Never Look Back Page 2

Now or never.

He glanced in his rearview mirror, catching the reflection off the leg restraints bolted to the floor. He checked his driver’s side door for the syringe taped to the vinyl. Three other needles just like it were taped strategically throughout the van. All were loaded with enough ketamine to drop a linebacker. And even if she screamed, the van was soundproof. He had tricked out the vehicle specifically to ensure everything was contained until they reached his place in the woods.

He turned the ignition key. The van’s engine started. He kept the headlights off as he inched his vehicle out of the shadows toward her. His gaze swept the area one last time, and when certain it was just the two of them, he pulled up beside her.

She held back a moment, eyeing him. Brown eyes glinted with street smarts. No one lasted long on the street without survival sense.

He got his first close look at her. She was older than he had first thought. Late twenties maybe, but her skin had a healthy glow that he liked. Her lips were full and her cheekbones high. Exotic.

She sniffed, rubbed her nose, and swayed slightly as if she were a little drunk.

Caution checked him briefly. Something felt off about her. What was it? His gaze slowly roamed over her again, but as soon as he got a good look at her breasts, he swatted away his worries. A small cross dangled on her chest, and when she shifted, he was sure he glimpsed pink nipple.

She was exactly his type. Better than he had hoped for. She was already one of his top picks, and they had not even started partying yet.

The streets may have smartened her up, but he was about to teach her lessons she had never learned.

She rolled back those shoulders like she was the one in charge. For a moment he hesitated, reconsidering his choice. He tended toward the docile but always enjoyed the ones with a little fight and spunk.

Risk versus reward.

He rolled down the passenger-side window, careful to keep his gloved hands in his lap and out of view. The scent of her spicy perfume reminded him of a previous date. He took it as a good omen. No signs of track marks on her arms. And if she did meth, it had not been for long.

She glanced from side to side and then stepped forward. That direct brown-eyed gaze made him anxious for the takedown. Transitions were always tricky.

“Looking for a party?” he asked.

She studied him with intense eyes. “Not tonight, pal. Calling it early.”

Despite his desire for a challenge, her rebuff irritated him. She was supposed to say yes and get in the car. That was why he was in the Bottom. The hunting was easy.

On the passenger side of the van, there was an automatic door that opened with the push of a button. Modifications ensured it snapped open fast. Repeated practice guaranteed he could be between the seats and grabbing her wrist in less than two seconds. She would have to be on her game to get away.

He mentally raced through the steps, already excited about the risk of grabbing her.

Door open.

Grab the girl.

Toss in back.

Door close.




His record was three seconds.

“I’m looking for a date,” he countered. “And I’ll make it worth your while.”

She wobbled again and then stepped a little closer. Anticipation burned inside him. But she halted before she reached the strike zone.

“How long you looking to party?” she asked.

“All night, and I can afford it.” Greed always shifted the odds to his favor.

Large round hoop earrings shifted as she regarded him. Her eyes narrowed. She sniffed again. “That’s a couple grand.”

“Of course.”

“I’ve got to clear it.” In a blink, she texted her pimp.

Time was slipping away. She should have been in the van by now. He removed a roll of singles with a Benjamin on the outside. He had brandished this same wad before and had even handed it over once or twice. But he always got it back. It was his lucky lure.

She studied the roll but did not reach for it.

He smiled. “Time is wasting. There are other fish in the sea, sugar.”

She tightened her hand on her purse strap.

One gloved hand slid to the syringe. Seconds slowed to a crawl. He was anxious to touch her skin. “Let’s get this party started.”

She glanced at her phone and slowly shook her head. “Sorry, boss man says no.”

Fucking pimp. He could feel her slipping away. “We can keep this between us.”

She took a step back. “And then my guy beats the hell out of me.”

His smile froze in place. He had tried to be nice. Tried to do this the right way. But she was being difficult. He would show her difficult.

He pushed the button and the automatic door crashed open. His heart pulsed as he ripped the syringe free and bolted between the seats. The needle’s tip rose, glittering in the streetlight’s glow. He reached for her arm and manacled his fingers around her wrist. He jerked her forward, brought the needle down, thumb on the plunger.

But she pivoted, twisting her arm up and around and breaking his hold. The needle skimmed along her jeans and the tip broke off. She bounded back so fast that her ankle rolled before she righted it.

He tossed aside the useless syringe and lunged toward her. With his right hand, he grabbed a handful of her hair, and she howled. He yanked her toward the cab. She dug in her heels. But he was stronger. The boots slid over the concrete, leaving black scuff marks as she tried to pry his hand from her hair.

As he reached for the waistband of her jeans with his left hand, she released her grip. He mistook it for surrender. A jolt of triumph coaxed a smile. “We’re going to have some fun tonight.”

That short-lived victory incinerated as a rush of pain seared his right thigh. The unexpected pain caught him off guard. What the hell?

He recoiled automatically. His grip slackened as he looked down at the knife embedded in his leg. He scrambled to regroup. The second syringe was taped to the back of the passenger seat. If he could just get her to the van . . .

With a grunt, he tightened his hold on her hair, closing the distance to the door. His first Date Night girl had also given him trouble, but he had been inexperienced in those days and she had gotten away. It had taken him weeks to find her again. This one would not escape.

Screaming, she gripped the blade handle, rotated it, and tore into fresh flesh. His blood was on her hands, her face, and his chest.

He dragged her toward the car as rage raced through his veins like liquid lava. Punishment! She needed to learn her place.

A set of headlights appeared and raced toward him. He was four feet from the van. Four feet separated him from freedom. From fun in the mountains.

Date Night girl drove a knee into his crotch. Reflex had him turning but not fast enough to avoid a glancing blow to the jewels. He caught his breath. His fingers slackened. She jerked free, pulling the knife with her and leaving him with only strands of her hair and his own pain and fury.

She stumbled back. Her eyes locked on him as she gripped the handle.

Go after her, or get away?

The question repeated in his head over and over as the headlights grew brighter. A horn blared.

Beep! Beep!

He growled his frustration. He hated relinquishing control but knew he had to cut his losses. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, just as they had when dear old Dad’s mood had shifted. He had survived at this game long enough to know when to fold. Always another day to fight.

He jumped into the van and slid behind the steering wheel. He put the van in drive and looked toward the woman, now illuminated by the headlights.

Date Night girl stumbled backward, teetered in her red heeled boots so wildly her right ankle bent sideways and would have snapped if she had not corrected quickly. Those perky breasts heaved up and down as she gripped the knife.

There was always a tomorrow.

Revenge was sweet.

He punched the gas and drove. Tires peeled against the asphalt. The automatic door banged closed. A rushed glance in the rearview mirror caught the girl one last time. She had pulled a gun and stared at the van as if trying to memorize his plates.

He rounded the corner as his brain fixated on staying free. He had altered his appearance enough, so if she got a cop to listen, they would have no idea what he looked like. Still, it might not be long before a BOLO went out on a windowless white van.

He did not drive far before he pulled into a preselected warehouse. He jumped out of the van, inhaled the scent of bleach, and hobbled to another vehicle. He would come back for the van soon. He glanced down at his leg and the blood soaking his pants. The wound was throbbing.

Belt and suspenders.

Sitting in his car, he gripped the wheel with gloved hands. He winced as he started the engine. The van’s seat was wet with blood, but it was hidden well enough.

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