Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Romance  ➡  Adventure

Bounty Hunter

Chapter 1

 

I’ll never forget the first time I was taken to the police station. I was so worked up and convinced I was in big trouble, and for what? Six months of doing drugs with my high school friends. It really wasn’t worth it, but it was too late to go back and change it.

I’d felt like a complete idiot when the police officer told us our parents would be informed and called down to the station. I had been dreading their arrival.

My parents were the typical high-paid workaholics with important careers. I’d gotten away with everything because they were never around to know any different. While they were at their boring offices, I was out having fun doing whatever I wanted. They were pretty strict when they were home; encouraged me to study, get good exam results and have a good career once I finished high school. Instead I ended up hanging out with the wrong crowd, thinking I was so cool. Sure, it had been fun going to all those parties, scoring with hot girls and getting drunk and high; but I never thought of the consequences.

I didn’t care about school or lessons. Half the time I was there I’d have side effects; being really tired and almost falling asleep in every class, or having problems concentrating. I flunked all my exams.

Mum and Dad were horrified and annoyed when my exam results arrived in August. They asked me why I’d got such low grades, genuinely confused at the outcome. What could I do; tell them the real reasons I hadn’t bothered revising? That would have got me into even bigger trouble.

Instead I just shrugged, said I hadn’t really understood a lot of the things they tried to teach me and the revising didn’t help.

“You could have asked the teachers for help or gone to some after school clubs,” Dad had told me, disappointed. “Why didn’t you tell us about it?”

I shrugged again, “you’re both too busy to care.”

“We do care about you, Drake,” Mum said, looking upset. “We would have taken the time to support you if we knew. I thought you were doing well at school. The teachers were happy about your progress at parent’s evening last year.”

I tried not to smirk, wondering what the teachers would have told them about me a few months down the line from then. I’d definitely not have gotten any positive reviews.

“You’re enrolling for college and re-sitting your maths and English exams,” Dad told me firmly. “At least this way you’ll get a second chance to gain some GCSEs.”

“I don’t want to go to college,” I protested. I’d hated high school enough and thought I was finally free. Instead I was annoyed at the thought of being forcing back to some boring classroom.

“Well it’s tough. I’m enrolling you tonight,” replied Dad. “You can start college next month.”

I swore under my breath, crossing my arms.

Mum heard, “Drake, don’t use that language,” she warned me. “I know you’re not happy but this is for the best.”

“It’s not fair. All my other friends are getting jobs,” I had felt jealous of them, thinking they’d be earning money for more drugs and booze. “Why can’t I get one instead of college?”

“Because you’re not getting stuck at some dead end job working at a supermarket or fast food place,” said Dad, as if those types of jobs were beneath us. “You’re getting some qualifications and a real career.”

I sighed. I didn’t care about a career; I just wanted to earn money.

I had been pretty fed up about having to start college in a few weeks, so I partied with my friends as much as I could to make the most of my summer. Then one night the police busted our party at a friend’s house. One of the neighbours must have complained about something stupid like the music being too loud. When the police officers arrived they must have expected it to be the usual call of splitting up another teen party. Instead they caught us all doing Ecstasy and that’s when it got serious.

We were all arrested and brought over to the police station. When my parents finally arrived after receiving the phone call, they looked shocked and dismayed. I was still too high to fully register what was going on, but I was terrified they were going to send me to jail. The fact I was doing Class A drugs made it even worse.

Luckily, the police officer explained that because I was only using them for personal use instead of dealing, and it was my first offence, I wouldn’t be getting a serious charge. I got off with a reprimand, since I was under the age of eighteen, and I was so relieved I thought I was going to pass out. The police officer gave my parents a leaflet and explained everything, but I couldn’t take any of it in. All I knew was I was off the hook and I’d be in big trouble if I was ever caught again.

Mum knew there was no point talking things over once we got home, since I was still out of it. She just sent me straight to bed until I crashed.

Once it was morning, I knew I had to face them and they were about to kick off big style. I nervously went down for breakfast, feeling sick.

My parents were already sat at the dining table waiting for me and they told me off for what seemed like ages, using the words ‘irresponsible’ and ‘disgusting behaviour’ a lot.

“That’s the last time you see any of these so-called friends,” Mum said once they’d finished their lecture. “They’re obviously a bad influence on you and I don’t want you getting involved in that situation again.”

“What are you gonna do, ground me?” I asked sarcastically.

“Yes, that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

“I’m nearly seventeen, I’m not even at high school anymore,” I protested.

“Until you’ve finished college and start paying for yourself, you’ll do exactly as we tell you,” said Dad. “No more parties and no more drugs.”

“What am I supposed to do all summer?” I asked. “I can’t just stay in until college starts.”

Mum shared a look with Dad and I had a bad feeling what they were going to say.

“Drake… we think it’s best if you go to rehab,” she told me gently.

[][] Chapter 2

 

 

“What?!” I was so shocked at their announcement.

“We’re making sure you get off the drugs properly,” replied Mum.

“I’m not an addict. I don’t need rehab,” I lied.

“It’s better to get support, even if you’re not,” Dad told me calmly. “It will be hard to come off them and we don’t have time to supervise you twenty four hours a day.”

“I don’t want to go. I’ll be fine coming off them on my own…”

“You’re going and that’s final,” Dad had firmly put his foot down on the subject and there was no use complaining. “Go pack your bags. We’re taking you in today.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t believe my parents were dumping me at rehab and I’d never be able to find a fix once I was there. I knew there was no point in arguing with my parents because I wouldn’t get anywhere. Defeated, I went upstairs to my bedroom and miserably packed some of my stuff into a duffel bag.

They drove me to a private rehabilitation centre an hour’s drive away and Dad went to the reception desk, explaining the phone call they made earlier. A nurse took me through for an initial assessment and luckily my parents were told to stay in the waiting room so I could do it alone.

“You have to be completely honest with me and answer all our questions or we won’t be able to help you recover properly,” the nurse said as we sat down. “I know it will be hard, but everything you say will be kept confidential and we won’t discuss any of it with your parents.”

I didn’t really feel like talking and gave short answers to everything she asked. I had to admit to everything: how long I’d been taking them, what kind I used, what amounts, how often and which side effects I got. It felt weird having to tell an adult after keeping it a secret from my parents for so long.

“What caused you to start taking drugs?” she asked. “Were there problems at home? Trouble at school? Any emotional distress?”

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” I snapped. I was annoyed that they were suddenly acting like a counselling service, as if I had issues I needed to talk through. “I just took them for fun. All my friends did too.”

“Was it peer pressure that made you try them?”

I was annoyed at that too, trying to make out I was being forced into it or bullied, “No, I just wanted to try them and it made parties even better, so I kept using.”

“Do you want to stop taking drugs?”

“Why would I be here if I didn’t?” I replied moodily.

“I have to make sure it’s not just because your parents forced you into coming. You have to want it for this treatment to work. We can’t force you against your will. So do you want to quit?”

I shrugged in answer, but of course I didn’t want to stop. Why would I give up something good?

The nurse bored me with all kinds of information about how ill I could get and what effects it would have on me. I hardly listened until she gave me worst case scenarios of what will happen in the future, and then I felt nervous. I didn’t want to end up in hospital or dead. Suddenly taking drugs felt a lot more serious than just a bit of fun. I never thought about the consequences. Then there was also the fear of getting arrested by the police again. I knew it would be very bad news to be caught a second time.

In the end, I agreed that I wanted their help and the nurse looked so thrilled with me, saying this was a big step. She explained everything about my treatment and I started to feel even more anxious. Luckily there wasn’t a long waiting list to start like there would have been if it was a public clinic with free health care. My parents were paying for everything and that’s the only reason I was getting it all so quickly. I would have probably chickened out if they hadn’t admitted me that day, so probably it was for the best.

“You’ll be fine, honey,” Mum told me as I said goodbye to them. “This won’t be easy but it’s for your own good. I only want you to get better.”

“We’ll come to visit you once a week,” promised Dad, “and we’ll phone to check up on you.”

I felt a little sad that they wouldn’t be around, but I had to do this alone and they had work commitments. I had to grow up, be brave and manage on my own. I was nearly seventeen after all; I shouldn’t keep being so reliant on my parents anymore.

Mum hugged me before leaving and cried a little, then the nurse called me through and they had to go. I was given a tour of the rehab clinic and it was a really nice place considering why I was there. I knew I was really lucky to be staying in a posh, private centre instead of a crappier, public one. I had my own bedroom and

en-suite bathroom, which looked like a four star hotel room.

There was a big lounge for everyone to use downstairs and a gym with all kinds of work out machines and weights, and a small indoor swimming pool. I liked it there, but it sucked not being allowed to have my mobile or any internet access.

I had felt okay for a few days and thought it was pointless me being there. Then after two weeks, the cravings hit me. I thought I could just ignore them and it would go away eventually, but the withdrawals started and then it turned bad.

If I was home I would have given up at some point and got drugs somehow, but I was stuck there. I got really ill and even started to think I actually needed drugs just to feel better again. Luckily there were no drugs I could fall back on and I just had to get through it.

I went through hell and got depressed, but luckily the nurses were right and I slowly started to feel better and began to work through my addiction. I never wanted to see drugs again after going through that much coming off. I distracted myself by going to the gym each day, working out and doing weights, finishing off with a relaxing swim. My body got used to being without drugs and I almost started to feel like my old self again. I was released after a few weeks and finally got back home.

The clinic arranged for me to have support after leaving, to make sure I could cope and not get into drugs again. I never hung out with any of my friends again and deleted their text messages until they eventually gave up. I started college even though I hated it. The lessons made me feel thick, but the tutors were nice and understanding, going through everything slowly until I made progress.

The only thing I looked forward to was going to the local gym. I started a membership, and since my social life had gone downhill I spent most of my evenings and weekends there. Pretty soon I was strong with muscles I was really proud of.

“What career do you want to pursue when you leave college?” Mum asked me one night over dinner.

“I dunno,” I answered unsurely. “I always wanted to be a police officer…” That was until I screwed up and ended up at rehab.

“I’m unsure whether they’ll let you enrol for police training,” Dad informed me. “The reprimand they gave you will show up on your CRB check.”

I felt devastated.

“Surely they could let him work in the office, answering phone calls?” Mum asked.

I sighed. I didn’t want a boring office job. I wanted action and I’d blown my chances of getting my dream job.

“I’ll ask a friend of mine. She used to work for the police before she was made redundant,” said Dad. “Maybe she’ll give us an answer.”

He invited his friend, named Coral, over for dinner the next evening and I felt so awkward having them discussing me. Still, Coral seemed nice and didn’t think badly of me. She was forty five years old, quite tall and strong, with short brown hair and green eyes. She didn’t have big muscles like me, but her arms were toned and she looked fit.

Coral listened to all they had to say then finally answered, “he can apply in two and half years when it’s off his record, but until then the police force won’t take him. Even cleaners and admin staff need to pass a CRB check.”

I felt bad hearing this, although I was already expecting it.

“I’m really sorry,” Mum said sympathetically. “We’ll just have you find you something else.”

“There is another option,” Coral said unexpectedly. “I own a bounty hunter business. I still get jobs from the police if the people they’re dealing with have missed court dates or run away. If Drake wants to try it, I can let him do some work experience?”

They all looked at me expectantly.

“What would I have to do?” I asked.

“Well, we could use some help doing background checks and answering calls…”

Great, a boring desk job, I had thought, unimpressed.

“…but after we’ve given you some training, you could help us hunt down the criminals. It’s sort of like being a police officer in a way.”

“Really?” I was suddenly interested. I hoped this would be the next best thing to being a cop.

“Sure. We can start you off on Monday,” said Coral. “My boys will be excited to meet you.”

“Thanks,” I was so grateful.

“I promise he will be on his best behaviour and work hard,” Dad told her. “If there’s any problems let me know.”

[][] Chapter 3

 

 

On Monday, I arrived at the office on time, feeling excited. Coral seemed bossy and strict at first, but she was okay.

The two guys working in her team were similar age to me, but a few years older. Coral introduced me and I studied them curiously. They were both tough looking with muscles and very fit. Bruno was twenty three years old, with tattoos all over his arms and neck, and his hair was shaven. Wez was younger at twenty one and a little shorter than Bruno. His hair was mostly hidden by his baseball cap that he wore backwards. He had less tattoos and piercings along his left ear.

“Hi Drake, nice to meet you,” Bruno had shook my hand quite formally.

Wez grinned over at me, looking friendly, “hey.”

“Now I expect you two to look after him while he’s on work experience,” Coral told them. “Let him help you with any admin work and low risk hunts. I’ll give him some training and get him up to speed.”

Luckily I seemed to fit right in. Wez was eager to let me help him with a few background checks. Coral patiently taught me how to use police records and get the best research. Then I started working with Wez for the rest of the day and we quickly became friends.

Bruno was pretty cool too. He was mostly busy with his own work, but we hung out at breaks and lunch hour. He approved of my muscles and we chatted about work out regimes, agreeing to start hanging out at the gym together. Wez sometimes came with us, but mostly we liked to go clubbing together on Saturday nights.

I worked really hard for a few months, training at the office and shadowing either of my team mates on hunts. I didn’t get paid, since it was a voluntary work placement, but I loved it anyway. I did shifts whenever I wasn’t at college and started driving lessons every Saturday morning.

Later that year I was accepted as part of their team and became an official bounty hunter. Coral agreed that I could have a paid part time job there since I had done so well. I felt so happy and they arranged an office party for me as a surprise. Coral awarded me with my new law enforcements badge and I got my own bullet proof vest, belt, hand cuffs and mace spray.

“Pity you can’t use a gun yet like the rest of us,” Wez joked.

Coral explained to me that I’d need to be approved for a gun licence by the police first before she could let me have my own gun. It meant having to be interviewed and get references; plus it also cost money to register a gun to me and keep renewing it every few years. I was nervous that the police wouldn’t let me have one when I discovered they would have to perform a CRB check. I wasn’t sure if the reprimand record on mine would blow my chances or not, so I never really bothered looking into it. I didn’t really care about the gun, I was happy to finally be a bounty hunter and that’s all that mattered.

 

My first official case was to track down two drug dealers and I was excited to start. Coral read out their information to us from the police records and we all studied the photographs which she pinned on the office board.

“We have an address where they’re currently living. It’s a council house in town,” she told us. “They haven’t been caught there yet so we’ll go over right now and check it out.”

We got all our equipment and I jumped into the Range Rover with Wez, while Coral and Bruno took the other car. Wez had to drive me everywhere back then because I was still having driving lessons.

“It must be exciting being on your first proper hunt,” Wez said to me.

I grinned, “Yeah, I can’t wait.”

“I bet Coral will let you take them down,” he said, sounding a little jealous. “It’s only fair that you get your turn to arrest someone, especially as you’re official now.”

“Cool,” I replied, feeling even more excited.

We arrived outside a council house and approached their door cautiously. Coral and Bruno spread out around the street on look out, in case any of the drug dealers tried to do a runner.

Wez banged on the front door loudly, “open up!”

We waited but there was no reply.

“Check the windows, Drake,” he told me quietly. “See if you can spot anyone inside.”

I peered through the living room window, looking around carefully in case they were hiding. I couldn’t see anyone and shook my head at Wez to let him know.

“Looks like we’ll have to do this the hard way,” he replied and slammed hard into the front door.

It crashed down to the floor and he entered quickly, his gun ready. I followed him in.

“Anyone home?” Wez called out and we started to search in every room.

I looked in all the obvious hiding places, but it seemed as if they weren’t there.

“Keep checking everywhere,” he told me. “They could still be hiding.”

Wez radioed Coral to come and help us with the search. Bruno stayed outside on look out, watching the house carefully for any movement. However, even after all three of us searched the house twice over, we found nothing.

“Looks like they’re out,” said Coral. “We’ll ask around with the neighbours, see if they’ve seen them.”

We had to split up to do some questioning and I got busy asking people, showing the wanted poster we had with the photographs.

“Sorry, I haven’t seen them in weeks,” one young woman told me, busy looking after her baby.

I thanked her and moved on to some other people, but they all said the same and didn’t know where the two men could be.

Coral called us back to the Range Rovers and looked annoyed, “I’ve just found out from one neighbour that they packed up their stuff and moved on three weeks ago, so that explains why the police couldn’t find them.”

“So you think they’re on the run?” asked Wez. “If they are they could be anywhere by now.”

“They should have informed the police of a changed address,” said Bruno. “Now they’ll get a violation for that on top of everything.”

“We’ll find them somehow,” said Coral determinedly. “Maybe they’re still in the city somewhere.”

“They will be,” I replied surely. “They won’t want to lose customers.”

After two days of investigating the case, Coral called me into her office.

“There have been sightings of them in the city, but I’m not sure whether they still live here or not,” she informed me. “We need to track them somehow and you’re the best for this case, with your past history of drugs. I’ll give you some time to try and find any of their regular places. If you get any information or a location, let me know immediately.”

“Sure, I’m on it,” I said, feeling proud that she trusted me enough to find them.

I visited a few drug related places around the city but found nothing. They probably knew that the law was onto them and stayed low for a while until it had blown over. If I needed to catch them I would have to make sure they didn’t know I was after them.

I changed out of my uniform and into a dark hoodie and scruffy jeans to disguise myself as a potential client. Then I set out looking around the same places again and targeted a rough looking guy I spotted, who was waiting around smoking a cigarette. He was the perfect guy I was looking for, definitely a person who would buy drugs.

“Hey,” I greeted him gruffly, keeping my face a little hidden and trying to keep up the druggie act. “Do you know where I can get a fix ‘round here? I really need some stuff.”

He looked around, checking that no one was listening, then leaned closer and answered in a whisper, “drugs you mean?” he checked, just to make sure.

“‘Course,” I answered impatiently, trying to come across as cranky from lack of drugs. “So do you know someone or not?”

He hesitated for a few seconds and then must have decided that he could trust me enough to help me out.

“I know some guys,” he told me quietly. “Y’know the shelter down at the park?”

“Yeah.”

“They do some dealing there at one in the morning, but they’re trying to keep under the radar for a few weeks…you’ll need to ring them in advance.”

He gave me a number and I typed it into my mobile.

“Thanks pal, I appreciate it,” I said and left, feeling happy to be getting somewhere.

I had to try the mobile number twice before they answered and even then they were vague with me.

“Hello? Who’s this?”

“You don’t know me, I’m Daniel,” I answered, giving them a fake name. “I heard you’ve got some stuff?”

“What do you need?”

I gave them a fake order, making it a big one to lure them out even more and make it seem worth the risk.

“It’s full payment in cash,” he told me sternly. “If you don’t have the money we don’t deal.”

“That’s fine with me, I’ll have it ready. So I’ll meet you at the park? One o’clock?”

“Yeah, see you then.”

