Dirty wicked, p.12
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       Dirty Wicked, p.12
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         Part #11.5 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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  undid him and took hold of his heart forever.

  Into the silence punctuated only by their panting, he clutched her tight.

  “What was that?” She sounded as stunned as he felt.

  “Not just sex.” He knew the difference. Nick was pretty sure what they’d just shared had unraveled his brain, rewired him for her and her alone, and remade him into a committed man. “But next time will be better.”

  “How?” Her gaze was stunned, as if she couldn’t even think of a way their sex could remotely improve.

  He grinned. “I’ll be slower. I’ll have more control, I promise.”

  “Why bother?” She sighed. “That was so damn amazing.”

  He’d never once heard her swear. Hearing her so emphatic now made him laugh. “How about if I promise it will be someplace nicer?”

  Sasha grimaced. “That, I would love.”

  “You got it, baby. You’ve got me. Always. I love you.”

  “As crazy as it sounds, I love you too, Nick. Let’s catch a bad guy and live happily ever after.”

  He didn’t think Walter Clifford intended to make things quite that easy, but he didn’t want to worry Sasha, so he just nodded. “Absolutely.”

  Chapter Six

  Nick lay staring at the stained ceiling, absently stroking Sasha’s back as she curled against him like a kitten, soft and all but purring. The thought made him smile. Sex the second time had been even better than the first. He’d dragged out her pleasure, made her wait and claw and beg for it. Then she’d undone him with a talented tongue and her bedroom eyes until he’d shoved her on her back again and ridden her to a euphoric climax that still had him reeling.

  He could handle fifty years of that with her.

  First, they had to dispose of Walter Clifford. A glance at the clock told Nick that he and Sasha needed to be out the door to reach Josh Krandall’s house in about forty minutes.

  Had they really been making love for the last three hours? As boneless as his legs felt, he believed that.

  The cell phone buzzing on his nightstand broke into his thoughts. Nick snatched it up before the sound woke Sasha. “What?”

  “Oh, grouchy. You’re either not getting any or I interrupted,” Xander teased.

  “Neither.” Nick eased away from Sasha and headed to the desk, speaking in low tones. “You calling for a reason or just want to yank my chain?”

  The younger Santiago sighed. “As much as I love to rile you, this isn’t a social call.”

  Something about the way he said those words made Nick suddenly wish it was. “Harper?”

  “She’s fine. But we’ve moved to a safe house the Edgington brothers have just to be certain.”

  His gut tightened. “What happened?”

  “Someone broke into your rental a few hours ago. They trashed the place but didn’t take anything.”

  “Coincidence?” But even as the question left Nick’s mouth, he shook his head. No way he was buying that.

  “What are the odds? I think they were looking for something.”

  “The video. It’s reasonable to assume Clifford knows we have it.” Nick wasn’t sure how the asshole managed to work that fast, but he was ruthless and had power. And he was getting frantic—almost reckless—to find Sasha before Mike’s evidence leaked out.

  “That’s my guess. One other thing you should know. They left graffiti on the walls that read YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, BITCH.”

  Nick’s heart stopped cold.

  “Fuck.” He looked over his shoulder to find Sasha still sleeping. “So Clifford also knows she’s with me.”

  “Yeah. You need to wrap this up fast. If this DA already linked the house we rented to you, it won’t be long before they come sniffing around for Harper.”

  Which also put London and Dulce in danger. Damn it.

  “I’ll take care of it tonight. I’ve got to go.”

  “Damn it, Nick. I know that tone,” Xander shouted. “Tell me your game plan. Don’t do anything stupid.”

  Stupid? No. Just whatever was necessary to keep Sasha and Harper safe. “I’ll call you in a few hours.”

  “Nick—”

  He hung up. With his gut screaming at him, he lifted the laptop lid, clicking onto a local TV station for all the latest New Orleans news. There at the top, just as he feared, was a developing story. ADA Murdered At Stoplight In Broad Daylight.

  Josh Krandall was dead.

  Clifford wasn’t fucking around. The asshole had been tracking them most of the day. Nick realized the fucker must not know where they’d holed up now or he’d already be beating on their motel room door. But by cutting down the people who could help Nick, the bastard was sending a message.

  Too bad for him Nick wasn’t listening. He intended to make the dirty DA pay for everything he’d done.

  Nick mentally rolled through all his options. Going to the cops or the FBI was no bueno. Clifford was lining the pockets of the dirty ones, and how was Nick supposed to know who was clean? Hell, whoever the DA had been on the phone with in Mike’s video sounded like law enforcement of some sort. They’d discussed rigging a trial and killing Mike like it happened all the time. They’d think nothing of ending Sasha and her daughter. Sure, Nick figured he could try the press, but he didn’t have the kind of pull to get their attention, especially in a busy post-election season. If they ran with the story, it would be too little too late to save Sasha.

