With all the books out there nowadays it can be hard to choose which one to read. There are so many to choose from. As of May 2, 2019 there were 48.5 million books available on Amazon.com! That number has increased since then, it increases every single day!
Lacey — Thursday Night
Lacey Stuart’s muscles tightened as irritation prickled through her nervous system. She gave her phone yet another check. No new messages. A swirl of frustration blew past her lips, as she pushed the phone farther back on the bar. It didn’t look like Steve was going to show. Emergencies pop up, she thought, trying to be generous. But really, what could have stopped him from sending a quick text? She slid her thigh farther up her crossed legs, trying not to skate off the ultra-modern, ultra-awkward bar stool made for someone much taller than she. Lacey caught the server’s eye and tapped the rim of her empty Cosmo glass, signaling that another one was in order. She decided to take a taxi back to her apartment after she finished this drink – with or without Steve.
She should probably be worried about Steve. It wasn’t like him to stand her up. But honestly, the only thing she felt was aggravation. It had been a long, miserable day at work. All Lacey wanted was to be back in her apartment curled up with a cup of hot tea, and her book. Lacey glanced down at the winter coat she’d thrown across the stool beside hers to save a place for Steve — a good thirty minutes ago. She couldn’t understand why he’d been so insistent on meeting her here, and then not being courteous enough to give her a heads up that he was running late.
As the server set a fresh drink in front of her, Lacey caught scotch-on-the-rocks guy staring at her mouth. Again. She wondered if he had a thing for bright red lipstick or if she had a strand of spinach from her afternoon snack caught in her teeth. Lacey held her hand over her mouth, lowering her head to stare at her lap while her tongue foraged in the crevices and along the gum line, hoping to excavate any residue.
As she raised her eyes, they caught on a man by the door. He was staring at her as if he knew her and was trying to make a decision. She didn’t recognize him, but his attention made a tingle of apprehension skitter across her scalp. Lacey hated living with this pervasive paranoia. Fear and hypervigilance had made her find demons in the shadows. After everything that had happened to her last fall, she no longer trusted her ability to tell the difference between some guy checking her out and some guy who meant to hurt her. I need to find a therapist, she told herself. Lacey reached out to touch the base of the pink girly drink in front of her. An anchor. A reason for her to be sitting alone at the bar. Her shaking fingers encircled the delicate stem, and she lifted the glass for a sip.
Out of the corner of her eye, Lacey watched the man by the door take another step forward into the room. As his interest pulled her focus back over to him, he tipped his head as if asking her a question. The stranger’s eyes didn’t move from hers, even as he eased his shoulder against the wall, letting a boisterous girl-group push past him in a cloud of perfume and shiny fabrics.
The man was tall; his sports jacket looked tailored to his athletic body. He bunched his brow into a wrinkled knot as they looked at each other. His face might have been handsome in a rugged Marlboro-man kind of way in his earlier years, but now he was weathered and balding, and there was something vicious about the slash of his mouth and the way he held his shoulders.
Lacey stopped breathing. Vulnerability swept up from her stomach and stuck in her throat. She forced her eyes away from his and scanned the screen on her phone. No, Steve still hadn’t texted with a reason for not showing, or a time he’d arrive. She tapped the app to call a cab. She glanced at scotch-on-the rocks guy, who dangled his glass from his fingertips in such a way as to hide his attention. But his gaze was firmly on her mouth. Lacey felt threats everywhere. She worked at being reasonable. She was a woman alone in a bar. Of course she had attracted attention. Though, neither of these men was giving off the usual bar signals – there was no hoping-for-a-hook-up vibe. These guys seemed a different kind of predatory. And she felt trapped. Panicked.
Lacey leaned into the bar. “Hey there, I think I’m going to take my check, please.” She pushed her almost-full glass away from her to signal that she was finished.
As the bartender slid her tab into a leather folder and placed it in front of her, Lacey jerked her credit card from her phone case. She wished she could ask the manager to let her slip out the back door of the kitchen rather than make her skitter past the guy spooking her at the front. While she signed the bottom of the receipt, Lacey peeked past the long layers of her hair over to the man at the entrance. He was fishing in his pocket, then pulled something out.
