The bath was wonderful. The cream and gold marble – beautiful. The lighting dim and perfect. A fluffy, terry bath-pillow cushioned her head. The lavender bath salts made the water silky and lightly fragrant. The soap in that same lavender decadently creamy, and still she couldn’t relax…and it was all that devil’s fault.
She tried thinking of something else, but that was a total disaster. Andre was too powerful to be shoved to the back of her mind, so when her phone started ringing it was no hardship to leave the tub pull on the terry robe, grab a towel, and head out to the sitting room. When she saw who was calling her heart lightened. Plopping down on the sofa she brought the phone to her ear. She didn’t have time to say hello.
“Oh sweetie, how are you? I saw you faint. It’s all over MSNBC. Rachel and Chris are talking about it now.”
“Jose, it’s so good to hear your voice and I’m fine really.”
“You certainly looked fabulous. Even in a dead faint. Those Minolos are stunning, perfect with that gown. It’s a shame you had to cut the evening short.”
“Yes, but the staff put me in a deluxe suite….”
“Oh, I’m so jealous.” Jose gasped, Allie could picture him clutching his chest, “Those suites are fabulous. If you tell me you picked up a hot hunk of man at that party, I might have to hate you.”
She stuttered out a “No danger in that, and you have your own hunny-bunny.” But she must have hesitated one second too long.
There was a very telling silence and then, “Okay, spill it.”
She tried for innocent ignorance, “Spill what?”
“Whatever it is you’re not spilling. And don’t you dare hang up. I’ll fly out there if I have to, now dish.”
“Um…well…I believe you’ve met Andre’”
The shriek was high, loud, and long. Then the inquisition began, “Tell me everything. EV-ER-EE-THING! Don’t you dare leave out one dirty, delicious detail.”
So she dished, and dished, and dished some more. Jose wouldn’t even hold on long enough for her to change into her complimentary satin pajamas. She had to put him on speaker. It was a relief in a way, being able to talk about what happened. She left out the part about being on the bed, but then slipped up when she mentioned fainting again. Jose hopped on it instantly. Fortunately she got a reprieve in the form of her tea arriving.
Even though she’d asked them to leave it by the door she was grateful for the tap tap and the call out of room-service, “Jose, hold on I have to get my tea.”
“Speaker, missy and don’t stop talking.”
Wow, Mckenna had nothing on Jose. She put the phone on speaker, left it on the coffee table, “I passed out,” she explained walking to the door, “When I woke, I was on the bed….”
“Oh SAH-WEET SUGAR-N-SPICE! Honey, if you didn’t at least get in some heavy petting I’m going to have to commit you.”
She was laughing when she opened the door. Distracted by her memories and Jose’s sense of fun. Lena would be furious at her carelessness she thought as rough hands dragged her from her room. She had time for one short scream before her mouth was covered and she was immersed in darkness.
Andre prowled through the drunken revelers. There was no way he could stay in the Angel’s room knowing she was naked and wet just one thin closed door away. But the further he retreated the more uneasy he became. He’d just turned around to go back when his phone vibrated in his pocket. Very few people had this number, weaving between a drunk man and his tipsy much younger companion, he pulled it out, checked the number, and ice settled in his spine, “What?”
“Allie’s in trouble.” The clipped voice wasted no words.
“Fuck.” He’d known something wasn’t right. He’d been feeling it all night. And he’d left her. He headed for the stairwell, “Tell me.”
“Jose was on the phone. Room service came to the door she answered it. He heard her scream. Then nothing.”
“I see.” He put the phone on speaker and pulled the app that he’d had designed. A little red dot of light was still and seemingly right on top of him. Shit, figuring out which floor she was on was going to be difficult.
“What do you need?”
“As it turns out nothing. I have the means to track her.”
“Yes.” An astute and accurate deduction. The man didn’t make all that money by accident.
“Doesn’t she have to activate it?”
“Ah …no…” He’d found a way around that little problem.
Silence then, “Does Mckenna know you can track them with McIntyre’s chip?” Grey referred to the powerful tracking device all the sisters wore buried in a locket that housed a photograph of their deceased mother.
