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Authors: Jackie Ashenden

Take Me Deeper (7 page)

BOOK: Take Me Deeper
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“So why does it make protecting her your job?” Quinn's gaze turned assessing. “Or are you just wanting in her pants?”

Typical fucking Quinn. The guy saw far too much sometimes. Certainly too much that was uncomfortable.

He's right, though. Of course you want in her pants.

Zane shoved the stupid thought away. Yeah, his dick was interested in her, but quite apart from the fact that she was a skip and they didn't get involved with skips, she was also vulnerable. And he didn't do vulnerable either. Not anymore. “It's not about sex,” he said, irritated.

“Bullshit.” Blatant skepticism gleamed in his brother's eyes. “I saw the way you were watching her.”

Zane gritted his teeth. Quinn could spot a weakness a mile off, and the prick was very good at exploiting it if he thought it would be to his advantage. “I don't want to sleep with her. I only want to save her life. Why is that such a problem for you?”

“It's a problem for me if protecting her ends up with the business going down the fucking toilet.”

“Well, maybe the business should go down the fucking toilet,” Zane snapped. “Dad didn't give a shit about it in the end, so why should you?”

Quinn's expression hardened, his gaze going flinty. “The business is the heart and soul of this goddamned family, you prick, and I'm not going to be the one responsible for letting it die.” He took a step forward, getting in Zane's space, radiating hostility. “You didn't want to be a part of it and that's fine, I'm not going to argue with you. But that means you don't get a say in how it's run. And if I need a skip fucking turned in, I'll fucking turn her in. Understand?”

Zane knew that look, the one Quinn got when he made up his mind about something. He never changed it either, which made continuing to argue with him pointless, especially when he tended to dig in when pushed.

Better to shut the hell up and just go do what he wanted like he normally did. Anyway, fuck him. Zane could have used his help, but he didn't need it. He'd protect Iris alone if he had to. He'd just have to recalibrate a few things.

“Fair enough,” Zane said, keeping his voice cool. “But Lone Star doesn't belong only to you. Rush has a say too.”

“He'll be with me on this one.”

“I'm sure he will. But I'll run it by him all the same.” Zane made it clear that he wasn't asking permission. He actually had no idea what Rush would say, but if there was a chance Rush would side with him, then he'd take it. Because what was the alternative? Take Iris and hide her until he'd figured out what to do? Sure, he could do that, but it would complicate things, not to mention delay his return to Carolina. Not that he was under any kind of time pressure, he just wanted to get the hell out of Texas as soon as possible.

Quinn snorted and stepped back. “You can try.” He turned toward the entrance of the bar. “But if you're hoping to catch him sober, you'll be shit out of luck. He's been at Jack's all afternoon.”

Jack's was the bar across the street and used to be a favorite of Rush's. Clearly it still was.

“Tomorrow then.” Again, Zane didn't make it a request. “Iris stays here overnight at least.”

Quinn was already walking toward the bar and he didn't pause. “I'm calling Dallas first thing.”

Fucker.

Zane let his brother vanish through the doorway, his mind ticking over furiously. Okay, that gave him some time to figure out what his next move was going to be. Obviously he was going to have to count his brothers out on this one, but that wasn't a problem. He was used to handling things alone.

Making his way over to the stairs, he went up to the second floor. Jesus, he remembered this, the long, dark hallway with the faded red carpet and the oak paneling, the doors to the guest rooms on either side. Some of the rooms used to serve as bedrooms for the Redmond brothers, the rest empty or used as storage. Upstairs, on the third floor, were the suites where their father used to live, though maybe Quinn had claimed those now for himself.

Zane made his way down the hallway to where he'd sent Iris. His old bedroom. It was probably full of other stuff now, because certainly the old man wouldn't have kept it clean and tidy. Not when he couldn't even keep himself clean and tidy.

Zane didn't bother to knock, not when it was his own room, pushing the door open and going in—only to stop, staring around as the door slowly closed heavily behind him.

