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“Okay, if you don’t want to help, don’t help. But if something happens to Hawk and Gwen gains seventy pounds by going on a diet of pure cookie dough, don’t come to Nordstrom’s and expect to use my employee discount!” she snapped then flipped her phone closed and stated, “He’ll run the searches. He likes Armani suits.”

“I can’t believe you did that, Trace, he could get into trouble.”

“Well, sure, but Hawk could also get dead.”

This was true.

I whimpered.

Tracy’s voice got soft. “It’s going to be okay, babe.”

I pressed my lips together and turned on 15th.

My phone rang when we were on the sidewalk; I saw it said Tack Calling so I looked at Tracy.

“Can you get us coffees? I have to take this.”

She looked at my phone then at me then she nodded and headed toward The Market on Larimer.

I flipped the phone open and put it to my ear.

“Tack.”

“Peaches, how long they give you?” he asked.

“They didn’t,” I answered.

There was silence then, “All right, babe, there’s bad news and that’s all I got.”

My heart squeezed so I squeezed my eyes shut too to try to block out the pain.

“What’s the bad news?” I whispered.

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“We went in soft to every place we know Roarke works dirty. We got nothin’. We’re outta leads.”

Shit!

I opened my eyes. “I know someone who’s a mortgage broker. He’s checking databases now. If he gets anything you haven’t got, can I feed it to you?”

“Don’t wait, babe, get his ass on it and call me.”

“Thanks,” I whispered.

“Later,” he replied then hung up.

I looked down the street where Tracy had disappeared.

Then I made a decision.

I flipped my phone open and went to my text screen.

Then I typed in, I can’t get to her but if you trade Hawk for me, you got Tack, Chaos MC, Hawk’s boys and probably Mitch Lawson who’ll find her and trade Ginger for me. No tricks. No joke. Him for me and you get Ginger. Deal?

I hit send and stood on the sidewalk waiting. People might have passed but I didn’t notice. I just stood there staring at my phone.

Then it chirped.

I flipped it open.

She’s at 83 Bannock. You get her, text. That’s the deal.

Shit! How did I get my sister out of an FBI safe house?

Shit!

My phone chirped again and I looked down at it.

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Call off Chaos or you’ll get a body to bury.

I closed my eyes.

Then I opened them, flipped my phone shut, flipped my phone open and headed to my car as I called Tack.

Tracy would find her way home. She’d be pissed but she’d find her way home. And that home wouldn’t be a penitentiary which was where I was headed.

If I was lucky.

I got Tack’s voicemail, left a message that called him off, flipped my phone shut, got in my car and headed to 83 Bannock.

I sat in my car on Bannock two houses down from 83, staring at it and thinking it was a rather nice house and didn’t look like a safe house at all. Not, of course, that I knew what safe houses looked like but still.

I flipped my phone open and I went to my texts.

I typed in, Before I do this, I want proof Hawk’s all right. No pictures. I want to hear his voice.

Then I hit send.

I sat again in suspended time as I stared at my phone.

It rang, unknown caller, I sucked in breath, flipped it open and put the phone to my ear.

“Hello,” I whispered.

“Baby, do not do this shit,” Hawk growled in my ear and my eyes filled with tears as they closed.

“I’m doing it, Cabe,” I whispered, the tears sliding down my cheeks.

“Do not do it, Gwen.”

“I’m drowning,” I was still whispering.

“Gwen –”

“In you and I don’t want to come up for air.”

“Fuck. Baby –”

I heard the phone jostle then a man told me, “Do it. Text.”

Then I got dead air.

My head hit the steering wheel but I didn’t feel it or see it. My eyes were still closed and tears were streaming down my face.

Baby.

That was burned on my brain too.

Baby.

“Oh God,” I whispered, opened my eyes and stared at my thighs. “If I pull this off, Ginger, please, please forgive me.”

My breath hitched and it did it painfully, burning my throat.

Baby, do not do this shit.

Another sob tore from my throat.

Do not do it, Gwen.

My hands went to the steering wheel and held on.

Do not do it…

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My fingers were curled around the steering wheel but I didn’t feel the wheel, I felt fingers curled around mine, my hand was little and they engulfed mine. In my mind, I looked up and saw Meredith with her wedding veil over her face smiling down at me.

Her fingers squeezed mine, warm and tight.

I felt my tears wet on my jeans.

Shit. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t turn over my sister, my Dad and Meredith’s daughter for my man. I couldn’t do it.

I let the steering wheel go and covered my face with my hands as the sobs burned up my throat, so powerful, they shook my shoulders.

“Baby,” I cried into my hands that picture in the Polaroid all I could see against my closed eyelids. “Oh God, baby,” I whispered as my shoulders heaved.

The passenger door flew open, my back shot straight, my head turned and through my tears I stared in stunned shock as Ginger jumped into the passenger seat.

“What the –?” I breathed.

“Drive!” she shouted.

“What?” I asked.

“Drive, bitch, drive!” she screamed.

I blinked then straightened, turned the key in the ignition and shot from the curb.

Chapter Thirty-Six

Commando Woman Lesson One

“Not my gig, Gwennie, but those shoes are hot,” Ginger said through a mouth full of Mustard’s Last Stand, Vienna beef, Chicago style, chili-cheese hotdog.

Mustard’s Last Stand had always been Ginger’s favorite and that was where she wanted to go after escaping her protective custody safe house when she saw my car on the street with me sitting in it having a mental collapse. So I headed to University Boulevard, bought her a chili-cheese dog and then we drove to the Target parking lot on Colorado Boulevard so she could eat it. The whole time to and from, Ginger checked for a tail and declared we didn’t have one.

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