running from the past Page 16

She ran a hand through her rumpled hair and sighed. “Can you afford to leave? I don’t want—”


Like he’d let her out of his sight. Was she crazy? “Robert can handle everything.


Trust me, this place will survive.”


“Well, I’m pretty much still packed. When do you want to leave?” He glanced at the face of his cell phone. Four o’clock. At least they would beat any traffic. “Now.”


She nodded and half smiled but he could see the worry lines return to her face.


Chapter Ten


Twenty minutes later his bags were packed, along with a cooler of drinks and food so they wouldn’t have to make any stops. Emma still hadn’t spoken more than a couple of words but he was giving her time. He only hoped she would get some sleep once they got on the road. God knew she needed it.


After loading up the truck in the garage and packing Emma in the front seat, all the lights went out.


“Caleb?” he heard Emma whisper and didn’t miss the panic in her voice.


“I’m right here, honey,” he murmured from where he stood by the doorway. “Don’t move. I’m coming to get you.”


His steps across the concrete floor were silent and calculated. Seconds later, he held her delicate hand in his. “Follow me and when I give you the signal, I want you to get low to the ground.” He had experience maneuvering around in the dark but he doubted she did.


“Okay,” she whispered and her grip tightened. His eyes adjusted to the darkness as they maneuvered toward the kitchen door.


“Take a step up,” he whispered.


As soon as they moved from the garage and stepped onto the tile of the kitchen, he applied pressure to her hand and pulled her toward the floor. They belly-crawled to the dining room and crouched at the dimly lit entrance. Light streamed in from the windows, giving them some guidance. Though low to the ground, he could see the lights on in the barn, which meant the power going out wasn’t a mistake.


The distant sound of breaking glass somewhere within the house caused Emma to jump but he put a finger to his lips signaling her silence. She complied and nodded, giving him reassurance that she wouldn’t freak out and give away their position. If it was Ricardo and his gut told him it was, he probably had the house surrounded.


As quietly as humanly possible, he asked Emma, “How many men does he normally have with him?”


She held up four fingers in response.


Not great odds but not terrible either. Chances were Ricardo hadn’t had much time to call in a lot of backup, especially if he was trying to leave Miami unnoticed. If only Caleb could get Emma to safety first. He gave her one of his guns and an extra magazine. Her eyes widened almost unnaturally but she took it without complaint.


Staying in the crouching position, they shimmied to the side door in the dining room. From outside, it was hidden from view because of bushes and an oversized fig tree. Not to mention, the sensory lights hadn’t gone off once. Since the lights weren’t connected to the main power, he was fairly certain no one was waiting to ambush them.


A loud thud, then two curses from somewhere in the house reverberated in the silence. He thought he heard steps coming down the hallway but couldn’t be sure, so he made a choice. They couldn’t stay in the house any longer. If it was just him, he’d go on the offensive but he couldn’t take a chance with Emma’s life.


He opened the door and said a silent prayer that his gut instinct didn’t fail him.


They both crawled out onto the grass and hugged the side of the house. The sensory lights pointed in the other direction, so they crawled behind a cluster of bushes shadowing the small corner of the house. With Emma in front of him, he kept his gun trained on the door.


If he could just get her to the fence line, she could crawl to safety and he could take care of the men in his house. Without the proper night vision equipment or even extra magazines, he felt devoid of his battle gear. Five years had passed since he’d been in a combat situation but some things a man never forgot. If it became necessary, he would kill with his bare hands.


He crawled in front of her and scanned the fence line and nearby trees. He couldn’t see anyone or even a slight giveaway of human movement. They were probably all in the house, expecting them to be unarmed and sleeping. He handed her his cell phone and spoke softly in her ear. “Listen carefully. I want you to sprint to the fence line, then belly-crawl the length of it to the edge of the woods.” She was small enough that she would be completely hidden by the bottom plank if she stayed low. Thankfully, she seemed to understand because she didn’t raise a brow at his orders.


“Call Robert. Tell him to call the local police and the Feds.”


“What about you?” she finally whispered.


He shook his head and ignored the incessant hammer of his heartbeat. “Just go.” She shook her head and opened her mouth to protest when a flash from the direction of the barn lit up the sky.


“Now,” he shouted above the noise and shoved her in the opposite direction. This might be the only advantage he got.


