That pretty much summed up all I was thinking with that sudden realization.
Mine and Sam’s chances of escaping this nightmare had just disappeared with the creepy high pitched whistle. And based on the limited information Sean had braggingly offered, the Lollipop Guild wasn’t going to leave much left behind for anyone to find.
Looking over Sean’s shoulder, I glanced over just in time to see Sam pop up by the side door we had entered from. Her eyes were wide with fear. No doubt she too was creeped out by the unknown munchkin outside.
I couldn’t risk calling out to her. Between Sean and his shaky trigger finger and the spokesperson for the Lollipop Guild who I was assuming was armed outside, any kind of attention I called to her would likely result in her getting killed. And no matter how scary my bladder was telling me this whole situation was, that was not a risk I was even willing to entertain to save my own bacon.
Sam watched me, quietly signaling for me to run. Where the hell she thought I was going to run to and not get shot was beyond me.
I couldn’t respond to her without getting Sean’s attention so I looked to her and then to the door, hoping she would catch my meaning to leave while she still could. I was currently in the crossfire and as of right now, the only one who even knew she was even here. If she could get away while everyone was distracted, the better her chances were. Or at least, I prayed they were. We still didn’t know what happened to Ghost and Kade or if they were even still alive. I prayed they were and they would be the first she stumbled upon. I could at least trust they would do everything they could to get her away safely.
Sam understood what I was hinting at and shook her head vehemently. She wasn’t willing to leave while I remained behind.
I took a risk and mouthed “go”. Luckily Sean’s attention was still focused on the chorus of the whistled tune, which was winding down. In just a few seconds, Sam would risk being exposed and would be caught in the same web as me. My heart started racing double time at the idea.
Sam’s attention was directed to the open garage door. She must have also realized that her window of opportunity was quickly closing, and she was torn on what to do. Holding up her finger in the universal sign of “hold on”, she looked carefully through the door’s window and turned back toward me.
I did a single, small nod to tell her it was okay, and I could see the shimmer in her eyes from the unshed tears she was fighting to hold back. With a pained expression, she quietly grabbed the door handle, turning it slowly before inching the door open and sliding out. With a final sad glance over her shoulder, she shut the door silently and disappeared.
I didn’t have time to feel hurt or relieved by the fact she made it out safely. The moment the door closed behind her, the whistling stopped and Sean’s arm started to shake with an intensity that I was almost certain was going to end with one of us getting shot in the leg. Who would have guessed that I would be wishing for him to show that same steady resolve he had shown moments before when he had been aiming at me. Sure, he had been half crazy and pointing a gun at my head, but at least I would know when it was coming. Standing next to him while he was shaking like a leaf was like playing Russian roulette.
The scrape of a boot outside the door was the only indication we had that our mystery friend was on the move. Stupidly, I was so focused on what was going on outside that I took my attention off Sean, which proved to be a huge mistake.
I felt him behind me before I realized he had moved, and by then it was too late.
Sean grabbed me, spinning me toward the door and slammed me against his chest as his left arm wrapped tightly around my neck. He stood directly behind me, using me as a human shield. The only part of his body exposed was his right arm that continued to point his gun toward the open doorway.
The freaking coward was going to stand behind me and let me get shot just to save his own hide!
Mental forehead slap.
Why was I surprised by this sudden realization was beyond me. The man had pointed a gun in my face earlier. That should have been a pretty clear message that he was hell bent on shooting me to save his own bacon, so why was this latest act of cowardice pissing me off? Maybe because in the back of my mind I still had doubts Sean was actually going to shoot me. Now I wasn’t so certain. Sean had abilities to do many things, but the power to bend the matrix so bullets moved around me was not one them.
My air supply was quickly being cut off thanks to the vice like grip around my neck. My hands flew up, instinctively trying to pull the arm away so I could draw in a breath. Spots were beginning to dance before my eyes and I knew it would only be a matter of seconds before I passed out from a lack of oxygen.
