Home > Taming Cross(8)

Taming Cross(8)
Author: Ella James

If I let myself believe that this girl—the one inside my pocket, with the happy eyes—was sold off to some drug lord, I'll go fucking crazy.

 

 

THE NEXT MORNING, I wake up early, take my time shaving, and ride back to the library. I take the third-to-last seat in the computer lab, and by the time I'm ears-deep in a story Meredith Kinsey wrote about date rape, a pair of teenage lovebirds come in and take the seats on either side of me. As I lean in to the computer, they lean around me, laughing about something they saw on Snapchat. For some reason, their whispers piss me off. I glance at the dude, giving him more of an evil eye than I intended. He looks like a kid. If Meredith started college at 18 and that was almost eight years ago, that means she’s 25 or 26 now. That means the year that she was 23—my age, Suri’s age, Lizzy’s age—she was on her way to becoming a fucking sex slave.

My desire to know what happened to her amps up a notch, so much so that my hands feel sweaty and my temples throb. How did she get to Vegas? After another hour of searching, plus some credit card fees paid to various databases, I find a missing person report filed a little over four years ago—or rather, I find her on a list of missing people. I can’t get any information about her specific report unless I travel to Georgia, and that would waste too much time. A few minutes later, I’m surprised when I come across a news brief in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It mentions that police are looking for 22-year-old Meredith Kinsey of Albany, Georgia, for questioning in relation to the arrest of Sean Tacoma. I feel almost sick with curiosity.

As I print off a few more of her news stories, it dawns on me that maybe it’s not just curiosity that makes this feel so personal. From the looks of things, Meredith Kinsey had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. I had a fall, too, didn’t I? Had a pretty nice life for a long time. Nicer than most of the rest of the world, I know—even though some of it sucked. Now I’m a disinherited fuckup who can’t even work.

It makes me feel weird about myself. Like I don’t know who I am. Like maybe I’m not anybody anymore. And for some reason, that makes me want to understand who Meredith Kinsey is. I want to know what happened to her. Maybe I just want to see someone else’s route to ruin.

I shove her stories into my back pocket and speed back to the shop. On the way there, I picture myself in a police station, ratting out my father. I grit my teeth. I’d probably get my own ass prosecuted for sitting on what I knew this last year, but I could do it. I still have some of the e-mails I found on my father’s computer, between Priscilla and Jim Gunn, and between Priscilla and my father. Not all of them, but enough that even if he avoided prosecution, he’d be ruined.

The question is: Should I? If I were to tell the cops, would anyone actually go rescue ‘Missy King’? As far as I know, there’s no organization actively sending people out to look for sex slaves. Some of the authorities investigate, yeah, but that seems to be it. Nobody’s going to jump onto their bike and just go searching through Mexico. Not for a former escort. Not for a married man’s mistress. The legal system is fucked up, and people like ‘Missy King’ usually don’t get justice. People like Meredith Kinsey—pretty, educated, scholarship-getting girls whose families file missing person reports…now that’s another story. But I can’t actually prove that Missy King is Meredith. Not yet, anyway.

As I wait at a red light under the dim midday sun, I tick off the verifiable information I know about Missy. Former Vegas escort, working at the Starry Sky Brothel on the Strip and rumored to be the governor's mistress. I know, based on what the Love Inc. shrink told Lizzy, that Missy King was liked, and that some of the Love Inc. girls missed her, and felt like not enough had been done to find her.

Jim Gunn's cousin was a detective in Vegas; still is. Hunter West told me one of the detective’s buddies pulled the Missy King case. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

I roll into the garage and lift my left arm out of its leather band. And for the first time since the wreck, I feel shitty about my hand for a reason that has nothing to do with me. If I wanted to go look for Missy King, or Meredith Kinsey, or whoever the hell the missing woman really is, I'd probably get my one-handed self shot.

I swing off the bike and feel the curtain of darkness drop around me, enclosing me inside a box of dread. Then I look up and spot Lizzy in front of the door that divides the shop and garage.

“Fuck.”

Lizzy grins evilly and holds up a garage remote. “Bet you forgot who watched over the shop while you were sleeping, bro.”

“I didn't forget,” I mutter as I bridge the gap between us. I reach for a strand of her long brown hair and tug it, out of habit. “Just didn't figure you'd go sneaking around like a cat burglar.”

Lizzy curls her hand. “Meow.”

I brush past her and open the door to the show room. She follows me inside, but instead of going upstairs, to the site of the Suri disaster, I slump down into one of the leather chairs beside a restored, hybridized 1967 BMW R 69S. I reach into an old-school Coca-Cola cooler beside the chair and pull out a glass bottle of Sunkist, which I tuck into the crook of my left elbow. Then I grab a Dr. Pepper.

Lizzy stands in front of me with her hands on her slim hips. She reaches out and grabs the Dr. Pepper, but she doesn't open it.

“You know why I'm here.”

I widen my eyes in feigned drama and hold out both hands. “Let me guess: It's an intervention.”

“You could call it that.” She nods, looking shrewd with black Aviators propped up on her head. Also hot, in tight blue jeans and a jade green t-shirt, with diamonds winking in her ears.

I push up the sleeve of my battered button-up, so she can see the permanent skid mark scars inside my elbow. “Too much H?”

She shakes her head. “Too little C.” She narrows her eyes. “I can see you've shaved, and I support that. You went out somewhere, on a bike no less, and I support that, too. But seriously, Cross, I want to know how you are, because Suri's worried about you and I am, too.”

Right—so this is about Suri. I rub my eyes, but I can't complain much. I should have known a long time ago that Suri was getting too...caught up. Lizzy even told me that she was, on the drive to the vineyard on the day that we got hauled off to Mexico. But I didn’t believe her. And after that day’s adventure, I kind of forgot about it. Selfish, thoughtless Cross. I let Suri get and stay close to me, and then I let her lay it all out on the table before I sent her away with her tail between her legs.

Through the web of my fingers, rubbing my eyes, I see Lizzy sink down to the polished cement floor and cross her legs. Looking up at me, she says, “It's not your fault she didn't see straight. She shouldn't have thought you felt the same way just because she hoped you did. She's not upset with you. She’s upset...with herself, I guess.”

I cross my arms over my chest. “That why she hasn't called?”

Lizzy nods.

“She ever gonna call?”

She nods again. “Sometime. Probably soon. I think she's just embarrassed.”

I snort. “No need for that shit. We're all friends, aren't we?” The question comes out sounding kind of like a jab. I feel like a five-year-old, but the truth is, it bugs the shit out of me that Lizzy's just a few weeks away from walking down the aisle to marry Hunter West. Instead of being my friend, she's going to be some other dude's wife. I know it’s immature and patriarchal and whatever else, but it rubs me the wrong way—especially given his history as a womanizer.

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