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Mackie’s Men by Lynn Ray Lewis

 

 

 

Mackie’s Men

 

 

by Lynn Ray Lewis

 

© Copyright May 2015 JK Publishing, Inc.

ISBN# 978-1-310-37471-5

All cover art and logo © Copyright May 2015 by JK Publishing, Inc.

All rights reserved.

 

Cover by Jess Buffett

Published by JK Publishing, Inc.

 

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Table of Contents

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Books by Lynn Ray Lewis

Excerpt from Hotshots

Excerpt from Troika

JK Publishing, Inc
.

Chapter One

 

 

Maxine Vaught was settling down with a bowl of popcorn and her e-reader. The day had been gloomy and misty rain had turned into a steady light rain. The weather girl said they would be having popup thunderstorms all night with wind chills just above freezing. All in all, it was a typical late March night, and she was glad to be home with the time to catch up on her reading and just relax. She loved the peace and quiet of her home sitting back from the gravel road and a half mile from any neighbors. Her little two bedroom bungalow was perfect for her and the grey cat that found its way from the dairy farm down the road to live with her.

She was on the third chapter of an intensely erotic book when she thought she heard a gunshot. Since the noise hadn’t been repeated, she went back to the heroes of the book who were spanking their love interest into a sexual frenzy, just as one of the three men filled her with his overly large cock, she heard the loud boom again. It was followed by a crashing sound and she saw a bright light down by the road through her front window. “Dammit.” Mackie got up, shut off her e-reader and went to the window. “I really don’t want to go out there,” she told the grey cat. She pushed her feet into her mud boots and grabbed her cell phone, her coat, and a throw blanket that she crocheted last winter.

She hopped on her golf cart and sped down the driveway, glad the trusty little vehicle had a sun top over her head that kept the rain from her face as she drove to the end of her driveway. Across the road from her property was a deep ravine filled with trees and a swiftly running stream that came from somewhere behind her property. She immediately saw what was burning and it scared the hell out of her. There was an SUV hung up in some of the young trees and the side was smashed in. She could hear a baby crying and a woman’s hysterical voice yelling for Eric to wake up.

Mackie ran to the vehicle and took a minute to decide how to proceed while taking her cell phone out of her pocket and dialing 911. The connection was bad but she told them what had happened, and thought she at least got the street out before the line was dropped. “Sonofabitch, that’s no help.” She was still cursing under her breath as she gingerly approached the vehicle. She balanced on the trunks of the trees to get to the smashed remains of the vehicle and could smell gas.

The young man’s face was covered in blood, and the airbag had deployed covering the blood with a fine powdery substance. While she checked his pulse on the side of his neck, she told the woman to please calm down, “My name is Mackie, what’s your name?”

“Jenny.”

“Okay, Jenny, are you hurt?” When the girl shook her head, Mackie breathed a sigh of relief. She looked in the backseat and couldn’t see the baby’s face, but from the amount of noise it was making, the baby was either hurt badly or was just scared from the wreck. The young woman tried to get out of her seatbelt but it was jammed, and she started to get worked up again, so Mackie had to get stern with her, “Sit still, the car is sitting on some trees and if you move too fast or shift your weight, the whole thing is going down into the ravine. I know you’re upset and worried but you need to focus right now.” She stared at the younger woman until she got a nod from her. “What is the man’s name who was driving?”

“Er-Eric.”

“Okay, good, Jenny. Now, Eric is alive, but I don’t know where he is hurt and I only have this small flashlight to see with, so I need you to feel if his legs are trapped, can you do that?”

Jenny reached over to feel Eric’s legs and the dashboard. “Su-sure. I d-don’t think h-he is trapped,” Jenny replied.

“Okay, thanks, Jenny, think you can get unbuckled?”

“Y-yes, I th-think so,” Jenny’s reply reflected the knock on her head she took. After a few attempts, Jenny was able to unbuckle her seatbelt.

“Good job, Jenny. What is your baby’s name, sweetie?”

“Eric junior.”

