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Mine to take, p.7

Mine to Take, page 7

 part  #1 of  Mine Series

 

Mine to Take
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  on him.

  “You think it’s me, mate?” Robert demanded, backing up a step.

  “You sure have easy access to her dressing room, mate,” Trace threw right back. “You know where she lived.”

  “Of course, I did! I helped her move in! Dammit, I even had her back-up key.”

  Trace’s shoulders stiffened. He turned and cast that rather scary glare of his at Skye.

  Crap. Had she neglected to mention that part?

  “But I wouldn’t do that to Skye! I would never do anything to hurt her.” And Robert reached for Skye again. His fingers locked around her arms. “You know how much I need you. I wouldn’t hurt you, not for—”

  “Get your fucking hands off her.”

  Goosebumps rose on Skye’s skin.

  Robert immediately jerked away from her. “Look, mate, I—”

  Trace caught Skye’s hand and pulled her to his side. “I’m going to need confirmation that you haven’t left the city.”

  “Y-you’re asking me for an alibi?” Robert sputtered.

  “Damn straight, I am.”

  Now Robert was the one to flush. “A dozen dancers can tell you that I’ve been working their asses off for the last twenty days. They can all confirm that I haven’t left the city.”

  “Good.” Trace flashed a hard smile, one that held an evil edge. “I’ll get them to confirm that before I leave today.”

  Skye’s breath expelled in a fast rush. “Robert, did you ever see anyone hanging around my dressing room? Anyone that lingered after a show?” She’d asked stagehands the same questions before, but no one had seen anything. After a performance, it was too chaotic to keep track of people.

  Robert’s eyes had narrowed on Trace. He seemed to be searching Trace’s face with a dark intensity.

  “Robert?” Skye pushed.

  “There are always fans who try to get back to the dancers,” Robert said, rolling his shoulders. “I’ve told you before, when you dance, you become something…quite different.”

  That…different…had been what drew him to her. A night of long practice had turned into something more for them. But it hadn’t lasted with Robert. It never lasted because…

  No other man is Trace.

  “You didn’t see anyone?” Trace questioned. “Dammit, what about video cameras?”

  “We don’t have them backstage.” Robert shook his head. “After a show, it’s chaos. Plain and simple. Hell, do you have any idea just how many flowers get delivered after a show? It’s a fuckin’ madhouse here.”

  And someone had slipped into that madhouse far too easily.

  “I’ll check, okay?” Robert offered as a knock sounded at the door. “I’ll ask around and see if anyone remembers anything but, Skye, you know how fast the back-stage groups turn over. We’ve got new staff working this show.”

  With every new show, there was a rotation.

  A knock rapped again at the door. “Wolfe!” A woman’s voice called. “They need you on stage.”

  “Be right there.” He straightened his shoulders. Met Trace’s stare. “Check my alibi. Talk to the dancers. Like I said, I would never hurt Skye, and I sure hope you find the bastard who did.” Then he glanced her way. The gold in his eyes heated. “Come back to me. I want you to dance for me again.”

  Angry tension seemed to roll off Trace’s body.

  “I…can’t,” Skye said softly.

  “How do you know?” Robert asked her, tilting his head as he studied her. “Unless you try?”

  The knock pounded again. It was much more impatient this time. “Wolfe, they’re screwing up out here! We need you.”

  He gave a curt nod to Skye and Trace, and Robert hurried away.

  The door hung open behind him, just a few inches.

  “Before we leave,” Trace spoke slowly, “I’ll talk to the stagehands here and see if anyone remembers something.”

  She nodded. “It’s been too long, hasn’t it?” If Trace had been here to question people sooner, to run his investigation, then perhaps more evidence, more clues could have been found.

  Trace exhaled slowly. “I’ll find him. He’s not getting away.”

  She hoped that he wasn’t. She started to slip by Trace.

  He caught her arm. “You left New York without trying to dance again? You just ran from the city?”

