Immune(Rylee Adamson #2)(8) by Shannon Mayer
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”
“Bottoms Up. You know it?” I batted my eyelashes at him. “What am I saying? You’re a man, of course you know about the best stripper joint in town. I’ll bet you don’t even need directions.”
The muscles in his neck flexed and he took a sharp breath in through his nose. His irritation was obvious to me, and I focused on it.
Driving the rest of the way into Bismark was, to say the least, awkward. I was doing my best not to think about how O’Shea’s bare skin had felt against mine, but in the silence my mind kept wandering back. It was the agent who finally broke unspoken standoff.
“How do your clients find you?”
I started in my seat, his words jerking me out of my little fantasy world. “I have a middle man. He makes the initial contact, checks out the particulars and then sends them onto me.”
“Does this middle man have a name?”
I traced a sun on the fogged window beside me. “Charlie.”
“Just Charlie?” O’Shea frowned, dark brows creasing downward. “You don’t always charge the clients. So how do you pay the middle man, exactly?”
Okay, honesty being the best policy and all that shit . . . “I don’t.”
I so did not want to explain, but we were too far away from ‘Bottoms Up’ to stall long enough to get out of this conversation. “My middle man wants to help. So he does. Whatever pay I make, he gets a small cut. If I chose not to charge, then he makes nothing. He’s fine with that.”
I could almost hear the gears grinding as O’Shea processed what I’d said. Thankfully, he didn’t ask any more questions, and I went back to trying not to think about him.
Alex was the one to spot the strip joint before us through the dark and snow.
“Nipples!” He barked out, pointing with one claw to the pale neon sign shifting from a woman with her br**sts covered, to not so much covered. Classy all the way.
O’Shea chuckled and I glared at him. The idea of seeing O’Shea ogle nude woman was too much like seeing him ogle Milly and made my anger spike.
“You two stay in here,” I said as O’Shea parked the SUV in the closest parking spot.
Of course, Alex listened, but O’Shea ignored me and stepped out of the vehicle, matching my stride all the way to the front door. The cold whipped me as if I were buck na**d, and the twenty second walk felt like I’d been out in the cold for hours. My fingers and toes were already numb. Shit, I needed to find this kid quick and get my ass into New Mexico and strangle Doran for whatever information I needed.
Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ pounded through the sound system and a quick glance at the stage showed me an interpretation I did not need. I looked away and came face to face with a barrel chest I didn’t recognize, though he smelled familiar, a scent I couldn’t quite put my nose on.
The bouncer was huge, towering over me and O’Shea, his arms at least the size of my upper body. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was an ogre, but there was no telltale hint of skin color that wasn’t ‘human.’
“No women allowed.” He grunted, blocking my path.
“Fuck you, I’m here to see a client,” I said, holding my ground.
The bouncer laughed, bald head glistening periodically as the strobe lights flicked our way. “You got a mouth on you, but I bet you don’t know how to use it proper like.” He licked his lips and gave me a wink that made me want to smash his face into my boot heel. O’Shea tensed beside me, shifting his weight from foot to foot. I gave him a look, you know the one that says, “Don’t f**k this up man, I’ve got it.” Jaw clenched, O’Shea gave me the barest of nods, though I could see he wasn’t happy about me taking the lead.
Okay. I was done with the niceties. The bouncer may have been bigger than me, but there’s always one sure-fire way to make a man crumple to the ground.
Outsmart him and then nail him.
“You know, for a big man, you sure are stupid. You see that guy over there, the one with the baseball hat?” I pointed behind him at nothing in particular, he turned to look and, using a chair for leverage, I jumped up and punched him in the side of the neck, dropping him to his knees. It might not sound like a really bad place to hit, but if you get the right angle there are tons of nerve endings travelling just under the skin there. Not to mention a lot of blood flow you can disrupt. In other words, it hurts like a son of a bitch. His hands went to his neck and I shoved him in the chest with my foot, toppling him backwards.
The music stuttered to a stop and I looked around to see we’d become the center of attention. Score one for me.
I raised my voice over the thumping music. “I’m here to see Jewel.”
Multiple hands pointed to a painted black door that said “Dancers Only” on it. Leaving the bouncer writhing on the ground, I kicked his legs out of my way as I walked to the door. “Pussy.”