Lacey jolted as a crack of thunder erupted violently, causing a wave of gasps and startled giggles from around the room. The lights flickered, and Lacey slid off her stool to leave. As her feet touched the ground, the doors crashed open and a group of festively dressed couples surged in, laughing and shaking off the sudden rain. With the noise and commotion as a backdrop, the man made his move. In an instant, he towered in front of her, blocking Lacey’s retreat.
“Danika?” he said quietly.
Even though the room was loud, Lacey could hear him clearly. When she heard that name, her joints solidified, and she couldn’t move or speak. Her dark brown eyes, heavy with mascara, pulled wide as they filled with shock. Another clap of thunder worked its way across the sky; the sound held Lacey in place, sucking the oxygen from her lungs.
The man bent his head closer to her ear. “Danika, you’re in danger.” His last word became a sharp sucking sound as he arched backward. His fingers curled into the pewter satin of Lacey’s blouse. He pulled her sideways, reeling to the left, hitting the floor first with his shoulder, then with his head, taking her with him.
Lacey tried to scramble up, to pull her skirt back down below her hips, to regain some decorum now that she had flashed the bar with her pink silk panties. But the stranger tightened his grip and locked her to him with a tight fist. “They know who you are. Trust no one. Run.” His words bubbled out with red spittle and the visual made Lacey’s mind go numb. She worked hard at processing what was happening, but her brain snagged on the red froth at the corners of his lips, and she couldn’t think past it.
As the man exhaled the word “run,” he unwound his right hand from the fabric of her blouse. He shoved something cold and hard down into her bra. Lacey tried to pull free. She dropped her jaw to scream, but Lacey couldn’t make any air pass by her vocal cords, so her mouth hung open and empty.
Someone gripped Lacey’s upper arms, lifted her, questioned her, was she all right?
All right? Lacey stared down at the stranger, trying to process the fact that he had called her Danika. That he was there to warn her. And now, a red puddle pooled from under his shoulders.
The bartender rolled the man on to his stomach as the well-clad patrons fished out their phones. Lacey prayed that someone was calling 911. But the bright strobe of flashes meant that most were grabbing pictures to post on Instagram and Snapchat to show what dangerous and exciting lives they led. The flashing lights turned the scene into an impressionist’s painting where the eye only took in and defined certain aspects, the outline of a leg, the hem of a skirt, the swirl of burgundy leaching across the floor.
Lacey pinned her focus on the knife handle protruding from the man’s herringbone jacket. Someone had stabbed into his lungs, and now he was gasping like a trout lugged from the river. That doesn’t belong there, was all Lacey’s shocked mind could manage. She reached down and yanked the blade from the stranger’s back. Blood dripped from the sharp edge. Lacey dropped the weapon to the ground in disgust. She held her hands wide and let the wine colored droplets trickle from the webbing of her fingers.
Hands now pulled Lacey backward, away from the stranger’s flailing legs. A linen napkin rubbed over her fingers. Lacey twisted to see over her shoulder where she found scotch-on-the rocks guy.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, dropping the napkin to the floor. “He’s a good friend of yours?” His voice was kind and solicitous. With a solid grip, he moved Lacey away from the dying man, around the back of the fascinated crowd, and toward the front door.
It wasn’t until she was propelled out of the bar and a shot of cold, wet air hit her face that Lacey registered the dying man’s warning. “Trust no one. Run.” She hadn’t a clue what he could have meant. All she knew was that Scotch-on-the-rocks had tightened his grip and was herding her toward a black car with its back door gaping open.
Lacey set her high heels into the mortar of the rain-slicked brick sidewalk. She snaked her body and protested, but she made no progress in freeing herself. Without forethought, Lacey’s knee slammed into the man’s groin. He collapsed with a grunt. As he hit the ground, he stretched out a hand, shackling her ankle with an iron grasp. Lacey freaked.
She kicked at his face with her free foot, yelling for help. Swinging her head, she searched the crowd for a hero. She spotted two men clambering from the black sedan and knew she had seconds to get herself free. Lacey aimed her stiletto at her captor’s chest. He blocked it with his free arm. Releasing her ankle, he reached into his jacket. Lacey felt sure he was going for a gun.
