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Page 17


Gina stood up again, smoothed and straightened her dress, placed her cell phone in her purse, which she then hung on her shoulder. She turned to me. “Come along. ”

  I stared at her. “You—you sh-shot me. ”

  She gave me a well, duh look. “And that won’t be all I’m going to do to you. Oh no. Not even close. ” Gina touched a long, cherry-red fingernail to the bottom of my chin, lifting my face. “But…if you cooperate with me, I’ll in turn make sure I’m the only one who will touch you. Do you understand?”

  “I—”

  “What that means, in case you’re too stupid to follow, is that if you make trouble for me, if you cause me to repeat myself, I’ll let one of my boys…play…with you. You won’t enjoy that, I assure you. ” She tapped me on the nose. “Now. Come along. ”

  “How am I supposed to—”

  Gina rolled her eyes at me. “It’s one knee. You have two. Now let’s go, you silly little cunt. I have things to do. ”

  I gritted my teeth, bit down on a scream as I struggled to my feet. Or, foot. I couldn’t put any weight on my knee, but I had no choice except to hobble as best I could toward the stairs. Gina followed behind me, gun barrel pressed against my spine, urging me to go faster. Getting down the library stairs was raw torture. Inch by inch, step by step, I fought, trying not to scream, not to sob, not to show weakness. This woman was a viper, the kind of animal who would smell fear and prey on it.

  I would not be prey.

  She shoved me toward the front door, where a bulky, swarthy, short man in a trim black suit stood with some kind of compact machine gun in his hands, waiting. I happened to glance to my left, toward the formal sitting room, and I fell to the floor, a sob catching in my teeth.

  Eliza. Eyes open and staring, a crimson pool spreading beneath her skull. Roth’s kind and devoted housekeeper was dead.

  “Eliza? Eliza, no. No. Nononono. ” I crawled toward her, fingernails scrabbling at the hardwood floor, heart breaking in my chest.

  I was grabbed around the middle and lifted off the ground. A hand pawed at my breasts, but I didn’t even notice as I focused on Eliza, sweet, quiet, competent Eliza.

  Dead Eliza.

  Within me there was a hard, cold knot of rage, already in place and building, put there by the chase across France, by Roth’s kidnapping, by the turn my life had taken, all at the hands of this woman. Rage at the hell my man had endured. All that rage was only intensified by the sight of Eliza.

  I thrashed, kicked, bit, and screamed, heard grunts of pain as I connected with flesh.

  “Knock her out, Tobias. ”

  A blow struck the back of my head, a lance of dizzying pain knocking the breath from me, narrowing my vision to tunnels. Another blow, and then a third, each harder than the last, and finally blackness swallowed me.

  15

  MERCENARIES

  VALENTINE

  It took every ounce of self-control I possessed to let Kyrie shower by herself. I stood in the doorway of the bathroom for several seconds, drinking in her lush, glorious nude beauty as she adjusted the water and stepped in. I wanted to shove my shorts off and go in there with her, shove her against the marble wall and fuck her senseless, and then dry her off and take her to bed and fuck her again and again, until we were both so spent we couldn’t move.

  Instead, I wrenched myself away and went up to the roof. Harris was there, sitting in the pilot’s seat of the chopper, smoking a cigarette and thumbing rounds into a clip.

  He saw me coming, lifted his chin at me. “Mr. Roth. Glad to have you back. ”

  I let out a sigh. “I owe you, Harris. More than I can ever repay. ”

  He shook his head. “No, sir. You don’t. That girl, she’s something else. Haven’t known her long, but she’s like family. So are you. I don’t want a fucking dime from you. Not for that. I took care of her because it was the only thing to do. I helped her go get you because it was the only thing to do. ”

  I shrugged. “All right. But I still owe you my life. So you need anything, anything, ever, it’s yours. ”

  Harris’s eyes were frozen emeralds. “Get the fuckers. ”

  “That’s why I’m up here, Harris. I can’t leave her. I promised her. But…I can’t just sit here and wait with my thumb up my ass. I have to do something. We have to get them. Strike first. ”

  Harris clamped the butt of his cigarette between his teeth, set the clip he was filling aside, and reached down behind his seat to pick up a long, flat black case. He laid the case across his knees and opened it, revealing a Remington MSR. It was a military version, not the stripped-down and simplified civilian version.

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  “Holy shit, Harris. How’d you get your hands on one of those?” I asked.

  He shrugged. “Know a guy. ”

  “All right, fine. Keep your secrets, then. ” It was supposed to be a joke, but it came out flat. I rubbed my temples with my middle fingers. “You have a plan?”

  He nodded. “Yep. Find ’em, start killing. ”

  “Your plan might need some fleshing out, possibly. ”

  He closed the case, set it behind the seat once more, and resumed thumbing shells into the clip. I realized, belatedly, that it wasn’t a clip, but rather a magazine, and the shells were 7. 62 NATO rounds. “Yeah, maybe. ”

  There was an explosion of concrete at my feet, accompanied by a distant CRACK.

  “Shit!” I ducked behind the body of the chopper. “Someone is shooting at me!”

  “No shit. ” Harris was already flipping switches, bringing the aircraft to life. “We have to get out of here, Mr. Roth. ”

  As he said that, a bullet hit the windscreen of the helicopter, splintering it, followed by another round to the seat just behind Harris’s head.

  “I can’t leave Kyrie here!”

  “They’re not trying to kill us. We’d already be dead if they were. She’s locked in your quarters. We’ll circle around and find the shooter, and then swing by to grab her. ” He pointed at the seat. “Now get the fuck in the helo!”

  Something buzzed angrily past my face, going through both open doors of the aircraft, accompanied by a CRACK. The helicopter was roaring, the rotors a blur overhead, creating a downdraft so powerful I could barely stand up under it. My gut churned as I slid into the passenger seat, the chopper leaving the ground even before I was fully seated.

  I stared at the door leading down to my quarters; I was leaving Kyrie behind. I’d promised her I wouldn’t, but here I was, doing it. Another round hit, pocking the body, and another one, hitting the nose. We were being driven away, I realized, as the roof of the tower fell away.

  “I don’t like this, Harris,” I shouted. “They’re herding us away from the building. ”

  “No shit. Don’t see much option unless you want a bullet through the skull. ”

  Harris had the engine at full bore, the nose angling down to push us aggressively forward, away from the building at a speed reckless for an urban area. The crack of the rifle was no longer audible, and if we were being shot at anymore, the shooter was missing. Or, more worrisomely, they’d successfully driven us off the roof and didn’t need to shoot.

  Harris circled my tower several times at a distance of a few blocks, scanning the rooftops, but if he saw anything, he wasn’t letting on.

  And then my phone chirped, letting me know I had a message. My stomach roiled as I brought the device out of my pocket. The message was displayed on the sleep screen. It wasn’t a message, though; it was a picture.

  Of Kyrie.

  She was in a chair in the library, clutching her leg, which was a bloody wreck. She’d been shot. Her face was a mask of shock and agony.

  Hellish rage boiled inside me, red filling my vision, blocking out the world, blocking out thought and reason. “Go back,” I growled.

  “We can’t—” Harris began.

  My phone chimed again, and an