  Raking a hand through his hair, Nick fixed his gaze on his woman again. What would life be without her? Could he live if the worst happened and he hadn’t done everything possible to save her and Harper?

  Fuck no. He was going to have to choose Plan B.

  Turning the phone over in his hands, he sighed. Denial raged. Regret swelled. Fury decimated. Son of a bitch. He didn’t want his vengeance to end this way. But he’d always put Sasha first. End of story.

  Cursing, he looked up the number for the DA’s office. After a little prowling, he found the man’s direct line. Voice mail. Shit.

  “Clifford, Nick Navarro here. Let’s negotiate. I have what you want. I’ll give it to you if you agree to leave Sasha Porter and her daughter alone. In exchange, you can have the video and my life. I will make sure she never says a word. That’s the deal; take it or leave it. Be at Popp Bandstand at nine tonight.”

  Nick didn’t tell the man to come alone; he wouldn’t. Just like he also knew that Clifford would never believe that Sasha would keep her mouth shut simply because Nick had told her to. Men like Walter Clifford understood violence, brute force, and death. Luckily, Nick spoke his language. He probably wouldn’t come out of this meeting still breathing…but neither would the fucker who had killed Mike and ruined Sasha’s life.

  As far as Nick was concerned, that was a fair exchange.

  Feeling older than his thirty-three years, he stood, holstered his gun, and paced across the room to Sasha, bending to press a kiss on her forehead, his lips lingering. The inevitability of the moment choked him. He dragged in a rough breath filled with her floral scent and the smell of their sex. At least he’d be walking away with one of the best memories of his life. Better to go out on top.

  “I’d hoped we’d have a million tomorrows, baby,” he whispered. “At least I can give that to you and Harper. I love you.”

  Taking the car keys and weapon—leaving behind his phone, the video evidence, and his heart—Nick departed the motel and disappeared into the night.

  * * * *

  Sasha woke alone with a start. She sensed the emptiness in the room immediately. With a gasp, she sat up, looked around. Nick was gone, as was his gun. The phone and the computer still sat on the desk. What did that mean?

  Heart pounding, she tossed on her clothes and searched the room, just in case. But as she suspected, Nick was nowhere in sight. She had an ominous feeling, a lot like the one she’d gotten the night Mike had disappeared.

  She refused to lose another man she loved to the same killer. She would not lose Nick now tha
t she’d started to live again.

  What could she do? Where had he gone? How could she help him?

  Sasha raced to his phone and looked at the last call he’d dialed. An unfamiliar but local number. She lifted the laptop lid to do a reverse search on the digits, but the open browser gave her the answer. Cold slithered through her blood. The DA’s office. He’d located Clifford’s direct line.

  Why would Nick call the man? Sasha refused to believe he was selling her and Mike out. He wouldn’t take favors from the criminal in exchange for the video. A few days ago, she might have believed the man was capable of that—and worse. Now she knew better.

  She clicked on the other browser tab he’d opened. A local news story. Gasping, she read the headline. Josh had been killed in a seemingly random drive-by? Sasha didn’t believe it had been happenstance for an instant. Clifford had offed his own employee before he could see Mike’s evidence and take it to the task force.

  Suddenly, she feared she knew exactly what Nick was up to.

  Panic gripped her heart as she plucked up his phone and flipped through his contacts. Thankfully, there were few, and Xander was easy to find.

  The man picked up on the first ring. “Thank fuck. After our last call, I was afraid you were going to do something stupid and heroic, you prick. Don’t—”

  “I think he is,” she breathed into the phone. “This is Sasha. I woke from a nap to find him gone. He took his gun and left his phone. The ADA we were going to see in thirty minutes is dead.”

  “Okay, don’t panic. I talked to him maybe ten minutes ago. I’m hoping he hasn’t been able to manage too much stupid in that time.” Xander swore aloud. “Listen to me. Logan Edgington is one of my best friends.”

  “Former Navy SEAL. Nick told me.”

  “Yeah. He’s headed your way. Best there is. Give me your location.” As soon as she did, Xander went on. “I’ll get him to you. I’m also trying to track Nick down. Any idea where he might have gone?”

  Sasha tried to think but drew a blank. “It’s a big city. He could be anywhere.”

  “Tell me the places you’ve been lately.”

