murder

The Beast – Chapter 2 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 2

There was no chair that could contain me inside that hospital, nor a corridor long enough to stop my pacing. Millions of things were bubbling inside me.

We had all been questioned about the incident but Police Superintendent Rivero dismissed us. He was a good friend of Adrian’s and obviously affected by what had happened.

There was a Christmas tree next to the nurses’ station with colored lights flashing to high-pitched electronic carols. I was making my way towards it to rip it apart when Armand intercepted me.

Scarlett, you should eat something.” His hand landed on the crook of my elbow, dragging me to a corner with him.

You shouldn’t be here. I need to get you out of here; take you somewhere safe.”

Scarlett, calm down.” He held on to my upper arms, leaning over to level our gazes. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

He saved you.” I still couldn’t grasp what had happened.

Sit down with me. Let me get you something.”

He wasn’t the target after all. It was you. It was always you.”

They’d be very stupid if they tried to get me here with so many cops around.”

There was so much frustration inside me. I knew I had to calm down before continuing the conversation so I shrugged out of his grip and started walking away when Bobby came into sight.

He stretched out a hand to my shoulder but didn’t touch me, only caressed the air around it. I knew that gesture. He used to do that whenever he knew I was in distress.

This particular kind of distress.

The rifle was remotecontrolled. There was no one inside the apartment.”

Then we must get to that second hotel.”

No one there either. No documents, nothing. Superintendent Rivero will get us the CCTV videos.”

He glanced at Armand behind me but I pulled him back. “How’s Raakin?”

Devastated. Mahmoud isn’t exactly cooperating. How are you feeling?”

I’m not sick, just pregnant.”

You know what I mean.”

It was starting to dawn on me that I had been exposed to all of them beyond belief. I was feeling naked all of a sudden and there was no amount of clothes that could cover me up.

Like shooting myself.” I pushed him aside and stormed out of the corridor.

I heard Armand’s footsteps begin to follow me, then stop. Bobby must have been the one to bring him to a halt.

Maybe a walk would help me clear my mind. A walk that, if I let myself go with how I felt, would never end.

I didn’t get far though; Kathy had arrived with Eliza and Oksana and her arms went around me the moment I was within her reach.

I can’t, Scarlett…” She cried as she buried her fingers into my aching back. “I can’t lose him.”

I wrapped my arms around her and filed my thoughts for later. “It’s all right.”

He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

I shut my eyes for a second. “I think yes.” I was good at omitting information but never at lying, not in situations like this one.

She trembled and sobbed against me and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for making her go through this.

Sit down. We’re waiting for the doctors to come out and tell us how he’s doing.”

I gestured Eliza to get her into a nearby waiting room. However, when I pushed Kathy off me, she clasped my hand.

Don’t leave me.”

Kathy, I…”

Please?”

Dammit. I obliged. It was the least I could do. Armand was relieved to see me walk into that waiting room and sit next to Kathy, our hands entwined. Eliza sat on the opposite side and took her other hand. Bobby, Armand, Rhys, and Rooney each took a seat at the other end of the room.

I encountered Armand’s gaze the moment Kathy put her head on my shoulder. The amount of love in his eyes made me shiver. How could he look at me after all the shit that had been stirred?

George walked into the room, followed by Larry and, you guessed it, a doctor wearing scrubs and a face of pure defeat.

Everyone stood to hear the detailed explanation of the fatality of Adrian’s wound. I couldn’t listen; as much as I strained my ears no sound made it in. All I felt was Kathy’s hand squeezing mine before going limp and sliding down. I pulled her up with the help of Eliza and George and we set her back in her seat.

Adrian Lang was brain-dead. Breathing with the aid of machines.

A surge of anger ran through me and I tensed under Kathy’s half-dizzy wailing. She was pressing herself further against my chest, her face hidden under my chin and her hands making fists on the collar of my jacket.

I gathered her in my arms. For a moment I wished I could join her, that actual tears were forming in my eyes, but all I could conceive was an immeasurable anger. I couldn’t comfort her. I couldn’t comfort myself. I should’ve felt happy or, if not happy, at least okay with it. But death and murder have one unwavering characteristic: they never feel as you imagine.

The doctor asked if we wanted to see him and, of course, Kathy jumped to say yes.

I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to see anyone. Dead or alive.

Armand put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and I had to suppress the sudden need to duck away from it.

We were led into a room smelling of disinfectant. The constant beeping of monitors and the rhythm of the ventilator served as background music. Kathy kept an arm around my waist as we entered together, leaving the rest to watch through a glass window.

Her breathing hitched as we inched towards the man who lay on that bed. His blanched, lifeless face struck me. He looked so peaceful. Not even his signature frown was left.

The crying subsided when Kathy was able to touch him. I studied her profile and she bore no resemblance to the young woman who had sashayed her way around the party the first night after our arrival. No, this was someone else altogether. It was a woman who was slowly landing on the realization that there was an invisible knife stuck in her chest.

Adrian,” she whispered, her hand sliding away from me to caress his face.