He hung up and I felt thrilled knowing I had just lured the two drug dealers into a trap.

When I got back to the office I told the team all about it.

“Good job, Drake,” Coral smiled, looking proud. “I knew you could do it.”

“So what’s the plan?” asked Wez.

“We’ll let them think Drake’s doing the deal, it’s safer to play along at first,” she answered. “We’ll stay nearby in the cars, and once the transfer is being made we’ll arrest them.”

We all met at the office at twelve that night and arrived at the park thirty minutes later.

“We’ll be watching from the car,” Coral told me. “You stay outside near the shelter and we’ll come over when it’s time.”

Wez and Bruno both wished me luck and I felt nervous as I walked into the park and paced around the shelter, waiting for them. It was a cold night and I was shivering inside my hoodie.

I heard movement nearby and looked over to see two dark figures approaching me.

“Are you Dan?” one of them asked me.

“Yeah,” I answered. “So have you got what I need?”

The second guy flashed the package.

“And the money?” the first one asked greedily.

I reached into my pocket, hid the wad of notes in my hand and faked a hand shake with him, carefully handing it over. He counted the notes inside his jacket, just to make sure I had paid enough, and then nodded to his partner. He discreetly let the package fall into my shopping bag as he passed me.

“It was nice doing business,” the first one told me quietly. “Ring us again if you need anything else.”

“I will,” I lied.

That was when Coral, Bruno and Wez suddenly appeared and surrounded us, their guns pointed in their direction.

“Freeze!”

Bruno took down the first guy, pinning him to the floor. The second one looked scared and ran for it, so Wez chased him. Coral helped to arrest the first guy who was swearing and getting violent.

“Go help Wez,” she told me, so I ran and started to search the park.

“Over here!” Wez yelled to me as he followed the man in pursuit.

I ran around the park, trying to catch him at the other side of the small woods, and that’s when I saw someone hiding behind a bush.

[][] Chapter 4

 

 

I carefully made my way towards the bush but they saw me coming and tried to make a run for it. I quickly chased them, determined not to let them get away. I eventually grabbed their arm strongly and pinned them against a nearby tree.

I was really surprised when I noticed through the darkness that it wasn’t the man we were chasing. It was a twenty year old female I had just caught and she looked terrified, eyes wide with shock.

“Please, don’t hurt me,” she whimpered.

I noticed she had a slight Spanish accent to her voice although she spoke perfect English. I couldn’t make out much of her appearance in the dark but her hair was short and she looked up at me with beautiful eyes.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” I reassured her, but I kept a strong grip just in case she would try to run again. “Are you a drug dealer too? Or are you one of their clients?”

“I buy from them,” she answered tearfully.

I immediately softened. I was in the same position as her once and couldn’t help feeling sorry for her.

“You need to get off the drugs,” I told her. “Getting involved with dealers like this is the worst thing you can do. You’re not only letting the drugs ruin your life and your health; you’re at risk of getting sent down for it.”

She continued to cry, looking sorry for herself.

“I should really turn you into the police…” I said hesitantly.

“Please, don’t tell them,” she pleaded with me. “I won’t do drugs again, I swear. I’ll get off them.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, not knowing whether to believe her or not, “because I’m not letting you go just so you can get another fix from somewhere else.”

“I promise,” she begged. “I’ll do rehab… whatever it takes.”

“Okay,” I agreed quietly. “I’ll let you go, but you have to phone me tomorrow. I’ll get you some help.”

She nodded and accepted my business card.

“What’s your name?” I asked, just in case I didn’t see her again.

“Kara Montes,” she answered, and I let her walk away before the others spotted her.

Luckily, Wez managed to catch the other guy and they were both handcuffed and thrown into the back of our cars when I got back.

“Good job everyone,” Coral congratulated us. “Let’s get them over to the police station and we can finally have some sleep.”

I felt happy knowing the drug dealers were heading to jail. It was my sort of revenge to drug dealers for dragging me down and getting me addicted. At least they wouldn’t be able to prey on innocent teenagers now, the way they had once done with my friend who bought all the drugs for our parties.

I got a phone call in the afternoon, when we were all back at work after a few hours’ sleep. It was an unknown number and I was hoping it was Kara, ringing me as promised.

“Hello, is this Drake?” I recognised her sweet, exotic voice immediately and smiled.

“Yeah, it is.”

“It’s Kara, we met early this morning.”

“Yeah, I remember. How are you, sweetie?”

“I’m fine. So you’ll still help me?”

“I promise I will. There’s a rehab centre nearby you can go to, it’s free. I can ring them up for you and sort everything out?”

“Okay,” she replied, sounding relieved.

We agreed that I would come over to her flat after work and phone up then, since they would probably want information about her that I didn’t know yet. I got a taxi over to the address she gave me and arrived at a block of flats, having to find the right door. I felt surprised when she answered because this time we weren’t in the dark and I could take in her full appearance.

She had shoulder length black curls, gorgeous hazel eyes and a cute smile. She was curvy and five foot eight in height, with naturally tanned coloured skin. I almost felt myself falling for her she was that stunning.

She seemed pretty shy and nervous as we had coffee together, but I knew it was probably just because of the rehab stuff we had to sort out. I phoned up and after everything was sorted out, Kara was given a time and date for her initial assessment.

“I could come with you for support, if you want me to?” I offered, “but they won’t let me in for the assessment.”

“I’ll be fine,” she reassured me, although she looked nervous about it. “I don’t want to bother you. I’m sure you’re busy.”

“I don’t mind,” I smiled. “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

We stayed in contact through text messages once she had got through the initial assessment. I felt bad that she had to be put on a waiting list and not get help immediately like I had, but I knew she didn’t have the money to go private. She finally had another interview when her case was accepted and a visit to show her around the rehab centre.

She was pretty anxious by now, but I talked her through everything over a phone call, hoping she wouldn’t back out.

“You’re doing the right thing, even if it doesn’t feel that way now,” I reassured her. “I used to be a druggie too so I know how you’re feeling. It’ll be hard giving up.”

“Do you think it will work?” she asked me.

“Of course it will,” I answered. “It won’t be easy though. That first time coming off is the hardest.”

“I’m really scared about going in tomorrow,” she told me.

“You’ll be fine, trust me.”

“I’m grateful that you’ve helped me so much and not told the police. Thanks, Drake.”

“It’s no problem,” I smiled to myself, holding the mobile. “Phone me any time if you want to talk or anything while you’re there. I can even come and visit.”

“That would be great,” she agreed, and I could tell in her voice that she was smiling too.

 

It was a few weeks later when Kara was finally discharged. I had been visiting her once a week to see how she was doing and we had spoken on the phone a few times whenever she found it hard and needed some friendly support.

“You’ve done great,” I said happily when I picked her up from the rehab centre. “Now you’ll be able to start fresh, no drugs and no more trouble.”

“I suppose so,” she smiled but still looked a little ill. “I’m glad you helped me, Drake. No one else would have got me into rehab. I felt as if no one else understood what I was going through.”

“It’s okay,” I replied. “Like I said, I’ve been there. It’s nice to help someone going through the same thing.”

“I’ll need to make it up to you somehow. You’ve done so much for me.”

“How about a date?” I asked cheekily.

She giggled and blushed, surprised by my suggestion.

“You’ve got a boyfriend already?” I guessed.

“No, I’ve not,” she answered and I felt relieved.

“So what do you think? We could go out for dinner?”

She considered it for a few seconds, “okay.”

“What’s your favourite place to eat?”

“Anywhere with Italian food, I love Italian,” she answered excitedly.

“Okay, I’ll find somewhere nice,” I agreed. “So tonight…seven o’clock?”

She nodded with a smile and I felt so excited to take her out.

[][] Chapter 5

 

 

Kara and I started a relationship soon after our date and I felt happier than I had in years. I walked into the office the next day with a big grin on my face, feeling like the luckiest guy in the world. Wez immediately asked why I was looking so cheerful and I told him I had a new girlfriend. He demanded to see a photo right away, so I pulled out my mobile and showed him a photo of us both, feeling proud.

“Damn, she is hot,” Wez gawped at her in the photo. “Where’d you meet her?”

I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth, in case I got her into any trouble, so I lied, “at a bar in town.”

“Let me see,” Bruno demanded and playfully snatched the mobile off Wez. “Whoa, you pulled a Spanish chick?”

I nodded, feeling pleased.

“Nice one, mate,” he smiled, handing me back the mobile once he’d had a good look at her.

I was happy they were both impressed and seemed to approve of Kara. They started to bombard me with dirty questions about her, which I answered with a smirk.

“What’s all this about?” Coral asked, coming over to see what the commotion was.

“Drake’s got a girlfriend,” Wez told her, giving me a teasing smile.

“Aww, that’s sweet,” Coral seemed really interested in Kara too and asked loads of questions. I even showed her the photo.

“She’s really pretty. I hope you treat her right.”

Wez and Bruno sniggered.

“I will,” I promised and I meant it.

“Has she met your parents?”

Wez and Bruno watched for my reply, amused, “not yet…it’s still early days.”

I wasn’t sure whether I would introduce her to my parents. We hadn’t even been together long and that was a big deal. My parents had never approved of my previous girlfriends, and I was nervous that if they ever found out the truth about Kara, they wouldn’t like her either. I knew they would insist on meeting her eventually whether I liked it or not.

I continued to love every second of my job although some non-action parts were pretty boring. I was forever on a high back then, feeling loved up over Kara and excited about every case that came our way from the police. I finally passed my English and maths exams in May and left college. Coral told me I could work for her full time since I wasn’t a student anymore and I jumped at the chance.

During the summer I passed my theory and practical driving tests and bought my own black Range Rover. After my eighteenth birthday in October, I finally got the courage and money to get some tattoos done. I picked the black inked, chain design which ran down the side of both my arms. They looked amazing but it hurt and took a while to heal.

We did a few more arrests for drug dealers that year who were on the run, and even caught some drug users too. I always felt sorry for them, thinking of Kara and me. If I ever found drugs on them during an arrest, I made them flush it down the toilet themselves, hoping it would help them want to get off the drugs for good.

Some of them didn’t want any help and ended up in prison. Luckily some of them did and I kept in contact, making sure they got through rehab while they were doing time.

“You’re supposed to be a bounty hunter, Drake, not a rehab service,” Wez joked with me.

“Drake just cares about the people we arrest,” Coral said approvingly, and she would give me a smile that made me feel special. “It’s nice that you’re giving them a second chance, helping them turn their life around.”

I felt happy to be changing people’s lives and getting them through rehab, because I knew how hard it was.

We got stuck into another case; this time it was for a man who had committed theft and had missed two court dates already.

“It’s obvious he’s done a runner,” Wez told me as we both read through the information, “and he’s taken all his stolen loot with him. His flat was found pretty much empty.”

“There’s a vehicle registered here,” I said, finding some useful information. “Maybe we can track him down using this car number plate.”

“I’ll get on it,” Wez said, busy searching on his laptop.

I went out for lunch with Kara, who agreed to meet me at the office. I felt a little sad when I had to go back to work and leave her, but I got a pretty good kiss to make up for it.

When I walked back inside Wez was smiling so I knew he must have good news for me.

“He’s still got the van in these records,” he told me as I sat down. “I’ve started tracking it but he’s constantly moving around. We’ll have to follow and hope we can find it.”

I felt excited for another hunt although I knew it meant having time away from Kara.

“I’ll tell Coral about it and we can drive over to where he is now,” said Wez, feeling excited too.

We drove for hours along the motorway to where the van was last spotted. I had to send an apologetic text to Kara on the way explaining why I couldn’t see her tonight. Luckily she understood about my job and never made me feel bad about having to work overtime.

It was a wild search at first, looking everywhere for a white van with the right registration number plate.

“This is going to take ages,” Bruno moaned, getting bored.

“We just have to keep looking,” Coral said, pushing us on. “Don’t give up.”

We had to stay over at a hotel that night, so I video called Kara before going to bed, saying I missed her and catching up on her day. Wez and Bruno teased me about being whipped but I didn’t care. I was falling in love with Kara and I wanted to be a good boyfriend to her, even if it meant embarrassing myself in front of the guys. She was definitely worth it.

In the morning we had an early breakfast then continued our search for the van. It was afternoon by the time we finally spotted it at a car park. My heart had leapt with surprise when I recognised the number plate and I felt so relieved we had finally found it.

I pointed it out to Coral, not wanting to speak in case the criminal was around to hear us. Coral signalled to all of us to surround the van and I walked ahead. I carefully made my way over, trying not to be seen or heard, and spotted a person inside the van through the driver’s window.

I got my mace spray ready in case he attacked then went to open the door on the driver’s side. He saw me and quickly jumped out of the other side of the van before I could grab him. I chased after him and Wez soon caught up behind me.

I managed to get nearer but he was still just out of reach. I waited until I had got close enough then jumped forward into him. We both hit the gravel of the car park and I kept hold of him.

“Stay down!” Wez yelled at him.

The criminal was still trying to get away, but I had fallen on top of him and kept him pinned down. Wez helped me hold him while I got the pair of handcuffs from my belt and clicked them onto his wrists.

“You’re under arrest for theft and illegal marketing of stolen goods,” I told him.

“You’ve got the wrong person, I ain’t done nothin’,” he started kicking off, but Wez just ignored him and forced him up onto his feet again.

“Good jobs, lads,” Coral said, giving us both a pat on the back. “Let’s get this one to the station.”

Bruno took him off our hands and put him into the back of the Range Rover.

“Drake, you go and hand him in. You need some more experience on that,” Coral told me. “Wez and I will take care of this van and the stolen products.”

I nodded and sat in the back with our criminal while Bruno jumped into the driver’s seat.

“Don’t touch my van or my stuff!” he started threatening us.

He was still trying to get out, even though he was handcuffed and strapped in with a seat belt. He looked like some annoying little brat who was kicking and screaming about not getting his way. He was so frustrated at not being able to punch me as I held him back.

“Shut up and stay seated!” Bruno barked at him.

He soon quietened down then and sat there defeated.

“So you’re Walter Stone?” I checked, going through our paperwork while he was behaving himself.

“So what? Those products in there are mine. I’m tryin’ to run a business.”

“I don’t think the police will believe you about that,” I replied honestly.

“You’re gonna be sent down for a long time,” Bruno warned him. “This stealing has gone on for years and you’ve only made things worse by going on the run.”

“I was fine until you fucking dickheads showed up,” he snarled at us, and Bruno and I couldn’t help but laugh at his insults.

“We’re gonna be glad to see the back of you,” replied Bruno. “I think a long time behind bars is what you need right now. Maybe you’ll get it into your thick head that the stuff you’re doing is wrong and you can’t just keep getting away with it.”

He went into a mood with us refusing to talk, obviously gutted about finally being caught.

We pulled up at the local police station and I informed the officers that we had brought a criminal for them. I escorted Walter into the station where the police officers were waiting for him. The receptionist gave me some paperwork to fill out and it took a while, but eventually the last part was done and I returned back to the Range Rover.

[][] Chapter 6

 

 

I helped track down a lot of criminals over those two and half years I had worked for Coral. Kara and I were still together after nearly two years, so this had been my longest relationship so far. My parents eventually met her over dinner but Dad wasn’t happy that I was with a foreigner. I was so angry with him, especially when he asked if she had a citizenship to live here. Luckily she managed to persuade them that she wasn’t an illegal immigrant, but they still didn’t accept her.

It was pretty hypocritical of him since we had all lived in Australia before moving here when I was five years old, so I reminded him.

“That’s different,” he insisted stubbornly. “It’s an English speaking country so it’s acceptable for us to be here. Kara is Spanish and had to learn it as a second language, it’s not the same thing.”

“That’s stupid, we’re not somehow better than her just because of what country we came from,” I protested, “and that doesn’t make us any more acceptable to be here than her.”

Kara would get upset over my Dad’s behaviour towards her and I had to keep apologising for it, embarrassed by him. Mum wasn’t too happy about his views but she took his side automatically. I was pretty annoyed with them both.

I felt awful that she was so offended and angry with them for upsetting the girl I loved.

“I don’t care whether you were born in this country or where you’re from,” I told her honestly. “I love you for who you are. If my parents want to be snobby and racist then that’s their problem.”

“I just want them to like me,” she sobbed, letting me hug her.

“Their opinion doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I like you and I’m old enough to make my own decisions. They’ll just have to deal with it.”

I decided to find my own flat and move out, so my parents couldn’t interfere anymore. I started to rent a flat in the city centre and Kara helped me furnish and decorate it. I asked if she wanted to move in with me, since she spent most of her time over at my flat anyway, visiting some evenings and sleeping over at weekends. It was more convenient both of us staying in my flat since it was bigger and in a better area. Kara was struggling to afford rent for her own flat on her part time wage, so it was cheaper for us both to live together and share the cost. She was thrilled and jumped at the chance, so we moved her stuff in and started living together.

My parents took an early retirement aged fifty and decided to move back to Australia. They expected me to move with them but I refused. I was happy here and wanted to stay where Kara and my job was. They were pretty offended when I turned them down. They were still not happy about me and Kara either so we kind of lost contact after they moved.

Coral was very sympathetic when she heard what had happened between me and my parents, but I was fine just having Kara and our work team as my family.

Kara and I still got on really well and she had been an amazing girlfriend from the start, accepting my job and my past. I loved to come home after a hard day’s work to see her making dinner for us. She always listened to my work stories, interested and excited about my job too, and I loved her for that.

On the nights when I was too tired after work, she would lie on the sofa with me instead or give me shoulder massages while I relaxed and watched TV. She was the perfect girl for me and I started to think that she was the one and we’d get married one day.

 

I started working on a sensitive case for a husband who had committed assault against his wife and missed the court date. Even reading the depressing details on that couldn’t alter my mood because I was always looking forward to going home to Kara. I thought about the case a little and couldn’t imagine how anyone would ever hit the person they were supposed to love. I knew I’d never attack a woman, especially Kara, and I started to hate this criminal immediately.

“We’ll have to tread carefully with this one,” Coral warned us and started to read all the information. “This is a domestic violence case so there’s someone at risk if he’s not found. He was due to go to court two weeks ago but police still haven’t been able to find him.”

“Does his wife know where he is?” I asked, thinking this was the obvious solution.

“She told the police she hasn’t seen him since he got arrested for the assault,” Coral answered. “I’ll try and talk to her again and see if she has any new information, but it looks like another hunt.”

We waited for Coral to finish her phone call with the wife and she looked troubled when she hung up.

“She said the exact same thing, but I don’t believe her,” Coral told us, looking nervous. “She doesn’t sound good; it’s as if she’s feeling threatened for some reason.”

“Maybe she’s just anxious after the assault?” suggested Bruno.

“I think it’s more than that,” she answered. “What if he’s still there?”

