Grabbing the phone from the door pocket, I dial Jared, and curse when I get his voice mail. “I’m alive,” I say after the beep. “So break out the confetti, but not until you call me back. And my sister better be alive and well, too, or soon you won’t be.” I end the call and dial again, thinking a woman is my weakness: my sister. Jared’s voice mail picks up again and I’m about to redial when Gia comes walking out of the parking lot on the opposite side of the road.
I set the phone to vibrate, stuff it in my pocket, and watch as she scans the area, passing right over me as she does the rest of the parked vehicles. Seeming to make a decision, she crosses the road between us and begins walking down the one to my right, toward the mall. I crisscross the two remaining duffel bags over my shoulders and exit the truck, intending to follow her, then ducking when she appears to consider going into the hotel itself. I curse at the idea of it, certain she’s either foolish, or planning to wait on Sheridan’s people there. She hesitates, though, and then starts walking again, headed toward the dark, deserted strip mall parking lot. On any other occasion, I’d say a woman alone headed toward a dark, empty parking lot was foolish. But when hiding from Sheridan it’s smart.
The minute she fades into the black hole of the night—her target obviously the shelter of the mall, though I’m fairly certain she’s ultimately going to the front of the building and the highway—I start my own wheels into motion. Trekking through the hotel parking lot I find another unlocked truck, toss the bags inside, and hot-wire it, certain whoever it belongs to won’t miss it until morning, by which time I’ll be long gone.
By the time I’m driving along the access road by the mall, I see Gia’s outline moving toward a twenty-four-hour breakfast joint. I hang back, making sure she enters before I turn into the parking lot and grab a spot at the curb just beyond the restaurant’s private lot. I climb out of the truck, shoving the bags into the back seat of the four-door vehicle, wishing like hell I could lock the door.
Tracking forward, I jump the curb and take long strides toward the side door of the restaurant. Inside, I find the hostess is not at the stand, and I scan the dining area to find Gia nowhere in sight. I cut to my left and follow the signs toward the bathroom, specifically the ladies’ room, and I don’t stop, shoving my way inside. I find her standing at the sink of the two-stall room, the bag open, her stockings missing as she doctors the many cuts on her knees.
I stalk toward her, crowding her against the sink, hands shackling her waist.
Her hands press to my chest. “Let me go.”
“Did you call Sheridan?” I demand, gripping her knee where it rests against my leg.
“What? Why would I call Sheridan?”
“Did you call Sheridan?”
“No. I don’t have a phone, nor do I plan to call and invite him to torture me like he did you. Did you call Sheridan?”
“Why the fuck would I call Sheridan?”
“Isn’t that why you left me at that bus station? So he’d find me? Why’d you bother to give me real money?”
“I left you there to see what you would do, and you damn sure didn’t go to New Mexico like I told you to. What was your plan?”
“I’m not getting on a bus, where Sheridan is sure to find me. Thanks for that death sentence of a suggestion, but no thanks.”
“I repeat: What was your plan?”
“Walking to a twenty-four-hour Walmart to buy supplies.”
“Walking? Do you know how far that is?”
“Yes, but a cab is like a bus, a direct link to radios and records I don’t want any part of tonight. Or, I guess, for pretty much the rest of my life.”
“After Walmart, then what?”
“Then I walk to a used car lot to sleep in a car and buy one with cash in the morning, with a big tip for the paperwork getting lost.”
Her answers are perfect. I wonder if they aren’t even a little too perfect. I study her, looking for a blink, a flinch, anything I missed in Meg that I might find in her now. She’s cleaned up the melting mascara from under her eyes and tamed her hair, clearly trying not to draw attention to herself, but she still has a tissue in one obviously injured hand.
My jaw flexes, my lips setting in a thin line. I believe she’s running, and I can’t know her motivation. But I know what’s important at this point: Whatever their relationship may be, she was close to Sheridan Scott. She can help me take him down. I snatch her bag, interlace her arm with mine, and start for the door. She grabs the wall. “No. Stop. I’m not leaving with you without an explanation. Where are we going?”
“Wherever I say we’re going.” The door opens and a woman enters. “Get out,” I bark at her. Looking startled, she backs out of the room, and I turn to Gia. “Don’t make me carry you out of here, because I will.”
“That’ll get attention we don’t need.”
“I’ll do whatever I have to do. You don’t seem to get that. If Sheridan is the devil, then I’m his redheaded stepbrother who has been locked away in hell for six years. I’m very cranky and very pissed off.”
“You’re not worse than Sheridan, so if you think that scares me, it doesn’t.”
I turn her back against the wall, flattening her against the hard surface. “You should be scared. Because if I find out you had anything to do with what happened six years ago, I’ll kill you.”