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Mine to crave, p.16

Mine to Crave, page 16

 part  #4 of  Mine Series

 

Mine to Crave
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  She had to get out of Drake’s sight. Get to Victor. End this nightmare before anyone else was hurt.

  She yanked open the balcony door and found herself inside an office. A long conference table waited to the right. She ran past it and toward what she hoped would be an exit door. She had to find the stairs or an elevator and get—

  “Going somewhere?”

  Trace Weston lunged out of the darkness of that room. He stood between Jasmine and her precious exit door. And he was a definite immovable object. His head was cocked as he studied her.

  She staggered to a stop.

  “Unlike Drake, I didn’t stay around to see if you’d make it to the other side of that little ledge.” He took a step toward her. “I’m the one who’s been investigating you for the last few days, so I know just what you’re capable of doing. What you have done. I knew you’d dance right across that ledge.”

  “Y-your wife is the dancer, not me.” Trace was married to an ex-prima ballerina, so that taunt just rolled right out of her mouth. This big, tough, scary guy had hooked up with a woman as delicate as fine china.

  Maybe opposites really did attract.

  She choked back her fear and said, “You have to get out of my way.”

  Her lead time was dwindling fast. Drake would be running in there soon.

  Trace looked genuinely confused. “Why would I want to do that? I don’t think Drake planned for you to disappear from his life.”

  Her gaze flew to the door behind him. She only had seconds. “I’m going to hurt him.”

  “How?”

  “I’m not a woman to be trusted, but I think you already discovered that.” She inched toward him. “Please, I need to get out of the Masquerade. I have to go see Victor—”

  “The FBI agent?”

  She nodded quickly “He’s the only one who can stop this.”

  His arms crossed over his chest. “You should have more faith in Drake.”

  It wasn’t about faith. It was about what would happen. “I don’t want to hurt him,” she confessed. “So you have to get out of my way.”

  He shook his head.

  Her back teeth locked. She hadn’t made it across that scary-as-sin ledge to be blocked by this guy. Footsteps were pounding outside of the door. Drake—rushing after her.

  “Why did you try to run?” Trace asked her. “We were making plans to fly you up to New York.”

  “Oh, how wonderful,” she muttered. “Plans for my life. Thanks, but I’ve already got plans of my own.”

  And since he wasn’t getting out of her way, Jasmine did the only thing that she could—she made a break for it. A fast, desperate run.

  But Trace caught her before she’d taken more than three steps. His arms locked tightly around her, and he yanked her up against his chest.

  “I don’t trust you, and, unlike Drake, I wasn’t taken in by your innocent eyes.”

  Her eyes were innocent? Since when?

  “You aren’t getting away,” he promised.

  The door burst open. Drake stood there, chest heaving, eyes blazing.

  “Not from any of us.” Trace’s whisper slid into her ear.

  She heaved in his hold. The guy just tightened his grip, so she slammed down her heel. She hit his foot, then his shin, then anything she could find.

  “Stop it!” Drake yanked her out of Trace’s arms. “What the hell were you thinking? You could have died out there.”

  He didn’t get it. “If I stay with you, I am dead. We both are. I’m a target, big and red, and Maxwell is coming for me fast and hard. Or did you miss that shoot out on the street? He wants me, and he’ll take out anyone who gets in his way.” Her gaze darted from Trace to Noah. Lingered on Noah. “I can’t have collateral damage. I won’t.” Just looking at Noah hurt.

  He had no clue who she was to him. And, seeing as how Trace had no doubt given the guy an earful about her many sins, it was better that way.

  “I’m leaving,” she said this flatly. “Even if I have to climb over a dozen balconies, I’ll do it.”

  Noah stalked closer to her. “Balcony climbing isn’t necessary. You are leaving. With me. Our plane will take off within the hour.”

  Jasmine shook her head and flinched away from him. “I’m not going anywhere with you.” No way could that be an option. Not ever. Noah had to be safe. He had a life. A wife. A family.

