Authors: Lynn Raye Harris
Chase sank onto the couch and propped his feet on the coffee table. “I don’t think I’ve seen you in about ten years or so. Why would Androv assume you’d come to me?”
Sophie looked suddenly disgusted with him, like he was the one a few bricks short of a load. It was not a good feeling.
“How do you think I got your address? By carrier pigeon? I called Tyler for help and he told me to come to you.”
Chase felt the first prickle of warning slip down his spine. Maybe she was blowing the whole thing out of proportion… but what if she was right?
“Do you think Androv tapped your phone?”
“I put nothing past him.”
The bad feeling in his gut was growing stronger. “Why didn’t you use a fucking pay phone then?”
She looked distressed. “I didn’t have a lot of time. I left Grigori’s place and went straight to the shipping office and then the train station. I didn’t even go home first!”
If she wasn’t just doing this for attention, if this wasn’t a joke—
The dog’s frantic barking ceased abruptly.
Fuck, that probably wasn’t good.
“You don’t have the phone with you, right? Please tell me you ditched it.”
She frowned. “Well, yes, I have it. I turned it off though. I thought you could wipe it for me.”
Chase erupted from the couch and stalked to where she stood. Her eyes widened and alarm skated over her features.
“Hand it the fuck over. Now.”
She dug into her purse and pulled out an innocent-looking Android phone. Chase snatched it and went down the hall to the bathroom, Sophie on his heels the whole way. She might be doing this for attention, making mountains out of molehills, but he wasn’t taking fucking chances.
You didn’t stay alive in his world by ignoring your gut when it started giving you funny vibes.
“What are you doing? Wait a minute, why—?”
Chase dropped the phone in the toilet and closed the lid. Sophie stood there with her mouth hanging open. Indignation crossed her face as he stalked past her toward the bedroom.
“Why did you do that? It could be debugged—every contact I have is in there! Everything I am—my photos, my texts—”
He spun on her, wanting like hell to grab her shoulders and shake her. Then he wanted to smash his mouth to hers and take her in a hard kiss.
Whoa, where the fuck had that come from?
“Androv is the big time, sweetheart. Turning it off—shit, you probably
turn it off. If what you say is true, then it’s very likely been recording everything and transmitting it back to your
She gasped, her hand slapping over her mouth in horror. Not entirely stupid then. She knew what it meant if Androv had heard what she’d just said about the flash drive and Paris.
He shoved past her and went to grab his bugout bag with his weapons and papers. It might be a false alarm, but he was taking her to HOT HQ and figuring this shit out there.
Something pinged against metal. And then it happened again. Chase threw himself at Sophie and grabbed her, dragging her down to the floor as he did so. There was a whoosh—and then his apartment erupted in flame.
ophie was too shocked to scream. The weight of Chase’s body pressed her into the floor for only a moment before he scrambled up and jerked her to her feet. The front of his apartment, where they’d been standing only moments before, was ablaze. Fire licked at the walls and glass shattered.
“Come on,” he said roughly, tugging her toward the back of the apartment and away from the flames.
Sophie’s heart hammered, but she did as he asked. This was not her area of expertise, that’s for sure. Chase grabbed the bag he’d dropped when he’d tackled her and then raced into another room. He jerked on a pair of boots, then fell to the floor and shoved an area rug aside to reveal—a trapdoor?
Sophie blinked. Who the heck had a trapdoor in their apartment?
Chase produced a weapon from somewhere, and then he yanked the door open and waited a few seconds. When nothing happened, he snagged a pillow from the bed and dropped it through the opening. Still nothing. He looked up at her.
“I’ll go down first, but you better be right behind me. If you’re scared of heights or the dark, now’s not the time to let that stop you. Your life depends on it, got that?”
Sophie nodded. Chase dropped his bag down the hole and then started down the ladder. Sophie scrambled over and found the rungs of the ladder with her toes. Her heart rocketed and her breath came in pants. Slowly, she let herself down, her legs and arms shaking. The heat from the flames was growing unbearable, pulling her breath from her body, wrapping around her throat.
