No Place to Run eBook: Page2

Maya Banks (2010)

Page 2

 

  She made a small sound, and her hands slid down the walls as if she’d lost any remaining strength. She sagged and he caught her gently to him. He was filled with an odd tenderness as he reached up to turn the water off and then settled her into his arms.

  He stepped from the shower and put her down long enough to wrap a towel around her. For a long time they stood there, her forehead resting on his chest as they both tried to catch up.

  She snuggled sleepily into his arms, and again, guilt assailed him as he imagined how tired she must be. He kissed the top of her head.

  “Let’s go get some sleep. You’re exhausted. ”

  She turned her face up to his and smiled even as her eyelids drooped. Then she rose up on tiptoe to curl her arms around his neck.

  “Take me to bed,” she whispered.

  CHAPTER 2

  SAM woke with Sophie in the crook of his arm, her head resting on his shoulder. He was tempted to roll over and slide between her legs and wake them both up with a quick orgasm. But she looked tired and a little fragile, like maybe she’d had a rough night at work.

  He pulled her closer and ran the tips of his fingers up and down her arm. The strands of hair closest to his mouth fluttered with his every breath, and he hooked a finger around them to pull them away from her cheek.

  Her eyelids fluttered and opened, and sleepy blue eyes stared back at him.

  “Good morning,” he murmured

  She responded by snuggling deeper into his side. Her sigh was all he heard, and her arm crept around his waist, linking them tighter together.

  He chuckled lightly and kissed the top of her head. “Content?”

  “Mmm hmmm. ”

  It was easy here in this hotel room. Everything else seemed a world away and they were removed from reality. He wasn’t stupid enough to embrace that, but it was nice, just for a while, to get a sense that the only thing that mattered was right here and right now.

  “Feel like eating something?”

  She raised her head. “What time is it?”

  “Seven. ”

  Before she could respond, a knock sounded at the door. What the hell? He frowned, then eased from underneath Sophie.

  “Stay here and out of sight. ”

  He yanked his jeans on and went to the door, opening it just a crack. The man from the front desk stood there holding a sealed envelope.

  “For you, señor. It was marked as urgent. ”

  Sam took the envelope. “Thank you. ” He closed the door and turned the envelope over in his hand. It didn’t have a name, but then he hadn’t used his real name here. It was only marked “304 Urgent. ” Underlined three times.

  He glanced up at Sophie, who sat up in the bed, the covers drawn to her chin. Then he ripped open the seal and pulled out the single piece of paper.

  At first he didn’t make sense of the short message. When realization hit him in the gut, his first reaction was disbelief. Was someone fucking with him? He needed to get back to his men. This could be complete bullshit, but it was the first potential break KGI had caught in their mission to take Alex Mouton and his extensive arms network down.

  For two weeks Sam and his brothers had posed as buyers, trying to make contact with Mouton. And nothing. Either the man was a suspicious bastard or he had no interest in gaining new clients. Which told Sam that his current clientele was paying him a fuckload of money.

  A chill slithered up his spine. Why the anonymous warning? Who had known what the Kelly Group was really after? They’d been careful. They’d done everything right. Blended in with the locals. Given no one any reason to believe they were anything but who they said they were. Even Sam’s illicit liaisons with Sophie had gone a long way in building his cover. Because what kind of dumbass came on a covert op and then spent his time fucking a local waitress to distraction?

  “Sam, is something wrong?”

  Her soft voice settled over him, soothing some of the tension. He crumpled the note in his hand after committing it to memory. He shoved it into his pocket and focused again on Sophie. Sophie who sat naked in his bed. Sophie who he wouldn’t ever see again.

  He crossed the room and slid onto the edge of the bed beside her. She stared back at him, her eyes puzzled, and there was a hint of something else there. Fear?

  He touched her cheek in an effort to reassure her. “I’ve got to go. Something’s come up. Something important. ”

  She bit her bottom lip. “Okay. ”

  He inhaled, hating what he had to say next.

  “I don’t know when—if—I’ll be back. ”

  Her face became impassive. Her usually expressive eyes were shuttered and distant.

  “I understand. ”

  Before he could say anything else, she leaned up and wrapped her arms around his neck. The sheet fell, baring her breasts. She kissed him. Just once. With all the sweetness she’d brought into his life in just a short time.

  He savored the taste and the sensation and knew he’d never have this again. Regret tightened his chest.

  “Be careful,” she whispered.

  He touched her cheek and then kissed her again. “Always. ”

  SOPHIE waited long enough that she was sure Sam wouldn’t return to the room, and then she hurriedly dressed, making sure she left nothing behind. In the bathroom, she twisted her hair in a quick knot and thrust a pick from her bag through the knot to hold it.

  The woman staring back at her in the mirror was young, amusedly fresh-faced and deceptively innocent looking. She felt none of those things but knew people only saw what they wanted to see. No one ever took her seriously or saw her as a threat.

  That would end today.

  Taking one last sweep of the room, she saw Sam’s knife lying on the floor where he’d tossed it after cutting her bra off. She stooped down to retrieve it and then shoved it into her pocket. There would be no evidence he was here, and she might just need it later.

  Taking a deep breath, she cracked open the door and peeked out of the room and down the hall. Satisfied no one was about, she hurried to the stairs, bypassing the corridor leading to the elevator.

  On the first floor, there were two doors in the alcove, one leading to the lobby and one leading outside into the alley beside the hotel. She ducked outside to see the car waiting for her.

  Squaring her shoulders, she strode to the dark Mercedes. The driver got out, somber-looking in a dark suit and sunglasses that completely obscured his eyes. He was nameless and faceless, just like everyone else in her father’s organization. Just as she was.

