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Authors: Hannah Ford

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Protected by Him

BOOK: Protected by Him
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Protected By Him
(Obsessed With Him, Book Five)
Protected By Him
(Obsessed With Him, Book Five)
Hannah Ford

C
opyright
© 2015 by Hannah Ford

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

PROTECTED BY HIM
(Obsessed With Him, Book Five)

I
t took
me a second to realize what Caleb was saying, because at first I was just relieved he wasn’t some psycho who was following me down the street so he could mug me.

But my relief was soon replaced with an even worse feeling – yeah, maybe Caleb didn’t want to hurt me, but he was with the
FBI?
And he was investigating Colt’s club?

I opened my mouth to ask Caleb what the hell he was talking about, but then I immediately clamped it shut. If there was one thing I’d learned while navigating my way through the tangled system of DCF and foster care, it was that the less you said, the better off you were.

“Olivia,” Caleb said, and he was holding his badge out toward me, wanting me to look at it, wanting to prove he was who he said he was. I stared down at it, my heart pounding.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation
it said, the words carved ominously into the metal. “I just want to talk.”

“Right.” No one ever just wanted to talk. When someone said that, what they really meant was that they just wanted information or to catch you in a lie.

Caleb straightened up and peered into the restaurant. We were standing in the lobby, if you could even call it that – it was really just a space between the double doors. “Can I buy you a coffee?”

“Why?” I asked before I remembered I wasn’t supposed to be speaking. “So you can try to get something out of me that will get Colt in trouble?”

Caleb shook his head, his brow furrowing. “No, so that we can stop the people who are
causing
the trouble.”

I swallowed. My breathing was staring to return to normal now, the adrenaline that had been coursing through my veins lessening. A woman walked out of the restaurant, brushing by us and onto the sidewalk. Caleb shoved his badge into his pocket quickly -- I guess it wouldn’t do to have everyone freaking out about there being an FBI agent around. The interruption gave me a second to try and compose myself.

“Five minutes,” Caleb said, holding his hands up, like he meant no harm. “Just five minutes, Olivia, that’s all.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “What kind of trouble?”

“What?”

“You said you wanted to stop the people who are causing the trouble. So what kind of trouble are they causing that’s so bad?”

“Prostitution. Drugs. Maybe some embezzling.”

I opened my mouth to deny it, to tell him there was no way Colt would be involved with any of those things. But then I remembered that girl, the one who’d been on the couch in the backroom of Loose Cannons, her hair chopped off, a scratch on her cheek. And then I remembered those men at the bachelor party, the ones who’d tried to maul me. They must have gotten the idea that that would be okay from somewhere.

Then there were the track marks on Jessa’s arms, the way she hadn’t even tried to hide them, almost like she
wanted
me to know she had them. Was she trying to send me a message about what kind of place it was?

Colt would never have allowed those things to go on in his club.

It was my instinct, but how could I be sure? I knew nothing about him, except for the fact that I’d lost my virginity to him. I could still feel his touch, his kiss, the way he’d moved inside of me, his cock stretching me out, how strong and hard his body had felt on top of mine.

But then I remembered how callously he’d tossed me away, how he’d told me I could take his car to go and see Declan. Why would he have said that if sleeping with me had meant anything to him?

Open your eyes, Olivia. He’s a jerk, and to believe otherwise is just silly.

“Olivia,” Caleb said. “You don’t want to risk everything for these people. They’re bad people. They’re doing bad things.”

My heart didn’t believe him. I wasn’t sure why – all the evidence was telling me otherwise. I was probably a fool, but I didn’t believe Colt would ever do those things.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But I can’t help you. I don’t know anything and I don’t work there anymore.”

Caleb’s eyes darkened and for the first time, I saw something besides just sympathy and calmness there – it was something else, something lurking just below the surface, something dark and a little bit sinister. It wasn’t that he wanted to hurt me -- I didn’t feel like I was in any danger, at least not physically, by being there with him.

It was more that he
really
wanted me to help him. I could tell from the look on his face and the tone in his voice that he really wanted this, that he really wanted to bring Loose Cannons down, and that, in and of itself, made me anxious. Caleb had been friendly, but now I wasn’t playing by his rules and I could tell it was getting him upset.