A hand gripped her hip, and she nearly jumped out of her skin. But it was Chase, of course. He grasped her hips with both hands and steadied her as she came down the ladder. Before her feet touched the ground, he picked her up as if she weighed nothing and set her on the floor.
It was hotter down here. The room glowed orange with the flames licking against the exterior. A dark, low-slung car sat in the garage like a predator waiting to pounce.
“Get in,” he said as he went around to the driver’s side and opened the door. He tossed his bag into the back and dropped down into the seat.
“My purse,” Sophie gasped. “I left it in your apartment.”
She’d dropped it when he tackled her and she hadn’t picked it up again.
“Too late. Get in the car.”
“But my credit cards, my money—”
Chase looked utterly furious. “Get the fuck in the car, Sophie. You can’t use a credit card if you’re dead.”
He was right. She ran over and yanked open the door before throwing herself into the seat and grabbing the seat belt. The car was a Corvette. An older model, not the newest one, but nice with a dark interior and a black body. The car growled to life as he turned the key, and she had to drag her gaze from his face before she could think clearly enough to realize what he was about to do.
The garage door was closed and he was planning to put the car through it. With them inside. Oh God.
“Hang on,” he said tightly.
He jerked the car into gear, pressed a button on a handheld remote—and the door blasted open on its own. Sophie shrieked, but the scream died in her throat as she was thrown back against the seat. The car growled and shot out into the open, tires spinning and rubber burning.
“Get down,” he told her about the time she heard a pop.
Sophie slipped down in the seat as far as she could. The sky was orange and red as the building burned. Chase’s face was orange and red too, his jaw set firmly, his eyes flashing with anger as he drove the car like he’d just robbed a bank.
There were more pops and then some shouting, but the noise grew faint pretty quickly as they flew down the road she’d traveled up in a taxi just a short while ago. Sophie lifted herself up and turned around to look back. The sky glowed, but she didn’t see any movement behind them.
“He found me that quickly,” she said in shock.
Chase glanced at her. “Yeah, that quickly.”
“If I’d been delayed at any point—his people could have grabbed me.” Her stomach bottomed out. “I have to get to Paris.”
He snorted. “One step at a time, sweetheart. Let’s get somewhere safe and figure out what happens next.”
“I guess you believe me now, huh?”
Because it had been pretty clear at one point that he’d thought she was making it all up.
He glanced at her, his expression grim. “Hard not to after that.”
A car appeared on the road ahead. Chase tensed his fingers on the steering wheel as the lights grew bigger far more quickly than they should have. Someone was heading toward them at a high rate of speed.
“Fuck,” Chase said before downshifting the Corvette and whipping onto a side road. The tires spun and the car bounced across grass and gravel before finding purchase on asphalt again.
Sophie clutched the door, hard. She was positive that her fingers would need to be pried free eventually. The car flew faster than was comfortable for peace of mind. The road was dark, illuminated only by the headlights. If they came to a curve too quickly, or if a deer leapt out in front of them—
She didn’t want to think about it. She told herself to close her eyes, but she couldn’t manage that either. All she could do was hold on and pray they made it without crashing.
Chase glanced into the rearview. “These guys don’t give up.”
“Can you outrun them?”
“Probably not. I’m going to guess they’ve set up checkpoints along the road—” He seemed to listen for something, then nodded. “Yep, they’ve got a helicopter. This isn’t going to end well, Sophie.”
She could barely breathe. “It has to. You have to do something.”
He shot her a glance. “Why me? I’m not the one who got myself into this mess.” His hands tightened on the wheel. “In fact, if I just stopped and handed you over, I imagine I could be on my way.”
His expression hardened. “No, I wouldn’t. But what kind of person shows up unannounced in the middle of the night with a bunch of criminals on her heels and almost gets a guy killed?”
“Chase… I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say, but I really am.”
“I don’t even fucking like you, you know that?” He glanced up in the rearview, downshifted the Vette suddenly, and spun into a turn.
Her stomach bottomed out as she gripped the door and the console and held on for dear life. Chase straightened the Vette and shot forward again.
