Justin held his little darlin’ in his lap as she slept. His gaze flew around him, wondering where his sister could be. She should have been there by then. Just as his gaze roamed over his darlin’s bruised face, he heard the station’s door open quickly.
His gaze darted over and in walked Iris with another woman behind her. He stifled a groan when he saw Holly hot on Iris’s tail.
“Sorry, Justin, she showed up just as I was trying to leave, she yacked forever before I finally got her to shut up, I brought a t-shirt and sweats,” her gaze flitted over the girl in his lap. “What happened?”
“I ran into her out in the woods, she knows where Marnie is, we’re trying to get a good team together to head out there.”
“You won’t be going,” Chief Michael’s voice boomed a little. “I want you to stay with her, Mathers, you saved her, I guess, so I need you to keep her close and be there if she remembers anything else.”
Anger simmered through Justin, and he glared at the chief, “Fine, but you better get the best team you can on this because if you don’t, there will be hell to pay.” Justin growled out. He felt his darlin’ jump awake, and she pulled out of his arms but stumbled to the ground. His t-shirt rode up her thighs, causing the skimpy red fabric on her to be exposed.
Iris let out a gasp, and Justin snatched the sweatpants from her. He knelt beside the fragile girl and helped her into the pants.
“Justin, we have to take her to the hospital,” Iris whispered, her gray eyes meeting his.
“Well, that was in the plan, I just didn’t want to take her with barely any clothes on.” Justin adjusted the pants a little and helped his darlin’ up and sat her down on the couch.
Iris sat beside her slowly, “Are you okay?”
“Marnie?” his darlin’ gasped out. “How, how’d you get here, are the other’s with you?” she rushed out.
Justin laid a hand on her shoulder, “Darlin’, this is Marnie’s mom, my older sister.”
“Oh.” She mumbled and looked away.
“Hey, it’s okay, you didn’t know, the search party is going to head out now, we’re going to get you checked out by a doctor too.”
“O-okay.” She stammered out.
Justin rubbed her back, “I want her swabbed, and her DNA ran Michaels, to see if there’s a hit on her DNA, also I want any other info you have on other missing girls in the last eighteen years at least.”
“Well, that’s easy, Mathers, there weren’t any, not until Tinley.”
Justin scowled, “So, no one filed a report on her?” he gestured to his darlin’.
“No, I would have remembered those eyes.” His gaze raked over the girl boldly.
Justin stepped in front of his fragile darlin’, man he really had to find out her name, so he could stop referring to her as his. He crossed his arms over his powerful chest and glared at the old man, “Then get the surrounding areas, someone has to be missing her, and I want them found.”
“Stupid big town cops.” The chief muttered.
“Yeah, and just think, I haven’t even started yet.”
All she could do was sit there as she watched the exchange between her savior and the chief. Could she not be from around there? Where ever they were.
She felt a soft hand on her arm, making her jump, she looked over to Marnie’s mom. Then she saw another woman rush up to Justin, placing her hands on his chest. She looked away quickly and fought the tears.
“Sweetheart,” Marnie’s mom began, but she pulled away quickly, knowing what that name would bring.
“Please, don’t, don’t send me back, I’ll be good, I’ll disappear, please don’t.”
Justin was beside her in a flash, “look at me, darlin’,” her gaze flew to his face. “We’re not sending you back, and until we get these guys who took you and the others you’re staying here, we’ll figure this out together, remember? I’ve got a friend who may be able to help us out more, okay?”
She saw the redhead who had been touching Justin shoot a glare at her, “You don’t have to, Justin, I just want to leave.”
“Oh? And what would you do?”
She froze and let her shoulders slump. He was right, she couldn’t do anything. She was as worthless in the outside world as she had been in her prison, “I, I don’t know.”
She heard the sexy man let out a huff, “I’m sorry, that was insensitive of me, we’ll find out though, there’s so much we can try to find out, Iris, can you take us to the hospital?”
“Of course,” Iris stood and held out her hand. “You’re safe now, we won’t send you back, and we’ll take care of you.”