“Aww, precious. Now I’m going to get the baby out and put him in my vehicle. I will be right back for you, okay?” With a nod from Jenny, Mackie and Jenny worked together to break the side glass window out. Mackie got the baby out of the vehicle, and ran the car seat containing two-month-old baby Eric, to the safety of her golf cart and left him on the seat. The child had fallen asleep despite the rain and all the noise the women had made breaking the window out. She went back for Jenny, and had to pull her out of the same window behind the driver’s seat. The woman’s right wrist was already swelling and her left foot looked like it might be broken or badly sprained. Mackie was just glad she was alive. She pulled and fell down on the tree branches, as she finally got Jenny to safety on the little cart with her son.

When she went back for the driver, she knew this one was going to be difficult to remove from the wreckage. A crowbar wasn’t going to pry the door open and she still needed to double check with 911 to make sure they received the address. So she climbed through the back window and almost got her wide hips stuck, but with a few wiggles and she was certain a few cuts, she finally worked her way into the vehicle with the unconscious man. She loosened his seatbelt and pulled him from his seat onto the console, and had to sit for a few precious seconds to take a needed rest before tackling his weight again. He was well over six feet tall, and in the darkness she couldn’t see his face very well. She imagined that even had it been daylight, between all the blood trickling from his head wound and the powder from the airbag, she wouldn’t have gotten a good look at his face until he was cleaned up.

She looked at the width of the man’s shoulders and knew she would never get him through that window. So she crawled through the back to the hatch and was grateful that after only a few kicks it popped open. Her foot was in the way when it tried to bounce back shut so at least she felt lucky for that. Pulling and yanking his dead weight over the backseat was impossible, until she found the latch that lowered the seat, to make the entire rear end of the vehicle cargo friendly. By the time she had him out of the vehicle and on the gravel road she was exhausted. The muscles in her arms were burning and trembling from the effort it took just to move him a few inches. Now the question was what to do with him?

The baby was crying again and Jenny was trying to soothe him. Mackie made up her mind and left Eric laying on the side of the road with her flashlight while she took Jenny and the baby back up to her house and let them inside. Once they were in the house, she hurried back to retrieve the unconscious young man. The rain had washed most of the powder coated blood from his face by the time she got to him and she could see that he was a very handsome young man. Even pale as death the man was good looking and she hoped he would be all right. She was pulling him up into the golf cart when he groaned and she started talking to him. “Eric, I am Mackie and you have been in an accident, I need you to help me get you into the house, okay?”

He continued to groan, but unable to move on his own, and she was losing the battle to get him on the seat. “Come on, Eric, I have Jenny and the baby in the house and Jenny needs you, you need to help me here. Just try to move your legs please? I’m a big girl but you are a lot bigger than me, and I can’t help you by myself, Jenny needs you at the house.” Mackie gave thanks when the man moved his legs trying to help her get his body on the cart. Finally, he was half sitting and half lying on the seat and she propped him up the best she could and slid into the driver’s side and drove them to the house.

By the time she got the small family situated in her second bedroom and had gotten them cleaned up, warmed up and now asleep, she was ready to collapse herself. There was definitely something strange about the wreck and the people involved. She slipped out the backdoor to put away the golf cart, but decided to go back down to the wreck and see if she could find the baby’s diaper bag and maybe Jenny’s purse. She climbed into the vehicle through the back hatch and found the diaper bag and the purse, and as she trained the flashlight around the interior of the vehicle she spied a pistol and a wallet. She checked the glove box and found the registration to the vehicle and insurance papers. When she unfolded a long paper, she was a little surprised to see it was a marriage certificate dated a few days ago. Mackie stuffed the vehicle papers and everything else she gathered into the purse and diaper bag, then shut the door as she exited the wreck. Lightning and thunder were crashing and lighting up the landscape while she drove back to the house and parked in the lean-to. She took everything into the house and locked the door behind her.

She went into her bedroom and found the grey cat curled up on her bed asleep. The little creature made her smile. She wasn’t a guard dog but she kept the house free of mice and other vermin and she was good company most of the time with her acrobatics. Mackie stripped her soaking wet clothes from her cold body and tossed on a pair of sweats. The fleece felt warm on her skin. She took her wet clothing into the laundry alcove and tossed it in the washer with the young couple’s clothes and turned it on. She had loaned Jenny a nightgown, which the young woman had to hold up the hemline to walk without tripping, but at least it was warm. And the man, Eric, had been lying in bed in a pair of her cartoon pajama bottoms that came about six inches too short for his long legs but at least he was covered.

