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Authors: Debra Mullins

Tags: #Fiction, #Paranormal romance

Prodigal Son (9 page)

BOOK: Prodigal Son
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“Let’s go over what happened,” he said, gesturing toward the couch. “Then we can figure out what to do next.”

“I don’t think I can sit still.” Shaking her head, she cradled the cup of coffee in both hands and prowled around the room, leaving him to stand as well. “I can’t really … darn it, why can’t I remember?” She glanced over at him. “I’ve always had a nearly photographic memory. The fact that I can’t remember what happened an hour ago…” She blew out a sigh and glanced away, sipping her coffee.

“I imagine it’s scary.” That earned him another wry look. “Let me tell you what I know.”

“Okay.” She let out another long breath. “Okay, tell me what you know.”

“I was in the hotel. I had an appointment with Artie Bartow.”

“About Danny, right?”

“Yes, about Danny. I got—” He cleared his throat. “I got some information that makes me think he might be in Arizona. I called you on the house phone to tell you.”

That little furrow came back between her brows. “I don’t remember that.”

“You told me to come on up. When I got here, you were packing to leave.”

“No. Impossible.” She stopped pacing and shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere until I find Danny.”

“You told me Danny was a big boy and could take care of himself.”

Her jaw dropped. “You’re lying.” She stalked toward him, stopping a pace away. “I would never say that! I would never walk away from him, not when he needed me—”

“I know.” The distress he saw inside her nearly undid him. “Listen, I think something happened to you.”

“Like what? A personality transplant? Geez.” She gulped some coffee.

“I think you might have been drugged. Or something.”

“Drugged? Who would do something like that?” She jerked her gaze to his, her obvious fear arousing his protective instincts with a vengeance.

“What do you remember?” he asked gently. “You were here with security. Then what happened?”

“Mr. Gray told me to check and see if anything was missing.” She shuddered. “That guy creeps me out a little.”

“Tell me what happened next.”

“I went into the bedroom to check the safe. Everything was still there.”

“That’s good news. Go on.”

“Mr. Gray came in, and … then I was in a cold shower.” Panic flickered across her face again. “Oh, my God, why can’t I remember anything in between those two events?”

“You’re doing great.”

“Don’t placate me, Rafe Montana. I know I’m getting upset. I’m usually the one who calms the upset people, but now I’m one of them.” Her pitch rose with each word. She groaned and rubbed her face with one hand. “Listen to me. Two graduate degrees, and I’m falling apart.”

“Hey, anyone would get emotional after an experience like this.” He took a cautious step toward her. “You’ll get through.”

She looked up and attempted a smile. “You sound pretty sure about that.”

“I’m pretty sure about
you
.”

She blinked, and he caught a glimpse of startled pleasure before she turned away again. “Well, thanks. Maybe I look tougher than I am.”

She was attracted to him—big time.

Not the time or the place
. Pulling out his pad and pen, he strolled in the other direction. “Back to the time line. Gray wasn’t here when I got here. And you were packing your suitcase and insisting Danny could take care of himself.”

“That’s crazy. It’s like I was hypnotized or something.”

“Maybe you were.”

“So you’re saying Mr. Gray is some kind of hypnotist?” She shook her head.

He chuckled at the disbelief in her tone. “I know what it sounds like, but this is Vegas, you know.”

“You keep saying that. I guess that theory isn’t as wacky as it seems.”

“Either the guy is a hypnotist or he gave you some kind of drug to induce submission. I lean more toward door number two.”

“Huh. Could be.” She glanced over at him, clearly more relaxed now that he had posed a reasonable explanation. “So you figured that the shock of the cold water would snap me out of it?”

He shrugged. “It was worth a try.”

“Well, I needed a shower anyway.”

Her wry tone and the playful curve of her lips shot an extra jolt of desire through him. Damn, she was cute. She was bouncing back, not letting things hold her down for long. He admired that. “We need to talk about options.”

“What options?” She tipped her head back and drained the last of the coffee.

His body tightened as that simple movement pulled her shirt tight across her chest. “It’s clear to me that you’re in some kind of danger. Someone drugged you—or whatever—to get you to leave town. I don’t think you’re safe here or even at home for that matter. Not when that’s where they wanted you to go.”

