He began running across the hard surface toward a stack of decaying wooden crates. Considering he was carrying her, his fast, measured movements were impressive. Moments later he set her down and they hunkered behind the crates.
When he took off his jacket, she frowned. “What are you doing?”
He ripped the arm sleeves off and gently took one of her feet in his hands. “I’d give you my shoes but you’d only trip all over yourself and carrying you isn’t a long term option. As soon as we get out of here, I promise to take care of your feet,” he whispered. Gingerly, he began wrapping one of her soles with the torn sleeve. His gentleness had the potential to undo her.
The moment the cloth made contact with her exposed skin, the pain hit. Her feet were raw and bloody and now that they’d slowed down, a splintering ache ran up her legs, making all her nerve endings tingle in awful awareness.
The sound of car doors slamming in the distance made her want to scream in frustration. But she held it back as Porter secured the ripped cloth around her other foot.
Using his hands, he motioned behind them to a door with a burned out EXIT sign above it. Understanding, she nodded and followed.
It felt as if tiny knives dug into her soles with each quiet step she made.
“Find the woman!” An accented male voice reverberated off the interior of the warehouse. “Kill the man if necessary, but keep her alive.”
Her eyes widened at the vicious orders, but Porter didn’t even falter in front of her. Footsteps echoed behind them but they quickly continued onward. They had limited cover right now and unless they got outside soon they’d be discovered.
As they reached the exit door with the blacked out window, Porter slowed, then eased it open a fraction. It slightly squeaked, the sound overly pronounced to her. Glancing through the small opening, Porter nodded that it was clear outside before they slipped through.
Blood rushed loudly in her ears as he gingerly shut the door behind them. Before she could ask what their next move was, he pointed to the right. Two similar looking buildings stood next to the one they’d come out of and the back alley led directly to a street.
The sounds of cars and city life seemed so far away but she knew if they could just get to some semblance of civilization they’d be able to blend in better. Or at least find a place to hide.
As they ran down the back alley toward the street, Porter pulled out his cell phone and dialed someone. “Grant, I need your help. Now.”
Despite the pounding in her chest and the bitter taste of fear coating her mouth, she allowed herself a small breath of relief. Help was on the way.
Orlando tightened his hand around his phone but refrained from slamming it to the pavement by his pool. Instead he shoved it into his pocket then flexed his fingers.
“What did they say?” Miguel asked, referring to Juan and Eddie Ortega, the two brothers of the Seventy Ninth Street gang he’d hired to do his dirty work.
Orlando turned at the sound of his cousin’s voice, anger a live thing inside him. One of the bimbos who frequented his house strolled up with Miguel, a glass of champagne in her hand. Orlando knocked it out of her hands. “Get the hell out of here!”
With wide eyes she scampered away, leaving Miguel shaking his head. “Damn, cousin, you’ve got to stop scaring the girls.”
“Fuck them,” Orlando snarled. “And fuck Juan and Eddie. They can’t do anything right.” He’d hired them because they didn’t have direct ties to his organization. And they were fairly cheap labor. He should have used his own guys for this operation. Better yet, he should have handled it himself. But he’d gotten a tip from a local junkie this morning who said he’d seen Elizabeth and Porter at some roach motel and it had been close to the Ortega’s neighborhood.
Orlando had put word out on the street to be on the lookout for Elizabeth and sure enough, a tip had eventually come through. Some people would do anything for money, especially drug addicts.
“You see the news?” Miguel asked quietly.
Orlando gritted his teeth. Yet another disaster. Using an RPG in the middle of Miami? It drew way too much attention and could have killed Elizabeth, screwing up his entire plan. “I don’t know what they were thinking,” he muttered.
His cousin shrugged. “They got overzealous. Wanted to impress you.”
Miguel’s casual attitude annoyed him, but he bit back a response. Right now he needed his cousin to have his back. Needed someone he could trust on the streets. Especially with Benny still out there. “Have you heard anything about Benny?”
Miguel nodded. “That’s what I wanted to tell you. Got a tip that he’s shacked up with one of his exes. Another junkie who apparently went straight. Heard someone saw him around her place.”
Finally luck was shining down on him. Orlando nodded at two of his guards hovering by the Olympic sized pool a few feet away. “You two come with us.”
Miguel fell in stride with him as they headed toward the house. “You don’t want to send someone?”