I clawed desperately at his arm. Only then did Sean finally realize he was strangling me because his grip loosened slightly and I gulped down as much air as I could. I wasn’t stupid enough to assume he cared for my wellbeing. More likely he didn’t want to risk losing his only form of protection because trying to hold up my dead weight while he tried to defended himself against the Lollipop Guild wasn’t going to work in his favor.
The scraping of the boots got louder as the shadow stopped in front of open door once again. Our visitor was just inches from exposing himself and that instilled a whole new level of fear in me. Whoever this person was, Sean knew. And what he knew was scaring the hell out of him.
The shadow hovered in front of the door like a bad omen. Whoever the hell he was, he had a flair for the dramatic. Each passing second he didn’t show himself, Sean became more nervous. And I’m sure I don’t need to explain being scared shitless with a loaded weapon, a good combination it does not make.
My brain was starting to function fully again thanks to the fish like gulps of air I swallowed moments before. Apparently there is something about oxygen deprivation that has an amazing ability to clear ones head because suddenly realization was dawning very quickly.
The Lollipop Guild outside knew we were there. Well, they knew Sean was there at the very least. And based on the way Sean was shaking in his boots, he was immensely dangerous and no matter how much boasting Sean had done, clearly he was not in good standing with our visitor. Was this the leader of the goon squad? The one that Sean had said wouldn’t hesitate to kill me because I had caused too many problems? If it was, why was Sean hiding behind me while pointing a gun at him? Not a smart move considering you were just toting how irreplaceable you were. Everyone was replaceable in some form and threatening to shoot someone was a quick way to fall out of favor with them.
I held on to Sean’s arm like a vice, restraining him as much as I could when those few seconds of sheer panic kicked in and he started to cut off my air supply once again.
The Lollipop Guild was playing with Sean. Purposefully instilling fear in him, kind of like a cat and mouse type chase. He stood just outside of our view, but close enough so that we were fully aware that he was there and could undoubtedly hear our nervous and ragged breathing.
Clearly the cat and mouse tactic was working because nerves finally got the better of Sean and he took a giant step back into the garage, dragging me with him. Guess his realization of the fact he was in the dog house for sure was slower than mine. The sudden move caught me off guard and I started to flail to the ground. I was pulled up quickly by my neck before being pulled tightly against Sean’s chest once again.
He continued to take steps toward the back wall, but stopped cold when the scraping of the boots outside started again.
Strange that our mystery visitor was so loud when he walked. In the little time I had spent with Kade and Ghost, I had learned one important thing. Silence was your friend. The little noise you made, the more advantage you had. The fact he had decided to make his presence known so glaringly by dragging his feet and indulging his inner Judy Garland hinted that he was purposefully trying to scare the hell out of Sean. To my big disadvantage, it was working.
The shadow still hovered in front of the open door. In another step or two, we would finally come face to face with our visitor. I felt a scream clawing its way out, but I swallowed it down as much as I could. If I wasn’t going to let Sean see me break, I wasn’t about to let this asshole.
“I’m disappointed,” said a soft voice.
Sean stiffened and pulled me closer.
“All of this headache, and for what exactly,” the voice continued.
“I…I..I can explain,” Sean responded rather loudly in my ear. His voice trembled as badly as the gun in his hand. “I’ve got everything under control.”
The only response he received was a humor filled laugh.
“Control is clearly not within your ability,” the shadow responded simply.
Sean’s grip loosened as he took a step back from me. He still held on to my neck, but he was no longer pressed against my back. The gun tucked in my waist band shifted slightly.
The gun! Son of a bitch! In all of his nervousness, Sean hadn’t noticed the bulge of gun when he was holding me against him. If I could only reach it without Sean noticing…
“But…,” the voice continued, “lucky for you, it is within mine.”
The shadow moved, his right arm stretching away from the rest of his body. There was no mistaking the message in that move, or the item he held in his hand. The Lollipop Guild was armed. Again, this was not going to bode well for me.
The Lollipop Guild took two steps back, his shadow disappearing just as a single shot rang out, followed by the sound of breaking glass.