When Mackie went into the kitchen she saw Eric sitting at the table, he must have woke up and came to check out the place. She saw him rummaging through his wife’s purse, and assumed he was looking for a cell phone. “I don’t have a landline, all I have is a cell phone and it doesn’t have a strong enough signal to call 911 in this storm, I tried.” The item that he held in his hand was not a phone like she thought, it was just a little black box with a small green light and when he pressed the button the light turned red. He put it back into the purse and asked.

“Could I bother you for a cup of coffee or something hot? I am so damn cold I need to warm up inside and out.”

“Sure, why don’t you go into the living room and I’ll get the pot started.” She made the coffee, and grabbed the cream and sugar setting it next to the waiting mugs. She went to her room and dug out a t-shirt that might stretch across his wide shoulders and brought it to him on her way back to the kitchen to pour their coffee.

She put a teaspoon of sugar in his coffee and stirred it in the hot liquid, doctored her cup, and took both into the living room where Eric sat waiting. The t-shirt was a little tight but it covered his chest so it should make him feel a bit warmer. She took a lap rug and laid it over his shoulders much to his embarrassment. “Don’t be a sissy, young man, you are cold, and I made the blankets for the sole purpose of keeping warm.” She smiled at him and sat in her favorite overstuffed chair. They sipped the hot coffee and watched the lightning through her front windows. “You know, Eric, I am thirty years old and have seen some pretty messed up things in my life, so why don’t you tell me why someone would shoot at you, and especially with a baby in the vehicle?” When he shook his head she didn’t pressure him for the information. Not that she didn’t want to know what was going on, but whatever it was, Eric wasn’t inclined to share. Mackie sat quietly and watched him as if he was having an inner debate with himself.

He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, “Have you heard of a company by the name of Klinger, as in Klinger Corporation?” When she shook her head no he sighed. “Klinger Corporation has its fingers in a lot of different pies, I am in the Communications and Development Department. I just finished a new video gaming system that will blow the competition out of the water. One of our competitors tried to bribe a co-worker to steal the software for the system. Since I am a paranoid bastard I never left the software at the office. I think that’s what this is all about.” He sat back, sipped on his cooling coffee, and closed his eyes. “It never occurred to me that my wife and child meant so little that someone would rather kill me than allow the game to come online for the Christmas rush on sales.”

“Klinger as in Eric and Jennifer Klinger?” At his look, Mackie had to tell him what she found. “Look, I was not really snooping, I went to get the diaper bag and Jenny’s purse, and I found a pistol and took the papers from the glove box in case the gasoline I smelled caught on fire. The Marriage Certificate was there too.” She got up and went to refresh her coffee taking his mug with her too and when she came back, “I haven’t heard of the Klinger name before but I assume that it is a family business?” At his nod she said, “You can try to use my cell to call someone if you like. Maybe it will work now.”

Eric was smiling and shook his head, “They will find me, I’m not worried. By the way, how did you get us out of the SUV?” Mackie knew he was changing the subject to get her off track. So she humored him and explained that she really had no idea how she did it. He watched her hands as she spoke, probably looking at the cuts that she had gotten from the broken windows in the vehicle.

She knew why his eyebrow kept arching as she related her part in rescuing his wife and baby, and going back for him. He saw a woman who was five foot ten in her bare feet and not a delicate little flower to look at. Mackie was built on the muscular side. Well, if she was honest, she was actually a bit chubby. She wore a size fourteen and had for most of her adult life. Men still introduced themselves to her considerable sized boobs instead of her eyes and although she learned to bring a finger up her middle for their eyes to follow so she could talk to them and not have to “say it through her breasts” during a conversation, she wasn’t what you could call fat.

She tossed the clothes into the dryer and they talked, about anything but Eric’s life. She told him about her plan to raise pheasants and quail for the markets. “I almost have enough saved for the barns to raise them in. I have been banking my money from my second job so by this time next year I hope to be raising birds full time.” She laughed a little, “We have several butchers in the area that slaughter and package for farmers. I figure I can advertise the birds for sale and provide a list of the butchers for anyone wishing to have the birds dressed and shipped overnight.”