The room wasn't big, but it did take up a corner of the building, the tall, arched windows set into the two walls, letting in a lot of light. But that wasn't what made him stare. It was the fact that the room smelled fresh, that the old, threadbare red carpet had been vacuumed recently and the various surfaces had been dusted. And weirdest of all,
his
stuff was still there. The bookcase that held his collection of vintage superhero comics. The band posters on the wall: Nirvana and Green Day and Radiohead. The desk against the wall with his old computer on it. His electric guitar still on the stand by the window. The poster of some bikini-clad model he couldn't remember the name of but whom he'd fantasized about a lot.

Jesus Christ. It looked exactly as it had the day he'd left it, except cleaner.

What had the old man been thinking? Had he deliberately kept it like that, or had he just not bothered to pack it all up? Okay, so that was a stupid question. Of course the old man wouldn't have bothered. After Rush had gone to jail and Quinn and himself had left for the military, Joseph Redmond hadn't cared about anything at all.

Not even his fucking company.

Zane dismissed the weird feeling that threaded through him, one that was almost homesickness yet wasn't quite, scanning the room for Iris instead.

She wasn't there.

About to launch into a full-scale hunt, he stopped when he saw her duffel bag sitting on the floor near the dresser. Okay, if her bag was still there, then perhaps she hadn't gone far.

He stilled, listening.

The door to the bathroom was shut, but through it he could hear the shower going. And was that singing? Half against his will, he found himself drifting over to the door and leaning against it.

Yes, it was indeed singing. The tune was familiar but he couldn't quite place it, mainly because she was singing so off-key it rendered whatever song it was unrecognizable.

He didn't know why he smiled. There wasn't anything inherently funny about a woman singing tunelessly in his shower. But there was something about the sound that reached inside him and held on tight. A certain lightness, a carefree quality that he found intriguing.

Being a soldier suited him, and yet there was nothing light or carefree about the missions he'd been given or about the kills he'd had to take. And even though he enjoyed the camaraderie of his unit, he didn't like to be distracted. His head was always full of his next mission, his next strategy, the next thing he had to do in order to stay alive. His buddies gave him shit about it all the time—Relentless Redmond who didn't know when to switch it off. But being so focused had saved him more times than he could count, so he wasn't about to stop doing that anytime soon.

Iris was under threat too and yet, here she was, singing in the shower as if she were safe in her own home and not a fugitive from justice and the cartel who wanted to kill her. How did that work? Did she not understand the danger, or did she just not care?

He leaned his head against the doorframe, remembering the fear in her eyes as that asshole at the bar had opened fire on them in the parking lot. Oh, she understood the danger all right, so maybe it was that she just didn't care.

Or maybe she hasn't got anything more to lose.

Zane frowned at the thought. He didn't like that idea, not one bit.

Abruptly the bathroom door opened in a cloud of heated steam, and there was Iris, her hair hanging in a glossy, wet fall down her back, wrapped in a small white and rather threadbare towel.

He stared, unable to help himself.

Her skin was flushed with heat and beaded here and there with water, and it was as if she were glowing, as if someone had switched a light on inside her. Dark eyes met his, liquid and deep, the shadows of exhaustion beneath them making the protectiveness that had gripped him ever since he'd met her tighten its hold.

“You okay?” The question was curter than he'd meant it to be.

A flicker of surprise chased across her features. “I'm fine. How long have you been out here for?”

“A minute or two. And yes, I heard you singing.”

The flush in her skin deepened. “Oh God. I'm sorry.”

He had a sudden, irresistible urge to tease her about it, which made no sense at all. Instead he straightened, trying not to look down the length of her body to where the towel ended at the tops of her thighs. “Quinn said—”

“I know,” she interrupted before he could finish. “I heard. He's going to call Dallas tomorrow morning.”

“How did you hear that?”

“I eavesdropped.” She looked up at him from beneath long, thick black lashes. “I hope you didn't mind me using your shower. I needed to get changed anyway and wanted to get rid of the blood.”

