Jordan had been in the shower, but he’d heard the water stop running about ten minutes ago. He’d been busy making phone calls ever since he’d had privacy, but knew that his window of opportunity would be ending soon. Blue had texted him saying he’d be at his place in the next half hour, but Vincent wasn’t sure how that was possible unless his friend had broken every traffic law in the book to get to Key West so fast.
But he didn’t care about that now. He cared about keeping Jordan safe and bringing Celia Olson out into the open. He wasn’t even sure if his plan would work, if he’d even be able to get her to follow the tracker once he was in motion, but he had to try. The woman’s violent actions spoke volumes so it stood to reason she wanted to come at Jordan again. Vincent was going to make sure he took care of that tonight. Or try his hardest.
In addition to Blue he’d called in other men he trusted from Red Stone to help, and while he hated asking for favors like this, he’d do whatever it took to keep Jordan safe. Now he just had to lay out his plan and hope she was okay with it. Or at least okay enough that she didn’t try to pinch his nipple off again.
She still hadn’t responded to his admission about buying her a ring and he wasn’t sure he wanted her to just yet. Hell, he wasn’t even sure why he’d told her at all. He should have waited until after this whole mess was over, but he’d needed her to know how much she’d meant to him. How much she still meant to him. He loved her, plain and simple. Part of him had never stopped. The only time he ever felt completely whole was when he was with her and that hadn’t changed. Even when he was angry at her, being with her just felt right. He didn’t want anyone else.
His cell buzzed in his pocket, the alert letting him know the privacy gate was opening. What the hell? His sister understood the importance of staying away from here and he knew the rest of his family wouldn’t be coming by. He’d already subtly checked in with them and they were all still in Miami. And no one else had the code.
Tense, he withdrew his weapon from the back of his waistband and hurried from the kitchen to the living room. He eased back the thick drapes a fraction to see outside. It was already dark, but he’d turned on the floodlights so that it illuminated the property, including the driveway.
A dark SUV pulled into the driveway and moments later his friend Blue stepped out. Tall and huge, the man had been drafted by an NFL team over a decade ago but then 9/11 had happened and he’d joined the Marines as an officer instead. Apparently everyone who’d known him had been surprised, but after working side by side with him, Vincent wasn’t. Even though Blue had been a Marine he’d been attached to Vincent’s SEAL team on multiple occasions for vessel boarding search and seizure missions, among other things. He was too big for cave clearing missions, but that was about the only damn thing the man hadn’t been able to do. He’d stayed in the Marines long after Vincent had left the Navy and had only recently been hired at Red Stone. While Vincent trusted him more than most men, he wanted to know how the fuck he’d known Vincent’s address or how he’d gotten the code for the gate. He hadn’t told him either of those yet.
When he heard one of the bedroom doors shut, he let the drape fall back into place as Jordan walked out from the hallway wearing tan shorts and a blue spaghetti strap top that showed off way too much skin. Shoving back his possessive side, he held a finger to his lips and pointed for her to head back to the bedrooms.
For a moment she looked as if she might argue, but then she nodded and did as he said. As she left, he turned off the alarm, switched off the lights in the house then crept to the front door. He kept his weapon loose at his side as he eased open the front door.
Blue was on his phone arguing with someone as he shut the driver’s door. When he saw Vincent, he muttered something too low for him to hear and slid his phone in his back pocket. Dressed in similar attire as Vincent, Blue strode toward him, but Vincent shut the front door and stepped outside.
He wasn’t letting the other man inside until he had some answers. “How’d you know the code? And how’d you know where this place is?”
Blue scrubbed a hand over his dark hair that he still wore military short. “Zoe gave it to me.”
A range of emotions surged through Vincent as he looked at his friend, then the SUV, but he sheathed his weapon. “You’re the one who picked her up earlier. You’ve been in the city since I contacted you.” He wasn’t asking.
He nodded, his expression wary. “I would have come sooner, but I couldn’t.”
He tried to rein his temper in. “You and Zoe?” Yeah, he couldn’t ask the rest of that question.
“It’s not what you think. She’s in trouble and needed my help. She refused to ask you. It’s why I’m here with her.”
“Zoe’s in trouble? What’s going on?” Shit, and he’d kicked her out of their family home? He’d thought he was keeping her safer being away from him and Jordan. “And why didn’t she come to me?”