Sean fell back in surprise (just short of shrieking like a girl), pulling me back with him, but the unexpected floundering caused him to loosen his grip around my neck momentarily. Surprisingly I kept my wits about me and took advantage of the sudden extra space. Using my right hand, I let go of his arm and quickly moved my arm behind me, elbowing him in the sternum. Sean let out of whoosh of air before pulling me back against him, trapping my arm behind me, which is exactly what I hoped he would do.
Despite my sudden act of bravery, my heart was practically pounding out of my chest with fear. How was it that I was constantly finding myself in a situation where I was trying to protect myself from persons unknown? For the umpteenth time I was trapped in the dark without any idea of what to do or who I was trying to protect myself from. The only difference this time was that I was trying not to accidentally shoot myself in the ass. Of course, I also had the added disadvantage of Sean using me as a human shield.
As if on cue, Sean’s grip around my neck tightened, but if I played my cards right and kept my wits about me, I could gain the upper hand pretty quickly.
Was it petty that I took a small amount of satisfaction in the fact my gun was currently aimed at his family jewels, or at least I hoped it was?
The scraping of the boots started again, but this time they had picked up pace. Whoever it was knew that we were spooked. In fact, I was willing to bet they were banking on it. Of course, anyone in their right mind would be scared after some unknown creeper starts shooting at random, completely unprovoked.
Sean’s grip tightened the closer the sound came, which caused me to grip the handle tighter on my own gun. I hoped to avoid any embarrassing moments of accidentally shooting my wad, so to speak. While it would certainly get me away from Sean, I still didn’t know who was coming after us and keeping Sean with all of his boy parts was hopefully going to work to my advantage right now. Admittedly though the very idea of shooting him was more pleasing then I dare admit.
After what seemed like forever, our mystery friend made an appearance, standing imposingly in front of the garage door with a fierce looking gun in his right hand and a shit eating grin on his face.
Never in my life had I ever envisioned being so happy to see someone with a gun.
“Who the hell are you?” Sean asked angrily as his hand betrayed his bravery and shook like a leaf.
“Me?” Ghost asked, pointing to himself. “I think that’s pretty obvious, don’t you?”
Sean was shaking uncontrollably behind me. Whether it was from fear or anger, I couldn’t tell, but the unreassuringly way he was cutting off my air supply was a clear indicator he was nervous either way.
“Maybe I didn’t make myself quite clear,” Sean replied, moving the gun so that the barrel was now painfully pressed into my temple, “who the hell are you?”
I prayed I didn’t pee myself this close to a possible rescue.
Ghost tsked sadly as he shook his head.
“That is probably the dumbest thing you could possibly do right now,” he said with an overly exaggerated sigh. “And do you want to know why?”
Sean started to speak but Ghost cut him off.
“Because if you shoot her, then you won’t leave me any choice but to shoot you,” he said with a casual shrug.
As if to emphasis his threat, Ghost suddenly jacked his arm upwards and pointed the gun towards Sean’s head.
“Make no mistake. The only reason you aren’t currently seeing out of the third eye I’ve imbedded into your forehead is because I consider Addison a friend, despite her abysmal taste in men,” Ghost said with a disgusted shake of his head. “And between you and me, the amount of time it would take to scrub your brain matter out of her hair probably isn’t worth her efforts.”
Mental image. Ew.
“So why don’t you just make all of our lives easier,” he continued, “and just put the gun down. We both know how this ends before it even starts. Hostage or no hostage, you aren’t leaving out of here on your terms.”
“Is that so?” Sean asked, yanking me backwards suddenly. “The way I see it, I’ve got the upper hand, no matter how you try to spin it. So why don’t you play it smart. Put your gun down and kick it over to me. After that, maybe we can negotiate.”
Ghost sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Why is it that guys like this always want to get cocky and act like they have the upper hand?” he asked me.
I shrugged. (Well, as much as I could anyways.)
“Probably because they are always over compensating for other little problems,” I replied hoarsely.
Ghost grinned and turned his attention back to Sean.
“Ouch. Nothing hurts more than when a woman confirms your already deep seeded suspicions that you don’t quite measure up. Don’t you agree, Kade?”