There was movement outside and I saw Jin-Jing pushing through to peek into the room. I shot her a warning look, shaking my head, and she understood that it wasn’t the right moment.

He loved you.” I rubbed Kathy’s arm.

I know.” Then she turned to me. “He loved you, too. Even though he wronged you, believe me, he loved you. There were too many conflicted feelings inside him about you.”

I wasn’t catching her drift and, sincerely, I didn’t know if I wanted to.

We’d have a conversation about this later. It’d be more prudent to let the body get cold before we started hashing out truths about him.

I glanced at the window and there was only Jin-Jing now. Kathy saw her and beckoned her to come in.

The small dark eyes framed by the cascading black hair were filled with tears. She took a couple of shy steps then halted, obviously taken aback by the sight of the man lying on that bed. She exchanged a glance with me and I pressed my lips together into a thin line.

Kathy took Jin-Jing’s hand and gently tugged her forward. To this, I stepped back. Not that the latter complained. We were both trying to drop the snideness but failing miserably.

We were sharing a moment of silence when the door opened and a black woman in her late twenties sporting a beautiful mane of curly brown hair peeked in. The moment her eyes fell on Adrian she brought one hand to her mouth, the other to her chest.

Kathy smiled at the weeping woman. “Daniela. So glad you came.”

Reluctant, calculated steps took the woman from the door to the bedside, from where she stroke Adrian’s cheek with trembling fingers.

Bloody hell, you’ve got to be kidding me!

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The Beast – Chapter 1 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 1

Arms. Around me.

Hands. Reaching out to me.

George’s face inching closer. Bobby’s eyes, wide as saucers, as he runs towards me.

Someone touched my shoulder and I cringed, even though I couldn’t feel a thing.

It didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t hear either.

Hands helped me to my feet, coaxed me to follow.

At first I wasn’t sure whose hands they were; all I knew was that they were warm, that they felt safe. I focused my eyes and it was Bobby who was dragging me away, walking against the current of police and paramedics rushing to the scene.

Ollie welcomed me into the van, sat me on a seat next to his, and covered me with a blanket without uttering a word. Then Armand climbed in with Bradley and we started moving. The rattling of the wheels on the cobblestones and the swaying of the giant metal cube added to my discomfort. I wanted to puke, to run, to scream, to snap in some way, but I had no strength.

The only time I lifted my eyes was to meet Armand’s. Even when I tried, I couldn’t get the tears to flow. It felt as if they were flooding the inside of my face but encountering a dam when they reached my eyeballs. He noticed and held me in a tight embrace.

Adrian Lang, my grandfather, was dead. My teacher and tormentor had given his life to save the man I loved.

I, on the other hand, hadn’t saved his life in return.

Torn (The Caregiver Book 2) – Chapter 3

Cover for Torn, The Caregiver Book 2Another sneak peek! This book is being edited by the lovely Stacia Rogan (check out her website, she rocks!). This isn’t the final version of the text but I know I’ve kept you waiting for too long, so here it is. Enjoy!

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2.

Chapter 3

Come on, scumbag. Blow that motherfucker’s head off!” My grandfather’s voice was always grave, always loud.

The famous Adrian Lang couldn’t drop the attitude for nothing.

I pulled the machine gun’s trigger. Ratatatatatatatatatatatatatatatat. Clickclickclickclick.

I shot him a glance. He was standing close behind me, sucking on a cigar as he walked towards the card and studied it.

So?”

You know better than talking to me like that.”

Anger made my face go red. For a moment I thought he’d stride to my side and slap me across the face, like he usually did. This time he stood his ground.

You’re not quite there yet.”

The machine gun felt hot in my hand. I looked down, saw my distressed jeans, and realized I was no more than sixteen years old.

He shifted towards me on the balls of his feet, his hand making a fist. Here it comes, I thought. However, before I knew it, the machine gun went off again. I couldn’t stop it as it shot a whole round directly into his belly, cutting him in half. Blood splattered the card and the floor as both his halves slid to the ground.

Nice one.” A voice came from behind, one that made my knees wobble.

Ferdinand —my ex-boyfriend, coworker at the Interpol, and messenger of my guilty conscience— was standing behind me, his eyes fixed on me.

Ferdinand? You’re dead.”

You just can’t help hurting the ones who love you.”

He hated me. You knew that.”

He shook his head slowly. “Not at all, Scarlett. Not at all.”

Then the machine gun went on again and…

I woke up with a jolt, gasping for air. I frantically surveyed the place with my eyes. It had been a week already and I was out of the intensive care unit and in a private, more comfortable room.

What the fuck?!” I tried to sit but my left wrist was bound to the bed.

Whoa!” Johanna jumped to my side. “You’re all right.”

I am not! I’m tied to this…” I trailed off as another face came to view, one that made me frown.

You were pulling on your bandages in your sleep.” Jimmy stood at the feet of the bed, one hand on his hip, pulling his suit jacket back and giving me a clear view of the gun holstered inside.

How long have you been here?”

And hour maybe? You were already bound so don’t go thinking it was my idea.”

I was worried you’d actually rip it off.” Johanna hastened to release me.

