In fact, she held Nicole completely responsible for my disappearance, demanding that the police pull her in for questioning and force her to give up my whereabouts. When that didn’t work, because there was no indication of foul play (my books were never discovered) and I was eighteen, she had gathered up all my stuff and dumped it on Nicole’s front lawn. My mother had yelled at Nicole, called her a whore and self-serving rich girl. She had called me worse. My heart sunk into my stomach, extinguishing some of my joy. Maybe Caleb had been right. Still, Nicole reassured me she would make everything right, call my mother and explain. I told her not to bother. She hadn’t given a damn about me. In some ways, right now, I f**king didn’t care. I wanted to live. I wanted out of this hell.

What I needed was cash, lots of it. A hundred grand to be exact. “Holy shit Livvie! How am I supposed to get that kind of money? My parents are on a cruise right now.” Not what I needed to hear. I had looked up at Tiny and Javier, one of them looked expectant, the other worried his eye on the door. I wish it had been only Javier at the bar, he seemed more malleable, but then again, he also left me there to be captured.

“I need that money Nick. Please,” I said, my voice high and almost screeching. “I don’t know what he’ll do to me.” That quieted her and she was in the middle of telling me something when Tiny took the receiver and made it very clear what would happen to me if she didn’t come through. Everywhere I turned these days I was someone’s property.

He looked down at me. I should have called the cops I thought, staring back at him. But I knew since my own mother had failed to help me, it was all too likely the cops would care even less. Especially in a poor, drug-run country like Mexico. I had a choice between bad, worse and excruciating. It was no choice at all.

“We’re leaving—now.”

I didn’t bother asking where. We drove, too fast for me to consider jumping off but I still had a small sliver of hope that this f**ked up plan would work, and I’d be free. As Tiny’s bike slowed down, my heart sped up.

We were headed toward Chihuahua. Nicole would meet us there tomorrow night with the money. How she was going to do it I had no idea. Worse, I didn’t know if she could do it. I only knew she had told Tiny she’d be there with the money. If she was bluffing it didn’t matter, she was buying me time. But first we had to make a stop and pick up the rest of Tiny’s ‘gang’. I was not at all excited to meet more people like Tiny, but as usual I had no choice and no say. I pulled Caleb’s jacket closer to my body.

Traveling more slowly his scent wafted up to my nostrils pulling my thoughts toward him. What would happen now? Was he looking for me? And why did the idea fill me with both a sense of dread and hope? Hope for what? For a moment I wished I had just lain in the bed next to him, given him a chance to be kind. Perhaps he would have let me go eventually. I blinked, hard. You did the right thing Livvie. This can work, it can.

As we pulled up to the run-down house I heard several voices laughing, shouting, or making chatter as loud rock music filled the air. I wobbled and nearly fell when I got off the bike. Tiny laughed as he walked to the door.

“Watch yourself little girl, you don’t want that bike fallin’ down on you.” I didn’t think it was too damn funny.

He opened the door to the house and let out the only thing more overwhelming than the music, the smell of Marijuana. I stood outside, lamenting every decision I had ever made to lead me here, and then I stepped through the doorway. All conversation came to a halt. Nine bikers, one of them a young woman, turned to stare at me. I tensed at their blatant scrutiny, most of them confused, and some of them seemingly aroused.

“Everybody, this is Jessica,” Tiny introduced me, sounding happy and counting his cash in his head most likely. I decided to use a fake name, for no other reason than I didn’t want anyone to know my real one. “Nobody f**k with her,” he looked at me lasciviously, “unless she wants to be f**ked with.” Still silence, except for the long version of November Rain blasting through crappy boom box speakers. I shrank further inside Caleb’s coat, another comforting whiff of him, another regretted decision. This whole f**king thing was twisted irony. Tiny turned to me, finishing the introductions, “Jessica this is Joker, Smokey, Casanova, Stinky, Boston, Abe, Hog, Kid, and his bitch, Nancy.”

Who the f**k cared? I sure didn’t. I just stared blankly at all of them, at none of them.

Nancy just gave a snide look, as if I called her a bitch as a greeting.

