If I had seen Daniel Logan coming I would have run on instinct alone. Six months into training for a marathon and I was strong enough for the race. Fast enough to compete. And steady enough, had I had a gun I would have never gotten into this situation.
My heart was pounding as I crested the hill, pushing myself hardest at the end of the run. And no matter how many times I did it, it was always hard. My mouth was parched, I was out of Gatorade and even though it was still freezing outside I was sweating as if it were ninety degrees.
I was fast, but I was no match for Daniel. He ran like a fucking machine and even though I prided myself on listening for footsteps coming up behind me he came barreling out of the woods and at me it startled me, so I charged at him sending us sliding down a patch of ice.
I slipped free and fumbled for my keys propelling myself into a blistering pace. The adrenaline kicked in and memories from a night long ago flooded me. Slipping out a window into the dead of night. Running through the streets. Through the woods. Running until I could run no more. I had run fast that night. I ran even faster now.
My fingers were numb, I couldn’t even feel my car key as I approached my car. I’d often curse the piece of shit when the heat wouldn’t want to work. I didn’t care about the heat now. I just wanted the thing to start.
My hands were shaking so hard I dropped my keys to the ground. “Fuck.” My voice was trembling and it felt like the ten years I had lived a free woman were coming to an end. And that my father had finally managed to find me. I scooped up the keys and as I slid it into the lock and felt the cold barrel of a gun press into my back.
When he spoke his voice, cool, clipped, and accented, he wasn’t from
Kentucky, he wasn’t even from the States, he was from . “Just get into the car and everything will be fine.” England
Well, if Jack had found me, fine, but I wasn’t about to go anywhere without a fight. I hurled my head backwards and smashed my crown and caught him in the chin. Stomped on the instep of his foot, and elbowed him hard in the stomach, taking the wind out of him. I managed to wiggle part of the way free before his hand closed around my wrist like a vise. He whipped me around and fixed me with a cold, glittering, set of ice blue eyes.
“You are coming with me. If I leave you here--,” shots punctured the quiet morning air and we both looked to another man, this one with jet black hair, had his gun drawn and was closing ground, fast. “You get the point. Now get in the God damn car.” He shoved me and a split second later my collarbone was burning like it was on fire.
I staggered around the car and got in, locking the door. I had often referred to my Natasha as a piece of shit, and other choice words when she wouldn’t start, or the heat wouldn’t come on. But I prayed now that she would.
I was starting to get light headed and dizzy. And as my kidnapper swung the car around the back window exploded. I ducked and screamed at the top of my lungs. We pealed out of the Iroquois parking lot and squealed onto the open road. I pitched forward. My shoulder had begun to ache. I put hand to it and it felt wet. I looked down at my fingers and they were smeared with blood. My hoodie was fast staining with it. Benjy had given that to me. “Damn it.” I muttered as the frigid air came rushing in. “This was my favorite piece of clothing.”
He hung a sharp right and looked in the rearview mirror. He glanced in my direction and did a double take. “Why didn’t you tell me he’d shot you?”
“Excuse me, I just noticed this little development myself. And I’d be driving home no worries if you hadn’t just decided to use me as your hostage.”
He maneuvered out of his coat. “Take that off, put this on.” I noticed his gun. A standard issue nine millimeter handgun, black, no frills, fancy engravings, no flashy nickel plating. Jack’s men tended to fancy themselves real James Bond types when all they really were, were glorified criminals under my father’s private ‘security’ agency. The Organization For Truth And Justice. This guy though, my captor, didn’t fit the mold. He leaned over and popped open my glove compartment and pulled out an old pair of mittens. “Press this to the wound.”
I did as he told me to. His gaze went to the rearview mirror again and the sound of gunshots permeated the air again. My heart had never really stopped racing but I knew that if that man succeeded in killing my captor I had no hope of ever securing my freedom again.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
He looked at me as if I were crazy.
More gunshots. He began weaving in and out of traffic. Cutting people off, running traffic lights. “I don’t think now is the best time to have a coffee klatch.”
“I could call you Rat Bastard with the English Accent. But I’d really rather call you something nicer.” If I had met this guy in a normal setting I might have been tempted to hit on him. Those eyes, when they’d seen I’d been shot took on a tender glow. He was athletic looking. Muscular, but not hulking in nature, and his short blonde hair set of his craggy, rugged features. This wasn’t a normal atmosphere, however, and I was going to do whatever it took to survive.
He actually cracked a smile. “It’s Daniel.” He looked out the window. “Almira is a pretty name. Certainly better than Bitch with the Country Accent.”
“Ha ha. You kidnapped me. What did you expect? That I’d just come along nicely?”
“Most women do.”
