Baby Heal the Pain – Sneak Peek 2

Part 1: The Grand Plaza Job

Chapter 1 Continued

In the five minutes I’d been sitting in the lobby, waiting for my rescuer and listening to TJ’s voice to keep me calm and anchored, the energy had shifted. The police presence on the street outside the hotel had swelled. A dozen cops, uniformed and plain clothes, had traipsed through the lobby on their way to the fourth floor crime scene. No civilians were being allowed past the police barricade at the front door, and those who wanted to leave had to wait in a line, show ID, then move to another line where they waited to be questioned.

In other words, no one was getting in or out of the place without a police escort.

“Any chance your friend is a cop?” I asked TJ.

“They descended that fast?”

“Yes,” I said. “The hotel is on lockdown.”

The line went quiet and I knew TJ had muted me. When he came back, he said, “Sit tight, Bond. I put in a request to the FBI field office. After a long string of expletives, they agreed to send someone over. If that soldier was active duty and connected to NSA work, this should be their case anyway.”

“It should, shouldn’t it?” I watched the officers milling around outside. No feds to my rather trained eye. That sent another wave of panic over me, which I fought back with calming breaths. “So why aren’t they here yet?”

“Doesn’t seem to be anything nefarious,” TJ assured me. “They’re just in no rush to work on a Friday night, and Chicago PD hasn’t given them the heads up through official channels yet. They’ll depend on the locals to secure the scene and do the leg work of canvassing and interviewing potential witnesses, so they just planned to take their sweet time getting there.”

“But they know he’s a dead soldier, right?”

“They do and after my call, they’re on their way to take over the scene and to find you,” TJ said. “I promise you, Bond, one way or the other, someone will get you out of there soon.”

As he spoke, a tall, thin, balding guy in a black suit disengaged from the clump of people milling around in the center of the lobby. He approached me and I waited for him to flash an FBI badge.

“TJ, is it possible a fed is already here?” Even as I asked, I knew the answer, because the fake fed had yet to flash a gold shield.

“No, they have no one on the ground. Why?”

I opened my mouth to answer, but Fake Fed did flash metal—the steel end of the pistol that he showed me by pushing aside his suit jacket.

“Hang up,” he mouthed.

“Scorpio,” I said into the phone to let TJ know I was in deep shit. “Scorpio!”

Fake Fed grabbed the phone out of my hand and clicked it off. I glanced at the nearby uniformed cop and opened my mouth to scream, but Fake Fed shook his head, then inclined it toward the front desk, where a woman with two little kids stood arguing with a hotel clerk. The man with her, or whom I’d thought was with her, had turned away from the family to face me. He wore the same kind of black suit as the man with my phone, and flashed the edge of the same kind of gun from under his suit jacket. But Fake Fed 2 kept his fingers inches from his pistol and glanced at the two little girls who were a few feet away from him.

There were a hundred reasons he wouldn’t dare shoot anyone, let alone a child, in the middle of a hotel lobby full of cops and witnesses. But if he was part of the Carbonados group, there were a hundred and one reasons he would. I wasn’t about to play chicken with the lives of those children or their mother.

I turned back to Fake Fed 1, who had pulled out my phone’s SIM card and now dropped it on the floor. He crushed it under his heel, then dropped my phone and gave it the same treatment. He kicked it all under the bench and motioned for me to stand up.

I followed his silent order. I wasn’t too shaken because my phone wasn’t the only way Jensen had of tracking me. The minute I’d said the words Code Scorpio to TJ, he would have told Jensen to activate the other tracker. I hoisted my medical bag/purse over my shoulder and awaited further instructions.

Fake Fed 1 scowled and held out his hand. I gave him the bag, which he rudely searched. He pulled out my syringes and shoved them into the nearby trashcan, ran his hand over the lining to make sure there were no hidden weapons or electronics, and started to hand my bag back to me like a civilized criminal. At the last second, he retracted the offer and made a close inspection of the metal studs that attached the handles to the leather body. He pulled off both of them and ground them under his heel.

One of those studs had been a tracker, but now that was gone, too. With the threats to HEAT agents that had escalated over the past few months, TJ and his boss had discussed embedding trackers on our persons. I had argued vehemently against it because we’re human beings, not equipment. We needed our privacy and our self-respect, regardless of who employed us. At that moment, my vehemence seemed a bit short-sighted. If I got through this ordeal alive, I was sure I’d still come down on the side of personal autonomy, but in that moment, I would have loved to have had big brother—in my case, Jensen—watching.

Fake Fed handed me back my bag. We’d be taking it with us, I assumed because it was now covered in his fingerprints, which he wouldn’t want my team to find. He gripped my elbow and shoved me away from the front doors, past the front desk, and into the narrow hallway that led to the parking garage. In the chaos, no one noticed us. Except, of course, Fake Fed 2, who fell in a few feet behind us. My last hope was the uniformed cop guarding the glass doors to the parking garage. As we approached, my captor pressed his bony fingertips into my arm until it hurt and flashed something at the cop. The cop nodded at him, didn’t look at me, and let us pass.

My abductor must have had some sort of badge, so the question that remained was whether it was a real one or a forgery good enough to fool the police themselves. Of the two choices, I was more worried about the first. If there had been legit agents at the hotel, TJ would have known. Which meant these guys might be double agents, moles, or just dirty feds on the payroll of Carbonados. In that case, this would likely be the last trip I ever took and it wouldn’t be to a vacation destination.