“You don’t like me? But why not? You don’t really know me. You never even tried.”
His words hurt because she was nothing but nice to everyone she knew. Always had been. In the world she’d grown up in, where being thin and gorgeous was the highest currency possible, she’d had to find something to protect herself with. She’d become a people pleaser, because who could hate someone who was nice to you all the time? Someone who only wanted you to be happy?
He shot her a look. “Really, you have to ask that? You can’t figure it out for yourself?”
It was hard to think when they were flying down the road and she could die at any minute, either from Grigori’s men killing her or from this car crashing and erupting in a ball of flame.
“You barely talked to me when you visited us—and when you did, it was mean. I thought you didn’t know I existed most of the time.”
He snorted. “Oh, I knew. Sophie Nash.” He emphasized the last name. “I’m his only biological child, did you know that? The only one, and he always acted like he’d rather I didn’t exist. Gives his name to you, raises you as his—and you wonder why I never liked you?”
Her chest ached. “It’s not my fault, Chase. I was a kid.”
“So was I,” he ground out.
She wanted to reach out and touch him, squeeze his arm or something, but she knew he wouldn’t welcome it. She sucked in a breath, hoping to find some words, but he spoke before she could.
“We’re going to have to ditch the car.” His voice was calm, matter-of-fact.
She was almost relieved for the change in subject, no matter how serious. “Ditch? But how will we get away?”
“We’re under heavy tree cover at the moment. The helicopter can see the glow from the headlights, but they can’t pinpoint to the exact degree where we are until we emerge again. Which we aren’t doing—though you’d better pray they don’t have thermal-imaging capabilities.”
Sophie gulped. “What would that do?”
“It means they can find us by our heat signature. We can’t hide that. But take heart, I doubt Androv’s men have access to a military helicopter on such short notice. It’s probably a local job, so I wouldn’t worry too much.”
Wouldn’t worry too much? Was he crazy?
He turned off the road and drove into the grass, and she began to think he definitely was crazy when she saw the bushes up ahead. He switched off the headlights and kept going. Branches scraped and slapped the car as they passed into a cluster of foliage.
Sophie cringed. If he hated her already, he’d want to murder her with the way his car was getting beaten and scratched. He didn’t say anything as he came to a stop and killed the engine.
It was eerily quiet, like that strange calm right before a storm.
“What now?” she asked in a whisper that hurt her throat because it was so tight.
He turned to her. “You ever take a survival course, Sophie?”
e knew the answer to that question already, but even if he hadn’t, the way her breath shortened would have told him she’d never taken a survival course. No way had this little princess ever roughed it a night in her life.
She shook her head in the darkness, and he could feel the fear emanating from her. A twinge of guilt speared him. He hadn’t helped her just now by telling her he’d always disliked her. Of course he had, but he’d been a kid. So had she. They weren’t kids now, and logically he knew she wasn’t to blame for the actions of his father.
Didn’t mean he didn’t resent her though. Or resent the mess she’d just landed him in.
“No,” she finally squeaked out. “Why?”
“We’re going into the woods, Sophie. There will be no hot showers or soft beds. No room service.”
He blinked. “All right? You’re good with that?”
“I don’t think I have a choice, do I? Tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it.”
He reached into the back of the car and grabbed his pack. “All you need to do for now is follow me—and keep your mouth shut.”
He got out of the car, wincing at how hard he had to shove the door. He’d buried them good in the bushes, which meant his Vette was probably scratched to hell. Couldn’t be helped though. Getting out alive was more important than a car, no matter that he’d worked hard to buy the damn thing or that he’d done some of the restoration work himself.
He’d learned growing up that things were just things. His mother had taught him that with quiet dignity and hard work.
Sophie stumbled out of the car on the other side. She had nothing but the clothes on her back, which was good for his purposes. He thought of that scene in
Romancing the Stone
, a movie his mother loved, where Jack Colton took Joan Wilder’s suitcases and threw them over the side of a cliff. At least he didn’t have to do that to Sophie. She hadn’t had any suitcases.