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Mine to crave, p.15

Mine to Crave, page 15

 part  #4 of  Mine Series

 

Mine to Crave
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  keep forgetting how fragile you are.”

  Jasmine laughed at that. “Actually, no, you don’t.”

  His brows shot up.

  “Even when we were in the elevator, and I was so wild I wanted to scratch my way down your back, you held me still…you moved me, made sure that I didn’t pull any stitches.” His hands had been so secure on her. Controlling her movements. Giving her so much pleasure. “You don’t forget anything.” She was certain of that.

  His lips twisted in a humorless smile. “Princess, that wasn’t about your stitches. I’m a selfish bastard, and I just wanted to screw you deep and hard.”

  “Liar,” she barely breathed the charge but Jasmine knew it was the truth.

  For a moment, he looked lost, then he blinked, and that image was gone.

  “You play so tough, but I can see through you. You didn’t hurt me in the elevator. You didn’t hurt me any time that we’ve been together. Because at heart, you aren’t a killer. You aren’t the bad guy.” That was what made him different from Maxwell.

  “What am I?”

  “A protector.” That was why he’d fought so hard for her on the street. Why, when the SUV exploded behind them, he’d tried to shield both her and Victor.

  Drake wasn’t a deadly threat. He was a hero, the man just didn’t realize it.

  She did.

  Drake’s expression tightened. “Tell that to the dead I’ve left in my wake.”

  Her gaze didn’t drop. “You won’t scare me. No matter what you say or what you do, because I know the real you.”

  He laughed. “You’ve been with me for a few days. How can you possibly know anything but what’s on the surface?”

  Jasmine swallowed. “You’ve known me for less than forty-eight hours, and you shot a man for me today.”

  They stared at each other. “What would you say,” Drake asked her, softly, “if I told you that I would have killed for you? If I hadn’t been able to get that jerk to free you…if he’d tossed you in that van…”

  She gave a sharp, negative shake of her head. “I don’t want you to kill for me. I don’t want anyone to do that.” She edged closer to him. “I want to get the hell I’ve brought out of your life, and I just want you—I want you to be happy.”

  He gazed down at her. “This war isn’t on you. Maxwell and I were set to battle long before you came into the Arrow.”

  Because of Anna Jean. The mysterious Anna Jean. A lover Drake had confessed to killing.

  Goosebumps rose onto her arms.

  She knew how Maxwell thought. He was old school, an eye-for-an-eye type.

  There is no escape.

  A low, pealing ring filled the air then. The same peal that had sounded right before the cops arrived on their last terrible visit. Drake turned at the sound, heading back into the main living area. Jasmine followed, grabbing for his arm. “Drake, no, it’s probably the cops!” And without Victor close-by, she did not want to deal with them again.

  “Cops wouldn’t have gotten past my security—only a very select few could get to me now.”

  Great. Wonderful. Not. He was almost at the door. Jasmine jumped in front of him. “Drake, I get that you seem confident about whoever might be on the other side—”

  “I am confident, because I told them to get their asses down here.”

  Wait, what?

  He slipped around her. Took an instant to glance through the peephole—at least he checked that much—then Drake was opening the door.

  “You made better time than I thought,” he said as he offered his hand to the first man in the doorway.

  Jasmine inched back. Her guts were twisting into knots and she was so hoping that she was wrong about the identity of the men in Drake’s doorway.

  She took another step back and realized she didn’t have on her shoes. They were still in Drake’s private elevator. She lifted a hand to her lips. They felt swollen—from Drake’s mouth. She touched her hair—oh, hell, yes, it no doubt looked as wild as it felt to her touch.

  “Well, well…” A deep voice said, and Jasmine dropped her hand as she realized that the three men were now inside the apartment—and all gazing at her. “You must be Jasmine Bennett.” The man speaking was tall, with midnight black hair and startlingly bright blue eyes. He wore a suit cut perfectly to his broad shoulders, and the guy seemed to ooze both money…and danger.

  Trace Weston. She recognized him instantly.