“But the police already searched the house twice,” Wez told her. “It’s here in the records.”

“I still want to check it out again, just to make sure. I have a bad feeling about it. Let’s go over to her house and perform a surprise search.”

We all jumped into the cars and drove over, pulling up further along the street so they didn’t suspect we were coming.

“Wez, you and Bruno stay around the house and see if you spot anything,” Coral ordered them.

They carefully made their way towards the house and position themselves, keeping watch from a hiding place.

“I’ll go and talk to her at the front,” Coral tells me. “You try and enter through the back door if I tell you to.”

“Okay,” I agreed and went through the back gate.

I heard Coral knock on the front door and the wife answered. I couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, but I waited for the signal from Coral.

“Drake, I’m going in,” I heard her radio to me. “Go through the back door.”

I tried the door and luckily it was left unlocked, so I entered to begin my search.

“I’ve already told you, he’s not here!” the wife insisted, looking upset.

“I know, we just want to make sure,” Coral reassured her.

We searched everywhere but found nothing. I could tell that Coral was disappointed that she was wrong.

“Sorry to bother you,” she apologised before we left.

“I just don’t get it, I was so sure he was there,” she seemed annoyed and confused.

“We’ll hunt him down,” I said confidently.

We got a big surprise when the wife turned up at our office the next day in floods of tears. I felt awkward, not knowing what to say or do with her. It was a relief when Coral came out of her office to take her off my hands and look after her instead.

“What’s wrong? Has he visited you?” she questioned her.

“No,” she sobbed, going through a wad of tissues.

“If he has, you need to tell the police right away.”

“I know…it’s just…” she looked so terrified that I wondered what was going on.

“You can tell us,” said Coral. “We’ll help you.”

“My husband…he’s been hiding…at our house,” she eventually managed to say.

We were all shocked to hear this.

“But we checked the house,” I said in confusion. “Even the police didn’t find him.”

“Is he still there?” asked Coral.

She nodded in answer, still crying.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Coral asked sympathetically, even though we were all feeling a little annoyed that she kept it a secret. “We could have taken him away from you.”

“I was scared…he said…”

“Has he been harassing you?” I asked, feeling anger rise inside me.

I hated him so much. I didn’t know how he could be so horrible and cowardly, bullying a helpless woman that stood no chance against a big thug like him.

She wouldn’t answer my question, still crying and shaking.

“Listen to me, we have to arrest him,” said Coral, trying to calm her down. “He needs to be sent down for assault. If you let him stay with you any longer then you’ll probably end up in hospital again.”

“But he’ll be furious with me…I said I wouldn’t tell…”

“He won’t be a problem for much longer,” Wez reassured her, also looking angry with her husband. “Once we’ve got hold of him, he’ll be behind bars.”

“But…I don’t want him to go to jail!” she wailed.

“After all he’s done to you?” I asked in disbelief.

“I still love him.”

I had to stop myself from shaking my head in disbelief. There was no way I could still care about someone who treated me that badly.

Coral gave her a hug and comforted her, “This is obviously going to be hard for you, but it’s the right thing to do. We’ll help you through it and you can visit him if that’s what you want.”

Eventually the wife calmed down and stopped crying, so Coral took her in the car with us as we made our way back to the house.

“Where does your husband hide?” Bruno asked her, interested to find out the mystery of it.

“He goes under the bed,” she replied.

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Bruno couldn’t either and grinned over at me.

“Didn’t think to check there, huh?”

I sighed in irritation, “‘Course I knew that. Their bed was different; he couldn’t hide under it.”

“So what did he do, hide under the covers?” teased Bruno.

“It has a storage space underneath the mattress,” his wife told us. “Whenever someone comes to the door he gets inside there until they’re gone.”

“Clever little shit,” I said under my breath, but Bruno heard and sniggered.

I couldn’t believe he got the better of us and made me and Coral look like idiots.

When we arrived at the house, I couldn’t wait to take this guy down I was so annoyed at being tricked. Coral stayed in the car with the wife, who was looking really anxious now the arrest was about to happen.

“You three go in and arrest him,” Coral told us. “It’s best if the wife stays away from him, so I’ll sit here with her until he’s gone.”

We opened the front door using the house keys his wife gave us. We didn’t have to go upstairs to find him hiding under the mattress. He didn’t have a clue anyone other than his wife was coming in so he was in the kitchen eating cereal. He got the shock of his life when he saw us appear instead. He nearly choked on the cereal he was that surprised.

Bruno got hold of him before he could even stand up and run.

“You’re under arrest for assault and failure to appear in court,” Bruno said as he put him in handcuffs.

“Who told you I was here?” he demanded, still in shock. “Was it Sheila?”

We didn’t answer, not wanting to get his wife into any more trouble. He must have guessed he was right. He looked around as soon as we were out of the house and saw his wife through the window of Coral’s Range Rover.

“You stupid bitch!” he yelled over. “I’ll get you for this!”

He struggled against Bruno trying to get to the car, so I grabbed him roughly. I felt so furious, thinking how I’d feel if any guy tried to threaten or hurt Kara. I suddenly felt so protective of his wife.

“You dare touch her again and I’ll put you in hospital, have you got that?” I growled at him threateningly, ready to punch his face in for what he’d done. I wanted him to feel scared and anxious, the way he’d made his wife feel.

“Drake, calm down,” Wez told me, looking worried. “The police will take care of him not you.”

Bruno dragged him away and put him in the other Range Rover. Wez offered to drive to the police station.

“Stay with Coral,” he told me. “I think it’s best if Bruno and I deal with him…”

I knew they didn’t trust me to stay with him after losing my temper and I felt a little disappointed. I should have stayed focused on the job instead of kicking off.

“Okay,” I agreed, knowing it was for the best and let my anger drop as I got into Coral’s Range Rover.

She was still focused on looking after the wife, so we stayed outside the house for a while until she felt ready to go back inside.

“Don’t worry about him,” Coral said to her. “He’ll be in police custody until he gets sent down. We’ll get some protection sorted out for you to make sure he doesn’t bother you again. I’d suggest applying for a restraining order with the police.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “Thank you…”

Chapter 7

 

Kara and I went out for a meal that night and I told her all about the case and the arrest. She felt so sympathetic for the wife.

“It must have been awful for her, having to live with him all that time,” she said, looking upset at the thought of it. “I can’t imagine how afraid she must have been. It was very brave of her to come forward and tell you where he was.”

“Yeah, it was,” I agreed. “At least we got him in the end so she’s safe now.”

“You’re so brave arresting all these criminals,” she said, holding my hand across the table. She looked into my eyes in admiration like I was a hero. “I’m really proud of you helping people.”

I smiled, feeling warm inside. I loved when she looked at me like that; it made me feel so special.

“I love you, Kara,” I said, not caring if any of the people at the restaurant overheard me saying it.

We said it to each other all the time, so it wasn’t a big deal; I just wasn’t used to saying it out loud in public. It’s not that I was embarrassed about it; I just never wanted to appear soft in front of anyone.

Kara smiled, looking so blissful, “I love you too, Drake.”

It should have been a wonderful night with all this romantic stuff going on, but as we talked I couldn’t help feeling as if something wasn’t right. I’d noticed she had been acting a little strange around that time and I started to get concerned. Mostly she was feeling down a lot, but even though we’d talked about it I still didn’t know why she was feeling like that. We were both happy in the relationship and nothing else seemed to be wrong, so I couldn’t figure it out.

I started to think maybe she was getting lonely with me working so much and felt guilty.

“Have you been seeing much of your friends this week?” I asked her.

Kara’s face immediately brightened as she started telling me how amazing this party had been that they all went to on Wednesday night. Obviously I had been wrong about her being lonely, it seemed like she was having a good time socialising with other people when I wasn’t around.

I didn’t even realise at that moment she was hiding something about the party. I just listened to everything she said and smiled.

“I’m glad you had a good time. Maybe next time I’ll come with you?”

“Yeah…maybe,” she didn’t sound sure, “if you don’t need to work over.”

“I’m sorry about work, you know how it is sometimes,” I apologised. “I’d love to spend more time with you and take you out for dinner like tonight.”

“Me too, I miss you when you’re not around the flat,” she agreed, then winced in pain and put a hand to her forehead.

“Oh no, I’m getting another headache,” she looked annoyed and reached into her handbag for some Paracetamol tablets.

“Have you been getting them a lot?” I asked, worried about her.

“A few times this week.”

“Maybe you should go see a doctor about it.”

“No, I’m fine,” she answered, dismissing the issue. “It’ll go soon. Let’s not let it ruin our night. I want to make the most of our time if you have an evening off.”

I’d forgotten all about it the next day. I was too busy thinking of what happened after the restaurant with a smile on my face. I couldn’t concentrate much at work because I kept thinking of Kara and how much I wanted to get back to her. I hoped that nothing urgent would come up so I could go home this evening, and luckily it didn’t.

When I arrived back at the flat, Kara was lying on the sofa watching TV. She looked up and smiled when she saw me, moving over so I could join her on the sofa.

“Hi, how was work?” she asked, cuddling up to me.

I didn’t answer because I noticed her eyes were bloodshot.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “What happened to your eyes?”

She looked away from me and shrugged, “I don’t know, maybe I’m just tired.”

“It’s not that…” then it hit me and suddenly everything became clear.

There was a reason why she kept having headaches and feeling down.

“Kara…are you using again?” I asked carefully, dreading the thought of her taking drugs again.

“No, don’t be silly,” she laughed it off. “I gave them up years ago.”

I felt upset as I saw the signs, “Kara, I know are. I can tell when you’re lying.”

Her smile faded and she looked away from me, “I’m not lying…” she insisted.

I knew I was right, but I couldn’t help hoping that somehow I wasn’t. I couldn’t bear the thought of her going back to that lifestyle. I didn’t want drugs to mess up her life again when I cared so much about her.

“Just admit it,” I said, feeling annoyed. “You’re having side effects. That’s why you keep getting the headaches and feeling depressed.”

“No, that’s just because of work,” she tried to convince me. “It’s been getting too stressful.”

I could have easily fallen for her excuses if I wasn’t such a good lie detector. She was probably hiding drugs somewhere and I needed to confront her with evidence if I was going to get any confession out of her.

I stood up and went to find her handbag.

“Drake, what are you doing?” she sounded nervous already.

I found it sitting under her seat at the dining table.

“Get off! That’s mine!” she protested, snatching it back.

She was anxious and protective over it as she clutched it to her body and I knew for certain that there were drugs in there. The thought of her bringing drugs into our flat made anger rush through me, especially after everything I went through in the past.

I furiously grabbed her handbag, despite her yelling at me and trying to get it back. I ignored her, rummaged around until I finally found what I was looking for in the secret pocket. My heart sank.

“If you’re not doing drugs, then what’s this doing in here?” I asked angrily, pulling out a small plastic bag filled with white powder.

Her face drained colour now she was looking at her precious stash of Cocaine. She knew she’d been caught out with proof so there was no point in denying it.

“Drake, I’m so sorry,” tears were in her eyes already but I was too angry to care about her being upset.

“How could you be so stupid?” I yelled, throwing the bag of Cocaine and her handbag across the room I was so angry. Kara stared wide-eyed at me, stunned at my reaction.

“Why would you go back to using after all you went through at rehab?” I demanded. “Do you want to get ill again?”

She started crying hard, “I’m sorry…I tried…I couldn’t stop myself.”

“You didn’t try hard enough,” I shouted, feeling really disappointed and not caring about the excuses. “How long has this been going on?”

She was crying so hard I could barely make out her words. She actually looked afraid of me. I felt like a monster, realising I’d been yelling at her.

I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself down. There was no way we could sort this if I was losing my temper and Kara was in floods of tears.

“Let’s sit down and talk about this,” I said, keeping my voice steady as I sat on the sofa. “Just tell me what happened from the beginning. I’ll try not to get angry with you.”

She sat down next to me, grabbing a tissue from the box on the coffee table, sobbing into it.

“I was at a bar with my friends four weeks ago,” she started to explain. “I was drunk and this guy offered to let us do coke with him.”

“You shouldn’t have taken it,” I told her, knowing it could have easily been avoided. “You should have called me if you were struggling to say no.”

“I wasn’t thinking straight, I was drunk…I just wanted to feel that rush again.”

I patted her back comfortingly, feeling awful to see her so upset, but I was relieved that she was finally telling me the truth.

“I tried to forget about it the next day, knowing it was a big mistake,” she continued, “but the addiction came back and I was trying to fight it. Then I just couldn’t take it anymore and got some.”

“How many times have you used it?”

“Only three times, including the one I did when I was drunk,” she answered defeated.

“Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped you.”

“I was scared. I thought you’d leave me if you found out and I couldn’t handle that.”

She looked so anxious and hurt that I put my arm around her and let her cry on my shoulder.

“It’s okay, I’m not going to break up with you,” I reassured her. “We’ll fix this, I promise.”

She hugged me tight, burying her head into my chest.

“I’m sorry but you’ll have to go back to rehab and get over the addiction again,” I told her gently. “It’s the only way we can get you back to normal.”

I was a little frustrated that this incident had sent us back and we had to start the whole process over again; but I loved Kara and knew she was worth it. I’d do almost anything to keep our relationship, even if it meant being away from her for a while and giving her time to get better.

“I can’t,” she said, sounding afraid.

“It’ll be okay,” I comforted her and stroked her hair. “I know it will be hard but you’re strong and you can beat this again. I’ll be here for you…”

“I’m not going back there!” she said, anxious and panicky. “I can’t deal with it. I don’t want to be ill again.”

“Kara, you need to calm down and breathe,” I said slowly, knowing she was on the verge of a panic attack.

She didn’t listen and the anxiety took over.

“Please don’t make me go back,” she begged me, looking terrified. “I can’t do it. I don’t want to go through it all again…”

“Everything will be okay,” I said reassuringly, trying to relax her. “You’ll feel better soon.”

She was crying hard and started shaking, “No! Promise you won’t take me?” she asked, struggling to breathe she was that worked up.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her being this anxious. I needed to calm her down if we were going to talk about what to do next.

“You’re not going anywhere, you’re staying here with me,” I told her. “We’ll talk it over once you’ve calmed down, okay?”

“Okay,” she looked relieved and I let her curl up to me.

I held her for nearly an hour while she cried a bit more, but eventually she stopped shaking and started to breathe normally again.

“We’ll deal with this tomorrow,” I suggested, nervous about setting her off if I tried to talk about it again. “You go get some rest. You look really tired.”

“Okay,” she got up to make her way to the bedroom and stopped at the door. “Are you coming too?”

“Maybe later,” I lied. “I’m gonna eat some dinner before I sleep.”

She just nodded and went off to bed, closing the door.

I went towards the kitchen and noticed that her handbag was still lying on the carpet with the bag of Cocaine nearby. I didn’t even have to think what I was going to do with it. I took it straight to the sink, turned on the tap and emptied the plastic bag, letting the running water dissolve it before going down the drain. I couldn’t risk letting Kara use it and I knew if I hadn’t destroyed it she would have.

I turned the tap off and put some frozen pizza into the oven, but when it was ready I could hardly eat any of it. I was feeling too anxious about what was going on with Kara and what it meant for us being together. I couldn’t concentrate on what was on TV because I was so troubled and didn’t know what to do.

I checked on Kara an hour later and she was already asleep, so I got an extra blanket and went to sleep on the sofa instead. I knew she was probably expecting me to go sleep with her as always, but things weren’t right. I was feeling too angry, hurt and betrayed to carry on as normal.

I didn’t really sleep much that night, thinking everything over. I wondered if maybe it was my fault. I was away working a lot and that was the only way Kara had been able to hide it from me. If I had been at the flat more I would have spotted something was wrong earlier and been able to fix it before it got to this point.

I felt annoyed with myself. I had accidentally done the same thing as my parents had with me and I was annoyed that I didn’t realise it.

I knew Kara should have told me. We were close and talked about everything. It wasn’t the same as it was with my parents; it was easier for her to talk to me.

I was angry thinking how she was secretly buying illegal drugs behind my back and having them in my flat. She hadn’t given a thought of how this would have affected me or how much trouble I could have gotten in. Did she even care or was she too selfish to think of how it affected anyone but her?

Chapter 8

 

 

I finally fell asleep at three o’clock in the morning and was woken up by my mobile alarm buzzing at half past six. I ate some toast and thought about whether I should go to work or not. I was afraid if I left Kara she would do something stupid like buy more drugs while I wasn’t here. I doubted I could handle staying at work, worrying if I’d have to come home and find her high.

I rang Coral’s mobile number, knowing she probably wouldn’t be in the office yet, and wondered how I was going to explain all this.

“Hi Drake,” she answered, knowing it was me from the caller ID. “What’s up?”

“Hi Coral, do you mind if I take today off?” I asked nervously. “I know it’s really short notice but I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

“Okay…I’m sure we can manage without you just for today,” Coral answered uncertainly. “What’s going on?”

I sighed, not knowing what to tell her, “I have to stay with Kara…she needs me right now and I can’t leave her on her own.”

“What’s wrong? Is she ill?” Coral was concerned.

“Something like that…”

“You can tell me what this is about,” she said softly. “Maybe I can help?”

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to, but I knew I could trust Coral and I needed all the help I could get.

“She’s been taking drugs,” I eventually answered. “I found out last night.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” she replied sympathetically. “At least she can get help now that someone knows.”

“I tried talking her into going to rehab but she just freaked out and had a panic attack,” I said. “I’ll try and talk to her again this morning, but I need to be here to stop her buying anymore.”

“I understand. Don’t worry, we’ll manage here. I’ll take today out of your annual leave. Let me know if you’re okay coming in tomorrow and ring me anytime if you need anything.”

“Thanks Coral, I really appreciate this.”

We said goodbye and I hung up, going to take a shower and get changed into some clean clothes.

Kara eventually woke up at half past eight and looked surprised to see me as she came out of the bedroom.

“What are you still doing here? I thought you’d be at work.”

“I took the day off,” I answered. “We need to talk and sort things out.”

Kara looked nervous, knowing the rehab discussion would probably start again, “You didn’t have to. It could have waited until tonight.”

“No, it couldn’t,” I said. “Do you think I could just leave you and go to work as normal?”

She hung her head down, looking upset, “I’m fine. You don’t have to stay and babysit me.”

“Maybe not, but I didn’t want to take the risk.”

“I’m not going to buy anymore,” she told me, then remembered about the drugs I found in her bag yesterday.

She looked towards her handbag nervously and her eyes widened when she saw that her stash was gone.

“Drake…what did you do with it?” she asked anxiously.

“I got rid of it,” I told her. “Do you really think I’d let you keep it?”

She looked really shocked, unable to believe what I’d done, “but…I paid all that money for it!”

“I’d rather you lost money than used it.”