“You don’t want to do this, Olivia,” he said quietly.

“Don’t want to do what?”

“You don’t want to go down with people who don’t care about you.”

“Go
down
with them?” I shook my head. “I told you I don’t work there anymore.”

Caleb shrugged, right back into business mode, right back into acting like he could care less if I helped him. But I knew better. I knew how bad he wanted this. It was another thing my time in foster care had taught me – people who tried to overcompensate by acting too nonchalant were the ones who wanted things the most. “It doesn’t matter. Whoever’s worked there, whoever’s been a part of this is going to end up paying a price.”

Another patron of the restaurant came walking through the door then, a girl about my age with a long blond ponytail and French-manicured nails. She was giggling into her cell phone and carrying a plastic takeout container of to-go food. I watched through the plate glass window as she walked jauntily down the sidewalk, her ponytail bobbing, so at ease, so unencumbered that it made my stomach twist into a tight, painful knot.

She disappeared around the corner, out of my view, and I turned my attention back to Caleb. “Are you saying that if I don’t help you, you’re going to arrest me?”

“I’m saying that if you don’t want to risk your entire future, if you don’t want to end up with a record because of some bad people who have somehow convinced you they’re good, then you should talk to me.”

“They haven’t convinced me of anything,” I said. Panic was rising inside of me now at the thought of being arrested. It was fucked up, but I knew exactly how the criminal justice system in this country worked. They could accuse you of whatever they wanted, and if you had no money for a good lawyer or bail, they’d scare you right into taking a plea deal.

A criminal record would follow me everywhere, would make it impossible to get a job, to start a life. I wouldn’t be able to do anything.

“It’s your choice,” Caleb said. “Please, Olivia. Don’t throw everything away for something I know you don’t believe in, something I know you don’t want to be a part of.”

You could hurt him.

The thought flashed through my mind, ugly and raw. Colt. I could hurt him. In fact, I could probably
destroy
him. I could go back to Loose Cannons and beg for my job back, and then I could do whatever Caleb and the FBI wanted me to do, could give them whatever information it was that they were looking for.

I could get Colt’s club shut down.

But for what?

Spite?

That had never been my style. I’d seen what spite could do to people. It changed them into alcoholics or crazies or – even worse -- damaged them so heavily that the guilt ate them alive until they were nothing more than a shell.

“Please, Olivia,” Caleb said. “I know you don’t want to sacrifice your freedom over people you don’t respect, for a place you don’t even like.”

His words hit me in the face, underscoring for the millionth time in my life how much power people with money or status had over someone like me, who had nothing and no one.

That’s not true.

You have Declan.

You’ve found him.

You can go to him.

The thought filled me with strength, and I tipped my chin into the air. “I’m not helping you.”

“Then I’ll be forced to –”

“Do what you have to do,” I said, cutting him off. My hands were curled so tightly at my sides now that my nails pressed into my flesh, and the place on my arms where I’d cut myself last night began to throb. “But leave me the hell alone.”

Then I pushed back out the door and onto the street.

I forced myself to walk slowly and not run, even though everything inside of me wanted to. I made it to the next block before I bent over and dry heaved into a garbage can, praying Caleb wasn’t watching.

A
few minutes later
, I boarded the city bus that would take me to Declan’s apartment complex, the adrenaline still coursing through my veins and wiring me with nervous energy. I tried not to make eye contact with the man sitting next to me, who was eating a salami sandwich and gawking at me, his eyes moving over my body lasciviously.

I wanted to get up and move, but there were only a couple of empty seats left on the bus, and they were in the back where some guys my age were spread out playing dice. They looked like the kind of guys who might be even more trouble than the man next to me.

So I bided my time, breathing a sigh of relief when man got off the bus, and relaxing even more as the houses outside began to change from broken down and ramshackle to shiny and modern.

The people on the bus began to change too, and by the time we got to Declan’s street, the bus was filled mostly with businesspeople in suits or skirts.

