Chaos (Phoenix Undercover #2) (4 page)

BOOK: Chaos (Phoenix Undercover #2)
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Chapter 7

 

 

Josh

 

It was three days from the time I received the news about becoming a father, three more days of my life gone. I had a child I wanted to celebrate, a woman I wanted to love, and I was still stuck in the hell of solitude.

I did make a deal with Greyson that no matter what, I would from this point on be able to hear his conversations with Gabby and my family. If I was being forced to keep up this façade of being dead, he would at least allow me that.

Some might think this would only torture my already hurting soul further, but it was my way of being involved even though they had no idea I was there.

People wonder what it would be like if they were gone. How would people act? What would people say about you? Would they forget you or make sure you lived on in their memories?

I was living out that scenario. Some days were worse than others, like today for example. I was sitting on the couch, a fucking bucket of emotions as I listened to my sister explain to Greyson about the dinner they had with Gabby.

“You should have seen it, Grey,” Libby said, sounding overjoyed. “Dad beamed when he heard about Josh’s child. I know it’s crazy, but it feels like he’s still here with us, like we have a tiny piece of him still.”

My vision clouded as I looked up at locked eyes with Greyson.

“I know what you mean, Lib,” he said as he offered me a smile. “I can just imagine the look on Josh’s face knowing that he was going to be a father. That proud smile he got when he knew he did something great.”

I closed my eyes as my best friend and sister carried on about my life. A life I would give anything to get back to.

 

***

 

“Any news?” I asked as I relaxed against the couch cushions.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with the kid,” Frank replied with a loud, exhausted sigh. “We showed up at the address he had given us only to find the place empty. It looked like they may have left in a rush.”

“Do you think they left willingly? Or does it look like it was a forceful eviction?” My head pounded as I closed my eyes tightly.

“We didn’t see any signs of a struggle,” Frank answered.

“They get spooked?”

“Possibly,” Frank said.

I felt defeated. Like that chance of getting my life back was just ripped from me once again. I considered telling Frank what Grey, Mike, and I had found, but I decided against it. We had agreed to keep it quiet until we had more to go on.

“I’m not giving up, Josh,” Frank told me with a little more authority than he’d spoken with earlier. “I will get you your life back.”

There was one problem, though. I just couldn’t force myself to believe this would one day be over. I had been disappointed one too many times over the last six weeks. I was tired of hitting the fucking proverbial brick wall.

“Just hold it together, Josh,” he added in one last attempt to reassure me. He knew I was barely hanging on.

“She’s pregnant.” I hadn’t intended to disclose that to anyone but Grey and Mike, but I had to give Frank an idea of just how hard this was all getting. “She called Grey a few days ago. Knowing she’s carrying my child is killing me, Frank. I want to be there. I can’t miss out on that. There has to be a way to get me to her. Fuck, move me to her place and I’ll stay hidden there.”

“We can’t do that. I got to keep you boys hidden. But we’re getting closer here, Josh. We’re moving in on Leo’s men. The DEA is inside his facilities, and either Roman or Leo are bound to turn up soon. They won’t let that kind of money slip through their fingers.”

I knew Frank had taken over the case in my absence, but this shit felt like it wasn’t moving at all. I had tried to make contact with Trevor, but Frank had him buried in videos just as he did us.

Frank was old school, and as much as I respected him, I felt like maybe he wasn’t the best man to lead this case. But how the hell do you tell your boss he may want to consider accepting that he no longer had the street skills to conquer this case? Instead I chose to dive back in, scanning every video for signs of our rat. I just needed one video, one slipup that gave us something to go on.

 

***

 

“We’re missing something,” I said angrily as I fisted my shaggy hair. My facial hair wasn’t the only thing I’d let grow wild. I just didn’t see the purpose of giving a shit about my appearance anymore, not when Grey and Mike were the only assholes I got to see.

“Josh, we have gone over these videos so many times, I see them in my fucking sleep. We have analyzed every minute of every one. There is nothing to see besides that one mistake. He’s careful, man. You’ve seen it. He knows where we have our shit, and he avoids those areas.” Greyson leaned back in the chair next to me, looking as defeated as I felt.

“He’s playing us, Josh,” he said as he looked over at me. “He’s playing us all, sending us on a fucking goose chase while he runs this shit right under our noses. We’ve been used to take focus away from what everyone should be focusing on. It’s been his game all along.”

“So what do we do?” Mike asked the question I think we were all thinking.

None of us spoke for a while. We each just stared at the screens we had been looking at for days, weeks even. I couldn’t let go of the idea that the clue we needed was hidden in all this damn data.

“We keep looking, we keep analyzing, and we make sure Trevor continues to supply us with footage as he gets it.” I leaned forward, resting my elbows on the desk. “I refuse to allow this fuck to steal any more of my life. I don’t know about you two, but I’m ready to fuck his world up the way he has mine.”

They both agreed as we dove back in to examining and cross-examining. We stayed up throughout the night, refusing to let another clue slip past us. It was time this bastard paid for the lives he’d taken. Time to make him suffer for all the wrongs he’d done. One of our own had us running in circles for months while he sat back and played us all like pawns in a chess game.

It was time to reverse the roles and play his game, but play it better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

 

Gabriella

 

“The view is breathtaking. And the master bedroom, I think, is exactly what you’ve been looking for. The appliances are immaculate.” I walked around the penthouse, offering the description of everything that matched R.J.’s specifications, even though I knew it would only result in yet another wasted day. He spent more time watching me than he did looking at the property.

I hated the way he looked at me.

“Let me ask you something, Gabriella.” The way he said my name disgusted me and made my stomach hurt. “If you could come home to a place like this every day, would you?”