  I wanted a family. For so long.

  And she was staring right at the family that was hers.

  Noah frowned at her. “Are you…okay?”

  Dammit, she was almost crying in front of the guy! Jasmine blinked away the water that filled her eyes.

  “Jasmine…” Now Drake was sounding all worried and his hand was slowly stroking her arm. “You don’t have to be afraid. I won’t let Maxwell hurt you.”

  Seriously? It wasn’t about her. It was about them! Him. Noah. Even asshole Trace. She straightened her spine. “Tell them,” she demanded with a fast glare at Trace. “Tell them that they’re wasting their time. That I’m not worth any help they want to give.”

  Trace’s eyes narrowed to near slits as he studied her.

  “Tell them!” Jasmine yelled. Her heart was breaking. She couldn’t be this close to Drake…and to Noah.

  Noah doesn’t know me. I’m a stranger to him. A stranger who could rip his life apart.

  She’d never wanted to rip apart Noah’s life. She’d wanted to meet him. Just see him.

  When she’d been a kid, she used to dream about Noah…she’d known he existed, of course. Her mother had told her all about the baby boy she’d given up for adoption.

  She gave him away…but she kept me.

  Jasmine knew Noah was the lucky one.

  Her brother. Standing right there. Staring at her.

  “I’m not worth it,” Jasmine repeated again. “I’m a criminal, a thief.” Her lips twisted into a humorless smile. “A liar. If I had the chance, I’d betray every single one of you.” Her gaze came back to Drake. She made herself say, “Every. Single. One.”

  A muscle flexed in Drake’s jaw.

  Jasmine laughed, and the sound was bitter to her own ears. “Didn’t you learn anything from Anna Jean? You don’t want to trust me. You can’t. So get the hell out of my way before I destroy you all.” Such tough words. Such hard words to say.

  Because she didn’t want to run from Drake and Noah.

  Those two men—they were all she’d ever wanted.

  A lover who made her forget the hell of her life.

  And a brother…family. Real family. Not the kind that was always drunk or high or…willing to sell you.

  Her lips clamped together and she stormed around Drake. He wasn’t stopping her. Good. He’d gotten the message. She was trouble. She was also going.

  “You’ll be dead before the sun sets.” That was Trace making that grim prediction. “Do you want to die?”

  She couldn’t have what she wanted. That was why Jasmine planned to leave Drake behind.

  Her hand touched the doorknob.

  “I don’t trust you.” Drake’s voice stopped her cold.

  But that was what she wanted, right? No trust. No attachment.

  “Maxwell wants you. He wants you very badly.”

  She opened the door.

  Saw the guards in the hallway. Four of them. Hell.

  Drake’s hand closed over her shoulder. “And I’m not going to let that bastard have anything that he wants.” He turned her to face him. “I don’t trust you,” he said once more, like he was driving a nail into her coffin.

  Her chin lifted.

  “But I am going to use you, princess. You’re going to be the bait that brings down that bastard. Then we’ll both be free. You can vanish from my life, and I’ll stay the hell out of yours.”

  ***

  He didn’t like the way Jasmine stared at Noah.

  Drake frowned as he watched Jasmine send yet another furtive glance toward his friend. Why did she keep gazing at the guy with that l
ost expression in her eyes?

  Yeah, okay, fine, Noah was a ladies’ man. Or he had been, until the guy had settled down with his Claire. Now Noah was full-on obsessed with his lovely new wife, and the guy wasn’t playing the field.

  Jasmine needed to stop watching Noah.

  Fucking now.

  “That’s jealousy.”

  He turned at Trace’s voice. They were in a small, private airport outside of the city. Noah’s plane was supposed to be taking off soon.

  Taking off with Jasmine.

  She’s bait, all right. But she doesn’t have to actually be here when the trap is sprung. He wanted her safely away because he…well, he just wanted her safe.

