Cross and crown, p.27

Cross & Crown, page 27

 part  #2 of  Sidewinder Series

 

Cross & Crown
 


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Page 27

 

  “It . . . it’s rather large. It’s a granite obelisk. Maybe twelve feet tal ?”

  Nick nodded, lowering his gun further. “That’s that,” he said.

  “They buried the treasure with minutemen?” JD asked.

  “They knew the grave wouldn’t be desecrated by Colonials, so the treasure would stay hidden. And when the war was lost, going back to the shiny new America and digging up national heroes was not an option for any persona non grata like an Irish redcoat. ”

  Nick glanced sideways at Kelly. Kelly slowly lowered his gun, his body relaxing against Nick’s. Alex had stowed her weapon as well, and she looked crestfallen. She seemed to really be in it to find missing pieces of history, not merely for profit.

  Julian had transferred his aim back to Southie, who was still holding Cameron and pointing his gun at Nick.

  “That’s it,” Nick said softly. “Game’s over. Time to give up the gun. ”

  “Fuck you, we didn’t come this close to let a piece of fucking rock get in the way. We’ll come back tonight with a Cat. Knock that bitch over, dig up our treasure, and get our payday. ”

  Kelly looked over his shoulder, his brow furrowed. He didn’t dare turn around though, not when he knew there was still a gun pointed at Nick.

  “We’re leaving, and we’re taking this fucker with us as insurance,” Southie snarled with a jab at Cameron’s cheek.

  “Over my dead body,” Julian growled. “No. Make that over your dead body. ”

  Nick felt the mood in the room shift almost instantly.

  It was an instinct honed over many years of gunfights and negotiations, the ability to tell when a situation had just turned hopeless.

  The man on the ground went for his belt, where a gun had indeed been hidden beneath his shirt. Nick shoved his shoulder into Kelly, sending them both to the floor.

  Southie fired at them, holding Cameron in front of him as a human shield. Cameron knocked his elbow into Southie’s chin, and Southie stumbled back, falling into JD as the gun went off again.

  Nick sat up and fired a single shot, taking the Irishman through the back of the hand as he attempted to pull the trigger. His gun went flying and he screamed, holding his bloody hand to his chest.

  Julian also took one shot, but he wasn’t aiming to maim.

  Southie took the bullet right between the eyes as he was trying to scramble to his feet. His body made a solid thud when it hit the floorboards.

  And just like that, it was over. Nick slowly got to his feet, gun still in hand. Alex had taken cover on the stairs, and as soon as she raised her head, Nick gestured to her to get out of the house. She darted forward, not for the door, but for the museum curator with her bonnet in hand. Alex pulled her to her feet and propelled her toward the door, running after her and shielding the woman’s body with her own.

  Julian pulled something from his pocket and tossed it into the center of the room. Nick stared at it, not registering what it was.

  “Flashbang!” Kelly shouted, and he grabbed Nick and pulled him down. They both covered their ears and squeezed their eyes tight as the flash grenade went off.

  The high-pitched whine in Nick’s ears was one he knew all too well, and even with his eyes closed and his face buried against Kelly’s chest, the flash had caused stars behind his eyes. He sat up dazedly, trying to shake off the cobwebs.

  Julian and Cameron were both gone.

  “Motherfucker,” Nick muttered. A groan from the other side of the room drew his attention, and Nick struggled to his feet. He bent over Kelly first, patting his cheek. “Okay?”

  “I hate those things,” Kelly shouted. He put a finger in his ear and wiggled it.

  Nick nodded, straightening. He stumbled through the smoke across the room and found JD on his back, blood flowing freely from a wound in his torso. Nick stared at him for a few seconds, his mind chugging to catch up.

  “Corpsman up!” he finally called, his voice so hoarse that Kelly’s abused ears didn’t hear it. “Doc! Man down!”

  Kelly fumbled his way over, fal ing to his knees at JD’s side.

  Nick patted his pockets for his phone before remembering he’d dropped it outside before all the shooting had started.

  When he looked down at his hand, he realized there was blood spreading across his shirt. He pulled his jacket away, confused about where it was coming from. When he pulled his shirt up, he found the wound.

