Miami, mistletoe & murde.., p.2
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       Miami, Mistletoe & Murder, p.2

         Part #4 of Red Stone Security series by Katie Reus
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  “Do you know anything about this guy? If he has a record, or possible weapons or—”

  “I don’t know anything other than Juanita is scared. I tried calling the cops but they said they couldn’t do anything other than send a patrol car down the street. ”

  He admired her protective response but he wasn’t letting her walk into a situation like this alone. “I’m going with you,” he said as they reached her green, four-door hybrid car.

  “Excuse me?” She looked up at him now, her keys dangling from her left hand.

  Bending down, he lifted his pants pocket where he had a weapon holstered. “I have a permit and you already know who I work for. What harm can it do to have me along? If the guy is there, chances are he’ll be more apt to walk away if I’m with you. ” People tended not to fuck with him because of his outward appearance. And if they did anyway, they learned fast that he fought dirty and took down his enemies any way he could. When she bit her bottom lip but didn’t respond, he continued. “Think about what’s best for Juanita. ”

  At those words, he could see the decision made in her eyes. Even though she still looked slightly unsure, she nodded. “Get in. ”

  Chapter 2

  Noel gripped her steering wheel tight, using it to ground herself. When she’d heard Juanita’s panicked tone, fear had taken over. She’d met that piece of crap, Dwight Gomez, before Juanita’s mother had broken up with him and she didn’t like the way he looked at the young girl. She was only fourteen.

  “So, condoms, huh?” Travis, the man she’d been lusting after for six months, asked.

  Since they were at a stoplight, she glanced at him in surprise. The man was so hard to read sometimes. He rarely smiled, but his expression was never harsh or anything. He was just…reserved. Noel never had a problem talking to people, but she was occasionally tongue-tied around Travis. That was because she was constantly wondering what he would look like naked. She’d seen flashes of tattoos—some around the neckline of his shirt and a few on his arms—and she really wanted to see how much of his body was covered in them. Before meeting him she’d never thought having ink on your body was sexy but Travis…the man was delicious. Since he didn’t seem like the kind of man to ever purposefully embarrass someone, she had a pretty good idea what he was doing. “Are you trying to distract me?”

  He shrugged those impossibly broad shoulders she’d love to smooth her hands over. “Maybe. ”

  Feeling her damn cheeks heat up under that intense gaze, she turned back to the road. When the light turned green, she sighed. “One of my employees—also a dear friend—thinks I need to get laid and thought it would be a funny birthday present. So she got me condoms and stuff. ”

  “Happy birthday. What do you mean by stuff?” There was a note of amusement and real curiosity in that last word.

  She cleared her throat. Um, yeah, she was definitely not telling him that her friend had also gotten her flavored lube, a pink whip, a purple rubber paddle and vibrating nipple suckers. Until today she hadn’t even known nipple suckers existed. “We are not having this conversation. So, why were you hoping to catch me before I got off work?” Please let it be because you wanted to ask me out. She’d thought about asking him out herself, but the man was just so hard to read. Whenever she worked up the courage, he’d disappear for weeks at a time. She knew it was for his job, but then by the time he would start regularly visiting her shop again, her courage would go back into hibernation. He just had that intimidating effect on her.

  He shifted against the passenger seat, his long legs looking cramped even though he’d pushed the seat all the way back. She was five feet ten so she guessed him to be six feet three. Give or take. “I wanted to see if you had plans tomorrow night. If not, I’d like to take you out to dinner and maybe we can walk around Bayside Marketplace afterward. ” He said the words in a rush, as if he’d been practicing.

  Which made her feel a lot better. Despite the way her day was going and the worry building inside her over Juanita, elation burst inside her. Still, she needed to understand what he was asking. “Would this be as friends or a date?”

  He paused a long moment. “I was hoping for a date. ”

  And there it was. Finally. Fighting the giant grin on her face, she nodded. “Okay. ”

  The tension in the car seemed to crackle for a moment until her ringing cell cut through the air. When she saw Juanita’s number, panic surged through her again. Noel had told Juanita to turn off the lights in the house and pretend she wasn’t home. She just hoped the girl had listened. “Hey. ” She answered on the first ring, putting the girl on speaker so she’d have her hands free.

  “My mom got home from work early and she and Dwight are in the driveway arguing. I don’t know what to do. ” Fear and tears laced her voice.

  “Where are you right now?”