Once my hand was free I rubbed my wrist. The bandage around my right shoulder didn’t lend me much mobility, but it didn’t hurt as bad anymore. My left arm, on the other hand, didn’t hurt at all. The bed was already in an almost sitting position, so I just pushed myself up with my left hand while keeping my right arm close to my torso.

What time is it?”

Almost noon.” Jimmy answered before Johanna could even look at her watch. “I don’t have much time.”

I’m starving.” I said under my breath as I tried to pull the blanket over my chest.

I’ll see what I can do about that.” Johanna grinned at me, but I could tell Jimmy’s presence was unsettling for her.

That would be very nice of you.” I smiled back, trying to ease her. “Mr. Gordon won’t be here too long. Right?”

Not at all.” He looked annoyed.

Johanna nodded at him and scurried away.

Jimmy waited until the door was completely shut to stand on the spot Johanna had vacated and speak. “Got yourself a lackey?”

They let you bring your toys in here, Jimmy?”

I’m an agent. Remember? Heard Armand made it out alive. Is that true?”

So they say. I bet you knew about Romulus’ plan.”

No. I didn’t. Never thought he’d try to get Armand killed.”

Some people don’t take blackmailing lightly.” I avoided his glance and proceeded. “Are you here to arrest me or something? Bet the hospital is surrounded.”

It is, but, no. I’m not here to arrest you. Still undercover. Desmond is alive and giving orders from jail.”

Is that so?”

We’ve already had to deal with a lot of fallen men. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

Not a thing.”

He scoffed. “Armand’s forgotten about you so quickly? You’ve been here what? A week?”

He’s just waiting for the right moment to get me out of here.”

What makes you so sure?”

I twisted my head towards him and, even through the pain in my shoulder, held his stare. “What makes you think he won’t?”

Come on, Scarlett. You can’t possibly think he’s in love with you.”

Now that made me angry. “What the fuck, Jimmy? What did I ever do to you?”

I’m not here as a cop or as one of MacGowan’s henchmen.” His tone turned grave as he spoke through his clenched teeth. “I’m here as Ferdinand’s best friend. You hurt him, Scarlett; never forget that. He worried about you even when he knew you didn’t love him as much as he loved you. I’m here because he made me swear I’ll protect you if he was gone. He knew he’d die, he felt it coming. And even then, he only thought of you, of your safety. Is this how you repay him? Killing Romulus so you can run away with that bastard?”

You better not talk about Armand that way ever again.”

What are you to him, really? Any female agent we sent into that mission would’ve ended up in bed with him. Haven’t thought about that, have you?”

Fuck you, Jimmy. I don’t need this.” I tried to hit him with the back of my left fist but he caught my wrist midair.

No, Scarlett. You have to wake up. You’ve fucked yourself and I can help you.”

Fucked myself? More like saved myself.”

You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

We’re expendable, Jimmy. Never forget that. Romulus was a piece of shit.”

I tried to free my arm from his grip but before I could do anything the heel of his other hand connected with my right shoulder.

Aaaagh!” The pain made my eyes water as I jerked back, gasping for air. “Fuuuuuck!”

To this day I still ask myself what the hell it was Ferdinand saw in you.” He rummaged in his pocket for something, produced a photo, and held it to my face. “This is what he was saving you from. This is the reason MacGowan wanted to abduct you. And this is the reason you’ll be dead soon enough if you don’t accept my offer.”

I recognized Cisneros’ and MacGowan’s faces in the picture, yet it was the third one that made my insides churn, making me want to run for the bathroom and puke my guts out. Only that getting on my feet wouldn’t be an easy thing to do and I knew I wouldn’t make it on time if I tried. Measuring my options, I opted for swallowing hard.

That’s right.” Jimmy shoved the photo back into his pocket. “Xavi Pontevedra is in London and he’s here to kill you.”

This changed everything. Xavi Pontevedra, the man who had held me captive in a brothel during the Gibraltar mission, was out of jail, seeking revenge, while I was bound to a hospital bed.

There’s so much you don’t know, Scarlett.”

And you’re going to tell me?”

All in due time.”

Fuck off then!”

Jimmy left, leaving me huffing and puffing both from the pain and the desperation that overcame me.

At least he won’t get to me here with the police guarding this goddamn place, I thought as I pressed the nurse’s call button.

****

Torn (The Caregiver Book 2) – Chapter 2 + Cover Reveal!

The sneak peek you’ve all been waiting for, now with cover reveal!

Cover for Torn, The Caregiver Book 2

This book is being edited by the lovely Stacia Rogan (check out her website, she rocks!). This isn’t the final version of the text but I know I’ve kept you waiting for too long, so here it is. Enjoy!

Read Chapter 1 here.

Chapter 2

I woke to the sensation of something stuck inside my throat. I wanted to pull it out but my right arm was bound and when I tried to break free, it felt as if a knife went through the upper right side of my chest.

Easy! Easy!” A woman’s voice came out of nowhere. “You’re all right.” She soothed me. “I’ll get that for you.”

