Worth fighting for, p.27
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       Worth Fighting For, p.27

         Part #2 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley
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  I PULLED UP at the docks twenty-seven minutes later, my hands tightly gripping the wheel of my BMW. God knows how I’d made it on time. All I knew was that I’d do anything. I couldn’t let Ellie get hurt.

  Keeping my calm was a lot of work; inside me there was a war raging and I was struggling to retain my temper. I cut the engine, taking a couple of deep breaths, attempting to diffuse the fog of rage that had settled over me as soon as I heard her strangled yelp on the phone. I needed a clear head. I needed to think, not just be so angry that all I did was blaze in there, smash the fucking place up, and kill everything that moved.

  When I was about as in control of myself as I was going to get, I leaned over and picked up my guns from the passenger seat, shoving one down the back of my jeans and hiding it under my sweater, keeping the other in my hand, one round in the chamber.

  As I stepped out of the car, the silence struck me. This part of the dock was always deserted, but that obviously didn’t mean they weren’t there, hidden in the shadows, watching me. I raised my gun, stalking toward the gate, my goal clear: Get Ellie out, kill everyone else.

  Gritting my teeth, I was conscious of the time ticking down and Mateo’s imposed deadline looming. My feet moved of their own accord, driving me forward through the gate with the yellow police tape strewn across it and into the inner yard loaded with rusted containers and disused equipment. I kept my gun raised, my eyes straining to find people, any people, but there was no one.

  I plowed on, skirting stealthily around containers, ears attuned to pick up any sounds of life. After a few minutes, I came to a clearing. Leaning my back against the side of a container, I peeked around the corner, expecting this to be it. He was probably in the center of the dock, away from any passersby that happened to walk past, away from any ears that might hear anything they shouldn’t. If this were my meeting, this would be where I would conduct it. My eyes flicked around the open space, narrowing, zeroing in on all the shadowy places to see if there was someone hidden there. But nothing.

  I gulped, pushing away from my hiding place, stepping into the open, and knowing I was exposing myself, but panic was beginning to rise in my chest. Had I come to the wrong place? What if there was some other dock I was supposed to be at and Ellie was there waiting for me to rescue her? Horrendous scenarios plagued my mind, visions of Mateo’s knife cutting into Ellie’s delicate throat that I had kissed a mere few hours ago. Visions of her blood flowing like a crimson river, covering her clothes as her eyes widened, then slowly the light dimmed from them as she bled out.

  “Mateo!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. “Mateo! You fucking son of a bitch, where are you?!”

  “Right here.”

  My whole body tensed as I brought my gun up, pointing in the direction of his voice. Relief flooded over me because I was in the correct location, but it was short-lived because he stepped out from behind a container opposite me with Ellie in front of him like a shield.

  My heart sank as I looked at her. His hand gripped the back of her hair, holding her in place as she whimpered behind the duct tape that covered her mouth. Her hands were tied in front of her with blue cord, there was dried blood on the side of her face and matted in her hair, and one of her eyes was bloodshot, with her cheek showing signs of a bruise. Her arms were covered with dozens of tiny cuts; her jeans were torn and filthy.

  Rage burned within me, and I shifted on my feet as murderous thoughts flashed through my mind. I was so angry I could almost taste it. “What the fuck have you done to her?” I growled, my voice low and full of menace. I was going to tear his fucking head off.

  Mateo smiled, still using her as a shield as he walked forward a couple of steps. “She had a little car accident, didn’t you, darlin’?” he said to her, leaning in and pressing his nose into her hair.

  Ellie’s nose wrinkled in disgust and my finger twitched on the trigger of my gun. A car accident. They’d forced her off the road, most likely, and then grabbed her. Had she been alone? Was her family in the car, too? Were they here somewhere as well, waiting to be rescued from this hopeless situation?

  “I can see why you like this one, she’s a feisty little thing. Had to tie the bitch up because she tried to escape twice. One time she even managed to knock out one of her guards.” He chuckled almost proudly as he looked at her.

  I raised my gun in threat. “Just let her go. You don’t need her,” I implored. Maybe reasoning with him would work; at this point I would try anything. “Ellie, you okay? You all right, little girl?”