“How could you?” she looked devastated. “That was mine; you had no right to destroy it.”

“What would you have done with it if I hadn’t?” I challenged her.

She looked down guiltily, “I don’t know…”

“I did it to help you, to stop you from using it.”

“I know…but it’s such a waste.”

“Who cares about that? All that matters right now is getting you better.”

She started looking anxious again, “Drake, I told you last night, I’m not going back to rehab.”

“You need to if you want to get drugs out of your life again,” I insisted. “You have to go or you won’t recover from this addiction.”

“I’m not going!” she snapped back at me. “It’s my life. I can do what I want.”

I was stunned for a second, wondering why the drugs had taken over her so badly that she wouldn’t even let me help her. Last time she had agreed so easily but now it was so much harder. She’d developed a fear of rehab after her experience from last time. I didn’t blame her, I felt scared of going through the illness of a withdrawal again too; but I knew she would have to face it no matter how awful it was.

“Do you really want to go back to taking that shit again?” I asked. “Do you want to get ill?”

“No, of course not, but I can’t help it,” she started sobbing. “You don’t understand!”

“I do understand,” I snapped. “I used to have a drug problem too, remember? I’ve been addicted and had to go through rehab. I know exactly what it’s like.”

She looked away from me, knowing I was right.

“I still can’t believe you brought that in here without giving me a second thought,” I said angrily. “Do you know how insulting it is finding drugs in my own flat after all the stuff I went through in the past?”

“I’m sorry…I forgot about that.”

“It’s not just about that. I could have been sacked from my job if the police had found it here. Do you think I want to risk getting in prison? They know I’ve been caught with drugs in the past. They probably wouldn’t even believe me if I said it was yours.”

“I didn’t mean to…I didn’t think,” she started crying harder, looking shameful. “I’m so sorry Drake. You know I wouldn’t want to get you into trouble on purpose. I’d never let the police think it was yours.”

“You’re lucky you haven’t been caught so far. You won’t have it as easy as I did when I was younger. You’ll end up in prison if you carry on buying drugs. It’s only a matter of time before they catch you out.”

“But I won’t,” she replied and looked up at me sweetly. “You wouldn’t let me get sent down. I know you’d help me.”

My anger flamed. She thought I would let her get away with it and save her from trouble, just because I did it for her before. I didn’t care if I was her boyfriend or not, there was no way I was letting her think she could do whatever she wanted with no consequences.

“If you don’t quit the drugs then we’re finished,” I told her furiously. “I’m not bailing you out a second time. I gave you a chance back then and now you’ve let me down. I’m not going to stay with a drug user. It’s your choice which one of us you pick.”

“Drake, please don’t do this,” she looked heartbroken and tearful. “I love you. I couldn’t live without you.”

“Then you have to go to rehab and fix this so we can stay together.”

“I can’t give up drugs either…”

“You can’t have both. You have to give up one of us.”

“How can I choose between being heartbroken or being really ill?”

“You choose the right thing and get better. If you don’t fight this you’re letting the drugs win. They’ll ruin your life, Kara, and you’ll lose a lot more than just me. Please, say you’ll go to rehab for yourself as well as for me?”

“No…”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Did she really want to throw away all we had for a stupid addiction that she should be getting over?

“I thought you loved me, Kara,” I felt heartbroken.

“I do,” she insisted, crying and hurt. “You know how much you mean to me. I never want to lose you.”

“Then do this for me,” I begged. “Go to rehab and everything will go back to the way it was before.”

“No,” she answered, her voice quiet. “I can’t do that all over again.”

It took a while for it to sink in but I realised that this was it. Kara and I were over and there was no going back.

“Fine,” I said, feeling hurt and angry with her. “Pack your things and get out of my flat. We’re done.”

“It doesn’t have to be like this,” she said.

“It does. I can’t stay with you if you’re a drug addict, even if I love you. You’ll always end up putting that before me,” I told her.

I took a deep breath, struggling to say the next part, “I don’t want to see you again after today. Don’t come around here or try to contact me if you’re not getting off the drugs. Right now I can’t stand the sight of you.”

She flinched like my words had stung her.

“I want you out of here in two hours,” I told her strongly. “Go pack your stuff and leave.”

“But you can’t just chuck me out!” she protested. “Where will I go? I live here.”

“That’s your problem. This is my flat and we are no longer together. Go find a hotel or stay with one of your druggie friends.”

“This isn’t fair. You can’t make me homeless like this.”

“What else do you expect me to do? I’m not going to find you a place to stay. It’s your fault we’re in this mess. Maybe you should have thought about the consequences.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”

“You’re lucky I’m not reporting you to the police,” I snapped.

“Fine…I’ll go,” she turned and went back to the bedroom to get her things, still crying.

I heard her packing stuff into a bag and sobbing. I hoped she might change her mind now she knew I was serious. While she was packing she could realise how much she would lose and apologise. She would promise to give up the drugs and we would work this out…

However, that didn’t happen. She came back out later with a few bags, grabbing some of her possessions from the bathroom and living room.

“I really wish things could have worked out,” she said tearfully.

“If you really wanted to be with me then you’d at least try.”

“It’s not that simple,” she replied sadly. “Goodbye Drake…I’ll miss you.”

She started crying again as she walked out, carrying her bags along the corridor towards the lift.

“Don’t expect me to help you again,” I called after her. “You’re on your own now.”

Even though I felt angry and betrayed, I still hoped she would turn back and do the right thing; but she just kept walking. I watched her from the window, getting into the car with her bags and still brushing away tears. She drove straight out of my life.

Chapter 9

 

 

I went to work the next day feeling upset and numb. I was heartbroken over Kara, finding it hard to believe she had left. The flat felt so weird and empty now she was gone and I hated going to sleep alone.

I said hi to everyone but wasn’t in the mood for chatting, so I just slumped down on my desk, taking my mobile out. I realised my screen background was still set as our cute holiday photo of me and Kara in Italy. I used to love looking at that. We were so happy and in love back then…it hurt seeing it.

I changed it quickly to one of those boring pre-set backgrounds, trying to stop myself feeling the pain. There was no way I was getting upset at work, especially in front of Wez and Bruno.

I could feel Bruno looking over at me, wondering why I was being so quiet.

Wez leaned on my desk, “hey, what’s up with you?”

I looked down, trying to keep strong, “me and Kara broke up.”

“Wow, really?” he looked disappointed for me. “I thought you two were good.”

“I did too but things change,” I replied moodily.

He patted my shoulder sympathetically, “That sucks, but there are loads of other hot chicks out there.”

I forced a smile, pretending I was okay, even though I knew there was no one out there like Kara and it would take a long time to get over her.

Bruno must have overhead us talking, but he could see I wanted space and didn’t want to talk about it, so he kept his distance and I was grateful. The last thing I needed was to keep talking about it. I just wanted to concentrate on work and try and forget it.

“Drake, do you want to talk in my office?” Coral asked me quietly.

I didn’t want to, but I knew it was better to just get it over with. She had been nice enough to give me time off when I had really needed it. I nodded in answer and followed her in, letting her make us coffee.

“How is Kara doing?” she asked, looking concerned. “Is she okay?”

I sighed, “Probably not. We broke up yesterday and I kicked her out.”

Coral looked shocked at my answer, “why? I thought you were getting her help.”

“She doesn’t want any help, she decided to keep using. I tried talking her around but she wouldn’t listen. I told her I couldn’t handle being with a user and she still chose drugs over me.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Coral looked at me with so much sympathy and pity that I had to look down at the carpet instead. “You did the right thing. If she keeps using illegal drugs then she’s bad news. You’re better off without her, especially with your past…”

I nodded.

“Take the day off if you need it,” Coral told me gently. “I know you must be feeling awful right now.”

“I’m fine,” I insisted, although I was broken inside and struggling to hold it together. “I’m not one of those pathetic people who need to have days off work to cry over a break-up. I just want to forget about it and work.”

“If you’re sure…” she replied uncertainly. “I’m here anytime if you want to talk.”

“No thanks, I don’t need a counsellor,” I didn’t mean to sound rude, but wasn’t it obvious that guys don’t like to talk over their problems? It’s too embarrassing and sentimental.

Coral didn’t seem to take it to heart and let me get back to work. I blocked all the thoughts and feelings and just focused on whatever I was working on. Luckily it was quite easy to do when you have got police reports to read and criminals to research. At least I was thinking about other people rather than Kara.

At the end of our work day Wez tried to come cheer me up.

“So how about we hit some clubs tonight?” he suggested excitedly. “Get you back in the game.”

The last thing I wanted to do was go out and try and hook up with girls. I just wanted to get home and go to bed, where I could feel miserable without having to put up an act. However, I couldn’t let my best friend think I was a wuss and I deserved a bit of fun. There was no use wasting time moping at home.

“Yeah, okay,” I agreed and we started deciding potential clubs.

I arrived back to my flat at half past six. It stung not seeing Kara there to greet me as usual. I pushed away the pain and forced myself to make a quick frozen dinner, then got showered and changed. Even though I looked great, I still didn’t feel right inside, no matter what front I put up.

Wez was waiting for me at the front of this new club we were trying. He was checking out potential girls who were passing and didn’t spot me at first.

Finally he noticed me and smiled, “thought you wouldn’t make it.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” I replied, pretending nothing was wrong.

“You sure you’re okay?” he teased. “I don’t want you drunk crying on my shoulder all night.”

I laughed, “I’m fine. Like you said, there are more hot girls out there.”

Although I said it right, I still felt bad and hopefully hid it well from him.

“Okay, let’s do this,” he said, walking into the club with me. “I’ll do first round, my treat.”

“Thanks mate,” I said, feeling excited to finally have some drinks.

We had beer after beer and I was happy to forget for a while and drown my sorrows. Yet even on my tenth beer I could still feel the ache in my heart. I wondered how many drinks I had to down before this went away.

“What do you think of her?” Wez asked me suddenly and indicated towards a pretty, tall woman near the bar.

I checked her out. She had long bleached-blonde hair, lots of make-up and fake tan. She was wearing a tight, red dress with heels and seemed to be on her own with no boyfriend in tow.

I smirked in answer, trying to act cocky, “she’s pretty hot.”

“I’ll let you have this one,” he told me, “since you need it.”

I laughed, “Your loss, man.”

I didn’t feel like chatting up another girl or getting involved with anyone else, but Wez was expecting me to so I approached her without thinking.

“Hey,” I said in my best flirty voice. “If being sexy was a crime, I’d have to arrest you right now.”

She looked a little confused by my pick-up line, not quite getting it.

“I’m a bounty hunter,” I explained and she giggled, finally understanding it now.

“Oh really?” She looked me up and down and smiled.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure, why not?”

I ordered her a vodka and tonic and saw Wez give me a thumps up from the other side of the bar.

When I got into the office on Monday, I was still feeling just as miserable.

“Hey! Nice job Friday night,” Wez high fived me. “Did you take her home?”

“Yeah, she couldn’t resist me,” I bragged, putting up the act all over again.

It felt good being with a girl again, but it didn’t feel right. She wasn’t Kara and it just made me feel sad and miss her even more. It didn’t really matter though because it was just a random one night stand.

“You scored last Friday?” Bruno asked, grinning over at me. “Good one. What was she like?”

“She was a total babe,” Wez told him. “Blonde hair and nice tits. I had to let him have her or she would have been all over me instead.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I joked back.

Coral rolled her eyes at us as she came in and overheard our conversation.

“I know your personal life is none of my business,” Coral said quietly to me as I made myself a coffee in the kitchen, “but what about Kara?”

“What about her?” I snapped. I hated hearing her name; it was like being stabbed in the heart.

“Just don’t think you can get over her this easy,” she said disapprovingly. “No matter how many girls you get with, it’s not going to help with how hurt you are.”

“Whatever,” I replied moodily and went back to my desk.

I knew Coral was just trying to look after me, but I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted everyone to be like Wez, pretending everything was still cool so I could almost fool myself that it was. Still, I guess Wez was right. It was better returning to my flat with some random girl rather than sleeping alone and missing Kara. I needed to forget her and I wanted to make sure I did.

Pretty soon, trying to get over Kara became a sort of addiction. I was so determined to run away from the pain that I hooked up with every attractive girl I could find. I hoped one day I would forget her and move on, but every single girl didn’t get my full interest and my heart kept reminding me of Kara.

I wished feelings could just go away when they were not wanted. She’d left and was out of my life, so what was the point missing her and still being secretly in love with her.

I was just as bad at work, flirting with women as I asked them for information, until I was taking phone numbers and making out with them instead of taking notes.

“Nice one,” Wez kept saying, amused that I was ‘moving on’ so quickly. Little did he know that I wasn’t, I just looked like I was.

“Drake, can I see you in my office?” Coral asked as she passed my desk.

Wez and Bruno both stared, joking that I was in big trouble, and I tried to smile although I knew I probably was.

“I can’t keep putting up with this behaviour, Drake,” she told me sternly after she had shut her office door. “I’ve noticed you’ve been acting inappropriately with some of the people we have been questioning.”

I couldn’t help but smirk at that.

“It’s not funny!” she insisted. “You’re here to work, not use it as a dating service.”

“So you’re saying I can’t move on?” I challenged her.

“I’m saying don’t do it on my time. People we work with should be dealt with professionally.”

“Fine, whatever you say.”

“Drake,” she softened, looking sorry for me again. “I know you’re having a tough time with Kara leaving, but this won’t help you. I think you need time alone to start to heal. If you carry on like this you’ll just end up ruining every relationship you have. You need to fully get over her first before you move on.”

“What if I am over her?” I lied.

“You can’t fool me,” she said, shaking her head. “I know you still love her and you’re heartbroken inside. Just try to deal with it properly, okay?”

I looked down, feeling sad.

“You’ll get over her one day,” she told me softly. “Just be patient, it takes time.”

Chapter 10

 

 

I spent the rest of the week sat at my desk thinking over everything sadly. I had gone with Coral’s advice taking it easy on seeing girls, but Bruno and Wez were getting suspicious so I sometimes flirted just for their benefit.

As much as I hated to admit it, I still missed Kara every day and couldn’t stop thinking of her. Sometimes I wished I could find her and make things right. I started to feel hopeful for a few seconds thinking maybe I could track her down. She would be so relieved to see me that she would agree to take the rehab and we could have a second chance.

I stopped myself thinking about it, feeling foolish. I knew that would be a waste of time. Kara was probably too high right now to remember who I was and she didn’t want me or my help. I would have to bear it until it was finally over.

We were on a very important case the next week so I didn’t have time to think much about Kara. We were tracking down a murderer who was still on the run from the police. He seemed pretty dangerous and had a history of using weapons, so it was a high risk mission to catch this one.

“Make sure you use your bullet proof vests at all times,” Coral warned us all, “and keep your guns ready. We need to make sure we shoot first if he tries to kill anyone.”

“What about Drake? He’s screwed if this guy tries to shoot him,” Wez joked.

“You should have tried to get that gun licence,” agreed Bruno.

“Drake will be fine,” Coral insisted, then said quietly to me, “stay close to Wez just in case, okay?”

I nodded, trying not to feel nervous.

We set out in the Range Rovers, tracking him down to a small motel in the countryside. We had received a phone call that he was spotted there, and if he was then we had to arrest him quick before he could get away.

We arrived outside the motel and sneaked in, trying to stay unseen.

“He’s in room thirty four,” the receptionist told us quietly and handed over a spare set of keys for the room.

Coral and Bruno stayed outside, because we were fully expecting him to run. I went up to the room with Wez to check it out and stayed behind him.

“You ready?” Wez asked me, about to unlock the door with a gun in his other hand.

I nodded, having my maze spray ready in case I got attacked. Seemed pretty pathetic but it was the only thing I had.

Wez quickly unlocked the door and burst through it first.

“Freeze! You’re under arrest!” Wez yelled at the guy inside.

I heard a gunshot and my heart raced as I saw Wez fall to floor, his head bleeding.

“Wez! Are you okay?” I asked, trying to help him.

I was concentrating on my best friend so much that the guy took his chance and ran past me out of the door.

I quickly radioed Coral, “Wez has been hit. The fugitive’s heading outside and he’s got a gun.”

“Ring an ambulance and stay with him,” she told me calmly. “Bruno and I will handle the rest.”

“I see him!” I heard Bruno say in the background and then Coral stopped talking to me.

I quickly phoned an ambulance, telling them our address and which motel room we were in. Wez groaned in pain, touching his gun wound in shock. I felt really anxious seeing how badly he was hurt. He shut his eyes and I panicked, thinking he was dying.

“Stay with me,” I begged him. “Help is coming.”

The person on the other end of the call told me to stay calm and that they’d be over as soon as possible. I sat with him and waited, feeling anxious. It seemed to take forever until the ambulance crew arrived fifteen minutes later and Wez was carried down to the ambulance on a stretcher.

“Can I go with him?” I asked, not wanting to leave him alone.

“Sure, get in the back,” the guy told me.

I sat on a fold up seat next to Wez and clicked on my seat belt. One of the ambulance crew got in the back too and got to work. We were soon speeding towards the nearest hospital with the sirens ringing.

Wez opened his eyes for a few seconds and I felt so relieved, hoping he was going to make it.

“Wez, don’t leave me, okay?” I begged him, feeling upset. “You’re my best mate. What would I do without you?”

He managed to smile a little, “Don’t go all soft on me,” he replied weakly.

I didn’t care if I was breaking the no sentimental guy rule. If I couldn’t show feelings when my best friend was critically injured and maybe dying then I wouldn’t be human at all. I cared about him and this was killing me. I gripped his hand, determined for him to get better and scared in case he wouldn’t.

They rushed him straight through to the Accident and Emergency ward and I had to stay in the waiting room, not knowing what to do with myself. I went outside to phone Coral on my mobile to tell her which hospital and ward we were at.

“Me and Bruno are on our way,” she promised me, her voice shaky with emotion. “We should get there in ten minutes. Don’t worry; I’m sure they’ll look after him.”

It seemed like I was waiting there for hours. Time passes by pretty slowly when you’re anxious and waiting for news. Coral and Bruno appeared, looking as worried as me.

“Have they told you anything yet?” Coral asked as they sat down beside me.

I shook my head in answer.

“How bad is it?” Bruno asked me gently.

“It’s really bad,” I replied honestly. “He got shot in the head, but he was still alive while I was with him.”

“The doctors know what they’re doing,” insisted Bruno. “Hopefully they can save him.”

“I can’t believe this has happened,” Coral started weeping. “I know there was a chance this could happen, but I didn’t think it would. I thought he’d be more careful…”

“It was pretty unexpected,” I told her. “The guy shot at him as soon as he entered.”

“At least you didn’t get shot at too,” said Bruno positively.