  Her throat had gone dry. “It took me weeks to walk again.” That was only after all of the surgeries. “And I did try.” That painful memory would never go away. “The first time I tried to dance, I fell on my face.” The first time, the second, the third. Her lashes lifted so that she could meet that bright blue stare. “Robert is the most demanding choreographer I’ve ever worked with. I knew what he would see if he watched me dance. I didn’t want to hear him say—”

  You’ve lost it, love.

  She could hear his words clearly in her mind.

  “There are some things that you know on your own.” She’d had enough humiliation and pain by that point. Running had seemed like her best plan. Escape.

  And she didn’t want to talk about this anymore. “I’ll go talk to some of the dancers.” Her words tumbled out quickly. “I’ll see if anyone remembers or—or maybe if anyone had something like this happen to them.” So she was grasping at straws. That room was too small. Too filled with memories, and Skye wanted to get out of there.

  So she fled. After all, she might suck at walking sometimes, but when it came to running away, she had that one down cold.

  ***

  The Brit was a bastard who touched Skye far too freely. Trace could still feel the jealousy coursing through him.

  You came back to me.

  The hell she had. Skye hadn’t turned to Wolfe when she needed protection.

  She’d gone to Trace.

  The dancers and the stagehands had been no help. They didn’t remember anything.

  Or anyone.

  Plenty of fans had come to see Skye, but their faces were a blur in everyone’s memories.

  Useless.

  So they’d left the dancers and the choreographer who watched Skye with far too much intensity. They’d moved to the second stop on their list.

  He’d visited this place before. So many times, when Skye hadn’t even known he was there. I had to make sure she was all right.

  “It’s been a while,” Skye murmured beside him as they strode down the hospital corridor. “And I can’t exactly say I’m happy to be back here.”

  The scent of disinfectant filled his nose. Nurses bustled past him. A family walked down the corridor, carrying flowers and balloons in their hands.

  Skye’s doctor was on duty that day. Trace had verified Dr. Mitch Loxley’s rotation schedule before heading to the hospital. He’d also had his men check to see if either Mitch Loxley or Robert Wolfe had taken any recent flights to Chicago.

  They hadn’t.

  But they could have driven over there. A thirteen-hour drive was doable.

  He halted at the nurse’s station. “I need to see Dr. Loxley.”

  The nurse glanced up. Her eyes widened a bit as she stared at Trace, then she smiled.

  He’d gotten plenty of smiles like hers over the years. Flirtatious. Interested.

  Only he wasn’t interested. Skye was at his side.

  When he had her, he didn’t need anyone else.

  “He’s on his rounds right now, but is there something I can help you with?” The nurse asked as she rose—and leaned forward, putting her hand on his arm. “I’ll be happy to help you, if you need assistance.”

  What he needed was Loxley.

  Another of Skye’s lovers.

  Shit, but it had been hard not to drive his fist into Wolfe’s pretty-boy face. When the guy kept touching Skye, too much familiarity in that touch…I wanted to break his hand.

  Only Trace wasn’t supposed to be that guy any longer. He was supposed to be the businessman. The success story.

  Not the street fighter who wanted to tear into anyone who’d
gotten too close to Skye.

  “I’m afraid that only Dr. Loxley can help us,” he said, pulling Skye close to his side. She’d tensed up when they walked into the hospital. Not that he blamed her, not after what she’d been through. He wanted to question the doctor, then get the hell out of that place with her.

  He’d prefer to get her back to the hotel. To get her naked in his bed again.

  Once wasn’t nearly enough.

  But he had to eliminate the threats around her first.

  “When are you expecting Loxley back?” Trace asked the blonde nurse.

  Then, speak of the damn devil, Loxley marched around the corner. The guy’s white lab coat swirled around him as he put a clipboard on the nurse’s station. “Marsha, make sure the low carb diet for Mr. Rodriguez continues for at least twenty-four more hours and…” He trailed off.

  Because his gaze had lifted.

  And locked on Skye.

  Another asshole that I want to punch.

  But, at least unlike Robert, Loxley didn’t rush across the room and wrap Skye in a too-tight hug.

