“Ok, now spill.” Matt ordered as soon as we were back in our apartment. My mom and Banana were on their way to New York. Matt and I had stayed with my dad for a bit because he’d felt a little lonely. Now, we were in our living room, talking about the case.
“There’s not much to tell,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “I told Martinez what I saw, and that was it.”
“That wasn’t it,” Matt said shrewdly. “I hope you were protected at least.”
“Matt!” I glared at him, mostly because he’d come too close to the truth. “We didn’t have sex. Not in my old room. You should know me better than that.”
“You and I’ve had sex there,” Matt noted, a devilish gleam in his eyes. I fought to control my embarrassment, but I blushed, anyway. It had been on Chinese New Year’s Eve a few years ago. My parents had had a big bash, and Matt and I had had way too much to drink. One thing led to another, and we were having sex before either of us really knew what was going on. We didn’t use protection, either, which was the height of stupidity. Fortunately, I didn’t get pregnant, and we were more careful in the future.
“That’s besides the point,” I said, furious at myself for letting him get to me.
“Yeah, it is,” Matt said, dropping the jocular tone. “The point is that we know for sure who has Danny, so we have to do something about it.”
“That’s the cops’ job, Matt,” I protested, though I knew it wouldn’t do any good.
“What are they doing about it?”
“I don’t know—it’s not like Martinez would tell me.”
“Then it’s up to us.” Matt stood up, a determined look on his face. “Scar, I’m going to the club tonight whether you come with me or not. What’s it going to be?” There was no answer to that other than, ‘of course I’m going with you.’
“We have to come up with a plan.” I had a bad feeling about this, but I pushed it aside. I knew Martinez wouldn’t be happy with us interfering even more, but he didn’t specifically forbade me from going to the club, now did he? Granted, he probably assumed I’d know that after our last dust-up, but I was a slow learner.
Once I’d given in, we discussed our strategy. We decided it’d be best to split up. He’d talk to Brenda, and I’d talk to Jamie. We’d try to keep in sight of each other so neither of us would be taken by surprise, but we’d be in a crowded club. What could possibly happen? Ok, many things, but we were confident we had it under control. We each had a cell phone with each other on speed dial. I also had Martinez on speed dial, and there was always 9-1-1. Besides, I didn’t think the duo had murderous intent or they’d have killed Danny by now. By the time we finished talking, I was convinced that this endeavor wasn’t going to be dangerous at all.
In my room, I pondered my closet. This time, I didn’t want to do seductive because I needed to maintain the upper hand. I decided on a gray suit made of raw silk with a white silk camisole underneath. The suit had been specially made for me so it hugged every curve. The pants had flowing hems which just begged for a nice pair of black ankle boots. I pulled my hair up in a classic bun and secured it with an ornate barrette which looked vaguely Asian, though I bought it at Target. I outlined my eyes with a smoky kohl before brushing powder onto my cheeks. A generous amount of Underworld lipstick by MAC, and I was done. Dangly silver earrings completed the package. I nodded in approval before heading into the living room where Matt was lounging and waiting for me. He was wearing all black with a silver tie again. He looked fucking hot. When he looked up at me, I could tell he thought I wasn’t so bad myself.
“The very picture of sexy power,” Matt said, standing up and towering over me. “You are so beautiful, Scar.” Even though his voice was normal, I knew we were in danger. It didn’t help that I felt a pull towards him even as I was stepping away from him. “What harm would one kiss do?”
“Because it wouldn’t stop there,” I said, still backing away. Every fiber of my being cried out to be fucked, but I knew it would be a betrayal of whatever Martinez and I were creating. I held out my hand, praying that Matt wouldn’t push it tonight. He stopped, though his eyes told me he would continue with the slightest bit of encouragement.
“Right. Let’s get this show on the road.” Matt abruptly turned and hurried out the door. I wished things could be the same between us as they had been before, but we’d crossed a line sometime in the past few days, and we couldn’t go back again. I followed him at a slower pace, my heart heavy. I missed the easygoing relationship we once had and wondered if we’d ever have it again. Probably when both of us were in serious long-term relationships.
On the way to the club, we rehashed our plan ad nauseam. Not because we had anything to add, but because we were avoiding talking about us. I caught Matt glancing over at me more than once, a speculative look in his eyes. It wasn’t a ‘how can I get her into my bed’ kind of a look, but more of a ‘what do we have here’ kind of look? It wasn’t very comforting, but he was entitled. After all, it was I who had changed the rules at this late date, so I couldn’t blame him for being slightly confused. Then again, I respected him when he wanted to back off whenever he had someone serious, so why couldn’t he show me the same respect?
