Theirs to cherish, p.49
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.49

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
Page 49



  SEAN began to wonder if Callie was out of her mind. She was in the backseat getting all dolled up, carefully applying mascara with a hand mirror, then teasing and smoothing her hair with a small brush.

  “You look beautiful, lovely, but I don’t think now is the time to worry about all this. ”

  A glance to his right showed that Thorpe looked as confused as he did.

  “It’s the perfect time. I’m going to make a big splash. ” She dug into her backpack and pulled out some black leggings and a simple V-neck shirt in red. She shimmied out of her old clothes and into the new, then exchanged her tennis shoes for some black sandals.

  Somehow, she made clothes that had been rumpled into a ball five minutes ago look perfect.

  “Why?” Thorpe demanded. “What do you have planned in that mischievous head of yours?”

  Callie shook her head. “I’m still working out the details. Get me to a taxi. You’ll see. ”

  “You should clue me in. After all, I have some experience at eluding bad guys,” Sean said ironically.

  “I’ve put my trust in you for the last thirty-six hours. Now it’s time for you to do the same for me. ”

  Sighing and grumbling, Sean continued heading northwest, toward downtown. Traffic was definitely picking up now that it was after seven a. m. They slowed to the speed he’d drive on a residential street as he headed north on I-515. Fucking mess.

  Ten minutes to go, max. Then they could disappear into a cab, get lost in a sea of humanity, and hopefully whatever the devil was in Callie’s head would save the day.

  Another glance in the rearview mirror alarmed him. A black sedan two cars back and to the right. They’d picked it up a few minutes ago—along with a lot of other cars. But this one . . . every time he switched lanes, so did the sedan.

  With the hair at the back of his neck standing up, Sean slowed down. It wasn’t hard with this many cars. The lane of traffic beside him was moving a tad faster. But the black sedan slowed, too.

  Growling a curse, Sean changed lanes again, getting directly in front of the dark car. He glanced in the rearview mirror, hoping to see someone blabbing on the phone, a woman putting on her mascara, or someone reading their texts—anything that said this driver wasn’t really paying attention to them. Instead, he saw two men in an unfamiliar bluish uniform, one fancier than the other. He tensed.

  “What is it?” Thorpe asked.

  Sean didn’t really want to talk to him, but Thorpe was another gun and more muscle. He needed that more than resentment now. “We’ve got company. Callie, have you worked out your plan?”

  “I need to make a phone call. Neither of you has a phone anymore?”

  “They’re destroyed. ” Thorpe looked grim.

  “Keep getting to the taxi. I’ll figure out how to make this work. ”

  An exit appeared on the right. He sped up and put on his blinker, pretending that he intended to change to the fast lane on the left. At the last moment, he jerked the wheel right, cutting off an SUV, then bumped onto the off-ramp, flooring it.

  The other car hit the brakes, tires screeching, then followed them off the ramp.

  “Fuck,” Thorpe said, turning to look out the back windshield.

  That summed it up. Sean navigated the traffic, dodging cars, changing lanes, screaming through a yellow light to try to lose their tail.

  The black sedan simply ran the red and continued on, firing a semiautomatic out the window.

  “Jesus, they could kill anyone!” Sean cursed, thankful that the bullets had missed. “We should hit the Strip soon. If I can’t shake this tail, we won’t have time to retrieve our luggage from the back. Callie, hand Thorpe your backpack. As soon as I stop the Jeep, everyone bail out and run. ”

  In the backseat, Callie gave him a nod. Besides lushing up her lashes with mascara, she’d rimmed her bright blue eyes in her signature black liner. Her eyes stood out in her pale face, broken only by the red gloss on her lips. Now wasn’t the time to notice how damn beautiful she was, but he couldn’t help it. She looked especially lovely with her delicate face full of determination. Hell, he really was madly in love.

  As Sean raced down Tropicana Avenue, he also realized that finding a quick place to ditch the Jeep on the Strip might be tough. Time to improvise.

  Sean hung a right onto Las Vegas Boulevard the second he could, grateful that traffic wasn’t too heavy. When he saw the street sign for Las Vegas Boulevard, he hung a sharp right onto the edge of the Strip. A screech of tires behind told him the sedan was doing its best to follow suit.

  “Where the hell are you going?” Thorpe barked.

  “Looking for a place to lose the Jeep and pick up a cab,” he said grimly.

  Thankfully, the traffic in the tourist areas wasn’t as heavy at this hour. Random cars and the occasional cab drifted by. Some hungover partiers were doing the walk of shame back to their hotels.

  The grandeur of the Bellagio jumped out at him, the famous fountain show idle this early in the morning. He floored it down the relatively empty side street leading to the hotel, past the standing streetlamps meant to be charming. Through the back passenger window, he caught a glimpse of the fake Eiffel Tower that always made him roll his eyes—and the black sedan heading toward the curve to follow him, about thirty seconds behind. At least they had stopped shooting for now.

  He roared under the canopy and glanced to his right, past the topiaries. A few idling taxies, a shuttle bus full of spent revelers leaving for the airport, and some members of the valet staff milling around.

  The second the car came to a shuddering stop, they all jumped out and slammed the doors.

  Sean threw the keys at a valet attendant and flashed his badge. “Emergency. I’ll be back. Park it now!”

  “Yes, sir,” the young man answered.

  He gripped Callie’s hand as they ran toward the hotel, searching the line of taxis and praying that his instincts were right. Bingo! Away from the line of vehicles for hire he spotted a taxi with its light off and an older man napping in the front seat. He pounded on the window.

  The man started and adjusted his ball cap with a glower. “Can’t you read? I’m off duty. ”

  “It’s life or death. Please. ” Callie pressed her face to the glass and she might have thrust her breasts a bit closer to the window, too.