  “The way you’re glaring at Noah, it’s a dead giveaway.” Trace sighed softly. “You really sure you want your woman flying off with him?”

  “I trust Noah.” He did.

  “Ah, right. But not her? What if she tries her hand at seducing him? I mean, the woman can’t seem to keep her eyes off the guy.”

  He was growling. Drake tried to stop. He wasn’t an animal, no matter what he might be feeling at that moment. “Noah doesn’t see any woman but Claire.”

  “Huh. Is that how it works?”

  Drake shifted a bit because he’d just noticed that Noah was staring at Jasmine with a guarded, assessing gaze.

  As soon as Jasmine caught the other man’s stare, she immediately stiffened and glanced away.

  “Maybe he was another target for her,” Trace mused. “I mean, the way she’s acting, the woman knows him. Or she knows something about him.”

  Fuck. “The photograph.”

  “The what?”

  He marched away from Trace and headed for Jasmine. Noah stood near her, and his friend nodded as he approached. “About fifteen minutes until take-off,” Noah said. “Once we’re safe in New York, I’ll call you.”

  Drake didn’t glance his way. “You never told me why the photograph mattered.”

  “What photograph?” She immediately asked as her chin notched up.

  Back to that old game, were they?

  He caught her sexy little chin between his thumb and forefinger. “It’s a dead giveaway,” he told her.

  Her eyes widened. So dark and deep. A man could get lost in those eyes.

  Noah would not get lost there.

  “When you lie…your chin rises up a bit.”

  “No it doesn’t,” she whispered back. “It does that when I get scared.”

  He blinked.

  “Uh, we should get on the plane,” Noah announced. “The pilot told me that we’ll be—”

  “Why do you watch Noah so much?” Drake demanded, and he heard the bite of jealousy in his own voice. He’d never been jealous over a woman. Not like this.

  Noah coughed a bit. “Okay, I think I’ll wait on the plane…” He started to back away.

  “Don’t go anywhere,” Drake ordered because he was trying to figure this thing out.

  Jasmine had paled. The sun was up, and he could easily see the sudden pallor of her skin and the flash of fear in her eyes. “That was Noah’s wedding picture.”

  Now Noah was crowding in closer. “What are you talking about?”

  The pilot advanced toward them. “We should board the plane now.” He shifted a bit nervously, from one foot to the other. “The pre-flight checks are all clear. We’ve got the okay to take-off.”

  Two mechanics were over in the corner, packing up gear.

  Jasmine tried to head toward the plane. Drake moved with her, blocking her path.

  “What is with you?” Jasmine demanded. “You want me to go, you want me to stay. Make up your mind!”

  “I want to know why you took one look at Noah’s wedding picture, and you decided not to hack my computer. I want to know why one look at that picture changed everything for you.” And it had. She’d betrayed Maxwell and set this deadly chain of events into motion.

  But she didn’t betray him for me.

  Jasmine’s gaze slanted toward Noah.

  She did it for him.

  “I saw you on the security footage.” There had been such longing on her face. Longing for Noah? Rage pumped through his blood.

  Jasmine wet her lips with a quick, nervous swipe of her tongue. “I don’t know what you think you saw—”

  Drake’s stare lasered onto Noah. “Have you met Jasmine before?”

  Surprise flashed on Noah’s face. “No.”

  Trace had closed in next to Noah.

  “Are you sure?” Drake pressed. “Think about it.”

  Noah’s stare swept over Jasmine. A very tense Jasmine. “I don’t think I’d forget a woman like her,” Noah said.

  Drake unclenched his back teeth.

  “But…but I swear,” Noah continued, voice roughening, “there’s something familiar about you, Jasmine. I look at you, and I…”

  Jasmine pushed through the men and headed for the plane. “We need to get this show on the road.”

  “How do you know him?” Drake demanded.

  She kept marching toward the plane.

