Friday, September 9, 2016
Excerpt of Running Wild
The bar was both sleazy and filthy. Smoke swirled
through the big room like an industrialized bug fogger belching out its last
toxic dregs. From the sticky fake wood floor that hadn’t seen soap and water in
decades to the light fixtures with grimy coats of dirt and dead bugs, the
ambiance of Claudio’s Cantina bellowed ‘Enter at your own risk’.
Aidan Thorne figured it’d take at least a half
dozen showers before the stink left him.
Slouched in the corner, his back to the wall, he
gave the appearance of being half wasted and all the way bored. He was neither.
His informant was fifteen minutes late. Punctuality had never been a priority
for Manuel Diaz. Aidan had no illusions about the man. Though less corrupt than
most in his business, if Diaz got a better offer, he’d sell out without a
thought. Which was why Aidan was only going to give the vermin five more
minutes to show. The back of his neck was getting that twitchy feeling which
usually meant trouble was brewing. Ignoring that twitch had once gotten him
shot. He hadn’t ignored it since.
He shifted in his chair, noting and appreciating
the lack of pain. Three months ago, he’d been laid up with a broken leg. Weeks
of doing almost nothing but waiting for it to heal had made him antsy and out
of sorts. The minute he’d returned to full LCR duty, he’d jumped into the
action as if all hell’s demons were on his ass. Too much time to think and
remember. Too much time to regret. Nothing like staying on the edge of danger
to help focus a man’s thoughts.
In fact, he’d been so focused, that when he’d
gotten the call from Diaz, he’d almost delayed the meet. After all this time
with no viable intel, what was the point of rushing just to find out there was
nothing new? After that thought, the inevitable guilt had followed. How dare he
not follow up? Had he not made a promise? Had he not sworn that he would follow
every lead, no matter how minuscule or far-fetched until he found the murdering
So, despite the fact that Diaz was about as
reliable as a politician and most likely had nothing new to tell him, Aidan had
taken the bait.
His family thought he was certifiable. Not that
they’d come right out and say it. His mother and father, ever supportive, just
gave him that sympathetic, helpless look that basically said ‘We’re here for
you but we’re completely lost on why you’re not living up to your potential’.
His sister was a little more blunt. Last time he’d
talked to her, they’d had a shouting match. She thought he was wasting his life
and didn’t mind saying so. He thought she was a nosy, opinionated, buttinski
that needed to stay out of his business. A day later, he had sent her flowers
to apologize. She had sent him a bottle of his favorite wine. Both of them
knew, all was forgiven.
To his family, it probably did look as though he
was wasting his life. Or at least not living up to his potential. They had a
vague idea of what his job with LCR entailed but he did his best to shield them
from the more hair-raising details. Rescuing kidnapped victims from the most
dangerous places in the world was a far cry from the safe, secure world he’d
But that world stopped being safe and secure a
decade ago. His family could stay in denial as long as they wanted. Aidan knew
the truth. The monster was still out there. Watching. Waiting. Looking for his
next chance to strike. Too many had paid the price for Aidan’s carelessness. He
would never let his guard down ever again.
Without moving a muscle, every inch of Aidan’s
body went on high alert. His eyes searched the reason for his unease. Detected
nothing. Still, the hair on the back of his neck was screaming a warning. What
the hell was going down?
“Let me go, you big gorilla! I don’t want to go in
What the hell?
A woman was shoved into the middle of the room.
All eyes were on her and almost every damn one of them had the salacious look
of a predator about to pounce. This was not going to be pretty.
The room was too smoky to tell much about her but
that wouldn’t matter to a bunch of drunk, horny, soulless men. Fresh meat had
arrived in their vicinity, requiring no effort to obtain. The woman was in a boatload of trouble.
With a casualness in direct contrast to the
circumstances, Aidan stood and eased himself over to the bar. Calling attention
to his movements wouldn’t be good for either him or the woman. He was her best
chance to get out of here unscathed. If he was taken down, she was toast.
There were five men at the bar. Another eight were
at various tables. Four men had been playing pool. Two had been throwing darts.
Of course all activity had ceased. No one was doing anything now but staring at
the woman and salivating.
Already trying to figure out which man he could
pit against the other, Aidan leaned against the barstool and pretended to eye
the woman just like everyone else. Acting as if he wasn’t interested would call
attention to himself, but in truth, he didn’t bother to look at her. All other
eyes were on their single target. Aidan’s attention was on the safest way to
get this woman out the door.
The music on the ancient jukebox ended. Since no
one had bothered to pay for another song, silence filled the room.
“Look,” the woman stated in a firm, no-nonsense
way, “I’m just looking for my friend. If you’ve not seen her, that’s fine. But
I’m not going to stand here anymore. I’m leaving.”
Aidan’s involuntary gasp took in a giant gulp of
smoky air and he almost choked on the fumes. Probably would have if he weren’t
in shock. His eyes finally settled on the woman and even though his mind
screamed a denial, he couldn’t avoid the truth. Holy, holy hell. That was no
girl, no mere woman. And definitely no stranger. That was the one, the only,
What was she doing here? Most
importantly, how was he going to get her out alive?
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