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Authors: Kimberley White

All the Way (2 page)

BOOK: All the Way
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Chapter 2
“Jake, are you almost done?”
“There's something going on inside the hotel.” A pause on the phone line, then animated voices colored the background. “People are pouring out of the elevators and stairwells. There are tons of police cars out front. I'm going to check it out.”
“I'm on the way.” Securing the cell phone to his ear with the use of his shoulder, Adriano reached for the door handle.
“No. I'll check it out. I don't want to scare off the informant. Wait fifteen minutes, and if I'm not out, I'll meet you at the hotel.”
“Are you sure?”
“It's okay.” Jake ended the call.
Adriano put away his cell phone. He ducked his head, inspecting the rear parking lot of the hotel. Nothing suspicious—only a guest here and there, coming and going. Pretty quiet considering the action Jake described. Whatever had the guests upset inside hadn't spilled out into the parking lot. Not yet. He decided to drive around front to check things out, but quickly reconsidered. If Jake ran into trouble, he'd come to the back parking lot, where he knew Adriano was waiting.
Intuition made the hairs on Adriano's neck wave. He noted the time. Maybe he should go inside to check things out. He never liked to meet with unknown informants—too dangerous—but this had been Jake's call. Certainly, the informant had selected the meeting place knowing it would be rumbling with activity. The Adam's Mark Hotel was one of the most prestigious inns located in Uptown Charlotte.
Adriano watched the door, searching for his partner. Despite their radically different personalities, Jake was the best partner he'd ever worked with at the
Chicago City
newspaper. Adriano got off on the action. Jake liked to meticulously analyze information. Together they investigated stories no other reporters even considered pitching because of the danger involved. With Jake's detecting skills and Adriano's fearless prowess, they were unstoppable.
Their latest story involved a big-shot gangster suspected of having ties with Mexican drug smugglers. The gangster resided in Charlotte, but had homes in all the best drug-trafficking cities: Miami, New York, Detroit, Chicago—no port was left unexploited by this thug. Only recently, Adriano and Jake had learned the gangster owned two homes in Charlotte, North Carolina. The story included all the usual elements attached to making illegal money: sex, drugs, and murder. Needing always to be stimulated by the new and exciting, Adriano placed his own spin on the investigation by keeping surveillance on the prime players and testing his newly acquired photography skills.
Grazicky had shielded himself with so many layers of people—drones—the authorities had never been able to obtain the evidence needed to connect him with any of his crimes. But Adriano and Jake were working with resources not available to the financially strapped prosecutor's office: time, money, and the offer of fame. Adriano and Jake were exclusively assigned to the Grazicky story. The
Chicago City
paper was willing to fund the venture as long as results were promised. The story offered the low-level drones their fifteen minutes of fame. Who in this business didn't want to be the next Deep Throat?
“C'mon, Jake,” Adriano grumbled, more concerned than angry.
The back door of the
Chicago City
Land Cruiser was yanked open and then closed with a slam that rocked the huge SUV.
“About time.” Adriano turned in his seat. “What—”
“Turn around!” a feminine voice commanded. The woman scrambled a bit then stuck a blunt object against the back of his head. She wrapped her other delicate arm around his neck with a grip he didn't expect.
“Hold on.” He lifted his hands in surrender while trying to catch a glimpse of the woman in the rearview mirror.
“Put your hands on the wheel!” she shouted. “Are you an employee of the
Chicago City
Adriano stole his first glance of the woman. Her eyebrows were arched, her brown eyes wide and afraid. “I'm an investigative reporter for the paper—my credentials are in my bag.” He leaned forward to retrieve the camera case, but the sudden movement frightened the woman and she tightened her grip on his neck, making swallowing a challenge.
“Put your hands back on the wheel!”
Slow and easy, using every second to sum up the situation, he complied. “Okay. Check for yourself.”
She didn't make a move toward the bag.
“What do you want?”
The woman's head swung around, checking their surroundings. “Why are you lurking in the parking lot?”
“I'm not ‘lurking.' I'm waiting for my partner.”
“Keep your hands on the wheel!”
Another glimpse of the woman provided more pieces to the puzzle of her physical makeup—clear complexion, creamy brown skin, confused expression.
“Listen, sweetheart—”
“Shut up.” Her hand trembled as she watched several people exit the rear of the hotel. “Drive.”
“Drive? Where to?”
“Drive.” She poked the blunt object against the back of his head.
A flashlight?
It would have been comical if the woman wasn't so afraid.
“Okay.” He lowered his hands, placing one on the steering wheel and the other on the key dangling from the ignition. His next glimpse revealed golden brown shoulders scored by the spaghetti straps of a silky, cream-colored gown.
She'd left the hotel in a hurry, half-dressed.
He complied with the woman's demands. Not out of fear; the woman would be no match for his large frame. He considered twisting around and wrestling her to the seat. He wasn't stupid. Whatever made her voice shake had her scared. Scared enough to hijack the news truck.
His craving for adventure grappled with his common sense as he pulled out into traffic. For now he'd see where this escapade would lead him. His keen investigative skills told him this might result in the next front-page story for the
Chicago City.
If the story was hot enough, it might be picked up by Court TV, MSNBC, and CNN. He could already imagine himself on the television screen explaining how he'd been dragged into the middle of the adventure by the frightened carjacker.
He snaked the SUV through a labyrinth of city streets. The one-way streets gave way when they left Uptown, becoming divided highways landscaped with lush green bushes and colorful flowers illuminated by discrete city lighting. As he navigated the light traffic flow, he tried to steal another peek at the woman taking him captive. The darkness shielded her features, but the passing streetlights gave him triangular flashes of her makeup. Beautiful brown eyes. Small. Fragile. Very afraid.
Two police cars with roaring sirens whizzed past them, heading in the direction of the hotel. The flashing lights of an ambulance followed closely behind.
“What's going on at the hotel?” Adriano questioned, remembering he'd left Jake behind to check it out. “Did you have anything to do with what's going on?”
“Drive, and be quiet. Keep your eyes on the road.”
He considered stopping the Land Cruiser and ending the woman's siege, but she had him at a disadvantage. Being behind him in the SUV put her just out of his reach. From the way her voice rattled and her hand shook, he didn't believe she would try to hurt him. She was frightened out of her mind. He didn't attribute her behavior to drugs—he'd seen enough strung-out victims of addiction while investigating his current story to know a druggie when he saw one.
Another police car and a fire truck sped by. Adriano thought of Jake again. If anyone could take care of himself, it was Jake. He hadn't sent a distress call. Knowing his partner, he was probably taking advantage of being the first reporter on the scene and copping two stories at once: the informant's tale, and whatever had the hotel buzzing with police and rescuers. Working on his own exclusive, Adriano would play this out with the anxious woman in the back seat.
He waited until they were outside the nucleus of tangled Uptown streets before he spoke again. “Where am I driving to?”
The woman tried, unsuccessfully, to steady her hand.
“You carjacked me for some purpose, I assume.”
Her teeth chattered in response.
“Maybe I can help you.”
The right side of her face moved into the light, and Adriano was able to make out more of her features: full lips, straight nose.
He tried another approach. “Do you want money? You could've asked for that without kidnapping me.”
She didn't answer.
“You do know this is a marked news truck.” The
Chicago City
newspaper logo was tattooed on both rear doors and the hatch. “Once my partner reports me missing, it won't take but a second for the police to track us down.”
“Drive me to the airport.”
“The airport?” Adriano's humor with the request tumbled past his lips in a deep laugh.
“What's funny ?”
“Lady, if you plan to make a quick getaway by jumping on a plane, it won't happen tonight. The tropical storm in Florida is causing bad weather as far as Atlanta. And it's heading up the coast this way. All flights out of Charlotte have been delayed. It's supposed to be a hell of a storm.”
She made a noise that resembled a desperate sob.
“Looks like you should've called ahead and checked.”
The woman's grip on his neck slipped when he took a corner. All he needed to do was keep her talking, make a sharp turn, and then end this madness.
He kept talking, hoping to distract her. “Besides, the traffic in Charlotte is worse than in Chicago. How'd you think you'd outrun the police?”
No response.
He glanced in the rearview. “So you're running from the police. What did you do?” No response. “When women find out I've been kidnapped, they'll send the armed forces out to get me back.”
“This isn't funny!” she shouted in his ear.
“Listen, lady—” Fed up with the flashlight bumping against his skull, Adriano turned the steering wheel hard to the right, bringing the SUV onto the side of the road. The woman flew in the opposite direction, landing with a thud against the door. He slammed on the brakes, cut the engine, and jumped into the back of the truck. Before the woman could right herself, he was wrestling her down in the backseat.
“Get off of me!” The woman fought him with all of her strength, but once he pinned her small frame to the seat, she couldn't do anything more. He wrestled away her “gun,” the flashlight rolling underneath the front passenger's seat.
“Stop it, lady. This is over.”
“Let me go!”
“You tried to carjack me with a