  Drake shot a glare at Trace. “Are they connected? Did you see anything in her past that is tied to Noah?” Why had she changed everything for him? Yeah, that jealousy was back and twisting hard in Drake’s gut.

  Trace shook his head. “I didn’t see a connection, but so much of her life is shrouded. The woman is good at covering her tracks. Hell, if I didn’t know better, I’d think…” But then Trace broke off. “I’ve seen government agents who have less security in their lives than she does. She wanted years of her life hidden, and she made them vanish.”

  “What can I say…” Jasmine’s words drifted back to them. “I’m amazing.” But her voice was flat. “Now, the plane’s ready. The plane that you insisted I board.”

  The pilot hurried by her and rushed up the steps that led to the plane.

  The mechanics were still lingering in the corner. Watching.

  Waiting?

  Jasmine climbed two of the steps.

  Drake turned away from her and focused on those mechanics. One had a faint smile on his face as he watched Jasmine board the plane. The guy was still smiling as he turned away…and started heading for the door.

  “Stop!” Drake shouted at him.

  The guy jerked and glanced back.

  “I want to talk with you,” Drake barked as he hurried toward the man, his instincts on high alert. “To both of you.”

  “Uh, Drake…” Noah began.

  The mechanics were grabbing their gear and they weren’t slowing down for a little chat. They were trying to haul ass out of there.

  “Stop!” Drake yelled again. His phone started ringing, vibrating like mad in his coat pocket. He ignored the phone and focused on the men. The two guys were full out running now and the plane’s engine was growling behind him. That didn’t make any sense. Mechanics wouldn’t run—

  They’re not mechanics.

  He spun back around. “Jasmine, get away from the plane!”

  She was on the stairs. Her eyes widened.

  “Get away from it!”

  Trace was now running after the fleeing mechanics but Drake ran right toward the plane. Toward Jasmine.

  He saw understanding on her face. But she didn’t leave the plane. That insane woman turned toward the plane’s entrance and began yelling for the pilot. She disappeared inside.

  No! “Jasmine! Get the hell out!” His legs burned as he raced toward her.

  All he could think was…a bomb. They planted a bomb, and I’m about to lose her. Maxwell likes his bombs…I’m going to lose her. “Jasmine!”

  His phone was ringing again. Drake ignored the thing because he was rushing to her.

  She was back on the steps now—and hauling the pilot with her.

  Drake rushed up the stairs toward her. He grabbed her hand and pulled her against him. Then they ran down the last few steps as fast as they could.

  They’d just cleared the tiny airstrip when the plan
e exploded.

  ***

  “Boom,” Maxwell whispered when he saw the smoke fill the sky. Ah, but it paid to have eyes and ears everywhere.

  Noah York and Trace Weston were on Maxwell’s hit list. He’d planned to take them all out…because they’d all played a part in Anna Jean’s death.

  But they’d been targets for later. Less important. Drake had been his main goal.

  Then Drake had made the mistake of calling in his friends.

  “It was time for them to die.” Maxwell rolled his shoulders. He’d made the little bomb. All his men had needed to do was plant it.

  “So beautiful,” he murmured. Saxon stood a few feet away. “Head toward the scene for me,” Maxwell ordered. “See who survived…and who didn’t.”

  Face expressionless, Saxon nodded. The guard turned and climbed onto his motorcycle.

  Maxwell admired the blaze for a moment longer, then he headed toward his car and driver.

  It sure was a beautiful morning.

  A plane, my love…ah, Anna Jean, isn’t that fitting? She’d been such a wonderful pilot. He definitely thought she would have appreciated the send-off he’d just given to Noah York and Trace Weston. After all, two passengers had been scheduled to depart. A little cash to the right hand had given him that information.

  And a little more cash had been paid to end those two lives…

  ***

  His phone was ringing again.

  Drake stared at the blaze, aware of Jasmine’s hand clutching his arm.

 
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