“Only because I stayed behind Wez,” I replied, feeling guilty that I had been safe while he hadn’t. “Then I was too busy looking after him for the criminal to bother with me. Maybe if I’d tried to arrest him instead the same would have happened to me.”

“You have to put your life and safety first,” agreed Coral, “and Wez needed you. I would never have wanted you to leave his side, even if it meant letting the criminal go.”

“What happened afterwards?” I asked, wanting to think of something else so I wasn’t just worrying about how Wez was doing.

“I saw him running from the building and pounced on him from behind. He didn’t even see us coming,” Bruno told me.

“That’s good. At least he’s arrested now.”

A doctor eventually came out to see us and I held my breath. I watched his face and knew immediately it was bad news.

“Are you Wesley’s family members?” he asked us.

“No, I’m his boss,” Coral answered, standing up to talk to him. “We were there when it happened. I’ve phoned his parents to let them know he’s here.”

“I think it’s best if we wait until his family arrive…”

“Please, could you at least tell us if he’s still alive?” Coral begged him. “We’ve been worried sick. We just need to know…”

The doctor looked awkward and sympathetic, the way they do when they give you bad news.

“I’m sorry to tell you this but Wesley passed away shortly after arriving. We tried everything we could to save him but the injury was already critical and there was nothing more we could do.”

Coral broke down in tears and Bruno had to go over and put his arm around her, looking devastated too. My eyes watered and I covered my face with my hands, not wanting anyone to see how upset I was.

“I’m very sorry. I’ll talk with the family once they arrive,” the doctor said then excused himself to go back to work.

“Do you think we should stay?” Coral asked us both. “I know I can’t bear to see his family’s reaction but…”

“I think it’s best if we let the doctor handle it,” Bruno answered. “They’ll want to break the news to them and explain everything. I don’t think it’ll be best coming from us.”

Coral nodded and we left the hospital in a daze, unable to believe what had just happened. Bruno offered to drive us back to the office, so I sat in the backseat with Coral who cried on my shoulder the whole way.

We didn’t know what to do with ourselves when we got back to the office. I couldn’t bear to look over at Wez’s desk, still littered with his mess as if he had never left.

“I know we’re all devastated, but at least he had someone there with him when it happened,” Bruno said, patting me on the back. “I’m sure he was very grateful for you going to the hospital with him.”

I nodded, trying not to cry at thinking of it.

“I wish I’d done something to stop this happening,” Coral sobbed. “It’s my fault if anything goes wrong.”

“We couldn’t have done anything else,” I reassured her. “Wez already had a gun for protection and he was wearing a bullet proof jacket. What more could we have done?”

“We all know it’s a dangerous job,” agreed Bruno. “There’s a risk of any of us getting shot every time we go out on a hunt.”

“It’s not fair,” I said, feeling angry as I thought of the criminal who killed him. “That murderer shouldn’t have taken his life…I bet he doesn’t even care about that right now.”

“I’m sure he’ll feel some guilt for it,” said Coral. “He probably just panicked; it wasn’t as if he had time to plan this and know we were coming.”

“He’ll be punished, Drake. Don’t worry about that,” Bruno told me. “I’ve told the police what happened so this will be brought up in court too.”

“I hope he’s sent down for life,” I said. “People like him don’t even deserve to live.”

Chapter 11

 

 

Everything went downhill from there. I was depressed and cut up over losing Wez. It didn’t help that I was still hurt and trying to get over my break up with Kara. I was so miserable I could hardly hold it together anymore.

Coral decided we could all have a few days break from work to get over the grief of losing our friend and team member. We attended his funeral on Thursday and had to return back to work on Monday. Our time off didn’t make much difference, I still couldn’t think straight that morning back.

Our team was so close it was like a family in way. Coral was always looking after us like a mother figure and Wez and Bruno had been like my big brothers. It seemed weird and upsetting not having one of us there anymore.

I tried my best to make it work and to try and carry on like normal. Coral was upset a lot and sometimes cried at work, so Bruno and I had to be strong for her sake. We tried to avoid talking about Wez but we were all thinking about him.

Everyday things seemed to get worse instead of better. I turned angry and bitter, hating every criminal we were after, just because the previous criminal we had caught had taken Wez’s life. I didn’t want to help them out, give them a chance or hear why their lives had turned to this. I had already judged and disliked them, not caring what their side of the story was.

“Drake, what is your problem?” Coral asked me one day, concerned with my attitude. “You used to be so good with the drug users. You understood them and helped them get clean.”

“What’s the point?” I snapped back. “They’ll just get back on them soon enough.”

“Not all drug addicts will turn out like Kara,” she told me softly. “Look at you. You’ve turned your life around.”

“Only because I went to rehab,” I insisted. “Those lowlifes will probably only get off drugs because they’re thrown behind bars and can’t get any more drugs.”

“I’m sure there are some users who would try and get help.”

“Why should I have to help them anyway? No one was there to help me; I got through all that shit on my own.”

“Drake, your parents were there for you,” she reminded me. “They got you into rehab.”

“But they weren’t there every day to support me. You don’t understand how hard that is going through it on your own,” I insisted.

I felt upset as I thought about when Kara had been in rehab and I had visited her, talked her through it and told her everything would be okay soon. Obviously I couldn’t slip up and say anything about that to Coral, because I’d never told them that she was a drug addict before I met her. No one other than me knew that because I’d kept it a secret all that time; and there was no point spilling the truth now. It would have just made me look like an idiot for giving her a chance and thinking she would stay clean.

“Just calm down,” Coral told me. “You’re so angry these days. Are you sure everything’s alright?”

“Of course it’s not okay. The love of my life is gone, getting high on shit instead of being with me. My best mate is dead. All of this is because of lowlifes like them.”

“I understand,” she said, although it immediately irritated me to hear her say it. “It’s normal for you to still feel hurt over what happened with Wez and Kara; but feeling angry and bitter with any criminal we deal with won’t help things. Nothing you can do will bring Wez back; we just have to deal with the grief. As for Kara…”

“I don’t want to talk about her!” I snapped.

“Okay, I won’t mention her again,” Coral promised calmly.

“I just don’t know what I’m even doing here,” I blurted out and suddenly realised that I had lost the will to work as a bounty hunter.

“What do you mean?”

I sighed, “I don’t want to work here anymore. I don’t want to have to deal with lowlifes who screw things up for the rest of us and I don’t want to try and help them either. I think I’m done as a bounty hunter.”

“You don’t mean that,” she said but she looked worried. “Maybe have another break? Go on holiday and get some rest, try and clear your head.”

“I don’t think it’ll help.”

“Just give it a try. You’ve been through a rough time so you probably need it. If you still feel that way after you come back and give work another chance; then we’ll discuss what you want to do, okay?”

I sighed but agreed anyway, “Okay.”

“I think you should fly out to Australia and see your parents,” she suggested and I gave her a dark look.

“Don’t look at me like that, Drake,” she teased, smiling a little at my moody expression. “I know they left on bad terms but your family is important. You need them right now and you could do with a holiday and time away from here.”

I shrugged, “I guess it’s a better option than moping about in an empty flat.”

“Phone your parents tonight,” she insisted. “I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to hear from you again. They’ve missed you. Your Mum still rings me sometimes asking how you’re doing.”

“She could have asked me herself,” I replied angrily, “and we wouldn’t have lost contact if my Dad wasn’t so judgemental.”

“Just promise me you’ll ring them and think about going to visit.”

“Sure, I promise.”

That evening after work I kept looking at my mobile, wondering if I really would call them. I knew Coral was right and I should make things up with my parents. There was no point us falling out any more; it wasn’t as if Kara and I were still together.

I forced myself to press the contact named ‘Mum and Dad’ and it started to ring them.

Mum was the one who answered on the landline phone and I felt happy and relieved hearing her voice, “Hello.”

“Hi Mum, it’s Drake.”

I heard her gasp with surprise, “oh honey, it’s so good to hear from you!” she sounded like she was about to cry. “How are you? Is everything okay?”

“Not really, I’m having a rough time right now,” I answered. “Coral told me I should take a break from work and come visit you and Dad.”

“That would be wonderful. You know you’re always welcome here,” said Mum. “I’m not sure if your Dad will be okay with Kara coming over but I’ll try and…”

“Mum, it’s okay,” I interrupted her. “Kara and I split up two months ago, she won’t be coming.”

“Oh…I’m really sorry to hear that. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I lied.

“When can you fly over? I’ll get the spare room ready for you.”

“I’m not sure. I’ll check some flights and sort things out with Coral.”

“Okay, let me know. I can’t wait to see you. Your Dad will be happy to know you’re coming.”

I smiled, despite myself. I had missed my parents even if we had fallen out. I talked with Mum for a while catching up and then I said goodbye and promised to ring her back tomorrow.

I told Coral about it the next day at work and she let me book the flight online on my lunch hour. I paid for a plane ticket leaving Saturday morning and booked two weeks annual leave in Coral’s staff folder.

On Friday, I finished work and said goodbye to Coral and Bruno, then went home to start packing and went to bed early ready for tomorrow.

I had to get up at five o’clock in the morning to make it to the airport on time for checking in. It was a very long flight and we had to stop off somewhere to refuel and have a break from flying. Then it was back on the plane and eventually landing over in Sydney.

Both my parents were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived and were really happy to see me. I thought Mum would never stop hugging me and crying, and luckily Dad didn’t mention anything about Kara.

We drove for two hours until we got to their new villa by the beach. I had a good look around since it was the first time I’d seen where they had moved to. Just as promised, the little spare room was all ready for me with new sheets on the bed.

I enjoyed my holiday out there and it was nice to catch up with my parents. It felt good to relax and not think about work. Every morning I had long runs along the beach to keep my fitness up, and after lunch we’d go out for trips to explore everywhere. It was weird thinking I used to live in this country, although I was too young to remember it.

The time seemed to fly by and I was disappointed when the date arrived for me to fly back. My parents made me promise to visit again if I got any more time off work and I agreed to come over for Christmas. It would be very weird when it was summer over in Australia in December. I was used to snow and cold weather over Christmas, not sunshine and beaches.

I returned to work on Monday after having all weekend to recover from jet lag. I was pleased to be back in the office and see Coral and Bruno again. However, my happiness soon fizzled out as I was hit with missing Kara and Wez all over again. I was also back to working with criminals, who I still had a big hatred for.

I gave it a few weeks, seeing if it would just resolve itself, but I realised that I was not happy working there anymore. All the times when I used to come into work, smiling and feeling so great to be there, seemed a million miles away. I hated that things had changed and I missed how it used to be.

“Coral, I think it’s time I moved on and got another job,” I eventually told her.

“Are you sure about this?” she looked upset. “We’re really going to miss you if you leave.”

“I’m sure. I’m really sorry; I just don’t think it’s right for me to be here anymore. Maybe I’ll move on from things when I start fresh again. Besides, I’m always nervous after what happened with Wez, thinking that either you or Bruno could be in danger. I just don’t think I could handle something happening to either of you two as well.”

“Maybe it’s better if you work on your own for a while?” she suggested.

I nodded in agreement. I didn’t want to be with a team I really cared about anymore because I was too scared of losing them. If I was working alone then I would only have myself to worry about and there was no getting attached to colleagues.

“If things don’t go as planned you’ve always got a place here,” she reminded me.

We sorted out my voluntary redundancy, followed by a goodbye party with her and Bruno once I had worked my notice.

“Take care, man,” said Bruno and gave me a bear hug.

Coral gave me a big hug and looked ready to cry, “Please remember to visit; it would be nice for me and Bruno to see you again.”

“I will,” I promised them and I meant it.

No matter how much I wanted to push them away so I wouldn’t get too attached, I couldn’t do it. They were already my friends and like a family to me, not just team members. I might not work with them anymore but they would always be a part of my life after what we had all been through together.

Chapter 12

 

 

I started working as a private bounty hunter after I left the team. At first that was temporary while I was searching for another job. However, I only had work experience in that and didn’t have a college degree, so it was hard to get a job. I was grateful that Dad made me re-do my English and maths exams so at least I had them instead of nothing.

I kind of enjoyed it, even if it did involve working with criminals, but it was lonely going on hunts alone. I missed the days when I used to share hotel rooms with Wez and Bruno. It felt weird and boring on my own.

I still visited Coral and Bruno a few times a year and we went out for drinks on my twenty first birthday. It hurt knowing Wez couldn’t be there and I would have given anything to go back and have one of our night’s out.

I stayed working as a private bounty hunter for four years, since I couldn’t find anything else and the pay was really good. I didn’t have that anxiety of whether something bad would happen. I knew I was at risk every time I went out but I didn’t really seem to care about myself.

One morning my whole life changed when my mobile rang with a phone call from an unknown number. I already thought it would be a new client and answered it, feeling excited for my next case.

“Hello, this is Drake Sharples,” I answered.

“Hello, I am looking to employ you as my personal bounty hunter,” a male voice said. “Are you interested in the job?”

“Yeah, I’m not on a case at the moment so I’m available to begin work right away. Do you want to meet up to discuss the people you need finding?”

“Yes, that would be preferred,” he replied. “Come to my building tomorrow at eleven o’clock. I’ll give you the address.”

I grabbed a pen and wrote it down in my pad quickly as he told it.

“Okay, I’ll be there,” I promised. “See you tomorrow.”

I wore my uniform the next day, despite not going on the hunt, because I liked to look professional for new clients. I was wearing dark combats and my bullet proof vest over a black t-shirt. My belt was armed with my mace spray can and handcuffs, and my law enforcements badge was hanging around my neck.

I planned my journey and set off early at six o’clock in the morning. It took me five hours to drive to Dragon City where the building was and I had to book a hotel for later. After a long drive along the motorway, I finally made it there. The building was surrounded by high iron fencing so I had to park up outside. There were two security guards at the entrance who stopped me, so I had to tell them who I was before they let me through.

I couldn’t help feeling nervous. That was the first time I had dealt with someone so mysterious and I knew there must be a reason why he lived somewhere with good security. I was escorted into the building by an armed guard who led me through corridors and into a big office.

“We have Drake Sharples here to see you,” he informed the person inside.

I entered the office and saw a man sitting at a desk. He looked tall, had a stern and hardened face, dark eyes and thin, dark hair which hung around his face. There were two men in the room with us, both I noticed had a gun in their belt.

The man looked up and studied me coldly, “sit,” he ordered.

I sat on the chair opposite his desk, leaned back and folded my arms.

“So who do you need catching?” I asked, getting straight to the point. This guy obviously didn’t want to mess around with any greetings or small talk.

He pushed two sheets of paper across the desk to me and I picked them up and studied two wanted posters. One was for Carl Granger, the other for Rickie Granger.

“They’re pretty young,” I commented, studying the photographs. They must have both been twenty or under, “and they’re brothers I take it?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Why do you want me to find them?” I asked.

“They’re my enemies and they’ve caused nothing but chaos for nearly four years,” he growled angrily. “I need them taken care of.”

I felt anxious, “well, I only catch criminals…” I started to explain. The last thing I wanted was to be hired as an assassin.

“They are criminals,” he replied, “illegal freedom fighters.”

I smirked a little, “trouble makers are they?”

“More than you can imagine,” he answered. “They’ve broken into my properties, hacked my computer systems, caused criminal damage and even blown up one of my buildings.”

“So the police never caught them?” I guessed.

“They did manage to once, but the police are such imbeciles that these two always slip through their fingers.”

“They won’t be able to hide from me,” I said confidently. “I’ll track them down day and night.”

“Excellent,” he smiled maliciously.

“And how much money are you offering for them?” I asked, feeling eager to hear how much I’d be working for.

“I’ll pay you double the amount on those wanted posters,” he answered. “Thirty thousand for Carl, twenty thousand for Rickie.”

I felt stunned at the amount of money; fifty thousand to catch two teenagers! I’d obviously hit the jackpot. This guy must have been really desperate to get them arrested.

“I’ll take them straight to the local police station once I’ve found them,” I told him.

“No! Once you have them bring them to me,” he ordered.

I felt uneasy, not knowing what to say. Obviously it wasn’t enough for them to be arrested and sent down. He wanted to kill them instead…

“I’d rather you brought them to me alive,” he told me, “but if they try and escape, I want you to shoot them without hesitation. They’re cunning little escape artists, don’t underestimate them.”

I was already dreading this case; it was getting way too dodgy. I couldn’t let people be murdered, even if they were criminals; and I definitely wouldn’t shoot someone unless it was self-defence.

“Unfortunately I don’t have a weapon…” I started to protest.

“You’ll need it,” he insisted and slid a loaded gun across the table to me.

I took it hesitantly. I knew I shouldn’t risk having one and I’d be in big trouble if I was caught with it; but he was so insistent on me having it that I didn’t dare refuse. I put it straight into my belt, hoping I would never have to use it.

I knew I should have told him I didn’t want to the case and walked away; but this guy obviously wouldn’t take no for an answer. He would get his two hit men to take care of me if I refused. Why else would they be standing nearby with guns while we talked?

“I’ll start immediately,” I said, dreading it already. “Do you have any ideas on where they could be?”

“They are here in Dragon City somewhere,” he answered.

“Good. I’ll keep in touch with you to tell you my progress. Once I have them, I’ll bring them straight here.”

“Don’t let me down,” he warned me threateningly. “I have no time for people who fail to give me what I want.”

I felt scared. This guy was definitely dangerous. Instead I gave him my fake smile, not letting him know I felt anxious. The last thing you can do as a bounty hunter is show fear to anyone.

“I have an excellent record, no criminal has ever got past me,” I reassured him. “I’m sure I’ll find them.”

Chapter 13

 

 

I started my search around Dragon City with wanted posters of Rickie and Carl, asking anyone nearby if they had seen them. Most people studied the photos, shook their heads and told me they had never seen them. A few seemed to recognise them and said they had seen them walking by in the city centre, but I didn’t get any specific locations on where they hung out regularly.

I sighed, feeling frustrated. I thought this would be easy, but it seemed as if catching those two would be hard work. So far they had no regular locations. I had even found and checked their Facebook and Twitter profiles, but they lived somewhere called Twilight City which was hours away, so they must be on a trip. They hadn’t posted anything at all since arriving here, so I couldn’t get any clues on where they were. The only thing I could do was drive and walk around and hope to spot them.

I did regular drives around the city centre but got no luck in seeing them. I kept walking everywhere around the area, but still had no luck.

I decided to go and check out the beach, wondering if they could be there. It was a sunny day and there were a lot of people around there sunbathing and swimming.

I walked along the big stretch of beach looking and I almost gave up when I saw someone with black hair standing near an ice cream van.

I stopped and focused on him, walking nearer to get a closer look. I studied him carefully, taking in every detail before I took any action. He was slim and five foot nine in height. His black hair was styled up just like in the photograph. I examined the photo again just to make sure I had the right person. It was definitely him; same features, same hair and I felt sure he probably had brown eyes too.

