Home > Soul Mate(5)

Soul Mate(5)
Catherine Bybee

“That"s what you want?” His voiced lowered with his question.

Kari sucked her bottom lip between her teeth and chewed it. “It"s what it is.” Even then she felt her eye twitch. In an effort to hide it, she turned to the side and away from him.

The slight pains of fear emanating through Nick"s skin changed slightly.

Kari tried to ignore his scent.

“We need to get back. I"m going to miss my flight.” She pushed past him and onto the path. They walked the rest of the way in complete silence.

Chapter Four

Nick"s rental car was first on their path. He pushed the button of the remote control and unlocked the doors, before opening one for her.

“Get in.”

“I can walk; my car isn"t far.”

“Damn it, Kari. Do you always have to be so stubborn?” If it wasn"t for the twitch in her eye during their argument, he might actually think she wanted him gone.

But she didn"t. For some crazy reason, he didn"t want her gone either. In the thirty-two years of his life, he wanted to see tomorrow with the same woman, this crazy, beautiful, stubborn, and amazing woman.

“What kind of man would I be if I let you walk to your car?”

She rolled her eyes, shrugged her backpack off her shoulder, and climbed in.

He closed the door, lifted his brow, and walked over to the driver side door.

Once buckled in, he opened the glove compartment to retrieve his gun and cell phone.

Scanning his missed calls, Nick noted ten from the local sheriff. What’s this about? Hitting redial, he called the station and waited for the clerk to answer.

Kari watched but didn"t say a thing.

“I need to check on something.”

She shrugged and stared out the window.

“Police Department, how can I direct your call?”

“This is Agent Murdock. Bill"s been trying to get a hold of me.”

“Yes, Agent Murdock, let me dispatch you to him right away.”

Less than five seconds past before Bill"s hurried voice yelled over the line.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Nice talking to you, too.”

“You always were a smart ass, Murdock. Listen, we have a situation on our hands.” The teasing stopped, and Bill"s voice grew grave.

“Oh, what situation is that?”

“Our suspect is missing.”

Anger coursed through Nick"s veins at the news, fists hit the steering wheel in frustration. “What?” he screamed into the receiver. Kari turned to him, alarmed.

“We were transporting him when the van collided with another vehicle on the road going down the hill. The driver and second officer were stunned. By the time they checked on our man, he"d escaped.”

Nick ran a frustrated hand through his hair and swore under his breath.

Kari touched his shoulder, gaining his attention. “Where was he last seen?”

He wanted to ask her how she heard Bill on the line, but remembered the bears. “Where did you lose him?” he barked.

After Bill gave a mile mark on the road, Nick hung up the phone and stared out the window.

“What are you waiting for? Let"s go.”

“Let"s? Oh, no, this doesn"t involve you. I"m taking you to your car.” Nick turned over the engine and put the car in drive.

“Whatever.” But her tone was anything but cooperative. “How did they lose the scrawny little weasel anyway?” she asked under her breath. “Morons.”

Nick slammed on the breaks, and Kari put her arms out to keep from lunging into the dash.

“What the...”

“How do you know he"s scrawny?”

“Damn, Nick, where did you learn how to drive, K-Mart?” She conveniently changed the subject. Her eye started to twitch.

“I asked you a question.”

“It was a guess.”

Her eye twitched again, this time she brought her hand to her forehead as if she sensed him watching her own personal lie detector.

“You"re lying.”

Surprisingly, Kari turned in her seat and looked him straight in the eye.

“Maybe I am, but I have my reasons. Time is wasting, Nick. He could be out there snatching up another little girl while we sit here debating my honesty.”

She is right, damn it.

Nick placed the blue flashing light in his dash and took off.

He drove a half a mile before skidding to a halt in front of her car.

She didn"t move. In fact, she folded her arms in front of her chest and made a display out of scrutinizing her un-manicured nails.

His jaw went rigid. “You"re not going to get out, are you?”

“Tick, tock, Murdock.” She glanced at her watch.

Growling, he punched the gas again and turned onto the road where the locals had misplaced his charge.

