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Authors: Dahlia West

Slick (Burnout 2.5)

BOOK: Slick (Burnout 2.5)
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Slick

 

By

 

Dahlia West

 

Chapter 1

 

Keep your eyes closed.

Sarah Sullivan had been telling herself that for the last ten minutes. She shifted slightly, getting uncomfortable.

“Don’t move.”

“Sorry.”

Sarah clutched at the thin fabric covering her torso. It was August, hot as hell, but she was freezing. Normally she longed for the night stars, but right now she’d rather have the warmth of the sun shining on her instead.

As hands pressed on her inner thighs, spreading her legs and exposing her, a tear managed to fall out of the corner of her eye. With her eyes closed, her mind filled with all the images t
hat kept her awake some nights.

Blood. And begging. Screaming. And stars.

Sarah, help me!

She still didn’t open her eyes. Doing so would only trigger a different set of memories.
She didn’t need to see. There was a white ceiling and harsh lights. The smell of antiseptic filled her nose.

“How are you doing?”

Is she going to be okay?! My baby! My baby girl! Is she going to die?! Oh, God, Sarah! Sarah it’s mom, can you hear me?

“I’m fine.”

Sarah steeled herself against the invasion, her stomach tightening. She fought off the instinct to close her legs. The urge to vomit was harder to suppress.

Did he rape you, Sarah?

Not this time.

But his fingernails had scratched her and caused her to bleed. It had taken a long time to get comfortable with Chris fingering her again.

Til death do us part, baby. I’ll wait my whole life for you to be ready if that’s what it takes.

More tears fell and she wiped them away.

I can’t give you what you want, Chris.

You
are what I want, Sarah. You’re all I need.

“Sarah.”

But, Chris, what if I never-

“Sarah. Open your eyes.”

Sarah took a deep, steadying breath. The weight of a dozen disappointments were making it hard to breathe. She felt as though she would suffocate underneath them. Or break.

She opened her eyes. Her vision blurred as fresh, new tears sprang forth. She blinked and they spilled like tiny raindrops.

The technician moved the monitor so Sarah could get a better look.

“That? That right there? That’s the heartbeat.”

The dam inside Sarah burst. Her chest expanded suddenly and she could finally breathe again. She sobbed jaggedly. The technician calmly handed her a box of Kleenex.

Never say never, baby

Chapter 2

 

Sarah nearly jumped the curb in her SUV as she parallel parked. Downtown traffic in Rapid City wasn’t as bad as other cities she’d lived in, but she was pretty sure that it was easier to navigate if you were actually driving the speed limit. She grabbed her purse and the glossy black and white strip of photos resting on top. She locked the vehicle and rushed to the top of the steps of the city’s finest historic hotel. Or it would be when Abigail Raines was done with it.

Abby had been fresh out of college looking to start her life. So she’d packed up her Toyota, waved goodbye to Las Vegas, and drove a thousand miles to a city she’d never been to, and took a job with a boss she’d never met, to work in a hotel she’d never seen.

The city, it turned out, had suited Abby just fine. Better now that she had a serious boyfriend and a group of new friends. The job had turned out to be a slog that required Herculean feats of management. Better now, though, since she’d moved up the ladder. The hotel had turned out to be on a steep decline, with a shabby interior and even shabbier finances. Better now, though, since Abby had stolen it from the owner. With the help of a .38, a mob lawyer, and four ex-army Special Forces operatives.

Well, not really.

Chris had said that he, Easy, Tex, and Hawk had just stood against the wall, looking menacing, yet reasonably certain Abby wasn’t
actually
going to shoot anyone.

Caleb, the fifth of the remaining Ranger unit members, stayed home that day. Because he was now one of RCPD’s finest. And the paperwork involved if Abby had really pulled the trigger would’ve been monumental. He still enjoyed hearing the story, though.

Sarah walked up to the Custer hotel’s doors and headed inside. She heard Abby before she saw her. The redhead was in the hotel’s bar, though she wasn’t ordering her usual gin martini. The bar was actually closed. Tables and chairs were stacked to one side and covered with canvas. It appeared to Sarah that the workmen were actually preparing to cut a hole in the bar’s back wall.

“I need this knocked out and the framing done by next week,” Abby was explaining to the foreman. “Though the finish work can take longer.”

Sarah was normally polite having been raised in the South. She understood that she should wait until her best friend was finished, but she couldn’t.

“Abby,” Sarah called out.

“One sec,” Abby replied, not even glancing over her shoulder. To the foreman she said, “So, listen, if this floor needs to be refinished after, I’d like to-“

“Abby,” Sarah said again.

“Hang on!” Abby called back.

“Vegas!” Sarah yelled.

Abby finally turned to face Sarah. “What?”

Sarah held up the strip of photos.

A piercing scream rang out in the bar. Abby launched herself at Sarah.

“Oh, my GOD!”

Sarah caught her, gripped her around the waist, and both women devolved into bouts of hysterical laughter.

“I knew it!” Abby proclaimed. She took Sarah’s face in her hands, beaming at her. “I knew it would happen for you guys. No one deserves it more.
I need some champagne!” Abby announced. “And I’m in an empty bar! Ugh. We have to go out for lunch.”