“Believe it or not, I don’t think she’s ever put that together. I would appreciate discretion in this matter.”
“Just get her back.”
“Oh, I will. I assure you.” He disconnected and the dashes of sound started. The best indicator of how close he was to his quarry. The more he climbed the closer together the dashes came, and the closer he got to is Angel. It wasn’t until he stood in front of her door he remembered the perfection of her silky throat, bare and unadorned. Cursing his own stupid male lust, he slid the key-card in and pushed the door open. On a table by the door was a tiny beaded bag. Opening it, he dumped the contents and there along with a lipstick and a tiny mirror was the Angel’s locket. For the first time in years Andre felt real fear grip his chest.
He spun and had the man who’d come through the open door against the wall a knife at his throat. Recognizing him as the one who’d walked Allie to her door, he loosened his hold, but not by much, “Miss Kinkaid has been abducted. We have very little time.”
The man’s eyes narrowed, “Well then you best be getting that knife outta my neck and let me help you. I know every inch of this hotel.”
Andre stepped back, lowering the knife, “They’ll want to avoid being seen.”
“Service Elevator to the basement parking deck. It’s isolated, deliveries and employees only.” The man Allie had called Roger was already leading him from the room and down the hall, pulling his radio from his belt, “Calvin, Miss Allie’s been abducted. We need men at all the exits.” He looked at Andre with competent, serious eyes, “Cops out of the loop?”
“No cops. Cover the exits. Stall and call.” He led him to the stairs, “I’m assuming you want to go in quiet.”
“That would be best.”
“We’ll go through the laundry room. The whole deck can be seen from that door including the elevator.” He pushed the door open to the stairwell, taking the stairs with an agility incongruous with his age.
“You’re taking an awful lot on my word.” Andre called above the hollow pounding of their feet.
“No sir.” Roger shook his head, but kept his pace, “We been keepin’ a close eye on Miss Allie. She’s a regular here, likes to come for tea. Stays overnight at least once a month. Her sister, Miss Mckenna said there was some bad men after her. Said she was bein’ watched for her protection and if a Latino lookin’ too pretty to be real asks for help, we do exactly as he says cause it’d mean Miss Allie’d be in bad trouble.”
“Ah, yes,” He should have foreseen that one. Mckenna left nothing to chance. Then Roger’s last words registered, “Too pretty to be real?”
“Uh, yes sir. That’s what Miss Mckenna said. Fit you perfect, too. Knew who you were the minute we saw you at the party downstairs.”
Holy Christ! “You made me?” No one made him.
“We don’t miss much.” Roger leaped over the last two steps and shoved the door open to the laundry room.
“Apparently not.” Andre muttered under his breath, sufficiently humbled, “Too pretty to be real…” His derisive snort had him choking on a lungful of steam.
She was dumped onto a chair her hands tied behind her but her legs were free. The hood was lifted from her head She looked into muddy-brown eyes, flat eyes. Eyes that told her this person had long ago ceased to care about any harm he might cause, if he ever did.
When he rose to his full height it was well over six feet, and had muscles on muscles. A mercenary – in a tuxedo. After this was over she would find that ironically funny. She would laugh about it with Jose over the phone tomorrow. She held onto that thought.
“You’re a pretty one.”
“You’re welcome.” The only indication she’d surprised him was a twitch of his left cheek.
Yes, well polite was her stress response. Mac got quiet when nervous. Christy stammered and fidgeted. Lena turned aggressive, no surprise there, but she became Miss Manners. This thoroughly disgusted her twin, “I mean, who turns into Martha fucking Stewart when they’re nervous.” She’d ranted more times than Allie could count, “It’s freaky.”
“How much is he paying you?” She had no doubt it was Thresher who was behind this. The monster who wouldn’t die.
“A lot.” He turned away, going to the window.
“I’m sorry, but you won’t live to spend it.”
“You don’t think so?”
“No….” She shook her head, “How many of you are there?”
