Read an Excerpt
Ex-Con Part 2
By Katana Collins
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Katana Collins
All rights reserved.
The man in the suit at the bar had looked familiar, though Charlie couldn't exactly place him. And the BMW with the tinted windows that pulled out of the parking lot ahead of them didn't slip her notice either. She knew Remy had men working for him, and it wouldn't surprise her in the least if he was sending his cronies to look out for her. Even after — hell, perhaps even especially after — their exchange earlier that evening. Remy wasn't the kind of man who took kindly to threats.
Her thoughts were interrupted by an abrupt turn that had her sliding shoulder-first against the passenger window, her head hitting the glass with a thud. "Ow," she said, rubbing where she'd bumped it.
"Buckle up," Shane growled, his focus never leaving the road. But she didn't buckle up. Instead she watched in awe as Shane maneuvered her car flawlessly, speeding around other cars and passing them as the flashing blue-and-red lights faded into the distant horizon. The speedometer climbed quickly to ninety and he lounged in the seat, left hand at twelve on the wheel as though this was a joyride on a Sunday afternoon rather than a getaway in the middle of the night after one too many beers. But even though his body language was relaxed, it didn't escape Charlie the way he worried the inside of his cheek, or how sweat dripped down his temples, or the intense, focused lines that tightened his forehead. Though he was the picture of relaxation from afar, once you looked deeper, he was just as afraid as she was of getting caught. His right knee rested against the stick, braced on the middle console as his left worked the clutch like a professional driver. With quick flicks of his eyes to the rearview mirror, he checked for following cops, satisfied with the empty road behind them.
"Don't think we're gonna need the NOS," he said, and eased off the gas. Just as he said that, a cop sped past them, going the opposite direction toward the bar, lights blazing like a disco.
"Shit," Shane cursed, but he didn't slow down. Instead he accelerated, popping the middle cover off the steering wheel, revealing the NOS buttons and dropping the cover into Charlie's lap.
"What are you doing? Slow down!"
"We're going ninety and I got blood covering my knuckles. No way your little friends-and-family card can get us out of this one. And I'm not going down. Not like this. Not because some handsy jackass in a bar had it coming to him."
"He's going to pull you over —"
"Only if he can catch us," Shane said. A sliver of light reflected off the rearview mirror creating a highlighted streak across his face like a mask. Sure enough, the cop's brake lights flashed red, and Charlie turned in her seat watching the Crown Victoria spin in their direction, taking off after them.
"Go!" she shouted. "They're gonna get my license plate if they get any closer."
Shane snorted and the Nova kicked up to 110 miles per hour. "You have a real license plate on a car you street race with?" He shook his head and muttered a curse. "Do you also buy cocaine with a credit card and leave your business card after you rob a house?" "Smart-ass. I liked you better when you didn't talk so much."
"Yeah," he muttered. "I get that a lot."
Charlie stayed perched in her seat, watching out the back window as the cop gained speed. Orange signs blurred past them as they entered a quiet construction zone. The workers had long since gone home, leaving mountains of dirt, orange cones, and equipment. "They're gaining on us," she said.
"No way those Crown Vics can do 120."
"No, but they can get close enough to read my plates. And with their dashboard cameras, they'll definitely be able to trace the car after."
He was quiet for a moment and Charlie reached for her purse, pulling out her cell phone. "What are you doing?" Shane growled.
"I'm calling my dad. He'll put a call in and meet us at the precinct."
Shane leaned over and grabbed the cell phone from her, dropping it in his lap. "No cops."
"He's a detective —"
"No suits either."
She glared at him, not wanting to admit for even a second that she was sort of impressed with his driving skills. And yet, he was also infuriating. Her dad could make this whole evening go a hell of a lot more smoothly for them. "Well, what do you suggest we do?"
His eyes drifted to the mirror once more before inspecting Charlie, still on her knees, turned and facing the back window. She felt her body flush as his gaze drifted to her thighs. "I have a plan. Buckle the hell up, Red. I'm not gonna ask again."
Charlie wasn't sure if it was his quiet, steady voice, or the way his green eyes seemed to flash so intensely, but she did as he said. Dropping to her ass, Charlie pulled the seatbelt over her chest and around her hips, securing it into place with a click. "I hope you know what you're doing."
"Yeah, that's not so reassuring —"
But he barely allowed her to get the word out before he punched the nitrous oxide. That rush, the same rush she got when kicking into gear at a race, pulsed through her veins. She felt her heart thud against her chest, her pulse kicking rapidly and fluttering at her pressure points. And that skitter of excitement and arousal surged between her legs, pulsing with the rush. She hated that she couldn't control it. But fuck, it felt good.
