Fighting to be free, p.17
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       Fighting to Be Free, p.17
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         Part #1 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley

  as soon as I can. In the meantime, if I find out that one of your boys has even looked at my mother the wrong way, I’m killing them.” I stood, signaling the end of the meeting.

  He laughed wickedly. “You always were a scrappy little shit.”

  “So they tell me,” I muttered, strutting out of the office without looking back.

  When I got back to my truck I swallowed my pride and just did what needed to be done. There was no way around it; it was either this, or I’d wind up dead. I pulled out my phone and dialed. When he answered, his greeting warm and cheerful, I felt empty, emotionless, and resigned to the fact that a loser like me might never be able to escape a life of crime.

  I cleared my throat. “Hey, Brett. I’m, uh … I’m in a bit of trouble, and I need a couple of jobs.”

  CHAPTER 16

  SO, THEN, KID. What kind of trouble are we talking here?” Brett asked as I sat in his office.

  I sighed deeply. “My crackhead mother borrowed from a loan shark and has gotten herself in a little debt,” I stated. I looked up to see him frowning angrily, and I knew what he was going to say before he even said it. “I told her she should have come to you,” I chimed in before he could blow up about it.

  He shook his head angrily and raked a hand through his hair. “I always look after my boys’ families, she knows that! Why would she go to someone else?”

  I shrugged. “It’s done now, there’s no point in stressing about it. Anyway, I just need a couple of boosts or something to pay it off.” I looked at him hopefully. If he refused to let me back in, then I was done for. It was usually really hard to get out of an organization like Brett’s—usually people stayed for life, but if they did want out they had to work their way out. If you did get out, though, you didn’t come back. This was highly irregular, and I just prayed that he accepted it. The alternative—working for Tony Grier—really didn’t appeal to me.

  He sighed and sat back in his chair. “How much you need?”

  “Three jobs should cover it.” I’d already worked it out, and based on my old nightly boost fee, that would clear the debt.

  He nodded thoughtfully. “I have a small job lined up for Friday night that you could run for me. Give me a chance to spread word you’re back in the game, and I’m sure we’ll have more soon.”

  “I just want three jobs, Brett,” I said quickly, wanting him to know that I wasn’t back for good.

  He laughed and shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that, Kid, and you know it. If you want to come back then you come back, but I don’t just hand out jobs freelance. You want back on the team, then you’re back on the team. Take it or leave it,” he offered, shrugging easily.

  I swallowed awkwardly. I really didn’t have another choice. I needed the money badly. Now that I’d taken over the debt, if I couldn’t pay, then Tony would come after me. If I still couldn’t pay after that, then he’d look for other ways to hurt me—Ellie would be the prime target because of how much I cared about her. I couldn’t let that happen.

  “How about a deal?” I offered.

  “What kind of a deal?”

  I ran my hand through my hair, trying to think of something he would go for, something that would be to his advantage but that wouldn’t tie me in to his organization too much. Time. I could give him a certain amount of time.

  “I’ll give you a month. I’ll do as many boosts as you want within that month, but after that, I’m gone,” I said.

  He frowned. “It’ll take me more than a month to spread the word that you’re back. I won’t get that many lined up for a month.” He steepled his fingers. “Six months.”

  I shook my head forcefully. I would be sucked back in by then. Six months of boosting cars and I would be addicted to the rush again. I couldn’t do that. “Three,” I countered.

  Silence hung in the air before he finally nodded. “Deal. But I want you completely back on the team. You’ll be at my beck and call, not just for boosts but for anything else that I need a good man for.”

  I groaned at the thought of what that would entail. Protection. Violence. Drug running. Robberies. Basically, everything that I hated about my old life. The only other choice I had was to go to Jensen, Ray’s cousin, and see if I could fight every night at his club. I would get pretty bashed up, though, and after a few nights I would be too messed up to win. There was just no other way out of this for me.

  Resigned, I nodded. “Fine. Three months and then I’m done. No matter what, I’m out after three months.”

  “Excellent. Good to have you back, Kid.” A slow smile spread across his face. “Speak to Ed about the boost on Friday night,” he said, motioning toward the door, signaling that the meeting was over.

  Friday night. Why did that ring alarm bells in my head? Suddenly I realized. Ellie’s prom was Friday night. “Um, Brett, I can’t do Friday.”

  “Tough shit. Make it happen, or our deal is off. The cars are to be in the container, bound for Germany, by five a.m. on Saturday.”

  The first damn job and it was already interfering with my relationship. Agreeing to do this for three months had to be the worst idea in the history of bad ideas. But there was no other way I could get my hands on enough cash to clear the debt.

  What if I went to the dance and did the boost after? I could bail out early and tell Ellie I wasn’t feeling well. “How many cars?” I asked, mentally calculating how much time would be required and whether it was feasible.

  “Three. All within an hour’s drive of here,” he answered.

  I nodded, standing. “I’ll get it done.”

  CHAPTER 17

  I WOKE WITH a headache. Three days had passed since I’d spoken to Brett, and for some reason, I hadn’t slept right since. Depression was sinking in because of the situation I was stuck in. The only thing that seemed to be able to boost my mood was Ellie.