There was a queue at the ice cream van and he was right at the back, so he was easier for me to target. I approached him carefully, wondering if he was going to realise someone was coming for him. However, he seemed to be too distracted looking over at someone in the distance and smiled to himself.

I got right up to him, “So you’re Rickie Granger?” I asked, getting ready to arrest him.

“Do I know you?” he asked, studying me and looking a little puzzled that I knew his name.

“I’m your worst nightmare,” I answered threateningly and went to grab him.

The last thing I expected was for him to react with lightning speed and grab my arm instead. Before I had time to figure out what he was doing, he had got his shoulder under my armpit and threw me over him with a self-defence flip. I lay on the sand, feeling winded and hurt. I wondered what the hell just happened before figuring out the move he had used. No one had ever used self-defence on me before and I had obviously greatly underestimated this criminal.

“So I guess you’re Drake, the bounty hunter who’s after me?” he asked, looking down at me.

I was immediately confused, “How did you know?” I asked, annoyed and wondering how he could possibly know about me. My client had hired me in secret. No one else was supposed to know, especially the people I were hunting.

“We know everything about Snider and his stupid plans,” he answered. “Too bad you won’t be getting paid for this job.”

“We’ll see about that,” I replied determinedly. I got up and winced as I felt the pain shoot up my back from his previous attack.

“Don’t mess with me,” he warned. “I’m protecting people. If y’ wanna arrest a real criminal go for Snider.”

I was confused by that comment wondering what he meant. Surely he knew he’s the one who was the criminal? I thought he must be in denial about it or something.

“I’m paid to catch you and your brother and that’s what I’m going to do,” I replied.

I tried to grab him again but this time he reacted differently. He punched me hard in the face and that’s when I blacked out….

I regained consciousness a while later, feeling a little dizzy and wondering what happened and where I was.

“Are you okay?” I heard someone asking me.

I noticed a plump, middle aged woman sitting beside me, looking concerned, “You were in a fight and got knocked unconscious. I called an ambulance…”

My face stung with pain and I suddenly remembered that I had been beaten by the person I was trying to catch. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. I growled in frustration. How dare he attack me and get away with it? No one got the better of me.

“I’m fine,” I told her and got to my feet. “There’s no need for an ambulance.”

“Are you sure? You should really get checked over just in case. They’re already on their way.”

“I said I’m fine,” I snapped impatiently, brushing sand off my clothes.

She looked taken aback by my rudeness, “I’m just trying to help.”

I was so angry I didn’t even thank her. I just stormed away, determined to find Rickie and make him pay for it. I promised myself that the next time I came across him I would make sure this didn’t happen.

Chapter 14

 

 

I kept searching for Rickie and Carl, but even though I looked in all the local spots, I never found them. I had lunch in the city centre and continued my search again. I realised I hadn’t had any luck visiting busy places, so I started walking down side streets instead. Maybe they were trying to keep away from any obvious places now they knew I was trying to hunt them down.

I was turning into another street when I finally spotted Rickie walking a distance away and heading towards me. I smirked, feeling pleased that I had managed to find him again. This time I was going to make sure I arrested him. He would be going straight to Snider and I’d have my twenty thousand reward money that he promised me.

Rickie must have sensed someone watching him because he suddenly looked over towards me. I knew I had to get him before he could run away. I remembered the gun Snider had given me and took it out of my belt. Maybe if I made him feel threatened he wouldn’t try to attack me again.

I strode towards him having the gun ready even if I had no intention of using it. I expected him to try and run, but he didn’t and surprisingly held his ground, almost determined to face me. I noticed he was with someone, a teenage girl about five foot six in height with long blonde hair. He stood in front of her protectively as if he was afraid of me shooting her. However, I wasn’t interested in anyone else but him.

“I thought I’d find you eventually,” I said once I got close to him.

“I guess this must be the bounty hunter?” I heard the girl him ask.

I ignored her because my focus was on Rickie, making sure I could arrest him.

“Since I’ll get the reward whether you’re dead or alive, I think it’s best if you just co-operate,” I told him seriously, pretending I was going to shoot if he tried to attack me.

I don’t know why but my gaze drifted to the girl stood behind him. Maybe my hot girl radar had gone off or something, but I was a little distracted as I studied her from behind him.

Now I could see her closer up she was stunning. She had beautiful green eyes, with blue streaks in her long, naturally blonde hair. Her figure was slim and curvy in all the right places. Her black tank top and denim skinny jeans seemed to cling to her body and she was wearing black knee high boots with silver hoop earrings.

I vaguely remembered seeing her photo on Rickie’s Facebook profile but I hadn’t paid attention to anyone else on there but him. She looked seventeen years old, obviously too young for me. I was twenty five so the eight year gap seemed a bit much. However, I’d slept with girls who were nineteen, so maybe I could make an exception if she was this hot? It wasn’t as if she was sixteen or under and still in high school; that would be a definite no.

“Pity there’s no reward for you, cutie,” I flirted, giving her a quick, admiring smirk.

I expected her to be flattered by my attention, or at least notice how good looking I was. Instead she walked out from behind Rickie and looked back at me, pissed off.

“If you try and arrest my boyfriend I’ll give you a reward right now, but you’re not going to like it,” she warned me.

I felt surprised by her reaction to me and a little disappointed that this was his girlfriend. I couldn’t help but wonder how Rickie managed to pull a girl like her. He may not be ugly but it’s not like he’s super model quality, and he doesn’t even have proper muscles, just toned arms instead.

I was taken back that this girl dared to stand up to me. I looked her over once again and smiled, finding it amusing. She was obviously brave, but what made her think she stood a chance against me when she was petite, thin and a few years younger than me? I doubted a little girl like her could take me on.

“I’ll take my chances,” I replied and took a step closer to Rickie.

The girl went for me while I was still ignoring her and managed to get the gun out of my hands. I tried to grab her and get my gun back, but then I felt her hit me hard in the balls with her knee cap.

I felt shock run through me at the hit and fell to the ground. The pain was unbearable and I shut my eyes tight and groaned in agony. When I opened my eyes again I saw they were running away but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t get up after this injury and the pain was still soaring. My eyes watered and I cursed angrily, annoyed that a little girl like her had got the better of me too. For some reason I wasn’t as mad at her as I should have been. I always did have a thing for feisty girls. I would have to be cautious the next time I saw her again.

I began my search that evening once I’d fully recovered. I showed people the wanted posters but no one else knew where Rickie had gone since I saw him.

A teenaged girl aged twenty caught my attention as she walked by. She was a pretty brunette, with blue eyes and long curly hair the colour of chocolate. She was wearing a short black skirt, high heels and a pink sparkly vest which dipped low enough to give me a good view of her chest. She was the kind of girl who wore too much make-up and fake tan, but I wasn’t fussy about that. She was hot enough to go to bed with, that’s all that mattered.

I approached her, “excuse me.”

She stopped walking and looked up at me, her eyes widening a little when she took in my appearance. She looked me up and down appreciatively.

“Hi,” she smiled, twirling her hair around her finger.

“I’m looking for these two guys,” I explained and showed her the two wanted posters. “I was wondering if you had seen them around? Or if you know where I can find them?”

She reluctantly took her eyes away me to study the photographs. Her gaze stopped on Rickie’s photo and she stared, her lips open a little in shock.

“I presume you know this one?” I asked, watching her reaction carefully.

I needed to make sure she wasn’t one of the people trying to cover for him and if she was going to lie to me.

“Yes, I do,” she replied and I noticed a little flash of hurt in her eyes. “He’s my ex-boyfriend.”

I was a little surprised by her confession. I wondered how many hot girls Rickie had been with in this city. He didn’t even live here and yet I had already met two girls who had been in a relationship with him. Hopefully no more would show up or this would just get really complicated.

It was a relief to finally get somewhere though. Ex-partners always seemed to drop the criminals in, so I was eager to find out what she knew and if she would help me.

“Well, I’m sorry to tell you this but your ex-boyfriend is a criminal who I need to arrest,” I said. She looked stunned, taking it in. “Do you know where he’s staying?”

She thought about it, “He could be staying at the Raven hotel. He usually goes there when he’s visiting here.”

“Thanks,” I replied, taking note of the hotel name on my mobile. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

“Paris,” she answered.

“My name’s Drake,” I introduced myself. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m grateful for your help,” I gave her a wink.

“No problem,” she replied, thrilled that I was giving her attention.

“Give me a call if you see him or have any other information,” I told her, handing over my business card. I let my fingers brush over hers as she took it. “I really should thank you, so maybe I can take you out for a drink some time?”

She grinned, “okay.”

“Text me later and we’ll make plans,” I said before walking away.

Once I was back to my Range Rover, I googled the hotel on my mobile and found out where it was. I followed the directions from where I was parked and soon spotted the Raven hotel up ahead. I parked up along the road and phoned Snider.

“It’s good news, I’ve found where Rickie is staying,” I told him. “I presume Carl will probably be there too.”

“Excellent,” he said, sounding very pleased. “Don’t arrest them just yet. I need to send some of my employees over first. Where are they?”

“They’re at the Raven hotel on Queens Street,” I answered. “I’m waiting a few doors away in a black Range Rover.”

“They’ll be over as soon as possible,” he told me and hung up.

I waited fifteen minutes until two vans arrived in the street. About ten people got out and I recognised some of them from my visit to Snider’s building. They were all armed with guns and I felt nervous, wondering why they had to be here. Yet, I was glad that at least I had back-up in case Carl and Rickie had people with them.

They all ran towards the hotel with guns ready, surrounding it. I jumped out of car and raced towards the hotel, wanting to catch Rickie and Carl before they realised the hotel was about to be raided.

I ran through the entrance and started searching for them, but the hotel soon turned chaotic as gun shots were fired by Snider’s employees. The guests started screaming and running in fear. I cursed angrily, trying to push past them all and knew it would be better if Snider hadn’t sent his little army to scare everyone. It would be harder to find them with all this panic going on.

I saw one of the gun men shout to the other and they ran in pursuit of some people. I knew they were probably trying to catch Rickie and Carl, so I raced through to another corridor instead, determined to cut them off so I would get them first.

I stopped running and looked around the corridor, listening. I spotted a familiar girl running down the corridor and realised it was Rickie’s current girlfriend, the one I got attacked by.

I stayed behind the corner waiting until she ran past then reached out and grabbed her arm tightly. She was pulled back to me and looked around, shocked to see that I had suddenly appeared.

“Wasn’t ready for me this time, were you?” I asked smugly.

“Get your hands off me,” she growled and tried to wriggle away from my grip.

I noticed what she was wearing and couldn’t help but stare. She was all dressed up this time, wearing make-up, posh sandals and a light blue mini-dress with her hair styled perfectly. She looked even more gorgeous, but I was confused at why she was wearing a bullet proof jacket over the dress.

I raised my eyebrows, “Where did you get that?” I asked, wondering what was going on. It was a weird combination for an outfit and I hadn’t expected her to be in the police or anything like that; so why did she have one and why was she wearing it right now?

“It’s none of your business,” she snapped.

She managed to yank her arm away from my grasp while I was distracted. I could see she was getting ready to attack me again, so I backed away to put some distance between us. I pointed the gun in her direction, obviously not where she was wearing the jacket because that would be pointless. She narrowed her eyes at me, getting ready to use a self-defence move whether I had a gun or not.

“I don’t want a fight,” I told her, wanting to calm her down. I had no intention of shooting anyone, especially not someone who wasn’t a fugitive and as beautiful as her. “I just want to know where your boyfriend is.”

“Like I’d tell you that,” she answered fiercely.

I felt annoyed that she was refusing to answer, but I knew he must be somewhere nearby so it didn’t really matter. I’d just have to find him myself.

“Here I am,” I heard a voice say behind me.

I turned in surprise, wondering how Rickie had managed to sneak up on me. Then I felt something hard hit me over the head and the last thing I remembered was falling to the floor.

I gained consciousness a while later and cursed angrily, unable to believe that this had happened a second time. I tried to get up but the side of my head throbbed with pain and I felt dizzy and sick.

I sat there for a few minutes until I recovered enough and then went to find the gun-men Snider had sent.

“Where are they?” I asked, feeling angry and frustrated.

“They managed to get away,” one of them answered. “We chased them but they disappeared. We’ve searched the whole building but they’re nowhere to be found.”

I swore under my breath, unable to believe it. I should have taken Snider’s advice and remembered that they were always escaping.

“I’ll go out and search,” I growled in reply and went outside to jump into my Range Rover.

I drove around the city, desperate to spot them running away, but they were nowhere to be seen and I was sure they had already gone into hiding somewhere else by now. I got a text message from the girl I questioned earlier but I ignored it, too angry to bother with her.

It was getting dark and soon I had to give up my search and go back to my hotel room, defeated.

Chapter 15

 

 

Snider was furious with me when I got called in to see him. He yelled at me for nearly half an hour and I was getting nervous he might lose his patience and just kill me off.

“I’ll find them again and this time they won’t get away,” I promised him.

“You’d better. I won’t tolerate any more failures,” he told me angrily. “If you’re not good enough for this job then I’ll find someone else…” He gave me a dark look to make it clear what will happen to me once I was replaced.

“You’ll have them soon, you can count on me,” I told him. My life depended on getting my hands on those two teenagers, so I was determined to get them.

“I’ll give you four more weeks,” he informed me, “but I won’t be prepared to wait any longer.”

I did a check-up visit on the hotel, to make sure they hadn’t been foolish enough to return after the raid yesterday. I showed the wanted posters to the hotel manager and questioned her, but she told me she hadn’t seen either Rickie or Carl since yesterday. The hotel was in a state, most of the rooms and furniture were destroyed by the raid, and there was no longer any customers staying. The whole place was deserted apart from the manager and staff.

I continued searching around the city for the next few days, getting desperate as my deadline was getting closer each day.

I went out early in the morning for a drive along the roads through the city centre. It was five o’clock and I wished I was still asleep in the hotel room. Yet, this was part of the job whether I liked it or not. Criminals didn’t rest, so I couldn’t either.

I drove around for an hour and half until I passed a take away place and saw something in the corner of my eye as I drove by. It was probably nothing, anyone could have black hair, but I calmly pulled over and went to check it out just in case.

I was nearly at the take away place when I saw Rickie walk out. I quickly hid behind the building and watched him carefully. He was heading over to a motorbike parked outside, so I had to act fast. It was too late to run over and arrest him, because he was already starting up the motorbike and would drive off if I tried to approach.

I ran back to my Range Rover, jumped in and clicked the seat belt over me. I watched him ride along the road then turned the engine on and followed.

It was pretty easy catching up with him since he was only going thirty miles an hour. He noticed that someone was behind him and I sped up and got to the side of his motorbike.

He swerved towards the side of the road out of my way. I saw him slide up the glass visor on his helmet as he turned to yell at me, “Watch where you’re going!”

That’s when he noticed it was me inside the car.

I wound down my passenger window to talk back, “Pull over, Rickie!” I ordered and made sure he saw my new gun so he knew I meant business. Snider had to give me another one after they stole the other gun I had.

“No way,” he replied.

I growled in frustration. This teenager was so annoying. I would show him not to mess with me. I lost my temper and shot a bullet towards him. Somehow he managed to swerve out of its way and it just missed him. I stared in shock. Snider was right; this guy knew what he was doing.

He still refused to pull over, so I had no choice but to continue shooting. I was sure he would be dead in no time, but I noticed the bullets bounced off his helmet and a few of the others were sticking out from the back of his jacket. I cursed irritably. He was wearing a bullet proof jacket, just like his girlfriend had on yesterday, so my gun could do no damage to him.

“Let’s see if your tyres are bullet proof,” I called out.

I shot at his tyres, waiting for them to puncture, but they didn’t. I stared in shock, wondering how that was even possible. Tyres aren’t bullet proof…unless he’d managed to get some army tyre material to make them that way.

“Pity I thought of that,” I heard him say.

I growled in frustration again. This never happened. Criminals weren’t as organised and safety cautious as this. Seriously, who else drove around completely bullet proof? How did he even manage to get his hands on that kind of material for the tyres? He was definitely trouble if he had to be this careful.

I revved my engine and drove even faster towards him. If I couldn’t shoot him down then I would just have to make him stop myself.

He sped up as I followed. I steered into him, trying to hit into his motorbike and force him off the road. He swerved to avoid my hit and I continued, determined to get him.

He suddenly drove in a straight line and he was now a perfect target so I pushed my car forward. At the last second I watched him swerve to the other side of the road. I swore under my breath then gasped as I saw myself heading straight for a barrier on the bend. I panicked. I was going so fast I had no time to turn or stop.

I pressed down hard on the brakes so my tyres screeched against the road. I shut my eyes tight, ready for the crash. My heart was beating so fast I could hear it pounding. In three seconds I heard the deafening crash of my car hit into the road barrier and felt the huge impact of the crash. My Range Rover flipped over the barrier and I heard more smashes as it hit into trees at the side of the road. Then there was a final crash as my car fell to the ground upside down and that’s the last thing I remembered…

Chapter 16

 

 

I was pretty out of it when I became conscious again and had to stay hospital, spending most of the time sleeping. The only thing I properly remember is Coral coming to visit me. I felt her squeeze my hand and was so reassured hearing her voice.

“I couldn’t believe it when the hospital called me. What on earth happened, Drake? I always warned you to be careful driving.”

I wanted to answer, but I was too weak and ill and only half awake, but I managed to get out ‘car chase’ and ‘road barrier’.

“I doubt you’ll be silly enough to make that mistake again,” she teased me. “No more speeding, okay?”

I nodded.

“I’ve called your Mum and she’s getting the first flight available, so she’ll be here as soon as she can.”

I felt a little relieved but guilty as well for making her drop everything and come all the way back here.

“You’ll get better soon, even if it feels really awful right now. Don’t worry; we’ll sort everything out once you’re feeling better. I’ve explained to your insurance company what happened and they’ll be getting your medical records.”

I managed to croak out the word ‘car’ and she understood what I meant.

“I’m sorry but there was too much damage. It’s a total write-off.”

I swore in my head, devastated.

“All that matters is you’re safe,” she said, trying to make me feel better. “You were lucky to survive that accident. It’s a relief knowing you were in a Range Rover with a strong structure. If you’d been any other car, you’d probably have been killed. Your car can easily be replaced, but you can’t be. Just feel grateful for that.”

I felt like such an idiot, wondering why I had risked my Range Rover and my life just to catch one annoying teenager. I had definitely screwed up.

“Get some rest. I’ll visit you tomorrow.”

I felt a little sad that she had to leave but I soon dozed off again.

The next day, I was surprised to see Mum stroll in with a suitcase for evening visiting hours. She must have come straight from the airport to get here so early and she definitely looked tired from the flight.