  And if Trace was there…

  Her gaze slid past Trace and Drake, and her stare locked on the third man. A man who wore jeans and a jacket, but still came off with a heavy air of power and affluence. His eyes were green, a shade that seemed less…cold…than Drake’s. His face was magazine perfect, his cheeks high, his nose slanting. He was about an inch shorter than Drake, but he was built along powerful, deadly lines.

  She stared into his eyes, and realized she’d seen those eyes before.

  “Jasmine?” Drake stepped forward, cutting off her direct line of sight with the man she knew to be Noah York.

  This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.

  “Are you okay?” Drake reached for her he hands. “You’re shaking.”

  Noah shouldn’t be standing there. Not Noah.

  “What happened to her hands?” Noah asked as he inched closer. His voice flowed over her. No accent. No hint of Texas.

  Because he hadn’t been to Texas. Not in so very long.

  “Some assholes shot at her SUV, and the windshield shattered around her.” Drake said this so matter-of-factly. “Jasmine, shit, I knew I should’ve used more care—”

  “Uh, used care when, exactly?” Trace asked, his eyes gleaming as his stare raked from Jasmine’s mouth to her hair, then back down to Drake—and Drake’s gentle hold on Jasmine’s hands.

  “I think I should sit down,” Jasmine managed. She had to figure something out, fast.

  Drake pulled out a chair and got her settled. Then he stayed there, right beside her, frowning worriedly down at her.

  He was worried? This was bad.

  Because now all three of the men were crowding around her. Her gaze kept wanting to slide to Noah. He looked different in person. More approachable. Not that she would’ve ever approached him.

  This wasn’t supposed to happen.

  She yanked her gaze off Noah, only to find herself caught by Drake’s hard stare. He’d realized that she was staring at Noah. Staring too long at him.

  “It happens,” Trace suddenly said. “Women look at him and get a little crazy. I knew we should’ve broken his nose a few more times, Drake.”

  Drake grunted. “Yeah, seems like a good idea right now.”

  She felt heat race to her cheeks. “Wh-why are you here?” Jasmine turned her focus to Trace when she asked that question. Because of all the three men, he would be the one most likely to wreck her plans.

  Trace was Weston Securities, and if he wanted to uncover secrets about her past…

  Understanding hit and her focus shifted to Drake. “You had him investigate me.” She said it like the accusation it was.

  Trace coughed into his hand. “You did try to rob him, correct?”

  Her flush was just getting worse. So Trace and Noah thought that she was a thief—I am—and they also knew she’d just had sex with Drake. The floor could just open up and swallow her at any time—that would be awesome.

  “There’s a lot going on that you two don’t know about,” Drake said to his buddies. “The past still isn’t dead.”

  Jasmine focused on breathing, nice and easily. Unfortunately, her breaths came out sounding all ragged and desperate.

  “Anna Jean’s lover is trying to destroy me,” Drake said. “Seeing as how you were both involved in what when down a few months ago, I figured you deserved to know what was happening.”

  “Her lover?” Noah’s brows climbed. “I thought that was you.”

  “Not this time.” Drake was still staring at Jasmine. “I think you might know hi
m. It’s a jackass named Maxwell Case.”

  Noah whistled.

  “He wants Jasmine,” Drake said. “And I need you both to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

  “I’m guessing his men were the ones shooting up her SUV?” Trace threw out.

  Drake nodded.

  Jasmine straightened in her chair.

  “You guys can’t go after Maxwell.” That comment had all their eyes turning back to her. “You can’t,” she said, wondering if perhaps the men were a bit crazy. Or a lot crazy. “You all need to get out of town and let-let the FBI handle things.”

  “You mean your buddy Victor Monroe?” Drake’s voice was flat. “Because you told him what was happening, didn’t you?”

  Victor knew plenty. “He’s with the FBI. I figured he was my safest bet.”

  “Didn’t look safe to me,” Drake said, hands tight at his sides. “When he was trapped in that SUV and you were being hauled into that van.”