  Loxley didn’t move at all, but his gaze sure seemed to drink Skye in.

  What was it about her? She drew men to her. She’d sure drawn him easily enough.

  Addicted him, from the very first.

  “Dr. Loxley.” With an effort, Trace kept all the emotion from his voice. “We need a few minutes of your time.”

  The guy’s startled gaze flew to his. The doc hadn’t even seemed aware of the fact that Trace was standing there, not until that moment.

  Trace wasn’t used to being ignored.

  He flashed his teeth in a shark’s grin. “We’re going to need that time, now.”

  “I-I just finished my rounds.” Loxley glanced at his watch. “I can spare a few minutes. Come this way.” Then he turned, without another word, and headed back down the corridor.

  Trace took his time following the doc, and he made sure not to let go of Skye.

  How did she feel about the doctor? The fellow was close to Trace’s height, had a build similar to Trace…Mitch Loxley even had the same dark hair.

  Mitch Loxley seemed like a safer, more dependable version of Trace.

  Trace hated the sonofabitch.

  Files were scattered around the doctor’s office. A few framed photographs. The doc grabbed the files and shoved them on his desk, blocking some of those photos.

  But Trace had already seen them.

  Yes, he hated the SOB.

  “What are you doing here, Skye?” Loxley asked as he crossed his arms over his chest. Now that they were away from the nurse’s station, the polite veneer that the doc had worn while they had an audience showed signs of cracking. “I thought you’d gone to Chicago.”

  He knew where she’d headed.

  “I did.” Skye pulled her hand from Trace’s. “Do you…do you remember when I said that someone forced me off the road?”

  Mitch’s dark eyebrows shot up. “That’s why you’re here? The cops told you that there were no signs of—”

  “Someone attacked me recently, in Chicago.” Her voice was soft. “Before the attack, someone had been following me for days, weeks…the same way the person followed me here, in New York.”

  The faint lines near Mitch’s eyes deepened. “Look, you were under a lot of stress after the accident, I get that…but the cops said—”

  “I’m not real interested in what the cops said,” Trace cut in. He wasn’t in the mood to have this pompous prick dismiss Skye’s fears. “I’m interested in what Skye says. Someone attacked her, and I’m here to find out who that was.”

  Loxley’s brown eyes darted from Skye to Trace. “Are you some kind of bodyguard or something?”

  “Something.”

  Those brown eyes assessed Trace. “I’ve seen you before.” Mitch’s fingers snapped together. “You were at the hospital, back when Skye was first brought in. The admins upstairs forced us to let you in to see her.”

  With the right leverage, he’d found his way to Skye’s bedside. The fact that he’d made a hefty donation to the hospital’s charity board had certainly helped his situation.

  Mitch’s eyes widened. “You’re Trace Weston.”

  Trace shrugged.

  “Trace,” the doctor gritted as his gaze jumped to Skye. “I’ve heard that name before, haven’t I?”

  She flinched.

  What the hell is that about?

  “I should have known,” Loxley continued, “when you told me you were headed back to Chicago, that you’d wind up with him.” He exhaled. “I don’t know what you want from me, Skye. You left and—hold the hell up.” A muscle flexed in his jaw as the doc seemed to fully grasp the situation. “You think it was me? You think I’m the one who came after you?”

  “Are you?” Trace asked him.

  The color had fled from Skye’s face. Trace didn’t like that. Not at all.

  “I didn’t even know her before the accident. So I sure couldn’t have been stalking her then.” Mitch threw himself into his chair. The wheels rolled back. “And, no, I didn’t rush after her to Chicago. The sex was good, but trust me, I’ve moved the hell on.”

  The sex was good. Every muscle in Trace’s body tensed.

  “Give us a moment, would you, Skye?” Trace’s voice was soft. Too soft.

  “Trace…” Worry had entered her voice. She did still know him so well.

  He glanced at her. “It will only take a moment.”

  Skye shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere. This is my life we’re talking about.”