  “Go call an ambulance, Irish,” Kelly said to him. He was working on JD, trying to stop the blood.

  “Kels,” Nick whispered.

  “Go cal !” Kelly shouted without looking up.

  Nick nodded. When he turned to go after his phone, though, a man was standing there, gun drawn, badge out.

  Nick stopped in his tracks, blinking at him.

  “Son of a bitch, Nick!” Hagan shouted.

  Nick winced, and his head pounded. He took a step back, his foot hit something on the floor, and he sat down hard.

  Kelly’s hand groped for him, his fingers finally threading through Nick’s as Nick lay back and put a hand over his eyes to block out all the brightness.

  “You’re hit!” Kelly shouted at him.

  “It’s not bad,” Nick muttered. “Not bad. ”

  “Stay with me, bud,” he could hear Kelly saying. “Don’t let go. ”

  Nick turned his head. Kelly was sitting between JD and Nick. He was holding his shirt to JD’s wound with one hand, and pressed Nick’s palm to his own wound with the other.

  Nick cried out.

  “Don’t let go, okay?” Kelly whispered to him, applying more pressure to the wound.

  “Never,” Nick managed to say. “I love you. ”

  Kelly leaned over and kissed him gently. The warmth of his lips was painful on Nick’s.

  “Is he okay?” Nick asked, head rol ing in JD’s direction.

  “He’ll be fine if we get an ambulance to him soon. ”

  Nick closed his eyes. The pain from the pressure against his wound was gone. Everything was gone except Kelly’s hand on his.

  “So will you, bud,” Kelly added, and his voice was far away, echoing off the recesses of Nick’s memories. “You’ll be okay. Don’t let go. ”

  Chapter 10

  elly stood off to the side, his hands stuffed in his Kpockets so he wouldn’t be tempted to jump in and help. The bullet that had hit Nick had punched clean through the muscle over his ribs, right above another bullet graze he’d received recently, and along with the massive Y-shaped incision from his recent surgery, Nick’s torso was going to be more scar than skin after this. Knowing Nick, he’d turn those scars into some sort of tattoo eventually.

  The wound probably wasn’t too serious, but the loss of blood meant they were loading him onto a stretcher and preparing to put him into one of the ambulances standing by.

  JD hadn’t fared quite as well. The kidnapper with the Boston accent had shot him as they’d struggled, and while the bullet had gone all the way through, it had clipped some vital pieces on its way out. They’d loaded him into an ambulance and taken him off with a police escort before Kelly and Nick had even gotten out of the building.

  Alex Kincade, who really was who she’d said she was this time, was cooperating with all the questioning she’d been submitted to so far. She’d been legally contracted to find the whereabouts of the treasure. Kelly felt sort of sorry for the fact that she was out of a job now. Her colleague, Colin, had showed up five minutes after it’d all gone down with a tray of coffees. They obviously hadn’t been expecting trouble.

  Hagan was grilling the Irish kidnapper in the back of his unmarked car. Kelly thought Hagan was telling the man he’d only send someone into the house to find the fingers Nick had shot off if he talked, but Kelly was trying hard not to listen since he was pretty sure that wasn’t legal.

  Julian Cross and Cameron Jacobs were in
the wind. Kelly had a feeling they wouldn’t be seeing either man again.

  Soon enough, Nick was being wheeled over to the ambulance, and Kelly jogged over to take his hand as they negotiated the curb.

  Nick shook his head, obviously knowing Kelly was trying to come up with something nice and cheerful to distract him with.

  “When we were in New Orleans and I took that bullet,” Kelly said, like he was starting a bedtime story. “All I remember is you leaning over me and asking me what to do. ”

  Nick snorted and squeezed his eyes tight. The stretcher jostled him and he winced. “That was Digger, Kels. ”

  “Was it?” Kelly laughed. “All I remember is you. And the only thing I could think to tell you was don’t let go. Don’t let go of me. That’s all I could say. ”

  Nick opened his eyes, meeting Kelly’s as his grip on Kelly’s fingers turned almost painful. “You never said that, Doc. ”

  Kelly blinked. “I didn’t?”