She lowered the cup. “What do you suggest I do?”

“I think you need to come with me.”

She hesitated, and he braced himself for an argument. Then she said, “I checked you out. You have a pretty solid rep for always getting your man.” She went over to the coffee stand and set down her empty mug. “So, where are we going?”

“Arizona.”

“Right, that’s where you said Danny might be.” She fingered the unopened packets of sugar left near the coffee pot. “You know, Vegas is a crazy town. All smoke and mirrors.” She made an abracadabra gesture with her hands. “And I’ve got all these people promising me the world so they can find Danny.”

“I could promise you the world, but it would be a lie.”

“Yeah, you seem like a straight shooter.” She nodded to herself. “If you find Danny, you get paid. Cut and dried. At least that’s honest motivation.”

“It’s my job. But I appreciate the faith.”

“Sometimes you just gotta jump.” Her quick grin struck hard and fast.

Their eyes locked. A vision swept into his mind of the two of them and hot, naked, sweaty sex.

The Hunter snapped, yowled. Wanted.

He looked away and blew out a long, slow breath. If he hadn’t already been interested, that sure as hell would have fired up the old furnace. But was that a vision of the future, or just his own fantasies reflected back at him? “Look, if you come with me, you’ll be safer than if you stay here,” he said.

“Okay.”

“You have to pretend to be leaving, pretend to still be under whatever influence they had on you.”

“Okay,” she said again.

“Go to the airport, and I’ll pick you up there.”

“Guess I’d better finish packing,” she said, and headed toward the bedroom. She stopped just inside the doorway and looked back at him. “Thanks for letting me come with you, Mr. Montana.”

“Rafe,” he corrected.

“Rafe.” Her lips stretched into a smile after forming his name, and she went into the bedroom.

He sank down on the couch, his instincts humming and his body tight. He’d lied to her when he had said he believed it was drugs. He couldn’t forget the way Gray had tried to order him to report his findings to him, nor the mental touch. Given the abilities of Rafe’s own family, he didn’t put it past Gray to have some kind of brainwashing gift. He’d seen too much weird stuff in his own gene pool to doubt that anything existed. But who—or what—was he? Not a Seer. The blue eyes never lied. Maybe the guy was a just damned good hypnotist.

Even he didn’t believe it.

The best thing to do was to get Cara out of Vegas and keep her with him. Was Adrian Gray the enemy who caused her to die? Was Rafe saving her life by taking her with him or playing right into destiny’s hands?

The conundrum had always made him crazy, which was yet another reason why he had gotten out of the hero biz. He’d always had to decide if acting on his visions helped avoid them or steered him into making them reality. It was always a crap shoot, and someone inevitably got hurt. Bounty hunting was easier, much more straightforward.

At least his powers seemed to be working. He focused on Danny again, hoping to bring up more clues to his whereabouts. But apparently his previous vision had been a one-time sneak peek. When he focused on Danny now, all he saw was a great big nothing.

He blew out a frustrated breath and leaned back on the couch. Oh, joy, playing the odds again. Roll the dice, Montana, and hope nobody gets killed.

Especially Cara.

CHAPTER SIX

An hour later, Rafe hit the button on the slot machine and watched the tumblers spin. Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpsed Cara walking across the lobby from the elevators, dragging her suitcase and carry-on. He had to hand it to her; she played her part with a skill he hadn’t expected, smiling with absent placidity at the people around her. She stopped at the front desk, dropped off her key, then headed outside to the taxi stand.

So far, everything was going as planned.

He turned back to the slot machine and hit the button again, watched the machine take his money for the fourth time.

“How’s the luck?” Adrian Gray appeared like smoke beside him. The man moved as soundlessly as a ghost, even avoiding the Hunter’s detection—a skill that bothered him even more than the mind touch from earlier.

“Crap luck for a crap day.” Rafe punched the button again, sent the tumblers spinning.

“Sorry to hear that.” Gray looked past him. “I see Miss McGaffigan is leaving us. Did you get a chance to talk to her?”

Rafe had a feeling Gray had viewed the security footage and knew exactly when Rafe had gone to Cara’s room and how long he’d stayed. “Yeah, she was a dead end. When I got there she was packing to go home. Says Cangialosi can take care of himself.”