“There’s nothing worse,” said the familiar voice behind us.
Sean spun on his heels quickly, dragging me with him. I nearly lost my balance and the accidentally shot myself in the butt, but I recovered less than gracefully while still maintaining my grip on the gun.
Kade stood just a few feet behind us, gun aimed at Sean’s head. Where he entered from and when was its own mystery. I was just thankful he was finally here.
“Let her go,” Kade said quietly.
Though his voice was deceptively gentle, there was no missing the implied threat behind each syllable.
Sean’s grip around my throat tightened and I squeaked out a wheeze before my windpipe was crushed under the tension of his arm. The cold steel of the barrel was pressed into my temple once again as panic welled inside me and screamed to be released.
My vision was starting to get spotty thanks to the lack of oxygen. Obviously, that wasn’t a good sign. I was guessing I only had seconds left before I either passed out…or worse. Best not to dwell on that “or worse” part.
The fact my tongue was hanging out of the corner of my mouth was probably the first indication to Kade that I couldn’t breathe. The fact that I was probably turning purple would have been lost on him thanks to the fact we were sitting in the dark.
The dark spots turned to bursting white lights as I started to lose my balance and started to sag back against Sean. Everything was going black as the steady hum of voices became nothing more than small buzzing sounds.
A loud explosion suddenly sounded near my ear as air was suddenly pulled back into my lungs, which I gulped down greedily.
It took me a few seconds to get my bearings and find my footing, but thankfully Sean was ever the gentlemen and decided to yank me upright before I could sag to the ground any further.
“…next one in your skull,” was all I was able to make out as my ears cleared and my vision returned.
Sean still held me by the neck with his gun pointed at my head. While I was blacking out, he had taken refuge against the garage wall so that neither Kade nor Ghost had the added advantage of being able to shoot him in the back.
Kade and Ghost surrounded us, slowly advancing on us like prey. At that moment, I was glad not to be the one they were stalking. Granted, I would also be glad not to be the person currently being held at gunpoint but clearly beggars can’t be choosers.
“Give it up Sean,” Kade said, taking another step in Sean’s comfort zone. “There’s no walking away from this.”
I could feel Sean shake his head behind me.
“Everything is up for negotiation,” he said calmly.
Kade shrugged, his outstretched arms never wavering in the process.
“It is, but only when you have the upper hand, which you don’t. What exactly do you think you’re going to do once you get out of here? You’re out of favors with Romero after tonight. He and his associates will hunt you to the end of the earth until you’re dead. Right now, my friend and I are you’re only chance of survival, and that chance decreases with every second you continue to hold a gun to her head.”
I more felt then heard Sean gulp behind me.
I don’t know who the hell Romero was, but I could only assume it was the same guy Sean had been boasting about earlier. The very one that Sean thought he still had a chance of making things right with.
“You have no idea of my arrangement with Romero,” he said with way more conviction then he was likely feeling if the quiver in his voice was any real indication. “Romero needs me.”
Ghost snorted. “Afraid not mate. Thanks to this wild goose chase you led him on for the past three months, he’s been advertising for your replacement. And as luck would have it, he found exactly what he needed. Someone much more reliable, dependable and adaptable at handling his particular type of business needs.”
Sean shook his head. “Not possible,” he replied hoarsely.
“I’ve already started,” he replied with a wink.
“You son of a bitch!” Sean yelled, easing the barrel away from my temple and pointing it at Ghost.
Sean’s body vibrated with anger and desperation. Even if Kade managed to get off a shot, there was a good chance that Sean would shoot first. I had no idea of any level of skill Sean had when it came to shooting a gun, but considering how close we all were, there was a really good chance he would hit his mark.
Guilt washed over me at the idea of Ghost being injured. I had already believed the worse about Kade earlier, and fortunate for me that was more the work of my overactive imagination then reality. In this case I was sure reality was going to be much worse than my imagination.
My grip tightened on the gun still wedged behind my back. Sean was still oblivious to it, but I wasn’t sure how much longer that would last. Desperate times definitely called for desperate measures.