I coughed out the feeling of the tube being pulled out through my mouth, trying hard not to puke. It felt as if there was an anvil resting on my forehead. Breathing was hard, and I had to blink a couple of times in order to focus my sight on the nurse looking over me. She was pretty, with dark hair and caramel eyes.

Be calm.” She interrupted me when I was about to speak. “Your throat may hurt. Do you want to sit?”

Yeah, shutting up was probably a better option. I nodded and she helped me get into a sitting position before securing a nasal cannula around my head and under my nose. She then rearranged the blanket around my chest.

There were tubes and monitors all around me. A nice-looking, disinfectant-smelling intensive care room if you asked me.

I’ll get Dr. Williams.” Her smiling brown eyes shone under the dark fringe.

I managed to peek through the door when she walked out of the room and saw a man standing outside, dressed in black. I figured it would be a Met officer. The whole place must been flooded with Met, Interpol, SOCA… the whole lot.

All of a sudden everything was coming back to me. Armand being handcuffed, shooting Romulus… I felt my face get hot and had to blink back the tears.

Good morning, Miss Lang.” A doctor strode into the room, clipboard in hand, followed by the nurse. He was tall, with auburn hair tied back into a ponytail. “How do you feel?”

I’ve been better.”

My name is Dr. Williams and this is Johanna. She’ll be your nurse all the way through your stay here.” He checked my drips. “Are you in pain right now?”

A bit, yes.” I tried to push myself up but my left arm protested. “How long have I been out?”

A little over forty-eight hours. You were shot on your left upper arm, your right leg and the right side of your chest, where the bullet went through, exiting through your back. Both your left arm and right leg wounds will heal promptly since the bullets tore little muscle. The one on your chest is another story.” He and the nurse stood on each side of the bed. “Thankfully, it was a small caliber, but it did fracture your clavicle and shoulder blade. You were lucky it didn’t hit an artery.”

He took a pen out of his pocket, scribbled something on a paper, detached it from the clipboard, and handed it to me.

What-?”

Let me take a look at your stitches.” He crossed me, eying the piece of paper in my hand.

Armand is alive and well. He asks for you to be patient.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I turned to the nurse and she smiled.

The heat came back to my face. He was alive.

The doctor had set his clipboard on the bed and was looking intently at me, awaiting my answer.

Yes. Sure. Okay.” I let him uncover my wounded shoulder.

I reread the note before Johanna took it and threw it in a rubbish bin.

He’s one of our top donors,” the doctor whispered to my ear. “Funded most of our pediatrics burns centre.”

Armand the philanthropist. I can’t say I was surprised.

The instinct to turn my head towards him spiked a sting-like pain that rode from my shoulder up to my neck.

Ow.” I breathed.

Try not to do that. And keep your arm in the sling at all times. It’ll take some time to heal completely.” He replaced my bandages and set the sling back in place. “Your leg and arm will take less time.”

I bent my right leg at the knee and, yes, it didn’t feel as bad.

He grabbed the clipboard. “You will be transferred to a private room. Johanna will take good care of you.” He scribbled something on his clipboard again, this time it wasn’t for me to see. “Get some rest now. I’ll see you again tomorrow.”

As soon as he walked out of the room, Johanna produced a syringe from one of her pockets.

This will make you feel better in no time.” She said as she injected its contents into my IV.

What about George?” I bet she knew.

He’s with Mr. Sayer.” She disposed of the syringe before getting back to me. “Now try and get some sleep.”

They were both alive. The thought of it made me feel so much better. Or was it the meds?

I closed my eyes and tried not to think about anything.

But dreams don’t take orders from anyone.

****

Torn (The Caregiver Book 2) – Chapter 1

The sneak peek you’ve all been waiting for! This book is being edited by the lovely Stacia Rogan (check out her website, she rocks!). This isn’t the final version of the text but I know I’ve kept you waiting for too long, so here it is. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

What the fuck have you done?!” I heard Sayer shout in the distance, then the shuffling of hands over me.

I guessed they were the paramedics because I didn’t want to open my eyes again. I had killed the beast, whom, to everyone’s surprise, wasn’t the drug lord that was now being held back by a Met officer, but my supervisor at the Interpol. I had shot him down in order to save the man I loved. I’d become an Interpol agent gone rogue and that would ensure chaos.

Scarlett,” someone whispered. “Scarlett! Open your eyes. Stay with me.”

I obliged and saw Patrick, the young man who’d become the drug lord’s apprentice, walking next to the stretcher I was being transferred in.

The first thing that came to my mind was to ask him where the fuck he had been while all hell broke loose. But the mix of blood and bile in my mouth didn’t let me speak–neither did the oxygen mask covering half my face.

I wanted to drift away into some fairyland filled with light, green grass, ponds, and birds chirping in the background. Or the fiery pits of hell, I didn’t really care which as the pain burnt my limbs.

Armand?” I managed to spit some of the blood that threatened to drown me and someone removed my oxygen mask for a moment. “Where’s Armand?”

He’s been taken in, but don’t worry, it’s all part of the plan.”

