Authors: J.L. Drake
“Those triggers are the least of your worries,” Tim butts in, getting a hit to the gut with a rifle by Keith. “I’m just saying there are too many men for you all to take out.”
“We’ll see,” Cole grunts.
Weaving in and out of the triggers, the men keep on high alert.
When they’re about five yards away from the door, a click echoes through the morning air. Everyone freezes. Cole slowly turns to see John’s scrunched-up face.
“Fuck me,” John growls and glances down at his right shoe, which is holding down the trigger.
“Don’t move,” Cole whispers, waiting for the attack. But nothing happens.
“If you lift your foot,” Daniel says calmly, “it will trip the alarm.”
“Go.” John flicks his head. “Let me know when you’re on your way out, and I’ll book it back to the car.”
“No—” Paul cuts him off, looking over at Cole. “You guys got this?”
Cole nods, knowing he’d never leave Mark unprotected either. “I’ll let you know. Stay low.”
Daniel makes it to the porch first, scanning the wood for triggers. He signals all is safe. “Set your watches. We’re in and out in ten minutes.”
“Where’s the bedroom from here?” Keith shoves Tim to the stairs, making sure he knows who’s in charge. “Speak.”
“Stairs will be right there.” Tim flexes his shoulders like the handcuffs are too tight, trying to point to the entryway. “At the end of the hall there’s a set of double doors, that’s Denton’s room. More than likely she’s there.”
“You better be right.” Keith looks over at Cole, who is ticking with anger.
Cole glances over his shoulder one last time at his guys before they disappear into the house.
One of the female servants freezes as she watches the men enter the house.
“The new girl?” Cole hisses in a whisper. The woman mouths master bedroom in Spanish. Cole's stomach drops. “Not a word,” he whispers back.
She nods then holds up a hand. “The others, please,” she pushes her hands together like she’s praying, “let them go.” Daniel nods from Cole's left.
“Move.” Cole jams the gun a little harder into Tim's back.
“Hey!” someone yells from another room. Keith is quick, popping two bullets into his forehead. The woman who just helped them cups her mouth to stop her scream. Suddenly she points behind them just as another guy tries to stab Daniel. Cole kicks his knee, forcing it to snap in the wrong direction. He takes the butt of the gun and rams it into the man’s temple.
“Move.” Cole can tell things are escalating quickly.
They slowly move up the stairs. The first room to the left is open...strange when every other door is closed, so Daniel does a quick sweep then signals the all clear.
“It’s your girl’s room,” Tim whispers to Cole, before moving forward down the hallway. Cole watches the bottom of each door in case any lights turn on; they need to stay invisible. “The master is at the end of the hall with the double doors. I knock twice so he knows it’s me.”
Cole leads the pack. He looks at the men as they approach. Tension is high, to say the least. He nods at Tim, who lifts his sweaty fist and knocks twice.
“Tim, that fucking better be you!” The American shouts, his voice a high pitched squeal. “You better have done what I asked!”
Tim opens the door and moves inside, smiling. “Yeah, Denton, not only did I get the Colonel, I got his whole fucking ar—”
Trap…it’s a fucking trap! So many things are happening in front of Cole, but nothing matters when he knocks Tim to the floor and catches sight of why The American is so panicky.
The American is straddling Savannah’s lifeless body, giving her CPR. One look at the guns drawn and he jumps back, raising his hands.
Daniel is the first to move. He races forward, hitting The American with the butt of his gun. Shrieks become louder as two females burst out of the bathroom and attack Keith and Mark.
Cole leaps forward, climbing on top of Savannah. Two fingers check her pulse while his other hand checks her pupils. “Please, baby,” he whispers. Shutting out the war around him, he concentrates on trying to bring life back to her body. Nothing. He shoots up, lacing his fingers on top of one another pumping her chest, desperately wishing he could reach inside her and hold her heart in his hands. One, two, three…he counts, his lips meet with hers and fill her lungs with his own breath. Focusing all his energy on her, he’s hoping for a miracle. She looks so small and fragile, her beautiful eyes once so lit with fire are cold and dim. “Don’t you dare leave me, Savannah. I swear to god I will give you the world if you come back to me.”
Mark suddenly appears at his side, his hands moving all around as he tries to assess the scene. “Mark.” Cole's voice breaks as he looks at his brother in pain.
“Come on, Savi.” Mark starts rubbing her limp arm. “We need you.”
“Please, no!” Cole begs. His
is slipping away, the only woman he’s ever loved, the mother of his unborn baby, leaving him, but not by choice. Damn it, it’s not fair! He pounds on her tiny chest, feeling the world has committed the worst crime…there is no good on this earth …only evil.
Suddenly, Savannah gasps and starts coughing, twisting to her side under him. “Savi!” Cole shouts, grabbing her head and pulling her to him. She starts sobbing, and a horrible shaking takes her, her breath ragged. He carefully strokes her back and watches her blue-tinged face slowly turn to a waxy white. As soon as she takes him in, she whispers his name. He wraps her in his arms gently, allowing himself a moment to breathe.
“Cole.” Mark's voice gets through to him.