“Get your hands off me!”
“Calm down.” The frantic woman put up a good fight, but she couldn't win. Not against his brawn and lightning-quick moves. She was fiery; he'd give her that much. Not a woman who would cower in the corner and cry at the first sign of trouble. She'd have his back when he needed it. Rare to find this type of woman in his circle—most of the women he encountered wanted a hookup, doors opened into the industry.
“Calm down,” he repeated. “I'm not going to hurt you.”
He pinned his body against hers and waited until she exhausted herself. He worried his large frame would crush her if she didn't stop struggling. She wore a cream-colored nightgown, and he could feel every one of her dips and curves crash against his body. She twisted her hips, and his thigh slipped between her legs against the cushion of her soft thighs. Things below his waist awoke with a lazy yawn, but keen interest soon followed.
“Get off !” she shouted before collapsing.
“Have you had enough?”
She didn't answer. She breathed heavily, her breasts thrusting above the laced bodice of her gown.
Adriano lowered his face inches from hers in the semidarkness to see her features clearly. Her beauty was shockingly unexpected. Arched eyebrows over large brown eyes, flawless golden skin, and a sharp jaw line with prominent cheekbones. Her skin was silky soft, and, underneath him, her petite body cushioned his muscular frame. He fit into her grooves perfectly. She was flower petals, wicked cars, and perfumed sheets made sweaty by the twisting of lovers' bodies. Add her fiery spirit, and she was his next wet dream. Every one of his senses keyed in on her, his body's response so fierce it took him a long moment to speak.
“Well,” he inhaled deeply, “it looks like I've been captured by an angel.”
The woman's breathing slowed, her body lost its rigidity, and she stopped trying to wiggle away from him. He released one of her wrists, testing her reaction.
The woman whimpered. Fear distorted the beautiful features of her face.
She needed protecting.
“I'm going to let you up. No funny stuff.” He cautiously lifted his body from hers.
She sat up and adjusted the crisscross straps of her gown.
Brushing his tongue over his top lip, Adriano appraised her. “You certainly don't look like any thug I've ever met. Why don't you explain to me what's going on?”
The woman's body remained still, but her eyes darted around, searching for a way out.
He pulled the door closed behind him. “Or I could turn you in to the police.”
“Finally, a reaction. Why don't you tell me why you jumped in my car and took me hostage?”
“Someone's after me.”
“The police?”
Adriano studied the arching of her eyebrows as she rattled on. Completely unnerved, this woman was still gorgeous.
BOOK: All the Way
7.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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