“Not this time.” He wanted Benny and he was through depending on anyone else to clean up this mess.
* * * * *
Porter knelt in front of Elizabeth, careful as he removed the strips of bloodied cloth from her feet. She sucked in a hiss of breath once but other than that, didn’t make a sound as he took them completely off.
She sat on the closed toilet lid in the bathroom of a local diner that was open twenty-four hours. Unfortunately it wasn’t far from the motel they’d run from, but while they waited for his brother it was the best place to hide and inspect Elizabeth’s wounds. The tired looking waitress hadn’t glanced twice at them when they’d told her they’d need a minute before ordering. She’d just grunted and nodded as they’d hurried to the restroom in the back of the one-story building. Other than her, there hadn’t been anyone else out front.
“You don’t have to do that.” Elizabeth laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Looking up at her in that rumpled dress, a bad case of bed head and dark circles under her eyes, he just wanted to pull her into his arms and get her the hell out of there. “Yeah I do,” he murmured, looking back down.
Her feet weren’t as bad as he’d originally thought. They were raw but once he got some proper bandages and some serious antibiotics on them, she should be fine. He grabbed a bunch of paper towels and placed them in front of the white sink. There wasn’t a mirror in the place, though that was probably a good thing. Neither of them needed to see what they looked like.
“Can you stand?” he asked.
Laughing under her breath, she nodded. “I’m not going to break, Porter. My feet hurt, but this isn’t that bad.”
As she stood, placing her feet on the paper towels, he put his arm under her shoulders. “Put one foot in the sink.”
After washing the blood away, she repeated the process with the other foot then stepped onto fresh paper towels. As he helped her to sit back down, his phone buzzed once in his pocket. When he saw his brother’s text, telling Porter that he was outside waiting for them, relief flooded sharp and potent inside him. “Grant’s outside,” he told Elizabeth.
“Thank God,” she muttered as she stood.
After throwing away the bloody towels, Porter peered outside to find the small hallway by the restrooms empty. Thankfully the rest of the diner was the same except for the waitress from earlier. Even though she let out a yelp, Porter picked Elizabeth up and carried her out. “I don’t want you walking barefoot on this floor,” he murmured as they hurried through the quiet diner.
“I’m not complaining.” She tightened her grip around his shoulder.
He turned to the side and pushed open the glass door with his hip. The second they stepped outside, Grant jumped out of the front seat of his four-door police-issued sedan.
Even though he had on sunglasses, Porter could see the tenseness in his brother’s shoulders as he approached them. “Shit, you didn’t tell me she was hurt.”
“She is right here and I’m fine. I just need some bandages,” Elizabeth said as she shifted against him.
Instinctively Porter glanced around the parking lot, gauging possible threats as he took her to the back seat of Grant’s car. When he didn’t see anyone, he helped her inside then slid in after her.
Grant immediately got in the driver’s seat. Before Porter could ask if his brother had brought what he’d asked, Grant handed him a plastic shopping bag and a small first aid kit.
“I didn’t know your size, Lizzy so I guessed.” Grant didn’t glance at them as he steered out of the parking lot.
“Put on these new clothes first then I’ll bandage your feet,” Porter said to her when she looked questioningly at the bag Grant had handed them.
“Keep your eyes on the road, Grant,” she muttered as she started pulling clothing out.
His brother grunted a non-response as he zoomed down the road and away from the diner.
Despite the situation, Porter grinned as she hurriedly stripped out of the dress and into the fitted pair of dark jeans and tight black T-shirt. He should have given her a little privacy, but he couldn’t help and sneak a few glances in her direction. After seeing her half naked this morning he was kicking himself for showing so much damn restraint back when they’d been dating. Since she didn’t have a bra Porter could see the outline of her nipples. She cleared her throat and he realized he’d been staring when he caught her gaze.
Her pretty lips pulled together in a thin line. “Do you mind?” she whispered.
Knowing that flirting with her would get him burned he kept his mouth shut, but still couldn’t keep from grinning. “Sorry,” he whispered back.
She shook her head, but he was relieved to see a small smile tug at her lips. “No you’re not.”
He shrugged and patted his leg. “Put your foot up here.”
Using a small bottle from the first aid kit, he poured hydrogen peroxide on her feet. She hissed but didn’t struggle.