Her scream should have cut through the bar patrons’ glee at tonight’s horrific adventure, should have brought someone to her rescue. But the scream was masked by an EMS truck, speeding up the street, sirens wailing. Lacey reeled back into the bar and ran as fast as her high heels and tight skirt would allow, pushing people out of the way, clambering past chairs. She had to find another way out–a back exit–some way to escape.
Lacey burst out of the kitchen door, stumbling head long into a pile of black trash bags, lining the alleyway. The downpour stung her upturned face as headlights caught her in their abrupt illumination. Car doors popped open.
Pushing herself up—her shoes left behind—Lacey sprinted down the alley, down the road, down the Metro stairs, and into the late-evening crowd. Away from the men’s angry shouting.
Sopping wet and garbage streaked, Lacey slid behind a Metro System’s construction curtain. She panted behind the plastic yellow fabric, replaying the scene of her alley escape from the second car of scary men.
Lacey was sure she had heard a man bark, “Secret Service.” But the dead man had said, “Trust no one.”
Was he dead? Lacey had never seen anyone blow blood bubbles before and couldn’t imagine coming back from that. It was the stuff of horror flicks and midnight campfire stories – the kind of imagery that ruined sleep for nights, maybe even for years, to come. Lacey lifted her hands, crusty with flaked blood where she had squeezed her fists as she pumped her arms and fled. She rubbed her palms together in disbelief.
It was possible that the man was alive, she tried to reason. Surely someone had gotten to him with medical help in time. If he lived, Lacey would like to talk to him and find out what was going on. And while she wanted the information, she also never wanted to be near that guy again. Ever. But still. . . Lacey’s head danced with questions like pointillist dots on a canvas all blending together to paint a picture of absolute terror. Lacey was terrified. This was what the word meant. She had used the word so many times when it was just silly – rollercoasters, and exam grades. Lacey pushed the strands of her damp hair back off her face and bit at her lip to stop its trembling.
Did the man really mean trust no one? Lacey sat on an overturned bucket, propping her elbows on her knees and holding her head, trying hard to calm her shaking. Secret Service seemed like reasonable people to trust. Maybe the police? “They know who you are.” Suddenly, Lacey wondered why scary people would know who she was. Her mind slipped to her great uncle, Bartholomew Winslow, who owned the art gallery she managed. He was hiding out at his home in Bali, and wouldn’t be coming back to the United States until things settled down – until the arrest warrant went away. Did this have something to do with him and his affiliation with the Assembly? She reached into her blouse to retrieve what the dying man had thrust into her bra.
A flash drive.
She sat there, staring at it.
Sure, I get a lot of free books sent to me by authors, but ultimately I prefer to purchase them or at least use KU. Authors put a lot of work into their books, they deserve the compensation for their work. Trust me, not all indie authors make a ton of money on their books. After the selling platform takes their cut and you figure in the cost of editing, formatting and cover design, not to mention the cost of advertising, authors are sometimes in the negative. It takes a lot to make a living as an author. So, no matter what book you read please leave the author a review. It keeps them going!
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First Chapters... Missing Lynx (Book Two The Lynx Series) @FionaQuinnBooks #KindleUnlimited #Sample #readers #MustRead #RPBP #IARTG #ASMSG
Welcome to the second edition of First Chapters with Fiona Quinn!
Today we are featuring the second book in The Lynx Series, Missing Lynx. We can't emphasize enough how good this series is! Read the sample below and start reading this series today, FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
Missing Lynx (The Lynx Series Book 2)
Lynx Thought Her Job Would Keep Her SafeLexi Sobado, code named Lynx, is settling into a new job at Iniquus. The new position is satisfying: sort the random puzzles her team hands her to solve crimes, and, occasionally, support her team in the field - planting transmitters, sleight-of -hand, cracking a safe every once in a while, but nothing that would call for daring deeds of do or die. At least that's how her contract reads.
