Prologue | Monday
Mary Travis had decided one thing this morning; she prepared for whatever Chris Larabee intended throwing at her. After the sewer the day before, she was confident she could handle anything. Thus, when she had arrived at the ATF office that morning, she had done so with the firm belief that he could not possibly out do himself.
She was wrong.
Mary cringed in the vinyl booth she was presently occupying, trying to avoid the leering eyes of rather greasy looking man in a cheap suit and slicked back hair. The man managed to keep his eyes on here even though he was presently spilling his guts to Chris Larabee whom took absolutely no stock of his surroundings even though it was strip joint. In the rest of the dimly lit place, bare bodies only a g-string away from being completely nude, gyrated and wriggled to loud, outdated music. Mary would not call what they did dancing. Their audience was the bottom feeders of the human gene pool and posed a strong argument, each one of them, for the necessity of birth control.
It was bad enough that she was subject to this disgusting display but there were things going on in this room that were enough to make her skin crawl. In the far end of the room, she could see a youth no more than twenty earning the money he had been paid by a fat, sweaty man wearing leather, on his knees. She forced herself not to look at the scene of ragged looking women at the bar, pretending to be paying customers when it was obvious that they were looking for some.
Chris seemed oblivious to her discomfiture, although she was certain he was amusing herself to no end at her expense. Continuing his conversation with the informant called Lennie, she wondered who had selected this venue for their meeting and had no doubt this was just another one of Chriss attempts to embarrass her. Although, to be fair he had asked her to remain in the office with the rest of the team. Unfortunately, Mary had been so paranoid that he was just trying to be a pain in the ass that she insisted on accompanying him and he was not forthcoming about their destination.
So you finally got rid of Tanner and found some real help? Lennie gave her a salacious leer once Chris got his information from him.
Something like that, Chris mumbled, wishing Lennie had asked their meeting place to be anywhere but here. Despite what Mary was thinking, Chris did not appreciate that he had been force to bring her to a place like this. However, there was no telling the woman anything and he wondered how anyone could be so damn stubborn when it was for their own good.
Well I gotta say, I approve," Lennie said flashing a smile that included several rotten teeth. Ill bet she must be real entertaining on stake outs.
Watch your mouth," Chris warned as he saw the smoldering look in Marys eyes and realized that perhaps he might have handled this differently because there was every indication she was about to go volcanic on him. He did try to tell her.
Yeah, but you could have tried a little harder.
His inner voice remarked and Chris decided that it was best if he rectified the situation instead of ruminating on how it was she had come to be here. He had to admit though, she had held up well considering that some guy was giving another guy a blow job in the corner of the room, she was surrounded by naked bimbos, if you called g-strings being dressed and hookers casing the joint for potential johns.
Sorry man, Lennie caught the menace in Chris eyes behind that warning and swallowed visibly. It was never wise to get on the wrong side of this man. No offence intended maam," he said apologetically towards Mary.
None taken," she said stiffly.
Is that it Lennie? Chris asked, eager to get her out of here.
Thats all I know, the informant confessed, wanting to be on his way as well. The venue had been selected because no one of importance frequented an place like this and being seen with the leader of an ATF team was hazardous to ones health in this neighbourhood.
Good," Chris said gruffly and slid out of the booth. Were going," he said to Mary before tossing a few notes on the table and walking out of the place without waiting for her.
+ + + + + + +
Chris said nothing as they stepped out into the sunlight once again and breathed in fresh air that was not polluted with smoke, liquor and to their extreme disgust to admit bodily fluids. Mary did not meet his gaze but judging by the sullen expression on her face she was not happy. The regret that had been nagging at him inside the strip joint had evolved into full-blown guilt and he knew that he could have avoided putting her through this if he had been a little forthcoming about where they had been going this morning.
They were almost to the car when Chris paused and started to say. Mary, Im s.......
She did not let him finish. Mary swung around and struck him right across the jaw in what was almost a roadhouse swing. Chris was nearly knocked off his feet at the power behind her knuckles and thought in a moment of clarity amidst the disorientation of the blow that she must have had some training somewhere.
You son of a bitch! She roared, unafraid of letting anyone hear her as she laid into him. You know, I thought that I had put up with some crap in my life but you take the cake! Ive had border guards molesting me with their hands while they were supposed to be frisking me! Once, I had to pose as a street walker to get a lead, I even had to play a harem girl to crack a white slavery ring and none of that, made me feel as humiliated as I felt today!
I tried to warn you! Chris cried in his defence, feeling like an absolute bastard seeing that she was very close to tears. He had not meant to push her that far, just to make her go away because she was awakening in him feelings that were too close to what he felt for Sarah and it frightened him.
Oh you tried very hard! She shouted. Well I dont care what hang up you have with me but I am writing this story. I am writing this story because there is a seven year old boy that needs me to write it to get his mother back and not you! She jabbed her finger in his chest. Or anyone for that matter is going to stop me!
