Authors: Olivia Jaymes
Cowboy Justice Association
By Olivia Jaymes
Copyright © 2013 by Olivia Jaymes
Cover art by Sloan Winters
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED:
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
To Jean and Danielle
Lunch with her sister was never easy, but today seemed extra difficult. Katie Johnson pushed her salmon around on her plate and tried to listen patiently. She hadn
’t done anything her sister approved of since two thousand five. It was a record anyone would be proud to have.
“All I’m saying is,” Nora Shefflin said, pointing her fork at Katie, “sleeping with your boss is stupid. What were you thinking? I didn’t get you that job so you could coast on your looks.”
And there it is.
Katie hadn’t had a conversation with her older sister where physical beauty wasn’t brought up since they were kids. Nora was obsessed with it. She’d had her chin done only six months ago. Nora wasn’t beautiful by most standards but she was impeccably groomed with her dark brown hair in a sleek bob, her face perfectly made up, and her nails always chip free. She was what many people would call a ‘handsome woman.’
I didn’t plan it. He’s a nice man and part of my duties as his assistant was to host parties and go with him to social functions. It just sort of happened.”
Katie shifted uncomfortably in her seat
, not wanting other diners to overhear their conversation. The clientele at this restaurant was decidedly upscale, but then Nora wouldn’t be seen in any old restaurant. Her world was about networking, connections, seeing people, and being seen.
He’ll dump you for a prettier face eventually,” Nora said, disapproval written all over her face.
Katie gave up on the salmon.
“Probably. I’m not in love with him. He treats me well. We have fun.” That was all Presley was looking for. Love was the last thing on her mind.
Nora wrinkled up her nose.
“Fun? How can you have fun with a man like Randall Simon? He’s a billionaire businessman. He doesn’t have fun. He has business deals.”
Well, we have fun. A few nights ago we went to a late movie and saw the Avengers.”
The waiter approached their table.
“Anything else I can get you?”
Nora dabbed her mouth with her napkin.
“Nothing else, thank you. Just the check.”
Katie raised her hand.
“Lunch is on me. It’s my turn.”
Lovely.” She waved to the waiter. “Lunch is on my stepsister.”
Katie felt the stab Nora had deliberately inflicted. Katie called Nora her sister. Nora called Katie her
Nora stood, checked her phone and shook her head.
“If you don’t mind, I do have an appointment. Call me in a few weeks and we’ll schedule another lunch.”
Of course, I’ll just get the check and head home. I want to—”
Nora was gone in a cloud of Clive Christian perfume before Katie had finished her sentence. She dug in her handbag for her wallet, pushing aside the notebook she dragged with her everywhere, and handed her credit card to the waiter. While he ran her card, she checked the texts on her phone and laughed at a silly one from Randall. It might not be a good idea to get involved with her boss
, but he was pleasant and non-demanding. She wasn’t looking for love and commitment, simply someone to do things and go places with. Randall fit the bill perfectly.
The waiter returned with her credit card, and she signed the slip, adding a hefty tip for having to put up with Nora nit picking the cleanliness of the silverware and the preparation of the food. She shoved everything back in her handbag and headed to her car, the heat and humidity hitting her the minute she stepped outside. Florida in October wasn
’t supposed to be this warm but they were having an unusual heat wave. The tourists loved it, but longtime residents such as her were worn down from months of oppressive heat.
Katie unlocked the car and pulled open the door to her Civic, clawing through her purse for her
phone so she could call her friend Mandy and let her know she was running a few minutes late. They planned to spend the afternoon cleaning out Mandy’s closet and talking about her latest and greatest boyfriend. Katie squinted against the blinding sun and sighed, slipping on her sunglasses.
She must have left her phone at the table. Katie rushed back toward the restaurant hoping it would still be sitting there. She was halfway back when she heard and then felt a gigantic boom that knocked her off her feet and sent her sprawling on the pavement. Panic clawed up her sides. It was as if the earth had literally rolled and rocked under her shoes. Her head slammed against the unforgiving concrete, and her vision blurred. Stunned, she pressed her hand to her head. When she pulled her fingers away, red streaks covered her palm.
Debris rained down from the sky and she wrapped her arms over the top of her head to protect herself. Her pulse skyrocketed as she hovered close to the ground. A strong ache shot through her body from her forehead down her spine.
I need to get out of here.
The heat was searing and she tried to push to her knees to crawl away from the flames but her body didn’t seem to be taking commands from her brain. She gathered her strength and tried to push up again but a wave of dizziness took over and she fell back to the concrete. Her heart slammed against her ribs. She was going to die.
She must have been knocked out for a moment because when she came to, the sounds of sirens and screaming could be heard, although muffled by the ringing in her ears. She lay still on hard concrete, too dazed to move. Her nostrils were full of the acrid smell of smoke, gasoline, and burning tires. Her eyes burned and her head continued to throb. She could hear the pounding of feet on the pavement and she tried to lift her arm to wave for help. She
’d fallen between two cars and feared no one would be able to see her. She opened her mouth to yell but nothing but a croak came out of her raw throat.
She pushed up on one elbow and turned her head back toward the jumping, orange flames, her horror growing. It was her car engulfed by the explosion.
She rubbed her eyes again, her vision still blurred from smoke and tears. She had to be wrong. Why would her car explode? She
’d never heard of a car spontaneously combusting before. There was a large cloud of smoke and fire in the parking lot and the sound of car alarms going off everywhere playing havoc with her hearing.
Grabbing hold of the bumper in front of her, she pushed to her feet. Out of nowhere, a set of hands were holding her down, and once more terror twisted her stomach.
