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One hot holiday, p.10

One Hot Holiday, page 10

 

One Hot Holiday
 


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  “Mugged?”

  “Yeah, well, that’s what the cops described the attack as. She was found screaming for help near the subway station entrance. Her purse was gone, and, according to my sources, she was sporting injuries. The next day, she was in the wind.”

  And running to Point Hope.

  “I’m sending backup down to you,” Eric said.

  “I have Titus—”

  “And, like I told you, this guy Drew Bradley is seriously bad news. You’ve covered my back before, so now I’m covering yours. I’ll have two agents there by morning. I’ll fly them in on a private plane, and they’ll land at that little strip right outside of town. I’ll tell them to check in with you, but otherwise to stay out of sight. At least until we know exactly what we’re dealing with.”

  He forced his jaw to unclench. “I appreciate the help. Thanks.”

  “You know you don’t need to thank me,” Eric grumbled.

  “Send me the bill.”

  “Uh, no, not going to happen—”

  “Wilde Securities protects the rich and famous. I know how much you charge for your services, and you know I can cover payment. Send me the freaking bill.”

  “You’re an asshole.”

  Spencer was too furious to smile. “If that SOB isn’t a marshal, then who the hell is he?” And why was he stalking Haley?

  It was time for Spencer to find out. Lie to me once, shame on me.

  Lie to me twice?

  I’ll make you fucking sorry.

  ***

  Spencer stalked back into the motel’s small parking lot. It wasn’t a big surprise that “Fenton” hadn’t been in the motel over in Daphne. A bullshit name, a bullshit location. Spencer was going to make certain that an APB was placed for the guy—he’d issue a description and see what could be discovered.

  His gut told him that “Fenton” was still in the area. He was still in the area because Haley was in the area. The man was interested in her, knew everything about her, and the only reason he’d been skulking around Point Hope?

  Haley.

  The dumbass had made mistakes, though. He’d lied to the sheriff. He’d impersonated an officer. He’d just given Spencer the perfect reason to have the jerk locked up…

  As soon as Spencer found the man.

  Time to get the search started. Time to send out the rest of his team.

  And time to go back to Haley and get the truth from her.

  Chapter Nine

  Her hands gripped the warm mug while she stared out at the bay. The waves pounded at the shore, rising and falling, and in the distance, she saw a sailboat slowly weaving through the water. The sun had just started to rise, and both shadows and light drifted over the waves.

  “Haley!”

  She turned at Spencer’s call and found him hurrying down the wooden steps to the beach. She’d taken a walk to clear her head and to enjoy the pounding of those waves while he’d been gone. But as he approached her and she saw the grimness of his features, worry slid through her.

  “It’s bad.” She nodded. “Very bad.” The kind of bad that made a woman take a step back. Which she’d just done.

  After Spencer had taken his phone call, he’d told her to lock the doors and reset the alarm, then he’d rushed out. Hadn’t given her explanations. Hadn’t stopped to say, “Why, thanks, Haley, for the most amazing sex of my life. You’re awesome.”

  Would that have killed him?

  So when he stalked toward her, all grim and determined, there was only one conclusion…

  Very bad.

  “I was worried when you didn’t answer at the cottage.” His voice was rougher than normal.

  “I was just taking a walk.” The mug felt heavy in her hands.

  He looked to the left. To the right. The stretch of beach was deserted.

  “We need to go inside and talk.” A muscle jerked along his hard jaw.

  Uh, oh. “Spencer…”

  “I know, okay? I knew last night. And it’s time to stop pretending. You’re not on a damn vacation. You’re running scared, and I’m worried your past has caught up with you.”

  The wind had a faint chill, but suddenly, her body seemed to be ice cold. I knew last night. “Back up.”

  He frowned at her.

  “You knew last night? What did you know last night?” Before he’d made love to her, what had he discovered? No, no, they’d had sex. Just sex. This wasn’t about love.

  But…

  It had been about trust.