“Oh for God’s sake!” I yelled. (Well, as much as my crushed larynx was going to allow me.) “Either shoot each other already or hug it out.”
Ghost smirked at my comment and Kade slowly shook his head in frustration.
Sean pulled me closer, tightening his grip around my neck once more, which is exactly what I had hoped he would do.
“You know Sean,” I choked out hoarsely, “I probably should have mentioned something to you earlier.”
Everyone’s attention turned to me, including Sean who turned his face towards me.
“And what would that be?” he asked in the high-brow voice that I always found particularly annoying.
I steeled myself and forced a cocky smile.
“I may be a walking disaster,” I said hoarsely, “and have exceptionally bad taste in men as Ghost so kindly pointed out, but I’m not completely without the ability to defend myself.”
There was a loud bang, and my arm kicked back violently from the explosion of the gun in my hand.
Sean screamed out in pain, releasing his hold on me and the gun, as he dropped to the floor and cradled his injured foot.
I sagged to the ground, choking and gulping in as much air as my lungs could possibly hold. Ghost and Kade advanced quickly. Kade kicked away Sean’s gun while keeping his gun trained carefully on him. Ghost walked over to me, grabbing me by the upper arms as he helped lift me from the ground.
I’m not too proud to say that leaned I on him for support. My legs were like jelly and considering this was the first time I had ever shot a man, I was pretty sure the contents of my empty stomach were about to find their way out.
Ghost was surprisingly comforting, rubbing my back and assuring me that I was safe as he kept me upright. I didn’t know the man beyond the few minutes we had spent together earlier but I was thankful for him being there. I very much doubted I would have gotten any TLC from Kade. A long lecture on the dangers of taking off or trying to handle dangerous matters on my own, yes. TLC, not likely.
Sean cried and whimpered from the floor. Gone was the man who had talked so much trash and had boosted about having the upper hand. He was now rendered a blithering idiot thanks to a lucky shot that had thankfully missed my behind.
Speaking of which, I tried to ignore the fact that I was now feeling a cool breeze on my derriere. I just hoped that neither Ghost nor Kade took the opportunity to sneak a little peek. Considering I was wearing borrowed pants, it would be pointless for me to mention I wasn’t wearing any underwear.
“No such luck,” Kade replied with a light chuckle.
Crap. Did I say that out loud again?
My smart ass retort quickly died on my lips when I saw a shadow flicker just outside the garage. Ghost felt me tense and looked over to where my attention was currently captured.
“Clear,” he called out.
I looked up at him questioningly when I heard “Oh my god, Addy!”
Sam came running into the garage and threw herself on top of me and Ghost, hugging me tightly to the point that I was suffering a lack of oxygen again.
“Can’t…breathe,” I tried to rasp out.
“Sorry,” she replied sheepishly, letting go instantly. “I’m just so relieved you’re all right. I was so scared Sean was really going to shoot you.”
“I’m pretty sure he was really going to,” I replied hoarsely.
“You shot off my fucking foot!” Sean suddenly yelled from the ground.
How pathetic. In the span of just seconds, I had forgotten all about him sitting there.
I let go of Ghost and took two strides closer to where he was currently laid out in the fetal position. I prayed that I looked more confident than I actually felt, because if I looked anything like how I was really feeling, I was green at the gills and about the fall over on my face as if I were learning to walk for the first time.
I stopped in front of Sean, and leaned over him with a sneer.
“You should be grateful I just took off your foot,” I bit out in a smoky, raspy voice. “I was aiming for your dick.” I did an exaggerated shrug and sighed. “Considering it was such a small target to begin with, I’m sure you can understand how I missed so easily.”
His face turned purple in rage. “You fucking bitch!”
For good measure, I kicked him in the kidneys. Twice.
Feeling a little vindicated for the ordeal I had been put through, and considering the new wave of pissed off bitch coursing through my veins, I turned on my heel towards Kade and Ghost with my hands planted firmly on my hips.
“You have two options. You can either tell me what the hell is going on, or we can test if my aim is any better when shooting in front of me.”