Staccato gunfire erupted into the still night air and he knew he wasn’t alone. It’s not as if they were firing at each other, so odds were the men who worked for him had arrived. Most of them were ex-military or just plain southern boys who grew up hunting. He wasn’t worried about them holding their own. He stayed in his position, still scanning the woods for signs of life, until he saw Emma safely disappear behind the fence. Just as he primed himself to head toward the barn, the side door flew open.


Two masked men barreled out with no apparent heed for their own safety. Before either man had a chance to notice him backed against the house, Caleb emptied a couple of rounds into them. They dropped like deflated balloons. Without moving his gun from the protective position, he checked both of their pulses and took both of their guns before proceeding.


The night had grown eerily silent again, all gunfire having completely quieted.


Dying flames danced on what was left of the barn roof. Horses whinnied in the distance and he saw a few by the fence line so he assumed Robert had managed to free them. His only concern however, was Emma’s safety.


He started to move toward the woods when a familiar song rang out from the direction of the woods. Robert was seventy-five percent Native American and for as long as he could remember, had used bird calls as way of communication out in the woods during hunting trips. The familiar sound of the finch alerted him that something was off.


His internal warning bells went off and his gut clenched as a thousand horrid thoughts raced through his mind. Before he had a chance to figure out a plan of attack, two figures emerged from the edge of the woods. One of them was Emma and she had a gun pressed against the base of her spine.


Every couple of steps the man behind her shoved her viciously in the direction of the barn. To her credit, she didn’t make a sound or fight him, which meant she was thinking rationally. Caleb hunkered down and slowly but methodically crawled along the wet grass and earth, sticking to the shadows and trees as he followed them. Since Emma and the man he assumed was Ricardo were heading toward the barn, their backs were half turned to Caleb giving him even more cover than the night. If he’d had a rifle, there would be no problem but he was still fifty yards away and with a pistol, in the dark, it was damn near impossible to take the shot. Not with Emma’s life in the balance.


The only thing that gave him a small sliver of hope was the fact that Emma was still alive. Ricardo probably knew his men were dead and was using her as a hostage to escape. If not, she wouldn’t be walking or breathing. That was the only advantage Caleb had. Ricardo needed her alive.


Years of training kicked in and on some deeper level, he knew his entire life had been building up to this moment. Emma was his other half and he would protect her. It was the law of the jungle, as old as time itself. She was his and he would kill for her.


Emma fought to stay calm. The gun pressed to the back of her spine wasn’t helping but if she wanted to get out of this alive, she had to. She’d been in the middle of calling Robert when Ricardo had come out of nowhere. He’d literally tackled her and taken her gun and phone. She knew Caleb was close by, or at least she hoped he was. Either way, she wasn’t going down without a fight. Ricardo had taken her off guard once, but that wasn’t going to happen again. Now she just had to wait for an opportunity to present itself. If she could take him by surprise, she would have a fighting chance.


“Where are you taking me?” They were rushing toward the barn but she had no idea what his ultimate plan was.


“Shut the fuck up. You’ve caused me enough trouble already.”


“Why did you kill those girls?”


He shoved her so hard she stumbled but at least she didn’t lose her footing. To her surprise, he answered. “They were taking pictures with their cell phones.” So what? Before she could question him further, he continued. “Stupid bitches were taking pictures of me and Carrington. I told those idiots who work for me I didn’t care if they brought whores back to the house but they always seem to bring the biggest morons.”


Carrington? Why did that name sound familiar? She couldn’t worry about that now. Keep him talking. It was the only thing that might work. “So what if they took pictures? Why didn’t you just take their phones away?”


“I tried to,” he growled. “The stupid bitches thought it was hilarious to play keep away with their phones.”


“So you slit their throats?”


“After I beat the shit out of them.”


Her stomach roiled and she swallowed hard in an effort to keep the nausea down.


He spoke so matter-of-factly, as if taking two lives meant nothing. Which they didn’t, at least not to him.


She caught a whiff of ash and smoke as they neared the barn. The flames on the barn were dying down and she saw one of his many cars half-hidden behind two trucks. None of his men were in sight, which meant he probably knew his men were down and he was using her as his hostage. At least she had that going for her. He’d most likely keep her alive until they were off the property. Then he’d dump her in some roadside ditch like a piece of garbage. Not that she planned to give him the chance. If she could stall him long enough, she might be able to make a run for it. She’d rather be wounded or killed trying to escape than being shot execution style.