  “You lied to me, Haley, and I found out about the lies. There is no more pretending.”

  He seemed rough. Darker than he’d been before. His voice was thick and his body hard with tension. He kept glancing along the beach as if looking for threats, and she realized that he was battle ready. The friendly, charming guy she’d met was gone. There was no easy grin on his face. He looked intense. Dangerous.

  “You’re going to tell me everything. Then I’m going to figure out what the hell to do.”

  Her eyebrows shot up. “You’re going to figure things out?” Okay, this was a really crappy morning-after situation. Great sex, then implosion. Because, at that moment, she felt like he’d been lying to her. If he’d discovered the truth about her last night, why hadn’t he said anything?

  Because he thought I wouldn’t have sex with him? Because he wanted to screw me?

  If he’d told her that he knew the truth about her life, if he’d put everything on the table and made the hard demands that he was making right then, would she have slept with him? Or would she have turned away?

  “Haley, we need to get inside. I want to know everything.”

  “I thought you already knew everything.”

  That muscle along his jaw jerked again as the waves beat behind her. “I know your ex-boyfriend is a criminal. So when you said you had bad experience with men, yeah, I got that was a freaking understatement of the century.”

  His words hurt her. Haley sucked in a sharp breath. She stumbled back.

  Spencer’s eyes widened. “Haley, no, look, I didn’t mean it that—” He reached for her.

  She lifted her hands, as if to stop him, but she was still holding the mug so she wound up lifting that, too, and—and it shattered. The mug shattered in her hands even as there was a weird whistle in the air around her. For a moment, she did not understand what had just happened. Why had the mug shattered? It hadn’t fallen. She still even gripped the handle, but liquid was dripping down her arm yet it…it wasn’t coffee. It was red, red like—

  “Gun!” Spencer roared. In the next instant, he’d launched at her. He shoved her down and shielded her with his body just as something hit the ground near her, sending sand shooting into the air.

  Her brain seemed to have frozen. From the instant the mug shattered until Spencer covered her with his body…everything froze. But when the sand erupted into the air, awareness and understanding flooded through her.

  Someone is shooting at us. Shooting at them from a position high on the bluff.

  “Can’t stay here,” Spencer snapped as he kept her covered.

  Covered with his damn body! He was using himself as a shield, and he couldn’t do that. If he got shot…no. Haley tried to roll over—she was on her stomach, she needed to get on her back—and push her way free of him.

  “Not fucking happening, baby. To get you, he’ll have to go through me.”

  That was the last thing she wanted. “No!”

  “We have to move, now. Understand? I’m covering you. You stay with me. Run as fast as you can—I’ll keep up—and get under the stairs. Ready?”

  Absolutely not. She was not ready to run while someone was shooting at her. She was also not ready to die—or, worse, have Spencer die trying to protect her. No, thank you. She’d be good without all that. But—

  “Let’s go.”

  She leapt to her feet with him. He curled his body around hers—jeez, he needed to stop that shielding crap—and they ran fast for the stairs. Sh
e felt sand erupt behind her and she heard that whistling sound again. There were no bangs or bams as if a gun had been fired. Why didn’t she hear those noises?

  Spencer locked one arm around her waist and heaved her up against him, and then the guy seemed to throw her under the stairs before he hurtled after her.

  The sand provided cushion for her as she slammed down. She rolled over, spitting out some of the grains that had gotten in her mouth. “Spencer—”

  He had his gun out. “He was shooting from the bluff. Based on the angle, I don’t think he can reach us from here. We’re too close to the base of the bluff for him to get a clear shot, and the stairs provide cover for us.” He leaned forward a little as his gaze swept the area. “My phone is in my side pocket. Get it and call for backup.”

  She scrambled forward. Her hand sank into his pocket—

  “Other pocket,” he growled as he kept his gaze—and his gun—directed toward the top of the bluff.

  Her fingers fumbled, brushed against something big that was not a phone, then she was reaching around him—and ignoring the sting in her arm—as she searched in his other pocket.