The bus let me off at the end of Huckleberry Street. The street was on a hill, and it rose up in front of me, twisting and turning between the two cobblestone walls that flanked it on either side. The apartment complex was modern and sprawling, with multiple brick buildings built into the hill, each building dotted with balconies that looked out across the valley.

You should have called him first, Olivia,
I told myself as I took a deep breath and started up the hill.
What if he’s not home?

I pushed the thoughts out of my head and trudged up the hill, scanning the buildings for number 102. They were all clearly labeled with cheerful looking brass numbers, and I felt an almost overwhelming wave of happiness rising in my chest at the thought of Declan living in such a nice place, at the thought of him getting out, of somehow being able to stop the cycle we’d both been in.

Maybe he’d have some advice on how I could do the same.

When I got to building 102, I closed my eyes for a second and wiped my palms on my jeans.

This was it.

I was about to start up the walk when a vibrating sensation came from inside my purse. My phone. Well, the phone Colt had given me.
The phone you stole from him.

His name flashed on the screen.
COLT.
He must have programmed it into the phone before he’d given it to me.

I hesitated, my finger over the little green “answer” icon as Caleb’s words echoed through my brain.

You don’t want to do this, Olivia. You don’t want to ruin everything, you don’t want to go down for people you don’t even like.

I sent the call to voicemail.

It rang again, and again, I sent it to voicemail.

But now I was frozen, the phone clutched tightly in my hand, wondering if he was going to call me again.

After another minute, it became clear he wasn’t, and disappointment rolled through me.

Call me back. Call me back and I’ll answer.

But the phone didn’t ring again, and I waited longer than I should have before accepting that as fact.

Rage boiled inside of me.

This was supposed to be a happy moment, the moment right before I saw Declan again. But instead, Colt was ruining it. He’d invaded my mind, he’d taken over everything. Now all could think about was his lips, his mouth, his kiss, his touch, his cock inside of me, the way he’d made me moan, the way he’d made me come, his hands playing my body into the perfect symphony.

He’d made me break my promise to the only man who had ever really truly cared about me.

I hate you,
I thought.
I hate you so much.

I could hear his voice in my head, cocky and sure of himself, that maddening, sexy grin he gave me burned in my brain.
No, you don’t.

The overwhelming urge to hurt myself welled inside of me, but of course I couldn’t, so instead I took the phone that Colt had given me and threw it as hard as I could at the ground. It skittered over the pavement, seemingly unbroken, so I picked it up and slammed it again, this time smashing and stomping it over and over again until it was shattered into smithereens.

I was quiet as I did it -- I wasn’t screaming or yelling, and yet for some reason when I was done my throat was raw and scratchy.

Once the phone was smashed, I felt better.

I squared my shoulders and continued up the path to building 102. Declan’s apartment was more like a townhouse, I realized as I walked to the door of 3D. It was a two-story, with pink and red geraniums planted on each side of the narrow little walkway that led to the porch, and the bright colors of the plants soothed me.

I didn’t give myself time to overthink it, to worry about how I looked or if Declan was going to be home, or if I was going to tell him about what happened with me and Colt, that not only had I kissed him, but that I’d slept with him, too.

I rang the doorbell.

Be home,
I thought,
please be home.

I didn’t hear anything coming from inside, no dog barking or television playing or footsteps walking toward the door.

There was just silence, and the silence caused the doubts to start to roll in.

What if he didn’t care? What if he wasn’t looking for me? What if this whole time everything had meant more to me than it had to him?

But a second later the door opened and there he was.

Declan.

My breath caught in my chest and my pulse skyrocketed.

His dark blonde hair was shorter than it used to be, and he was taller now, or maybe just more filled out. His shoulders were broad, his waist narrower, but that may have been because he was wearing clothes that actually fit -- a pair of crisp khakis and a dark blue button-down, the collar loose around his neck. I was used to seeing him in oversized jeans and hoodies, and it was a little strange seeing him here now, dressed like he’d just come from some corporate office job. His face had changed from that of a boy to one of a man, the angles and planes sharpening, his jaw more angular than it had been, his cheeks losing some of their softness so that his cheekbones were more pronounced.

BOOK: Protected by Him
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