“I don’t suppose I could have some water?”
He snorted, but crossed the room to the bathroom. She took the few seconds to asses her surroundings. A standard single room with a king sized bed. Those were on the opposite side of the hotel from the deluxe suites. Same floor though, they hadn’t taken stairs or an elevator. He brought her one of those small hotel glasses. He leaned over her his chest pressing into her to untie her hands, but paused, “You smell good.”
He straightened, setting her glass of water carelessly on the bed where it tipped over, his eyes wandering to her chest. And Allie knew what was coming.
“Thresher wouldn’t want me touched.” He’d want her for himself. The man had to know that.
“Yeah, well he won’t know.” His hand came out.
Allie closed her eyes, pushing herself back in the chair. Choking on fear and bile when she felt that hand, hot and eager, touching her breast through the thin satin. Revulsion shaking her, she prayed to go somewhere else in her mind, but unlike Mckenna she couldn’t lose herself in the past. She felt his hands sliding inside her top pushing it open, “Don’t, please don’t.” The words came out stilted and small.
“I’m not gonna hurt you.” He squeezed and pinched, fondling her. She squeezed her eyes closed and tried to think of a way out, but panic was shutting her mind down. His grunts and breathing the only sounds in the room echoed in her mind pushing out thought. She bit down on the inside of her cheek to keep from crying out. The tears she could do nothing about.
He stepped back. She breathed a relieved sigh, but then she heard the slide of a zipper going down, felt hands at her waist, parting the loose fabric under the tie belt, chill air touched her breasts, her nipples pebbled. Dear Goddess this couldn’t be happening. She fingered the ruby ring on her right ring finger, stroking it over and over, focusing on the feeling of the stone under her thumb, trying to calm her mind enough to think.
“Damn, those are the prettiest tits.” She heard the sounds of him touching himself, his breathing growing heavier, his grunts faster, and humiliating as it was, Allie prayed this was all he would do and squeezed her eyes tightly shut so she wouldn’t have the disgusting image in her mind for the rest of her life.
The sound of the door opening had her eyes flying open and the man jumping back. Another dangerous man in a tuxedo entered the room. Assessing the situation in less than a second, he crossed over to her and closed her top. He wasn’t gentle, but his hands didn’t linger. Dizzying relief hit her system and in its wake – chills. Starting at the top of her head and racing down her body to her frozen toes, intense heavy waves that had her teeth chattering. She hated this particular genetic quirk she and Mckenna shared, erratic volatile spikes in adrenaline that left her shattered, weak, and bone-numbingly cold.
She sat and shivered in relieved misery while the second man rounded on her attacker, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Abe?”
The question had the ring of authority. As did his bearing and the intelligence in his pale eyes. He wasn’t as large as Abe, but he had the other man sweating.
“Nothin,’ I wasn’t doing anything.”
“Shit,” He tossed his head towards the bathroom, “Go zip yourself up, and wash your fucking hands.”
Abe nodded and disappeared into the bathroom.
Those pale eyes turned on her, “Did he touch you?”
With a silent nod, he went and tapped on the bathroom door, his other hand reaching into his coat, “Hurry up in there.” As soon as the door was opened, the gun went off. There was no scream, no plead for mercy, not even the crack of gunfire. Nothing. Just the sickening fleshy sound that told her Abe was no longer a person. It was now a body.
“Guy never could keep it in his pants.” The man slid his gun back into his jacket, “Dumb-ass.”
“Oh…Goddess.” Her gaze drifted from her savior to the red seeping from Abe’s chest. Her lips went numb. Spots swam before her eyes. Sweat broke out over her chilled skin. She was drowning in cold.
“Right, no blood.” Her savior shut the door, “Yeah, he mentioned that about you.” The man gave her an appraising look, “You in shock?”
“I don’t think so.” She stuttered though chattering teeth, and honestly, what kind of question was that? If a person was going into shock they wouldn’t be the most reliable source of information on the matter. Her savior was a blooming idiot.
