A lightning bolt of pain rocketed through Trent’s neck and out the other side. He grasped the bleeding wound and fell to one knee, keeping a hard grip on his weapon. Having been shot before, he easily ascertained the severity of the situation, or lack thereof. Shayla’s screams caused a sharp pain to radiate in his ear, adding to the nauseating sensations mixing in his gut.
“It’s just a fucking flesh wound, woman,” he rasped.
Shayla’s screams became blunt and muted, but no less hysterical.
“Calm the fuck down.” The bullet had only grazed his neck, causing a deep enough wound to freak Shayla the hell out. He felt her hands on his neck, attempting to staunch the bleeding. Even as she tried to save his life, Trent wanted to wrap his bloody hands around her neck for getting them into this shit in the first place.
By now, he was positive neither of them were going to die, at least not tonight. Ace and his boys wanted something from Trent, or he and Shayla would be in a hole in his backyard by now.
He pushed Shayla away, and in a calm voice said, “Go get my kit.”
Standing up, Shayla turned and faced the men surrounding them. Unable to get past the wall of armed men, she turned her questioning gaze back to his.
“Let her the fuck by,” Trent croaked, his voice sounding craggy and broken. He felt like a pussy ass fool for letting these men get the jump on him without even getting off a warning shot. Trent caught Ace’s almost indiscernible nod, then watched as Gator turn sideways, leaving a few inches for Shayla to squeeze by.
Ace reached out and grabbed her arm before she made it out the door. “Where is this kit?” he asked, not taking his eyes off Trent kneeling before him.
He motioned to the door. “Hallway bathroom.”
Ace nodded and turned to Shayla. “Don’t make me fuck you up. I don’t like hitting women, but that don’t mean I won’t.”
Shayla nodded. Trent knew she was used to getting slapped around, but the fear in her eyes told him she wouldn’t do anything stupid enough to warrant Ace’s wrath. At this point, neither would he. There was a time when the battle was lost and you had to retreat to find a way out alive. Shayla and Trent were at that point.
“Good girl,” Ace muttered as he let her go. “Follow her, Mutt.” He spoke to the man who’d shot Trent. Crossing his arms over his chest, Ace watched as the two walked down the hall, then turned back. “I meant for that to go much smoother, but ol’ Mutt back there is always quick on the trigger.”
Silence blanketed the room, until Shayla came back with the kit. Lifting up from his kneeling position, Trent sat on the corner of his bed and motioned for her to lay the box down beside him. Opening the box, he pulled some gauze out.
Shayla moved to the other side of the bed and crawled over to Trent. He stopped fussing with the wound as her expert hands took over cleaning and prepping it for bandages. Realizing the gun was still in his hand, Trent lowered it to his lap. He was not giving up his weapon. They fucking owed him as much.
“Why are we still alive?” He made eye contact with the leader.
Ace holstered his weapon. “See this?” He pointed to his vest, the words Ace in the Hole scrolled across the aged leather in antiquated white stitching. A few more patches caught Trent’s eyes, but he kept going back to the phrase.
“You already told me about that.” Trent kept his voice calm, making sure he didn’t rile them up anymore. Getting shot fucking hurt, and not even Shayla’s magic touch was soft enough to ease the burning trail of fire tearing through his neck.
Ace reached into his back pocket causing Trent to tense. He pulled out a lighter and a worn out pack of cigarettes. “Calm down, Marine.” He looked to Mutt as he lit up. “Damn, I said no bloodshed, motherfucker. Now you got him all anxious and shit.”
Mutt shrugged and stroked his beard, his ice-cold eyes boring into Trent’s. “They weren’t scared enough.”
“You are one mean ass dude.” Ace’s chuckle told Trent the guy didn’t give a fuck that he’d been shot.
He held tight to his gun, not sure if the ‘no bloodshed rule’ was still in effect.
“Anyway, I am the man you call in for jobs you don’t have the stomach to do yourself. And maybe in my old age, my stomach ain’t what it used to be.” He took a long draw from his cigarette and released the smoke.
Shayla finished wrapping Trent’s wound and scooted behind him. The motion drew Ace’s eyes to her.
He addressed Trent. “I am gonna ask you a question.”
As if on cue, Gator and Mutt raised their weapons and aimed at her. Her gasp and shudder had Trent reaching around and pulling her closer to his back.
“The answer decides whether you two live or die.” His voice lowered to a whisper. “No more games.” Shaking his head, he knelt down, both elbows propped on his knees. He reached out and traced his thumb through Trent’s blood in the ground. “You love her?”
Trent had never explored the idea of loving Shayla, because he was sure she didn’t know how to be loved. He offered her shelter, affection, and security, and she had proven time and time again that it wasn’t enough. In his eyes, to offer those things was to offer love. So, in his own way, yes, he did love her.
Trent straightened and answered as honestly as he could. “As much as a man can love a thorn in his side that makes him come like a jet rocket.”
Gator burst into laughter, and lowered his gun. Mutt, on the other hand, rolled his eyes, and never once faltered or lowered his weapon.
A whisper of a smile played over Ace’s lips. “You know. That woman is going to get you killed one day.” He stood and wiped his hand on his leather pants. “But not today.” Trent almost released his breath, until Ace continued. “Provided you do me two favors.”
“Fucking two?” Trent’s hand tightened on his gun as the words burst from him. These were not men you wanted to owe one debt to let alone two.
“Marine.” Mutt’s tone implied it was a reprimand, his eyes on the gun in Trent’s possession. With a menacing step forward, he aimed his gun at the hand holding it.
Ace continued, his conversational tone easing a bit of the tension, at least until Trent heard what he was saying. “The hit was placed for you and her. And since I am sparing both of your lives, you owe me two debts.” He looked down, staring pensively at his gun. “Or I can kill her, and you’ll owe me just one.” His indifferent tone reminded Trent of who the fuck he was dealing with.
Trent glanced between Ace and his buddies. “What’s the first favor?” He wanted to make it out of this alive, and as much as he abhorred the idea of owing them a damned thing, Trent knew he didn’t have a choice.
Gator rubbed his hands together conspiratorially, a wide grin spreading across his face. “Murder and mayhem.”
Shayla’s grip on Trent tightened. He slightly leaned back into her, offering his presence as some form of support. The men spread out around them.
“Hand me the gun.” Ace’s tone brokered no room for argument.
Reluctantly, Trent handed him the gun and sat back, waiting for whatever the fuck was going to come next. What he wasn’t expecting, were the words that came from Mutt’s mouth, or the sincerity that flowed with them.
“We got a search and rescue mission, a little girl needs saving. And,” he motion to himself and his buddies, “we are the bastards stupid enough to be heading up that shit.”