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Authors: Cami Checketts

Tags: #romance, #running, #kidnapping, #suspense

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BOOK: Dying to Run
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I turned my head to the side and spit out the disgusting taste in my mouth. Jesse gently wiped my lips dry with his thumb. My heart thumped at the tender gesture. Ignoring the rest of the men in the room, I stared into his dark eyes and knew this was my haven.

“Did he hurt you?” he whispered.

I managed a brave wink. “Not as bad as I’m going to hurt him.”

Jesse gave me half a smile, his eyes filled with relief. Tiger chuckled again. “I kinda like her.”

Jesse turned to glare at him and every other man in the room. He shielded me from them and I realized Tiger Man would have to kill Jesse to get to me. The thought was little comfort, they all seemed more than capable and willing to murder both of us.

“Let her go, Jesse,” the other man said. I glanced at him: dark, mean-looking, and an undeniable resemblance to Jesse. Panetti. Cold sweat trickled down my back. Then the Tiger must be . . . Ramirez. Oh, man, I was so dead.

“No,” Jesse said, ignoring his dad’s pleas and staring directly at Ramirez. “Why did you bring her into this? It’s Nathan you want and I’ve got him coming. You don’t need her.”

My dad was coming
here
? No, no, no.

Ramirez arched a reddish brow. “Killing her is my reward for everything Nathan’s done to me.” He flicked his fingers against each other. “And even though I appreciate you tricking Nathan into coming, Damon and I decided Cassidy would be a good test.” He smiled triumphantly at Panetti. “You’re done protecting the pretty boy.”

My lip was trembling. I was seconds from a major breakdown. I clutched Jesse, my only hope of survival, who didn’t look like he had much hope of surviving.

“Jesse is on our side,” Panetti yelled.

Jesse ignored his dad, focusing on Ramirez and rubbing my back gently as if to reassure me. “Damon’s lying. He’s jealous.
Cassidy
chose me.” It was interesting how he emphasized my name, like he was trying to make them see me as a person, not just a pretty head to put a bullet through.

Damon snorted. “She’s already over you. Told me she’s dating some guy she calls Fine.”

Jesse arched an eyebrow and gazed down at me.

I rolled my eyes. “I was trying to get Nana to call Detective Fine to save me.”

“That’s really his name?”

“No.” I hugged him closer as I felt his arms loosen a bit. “You know it’s you I want, you idiot. Don’t listen to Damon.”

Ramirez seemed to think the whole conversation was hilarious. He stopped laughing long enough to ask, “But does the idiot want you enough to die for you, eh Cassidy?”

“We all know Jesse is not an idiot and wouldn’t betray us,” Panetti said. He gestured to me. “So they have a thing. It means nothing. Everyone wants a hot little something once in a while.”

I glared at the man who had stabbed my father in my living room years ago. “I am nobody’s hot little something, you dirty geezer.”

“She is going to be fu-u-un.” Ramirez gestured to Damon with his hand and gave me a nasty wink. “Lock her up. We’ll play with her after Nathan gets here.”

I shrunk away from his lewdness, my brain spinning with questions. Jesse had tricked my dad into coming here? He wouldn’t do that, would he? Jesse knew as well as I did that the second my dad appeared they’d kill him.

Damon stepped in front of Jesse and me. “Give her to me,” he demanded.

Jesse pulled me closer into the cocoon of his thick arms. “You aren’t touching her.”

Damon laughed. “I’ll do whatever I want to her.”

Jesse looked past Damon to Ramirez. “You can’t be stupid enough to trust Damon with her.”

Ramirez slowly opened the drawer of an ornate cabinet, pulled out a shiny pistol, and pointed it in my direction. Damon scampered away. Jesse turned, shielding me with his broad back.

“Don’t think I won’t kill both of you, Jesse. I wanted to wait for Nathan, but I’ll get rid of both of you now if that’s what you want.”  

“Just because he wants the girl doesn’t mean he’s in league with Nathan,” Panetti said again.

“We’ll see,” Ramirez said lazily. “All right, Jesse, how about a truce, I won’t kill her until Nathan comes, if you let her go with Carlos now. You aren’t going to be able to save her if you’re dead.”

A muscle worked furiously in Jesse’s jaw. Ramirez watched him for an answer. Jesse swallowed twice and finally gave Ramirez a jerky nod. Ramirez gestured to Foul Breath who’d been lingering next to the door. “Carlos. Go lock her up.”