  Her eyes came up to meet mine, and the panic and fear I could see there made my anger double. A small nod was all she could manage with his hand in her hair like that.

  I turned my attention back to Mateo. “Just let her go. Take your dirty, scumbag hands off her and I might let you live.” My gun was pointed at his head; one quick shot and I could finish this, but he was just too close to Ellie and I didn’t want to hit her. I was considering it, seriously considering taking the shot when movement caught my eye from either side of him. Four of his crew stepped out from the shadows, guns raised and pointed at me. They were probably the last of his men who hadn’t been arrested in the drug raids or deserted the sinking ship when Alberto was busted.

  Mateo laughed, a loud cackle that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “You’re not the one holding all the cards here, Kid. I am.” He pulled his ivory-handled knife from his waistband. As he moved it toward Ellie, her eyes squeezed shut and her hands clenched into fists.

  When the knife pressed against her throat, I shook my head quickly, grinding my teeth, trying to remain focused and not lose my temper.

  “Don’t!” I ordered.

  My mind was whirling, trying to think of a way out of this. Five against one and Ellie in the way of any stray bullets. This wasn’t going according to plan. How long had I been here? Three minutes, four maybe? It felt like an eternity.

  “If you hurt her, I swear to God I’m going to fucking pull your insides out while you’re still alive,” I promised.

  Mateo smiled and jerked his chin in the direction of one of his men. My eyes flicked to the left, settling on the guy as he approached, gun raised, footsteps hesitant. He was the one from the club who had degraded Ellie, the one I’d already beaten the shit out of once. No wonder he appeared reluctant to approach me.

  “Show me your hands,” he ordered.

  I smiled sarcastically, my other hand reaching quickly behind my back to pull out my second gun, aiming this one at the approaching guy as I held Mateo in my sights with the other. “My hands are right here,” I answered sarcastically, my gaze going back to Mateo. “Just let her go free and we can sort this out. Man to man. Don’t be a fucking pussy like this, Salazar. Is hiding behind a woman really how you operate?” I spat on the floor in disgust, trying anything to goad him into just taking that knife away from her throat.

  Mateo’s eyes narrowed at my disrespect, his hand yanking Ellie’s head back by her hair, causing a muffled yelp to leave her lips. I flinched as the knife pressed harder at her throat. “Using any means to get what I want, that is how I operate!” Mateo barked.

  I just needed to keep him talking until it was time. “Okay, okay, just take it easy.”

  A slow smile spread across Mateo’s face, and he turned his head, looking behind him at something. “Come on out. Why don’t we show him just how I operate?”

  Almost immediately another figure materialized from behind a container. Ed. Now I knew why my frantic calls to him on the way over had gone unanswered. He stepped forward, walking to Mateo’s side, a gun gripped tightly in his right hand. A short, sharp wave of understanding washed over me.

  Double-crossing motherfucker!

  A lazy smile stretched across Ed’s lips as he raised the gun and used the barrel of it to scratch absentmindedly at his cheek. His eyes were like a shark’s, watching me, assessing. “Surprised to see me?” he asked. “Assumed I was dead after fighting valiantly to protect your litt
le girlfriend? News flash, Kid, you put your trust in the wrong person.”

  “Ed, what the hell have you done?” I couldn’t believe this. “How much money did they offer you for this?” He’d been with me since I was released from prison; before that he’d worked for Brett. I’d known him since I was eleven years old. The betrayal hit me hard.

  He snorted, his eyebrows knitting together. “It’s not about the money. That’s where you always go wrong, Kid. It’s about the respect.”

  I gulped as everything clicked into place. Ed had never been happy working for me. I should have seen the signs, paid more attention to the looks of annoyance every time I left him out of the loop, not dismissed him so easily when he asked for more responsibility within the organization. I’d been cocky, too arrogant of my position to see this building within him. I’d missed it all, and it had been right under my nose.

  “Doesn’t matter now, though,” he continued, turning to Mateo. “Mateo and I are starting a new venture. Just one problem to elimiate first...you.” He arched one eyebrow, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. “As soon as I remembered that little redhead girl you were going to give up everything for, you were no longer untouchable. Wasn’t sure it’d work at first; wasn’t sure if you’d still be interested or if you’d moved on, but we decided to give it a try, anyway. It worked out better than I could have predicted. The plan was simple: Follow her parents, smash their car, and voilà, she’s back, and you’re seven shades of distracted and letting your guard down.”