  Trying not to wake her, I quietly pushed myself up from the bed and headed into the shower, trying to let the spray alleviate some of the tension from my body.

  “Jamie, your cell’s ringing, want me to answer it?” Ellie called from the other room a few minutes later.

  “No! I’m coming,” I replied quickly. I didn’t mind her answering my phone, but I didn’t want Brett or anyone like that anywhere near her.

  Sighing, I switched off the water, wrapping a towel around my waist as I stalked back to the bedroom. Ellie was lying on the bed, her arm over her eyes as the phone vibrated on the nightstand next to her head. I grabbed it and answered without looking at the name on the screen.

  “Hey, Kid.”

  I groaned inwardly. Brett. This call could mean only one thing—my first task. “Hey, Brett. How’s it going?”

  “Good. Listen, I need you to do a job for me today. Just accompany me to a deal and show your face a little. I’m slowly spreading the word that you’re back on my team, but it’ll be a lot quicker if people see you for themselves. We’ll get more orders that way.”

  Ellie moved her arm from her face and smiled up at me, her sleepy eyes still half-closed. I smiled back, and her hand reached out, hooking in the knot at the front of the towel I had at my waist, pulling me closer to her with a wicked glint in her eye.

  I caught her hand, holding the towel closed as I answered Brett. “What time? I have work today.”

  “Be here in an hour,” Brett answered casually.

  I frowned but reluctantly agreed; I couldn’t exactly say no to him. Now I’d have to call in sick to work.

  Ellie got to her knees on the bed; the sheets fell away from her naked body, making the muscles in my stomach tighten as my eyes raked over every inch of her. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get used to her perfection, even if I had a million years to worship it.

  “Come to the warehouse. Don’t be late, Kid.”

  “I won’t be late,” I agreed. He disconnected the call, and I looked at Ellie sternly, which made her giggle and chew on her lip. “You’re a bad girl,” I scolded playfully.

&n
bsp; She shrugged unashamedly as she slid her hands up my chest, wrapping her arms around my neck. “Maybe you should try to tone down the sexiness a little and then I’ll be able to leave you alone.”

  Sexiness, yeah, right. “Ellie, I have no idea how I got a girl like you,” I admitted.

  She grinned and pulled me down on top of her, her legs wrapping around my waist. “I know. You deserve much better than me. It must have been my lucky day when you looked in my direction,” she purred, guiding my mouth to hers. I smiled against her lips, knowing that statement was the total opposite of the truth. She would always be the one who deserved better than me, but while she was passing out the attention, I’d take what I could get.

  * * *

  By the time I got to the warehouse, I was in a foul mood. The reason for that was the guy who was following me around; he wasn’t even bothering to be discreet about it, either. As I’d walked out of my apartment with Ellie, I’d spotted him immediately. He was leaning on his car outside my place. I’d then watched as he followed two cars behind me, pulling up at the curb outside Ellie’s school as I dropped her off. I recognized him as one of the guys that used to work for Tony Grier. Which meant Tony was keeping tabs on me already.

  The guy pulled up into the parking space next to mine at Brett’s warehouse and smiled at me. I growled in frustration and pushed open the door of my truck. I made a show of locking the truck before I walked around to the driver’s side of his car, knocking on the window. He smiled at me wickedly as his window slid down.

  “What the fuck are you following me for?” I snapped.

  He tipped his head to the side. “Just learning a little more about you. Your first payment is due in a couple of days. I was just scoping out to see your day-to-day life. Pretty little girlfriend you have there. And she’s still in school, huh? She’s probably a bit young for me, but if you step out of line maybe I’ll take your payment from her ass,” he rasped, shrugging nonchalantly.

  My body stiffened, and before I knew what I was doing, I’d reached in through his window and wrapped my hand around his throat. “If you even look at her again I’m going to kill you,” I growled. I couldn’t rein in my anger; I already wanted to kill him for even mentioning Ellie in front of me. He laughed—until my hand tightened on his throat, which made the laugh turn into a strangled yelp as his eyes widened. I leaned in close to him, my face inches from his. “I’m warning you right now that if you so much as breathe too heavily in her direction I’m going to bring down so much shit on you that you’ll wish your whore of a mother had aborted you when she found out she was pregnant,” I hissed. “You tell Tony that she’s off-limits. Better yet, don’t even tell him I have a girlfriend, because if anything happens to her, then I’m hunting you down first.” I let go and pulled back, straightening up. His hand went to his throat as he gasped for breath. “You tell Tony that I’ll have his payment on time, so he should stop sending his goons to watch me.” I spun on my heel, not waiting for an answer as I strutted into the warehouse like I owned the place, nodding at the couple of people hanging around.

  My whole body was tight with stress. Deep down, I knew I should break it off with Ellie now that she’d been noticed by them. I had no right to drag her into this seedy world with me; she deserved better. But the selfish part of me couldn’t let her go; I needed her to keep me sane, otherwise what would be the point of me fighting so hard? There was no freedom without her.

  My jaw ached with tension as I rapped on Brett’s door.

