Authors: Kori David
By: Kori David
This is an original publication of CoKeA, LLC.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. CoKeA, LLC or the author, does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2014 by Kori David
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Contact [email protected] for permission.
Printed in the United States of America.
For my Mom, who told me that I could do anything, and be anything, as long as I put in the hard work. This book is for you.
And for my Dad, who left us too soon. He taught me how to work on cars, how to cuss, and how to be a proud parent to my own kids. I miss you every day!
“You in position, Outlaw?”
Jesse James Calhoun, code name Outlaw, leaned against a crumbling pueblo wall at the mouth of the alley deciding how best to approach the large warehouse on the other end. The steel corrugated roof stood out against a sea of Spanish tile. No one was around. All the shops on the street behind him were closed for the next couple of hours for afternoon siesta. Foot traffic was light and dwindling. It was now or never.
“At the edge of the alley now. You have eyes on the precious cargo?”
“Yeah. Unfriendly’s got restless in the heat and opened a window,” said the voice through the earpiece.
“South side. Back door next to the dumpster.”
Jesse pushed away from the wall and shuffled slowly into the alley. Anyone looking would think he was headed to some shade to sleep it off. It was sweltering under the dirty poncho, but it covered him from shoulder to mid-thigh. The cowboy hat he’d stolen was sweat- stained and smelled like cheap beer, but hid his blond hair and shaded his face.
Being a white man in Nogales, Mexico, wasn’t unusual. It was a border town and access point into Arizona. But a
this far into the shabby part of the city would be noticed.
He made it to the door and hunkered down next to the dumpster.
“Damn, man, I can smell you all the way up here.”
Adjusting his earpiece with his middle finger he whispered, “Fuck you, Shadow.”
A low chuckle rumbled through his earpiece and then abruptly cut off. “Movement. Two late arrivals.”
“Northeast corner. Hands and feet tied, bag over the head. Five un-friendlies one hundred feet away and agitated.”
Moving closer, Jesse pulled a small grenade from under the poncho. “Going in. Wound only.”
“Copy. Go now.”
Jesse checked the door, found it unlocked and sent a quick thank-you up to whichever deity was watching his ass. He stayed low, wrenched the door open and threw a concussion grenade toward the men as he dived toward his target.
Rapid, angry Spanish erupted about the time the grenade went off, throwing everyone to the ground. Ears ringing, Jesse ran toward the slender woman in a yellow sundress who slumped forward in the chair with burlap covering her head. A ragged brown leather satchel sat on the ground next to her feet. Too nice to belong to one of the thugs so it was most likely hers.
“Move your ass, Outlaw.”
He didn’t waste time answering, just grabbed the satchel and scooped the woman up and over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. She struggled and squirmed but didn’t make any noise as he ran back the way he came.
Shots erupted followed by a couple of high-pitched screams. Shadow was the best sniper that Jesse had ever worked with so he knew his back was covered as he ran.
“I’m clear. Give me one minute and move out,” Jesse said as he sprinted toward the next block. The woman stopped squirming as soon as she heard his voice. Or maybe it was just the English that made her suddenly compliant.
He took a left at the next alley and ran one more block before he finally got winded. The truck was where he left it, thank God. It was built sometime in the seventies and had more rust on it than paint, but it ran like a champ and blended in. Dumping his passenger inside, he threw the satchel onto the floorboard and ran to the driver’s side.
“Stay down. I’ll untie you as soon as I can.”
Muffled noises reached his ears and the bag over her head moved as she nodded. That was all he needed as he fired up the engine and took off.
After a series of turns, he reached the edge of town and headed north toward the border. Eyes on the mirrors, he drove steadily. No one followed. At least not yet.
He pulled his earpiece out, knowing he was out of range, and reached for the burner cell taped under the dash. Dialing the number, the call was picked up immediately.
“They never knew who or what hit them.”
Jesse nodded. That was good news. “Any casualties?”
“And have you pissed at me for creating an international incident?”
He laughed. The last thing Shadow cared about was diplomacy. No matter what country they happened to be in, he had his own brand of justice. But he followed orders and was a damned good friend. “Meet you at the extraction point.”
“Copy that. See you in four hours.”
The dirt road was pitted and bouncy, throwing them both around in the front seat, but his companion never made a noise. Ten minutes later, he pulled into the mouth of the ravine he’d scouted out the night before. It was wide enough to hide the truck and close enough to hoof it across the border in the dark. There were too many patrols, on both sides, to make it safe to cross while it was light out.
He parked the truck and turned to the woman lying on her side on the bench seat. He helped her to a sitting position and then ripped off the burlap hood draped over her head.
Jesse grinned into her shocked face.
“Jesus, Lily. Who’d you piss off this time?”
Liliana Richardson glared into the face of her rescuer. A man she hadn’t seen since she was seventeen years old and practically left at the altar. Okay, that was dramatic, but senior prom was almost as important in a girl’s life.