Sarah grinned at her. “How about some shopping?”

“Oh, God yes! She needs her first dress. Her first shoes. Do they make high heels for babies? What about cowboy boots?” Abby squealed. “Oh, she’s going to look so cute in boots!”

Sarah laughed. “How do you know it’s a girl?”

“Because I’m the aunt and I say so! Oh! Baby’s first jewelry!”

Sarah smiled and shook her head. She looked at the flower made of rubies and diamonds that was always nestled in the hollow of Abby’s throat. To the outside world it looked like a beautiful vintage necklace. But only Abby and her boyfriend Tex and their friends knew its real meaning. Abby Raines was used to getting her way. Except in the bedroom, where she submitted to the, probably slightly depraved, desires of the man she loved.

Sarah didn’t know exactly what went on between Mark and Abby in the bedroom. She suspected she didn’t want to know. But they were both happy and Sarah was happy for them.

But Sarah had her own ideas about bedroom sass. And right now she wanted to shop for some things that would make tonight special. It was Poker Night (ha) but that was the only appointment Sarah could get on such short notice. She wanted to call the guys and cancel, but then they’d want to know why. And she didn’t want to alert Chris to anything suspicious.

She’d already told him she was headed to Maria’s bar to work the lunch shift, as she often did on Thursdays. Instead she’d called out, telling Maria everything. She knew she could trust the older woman to keep it quiet.

A year ago when Sarah had been attacked, for the second time, she’d fled South Dakota to her native North Carolina to deal with the aftermath. After deciding that her life and her future lay with the second family she’d created here, she’d returned.

Even though Sarah’s life story was the talk of the town, it wasn’t the talk of Maria’s bar where Sarah had worked before the kidnapping and where she worked again upon return to Rapid City.

Maria was nice enough. But it was her place and her rules and she’d l
aid down the law when Sarah returned. Any gossip about Sarah Sullivan and you were out on your ass. Permanently.

Maria was overjoyed that Sarah and Shooter had been trying for a baby. She’d waxed poetic a few times that it was going to be hard to lose Sarah, the best waitress Maria had ever had. But Shooter and Slick, Maria said, had been through hell and back, had found each other, and were then dragged right back into the flames.

If anybody needed a quiet family life to heal their souls it was Shooter and Slick, Maria said.

“Not shopping for baby today,” Sarah informed Abby.

Abby frowned. “Aw. Come on. You need to start looking at cribs. And paint colors. You know how much you love painting.”

But Sarah shook her head. “First things first.”

“So what’s first?”

“New panties.”

Abby grinned. “Oh, yeah. I’m always up for new panties.”

Several of the workmen chuckled. Abby waved her hand dismissively. “Drinks. For me, anyway. Lunch for both of us. And panties for the boys. Let’s go.”

 

Chapter 3

 

At their favorite lingerie shop, Sarah picked up a corset off a display table. Abby wore a lot of them. Mostly under her tailored blazers when she was at work. Sarah had always liked them. And, in truth, a year ago they would’ve suited Sarah better than bras, but they were quite a bit more expensive and up until she’d gotten married, Sarah hadn’t been able to justify spending that much money.

“What about this?” she asked Abby, holding it up.

It was black with small white polka dots and a tiny strip of white lace trim along the
bust line. It also had a cute little red bow at the cleavage.

Abby looked at it. “I love it,” she declared. “But you’re not going backwards, are you?”

Sarah shook her head. “No. Just this one, because it’s so cute.”

“Try it on,” Abby suggested, nodding toward the fitting room located behind the sales counter.
Megan, the woman who owned the shop, and who also made many of the pieces, smiled at them and led the way.

When Sarah had first discovered the place, she’d been on a mission to repair her damaged relationship with Chris. They’d been having problems and their sex life had been the first casualty.

So despite the fact that Sarah had always kept herself covered head to toe even though there was nothing wrong with her bottom half, she had gritted her teeth, marched into the shop, and faced a lingering fear that had plagued her since she awoke in a shallow grave in North Carolina.

She got undressed
.

In a fit of what could only be described as temporary insanity, Sarah had gotten into an argument once with Easy, the youngest of the ex-Rangers who’d relocated to Rapid City. Easy had lost his leg in Iraq and along with it his will to live. Sarah had lost a friend, her sense of safety, and the ability to sleep through the night. But she had never lost her will to live. The man who’d brutalized her had never managed to take that. And so she’d tried to jolt Easy out of his depression by showing him (and incidentally the entire group of men) the jagged scars that marred her torso.

No one had taken that well.

But Megan the shopkeeper must have seen a lot of people, with all kinds of bodies, because when Sarah took off her shirt to be measured the other woman had only paused and then stoically reached for the tape measure.

It had taken Sarah a long time to work up the nerve to show Chris her scars in a romantic setting. She feared rejection worse than anything. Because by the time she’d finally taken that last step, she was already in love with him.

She might have lost her own will to live if he’d rejected her. Love, she had discovered, was so much more powerful than hate or fear or despair. Love could heal wounds you thought would never close. Love could give you the strength to facedown evil in its purest form. Love could also kill.