  She recited each location in chronological order. “I can only think of one he’d go back to, and that’s Popp Bandstand. It had meaning for him and Mike. On a Monday night, it wouldn’t be that crowded, especially as the hour grows later. But he could be somewhere else entirely…”

  “I’ll keep working angles here. I need you to do something, Sasha. E-mail that video to every local TV station you can find. I’m doing the same in Lafayette. Tell them you’re Mike’s widow. We need to make Clifford a public target as quickly as possible. Logan can make the two-hour trip down there in about an hour and a half since he drives like a NASCAR pro. I’m also contacting the FBI. I tried to tell Nick that I know a guy, but he hung up. Sean will put us in touch with the right people.” Xander finally took a breath. “We’ll save Nick.”

  “I hope so.” Sasha wished she could do more to help the man she loved since it felt as if sending videos to news outlets was something safe and removed. Something Nick would have wanted Xander to ask her to do. Like busy work.

  “We will. He helped save me from doing something stupid and sacrificial when London was in danger once. I owe him.”

  “I can’t lose him.” She hated the tears in her voice. Now wasn’t the time to fall apart.

  “You’ve lost so much.”

  Yes. Losing Mike had wrenched her life apart. Losing Nick would forever rip her heart to shreds.

  “Is Harper all right?”

  “Great. Having fun. She’s almost healed. Dr. Minn saw her this afternoon and was pleased with her progress. Remove her from your list of worries. We’ve got this.”

  “Thanks for everything.”

  “I’m texting you a picture of Logan, so you’ll know the right guy when he comes to your motel door. Call me if you hear from Nick at all. I’ll do the same.

  With a murmured good-bye, Sasha hung up. If Logan was going to be here in just over an hour, she had some preparing to do. After sending the e-mails to all the TV stations, she grabbed a room key, darted out to the sporting goods store just down the street, and made one purchase, thanking goodness Louisiana had no waiting period.

  Sasha was ready for whatever happened—except losing Nick. She was damn determined that wasn’t going to happen.

  Chapter Seven

  Nine p.m. rolled around. Nick stood in the middle of Popp Bandstand, feeling the weight of his SIG in his hand. Any minute now, Clifford would show up with a squad of goons and shoot him.

  But not before he put a bullet between the criminal DA’s eyes first.

  As if his thoughts conjured the crook up, Clifford strolled into the spill of light from the top of the dome accompanied by two thugs, one at each shoulder. It was still cold, so no one else occupied the park. No one would witness whatever happened next.

  No one would see if Walter Clifford had him killed.

  “Stay there,” Nick insisted. “That’s close enough.”

  “You don’t tell me what to do, Navarro,” the older man insisted. “Give me the evidence.”

  “You’ll leave Sasha Porter and her daughter alone?” Nick hid his gun just behind his thigh, waiting for the right moment.

  “Are you really that stupid? That bitch has seen whatever evidence her stupid lug of a husband dug up. She’s a witness. A loose end. She needs to be six feet under. So does the kid. We don’t need any more brats in foster care. I’ll be doing the girl—and the state—a favor.”

  Nick gritted his teeth. Only one kind of man could kill a three-year-old. Talk about someone who needed to be six feet under… “Then I’m not giving you shit.”

  The DA laughed, the sound scratchy and mean. “That’s fine. Dan?” He looked at the guy on his right. “Shoot the motherfucker. He should pay for raping my niece anyway. What a shame that he wanted revenge for his conviction so badly and drew his weapon on an elected official and two off-duty officers.”

  “Yes, sir. Between the pecs or between the eyes?” the cop asked.

  “How about one of each for good measure?” Clifford gave Nick a smarmy smile of triumph. “Bye. I’ll send your buddy’s widow and her kid to be with you soon, too.”

  “You might want to hold up. I don’t have the video with me, and if you shoot me now you’ll never see it.”

  “I’ll take that chance.” The man looked at his cohort. “Do it now.”

  Dan raised his weapon and aimed. Nick hit the deck and rolled behind a pillar, his heart racing as he glanced around the column of stone and tried to line up for a clean shot at Clifford’s head.

  “Nobody move!” a different voice shouted into the chaos.

  Nick froze. Who the hell had crashed their mutual murder party?

  “FBI,” that same voice called out. “Walter Clifford, you’re under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation of murder, tampering with evidence, and corruption. Hands up. Now!”

  “Fuck you!” said the old man.

  “You’re surrounded,” the federal agent warned.

  Nick peeked around the column again. The FBI already had Dan and Clifford’s other hired goon in cuffs. But the DA had raised his own weapon and pointed it at the nearest agent’s head. “I’m not going down.”

  “You are, you bastard!” said a woman. Her familiar voice turned his veins to ice. “It’s over.”

 
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