The gunfire was getting closer.
“Christ, doesn’t he have to reload at some point?” I asked.
“When you’ve been trained my Jack Sands you learn to be efficient.”
“I know…” I whispered.
“What?” he asked, his eyebrow going up.
I thought of my mother. I missed her. She had failed me miserably, but I missed her all the same. “Nothing…” I said starting to pitch forward.
“Almira!” He shouted pushing me back in my seat. Another gunshot hit the metal of the car. My eyes flew open.
“Give me your gun,” I said looking at him.
“You’re about to pass out. Get down into the floorboard.”
“Give me your gun and I’ll get us out of this situation.”
“You’re not thinking clearly. This is a hair trigger custom gun. The slightest amount of pressure and bullets will fly.”
“With the exception of the park where you kidnapped me, would you say I’ve been cooperative?”
He swung a hard left. “Where the hell is the on ramp?”
“Two blocks. Give me the gun.”
“So you can blow my brains out, I don’t think so.”
“Daniel, I’m trusting that you’re going to get me help for this wound. Trust me enough to use the gun.” I looked down, his leg was shaking. I wasn’t the only one who’d been shot. He had a huge a stain of red on his pants leg. “I can get us out of this situation if you can get us on the highway.”
He looked at me. “Are you afraid?”
I shook on the inside. “As long as you can get us to safety I can handle anything that comes our way.” He looked at me in disbelief. I touched his leg. “I actually know how to treat this wound if it’s through and through.”
His leg stilled. He ran his thumb over my lower lip. “Tough girl what am I going to do with you?”
My breath caught. I didn’t let men touch me like that. Not unless they had leapt ever every hurdle and through every hoop I could erect. But I didn’t mind his touch. I even…liked it. I swallowed hard. “Give me your gun,” I said softly, “And I’ll get us out of here.”
He reached into his holster and pressed the gun into my palm. Our eyes met and I knew that whatever came next I was in it for the long haul. He switched his gaze to the rearview mirror again. “Climb back there, but whatever you do, don’t get hurt.” His gaze was on me again. “Got me?”
Our fingers brushed and a charge went through me. “I got you,” I promised.
Crawling into the window opening I waited until we were on the expressway, and waited. Then the gunshots started in earnest and I saw the mystery man’s eyes. As tender as Daniel’s had been, this man had no soul. If Daniel died my fate was in this man’s hands. I wasn’t about to let that happen.
I fired. And his front windshield shattered. He let out a volley of bullets. My other shoulder burst into flames of pain. I cried out.
“Almira?!” Daniel shouted out.
I didn’t have the stomach for murder, but I was a crack shot. I crawled out a little further and fired again his front tire blew. I shot out the front passenger side tire. But not before he let another volley of bullets spray. I tried to retreat but I got hit in the side and collapsed.
“Almira!” Daniel’s resonate voice was a deep echo. I was a ball of pain and cold. His hand grabbed me around waist and pulled me back in. I slid limply into the backseat and looked at him. “Jesus Christ,” his mouth moved. The pain in his gaze was something I’d seen somewhere before. His face was haunting in its familiarity.
His foot was in the carburetor.
I held onto his hand as if it were a lifeline. His thumb caressed mine. He dug into his pocket and slipped a Bluetooth into his ear. “Get me Jasmine, tell her to meet me at the Hilton, top floor suite. Bring her medical bag.” He paused and looked back at me. “Be sure to tell her she’ll get paid for her services.” He tapped the Bluetooth again.
Tears were coming down my face. “Aaron…”
He looked at me. “Who’s Aaron?”
“I don’t want to die…I…I don’t want you to die…”
“We’re not going to die.” I looked at me again. “We’re not going to die Almira, I promise.”
Satisfied I let the darkness embrace me. And let the sound of his voice and his promise give me the strength and hope I needed to hang on so that one day I would see Aaron again.
“Almira, Almira,” he was tapping on my face. I was hurting all over. My clothes were soaked with sweat and I was clammy to the touch. “Wake up,” his voice sounded far away but as hard as I tried I couldn’t keep my eyes open. “C’mon,” I felt his hand on my skin and I managed to turn in to his touch. His thumb stroked my cheek and he smoothed my hair back. “Don’t leave me tough girl. You’ve come too far to give up now.”
“I don’t want to die.”
His exhale was filled with his relief. “Hang on to me and I promise you won’t.”
My eyes fluttered open long enough to see him squeezing into the backseat to lift me out and throw me over his back. He moved fast even with the limp I was sure was caused by the gunshot wound. His muscles rippled against my body but he didn’t seem to be straining in his efforts to carry me.
Another set of footsteps. A Hispanic accent. “Ms Jasmine is waiting.”