The Person Lynx Trusts Most Can't Help HerSadly, Lexi's life does't ever follow her carefully laid plans. Spyder McGraw, Lexi's long-time family-friend and mentor, shows up in town, bringing more questions than answers. A new neighbor, Maria Rodriguez, moves into Lexi's neighborhood - their pasts dangerously linked together. And grief as Lexi mourns her late husband, Angel, tangles itself around her feelings for Striker Rheas. At work, at home, in her heart, Lexi can't seem to find the sense of peace and security that she craves.
As old enemies surface, Lynx will fight until her last breath.Just as Lexi seems to move in the right direction, she becomes a pawn in a deadly international game. Lexi's teammates scramble to find her before it's too late. Lexi is fighting for her life.
I strained against the seat belt, leaning forward with impatience, as if by weight and will I could get us there faster. My fingers drummed anxiously on the car door. I wanted to be at the airport now; I had waited more than a year to see my mentor, Spyder McGraw, and hear his rolling thunder laugh.
Striker slid his eyes toward me then refocused on the road. A little smile played across his lips. “You think that screaming like a Hellhound through Washington is going to get Spyder off his plane any faster?”
Striker Rheas took up a lot of space. His silken rusty-brown hair with its tight military cut brushed the roof; his shoulders — powerfully built from his days in Special Ops Forces — spread wide against the seat back. His bearing was always calm, and capable – sometimes too much so. And while I obviously amused him right now, he was pissing me off. I answered him with my best withering stare and turned to the window as he drove sedately through the city streets.
The snow outside fell in big light flakes, powdering the trees and cars, making the road shiny and slick. DC traffic was non-existent this morning. Everything had shut down for Christmas.
Striker pulled into Reagan International Airport’s parking deck and set the brake. I narrowed my eyes so he would know not to hedge. “At least give me a hint. What kind of assignment are we going to be working on?”
There it was again, the glimmer of amusement. “I’ve told you everything I’ve got. I’ll be finding out the same time you do.”
“Okay, then where’s Spyder coming in from?”
Striker released his seatbelt and swiveled toward me. “He flew his last leg from Dallas - DC” He held up his hands. “I swear that’s all the information I know.”
“This is a little surreal.” I pushed a blond curl behind my ear. “One minute I’m starting new classes at the University, and the next you’re handing me my gear to take down some bad-guy. I had a plan.”
“Plans change. Seems serendipitous — Spyder reappearing just as you wanted to head out the door.” He flashed a smile. I loved Striker’s smiles — slightly crooked, hint of dimples, straight white teeth. His smiles started in his warm green eyes where the flecks of gold danced. They disarmed me, but I wanted my armor up.
I arched a brow. “I think perhaps you used more bullying and less serendipity to change my heart. Maybe a little bribery?”
“Incentivizing, Lynx. You wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to serve your country – and, of course, to work with Spyderman.”
I got out of the car. The wind whipped the skirt of my Christmas-red cocktail dress around my legs. I was still dressed from the party last night. After the guests left, Striker surprised me with the news about Spyder coming home. Since my parents had passed away, Spyder took on a bigger role than playing my mentor; he became my other dad. Spyder’s homecoming was the best Christmas gift ever. Well, that and the beautiful gold brooch Striker gave me under the mistletoe – along with the kind of kiss that should end every great romance novel. The kind that promises a happily-ever-after.
Ah, if life were only that simple. I didn’t need a fairytale ending. Right now, I just wanted to regain my balance. And truth be told, Striker wasn’t looking for fairytales, either.
I wasn’t sure what he meant by that kiss. Striker was his job. He was a highly effective operative dedicated to protecting national security. Everything was secondary. Everyone was secondary. Would I change that? No. Could I live with it? Hmmm. I tried before with Angel, and that ended about as badly as anything could end. If Striker wanted a relationship with me, he’d want it on his own terms. He hadn’t articulated his parameters to me. Probably because he knew I wouldn’t like them.
I tightened the belt around my short wool coat as Striker walked over to my side. His eyes caught mine. He tilted his head with that assessing look of his. “That’s a curious expression, Lynx. What were you just thinking?”