Oh, now he told me about the plan. He had refused to do so when I asked him, before it all went berserk and the rival drug dealer, Max MacGowan, and his men got into a shooting with Met and Interpol agents outside the church where the service for Sayer’s dead sister was taking place. All I knew about the plan was to let MacGowan’s men scoop me up and then duck when the bullets started flying. And yeah, that last part I made up myself.

However, I wasn’t expecting Romulus —my now dead supervisor— to want Armand dead. Or should I had come to that conclusion on my own given the fact that Armand had blackmailed him in order to keep me by his side?

It was all very confusing.

No, it can’t be.” My speech sounded more like mumbling, but he seemed to understand. “That officer arresting Armand wasn’t… Aaaaagh!”

One of the paramedics applied pressure to the wound in my leg and I felt as if the life was being taken away from my body. Coldness overcame me and everything went dark.

****

Armand wanted to stay with her. He knew she was in pain and all his instinct told him to do was free his hands so he could hold her and, by some miraculous way, transfer it to him. His mind boggled at the thought of what she must have been going through.

Nonetheless, there were other things to worry about. He knew she’d be taken to a hospital under heavy police guard. It was better that she was treated there rather than find some surgeon to do it god-knows-where and under unsanitary circumstances.

He walked towards the police vehicle feeling like the weight of the world had landed on his shoulders, sadness making his chest tight. George welcomed him into the backseat with a silent nod, his features dark while his mind fixated elsewhere. His cane sat between them as a mute witness of their mutual preoccupation.

The officer that arrested George rode on the passenger seat while the one who handcuffed Armand drove them away, waving to his colleagues as they moved aside to let the car through. Once they were away from the scene, Armand stared out the window, his mind still on Scarlett.

Mr. Sayer?” The driver interrupted his thoughts.

Yes?” Armand watched him through the rearview mirror as he took off his cap and ran his fingers through his hair. He was probably around Scarlett’s age.

That was Adrian Lang’s granddaughter, wasn’t she? Scarlett?”

The officer on the passenger side turned to his partner, confused.

Armand exchanged a glance with George before answering, “Yes.”

I knew she recognized me as soon as she saw me.”

The other officer gaped at his companion. “What the f-?” Was all he managed to say before the driver shot him in the head.

The bullet shattered the window, blood covering everything around the man that now sat with his chin pressed against his chest, a hole in the back of his head.

You’re not a cop.” Armand looked away.

No, sir.” The officer-turned-killer rummaged for something, then handed George the keys to their handcuffs. “I’m a contract killer, trained by Adrian Lang himself.”

The sudden revelation was unsettling, but Armand had to keep his cool. “Who sent you?”

Let’s say my employer was just murdered by your… wife?”

Not yet.” He drawled. “So, the paying party in your contract is dead.”

George took off Sayer’s handcuffs and his employer did likewise for him.

Is he?” The officer-that-wasn’t grinned through the mirror. “Where to, sir?”

My house isn’t far from here, you can drop us wherever you find convenient.”

Very well, sir.” He grinned, then added, “He never told us who our target was associated with.”

Armand shot another glance at the man that would’ve been his murderer, but this time the latter was focused on the road.

Scarlett, he thought, you’re just full of surprises.

I’ll see that you are well compensated for this.”

The man parked a couple of houses down from Armand’s. George stepped out first.

Armand hesitated for a second before getting out. “Do you know where I can find Mr. Lang? He should know what happened.”

He’s retired. Living in the Caribbean, I believe. I can help you with that if you’d like.”

Retirement. That was a word he might not hear again after this.

I would be very grateful for that.” He was about to step out when he paused again. “I didn’t catch your name.”

Miguel, but they call me Michael around these parts.”

Thank you, Michael.”

Anytime, sir.”

Both men went into the house without uttering a word. George set to packing everything he could while Armand took out his mobile and started making calls on the way to his bedroom.

He rang Patrick first and was glad to learn Scarlett was taken to a hospital he knew well.

What’s her status?” he asked as he took off his bloodstained jacket.

She went into shock during the ride to the hospital. They thought they lost her, but she came back. She’s lost a lot of blood. She’s in the operating theatre and they’re trying to get the bullets out.”

Armand felt as if the ground was being removed from under him, so he held onto the dresser and took a deep breath before asking, “How many cops?”

Loads. Met, Interpol, Scotland Yard… They’ve been asking a lot of questions.”

Don’t worry if they take you in, I’m sending a lawyer to get you out.”

Will do, sir.”

He hung up. A sense of despair overwhelmed him. He was the one who was supposed to be there. His was the first face she should see when she woke up instead of some doctor’s. But, alas, that wasn’t possible, so he had to make sure she was safe.

Searching through his mobile’s contacts he found the perfect person to call.

Sayer?” George peeked through the door.

The call could wait. They had to get out of there before the police realized they never made it to the station. He handed George his mobile, took off his shirt, and searched in his wardrobe for a clean one. “I need you to contact Bradley and Ollie and tell them to head to the hospital to check on her. Make arrangements with the rest for when we can retrieve her.”