  As Sean flashed his badge he wanted to gnash his teeth, but at least the guy wasn’t scowling anymore.

  “There’s a thousand dollars in cash if you get us out of here in the next ten seconds. ” Thorpe reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. “And keep yourself off duty. ”

  The driver straightened up and unlocked the doors. They all piled in as the cabbie peeled out.

  “Where am I going?” he asked.

  Sean looked at Callie, who crawled down to the floorboard. He didn’t want to think about how filthy it was down there, but to her credit, she didn’t blink once, just put their safety above possible germs. In order to conceal himself, he had to slink low in the seat and bow his head. Thorpe reclined, propping himself up on his elbow against the lumpy upholstery. Hopefully, they were hidden enough so that anyone driving by wouldn’t notice them.

  “Where’s the nearest TV station?” she asked the driver.

  “What?” Thorpe howled at her. “You’re going to the press?”

  “Oh, lovely,” Sean began with a note of warning. “I don’t think—”

  “Hear me out. The egg can prove my identity. Because so few still exist, the owners of all the remaining pieces can be verified. What’s on the SD card can prove that I’m not guilty of anything. It cuts through the red tape and BS. No going back into hiding. ”

  “You’re making yourself a bigger target,” Sean protested.

  “I’m not. ” She shook her head, her dark hair covering her shoulders and brushing her arms. “Whoever’s been looking for me wants the part of the research
that no longer exists. We go public with the fact that my father burned it. And whoever offed everyone else and is after me now wants to keep their dirty deeds a secret. By exposing it all, killing me doesn’t bury anything anymore. It only draws attention to their misdeeds. Once the world knows I’m alive and what’s happened . . . ”

  “There will be a media frenzy,” Thorpe finished for her. “You’ll have such a spotlight on you, they won’t dare. ”

  “Exactly. ”

  “That’s damn clever. ” Sean couldn’t help but smile at her. “Lovely minx. ”

  “So where’s that TV station?” she asked the cabbie, who looked totally confused by their conversation.

  “Less than a mile up the road. It’s KSNV, the NBC affiliate. Will that do?”

  “Perfect. ” Relief made her entire face glow. “The Today show should be on. It’s got a great viewership. ”

  “Word should travel fast,” Thorpe agreed.

  Sean wanted to pound the wistful expression off the other man’s face and tell him that if he adored Callie so much, he should fucking stay. But no sense in arguing now. Sean had to focus on shielding her from the coming media storm. But he had no doubt he’d wish now and then that Thorpe had pulled his head out of his ass before it had come to good-bye.

  “Um . . . that’s great and all,” the driver interjected, “but I think someone is following us. Black sedan?”

  Sean resisted the urge to peek through the back windshield to verify. Damn it, how had these goons figured out their escape route so quickly? Why couldn’t they shake these assholes?

  “Act like there’s nothing wrong. See if you can get him to pass us. Confuse him by taking a circular route to the TV station. Anything. ”

  The car slowed for a moment, and the cabbie seemed to change lanes. He pulled out a smoke and fished around for his lighter. As soon as he found it, he dropped it and stomped on the gas pedal.

  “What’s going on?” Sean demanded.

  “I don’t think there’s going to be any fooling the guys in the black sedan. They’ve got guns!”

  And they were tenacious. A second later, a loud bang resounded, and the back window on the passenger’s side shattered. Thorpe reacted quickly, covering Callie’s body with his own.

  Sean drew the Glock he’d been hiding in the waistband holster tucked inside his jeans and peeked out the open window. “Slow down so I can get a shot. ”

  “What the fuck?” The man’s gray brows slashed down in the rearview mirror. “I’m not aiding a murder, pal. ”

  “I’ve got a badge, remember? I’m FBI, protecting a witness. Now slow down so I can get a damn shot. If you don’t and we somehow manage to live, I’ll arrest your ass. ”

  “Fucking do what he said!” Thorpe barked.

  Sean waited as the driver eased off the gas. The sedan roared up to their side again.

  “As soon as I say so, take the next right and floor it. Got it?”

  The cabdriver nodded excitedly. “I always wanted to do this. It looks cool in the movies. ”

  Trying not to roll his eyes, Sean inched up and aimed his weapon out the window. He fired off a couple of shots, hitting the side of the car, but not the passenger or driver. That shit only happened in the movies. But even if they turned right suddenly, Sean didn’t think it was going to be enough to prevent the attackers from pursuing. He needed to try again.

  “Keep her on the floor and covered. ” He barked at Thorpe as he slammed back against the seat.

  “I’ve got your back,” Thorpe vowed.

  Not always, but now wasn’t the time to worry about tomorrow.

  “Just a little farther,” he told the old man at the steering wheel. “At the parking lot on the other side of the upcoming intersection, turn in. Don’t signal, just do it. ”

  “Got it. ”

  “What’s your name?” Sean asked.

  “Bob. ” He gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. “Maybe I’ll get to be on the news?”

  “Yeah, maybe. ” Sean nearly shook his head. “Ready?”

  “Yep. ”

  As they soared through the green light and just past the black car, he took another shot and hit the windshield. It splintered, caving in on the pair of mercenaries.

  Bob jerked the car right, and it bounced into the parking lot. He dodged a hatchback swinging into the parking lot.

  The sedan locked up its brakes and tried to turn right in front of the far lane of traffic. Tires screeched. A pickup truck hit the car’s back panel on the passenger side with a cringeworthy metallic crunch. Sean twisted around to look through the back windshield. The sedan was almost backward in the intersection. The truck ground to a halt, along with several of the cars behind them, and blocked the intersection. The sedan was trapped.

  A bystander got out to check on the people involved in the accident. The driver of the sedan, the older asswipe in uniform, rolled down his window and started shouting, gesturing wildly for everyone to get out of his way.

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