I smiled up at him. “That the décolleté on this party dress might be a little inappropriate for Christmas morning.”
Striker grinned. “You’re probably right, but I’m not complaining. I think you’re beautiful.” He planted a light kiss at my hair line, entwined his fingers with mine, and we walked toward the terminal.
Even in my heels, Striker’s six-foot-three frame towered above me. His Irish cable knit sweater and pair of 501s accentuated everything a girl could want accentuated. His assets weren’t lost on the woman passing us, pulling her carry-on behind her. She turned to give his rear an appreciative glance, clearly enjoying the view. Pretty tactless — the man was holding my hand, and she didn’t know we weren’t a couple.
In the waiting area, I shed my coat and paced in front of our seats, wringing my hands. Impatience and excitement made me hot and twitchy.
“If you get any warmer, there isn’t much left to shed, Lynx.” Striker stretched out his long legs and slouched back in the hard plastic chair.
“It’s Lexi. I don’t use my call name when I’m off the clock.”
Striker’s eyes moved over my dress. The low cut bodice showed off my full breasts and cinched tight at the waist like a starlet from the fifties. I felt flirtatious and sexy when I danced at the party. The skirt ballooned out as I spun around showing off legs toned from years of running and martial arts.
“What if he’s late? Did you check and make sure he made his flight?” I pulled my hair back into a ponytail to get it out of my face. “I should take another peek at the board, maybe there’s been a delay.”
“That’s fine. You go do that.”
I focused down the hall where the flight board stood. “I can’t.” I plopped down beside him. “My feet hurt too badly.”
“I will never understand why a woman does that to herself.”
“You think my high-heels are sexy, don’t you?” I straightened my leg for him to see.
“And that’s why I wear them.” I kicked off my shoes. The cold floor eased the ache. I didn’t care too much about propriety, since we were almost the only people at the airport. “They make my legs long and my butt perky. I like dressing girly and pretty.” Actually, looking young, cute, and approachable made my job a whole lot easier. Being discounted as a piece of fluff let me go places, and do things, that would normally set off alarms.
Striker wrapped his arm around my shoulders pulling me to him. “I totally agree with the girly and pretty part, Chica,” he whispered into my hair.
I pushed Striker off me and jumped to my feet. “Oh God, he needs our help.”
“Who does?” Striker rose beside me his eyes scanning the room for a threat. “What are you talking about?”
I hopped on one foot, cramming my shoe on to the other one. Striker cupped my elbow to hold me steady.
“Spyder. I heard him say it in my head.” I tapped my finger to my temple as I came upright.
Striker’s body shifted. His muscles tightened and the laughter left his eyes. “You heard this ESP-wise?”
A disembodied voice over the loudspeaker announced Spyder’s flight was deplaning.
I didn’t bother answering Striker. Of course ESP-wise. Why else would I be hearing voices in my head?
I grabbed up my coat and purse and ran toward the security gate. The passengers coming up looked rumpled and droopy eyed. I, on the other hand, was chomping at the bit, eagerly searching the crowd.
Normally, Spyder McGraw stood flag-pole tall and thin. The contrast between his white teeth and midnight, blue-black skin was startling, and the only distinctive thing about him. He shaved his head and wore non-descript clothes. Spyder liked to blend.
There! The last one off. His tall frame loomed in the back behind the swarm. His shoulders bowed uncharacteristically as he moved forward zombie-like.
With my focus glued to Spyder’s face, I pushed through the crush of travelers leaving the security gate. The guards jumped up from their posts – my actions drawing their attention, but I didn’t care. I had to help Spyder. One guard grabbed at my arm. His other hand popped the snap on his holster. Striker brandished his Iniquus ID, and the guards fell back.
I swam forward against the current of travelers until I could reach Spyder. The deadly strong arms, that I knew so well, hung lifelessly by his sides. I pulled him in to a hug. Sweat glistened his face, and his body trembled against mine. I reached up and touched his head; the heat wavered off his skin in almost visible pulses.
“I need a wheelchair.” I commanded the guards whom I caught in my peripheral vision. They had braced for action mere inches away. My focus never left Spyder’s face. “Spyder, you’re burning up.”
