did after Ava ran off was pretend it didn’t matter. Lacey glared at him and called him an asshole, but he just shrugged and Bo laughed. He’d done his job, even if he felt like shit about it.

  He’d hurt Ava. He hadn’t meant to. If he’d known she had come into the coffee shop and was within earshot, he’d never said those things to Bo about her.

  Bo had set him up, had seen Ava and Lacey coming in and wanted to make sure Ava heard Rick say those things.

  He had his cousin to thank for this mess.

  But Rick wanted Bo to think that Ava meant nothing to him, to clear the way for his advancement in the Hellraisers, and to make sure nothing stood in the way of Rick being in the right position to find out what Bo was going to do. There was a major drug buy on the line, and Rick needed to make sure it didn’t get cancelled.

  The problem was, he did care about Ava. He did worry about her. The best thing that could come out of her eavesdropping would be her falling apart and deciding to run home to her father, thereby clearing the way for him to focus only on what Bo was up to. Ava would be safe then, and that part of his job would be over.

  Unfortunately, no such luck. And despite the illegal drug distribution angle, Ava was his primary assignment. His job was to prevent any major connection between Ava and drugs. Bringing in cocaine across the border would be a massive clusterfuck, and probably cost him his job.

  He really liked his job. And it was damn time he stopped playing around with Ava and started doing his job. What the hell did it matter what she thought of him? When this assignment was over, he was off to the next one and Ava would be nothing but a distant memory.

  After Bo and Lacey took off, Rick went back to his room, grabbed his cell phone and dialed Grange’s number. The g
eneral picked up on the second ring, and Rick filled him in on what was going to happen.

  “Well, shit,” Grange said. “So your cousin is using his girlfriend as a mule, and has decided to drag the senator’s daughter into his game. ”

  “Looks that way. ”

  “It’s obvious Bo doesn’t have any idea who Ava is, does he?”

  “I don’t think so. No way would he allow a high-profile person like Senator Vargas’s daughter to carry drugs across the Mexican border. A bust could break the Hellraisers and lead directly to him. ”

  “Okay. What do you want to do about it?”

  Leave it to Grange to drop the ball right at Rick’s feet. “I want to let Ava and Lacey go into Mexico. But I want to be there. I also want to get Bo into Mexico. This is an opportunity to break up a major drug import and distribution ring. I can’t just walk away from this by pulling Ava out. ”

  Grange went quiet for a few seconds. “Risky. The Feds aren’t going to like this. ”

  Rick smiled. “But you aren’t going to tell them yet, are you?”

  “Of course not. I’ll wait until you’re already in Mexico and I’ll take the heat for the decision to let this play out. ”

  Just like Grange to shoulder the burden.

  “Thanks. ”

  “You’d better have something figured out that clears Ava by the time you reach the U. S. border, though. ”

  “You got it. ”

  “And if things get sticky, get Ava out of there and let this drug business with your cousin go. ”

  “I know. She’s the number-one priority. I’ll keep you posted. ”

  He hung up and paced again, trying to formulate a plan. Bo wanted him out of the state. Rick would have to change his mind.

  Then again, maybe not. Maybe he could head on down into Mexico without Bo knowing. Or at least without Bo knowing just yet. Because Bo would find out eventually—after Rick got there.

  And that’s exactly the way Rick wanted this game to play out.

  He grinned and went in search of Bo.

  TEN

  Ava inhaled and exhaled, sinking deep into the cushy table where she was being massaged. She could almost imagine she was floating somewhere in the deep sea, lost amidst the creatures that inhabited the vast ocean. Just drifting endlessly without a care in the world.

  Lacey was right. Mexico was heaven. She was oiled, rubbed, pampered, the strains of some sweet classical music lulling her into a near coma of bliss.

  All this lavish attention almost took her mind off the gnawing emptiness and pain of what Rick had done to her yesterday.

  Almost.

  Fortunately she had Lacey with her—at least some of the time—talking to her nonstop about everything and nothing.

  Now that they didn’t have school and their future careers to work on together any longer, Ava realized she and Lacey had very little common ground. Lacey liked to talk about Bo—a lot. Her entire world revolved around Bo. What she and Bo did together, where they went, what little presents he bought for her . . .

  And sex. She talked nonstop about all the sex she was having with Bo.

  Which would be fine if all the sexy talk didn’t make Ava think about Rick. And she’d vowed she wasn’t going to think about Rick anymore. After all, he wasn’t thinking about her. He was probably off picking up a new girl, what with women being disposable and all.

  “You’re tensing up ma’am. Try to relax. ”

  “Sorry. ” Ava cleared her mind again and focused on the soft music and equally soft hands of Carla, her masseuse. She closed her eyes and imagined herself rich and pampered, getting massages like this every week, having an idle life where all she did was shop and live in the lap of luxury.

  Ha. She’d be bored senseless. She was already bored senseless. She’d been here twenty-four hours and she was ready to go home. How Lacey did these trips by herself was beyond Ava’s ability to comprehend.

  It was certainly a nice experience. The town was lovely, the people were friendly, there was plenty of shopping, and the food was good. The spa and hotel were awesome, catering to her every need. The staff knew Lacey very well since she’d been coming here often. Still, Ava was bored.
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