Snapping out of it and back into Army mode, Cole realizes they don’t have much time before company arrives. He pushes the fear of the last several minutes away to deal with later, knowing right now he needs to get them all out of here alive. Keith informs them that one of the girls tripped the alarm. Paul and John are now guarding the door, waiting for them to arrive. The redhead in question is looking at them with a nasty expression on her face. Damn, it won't be long. They have to get out now. Cole looks at the girls and tells them if they want their freedom they better get the hell out now. The blonde girl eyes Savannah’s trembling body then bolts down the hallway, but the rest stand in fear or, God knows, they might be suffering from a type of Stockholm syndrome or something. Either way, he figures he isn't going to worry about them; they aren't his problem. “Let's move!” he directs his men. Daniel and Mark force a handcuffed Tim and The American to their feet and head down the hallway.
“Raven One to Fox Two,” John’s voice flows over the radio, “we’ve got company in five minutes.” Gunshots ring over their earpieces. “You guys need to move now!”
“Ten-four,” Mark answers. “Get the SUV ready, we’re transferring two hostages.”
“Copy that, Fox Two.”
John and Paul spray bullets at the men as they try and close in on them. They take out more than half of The American’s army. The rest seem to pull back when they get sight of Blackstone’s hostages.
Daniel has the two men blindfolded and piles them in the truck, handcuffing them to a metal bar. Tim is pleading with Daniel to let him go, that it was all a misunderstanding, while The American remains silent.
Cole feels Savannah’s grip tighten as he gets closer to the vehicle. He wishes he planned this better as he jumps inside, keeping her on his lap tight against his chest. Mark, Daniel, and Keith squeeze in beside them, while Paul takes the front with John.
“Call it in,” Cole orders Paul once they are on the road. Headlights are coming up quickly behind them.
Savannah doesn’t speak. She barely even moves. He has to keep shifting to make sure she is all right. Her eyes are glued to Daniel’s watch, and she hardly blinks. It takes everything Cole has not to turn around and kill the man who tried to take everything from him. Wanting answers on what the fuck happened back at the house is eating away at his mind.
Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes go by. Cole keeps checking the side mirror, watching the same headlights follow them along the dark road. No shots have been fired yet.
“I can smell you, my love,” The American whispers into the silence, making Savannah tense as she hears his voice, snapping her out of her trance. Daniel shakes his head at Cole, making sure he doesn’t react. “I can still feel your soft lips, your smooth skin, and the taste of your tongue.” Savannah turns her face into Cole’s chest, silently sobbing.
“He’s trying to get to you, baby, just tune him out,” Cole whispers in her ear. He kisses her softly, wanting to calm her.
The American chuckles and leans his head back against the window. “When my hands felt that last tiny gasp of air pass through your lungs, I knew I should’ve stopped, but your eyes were hypnotic. You held me in the moment.”
Cole reaches forward and grabs Paul’s stun gun from his hip. He shifts Savannah so she is sitting upright, turns, and forces the tip of the gun through the bars and stuns The American in the neck before anyone has time to react. The American screams out, his body jolting upward. “One more word and I'll kill you.” Cole doesn’t even recognize his own voice he’s so fucking livid. Yanking the wires from the gun, he presses Savannah back down to his chest and hands the gun to his father while the asshole tries to control his breathing.
“House to Blackstone,” Mike’s voice breaks through.
Cole presses the button on his neck to activate his earpiece. “Go ahead.”
“Chopper is standing by, backup arriving in five, Frank and Eagle Eye will meet you on the other side of the border. We see you on satellite and are monitoring behind you, will communicate if they show signs of making a move. So far they’re only watching.”
I squeeze my eyes shut, concentrating on Cole’s smell, sweat mixed with soap. It's just what I need to ground me. So much has happened it’s hard to stay focused. I’m tired, sore, my neck and throat feel like they’re on fire, and my head is pounding. It’s terrifying to know The American, Denton, or whatever his name is, is sitting a foot away from me. He tried to kill me and almost succeeded. My mind goes to Tim. He was using me; thank god that backfired. But am I really safe? This will never really be over until The American is dead. I don’t even realize what I am doing until I feel Cole’s hand slip on top of mine, stopping me from taking his gun from his leg holster. Instead of saying anything, he laces his fingers through mine, ever so calmly bringing them to rest on my leg. His lips kiss my hair for a long minute, breathing in deeply and helping me drift off to an unpleasant sleep.
Suddenly all hell breaks loose and I'm being hoisted out of the car. I’m in Mark’s arms now, not Cole’s, and there is a lot of shouting, gunshots, and a chopper whose rotor is madly cutting into the early morning air. My brain fights to catch up with this madness.
“Move, move, move!” someone shouts at Mark. Paul is shooting off to our left. I can see the concentration on his face and the puffs of dust as bullets ping around him. It all comes at me as if in slow motion. I see John inside the chopper with his hand extended, reaching out for me. His mouth is moving as though he is yelling something. I can feel the jolt of each step Mark takes as he runs toward John. I feel no pain now; it's all so surreal. When we are close enough, I'm tossed into John’s arms and he lifts me into the chopper. He places me on a seat across from The American, who is still bound and blindfolded. I scan about the massive chopper and can’t find Cole.
