As he continued with the ointment and bandages, Grant finally spoke. “What the hell is going on with you two? And don’t give me some bullshit story. After the drive-by, the explosion and now some gang members attacking you, why the hell aren’t you going into protective custody?”
Porter already hated involving his brother this much. “I already told you—”
“I know what you told me and I also know you. Do not fucking lie to me anymore,” Grant growled.
Porter met his angry gaze in the rearview mirror, but before he could speak, Elizabeth beat him to it.
“It’s my fault.” Her voice was quiet, but strong and he realized she was going to tell Grant the truth so he didn’t try to stop her. “Benny left me a key. Porter thinks it’s to a safe deposit box and I agree with him.” She shot Porter a quick look, then returned her gaze to the front seat. “We need to see what’s inside it since it’s obviously tied to why Orlando wants me dead.”
“Captured,” Porter corrected quietly.
“What?” Frowning, she turned to look at him.
“That gang member said they needed to take you alive. Which means Orlando wants to use you as a bargaining chip against Benny. Possibly for whatever’s in that safe deposit box.” Porter looked at his brother again. “We need to get whatever’s in that box first and I don’t need you involved. You’re a cop and if it’s illegal you’ll have an ethical duty to report it.”
Grant was silent for a long moment, then finally gave a short nod. “I don’t like it, but you’re right. And I’m still following you to whatever bank you’re going to. If any of Orlando’s guys get a bead on your location, I want to be nearby, especially since you can’t bring a weapon inside.”
Porter nodded. “Fine with me. Lizzy?” He couldn’t help but call her by the nickname as he looked at her.
“What if the contents of the box are illegal?” she murmured even though Grant could hear her.
Porter didn’t even want to go there because he knew he’d break a lot of laws to keep her damn brother out of trouble. Not for Benny, but for Lizzy. That scared the shit out of him. But he couldn’t say that in front of Grant. “We’ll deal with that once we open it, okay?”
Expression grim, she nodded. “Okay. I…I trust you.”
It almost seemed to pain her to say the words, but it touched him she’d even opened up to Grant. By telling his brother what was going on it was obvious she trusted his family to some extent.
The longer Porter was around her, the more he realized that walking away from her after this bullshit with her brother and Orlando Salas was over, was going to be damn near impossible.
Lizzy clasped her hands tightly together in her lap as she stared at the bank looming across the street from her and Porter. The simple building with palm trees and an American flag outside it shouldn’t be intimidating.
“You have nothing to be nervous about. As soon as Grant lets us know the bank is clear, you’re good to go inside.” Next to her in the driver’s seat of the car Grant had retrieved for them, Porter was once again the epitome of calmness. He didn’t need to say a damn word. The man just made her feel safe simply by being here. After seeing him in action more than once, she knew there was no one she’d rather be with right now than him.
She was thankful for that. For so many years she’d been cleaning up Benny’s messes on her own. On an intellectual level she knew she was only enabling her brother. But she didn’t know how to stop helping him. Turning her back on him seemed cruel when she was the only family member who would have anything to do with him. Having Porter helping her even when she knew what he thought about her brother was a huge relief. She hadn’t even realized how stressful taking care of Benny had become until now, when she had someone sharing the burden. “I know. It’s just not knowing if this is even the right bank. What if it’s not?”
Porter shrugged, those broad shoulders lifting casually. “Then we keep hunting until we find the right one. But…this is one of the most secure banks in Miami and the key looks almost exactly like mine. Your brother might be a junkie but he doesn’t strike me as stupid. This is the place he’d hide something important.”
Her first instinct was to defend Benny at Porter’s use of the word junkie, but he’d almost said the words absently as he intently scanned the area around them for possible threats. He wasn’t insulting her brother, just stating a fact. Benny was a junkie. Even if he had been clean for a little while, he had an addiction problem. If it wasn’t drugs, it was gambling. She needed to come to terms with it and stop making excuses.
Lizzy looked out her tinted window again. The row of tall, skinny palm trees in front of the two story bank swayed in the gentle breeze across the street. And the steady stream of people who had been milling in and out of the international bank only half an hour before had thinned to an almost nonexistent trickle. After another few minutes passed, only one man in a suit stood under the stone overhang outside the building talking on his cell phone. “Can I use your phone again? I want to check my voicemail.” Porter’s cell was encrypted so she had no worries of them being traced if she used it. Since she’d thrown hers out, she’d been trying to check her voicemail as much as possible on the chance Benny called with more information.