“Try not to move, Ms. Johnson. We’ve got you.”
Confused, she looked up with panic and then relief as two large men with kind faces came into view. They were lifting her up and gently
setting her in the back of a vehicle. She wondered dazedly how they’d even managed to get their car so close to the blaze.
Wait.” Katie held up her hands. “Where are you taking me?” This wasn’t an ambulance.
The two men exchanged a glance before the older male answered.
“Somewhere we can get you care, where you’ll be safe.”
Katie relaxed back
grateful to be out of the heat and smoke. There was a woman there who started dabbing at Katie’s head wound with a handkerchief.
Ouch! Shit, that hurts.” The younger man slid behind the wheel, while the older man sat next to her, sandwiching her between him and the woman.
Let’s go. We need to get her out of here before they realize she’s okay,” said the older man to the driver.
’t like the sound of that statement. Her mind whirling frantically, she instinctively reached for the door handle, the car still going slow enough where she could jump from the vehicle. She was already beat up by the explosion. A few more bruises wouldn’t make any difference. The thought she would have to jump over either the woman or the man made her hesitate briefly, her hand hovering a few inches from the lever.
The older man clasped her arm and guided her back into her seat.
“Calm down, Ms. Johnson. I swear we’re here to take care of you. Please just calm down.”
’s voice was deep and commanding but Katie was too frightened to heed the warning. She struggled against them but they firmly held her down. Her heart accelerated again in fear for her life. She was being abducted off the street not thirty seconds after her car blew up in a parking lot. She could see the smoke, fire and chaos as they exited the restaurant parking lot. No one would know she was gone. Their actions were lost in the confusion of the moment.
Wait, dammit, I said wait!” Their hands finally lifted off her but the car had already shot into traffic. The SUV pulled into three lanes of streaming traffic going sixty miles an hour. Jumping from the vehicle now was not an option.
The older man held out his hand.
“Ms. Johnson, please calm down. I promise you we’re here to protect you.”
It was starting to penetrate her fog they were calling her by her name.
“How do you know who I am? Shit, are you kidnapping me? I’m calling the police.”
She was still clutching her purse, and she dug into it to
find her phone, and then realized it was still in the restaurant. The man pulled his identification from his pocket.
Ms. Johnson, Katie, we are the police. I’m Federal Marshal Evan Davis.”
He held his badge out for her to see and she blindly reached for it, removing it from his hand and looking at it for a long time. She handed it back to him, the wind out of her sails.
“Please tell me I just hit my head really hard when I fell and all of you are a figment of my overactive imagination.”
His expression was sympathetic and he shook his head.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Although we will get your head looked at.” He shoved his identification back into his coat pocket. “You’re a very lucky woman. What made you head back to the restaurant? Did you know about the bomb?”
She pressed the cloth to her head.
“I forgot my phone on the table. I went back to get it.” She slumped back on the seat. Talking made her head hurt even worse. “Shit, it’s still there. I need to go back.” She took a deep breath. “So it was a bomb?”
nodded. “The bomb must have been on a time delay. When you opened your car door, it set off the mechanism. They wanted to give you time to get into the car and start it.”
Wait.” Katie held up her hand. “What do you mean they? Who bombed my car? Why would someone bomb my car?”
Her voice had gone up hysterically and the female she
’d barely noticed sitting next to her patted her on the shoulder. “Relax. You’re alive. Cars can be replaced. You cannot.”
’s voice was firm and no-nonsense and it was just what Katie needed at the moment. She looked between the woman and the man. “Why would someone try to blow me up? Why have Federal agents kidnapped me and shoved me into the back of a car? I’m just an administrative assistant. I’ve never even had a speeding ticket.”
Katie thought she was holding herself together well. All she had to do was keep telling herself none of this was really happening and she
’d be fine. This was some kind of fucked-up dream and she’d wake up any minute, late for work.
nodded. “We know. You’re Randall Simon’s assistant. And I’m sorry if you were hurt further when we put you in the car. We tried to be as gentle as possible. I promise there will be a doctor to look over your injuries. We think Randall had that bomb planted in your car. We think he wanted you dead.”
The words hung in the air between them and she let them stay there, like a banner in front of her eyes.
They were dead wrong. She winced at her wording. No, they were terribly wrong. That was it. “Why would Randall want me dead? I’m meeting him for dinner tonight. Is this some kind of governmental fuck up? I see stuff like that on television all the time.”
seemed to ignore her question as the vehicle zipped in and out of traffic. The driver hadn’t even turned around but she could see he had dark-hair and was wearing a suit in this heat. Just like the man sitting next to her. “We’ve been watching you. You and Randall Simon, along with his lieutenants. He’s a dangerous man, Ms. Johnson. I can tell from your reaction you didn’t know that.”
Randall? He can’t even kill a spider. I had to do it for him the other night. Are you sure we’re talking about the same Randall Simon?”
Davis nodded. “The very same. Listen, we’ll give you all the details but for now, know that your boss is involved in some illegal dealings. Dangerous and illegal.”
A horrible thought occurred to her. Her hand flew to her throat.
“You think I was doing something wrong? That I was in on it?”
Shit, this isn’t going the way we planned. We didn’t know he was going to set a bomb. We’d hoped to have this conversation in a more businesslike setting. When your car exploded we had to change plans quickly. We didn’t think he would make his move this early.” Marshal Davis pulled at the knot on his tie. “No, we don’t think you’re a part of this. The chatter we’ve heard from Simon and his associates is you’re an innocent pawn.”