  Realization hit me like a smack in the face. Ellie’s father had died because of me. “You sick bastard!” I growled angrily.

  My eyes flicked to Ellie, watching her face crumple as she understood this, too. She squirmed against Mateo’s grip, fighting to get free, her leg kicking out toward Ed as her eyes blazed with fury.

  Ed reached out, stroking the side of her face with the back of one finger, wiping her angry tears away. “Aww, honey, don’t be mad,” he teased. “We had to get you back here somehow.” He let his hand drop as Ellie continued to struggle, screaming words that couldn’t be understood because her mouth was taped.

  Mateo grinned. “We weren’t one hundred percent sure it’d work, though, not until that night in your club when you attacked Manny for touching her. That was when I really knew the plan was foolproof. Happy coincidence she was there and allowed us to really put the plan into action,” he chimed in proudly. “Alberto didn’t want any part of it, though—he never did—he said we were to leave you alone. You kind of did me a favor getting him banged up, we always had a difference of opinion on the direction of our business. He was happy to take the scraps you left for us, I wasn’t.”

  Ellie continued to thrash in his arms, her tied hands coming up to rake at Ed’s face. He grunted, pushing her hands off, and brought up his gun, pressing it against her forehead, his eyes flashing with anger. “Make one more fucking move and I’ll decide you’re no longer useful,” he goaded her.

  My temper was rising again; I was barely in control of it as I stepped forward, ignoring the four guns trained on me. “Get your fucking gun out of her face,” I ordered. My hand was shaking, but not from fear or anything like that—it was the anger pulsing through my fingers. If he made one wrong move, I was putting a bullet in his brain. He’d be dead before he even knew what happened.

  Ed’s eye twitched, but he didn’t look away from Ellie, who had stilled and gone rigid. “I wonder what her pretty face will look like after,” he mused, pressing the gun harder against her head, causing her to whimper and shy away. I groaned in frustration. I didn’t have the upper hand here, not yet. “Take one step closer, Kid, and we’ll all find out,” Ed reasoned.

  I clenched my jaw, staying stock-still. “Ed, what happened to you? How did you become the person that would kill an innocent girl just to get what he wanted?” I’d never liked Ed; he’d always been a self-serving bastard, but I hadn’t seen this coming. He was never this far gone; he’d gone power crazy. I could see it in his eyes; he would kill her in a heartbeat to get what he wanted. That look terrified me to the core.

  “Get on your knees,” he ordered me, his gun not leaving Ellie’s face.

  I swallowed awkwardly, a lump forming in my throat as my eyes met Ellie’s. She made a muffled protest, and I could see the anguish and pain in her eyes as they silently begged me for reassurances I just couldn’t give her. I mentally calculated the odds of being able to take down all of them before one of them tagged Ellie or me. Pretty slim. But then a bright glint from on top of the container off to my right caught my attention—it was there one second and gone the next—and my heart stuttered in my chest. That pretty slim chance had suddenly grown tenfold.

  I smiled weakly at Ellie and then nodded in acknowledgment of Ed’s order, holding my hands up as I slowly lowered myself to my knees on the dirt, trying to look defeated when in reality I was preparing myself to fight for both our lives.

  CHAPTER 28

  ED’S EXPRESSION WAS one of untamed glee as he looked down at me on my knees, his gun finally leaving Ellie’s face. “Never thought I’d see Kid Cole on his knees begging for mercy. This is a sight I’ll enjoy for the rest of my life.”

  However short it is, I thought, fighting a knowing smile.

  Of course I hadn’t come alone. I wasn’t a freaking moron. Had they really thought I was stupid enough to believe that they would let Ellie go if I behaved like a good boy?

  I just prayed that my plan worked how it was supposed to and that Ellie didn’t get caught in the cross fire. At least this way she had a chance.

  The light signal from moments ago meant Ray was exactly where he needed to be, and Dodger’s distraction should be coming any second, just as we’d planned.

  I glanced over at Ellie. Tears clung to her eyelashes; she looked so defeated, so devastated that it hurt my heart. All I could do was look back at her and silently will her to get ready for anything.

