Wicked ties, p.49
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       Wicked Ties, p.49

         Part #1 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
 
Page 49

 

  “You stay, and the press will have a field day,” Jack snarled. “Four men, one of them dead, two guns, and one naked woman all in the same hotel room. They’ll start asking questions that the son of a man running for president shouldn’t have raised. You leave, and I can play this like a bodyguard just doing his job. I’m friends with the locals. It will fly. ”

  Brandon hesitated. Jack could tell his former friend was torn, and he didn’t give a shit. He focused all his effort on stemming the flow of Morgan’s blood.

  But nothing helped. The blood just kept running, flowing…

  “Hang on, cher. Stay with me. You can’t give up, not now. Je t’aime, mon coeur. ”

  “You love her?” Brandon’s voice sounded thin, unsteady. He seemed shaken. “It’s not bullshit. You really love her?”

  Jack didn’t have time to spare him a glance. “Yes, I love her, and I’m sure you’ll find some way to use it to cut me off at the balls. Right now, I need you to get the fuck out of here. ”

  “But she’s—”

  “If this turns into a media circus because of you and she dies, I’ll make sure they have to pick up your remains with tweezers!”

  Brandon fell silent for a moment, then nodded.

  “Wait,” Jack called. “The gun. You’re not registered to carry in Louisiana, are you?”

  And Jack had just killed a man using that weapon.

  The elegant senator’s son flinched. “Oh, God. ”

  “Nine millimeter?” Deke asked.

  “Yes. ” Brandon’s voice shook.

  “Jack?” asked Deke.

  “In my duffle bag. Switch out the bullets. Fire a round into the grass outside the French doors or something. It’s the best we can do, in case they run forensics. ”

  “Those good ol’ Cajun boys aren’t going to look too closely. It’ll work. ”

  Sirens sounded in the distance. Deke swore and poured the bullets from Brandon’s gun, switching them out with those in Jack’s own. He thrust open the French doors at the side and quickly fired a round into the grass.

  Jack flinched, heart pounding at the sound, the one that slammed home the fact he might lose the only woman he’d ever loved. The woman he wanted to keep for the rest of his life.

  The woman who wasn’t his.

  “I’ll call Alyssa. We’ll find a place to hide Brandon. Touch base when you can,” a shirtless Deke said, herding Brandon out the door.

  Jack nodded, still applying pressure, afraid to lift the sheet, afraid to find out the blood was still flowing, afraid the bullet had hit some organ and was slowly killing her. Damn it, he’d flunked fucking EMT training.

  “Hang on to her, man. ”

  Jack glanced up. Deke stood solidly on his side, as always. No words necessary. No questions asked.

  “Thanks,” he croaked.

  Now he only hoped that he could keep her alive so he could fight for her.

  Four long hours later, full of questions and red tape, and his guts shredding under the sharp blade of dread, night was falling. Jack reached the hospital. He had blood all over him—and he didn’t give a damn. The police had just finished with all their long, annoying questions about Andrew’s death. Through it all, he could only wonder, with a machete of fear stabbing him over and over, about Morgan’s condition.

  After barking an inquiry at the nurse’s station, he sprinted to Morgan’s room.

  Heart pounding, he came to a dead stop in the doorway. “Mon Dieu. ”

  Wearing a pale blue hospital gown, she looked so still and lifeless and even paler than the white-white of her pillow. Even her sexy cinnamon freckles had faded to near nothing. The IV pumped fluid into her body through a tube stuck to the back of her hand. A bandage bulked up her right shoulder and, from the bulge in her gown, extended down to her rib cage.

  If she died, it was going to be all his fucking fault. If he’d never started this stupid bid for revenge, if he’d just protected her, instead of screwing with her body, her mind…her heart, Morgan wouldn’t now be fighting for her life.

  “What’s the news?” he snapped at Deke, hands shaking as he entered the room.

  Brandon stood sulking nearby, arms over his chest, propped against a wall. He looked like a man with a lot of heavy shit on his mind. Jack related.

  He sank into an uncomfortable chair the color of baby puke and couldn’t help but wonder, how on earth they had ended up wrestling over the same woman again? And why every time they did, the results were always so disastrous.

  “It’s good. They brought her back from surgery about twenty minutes ago and said she’s going to be fine. ”

  Fine. She was going to be fine. That’s all that mattered.

  “Merci Dieu. ” He let out a ragged breath.

  Deke spoke up. “It’s a flesh wound. Bullet entered and exited cleanly, just below her collarbone. They’ve stopped the bleeding. They came and asked if any friends or family are AB positive and could give her blood. ” He shrugged an apology. “I’m B negative, man. Rare, but the wrong type of rare. Sorry. I need a cup of coffee. Want one?”

  Jack shook his head.

  Shit, he couldn’t even help Morgan in this. He hated feeling so damn helpless. “I’m A positive. ”

  As Deke left the room, Brandon shucked his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeve. “I’m AB positive. I just told them I’ll give. They’re coming to get me in a few minutes. ”

  A huge stroke of luck that Brandon had Morgan’s rare blood type. Jack choked on a million replies that sprang to his tongue. He settled on the only one that would do for now. “Thank you. ”

  “I care about Morgan, too. It’s nothing. ”

  It was everything to Jack. Brandon donating meant Jack had a shot at a future, even if Morgan never spoke to him again. Just knowing she was alive and well would sustain him.

  In fact, Morgan’s injury had made him realize a thing or two. Namely, that this vendetta he’d carried had both nearly made him and nearly destroyed him. It had to end. It was time to ensure this sort of shit never happened again. Time give Brandon back his life.

  And to free himself.

  Stumbling to his feet, Jack reached his inside coat pocket and withdrew a video tape. In an old package with a tattered white cardboard cover, it hung heavy in his hand.

