When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel (4 page)

BOOK: When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel
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“I’m about as discrete as they come, but I was just starting to enjoy my vacation. Don’t you have anyone else who can round her up?”

“Sure, but I want the best.”

A slow smile eased Walker’s scowl. Since the first time they worked together eight years ago in Kabul, he and Joe had shared some of the best times he could remember . . . and some of the worst. On the job or off, Walker never worried about who had his back. Joe had hauled his ass out of more than one tight spot. Walker owed him. More than that—he respected Joe and counted him as a friend. If Joe needed him, all he had to do was ask.

“Besides, if I’m right, she’s on her way to Tillamook, Oregon. You’re just a little north of there.”

“What’s in Tillamook?”

“Parents.”

“It won’t take DeLuca long to make that connection. Good way to get her parents killed.” That would make things a little trickier. Still, a nanny? She was sure to be a pain in the ass.

“That’s why I need you to find her and take her to my place in Gold Beach. It’s secluded and has all the precautionary amenities you’ll need. Meanwhile, I’ll make sure her parents don’t get pulled into the middle of this.”

“And if the nanny doesn’t want to go?” Walker pinched the bridge of his nose hoping to tame the headache that raged behind his eyes.

“You’ll persuade her. Take a look at the file I e-mailed you this morning . . . and, Walker, no more booze until this is over.” Joe hung up.

Walker dropped his cell phone on the bed and stared blankly at the black TV screen across from him. Shit. Joe always could read him. Booze had become an essential part of Walker’s life the last couple of weeks. The oblivion that came with it was what he sought. He’d been responsible for the deaths of more than a few people in the name of patriotism. Trained to track and kill courtesy of the U.S. military, he’d done his job well. He’d learned to deal with it by getting flag-waving drunk on occasion, whenever the pain and regret became too much to bear. With enough whiskey he could forget . . . but forgiveness was another matter. That, in part, was what made him a very dangerous man. Joe was the only person alive who was brave enough, or stupid enough, to tell him when he’d had enough.

Pain exploded in his head as he threw his legs over the side of the bed and rose to his feet. He moved slowly to the bathroom, downed a handful of ibuprofen, then stood under the hot shower spray until the haze lifted. A few minutes later, dressed in clean jeans and a long-sleeved, blue denim shirt, his beard trimmed and his shoulder-length hair dripping onto his collar, he fixed himself a cup of coffee and sat down with his laptop.

The dossier on Darcy Maddox contained very little information. She was barely twenty-four and had been born and raised on the Oregon coast. She took the fast track through college, graduating in less than three years with a degree in child development. All work and no play for Darcy, apparently. Then, three years ago, she moved to Chicago, where she took a job with a Mafia family as a nanny.

Now why would any intelligent person do that? Was she having an affair with Johnny Fontana? Or maybe she was working for someone else . . . someone who wanted Johnny dead.

He whistled softly when he pulled up her picture. Long, wavy red hair framed her expressive face, and dimples creased her cheeks. Huge jade-green eyes sparkled with life and optimism. Full lips surrounded straight, white teeth, and her smile radiated a natural sensuality. First impression—sweet, idealistic, fragile.
Oh yeah. She is definitely hiding something. No one is that innocent.

J
OE CALLED HIM
back with a flight number and arrival time for the Portland airport. Walker had to hustle to get there ahead of the plane, but it would be worth it if he could catch her there and keep her from endangering her parents.

He saw her the minute she entered the terminal, even though she had her hair up under that blasted cap. The picture Joe sent only showed her from the neck up. For a moment he was distracted by the soft curves that came below. She wore tight jeans with holes in the legs and a short, snug jacket that stretched over her full breasts and ended at the swell of her hips. He let his gaze roam over her admiringly and settle at hip level. He wasn’t the only one. Her nicely rounded ass, swaying with her graceful stride, attracted the attention of every man within fifty feet who wasn’t blind or half dead. The preppy guy she walked off the plane with enjoyed the view every chance he got.