“I’ll come for you,” Jesse whispered in my ear before Foul Breath tugged me from his arms. Jesse glared at Carlos. “You do anything to her—
anything
—I will kill you.”

Carlos gripped my arm lightly and nodded to Jesse.

Ramirez turned the gun on Jesse. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

I screamed and ran back to Jesse’s side. Ramirez couldn’t kill Jesse. He couldn’t. Carlos wrapped his arms around me from behind, picking me up and dragging me away.

Jesse’s eyes flickered to me before he straightened and faced Ramirez. “I can promise every one of you the same thing—hurt her and you will die.” 

“Jesse,” I yelled. “Don’t.”

Several of the men watched Jesse warily; I could sense they believed him.

Carlos shoved me out the door. I could hear Jesse and Damon yelling, Panetti begging Jesse to calm down, then begging Ramirez not to shoot his son. Carlos held my arms tight to my side as he marched me past the men in the kitchen.

“Let me have her,” one of them yelled out.

“Yeah,” a couple of others agreed.

I hid behind Carlos, not that he was much protection, but at least he had Jesse’s threat lingering in his mind.

“No,” Carlos barked. “Bossman want her.”

They all sank back into their chairs and watched as Carlos pulled me away. He rushed me down two hallways and a long flight of steps to the dank basement. I strained to hear a gunshot. The shouts from the living room had faded away. Maybe, maybe Jesse would be okay. I prayed hard, but had little faith either of us would make it out of this house alive.

“Boss’s son like you.” Carlos held me sickeningly close as he tugged me through several hallways to a dank corner of the basement. “Very good for you or . . .” He cackled. “Very bad.” He opened the door of a small room. Standing in the doorframe he couldn’t seem to wipe the crap-eating grin off his face. “Women like Jesse. Big, smart doctor. He use women and throw away. You same.”

His breath was awful as he leered at me. “Jesse bad, you come to me.” He ran a hand down my arm. “Carlos save you from bossman. Carlos good to beauty.”

I pulled away. “Thanks, I’ll remember that.”

Though his English wasn’t perfect, he seemed to understand sarcasm. His eyes narrowed and he threw me onto the soft bed. After one more scowl at me, he slammed the door and locked it from the outside. I sprung off the bed, wondering why I was more upset with Carlos’s description of Jesse than the fact that I was being imprisoned by Panetti and Ramirez. Probably because if Jesse really was some womanizer I’d not only have my heart broken, it would also stop beating when nobody rescued me and Ramirez tortured and killed me for entertainment.

I paced the small room, hoping my dad wasn’t really on his way here and searching for a weapon of some kind. There was nothing besides the bed and a bare light bulb illuminating the grimy space. No nightstand. No closet. No windows. No hope of escape but through that door and Foul Breath. Maybe I could take the bed frame apart and have something to whack Carlos with. I bent down to examine it, sitting back on my heels within seconds. I’d need a screwdriver.

Standing, I rubbed my arms. If only I’d grabbed a jacket. I almost laughed at myself, like Damon would’ve paused my kidnapping so I could get some extra clothing and toiletries for the trip. I debated climbing under the dusty comforter but wanted to be ready if Jesse came. I mean, when Jesse came.

Quiet whispering outside my door and the door handle turning had me running towards it. “Jesse?” I cried out, already aching to feel his arms around me again.

The door flew open and Damon strutted in. “Not Jesse, someone you want to see much, much more.”

I scurried away from him and around the side of the bed. “The only place I want to see you is on wanted posters.”

He grinned, slowly backing me into a corner. It was unbelievable that I’d once found his strawberry-blond hair and lanky body attractive. Those bright blue eyes that used to sparkle at me had an uglier leer than Carlos a few minutes ago.

“Come on, Cassie, you wanted me more than Jesse and we both know it.”

“I always wanted Jesse more. I just talked myself into dating you because I thought you were a good guy.”

He arched an eyebrow. “I am a good guy.” He reached for me. “Come here and I’ll show you how good.”

I ducked under his arm, jumped onto the bed, and scurried across it. Damon caught my foot. I slammed onto the bed, dust puffing from the comforter and coating my nose and mouth. Damon hauled me on my stomach back towards him. He grabbed my waist and flipped me over onto my back then jumped on top of me. The breath rushed out of me in a pop. Hope vanished almost as loudly. Where was Jesse? How could I fight off Damon who probably outweighed me by a hundred pounds?

