Descended (The Red Blindfold Book 3)

DESCENDED
BOOK THREE

ROSE DEVEREUX

Copyright © 2016 by Rose Devereux

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design by Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations

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CHAPTER ONE

She was walking down
Main Street on a sweltering Thursday afternoon, heading straight
toward a gang of Bandidos.

She couldn’t see them
standing in a drunk, leather-clad group around the corner in front of
Chimayo’s roughest bar. The Dead End, aptly named. I’d been in
about a hundred fights and countless pool games there, back when I
was making my living fleecing every wasted idiot who thought he was a
hustler.

From the other side of
the median, some guy rolled down his window and blasted his horn at
her. “Lose something, darlin’?” he shouted, and drove on. If
she heard him, she didn’t show it. She just kept walking at a fast
clip past the check-cashing joints and pawn shops and panhandlers
like she knew exactly where she was headed.

I slowed down my truck
to look at her, but not because she had a lush tangle of long, light
brown hair and the perfect waist-to-hip ratio, which she did. I just
wanted to see the face of whatever high, crazy, or stupid chick would
walk through the worst part of the shittiest border town in Texas
wearing nothing but a white t-shirt and pink panties.

“Jesus, sweetheart,”
I muttered, craning my head. “What the hell are you doing here
dressed like that?”

Her high cheekbones
were brown from the sun, not like she worked outside for a living,
but like she spent her days lying by heated pools tended by staff.
Smooth, elegant, even. Almost impossible to achieve in this part of
the state. Her nose was delicate, her full lips parted so she could
suck in hot breaths of polluted air. Bare pink nipples pressed
against the inside of her shirt and there was nothing on her feet but
a little pair of flip-flops.

Wow. I’d seen a lot
of strange things in my life, but this was a first.

Welcome
to Chimayo, lady, land of dumped bodies and home invasions. Last stop
before the bottom of the barrel. Not a good place to be both sexy and
severely underdressed.

Even from thirty feet
away I could see her eyes, which stood out against her tan like blue
glacier ice. She was focused on something ahead of her – a
hallucination, maybe, or the mental image of an abusive boyfriend she
couldn’t forget.

But she didn’t look
the type to put up with anybody’s crap. I’d seen plenty of
addicts, prostitutes, and dumb college girls who went out for a night
of tequila shots and ended up hitching home the next day in a ripped
dress and one shoe, their honor left behind on some dude’s dirty
sheets.

Blue Eyes wasn’t like
that, I could tell. She carried herself like she owned the whole
Southwest, like the queen of an oil-rich country. Shoulders back,
chin high, hair tossing like a silk scarf in the ninety-degree
breeze.

I got to the end of the
block and swung my truck around for one more look.

Not that I planned to
stop. If I were as insane as she appeared to be, I’d pull up to the
curb and roll down my window. “Want a ride?” I’d ask. “Going
somewhere? Need help?” But those days were done.

I was finished rescuing
the desperate, the lonely, the whacked-out. Done saving my family
members, too. Of course, if I were
really
finished I wouldn’t be here, driving all over hell looking for
Elijah. Not that I wanted to save Elijah, particularly. I just wanted
to save whichever sorry soul happened to cross his path.

I’d learned my own
lesson with him fifty times over.

These days, I only
played savior to the occasional down-and-out dog, like the lame stray
I’d picked up at a desert gas station two days ago. She was waiting
for me with her teeth bared back at the hacienda a few miles from
town. Luxurious place, if it weren’t for the dog chewing the
baseboards off the walls and tearing up the flowers. I’d named her
Diesel because that’s what the air smelled like when I found her,
eating French fries out of a garbage can.

Ten more feet and Blue
Eyes would be in the bikers’ line of sight. I couldn’t let that
happen – well, actually, I could. Let the police deal with it.
Nothing wrong with dialing 911 like everybody else.

Except that a lunatic
woman wasn’t exactly top priority in a town with a thousand
unsolved murders, where everybody was either bought off or too
cynical to care anymore.

She rounded the corner,
walking with a sweet hip-sway that grabbed me in the gut. Maybe she
didn’t know how she stood out, very likely the most beautiful woman
in the state even with no makeup, her long, slender legs streaked
with dirt. By now, she had to see the bikers loitering by their
Harleys, faces cherry-red from booze and heat.

But she didn’t stop.
She was either blind or suicidal, or maybe she could sense me idling
across the street with my window down, watching over her like a
worried Daddy.

I knew what this was.
She’d been sent by God to knock me off my pedestal and back into
the chaos I’d barely climbed out of. This was how successful men
were brought low, wasn’t it? By a woman too pretty to look like
trouble?

One of the bikers
leaned over to spit chew and caught sight of her. “Look at this,
boys,” he bellowed. It was obvious from the way their broad heads
swiveled and the whistles broke out that they’d never seen her
before. Hadn’t laid eyes on a woman that fine their entire lives.

“Shit,” I muttered.
“Here we go.”

Grinning with gapped
teeth, another biker laughed like he couldn’t believe she was real.
All three-hundred squat, ugly pounds of him lurched in her direction.

“What’s this?” he
shouted in a beer-garbled voice. “Am I havin’ a vision?”

Another one approached
her, and then another, until they formed a menacing semi-circle of
ratty beards and leather. Six against one – or two, if I decided to
get involved. Which I wouldn’t. I had too much on the line, too
much going right in my life. Elijah was the only glitch and with
luck, that could be managed.

What couldn’t be
managed was a bunch of loaded hooligans and a half-naked beauty queen
without the sense to turn tail and get out of town.

