A Beautiful Wreck (Second Chance #3) (15 page)

BOOK: A Beautiful Wreck (Second Chance #3)
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 28

assie woke
to a deep humming noise vibrating all around her.
Where am I?
The area was pitch black, but warm. Her right ear reverberated with a loud buzzing. She squeezed her eyes and tried to turn her head.

A jolt of electricity ran from her scalp down through her neck and spine. Biting off a groan, the pain made her see spots in the darkness. Nausea rose in her throat. Her mouth tasted foul and dry and was held shut by tape. Her nostrils flared as she tried to suck in oxygen, panicked by her sealed mouth.

Stop it, Cass!
She forced herself to remain calm.
Breathe, slow, focus. What can you discover?

Shifting her hands, she realized they were fastened together, probably with more tape. Cassie blinked in the darkness, noting the vibrations that ran through her body. Besides her arms being bound, her legs were sharply bent at the knees and tucked tight. She batted her hands in front of her and encountered carpet. She felt above her head. Everywhere her fingers traced was carpet.

Cassie ripped at the tape covering her mouth. The sticky adhesive pulled at her skin but fear kept the pain at bay. With a final wrench, she tore it free.

Her first breaths were gasps as she pulled the heated air into her lungs. She could almost taste it, the smell of exhaust, and it burned as she inhaled deeply.

You’re in a car, the trunk of a car. Get your hands free!
Frantically, she brought her wrists to her mouth to bite at the tape.

The car hit a bump and Cassie bounced into the air, hitting the trunk lid. She groaned as she landed. Her scalp throbbed. Around her, metal tools clanked, making her blood run cold. She flexed her feet, noting that her shoes were gone, and began to feel around the trunk. Her toe ran up a metal bar, feeling a hook at the end of it. Shoving it away, she continued her search. Her stiff joints ached from being held bent so long. Her toe bumped into something soft that caused a rattle in the far corner. A duffle bag. She looped her toe under the handle. Clenching the muscles in her stomach, she dragged the bag up toward her hands. Her hands shook as she ripped the zipper down. Cautiously, she felt inside.

Cassie jerked back at the touch of something jagged. Her breath blew hot against the bag as she struggled to create room. She reached in again, this time allowing her fingers to lightly tap along its edge. The sharp teeth of a saw. And a metal bar of some sort. A screwdriver.

The car’s vibrations lowered as its speed decreased. Her body swayed when the car went around a corner. She winced as the movements irritated the stabbing pain in her head.

Turning, the car bounced over an uneven surface, and she could hear the tires crunching through dirt. The jarring knocked her around. She gritted her teeth together to keep her jaw from snapping on her tongue.

What do I do?
She was scared to kick open the trunk in case whoever was driving might hear.

Instead, she eased out the screwdriver. She slid it into the trunk’s seam and heaved on it as hard as she could. Her shoulder dug into the carpet as her muscles trembled. With a crack, the screwdriver flew off the ridge and nearly impaled itself in the top of the trunk.

Don’t give up!
Her shoulders clenched as she wiggled the screwdriver back in the edge.
You can do this! Come on! Come on!
Wedging her feet against the side, she pulled again. The latch creaked under the pressure. A glimmer of light showed at the edge as the screwdriver fought the lock. Metal grated.
Nearly there. Nearly there!
Sweat poured down her face as the trunk super-heated from her exertion. She gasped and pulled and tugged.

Something’s changed
. She stopped for a second and lifted her head to listen. Was the car slowing down? Desperately, she pulled again.
Please, please, please.

The car turned another corner, causing her nausea to rise again. The car slowed and came to a stop. Cassie froze. Her sweat trickled down her stomach, smelling sour with fear.

The driver’s door slammed, followed quickly by the passenger’s. She gripped the screw driver in front of her, ready to impale anyone who opened the trunk.


Cassie tipped her ear to listen. Nothing but her heartbeat. She held her breath and willed her pulse to calm down so she could hear past its frantic thumping.

