Authors: Sabrina Stark
Lawton Rastor, Book 2
By Sabrina Stark
This is the second book in a two-part series.
should be read first.
Rastor (Book 2)
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Copyright © 2016 Sabrina Stark
I had two guys in the trunk of the sedan and my brother tailing us in a vintage muscle car. The muscle car was mine. The sedan wasn't. Some might call it stealing. Me? I called it justice.
From the sedan's driver's seat, I reached out to crank up the music. The song was alright, but that wasn't the reason for cranking it. The thumping – it was annoying the piss out of me – because it wasn't coming from the speakers.
I glanced over my shoulder. Dumb-asses. What were they planning to do? Jump out at the next stop sign?
Yeah, good luck with that.
In this neighborhood, they wouldn't last five minutes.
It was after midnight and cold as hell. A few hours earlier, those two trunk-buddies had shown up in dark clothes and matching ski masks. They'd tried to kidnap the girl I loved. They'd scared her. They'd hurt her – not bad, but bad enough, because even a little was too damned much.
At the memory, I felt my hands tighten on the steering wheel. They deserved more than a good ass-beating and whatever embarrassment was coming next.
Something in my gut twisted. Tonight, those guys weren't the only ones who'd hurt her.
hurt her, too. I hadn't meant to. But I had.
I was a monster.
An image of Chloe flashed in my brain. She was nearly naked and cuffed to a chair. She was shivering with cold and slumped in defeat.
put her there.
kept her there. For hours.
I blinked long and hard. Somehow, I'd make it up to her. I just needed the chance. I didn't deserve it. But I'd get it. Or die trying.
Ahead in the deserted street, I spotted a crumpled shopping cart, lying sideways across the pitted pavement. I eased the car around it and kept on going. We were deep in the city now, downtown Detroit, and not the nice part, assuming there was such a thing.
Home sweet home.
Inside my pocket, my cell phone buzzed. I pulled it out and glanced at the display. It was my brother, calling from the car behind me. I turned down the music and answered with a half-hearted, "Hey."
"Pull over," Bishop said.
"Because the dipshits are trying to get out."
I felt a slow, cold smile spread across my face. "Yeah?"
news," he said.
It was good news to me. But hey, I had my reasons.
Up ahead, I spotted yet another burned-out building. An old neighborhood store? Hard to tell with the place mostly gutted, just like the building beside it, along with dozens of others that we'd passed along the way.
Next to this nearest building was an alley that it shared with the death-trap next door. I took a right turn and pulled deep into the darkened space. In the rear-view mirror, I saw Bishop pulling in behind me. Knowing him, he wouldn't be too happy about it.
I could see why.
An alley wouldn't have been my first choice for whatever was coming next. But hey, at this point, did it matter? If things went to shit, it would serve me right. And as far as Bishop, he could handle himself just fine.
A minute later, he and I were standing outside the sedan's trunk. It was still shut. Looking down, I saw what Bishop meant. They'd been working at a taillight, trying to shove it out. And then what? Signal someone?
I glanced around. No one – and I mean
– in this neighborhood would be coming to their rescue, unless the rescue involved putting them out of their misery. And hey, if that happened, who was I to complain?
At the thought, I almost smiled. Instead, I held out the remote and popped the trunk.
And there they were – two player wannabees wearing a lot less than they'd been wearing earlier. One wore striped boxer shorts. The other wore plain black briefs that looked a few sizes too small. Probably, the guy was hoping to make his package look bigger. Somehow, he seemed the type.
Neither had a shirt. Or shoes. Or their phones. They'd surrendered them an hour earlier, thanks to some not-so-friendly persuasion from me and my brother. But we'd let them keep the other stuff – the gold chains around their necks, the fancy gold watches flashing on their wrists, the rings that glittered on multiple fingers.
What a couple of douchebags.
Lying there, the guys looked up, looking shell-shocked and maybe a little afraid.
Okay, a lot afraid.
Their hands were tied, but their feet weren't. Probably, they'd been using those feet to kick at the tail lights.
I gave them a good long look. "So, you want out?" I made a show of stepping back. "Be my guest."
The two guys exchanged a glance. Slowly, they sat up and looked around, taking in the destruction around us. After a long moment, the guy in the boxers spoke up. "Is this a trick or something?"
"No trick." I flicked my head toward the darkened street. "Go ahead. Start walking."
He looked toward the street and swallowed. "Walking?" He hesitated. "But, uh, I've got the car, so…"
I gave a small laugh. The sedan?
didn't have it.
did. And I wasn't giving it up. Not yet.