Especially in Texas.
The duct tape over her mouth was the only thing preventing her from having an emotional outburst of epic proportions.
“Promise you won’t bite me if I take that tape off?”
A snort was the only noise she could manage. Jesse’s killer smile appeared as he reached up and ripped the tape off so fast that she gasped. “Holy mother-frick, did you leave any skin?”
He had the nerve to glance at the tape. “Well, let’s just say you won’t have to have your upper lip waxed for a while. And my, my, my, such language.”
“I don’t have my lip waxed, thank-you-very-much. I didn’t cuss and can you please untie me? I lost feeling in my arms several hours ago.”
The blood rushed back into her hands causing that painful pins-and-needles sensation as she rubbed her battered wrists. Her ankles were in much the same condition and being thrown over Jesse’s broad shoulders hadn’t been kind on her ribs.
But none of that mattered as she threw herself at Jesse and tried to squeeze the stuffing right out of him. Whatever feelings she might or might not have for him, he’d saved her life today.
“Thank God you found me. How did you find me? And please tell me that you shot at least three of them. In very painful places.” She pulled back a fraction, nose wrinkled. “And what is that stench?”
The laugh rumbled up and vibrated from his body into her as he hugged her back as strong as she’d gripped him. “Good to see that not even being held hostage could depress you.”
Lily pulled back and grinned. “Hey, I’m absolutely thrilled to not be dead. Or raped. Or raped and dead.”
“I am too,” he said as he took off the smelly poncho and hat.
Lily took that moment to look around. More to bring some balance and distance from Jesse, who was even better looking than the last time she’d seen him, especially with his white T-shirt sweat-plastered to every muscle he had. They were in some kind of small canyon and even in the shade the heat was sweltering.
“Is there a platoon of Marines coming to get us?”
He shook his head. “You got kidnapped on Mexican soil, sugar. That means you get two retired Marines that like some occasional adventure and hazard pay.”
“When did you get out?” She really looked at him. His normally wavy blond hair was a little longer than regulation and the stubble on his face showed he hadn’t shaved in several days.
“I’ve been out a couple of years now. Decided working for myself was better than being shipped all over Hell’s half acre for Uncle Sam.”
Lily nodded. She’d been pretty nomadic herself for the last couple of years, and she missed the stability of having a home. “How did you find me?”
His grin faded and the sparkle in his eyes dimmed. “You’re not going to like it.”
“There’s quite a lot that I haven’t exactly enjoyed in the last twenty-four hours, so I can’t imagine anything you have to say would be worse.”
“Someone I know was hired to kidnap you, retrieve information you have, and terminate you after.”
Lily swallowed hard. “Okay, that was worse than I imagined.”
She could see on Jesse’s face that she was in deep doo-doo with someone, but who that person was, she had no idea. She was exhausted, still running on adrenaline and felt like she had a year’s worth of grime caked on her body, so her brain wasn’t running as efficiently as it normally would.
“What kind of friend would take a job like that?”
Jesse shrugged. “Not all the guys I served with adjusted to civilian life. They take jobs of all kinds, all over the world, but word gets around when a weird one hits the wires. Most of the guys do bodyguard work. When your name came up I decided you needed a little help.”
“Thank God you did.”
She was about to ask more when Jesse jerked his head around and squinted through the back window. “Hang on, Lil, this is about to get interesting.”
Dust rose in the distance, headed in their direction. The cloud of brown was large and moving fast. “It’s already been interesting in the most horrible way, so bring it on.”
“That’s my girl,” he said absently, still turned and watching the road.
Lily shivered at the endearment, but chose to think it slipped out due to the danger, not because he used to call her that when they were younger.
“Brace yourself, this is going to be a wild and bumpy ride.” He started up the truck and put it in reverse, but they didn’t move.
Lily looked for a seat belt of any kind but there wasn’t one, so she braced her hands on the dash and stretched her legs out. “You always did know how to show a lady a good time.”
He grinned. “Yeah, but last time it was you who stole the car.”
“Borrowed.” She huffed. “And you were the one that showed me how to hot-wire the thing.”
“I showed you how to hot-wire my car, not Andy Newton’s brand new Camaro.”
She snorted. Her mother would cringe in dismay at the noise, but Jesse just laughed in that way he had that made Lily feel like nothing she could ever do would shock or embarrass him. It was why they’d become friends in school.
“Andy Newton was a turd.”
“He was Prom King, the star quarterback, and every other cliché that I can think of and he loved that stupid car.”
“He was a pompous, rich, spoiled brat and deserved it.”
“And you weren’t?”
Okay, that hurt. But Jesse was right. She’d been rich and spoiled and used to getting her own way. Looking down at herself now, covered in days of filth, kidnapped and taken to a border town to be tortured and murdered, she didn’t see that spoiled little rich girl any longer.