"They're still on us," she noted with a quick glance in the side mirror.
"Can you read their front license plate?" She narrowed her eyes, trying as hard as she could. "No."
"Then they can't read yours."
"But what if they have special equipment and they're able to read mine from a distance?"
"They don't," he growled, and he curled the wheel to the right, veering onto the shoulder of the road. Orange construction cones went flying into the air around them.
"What the hell?"
Trust him. Why did she trust this guy so much? He hadn't given her much of a reason to. And yet she did. It was a sense she had about him, a feeling. He was born and raised in Southie; had grown up here back when this was the area of Boston no one came to without fearing for their lives — or, at the very least, their cars. Probably came from a rough family, too, if she had to guess. But inside, he seemed anything but rough. Digging her fingers into the upholstery on either side of her seat, she took a deep breath as her belly flip-flopped.
Dirt puffed around them as Shane slid the car onto the shoulder where the construction was. The car dove nose-first into the piles of dirt packed on the side of the road, creating a mushroom cloud of dirt. Her Nova fishtailed, but Shane quickly got control back, coaxing the car back into the right lane.
Charlie couldn't help it; she had to see, and she yanked her seatbelt to give herself some slack and spun to watch. Behind them, Shane had created clouds of dirt and dust and the cop car disappeared into it.
He ran the wipers. "And now for the finish," he whispered, and hit the second NOS tank, catapulting them forward to 140 for a total of ten seconds before he turned right, then left, then right again, slowing to a normal speed.
"Holy shit," Charlie whispered. "Where the fuck did you learn to drive like that?"
Shane's jaw twitched, but he didn't remove his eyes from straight in front of him. "My father."
"But ... but you lost the race last night." Realization slammed into her and embarrassment warmed her face. "You let me win?" She wished it was a question, but it wasn't. She already knew the answer.
That twitch in his jaw migrated down to his throat. The thick muscle roped with tension. "Seemed like you wanted it more than I did."
"What the hell does that mean? You threw the race? Why? Why would you do that?" God, she hated that. Hated having won something that wasn't deserved. And fucking gloating about the win on top of that last night. She was a damn good driver; she knew it. And even though Shane was also a great driver, there was a chance she could have won on her own. Now she'd never know, and that thought needled in her mind like an incoming migraine.
He slammed on the brakes and the wheels screeched under the pressure. "The last fucking thing I need is for HSC to think I can win them more races than Rig."
He's better than Rig? She was. She was sure she could win a race against Rig. But even though Shane was clearly skilled behind the wheel, there weren't many people in Boston who could out-drive Carrig Malley. But she wasn't about to say that. In Boston? Saying that was worse than telling a man his dick was small. "You did it. You lost the cops," she said, hoping to change the subject.
"How many orange Novas do you think there are in Southie?"
Charlie chewed her lip. "I'm hoping a lot? There're a lot of muscle cars —"
"You can hope all you want; don't make it true." He pulled the Nova off onto the side of a nearly abandoned road and tossed Charlie's cell phone back to her. "Your friend, Michelle. Text her. Tell her if she's questioned by police, you need her to say that even though you drove your Nova to the bar, she gave us a ride back to your place at 12:30 a.m."
"Tons of people saw us there. Dozens saw me punch that asshole —"
"No one at Megan's is gonna narc on us," Shane said.
"Not even Megan?" Charlie asked.
"Especially not Megan. You don't own a successful bar in Southie for locals for thirty years with your father as a founder of HSC and still run your mouth to police. Nah, whoever they caught ain't talking. Not even those guys you sucker-punched." He sent her a quick smirk before stoicism took hold of his face once more.
Charlie nodded, completely understanding, but from a different perspective. Because in her world of middle-class families and Catholic private-school kids? Students narced on each other to save their own asses all the time. Didn't matter if that person was your best friend or your biggest enemy ... if a potential threat to their college admission was on the line? You were tattling like a whiny kid on the playground. "Michelle's the assistant district attorney. She can't lie like that for us. Not to the cops."
Shane muttered a curse. "I'll text Ryan. We'll say he gave us the ride. But text Michelle anyway. If this blows up in our faces, maybe she can help you out."
"I'm not asking her to help us with this. But I'll give her the heads-up so that she's not blindsided if anyone calls her tomorrow." Charlie's fingers flew across the phone's screen sending a text describing their night briefly. Something warm prickled in Charlie's chest as she finished typing, looking up to find Shane walking around to the car's hood.