  She shot up from the chair. “We were ambushed!” That hadn’t been Victor’s fault.

  “And he should have done a better job of keeping you safe, ambush or no ambush!”

  “Uh, excuse me…” Noah murmured.

  “Victor is a great FBI agent,” Jasmine defended fiercely. “He’s one of the most decent men I know and he’s—”

  “Another lover?”

  She had not seen that one coming. Jasmine’s jaw dropped.

  “No handcuffs,” Drake pointed out. “And I don’t think he calls most of his suspects ‘baby’ but I could be wrong.”

  This wasn’t a conversation that she wanted to have in front of Trace and Noah, and those two were avidly watching.

  Why am I trying to pretend? She was sure that Trace had already briefed Noah on all the information he’d discovered about her.

  Daughter of a prostitute.

  Did Trace know that? Yes, yes, of course he does…

  Teenage runaway.

  Hacker.

  She drew herself up to her full height. But her toes curled in the carpet. “Just to be clear, I haven’t slept with Victor or with Maxwell.” She pointed at Trace. “And I don’t care what your intel says. Intel can be wrong. It’s wrong this time.” Her glare swept back to Drake. “You’re my lover. The only one I’ve had in a very long time, and you know what? That shit should be private! I shouldn’t be having to explain and justify myself to you and your buddies!” Chest heaving, she turned on her heel. “Now I’m tired. I was shot at, nearly abducted, and then, well, you know what went down in that elevator. I’m going to bed, and I don’t want anyone so much as knocking on that door for the next two hours.” Jasmine didn’t glance back over her shoulder as she gave that order.

  Her knees didn’t knock as she made her way to the bedroom. She slammed the door behind her. A nice touch, at least, Jasmine thought so.

  When the door closed, yes, her knees definitely trembled then. And her gaze flew around the room.

  I have to get out of here.

  Because she had to stop Drake and his buddies before they all wound up dead.

  Jasmine inched toward the air vent in the corner. No way could she fit in there. That just left the doors that lead out onto the balcony…

  The balcony. Being as quiet as possible, Jasmine opened the French doors that led outside. She tip-toed onto the balcony. They were about ten stories up. She could see the flash of cars below her. So very far below her.

  Not like she had a choice, though. Jasmine squared her shoulders and inched closer to the edge of that balcony.

  ***

  “So…out of curiosity…what did go down in the elevator?” Trace asked, him voice mild.

  “Shut the hell up,” Drake fired at him. His gaze was on the closed bedroom door. There had been something about Jasmine’s expression when she stormed away…

  Noah strode closer to him. “Give the woman a few minutes to rest. She looked exhausted.” He cocked a brow. “And since when are you the kind of guy who wants to keep twenty-four seven tabs on a woman, anyway?”

  “Since he met a woman who tried to rob him blind.” Trace dropped onto Drake’s couch. “And trust me, with a woman like her, you’re gonna need to keep watching, carefully.”

  Drake narrowed his eyes on his friend. “A woman like her?”

  “Sexy, smart, and dangerous.”

  Noah’s hand slapped down on Drake’s shoulder. “Ah, that makes her just your type, right? Women with an edge are always more interesting.”

  Drake growled at him.

  Noah sobered. “Though I am a bit confused. If some jerks were hauling her into a van, how’d you get her away from them—”

  “I shot one of them.”

  Noah and Trace exchanged a long look.

  What? “I wasn’t going to let them kill her.”

  “But obviously they wanted her alive,” Trace pointed out, “or else they would’ve killed her on sight.”

  For an instant, Drake saw red. The red of Jasmine’s blood. “He wanted to take her away so he could torture her. So he could hurt her because she was helping me. Everything that he wants to do to Jasmine, every pain, is because of me.” Then, softer, “And Anna Jean. He wants to pay me back, and he’s going to use Jasmine to do it.”

  Trace’s fingers drummed on the couch as Drake paced the room. “She’s no innocent. Her file—”

  “Screw the file! She took nothing. She helped me.” His gaze swung back to the closed bedroom door. “And I will help her. I’m not going to let Maxwell get anywhere near her.”