Porter nodded as he pulled it out of his pants pocket and handed it to her. Now that they were both wearing regular clothes and she’d had a chance to brush her hair—and thank God brush her teeth—she felt more like her old self again. Not completely, but anything was better than running around in that dress with no shoes on. The sneakers Grant had brought for her were a little big, but they were cushioned and helped with her soreness.
She quickly dialed her number then punched in the voicemail code. After deleting a message from her mother, and her oldest brother Santos, the bottom of her stomach fell out when she heard Orlando Salas’s unmistakably cruel voice on the other end. “I have something you want and you have something I want. Let’s make a trade. If not, the thing you want will disappear. Forever. Call me to make arrangements. And if you tell your fucking bodyguard about this…well, people disappear all the time.” He left a number which she immediately memorized.
She could feel the color from her face drain as the call ended so she slightly turned away from Porter, hoping he wouldn’t notice. She wasn’t ready to tell him about this call just yet. Especially since Orlando had not-so-subtly threatened him too. Instead of deleting or saving it, she replayed it again. Her hand tightened around the phone, her palm slick with perspiration. She could only assume the ‘thing’ she wanted was Benny. Orlando had been very careful to leave a fairly generic message. Sure the last bit was threatening, but it was nothing that could get him in trouble with the law. Sneaky bastard. Once she’d heard the number again and was sure she’d committed it to memory, she snapped Porter’s phone shut and handed it to him.
“You okay?” he asked, concern in his deep voice and in every line of that handsome face. The man didn’t miss a thing. Those eyes of his were so damn searching, so…full of warmth it nearly undid her.
Instead of answering she asked what had been on her mind the past twenty-four hours. “Why are you helping me, Porter? You don’t owe me anything. You could have turned me over to your brother and let the cops deal with all this. After today I wouldn’t blame you if you did just that.”
Something flashed in his eyes, something predatory and primal. It was gone so fast but she knew she hadn’t imagined it. “I can’t not help you, Lizzy. I’d do any damn thing you asked me to.” He ground the words out, as if admitting it was painful.
For the second time in minutes, her stomach dropped. Because of what he’d said and his use of her nickname. His voice always softened when he called her Lizzy and she liked it a little too much. “What—”
The buzz of Porter’s phone made Lizzy jump. They both looked at it in his palm. “It’s Grant,” he said as he snapped it open. “Yeah?”
A few ‘yeahs’ later, he shut the phone once again and looked at her. That heat was still simmering in his gaze. “You’re good to go. Grant’s inside the lobby.” Turning around, Porter grabbed a ball cap from the backseat and handed it to her. “Not super spy material as far as disguises go, but tuck your hair into this and keep your head down. I’m right here, watching you the whole time. We have no idea how many eyes Orlando has on the street. It’s better if we’re not seen together right now.”
She nodded. They’d already gone over this a few times in the past couple hours. Porter had wanted to wait until after the lunch rush to check out the safe deposit box so they’d had time to kill. Having him reassure her that he had her back eased her fear. “Porter…” She didn’t know how to put any of her feelings into words. Not when he’d been so amazing. Pushy and bossy sometimes? Definitely.
But the man had stood by her when he had no reason to. They weren’t in a relationship and she’d broken up with him. Yet here he was, watching her back. For that alone she wanted to tell him about the message from Orlando but she couldn’t find the words. Orlando had threatened Porter and she couldn’t bear the thought of him getting hurt. And what if Porter told his brother about it? Then the cops would get involved and might get her brother killed…No, she needed to see exactly what was in the box first before she made any big decisions.
Guilt swamped through her at not telling Porter but she shoved it back down. Leaning forward, she took his face in her hands and full on kissed him. Tangling her tongue with his, she took a few precious seconds to savor the spicy taste of him. Porter seemed caught off guard for all of a millisecond, but he didn’t hold anything back in the kiss. It was raw, hungry and she felt his sensuous strokes all the way to her toes. Heat built inside her, sweeping through her like a tidal wave until she had to force herself to pull back.