Chris did not know what to say because in truth, there was nothing he could say. He had been giving her a tough time since she had turned up in his office, particularly because he felt so strongly for her. Mary did not wait for him to speak and jumped into the car and waited for him, invisible line of steam exuding from her ears he was certain. He joined her in the car and was suddenly reminded of those times when he had arguments with Sarah. She would sit in silence, arms folded and say nothing to him as well. The parallels between Mary and Sarah drove home why he was so attracted to the woman.
Were going back to the office," he remarked somewhat gingerly.
You were going somewhere else," she said abruptly. Go there. I dont need you to hold back because of me.
I aint holding back because of you," Chris retorted with a hint of annoyance.
Then lets go," she challenged.
It was one he was willing to take up. Okay, he answered starting the car. Its nothing big anyway. Lennie never has any good leads.
+ + + + + + +
Half an hour after that statement, Chris Larabee and Mary Travis found themselves locked in a room with a gunman who was to guard them while the powers that be who ran this illegal moonshine operation upon which they had stumbled, decided what was to be done with them. Judging by the size of the enterprise they had virtually straight walked into with its factory size location, their outcome could not be anything but fatal.
Never any good leads huh? Mary said sarcastically as they were seated on the floor, his arms bound around the back while hers were secured in the front, since he was considered to be the most dangerous of them both. Chris gun was tucked neatly in the belt of their guard and he eyed Mary with more interest than was healthy as far as she was concerned.
Ill get us out of here," he grumbled, not liking the way the man was looking at her any more than she did. He did not know what was worse, being caught in this situation where they could die or the embarrassment of having these men get the drop on him in front of her.
You cant even get out of those ropes," Mary pointed out and received a scathing glare from him.
Im working on it," he bristled with annoyance at her lack of confidence in him, particularly when he was in some small way, trying to impress her with his ability to handle any situation no matter how adverse. It did not help that he was so attracted to the woman he could barely think and the idea of harm coming to her was twisting his insides with fear.
Well work harder," she said looking anxiously at the man before her. His eyes were moving across her form, taking in the sight of her like she was something he was going to be enjoying soon enough. He barely noticed Chris working the ropes behind his back. Still as Mary thought about it, Chris freeing his hands was not going to be enough to effect their escape and suddenly a dangerous idea formed in her head. She glanced at Chris who keeping his eye trained on the man even though the subtle movements behind his back indicated his focus was elsewhere. Chris needed a distraction to act and Mary decided she was going to give it to him.
Are they going to kill us?" she asked the man, her voice oozing with feminine concern. I dont want to die. Her lips curled into a full pout that glistened under the single light bulb of their cell.
Chris stopped what he was doing and looked at her immediately, wondering why she playing at. Mary...... He started to speak to warn her into silence.
Shut up! The gunman shoved Chris back into place with a boot in the ATF agents chest before turning to Mary again, licking his own lips in anticipation at the promise of what her voice was offering him.
Anyway I can talk you out of it? Mary asked, her voice becoming more seductive with unmistakable lust oozing from it.
The man caught her meaning immediately, compelled in part by his own desire for this beautiful woman with her golden hair and her soft lips, enticing him with pleasure as he stepped forward. What do you have in mind? A slight curl formed on his lips and Chris did not like where this was going at all.
Not one damn bit.
How about a grease and oil change? She smiled, tongue rolling across her silky lips in a dance so mesmerizing that both men were similarly transfixed.
Chris mouth dropped open just imagining what she was suggesting being performed on himself and not on this stranger.
The leader of the ATF watched in wide eyed dismay as the gunman became very receptive to that idea as he stepped forward.
Are you out of your fucking mind? He glared at her, almost flabbergasted beyond belief at the dangerous game she was playing.
Shut up. The gunman kicked him in the chest again and slammed him back into the wall once more. The lady is smart and she made the offer.
The man stepped closer to Mary as she leaned back, readying herself into position as he neared her with one hand on his gun and the other fumbling for his belt. He was within reach of her legs when Mary saw his eyes drop for a moment to a troublesome notch he could not unhook. Knowing it was now or never, Mary took the opportunity because she was sure as hell not going to go through with her offer to him. Kicking her leg out with years of training behind her, the ball of her foot landed squarely on his groin. He barely had time to scream before he doubled over in pain. No sooner than he was on his knees, Mary jumped to her feet and ploughed another kick into his sternum, almost flipping him onto his back before her last kick to the side of his head rendered him completely unconscious. She took a deep breath, unable to believe she had managed such an effort before remembering they were not out of trouble yet.
Meanwhile Chris could only stare at her in a mixture of astonishment and secret admiration. God, how could you not love a woman like this?
Where did you learn to fight like that?" he managed to ask once he had overcome his amazement at her skillful handling of the situation and by the fact that she might have possibly saved both their lives.