I said nothing. Growing up poor and in LA taught me something. You can’t look weak, but you can’t look too defiant or someone could take it as a challenge. And f**k with me. I flicked my gaze around, holding only a few of the eyes briefly before just staring off, not responding and just giving an indifferent and vague nod of acknowledgment. I wish Caleb had taught me something more valuable than how to withstand a strong hand on my ass. I almost laughed, feeling hysterical for a moment, and bit down on my tongue. I was not going to freak out, not when I needed to be aware.

“Nancy, why don’t you take Jessica here and get her something to eat before we pack up and ride out. I want to make it to Chihuahua by night fall.”

Nancy rolled her eyes at Tiny and then looked at me for a moment before saying, “Well come on then.”

Nancy and I walked down a small hallway into another little room. Inside, a few dirty airbeds and small piles of clothes that seemed to also serve as sheets and pillows lined the floor. She angrily kicked at the clothes in her way and headed toward the corner of the room to the bed covered in clothes, make-up, hairspray and individually wrapped condoms. I looked away, saying nothing.

“Listen here girl. You better either pay me for this food or replace it cause I don’t have money to throw away on anyone.” I didn’t say anything, just a tad shocked. So much for us females sticking together or some sympathy. Then I realized that was asking for way too much. Caleb had taught me not to expect sympathy, even if he’d shown me some from time to time. Or at least what passed for it considering the source. I had to stop thinking about the son of a bitch.

She picked up a pair of cut-off jean shorts and a skimpy leather top that laced up the front. I couldn’t help it, I winced at the whore-ware. Suddenly my chest suffered a direct hit and a small pile of snack foods dropped to my feet. I gritted my teeth. She responded with a sneer. Bitch. I picked up the bag of chips and two protein bars. Yeah, I’d be sure to reimburse her for these delicacies. She continued to give a stiff upper lip as she kicked more clothes into a corner.

“Well, are you gonna just stand there or are you gonna sit down and eat?”

I looked at her, incredulous. Then loud voices drifted in from the other room.

“Are you f**king crazy?!?”

Eruption of a lot of voices arose.

“Bringing that bitch in here is a mistake man,” said someone.

“Jesus Christ, Tiny, you should give her back while you can,” said another.

“When did you become such a pu**y?” said Tiny.

“What’s going on?” Nancy shot daggers at me with her eyes. I cast my eyes toward the floor. She grabbed me by the elbow, squeezed and easily pushed me out of the room before she left to join the argument. As Tiny told the real story, the shouting escalated. It went back and forth for about forty-five minutes, and then most of the guys decided to leave and avoid ‘The Shitstorm’.

Nancy returned, livid. I found a corner to hide in while they packed, not wanting anyone to see me and start yelling at me. They packed pretty quickly, most of them just throwing a few handfuls of clothes in a backpack – obviously all they came with. I watched, not feeling anything, just learning names I didn’t care about. I was just so tired and scared. I wanted…I wasn’t sure what I wanted. The fear and terror drained me, took my energy and hope. Despair in, hope out. Repeat. Repeat.

“Come on Kid, let’s just go.” I heard Nancy. I lifted my gaze toward the fighting twosome. The way she was clinging to him, I was assuming he was the boyfriend.

“You know I can’t do that, I’m not leaving Tiny alone. Besides, I ain’t afraid of no f**king pervert. Let him come, Tiny’ll put that f**ker down for good.”

They argued. “Baby please, let’s just go.”

A few tense moments later Kid replied, “No.”

“Fine,” she said lowly, seething. And then she stormed out of the room.

When it was all said and done, only Joker, Nancy, Abe, and Kid stayed to keep Tiny and me company. I had to admit, they didn’t seem like the nicest guys and Nancy I already knew was a huge bitch, but at least I was headed home in the morning. They decided we would spend the night.

It was late, I didn’t know the time, but it was dark. I stayed in my corner a long time while they all sat around drinking beer and laughing loudly. I think I sat there for so many hours that they may have forgotten I was there. No one slept, and I couldn’t stomach anything.

I just waited for night to fall, and sat in my corner, listening to the time tick away. But toward what, I had no idea.

***

Ransomed. She’d been ransomed. Javier’s family huddled in a corner, Javier himself just a limp body, barely breathing but still alive. The motherfucker was going to get a cut of the ransom if he helped smuggle what was his.


Tags: C.J. Roberts The Dark Duet Series Romance
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