Will looked for some half-decent dirt road to pull off. He knew the girl’s sweet ass must be numb by now. Besides, they really should talk. He had no idea who the fuck she even was. Why the ‘good’ sheriff was harassing her. Or what the hell the man had said that had frightened her so much she had shot the bastard.
The only things that he knew were that this woman was an innocent, and if Kerr had gotten his hands on her, then she would have been as lost as Bebe was. Okay, he knew one more thing – that was something he could not allow to happen.
If he could find a quiet side road, they should be relatively safe. It had taken him far less than ten minutes to cover the twenty miles it took to get the hell out of Sebida County. That’s why he loved the Duchess so much. With a top speed of one-hundred-thirty miles per hour, she could outrun almost anything except helicopters.
But from the way that Kerr dropped when his boot connected with the man’s jaw, Will knew he had a few minutes, at least, to get them the hell out of Dodge. Even then, Sebida did not have its own police helicopter.
The man would have to go through the process to get the Texas State Troopers involved, and he knew that might not be as easy as it sounded. Even after that damned acquittal, the tensions between the state and federal authorities and Sebida County still ran high, and trust low.
But then again, this woman had shot a police officer. Yeah, the man would get the copter, eventually. Of course, by then, Will hoped they would be far beyond whatever search perimeter they set.
He was reasonably sure that Kerr had not noticed him following his police cruiser. And he had moved so quickly that Will knew the man had not gotten a good look at his bike. With the helmet and gloves, Kerr would not be able to give them any lame description about the ‘random black male.’
Still, they were racing the clock. He knew that. Even a shithole like Sebida would have dashcams on its police cruisers. That meant eventually the Troopers might identify the Duchess. So, they needed to come up with a plan. But a lot of that depended on who the woman was.
Or did it? Was he willing to just let her walk away? Hell, no. That was not one of the options. It never would be. He chuckled, just when things were looking their bleakest, he suddenly had a new fucking reason for surviving?
He had spent the last hour and a half trying to ignore how perfectly right it felt to have her arms wrapped about his waist. Her head rested just between his shoulder blades. Not to mention those tits, they had to be 38C at least, pressed tightly to his back.
Having a raging hard-on in leather pants was not as much fun as people thought. And when she shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position, damn, her crotch rubbed right up against his ass. Though he would prefer it was his face. He could spend a few days with his tongue buried between those surprisingly long legs for a short chick.
He was so lost in that thought he almost missed the little county road. But that was good. If he could miss it, then others might too. The other good thing about the Duchess was that her suspension could handle rough terrain. Like Will, she performed to her best when pushed to her limits. And he knew that he was doing that today.
He did not know where this road took them, so he did not dare go too far. A couple of miles and it opened onto some cornfields. You could not get much more perfect than that for hiding a motorcycle and a couple of people. He drove straight into the field even though he knew it meant the husks were hitting her in the face. Right now, that was a minor inconvenience.
About twenty feet in, he stopped the Duchess and turned off the engine. He had to practically prise the girl’s arms away from his waist. She staggered a bit as she got off. Was that because of vertigo? Most people were not used to the sensation of riding a motorcycle, especially not at the speeds he had pushed the Duchess to that first half an hour or so.
Hell, some people did not even like bikes. Was she one of those? Damn, guess no woman could be perfect. Her face looked even paler than it had back at the library. If that were possible.
Not that Will had a problem with white chicks. He had never put much store by race, not when it came to the women he dated. Though dated was not quite right – fucked. Will had spent way too much time and energy on building his career in law enforcement for anything even close to a relationship. No, it was always strictly fucking, at least as far as he was concerned. At least until now.
“Who the hell are you?” Her soft brown eyes flared almost as much as her nostrils. Hellfire and damnation, Will could get lost in the passion in those eyes.
He took off his helmet and watched her face. Good, she did not seem phased one way or another by the color of his skin. “I was just about to ask you the same question.”
Her hands rested on those curvy hips, “Well, I asked first.”
“Will. My name is Will,” he kept his explanation simple. For now, at least.
“Well, that tells me a whole hell of a lot, don’t it?”
Damn, he could think of better uses for that sassy mouth. But now was not the time, and his tastes had never run to sex outdoors. Though for her, he might make an exception.
“It’s more than you’ve told me, darlin.’”
