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Authors: Roslyn Holcomb

Tags: #bwwm, #interracial romance, #rock star sequel, #multicultural, #anthrax, #terrorism, #smallpox

Dark Star (5 page)

BOOK: Dark Star
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“I think we shook them, little brother,” he
said to Deringer. “I thought you said you’d cleared the
building?”

“I did clear the building, those guys had
just arrived. I saw their car when we pulled out of the alley.
They’d parked on the street,” Deringer said.

Nate shook his head. “Damn, hadn’t thought
about that.” He looked down to meet Tonya’s eyes. “You can come up
now Onion, the coast is clear.”

Tonya hesitated. Seriously, she felt a lot
safer exactly where she was, but pride stiffened her spine and she
got off the floor to sit down on the vehicle’s plush leather seat.
She took a moment to fasten her seatbelt. It would be a damned
shame to survive a gun battle only to die in a car accident. Given
the way Deringer had been driving anything was possible. She
struggled to regain her equilibrium, as anger was quickly overtook
the terror she’d felt when those men first appeared. Nothing pissed
her off like being afraid. She gave Nate a baleful glare. “Okay,
start talking. What was all that about?”

“It’s a long story,” he sighed. Even as he
talked his eyes were in constant motion, scanning the windows like
a sniper as Deringer drove with quiet efficiency.

“Shorten it,” Tonya said.

“More guys coming here to kill you. If you
don’t go into hiding with us you’re going to wind up dead.”

Tonya took a deep breath as her stomach
clenched on a wave of fear. He was telling the truth. There was no
way to mistake the sincerity in his voice. “Okay you can make it
longer than that.”

Nate nodded. “I assume you know by now that I
didn’t join the Peace Corps.”

Tonya barely nodded her head to indicate
affirmation. Much as it shamed her to admit it, when he’d left her
she’d put forth considerable effort to find him. No way in hell
would she tell him that, though. She listened as he continued his
explanation.

“I became an...I guess you would call me a
bounty hunter. I hunt down bad guys.”

“I know what a bounty hunter is. I do write
mysteries, you know. But seeing as how I’m not a fugitive, I don’t
see what it has to do with me.”

“See, here’s the thing, one of the guys I’ve
been hunting found out about you and he hired someone to take you
out to get back at me.”

Tonya stared at him for a long moment, still
not altogether convinced this wasn’t some sort of bizarre joke.
“Found out about me? What about me? I haven’t seen hide nor hair of
you in more than ten years,” she said, proud that she managed to
say it without a hint of emotion in her voice.

Nate had the grace to look ashamed. A bit of
color rose up under his swarthy complexion as he looked down at the
toes of a pair of heavy boots that seemed to be primarily held
together with duct tape. Despite her anger, Tonya almost smiled.
Though he looked markedly different from the boy she’d once loved,
one thing about him hadn’t changed -- he still didn’t give a damn
about clothes.

“That’s pretty much my fault. See, I’ve kind
of kept tabs on you over the years.”

“How the hell do you kind of keep tabs on
someone?”

“I mean, every now and then I’d check in just
to see how you were doing.”

Tonya’s mouth opened but she was totally
incapable of making a sound. It was as though she’d suddenly been
anesthetized. Her throat was paralyzed which was bad enough, but
the fact that her brain didn’t want to function was even worse.

“I think Maximilian was able to find you
because we have a mole in our organization.”

Tonya was beginning to realize that Nate was
probably not an ordinary bounty hunter. She had no idea what he’d
gotten himself involved in, but she watched the news and with the
world’s current political state anything was possible. She started
to ask what organization he worked for then decided she didn’t want
to know. He probably wouldn’t tell her anyway. The panic that had
seized her vocal chords finally eased, at least a little bit.
“Can’t I just go home? This is just more than I can handle. My mama
will be losing her mind. And Callie is pregnant. She doesn’t need
to be upset.” The hysteria that she’d been holding off for quite a
while now came to the forefront and her voice rose to a strident
pitch that was painful even to her own ears.

“I’ve got to get rid of this guy before I can
let you do that,” Nate said.

“How long will that take?”

“Right now I don’t know.”