The dryer buzzed and Mackie went to get the clothes and brought them back to fold and talk with the weary Eric. “I thought about raising all kinds of domestic exotic birds but when I heard the racket that peacocks made I decided against it.” When she had all the clothing folded she looked toward Eric and saw that he had fallen asleep while she talked.
I must have talked him to sleep
. His driver’s license said he was twenty-five years old but right now he looked like a battered homeless teenager in her loaner clothes and the afghan around his shoulders. That train of thought brought up too many buried memories so she turned off all the lights except the one over the kitchen sink, and went to bed.

Mackie woke up to the sound of thunder overhead, No,
wait, that’s not thunder, what the hell?
She noticed the time and seen she had slept for four hours. It was eight a.m. She ran into the living room and saw that Eric must have woken up sometime during the night and taken the clothing into the bedroom with him. She knocked on the bedroom door with a quiet tap, “Hey, guys, I think we have company.” The murmured “be right out” was answer enough for her as she made her way into the kitchen and the coffee pot. She could still hear the steady whap whap of the helicopter blades over the house and knew it was a matter of time before someone would be knocking on her door. Until Eric emerged from the bedroom she wouldn’t know if the visitors were friendly or not so she reached into the top cupboard and pulled down the solid plastic box. She knew Eric was at the kitchen door as she loaded the Smith and Wesson with a full clip and jacked a shell into the chamber.

“I think it’s my family, Mackie, you won’t need that.” Eric was dressed and sat down to put his shoes on. “I hit my panic button last night and they would have tracked me here.” When he went to the door she handed him the pistol. He took the gun from her, mostly to calm her fears for his safety. He knew his grandfather would have sent the chopper for him as soon as the emergency alarm had reached the family security offices. This entire week had been fucked up so why would he expect their rescue to be anything less than a circus. He watched as the chopper sat down in the only spot that was clear enough for it to land. Five men piled out of the side the minute it sat level. One man followed them and he knew Granddad had sent Uncle Liam to retrieve him. He put the gun in the back of his waistband and walked toward the advancing men.

Chapter Two

 

 

When the men surrounded Eric, he told them, “I’m fine, the SUV is toast, and I do mean toast. The truck is across the driveway in those woods. I got lucky, just a knock on the head and some scrapes.” Everyone but Liam took off to see the wrecked vehicle, and he dreaded the coming discussion with his uncle. No one knew he was in the area and he had neglected to leave his destination with the family when he left the house on Tuesday. His father was in Europe dealing with some company emergency there, so he knew Liam would be on the rescue mission to retrieve him. When the family found out about Jenny and EJ he was really going to catch hell.

By the look on his uncle’s face, Liam was pissed off at his carelessness. He knew then he was in deep shit. When he got close enough to talk he started to hold out his hand to shake Liam’s, but the man was already grabbing his shirt and drawing back to punch him. The sound of a gunshot and the dirt kicking up the mud near the big man’s left foot stopped the fist as both men turned toward the woman who had followed Eric outside.

“Let him go or I take out your arm at the shoulder Mr.” When the big man didn’t release his grip on Eric’s shirt, she said, “This is a Colt .45 with hollow point bullets, do you really think you can hit him before my next bullet takes your shoulder out? I said let him go.”

Eric started to turn to tell her that it was okay when another shot rang out, dropping the woman where she stood. The two men watched the surprise on her face as her eyes closed and she melted to the ground. Eric started screaming at the shooter as he ran to Mackie.


You stupid sonofabitch
. She was protecting me you dumbfuck.” He knelt in the mud next to her and saw the hole in her upper chest. The bullet had gone through her chest and looked to be lodged in her right arm. The arm she was using to point the gun at Liam. As shots went it was a good one, though unfortunately for Mackie. He pulled the shirt away from the wound and saw the bloody mess of ragged flesh and blood. “Dammit, somebody help me here, she is losing too damn much blood.” He pulled his shirt off and pressed the material to the open wound and kept telling her it would be okay, they would get her to the hospital and find a doctor to patch her up. “Hang in there, Mackie, I’ll get you some help.” He looked around and saw three men and not one of them had moved since Mackie dropped to the ground so he tried to pick her up himself but couldn’t budge her deadweight. “We need to load her in the chopper and get her to a hospital, Uncle, because if we don’t get her some help you might as well get ready to go to prison for murder.”