Still nothing. Her breath burned in her throat. Silently, she counted to one hundred. Hope flared inside her that they had gone inside somewhere.

At one hundred, she turned as far as she could in the cramped space and began kicking at the trunk. The third kick released the lock, and the hatch opened.

Like a drowning cat, she scrambled up out of the trunk and onto the bumper. She couldn’t see. The light was blinding. She didn’t care. Her feet found the ground, and she was off running.

Fingers grazed her arm before latching on. The man had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Cassie crashed into his chest and smelled stale cigarette smoke. She squinted to look. The bright sunlight stung her eyes. She blinked as they watered. His laughter made her retch from disappointment. Blindly, she kicked at him, her bare feet ineffective. She bared her nails and lunged for his face. He wrenched on her arm, his other hand entwining in her hair. He yanked her head back and turned her to face him. “Going so soon?”


More laughter erupted around her, and then her legs were grabbed and she was hauled back to the car.

“Night night, princess,” came the voice, before something descended on the back of her head.

Brilliant stars and blooms of color.

Then it was over.

Chapter 29

assie moaned
, her head throbbing with shards of pain. She tried to open her eyes. Spinning flashes of color made her wince, and she shut them quickly. Her eyelids felt heavy and gummy.
Where am I?
She shifted slightly, noting that her hands were immobile again. After a few more movements, she sensed they were bound tightly behind her back.

She cracked her eyes once more. The light was orange, still flashing bright. A smoky scent filled her nose.
Fire! I’ve got to call for help!
She breathed in, dragging an acrid burn deep into her lungs. Rational thought left her mind as brutal coughs took over her body. Coughs so violent they hurt her rib cage as they ripped up her throat.

She couldn’t breathe.

Stars spun before her eyes.

Desperately, she pressed her face against the rough floor.
What is this? Dirt? Carpet?
She couldn’t tell but dug her nose against it, hunching her shoulders protectively around her face in a desperate attempt to cocoon any untainted air. She breathed in deeply. Air, sweet air. Opening her mouth, she gasped against the ground. Dirt crusted her lips as she gratefully gulped the oxygen.

Slowly, the spots diminished. Cassie lay there carefully and listened. Her pulse beat frantically. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to calm down.

The crackling of the flames grew louder.

Air heated around her body. Her fragile lung tissue burned with every inhale.
Calm, stay calm.
Squinting her eyes, she turned her face and took in the area as best as she could.

A glowing orange wall flickered to the right of her. Straight ahead was the dark outline of a square, black shadow. What was at the edge? She coughed and blinked her eyes again. Water blurred her vision. Come on. Come on. She squeezed them tight to clean the tears, then squinted again to look. A dim gray light outlined one of the edges of the square. A window? Boarded up?

Her head throbbed and she leaned her head back against the floor. She tasted blood. Pounding. The pressure increased until her ears felt they would burst. Dizziness threatened to pull her under.
Don’t give up, Cassie. Move. No one knows you’re here. Only you can save yourself.

The heat intensified and a thick odor of scorched hair filled the air. The flames had made their way across the room, following a trail of gas. Fascinated, she watched it approach. The snake-like fire flickered its flaming tongue at her.

She shook her head to clear her thoughts.
You’re hallucinating. You’ve got to get up.

She rolled over to her knees before being jerked to a stop. Turning, she tried to see what held her back. A chain ran from a bolt in the floor to her cuffs. She tugged on it ineffectively before doubling back over against the ground to gasp for air.

Tears streaming down her face, she studied the room again. The fire burned most ferociously in front of the door, blocking the exit. She stared back at the window secured with slatted plywood.

“Oh God!” she cried out, as the crackling intensified around her. Luke flashed through her mind. “Please help me! Not like this!”

“Cassie?” A board ripped off the window with a rough smack. Another crash came. The gray line around the window grew bigger, brighter. With a boom, a foot knocked the remaining boards from the window.