  The drumming of his heartbeat filled Trace’s ears. He forced himself to look back at the doctor. “Do you remember who visited Skye while she was here?”

  “I remember you,” Loxley snapped. “I don’t forget it when the hospital VP tells me I have to let some visitor in against regulations.”

  The guy needed to stop pushing. “Anyone else?”

  “I have a lot of patients, it’s not like I can remember everything—”

  “You don’t fuck all your patients.” Trace paused. “At least, I hope you don’t. So since Skye warranted special treatment from you, I’m thinking you might have paid a bit more attention to who was coming and going from her room.”

  The doctor’s eyes had narrowed. Anger burned in his dark gaze. “The British guy,” Mitch bit out. “Wolfe. He came in, so did some of the women she danced with. I never saw anyone else, but then, I was working my rounds. Treating other patients. Not keeping a twenty-four seven watch on Skye.”

  The doctor just kept pushing…

  “I guess I know why you told me good-bye, Skye,” Loxley said as he drummed his fingers on the desk. “But then, I knew what was happening after that night.”

  “I’m sorry,” Skye told him.

  Trace stiffened. Oh, hell, no, she didn’t need to apologize to this jerk who didn’t understand the whole concept of a doctor-patient relationship.

  “So am I,” Loxley murmured. His gaze shifted to the door. Jaw hard, he said, “Now if that’s all, I have work to do.”

  No, that wasn’t all. “I need to know where you’ve been the last few days, doctor.” Though Trace had a feeling that friendly nurse Marsha could give him that info.

  “Why? Because you think I flew to Chicago and attacked Skye?” Mitch rose from his chair. Crossed the small room until he stood right in front of Skye. “Is that what you think? That I would hurt you? I’m the one who saved your life. I’m the one who helped you.”

  “It’s not like that, Mitch,” Skye said. There was some bite in her voice. “I’m just trying to figure out what’s happening. You don’t understand—he’s been watching me. For so long.” Her hair slid over her shoulders as she shook her head. “I’m tired of being afraid. I want him stopped. I thought…we thought you might have seen someone, seen something that could help—”

  “If I knew anything that would help you, I’d tell you.” Mitch’s gaze swept over her face. “I’m sorry, but I
don’t.”

  Skye nodded. She turned away. Trace headed to her side. He took her elbow.

  Made sure that she exited that room.

  But…before he left…

  Trace shut the door. He flipped the lock so that Skye couldn’t burst back inside. Then he squared off against the doctor.

  “I don’t really care for bullshit.” Trace figured it was good to be blunt.

  Skye knocked on the door. “Trace?” Her voice was high, shocked. “What the hell are you doing?”

  He pointed to the desk. “If you’re so over Skye, why is her picture on your desk?”

  The doc’s Adam’s apple bobbed.

  “You better have people here who can say that you haven’t left town. Because if I find out that you’ve been following Skye…” Trace smiled and knew the sight would chill. “I will make sure that you’re never a threat to her again.”

  “I-I didn’t even realize the photo was still there. I just haven’t tossed it out—”

  “You’re done with Skye. She’s done with you. She’s moved the fuck on, and you need to do the same.” Trace held the guy’s gaze a moment longer, wanting to make sure the fellow got the point.

  Skye’s fist hit the door. “Trace, stop it!” Fear and anger twined in that demand.

  Because she remembered what he was like. She shouldn’t worry so much. He was leaving the doctor in one piece. For the moment.

  The sex was good.

  “It might have just been good with you,” Trace said as he cast a disdainful glance at the doc. “But it’s fucking fantastic with me.”

  Then he left the not-so-good doctor glaring after him.

  “What did you do?” Skye pounced on him.

  He shrugged. “Set a few things straight.”

  Now it was time to find that nurse and confirm Mitch Loxley’s whereabouts.

  The door slammed closed behind him. Trace was pretty sure he heard a fist hit the wood.

  Good. The message had been received.

  ***

  She belonged with him.

  Skye had to see it. No one else would do for her. No one else could match her the way he did.

  They were meant to be.

 
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