Fuck him—if he kills me he can’t get the cylinder, and I don’t back down. I shoot at his tires and miss. He revs his engine and comes at me. About that time, Gia is hauled out of the truck and I tackle the man holding her. We go down on the ground, and I curse as I land on the bottom, my head hitting the pavement, along with my gun, which bounces away. A fist comes down on my face, followed by another.
“Chad!” Gia shouts, and I’m terrified that the other man will get to her before I can.
“The gun!” I shout, grabbing the jacket of my attacker at the same moment I ram my knee into his groin.
The sound of a gunshot splits the air, and the man on top of me rolls off. As tempting as it is to go after him, I roll in the opposite direction, coming to my feet to find Gia holding the gun. I take it from her as both of the men mount their bikes and speed off.
“Inside,” I order urgently, ushering her toward the Escalade.
She hesitates at the edge of the glass-covered seat and I grab her, all but tossing her across the seats. She yelps, no doubt from the glass that also digs into my jeans-clad leg, but I’ll take ‘alive and with me’ over ‘dead or with someone else’ any day.
I throw us into Reverse, finding the black sedan nowhere in sight, hearing the sound of sirens in the not-so-far distance.
“Why the fuck were they after you, Gia? Sheridan doesn’t want revenge on you badly enough to ignore me.”
“I don’t know. And who says they were ignoring you?”
“They were after you, Gia,” I say, putting us in Drive and accelerating. “And now our damn license plates are going to be hot all over again.”
“They weren’t after me,” she insists. “That makes no sense.”
“No. It doesn’t. Does it? Trust no one? Nailed that one.” I glance down to find her hand bleeding. “Fuck.”
She curls her fingers into her palm. “I reopened my cut. I’m fine, but your eye is swelling again.”
I rip my shirt over my head and toss it to her. “Wrap it. And you’re not fine. Nothing is fine.” She’s right. My eye is swelling again. Fuck me, and fuck all this shit. I round a corner and pull onto a main downtown street, then take two more turns. Finally I pull into the driveway of what was once a brewery and is now a six-thousand-foot apartment building with a tech center. I key in a code and the garage doors open. We enter the two-deep, four-car garage and a white pickup truck follows us inside.
“Who is that?” Gia asks urgently. “Is that your friend? Please tell me it’s your friend.”
“We’re about to find out,” I say, lowering the garage door and exiting the Escalade with my gun drawn. Rounding the hood, I target the driver’s door, watching as it pops open. But even before I see the man’s face, his light brown hair tied at the nape and the orange UT Longhorns T-shirt is a dead giveaway.
“Nicest greeting you’ve ever given me.” Jared laughs, shutting his door and settling his hands on his jeans-clad hips. “Should I remind you that I got an invitation, and I wasn’t the guy that uglied up that pretty face of yours or stole your damn shirt?”
“We were attacked a mile back,” I say, and I can’t seem to contain the accusation in my voice as I add, “You were the only one who knew we were here, and where we were going.”
“There’s no way anyone found you through me. No one saw me. No one saw you at the apartment. I’m sure of it. And who the hell is ‘we,’ and do you trust that person?”
Something is off. Really off, and I don’t know what, but it can’t be Jared. I’ve known him for eight years, and he’s never failed me. That only leaves Gia. “I haven’t decided,” I say, holstering my weapon and moving to open Gia’s door. She twists around to face me, her legs dangling from the glass-covered seat. I stand in front of her, an unmoving wall, and tell her, “We need to talk.”
“Right. I was almost kidnapped or killed or whatever that was, and now I’m sensing I’m the enemy again. Why don’t you just tie me up and torture me, the way Sheridan did you?”
“Don’t tempt me.”
My hands come down on her waist and I lift her over the glass, setting her on the ground. Her bloodied hand comes down on my chest. “Where’s the shirt?”
“I dropped it.”
I reach around her, retrieving it and wrapping it around her hand in a knot. “That talk,” I say when I’m done, “is going to be free of bullshit.”
“Yeah, like you’re capable of that.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
She throws a look toward Jared and then back to me. “Alone,” she says. “We have that no-bullshit talk alone.”
My lips thin. “Alone it is, sweetheart, but get ready to tell all, because we both know you haven’t.” I grip her elbow and lead her toward the door. Jared is leaning against the wall, one booted ankle crossed over the other, his gaze sweeping over the blood on my chest before he arches a brow. “Talk about liking it rough.”
“You aren’t funny, asshole,” I growl, and for some unexplainable reason, I pull Gia in front of me, putting myself between her and Jared, like he’s the problem, not her. Keying another code in to the panel on the wall, I still feel safer with Gia in front of me than behind. I urge her forward and follow her through a laundry area that leads to a kitchen with a low-hanging stainless-steel ventilation hood dangling over a stone counter. Still holding Gia’s arm, I scan the furnished living area to the right and the dining area to the left, finding nothing but two years of dust gathered since my last visit.