  “Here. ” He held it out to Brandon.

  “What is this?” Brandon raised puzzled blue eyes to him.

  “You know damn well what it is. I had this one in my office, which is right around the corner. I’ve got the spare in a safe deposit box. I’ll get it back to you next week. It’s time I gave them to you. ”

  Recognition dawned across Brandon’s face. “The video with Kayla? No more threatening to blackmail me if I run for office?”

  “No more,” Jack answered tightly, then turned to sit.

  “Seriously?” Brandon grabbed the arm of Jack’s coat. “Why? Why now?”

  Jack faced his nemesis, his old friend, again. “Falling for Morgan proved to me real quick that self-control is just a highminded ideal. You loved Kayla, and when my pride wouldn’t let her go, despite her asking for a divorce, you claimed her the only way you could. In your shoes…I might have done the same. ” “I loved her. She broke my fucking heart. ” Brandon’s monotone reply revealed that he’d never recovered from Kayla. For the first time in his life, Jack could understand that hitby-a-Mack-truck feeling.

  “I’m going to lose Morgan over this revenge,” Jack muttered, raking tense hands through his hair, “Over something I should have let go of years ago. And if she rides off into the sunset to marry you, I don’t want her to have any other reason to hate me. Just…take care of her. ”

  Brandon rubbed at an apparent pain between his eyebrows and smiled with bitter irony. “I will, but I’m not going to marry her. Jack, she’s not my fiancée, and I’ve never touched her in my life. She’s my half-sister. ”

  If Brandon had said he was rea
lly a two-headed rhino in disguise, Jack couldn’t have been any more stunned. “Sister?” With a tight nod, Brandon began, “This can’t leave the room. You’ve always been a man of your word…even when I haven’t been. ”

  “Your secret is safe. ”

  “Thanks. ” Brandon sighed, stood and paced. “My father impregnated her mother when she worked for him as a barely-legal intern. He paid her handsomely to go away and never mention his name to anyone, not even to Morgan.

  “About three years ago, when my father first started talking about a bid for the White House, he hired a consultant, who told him to dig out every skeleton in his closet and bury it even deeper. My father came clean to me about Morgan. I looked her up on his orders, with the intent to pay her off. But I liked her too much to give up being her brother. We kept in touch, saw each other. I was there when she taped her first show. ”

  A smile lifted the corners of Brandon’s mouth for a moment, before he turned pensive again. “When this business with the stalker started, I tried to help her. But protecting her from Houston became impossible, and when the asshole masturbated on her bed, I told her to come stay with me. We floated the story that she was my fiancée as a cover, since I couldn’t tell anyone the truth. ”

  And Jack had believed the lie, believed Morgan was his fiancée, then pursued her all the way to submission because of it.

  Life was going to hurt like hell without her, but he couldn’t be sorry he’d had her for a brief time. She clearly wasn’t going to marry Brandon…but he also doubted she’d speak to him again.

  “Bet having Morgan with you pissed your father off. ”

  “You have no idea. ” Brandon’s bitter smile spoke volumes. “Anyway, I was terrified when I got orders to go to Iraq for a three-week assignment. I knew she was alone and vulnerable. It even crossed my mind to call you, since you’re the best damn bodyguard in the business. ” He sighed. “But I couldn’t give you that sort of power over me. It never occurred to me that you were waiting for me to get engaged to get your revenge. ”

  “For three years, yes. I wasn’t going to give up. ”

  “I don’t blame you,” Brandon admitted quietly. “I’m just glad that I only got as far as a debriefing in D. C. before the trip was postponed. I hope we’re settled once and for all. ”

  “We are. ” Jack sighed. “Thanks for the truth. ”

  Silence descended. Jack stared at Morgan hard—as if he could will her awake.

  She never moved a muscle.

  “Is she being sedated?”

  “I’m assuming so. She was awake about ten minutes ago, but now…”

  Tension and hope gripped Jack’s gut. “Did she say anything?”

  “No. She just looked around, saw Deke and me, and shut her eyes again. ”

  She hadn’t asked for him. And why should she? Stupid to hope she would. From her point of view, he’d lied, used her, exploited her. Why should she believe that he loved her? And if she’d ever thought she loved him…well, his stunning conversation with Brandon earlier today would have cured her of that.

  Losing Morgan wasn’t anything less than he deserved. But the fierce urge to stave off the reality fueled a furious denial. Knowing he’d never touch her again was like a sharp gouge of pain knifing him right between the ribs.

  “That’s for the best, I guess. She won’t feel any pain. ”

  “True. ”

  And she wouldn’t wake up right now. Even if she did, would she really want him there?

  No. She’d never want him near her again.

  Jack shuffled his boot against the antiseptically clean floor, his chest crushingly tight. “I should go. Tell her…”

  What? What the hell could he say to make this any better? It would take a fucking miracle to change her mind, and Jack didn’t think he had any such miracle coming to him.

  In the end, he settled on the simplest. “Tell her I’m sorry. ”

  Shoving clenched fists into his stiff jeans, Jack forced himself to turn away from Morgan and walk out of her life.

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  Morgan paced across the hardwood floor of Brandon’s living room. The surface felt cool beneath her bare feet, but didn’t soothe her searing thoughts.

  “You’re going to wear out the floor, little sister. ” She flipped a gaze at Brandon over her shoulder.

  “Doubtful. ”

  “Okay, then you’re going to wear yourself out. It’s barely been a week since you were shot. ”

  “I’ve got to move around or I’m going to get stiff. ” He sat back on the sofa, legs spread, elbows propped across the back. “I might buy that if it looked like mere exercise. This is nervous pacing. What’s eating at you?”

  Morgan didn’t answer. Admitting the truth was too painful, made her look too stupid.

 
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