She paced back and forth for a moment. He loved the way she bit the nail of her pointer finger as she thought. “Mercy.”
He laughed, “I was just thinking it would be nice if you had some on me.”
“No, smart ass, my name is Mercy. Mercedes Reynolds.”
Why did that name ring a bell? “Mercedes, I like that name, by the way. It fits you. All sleek and fine.”
“Oh please, is that the best you can come up with? In case you have not noticed, now isn’t the best fucking time for pick-up lines.”
“Okay then, why the hell was Sherriff Earl Kerr arresting you? How overdue was that romance novel anyway? I didn’t think even Sebida was that strict.” He loved the rosy blush in those cheeks that spread down her neck to those, correction, D-cups.
“It isn’t. Especially as I am the librarian.”
Will would not have thought anything could have gotten him hotter or harder, but those words did. This woman was no prime and proper virgin librarian, but the fantasy was still hot.
“Embezzlement then? Did you forget to pay the fine sheriff his cut of those late fees?” He knew that was not the case. But something about her pushed every single one of his buttons. And this game of cat and mouse was teasing his brain as much as his cock.
She paced back and forth for a moment, sucking and biting that nail again.
“Listen, you can trust me. I’m a federal agent.” Or I was until this morning, but he wasn’t going to share that tidbit just yet.
She looked up at him; her gaze met his. “Do you know Ryan Ranger?”
“Yeah, it’s been a while. He went deep undercover about a year ago, and I ain’t heard of him since then.” Something clicked then. He laughed, of all the fucking gin joints in the world.
She took a couple of steps back towards the road and stared at him. He supposed he did look crazy. “McBride. Reynolds, that’s where I recognize the name. Laura Reynolds was McBride’s General Counsel.”
“She’s my sister. And that’s why Kerr came to the library today. Looking for her.”
“Where is she?”
“I don’t know, for sure. With Ryan somewhere. He’s her husband and the father of her new baby.” She paced back and forth some more.
“He just showed up yesterday. And all hell broke loose. I mean, Laura always figured that the feds might come for her. Hell, we made S-H-T-F plans, just in case. But now all that has changed.”
She ran her hands through her hair, most of it had come loose from the ponytail anyway. “Ryan took Laura and the baby somewhere. She sent Elena and Brad off on another mission trip to Central America. And I was supposed to meet Mama at Jack’s casino. But Kerr came before I could get there. I don’t know what the fuck is going on. If any of them are safe.”
Will could tell that shock was setting in. He bet it was not every day that the little librarian shot a man. Even if Kerr did deserve far worse. But right now, they did not have time for her to break down. He got off his bike and walked over to her. He wrapped his arms around her and drew her against him. Damn, it felt perfect the way her head fit just under his chin.
“I promise it’ll be alright. We’ll figure something out.” He said though he knew it was a promise he might not be able to keep.
S-H-T-F was a phrase that Will was more than familiar with. And over the past couple of weeks, the shit had definitely hit the fan. His life. And hers. But it went much deeper than that. It was this nation and world too. Something was brewing, and Will knew that.
Every bit as much as he knew that nothing would ever feel more right than holding this woman in his arms.
Why now, of all times? Why did Mercy finally meet a man that did as much for her as those ‘book boyfriends?’ Why when her world was falling apart?
She began to laugh. And once that dam broke, there was no turning back. She pushed out of his arms. She did not need that distraction on top of everything else that she was dealing with. She just kept laughing until she doubled over with pain in her side. Even then, she could not stop. She laughed until the tears began to flow. She was laughing and crying until her whole body shook as violently as if she were having a seizure.
The man leaned against his motorcycle, just staring at her. It did not take a psychic to read his mind. And he was probably right – she had lost her mind. She had to have, right? Hell, her whole fucking life had become worse than some cheesy plot in her romances.
Except she was no fucking damsel in distress, let Elena play that role. Hell, even Laura seemed to be embracing the role now that Ryan had shown up. But she was too much her Mama’s daughter. She didn’t need no man. Even an uber-hot one that she’d pay good money to pose for a cover.
Oh sure, this was just how those fucking tropes went. A seemingly strong woman faces an insurmountable problem. White knight, although in this case, her knight wore dark damned fine, rides in on his charger. She supposed a Ducati Scrambler 1100 was the modern equivalent. And saves the damsel and the day. Still, dei ex machina had never been her favorite plot device.
