The Drafter Page 4

“I prefer the term fun-size.”

Grinning, Peri let him grab her, spinning around and levering him up and over her shoulder. He’d either go where she sent him or he’d dislocate his arm. He went, hitting the carpet with a muffled thump.

“Ahhhhoow!” the guard groaned as he pulled the unbroken whiskey bottle out from under him. The flashlight rolled, sending shiny glints across the black panes of glass.

Jack frantically worked at the computer, his head low and blond hair hiding his eyes.

Enjoying the chance to take the big man down, Peri gathered herself to fall on him. Eyes wide, the guard jerked away, and she changed her motion into a heel jab that never landed, then fell into a ready stance between him and the handgun. We have to get out of here, like now.

The guard spun upright, fumbling for the radio on his belt. “Put a wiggle in it, Jack!” she exclaimed, lashing out with a crescent kick, a front kick, then a low strike to his knee as she drove the guard back—anything to keep him from his radio. She loved the adrenaline, the excitement, the knowledge that she had what it took to beat the odds and walk away without reprisal.

The man shook it off, and she lashed at his ear, lurching when she hit his jaw instead. A solid thump on her right shoulder sent her reeling. Peri stumbled, feeling the coming bruise. Anger fueled her smile. He was good and liked to cause pain. If he landed a clean strike, she’d be out—but beating those odds would only make her win more satisfying.

“Quit playing with him!” Jack shouted.

“I need to burn off some calories if I want cake tonight,” she said as the guard felt his lip, thoughts shifting behind his eyes when his fingers came away shiny with blood. Suddenly he ran for the door and his handgun.

“We’re having pie, not cake, and stay where I can see you,” Jack called.

She jumped the guard, snagging a foot before he reached the door. He went down, dragging her across the carpet. Chin burning and eyes shut, she let go when he kicked. Peri jerked away, gasping when the guard turned, looming over her with his fist pulled back.

“No!” Jack shouted as the guard struck her full in the face and her head snapped backward. Dazed, Peri wavered where she sat.

“Don’t move! Or I fucking shoot her!” the guard shouted.

She couldn’t see straight. The gun pointed at her held no meaning as she tried to figure out what had happened. Dizzy, she felt her face, jerking when the pain exploded under her fingers. But it focused her, and she looked at Jack behind the desk. Eyes meeting, they silently weighed their options. Jack had a handgun and she had a blade in her boot. They’d never needed extraction from local authorities in their entire three years together. She wasn’t planning on starting now, and certainly not getting fingered by a dirty rent-a-cop.

“You at the desk!” the guard barked, and Peri’s gaze on his handgun narrowed as she estimated the distance. “Come here where I can see you,” he said, one hand fumbling behind his back for his cuffs. “Hands up. You make a move to lower them, and I shoot her.”

Hands in the air, Jack edged out from behind the desk. He coughed, and the barrel of the guard’s gun shifted to track him.

“Bravo!” a clear, masculine voice exclaimed from the doorway.

The guard turned, shocked. Peri lashed out in a spinning kick. Impact against the guard’s hand vibrated through her even as she followed through and rose into a crouch and from there to a stand, the flat of her still-swinging foot slamming into the guard’s head.

Spittle and blood sprayed and the guard crashed into the coffee table. His handgun fell, and she kicked it to the far windows. Jack went for the man in the doorway. Knowing he had her back, Peri followed the guard down, fist clenched to hit him somewhere painful.

But the guard was out, his face bloody and his eyes closed. Resisting the urge to hit him anyway, she looked up as Jack shoved an older man in a suit into the office at gunpoint.

“Impressive,” the man said, nodding to the guard. “Is he dead?”

“No.” Peri stood. What the hell? she thought, unable to read Jack’s tight expression. This couldn’t be a test. They’d already had their yearly “surprise” evaluation job.

“Good. Keep it that way,” the man said as if he was in control, regardless of having no weapon, if Jack’s hasty but thorough pat-down was any indication. “I’ve been meaning to take him off the payroll, but I’d prefer unemployment over a death benefit to his wife.”

This isn’t how we do things, Peri thought as Jack shoved the man into one of the cushy chairs, where he fixed his tie, affronted. Peri looked from the slightly overweight man to his photograph on the desk, posing with a stiff-looking woman in too much makeup. This was his office. Bloody toothpicks, Bill will have a cow if I off a CEO.

“I have what you came for,” the manicured, graying man said, his soft fingers reaching behind his coat to an inner pocket.

Peri lunged. Her knee landed between his legs and he gasped at the near miss. One hand forced his head back; the other pinned his reaching hand to the arm of the chair. “Don’t move,” she whispered, and irritation replaced his shocked pain.

He wiggled, wincing when she shifted her knee a little tighter. “If I wanted you dead, I wouldn’t be here myself,” the man said, his voice strained but angry. “Get off me.”

“Nah-uh,” she said, fingers digging into his neck in warning, then louder, “Jack?”

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