She has to overcome a lifetime of secrets…the shock of discovery.
He must protect a treasure that has turned passion to hate… reason to incoherence.
Poisoned by danger, intrigue, lust, and greed…their very survival is in the balance.
A coughing sound engaged Franco’s training and he had her on the ground beneath him before the second shot was fired.
The roast chicken exploded, sending shredded meat across the table and raining over them.
Nici’s eyes were wide with fear. “What?”
“Stay down. Don’t move.”
He crawled off her, reaching for his piece as he positioned himself between the car and the table. From the trajectory of the shots, Franco figured the shooter had gone high, probably sitting in a tree to the south of their position. If Nic stayed down on the ground between the table and the Jeep she should be out of his range. But he had no intention of leaving her there.
He needed to get her into the car and out of that park as fast as he could.
Another shot sighed past, hitting the side of the car. Behind him, Nic yelped and he was afraid she’d been hit. “You all right?”
“Other than peeing myself? I’m just dandy. You need to get down, Franco. You’re going to get shot.”
He couldn’t help smiling as his gaze slid slowly along the perimeter. “I’m the bodyguard, remember? I’m the one who’s supposed to get shot.”
“Don’t even joke about that.”
There! A dark form shifted between the branches of a tree, seventy-five yards away. Franco dived to the ground as three rounds peppered the table, spewing food in a messy arc around them. “Damn! This guy’s good.”
“Well yeah, I can see he’s really pissed off at that potato salad.”
Franco barked out a laugh. “Keep it down back there. I’m trying to concentrate.”
“Well can you hurry? I really do have to pee and I’m thinking you don’t want me to squat right here.”
The words were light but her voice quavered with fear. He nodded. “You’re right. Let’s quit screwing around with these jerks. When I say ‘go’, I want you to roll over to the car and slide underneath it. Move as quickly as you can to the other side and climb in. Keep your head down.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll be right behind you.”
Franco lifted his head so he could see the guy in the tree. He hadn’t moved. He scanned the roads around the park and saw they were empty. Then he checked his magazine and found it half full. Hopefully it would be enough because his spare ammo was in the canvas bag in the back of the Jeep. He’d beat himself up for his carelessness later. At the moment he had bigger problems.
The SUV he’d seen driving past had pulled into position on the opposite side of the park, pinning them in.
He slid back down, assessing his options. “No good. They’ve got the other side of the car covered now.”
She sighed so long and hard he glanced her way. She was glaring at him. “I told you I needed my gun.”
He shook his head, thinking fast. There had to be some way… Franco shoved at the picnic table but it was bolted down. Too bad, he thought, it would have made a good shield while they climbed into the car. His gaze caught on the trash can beside the table. It was metal, hopefully filled with a nice depth of neutralizing trash. It wasn’t much but it was the best chance they had. “Okay, new plan. I’m going to lay down cover fire while you climb into the Jeep on this side. Lie down on the floor in the back.”
“Then how are you going to get in?”
“I’m going to use that trash can as a shield.”
Silence met his statement. “While shooting, opening the car door, and driving away?”
“I didn’t say it was a good plan.”
“Here’s a better one. Give me the gun. I’ll provide cover while you grab the can and we can both use it to get into the car.”
“Not a chance.”
“Dammit, Franco! What’s the point in my having all this self-defense training if nobody will let me use it?”
“That’s a last ditch plan.”
“This is about as last ditch as it gets, homey.”
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I just gained new respect for your brother. If I was him I’d have introduced you to the nuclear wedgie at an early age.”
“Give me the gun, Franco.”
He would have liked to blow a hole in her plan. Unfortunately it was better than his. Dammit! “Okay. But try not to shoot me with it.”
She took the gun, ejected the mag like an expert, checked the rounds and slammed it back home. Then she sat up and slid across the grass to the table, peering over it. “That’s the shooter up there?”
“Yeah. You won’t be able to hit him but…”
Nic settled the muzzle of the gun onto the table and closed one eye.
“You shouldn’t close your eye…”
“Shut up, this works for me.”
“Okay, whatever, shoot the bad guy in the tree. Not the good guy sprinting toward the can. Got it?”
“Shoot the mouthy bodynapper with the can and gain myself some peace and quiet. Got it.”
“Lord help me.”
“Just go already, before these guys get restless.”
Right on cue, the Jeep jerked under a fresh round of bullets from the SUV. Franco glanced over the hood and saw that they were on the move. “The SUV’s coming on. We’ve got to do this now.”
“That’s what I said,” Nic murmured. She fired into the tree and Franco took off running.
Several more rounds sizzled through the air as he threw himself to the ground behind the can, some of them heading for him.
The can jerked under a couple of rounds, one of which went in high and passed straight through.
There was a yelp behind him. Panic flared. “Nic?”
“I’m fine. He just stomped on my last nerve.”
Franco grabbed the can and hunkered behind it as a fresh round of bullets slammed through the air toward the shooter in the tree. There was a yelp and a rifle pinwheeled through the air to the ground, followed by the darkly clad shooter.
“Lose the can, Martin. Here come the bad guys.”
She opened the door and threw herself inside as the SUV barreled toward them, a gun sticking out of the front passenger side window. Franco flung himself into the Jeep, trying to keep low as he clambered into the driver’s seat, and turned the key, gunning it forward as soon as the engine caught. Bullets continued to ping off the metal sides and back. A back window shattered and glass sprayed over them.
Franco headed for a copse of massive evergreens, figuring the guys in the SUV would have a harder time hitting them with a bunch of trees around. They slipped under the drooping branches and the shower of bullets stopped as they barreled across a thick carpet of dried needles. The sharp tang of evergreen filled the car as he took a turn on two wheels and headed toward the back of the park, keeping sight of the SUV driving alongside the thicket. The big car was managing to stay even with them and the occasional tree trunk exploded under a wayward bullet.
Nici’s head popped up.
“Hit the street, there’s a delivery truck backing out of that driveway there.”
She was right. If they could tuck in behind the truck…
“Hold on!” He jerked the wheel hard right and the passenger side door squealed as it scraped along a row of trunks with prickly branches. They emerged from the evergreen copse and hit a sidewalk, heading straight for a hydrant.
He jumped as she squealed. “Stop that! You scared the crap out of me.” He jerked the wheel and the car missed the hydrant by inches, heading for a fat gray squirrel holding an acorn, its shiny brown eyes wide.
“Oh for god sakes!” He jerked the wheel again, barely missing the stupid rodent, and they dropped with a bang of tortured suspension into the street just as the boxy white truck started toward the intersection. Franco tucked the Jeep in on the opposite side of it, blocking them from the SUV’s view, and took the first turn into a large subdivision as the truck lumbered on down the street.
A few quick turns later brought them out of the subdivision and Franco headed for the highway, the SUV nowhere in sight.
Excerpt from Revealing Nicola by Sam Cheever. Copyright © 2017 by Sam Cheever. Reproduced with permission from Sam Cheever. All rights reserved.