But Merry J. Austen never wrote to those fucking tropes. That was why she had given up looking for an agent or book deal, and just self-published her stories. No, her books were different. Her heroines took no shit and always kept the upper hand. So, how did she get that upper hand back now?
Mercy drew in a deep, cleansing breath and wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand. She looked around them, “Where the fuck are we?”
He shrugged, “I’m not sure exactly. Bumfuck, Texas. About a hundred miles or so, southwest of Sebida.”
She slipped the backpack off her shoulders. She clutched it in front of her, though she did not mind this man staring at her tits. She opened the top and reached inside for a bottle of water. She grabbed one for him as well. “Where are you going?” She asked as she tossed him the water.
He unscrewed the cap and brought the bottle to the sexiest lips she had ever imagined kissing. Fuck, now was not the time for this shit. But if those lips weren’t enough to unnerve her, then those soft brown eyes that never left her face would have. Were those green flecks around the outside? Shit, this was bad.
And his next words only made it worse. “I have no fuckin’ idea. I was hoping you could tell me, sweetheart.”
“What do you mean, you have no idea? I thought you said that you were a fed?” But was that a good thing? Hadn’t Mama told her that Ryan thought there might be a leak? Wasn’t that why they were going into hiding? Could she trust this guy? She unconsciously slipped her hand into the front pocket of the bag.
He held up his hands, “Mercy.” He smiled, and her name sounded like some sweet caress, like a Chicks ballad. “Mercedes, there’s no reason to go for your gun. I’m one of the good guys, I promise. Well, if there is such a thing.”
She did not take her hand off the gun, though this time, she left the safety on. For now. “I’m asking you again. Who the fuck are you? And what the hell were you doing at my library? Were you there to arrest me too?”
“My name is Caleb Williams, but as I said, most people call me Will. And until this morning, I was a federal agent assigned to the McBride case. And no, my former employer did not send me to arrest you. Hell, I did not even know that they were all that interested in your sister. Though I suppose it makes sense since McBride is dead.”
“As for what I was doing at the library? That was just Fate. I was following Kerr.” He brought the bottle back to those kiss-ass-able lips and drained it.
“Why were you following Kerr? What do you mean former employer? McBride is dead?”
He began with the most straightforward question. “They found McBride and his rental in a ditch. Just outside of Sebida earlier today.” Will saw the shock and concern in her innocent eyes. But he did not want her to make those same connections he had, so he continued.
“I had personal business with Kerr. And States Attorney James Travis Tyler fired my ass this morning.” He screwed the lid back on the bottle and tossed it back towards her.
But she was not biting. It landed at her feet, and she kept her eyes on his face, “Why did he fire you? And what personal business?”
“Damn, woman, maybe you should have gone to law school like that sister of yours. Cause you’re better than Tyler at cross-examination.”
“I always preferred fiction to legal briefs. Now answer my fucking questions, or the safety comes off my gun.”
“I was one of the agents guarding McBride when he escaped.”
Fuck. That made him crooked. As bad as Kerr. She took off the safety and pulled the gun out of the pocket, aiming it at him. Well, at his kneecap. She might have had the courage to shot Kerr through the heart if he had not moved, but she knew she could never kill this man. No matter what. And that bothered the fuck out of her. But she could make damned sure he did not follow her. She took another couple of steps back towards the road.
“It’s not what you think. I’m not the leak, and I didn’t do it for the money.”
The way those eyes met hers almost made her believe him, or maybe that was just because she wanted to? Either way, she found herself asking, “So why then? Why would you let that man go?”
“Like I told Tyler, I didn’t. Well, not McBride himself. He promised he’d come back. He just wanted to take his wife and child someplace safe.”
“And you believed him?”
“About coming back? No. But I did about getting those women someplace safe.” His shoulders slumped as he dropped his hands to his side at last. “I’m guessing from what you said about your sisters and Mama that Ryan had figured it out, too. There’s a leak in the agency.”
It was one thing to know that her brother-in-law suspected that, but this man spoke as if it were fact. “How do you know that for sure?”
“Because I know who it is.”
“Who? And how do you know? Are you some hotshot double agent working both sides?”