He trusted Bradley and Ollie because they were two of the most serious and clever henchmen he’d ever employed. They worked as realtors for his firm as a cover-up and they had surprised him with how good they were at it. Bradley, an Australian guy that didn’t talk much and whose specialty was hand-in-hand combat, and Ollie, a London native that, whenever he wasn’t making use of his IT and forgery skills, was cracking jokes left and right, were exactly who he needed at the moment to take care of Scarlett’s situation.

George went on to make the calls while Armand changed into a fresh suit. It had been a long time since he’d found himself in a situation like this. He’d never considered himself a gangster and the fact of calling out his men and getting them together didn’t suit him. But it had to be done or not one of them would make it out alive. He’d do anything for her, and if that meant becoming a fugitive and turning into one of those blood-shedding gangsters, so be it.

He pulled a bag from under the bed and filled it with clothes and some of his guns. Once he made it down, he turned on the fireplace and threw the bloodstained suit in it to burn.

I packed her clothes too.” George brought some of the heavier firepower with him. “They are in the car.”

There was no time to waste. Sooner rather than later the police would start searching for them. They took the Bentley down the M4 and into the Financial District, parking inside the underground of a building near Paternoster Square. He had bought the two upper floors from a stockbroker firm that went bankrupt and had converted them into a luxurious flat as part of his retirement plan. Thinking of a near future that was now slowly drifting away from him.

A future where he had pictured himself happily married to a woman whose fate was now a mystery to him. And he couldn’t help feeling guilty about this turn of events.

****

Raw Fiction Friday. Stories About Love: At the Corner of Mars and Neptune Ch. 1

It’s been some time since I’ve posted original stories (that have nothing to do with the book), so I thought I’d put this one here. It’s nine chapters long and I’ll be posting them every Friday. Raw means no professional editing. Enjoy!

1

Knock knock.
Fuck. My head hurts.
It’s the police. Open the door.
I’m too stoned to even know where I am.
My hands and legs weigh a ton and my head’s about to explode. I roll to my side, the hotness comes up my throat and I hurl.
Open. The. Door.
“Brian.” He can’t hear me. “Brian!” Don’t do that, don’t shout.
There’s a police officer at the door and the rotten smell is coming out through my nose.
Last chance before we throw it down.
Throw? Yeah, throw up. I try to push myself up but my hands skid on it.
“Brian?”
There’s something more on the floor. Making it slippery, denying me of purchase. Something liquid and a bit sticky.
It smells. It smells like…
Blood.
Go away blur I need to see. My fucking god I can’t rub my eyes with my hands full of shit… Shake my head, make it go away and see.
Brian. Lying on the floor. A knife stuck in his chest and now my hands are covered in puke, my puke, and blood, his blood. And the police are knocking on the door and I have nowhere else to go but out. Out, through a window, through a door. Whatever. Wherever I fit through ‘cause I’m small enough. But where? I don’t know this house. This is Brian’s house. A mansion in the middle of nowhere only a man like him could buy, and have, on his own.
We were supposed to be on our own.
We’re coming in.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. I can’t remember a damn thing but I know where’s the door. The backdoor. Through the back. Through the dinning room with the chandelier made of Swarovski crystals. Through the kitchen. Through the parallel lines of granite countertops and expensive stainless steel appliances that are never even turned on.
Push the door open. Don’t have the key and it’s locked and I can’t see straight. A window must be unlocked. The one above the sink, that looks over the side of the house.
Boots. Stepping on the marble floors. Voices. Shouting over each other.
Push the fucking frame of the fucking window, pull the fucking lock, open the fucking window. Quick. Come on. Fuck.
The voices are coming. Getting closer by the second and I wriggle the lock because I’m too fucking nervous and I can’t see. When it let’s go I fall. Face first. The grass like nails on my skin but I can’t let it stop me. Run. Run like the rotten soul you are, as if being followed by the devil.
Run.
It’s dark. It’s still night. I have no idea of the time. My head throbs. Firecrackers going off inside my skull with every step.
Freeze!
Shit. Shit. Fuck.
Don’t hit a tree. Don’t step on its root. Above all, don’t fall. It’s a forest, the easiest place to get lost. Run. Don’t stop running. Let the forest swallow you like it does with all lost souls.
Mist. Thank god.
Cover me. Make me invisible. My head pounds too much. It’s too much to go on. Can’t breathe. Can’t see. Can’t feel my feet. I’m going numb.
My knees weaken and I hit the ground. No, I didn’t step on any root. I managed to dodge the trees. I hit myself. Stepped on my own foot, since I can’t feel it, I can’t see where I’m going. I just fell. And my head hurts. A lot. It’s coming again. I heave. Try and make an inventory of all the stuff I drank, I ate, I sniffed, I injected into my veins in the last twenty-four hours.
Brian.
Fucking dead.
Fucking stabbed.
I can’t go on. I can’t get up. I’m too heavy. The world’s too heavy and it wants me to go to sleep. It wants me to go ZZZzzz.
Footsteps. Running towards me.
Let me go ZZZzzzZZZZzZZzZZ.
Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.
My arm is being pulled up. I’m vomiting in my sleep. I’m rolled to my side.
There you go. I don’t need you dying on me.