"No car," I told him. "You want out? You'll be going on foot."
The guy's face was smeared with thin streaks of dried blood, but not as much as there could've been. My fingers flexed. Not as much as there
Fucking Bishop. And here, he claimed to be the voice of reason.
But I was in no mood to be reasonable.
Smiling, I pulled the blade from my back pocket and flicked it open. I recalled the knife at Chloe's throat, held there a few hours earlier by the idiot in front of me.
knife hadn't been real. But at the time, I didn't know that. And neither did Chloe.
I recalled the sounds of her fear, and the sight of her lying there, helpless while some stranger in black held her down. Even now, the memory of it tore through my heart. I could still hear her whimpers, fake knife or not.
Standing at the trunk, I lifted my own blade. Now
thing? It was real. And sharp.
In my old neighborhood, we lived by a code. If someone hit you, you hit them back – the harder the better. I held the blade higher. It glittered in the moonlight, and I felt my smile widen.
Bishop's voice cut across the shadows. "Don't."
I didn't bother to look. "Don't what?"
"Whatever you're thinking. We don't have time for this shit."
Hey, I'd make time.
In the trunk, the guy in the boxers had scrambled backward. When he tried to move further, he bumped his head on the trunk's open lid. "Son-of-a-bitch," he muttered.
Yeah. He was.
Again, I flicked my gaze toward the street. "Go ahead," I told him. "Run."
The guy's gaze shifted to Bishop.
"Don't look at me," Bishop said. "I'm not gonna save you."
It was a lie. If I went too far, he'd be pulling me back, just he'd done earlier. Not for their sakes, for mine – or at least, that's he'd told me when the dust had settled.
So who was Bishop saving, anyway? Me? I made a scoffing sound. I didn't want to be saved. For one thing, I didn't deserve it. And for another, I didn't need it.
I leaned toward the guy and said it again, lower, quieter. "Run."
But the guy didn't run. And neither did his friend.
Apparently, they were smarter than they looked. Between the trunk or freedom here, in
neighborhood, they were choosing the trunk.
Smart for them. Disappointing for me.
The way it looked, we were back to Plan A.
I gave the guys a hard look. "Alright, here's the deal. You wanna run, this is your chance. It's your
The guys exchanged another glance. Funny, they were awful quiet compared to earlier, when they'd been yelling loud enough to wake the dead. I knew the reason for their new and improved silence.
I glanced around. It was this place. Even idiots like them knew better than to attract the wrong kind of attention in a neighborhood this shitty.
The guy in the black briefs gave a small shudder. From the cold? Or fear? Who knew? Who cared? Maybe he should've worn long johns.
Not my problem.
Brief-guy spoke up. "What if we don't? What then?"
"If you don't run?" I leaned back. "Well, then I've got an offer. And you'd be smart to take it."
In a few short sentences, I laid it out. We were taking them someplace else, someplace safer, but a lot more public. They'd have to explain themselves, probably to a crowd, and later, likely to the cops.
If they so much as whispered Chloe's name – or mine, or Bishop's – well, in that case, they'd be going on another trunk-ride. But this time, I'd be dropping them here, whether they liked it or not.
"So," I told them, "your story had better be good." I made a show of looking around. "Or else."
Soon, I was back behind the wheel. This time, there was no thumping. I'd used the knife, but not in the way I'd wanted. Instead, I'd cut their ropes and slammed the trunk shut again, leaving them to come up with a decent story for when we stopped next.
Forty minutes later, we were there.
And twenty minutes after that, so was she – Chloe.
The girl I loved, the girl I'd lost.
Hidden in a horde of gawkers, I soaked up the sight of her. She was standing on the opposite side of the crowd, near its outer edges. She was talking to some shaggy-haired guy while the rest of the crowd watched and waited.
In the center of the action was the sedan, along with a couple of cops, who were studying the car's trunk in obvious confusion. The trunk was locked, and the sedan was familiar – to me, anyway.
It was the same car I'd been driving earlier. Now, it was parked between two large tour busses, massive silver things that had provided the perfect cover for the initial setup. None of this was an accident. The busses, along with the sedan, were there by design.
The sedan was covered in graffiti and thumping like crazy. The thumping – and yeah, some yelling – was coming from the trunk. And that was fine by me.
At this point, they could thump and yell all they wanted. But if they said the wrong thing to the wrong person, there'd be hell to pay. And they damn well knew it. At the thought, I almost smiled. Part of me hoped they
Who knows? It might be fun. Well, not for them, but hey, that wasn't my problem either.
No. My problems were different.
