Authors: Dee J. Adams
AGAINST THE WALL
Dee J. Adams
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Tanner Bryant wants revenge. After spending seven long years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he’s determined to even the score with the man who put him there. The only thing in his way is a slip of a girl in a big ass bind.
Jess St. John needs eight million dollars or her kidnapped family will die. Caught in a war between the mob and her boss, a corrupt film producer, she will stop at nothing to get the job done.
In a race against the clock, and a deal with the devil, Jess forms an unwilling partnership with Tanner to help find and free her family before it’s too late. In return, she’ll look the other way when her boss goes permanently missing. It soon becomes apparent that Tanner has more honor than he wants to admit and Jess finds herself falling for the gentle man beneath the rough exterior. But love and revenge run a close race and when push comes to shove, Tanner has to decide which one is more important.
This one is for Sean. Thanks for the idea to “just write it down.” It’s all your fault. None of it would’ve happened if you hadn’t believed in me. Life with you has been one awesome ride and I couldn’t imagine taking it with anyone else. Love you.
I have to thank the usual suspects…Kate Willoughby and Lynne Marshall. Ladies, I can’t tell you just how much I appreciate your ears and ideas, your good advice and honest critiques. You’ve made me a better writer with each book.
Thanks to Julie Goldstein for so many hours of work. You are amazing, talented and beautiful, and you’re my friend for life. You’ve been one of my biggest cheerleaders and I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
A giant thank you to Melissa Johnson, who once again made my story stronger and thought of things that hadn’t crossed my mind. Watch out, I’m not letting you go.
Thank you to my family for years of support as I’ve juggled writing and life. Sean, Katelyn, Malcolm, Eileen, Carol, Thom, Evelyn, Marion, Sam, Sue, Heather, Barry, Robin…and all my cousins from the East Coast to the West Coast, you all have been so supportive and I love each and every o roman';" aid=
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The gun wobbled in Tanner Bryant’s hand as he wiped the sweat trickling in his eyes. His thudding heart drowned out the sound around him. All day, he’d been calm, and cool, exacting every move. Everything had gone as planned until now. The longer he waited on the rafters, the more his nerves frayed. Only a few house lights lit the large soundstage where a half built movie set waited to be finished, and darkness kept him hidden this high up. He’d heard some rustling a while back and caught sight of a giant rat scampering by on an adjacent beam. He’d seen bigger.
Dammit, he shouldn’t have taken so much time to learn Juneau’s schedule. All of a sudden the man had hired more bodyguards as if he knew Tanner wanted a piece of him.
Tanner focused on the scene twenty feet beneath him. He couldn’t hear what the girl was telling his target, but he didn’t care. Her gestu responsibilitywares and position pissed him off. Thirty seconds ago, he’d had a clear shot, but now, little Miss Muffet stood in his way. She was just an itty-bitty thing, not tall, not wide, but he didn’t trust his aim and didn’t want to hurt her.
But he did want to hurt the man next to her. Desperately. He wanted Maurice Juneau to suffer. Painfully and for an extended period of time. Tanner didn’t need Juneau to know who had shot him. It just mattered that the man felt pain. Juneau was smart. He might actually figure out who pulled the trigger if he learned Tanner had been released from prison. Oddly, that thought did give Tanner a sense of power. The pond scum had ruined Tanner’s life and it was only fair that Juneau knew it was him.
But, it wasn’t a prerequisite.
Tanner shifted on the catwalk. Three minutes ago, his whole body ached from being in the same position for so long. He’d gotten on the studio lot by hiding in the back of flatbed truck loaded with sets. Hiding under a black tarp had been easier than he’d expected. Waiting for Juneau had scraped his nerves raw, but now that he had the man in his sight, all his aches faded. The bastard had aged in seven years. The gray in his hair proved it.
Tanner almost didn’t care if he went back to prison. Didn’t care what his life might be like after shooting this man. He only had to pull the trigger to get satisfaction. Well, pull the trigger and hit his mark.
But no. Instead he had a little wisp of a she-thing gesturing and flailing, trying her damnedest to get Juneau’s attention. The asshole had been on the phone almost from the minute he walked onto the stage with the girl at his heels like a frantic puppy. Almost as if she knew Tanner was about to strike and wanted to save the black-hearted son of a bitch. That was impossible. Tanner had never seen her before. Didn’t know who the hell she was. His nerves were finally getting the better of him if he thought anyone knew he was here at all, much less what he was doing.
Juneau’s small office staff was supposed to be gone. He was supposed to have wrapped his last film and sent everyone off for a couple days of R & R, so who the hell was this girl?
She edged left and Tanner adjusted his aim, and just as quickly she moved right.
She moved left again and this time Tanner pulled the trigger. He felt the kick of the Glock in his hand at the same time a Town Car entered the huge elephant doors of the stage. The shot rang out and Juneau ducked. Fuck. He missed. The girl jumped a mile and spun around.
But Juneau ran and Tanner kept firing, nearly choking on the taste of failure. The car door opened and the bastard dove in, leaving the girl in the dust as she sprinted after the speeding black car.