Mackie could hear men’s voices and she felt herself being carried. There was pain in her shoulder and she started to fight the strong arms that were holding her so tightly, but the man’s strength kept her in his embrace and she could hear another man telling her she would be okay. She felt a needle go into her arm and knew she was being drugged into sleep.

When Jenny saw them bringing Mackie back to the house bleeding, surrounded by all the huge men, she started to shake. She saw Eric without his shirt and could only stare at him for a minute before hobbling across the room into his arms and crying that she wanted to go home. “Please, Eric, just take me and the baby back to my place and we will be fine, just let me go back, please.” Her face was swollen on the right side and she was limping and holding her wrist close to her body where Mackie had fashioned a sling for her to hold it. Her hair was matted from going to sleep with wet hair and she was a bedraggled mess but she had never looked more beautiful to the man who held her.

“Uncle, I would like to introduce you to your new niece, Jenny, and in case you missed what she said, we have a son, Eric Junior.” As if the baby heard his name being said he started to whimper and Jenny let go of her husband to see to the little one.

Liam gave Eric a hard look and followed the tiny female into the bedroom to see for himself what kind of trouble the kid had gotten himself into this time. He saw Jenny pull her swollen wrist from the sling and try to pick the baby up with both hands. She ended up rolling the child from the baby seat and into her injured arm, she must not have noticed him standing there watching her because she used her good hand to pull up her blouse and bare her breast for the baby to suckle. The sight of the tiny woman nourishing the small infant was good enough for Liam, at least she loved the child and probably loved his nephew too if what he seen in the kitchen was any indication of her feelings. She seemed very young and Liam wondered where Eric had found her.

John Fielding was taking care of Mackie. He was a doctor, and one of Liam’s closest friends, and it was a good thing he had been there today. His normal job was in the research and development department of Klinger International’s medical division. He liked going on field trips with the guys occasionally but this one wasn’t turning out quite as good as he had hoped. The woman had lost quite a bit of blood. She also had some history with violence from the numerous scars he saw while working to staunch the blood and secure the wound. The deep scratches on her hips were a mystery but the cuts on her hands and arms supported the story that Eric was relating about the rescue. From what Fielding had seen of the wreckage, he could believe she sustained them while rescuing the family. A bloody miracle the SUV hadn’t blown up instead of just burning a little under the hood. The rain must have kept the fire from spreading.

Liam stood next to Fielding as the man sutured the exit wound closed. It looked like a small pile of hamburger before he started, now it looked like a stitched up mess of red and black lines on her white skin. The bullet that had done all the damage was still lodged in her arm just above the wrist and Fielding had him hold her arm so he could remove it. Luckily it hadn’t severed the artery so the blood loss was minimized but still seemed like a lot before Fielding got it stopped and the wound stitched. “We got lucky here, boss, she has a titanium plate over the bone here, it must have been a bad break at one time. The plate kept the bullet from shattering her bone. I cleaned and packed the entrance and exit wounds, and you see what I had to deal with here in front. I like this one, let’s hope she doesn’t hate us when she wakes up.”

Since Liam had been the one to help John strip the bloody wet clothing from her body, he knew why they both looked at the woman with respect. She had several combat wounds and at least three of them looked to be bullet wounds or shrapnel and seven long thin scars from what they had assumed to be knife wounds decorating her pale body. Liam said, “She’s a warrior, she’ll make it. From the looks of her she has seen a lot worse than this. Damn woman, she thought I was going to harm Eric. She had to have seen the team with their rifles before she pulled that .45 on me for Christ’s sakes.” When Liam thought about the deadly look on the woman’s face as she threatened to shoot him, he believed she would have done just what she threatened to do if she hadn’t been shot first or he hadn’t let go of his nephew.

Fielding left to go check on Jenny and Eric. They still had unattended wounds and various ailments that needed a doctor’s opinion.