Her blood roared in her ears from a heart starved for oxygen. “Luke?” His name fell from her lips soundlessly.

“Cassie?” he called again.

“Here,” she croaked, trying to roll up on her knees. The chain yanked her back down. Muscles in her shoulder screamed painfully as her shoulder joints popped. She started coughing again.

She saw a dark shadow as he raced towards her. “I’m here, baby. I’ve got you.” Reaching under her knees, he tried to draw her to his chest. She cried out as her arms wrenched her back. Tears streamed down her face in an effort to clear the never-ending smoke. She couldn’t keep her eyes open any more.

Luke pushed her to her side, searching for what she was stuck on. He ran his hand up the chain and back of her arm, his fingers searching for the bolt.

“I’m not going to leave you. I’ll be right back.” Luke shouted above the roar of the fire.

The flames ate the end of the pile of boards and crept closer. She whimpered at the heat and tried to turn her face away.

Minutes went by.

She knew Luke had returned by his coughing. He held the crow bar in his hand and quickly wedged the end under the bolt. He shoved his weight on the bar again and again, trying to force the bolt free. With a crack, it snapped off. He fell forward under the release of pressure, his hand landing on the flaming boards.

He leapt back and gathered her up in his arms. “We’re getting out of here.” Luke carried her toward the window. The windowsill was rough against her back as he squeezed her through.

She fell in a lump on the other side, too weak and dizzy to stand. Once he was through, he scooped her up again and staggered across the lawn. “Stay here,” he warned, and gently set her on the ground behind a car.

The fresh air felt cool against her skin, but her lungs still burned. He winced as he looked at her. “I’ll be right back. Don’t move.”

He slid his gun from the holster on his back and ran, half crouched over.

Cassie could hardly relate to the new change of surroundings. Her eyes still teared ferociously. She huddled by the bumper and waited.

There was the sound of dragging and then the car bounced. She looked up to see Luke’s arm around Nicholai’s neck. Nicholai’s left arm was twisted between his shoulder blades, held in Luke’s steely grip. Nicholai raised on his toes trying to ease the pressure. Luke stood above him, just a dark shadow outlined by orange flames. “Not this time, Nicholai.”

A single gunshot. She flinched and screamed into the ground.

And then came another.

Chapter 30

assie woke in pain

“Chickee! You awake, baby?”

Cassie turned her head slightly and saw Miranda. Joy filled her heart.
Oh, God! Thank you! I’m alive! I made it!

Her gaze darted around the room.
Where am I?
Blue curtain, stiff sheets. Beeping.
I’m in a hospital room.
Her senses returned, and she sucked in a sharp breath as every nerve ending on her skin fired. A low, painful moan escaped her.

“Are you hurting, Chickee? Push that button in your hand. It will give you pain medicine.”

Cassie felt for the button and pushed it three times.

“Oh, baby girl. You promised me you were going to be okay.” Miranda’s face drained of blood, and she scooted over to sit on the hospital bed.

Cassie wanted to speak, but her throat was raw. She gave her sister a weak thumb’s up instead.

“No, don’t be doing that. You are not okay!” Miranda’s bottom lip trembled. She threw a heated look at the man standing behind her. “Jason, I’m going to kill him.”

Jason rested his hand on his wife’s shoulder. “It’s not his fault, baby. He saved her life.”

“Shut up! Don’t get all rational on me! It’s because of him that this happened.”

Cassie tried to shake her head, despite the pain, but they ignored her.
Where’s Luke?
Frustrated, she closed her eyes.

Their voices faded to a drone as she fell asleep.

he opened
her eyes again to see a tired Luke hunched asleep in an L-shaped chair.

“Lu-uke?” She faltered at the foreign sound of her voice, raspy like a sixty-year-old lifelong smoker.

He jerked before turning dazed eyes towards her. “Principessa? My girl?”

“Hi….” she whispered.

“Hi.” He moved quickly over toward the bed. Tears gathered in his eyes and he wiped at them. He lifted her hand—she frowned when she saw it was bandaged in gauze—and gave it a gentle kiss.