Satisfaction at getting her way was quickly replaced with worry. Nick snuck a few glances at her through the slits of his eyes. Somewhere, in his thick skull, he was trying to figure her out. Not that she thought he would, but his effort was bothersome. No one in her past had ever tried to place her motives or ways.

Not even Dee.

The two-lane country road was blocked with a dozen squad cars and forestry department vehicles. K-9"s were sniffing the area and both uniformed and un-uniformed officers were everywhere.

Kari jumped from the car as quickly as Nick.

“Stay here,” he ordered.

Not willing to argue and waste more time, Kari gave him a mock salute and leaned against the car.

He marched away, looked back once, then turned and spoke with the sheriff.

Once Nick moved a little farther away, Kari got to work.

Fear, mixed with anxiety, was everywhere. Unfortunately, it was the result of the police shitting their pants after losing their suspect and not the weasel on the loose. Kari noted the directions the dogs headed and moved quietly away from the crowd.

The man"s stench hit her several yards from the smashed up van. She approached a small patch of trampled forest floor, where one dog assessed the ground.

His snout picked up her scent and the animal gave a warning growl. His handler darted his eyes to her and asked. “Who are you?”

“I"m with Murdock. Do you have any leads?” Acting as if she belonged was something Kari had mastered years ago. Seldom was she ever questioned.

The officer shrugged and tugged his dog back when he barked in her direction. Perhaps he didn"t like the competition, she mused.

“No, we just arrived on scene.”

Kari bent down, picked up a broken twig, and brought it to her nose. He must have stumbled where she stood.

Again, the dog barked at her.

“Can you quiet him down?” She was trying to hear past the white noise of the chaos.

The air changed and she caught his scent.

Just then, Nick grabbed her arm from behind and whirled her around in his direction. “I told you to stay by the car. What the hell are you doing?”

“Saving all your collective asses.” She pulled out of his grasp and started running into the forest.

Nick stayed close behind. “You know, Pierce, you"re really starting to piss me off.”

She ignored him and changed directions after a few more yards. When she stopped, he collided into her.

Gasping for breath, he asked, “Do you see something?”

She leaned over and picked up a branch. Wiping her fingers along the wood, she collected a small drop of blood. “He"s injured.”

Standing back on his heals, Nick"s expression started to soften. He had a thousand questions. Kari could practically see the wheels in his head turning.

“Which way?”

“North.”

They ran together, but didn"t say a word. When Kari stopped and sniffed the air, Nick stayed quiet about her strange behavior. He simply followed.

For two miles they forged new paths until she knew the weasel was close.

His fear gagged her. The sticky, bloody trail he left behind was equally offensive.

“We need to split up,” she whispered.

“No way. I"ve gone along on this wild goose chase but there is no way I"m leaving your side.”

“Be reasonable, Nick. I"ll cause a distraction and you grab him from behind.”

Nick spread his arms wide. “Where is he?”

Sending him a smirk one would grant a child, she grabbed his hands, knelt down low, and pointed to a tree some twenty yards away. “Behind there.”

“How can you tell?”

“Now"s not the time for questions. He"s catching his breath, which means he"ll be moving soon. I"ll circle in front of him, you take him from behind.”

When he started to argue, she insisted, “I won"t have to get near him.”

“What if he hears you?”

She rolled her eyes. “Right, like you did yesterday.”

Nick shook his head and removed his gun.

By the time he looked up, Kari was gone.

Her hair stood on end when she passed the man sitting at the base of a tree.

Dressed in a jailhouse jumpsuit, he appeared thinner than he had when she incapacitated him the first time. Handcuffed with his hands in his lap, he didn"t pose any threat at all.

She saw Nick take position a little closer than where she left him. The time had come to let the pervert know they were there. It was then it dawned on her, she didn"t know his name. Not that she"d give him the dignity to use it.

Kari picked up a small stone and tossed it into the brush to the East.

His eyes darted toward the noise, his fear mounted.

“What"s the matter, dick head? Afraid of what might be hiding in the woods?”

She could almost hear Nick"s scowl with her choice of words. Besides, she couldn"t help herself. It was a comfort to play with her prey before she pounced, with or without fur all over her body.

The man shimmied up the trunk of the tree until he stood straight. Kari shifted positions and called out from a different direction.