Liam sat with Mackie, from the driver’s license he found while rummaging through her purse he knew her name was Maxine Vaught and she was thirty years old. Her height was five feet ten inches and she weighed one hundred seventy-five pounds, her eye color was blue and she had brown hair. Those were all statistics from the State of Michigan but he knew more. She had the heart of a lioness when it came to protecting those who she claimed. She was also reckless but beautifully put together. He knew what those big breasts looked like and how a man would lose himself in those tender pillows with the delightful cherry red tips. Her hips flared wide and were just the correct size for a man’s hands to hold while sinking deep inside of her warmth. He decided she would be theirs, if her true personality matched her skills as a potential lady friend. He only hoped she would be open to the notion.

She was semi-conscious by the time the men walked out of her room, and through the slit of her eyes she could plainly see his face again. There was no mistake. The man was the same one who had caught her eyes twice in the past few years when she was in Detroit. She often wondered about him, and truthfully the two men she’d seen him with at those times, but hadn’t had time to learn who they were. Now he was in her home, and she’d threatened to shoot him. Handsome or not, sexy or not, she would have shot him, and apologized after the fact. As it was, she’d been so shocked to see him standing there ready to punch Eric, she hesitated with her first shot and that was not like her. The burning pain in her shoulder and arm was dulled, but not gone, and she let the pain pull her under in sleep. She knew it would get worse before too long, and she would get no sleep from the unrelenting nerves and tissue damage.

Liam had the phone on speaker in a conference call between his grandfather and his father. Eric sat next to him and Jenny sat next to Eric with the little guy on her lap. She held him with her left arm and looked comfortable as she sat quietly. “I’ve had the SUV towed and it is on its way to you for our people to inspect. Eric and Jenny and the baby are fine but as I told you the woman is still not able to stay alone. Any suggestions?” As they talked, a large grey cat jumped onto the table and plopped its butt in front of Liam. The cat started batting at the golden chain around Liam’s neck that was hanging loosely and dangling while the man rested his forearms on the table.

The baby was awake and started to fuss and the, “What is that noise? Are you talking about a
REAL BABY”?
The question was asked by Eric’s great granddad who was Liam’s grandfather, Mason Klinger. Jenny cringed back at the harshness of his voice and Eric confirmed that, “Yes, Granddad, it is a real baby, my baby, and my wife’s name is Jennifer. I think you will like them both. I can hardly wait for dad to get back from overseas, he’s going to love her too.” He gave Jenny a reassuring smile before picking up little Eric and taking Jenny’s arm to lead them into the bedroom to change EJ, as Eric had started to call his son.

Liam glared at the young man as he left him sitting there to answer the older men’s questions. “We can go into more detail after we sort this out here. Long story short is that Eric’s car was shot at and forced off the road with his wife and infant son in it, the woman who is laying in the next room dragged them all out of the vehicle at great peril to herself and brought them into her home, and patched them up as best she could. When we arrived it spooked her, and I was too busy getting ready to punch out Eric’s lights for scaring me half to death when she sent a round into the ground as a warning and threatened to shoot me if I hurt him. Tracey saw someone with a gun pointed my way and shot her. That’s why we are still here, it’s not like I can just leave a woman who saved Eric’s life and got shot by our people to her own devices. We will be lucky if she doesn’t sue us as it sits right now.”

Liam said his goodbyes and hung up the connection. He called the team in and told them his plans. “Tracey, Jordon, and Mortimer will ride back with Eric and his family in the chopper. Fielding and Reynolds will stay here with me until you send the chopper back tomorrow. According to the weather report it’s going to sleet all night tonight and the wind is supposed to be gusting at thirty-five mph. We’ll be fine here for another day or two if we need to stay longer.”

Liam had to swear on his mother’s heart that he would make sure Mackie got through the next few days, and that Liam wouldn’t yell at her or upset her in any way when she woke up before Eric would step a foot outside of the door.

“You don’t understand, Uncle, it’s not just because she got hurt on my behalf, she saved Jenny and EJ and came back to save me too. It’s more a debt of honor as Granddad would say.” Eric grabbed Jenny’s purse and the diaper bag in his free hand, the other arm was holding the child’s safety seat with the handsome baby sleeping comfortably. Jenny was being carried to the helicopter. “Uncle, I can’t tell you how important Mackie is to Jenny and I, think of it as if it was you that she crawled through broken glass and risked her life for. What’s her life worth to you after you’re safe?”