“She’s probably right about that.”

Rafe leaned back and eyed the slot machine. “Seems kind of a waste to fly all the way out here, then turn around and go home.”

“When she called me to tell me she was leaving, she indicated there had been some emergency back at her job. A new, very demanding client.”

“I see.” Rafe didn’t need his superpowers to know Gray was lying through his teeth. “I’d hoped she’d be a better lead. I’ve got zip right now.”

“I checked you out, Mr. Montana. You’re supposed to be the best.”

Rafe scowled, punched the
SPIN
button again. “Even the best can’t do anything without any leads. I was doing this as a favor for a friend, but I don’t have time to find a needle in a haystack. Not for the pennies this job would pay.”

Gray frowned. “You’re quitting the case?”

“You bet I am. I can be making some serious coin chasing real criminals, not some car thief.”

“Perhaps Mr. Bartow can make it worth your while.”

“You bribing me, Gray? I just brought in a guy who was taking bribes.” Rafe stood. “I can’t be bought.”

“Not a bribe. An incentive.”

“Don’t dress it up with pretty words.” Rafe pointed a finger at the lapel of Gray’s Armani jacket. “I don’t work for you or your boss.”

Gray’s eyes narrowed. “Are you certain we can’t make an arrangement? We need the best.”

“He’s a car thief, not public enemy number one.”

“Still.” Gray lowered his voice. “If word gets out that the thief who stole from Mr. Bartow has gotten away, it would cause considerable embarrassment for him. Surely that is worth your time.”

“Breaking the law is never worth my time.” Rafe hit the button on the machine to cash out and waited for Gray to try the mind tap again. But it never came.

“Suit yourself,” Gray said.

“I usually do.”

“You have my number if you change your mind.” Gray turned and left, disappearing into the crowded casino.

Rafe glanced at the voucher from the slot machine. A dollar fifty-six left from his five dollar bet. With a quirk of his lips, he sat down at the next slot machine and inserted the voucher. Set up the bet. Hit the
SPIN
button.

He’d already seen the results, courtesy of the universe.

Whir. Whir. Whir. Stop. The machine began ringing in rapid fire, the tumblers spinning over and over again as bonus round after bonus round hit pay dirt. Rafe watched for several minutes as the numbers added up on the screen. When the machine finally stopped, he hit the
CASH OUT
button and glanced at his ticket.

Six hundred dollars. That should be enough to get him and Cara to Flagstaff.

*   *   *

Rafe Montana was proving more of a complication than he’d expected.

Adrian Gray swiped his access card and stepped into the private elevator leading to the business offices. When Montana had first shown up looking for Danny, he’d hoped the bounty hunter would track down Cangialosi quickly so they could get the stone back. Then he’d done a thorough background check. Rafe was one of the Arizona Montanas, a family that sat up there with the Kennedys in its status as American royalty. His father, John Montana, ran the biggest security development company in the country.

That pedigree alone would be notable enough in the normal course of things, but Rafe’s resistance to the mind touch had stirred his curiosity. He’d dug into other resources and discovered something even more impressive: Rafe’s mother, Maria, was a known descendant of Agrilara, the most powerful Seer in Atlantis. And that turned this into an entirely new game.

He’d seen Rafe’s eyes, knew he had to be a Seer as well. But Rafe was estranged from the Montana family, a renegade, which meant he had to be looking for the Stone of Igarle for himself. It was the only thing that made sense. The question was, did the other players in this game know about him as well? If they did, the entire chessboard had just changed.

He would have to step up his strategy ahead of schedule

*   *   *

Rafe saw Cara standing on the curb watching for him, the late-afternoon sun gilding her tawny hair. Even from this distance, he could make out the concern on her face. But the frown cleared as she spotted him.

“I thought you’d forgotten about me,” Cara said, opening the back door of his SUV. Before he could offer a hand, she lifted her suitcase into the backseat, followed by her carry-on. Then she slammed the door and opened the passenger side. “I’ve been waiting an hour. What took you?”

He heard concern, not petulance, in her tone. “Adrian Gray wanted to have a word with me.”

“What about?” She hoisted herself into the passenger seat.

BOOK: Prodigal Son
11.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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