Home > The Runaway (Barrett Boys #1)

The Runaway (Barrett Boys #1)
Author: Jordan Ford


1

 

 

Spiking Memories

 

 

I can’t do this anymore.

This life.

It’s not right.

“Ah! Please!” Jena begs, spittle lining her lips, mingling with the tears streaming from her eyes. “I’m just a little late. I’ll get the money, I promise. Please, Marlo. Please.”

Luis hits her again, his black eyes no doubt glinting with pleasure. The sound of knuckles pummeling flesh makes me flinch.

I look away from the woman who’s cowering on the ground before Luis, and our boss—Marlo Sloan.

He’s a big man. An offensive lineman type with beefy fists and a tree-trunk neck. His jet-black hair is shaved to nearly nonexistent. I’m guessing it’s to hide the spreading gray, but I wouldn’t dare say it to him. He’s always in a black suit no matter the weather or the occasion. He likes to think of himself as the kingpin of these grimy streets and garbage-smelling alleys.

Scratching the Viking tattoo on his neck, Sloan swipes a finger under his nose and sniffs. “You promised me that money last month. I did you a favor. I helped you out when you needed it, and now it’s time to pay up.”

“I don’t have the money on me right now.” She whimpers and starts crying into the back of her hand.

I stare down at her, seeing someone else—a small, skinny woman with mouse brown hair and large gray eyes. She used to whimper just the same. Plead with my old man to calm down between hits. It never worked. He was a rage monster, and she’d dive between me and my brothers when she could.

As Luis raises his fist again, I’m transported back to our small, three-bedroom house in Florida. The paper-thin walls, the roaches in the bathroom sink, the lumpy mattress I used to share with Deeks and Cooper.

It didn’t used to be that way. But Dad lost his job after a head injury at work. It took him months to recover, and then he couldn’t find another job.

His solution?

Let’s welcome Jack Daniels into the family.

Things were never the same again. He always had a little asshole in him, but Jack awakened the beast.

Mom tried to protect us, but I’d still crawl into bed with belt marks on my back while she sat curled on the floor, dabbing blood off her swollen lips.

And now I’m seeing it again. Watching a woman who looks scarily like my mother getting pelted for not paying back a debt in time. Part of me wants to step in and stop this, but I can’t. I’m nobody on Sloan’s crew.

I’m a twenty-year-old lackey who does what he’s told without question.

How the hell did I end up here?

Memories of a ranch in Montana flitter through the back of my brain. I shut them off. I can’t go there. Remembering only leads to pain.

This is my life now.

I’m Michael Adams.

Jena whimpers again, sucking in a sob and wailing when Luis yanks her head back so Sloan can bend down and spit in her face, “Three days, Jena. You better have that money, or Luis won’t be so kind next time.”

The fear on Jena’s face is so stark I can taste it. I know that fear. I’ve lived it.

I don’t want to be Michael Adams anymore.

I want to be a Barrett again.

It was a name I wore with pride for the best years of my life. A name I don’t currently deserve.

What kind of asshole stands there not doing anything to help a bleeding woman?

I turn away from the sight of blood trickling out of Jena’s mouth, clenching my jaw against the bile burning my throat.

“Let’s go.” Sloan flicks his head at me, and I follow my boss to the SUV parked at the end of the alley.

Unable to help myself, I glance over my shoulder and spot Jena. She’s still on the ground, dabbing her lip just the way Mom used to.

A vile taste fills my mouth. Slipping behind the wheel, I drive my boss back to the warehouse on the northern outskirts of Dallas. He likes to call it headquarters, like it’s some top-secret spy base, but really it’s just a storage warehouse that he uses as a front to launder money and peddle drugs.

“Stupid woman. Never take pity on ex-girlfriends,” Sloan mutters from the back seat, wiping his hands as though the act of watching someone get pummeled makes him dirty. Throwing the rag at Luis, he sniffs and looks out the window.

He usually doesn’t join his goons on a debt-collecting mission, but he dated Jena for nearly a year, which makes it personal.

I grip the wheel and make the drive a smooth one. I’m always more tense when Sloan joins us. Usually I’m sent off with Johnny to take care of Sloan family business. I’ve been driving and delivering or collecting packages for nearly two years.

When I first scored this job, I thought I was the luckiest guy on the planet.

I’d been caught pickpocketing Sloan’s sister, and I thought for sure I was a dead man. But she took a shine to my skinny, underfed ass, and her older brother reluctantly let me into his crew. It’s pretty impossible to say no to Chanel Sloan.

I did everything I could to prove myself worthy, and he’s kept me around.

But now I want out.

I can handle collecting and delivering bags of money, and dealing with wrapped packages that I can pretend I don’t know the contents of. What I can’t stomach is the retribution Sloan dishes out to anyone who doesn’t do what he wants when he wants. He usually gives the brutal jobs to Luis and Buster, because they don’t have hearts.

I thought for a while that maybe I didn’t either, but watching Jena get beat today…

I can’t do that again.

I’ve gotta get out of here.

 

 

2

 

 

It’s Time to Go

 

 

We arrive at the storage warehouse, and I park in the usual spot around back. Sloan struts into his empire while I take my time getting out of the SUV. Maybe if I sit here long enough, Luis will leave and I can floor it to the exit. But he stays in here with me, slapping my shoulder. “Let’s go, Mike.”

I slam the door behind me, my mind churning with escape plans. I’m a good runner. I always have been. It’s my MO, and it’s kept me safe in the past, but I’ve never worked for a guy like Marlo before. I’ve never been part of a crew, and I highly doubt they’re just gonna let me wave goodbye and saunter out the door. I’ve seen too much. I know how illegal their entire operation is. I may not have graduated high school, but I’m not stupid. I’ve got eyes. I know exactly what’s going on in this place, and if they thought I was gonna rat them out, they’d kill me before I could open my mouth.

Besides, I need some resources. I learned years ago that you can’t make it on thin air. I’m a pretty good pickpocket, and I have shoplifting down to an art form, but I haven’t had to do that in a couple of years, and do I really want that life again?

Not knowing where my next meal is gonna come from?

Wondering if I’ll be sleeping on the street that night?

Shit!

Maybe I should just stay.

Without warning, a vibrant image of Grandpa Ray illuminates my brain. His wise old face that I adored more than any other takes me out. I hover in the doorway, frozen by memories of a past life. A big ranch house that was my everything.

I usually avoid thinking about it at all costs, but the yearning inside of me is so strong my chest hurts.

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