She was shocked to see the state I was in and broke down in tears and tried to hug me. She realised I was too sore for hugs and backed off, grabbing a tissue instead.

“How are you feeling, darling?” she asked, really concerned.

“Fine,” I tried to reassure her, feeling awful at seeing her so upset.

“Coral told me all about your accident. I was so worried I had to come over and see you,” she rubbed my arm in that affectionate way Mums do. “I’ll stay for a while after you’re discharged so I can look after you until you’re back on your feet.”

I didn’t want anyone looking after me, I was planning on just trying to manage by myself; but I knew there was no use arguing with Mum. She had a point; I would probably really struggle coping to do things until my broken bones had healed and I had recovered a bit.

 

When I was finally discharged a few days later, I got lots of bed rest at my flat while I continued to heal. Mum fussed over me like I was a child and that felt a little embarrassing, but I was grateful that she cooked meals for me and brought me drinks every so often. I was bored out of my mind having to stay in bed so much, just watching TV or reading to entertain myself.

At least Mum was around to talk to so I wouldn’t get really lonely too. Coral and Bruno visited that first week I was out, bringing ‘get well soon’ cards and chocolates. I thanked Coral again for all the work she had done sorting out my insurance.

“Is there anything else you need help with?” she asked.

I really wanted to tell her all about my problem of being stuck working for a dangerous guy and whether she knew how I could get out of this mess. However I backed out, knowing she had already helped me enough and not wanting to bother her with any more of my problems.

“No, I’m fine,” I lied.

Luckily by the time I was well enough to start work again, my car insurance company had already sent money into my bank account towards a replacement. My previous Range Rover had still been worth a lot of money, so I had enough to buy a new model.

I had kept my mobile switched off for weeks, anxious of Snider repeatedly phoning me and not wanting to deal with stuff while I was unwell. Eventually I had to switch it back on and braced myself, getting the phone call fifteen minutes later.

I felt nervous as I answered it, knowing he would probably be furious that I’d had so much time off sick.

“I heard you’ve been in hospital,” he said, although there was no sympathy in his voice. He had obviously tracked me down when I wasn’t answering and been keeping tabs on me since. “When can you get back to working for me?”

“I can start right away,” I answered, although I was dreading working for him again. The only reason I was going back so quick was because I was scared of keeping him waiting any longer.

“Good. I want you to meet me at this address tomorrow at one o’clock,” he replied and gave me a new address to the last one. “We have a lot of things to discuss.”

“Okay,” I agreed, feeling nervous. I quickly jotted down the address in my pad. “See you tomorrow.”

When I met Snider the next morning, he looked as annoyed and frazzled as I felt. Luckily he didn’t have a go at me for having to take time off in hospital. He was too busy giving me information and orders.

“Rickie and Carl are no longer in Dragon City. They were in Twilight City where they live, but now they’ve started moving around,” he told me gruffly. “They’ve gone into protective custody so they’ll be a lot harder to find.”

“Protective custody?” I asked feeling confused. “Why would the police offer them that?” It didn’t make sense at all, especially if they were criminals who hadn’t been convicted.

“That’s my business not yours,” he snapped in answer.

I knew something dodgy was definitely going on.

“Okay,” I replied, not wanting to get him angry. The best thing I could do was stay calm and go along with it until I found out what was really going on. It wouldn’t help pissing off a guy like Snider. “But it will be near impossible trying to find out their location…”

“I already have it,” he answered impatiently. “So this job should be easy for you.”

I was shocked that he had managed it, but it wasn’t surprising that this guy could get anyone to talk. I guessed even some police officers must have been afraid of him too. I didn’t even want to think about what methods he had used, but whatever he had done must have been pretty bad and scary, especially to intimidate a police officer.

“I also have several other people I need you to arrest for me. They are all in the same place.”

I knew it was best not to ask the reason why, “sure, who are they?”

He gave me a wallet full of sheets, filled with a photo and information about each person. From what I could tell they were all freedom fighters and worked with Carl and Rickie.

“Will this be a problem?” he asked, challenging me.

“Not at all,” I replied, knowing I had no choice.

“Good. I’ll give you the same price for Carl and Rickie as I previously agreed. Any other freedom fighter you arrest I will give you a thousand each.”

“Sounds fair,” I agreed. “I’ll begin right away.”

I thought everything over once I was in my hotel room. Something wasn’t right about Snider and I was determined to find out why. I searched on my laptop for any information and felt anxious when lots of newspaper articles came up. I read them all, suddenly realising that I had been working for a dangerous psychopath who used to dominate Twilight City after he murdered the previous Mayor.

It got worse. He was arrested by police while I was in hospital and was due to attend court, but he had escaped a high security cell in a police station and was now on the run. I couldn’t believe I was working for a high risk fugitive. They were meant to be the people I was supposed to catch, not get employed by. My situation was seriously messed up.

I felt stressed as I raked my fingers through my hair. Working for him was a really bad idea and I knew I could get into big trouble with the police if they found out. However, I would be in even worse trouble if I refused to help him. He’d take me out as soon as I told him no.

I hardly slept that night, wondering what to do. I knew I was trapped and there was no way I could back out. I doubt the police could help me get out of this mess either. I could tell them where he was and they’d be able to arrest him; but if Snider found out I’d betrayed him like that he would track me down and kill me. Even if he was unable to with being arrested, he would get one of his employees to do it for him instead.

I decided I would have to continue working for him and keep on his good side. I couldn’t put my own life in danger. I thought about ringing Coral and asking her for advice or help, but I backed out. I was old enough to take care of myself now. I was too embarrassed to go running back to her with my problems. My Mum had flown back to Australia, so she couldn’t help me either. I knew there was no point ringing my parents and telling them, because I knew there was nothing they could do.

I looked through the folder Snider had given me, taking in the photographs of the new people I needed to track down. I had no idea how I could arrest them all, even if they were all in the same place. There were too many of them.

I stopped as I came to the record of a girl aged eighteen and smirked. It was Rickie’s girlfriend, the one I had already come across twice. I read through the information about her and found out her name was Starlet Summers. She had been working as a freedom fighter for around two years and also worked as a dancer at Indigo Bar. I grinned at this, knowing dancers were really good in bed. I was definitely looking forward to seeing her again.

Chapter 17

 

 

I was all set to travel down to the location Snider had given me, but things changed and they were moving to another place instead. Snider only knew which area they would be travelling through, so I had to drive around there, desperate to spot them before they got to their new placement.

As if by luck, I saw a coach driving towards me at the opposite side of the road. I might have overlooked it, but I noticed it was being followed closely behind by a car, as if it was being guarded. It looked suspicious and I just knew it had to be them.

I couldn’t follow them to where they were going because they would obviously notice. So I did the only thing I could think of doing that would stop them. When they were driving by me at the other side of the road, I swerved my Range Rover and collided into the side of the coach.

I only nudged it a bit, so I wouldn’t cause any damage to the people inside, or to my precious car. Then I sped off, pretending it had been an accident, and parked up once I was out of sight. Sure enough, the coach and the car both pulled over. I ran towards them, keeping out of sight so they wouldn’t see me coming.

I hoped they would all stay where they were, but they must have known they were under threat because they all exited the coach and ran into the woods.

I forced myself to run faster and didn’t stop until I finally made out someone running away in the distance; a girl with long, naturally blonde hair. There was only one girl I knew with that hair. I smirked. This was too good to be true.

I followed her carefully, staying out of sight. My anger enflamed as I saw that she was with Rickie. Then I realised he had short hair instead of longer and styled up. He was also taller, around six foot two inches in height. Either Rickie had grown a few inches and had a haircut since we last saw each other, or I had been mistaken. This could be his brother Carl but I couldn’t really tell from the back.

I noticed they were being followed closely by someone, obviously some kind of body guard. I needed to get past him first if I was going to arrest them. I got closer and jumped out at them from behind the trees. The body guard dropped the radio he was contacting someone with and aimed his gun to shoot me. I sprayed him in the eyes with my mace can before he could fire at me. He screamed in pain as it reacted and covered his eyes. He lost his balance and fell to the ground, not being able to see temporarily until the mace wore off.

I looked back over at Starlet and noticed it was Carl who she was with. Then I wondered why she had her arm around him if it wasn’t Rickie. They looked shocked to see me suddenly appear and a little anxious now their precious body guard was no longer able to protect them.

I got my gun out of my belt to scare them and pointed it towards them, “Stay back!”

I was a little nervous as Starlet had already gone into self-defence mode and was ready to kick my ass again. I had to keep her under control if I didn’t want to be attacked. She looked just as hot as the last time I saw her. The only difference was the light blue streaks in her hair were mostly faded out. She froze for a second and stared at me in disbelief as she recognised my face.

Her reaction changed to annoyance, “I don’t believe this. Out of all the people Snider could have sent to get us, it had to be him.”

I felt a little put out by that comment, not that I expected her to act positively towards me.

Carl frowned confused and studied me, “Who is he?”

“He’s the bounty hunter that was after you and Rickie,” she explained to him.

I took my time to check her out, “Starlet Summers, I’ve been wondering when I’d see you again,” I smirked at her.

Surprise flickered over her face, “how do you know my name?”

“You’re on my list of fugitives,” I explained, “so it must be my lucky day.”

She narrowed her eyes at me and was about to come at me with some self-defence move. I stepped back a little, getting ready for her, but Carl grabbed her arm just in time to hold her back. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, since they talked quietly between themselves, but Carl was obviously trying to persuade her not to attack me and Starlet eventually backed down reluctantly.

“You two are coming with me,” I ordered, approaching them.

I was still nervous of getting close to Starlet in case she did unexpectedly attack me. At least she couldn’t kick me in the balls again; I’d started wearing a protection cup after that incident.

“Don’t try anything,” I warned them. “If either of you make a wrong move then I’ll shoot you both.”

“Why would you shoot both of us?” Carl questioned me. “Seems a little harsh.”

I was surprised someone was daring to challenge me on a threat I was using. What happened to people just doing as they were told?

“I’m good at reading people and I can tell you’re both crazy enough not to care about getting shot at,” I explained, “but you care about what happens to each other so you won’t risk it.”

I could tell by his reaction that I was right.

“Start walking towards the road,” I told them, grabbing each of them by the arm.

I noticed Carl seemed to be struggling to keep up with my pace, “What’s wrong with you? Hurry and keep up.”

“Carl’s hurt his foot,” Starlet snapped at me, defending him. “He can hardly walk by himself.”

How did I not notice Carl was possibly injured? I was probably too distracted having a pretty girl around. That obviously explained why she had her arm around him earlier. She wasn’t being affectionate; she was just helping him to walk.

I sighed, wondering what to do with Carl. I put my arm around his shoulder to support him and helped him walk the rest of the way. I felt a little anxious, knowing I had to get them to my car quick before I was caught by whoever else was here to protect them. Luckily we finally made it to my Range Rover and I felt relieved.

“Both of you stand against the car and put your hands on your head,” I told them sternly, making sure I could arrest them properly.

“Have you got anything on you?” I asked Carl before I started a body search. I couldn’t risk letting them in my car if they had a weapon hidden or a mobile to contact the police with.

“No,” he answered but I didn’t believe him.

“That’s what they always say,” I replied and started the body search on him.

To my surprise, I discovered he really didn’t have anything, “Well that’s a first,” I muttered.

I pulled his wrists behind his back and handcuffed them, then opened the back passenger door. I put him in, strapped the seat belt around him, then shut the door and turned back to Starlet.

I started a body search on her too, feeling awkward about it. It felt good to stand so close to her without getting attacked. Her perfume smelt sweet, almost drawing me in. I longed to have my hands all over her instead of trying not to be turned on by giving an attractive girl a body search. She stiffened at my touch and I could tell she was really uncomfortable with this. I kept it professional and stopped myself from coming onto her.

When I’d finished, I slipped the handcuffs onto her slim wrists and felt a little disappointed at knowing what Snider would do to her once I handed her in. It seemed like such a waste.

I led her to the front of the car and opened the passenger door before helping her inside carefully.

“Why can’t I sit at the back with Carl?” she demanded, and I felt a little offended at how she couldn’t even bear to sit next to me in a car.

“I need to keep you two separated,” I explained so she knew I hadn’t done it on purpose.

I fastened her seatbelt for her then made my way around to my side of the car. I felt pretty excited. Once I handed them over to Snider he’d be giving me thirty one thousand pound for them. That was a lot of money just for one job.

Chapter 18

 

 

I jumped into the driver’s seat and started the engine, “the doors are fitted with security locks so it’s a waste of time to try the doors,” I told them.

I set off, driving along the road until we were nearly at the motorway.

“So you’re Carl Granger,” I asked intrigued, looking at him through the rear view mirror. “I got lucky finding you, you’re worth the most.”

“When did you get out of hospital?” he asked.

I was surprised by his sudden question about my health, but answered anyway, “A few weeks ago. I spent two days in there thanks to your lowlife brother.”

I felt angry as I remember the car crash.

“It wasn’t Rickie’s fault,” Carl told me. “If you weren’t trying to hit him off the road then you wouldn’t have crashed.”

“He meant for that to happen,” I insisted, feeling annoyed. “Once I get my hands on him, I’ll make him pay for what he did.”

“You’d better stay away from him,” Starlet warned me angrily.

I had almost forgotten how protective she was over her boyfriend.

“So you two are still together?” I asked her in a low voice, so Carl couldn’t listen in on our conversation. I felt jealous all over again, wondering why a troublemaker like him should get a nice girl like her. I knew now that he wasn’t as bad as I thought he had been or the police wouldn’t be helping him; but he had committed crimes in the past against Snider. He obviously didn’t deserve her.

“You shouldn’t have got involved with these criminals; you could have stayed out of trouble,” I told her, feeling a little sympathetic. “I’m guessing this is Rickie’s fault that Snider is suddenly after you too?”

“This isn’t anything to do with Rickie,” she answered me, keeping her voice low too as we talked.

“Oh yeah? I find that hard to believe,” I scoffed. “It’s strange that I was after him first and then you magically appear on the hit list too. He’s obviously been stupid enough to drag you into this mess and now you’re going to get killed because of him.”

“You don’t understand what’s going on here. I was going to make the hit list whether I was Rickie’s girlfriend or not.”

I was surprised by her reply. I had presumed she was sweet and innocent, not a bad girl getting caught up in crime. I was surprised that my character reading must have been off. Still, it only made her sexier knowing she was trouble.

“I bet you were so pleased when you saw my name and picture,” she said annoyed.

I smirked in reply, “I was, but it will be a pity for a hot girl like you to be killed,” I flirted with her. “Maybe if we make a deal then I’ll pretend I haven’t seen you?”

I don’t ever make deals with criminals, but I couldn’t help wanting to give attractive girls a chance, and I still felt sorry for her.

“There’s no way I’d ever sleep with you,” she replied furiously, looking disgusted. “I’d rather be killed.”

I felt stung with rejection, wondering if she really meant that. I thought maybe she was just too loyal to her boyfriend and wouldn’t ever cheat with anyone. I hoped it was nothing personal, no other girl had ever turned me down and I couldn’t seem to accept the fact that she might not be interested in me at all.

“I wasn’t going to suggest that,” I corrected her. “I don’t force girls into bed and it’s against the rules for me to proposition any of my fugitives.”

However, I wasn’t sure what I would do if she had offered. I would obviously like to sleep with her, and the fact that she always put up the hard to get attitude made me want her even more. Let’s face it, we all wanted things we couldn’t have. I would have been at risk of forgetting about the rules and pulling over to the next hotel. It would have been worth giving up the thousand grand I would get for handing her in instead. I started to almost fantasise about it as I drove and had to snap myself out of it.

“So you’re trying to blackmail me into giving you money?” she guessed, still disapproving.

“I’m not trying to blackmail, I just wanted to help you out,” I defended myself. “I can’t let you go for nothing. It’s a lot to risk and if I don’t hand someone over to Snider in the next few weeks he’s going to kill me instead. Obviously I need to get something out of this.”

“I won’t be handing over any cash either,” she told me. “So you can take me to Snider and hope your conscience can forgive you for letting innocent people get murdered.”

I frowned, “I’m not happy about all this, Starlet. I’ve just got no other choice. I’m a dead man if I refuse to.”

“Then go to the police. Let them arrest him.”

I almost laughed, “trust me, they can’t help us. You don’t mess with people like Snider…”

“You’re a coward if you’re scared of going against him,” she said.

I was so insulted by that, “maybe I’m just not stupid and crazy like you guys,” I muttered. “At least I know when not to cross someone dangerous.”

I continued driving without saying anything else and Starlet didn’t either, looking annoyed with me. I kept checking the rear view mirror every so often to make sure Carl was behaving. I did quick glances over at Starlet who was gazing moodily out of the window.

It was probably an hour later when I looked up and noticed a police car following us in the rear view mirror.

“Shit,” I cursed, feeling angry with myself. I should have noticed them sooner.

The police siren started wailing and I saw them signal for me to pull over. I frowned and cursed some more. I knew there was no point in getting into a car chase with the police. The only way I could get out of this was to pull over, act innocent and hope they stopped me for speeding or something stupid like that.

I pulled over onto the hard shoulder of the motorway. I looked back at Carl then over at Starlet, wondering if they had somehow managed to get help. I knew that couldn’t even be possible though. The windows were tinted, so they couldn’t have attracted any attention, and they had no mobiles to tell the police where we were.

Starlet gave me an angelic look to annoy me and I saw Carl hiding a smirk and narrowed my eyes at him.

“Stay in the car,” I ordered them before getting out.

I locked my Range Rover and approached the male police officer who was driving.

“What’s all this about?” I asked the police officer. He had parked up behind me and was getting out of his car. I saw another female police officer get out too.

“I was only two or three miles over the speed limit,” I started to argue.

“We’d like to check your vehicle, sir,” the female office said politely.

“Why?”

“We’ve had reports of suspected kidnapping.”

“What are you talking about? That’s ridiculous.”

“Do you have anyone in the car with you?” she looked at the back of the car as if she already knew.

“Well…yes, I do,” I admitted. There was no point denying it because they would probably check anyway.

“Then I’d like to see them,” she said, approaching the car.

I stopped her, “You can’t. I’m a bounty hunter and I’ve caught two fugitives who will escape if you open that door. Here’s my ID if you don’t believe me.” I showed them both my ID card and my law enforcement badge and the police officer studied them to make sure they were real and official.

“And which criminals have you caught?” he asked me. “They should be on our register.”

I knew immediately I’d been caught out and didn’t know how to answer. The woman took my keys, unlocked the car and opened the doors. She helped Carl and Starlet get out and I felt annoyed.

“As I suspected, it was kidnapping,” she said triumphantly.

The police officer suddenly pinned me to the car and I felt handcuffs tighten on my wrists, “you’ll need to come down to the station,” he told me.