“Looks like it.” The idiot concluded. “You need to warm up,” He went to the little cash bar and picked up one of those little bottles. Bringing it over he dropped behind her, “I’m going to untie your hands,”
“Thank-you.” She stuttered. Still polite. A nervous giggle bubbled in her throat. She was sinking fast.
A grunt as he went behind her cutting the plastic cuff loose. “Shit! What the….?”
He jumped back, sucking on his thumb, “You cut me.”
“Oh… um” She blinked up at him, widening her eyes, “It was my ring…one of the prongs is bent.”
He grunted and handed her the tiny bottle “Here.”
She dutifully sipped. She hated whisky, but the fire raced down her throat, warming her and clearing her head. She watched the man pacing the room, his phone at his ear, “I need clean-up. Abe’s dead. Guy couldn’t follow orders. We’re moving.” Disconnecting, he slid the phone his opposite pocket and faced her, “You can cooperate or I can knock you out.”
How nice of him to give her choices. A considerate blooming idiot.“I’ll cooperate.”
“We’re walking out of here.” He took her by the arm, pulling her from the chair, “If you see anyone, don’t ask for help. You’ll just get them killed. Understand?”
“Yes.” An evil, considerate, blooming idiot. “I’m in my pajamas. Won’t that draw attention?” She babbled, stalling for time, which was much easier when she had her sisters around. She and Lena once held off a gunman for fifteen minutes arguing over a sweater. Solo though was a different matter.
“We’re taking the service elevator.” He tugged her to the door. Pausing to check the hallway.
“Oh…um..I need to use the restroom.”
“Abe’s got blood all over him,” He pulled her out and into the empty hallway, “And you’re stalling.”
“Won’t do any good.”
Well beggars couldn’t be choosers. Stalling was all she had and time was all she needed, but he was propelling her down the deserted hall, and much too quickly he pushed her into the elevator, hitting the “PDB” button.
“Is he here?” She asked, huddling in the corner, her arms wrapped tightly around her middle to hold heat. Her bare feet felt like solid blocks of ice.
“Of course not.” Thresher was brilliant and a coward. He’d never expose himself, “You know he sells children.”
She thought she saw a tic in the man’s stubbled jaw, “Not my problem.”
“Do you have children?”
“Good.” Allie would hate the idea of taking a father from a child. She had no memory of her own.
The elevator stopped, the doors slid open, and Allie’s heart sank. Three large men, all in tuxedos. Her captor pulled her out into the frigid exhaust filled air of the basement parking deck.
“Shit, no wonder he wants her.” The giant in the middle reached out, his hand going for her hair.
“Abe just died for touching her,” Her captor’s words were a barren statement of fact that ended with an equally bland question, “You want to be next?”
“Fine man. Whatever.” The middle-man raised both hands, stepped back, and Allie saw a hole appear in his forehead. He fell to the ground. His open eyes blank.
Andre. More relief poured through her, more chills raced behind it. The men around her scrambled, dropping low and pulling her down. One of the men slapping the call button. cursing when the doors failed to open. Her captor was on his phone screaming for someone to bring the car. That was when she noticed the black car idling in the middle of the lot.
“We’ve got to move.” One of the men shouted from behind her,”Why isn’t Walt bringing the car?”
“He’s dead most likely.” Her captor called back, “The shot came from behind us on the right. He’s taking head shots.” Then grabbing her by her hair pulling her up to block his body, “Who the fuck is out there?”
“I…I don’t know…” She stammered, her eyes tearing at the intense pain shooting from her scalp. And honestly this was no time for an inquisition.
He cursed, yanking her up and pushing her forward, “Let’s go,”
Then it was all pounding feet and random shouts. As desperate men raced to escape death. A punching shove in the middle of her back, “Run you stupid cun….” The insult died as another man thudded to the ground.
And then there were two…. the random string of memory chanted in her mind, as the black car got closer. They were mere feet away when, unbelievably, it took off. The men just stood there watching it drive away. Their shocked stupor only lasted only a second, but in that second the third man fell and then it was back down to Allie and her blooming idiot.