  “I did what you said, but then I heard shouting. He’s holding onto her arm and she’s yelling at him. I don’t know what to do. ” Juanita let out a sob.

  “Do you have a backyard?” Travis asked, before Noel could speak.

  There was a moment of silence so Noel said, “Honey, this is Travis. He’s a friend and he’s coming with me to help. ”

  “Okay. And yeah, we have a backyard. ”

  “Is it possible for you to make it to your backyard without being seen?” Travis asked.

  Juanita sniffled. “Yeah. ”

  “Good. Forget what’s going on in the driveway. Get the hell out of your house. Sneak out back, climb a fence, whatever it takes. Just stay hidden and call the cops. They’ll listen to you when you tell them what’s happening. ” There was no room for argument in Travis’s voice.

  Noel was so grateful for his presence. She’d been scared of having to face that jerk alone and now she was just worried for Juanita and her mom. “Juanita, listen to what he says. I know you want to help your mom, but there’s nothing you can do now. Get out of that house. We’ll be there in two minutes. ”

  “Okay,” she whispered. “Stay on the line with me. ”

  “We’re not going anywhere, honey. ” Out of the corner of her eye, Noel watched as Travis pulled out his cell phone. He began texting furiously then asked for Juanita’s address. Noel gave it to him while listening to Juanita moving through her house. She heard the squeak of a door opening. She could faintly hear shouting in the background.

  “I can hear them,” Juanita whispered.

  “I can too. Just do what I say. Your mom will want you to be safe more than anything. ” The young girl’s mother, Alisa, worked two jobs to provide for Juanita. She was caring, hardworking and though she’d never said it, Noel was pretty certain the reason she’d ended things with Dwight was because of the way he’d been eyeing her daughter. Noel knew from past girls she’d mentored that not all moms were that caring. Sad, but true.

  “Okay, I’m climbing the fence to my neighbor’s yard. I’ve got to put the phone down for a sec, don’t hang up!”

  “I won’t, I promise. ” They’d be there in less than thirty seconds. “We’re close, Travis. ”

  There was a rustling sound then she was back on the line. “Okay, I’m hiding behind the shed in my neighbor’s backyard. He won’t be home for another two hours. ”

  “Good, stay there. And don’t worry about contacting the police. I’ve taken care of it,” Travis said.

  Noel wondered who he’d texted, but figured it must be someone he worked with. She didn’t know all the specifics of who exactly ran Red Stone Security but she’d heard rumors and she knew for a fact that a lot of former military people—Travis being one—and law enforcement worked for them to protect really wealthy people. She guessed Travis must have connections or something.

  Before Noel could say anything she heard a loud boom in the background. Next to her Travis tensed, his entire body going on alert.

  “Juanita, do not get out of your hiding place,” Travis

  “But, what was that? Did you guys hear—”

  “Stay where you are!” Noel shouted as realization dawned. That had been a gunshot. Her heart beat an erratic tattoo as they turned down Juanita’s street. It was a nice neighborhood with neatly kept lawns. Lower middle class with all working families and a lot of kids.

  “Park here and stay on the phone with her. Whatever happens, don’t you dare follow me. ” Travis motioned to a yellow one-story ranch style house with red trim on the shutters. The two palm trees in the yard were strung up with Christmas lights.

  Noel nodded, stark fear latching onto her chest. “What are you going to do?” she asked even though she was pretty sure she knew the answer. There was a determined glint in his dark eyes she’d never seen before.

  He didn’t respond, just slid from her car like a ghost. She watched as he crept down the sidewalk toward Juanita’s house, four homes down. Taking her by surprise, he hurried into a neighbor’s yard then disappeared from sight. In the distance she could hear sirens and just prayed they were coming for them. If Alisa had been injured…Noel shuddered, unwilling to think that. She said a silent prayer that everyone would be fine.

  * * * * *

  Even with his lack of sleep, the adrenaline that pumped through Travis’s system had completely revived him. That had definitely been a gunshot and he hoped he got to Juanita’s mother in time. To think that Noel had planned to come over here on her own—he shoved that thought away.

  Now was the time to focus on diffusing whatever was going on. He’d texted Grant Caldwell, who was Harrison’s brother and a former detective with the Miami PD. The newest Red Stone employee had gotten back to him immediately telling him that help was on the way.

  But Juanita’s mom might not have time. Dusk had just fallen so it was dark enough for him to blend into the shadows. Something he was damn good at. After eight years in Force Recon, most of those spent in violent warzones, he knew how to be invisible.
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