  He opened the door to the backseat, and she was swallowed by the armored vehicle.

  The driver took her through the back edges of town, through crumbling cobblestone streets, some of which had huge gaps where sand and rock took over. The car drew no curious stares. The residents here were well used to her father’s presence and had learned not to ask questions.

  They left the rows of shabby houses and turned onto a winding dirt road that led into the hills surrounding the remote town. When finally they approached the stern spires that guarded her father’s compound, the driver slowed and then punched a series of commands into the remote installed in the dash.

  The heavy iron gate swung open to admit them, and they zoomed rapidly up the paved driveway. A thick line of trees obscured the view of the sprawling house, and in fact there was only a small hole through the dense line, where the car seemingly disappeared into a forest, only to burst through the other side to a sight that was deceptively idyllic.

  To a little girl, it had been fairyland. She hadn’t been that little girl in a long time.

  Instead of pulling around front where the circle drive surrounded a huge fountain, the driver parked at the side of the house, under an awning that sheltered three other armored vehicles.

  He opened the door, and Sophie blinked at the wash of sunshine that slapped her in the face. She stepped out and glanced up at the driver
.

  “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” he asked in a low voice.

  She merely nodded, not trusting that she wouldn’t be overheard if she responded.

  “I’ll be waiting. ”

  This time she didn’t react. She walked past the driver and inserted her security card into the slot beside the door leading into the house. Her father would be alerted to her presence, and he’d be waiting for her. He never came to her. She was expected to go to him and give a report just like any of his employees.

  A maid met her in the hallway to her father’s office. Sophie didn’t meet her gaze. The maid stared straight ahead, but as Sophie approached, the maid reached under her apron and handed a small bag to her as she passed.

  It was a designer handbag, something her father would expect her to have. He’d probably bought this one. She tucked it under her arm and stopped in front of the double door at the end of the corridor.

  She raised her hand to knock but stopped in midair. She shook from head to toe, and sweat beaded her forehead. Each breath seemed dragged from her, heavy and sluggish. Her heart thumped wildly, until she was sure it was audible in the silence.

  Swallowing back her fear, she squared her shoulders and knocked. She’d need every bit of composure she could muster. Her father could spot weakness in a second.

  The doors opened automatically, and she stepped forward. Miraculously her fear subsided when she looked across the room to see her father standing against the huge picture window. It, like everything, was deceptive. What looked like a foolhardy extravagance for a man as wanted as he, was in actuality a one-way reflective plate of the highest-tech bulletproof material available. It wasn’t even on the market yet.

  He could see out, but no one could see in.

  “Sophie, you have information?”

  The casual way in which he posed the question didn’t in any way fool her. Her father wasn’t casual about anything. He was coldly aloof and calculating. He didn’t expect obedience. He demanded it. With chillingly positive results.

  She glanced around the room, searching out the position of his guards. There were two inside. At least a dozen outside. Each willing to give his life for the man who owned him. Today she was happy to accommodate them.

  “I do have something that might interest you,” she murmured.

  He raised a speculative eyebrow as if he couldn’t believe she’d proven useful. She made a show of opening her handbag as if she had something to give him.

  Her fingers slid over the rubber stock of the gun, and then one finger curled over the cool metal trigger. In a lightning move, she turned and shot through the bag, downing the first guard. Before the second could react, she fired again, the heavy plunk of the bullet as it smacked his neck the only sound in the room.

  The bag fell away, revealing the long barrel of the silencer. Her father stared unflinchingly at her.

  “What is this, Sophie?”

  She wasn’t talking to the bastard. No stupid games. She had precious seconds to make her getaway before all hell broke loose on his command.

  She raised the pistol, and just before she fired, she saw the surprised shock in her father’s eyes. He fell heavily, blood spreading on the polished wood floors.

  She yanked the knife from her pocket and rushed over to where he lay. Shoving the collar of his shirt down, she reached for the leather thong that circled his neck and slashed it free.

  The thin cylindrical piece of metal lay against his skin, smeared with his blood. She grabbed it, then went to his desk and felt for the button underneath.

  Across the room a panel of the floor slid open, revealing a staircase leading down into the underground network of pathways.

  Without a single glance back, she hit the stairs running. She’d spent months memorizing the layout. She knew every path, every turn by heart even though she’d never been below. Relying on those long hours of studying the computerized plans, she made her way to the exit where the driver waited for her.

  Ten minutes later, she rushed into the sun and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the car there waiting. He hadn’t betrayed her.

  He ushered her inside, and when she was settled in the back, he glanced at her in the rearview mirror.

  “It is done?”

  She swallowed and nodded. “Thank you for helping me. ”

  The slight incline of his jaw was the only acknowledgment he gave her, as he gunned the engine and roared off. She never looked back. There was nothing for her there.

  As the miles passed, she let herself relax. And she dared to hope the impossible.

  Freedom.

  Finally, she was free.

  CHAPTER 3

  Five months later

  SOPHIE throttled back and the boat slowed, coming to a near standstill in Kentucky Lake. Darkness shrouded her. The sky was overcast. New moon. Only one or two stars poked through the cloud cover. She was running with no lights and keeping to the middle of the lake until she was sure she was close enough to her destination to move quickly to shore.

  She studied the small handheld GPS and then lifted her gaze up the shoreline to the north. According to her coordinates, her destination was another mile down the lake.

  She swallowed her fear and nervousness and automatically put her hand on her belly in a soothing motion. Would Sam even be there? How would he react to seeing her again? What would he say when he knew the truth about her?