“Shit,” Her jailer ducked behind her, pulling them both back against the wall of the parking deck, shoving a gun to her temple, “I’ll kill her.”
She rolled her eyes at the predictable words. Although, to be fair, what else could he say?
“Will you?” The casually curious question came from beside them. The man spun her around and there he was, Andre Torrill, looking perfect in his tuxedo, leaning casually against the wall. He wasn’t even looking at them, His eyes on the twirling a silver blade he propelled between his fingers, almost too fast to follow. Dear Goddess, he was magnificent.
“That was impressive.” Her captor’s voice shook as now he stalled for time. She allowed herself a little vindictive glee.
“It was nothing,” Black eyes flicked up briefly. The blade never stopped moving, “Are you hurt?”
“Did he touch you?”
“Not this one.”
The blade froze between the third and fourth knuckle. Andre slowly raised his head and what she saw in those black eyes was truly terrifying, because there was nothing there. She stared into a void, an eternity of empty darkness. Then, his voice cold as an empty grave, “Who touched you, Alliana?”
“He’s dead.” The man answered, his voice shaking, “I killed him.”
“Ah, well, that I cannot forgive.” Her captor stiffened behind her, likely not the reaction he was expecting, “You took my kill.” The blade was moving again, rolling over the hand in rapid hypnotic swirl of silver and light, “I would have made him suffer, you see.” A careless shrug of one elegant shoulder, “I suppose I’ll have to make do with you.”
Her captor’s body went rigid. At first she thought it was a reaction to Andre, but then the gun fell from her temple. She jumped, spinning around at the echo of it clattering to the cement floor and watched as the man who’d saved her from a rape only to be ready to deliver her to a monster slid down the wall. The death rattle gurgling from his throat magnified in the hollow space. For a fleeting moment terror filled his eyes, then- nothing.
Staring at the empty shell that seconds ago had been a living soul, Allie rubbed her arms against the cold consuming her. She felt as if her body were turning to ice from the inside out. Vaguely it registered that Mckenna would be pleased. She liked the monsters to die afraid. Christy though, would not be. She absently rubbed her thumb over her ring. The toxin took way too long to kill him. It then registered that she noted these things with a strange detachment. Hmm, was she going into shock? Had she ever been in shock before? She couldn’t recall. What was shock anyway? She just wanted to get warm and get the car exhaust out of her hair.
Delicious heat at her back chased away the chill. Sandalwood and spice chased away the smell of exhaust. Hands gripped her shoulders, turning her and backing her against the wall, all that delicious heat surrounding her. Then a ragged whisper at her ear, “You never take off the necklace, you little fool. Never.”
The harsh words were tempered by warm male lips skating over her cheek. Desperate kisses tasting of fear, traveled over her face and down her jaw. Shaking restless hands roved up and down her hips, her arms, her back, touching her everywhere at once, obliterating her detached numbness.
Andre’ buried his face in her throat, tugging her roughly up against his very hard, very hot male body, “Never.”
“I’m sorry.” She whispered, sliding her hands into his silky hair and snuggling into all that blessed heat.
“Miss Allie, you okay?” She looked up to see Roger emerge from the black car that had pulled away.
“Yes…Roger..I’m oh…” She was lifted off the ground and held against Andre’s chest. Then she was being carried back to the elevator. Roger following.
“Where are we going?” She linked her hands behind his neck.
“Back to your room.” He stepped into the elevator. Roger following and pushing the button for her floor.
She sighed into his neck. He was like a furnace and she hated being cold. And she may have breathed extra deep so she could inhale his delicious smell and yes her lips could have possibly brushed his yummy masculine throat when she asked, “Is it safe?”
A low curse, then, “Look at me, Angel.”
Reluctantly, she lifted her head from his wonderfully warm neck… and was caught in eyes of glittering obsidian. He lowered his head until they were nose to nose, until she was drowning in black fire. His silky hair brushed her brow. His lips teased her mouth. And then slowly, carefully enunciating word, his whisky and sin whisper scorching her down to her toes, “You. Are. Always. Safe. With. Me.”