He mouthed, “Malaria,” and keeled over.
Striker lunged for him but couldn’t get a good hold from over my shoulder. I dropped to the ground to protect Spyder’s head from the tile floor.
The guards pushed passengers out of the way.
“Call an ambulance!” I shouted and struggled out from underneath Spyder.
He was conscious, but his eyes were glassy and unfixed. I patted his face and called his name. He didn’t even try to respond or focus on me. Striker loosened Spyder’s clothes at the neck and waist.
Grabbing my purse, I upended it, searching frantically through the debris to find the extra diabetic supply kit I carried for when I babysat my neighbor’s little girl, Jilly-bean.
With shaking hands, I grasped Spyder’s finger. I have done blood checks about a thousand times as a volunteer EMT, but my training whispered from deep in my brain - muffled by the storm clouds of my emotions. Memories of the night my dad and I were in the car accident swamped my mind. I knelt exactly like this, on the side of the road, holding my dad’s head and praying the same prayer, “Please be okay, please be okay,” even though it was obviously too late for him.
The number on the meter came up low. Way too low. Verge of coma low. “Think,” I commanded myself as I reached blindly for the glucose gel from my purse jumble.
“Striker, hold him still.” My EMT voice sounded focused and in charge. Where did that come from? I felt everything but professional; I felt gelatinous. “When I give Spyder this glucose, he won’t understand what’s going on. He’ll fight for his life.”
Striker fastened down on Spyderman’s wrists. Straddling him, Striker used his weight as leverage.
Kneeling, my thighs clamped like a vice by Spyder’s ears to restrain him and protect his head. His chest didn’t rise or fall. Horror jetted through my veins. I put my cheek toward his face to reassure myself that he was still breathing. Spyder’s exhale whispered against my skin. My breath blew as thinly as his. My legs and feet burned and tingled from lack of oxygen. “Breathe deeper!” I ordered as much for Spyder as for myself.
By muscle memory and not from conscious thought, I held Spyder’s nose until he unclenched his teeth and parted his lips. I stuck the tube into his mouth and squirted the glucose down his throat. I used all of my leg strength to protect his head, and to keep him in place while I squeezed the gungy gel. As he fought, glucose smeared everywhere.
Striker wrestled Spyderman down like they were on the Olympic mats, going for a gold medal. I knew Striker would have to. Once I watched Spyder lift a man twice his weight and throw him like a rag doll. Spyder had long thin limbs made of steel.
I had tunnel vision. Nothing existed but Striker, me, Spyder and the red goo. As I worked, I chanted my mantra. Each inhale was a “Please.” Each exhale, “Be okay.” “Please, be okay.” Like the Little Engine-Who-Could cheerleading itself through the crisis. “Please, be okay.”
I startled when the security guard crouched beside me.
“The rescue squad’s in the building, ma’am; they’ll be here in a minute.”
“Grab more gel and pop the top off for me.” I pointed at the tube with my chin. The guard put it in my hand and waited for further instructions.
“Hold his legs down.”
The security guard looked dubious but did as I said.
I was squirting the second tube of glucose into Spyder’s mouth, as the paramedics rushed over with a gurney. I knew one of the guys, Chuck; I recognized him from my volunteer-training. The sight of him buoyed me. We had resources now and trained support. I put on a costume of competence. My teeth stopped chattering; my hands stopped shaking.
“What’ve you got here, Lexi?” Chuck asked, setting his equipment bag beside me.
“Forty-five-year-old male, with no history of heart problems, weak vitals, reporting a recurrence of malaria. High fever. Exhibiting signs of hypoglycemia. I checked with a meter I had. It read 29. I have most of one tube of gel in, and I’m working on the second one. If you’ve got any more, we could probably use it.”
Chuck opened his case, grabbed a tube, and pulled off the plastic top. He laid it beside me and took out his official blood glucose meter. He swabbed Spyderman’s finger, with Striker’s help.
“22. He’s not coming up, yet. He’s thrashing too much to try to run a line with dextrose. We may want to use a Glucagon shot.” Chuck rummaged in his supply kit.