  “Morning,” I grunted when he opened it

  “Perfect timing, Kid. Let’s head out then,” he replied, pushing his gun into the holster that hung from one shoulder. His jacket slid into place over the top so the holster was out of sight. Brett never left his office without a gun.

  “So, where we going?” I probed as we climbed into the backseat of his Bentley.

  “I’m meeting with Carlos and Greg about them taking over more of the block for me. A couple of my suppliers have been letting me down lately. I had to let one of them go because he was skimming my profits,” he replied. I tried not to react to the “let one go” comment—that meant he’d killed one of his drug dealers. “So I want Carlos and Greg to expand their territories to cover more pushers in the area. Carlos’s brother is into cars, you know that. I want him to see you and pass the information on to his brother that you’re back. So far I’ve only managed to set up two boosts for the month. People have found someone else to fill their requests. There’s another guy that people are claiming is the new you.” He shrugged, looking a little bored by it all.

  “The new me?” I repeated, frowning.

  He nodded. “Yep, they call him Dodger. Original name, I know,” he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes distastefully. “He’s twenty-one and apparently can boost pretty well. He’s very in demand at the moment. He took advantage of the situation and got popular when you got sent down.”

  “Why didn’t you recruit him then, if he’s that good?” I asked. Brett always snapped up fresh talent, and he was obviously lacking in the car-stealing area since I got sent to juvie.

  He smiled and patted my knee, rolling his eyes. “What did I need him for? I wanted to wait for you to get out. Kid Cole is worth waiting for.” He winked at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh proudly. He could have gotten that guy on his team years ago, when I was sent down, but out of loyalty he would rather lose his customers and wait for me. That said a lot about our relationship.

  “Bet you were pissed when I said I wanted to go straight when I came out then,” I mused, wincing as I remembered him putting a gun to my head.

  He smiled sadly. “Of course I was pissed that I lost you off my team, but I’m happy that you look happy, Kid. I’ve never seen you like this before. It suits you.”

  We rode the rest of the way in silence. I watched the streets pass, just wishing that I hadn’t woken up this morning.

  * * *

  The meeting went well, as expected. I didn’t have to do much, just shake hands with a couple of people and then stand back with my arms folded over my chest, looking like I was one of Brett’s heavies.

  Instead of dismissing me when we were done with the meeting, Brett asked me to go with him to his “new venture.” Apparently he had just worked out a deal to run a legit security firm that would be placed in a string of strip clubs across the city. By the sound of what he was telling me, this was the only legal part of the business he had going.

  So that’s where we were heading right now. A strip club.

  I looked around hesitantly as I got out of the car outside the club. I didn’t really like places like this, and I certainly didn’t want it getting back to Ellie that I was in strip club.

  It was midday, so there were a few patrons in for lunchtime drinks. A few half-naked girls walked around, but they didn’t interest me in the slightest. A blonde wearing nothing but a tiny silver bikini caught my eye and gave me a seductive smile. The only thought that ran through my head was My girlfriend is a lot prettier and has longer legs. Ellie had ruined me as a man. I laughed at myself quietly and shook my head as Brett exchanged pleasantries with the owner of the club, Matthew Torrent.

  “Kid, this is Mr. Torrent,” Brett said.

  I nodded, respectfully shaking his offered hand. “Nice to meet you.”

  Mr. Torrent smiled. “You too. I’ve heard a lot about you,” he replied. His eyes raked over me from my head to my toes. “From the things I’ve heard about you over the years, I always thought you’d be bigger,” he added.

  I laughed at that. “Everybody does. I like to keep an air of mystery about me. It works to my advantage when people underestimate me.”

  He grinned. “I’m sure it does.”

  “You two will be getting to know each other a lot better from now on,” Brett said.

  I frowned, confused. “How’s that then?”

  “I’m putting you in charge of the security detail across the clubs,” Brett replied nonchalantly.<
br />
  My muscles bunched up with stress at his words. I didn’t want to do that at all. “I’m not the best person for that. Someone like Shaun or Wayne will do better here than me. I’m sure Mr. Torrent wants the best person looking after his staff,” I countered.

  Mr. Torrent shook his head. “I asked for you as soon as I heard you were back in Brett’s employment. I’ve heard a lot about you—everyone has—and I’m sure just the name Kid Cole will pretty much guarantee no trouble at my clubs,” he rebutted confidently.

  “I’m only here for three months,” I protested.

  Brett snorted and rolled his eyes. I knew right then and there that he was assuming I would get addicted to the rush and the money, and I wouldn’t want to leave at the end of the agreed time. “Let’s just get things sorted out for now, and we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.”

  I wanted to correct him and say “when we come to it,” but instead I just nodded in agreement. I just needed to get through the three months, and then I could leave all this behind me.

  We spent another hour in the club, going through the basics. I would have five guys in each of Matthew’s seven clubs. Those guys would work security at the door, inside the club, and in the back rooms where some of the girls provided “extra services.” Basically I was just on call and would need to show my face on the weekends so that people would see me. I had no idea why both Matthew and Brett seemed to think that my being here was a good idea and that it would help stop trouble. It seemed like stories about me had
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