The Drafter Page 77

Hunched under the low ceiling, Peri held up two fingers, eyebrows high in question. He shook his head, nodding when she held up one. One man, she thought, following his glance to the cockpit. Shouldn’t be difficult. Peri slowly drew out the bottle of wine chilling in the ice bucket. Rosé? Really? Allen had no sense of style.

The shifting ice caught the pilot’s attention, and he shoved his man-on-man magazine out of sight. “Should I tell the tower we’re staying?” he said, so frantic to hide his magazine that he didn’t even notice she wasn’t Allen until their eyes met. Almost sorry for the guy, she smacked him with the cold, wet bottle, wincing at the reverberation shaking up her arm.

“Never hide who you are,” Peri said as she backed out. Five minutes. He’d be up and bitching in five. She hadn’t hit him that hard.

Peri dropped the bottle back in the slush, hands cold but feeling cocky in the relief of doing what she was good at. Hunched from the low ceiling, she returned to Silas. He was waiting impatiently, bound hands held up before him. Still smiling, she knelt before him and pulled the gag away. “Hi,” she said as she started on the knots. “Can you move fast?”

“What are you doing here?” he whispered, and she glanced up, fingers faltering on the rope. “Wearing that? Are you crazy?”

“Ah, it’s called rescuing your ass in style?” Peri said, flushing as she saw that her skintight white jeans were now smeared with grease and dirt. “I’m a soldier, remember? I don’t leave anyone behind.”

His expression went empty, then resolute. Fran’s angry “You did what!” echoed. Flustered, Peri gave up on his hands and moved to his feet. He didn’t need his hands to run.

“Peri is long gone,” she could hear Taf saying, and Peri began to sweat, fingers fumbling. “I gave her a car and she’s reached the mountains by now. Good luck with that.”

The knots weren’t budging. Probably because he’d been trying to get free and had instead tightened them into immovable chunks. “There’s a red truck out the back of the building. Keys in the ignition,” Peri said as she puffed a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Good Lord, what did you do to these knots?” Amateurs.

Silas winced. “Ah, check the bathroom. One of them was using a knife to trim his nails.”

“Thanks for sharing.” Peri got up. The thing was eight inches long, and she decided to keep it despite the gauche camo pattern on the hilt. In three seconds, he was free; in four, she was sliding the knife away, almost shivering at the sound as it slipped into her boot sheath.

“Find her!” Allen shouted, and she joined Silas at the window to see Allen on the phone. So far, Taf’s was the only gun showing, and Peri prayed it would stay that way. Clearly pissed, Allen ended hiscall. “Your daughter ran them off the road,” he said tightly. “Where is Peri headed? Detroit or Charlotte?” he asked Taf.

“She said something about Cuba,” Taf said with a simper.

Peri peeked down the stairs. Silas rubbed his legs, clearly pained. Too bad she didn’t know how to fly, or they could back out of here and just go. The engine was still ticking-hot.

“Tell me, or I’ll shoot your mother,” Allen threatened, and Peri’s brow furrowed. She didn’t want to have to draft to save anyone’s life, but she knew she’d do it.

But Taf shifted the barrel of her weapon to Allen, as cool as if she’d done this a thousand times before. “Ya’ll just do that,” she said in a thick accent, convincing Peri at least. “My momma is a bitch, but you make one move and I’ll plug you myself. I’m from the South, sugar, and I kill my own snakes.”

Silas’s breath was tickling her neck, and she stifled a quiver when he said, “Allen is playing us both.”

Do we have to do this right now? “Tell me about it,” she said tersely. “I was on my way to Detroit when I realized they had you. Allen is a liar. I didn’t turn you in.”

“Turn me in? Allen picked me up before I could meet you.” Silas’s gaze went distant, and he scrubbed a hand over his face. “You ditched me,” he said, and Peri grimaced. “You had no intention of meeting me at that dealership.”

“Can we maybe do this after we escape?” she whispered in frustration. “I’m sorry, okay? You’re right. I left you, but I didn’t know they were going to pick you up, and when I found out they had, I came back. What do you think I was doing at the alliance?”

“Having drinks, by the looks of it,” he snarked, and she sighed in exasperation. Why was he stomping all over her high?

The sound of Taf’s rifle echoed like a cannon. Adrenaline was a jolt, and Peri shoved Silas back from the door and into safety. Taf was shooting again?

“Peri! Let’s go!” Taf shouted roughly, and Peri’s breath fogged up the window. Allen was on the cement, his hand clamped about his foot, blood seeping around his fingers.

“You shot him!” Fran stared aghast at her daughter. “Are you crazy?”

“I shot his foot. He was going to kill me! Gawd, Mom. You think I should have just let him? And I’ll be damned before I let you railroad another innocent woman.”

“Innocent?” Fran laughed, and the cold sound tripped down Peri’s spine. “Don’t be naive, my dear. Give me the gun, and for God’s sake, drop the accent.”

“I am not ashamed of who I am!” Taf shouted, face red. “Peri? We gotta go!”

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