The corset covered all but one small scar on her breast. Sarah loved the look and feel of it. But she wasn’t going backwards. She wouldn’t start covering herself again. She trusted Chris too much to have to worry that it was necessary.

And besides Chris had scars of his own. And Sarah had kissed each on
e in turn while telling him they mattered because they had brought him to the place where they eventually found each other. And they didn’t matter because love made you realize that you could overcome the ugly things in life, even if you couldn’t necessarily stop carrying the reminders around with you.

“Perfect,” Abby declared, standing behind Sarah in the three way mirror.

Sarah ran her hand over her flat tummy. “I can’t wear it long.”

“All the more reason you should buy it now. Maximize the amount of time you two can spend together.”

Sarah looked at Abby in the mirror. “Do you have an unhealthy relationship with your lingerie?”

Abby laughed and shook her head. “No. That’s you, Slick. For me, it’s shoes.”

They stopped at the mall to buy some jeans in a larger size and though Sarah had proclaimed no baby shopping, who could resist looking at nursery set-ups?

Sarah’s phone rang, startling her.

“Baby, where are you?” Chris asked.

Sarah felt a pang of guilt. Chris had gradually loosened his restrictions on her since their marriage. He understood on an intellectual level that the danger was over
, but he had still been intensely protective of her after she’d been attacked. Rather than argue, she’d accepted his draconian rules about where and when she could go out and how often she had to check-in. She knew he only needed time to recover.

But she’d
screwed up and it was late. She should’ve been home by now, making dinner for the boys and Abby. She didn’t have to ask whether or not it was dinner or her unknown whereabouts that had him most irritated.

If she wasn’t careful, she’d end up being
chauffeured around town by various Ranger bodyguards again.

“I got caught up at work,” she replied without thinking. “I’m on my way home now.”

“Bullshit,” Chris told her and she froze. She locked eyes with Abby who gently set the stuffed giraffe back into the walnut crib she’d been eyeing.

“You didn’t go to work,” he accused. “I called the bar and Thomas said he hasn’t seen you all day.”

“Um.”

Busted
, Abby mouthed.

Sarah nodded glumly.

“Where are you?” Chris demanded again.

“The mall.”

“The mall,” he repeated dryly.

“But it’s okay!” Sarah insisted. “Abby’s here.”

“Oh, God, don’t drag me into it!” Abby protested.

“Slick,” Chris said and Sarah could swear the phone got colder as
she was holding it.

“I’m done!” Sarah insisted. “I’m totally done. We’re-“

“Ass. Home. Now.”

Sarah’s eyes widened.

‘Say, ‘Yes, Sir,’!” Abby prompted. “It always works on Tex!”

“Yes, Sir,” Sarah replied into the phone. She’d never actually called him that before. “We’re coming home right now.”

She disconnected and Abby burst out laughing.

“I can’t believe you said it!”

“Yeah, I don’t know how well it’ll work. He’s not happy.”

“Once he sees you in your new get up, he’ll forget.”

“Let’s hope so,” Sarah replied. She fingered the strip of photos in her purse once again to reassure herself it was real. Other than her missed period, which prompted the home pregnancy test and the subsequent visit to the doctor for confirmation, Sarah neither felt nor looked different yet. She’d wanted this baby for so long that she could hardly believe it had finally happened.

Chris had always believed that it would happen. And on the occasions that she got so upset that she peppered him with q
uestions about their future if she didn’t get pregnant, he would always just say she was his no matter what.

She wished she could share the whole experience with him. From realizing she was officially late, to buying (yet another) test, to making the doctor’s appointments. But she couldn’t. Because Chris wouldn’t.

Only Abby knew the secret hurt that Sarah felt every time a test was negative, every time her period came, and Chris said nothing. Sarah felt over and over again the jagged pain of broken hopes. Chris though, felt nothing. Or at least he appeared that way.

Since they’d met, Chris had been determined not to cause Sarah pain or fear or even discomfort. Her emotional episodes during their early relationship had been met with strength and serenity from Chris. Only once had his armor cracked and he cried in front of her. And she knew that he felt so terrible about it, so ashamed that he had not been her rock, that he had decided never again would he los
e it in front of her.

He felt she needed him to be strong when she was faltering. And in the beginning, she had. She had needed a man who would
not get upset that she flinched sometimes when he touched her. She had needed a man who would not be hurt that it had taken so long for her to declare her love for him. She had needed a man who would not get angry when she couldn’t have sex. Which still happened occasionally, but was becoming rarer.

Chris had been all those things. All she needed.
Then
. But now she felt alone. Like she was the only one carrying the burden of unrealized dreams. No number of negative tests or crying fits or doctors who only said, “Be patient” could crack Chris’ stoicism. But instead of shoring her up during this ordeal, it was keeping them apart.

Sarah hoped to fix that tonight. To draw him back in, to reconnect with him, to feel like they were
together
.

She only wished that they could be together for the difficult times,
too, not just the good ones.

 

BOOK: Slick (Burnout 2.5)
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