Their Cartel Princess: The Complete Series: A Dark Reverse Harem Box Set, page 6
Her heart thumped against her breastbone. Seconds later, the light disappeared as a car whooshed by them.
Finn stayed down but took his hand away from her mouth. “Thank you,” he rumbled quietly.
Twigs cracked, and leaves rustled as he rose. “You saved my life back there.”
“Wasn’t me. You can thank Santa Muerte.”
“The Lady of the Shadows — she saved you.”
Finn’s face was still in shadow, but she could feel his confusion. Her nose throbbed. She gingerly touched it, hissing at the jolt of pain.
“I’ll get that fixed soon as we’re safe,” Finn said. He rose, held out a hand again.
What felt like hours later, both of them staggering, far off lights began twinkling through the scraggly trees covering the area.
“Is that it?” she asked, coming to a stop beside Finn.
Slowly, ever so slowly, her mind turned over like the old, reluctant generator they’d had in their house back in Mexico. It was one of her first memories; her father, stripped to the waist, thumping that big metallic thing with a fist and swearing in Spanish as he tried to get it working.
“You have a phone?” she asked.
Finn glanced at her, gave a reluctant nod.
“Phone my father. Or Javier.”
Finn pulled his bottom lip through his teeth and looked away. “Let’s get safe first.” He moved forward, but she grabbed the back of his shirt in a fist.
“You’re supposed to take me to Texas, aren’t you?”
“I’m supposed to keep you safe,” Finn said, spinning back to her and knocking her hand away. “Right now, I don’t know where safe is.”
“Javier,” Cora said. “Take me there.” She shivered violently. It could have been the brisk air caressing her sweat-damp skin, but it was more likely the feeling of unease slowly curdling in her stomach.
“Your...Bailey,” Finn said.
The name was like a whip on her psyche. She stumbled back a step, blinking hard.
“He said we shouldn’t trust your uncle.”
“Javier’s not my uncle,” Cora said woodenly, and then cleared her throat. “Not my real uncle.”
“You called him Tío.”
“That’s...it’s like...being respectful.” Cora washed her hands over her face. “Why would he say that?”
“I don’t know. I tried calling your father, but—-”
“So phone him.” Cora gestured at Finn’s jeans, which was the only place he could be hiding a phone; he wasn’t wearing a jacket or his bulletproof vest anymore. “He’ll tell you.”
Bailey’s name had brought back a slew of unwelcome emotions. And, now, a confusing set of questions. Bailey had told him not to trust Javier? Why? Bailey had never once mentioned anything to her. Admittedly, he preferred not to speak about anything that touched on her father’s business. And they didn’t exactly have a lot of dialogue clocked between the two of them, despite the years they’d spent in each other’s company. Bailey had always been a quiet man, and she’d been too nervous and shy to strike up a conversation with him. The most they’d spoken was when he’d been training her. And then her father had cut that short.
Finn rummaged in his pocket and started forward again as he put it to his ear. She followed but her legs threatened to dissolve under her every other step.
“Voice mail,” Finn murmured. And then, “Mr. Swan, there’s been an incident.”
Cora’s mind served her a vivid vignette of the sticky mess she’d turned the back of that Mexican’s head into. Her stomach twisted, and she folded forward to puke on the dusty ground. Finn paused, twisted, and moved a few feet away as if worried the phone would pick up the sound of her stomach emptying itself. Then there was a hand swiping her face, drawing back strands of hair. He pulled loose her ponytail, retying it as she retched a last time.
Shivers broke out over her skin as she pushed herself to her feet and wiped the back of her hand over her mouth.
“You’re fine,” Finn murmured. “But you’re still in danger. And I don’t know who’s after you.”
She couldn’t make out his eyes with his face so in shadow, but he brought a hand to the side of her neck and squeezed her. Calm flooded through her, and she took a stuttering breath that filled her lungs with ice.
“I need you to trust me.”
She gave a slow nod. He squeezed her again, and then let his hand slide down the outside of her arm. It left a trail of tingling skin in its wake. Then he turned and strode toward civilization, where it twinkled so temptingly close up ahead. She followed, grimacing at the sour taste in her mouth. Her head began pounding.
What was he planning? Because he had to have a plan, someone like Finn. He had to be a mercenary or ex-military; those were the types of people that ended up doing what he did. They couldn’t just get regular nine-to-five jobs where they had to wear a tie and kiss the boss’s ass.
No, he had a plan. He’d have a plan if the four goddamn horses of the apocalypse came trotting from the clouds.
He remembered Oxbow being closer than this. He wasn’t unfit by any means, but his legs were moments away from complete muscle failure. How the hell Cora was still upright was a miracle he’d consider when he had extra energy.
Finn paused, leaning with a hand against the closest straight-trunked tree. The girl walked a few paces ahead and then came to a lurching halt. His fucking chest blossomed with pain every time he drew a breath. Where he’d thought the agony would lessen, it just kept getting worse. That pain had infiltrated his entire body, coursing through him like poison every time he took too deep a breath.
Cora came closer and then held out a hesitant arm in his direction.
He waved at her. “Jus’ catching my breath.”
“We’re close, right?”
