Rogue Page 93

But as hard as I tried not to listen, Marc’s first statement caught my attention. “…spotted the tabby in the strip club just outside of Henderson.”

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Vic stomped on the brake to avoid a slow car in front of us, and Owen flew forward, whacking his shoulder—or maybe his head—on the back of my seat. “Owww—”

“You actually saw her?” Vic said into the phone as Jace cursed behind him.

“Not me, the bartender.” Marc’s voice sounded distant, and a little crackly. “Said she was there when they opened, and left about twenty minutes before we arrived. So she’s stil here somewhere.”

I gripped the dashboard to steady myself as Vic swerved in and out of traffic.

“—ow long?” Marc was asking.

“Ten minutes, at the most.” Vic honked at a burly truck driver on our left. “We’re almost there now.”

“Good.” Marc grunted. “We’ll meet you in the parking lot of the Motel 6, off Highway 259.”

Eight minutes later, we pulled into the lot next to my father’s old van, against which Marc and Parker both leaned.

In the front seat sat Dan Painter, a fresh bruise developing on his chin, just below the one I’d given him three days earlier.

“Is this the guy?” Owen nodded at Painter as he climbed from Vic’s Jeep.

I nodded as Marc pulled Painter—hands cuffed behind his back—from the van.

“Oh, hell no!” Painter shouted, only lowering his voice when Parker punched him in the shoulder hard enough to knock him into the side of the van. “I’m not going near that bitch.”

I couldn’t help smiling. Until Marc opened his big fat mouth. “You’ve been living with a murderer for the past week and a half, and you’re scared of her?” He aimed a dismissive gesture my way. Clearly he was still mad.

“Man, Manx is tame as a kitten, so long as you leave her alone. She don’t like to be manhandled. That’s where those other dudes fucked up.”

I exchanged a raised-brow look with Owen, surprised to hear that Painter hadn’t touched the tabby. Yet, oddly enough, I believed him. Like Ryan, Painter struck me as the kind of guy who considered his own well-being above all else—even his hormones.

“So, what’s the plan?” Jace asked, coming around the Jeep to lean against the passenger-side door next to me. Right next to me. His arm brushed mine. Twice.

I rubbed my forehead, fighting the beginnings of a huge headache.

This was not going to be pretty.

“Well, I have to get back to the ranch,” Owen said, shifting his cowboy hat back and forth on his head. “And Painter’s going with me.”

“His car’s over here.” Marc led the way around the van to a dusty white Dodge Daytona parked on its other side. Parker pul ed Painter to the passenger side of his own car and shoved him into the front seat.

Then he took the cuffs from his pocket and secured Painter’s cuffed hands to the handle of his own door.

“You move so much as a finger and Owen will knock you out cold,”

Marc warned.

Painter rolled his eyes and nodded. “I kinda figured.”

Two minutes later, Owen pul ed back onto the highway in Painter’s car, which smoked and sputtered until it passed out of sight.

Marc glanced around at the rest of us. “We’re going to grab a quick lunch, then check out the main streets in two groups. Parker and I have already covered the south side, so you guys take everything east of Main Street, and we’l take everything on the west side.”

Vic looked up from the map Marc passed him. “In the car, or on foot?”

“On foot.” Marc dug for his wallet. “Hopefully Faythe’s the only one either of the strays wil recognize, and that’s a smal risk to take, considering the alternative—we won’t be able to smell anything from the car.” He pul ed two twenties from his wal et and handed them to Jace.

“Run next door and get a dozen corn dogs and some drinks. And make it quick.”

Jace scowled. But he did as he was told, because Marc outranked him.

And clearly wasn’t above using his authority to keep Jace away from me.

This is going to get old fast.

“So the tabby was actually in the local strip club?” Vic asked, one foot propped on the curb beneath his front bumper. I smiled at him, grateful that someone was wil ing to break the tension.

“Yeah.” Parker nodded, salt-and-pepper hair ruffling in the warm wind. “The bartender said she walked around and checked everything out, including both bathrooms, then left, without ordering anything or even glancing at the stage. Said he thought she was looking for someone.”

“Could you smell her?” I asked, curious to know if her distinctive scent had been any stronger when it was fresh.

“Only on the ladies’-room doorknob,” Marc said, and I pictured the strange looks he must have gotten when he bent over to sniff the bathroom door. “I don’t think she touched much else while she was there.”

Well, I couldn’t blame her for that one.

We stood around in silence for several minutes after that, until Jace emerged from the convenience store with two bulging white plastic bags, and I breathed an audible sigh of relief. If he’d been a minute later, I’d have gone after him myself.

The only thing worse than fighting with Marc was having nothing to say to him. Or having a lot to say, and not being able to say it.

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