Who the hell was he anyway? The nanny was supposed to be traveling alone. The last thing Walker needed was some horny schoolboy mucking up his plan. He studied the man, who had a short but serious conversation with Darcy, then stepped up to the Budget Car Rental counter. Good—they were parting company, just in time.

In no particular rush, Darcy walked away from the counter. Walker’s gaze traveled the length of her as she came closer, enjoying the easy, sexy way she moved. This would be his best opportunity to talk to her, to explain his purpose, and whisk her out of there before she could come up with too many questions he couldn’t answer at the moment. By the time she got her wits about her, he’d have her someplace safe and the marshals would be on the way. At least that was the plan.

He pushed away from the column he leaned against, his gaze slid upward to her face, and too late he realized she’d noticed him checking her out. Her face paled and, in the fraction of a second before she jerked her eyes away, he recognized the look of the hunted in their green depths. Shit. He’d just made a rookie mistake.

He took one step toward her as she whirled and ran square into the preppy guy, who held up a set of keys and led her out of the terminal. So much for plan A.

With the help of a lucky guess, Walker managed to catch up to them as they turned off the freeway onto Highway 6 to Tillamook. The road was one curve after another, and he had to practically drive on their bumper to keep them in sight. Good thing, too, because a few miles east of Highway 101 they pulled off onto a forest service road that looked as though it went straight up the side of the mountain.

Walker’s gut tightened in that way it did when everything was about to go to hell. He drove past the road, then turned around and went back. As soon as he was sure they were out of sight, he followed them.

It wasn’t long before he pulled over and killed the engine. His four-wheel-drive Jeep was covering the terrain just fine, but that little car wasn’t going to make it far over these ruts and boulders. If he wanted to sneak up without being seen, he’d better be on foot. He grabbed his backpack from the rear, pulled his handgun and shoulder holster from the glove box, and got out of the car. He put the holster on beneath his coat and checked the clip to make sure he had a full load. With his backpack slung over his shoulder, he took off at a brisk run.

The gunshot cracked in the peaceful silence, and a flock of birds exploded skyward from the branches of a Douglas fir a few feet ahead. Walker ran faster and refused to believe it might already be too late. When the second shot rang out, he heard the solid thud of the bullet striking wood.

He slid to a stop when he spotted the blue car in the road a few yards ahead. Darcy sprinted for cover toward the trees to the right. The creep with the gun stepped away from the front of the car and drew down on her back. Rage engulfed Walker and swept him away with the force of an avalanche. He raised his gun and trained it on the assassin, wishing instead he was close enough to rip the guy’s head off. With a steady hand and no regrets, he pulled the trigger and watched the man drop. From the corner of his eye, Darcy disappeared into the trees.

Good God—this just keeps getting better.

Thirty minutes later, Walker was close to catching up to her. He’d honed his senses in a hellhole where the enemy looked exactly like everyone else. Where it was life if you did it right and death if you didn’t. He could feel her presence, smell her sweet scent, and hear her soft, tremulous breathing.

“Darcy, it’s over. You could save us both a lot of trouble and show yourself. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.” He frowned. She should know that. Why was she trying so hard to stay ahead of him? He’d just saved her life. That kid would have shot her in the back and left her here for the wild animals.

His words caused a flurry of movement and told him right where she was. He walked toward her, relieved that he would soon have her out of here. As he eased around the trunk of a large fir in his path, he glimpsed the blur of a tree branch arcing toward his head. He threw up his arm to block the swing and grabbed for the woman holding the weapon. Pain exploded in his head, and her beautiful green eyes, wide with fright, disappeared into the blackness with everything else.

W
ALKER GROANED AS
he pushed away from the trunk of the tree he was sprawled against.
Goddamn it!
The nanny had knocked him on his ass. The memory of the girl flooded back, legs spread apart, wild hair falling around her shoulders, pale face and eyes bright with purpose. She wielded a broken limb with every ounce of strength she possessed. It was a damned good thing he got his arm up at the last second or he might not be waking up now.

How long had he been out? He gritted his teeth against the throbbing in his head and opened his eyes. The shadows were lengthening. He’d lost twenty, maybe thirty minutes.