When the chopper took off Liam went into the bedroom to check on Mackie. She was obviously in pain but not one sound came from her. Her back was arched and sweat beaded her forehead and her teeth were bared and clenched. He looked at her hands and found them fisted and trembling.

“Fielding. Fielding, get in here!” he shouted.

Turning to Mackie, he said, “Come on, honey, I’m getting help, hang in there.”

”Fielding, where are you?” and then he ran into the bathroom to get a cold towel to try to cool her down. By the time Fielding came rushing into the room Liam had her stripped to the waist and cold towels almost covering her head and torso. The doctor brought his medical kit in the room with him and prepared a shot of antibiotics and one for pain.

“Damn, I was afraid of this happening, all I have is Demerol for pain and I hope she isn’t allergic. I used the last of the lightweight stuff when I sewed her up. I wasn’t anticipating having to do surgery on a woman when we left Detroit.” He shot the needle into her arm and helped Liam pull her into a sitting position to run the cool towel over her back as soon as she went limp. “I’ll be damned, how in the hell did I miss those?” He was referring to the mass of scars on her back that could have only come from being whipped with something meant to cause pain. “What the hell was this woman into that would cause all these scars?”

After Fielding checked and redressed her wounds, he set up a makeshift IV to get some much needed fluid into her body. He went to make a pot of coffee because it might be a long damn night if she became feverish again. Liam stayed by her side willing the woman to tell him her secrets. No woman that he had ever seen had been through what this one had. It appeared the only places not riddled with scars were her face and from the top of her breasts up to her neck. He felt no pity for her, just rage at those who had hurt her so badly. He started searching her room for clues about her life. The pictures hanging on the walls all featured animals. Her drawers contained serviceable jeans, t-shirts, and cotton underwear. He found himself disappointed there wasn’t a thong in the bunch. The sexiest thing in her wardrobe was an expensive skirt and blazer set from a chain store. He noted three pairs of shoes and wasn’t really surprised to find a gun safe hidden in the closet.

Fielding came in two hours later to allow Liam to check on his messages and grab a bite to eat. As he sat next to her on the bed, he studied her body and the scars decorating so many inches of her tall frame. “I wonder if your personality matches up with the hell you’ve been through.” He brushed the hair from her cheek, and bent to give her lips a light peck, but when he felt her breath whisper over his lips, he rested his forehead to hers. He decided then and there that he would do his best to find out and reconnect with her as soon as she was in better health. She fascinated him, and the fact made him shake his head. “Such strength, and unless I miss my guess, that strength is why you appear to be so alone here in the middle of nowhere, with a cat, and enough guts to shoot a stranger over another stranger.” He pulled the sheet up over her naked body, and left the room before he gave into the impulse to lay down next to her in an effort to comfort her.

Liam fed the cat and continued his search for information about the homeowner. He found nothing until he pulled a laptop from her desk drawer and opened it. The thing was password protected but he cracked it within an hour, FOUR CATZ opened the screen, and he set about snooping through all the information from the computer that he could get into. However, several files he came across he couldn’t gain access to, so he shut down the system and put the laptop back where he found it.

Darryl supervised the loading of Eric’s SUV, and watched as the flatbed drove away before heading back to the little house. He wanted to see if the avenging angel was awake. She was the kind of woman he liked to look at. Her actions so far just made him want to know more about her. He pulled out his phone and sent an e-mail to his office. Eric said her name was Maxine Vaught, aka Mackie. Ham and Gribbler would know what he wanted, and they’d be thorough.

Once the men gathered in the small kitchen, they discussed the woman in the next room.

“She has a small fortune in guns and at least one in every room.” The Smith and Wesson she loaned Eric was sitting on the kitchen counter, the 1911 Colt was sitting beside it and he had counted two loaded 12 gauge pump shotguns over the front and back doors. “There are more pistols under the bathroom sink, next to her bed, and one in the cupboard filled with glasses in the kitchen. She’s either paranoid or she has some pretty impressive enemies.” Liam decided to call his father back. If anyone could find out about anything or anyone, it was Drummond Klinger.