Kick boxing classes, Mary said breathlessly as she searched the room for something to free her hands and spotted a small pen knife at the nearby work bench. Friend of mine told me it was a great way to meet guys," she answered as she reached the tool and started working the sharp blade against the ropes around her wrists.
Really? Chris almost smiled but held it back.
Yeah, she replied, concentrating on holding the blade in its awkward place as she continued to slice the ropes. It was a bust though. Seems there were about fifty other women in the class with the same idea," she remarked as her hands were freed and she hurried to Chris who had at this point risen to his feet and had turned around so that she could do the same to him.
I have to pass that on to Buck," he muttered as he felt her cutting the ropes behind his back. Hes always looking for new territory to mark.
The man has no shame. Mary shook her head in disgust as the last fibres were sliced away and his wrists were finally freed. The first thing he did with his freedom was to retrieve his gun and then though not vitally important to their escape but was nevertheless compelled to bring it up, he turned to Mary.
Grease and oil change? He looked at her critically.
Have you ever met a man who has ever said no to an offer like that?" she challenged him with a hint of mischief in her eyes, to say otherwise.
Not from those lips, Chris thought to himself. Good point, he answered, opting for the safest response and not the one that would get him slapped, again.
What now?" she asked, glad to turn their escape over to him. Outside the door of this room was at least a dozen armed goons. Mary did so hope he had a way to escape this room that did not require them trying to breach the barrier posed by those men. It would be hazardous to say the least.
Fortunately, Chris had no intention of endangering her life by attempting anything so fool hardy. The only thing that mattered was getting her out of here in one piece. Her resourcefulness had given him an opening and he was going to use any means necessary to exploit its full potential. Turning tail and running never sat well with Chris Larabee but when it came to the life of this woman, his dignity and personal preferences could take a back seat. Scanning the room, he saw a small window that would be a tight squeeze for both of them but not at all impossible for them to utilize as a means of escape.
Window. He gestured towards the narrow opening.
I can live with that," she sighed in relief, having dreaded the possibility of making their escape through the door where those armed men were laying in wait. As uncomfortable as that small window might look in their attempt to breach it, it was far healthier than facing the operators of this illegal venture.
Chris ushered Mary through first, having to lift her up part of the way because the window was high above the ground. She had no trouble passing through although her rear end could not make the crossing without help. Chris tried to keep his hands in respectable positions as he pushed her through but eventually, he had to place his palms against that taut, firm curve of flesh.
Watch your hands," she grumbled as her cheeks (on her face that is) flushed red from embarrassment because his touch was engendering sensations that were completely inappropriate for the time and place.
You just offer to give a guy a blow job and youre getting prissy about my hands on your ass? Chris retorted sarcastically with the barest hint of amusement, not to mention secret pleasure stolen at her expense as he lingered a little longer on that sweet derriere than he should have.
Yes, she said sweetly, craning her neck back far enough to meet his gaze. When its your hands.
Sorry Miss Travis but were a little pressed for time but youre just going to have to be satisfied with my hands until I have time to use something else. He smiled devilishly before giving her a firm shove that sent her all the way through.
Wait a minute Chris..... she started to protest as she tumbled to the other side and suddenly she was screaming.
Mary! Chris was suddenly filled with panic and he jumped through after her, never moving so fast in his life when suddenly he heard a loud splash and looked down just in time to see that there was no ground beneath him but water! The warehouse had been located at the edge of the canal area and in the split second before he hit the murky surface, he realized why they had only been assigned one guard.
He hit the space next to her, splashing her with water as he submerged briefly under the surface before the escaping air from his lungs forced him afloat.
What is it with you and getting me wet?" she sputtered in fury when he finally emerged next to her in the water. Her blond hair was plastered all over her face and she looked like the albino version of Cousin It. Of course, he kept that observation to himself.
Foreplay? He grinned, not knowing but he was enjoying this whole absurdity immensely.
Mary rolled her eyes in disgust before shoving his head under water again.
+ + + + + + +
Why is it that every time I telephone you, you seem to be in a bath tub these days? Julia asked Mary from the other end of the telephone line.
As it turned out, Chris and Mary had managed to make it to the car without any further incident where Chris promptly called for backup. Within twenty minutes, the rest of Team 7 and thirty armed policemen converged upon the location. Despite the indignity of the whole situation, Mary did find that she had exclusive on the arrests that followed and had an interesting chapter in her magazine story.
Because the man has a funny way of expressing charm," Mary grumbled as she scrubbed the dirt from under her nails while balancing the phone between her shoulder and head.
So I gather you like him.
Yeah like an extreme case of syphilis," Mary retorted. What about you? How come youre still in town? she inquired wishing to forget Chris Larabee and his stupid, gorgeous smile and the infuriating way he had of making her feel for him even when he was behaving like a complete jackass.
There was a slight pause before her oldest friend answered. Lets just say Im developing a taste for something southern.
Continues in Wednesday
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