He nodded. Oxbow’s lights were less than a hundred yards away.
Cora flicked her fingers at him. He lumbered closer on dead legs and slid his arm around her shoulder. She grabbed his waist, her heat and warmth buffeting against him like a tidal wave. Citrus. Blood. Sweat. After a few steps, he couldn’t tell which of them was holding up the other. They leaned at an angle against each other, Cora’s head against his chest and her cheek pressed to his pectoral muscle.
The grass led to a small rise — murder on his legs — which flattened to a dusty plain. Nearby stood a rickety camper; from the way the weeds had grown around the fender, it had been there for months.
Finn scanned the trailer park. A few distant lights were on, casting enough illumination to see all twenty of the trailers and motorhomes making use of the facility tonight. His eyes went back to the closest trailer, but he dismissed it. He picked out a motorhome standing about fifty feet away. It was immaculately kept; no doubt a retired couple stopping over for the night.
He hurried forward, scanning the area to make sure no one was awake. At what he judged was close to one in the morning, he doubted anyone would be. He paused, loathe to disentangle from the girl. Not only from the way she propped him up but because of her warmth. It was early November, but it seemed autumn had rolled in early this year.
He drew a slow, painful breath, and scooped her up against him, closer than before. “Follow my lead,” he said.
She didn’t reply and, when he glanced down, he saw her eyes were closed as if she was quite happy falling asleep on her feet while he held her propped up.
He hadn’t even had time to check if she’d gotten a concussion. If that was the case, sleep could be fatal. He shook her until she opened her eyes again. “Stay the fuck awake,” he croaked in her ear.
That made her eyes pop open. He gripped her waist and urged her forward with him. At the motorhome’s door, he climbed up a step and rapped against the door with a bloodied knuckle. For long moments, there was silence. He rapped again, glancing over
Above him, the motorhome’s door opened. A balding man in his seventies stood in the doorway. He wore a clean vest and boxers; what was left of his hair stuck up every which way. His mouth moved, but he couldn’t seem to get out words.
“Please,” Finn said. “We need help. My—My girlfriend…”
Cora twitched against him and then moaned as if in deep pain.
The man half-fell, half-scrambled out of the doorway. “Rita!” It came out as an urgent whisper. A woman with curlers in her hair appeared wearing a knee-length frock rumpled from sleep. Her mouth fell open at the sight of them, and then she was hurrying forward to grab Cora with a murmured, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
Rita helped Finn to carry Cora up the last two steps. Inside, he let the woman take Cora from him.
A quick scan revealed tan-colored furniture, spotless surfaces, and a flat-screen television bolted to a nearby wall. The place smelled of dish soap, licorice, and peppermints.
Rita cupped Cora’s face in her hands. “What happened?” Her nasal voice drew nails down Finn’s spine. She turned to her husband. “Art! Christ, call the cops.”
“No cops.” Finn turned to the man who already had his cell phone against his ear. There was a moment of hushed anticipation where it almost looked like Art would put the phone down, but then his eyes flew back to Cora, to his wife, and he gave his head a small shake. Finn drew his Five-seveN from his holster and pointed it at the man as he leaned to the side and carefully closed the motorhome’s door.
The cell phone clattered to the floor.
“Kick it over.”
Art nudged the phone over the motorhome’s tiled floor. Finn stopped it with his foot, wincing as he bent to pick it up. Goddammit, but his chest fucking hurt. Everything fucking ached. The arm holding the pistol began to tremble, so he turned it on the wife. She blanched and gripped Cora absently against her. The girl pushed against her, fighting the woman until she was free. Then she rose unsteadily and took a step toward Finn.
Waiting. Not taking her gun out, just waiting. And looking utterly exhausted.
“Tie them up.” Finn gestured at Rita and Art.
Cora turned to search the motorhome. It was large enough to make a comfortable home for a sight-seeing pair trekking across the country with all those cabinets. Searching them would take too long.
“Take the money!” Art yelled. “Just don’t kill us!”
Finn’s jaw clenched. The man’s voice was loud enough to easily be heard by the closest trailers. He surged forward and slammed the butt of his pistol against Art’s temple. The man crumpled to the ground like his bones had melted. It wasn’t a killing blow, not in the slightest, but the woman wailed like a fucking banshee as her husband went down.
“Up!” Finn growled.
Rita stood back and lifted her hands, her face paling. “Please, d—don’t—don’t—”
Finn flicked the gun, and the woman glanced at the dinette booth beside the door of the motorhome. She sat down carefully, eyes continually flickering from Finn to Cora to her unconscious husband.
“Tape?” Finn gestured around the motorhome with his pistol.
“B-Bottom drawer,” the woman whispered. She’d begun to cry, if silently, her trembling lips breaking up her words.
Cora opened the lowest drawer beside the double-sink as if she was in a dream.
“Hurry,” Finn said.
She yanked out a roll of duct tape and hurried over to Rita. There were no arms and legs to attach Rita to the booth, so Cora taped the woman’s wrists together and then moved to her ankles. Then she shoved her into the corner and taped her chest against the wall of the motorhome. It wouldn’t hold for long, but hopefully, the woman wasn’t athletic enough to escape before they’d left.