“You mean you want me to stay with you
indefinitely? I can’t do that. I have a life.”

“You won’t if the Rooster gets a hold of you,
little sister.”

“If I have any problems I’ll call the police
or hire security,” she said.

“And get a whole lot more people killed. This
guy is ruthless. He’s not above gunning for your mama or anyone
else for that matter,” Nate said with a bleak expression.

Tonya gasped. “Well, considering that you
threatened to kill a whole hotel full of folks I can’t see that he
could be any worse. Besides how is my disappearing going to keep
him from doing that anyway?”

“You know I’d never hurt you or anyone you
cared about.”

“No. I don’t know that. How could I,
considering?”

“I meant physically. I know I hurt you
emotionally, but it couldn’t be helped,” he said.

“I really don’t want to talk to you. Just
answer my question. How is my disappearing going to keep anyone
safe?” she said.

“Because he’ll think you’re dead or being
held by a friend of his.”

“This is absolutely bizarre. I have to at
least call my mother. She’s probably frantic by now. Someone was
bound to hear the gunshots behind the hotel, and then for me to
just disappear. You know she’s going to think the worst.”

Nate shook his head. “I’m sorry. There wasn’t
supposed to be any gunfire. This should’ve been a simple extraction
that even a Boy Scout could’ve pulled off.” A muffled snort came
from the front seat and he glared at the back of Deringer’s head.
“As for calling your mom, that’s a definite no. Nobody can know.
It’ll just put them all in greater danger. Your mother is a
fabulous lady, but do you really think she’d be able to keep this
to herself?”

Tonya didn’t bother to answer, they both knew
the truth: Anita Stephens was many things, but discretion wasn’t
her strong suit.

“Regardless of all that, I’ve got to go home.
I appreciate you guys trying to rescue me and all, but I can’t do
this.”

“You need to come with us.”

“Oh, you have got to be kidding. I think I’d
rather take my chances with the bad guy.” As she said it, she
realized she actually meant it. When they’d first showed up at the
hotel she’d been so freaked out by being attacked twice in one day
she hadn’t really been thinking clearly. Even though she was still
terrified, there was something she feared even more -- Nate. Even
after all these years, being around him had the same effect on her
-- made her want to curl up with him in the nearest bed and not
come out until spring thaw. It was ridiculous. The man had
abandoned her like yesterday’s news, but the urge to kiss him was
almost overwhelming. Pathetic.

“Onion, you don’t mean that. You’ve got to
cooperate with us. There’s no other way,” Nate said, reaching out
and grabbing one of her flailing hands.

Tonya struggled to pull her hand away. Pure
rage coiled in her belly and she fought against him like something
possessed. When he wouldn’t release her she swung with her left
hand and connected with the side of his face with a satisfying
smack
. His head snapped in response to the blow and he gave
her a long look.

“Okay, I probably deserved that.” He grabbed
her hand when she swung again. “Look, you have every right to be
pissed at me but we don’t have time for this right now. If beating
the hell out of me will help you feel better I promise you’ll have
ample opportunity, but right now you’ve got to come with us.”

Tonya watched as the outline of her palm
reddened his cheek, a bit ashamed at what she’d done, but he was
right he
had
deserved it. “I’m not going off to God knows
where with someone I haven’t seen in forever. You might be crazy,
but I’m not. Now please take me back. I don’t know what I was
thinking when I left with you in the first place.”

“We can’t do that. Please calm down.We’re not
going to hurt you, but you’ve got to do this.”

“No way,” Tonya said, suddenly realizing that
they’d pulled into another alleyway and the vehicle was no longer
moving. The light had dimmed considerably once they turned off the
street and she strained to see.

“I didn’t want to do this...” Deringer said
as he turned, reached over the seat and touched her bare arm with a
small electronic device.

Nate reached for Deringer’s hand, but he was
just a half second too late. Tonya heard a strange clicking sound
and there was a cool sensation on her arm as the gizmo zapped her.
She had a brief moment of panic as she assumed the man was using a
Taser on her, but there was no pain and she sighed in relief.
Before she could ask what they were doing, she became light-headed
and quickly realized that she’d been drugged. Her vision grayed and
tunneled in, and she tried to form words, but she couldn’t get her
mouth to work properly. Even a scream was impossible, the dizziness
became more pervasive and she could barely discern either man’s
face in the dim light. Then she knew nothing more.