“It’s a little much for my taste. I’m more of a simple-living girl,” I said with a forced smile.

“Once you get a taste of the finer things in life, I think you may change your mind.” He licked his lower lip, and I turned away as my stomach churned even more.

I chose not to respond, hoping that ignoring his innuendo would make him move on, but I had no such luck.

“Why don’t you have dinner with me?” he whispered, and my body tensed. He had stepped up behind me, and I could sense his closeness. “No expectations, just two people enjoying a nice meal. My treat.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said without turning around to face him.

His fingers skimmed over my shoulder as he pushed my hair away from my face. “And why’s that? Because I honestly believe it’s the best idea I’ve had in a very long time.”

“Listen, Roman,” I said as I turned.

“R.J.,” he insisted.

I swallowed past the lump that had formed in my throat. “Though I appreciate the offer, dating a client is something I could never do.”

“Then you’re fired,” he said with a smirk.

“I’m not ready to date. The man I lost will always hold my heart whether he is here or not.” I hoped R.J. could understand and just let this go. “I have no intentions of dating anytime soon. There are just too many things going on in my life, too many unsettled emotions.”

He stared at me for a little too long, and my heart rate picked up in anxiety. Then with a nod, he stepped back and gave me a smile. “The man you have lost was a lucky one.”

“Thank you,” I said.
Please, God, just let this be over.
I felt like the room was closing in on me. I hated the way he continued to scan my body with his gaze.

I jumped when my phone rang, and R.J. chuckled. “Excuse me,” I said in a rush as I reached inside my purse for it. A quick swipe of my finger and I lifted it to my ear. “Hello.”

“Gabby?” It was Audrey.

“Yeah, hey, hi.” I closed my eyes tight and took in a deep breath. “Hi,” I said once again, trying to calm my nerves.

“Are you okay?” I could sense the concern in her voice. “You sound funny.”

“I’m good, Audrey, I’m just showing a property to a client.” I looked back over my shoulder to find that R.J. was still watching me closely. “What are you up to?” I suddenly no longer wanted this conversation to end. I felt the need to keep her talking, keep her as a lifeline.

“Well, tonight I was hoping you and Brook were free. I was gonna come camp out.” Audrey had sold her flat in Boston and moved back in with my parents. I wasn’t sure what her reasons were, I just knew she also had no intentions of going back to that city.

“What’s wrong? The endless home-cooked dinners and clean sheets too much to handle?” I smiled when she groaned.

“I am entirely too old to live at home, which is why I want you to help me find my own place. But in the meantime,” she went on, sounding a little less annoyed, “I’m staying at your place a few nights, because I am dying at Mom and Dad’s.”

“Okay,” I replied. I love my parents more than words can say, but my father was a control freak and my mother was a hoverer. I hadn’t expected Audrey to last this long.

“I’ll be at your place by five,” she added.

“I’ll be done here soon.” Looking over at R.J. once more, I saw that he still watched me closely. “I’m showing a penthouse at the Ritz-Carlton, in Battery Park.” I made it a point to give my sister my exact location. “We shouldn’t be more than fifteen minutes before I head back to the city.”

“Sounds great. I’ll bring the drinks since you can’t have the good stuff,” she added with a laugh as she ended the call.

I had every intention of being downstairs and climbing back inside my car within the next ten minutes, actually. R.J. had just made an awkward situation even more uncomfortable.

 

***

 

“He sounds like a freak,” Audrey slurred drunkenly, yet her eyes were wide and alert. She was being overly dramatic, and I couldn’t help but find the current state of both of my sisters comical. Brook’s eyes appeared unfocused as she looked between Audrey and me.

“Honestly, Gab, you need to pass him off to that walking boner Conrad. Let them sit around and swap dick-jerking stories.” Brook snorted in laughter.

“The commission is good, yeah, but is it worth feeling as if he’s undressing you with his eyes every time you’re alone?” Audrey grew suddenly serious. “It’s just that men like that, men that get off on making women feel uncomfortable, they’re dangerous, Gab.” Deep in thought, she looked down at her hands as she gripped her glass tighter.

Audrey never talked about the time she was undercover with the DEA pretending to be the lover of a drug-smuggling asshole. The only thing we know is that it was a horrific experience that she’s in counseling for to this day. She pretends she’s tough and unaffected, but at times like this I know she’s struggling with the way that man treated her.

“Okay, okay.” Brook waved her hand in front of her as she tried to sit up. She was so smashed that she slouched back in the recliner, hanging half off it. Audrey and I looked over at her as she struggled to figure out how to get the footrest back down so she could climb out of the La-Z-Boy without dumping her oversized glass of vodka and pineapple juice.

I bit my lip to hide my laughter as she pressed her feet down and grunted as the footrest inched downward. “What the hell is wrong with this thing?”

Audrey cocked an eyebrow as she stared at our younger sister.

Brooklyn stopped grunting and wiggling around like she had fire ants climbing up her ass and looked at us. “Seriously?” she asked. “Are you both just going to sit there and stare at me, or are you gonna help me get the hell out of this damn chair?”

“I don’t know about Gabby, but I’m enjoying your struggle too much. I think I’m gonna grab another drink and just sit back and see how long this takes.” Audrey stood and slowly walked toward the counter, where she refilled her cup. Brooklyn glared at her the entire time.

“Bitch,” Brook mumbled.

Having the two of them around so much really helped me keep my head above water and soothed the ache of losing Josh. But when everybody got back to their own lives and I was left to face the fact he was gone, those were my darkest times.

 

BOOK: Chaos (Phoenix Undercover #2)
10.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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