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Authors: Cheryl McIntyre

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Staying Dirty

BOOK: Staying Dirty
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Dirty

5

Staying Dirty

By Cheryl McIntyre

 

Dirty 5 Staying Dirty

Cheryl McIntyre

Published by Cheryl McIntyre

 

Copyright Cheryl McIntyre 2014

 

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form without prior written permission by the author except where permitted by law.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to real persons, events, or places are used fictitiously. The characters are the work of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to persons living or deceased, events, or locales are coincidental.

 

The author acknowledges the trademark status, as well as ownership of products referred to in this work of fiction. The uses of these trademarks have not been authorized, nor are they associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

Cover photo from Shutterstock

Cover design by Joe Handlon

[email protected]

 

Edited by Dawn McIntyre Decker

 

May 2014

 

Table of Contents

 

One Link

Two Rocky

Three Link

Four Rocky

Five Link

Six Rocky

Seven Link

Eight Rocky

Nine Link

Ten Rocky

Eleven Link

Twelve Rocky

Thirteen Link

Acknowledgements

Other books by Cheryl McIntyre

 

One

Link

 

“LINK.”

I pause with my hand on the door. My anger is a living being. I can feel it slithering through my veins and pounding in my head. I can see it in the trembling of my fingers, crushing the newspaper in my grip. I can hear it in the thundering static playing inside my eardrums.

I can smell it.

I can
taste
it.

That fucking bastard has been watching me. Bates went after Rocky. He showed up at Lea’s. And after what he did to me and Liv—I have to kill him.
Slowly
. And Anthony’s going to tell me where to find him or he can join him.

Rocky thinks she can stop me. Calm me. Make me reconsider. But she can’t. Nobody can. I’m past the point of no return. I
have
to do this. Can’t she see that? Can’t she understand? I won’t let her suffer Liv’s fate.

I shove the door open and keep going without a look back. If I look at Rocky—if I see the fear on her face again—I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to hold back once I have Anthony in my sights. I might beat the life out of him before I get any information from him.

“Link,” Rocky pants as her hand clamps around my bicep.

“Don’t try to stop me, Rock,” I utter through clenched teeth. “I’m doing this.”

“I’m not trying to stop you. I want to go with you.”

My steady pace falters. I stop just a few feet from my car, my gaze sliding over to hers. I narrow my eyes, my rage boiling over. “The
FUCK
you are.” My fingers twist into rock-like fists at the ends of coiled arms. “Take your ass back into the gym with Augie and Joe. And
stay
there.”

“If you’re going I’m going,” she demands.

I step up into her personal space and push her back with my chest. I point over her shoulder at the gym where Lea stands, waiting. “Go back inside, Rocky.
Now
.”

She raises her chin, her gaze meeting mine, unaffected by my obvious anger. “If you’re going—I’m going,” she repeats.

The last thing I’m going to do is allow her to accompany me to the house of the man who raped and murdered my girlfriend. I don’t know what the fuck she’s thinking, but it’s not happening. It already kills me that she breathed the same air as Bates. I’m not going to willingly take her to Anthony.

I scoop her up and toss her easily over my shoulder in one continuous move. There’s one solid second of shocked silence, and then a string of cuss words begin flying out of her mouth. She tries to kick at me immediately, but I catch her legs, securing them just below the knees, holding her still. I know she’s furious with me. But I’d rather her be pissed off and alive than the alternative.

“Put me down, Linken,” she hisses. A growl of outrage follows. Her small fists pound at my back futilely. If I were in any other mindset than the one I’m currently in, I’d probably laugh.

“You’re not coming with me,” I state firmly. “You’re staying here, where you’re safe and I don’t have to worry about you.”

As I near the door, Rocky pushes herself up until she’s almost straight, and slams her elbow into the side of my neck. I stumble sideways with the blow, losing my grip on her legs, and nearly drop her.

Now
that
was a good hit—solid and potent. It hurts like hell and I’m proud of her—she’s been paying attention in class. But she’s still not coming with me.

With a final kick, she slides out of my grasp. And though I reach for her quickly, she slips past me with ease. “Fuck,” I breathe, rubbing my neck. I’m sure she was only trying to get loose—not hurt me—but
damn
it stings. I feel bad for any guy she
wants
to damage.

But again, she’s still not going.

Rocky circles in front of me with a smug smirk, her hands resting on her hips. “I can take care of myself.” She quirks a brow as if to drive the point home. “And I can hold you up all day long. You might as well let me come with you.”

If I didn’t give a shit about her, this would work. I’d bring her with me just for the simple fact that it’d be easier.

“Fine,” I say. I pivot on my heel and head to my car. She hurries to the passenger side, jerking the handle as I unlock my door and fall into my seat. I put the key in the ignition, starting the engine, and Rocky wiggles the handle once again.

If I didn’t care about her, now would be the moment I’d lean over and pop the lock on her door.

I look into her eyes with no apology in mine.

Her brows crinkle, and I see the moment it finally sinks in. That exact second she realizes I have no intention of giving into her ridiculous demands. She glares at me through the window, her hand clapping against glass.

I return her earlier smirk and pull away.

 

Two

Rocky

 

That son of a bitch left me
.