He got Art onto the booth opposite his wife and taped him down. He’d just put duct tape over the old timer’s mouth when he heard something hitting the floor. Cora. She sat, blinking at him like she had no idea who he was, or what she was doing on the floor.
He looked up at Rita. The woman shook in her chair, eyes glued to Finn with morbid fascination. “First aid kit?”
Rita’s eyes flashed to the back end of the motorhome. There was a frosted shower door on one side, a closed partition on the other. Beyond that, the rumpled foot end of a queen-sized bed.
He went to the back of the RV, found the shower easily enough — impossible to miss that frosted glass — and then turned to the closed partition opposite it. He’d just pulled open the door when someone knocked loudly on the motorhome’s door.
A Belt to Bite
At first, Cora thought she’d imagined not only the knock at the door but the voice, too. Then another loud thump came, and Cora scrambled up from the floor, finding Finn’s eyes. He grimaced at the door, and then freed his Five-seveN and aimed it at Rita. Finn’s eyes met hers and then flashed back to Rita.
“You two all right?” Another loud knock. Mumbled voices, as if there were more than one person outside, now conferring with each other.
Cora lifted a finger, widening her eyes meaningfully at Rita, and then gripped the edge of the duct tape and slowly pulled it off her mouth.
The woman swallowed visibly, cleared her throat, and called out, “Fine,” in a weak, trembling voice. She cleared her throat again, eyes flashing back to Finn.
When Cora turned to look, Finn had the gun aimed at Art’s head where it nestled against the dinette booth.
“You sure? Heard yelling.” Feet shuffled outside the door.
“Just…” Rita’s mouth shook. “Just—everything’s fine!” she snapped. Tears brimmed in her eyes again, and she blinked them back angrily. “Really. We’re fine.”
“Oh…” The man outside sounded almost disappointed. “You sure?”
“Yes.” Rita pressed her mouth closed, eyes fixed on Finn.
“Okay then.” Feet thumped down a step and then paused. “Hey, me and Art still on for some fly fishing at ten?”
Cora’s stomach was in a knot. Rita looked seconds away from sobbing, her shoulders shaking as she tried to control herself.
“All right. See you then.” Feet thumped away.
Rita squeezed her eyes closed. Cora took a step closer and carefully stuck the duct tape back to the woman’s mouth. She kept her eyes shut and leaned forward, sobbing quietly into her bound arms.
“Ms. Swan?” Finn held a small first aid kit in his hand as he gestured toward the sofa. He sat on the edge of the chaise lounge, and she perched beside him.
She shook her head.
“How old are you?”
Her eyes snapped away from Rita, settling on Finn. This close, she could see a small scar on his jaw.
Was he checking for concussion, or just curious?
“Almost twenty-one. You?”
He made a soft noise and looked at her nose, eyes slitting. “Thirty, come Friday.”
“It’s your birthday on Friday?”
He pursed his lips. “What’s your name?”
“Ele—” Cora cut off hurriedly
Finn’s eyes bored into her. “What did you say?”
“Elementary, my dear Watson,” Cora blurted out. “It’s Cora Swan.”
He gave her a suspicious frown, and then muttered, “No concussion,” to himself in his grating voice as if to stem further conversation.
He reached up and, for a strange, confusing moment, she thought he was going to brush hair from her face. Instead, he handed her a wad of paper towels. “Blow. Carefully.”
She did. What came out of her nose was mostly just blood and mucus — but a lot of it. Finn waited, impassive as always, and then rose from the sofa and yanked free his bel
She stared at him, her mind a mess.
Her lips peeled apart without her consent. Finn pushed his belt between her lips. “Bite.”
She held the belt between her teeth, salivating against the thick leather.
He moved closer still until there was barely any space between them. A blush kept working its way onto her cheeks when she met his eyes, despite the fact his attention seemed focused solely on her nose. His breath was on her face, too. Warm. Strangely comforting.
He made a triangle with his hands, the base of his palms just above the bridge of her nose. His hands smelled of metal and blood, and the touch sent shivers racing over her skin. She squirmed, grabbing her elbows and hugging her arms against her chest.
Her lungs obeyed instinctively.
Finn dragged his hands down her nose. Slow. Hard.
She tried not to scream and bit down on his belt until her teeth left grooves in the leather. Tears streamed down her face. Hot, molten pain oozed through her face. She sagged away from Finn, feeling like she was going to pass out or throw up, perhaps simultaneously. He caught her shoulders, brought her back into a sit, gripped the tip of her chin and twisted her face from left to right as if he was inspecting his work.
Then he took the belt from her unresisting lips and absently wiped his thumb along her chin where she’d drooled.
“Go wash up,” Finn said as he undid his holster, twisting to put his gun on the coffee table. Within easy reach, muzzle pointed at the old couple. Then he took off his shirt, grimacing when he had to lift his arms over his head.
Three purple-black bruises marred his perfectly muscled torso. With that dark shirt off, and his face slack as he inspected himself, he looked like the bulkier version of an underwear model. Except for that scar across his throat, of course. And there were others, too. On his pecs, his abs, his biceps.