I caught Chuck’s eye. “Since he’s not unconscious yet, let’s see if I can get enough gel in to calm him down, then we can put him on the gurney and strap him down for the IV.”
He nodded. “We’ll work your plan. Let me get more gels out. He’s spitting most of it on you.” Chuck pulled a handful of tubes from his kit.
I was covered in gel; Spyder was covered in gel. It took every single tube the paramedics had brought with them to get Spyder stable. While Spyder became lucid, the EMTs wiped him off and loaded him on to the gurney. I sat on the floor and watched – nerves vibrating.
Chuck tapped his pen against the clipboard. “Malaria. How’d you know to check for hypoglycemia, Lex?”
Spyder had contracted malaria when he was in Africa supporting a DEVGRU operation. It was Striker who carried him out of the jungle to safety. When Spyder returned home to recover, I made sure that I knew everything I could about the disease. I wasn’t about to lose another loved one. Not if I could help it. “I don’t know,” I said. “I must have read something about it along the way. Quinine and hypoglycemia…”
Chuck nodded. “Do you have a name and address?”
“His name is…” And I stopped. I didn’t know his name. He was like a father to me, but the only name I’ve ever associated with him was his call name, Spyder — or as Iniquus baptized him “Spyderman” since Striker and Spyder sound the same over the airwaves. I had no idea what his legal name was. I searched out Striker’s eyes, and he shrugged.
“His name is Mr. McGraw. He’s just back in the country. I don’t know where he traveled in from. He’ll be living with me.” I gave Chuck my contact information.
“Are you following us to the hospital?” Chuck placed a kit between Spyder’s legs on the gurney. His partner attached the IV bag of dextrose and saline onto a support arm.
“Yes,” I said from my place on the floor.
“Okay, he’s packaged for transport, so we’re going to head on. We’re taking him to Suburban; dispatch says they have a pathologist on call this morning. I’ll catch up with you at Emergency. It’s good to see you again, Lexi. Sorry it’s under these circumstances.”
I slowly gathered the contents of my purse back together. Striker helped me to my feet and held me steady until I caught my balance.
“You’re sticky.” He moved his hands out and away so as not to spread the goop any farther.
“Yeah, let’s wash up, and then we can go,” I said.
The shock my body was processing pushed me beyond exhaustion. I shambled into the ladies’ room and stood in front of the mirror. Not girly. Not pretty. Not even approachable. I was one big fat mess. Red slime in my hair, on my dress, up and down my arms. My mascara had run with the tears down my cheeks, leaving black rivulets. I did my best to wash off, took a deep breath, and headed back to the car with Striker. He opened the passenger-side door for me. I sat down, but couldn’t swing my legs in. I stopped for a minute.
“You okay?” Striker crouched beside me.
“Ha! My legs are shaking from that workout. Spyder fought like a madman.”
Striker put his warm hands on my thighs and slowly massaged them up and down. I reached out and grabbed his wrists, his hands caught under my skirt. I swirled with emotions - too many feelings in one big rush; they made my head spin. “Please don’t.” The last wayward tear slid past my lashes and got stuck beside my nose.
“Lynx, I was trying to help - I wasn’t thinking.” Striker said earnestly.
“Not your fault. I’m just - it’s too much. My emotions have been doing cart-wheels since the party.”
“It’s been a hell of a morning for you.” Striker looked deeply into my eyes. His calm confidence steadied me. “Okay, Chica?”
Striker slowly brushed a stray lock of hair back, kissed the tear from beside my lips, and walked around to the driver’s side.
I hauled the door shut with the last of my energy. “I’m exhausted.”
Striker slid under the wheel. “It was a hell of a fight for first thing in the morning.”
“What I want to know is why Spyder would chance travelling in that condition. You spoke to him — he said nothing about his being on death’s door-step?”
“All he said was, ‘I’m coming in for Christmas, gear up, I need help beheading the Hydra.”
“My thought, exactly.” Striker warmed me with a smile, pulled his belt across his chest, and steered down the early morning streets with his normal calm – which, as usual, drove me absolutely crazy.
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