Driven by Fire(3)

By: Anne Stuart



She glanced over at the desk and suddenly realized that Billy had left his damned cell phone on it. She strolled over, trying to look casual as she picked up the phone and shoved it in her pocket. She perched on the desk, trying to look natural, and swung her leg, ignoring her brother crouched down just behind her, with that lethal gun in his hand.

“You looked like you were going to shoot first and ask questions later,” she said, trying to appear at ease. “I’m here for the victims, not the enforcers.”

“You’re right, I would have.” He reached out and yanked her off the desk, ungently. “There are too many damned civilians here already, but since you’re here you may as well make yourself useful. They found one more victim hiding in the sick bay. You can talk to her and tell her we mean her no harm.”

“Is that true?”

“If she’s innocent. She’s not the one I’m looking for. I don’t expect you saw a young man in his early twenties around here?” The question came off as casual, but Jenny wasn’t fooled. She looked at the gun in his hand, then up into his face, and for a moment she froze, staring at him.

He was . . . mesmerizing. He was a tall man, six feet or so, with the kind of lean build that was deceptive in its strength. She didn’t for one moment underestimate just how dangerous he could be. His eyes were blue, not the bright blue of an innocent, but a steely feral blue, like a cold flame, and they should have been a warning. He wore his dark hair too long, as if he never had time to get it cut; he hadn’t bothered to shave in a couple of days, and his high cheekbones suggested some kind of exotic ancestry. With any other man she might find herself attracted to him, but not this man, not this threat to her brother. Not a man who would shoot first and ask questions later.

“I haven’t seen anyone.” The lie was instinctive, necessary, shameful.

“Then why were you skulking around?”

“I’ve seen three dead men since I came aboard, and you were standing there with a very large gun in your hand,” she said, keeping her expression blank. “I hadn’t seen anything to fill me with trust.”

“You shouldn’t be here.”

She couldn’t agree more. “You’re right. Why don’t you take me to see this woman you’ve found, and I’ll see what I can do to help her. She must be shattered.” She had to get him out of this room, away from Billy.

He shrugged. “That’s not my worry. Jim Long can take you to where she’s waiting.”

Relief washed through her. “I know Jim—I’ve worked with him before. And you are . . . ?”

“None of your damned business,” he said succinctly, opening the door for her.

She didn’t hesitate. He must be part of the Committee that her brother had mentioned. She needed to give Billy a chance to escape. “I didn’t see Jim out there.”

“I’ll take you to him.”

“Perfect,” she said, meaning it.

The man shot her a sharp look, but she simply gave him a cool nod and walked out the door, listening as he closed it behind them. If there was any chance Billy had really known what he was doing, then she’d protected the worst kind of criminal, and she was going to have to live with that. She just had to believe in him, and in her own instincts. Anyway, it was too late now, and if she told this unnamed man the truth he would probably shoot Billy, or the other way around, and she couldn’t bear the thought of any more dead bodies. She let the man lead the way, putting everything out of her mind but the young woman who needed her help. She’d done what she could to help her brother. Whether she’d made the right choice or not remained to be seen.

An hour later she found herself bringing Soledad to the bus for the refugees, her brother forgotten in the chaos. The exquisitely beautiful young woman was in some kind of shock, unable to produce more than a word or two, despite Jenny’s excellent Spanish, but she came along obediently enough, though Jenny could sense her distrust. Who could blame the girl? She’d been kidnapped from her home in Calliveria, locked inside a freight container with as many women and children they could fit, and then endured the grueling voyage up to New Orleans. It was lucky she wasn’t comatose.

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