"You keep tools in your trunk?"
Charlie nodded, grabbing them out of the back and handing the small metal box to him. He rifled through, grabbing a flathead and wiping it down with his shirt. "Prints," he mumbled as he caught Charlie's confused gaze.
Sitting back down in the driver's seat and holding the tool with his shirt still covering it to mask any prints, he started her car once more in a matter of seconds. Without a key. Jesus, he made that look easy.
Charlie crossed her arms and shook her head as he wiped the steering wheel and stick shift of his prints as well. "Maybe I should invest in that wheel lock ... the Club? Seeing how quickly you can start this thing without a key."
He snorted and the noise was so quiet she barely heard it. "Club don't do shit. I can remove that faster than I can start the damn car."
"Great, so there's nothing I can do to make it hard on a thief?"
Shane shut off the ignition, leaving the scissors inside as he stood to face her. For all of a moment, he looked at her, a hungry spark in his eyes. The same sort of look he gave her earlier that day just before he kissed her. And as quickly as the spark ignited, the flame was stomped out with a quick blink of his eyes. Charlie hated herself a tiny bit for the disappointment that cramped in her belly. "Don't make it easy on them is a start," he answered, looking away. "Don't leave your keys in the car. Don't leave it idling in the winter so that it'll be nice and warm when you want to go to work. And for Christ's sake ..." He paused, moving to the back of the car where she kept a magnetic spare-key holder beneath the bumper. He ripped it off, opening it. His scowl lifted into a relaxed smile seeing that it was empty. "Good. Throw this shit away and just keep your spare key at home."
"Yeah, I never used that. My mother bought it for me when I first moved out of my parents' house, and my dad warned me about the dangers of keeping a spare key on the actual car. Guess my mom bought it without talking to him first."
"Only thing that'll work ... a LoJack. That shit will find a car thief faster than they can strip it. Usually."
"But considering you have several cars, I'm gonna guess that's out of your price range."
She pinched her fingers. "Just a touch."
"Hate to tell you, Red. You're screwed."
Her stomach lurched as his eyes slowly met hers. "Am I?"
They stayed like that for a second longer before Charlie tore her eyes away, looking up from the empty street. It was dead this late at night, with not a lot of cars parked nearby. Each side of the two-lane road was lined with warehouses and nearly-empty storefronts. "We're only a few blocks away from home, right?"
"Yeah," Shane said, pointing through the brush. "Your house is just over there. Only a few blocks away. Got everything you need from inside your car?"
She nodded, and they started walking through the trees into the neighborhood on the other side. "So, our story is that Ryan gave us a ride back to my place so we could hook up?"
He nodded. "Yep. You had no idea the brawl broke out. You left your car in the parking lot because we'd both been drinking —"
"And I lost my keys ..."
He nodded. "You lost your keys, you were tipsy, and it was safer to pick the car up in the morning."
"And when the cops showed up, someone must have stolen my car to get away."
She paused as they cut through an alley between houses that funneled them out into a neighbor's small backyard, just a couple of houses away from hers.
Seeing her home ahead gave her a newfound confidence, and she moved past him to continue the walk to her house. Only a couple of doors down. His limp made an uneven crunch against the gravel behind her but she didn't turn around.
"I'm going to go in through the back door," she said as they approached her yard. "Less people to see me sneaking in after we claimed to already be here. The patrons at Megan's Pub may not talk to the cops, but my neighbors will." He followed behind her as she loped up her back steps to the screen door while rifling around in her purse. "Think the cops will buy our story? Us leaving my Nova at the bar and someone else stealing it?"
He shrugged, giving a glance around at the neighboring yards. "No traffic cameras on the route we took. Unless one of the cops has proof and a clear image of us in that car going 140, they'll have no choice but to believe us. If they trace you or find the car at all, that is."
She perked up at that, hope crackling in her chest. "Yeah? You think they won't?"
"No. They will," he said gruffly. "All of your upgrades are street legal, right?"
"Yeah. They are." But despite the fact that it was all legal, she still really didn't want the people on the force knowing she'd built one of her cars for street racing.
"Good. That's good. They'll probably come knocking on your door in an hour or two."
And just like that, any hope she may have had deflated like a broken balloon.
"Which is why," Shane continued, "I'll be staying the night tonight."
Excerpted from Ex-Con Part 2 by Katana Collins. Copyright © 2017 Katana Collins. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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