  “Put your guns down on the ground. Slowly!” Ed ordered, his gun now coming around to point at me.

  I lowered my weapons to the ground as slowly as humanly possible without making it obvious I was stalling. Where is the fucking distraction? Come on, Dodge!

  Suddenly, behind me, an explosion boomed from just inside the compound. Everyone looked up, shocked, as bits of debris and dust blew toward us, knocking everyone off-balance for a second. I turned to see black smoke billow into the air, swirling up into the sky.

  I fought a smile as Mateo cursed in Spanish and then sent two of his men off to see what had happened. Ed’s gun was firmly pointed at my head, so I didn’t dare move. I held my breath, willing Ray to intercede.

  Ed’s finger twitched on the trigger, and two things happened at once: an incredibly loud gunshot came from the top of the container on my right, and Ed’s hand changed into a gory, pulpy mess as the rifle bullet tore through his wrist. Ed’s scream was high-pitched and agonizing as his gun fell to the ground, and his gaze dropped down to the oozing, bloody mess where his hand used to be.

  I didn’t have time to sit around and watch. Diving forward, I picked up one of my guns and snapped my head up, seeing that Mateo had wrapped his arm around Ellie’s throat as he yanked her toward him, using her body for cover. I squeezed one eye shut, aiming my gun, willing it to find its small target, the only exposed place on his body, as I squeezed the trigger.

  The gun recoiled in my hand a little as the bullet shot out, flying through the air and ripping into Mateo’s knee. He screamed out in pain, his grip on Ellie not loosening as he staggered back, bringing her with him.

  Ellie’s nose crinkled with determination, and she jabbed her elbow into Mateo’s stomach while he was distracted, and my chest swelled with pride. Mateo groaned, half stepping to the left—and that was all I needed. I fired another time, this bullet ripping through his shoulder.

  He fell backward, dragging Ellie with him, and they both smacked into the ground.

  My breath caught, hoping she h
adn’t been hurt. But then she wriggled free of his grip and got to all fours, her eyes connecting with mine.

  “Run!” I shouted. “Ellie, run, now!” She struggled to push herself up with her tied hands, finally getting to her feet only to stumble and fall again.

  I caught a movement in my peripheral vision and snapped my head to find one of the Salazar crew standing ten feet from me, his gun aimed at my chest. I dived to the side, firing as I fell through the air. His bullets hit the ground where I had been milliseconds before. My shot smashed him square in the chest. His eyes widened and he looked down at the wound, blood gurgling from his mouth as he sank to his knees, then flopped face-first onto the dusty ground.

  I blinked a couple of times, turned to see that Ellie was back on her feet now and running with a distinct limp toward the containers over on the left. I smiled in relief, but then saw Ed holding a shining silver blade in his good hand. His eyes were ferocious as he lunged at me. The blade slashed through the air, a breeze whipping past my face as I pulled my head back just in time.

  As Ed lunged again, I kicked out, my toe connecting with his side. He grunted and doubled over just enough that I could throw my arm up and smash my gun directly into his face. The crunch was incredibly satisfying as his nose gushed with blood and his eyes became unfocused. The knife dropped from his hand as his body went slack, falling face-first into the ground, sending up a plume of dust around me. I fumbled in the dirt, picking up his knife in case he came to.

  As I got to my feet, waving my hand to clear the dust, I could hear the sounds of a struggle around me. I looked up, seeing Dodger fighting hand to hand with one of the Salazar crew. In the distance, I could hear two people shouting in Spanish, probably the two who went to investigate the explosion now hurrying back to join the chaos. But then Ray was on the case, sending a rifle shot cracking through the air.

  I looked around desperately for Ellie, not seeing her anywhere. I did see Mateo pushing himself up to a sitting position. Blood covered his chest and face, making him look like an extra from a horror movie.

  His hand fumbled for something at his side and then closed around his gun, raising it, pointing it at Dodger, who was still wrestling with the other crew member.

  I realized too late that my right hand held the knife instead of a gun. I didn’t have time to think; I pulled back my arm and threw it as hard as I could, praying that my target throwing with the dartboard would pay off. The knife was big and heavy and unlike
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