She placed her hand in Iris’s slowly and was led toward the door of the station. She glanced back to Justin but stifled a gasp as the redhead practically crawled up him. She stared straight ahead. She was a fool, just because he helped her didn’t mean anything. No one wanted her, especially with looking the way she did. She bit every man who placed his hands on her at some point in her prison.
But Justin, she thought, was different, but of course, he was, he already had a girl. Besides, who wanted an abused freak, who didn’t even know where she belonged or know who she was. The tears fell slowly as Justin’s sister led her out the door.
It didn’t matter what she felt, none of it could be real, could it? She only felt safe because, obviously, he saved her.
Justin pushed Holly off of him, “What are you doing?”
“I’m just so glad you’re okay, I was so worried about you.”
He rolled his eyes, “Holly, I appreciate the worry and all, but there is nothing between us, you’re a friend, I can’t move past that, sorry, I need you to call Cierra though and get her out here.”
“She’s our hypnosis, why do you want her here?”
“To see if she can get that girl to remember anything, she doesn’t know how old she is, her family, she doesn’t even know her name, and we’ve got to try to figure something out.”
“But, Justin,” Holly whined a little.
“Besides, I want you to keep a close eye on things here, follow them when they move out. You came to help, well this’ll be it, Chief Michaels wants me to stick close to the girl.” Justin smiled a little at the thought of staying close to his petite darlin’.
Holly was scowling at him, “You don’t seem too upset about that.” She accused, crossing her arms over her barely-there breasts.
Justin shrugged, “Someone’s got to be there to make sure she’s safe, and if she trusts me, then I’ll do it,” he tilted his baseball cap, that he’d bought to wear instead of his Stetson, a little. “You just worry about what I need you to do.”
Justin turned away, rolling his eyes, and headed out to get to his darlin’. Damn, the more he thought it, the more he wanted it to be. Hell, what was wrong with him? He didn’t even know how old she was, for all he knew she was seventeen, but she seemed to be a bit older. But, even if she was eighteen, that would be a fourteen-year difference between them.
He had a few dates in his life, and a few other encounters, but he had never gone that young. He let out a huff as he walked out of the station. His gaze landed on Iris’s purple Cruze. He didn’t see his darlin’ and rushed up to the passenger side, “Where is she?”
“Down, killer, she’s laying down in the back, the poor girl is so tired,” Iris said softly.
Justin knew the feeling, he opened the back door and saw the poor thing curled up n the driver’s side passenger seat and the middle seat. He slid in and laid a hand against her head softly, then stroked her hair gently. It was shorter than what he liked on his women, but he was so intrigued by the girl on the seat for some reason.
He glanced up and caught Iris staring at him, “What?”
“Are we good to go?”
“Yeah, let’s go.” He answered softly and turned his gaze back to his darlin’, and continued to stroke her hair. Every time he looked at the petite thing, something stirred inside of him, things he never felt before.
Boy, was he a heel or what? She couldn’t even look at men without feeling scared and the way she panicked when Iris called her sweetheart chilled him to the bone. That’s what the man who shot at them called her. That’s why he decided on darlin’ anyway.
He made a mental note to remember to ask her what all they called her, so he never upset her. He continued to stroke her hair when her body jerked. Justin froze as he looked at her. Those lovely violet eyes popped open, and she sat up on the seat quickly.
Justin let her gather he bearings before he made a move toward her. When he thought enough time passed, he gently laid a hand on her thigh, “Hey, you okay?”
Her violet gaze darted over to him, “Today wasn’t the first time I’ve been around gunshots.” She whispered.
“Yeah, I’ve heard it before, but I don’t remember where, a lot of shouting and then a shot, blackness.” She mumbled.
Justin put his arm around her and pulled her close, her head landed on his shoulder. He turned, his chin brushing against her forehead as he stared out the window. He rubbed her shoulder.
He felt the car slow down and turn. He glanced toward the windshield and saw the small tan building. He hoped the facility had the means to handle a girl like his darlin’. If they didn’t, he’d take her where she would get the care she needed.
“Justin?” she whispered.
“Yeah, babe?” he slipped out.
“Don’t leave me alone.”