  “Haley,” he groaned her name. “Don’t play.”

  “Does it look like I’m playing? Your pocket is tight!” Haley snapped back at him. Not her fault she was accidentally fondling him. She yanked out the phone. “Do I call nine-one-one?”

  “Call Titus. He’ll get a team out here. Tell him we have a shooter on the bluff. To haul ass.”

  Right. She’d met Titus at Maureen’s. Big, muscled, and friendly. “Uh, I’m going to need your code to get in the phone—”

  He rattled off the code. She found Titus in his contacts, called, and gave him the information.

  “Are you fucking serious?” Titus demanded as soon as she slowed down to let him respond.

  “Yes, I am fucking serious.” She looked at her arm. Winced. “I also think I’m fucking bleeding, so will you please hurry?”

  Spencer’s head whipped toward her. “You’re hit?”

  “I’m on the way,” Titus promised her at the same moment. “You stay down. Spencer will keep you safe.”

  Right. Because Spencer kept using himself as her human shield.

  “You’re hit?” Spencer asked again. His voice had gone positively lethal. Such a cold, savage growl.

  She put the phone down on the sand and tucked her legs underneath her body. Not like there was a whole lot of room down there. Her gaze darted to her arm. Her sleeve was a bloody mess. “I’ll live.”

  He growled again. “I’m going to kill the sonofabitch.”

  He sounded like a stranger. This wasn’t the guy who laughed about elves on bicycles or who sang karaoke in a Christmas-covered bar. This man was hard and dangerous and chilling in his intensity.

  She inched back.

  “Don’t.”

  Haley stilled. Her gaze lifted, and she realized that he was staring right at her.

  “Don’t move from beneath these stairs. We’re safe for now.” His lips flattened. “I want to chase the sonofabitch, but I can’t be certain it’s only one shooter. If I go after him and leave you alone…”

  She would be a sitting duck. She got that. “I-I didn’t hear gunfire.”

  “Because the shots came from up on the bluff, probably from a gun that was silenced.”

  She’d just been shot at. Haley looked at her arm. No, she’d been shot. “It stings like a bitch.”

  He reached for her arm.

  She jerked back.

  “Baby, I need to see the damage.”

  “You need to keep your eyes open for the bad guy. You look out there, and I’ll take care of my arm.”

  Did his lips curl? Just for a moment? But he swung away to look for the bad guy. She gingerly peeled back her sleeve. It hurt because the blood had caused the sleeve to stick to her wound. But…

  “I don’t think it’s a bullet wound.” It was a deep cut. “Maybe…maybe I was cut by the broken mug? Like a shard or something?” It was a jagged cut, and she was pretty sure she’d need stitches. But it wasn’t a bullet wound. She wasn’t lying in a pool of blood on the beach. She wasn’t dead. Win, win, win.

  She ripped the bottom part of her shirt—the part that looked the cleanest—and she wrapped it around her forearm, hissing a little at the pain. But at least that would help things, wouldn’t it? On TV shows and in movies, people were always binding bad cuts.

  Then she inched toward him. “What can I do?”

  His gaze locked on her. “Stay the fuck alive.”

  “At the top of my to-do list.” Haley sucked in a shallow breath. “Do you have a backup gun on you or anything?”

  He reached down near his ankle and came back up with a small, black gun. “You know how to use this?”

  “I aim at the bad guy, and I pull the trigger.”

  “After you take off the safety.”

  “Right. Yes. Of course.” The safety. People talked about those in TV shows, too. Her hand closed around the gun.

  “Someone tries to kill you, Haley, you shoot him.”

  The gun trembled in her grasp.

  She stayed pressed close to Spencer, holding the gun, barely breathing, until she heard the scream of approaching sirens.

  Thank God, it’s the cavalry.