“See to it we aren’t disturbed Javier.”
And then I wasn’t cold anymore. I was warm. I wasn’t afraid anymore. And I was only vaguely aware of Daniel’s presence. I was in a brilliantly white room and someone was sitting on a bench. At first I only saw him from the back. But I knew instantly who it was. I ran up to him.
He leapt up and we hugged. He looked at me and held his hand out. “Walk with me.”
I landed with a thud on the bed I was gazing up into Daniel’s face. He smoothed my hair back again. He spoke softly and took my hand, “Hang on, help is coming.”
I looked at his leg, his entire thigh was soaked with blood. I tried to sit up. “You’re leg…”
“Don’t worry about my leg. Save your strength.”
A beautiful woman in a negligee waltzed in the room and dropped her robe.
“Cover yourself Jasmine I’m not here for a good time. She needs your help.”
She looked at me and I could’ve sworn I’d seen her face before. I dug my fingernails into Daniel’s palm. I saw death in her face. But my eyes fluttered again and I was walking with Benjy.
“You have a decision to make.”
I looked down the path we were walking, Aaron was playing in a field. My heart ached.
“He’s fine Allie. It’s him He’s worried about.”
I looked further down the road. It was Daniel. He was standing at the edge of a cliff. My heart ached again. But why? I knew very little about him. Other than he had kidnapped me. And that I’d had felt a powerful connection to him from the moment I’d been shot.
“All I know is his name.”
“Really? Look closer.”
We had stopped. There was a car nearby. I felt like I should recognize that car. I looked closer. I was convinced I’d seen that car before. But I didn’t know from where. I crept up beside him and looked towards the bottom. A swollen river filled with rocks and rapids. I looked back towards Benjy.
“It’s okay. We all have our role to play.”
As I stood there next to Daniel I knew he needed me as much as I needed him. I took his hand. He looked at him as if he’d been waiting all this time to see me again and he took me in his arms, holding onto me as if he were the one who needed me.
“Please,” he murmured, “be patient with me.”
A searing hot lancing pain shot through my side. I screamed.
“Shut her up Danny or we’re going to have unwanted company.” I fisted my hand and sucker punched her as she finished stitching me up. Blood poured out of her nose. “You stupid fucking bitch!” She screamed grabbing her nose and stumbling backwards.
I sat straight up. “If you want some come get some. I’ve taken on beasts much bigger than you and put them down.” I looked at Daniel. He was pale and grimacing. I examined myself. I was patched up. The bullets, or what remained of them sat on the nightstand. I should’ve been a little more embarrassed that I was in nothing but my sports bra and running pants but I didn’t have time to worry about that. Daniel’s bleeding had to be stopped. “Give me your bag. Leave the antibiotics and pain pills and then get the fuck out of here.”
“You’re not a doctor.”
“No, but I’ve treated this kind of gunshot wound before and if you don’t want a split lip to go with that nose you’ll get the hell out of here.”
She made a move as if to attack me. I didn’t shrink back, but I braced myself. The adrenaline might have been flowing but if she punched me it would hurt like a son of bitch and I would be of no use to anyone.
She charged at me but the sound of a safety being released made her freeze to the spot. Her expression was unmistakable. It was of heartbreak and betrayal. I turned around. Daniel was on his feet. “Do what the girl said to do.”
“Do what the girl said to do or I will shoot you dead.”
She hurled the items at me but I caught them easily. Adrenaline was a beautiful thing. But I was trembling on the inside. Jack had taught me how to be a master assassin and how to treat different kinds of wounds. I never mastered the cold blooded element it took kill someone who was doing something he didn’t like. I often assisted them in their getaway which resulted in punishment for me. I shivered at the thought at it.
“You’ll regret this Danny. You’ll regret helping her. She doesn’t fit into your world. Not like me.”
“Fine. But remember this, this one, she’s going to bring a whole load of hurt into your life. The kind you won’t be able to get out of.”
“If I get three I’m pulling the trigger.”
“If I get three I’m pulling the trigger.”
“Bye Danny. Next time best bring an army because I won’t be alone.” With that Jasmine made her dramatic exit and he collapsed to the bed.
“Take you’re pants off.” I ordered.
He dropped him. I had to pretend to be okay with the fact he didn’t have any underwear on. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could feel Jack’s breath on my neck. The stench of his cigar permeated clothes. And the feeling of his clammy hands on my body. I didn’t realize it but I was shaking.
“If you can’t do this I can.”
I clenched my jaw. “No. Fuck him. Fuck all of ‘em. They do not get to control my life now or ever again. Lift your leg.” I ran my hand down the back of his thigh. It was warm, firm, soft, solid in my hand. It took the feeling of shame and held it at bay. “Damn it, it’s still in your body.”