She stuck her fists on
her curvy hips, planted her flip-flops, and stared the gap-toothed
biker in the eye. I winced. I’d picked a really bad time to get
hard for her, but confidence like that killed me. All I wanted was to
whisk her into the nearest shadowy doorway and rip her to shreds,
standing up, lying stark-naked on the concrete, however she’d have
me.

It was nothing but a
hot fantasy, and I allowed myself only five seconds of it before
forcing my attention back to the disaster at hand.

I pulled my ear forward
and strained to listen. I couldn’t hear what Blue Eyes was saying,
but I knew it was a question. She was actually
talking
to these guys. Not running away, not bursting into tears, but
engaging in a little chitchat. How sweet. And how truly unfortunate
for me.

“Fuck.” I parked
illegally, turned off my truck, and got out.

It had been a long time
– four years, at least – since I’d had to turn a really shitty
circumstance to my advantage. I did it in business every day, but
this was the old-fashioned kind of danger, the “going to jail or
the morgue” kind.

Something told me my
older brother had never been in a situation like this. He was too
good for it. English boarding schools, Stanford, an obscene fortune
from one little investment – guys like that shouldn’t exist. I’d
never met him but I didn’t need to. The man was a legend, at least
to my father, who never let me forget how different I was.

My success had come
from cutting corners and taking what I wanted. I’d never live up to
the son he’d abandoned thirty ago, and now worshipped from afar.

Though it was only the
fourth of May, the sun blazed down on my head and the pavement felt
soft under my boots. As I crossed the street, I wished to Christ I’d
taken off my watch and lizard-skin belt. I’d rather be going into
this bare-chested than wearing a custom-made Italian shirt with
platinum eight-ball cufflinks, but what the hell. You went to war
with the army you had.

I knew what I looked
like – pure CEO, one-percenter through and through. Clean-shaven,
four-hundred dollar haircut, body created in a private gym in
Houston. My truck was new and shiny, and in my pocket was a thick
roll of cash just begging to fly away on a hot gust of wind. Still, I
had at least an inch on the tallest guy and a history of squeaking
through in situations like this.

Not that I’d been in
a situation exactly like this, but close enough to know I had a
chance. A painfully slim one.

I stepped onto the
curb. I could feel the cool, dank air of the bar, and for a second I
thought about walking inside and ordering a drink. I remembered
everything about the place – the ruined pool tables, the illegal
games after closing, how it felt to crack some ex-con’s head over
the men’s room sink. The bad old days. With one slightly flat draft
beer, I could drown my impulse to rescue Blue Eyes and forget I ever
saw her. Without a doubt, it’d be the smartest thing I’d done all
day.

But then she turned to
look at me, and smart was no longer an option. Her gaze was dilated
and laser-sharp, and my face was the target. She squinted, as if I
looked familiar but my name escaped her. I felt a hard magnetic pull
in my chest, a warning sign. This was a woman to steer clear of,
five-feet-six inches of really bad news.

But she was no
fifty-footer, that was for sure. She was even prettier close-up. And
it wasn’t just her features that sucked me in. It was the
vulnerability in her eyes. Under all that sexy swagger was a scared
girl with an amazing ability to dive head-first into a life or death
fiasco, and she needed me to get her out of it.

“Who are you?” she
asked, arms folded under her breasts.

We’d have to skip the
friendly introductions. “She bothering you, fellas?” I asked.

I got a round of
confused stares. “Hell no, she’s not,” one guy slurred. “Quite
the goddamn opposite.”

“What if I am
bothering them?” she demanded, glaring at me. “What do you care?”

Maybe it was my
imagination or the waves of heat rising off the sidewalk, but I
thought I saw something carnal flash in her eyes. Her pupils flared
and turned dark blue, an involuntary response that made my blood
surge.

She wasn’t on drugs
or anything else. I could tell in a second she was dead sober, and
might actually like what she saw. This girl had all of her wits about
her – if you didn’t count the missing bra and pants.

“Help you, son?”
the closest biker asked in a deceptively friendly voice. His teeth
looked like he’d filed them into points. A leather shoulder holster
peeked out from under his jacket.

“As a matter of fact,
you can,” I said.

“Oh, yeah? How?”
another one asked. He had bright, carrot-orange hair that must have
made seventh grade a living hell. I almost felt sorry for him.

“What’s she been
saying to you boys?”

“That your business?”
the guy with the gun asked.

“You bet it is. This
girl’s mine.” I didn’t dare look at her. She was probably
shooting swords at me with those electric blues.

The holster guy rocked
back on his heels. “She’s yours and you let her go out like
that?”

Lucky for me, the
orange-haired one was a chatterbox. “She asked if we seen her on
television in the last three days,” he piped up. “Not just
television, the news.”

“Is that so,” I
said. “And did you?”

“Nope, but she sure
looks like a celebrity. No doubt.”

I had to agree.
Celebrity, goddess, and scrappy little tough girl all rolled into
one.

“You from around
here, friend?” the gap-toothed biker asked.
Friend.
Yeah, right.

“Maybe.” I
immediately wanted to kick myself for telling anything close to the
truth. Clearly my criminal instincts weren’t what they used to be.

His bushy eyebrows
pulled together. “I thought you looked familiar. We met before?”

Most of the faces from
my past had dissolved into one ugly, pockmarked blur, so this
particular moron didn’t really stand out. But if he recognized me,
that would be a crying shame. It was exactly why I avoided this town,
and why I wanted to pummel Elijah for dragging me back here.

“Back to the part
about how you can help me,” I said. “I need to ask a favor.”

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