* * * * *

Tonya awakened slowly. Aware only of an
incredibly deep thirst and a head that throbbed incessantly, she
reached for the carafe of water she kept on her bedside table and
quickly realized she wasn’t at home. That’s when she noticed the
voices. Nate and Deringer were talking just a few feet from where
she lay.

“Why in the hell did you do that?” asked
Nate. “She’s going to hate me forever for this,” he said.

“Hate to break it to you man, she already
hates you. We didn’t have time to squabble with her all night.
She’s pissed with you and would’ve fought you even if you’d been
offering her the Hope diamond. It was pointless. She was heading
toward hysteria and would probably have jumped out the car and ran
the first chance she got. After cutting your throat.” Deringer
said.

Try as she might to focus, Tonya’s overriding
thirst distracted her. “Water,” she said though it really sounded
more like a croak. “Could I have something to drink?”

Nate rushed over to the bed. “Of course,
little sister. Anything you need.” He walked over to the table on
the other side of the room where there was an ice bucket filled
with beverages and returned with an ice-cold bottle of water.

Tonya tried to sit up, but quickly realized
that she was too weak to support her own weight. Her entire body
felt rubbery and insubstantial with no muscle function at all. .
.what the hell? Had she been sick? She felt as though she had the
flu.

Nate helped her sit up. After propping a few
pillows behind her for comfort, he handed her the bottle of water.
He took it back when he realized that she lacked the strength to
even unscrew the cap. Tonya took the bottle again and turned it up.
Her throat was so parched she almost drained it. Now that she felt
almost human again -- aside from the throbbing headache -- she
turned to Nate who had remained beside the bed.

“Not to sound melodramatic, but where am I?
What is going on? Did I hit my head on something? Man have I got a
beast of a headache.” She looked around the room as she spoke. It
was tastefully decorated and she was pretty sure it wasn’t a hotel
room. Though English cottage style wasn’t really her taste, she
could appreciate the soft pink and green floral design, and the
casually mismatched furniture. It wasn’t overdone and the antique
oak four-poster was lovely with a patina of age that no designer
could create. The cost of the furniture alone was enough to confirm
that this was probably a private home, but whose and why was she
here?

“Do you remember the conversation we had
before in the car?”

Tonya frowned, straining to recall. All she
remembered was Nate and a strange man showing up in her hotel room.
She shook her head, but regretted it immediately as the motion sent
exquisite shards of pain slicing through her skull.

Nate gave her a sympathetic look. “Sorry
about that. It’s typical for the drug. That’s why I don’t like
using it.” He glared at Deringer. “Fortunately it’s only temporary
and your memory will return.”

“Wait a minute. You drugged me?” Tonya asked,
struggling to think clearly.

Nate exhaled heavily as he pulled up a ladder
back chair from the desk on the other side of the room. After
sitting down he succinctly recited the events that had occurred
over the past few hours. Tonya closed her eyes as the memories
flooded back. Despite the death threats and mind-numbing fear, the
shock of seeing Nate had somehow had more impact than the threat of
being kidnapped by some international badass who wanted to kill
her.

“Are you sure about all this? It just seems
like it has to be some big misunderstanding. Or maybe it’s some
crazy trick you’re playing on me,” she said grasping at anything to
make sense of the bizarre circumstances.

“Do you really think I would make up
something like that, Onion? I mean seriously. I know you’re pissed
at me, and you have good reason to be, but I’d have to be one sick
bastard to do something like that,” he said.

“Stop calling me that,” she snapped. The
nickname brought back too many sweet memories.

“Why? Your ass is still so gorgeous it makes
me want to cry.”

Vintage Nate, part courtier, part good old
boy. “Personally I wouldn’t believe you if you had your tongue
notarized.”

“I might lie about few things, okay, a lot of
things, but I’d never lie about your ass. Some things are
sacred.”

“I’m not talking about my ass. I’m talking
about this nutty situation you’ve dragged me into,” she said.

BOOK: Dark Star
12.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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