“Ready?” Matt asked as he pulled up to the curb of the club. I nodded before shaking my head to clear it of all distracting thoughts. “We’re going to be ok,” Matt said into my ear before climbing out of the car. I felt absurdly grateful for his comforting words and stepped out of the car as well. I straightened my shoulders, trying to appear more confident than I felt. Once inside, one of the girls accosted us and asked if we’d like to be seated. Rather, she asked Matt as I tended to be invisible to the girls in a place like this.
“Well, if it isn’t Miss Scarlett!” Jamie said, showing up on cue. He smiled at me, showing off perfectly even teeth. “I thought you’d never come again, and that would have been such a shame. Come, let me seat you.”
“I’m going to look around first,” Matt said, giving me a look. I nodded slightly before allowing Jamie to escort me to a table in the corner. I was sure he’d chosen it because he wanted to cop a feel unnoticed, but it’d serve my purpose as well, too. I noticed a man sitting by himself who was giving me the evil eye, and I wondered briefly what that was about before dismissing it from my mind. Jamie was my prey for the evening, and I couldn’t afford to think of anything else. I sat down with Jamie crowding me on my right.
“Now, Scarlett, please tell me you’re the answer to my prayers because you’ve decided to dance for me.” Jamie turned sideways so he could stare down my camisole with impunity. “You already have a great stage name, and we could do a whole Oriental dragon lady routine.” I stiffened at his words, but he was too enraptured by my cleavage to notice.
“Jamie, I’m tempted, really I am. However, I’m here on other business.” Unlike the last time, I kept my voice strictly professional this time around. I reached into my purse and pulled out the copy of the copy I’d kept when I’d given Kayla’s blackmail material to Martinez. “Does this look familiar to you?” Still with that smarmy grin on his face, Jamie took the piece of paper and began to skim it. The grin soon fled, however, when he realized what he was reading.
“How in the fuck did you get this?” Jamie grabbed my arm and suddenly, there wasn’t a trace of charm in his persona. “Answer me! Did that bitch, Kayla, give it to you before she disappeared?” I felt a chill at his words. Even though he hadn’t taken Kayla, he knew more about it than he was saying. Suddenly, I cursed my stupidity for not pushing Jamie on the issue of Alexander. Jamie would at least have heard of Alexander if the latter was dealing in the club. That was probably how Alexander knew Kayla was in the hospital, but why would Jamie tell Alexander? There had to be something in it for Jamie. I felt something press into my side, and I realized that it was a gun.
“Don’t look down,” Jamie said, his voice taut. I obeyed, but out of my periphery, I saw that he had his hand in his pocket which meant that nobody else could see the gun. Damn! The one thing Matt and I were counting on was that Jamie and/or Brenda wouldn’t do anything stupid in the club. We hadn’t figured how desperate they were, and now this! The wholly irrelevant thought that Martinez was going to kill me flashed through my brain before I could suppress it.
“Get up slowly with a smile on your face,” Jamie continued, keeping his voice at a low level. A smile was playing on his lips, and I forced myself to do the same as I got to my feet. Briefly, I thought about screaming and fleeing. As if reading my mind, Jamie hissed, “Don’t even think it. I’ll shoot you, and then I’ll shoot anybody else who sees me shoot you. Do you want that on your conscience?” Frankly, I didn’t give a damn about the other people; I just didn’t want him to shoot me. Cold of me, I knew, but I was more worried about saving my own skin than I was about them. “We are going to my office where we can talk in private.” He had an iron grip on my arm, keeping me slightly ahead of him. There was no way I could break free.
As we walked towards the back of the club, the music blaring, I noticed that the man who’d been staring at me earlier was again scowling at me. I mouthed, ‘help me’ to him, but I didn’t dare do anything more. I couldn’t even tell if he saw me, however, as he showed no reaction in the smoky club. I kept my head held high as I scanned the club for Matt, praying that I would see him before Jamie got me into his office alone. It was a lost cause, however, as the place was packed to the gills. It looked as if they had more people than was allowed by code, but I dismissed the thought. I had to focus. I looked around for Matt again, careful not to move my head. I felt a hard nudge in my side which stopped me cold. I felt another nudge and started moving again.
“If I see you signal your friend, I’ll shoot him dead on the spot,” Jamie murmured into my ear, making it look as if he were nibbling it. He gave my lobe a quick flick with his tongue, causing me to shudder. “Too bad we don’t have time for fun and games.” I felt his hand on my ass, but didn’t do anything about it. I knew damn well he could do whatever he liked, and besides, I wanted to marshal my forces for that one chance to fake him out. I didn’t think he’d shoot Matt in front of everybody, but I couldn’t risk it. He was a man on the edge, which meant that all bets were off. I cursed myself for not realizing how dangerous this two-bit criminal really was; I had fucking underestimated him.