  “You couldn’t say anything. You tried. ”

  Kelly waited a beat, brow furrowed. “I always thought I got it out because . . . you held on to me the whole time. ” He glanced up as they neared the ambulance. When he looked back down, Nick’s eyes were on him, that same smitten, indulgent gaze Kelly had grown accustomed to over the past year. His hand tightened in Nick’s. “I thought I said it. You never let go of me. ”

  “I couldn’t,” Nick gasped. Kelly didn’t know if he was in pain or if the memory of Kelly’s near-death experience in New Orleans was overwhelming him. “I couldn’t let go of you, Kels. ”

  Kelly struggled to swallow, nodding and holding back the urge to cry. He squeezed Nick’s hand harder. “Neither will I. ”

  He had to, though, to let the EMTs load Nick into the ambulance. Kelly followed them to the hospital in the Range Rover, his mind tossing and turning over the events of the day.

  Had they really just tracked down a centuries old treasure? Was it possible the Continental payroll was more than merely gold bars, that it was really a missing Masonic treasure trove? His mind was reeling with the possibilities, but all he really wanted was to get to Nick. He’d go over the implications of the past few days later, when he knew Nick was okay.

  When he finally found Nick in the hospital, he was already sitting up and bitching because they’d cut his shirt off him.

  “It had a bullet hole in it,” the nurse argued.

  “It was a graze!” Nick shouted.

  She rolled her eyes as she left the room, nodding to Kelly when she passed.

  “You’re running out of spare clothes, babe,” Kelly said with a relieved grin. If Nick could bitch about his clothes, he was doing just fine, despite his so-called “graze” actually being a through-and-through. They had an IV in him, probably with pain medication in there, and they were giving him a transfusion for the blood he’d lost.

  “I want to go home,” Nick grunted.

  Kelly strolled into the room, nodding to placate him.

  “Soon. Get a little more blood in you first, huh?”

  Nick didn’t say anything. He reached out when Kelly got close, grabbed a handful of his hair, and pulled him into a ruthless kiss. He left Kelly panting when their lips parted, and Nick closed his eyes, sighing as if he’d been holding his breath until he could get Kelly into his hands.

  Kelly took him by both shoulders and forced him to recline. “Faster you get this over with, faster we’ll go home. Promise. ”

  Nick nodded, his eyes staying closed.

  Kelly sat on the edge of his bed, reading the medications labels, trying to just be a worried lover rather than a worried SARC for once. He leaned over Nick and pressed his forehead to Nick’s, closing his eyes. He didn’t know how long they stayed that way, but when a PA came in to check Nick’s stitches and vitals, it was dark outside.

  Despite the doctor’s advice, Nick demanded that he be allowed to go home, claiming Kelly was perfectly capable of keeping an eye on him overnight. They had no choice but to let him check himself out, and Kelly knew Nick too well to argue against it.

  Kelly helped him to his feet, and Nick hugged him close, pressing his face against Kelly’s cheek. “Take me home,” he whispered.

  Kelly nodded jerkily. He wrapped his arm around Nick’s waist, letting him rest some weight on him as he helped him over to the wheelchair.

  Once Nick was in the passenger seat of the Range Rover, Kelly hopped behind the wheel. Nick was silent on the drive home, keeping his eyes shut as Kelly struggled with the GPS.

  He finally got it to work and headed for the route home, glancing at Nick worriedly.

  “Hey,” he said. He reached over the console and touched Nick’s thigh. “You should be proud of yourself. You found a two-hundred-year-old missing treasure today. ”

  Nick chuckled softly, the sound sending a chill up Kelly’s spine. He opened his eyes and sighed. “No, I didn’t. ”

  “What are you talking about?” Kelly took his eyes off the road long enough to look at Nick. “You were faking it?”

  “Yep. ” Nick closed his eyes and sighed again. “No idea where that treasure is. I know where it’s not, though. ”

  “Where?”

  “It’s not under that monument. Redcoats didn’t dig that grave; they never stopped to bury the rebel dead. It’s not there. ”

  Kelly stared at him for so long he almost ran off the road.

  “Huh. ”

  “What?”

  “You had me going. I didn’t know you could still fake something and fool me. ” Nick was staring at him again.

  “What?”

  “I love you. ”

  Kelly grinned lopsidedly, biting his lip and nodding.

  “Yeah, you do. ”
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