My girl – I needed to win her back.
Hidden in the crowd, I stood there like an idiot, trying like hell not to plow through the mass of bodies and carry her back to my
car, and then back to my place, where we could talk,
talk. I'd tell her everything, starting from the beginning and ending with the fact that I couldn’t live without her.
If I had to, I'd beg. Shit, I'd already begged – not that it had done any good.
The crowd shifted, and I muttered a curse. I couldn’t see her. Not anymore.
Something like panic gnawed at my heart. Chloe shouldn't even be here, standing outside in that thin coat of hers and a skimpy uniform that covered nearly nothing. The night was freezing, and I knew firsthand that she'd had a hellish night.
She should be at home under the covers, or better yet, at my place –
at work, where even inside the restaurant, she'd be running around taking care of other people, instead of letting
take care of
Still, I was insanely happy to see her here, because it told me something that I'd desperately needed to know.
She was okay.
Scanning the crowd, I pulled the dark hoodie lower over my face and tried like hell to blend. I wanted to see, but didn't want to be seen – not by Chloe, not yet, and not by anyone else who might recognize my face.
Wherever I went, almost everyone recognized me. As far as I was concerned, that wasn't a good thing. I turned and looked toward the restaurant. The place was packed. Against the long bank of front windows, I saw faces pressed against the glass, watching the spectacle in the parking lot.
I made a scoffing sound. If they thought this was a spectacle now, they'd be in for a real treat when the trunk was popped.
When I turned back toward the car, I saw something that made me pause. It was Chloe. But this time, she wasn't lost in the crowd. She was well above it, wobbling on the shoulders of the same shaggy-haired guy that she'd been talking to earlier.
Watching, I could hardly breathe. She was so damn close.
What the hell was she doing?
I stared across the crowd, feeling my muscles tense as I took in the scene. The guy was big, but soft and doughy. Chloe's thighs were wrapped around his naked neck, and his meaty hands were gripping her bare knees, holding her unsteadily as she looked out toward the sedan.
Innocent or not, I didn't like it.
I shifted, trying for a better look. Her crotch
to be grinding against the back of his neck. Was that her skirt pressed up against it? Or her panties?
From that stupid-ass smile on his face, I didn't want to speculate.
I shoved the hoodie from my head, trying to get a better sense of what was going on. Did she know that guy? She
to. Either that, or she was getting way too friendly with a stranger. What the hell was she thinking?
I looked to Chloe's face, and suddenly, my anger evaporated. Her gaze was locked on the sedan. Her eyes were wide and filled with worry. She lifted a trembling hand and touched her throat. I knew why. She recognized the car. And, from the look in her eyes, she remembered the knife.
Real or not, it had left an impression.
The worry on her face brought everything back home – how scared she must've been and worse, how I'd made things a million times harder by freaking out afterward.
Freaking out – the phrase was too nice for what I'd done.
Desperately, I searched her face, looking for clues on how she was holding up. Was she really okay? With all that makeup, I couldn't be sure. I wanted to wipe it all way and see the face underneath – the
face, the face I loved, the face that haunted me, even now.
Something squeezed at my heart. What if after tonight, I never saw that face again?
No. I couldn't let that happen. I
let that happen.
The Shaggy guy called up to her, saying something that I couldn’t make out. Chloe looked down and exchanged a few quick words with him, along with an older guy standing nearby. When she looked forward again, I spotted something in her hands that I hadn't noticed before – an unfamiliar cell phone.
Perched on the guy's shoulders, she held out the phone and started taking photos – or maybe video – of the vandalized sedan. For herself? Or for someone else?
Did it matter?
Watching her, I was powerless to move. Not too long ago, I'd held her. She'd been mine – the girl I'd been wanting for years. But like a dumb-ass, I'd lost her in the space of a few short hours.
I'd taken punches that didn't hurt half as bad.
I was still watching when something else caught my eye – movement just behind Shaggy. It was the older guy, edging backward until he stood a couple of paces behind Chloe. After a quick glance around, the guy looked up, zooming in on Chloe's backside.
He gave a sly grin and craned his neck for a closer look. What the hell? Was he looking at her ass? And just how
of a look was he getting, anyway?
Before I knew it, I was on the move, jostling my way forward until something made me freeze in my tracks. It was the sight of Chloe, motionless now, looking straight at me.
Our eyes met across the distance. Her lips parted, and she lowered the phone. Around me, the noise of the crowd faded to nothing. Their faces blurred, and time stood still. She looked straight into my eyes.
And then, a split-second later, she was gone.
That idiot had dropped her.