“You were better off in the paddy wagon. Out here in the woods, it"s easy to get lost.”

His head whipped around. She moved again.

Nick moved closer every time she spoke.

“Who are you?” his shaky voice called out.

“Ah... well, you know who I am.”

“No, I don"t.”

She ducked out of sight and up onto a rock. There she let her body be seen.

“I"m your nightmare, you pervert.”

His beady little eyes looked her way and raked over her body. He swiped his lips with the tip of his tongue and smiled a toothless grin. “Even handcuffed I can take you out.”

Nick was less than four yards from him. His stealth- like manner filled her heart with pride. They made a great team. Too bad it couldn"t last.

She jumped down from the rock and walked forward, keeping the man"s attention. “I"d like to see you try.”

“Come on, Bitch,” he spat with cocky confidence.

“I don"t think so.” Nick brought the butt of his gun down on top of the man"s already swollen head. He crumbled to the ground before he knew what hit him.

“Well done, Murdock. But how are we going to get him out of here?” Kari flashed her eyebrows high and gave into a chuckle when Nick"s expression of accomplishment fell.

Chapter Five

“I want to see you again,” Nick said in the busy airport while they waited for her flight to be called.

“We"ve been over this. I"m not cut out for long term.”

“How will you know if you don"t give it a chance?”

He had said it all before. In the past twenty-four hours, he"d tried to convince her to give them a chance. He prodded her to divulge her secrets he knew she kept. In the end, they made love for the last time in the wee hours of the morning and fell asleep in each other"s arms.

Part of her wanted to try. But she knew it wouldn"t work. It was better to break it off now, without hard feelings.

“We had a good time.”

“Is that all it was to you?”

Her eyes started to gloss over. She shook her emotions down and took a deep breath. “No. But it"s better this way.”

“Flight 613 is now boarding at gate 2 to Los Angeles.”

“That"s me.”

He stepped closer and brought his lips down to hers, branding her with his scent. She choked back the lump in her throat and met his kiss with as much urgency as he.

The announcer called her flight again.

He ended their kiss and rested his forehead against hers. “Be careful, Kari.”

“I will.”

Kari turned, handed her ticket to the waiting flight attendant, and wondered if she was making the biggest mistake of her life.

Nick scowled throughout the office for the better part of a week. His report on the kidnapper was typed and on his superior"s desk, with only a few minor details omitted. Explaining how a pint size woman could sniff out the suspect would look as if he was indulging in the confiscated stash in the evidence vault.

Some things were better off unsaid. Besides, he still wasn"t sure how she did it. Over and over she pleaded a sixth sense. But it was more than that; he knew it.

And Kari knew he suspected something. Is that why she ran? Whatever her secret was, it kept Nick out of her life, and he wasn"t happy about it.

Kari Pierce was never far from his thoughts. Although he kept busy during the day with case files, at night his body and mind remembered her warmth, her scent, and her smile.

Nick forced the image of her na*ed and in his arms from his head and stared at the phone on his desk. He tapped the numbers with his index finger, wondering if he should try calling her again. Every time he did, however, her sister Dee lied and insisted she wasn"t in. One time he heard Kari"s voice asking who called. Dee quickly covered up the receiver, mumbled something, then proceeded to tell him Kari wasn"t there.

Dragging a frustrated hand through his hair, Nick snatched his hand away from the phone and forcefully opened the file in front of him.

“Murdock,” his boss called from the door of his office. “You have a minute?”

Nick stood while Ron Patterson came in and shut the door behind him.

Before he sat down, he tossed a folder on top of his desk. “You mind explaining this?”

It was the Sequoia file. Kari"s file.

“What didn"t you understand?”

“It appears to jump ahead of itself. I"m wondering if there is something you"re not telling me.” Ron sat back and calmly folded his hands in his lap. Nick remembered how unsettled he felt by Patterson when first joining the FBI. He gave lectures at the time and wasn"t in a position of being in charge. Like any good agent, Ron elevated in the ranks and soon took the corner office. At sixty-five and with silver streaks feathered into his raven black hair, Ron may be on his way to retirement, but could still be intimidating.

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