Given that my feet are firmly planted, she is promptly jerked back to me, at which point I demand, “What happened to pretending I was forcing you to help me?”
She swipes the long brown strands of hair from her eyes. “There’s no camera past the doorway, and whatever you think I’m up to, I’m not. I’m just trying to stay alive.”
“And keep me from talking,” I add flatly, my belief in her story right up there with my belief in Santa Claus. “How many men up top?”
“Ten in the warehouse and another ten in the lab, but the explosion should have blocked the door between them and us. I can’t be sure. I winged it.”
I arch a brow. “Winged it? You did this on your own?”
“Yes. And I didn’t make any plans. I didn’t have time when I found out what they were planning.” She doesn’t wait for me to ask the question I wasn’t going to be baited into asking anyway, continuing with, “We should be able to take the emergency stairs and exit into the back alley, but we have to hurry. They’ll call for help that will enter the same way we’re exiting.”
“What city are we in?”
Ignoring my questions, she insists, “We have to go,” while looking exceedingly uncomfortable.
“What city are we in?” I demand again, no give in my voice.
“Austin. This is where—”
“Sheridan runs his oil empire. I know.” Close to home, but a long way from Denver, where I was captured. “What part of Austin?”
“Downtown,” she replies as we cross the unfinished concrete floor. “When we go out into the hallway, we’ll take the stairs and then it’s a left to the exit. Right is the door that should be blocked. That’s the main warehouse.”
“What’s outside the exit?”
“An alleyway, but we’re right off Seventh Street. And since that exit is the only way in or out now, I’m really scared that there will be trouble waiting for us. Someone has to have called for help by now.”
“I’m good at handling trouble—something you’d do well to remember, since I consider you to fit that description.” I stop at the exit door and turn to look her in the eyes. “I can think of twenty different ways the next five minutes can go, and in nineteen of them, you die. In eighteen, I’m the one who kills you.”
“Then you’d have to drag my body with you.”
“Good exercise, sweetheart. As Clint says, ‘Make my day.’ ”
She doesn’t see the humor in my Eastwood impression, and while her glare suggests anger there’s a flicker of fear deep in those blue eyes. The kind of fear I have nightmares about seeing in Lara’s eyes. Maybe Sheridan isn’t so stupid after all, considering it was a woman’s betrayal that got me here in the first place. And this one is smart. “Fool me once,” I murmur, “and I’m a fool. I’ll kick you in the teeth before you fool me again.”
“I’m not trying to fool you—”
“Save it. I don’t want to hear it.” Frustrated, ready to get this woman disconnected from my arm sooner rather than later, I yank open the door at the top of the stairs, inching forward to study the hallway. Sure enough, smoke pours from a steel door to the right. But it’s contained, which tells me either Sheridan’s men hit it with an extinguisher before it could draw attention, or . . . this is all a setup.
Irritated all over again, I drag my ball and chain with me, heading for the exit, already planning how to get rid of her in the next fifteen minutes. We’re at the door and in the empty alleyway in a matter of seconds. It’s dead out here, like we’re in a shopping mall parking lot after closing at Christmastime and we’re the only ones who have nowhere to be.
“My car is parked on the street down there,” my former captor says, pointing to the right. I go left. “My car,” she insists, stumbling in her high heels as she tries to keep up.
“Will be tracked.”
“No. I told you. I’m not with Sheridan.”
“Do you work for him?”
I don’t look at her. “And you know about what he’s looking for?”
“Then your car’s being tracked,” I say as we round a corner and I scan the street, finding it nighttime-empty, all the businesses closed, the streets deserted.
“We’ll be spotted here.” She lifts our wrists. “Look at us.”
“Take off your shoes,” I order.
“What? I need—”
“I don’t have time to argue with you.” My fingers span her tiny waist as I lift her, peel off her high heels with my foot, and then bend down to scoop them up. “We need to get to the other side of the highway quickly,” I say, handing them to her.
“That’s East Austin. It’s dangerous, and—”
I start moving, giving her no choice but to keep up, while I battle limited vision in my left eye from the swelling—even more reason that we can’t be across the I-35 fast enough for me. I can handle a rough neighborhood to escape Sheridan.
We reach the highway and I make sure we dart through traffic against the light, putting distance and the major thoroughfare between us and Sheridan’s warehouse, and quickly trek up a hill toward the neighborhood beyond it.
“This is gang turf,” she warns again. “It’s dangerous. And can you even see? Your eye—”