“Listen, V, I’m not getting in the middle of anything with you and your family. Zoe needed help, and I think she was too embarrassed to ask you. That’s all I can tell you. She’ll probably rip off my nuts for even doing that much, but I told her I had to come clean. I don’t like lying to you.”
“She gave you the code?”
“Is she safe now?”
His head tilted to the side, his expression incredulous. “Seriously, man? I wouldn’t have left her otherwise. Got an old friend staying with her until we sort out…her issues. He’s trained.”
Vincent wanted to call her, hell, to go see her and demand some answers but now wasn’t the time. Maybe he should send Blue back to his sister. He had other friends arriving soon. They could handle this situation.
“I can see what you’re about to say and the answer is no. Zoe practically forced me to come here. I…didn’t want to leave her but she said if you were actually asking for help it must be important. She had a few other choice words for how dumb you were to be helping some female and after I pointed out the irony of her statement, she punched me in the arm. So here I am and I’m not going anywhere until your woman is safe.”
He nodded once, knowing he’d have to wait to talk to his sister later. If Blue said she was safe, he believed him. “Thanks. Come on, Jordan’s inside. I want you to meet her and we can go over the plan.”
Once inside he turned some of the lights back on and headed for his and Jordan’s room. He found her hiding in the closet with one of his weapons. “Everything okay?” she whispered, her grip tight on the pistol.
He nodded and held out a hand for it. She immediately gave it to him and rushed into his arms. He kissed the top of her head. “My friend’s here.”
At that she tensed and he knew why. Earlier he’d told her he’d be handling everything by himself and leaving her with Blue. “I can’t just stay here while you go off in danger. Not when this whole situation is my fault.” The guilt threading through her voice slammed through him.
Stepping out into the room, he placed the weapon on one of the dressers and turned her to face him. “None of this is your fault.”
Her expression tight, she placed a hand on his chest. “I brought this whole mess into your life, Vincent. And I’m so sorry. For more than just this, for everything. For leaving, for—”
“Enough with the apologies,” he growled, putting his hand over hers and squeezing. “None of this is your fault. This woman has clearly been stalking you. Probably because you put her half brother in jail. I don’t care what the reason is. I just don’t want you blaming yourself and I don’t want to hear you say you’re sorry again. I need to help you, so let me. Please.” She belonged to him and he took care of his own.
She nodded slowly, but he could still see the hesitation in her eyes. “Okay, but don’t shut me out. I want to help.”
He didn’t want her anywhere near what he had planned, but he nodded anyway. Though he wouldn’t shut her out, he wasn’t letting her be physically involved in this in any way. Hell no. “Come on. Let’s go over the plan and you can tell me what you think.”
* * * * *
Celia Olson watched the steady red blip on her screen. Almost all day the red blip had stayed at one location and it had been too difficult for her to get inside that house or property by herself. The wall had been way too high to climb without anyone seeing her. And right now she had to be invisible. She couldn’t afford to make any mistakes, and getting noticed by a random witness was stupid and something she refused to let happen.
It was how her brother Curtis had been caught. Because of a stupid mistake. He thought he could kidnap that clothing store owner with no backup so instead of waiting for her, in his arrogance, he had gone alone. And gotten taken down by a single woman with a Taser. The only smart thing Curtis had done was lie to the Feds and tell them their brother Corey had helped him in kidnapping and torturing all those women. Corey hadn’t been involved at all. He’d been terrified of both her and Curtis. Sure he hadn’t minded robbing people with her all those years ago, but simple robbery was where he drew the line. When she’d wanted to involve him in other things he’d called her a sick pervert and kicked her out of his life.
She’d planned to kill him then, but he’d known. It was why he’d been in hiding for so long until she’d finally managed to hunt him down and kill him a few months ago. He’d been so wasted that shoving that knife in his gut had been child’s play. Leaving him to bleed out behind that bar in Texas had been the perfect way to dispose of him. She thought it was what Curtis had wanted but after she’d murdered Corey, Curtis had killed himself in prison.
She still didn’t believe that. There was no way her brother would have offed himself. It had been virtually impossible to stay in touch with him over the years. Occasionally she sent him letters under the guise of being one of his groupies, but she’d never known for sure if he’d recognized the letters as being from her. Because he’d never responded to any of them.