“Never, unless you want me to step out, I don’t know what all they will want to do, but if I have to step out, I’m sure Iris will stay with you, right sis?”
Iris’s gray gaze to the rearview mirror, “Of course, do you want me to drop you at the entrance or walk?”
“Walk.” His darlin’ answered. He smirked a little, she was one tough cookie, that was for sure. He pressed his lips to her forehead gently. He smiled a little when she didn’t pull away from him. Maybe saving her had put him in her good graces. He could only hope.
Iris parked the car, and she got out first. His darlin’ did too but let out a yelp when her feet touched the pavement. He didn’t hesitate, he scooped her up into his arms, “Guess we should have had Iris drop us off, I forgot about no shoes.” He grumbled but made his way to the hospital door.
As soon as they walked in, they were greeted by a receptionist, “Hello,” the perky blonde said bubbly. But then her gaze landed on his darlin’. “Oh my, what happened?”
Justin rubbed his darlin’s back gently, “She needs to be seen, we’re pretty sure she was held captive, but I’ll handle the bill, we also don’t know her name or anything like that, I found her in the woods off of Reed road.”
“I see, okay, well, we’ll check her in as Jane Doe, will that work?”
“That’s fine,” Justin answered.
The woman printed the band out and placed it on his darlin’s wrist, “Okay, go have a seat, we’ll get her back as soon as possible.”
“Thanks,” Justin headed to a leather bench that matched the inside of the hospital, baby blue, instead of sitting his darlin’ beside him, he sat her in his lap. Iris sat down beside him. He saw his big sister shoot him a glance.
He looked away, feeling the heat across his tan cheeks. He had never been this way with anyone before, and he was acting foolishly. What if she was a minor? He let out a deep sigh but pulled the fragile thing closer.
She jumped when a boisterous voice yelled.
Justin rubbed her leg as Iris rubbed the top of her head, “It’s okay.” They said at the same time. Justin stood and carried her back with Iris behind them. He sat her down on the bed gently.
Her face paled when violet eyes landed on the man who called them back.
Justin took her hand, “What’s wrong, babe?” he whispered.
I, I want someone else.” She explained.
“Okay, “ Justin placed himself in front of his darlin’. “She wants someone else.” He demanded.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“She wants to be seen by someone else, she was held captive, so obviously something about you reminds her of her captors, we’d prefer a woman, actually,” Justin explained.
“Oh, okay.” The man looked taken aback, but he left.
Justin sat down beside his darling, “It’s okay, babe, I’ve got you.”
She gave him a grateful smile, just as a nurse came in, a tall, leggy blonde.
“Oh, who needs to be seen?”
Justin motioned to his darling, “She does, she was held captive for we don’t know how long, we need everything checked.”
“Okay, I’ll let the doctor know,” the woman stepped forward, sympathy in her light, honey-colored eyes. She began to get the necessary vitals then cleared her throat. “Were you ever violated while you were held captive?”
“What does that mean?” his darlin’ looked at him, confusion all over her face and throughout those beautiful eyes of hers.
Justin glanced to his sister then the nurse, neither one of them were going to help, he sighed, “Did any of them force themselves on to you while you were there?”
“Oh, just when they looked at me, they always touched me almost everywhere, except well, you know, so not that I know of, they had an obsession with knocking me out with something, and they’d give me something else that I didn’t know what it was.” She admitted.
Justin shuddered a little, he hoped she was okay and that nothing was wrong.
“Okay, we’ll have you stay here, for now, let the doctor order some tests.” The nurse walked out, pulling the gray curtain shut.
“Did you ever wake up sore when you woke up after they knocked you out?”
“No.” She whispered.
“Well, that’s a good sign.”
“The one who came after me, he told me if it weren’t for trying to get top dollar for me, then he’d teach me some manners.”
Justin’s blood boiled greatly, “Prick, if I find him, I’m going to kill the bastard.”
He felt the soft hand on his, “He’s not worth it, Justin.” Their eyes locked together.
He sighed, wrapping his arm around her, and she laid her head against him. He rested his chin against her head and caught Iris staring again. Boy, was he in trouble. He rubbed his darlin’s arm as they sat there and waited for what seemed like forever.