Rules of Protection (Tangled in Texas)(8)

By: Alison Bliss

Two men in sleek suits with short dark hair joined his side. They resembled bodyguards, and both silently stared at Sergio.

Sergio stood, waving his arms frantically. “Wait, Mr. Felts. I’m telling you…”

The other man—the one referred to as Mr. Felts—shook his head and clicked his tongue sarcastically. “We have a problem that needs some attention. My associate on the inside says someone’s been feeding data about my operation to the feds. That’s no good. I can’t afford to lose the respect of my family and friends. I need a scapegoat to correct this problem.”

“Please, Boss, I’m telling you…it wasn’t me.”

“Sit down, Sergio,” Mr. Felts ordered. “And stop carrying on. You’re something all right, but you’re not a damn goat.”

The two big men behind Mr. Felts chuckled. Sergio blew out a huge breath. Relieved, the tension melted from his posture as he sat back, kicking an ankle up over the knee of his other leg.

Sergio looked at Mr. Felts and grinned. “Then what am I, Boss?”

“The sacrificial lamb,” Mr. Felts said, as he reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a long silver gun.

I barely recognized what it was until I heard a small noise and looked back at Sergio, who rested his head on the back of the couch as he stared blankly up at the ceiling. Blood and chunks of brain matter dripped down the white wall behind him.

It didn’t register for at least a full three seconds. Something was wrong, but I didn’t know how wrong until it hit me.

Then I gasped. Loudly.

Chapter Two

All three men looked my way.

The sound that came out of my mouth was loud enough for them to hear, but I hoped they wouldn’t notice me through the crack in the door.

“Someone’s out there,” Mr. Felts said. “Take care of it.”

I wasn’t sure how I managed it while wearing stilettos, but I ran the entire length of the hallway. The men burst out the door as I rounded the corner to the next corridor. One shouted from behind me, “It’s a woman, Boss!”

Mr. Felts’s voice rang out, “Bring her to me!”

The second hallway was longer, but I didn’t slow down. The two men chasing me would round the corner before I could get through the door to the main room, and I didn’t doubt they were armed. At any moment, I expected to feel a sharp pain in my back as a hot bullet ripped through me. But it didn’t happen. Surprisingly, I made it into the lobby without any new holes in my body. I don’t know why, but I guessed their guns didn’t have silencers and would draw far more attention than they wanted.

I burst through the lobby doors and dashed through the crowd, weaving and dodging, while watching behind me. Two big men flew out the doors seconds after me, but I ducked, concealing myself behind a wall of people. They spoke to each other briefly, both of them scanning the crowd, and then separated.

It wasn’t much farther to our table—about twenty feet. Gina and Dale were still sitting there. I started to make a mad dash for them, but I had barely taken a step when someone grabbed me from behind, clamping a hard hand over my mouth.

“Don’t scream,” a man whispered into my ear, his voice barely audible over the music. “I want you to walk quietly with me out the exit on your left. If you alert your friends in any way, you’ll only be putting them in danger. Do you understand?”

Frozen with fear, I managed a small nod.

“Good. Now, start moving.” He uncovered my mouth and pushed firmly into my back, prodding me to walk.

He kept one hand on my neck, steering me in the direction of the exit, practically shoving me out the door. It opened to a dark alleyway, but as soon as we were outside, I spun on him. I hit him with everything I had, which unfortunately, wasn’t much.

He lunged at me, knocking both of us to the ground, and gained control of my flailing arms. Gravel bit into my back as he straddled me, using his weight to pin my legs as he held my wrists tightly. I used the only weapon I had left. I bit his arm as hard as I could and held on tight.

“Sonofabitch,” he ground out between his teeth.

He pressed his other arm into my throat, which cut off my oxygen supply and forced me to open my mouth with a gasp. After a quick check of his bite wound, he jumped off me and snatched me up from the pavement.

He pushed me against the brick wall and leaned in close. “Don’t ever do that again,” he growled.

The moonlight was dim, but bright enough to catch a glimpse of his face. “Jake…?”

His eyes met mine and he grinned. “Surprised?”

A rush of heat pulsed through my body, like a volcano building up pressure. I quivered, awaiting the furious eruption raging beneath the surface. Anger and fear are the worst combination of emotions to feel at the same time. It makes a victim irrationally combative.

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