It’s not a question, it’s a demand and he needs to get his ass in gear if he’s taking me where I need to go.
He laughs. “Yo, good to see you too, man.” He shoulders me back but I’m as big as a brick shithouse so I don’t move an inch. I glare at him and speak clearly. Maybe he got kicked in the head by a mule while I was on the inside. “Where. Is. She.”
“Calm down, Carter. You’ve been out for twenty-three seconds. Our bags are in the back and we’re headed straight there. I realize we couldn’t discuss this in our phone calls, but you can speak in actual sentences instead of grunts now.” His big grin does nothing to calm my nerves as he pulls out the keys to my classic. I snatch them out of his hand and take a second to run my hands over the top and down the side of my 1967 turquoise beast.
“If you’ve finished molesting the vehicle, I’ve got a few presents for you in the car to open on the way. Shall we?” Saint walks around to the passenger side and gets in. Bastard is still grinning.
I open my door, put my bag behind the driver seat and slide on in. I crank the beast to life and I feel it. I’m not what you call a “smiley” type of guy. I’m more of a “silently plotting your death” dude, but right now I can feel my grin as the engine roars to life and I let out the clutch.
“Head towards the interstate. She’s in Reno,” Saint says. “I’ve got eyes on her right now, before you ask. I’m always the one watching her but I know how you feel about someone else driving this thing so I thought I’d make the special trip. You’re welcome, by the way.”
I don’t say thanks because he owes me and he knows it. “Give me details. We’ve got a long drive.”
“Little Layla has been in Reno for the past four years. Took off the day she saw you in prison. I’ve been watching her every day since. She works at a library, so pretty much the most boring person on the planet. Her friend Jeanette though? Goddamn, that chick is wild. She’s been at me for a while and I finally cracked…”
“Unless her friend is sewn to her body, I don’t give a fuck,” I interrupt. “I haven’t been able to talk openly about her for four years. I haven’t even been able to say her goddamn name! I need to know everything. Starting with whether she has a boyfriend.”
“Umm, about that…listen, C. I don’t think you need to be driving for this convo. Let’s stop and grab some food and then you can read her file while I drive.”
I look over and glare at him, but I know he’s right. I’ll jerk the car into a tree if I get the wrong answers. I pull off at the next exit and we hit a diner. Before we get out of the car, Saint hands me two packages. One is a gun. I know immediately from the packaging and weight it’s my Kimber 1911. I take it out and slide it in the back waistband of my jeans.
“Your leather jacket is in the back. I suggest you put it on. Seeing as you’ve been out a total of three hours, let’s not break every law we can before the day is over,” Saint says, getting out of the car.
The second package is her file. Hers. I can’t even think her name. It’s like a kick in the nuts hearing him say it so casually. I haven’t said her name since she walked out of the prison that day. It was too painful to say it. I flip it open and there she is. The picture was taken in the summer. She’s wearing a tank top, cut-off shorts, and fuck-me four-inch wedges. Her long red hair is big and loud. I don’t know how she thought she could ever hide from anyone with hair like that. It looks like she’s walking away in the pic, but she’s glancing back over her shoulder, like she knows someone is there. “Good girl,” I mumble to no one.
I softly trace her body in the picture with my finger. I don’t realize I’ve zoned out until Saint taps on the driver-side window.
“I got some burgers to go. I’ll drive while you obsess.” The asshole is smirking at me. I don’t say anything, just unfold my big body out of the car and go around to the other side, all while clinging to her file. It’s everything I’ve missed since she “disappeared”. Kind of cute how she thought I wouldn’t keep both my eyes on her.
The next hours are spent with Saint driving and me looking at everything in the folder. I want to know everything I can before we get there. It’s almost a shame she doesn’t know I’m coming for her. She needs protecting and it’s time to get her out of her father’s reach. She may not know it, but I’m not the only one keeping tabs on her.
It’s late when we make it to the Kat House. The place looks like a fucking hole in the wall. I can’t believe my sweet girl would choose to hang out in a place like this. We pull in and get out of the car. Saint goes up to some shady-looking guy who I’m assuming is who has been watching Layla and they exchange words. I’m getting anxious. I can feel she’s close. I protected her for so many years; my body is attuned to her. I can almost tell you how many feet away she is.