I stand here in his empty parking space for several seconds, stunned and fuming. I’m so pissed off all I can do is watch as his car turns the corner.

He fucking left me
.

I glance over my shoulder at Lea. She’s in the doorway looking on as Link disappears.

“Where’s your car?” I call.

She steps into the lot and nods toward a little silver Volkswagen. The car is brand new. Sleek and pretty. It fits her way too well.

“Hurry up,” I huff, waving her forward. “I don’t want to lose him.”

Lea raises a groomed brow. “I’m not involved in this—and I don’t want to be.” She fixes her purse strap over her shoulder and clicks her heels on the pavement as she stalks briskly to the driver’s side. “You don’t know me—what I’ve already lived through. There’s been too much violence in my life. I’m not chasing after a murderer. Not even for Link.”

I’m not about to let her leave me behind too. I rip the door open and slip inside next to her.

“Follow him,” I demand. “Once we get where he’s going, you can leave, but I need to stay with him. I need to make sure he’s okay.” I shake my head, looking out the window as if he’ll suddenly reappear. “He barely survived these guys last time.”

I can feel the weight of Lea’s gaze. I turn to meet her stare. She watches me with her large green eyes, doing nothing, and it only adds to my anger. I yank the keys out of her hand and place them in the ignition, starting it myself. If Link caught the light, we can probably catch up with him. I can’t waste anymore time.

“If I have to kick you out of your own car, I will,” I say through my teeth.

“You care about him,” she murmurs as she puts the car into drive and rolls out onto the street.

I shrug absent-mindedly, searching for any signs of Link. How I feel doesn’t matter right now. And in all honesty, it’s none of her goddamn business.

I bite at my nail, my body full of nervous energy. My knee is bouncing, my heart pounding. I still can’t believe he left me like that. He’s always so big on being smart, not putting yourself into dangerous situations, protecting everyone else. But apparently none of that is supposed to apply to him. What makes him above his own rules? Two is better than one—
his words
. I should be with him.

When I find him—after I make sure he’s okay—I’m going to beat the shit out of him. What did he think I would do? Just sit inside the gym like a good little girl and wait for him to get himself killed?

I can’t stand by quietly and knowingly allow him to do this alone. I just…

I can’t
.

The thought of a world without Link makes my heart ache. It’s hard enough to live this life. I don’t think I can keep doing it without him in it.

“Is that him?” Lea asks. I sit forward, resting my hand on the dashboard as I follow her gaze. My eyes trail over every vehicle. Finally, a block up, I see Link’s car take a right turn.

“Yes. Hurry. Get up there before we lose him again.”

“I can’t go faster than the car in front of me,” she states flatly. “Get my cell phone out of my purse and call 911.”

As tempting as that is, I learned a long time ago cops aren’t always able to help. “Link’s going after these guys to kill them, Lea, not rumble in an alley. If we call the cops, he’ll go to jail and these guys walk away once again.”

“Better jail than a funeral home,” she spits.

“This is what he’s been waiting for since the day Olivia died. You think it’s better for him to go to jail?”

Her eyes dart sideways, shooting me a look. “Yes.”

“You don’t get it.”

She rolls her eyes. “You have no idea how much I get it. But Link can’t go up against two of these guys alone. They’ll kill him.”

I look away, focusing on the cars outside the window. “That’s what he has me for,” I murmur. “I won’t let them hurt him.”

Maybe I’m not thinking clearly. Maybe I’m too confident in myself. Maybe I’m just naïve. But I can’t help believing that Link and I together are a force to be reckoned with.

And honestly, I have nothing left to lose.

“You’re insane,” Lea says. “Both of you.”

“Don’t knock insanity. It might be our one saving grace.”

 

Three

Link

 

I haven’t seen or spoken to Olivia’s parents since they came to visit me while I was in the hospital after the attack. I don’t have a defense for this other than I couldn’t bear to look them in the eyes. Hell, I couldn’t bear to look at them—period.

I couldn’t stomach seeing Olivia’s bright blue eyes on her mother’s face.

I couldn’t summon the strength to watch her father’s chin—so much like hers—quiver with pain.

And I couldn’t deal with the fact that it was my fault. My fault Livie was gone. My fault I would never look into her eyes or hold her in my arms again. My fault her parents didn’t get to say goodbye.

The agony I felt—that I continue to feel daily—can be nothing in comparison to what her parents are forced to live with. I can’t imagine how her father’s lips miss kissing his only daughter’s forehead. Or how her mother’s hands suffer, no longer able to caress her cheek.

A parent isn’t supposed to outlive their child.

And that’s my fault.

Because I wasn’t strong enough. Smart enough. Shrewd enough. I should have protected her. It was my job. I should have saved her. I should have…

It should have been me that night.

I should have been the one to die.

I don’t know why I was left behind. Maybe God didn’t want me. Maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe he only wanted another angel.

Whatever the reason—whatever the purpose—I won’t allow it to happen again. I won’t let another woman leave this planet too soon. Taken from her parents. Taken from me. If I have to, I’ll die to protect Rocky.

No matter how much she reminds me of Liv or how similar their pasts are—that’s as far as I’ll allow their courses to parallel.

I don’t recall a single second of the drive over to Anthony’s insurance agency. All I know is I’m here, throwing my car into park and stalking toward the door with purpose.

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