“Can you get it?”
“Yeah. But it’s going to hurt like hell.”
“Then take it out.” He lifted my chin and gazed into my eyes, “I know you can do this.”
I bit down on my upper lip and nodded. I fished around in the bag and found a headlamp and slipped it around my head and turned it on. I took a scalpel and a pair of tweezers and went to work delicately searching for the bullet and any piece of cloth that may have gone into his leg. After a few minutes I found the bullet and set it aside. I went back in and found a stray piece of fabric. I exhaled and grabbed the alcohol and a straw. The wound had to be cleaned out. I couldn’t have him getting an infection and dying. I hesitated, then took his hand.
I poured the alcohol into the wound and I held onto his hand as he held onto mine. I placed the straw at the wound and sucked the solution out. I spit into a wastebasket next to the bed. I stitched it. Bandaged it. And went into the bathroom and closed the door, and turned on the water in the massive walk in shower and sank down to the ground and started to cry softly.
I thought of Benjy. I could have gone with him. But there was Aaron to consider. But Daniel. I had never willingly helped one of my father’s men before. They were all glorified rapists and murderers. Why had I been drawn to him from the beginning? Why had I chosen him over Benjy, my best friend? I could hear him talking through the bathroom door. That deep, resonant, British voice rippled through the door, into the shower, and touched my heart.
“Jack, no. I don’t need any help. Yes I had a hostage. The operative word here is had. I dropped her at a hospital in
. Does it matter where I’m at? I’m in a safehouse recovering from a gunshot wound Troy Adams surprised me with. I’ll find him Jack and I’ll bring him straight to you. Fine. Goodbye.” Louisville, Kentucky
There were footsteps and a knock at the door. I rubbed my face as the water turned hot and slicked my hair back and pulled my ponytail holder out.
I said nothing. He worked for my father and I had helped him. He had hidden my identity and lied that he no longer had custody of me. I was at his complete mercy. The door slowly swung back. His shirt was off but he had pulled his pants back up. He looked at me with something I rarely had been given in my lifetime, compassion. He approached slowly, with caution and respect. He grimaced as he slid down next to me, slowly placing his arm around me as I leaned against him. He stroked my hair back, taking my hand as I held on to his leg with the other.
“Are you going to hand me over to my father?”
His body stiffened.
“If you are then let me pretend that you aren’t going to.”
“You saved my life Almira.
was sent to find you. When he went to create his own business Jack sent me to find him. I found you by accident.” Troy
“How long have you known it was me?”
His body stiffened again.
“Since your father intimated
reported to him that I had taken a hostage and he suspected it was you.” Troy
I said nothing for a long time. My voice shook when I finally spoke again. “I know
. He’s been hunting me for a long time. The last time he got close he killed Benjy. I barely got away.” Troy
“Jack thinks you have a son.”
Tears started to run down my face. “Promise me you’ll kill me before you send me back to my father.”
When he stiffened this time he spoke abruptly. “I’m not a rapist. And I’ve yet to send a woman or child into Jack’s system.”
“Then why do you work for him?”
“Because I was betrayed once in a way that left me vulnerable to him. I thought he was something he wasn’t. And by the time I figured it out I was in so deep I didn’t know how to get out.”
I curled in close to him, the adrenaline drained from my body. I ached to hold him close. To absolve him from the sin of working for my father.
“I like you Daniel. I don’t know why, but I trust you. Whatever you need from me while you have me, I’ll give you.”
He sighed, “I don’t deserve someone as sweet or as kind as you Almira. But whatever happens, I don’t regret having met you. I just hope I can live up to what you think you see in me.”
I reached up and touched his cheek and gazed into his eyes. I touched his lips with my fingertips. He took my hand and kissed them before leaning down and kissing me. And when I kissed him back it was magic. His lips were soft and firm and when our tongues touched I felt as if I were on fire. The kiss seemed to go on forever. At times slow and sweet, at times hard and passionate. It was as if our souls, long ago parted had been reunited. My body ached for more but finally, when our eyes opened and he was peering into my soul. It was in disbelief.
“I don’t deserve this,” he breathed.
The water was growing cold but I didn’t care. I just wanted to sit there and be with him forever. “I’ve never wanted anyone more than I do right now.” I desired nothing more than to be close to him. To cling to him. To be with him.
“You don’t understand. I don’t deserve you. I don’t want to hurt you. It’s not that I don’t want to be with you.”
“Then just sit here with me. Be here with me.”
He nodded and lips touched again and I knew then what I would know forever he was the one. That no matter what happened next, he would be the one to set me free.