In the split second that followed the gunshot, Nicolas waited for white hot pain to lance his body. Waited for a burning sensation as the bullet tore through his chest and destroyed his rib-cage. His heart stopped. But it didn’t come.
One of the thugs let out a scream, stumbling to the side as blood poured from a wound on his shoulder. The two men jumped, looking around through wild eyes. Nicolas couldn’t move, frozen in shock and confusion. Then another gunshot blasted, breaking the moment and throwing them all into action.
“What the hell?” Gray shouted. He dove for cover behind a nearby dumpster, and the other man followed suit. Their injured companion scrambled to one side, his eyes wide with terror. Bullets blasted divots in the pavement near their hiding place. Nicolas threw himself to the side, pulling out his pistol and scanning for this new assailant. In the darkness, he saw a figure crouching on the roof of a nearby building, firing at them.
The thugs spewed obscenities. One of them peered around the dumpster and fired up at the shooter before ducking again.
What the hell was this? Someone from the Faceless? One of Gray’s enemies?
Either way, their timing couldn’t have been any better.
Since the shooter seemed to be targeting Gray, Nicolas bolted past them, heading down the alley. His jacket flapped between his arms as he ran, the heavy bag bouncing on his back. He looked over his shoulder and heard more gunshots. He headed toward the street. People were pouring out of the bar at the sound of the commotion, a scared, confused, frothing mass. Nicolas lunged out of the alley and pushed through the throngs in the direction of his car, gasping for air.
The shooter’s presence had been quite lucky. A miracle, really.
Nicolas dashed across the road, evading several passing cars, and hurried down the opposite sidewalk. Sweat streamed down his face. He and Iziah would have to leave the city. Possibly the state. If what Gray had said was true, the apartment wouldn’t be safe for much longer. After all, Nicolas had been careful to make it difficult to find...but he hadn’t been meticulous. He’d left tracks, and Gray was a man of many resources.
The rental car was parked ahead. Nicolas hurried forward, unlocking it and climbing in, throwing his bag onto the passenger seat. Taking a long, heaving breath, he looked out the window. There was no sign that he’d been followed, but he couldn’t take any chances. They had been prepared to torture him for information, so they probably wouldn’t allow themselves to be detained by that shooter for long. Hopefully, Gray took a bullet to the head.
Nicolas started the car and pulled out of the parking spot, heading down the road. His heart-beat began to slow. He cursed himself for his failed plan. He should have been more cautious.
Nicolas was continually glancing toward the rear-view mirror as he headed down the road. He couldn’t risk leading someone back to the apartment.
They would get packed that night. Then, they had to figure out a place to go. Neither of them had any family, so they were on their own. They could just drive until they found some obscure town with a cheap hotel and stay there, then move on the next day and go further. It didn’t matter as long as he and Iziah got out of here.
Sadness swept through him as the gravity of the situation began to sink in. He’d have to leave his apartment behind, his familiar city, his job. Katharine. All the things that provided him with a sense of comfort and control.
Nicolas shook himself. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he and Iziah would be safe. They could start a new life. Besides, he’d made a deal with Iziah, so this was the perfect opportunity to fulfill it. Katharine would take care of everything if he asked her to – ump the clients, ditch the files, sell the offices they’d rented. What would she do afterwards? Find someone else to work for or take on a more decent job? Nicolas smirked. He didn’t know why she’d put up with him. She did more work than he ever did, taking care of all the odds and ends of the business. Then again, he usually gave her a larger percentage of the pay. She deserved it.
He took a long breath. It was time to start over, and he needed to make sure he didn’t mess up this time.
Iziah unloaded his clip.
The first man’s scream made him cringe, but he liked the look of fear on Gray Hane’s face. Who was feeling hunted now? Who was the one in control now?
The men took cover behind garbage cans and dumpsters, and Nick dove to the side, looking around in confusion. Iziah grinned as he imagined Nick’s surprise. He squeezed the trigger rapidly, cocking between each shot, punching holes in the dumpsters and leaving divots in the pavement. Empty shells clattered on the roof beside him. There were shouts from the nearby street, but Iziah could hardly hear past the ringing in his ears.
A bullet whistled past Iziah’s head. He ducked behind the generator, gasping. One of the thugs had gotten cocky. He peered around it and fired two more times. Then the gun started letting out a weak clicking sound instead of the raucous booms.
Hopefully he’d caused enough of a distraction. It was time to disappear.
Iziah leaped to his feet and dashed to the other end of the roof. Behind him, he heard shouts and gunshots. Bullets clanked against the generator where he’d been hiding. He didn’t look back, almost tripping over a chunk of rotted wood. His heart pounded wildly. When he reached the edge of the low roof, Iziah didn’t bother to slow down, leaping off. For a moment, he hung suspended in the air. Then he crashed down on the pavement, the impact buckling his knees and sending a jolt of pain up his spine. Grinding his teeth, he scrambled to his feet and ran out of the alley.
By now, people from the bar were running, yelling, pulling out cell phones. Several people gave him strange, horrified looks as he charged out of the alley and down the sidewalk. Sweat soaked his forehead, and his chest heaved. He looked over his shoulder. Two of the thugs emerged from the alley, whirling about with enraged looks on their faces. Iziah dove into a crowd of people, trying to blend with them. The thugs likely hadn’t gotten a good look at him. All he had to do was disappear, and they would never find him.
He wove his way through the crowd, pulling Nick’s jacket tighter around him and trying to slow his pounding heart. Through the chaos, he lost sight of the men. But he didn’t want to risk being followed. He took off his jacket and tucked it under his arm, just in case they’d glimpsed it.
Iziah lingered in the group for several minutes before daring to move on. There was a group of wary, drunk patrons leaving, and Iziah trailed after them. Though he wanted to be nonchalant, he set a brisk pace, eyes wandering his surroundings.
It would be a while before reached the apartment, but hopefully he would get there before Nick.