Pulling off my leather jacket, I laid it down across the windowsill to protect my hands from glass shards, then leaned out to take a good look around. In the movie version of my life, this was where I’d find a convenient tree branch, or maybe an old trellis to serve as a ladder.
I did see a great big shrub right below the window, though. Maybe if I climbed out I could lower myself to shorten the fall, then jump into the bushes to cushion myself? A quick glance at Em showed the pool of blood spreading slowly but steadily.
Shrubbery it was, then.
I climbed out and caught the sill with my hands. That’s when the first thing went wrong, because instead of lowering myself down carefully, I fell off the ledge with a thump. The second thing to go wrong was the shrub itself, which had seemed rather lush and cushiony from the window.
Not so much.
I’d fallen into a forest of pointy branches, cutting through me like a thousand tiny, sharpened stakes. My right arm screamed in agony, and I looked down to see a quarter inch stick passing right through the fleshy part of my forearm. My vision blackened, and I took a couple of deep breaths, willing myself to hold it together.
Em needed me.
Painfully, I pulled my arm off the stick, ignoring the gush of blood as I shoved my way out of the bushes. My entire body was covered in smaller scratches and cuts, and I felt something warm and wet trickling down my face. At least nothing seemed to be broken.
I ran across the yard toward Reese’s bleeding daughter, dropping to my knees to check her pulse. There, but very weak. Fuck. I saw a phone lying in the grass next to a bottle of water. A real phone, the kind that’s connected to a landline. Thank God for that, because I didn’t have an address to give them.
I grabbed it and dialed 911 frantically, praying it wasn’t too late.
“Burke will meet us in Cali,” Hunter said. “They went down to scope out targets already. Shade and his boys will be flying in this evening, and the Silver Bastards are headed south, too. Between them and our local allies, we should have close to three hundred men.”
“What’s scary is not even that many guys are enough to stand up to the cartel head-on,” Horse grunted.
“Their soldiers are disposable,” I said. “Ours aren’t. We know what we’re doin’ and we can trust each other. Combine that with the fact that we aren’t giving ’em the chance to meet us head-on, I think it’ll be enough.”
“So we’re wheels up just after ten tonight,” Hunter said. “It’s a cargo plane, and things are all smoothed out with the shipping company. The pilot’s a friend of mine and he’s solid. When we land, we’ll have brothers there to meet us and we’ll bring our own hardware. Sound good to everyone?”
The room filled with grunts and nods of approval.
“Thanks for settin’ all of this up,” I told him.
“No prob,” Hunter replied, glancing toward the man sitting next to him, who rolled his eyes. “I made Skid do most of the work, anyway. I suppose now it’s time to talk about your woman?”
“It’s complicated,” I admitted. “Not sure what to do. Long story short, she got manipulated by the cartel. Nate Evans may or may not have planned to set her up, but when the opportunity showed itself, he took it. Guess he was fuckin’ her cousin—the one who lived with her—and probably filling her head with all kinds of bullshit. Then he gave her money to run off down south, where the kid’s mom happens to be shacked up with Gerardo Medina.”
Hunter gave a low whistle.
“Damn, bitch aims high.”
“No shit,” I agreed. “Now he’s livin’ the high life while his wife stays tucked away in Mexico. Anyway, when Jess went down, Medina took her and used her to control London. Guess they cut off the girl’s finger while she watched, and London lost it. We knew somethin’ was up, so we put a man on her, and some cameras out at my place. Then shit escalated and Puck found a loaded gun in her purse. He took her ammo and gave me a heads-up. We waited until she made her move before we took her down. Wanted to see how far she’d go.”
Silence filled the room.
“Any particular reason she’s still alive?” Hunter finally asked.
“She didn’t want to do it,” Gage said, his voice thoughtful. “She hates that fucker Evans more than we do, which is sayin’ somethin’. Went after him with a two-by-four. Says she wants to help us take down the cartel, and she’s definitely got the motivation. We’re the only shot she has to save the kid at this point.”
Hunter smirked at me, and I saw the mocking laughter in his eyes. He knew I’d fallen for her, I knew I’d fallen for her, and now I had to kill her or look weak in the eyes of the Devil’s Jacks.
The wail of sirens filled the air, and I cocked my head. The walls in here were solid as fuck—hearing them so loud meant they had to be close. Cops? Shit. We had two goddamned prisoners in this barn, and about a hundred guns of one kind or another.
Puck burst into the room, and for once he wasn’t calm and collected.
“You guys gotta get down here, fast,” he said. “Pic, your daughter’s in the backyard and I think she’s bleedin’ out. London’s with her, guess she called the ambulance. We got EMTs and firefighters all over the place.”
Hunter almost knocked me over, he was out of the room so fast. I was on his heels, tearing down the stairs and out into the backyard.
Oh, shit, Heather murmured in my head. That’s our baby …
What I saw nearly killed me.
It’s probably no surprise to hear I’ve ended more than one person’s life—I had a pretty good idea what it looked like when someone lost too much blood to live. That much blood and more coated Em’s lower body, and the blanket she’d been lying on was soaked with it, too.
Hunter stood over her—frozen—as two EMTs worked frantically.
London stood to the side, her eyes full of despair. A distant part of me noted that she was covered in blood, too. It ran down her head and into her face. It even dripped off her arms—looked like her clothes had been … shredded?
Fucked-up shit, and my baby girl was in the middle of it.
For an instant I was almost thankful Heather was dead, because if she was still here, she’d tear the skin right off my body for letting this happen. Whatever the hell this was. Looked like the blood was comin’ from between Em’s legs, and that was a bad fuckin’ sign for my grandbaby.