The pilot is shouting for the guys to get in, and John is barking out orders to Paul, who is still firing off his weapon. Mark suddenly flies inside with Daniel, who looks to be bleeding from his arm. The chopper blades are kicking up a huge dust storm, making it hard to see and hear the fight outside. I feel the chopper start to shift.
What’s going on?
Cole and Keith jump on at the last moment before we rise into the sky, and my body sags with relief.
I can't keep my eyes away from The American. It’s odd seeing him looking so vulnerable. With his handcuffs and blindfold, he certainly doesn't frighten me anymore. He’s not wearing his stupid cobra boots. He’s barefoot, wearing only a pair of jeans and a shirt. Memories flood through me of him on top of me in the bedroom, of the lies Tim told me that if I cried he’d stay away, knowing now that only made him more intrigued. I feel sick as I think of it. The harder I sobbed, the harder he squeezed the life out of me. I stopped fighting him. I would rather be dead than give in to that man and let him have me.
I reach into the top of my dress and slowly ease out the tiny blade from my bra. Looking around, I see that everyone looks exhausted. Cole is wrapping Daniel’s arm, and the others’ attention is on that. As much as my body hurts, as much as I’m mentally finished and just want to close my eyes again, I know this might be my only chance.
I shift silently onto my knees and crawl forward. I catch Keith's face as my movement draws his gaze, but he doesn’t stop me. He’s just watching. He puts a hand on Mark when he turns my way. It’s not easy moving around on the chopper, but I make the five foot distance and sit on my knees next to The American. Leaning in and letting my hair brush his shoulder, he senses my presence and his face turns up with a smile. My lips are close to his ear as I whisper so only he can hear me.
“Anyone can be bought, Denton. It’s all about finding their weakness. Yours was me. Problem is I already belong to someone else, and that someone else always gets what’s his. You never had me, and you never will. So while you sit in your six by twelve jail cell I want you to picture the Colonel with his hands on my body, touching me, and my moans of ecstasy that are his alone.”
His neck muscles flex as he clamps down on his jaw. “This will never end, my love.” He suddenly leans into me. Even through his blindfold I can feel his eyes burning into mine. “I always win.” His mouth is still smiling at me.
He’s right. I’ll never be free if I don’t end this now. My eyes drop down to his long throat, and the blade in my hand becomes hot as fire. As I raise my arm, I see my future flash in front of me. If this doesn’t end, I’ll forever be afraid. All my anger boils to the surface as I throw my body weight forward, aiming for his neck. A large hand wraps around my wrist while the other hooks my waist and pulls me to the other side of the chopper.
“It’s what he wants, Savi,” Cole huffs in my ear. “He wants you to kill him. His hell is being caught. Let him live so he can suffer.” He pries the blade from my fingers and hands it to Keith, who is shaking his head with a smirk like I never stop surprising him. “It’s over, Savannah, I promise it’s over.”
We make two stops before we finally land back in Montana at the safe house. The American, whose name I now know is Denton, is handed off to Frank and a team of his men who arrived back from TJ just hours earlier. Daniel had to be dropped off at a private hospital in North Dakota to have his wound treated. When I ask what happened to Tim, The American’s muscle, Keith tells me he got shot in the head. I nod, not wanting to know which team did the deed, since I now know Tim's loyalty lay with Denton all along. He used me to try and trap Cole into coming to the market. Thank god Cole was smart enough to see through it. I hate that I didn’t.
Stepping down on solid ground and taking in the scenery feels pretty amazing, but seeing Abigail and June run up and wrap me in a bear hug is even better. Thinking back, I know there was a point I didn’t think I was going to be here again. I thought I was going to live the rest of my crazy, messed up life with Denton or until I made it end. As they fuss over me, I feel a bubble of warmth start to rise from my stomach to my heart.
“Come on, dear, you must be freezing!” I tug Cole’s jacket around me a little tighter as she looks at my bare legs in the army boots, smiling. “Let’s get you inside.” I glance back at Cole, seeing him smile and nod at me. I return the smile, but it fades when I start to walk, as the soreness in my body reminds me of what The American did to me physically.
Sitting in my room on the edge of my bed, I'm still huddled under Cole’s jacket, wanting to shake off an odd feeling that has a grip on me. I know I'm terribly tired and I want a shower, but I can't bring myself to move. I wonder where my father and Lynn are. I wonder what they’re doing right now and if they’ve heard that I’m free again. I feel my face prickle all over like I want to cry, but I don’t. I just sit and stare at the floor.
I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes, because I find myself slumped on the bed uncomfortably. I finally force myself up and get showered, dressed, and back downstairs to find everyone doing what they do best whenever they come from back from a job. Drinks in the living room. It feels wonderful to be back here, and I find myself thinking of Derek, realizing I'll never see him again. I want to mourn for him, knowing that it is my fault he’s not with us, my fault he’s being buried, and why his little niece won’t be getting her New York snow globe. I got him killed; that death is on me, and me alone.