Damon grinned as he pinned my arms above my head with his hands and pressed my body into the squishy mattress with his torso. I tried to fight, but my efforts didn’t come off as much more than a squirm.

“I’d forgotten how beautiful you are, Cassie. Even though it’s your fault I spent two weeks in jail I’ll forgive you for a few kisses.” He winked, leaning ever closer. “And maybe if you’re really good to me, I’ll talk Ramirez out of killing you.”

I turned my head to the side. His lips grazed my cheek and landed in my ear. “I was hoping to land you in prison for life,” I spat out. “You’re going to have worse than that if Jesse catches you touching me.”

Damon’s belly laugh slammed into my own abdomen. “Jesse isn’t stupid enough to come anywhere near here. Ramirez knows Jesse’s been lying to all of us. It’s just a matter of time before he kills him.” He shook his head. “You heard what Ramirez said, you’re going to die, Cassie. A slow, painful death. No one but me has a hope of protecting you.”

The words hurt more than his body crushing me into the soft mattress. I’d thought I had trouble breathing before, now I was gasping for air. Where was Jesse? He was the one I wanted protecting me, not Damon, but how much longer would Ramirez let Panetti protect him? My eyes got damp at the very thought of Jesse dying. “You really think Ramirez will kill Jesse and me?”

Damon’s face softened. “Unless I convince him otherwise. He’ll listen to me. I’m like a son to him.” He smiled, tongue flitting over his teeth like the snake he was. “So what’s it going to be? Are you ready to perform?” His breath came faster as he looked me over. “Make me want to keep you alive, Cassidy.”

I paused for a few seconds as if considering his offer then said, “Maybe this will make you want to keep me alive.” He leaned in expectantly. I dredged up some saliva and spit. Lucky shot, right in the eyeball.

Damon sprang off of me, pulled me to my feet, and then ripped my shirt up over my head. He smirked at my plain white bra before backhanding me so hard I fell back onto the bed. “We’re going to have some fun and then I’ll kill you myself,” he said, reaching for me again as I tried to scramble away.

The door banged open. Carlos stood framed in it. I’d been hoping for Jesse, but at this point I’d take anyone. “Bossman want you,” he told Damon.

Damon groaned and straightened. “
Now
?”        

Carlos focused on the floor and nodded.

Damon shook his head in frustration. He patted my thigh. “We’ve still got a couple of hours before Nathan should be here. I’ll be back.” He picked my shirt up off the carpet, lifted it to his face, and inhaled. “Um, just like I remember, that hint of vanilla.”

“If I could smell like a turd for you I would.”

“Aw, Cassie, I like you much better when you’re gagged. I’ll make sure to bring one with me.” He clutched the shirt and stalked from the room.

Carlos looked me over, eyes lingering on my bare abdomen. “Carlos can help.”

I shook my head, trying to cover myself by folding my arms across my torso. “Thanks, but I’m done with men like you ‘helping’ me.”

“You come to me.” He backed out of the room and slammed the door.

I curled onto the bed, shaking, tears wetting the grimy comforter. Damon would be back soon. What should I do? Carlos didn’t seem like the smartest option as he looked like he wanted to rape me himself, but he might be my only hope of evading Damon.

Where in the world was Jesse? Would he really stay away to protect himself? I couldn’t believe that, but I could believe that Panetti or Ramirez was restraining him somehow. I hugged myself, praying that someone, anyone could help me, and not the kind of help Carlos was offering.

 

Chapter Five

 

The speed limits and time records Nana had broken driving to Idaho were impressive. Hopefully, she’d see Cassie soon and be able to brag about her feat as her girl always teased her about how slow she drove. She took the first Burley exit. The sun wasn’t up yet, but it was light enough to see for miles and you sure could up here: miles and miles of nothing but the stubble of hay, grain, and corn fields. How was she going to find some ranch stocked with child traffickers?

She had no option but to keep searching. She drove down country road after country road, heading south and west alternately and praying she would find somebody who could help. After a few miles she saw a red pickup sitting off the side of the road. Two men sat inside, chewing on something. Workers stopped for a bite of breakfast?

Nana pulled over, heaved herself from the leather softness of her Buick, and walked to the driver’s side window. The driver was scrawny and Hispanic, the other a big, bald, whitey. They were both filthy and eyed her like she was an undercooked chicken wing.

“Sorry to interrupt your breakfast, boys. I’m looking for somebody and hoped you could help. You from around here?”

BOOK: Dying to Run
8.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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