“Tell Casey to go to this location and wait.” She read off an address about five minutes from the Blue Flamingo. “I’ll call him if I need him.”
“Don’t turn off the GPS tracker on your car. That’s not the best part of town.”
“I know. I won’t.” Kit wanted privacy for this, but she wasn’t stupid, not with a stalker who’d been frighteningly persistent in his efforts to get to her. “But make sure Casey doesn’t follow me, Butch. I need privacy for this, and if you breach that, even to protect me, I can’t trust you anymore.”
“Any hint of trouble and you hit the panic button,” Butch ordered. “Understood?”
“Understood.” Kit was officially their boss, but the two men had become friends to her, they’d been watching over her for so long. Icy and dangerous as they were in public, they treated her like a younger sister in private. It was part of the reason she liked the two ex-Marines so much. The men who worked under them were younger but just as dedicated and professional.
Ending the call, she followed her GPS’s prompts as to the shortest route to the motel. Butch’s call had kept her mind busy for a couple of minutes, but now the fear came rushing back. Using the Bluetooth system, she called Noah again.
Should she alert the paramedics or the cops? What if she was wrong? What if Noah was just passed out, drunk? It would end up all over the media. Noah would never forgive her.
That risk Kit would’ve taken, but the idea of exposing Noah to strangers while he was vulnerable… No, she couldn’t do that. “You’d better not have done anything stupid, Noah.”
Trying not to panic, she drove past run-down businesses and anemic palm trees, the street corners host to small groups of working girls and boys, their pimps hovering in the background. Noah wasn’t just off Hollywood Boulevard—he’d managed to find a hidden pit of darkness in amongst the sleek and shine. It was a damn good thing her car didn’t draw attention.
She’d jumped into the trusty brown sedan that was the first car she’d ever bought on her own. It was old enough and dusty enough—she’d been meaning to take it to the carwash—that she was probably being visually tagged as another middle-aged husband searching for a cheap thrill.
A possible customer for the pros, but not worth carjacking.
Thanking the car that had gotten her to more casting calls than she could count, she ignored the sideshow and carried on. The Blue Flamingo Inn appeared out of the darkness in a screaming blue blaze. Turning into the lot, she found that the neon sign was the brightest lighting in the place.
A bulb flickered on an upstairs landing of the U-shaped building, and there was a yellow-tinged bulb inside what looked like the manager’s office, but that was it. The entire place was dark and grimy and a great location to get mugged—except the thieves had probably given up on this place, it was so sad and dilapidated. Parking the car in the nearest spot, she went to get out and realized she had no idea of Noah’s room.
Remembering what he’d said about the flamingo flashing through his uncurtained windows, she looked around and zeroed in on three upstairs rooms from where the sign had to be brightly visible. She’d try those three first before waking up the manager and blowing Noah’s cover.
Grabbing the pepper spray she kept in the cup holder, she got out after making sure there was no one else around and locked her car. Then she ran quickly to the stairs that led up to those three rooms. All three were dark, but two of them had some limp-looking curtains. Cupping her hands over the sides of her eyes as she pressed her face to the window of the third, she felt her breath leave her in a painful rush.
Noah sat on the edge of the bed, bare-chested and with his eyes on his hands. His shoulders were slumped, but he was very much alive.
Pulling away from the window, she bent over, braced her hands on her knees, and tried to breathe. The air hurt going in, coming out. At least two minutes later, she gripped the skinny metal railing, pulled herself up and, breath still a little ragged, went to knock. Then something made her try the door. It turned easily in her hand.
“Wrong room,” Noah said without looking up. “Unless you’re looking for a quick fuck. Then I can oblige you.”
It was a kick to the gut. As was the sight of the condom wrappers on the floor and that of the obviously used bed. She almost stepped back, almost left. He’d never know, never realize how desperately worried she’d been tonight… and then her eyes fell on the nightstand and the syringe that lay on it.