That clinched it. I wasn’t going anywhere with these assholes.

I started with the usual. “You’ll never get away with this. It would be in your best interest to let me go back to the hotel lobby.”

“Thanks for caring,” Fake Fed 1 said, then winked at me. “But we’ll be fine.”

“Let me go!” I yelled.

My voice echoed off the walls, but no one responded. There was probably no one inside the structure, so I would have to be loud enough for the sound to penetrate the walls. As Fake Fed 1 pushed me toward an SUV, I took a deep breath, opened my mouth wide, and let out a blood-curdling scream.

That earned me a hard, open-handed slap from Fake Fed 2. It stung my cheek and made my eyes water. While I panted to catch my breath from the shock of the pain, he looked poised to do more damage. Then he furrowed his brow and turned away from me. Something had caught his attention. Maybe my ploy had worked. Maybe someone had heard my scream and was coming to help me. If so, I needed to do my part to facilitate my own escape.

“Drop it,” I heard Fake Fed 2 say to someone.

My best hope seemed to have been stopped in his or her tracks. But that didn’t mean I was done. I used the distraction to land a hard blow to Fake Fed 1’s throat and a hand chop to his wrist. My captor swayed on his feet, but he didn’t go down, and he didn’t drop his gun. Fuck me. At this rate, I’d get shot.

“Fuck this,” my would-be rescuer said. He kicked the gun out of Fake Fed 2’s hand, punched him in the gut, and slammed the butt of his own pistol against the guy’s forehead, rendering him unconscious.

I’d never been happier to see a stranger with a gun.

His distraction opened up another opportunity for me to escape. This time I followed new guy’s lead and kicked, stiletto heel first, into my captor’s groin. A scrotum attack is always a risky move that can enrage an attacker as often as incapacitate him, but despite my limited fighting skills, I had enough practice and plenty of anatomy knowledge to make it work. He howled with pain went down like a cement wall collapsing into the pavement.

“Who are you?” I yelled, hoping his pain and fear of further attack on his manhood would make him chatty. “Are you with Carbonados? Do you work for them? Are you dirty cops?”

But my disabled captor wasn’t in a talkative mood, after all, and his arms still worked fine. He leveled his gun at me.

“Hey!” my rescuer yelled, drawing Fake Fed 1’s attention.

My captor jumped to his feet and stared at my rescuer, who was dressed in an expensive, well-fitted gray suit, with a white button-down shirt opened just enough at the collar for me to catch a glimpse of a tattoo. An army insignia. This had to be TJ’s old army buddy. I nearly wooted in relief. But I was stopped by a sharp blow to my temple. Pain burst behind my eyes and radiated down my neck and into my spine.

I couldn’t see anything but spots, but I heard grunts and flesh on flesh punches and the sound of a gun clattering across the cement floor. Whose gun I couldn’t say, but I knew damn well who I was rooting for.

“Are you okay?” a man asked me.

Strong but gentle arms encircled me and helped me stand upright. From the fresh scent of light aftershave, I knew it wasn’t one of my captors. My vision cleared and I stared into a pair of beautiful, golden-brown eyes.

I nodded. “I think so.” But I was still dizzy, my head ached, and I didn’t feel as steady on my feet as I would have liked.

“Shit.” He reached out his arms. “No, you’re not.”

“You must be TJ’s friend.” I smiled, but the effort increased the pain in my temple. “Thank God you’re here. We have to get out of here. There are probably more of them crawling around the building.” I pointed to the neutralized fake feds.

“Best idea I’ve heard all night.” TJ’s friend picked up my medical bag, which I didn’t remember dropping, then held my elbow as he steered me toward an exit door.

I thought I should warn him to proceed carefully, but TJ had told me he was covert ops, and besides, he seemed to be moving cautiously and paying attention to his surroundings. And if I didn’t need to expend energy speaking, I could use it to keep pace with him. We stepped out of the parking garage and into the alley.

My stomach lurched and my vision swam. “Wait.”

He held my arm, keeping me balanced. “You have to trust me,” he said.

“It’s not that.” I turned away from him as spots blurred the edges of my vision. My stomach roiled. I bent over and emptied the contents of my stomach against the brick wall.

Probably a concussion. Fuck me.

“Come on, Red,” TJ’s friend said.

I wondered why he called me that. A reference to my hair, probably, but had TJ not told him my name? But I was weak and unstable and didn’t have energy to waste on unimportant questions.

“Next stop is the hospital,” my rescuer said.

Shutting down that dangerous plan was important enough to exert some of my limited strength. “No hospital! There could be more of them there!”

He furrowed his brow. “Carbonados?”

So TJ had at least told him that much. I nodded, but the movement made my contusion throb.

“You need a doctor,” he said.

“I am a doctor.” If TJ had trusted his friend with information about Carbonados, I couldn’t’ fathom why he hadn’t told the man more about the woman he was rescuing. But I’d worry about that later. “Just get me to HEAT HQ and I’ll be fine.”

“HEAT? What the—” He stopped speaking.

I wobbled on my Louboutin stilettos. The earth shifted on its axis. I had a split second to anticipate what was happening. I aimed for my rescuer’s arms. He caught me and pulled me tightly to his hard chest. And then the world went black.

Ready to find out what happens next to Samantha and Evan? Preorder now, read the entire story on June 30!