  ***

  “I can’t believe the shooter got away from you, Spence.” Titus shook his head. “How is that shit even possible? Are you losing your touch? I swear, back in the day, you could stalk up on your enemy without so much as a whisper of sound and you could put your knife to—”

  Haley’s eyes were the size of saucers. Beautiful saucers, but still saucers. She was sitting in the back of an ambulance, an attendant was examining her arm, and Haley appeared far, far too pale.

  “Shut the fuck up,” he muttered at Titus.

  “But, man, how did the guy—”

  “Spencer didn’t want to leave me,” Haley said, voice husky as her eyelids flickered. “That’s why the shooter got away. Because Spencer stayed with me.”

  He sure as hell had stayed with her. Run and risk a second guy coming up and attacking her? No, staying with Haley had been what mattered.

  The EMT cleared his throat. “She needs stitches.” The EMT was Dodge Clinton, a guy who’d gone to high school with Spencer and played on the football team with him. “We need to get moving and take her to the hospital.”

  He hated that she’d been hurt. When he’d seen the blood on her, he’d flipped the hell out. Spencer grabbed a young deputy walking by—Cody Waller—and shoved him toward the ambulance. “You ride with her to the hospital. You stay with her every moment, got me?”

  Cody’s eyes were almost as huge as Haley’s. “Yes, sir.”

  The shooting was a big damn deal. The first shooting the little town had experienced in, shit, he didn’t know how long. Cody looked nervous but determined as he swallowed a few times and climbed in the ambulance.

  Spencer wanted to go with her. He didn’t want to leave her side. But he also needed to search the area. He stared hard at Haley. There were so many things he wanted to say to her, but he didn’t exactly want to bare his soul in front of their audience.

  “Thank you,” Haley told him quietly as she notched up that ever so adorable chin of hers. “You saved my life today.”

  “You don’t need to thank him.” Titus slapped a hand on Spencer’s shoulder. “It’s all in a day’s work for our sheriff.”

  Spencer growled at him.

  Haley frowned. A little furrow puckered between her brows. “I am grateful. But you should never have put yourself at risk for me.”

  Uh, oh. He knew where this was going. With that in mind, Spencer figured he might as well go ahead and clear the air and screw the audience. Spencer jumped into the back of the ambulance.

  “Oh.” Cody blinked. “Did you change your mind, Sheriff Lane? Are you going instead of me?”

  “You are not running,” Spencer told Haley.

  H
aley swiped her tongue over her lower lip. “No, I’m about to ride away in an ambulance.”

  His eyes narrowed on her.

  “Uh, Spence,” Dodge mumbled. His freckled features scrunched up. “You’re kinda in my work space, buddy. Gonna need you to jump out of the ambulance so I can take my patient to the hospital.”

  Spencer didn’t move, not yet. “When you’re done at the hospital,” Spencer said as his eyes locked with Haley’s, “the deputy is going to bring you back to me.”

  She started to shoot off the gurney.

  Gently but firmly, he caught her shoulders and pushed her back. “You need your stitches.”

  She frowned at him.

  “You’re coming back to me as soon as you’re cleared at the hospital. We have things to discuss.” Like the lies she’d told him. And the guy who’d just tried to kill her.

  “You’re acting like a different person,” she whispered. “All bossy and controlling.”

  Dodge laughed. “Different? That is Spence. Describes him to a perfect T. Back on the football field, we used to call him Captain Control.”

  “You’re not helping,” Spencer tossed at the guy. Seriously, Dodge could keep some shit quiet.

  But Dodge just shrugged. “And you’re still in my way. We need to get moving.”

  Yes, fine, but he had to make sure Haley didn’t run from him. “Promise me,” Spencer told her.

  Her gaze dropped.

  He caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger and gently tilted her head up. “Haley, promise me.”

  Her eyes were such an insanely beautiful green. “I have a deputy dodging my steps. Not like I have a choice, do I?”

  “With me, you always have a choice.” He wanted her to choose him. “I’m going to find the shooter. I will stop him.”

  He let her go.

  She grabbed for his hand. Held tight. “Don’t you dare get hurt, understand me?”

 
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