I shrugged. “Shit happens.”
“C’mon over to the bed. Let’s talk.”
“Is this like the last ‘talk’ we had?” I asked, my voice rasping—probably from all the screaming I’d done. “I know you’re in charge, but I’m still kind of sore down below. Not sure I can handle more talking quite yet.”
He shook his head, eyes serious. I walked over to him as he sat on the bed and learned back against the wall. He caught my hand and tugged me down until I settled between his legs, my back to his stomach. His arms came around me and I let myself relax into his heat and strength, wishing things had been different.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” I asked him finally, hating to break the strange sense of peace that had settled between us. “I realize you have no reason to believe me, but I’m sorry for what I did, Reese. Really sorry, and not just because it backfired on me. I know it was wrong and stupid and you’ll never trust me again … but if there’s a way for me to help you fight, I want to do it.”
“Fight? What do you mean?”
“I’m not stupid. These people—these drug dealers—they’re out to hurt you, and probably a whole lot of other people, too.”
“They’re a cartel. Big one, out of Mexico. Control the West Coast trade, up through northern Cali. Movin’ upward now into Oregon and southern Idaho.”
“I want to stop them. I don’t care what it takes,” I murmured, burrowing deeper into his embrace. My neck still hurt from the tiny cut he’d given me, but considering I’d tried to shoot him, I’d gotten off easy. At least so far. I still didn’t know what they planned to do with me, but for the moment I chose not to think about the future.
Sounds crazy, but even now I felt safe when he held me.
“What about Jess?” he asked.
“I don’t think they ever planned to let her go,” I whispered. “I think she’s going to die unless someone stops them. Kills them. They’re evil.”
“Wish you weren’t right,” he replied, and I felt his chin come to rest on top of my head. “Cartel bastards think I’m dead now. Think you shot me, then killed yourself. They still aren’t gonna let her go, even though we gave them what they wanted.”
Shit. I’d suspected, but hearing Reese lay it all out felt like a punch to the gut. I swallowed.
“How did you convince them we’re dead?”
“Deputy Dick told them.”
“Why would he lie to them? Isn’t that dangerous?”
“We asked him very nicely.”
Somehow I didn’t think Reese was using the word “nicely” in the traditional sense. Didn’t sound promising for Nate’s future prospects. I considered the situation—did it bother me that the Reapers had obviously done something terrifying and horrible to make him lie?
No. It really didn’t. Did that make me a bad person?
I decided I didn’t care.
“He used Jess, then he sent her down to those people knowing what they are,” I said slowly. “And he tried to turn me into a murderer. I don’t know if it’s allowed under the circumstances, but I’d like to see him before you kill him. Talk to him. I have things to say, and I’d like to see his face when he realizes he lost.”
“Assuming we had him—and I’m not sayin’ we do—why would we let you witness something that could be used against us?”
“I want to be an accomplice,” I told him, the words spilling out of me with sudden force. “I want to make Nate pay, and I want to shut those fuckers down. I know you’re planning to do something big. I can sense it—all those meetings? People coming in from all over, and extra security? There’s something happening and I’m in the middle of it now. I messed everything up with you, and I know you can’t trust me … But I’ll do whatever I can to help. Anything. I figure there’s a good chance I won’t survive this situation and I’m coming to peace with that—but I really want to make Nate pay before I go, Reese. I want to look him in the eye and watch him suffer. Then I want to shoot him.”
The thought made me smile, and I wondered how the hell I’d gone from cleaning lady to bloodthirsty killer. Okay, so I wasn’t a very competent killer, but the sentiment was there …
“Damn,” he muttered, pulling me into him tighter. “When did you turn so hard-core?”
“When I realized my girl is dying or already dead”—the words made me choke, but I forced myself to push past them—“and that Nate Evans is the reason. I had a good life before I met him. It wasn’t perfect, but I had a home and a family, and he took them away from me. Fuck him, Reese. He should have to pay for what he did.”
I felt Reese’s lips touch the top of my head as I bit back tears. I didn’t want to cry or look weak or beg for mercy—I’d made my bed … Now I had to own up to my choices.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Sorry for all of it. For trying to shoot you. For not trusting you. You didn’t deserve any of this.”
“Little late for that.”
Silence fell again.
“We’re going to Portland in a couple of hours,” Reese said softly. “Then we’re heading down to California to make a strategic strike at the cartel leadership. Got our targets already, been scoping ’em out for a long time now. I’m going to try and find Jessica while I’m down there.”
I felt a sudden surge of hope, then bit it back. I couldn’t afford hope.
“How can I help?”
“You can’t, unless you remembered something you haven’t told us already?”
I shook my head, thinking hard.
“I told you everything,” I said. “I wish I knew more. Will you let me see Nate?”
He didn’t answer for a minute, and then he sighed.
“Yeah. But you can’t shoot him. We might still need his ass.”
“What’s going to happen to him?”
“That’s on a need-to-know basis. Somethin’ you should learn about the club—we don’t like it when people ask too many questions. We’ll be leaving soon, and you’re coming with us. Marie is bringing over some shit for you to wear.”
My breath caught.
“Does she know what I did?”
“Nope,” he said. “And she won’t. We don’t need the girls all worked up about your situation, so keep your mouth shut if you happen to see one of them.”