His headache was back with a vengeance. Tentatively, he raised a hand to his temple and swiped at the blood that trailed down the side of his face. He groped for his backpack, rolled onto his knees, and set the bag on the ground in front of him. A few more seconds wouldn’t hurt—enough time to clean the gash and smear on some antibiotic ointment. Four months in a Korean prison, after one of Joe’s special missions fell apart, had taught Walker the smallest cuts could kill you if you didn’t take care of them. It was a rule he still lived by.

He drank water from a metal container, slipped the backpack onto his shoulder again, and hoisted himself off the ground. Leaning against the tree for a moment, he waited for the dizziness and the current round of nausea to pass. He spotted the obvious signs of her flight even before he’d taken his first step. When he moved out, he tracked her and traveled fast. She’d surprised him and that wasn’t easy to do. He wouldn’t underestimate her again.

Judging by the result, it was a mistake calling out to her. The assassin back by the car drove her out here to kill her. After an experience like that, it was unlikely she would trust anyone she didn’t know. She probably thought Walker was here for the same reason. He cursed himself for not intercepting her at the airport like he intended, but when he made eye contact with her, she’d taken off like he was the enemy. The man with her struck him as friend or family, and it was easy to convince himself she’d be safe for the time being until he could pick his spot for the confrontation. So much for plan B.

The shooter was obviously an amateur. Those Chicago boys must be short on time and talent. Still, he managed to get off two shots before Walker took him out. If she hadn’t been a fighter, she’d be dead now. A grudging admiration began to grow. He hadn’t been sure what to expect from a nanny. He certainly hadn’t expected her to be so damn young and pretty. His hand went to the gash on his temple again. Maybe he would forgive her for knocking his lights out . . . right after he throttled her.

In her haste, she’d left an easy trail to follow. She headed due west, although a couple of times she wandered significantly off course before she corrected herself. There was water not far from here. The Wilson River, if the map he’d glanced at was accurate. He’d heard the rushing water for several minutes now. It moved fast, swollen with the coastal rainstorms typical of this time of year. The woman was headed right for it.

It was early April. The days were lengthening but were still quite cool, especially at night. The sun had set about ten minutes ago, and dusk made her trail harder to follow. If he lost her in the dark, he might not find her in the morning, and there was a good chance she wouldn’t survive the night. Walker pushed on as he grumbled at himself for not throwing night vision equipment in his backpack. His assignment wasn’t supposed to be this complicated. How hard could it be to round up one slip of a girl and convince her to come with him? “Damn it, Joe,” he mumbled under his breath.

Walker slowed as darkness descended, pulled a flashlight from his pack, and studied each foot of ground for bent grass, broken twigs, or footprints. With each step, he tried to think like she might. Which way would she go? Would she keep moving or hunker down for the night? It didn’t appear she’d slowed down any, which could be either good or bad. Keeping her pace, without food, water, or rest, would eventually tire her out. That was the good news. The bad news would be if she stumbled over a cliff and broke her neck.

The protectiveness that surged through him at the thought of her scared and possibly hurt was new to him, and he frowned in puzzlement. Finally, he put it down to knowing he would have to explain to Joe what went wrong. Obviously, she was terrified and desperate. Now, thanks to his fumbling, she knew he was here. There’d be no sneaking up on her.

She was still headed for the river, in a roundabout sort of way. It was almost as though she was deliberately leading him astray . . .

Aw, shit! Was she messing with him? He shook his head, annoyed by the admiration for the girl that came with this realization. Hell yes, she was. He obviously wasn’t giving her enough credit. This new trail to the north was meant to throw him off and slow him down. Trying to distract him until she got close enough to the river. He frowned. Crossing in the dark would be suicidal. God help her if she tried.

There would be a full moon tonight. When it rose high enough in the sky, it would seem almost like daylight after the darkness she’d been stumbling around in. She might be afraid, but there was no indication she was running scared. This woman was thinking, using her head. Clearly she had a plan and his money was on her trying to cross that river . . . and failing. His only hope was to get there first and stop her before she made a fatal mistake.

BOOK: When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel
12.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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