The Drafter Page 99

“Peri, you can’t do this alone. It’s too dangerous—”

She didn’t have time to convince him. Dropping the radio on the stairway, she stomped it into silence. Feeling his eyes on her through the scope, she went up the stairs and fished out her card key. It seemed stupid—needing a key to get into her own apartment—but she’d had the door reinforced and it would be easier to break a hole in the wall than to knock the door from the frame.

She ran down the hall, tapping her card key and turning the knob in a single fluid motion. There was no sound, and a ribbon of light showed from under the door. Images of a matted maroon carpet flashed in her thoughts. Shoving them aside, she went in.

She froze just inside the door. Lips parted, she stared at the brightly lit, demolished apartment as emotions fought to be recognized. Shock, dismay, heartache … anger. It didn’t even look like her place. Everything was off the walls, her shelf where she put her talismans empty. Broken furniture and clothes made a pile in the middle of the room. The ceiling had been pulled down to expose the ductwork, and light fixtures dangled from wires to make the glow shine in weird patterns. The blinds had been jerked from the windows and piled in the corner, taking up an astounding amount of space. Blackout film had replaced them—blocking the view in, but not the view out—and Detroit glittered past the bare windows. Just as well she’d told Howard to leave. He’d never know if the lights were on or off.

“Change settings. Warm,” she said softly, but there was no cheerful ding. Peri came in a step. Jack stood before the pile, his head bowed over a shattered picture. Even the plants had been uprooted, the dirt scattered and the vegetation abandoned to wilt and die. They’d destroyed her home, her security, the way she found herself after every draft.

“I’m sorry, babe,” Jack said, and her anger at what they’d done grew heady, strong enough to taste it, sour in the pit of her belly. He had no right to tell her he was sorry. He was why her life was screwed up. But the sliding thump of sound from the bedroom brought her attention around.

“No weapons. They don’t know you’re here yet.” Jack dropped the picture and lurched after her. “Watch your control. He didn’t do this. Don’t kill him, Peri.”

“What do you care?” Peri snarled under her breath. Ticked, she shoved the bedroom door open, barely registering the savaged mattress and holes in the walls when she saw the man in a black suit standing before her dresser, holding up one of Jack’s shirts as if measuring it for size.

“Hands off!” she yelled, launching herself at him.

She got one good front kick in that snapped his head back. She followed him as he fell backward, scoring a fist on his solar plexus. In uncaring rage, she punched him again, and he blocked it. Stinging tinglesraced up her arm.

His foot came out, and she fell, her legs swept out from under her. She rolled, narrowly escaping his savage kick, and she kept rolling. Still on the floor, she lashed out, scooting backward and to her feet. With an eager smile, he grabbed her arm and swung her into the wall.

She hit it face-first, the breath knocked out of her as she staggered. His foot slammed into her chest and she slid to the floor.

Unable to breathe, she scuttled into the bathroom. She couldn’t see straight, and finally she took in a breath, looking up to see the man leaning against the doorjamb, a hand to his chest and clearly laboring as well. An Opti-issue Glock lay behind him, totally out of reach.

“Reed’s here,” he said, panting into an electronic wristband; then he came at her, his hands stretched to grab. If he got a grip on her, she was done.

Shit. Peri stumbled into the bathroom, grunting as his weight slammed into her and pinned her face to the wall. Cat litter ground under her feet as she flung her head back into him.

He cried out, grip loosening. Peri dropped, her hand reaching for her knife. He followed her down, pinning her neck to the floor with a wide, heavy hand, wedging the knife from her with the other. There was blood on him. She’d broken his nose.

“Peri, do something!” Jack shouted, and she grabbed a handful of cat litter and threw it at the sound of the man’s grunting breath.

“Bitch!” he exclaimed, and his hand lifted. Peri dragged herself upright, grasping the lid to the toilet tank and swinging it at him. He was halfway to a stand, and it hit his head with a dull thwap, the weight of it spinning Peri full-circle to crash into the counter. Her hands went numb and the lid fell from her to break into two pieces. She slipped and went down, stifling a scream when her back hit the tub.

But the man was out cold, his cheek resting on a thin layer of cat litter soaking up the blood from his broken nose. A red lump showed at his hairline. Peri’s eyes rose to find Jack. “I didn’t like him touching your things,” she said, the absurdity of it making her eyes wide.

Smiling, he held out a hand to help her stand. She lurched up, ignoring it as she took her knife back. Her chest hurt, and not because she’d taken a foot to it. She hated Jack, hated that it felt right with him beside her.

Shaking from adrenaline, Peri shoved her knife away and staggered into the living room. Someone had to have heard that. She had to go. But as she looked at her life in a ten-by-eight-by-four-foot pile, she couldn’t focus. “My talismans,” she said, her anger growing as she saw a picture of Jack and herself in a desert, the coals of a fire behind them. She didn’t remember it, but she looked happy. All of her memories were broken and lost. “Jack, where’s the list? Did they find it?”

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