Page 31 of Branded (Ignite #2)

I take a few seconds to stare at her beautiful face before getting out of the car, rounding the front end and opening her door to scoop her back up into my arms. As I make my way up her front walk, I hear footsteps behind me and pause, holding her body tightly to me and wondering what the fuck I’m going to do if her father chose this moment to make his move. Turning around, I see a guy in a police uniform making his way up to us. He looks familiar as he smiles at me and nods in Phina’s direction.

“Everything okay here?”

I nod, looking at him questioningly.

“Oh, sorry! My name’s Jackson. Dax Travino asked me to keep an eye on Phina and her house for a few weeks. I was parked across the street when I saw you pull up,” he explains, pointing to the cruiser on the other side of the street.

“Yeah, I forgot about that. Thanks for keeping an eye on things. She just had a little too much to drink tonight,” I tell him as Phina starts to stir in my arms. I really don’t need her waking up right now and making a scene in front of this poor guy.

“No problem, just doing my job. If you need anything, just let me know. Here’s my card with my cell number on it.”

He reaches into the pocket by his chest and hands his card to me. I shift Phina in my arms to take it from him, scanning the information, including the guy’s last name.

“Holy shit, Castillo? That’s…”

“Yeah, Jordan was my cousin,” he tells me with a sad smile.

I start to apologize, but what the fuck can I say? Sorry I let your cousin burn to death so I could save my best friend instead? There’s no apology in the world that can make up for that, even though I did what I had to do at the time.

“Anyway,” he continues, “the street’s been pretty quiet tonight, but like I said, if you need anything, just flip the lights in one of the front rooms a few times or call me on my cell.”

Pocketing his card, I nod, wrapping my arm back around Phina. She starts to groan against my neck, so I thank Jackson one more time before turning and making my way up to her front porch.

When I glance back towards Jackson as he crosses the street, he gives me a friendly wave and I give him another nod. I shift Phina higher up in my arms so I can reach into my pocket and grab her keys that Collin gave me when I left the bar. Unlocking her front door, I walk inside and kick the door closed behind me before running my hands along the wall to flip the light switch.

The sight in front of me makes me loosen my hold on Phina and she slowly slips down my body. Thankfully, she’s fully awake at this point, even though she’s still completely trashed, and plants her feet on the ground. We’re both staring at the disaster in her living room when she starts laughing.

She laughs so hard that tears stream down her cheeks, and I have a feeling those tears are a mixture of too much booze and being completely freaked out, even though she’ll never admit it.

Every piece of furniture has been tipped over, picture frames have been smashed and her carpet looks like someone set it on fire in several different places before putting it out. The plush, cream carpet has large sections that are black and charred, and my nose finally recognizes the nauseating smell of burnt fibers that hit me as soon as I walked in the door.

“Oh, Daddy, you’ve been a bad, bad boy,” Phina says through her laughter as she looks around at the mess.

She sways on her feet while she continues laughing like a crazy person and I scoop her back up into my arms.

“You’re going to be in sooooooo much trouble for this,” she laughs again before wrapping her arms around me and dropping her head to my shoulder.

“You’re not staying here tonight. I’m taking you back to my place,” I tell her as I turn and head back out the door.

“Okey dokey, smokey!” she giggles against the skin of my throat.

I pause when I see the note taped right under the light switch that I missed when we entered. I lean forward and use the hand tucked under Phina’s knees to rip it off the wall and flip open the folded piece of paper.

Why can’t you stop being a whore? Hope you enjoyed your time in the locker room. I’m coming for you. Be ready.

I crumple the note in my fist and leave the house, stomping down the steps so hard I’m surprised my feet don’t break right through the wood. I see Jackson in his car across the street, looking at me questioningly through his side window as I load Phina back into my car and secure the seatbelt around her. My tires screech as I pull away from the curb, grabbing my cell from the cup holder and calling the number on Jackson’s business card.

“Someone’s been in her house and it’s a fucking mess,” I tell him, not bothering with a hello. I don’t want to be pissed at the guy, but he’s been watching her house the entire night and her fucking father still managed to sneak in right under his nose.

“Jesus Christ,” Jackson mutters through the line. “He must have come in through the backyard. I’ll get some people in there to take fingerprints and clean the place up. Anything missing?”

“I don’t fucking know!” I shout into the phone. “He left another goddamn note. I didn’t feel like sticking around to check the place out. I just wanted to get her out of there.”

“Do you want me to follow you guys and let someone else take care of the house?” he asks.

“No. I’ve got it under control tonight. Just find this motherfucker.”

I end the call, tossing my cell back into the cup holder.