Chapter 2 of The Caregiver (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series)

My first novella, The Caregiver: Book 1, is out!

Written by me (@artistikem) and edited by Diana Campo (@dianadhevi).

And here is chapter 2. Enjoy!

Chapter 2

My first evening in Sayer’s mansion passed quietly and without much trouble. Helga came back with his meds, repeated what seemed like a hundred times that his physician, Dr. Hart, had ordered to keep him in bed at all times, and showed me how he liked his tea made, for whenever George wasn’t available. Of course, Mr. Sayer didn’t comply with staying bed-ridden, so I let him be and went to sleep early.

On my second day, I met George, or should I say, I saw George’s frown float around the house without proffering more than a “Top of the morning” and an about-face. The man, with long arms and skinny fingers, wouldn’t talk or even look at me. At one point I tried to step in his way so he would have to at least stop one second and acknowledge my presence. However, it didn’t work. Nothing did. By nightfall, I had given up for the day, and when Helga came by and asked me if I had met him, I told her we had gotten acquainted quite well. If he didn’t want anything to do with me, I wouldn’t push him.

Late on the third day, Helga brought a list of errands for me, which Mr. Sayer dismissed the moment she was out the door. Finding myself without work in my new workplace, I retired to my room and went through my clothes, uniforms and the few things I had brought… for the hundredth time. This was going to be harder than I thought.

It was around ten in the evening, as I wandered around the house, when I saw that the lights in the office were lit. I walked towards it, drawn like a moth, and found Mr. Sayer sitting behind his desk, talking on the phone. As soon as he saw me, I tried to make my escape.

“Scarlett?”

He saw me. I froze, but then decided that, since he had called my name, I couldn’t ignore him, so I turned around. He hung up the phone and beckoned me into the room.

“You shouldn’t be walking around the house this late, Mr. Sayer.”

“What other lies did my sister tell you? What else did she instruct you to prohibit me?”

“Pretty much everything that isn’t staying in bed the whole day.”

He chuckled, finding it amusing somehow, while I stood behind an elegant leather chair, my hands clutching the seams.

He walked around the desk. “As much as I love my sister, I can’t let her do this to me. She’s always been very possessive, but this has gone too far,” he leaned back on the edge of the desk, his arms crossed over his chest. “That’s why I asked her to find someone other than George that could take care of me. So I could get her off my back.”

“Whose instructions should I follow, then?”

“When Helga is around, act as if you’re following hers. But really, all I need is someone to be around so she stops harassing me about being ill and sleeping all day. You can do whatever you want, really. I have things to do and I must get back to them as soon as possible.”

“I understand.”

“Good to know that you do. Now, would you be nice enough to bring me some tea? I know I shouldn’t be asking you this, but George is out and won’t be back until early morning.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll be right back.”

I ran quickly down the stairs to the first floor and made the tea as Helga had instructed me. I took a lot of care on how I placed everything on the tray so it would all stay put through the flights of stairs back to Sayer’s office.
He waved for me to come in the moment I reached the door, all the while keeping an animated conversation with someone on the other side of the phone.

“Call me if you make arrangements for next Thursday, Max. See you then.”

“No wonder your sister is so worried about you. Making plans already?” I commented as soon as he hung up.

“You brought only one cup.”

“The tea is for you, Mr. Sayer.”

“Don’t you like tea? It’s very soothing. Helps me sleep when I’m stressed.”

“As a matter of fact, I do like tea.”

“Then,” he rummaged inside one of his desk’s drawers and took out another cup, “have it with me. It may be the first of many. How do you like this place so far?”

“It’s a beautiful house. I like it very much,” I felt so at ease as he poured tea into both cups and slid one towards me, that I was starting to talk to him like I would to a friend. I straightened my back in an effort to straighten my demeanor.

“Are you keeping the job? You know you can walk out whenever you want if you don’t like it.”

“I’ve been here for only three days. So far so good.”

“I do hope you stay. This house feels so empty sometimes it makes me want to get out running like a mad man. Sit down. You don’t want to drink your tea standing up.”

“Yes, Mr. Sayer.”

A noise came from the floor below, startling us both.

“It’s too early for George to be back.” Another noise and Mr. Sayer left his seat and went to the window. “Drunk kids in the street.”

He walked away from the window and back to the desk when another noise, this time louder and closer, was heard. We left the office together – I tiptoed while he tried to step very slowly so his shoes wouldn’t make a sound – and searched for the source.

We kept looking down from the third floor to the second but saw nothing, then I went into one of the bedrooms and saw a shadow by the window. Mr. Sayer tried to pull me back but I didn’t yield. I pulled a 22 mm gun from my pocket and quietly sidestepped close to the wall towards the window.

The silhouette of a man came to view and I pointed my gun at it, ready to confront whoever was outside the window and crawling around the walls of the house. I could feel my own heavy breathing, as if the whole room was beating along with my heart, as if it knew that my finger was tightening its grip on the trigger, little by little.