“What happened?”

“Rest, my love. You’re safe and I’m not going anywhere.”

She wanted to argue, but her throat still hurt too much. She settled for a grouchy look instead.

He smiled. “There’s my little fighter.”

She checked him over. His face was scruffy, and his clothing looked like it had been days since he’d last changed.

He looked amazing. Feeling a rush of joy, she curled her hand inside his before pushing her pain medicine button again.

The warmth carried her away.

he next time
Cassie opened her eyes, sunlight filled the room. She felt different this time. Stronger.
Stay awake, Cass. Third time’s the charm.

Hey beautiful, you’re awake again.” Luke's deep voice made her smile. The mattress sank as he sat beside her.

“Luke….” she whispered. “I’m desperate, Luke.”

“What do you need Cassie. Whatever it is, we’ll get it.”

“I’m dying for a Life Saver.”
I’m so mean.
A soft chuckle came out.

Luke got quiet. “Feeling better, I see. You’re lucky you look so cute wrapped up in gauze right now, because I still have a bone to pick with you.”

Oh crap. Act sick. Time to work it.

“I’m sorry, Luke.”
Oh good, my voice still sounds raspy.
“I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

“Cassie, I could never be mad at you. It’s not your fault.”

His voice sounded so sad, it woke real regret in Cassie. Her eyes stung with tears. “I really was an idiot. I didn’t take what you said seriously.”

“It’s okay, my love. Only moving forward from here.”

“Have you gone home?”

“No, I’ve been staying here. Had to fight your sister for the chair, though. I won.”

Her eyebrows flickered lightly. He’d won against her sister?

“I’m kidding,” he added. “She’s been staying here too. They just left for some food, but they’ll be back in a minute. But I really did sleep in that chair.”

“Awww, comfortable?”

“Yeah. Not bad. Especially if I was a Lego person.” He gently pushed her hair off her forehead. “By the way, Jason and Miranda are awesome.”

Somehow, knowing she’d been asleep when they met made her tear up. “I missed it.”

“That’s okay. I have a feeling we’re going to have lots of future opportunities with the four of us together.”

She lifted her hand, looking at the gauze curiously. “Am I okay?”

“You had some burns. I know they hurt, but they’re superficial. They have you here to watch your lungs because of the smoke inhalation.”

She looked up at him, alarmed.

“You’re going to be okay. You’re getting better every day.” He covered her hand with his own, bandaged also.

“You okay?”

“I have to do everything you do, and got a burn too. But we’re both going to be fine.”

She relaxed against the pillows. “How did you find me?”

His lips tightened. “I gambled that there was only one place they’d take you. One place that would hurt me the most.”

“Your house? But it was destroyed.”

“They chained you to the floor of the barn at the back of the property.”

At his words, she saw the barn, the flames. She gasped as she remembered the gunfire.

“Luke! What happened? After?”

His jaw clenched and he looked down at his hands. “I was betrayed, Cassie. Betrayed by someone I thought was a friend. Someone I trusted with my life. With your life.”

“Trevor?” His name came out like a hiss from her mouth.

Luke nodded. “He’d been working with the Russian mafia for a long time, taking a cut on certain deals. After I became his partner, suddenly we were bringing the heat. Blowing Nicholai’s deals. Nicholai put a bounty on me to make sure I was neutralized.”

“Oh, Luke.” Cassie teared up.

“And I was…until you came along and reminded me to live.”



Cold chills ran down over her heated skin.

“I wish it had been by me. I feel cheated it wasn’t. But, Trevor pulled the trigger.” His eyes blazed with emotion. “And then he turned the gun on himself.”

Cassie sucked in her breath.

“The Russian Mob is having a shakedown itself. And, one day, it will be me against them again.” He lightly stroked her arm. “But for now, Principessa, it’s over. We’re free.”

BOOK: A Beautiful Wreck (Second Chance #3)
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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