  “That would be where I come in,” Noah said with a slight nod. “Am I still supposed to be the woman’s ride out of town?”

  Drake knew the cops would be monitoring his movements, so he’d decided that it would be best for Jasmine to slip away with Noah. “Yes. You fly her to New York. I’ll be there as soon as things are cleared up down here.”

  Noah tilted his head toward Drake. “You mean as soon as you eliminate the threat posed by Maxwell Case.”

  Drake stared back at him. He thought that was obvious.

  “You can’t kill a man in cold blood,” Trace said.

  “Don’t give me that bullshit.” Drake stopped pacing. “For your precious Skye, just what would you do, Trace? What have you done?”

  Trace’s mouth tightened.

  “Trace loves Skye,” Noah said, voice soft, thoughtful. “Are you saying that you have…feelings for this woman? Do you love her?”

  Drake’s eyes narrowed. “Love has nothing to do with this.”

  ***

  Wind whipped against Jasmine’s body as she stood on the balcony. Her hands gripped the edges of the railing. It was high. It was terrifyingly high.

  But you’re not going down. You just have to go across.

  She’d found her escape path.

  A thin ledge connected two balconies. The balcony in Drake’s apartment, and a balcony that waited about ten feet away. If she got to that other balcony, she could slip away and vanish into the casino.

  If she got to that other balcony.

  Lightning crackled across the sky, illuminating her deadly walk. Thunder rumbled.

  And raindrops hit her.

  She really had shit for luck.

  ***

  “Oh, I forgot,” Noah said as he flashed Drake a hard smile. “You don’t love. Love is for fools like—”

  “You.” Because he’d seen exactly how crazy Noah had become when he fell for Claire. Crazy and desperate. Obsessed.

  Drake had no intention of becoming obsessed with anyone. “Just take Jasmine back to New York with you, okay? When Trace and I are done eliminating Case’s threat, you can stop playing guard.”

  From outside, Drake heard the hard rumble of thunder.

  “You guarded Claire for me…” Noah sighed. “So I guess I can return the favor.”

  “Be warned, Jasmine is nothing like your Claire.” Noah’s wife Claire was sweet and charming, and when Drake had looked into her eyes once, he’d seen all
the pain of her past. Claire had nearly been broken by the nightmare that had been her life.

  Jasmine—Jasmine wasn’t broken in any way. She was wild, a firestorm, strong and ready to meet any challenge head on.

  “Hell.” He rushed for his closed bedroom door as realization dawned. “That woman isn’t tired at all.”

  He threw open the bedroom door. The room was empty.

  That wasn’t even possible.

  “Jasmine!”

  “The doors to the balcony are open,” Trace said as he ran in behind Drake.

  The doors were open—and rain poured in from those open doors.

  “It’s storming,” Noah said, sounding lost. “Why would the woman go out in a storm?”

  Drake leapt out onto the balcony. Lightning flashed overhead. He looked down—no Jasmine. She wasn’t lying, body twisted, on the pavement below.

  Thank Christ.

  He heard a faint gasp then, and his gaze shot up and to the left. Jasmine was there, about ten feet away from him, reaching out for the railing on the other side of an incredibly small ledge.

  Drake stopped breathing as he stared at her.

  “Oh, shit,” Noah whispered from behind him.

  Her hand closed around the railing. Drake knew he should be rushing back through his apartment and around to that other balcony, but he couldn’t move, not until he was sure that she was safe.

  Every muscle in his body had turned to stone.

  Slowly, inch by inch, she climbed over the railing and onto that balcony. Her feet were bare, still bare, and when her toes touched down, he finally took a breath.

  “Jasmine.” Her name was on that breath.

  And even though his voice had been low, her head whipped up. Her gaze met his.

  Then she turned and ran.

  Chapter Ten

  Adrenaline had her whole body quaking. Adrenaline and fear and oh, God, but she never wanted to do anything like that again.

  Desperate times make for desperate women.

 
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