“Don’t shoot the glass, it’s bulletproof,” Sayer whispered to my ear.

I released the trigger but kept my aim on the window. There was silence for a moment and no sign of the shadow or whatever it was that made the noises. When I turned around, Sayer was right behind me, his whole body stiff, his hands in tight fists.

“The drunken kids, I believe,” I commented sarcastically as I lowered my gun.

“Where did you get that gun?”

Then came a bang on one of the back doors, and I rushed into my room, pulled my luggage from under the bed and took out another gun, my handy 9 mm. When I came out of the room, Sayer was emerging from the library with a 40 mm and was shocked to see me holding a different gun to my side.

The noise rang out again, and all shock was left behind as I hastened down the stairs. He stayed behind. Not that I cared. I had to check on whatever was happening before he did.

I strode across the hall into the kitchen and saw another silhouette through the glass on the back door. It froze, as if it was looking at me, before turning to run away. I shot once and the bullet bounced right off it, hitting a wall, a lamp.

“Fuck!” I ducked until it stopped. The whole house was bulletproof.

I opened the door and sped through the grass into the backyard while the silhouette fled in zigzags, dodging my bullets. Then a second silhouette appeared out of nowhere and I could see the shiny metal gun glinting under the lampposts’ light. Before I could shoot, he was dead on the floor. I instinctively looked up and saw Sayer shutting a window on the second floor. This was my cue to go after the other one, the one that had stopped to see the fall of his companion.

I ran towards him and managed to close the distance between us before he realized I was on him. With his eyes still on the corpse, he pointed another shiny gun at me and squeezed the trigger once, missing me by inches. Not that he cared, because he was still standing in the same spot when I got dangerously near.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” He didn’t answer, so I pressed my gun to his temple. “Answer me!”

He dropped the gun and took off the black mask that covered his face. His white skin stood out against the black of his suit. He was a young man, probably in his twenties. His nose tip was red, and tears were rolling down his cheeks.

“I’m new to this.”

“Who sent you?”

“I can’t tell.”

“For fuck’s sake, just answer the fucking question!”

“I can’t! They’ll kill my family.”

I chuckled. “They must be dead by now, and you’ll also be dead if you don’t answer me.”

We both heard the limping steps of Sayer as he slowly approached us.

“Scarlett, go back inside!”

“I’ve got it Mr. Sayer,” I turned to face him, “don’t worry,” but was startled as he shot the guy before I could. The kid had picked up his gun and was about to shoot me without my notice.

“Get in!” Sayer roared, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me back into the house.

His face was flushed, his brows were furrowed, and his eyes didn’t meet mine until we were in a study on the first floor. He pushed me into a chair, took my gun, placed it with his own on the table, and pulled out his mobile.

“George, we have two dead squirrels in the backyard,” he said before hanging up and turning back to me. “Who are you?”

His enraged eyes were gazing into mine and I could feel the trembling creeping up from my feet, through my legs and my body, down my arms and hands.

He took his gun back from the table, cocked it and pointed it to my head.

“My name is Scarlett Lang.”

“Who sent you?”

“I was recommended by Rafael Cisneros when your sister went to him searching for a caregiver.” I gulped before proceeding. “My grandfather owns the shooting range Cisneros uses to train his men.”

“Cisneros? You know Cisneros?”

“Yes. Adrian Lang is his name. My grandfather’s, I mean.”

The barrel of his gun cut through the thickness of the air between us, dispersing and redistributing it around the room, as he pulled it away from me.

“Helga,” he said to himself. “She means good, but in her effort she has exposed me. There is no doubt someone sent those kids because she’s being followed.”

My mouth felt dry and my heart was racing so fast I thought it would drill its way out of my chest.

“She knows that you handle guns, doesn’t she?”

“It was one of the requirements for hiring me, so that I could help protect you. After the attack on you and your family, she’s worried you’ll suffer another one.”

“That’s why I stayed here, to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Now tell me, are you even a real nurse?”

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“Well,” his face relaxed, and my trembling vanished. “Those two were young and inexperienced. It won’t help much to see what the security cameras recorded. We stopped them on time,” he said as he looked round, then turned to me, “and our tea must’ve gone cold. If you ask me,” he gave me my gun back, “it’s time for bed,” and limped out of the room.

“Night, sir.”

“You can keep the job, Scarlett,” his voice floated back through the hallway. “Couldn’t have found a better match for this myself.”

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The Caregiver book cover

Scarlett Lang always dreamt of becoming an Interpol agent. When her hard work pays off and she’s given the chance to work as an undercover agent with London’s biggest drug lord, Armand Sayer, she can’t help being ecstatic about it.

She’s employed by Armand’s sister (to aid in his recovery from a gun attack) as both caregiver and bodyguard. Her resourcefulness in both areas helps her win much more than Armand’s trust, to the dismay of both his right-hand man and her ex-boyfriend / colleague.

As she makes her way into the business she swore to help tear down, she’s faced with the dilemma of choosing between being loyal to her profession or her heart. And we all know it can’t be both.

The book is already available for purchase on:

Smashwords & Amazon