Scrambling down the wall ladder, Tanner already set his sights for the next opportunity as he ran for the door. He may have missed this time, but Juneau wouldn’t be lucky forever. A last glance over his shoulder froze him. His heart beat frantically, screamed for him to run. The girl had stopped and moonlight shining from the doors illuminated her silhouette and white T-shirt. A white T-shirt that was quickly turning red as blood ate up the cotton from the top of her shoulder. His stomach lurched.).t him
Holy shit, he hadn’t missed after all. He’d shot
Tanner stood, horrified at what he’d done. She’d paid a price meant for someone else and he couldn’t leave her. As if realizing something was wrong, she looked at her shoulder and wobbled on her feet. Sirens sounded in the distance and snapped Tanner back to life. Whisper quiet, he sprinted toward her. Twenty feet away and she saw him, stumbled as she took a step back. She looked deathly pale as she clutched her shoulder with the opposite hand.
She tried to say something even as her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. She’d spotted the gun in his hand. Knew he was the one who’d shot her and tried to run.
Shit, now he was really fucked. Tanner grabbed her around the waist just as her noodly legs buckled beneath her. She hardly weighed a thing, a hundred pounds at best. But getting out of here wasn’t going to be easy with the extra dead weight on his hands.
Tanner hefted her in his arms, checked that she wasn’t leaving a trail of blood behind them and raced for the side door. His escape golf cart waited for him. Was a golf cart really going to get him out of this? He might’ve laughed if he hadn’t been in so much trouble. But he hadn’t laughed in so long he wasn’t sure he knew how.
This late at night the studio lot was empty. A big white moon and a few dozen stars lit up the warm California sky, and Tanner kept her on his lap as he started the cart and raced toward the back lot. He’d done his homework, knew there were places to hide, ways to escape. Security here didn’t scare him. Not yet anyway. These guys didn’t compare to the prison guards he’d dealt with for so many years. Hell, the giant rats scared him more than these guys.
But just the thought of prison had him pushing the golf cart to its limit. He was
going back to prison. Not because of Juneau. Not for any reason. He’d spent enough wasted years behind bars. He’d rather spend his life on the run than in another dank cell.
After pulling the golf cart into an alley on New York Street, Tanner cut the motor. Down the small road, he spotted a dark pickup truck. Without too much thought, he lifted his load—she was still out cold—and eased toward the new wheels. He passed by a deli, dry cleaners and ice cream shop. Up close the store façades looked as fake as they really were. Tanner squinted in the moonlight when he reached the driver’s side door. Unlocked.
He quickly deposited the girl in the passenger seat and jumped behind the wheel. It only took a minute to hot wire the old truck and then he was moving toward the gate. He’d never hot-wired a car before. Funny, the things a guy learned in prison.
He spotted a baseball cap on the dashboard and slid it over his head. He covered the girl with a windbreaker that was bunched up and tucked beside the seat. Gate security waved as he passed them. “Have a nice night,” he called through the closed window. He took a right onto the street and checked the rearview mirror. It didn’t seem as if security knew of the incident. Maybe the blazing sirens had been from a car on the residential street along the studio.
Tanner kept an ey ridiculous.t him e out as he drove through Burbank and made his way into Hollywood and his fleabag hotel. Ten minutes later, in the middle of Sunset Boulevard traffic, he released a sigh and finally looked down at the female lying in the passenger seat.
If her shaggy, short dark hair was any indication, she’d had a hell of a day. But then again, he’d capped it by shooting her. He winced. Damn, he’d screwed this up. To top it off, she looked like a damn innocent kid. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-one. Her pale skin gleamed in the moonlight. She had a cute little pert nose that matched the rest of her. Cute. Pixie. Just like her haircut…and her shape. Everything about her screamed cute, innocent and shouldn’t have been shot.
Swallowing back the panic, Tanner focused on the road. He had to make this right. He of all people knew what it was like to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and he’d be damned if he didn’t do all he could for this girl.
Pulling over, he stopped the car. What had he been thinking to take her? Sure, she’d seen him before, but now…now she’d know where he lived. Fuck. He wasn’t good at this on-the-fly shit. It had taken a lot of planning to be at the stage, lure Juneau and hatch an escape route and now he’d gone totally off-roading.
He should dump her. She hadn’t come to and maybe she hadn’t really seen him. It had been dim on that stage…
One more look at her shoulder had him moving again. No, he couldn’t shoot her then abandon her. That was low, even for him. Despite not hearing his mother’s or sister’s voices in seven years, they still rang very clearly in his head.
to that poor girl? Then you left her?”
Their disappointment would be clear not only in their voices, but in their eyes. Tanner ruthlessly shoved back the picture. More and more he’d been thinking about his family, and it only made him feel worse. He’d hurt them enough already, no reason to compound the pain.
Another few minutes and he’d be home…well, not home, but someplace to crash and hide for the night. A place where he could think about the next step and take care of his…hostage. Crap, now he had a hostage. She wasn’t just a girl or woman or lady. She was a hostage.
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Clearly she thought he was going to attack her. Even under the cover of his giant shirt, he saw every muscle strained with tension as she waited. She might’ve looked young, but Tanner wanted to show her, just once, how he owned her. He wanted to grab her around the nape, tug her forward and crush his lips against hers. J
Jess stood frozen, her heart pounding wildly, every muscle tense. No way could she fight this guy off. He was too big. When had her judgment in character gone so completely off track? Just when she thought she had a handle on the man, he popped a vessel and turned schizo.
Prison will do that.
His words rang in her head. What did she expect from a guy out for revenge? Why would he be even-tempered? Or sane for that matter.