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7/The Bet

The burn from my hand was immediate. The shadow of a hand print on Nash’s cheek was less so. I gulped in a lung full of air after another, powered by my full gallop heartbeat. With a boyish grin Nash let go of my top. I held on a moment longer just in case. It was when Nash took a step back that I noticed the crowd had given us a wide berth. Nash reached for my hand but I flinched away. The idiot just tried to flash my goods to a bunch of strangers and he was asking for my hand? No. I mouthed the word and in case he didn’t get that I shook my head with as much vigor as I could. Just to make things clear I also held up my free hand in a stop motion.

He held his hands parallel to his face in a sign of surrender all while that smug smile cemented on his perfect high cheek boned face. If I wasn’t so shocked I’m sure his striking beauty would have made me melt. He wasn’t the kind of handsome that you’d see on actors or models but certain features stood out. Nash had high cheek bones cut at sharp angles, a stubborn jaw and chin, and when he smiled the flash of dimple was alluring.

The track played unperturbed by our social blunder, however the DJ was missing from his booth. Nash moved through the crowd with me on his heels. We had less resistance as the crowd parted like the Red Sea.

Nash hadn’t pulled on my dress, was it a set up to get his contact’s attention? My cheeks flamed, my actions sure caught everyone’s eye. Did Nash already know me so well to safely assume I would react without him having to do anything? Or was Nash willing to go to extremes to get his contact’s notice. How well did I really know him? Fear and doubt jostled my brain until I could feel a migraine start at the base of my neck. I rubbed at the spot absentmindedly.

This side of the room I hadn’t noticed since it was partially covered by the stage. Nash turned the knob and opened the door to a lit hallway of rooms. Some doors were open while others were locked, we checked. Near the end we could hear a voice coming from the second to last door.

“Yeah I know. I’m sure. I don’t know, you ask him.” Although the voice started out hushed the argument became too heated to contain.

Nash leaned against the doorway. A lazy leg crossed at the knees, his arms folded. “Are we interrupting?” I could hear rather than see the halfcocked grin splayed across his face.

Nash’s contact stiffened for a brief second before hanging up the phone and turning on his heels to face us. “No.” His voice slithered from between his teeth. The man regrouped himself and stood tall. “No just talking with some clients.”

Nash sauntered over to the man. They were nearly the same height and build. He halted an arm’s length away, that smirk never leaving his face. “Rude of you to hang up on them. I hope you’ll treat me with a little more respect as your new client.” Nash’s words were icy and laced with an unspoken threat. A chill ran up my spine.

The man visually gulped, his adam’s apple bobbed in his neck. “You need something done, friend?” The last word had a pleading tone to it.

“I do Jack. And since you’re the best tracker this side of America I’ve come to you. Now I need to find a man who owes me a favor.” Jack looks as uneasy as I feel when Nash wraps him in a one armed hug. “Michael.”

Jack pushed away from Nash as a response. “The vamp-?!” Nash slapped his hand over Jack’s mouth but not in time.

“The hu? Excuse me did he just say vampire?” I came out from around the door frame.

Nash sighed loud emphatically. “Yes.”

“You all are nuts. Absolutely crazy.” I ranted under my breath.

A predatory grin stretched Jack’s face. “Oh a nonbeliever. Show her Nash. Make her a believer.”

Fear glistened in my eyes. I had gotten used to the eyeshine I found so bizarre earlier. “You’re a vampire?”

“What? Hell no!” Jack clutched his stomach, doubling over in laughter.

“Then what would you have to show me?” I spoke softly.

Nash glared at Jack for a brief moment. “You already saw.” His tone was defeated. Nash’s admittance paused Jack’s hysterics.

Jack tisked and waggled his finger. “Naughty. Isn’t that against the rules?” In two long strides Nash had Jack by the collar pinning him against the wall.

“Not if anyone lives to tell the tale.” His voice was nearly a growl.

Jack put up his hands playacting. The fact that Jack didn’t put up a fight told me I was right to assume Nash would win if it came down to it. “Ok Nash. Ok. Let’s calm down and be rational here. I know where Michael is, or at least where he was two days ago. I’ll let you know but I need my payment now.” A knowing smirk lifted Jack’s features.

Nash slammed him against the wall, denting the plaster. “How about you keep all your teeth as payment.” The hairs on the back of my neck rose. I thought it was from Nash’s threat, if only I took it as the warning it was. Two brawny arms wrapped around my frame. A yelp escaped before a second man came around the door frame with a wadded up ball of fabric. Nash met my eyes, his fear mirrored my own. I screamed and thrashed around trying to break free. The only reward I received was a grunt and a good jostling. My head hit the man’s broad chest and I saw stars. The second man pushed the gag firmly in my mouth and let my jaw go with a pat. By the time I got my wits back, Nash and Jack were in the middle of some agreement both on the ground and an arm’s length away.

“Like I said, a bet.” Jack had played us for fools. He was stalling and playing meek until his bodyguards arrived. Damn it!

Nash looked from me to Jack to the two men in the doorway. He sighed and agreed. “Fine. But I want to explain it before.”

“Nope.” Jack fell back into a leather couch his grin broad and cocky.

“At least tell her the rules.” I suddenly didn’t like how I was the only female in the room.

A bitter laugh escaped Jack. “Fine. There’s only one, so it’s not too complicated dear. You scream, no Michael.” He motioned with his hand which must’ve been the signal to remove the gag. My eyes locked onto Nash’s, his determination motivated me to nod my head.

“Why would I scream?” My own voice betrayed how scared I felt.

Jack dismissed my question with a wave of his hand. “Don’t worry, I have no reason to kill you. Besides watching you slap our dear boy here was the highlight of my evening so I’ll let you live no matter what.” He paused to look into my eyes menacingly. “You’ll scream because of him.” He hooked his thumb in Nash’s direction.

Nash looked suddenly uneasy. Fear bubbled in the pit of my stomach. As Nash discarded his jacket and shoes I began mentally chanting not to scream. Whatever he had to show me couldn’t be bad enough to make me scream. I was a nurse in training. My mother even took me to the hospital when she was on call and couldn’t find a babysitter on time. One of those times I even caught a glimpse of a guy whose arm was ripped off at the elbow from a machinery malfunction. I had nightmares for weeks, but I didn’t scream then and I won’t scream now. A deadly group of people were after us, we needed Michael, I will not scream.

Nash was hunched over, pain and concentration furrowed his brow. A shudder ran the length of his spine, a pop, and then a scream.

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