“No, of course not.” God, she smelled good, of soap and clean skin, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd been this close to an almost-naked woman. He wanted to reach out and pull that towel away…Almost growling, he pushed his hands deep into his pockets. “Don't worry about Quinn. I'll handle him.”

“Uh-huh.” She gave him an impenetrable look, then moved past him, going over to where her duffel bag sat on the floor and bending to pull some clothes out of it.

Zane cursed under his breath as her towel pulled higher and shoved himself away from the bathroom door. He really did
not
need the view of the perfect, round curves of her ass. Not tonight, not when nothing was going to happen.

“You don't sound very worried,” he said, his earlier irritation with his brother and the whole situation suddenly returning full force.

She didn't look at him, examining a T-shirt she'd pulled from the bag. “What do you want me to say? That I'm terrified out of my mind?” Raising the T-shirt to her nose, she gave an experimental sniff. “Ugh. I need to do some laundry.”

Showering. Singing. Complaining about laundry. Was the woman insane?

Zane stalked over to where she stood and jerked the T-shirt out of her hand. “I'll handle that,” he said, his bad temper flaring. “You do know that if Quinn had his way, you'd be heading to Dallas right now?”

“I realize that.”

“So why the hell are you worrying about your goddamn laundry?”

She eyed him, her arms crossed over her chest. “What's it to you? Either way, whether I end up being shipped to Dallas or escaping, I'm screwed, right? The cartel is going to get me eventually. Might as well be shot in clean clothes.”

Her calm acceptance of the situation annoyed him and he didn't know why, because he certainly didn't need her going into hysterics. Maybe it was because she'd seemed to be so keen to get away from him before and yet was completely happy with taking full advantage of his hospitality now.

That's not the reason, moron.

The fabric of her T-shirt was soft in his hand, and he had a bizarre impulse to lift it to his face the way she'd done earlier and inhale the scent of it.

You fucking weirdo. Get out now while you've still got your dignity.

Yes. He really needed to.

“Leave any other laundry that needs doing in the hallway outside,” he said shortly, turning toward the door. “You should also stay up here and out of the way tonight. If we're lucky, Quinn'll forget you're even here.”

Her straight, dark brows lowered. “Are you going to lock the door too?”

“No, of course not. You're not a prisoner.”

“But I could get out. Escape.”

He stilled, glancing at her. “What? You want me to handcuff you?” He shouldn't like the idea of handcuffing her to his bed. He really shouldn't.

A slight stain of red appeared on her cheekbones. Interesting. Very interesting. “No. I was only…figuring out where I stood.”

“You're a bail-jumper, that's where you stand. And if you want to escape, be my guest. The cartel will find you in seconds flat, so good luck with that.”

Another quicksilver flicker of emotion crossed her face, though what it was, he didn't know. “I guess I'll be staying here then.” She let out a breath and scanned the room. “There are worse places to be stuck in, I suppose. Though I have to say, this is a pretty strange-looking hotel room.”

“It's not a hotel room. It was my bedroom.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?” She took another glance around. “Well, Radiohead I can see, but Nirvana?” This time when she looked back at him, there was a distinct gleam in her eyes. “You're way too clean-cut for them.”

Zane blinked. She was a skip, a criminal escaping from justice and sought after by a group of seriously bad men, and now she was giving him crap about his teenage music choices.

And you like it.

No, he didn't like it. He didn't have time for it. What he needed to do was get out of here and start figuring out his next move, work out a back-up plan, because he was going to need one if he couldn't convince Quinn to change his mind.

He curled his fingers around her T-shirt. “Like I said”—he kept his voice cold—“stay here. I'll go out and find you some dinner.”

She was flushed and pink, and her eyes were far too dark. And for some reason he kept thinking about that blow job offer, and what that soft red mouth of hers would look like wrapped around his dick…

Fuck
.

Without another word, he headed toward the door.

“Hey,” she called from behind him. “What did I say?”

BOOK: Take Me Deeper
12.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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