O’Shea was right behind me, but said nothing until we were on the other side of the black door. “Excessive, don’t you think?”
“No. Besides, you looked as ready to brawl as me.”
He snorted. “You never tried that move with me.”
“That one” —I thumbed back to the bouncer on the floor— “can’t have me in handcuffs and thrown in jail.” The hallway was brightly lit compared to the main area. It looked like each girl had her own dressing room, their names embossed in gold. Candy, Angel, Kitten, Sapphire. Gag me. None were even all that original. Finally we came to the end of the hallway, Jewel’s name on the door.
I knocked softly. I didn’t want to feel bad for the parents; it was hard enough going after kids without that added on. A soft, southern-accented voice answered.
Opening the door, I went in, O’Shea on my heels.
Jewel was stunning, her name suiting her perfectly. She wasn’t wearing her stripper gear. Her dark blue jeans and peasant blouse had seen better days, but they were clean and cut to her size. Petite, barely five foot if I was guessing right, jet black hair and brilliant blue eyes that made me think of sapphires, were a stark contrast in pale, almost translucent skin. Like a miniature Elizabeth Taylor, minus the star power.
I pulled up the only extra chair and sat down. “I’m Rylee.”
Her eyes welled up and she slumped onto a day bed tucked against the wall. “I thought you weren’t going to come. My Ricky has been missing for two weeks.”
Damn, she gave me his name already, not even waiting for me to ask. Some people just couldn’t follow proper procedure. She was supposed to wait on me, let me decide if I was going to take the case on or not. If I was, I’d ask for the kid’s name. Now there was no choice. I was in.
I frowned. “The police have given up already?”
O’Shea shook his head. “Two weeks, they wouldn’t have stepped back. This isn’t a cold case.”
She shook her head, hiccupping back a sob. “No, they haven’t. But I got this note, I was to give it to you.”
A shiver of premonition rippled through me. This was not good, not good at all. I reached out and took a folded piece of paper that had smudges of dirt and some unidentifiable sticky mung I chose not to look too closely at.
Stupid Tracker took my eyeball
Now I hold something precious too
Find the boy quick or I’ll kill him
Instead of stupid you
I handed the paper to O’Shea. There was only one creature whose eyeball I’d taken recently and not followed up with a kill.
“Is this who I think it is?” His fingers tightened on the note. A quick nod is all I gave him. No need for the client to realize it was my fault her boy was missing.
I leaned forward in my chair, a part of me wanting to tear my hair out. “I need a picture of Ricky, Jewel. I . . . we are going to find him.” I lifted my eyes up to O’Shea. We should have killed that god damned Troll when we had the chance, but we’d been in such a hurry to get to India, we’d left him there handcuffed, missing one eye, but still very much alive. Motherfucker, I was going to pull him apart piece by piece, starting with the eye he had left!
Jewel held out a picture, her hand trembling. The boy looked to be about thirteen or fourteen years old, the same colouring as his mom, down to the sapphire blue eyes.
“He’s a good looking kid,” I said.
“He’s my whole world. I’ve already made the full deposit into your account. Please, please bring him back to me.”
Her pain hit me like a hammer to the skull, pounding on me to let it in. She must have had some recessive psychic ability for me to feel so much from her. I blocked it out, focused on the picture, and sent out a thread of my Tracking ability to find the boy.
He was not close, a few hours in good weather, sleeping or sedated, I couldn’t tell. But not dead.
“He’s alive,” I said, standing up and tucking the picture into my pocket. “Did Charlie give you the run down? The rules? No police, no phone calls.”
She nodded, then reached out and clasped my hands. “Yes, please, please just bring him back to me.”
Her grief hit me again, the touch of her skin on mine making a connection I did not want. I pulled away from her and looked up at O’Shea. “We’ve got to go.”
“I’ll pray for you, all of you.” Jewel looked to me first, then to O’Shea. Always with the prayers. I wasn’t sure they helped, but every parent I’d ever met gave them.
The room was full of emotions I struggled to fight off. I almost ran to the door, flinging myself out and gulping in a large breath of air.
O’Shea shut the door behind us. “The AA division does not approve of what we are about to do. I can’t have this on record.”
Taking one last deep breath and tying myself off to Ricky so I would know the second his status changed, I headed toward the exit. “And what do you think we’re going to do, exactly?”