The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(70) by J.R.Ward
“I figured you’d like to see the stars.” He smiled and got the heater going. “It’s got a screen, so we don’t have to worry about backdraft.”
Leaning back, she saw … the velvet heavens with its twinkling lights.
Letting out a shout of joy, she threw her arms around him and pulled him in for a kiss. “This is incredible!”
He laughed. “I can’t believe you’ve never seen a convertible before.”
“I never travel by car. Unless I’m with you.”
“Well, get your belt on. This bitch is going to fly.”
As he hit the gas, the car leaped forward like a horse out of the gate, and she couldn’t help but look up to the night sky and smile so hard her cheeks hurt.
Even with the mhis, he went so fast, firing down the mountain until they got to the road at the bottom. He took a left.
“Where are we going?” she said as he punched the accelerator again, and she was sucked into the contours of her seat as the engine roared.
“You’ll see.” He glanced over. “Warm enough?”
It was loud and exhilarating, cold air whirling around her head, hot air blasting on her feet, the car growling and leaning into the curves of the road. Before she knew it, her heart was beating fast and her stomach doing flip-flops and she felt octane in her veins.
“I hope it’s a long trip!” she shouted.
She lost track of the minutes and the miles, but gradually she became aware that the forest landscape had grown dotted with human settlements. Soon, stores, neighborhoods of houses, a park, and stacks of apartment buildings appeared.
“Where are we?” she asked as he slowed to a stop at a red light.
“On the outskirts of Caldie.”
“Are we going downtown again?”
“Nope.” He smiled at her. “But we’re almost at our destination.”
A small car that was low to the ground and the color of a banana pulled up next to them, and she felt the driver glance over. Music was thumping inside of the other vehicle, and its engine revved up.
“Is he having some kind of spasm?” she asked. “Of the foot?”
“No, it’s happening in another location,” Trez muttered.
When the light overhead turned green, the little car exploded forward, its tires squealing, an unpleasant burning smell left in its wake.
“What was that all about?” she wondered.
“Wait for it.”
Sure enough, a car with blue and white lights popped out of a parking lot and fell into pursuit. But not of Trez and herself.
Trez shook his head. “The little shit should know you never drag on this street. Besides, he’s crazy to take this car on.” He reached over and gave her hand a squeeze. “You ready?”
“Oh, yes.” She looked around and saw nothing but a stretch of single-story businesses linked together by a common roof and a parking lot. “Are we here?”
Actually, they went quite a bit farther on, past another bunch of stores with the word outlet tacked onto every name. And then there was a shallow stretch of woods and a little hill, followed by …
Parking lots. Vacant parking lots big as the lawns of the Sanctuary.
Except then she looked out the other side of the car. “What … is that?”
“Welcome to Storytown.”
Selena sat forward. On the far end of the biggest of the parking lots was a set of lit entrance signs so high and wide they defied comprehension. But what came after them? Was even more astounding. Vast mechanisms reaching high into the sky were lit up like rainbows, all flashing lights and spinning tops as if they were toys made for giants.
Trez turned Manny’s car onto all the asphalt and roared across the acreage, heading for a gate in the fencing over to the left of what looked like the check-in area. As he stopped before the side entry, they had to wait for but a moment before a human in a navy-blue uniform triggered something and waved them through.
“Hey, Mr. Latimer.”
Trez reached out and offered his hand. “Call me Trez.”
“I’m Ted.” They shook and the man nodded at Selena. “We’re going to take great care of you guys tonight. Head through there.”
“Roger that. Thanks, man.”
As he hit the gas, Selena was overwhelmed by all of the neon lights. “What is this place. This is … magical.”
“And it’s all ours. No one else is here, just you and me.”
“How is that … possible?”
“One of my security guys is the brother of the head of security over here. They spoke to the owners and they’re doing me a little favor.”
When they came up to a second guard, Trez stopped the car and cut off the engine. “You liked that crazy ride last night through downtown, right?”
“Oh, yes—yes, so much.”
He leaned in and kissed her. “Wait’ll you go upside down, my queen.”
iAm watched from a security tower high in the center of the amusement park as Trez piloted the Porsche through the gate and came to a stop at the second security point.
“You want binocs?”
He glanced over his shoulder at Big Rob. “Nope. I’m good.”
The bouncer from shAdoWs whistled as he put the handset back up to his peepers. “You have awesome eyes to see that far.”
iAm just shrugged and took another draw from his Thermos mug. The coffee inside was strong and hot enough to pizza your tongue. Just the way he liked it.
He’d been not just asleep, but practically in a coma, when his brother had woken him up with this bright idea around ten this morning. The plan was nuts, of course. Who the hell rented out an entire park for three hours?
Especially when the damn thing had closed for the season the week before?
Trez did. That was who.
And iAm helped the guy get it done.
Making this all happen for Selena had taken an unbelievable amount of money, and some candid phone calls that had been hard to get through. But thanks to Big Rob back there, and his brother, Jim, a.k.a. Jimbo, and the wife of the owner who had just lost her father to cancer the summer before, they’d gotten it all set up: Staff had been called back from post-season retirement, and machines that were in the process of being winterized had been called into service again. They even had the concession stands working—thanks to the waiters at Sal’s.
The joy on Selena’s face, and the pride on his brother’s puss—obvious even from up here in the tower—had made it all worth it.
And you know, it was impossible to have disdain for humans tonight.
For chrissakes, the owners weren’t even keeping the money left over after the staff were paid. They were giving it to the American Cancer Society.
Sometimes people rallied, he thought. They really did.
“So who is she?” Big Rob asked. “I mean, I heard he had a girlfriend, but I didn’t know she was … you know, sick. They been together long?”
There was a thick silence. “He’s not coming back to work, is he.”
“Not for a while.”
“Are you guys going to sell us?”
“I don’t know. We haven’t gotten that far.”
And wasn’t that true on a variety of levels.
iAm checked his watch again. Eight thirty. Perfectly on time with a departure set for eleven thirty. Manny’s fancy-ass mobile surgery center was stuck downtown, the area still too hot from the party the night before to move the thing, but they had a good contingency plan for Selena. Manny had his old refurbed regular ambulance still and the thing was on standby, the amusement park’s management more than happy to accommodate the medical wait-and-see and the good doctor on their property.
“I can understand why he didn’t say anything,” Big Rob murmured as he dropped the binocs. “And not for nothing, but wow, she’s out of this world looking.”
“She’s also really good people.”
“Does she know what he does … you know. Classy woman like that, I mean…”
“To be honest, I think that shit’s the last thing on their minds.”
“Yeah. Sure. I mean, yeah.”
iAm glanced over at the guy. “Don’t worry, I got ’em. You can head over to the club.”
The human nodded. “I should go.”
As the man hesitated, iAm put out his palm. “And as for future plans with the businesses, we’ll take care of everybody, I promise. No matter what happens.”
Big Rob shook. “Thanks, man. But I gotta say, we really like working for you. Besides, I don’t know if Silent Tom has another interview process in him. Nearly killed him five years ago when we applied with Trez.”
“Yeah, I think he’s said all of twelve words the entire time I’ve known him. Drive safe out there.”
“Thanks. Call me if you need anything.”
Big Rob put the binocs down on the desk and paused for one last moment, looking out to where Trez and Selena were strolling between the bumper cars and a children’s teacup ride. Shaking his head, he went to the exit, and closed the door behind him as he left.
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