“I’m telling the truth!” I said angrily. “I was ordered to arrest those two.”

“Who by?” the woman asked. “It couldn’t have been the police or a bond’s company, so it seems to me that you’re working for a criminal. Am I right in thinking you’ve been working privately for a man named Snider?”

I sighed in frustration, wondering how she knew.

“Yes,” I admitted. “He hired me to catch some people.”

“Then that means you’ve broken your contract and will possibly be charged and suspended from your duties. You’ll end up losing your licence and will be taken to court for this kidnapping charge.”

I felt furious, “you don’t understand. This man is dangerous. I couldn’t exactly decline offering my services. He was determined to hire me and I doubt I’d have much choice if I refused.”

“We understand that, but you’ve obviously broken the law,” she told me. “We can offer you a way out of this. If you agree to tell us any information on Snider and help us track down him and his employees, then the charges can be forgotten about.”

I felt a little relieved at the thought of taking her offer.

“So what do you think?” she asked me. “Prison or help us out?”

“Fine,” I replied. “I’ll work with your team.”

“Good decision,” she smiled. “I think you should go down to the police station immediately where we can discuss it in private.”

The police officer let me sit in the back of my Range Rover while we waited for a police car to pick us up. When it arrived, I was put into the back of the police car, still handcuffed. The police officer I had been waiting with offered to drive back in my Range Rover so it wasn’t left on the motorway.

Chapter 19

 

 

I sat in the police station, feeling anxious as I was interviewed. The last thing I planned to do was grass in my new client to the police, especially a very dangerous one I was scared of pissing off.

“Do you have any locations on where Snider could be?” the female police officer, called Maria, asked me.

“He gave me an address but I don’t know if he’s still there or not,” I answered and gave it to her.

She and the other police officer looked pretty excited to get it.

“Thank you,” she said. “You’ll have to stay here until we investigate the building.”

“So you don’t trust me?” I asked feeling annoyed. I had just risked my life giving them that address and they had no idea how much danger I was putting myself in.

“We just want to make sure the information you gave us is correct,” she replied. “Besides, you once worked for him so we’re not sure if we can trust you just yet.”

I had to spend the night locked up in a prison cell and I wasn’t happy about it. Luckily they let me out the next day because I was telling the truth about the address.

“We’re grateful for the information,” she said, looking a little guilty that she misjudged me.

“Did you get him?” I asked, hoping it would all be over.

“No, unfortunately he and some others got away when they saw the police cars arriving, but we did arrest a lot of his employees.”

“So what do I do now?” I asked, feeling nervous because I knew I was in big trouble now. “He’ll know I was the one who grassed him in and that puts me in danger.”

“I understand that, but the police will make sure you’re protected,” she promised me. “I would like you to help us catch him and his workers, if you’re still interested?”

I shrugged, although it made me feel anxious to think of going after him, “fine, whatever.” I knew the police wouldn’t let me get off so easy and I’d have to help them as much as I could.

“You can work alongside police officers on the case,” she told me. “I’m sure we’ll have them all caught in no time.”

 

My work with the police was going well and over the few weeks I managed to arrest nearly twenty of his workers, although I never had any luck in getting Snider arrested. He was keeping well hidden and under the police radar for now.

I had to book into a local hotel and Maria made sure that the security was up before I even step foot in the room. My room and hotel door were fitted with temporary CCTV cameras and I had to wear a plastic pendant around my neck, which had a panic button linked to the police. I felt pretty safe, although I was still cautious and nervous because I knew they would be coming for me.

One night, I was watching TV before bed when there was a knock on the door. I wasn’t expecting anyone to visit, so my heart already started thudding with nerves.

“Who is it?” I yelled through the door, but there was no answer.

I wasn’t stupid enough to unlock and open the door to answer it. I didn’t know who was on the other side and I wouldn’t answer until I did.

There was another loud thud at the door and I knew whoever was outside was trying to break in. I quickly pressed my panic button, feeling scared and knowing I was in danger. I ran into the bedroom and tried to find something to protect myself with, knowing that if it was Snider or his employees they’d be armed with weapons.

I heard the door crash through and running footsteps as they came for me. My heart was pounding with fear as I waited. I saw a group of Snider’s workers enter the room and search for me.

One of them came towards the bedroom and I hit him with the chair from the dressing table. He fell back and the rest soon realised where I was and came for me.

I tried to fight them off, but it was five against one so I stood no chance. I got beaten pretty bad and thrown to the floor. I curled up in a ball, trying to protect myself against the punches and kicks. There was nothing else I could do. I was too injured by then to be able to stand and defend myself. I tried to remain calm and tell myself that I would be fine. The police would arrive soon and arrest them…but instead everything went black.

 

I opened my eyes weakly. I couldn’t focus properly and only saw light. I was sure I was dead until I heard a voice I recognised. It was Harry, the police officer who I was working with, and the one I had met the day him and Maria arrested me.

“Drake? It’s okay, you’re in hospital,” he told me reassuringly, saying everything slowly in case I didn’t understand.

I opened my eyes a little more, but I was still weak and dizzy.

“We got there just in time. You’re lucky to be alive.”

All the pain suddenly hit me as I started to wake up and groaned in agony.

“What happened?” I managed to croak out, my voice hardly working.

“Snider sent over a few assassins to kill you,” he explained. “Do you remember?”

My head hurt, but I started to have memories of being back in the hotel room. I flinched, almost feeling them beating me up again, and feelings of anxiety rushed over me.

“It’s going to be okay,” he told me again. “After what’s happened I can’t expect you to work with us. Maria has agreed that you can go into protective custody and join her and the others. That way you can fully heal and won’t be at risk anymore.”

“When do I go?” I asked, still feeling a little confused and tired.

“You’ll have to stay in hospital until you’re better. You can go as soon as you’re discharged,” he answered. “Don’t worry; we have police and security guards watching the building so you’re safe. We won’t let this happen a second time.”

I felt a little reassured but still nervous. At least back then I was fit enough to protect myself. If they came for me now I would be useless and weak. Luckily, Harry kept his word and I didn’t have any visitors other than him.

I slowly started to get better and the nurses were so nice, looking after me and making sure I was okay. I would have enjoyed it if I wasn’t so injured and in pain. Luckily the agony started to ease with the pain killers I was taking and I felt a little better.

I received a ‘get well’ card and fruit basket which had been sent from Coral and Bruno. I was touched and happy that someone cared. I wondered how they knew I was here and decided that the hospital or police officer must have rung them, since they were still registered as my emergency contacts. Harry told me they had insisted on visiting me too, but Harry was very strict and wouldn’t let them in. I was disappointed, even though I knew that the police were only trying to keep me protected. They had even taken my mobile away as a precaution.

I had to use a hospital phone to ring them to say thanks and tell them how I was. They were really worried about me, especially since they couldn’t get in contact with me on my own mobile. I couldn’t tell them what was happening, but I did say I was in trouble with a criminal and the police were looking after me. I also said I might not be able to contact them again for a while until this was over.

I also rang my parents, who were really anxious after hearing from Coral that I was in hospital. It was hard trying to explain everything and luckily Harry got on the phone to talk with them, discussing everything that would be happening. I knew my parents weren’t happy about me disappearing for an unknown amount of time and not being able to contact them, but they knew it was for the best and accepted it.

I got discharged from the hospital after a few weeks and the police escorted me straight to a private jet. I was travelling to a top secret island where I would be under protective custody and no one would know where I was. I was excited, despite the awful situation, and couldn’t wait to arrive at where I would be staying.

Chapter 20

 

 

I travelled for a few hours and it started to feel like I was going a holiday. The private jet landed once we got to the island at a very small airport. It was obvious this would be the only plane arriving and leaving from here. The runway was empty and there were only three members of staff, who immediately attended to the jet.

Maria was waiting for me outside with a taxi and we drove to the hotel I would be staying. The island looked pretty cool as I looked out of the window at passing scenery. As expected the island was full of palm trees and small beaches, and the weather was hot. It had a city in the middle called Lost City with lots of stuff to do like a shopping mall, cinema etc. Other than that there were just private villas, hotels and supermarkets.

We soon arrived at the hotel near the beach. It looked like a usual four star hotel; with balconies, a pool, outdoor bar and a small garden area. It was definitely better than staying at home in those cheap hotels I had been in.

Maria got my case out from the boot and started wheeling it to the reception for me.

“I can do it myself,” I objected. It felt weird having a woman pull it along for me and I didn’t want to feel like an invalid.

“It’s no problem,” she insisted. “Besides, I don’t want you to risk aggravating your injuries.”

I had no choice but to give in and let her do it, following her to the reception desk to check in.

I got my room key and was pretty surprised when Carl came over to greet me. He was friendly with me, despite our differences in the past, and I was confused why he didn’t just avoid me instead.

“I hope you’re feeling better and I’m sorry to hear about your accident,” he said, looking a little concerned.

I wondered why he cared. We were enemies before now so I didn’t expect us to get along and become friends or anything. I concluded that he was probably just being nice and sympathetic because he had heard about the attack. He was probably happy that I had helped the police out by agreeing to hunt down Snider and his employees too. It’s not as if I had any other choice in that anyway, I was pretty much forced into it by Maria, so he didn’t have to feel grateful to me.

“I’ll be fine,” I said, looking away and feeling awkward.

I spotted Rickie standing nearby and immediately felt angry. It was the first time we had seen each other since my car crash and our eyes locked. We both instantly narrowed our eyes at each other. It was obvious he hated me as much as I despised him.

Maria quickly stood between us to stop a fight breaking out, “Listen, I know you two have had your differences in the past, but since we’ll all be living together until we can return home, I think it’s best if we sort this out and keep the peace.”

Neither me nor Rickie wanted to be anywhere near each other. We were both so mad we probably would have been in a fight if Maria wasn’t there trying to settle things.

“Why should I have to sort things out with him?” Rickie asked and I felt infuriated. “I’ve done nothing wrong, he’s the one who shot at me and tried to run my motorbike off the road.”

“I was doing my job, if you’d just pulled over then it wouldn’t have happened,” I reminded him crossly. “Besides, you left without a scratch. I was the one who ended up in a car crash, which was your fault.”

“Really? You were the one trying to knock me off; it’s not my fault you hit against a road barrier.”

“We both know you did that on purpose. You wanted me to crash so you could get away. Well I hope you were really happy driving off and leaving me there, I could have died.”

“How do y’ think the ambulance got to you? I called them as soon as you crashed. You’re lucky I did or y’ might not have got any help at all.”

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I felt stunned and confused, trying to process that new bit of information.

“Wait…you called them?” I asked, really puzzled now.

I couldn’t figure out why Rickie would ever want to help me. Obviously I was grateful that he had, but I didn’t want to feel like I owed him.

“Yeah I did,” he answered, “which is totally crazy since you wouldn’t have done the same for me.”

“Why would you do that?” I asked, a little intrigued by the mystery of it.

“Unlike you, I have a conscience. I couldn’t leave someone injured or dying no matter how much I hated them.”

“Well…I appreciate that you did,” I said reluctantly, finding it difficult to say thank you to someone I hated, “but that doesn’t make up for the weeks I had to stay in hospital.”

Rickie was ready to start arguing back.

“That’s enough,” Carl interrupted us, before Rickie had time to say something. “Drake, you have to let go of what happened in the car crash. I’m sure it was an accident and Rickie got you help despite your actions; so you should just be grateful instead of trying to shift the blame onto him.”

I looked down at the floor, feeling irritated. Obviously Carl would take his brothers side and stick up for him. Like I cared what he thought. How dare he think he could stand there and tell me off?

“And you have to learn to let go of your anger and try and get on with Drake,” I heard him starting on Rickie. I couldn’t help feeling amused as I listened. “I know he’s done bad things in the past, but he’s paid for his actions and now he’s on our side. After all the help he’s given the police, you should start treating him with respect.”

Rickie looked annoyed and I couldn’t help but smirk a little.

“Try and get on while we’re here,” Carl told us. “There’s no point turning against one another when it’s Snider who is our enemy.”

“Just stay out of my way and I’ll stay out of yours,” Rickie told me.

“Fine by me,” I replied. Why would I want to be anywhere near him? I couldn’t stand him.

“Well I’m glad that’s sorted,” said Maria. “Drake, I’ll show you to your room. I suppose you’ll need some rest.”

I nodded and followed her, relieved to get away from this awkward and annoying situation. I felt tired from flying and just wanted to rest without any more aggravation. Luckily I was given a room on the ground floor so I didn’t have to use stairs or a lift.

“Just let me know if you need anything,” Maria said kindly, putting my case on the bed so I could reach it.

“Okay,” I agreed.

After she left, I unpacked some of my stuff, although it hurt me a little hanging clothes up in the wardrobe. I hoped my wounds would heal up soon. I didn’t like feeling weak.

I dropped my case onto the floor and tried to take a nap on the bed. However, I was too excited about being here and wanted to explore, so I gave up on the nap and headed out instead.

There was a big swimming pool outside surrounded by sun loungers and the outdoor bar was on the left. I looked around and my eyes caught sight of Starlet at the other side of the pool. I couldn’t help smirking a little. She looked so hot wearing a light blue, string bikini that showed off her perfect, tanned figure. I couldn’t help thinking dirty thoughts.

She was sunbathing with two other girls I presumed must be her friends. The first one had a model type figure, tall and skinny, wearing a sexy black bikini and designer flip flops. She was very attractive and had purple dyed, chin length hair and blue eyes. She looked twenty one years old, so she was obviously the eldest of them.

The other girl was petite with shoulder length, light brunette hair and green eyes. She was quite pretty but nothing special and wore a dark pink, strapless swimsuit. I could tell right away that she was self-conscious about her body and didn’t want to show much of it. She looked eighteen years old, the same age as Starlet.

As I walked over, her friends looked up at me curiously wondering who I was. The girl with purple hair studied me, the way girls do when they first spot an attractive guy. I gave her a sexy smirk in response, then my eyes drifted back to the person I was here to see.

“Hi Starlet,” I said, wondering how she’d react at seeing me.

She opened her eyes from sunbathing and looked up at me, shocked that I’d suddenly appeared, “what are you doing here?” she demanded, getting up from her sun lounger. I started to feel nervous that she was getting ready to attack.

“I’ve been working with the police back home to try and find Snider, but the plan kind of back fired,” I explained, hoping she wasn’t going to fight me. “So now I guess I’m in protective custody, just like you.”

She looked surprised at my answer then noticed my injuries.

“What happened?” she asked with a little trace of sympathetic in her voice.

I felt quite touched; maybe she did care after all?

“Nothing I can’t handle,” I replied, shrugged it off like it was nothing. I still felt a little anxious remembering the attack, but I couldn’t let anything scare me.

“Did Snider do that to you?” she looked annoyed at the thought of it.

“No, he got his assassins to do his dirty work, but he’s pretty pissed off with me right now.”

“That’s awful,” she said, looking sorry for me.

I looked down at the floor, embarrassed and a little annoyed. The last thing I wanted was pity.

“Star, aren’t you going to introduce us?” her friend with the purple hair interrupted and smiled at me.

“Sure. These are my friends. This is Sarah,” she indicated to the purple haired girl and then at the brunette girl, “and this is Kat.”

I smiled at them both politely while Starlet introduced me, “This is Drake; he’s the bounty hunter I told you about.”

I couldn’t help but smirk as I heard her say that. She talked about me to her friends? She was definitely into me. I wonder what Rickie thought about this?

“So you’re the one who was trying to track down Carl and Rickie?” Kat asked me. She looked at me uncertainly like she couldn’t trust me.

“Yeah,” I answered, feeling a little awkward.

“This is the guy you kicked in the balls?” Sarah asked Starlet and giggled.

I blushed with embarrassment. It looked like Starlet hadn’t been talking about me in a good way like I’d hoped.

“You got lucky with that,” I said to Starlet, feeling mortified that I had a track record of being beaten, especially by a female. “I don’t fight against girls, it wouldn’t be fair.”

“I could take you on whether I’m a girl or not,” she replied confidently, offended that I was referring to her as the weaker sex.

“We’ll see about that. I could always play fight with you when I’m feeling better,” I smirked.

Starlet narrowed her eyes at me for flirting with her then returned to lie on her sun lounger.

“You can sit with us, if you want to?” Sarah offered politely.

I was relieved at least one of these girls was friendly with me, “thanks.”

I lay on the empty sun lounger beside her, feeling happy to be able to chill out and chat up girls again.

“I’ve never met a bounty hunter before,” Sarah told me, sitting upright and rubbing more sun lotion onto her arms. “What’s it like?”

“It’s very dangerous,” I replied, starting to show off and impress them. “I once arrested a gang of high risk criminals all by myself.”

I felt content hanging out with them and telling stories for the rest of the afternoon, so staying at the island wasn’t so bad after all.

Chapter 21

 

 

It was fun at the hotel for that first week. I tried to keep my distance from Rickie, but Starlet was with him a lot and Sarah and Kat liked to hang out with him too. Unfortunately those three were the only people I could hang out with and talk to, so sometimes I had to put up with Rickie being around.

Luckily they weren’t one of those annoying couples who were all over each other and made everyone around feel uncomfortable. They held hands or Rickie would have his arm around her. Starlet liked to snuggle up to him sometimes and they did that staring into each other’s eyes thing when they talked together. They seemed pretty close and were always talking, laughing and smiling. It shouldn’t have made me jealous, but it did a little somehow.

I knew they had kissing sessions when they were hanging out alone and thought no one was looking over. I also spotted them a few times sneaking off to their hotel room. Those times definitely made me jealous.

“Are they always like this?” I asked Sarah, as I watched them sitting on a sun lounger together eating ice cream, laughing and talking.

It was the way they sat close and looked at each other which made it clear they were together. They looked so happy and in love. It stung to be reminded of how Kara and I were before we split up and I hated it.

Sarah looked over at them and smiled, “Pretty much. They’re a sweet couple.”

“It’s like they’re filming a fucking holiday advert for honeymoons,” I replied, pissed off.

“Someone’s jealous,” she teased me.

I was annoyed. There was no way I wanted to be thought of as a bitter and jealous admirer.

“Why would I be jealous?” I scoffed, laughing it off and denying it. “I’ve probably slept with more girls in a month than Rickie has his whole life.”

“Rickie’s happy being in relationships instead of sleeping around,” she defended him. “Besides, that wasn’t my point. You’re jealous about Star, it’s pretty obvious.”

“I’m not jealous about that either,” I lied. “I can get any girl I want, so I’m not going to mope around just because she’s with Rickie. I’m way better looking than him anyway.”

She raised her eyebrows at me. “You’re pretty big headed, aren’t you?”

“Just stating the obvious. Girls like me more than rock star wannabe over there.”

“I think Rickie’s hairstyle is cool,” she said, which made me jealous, “and loads of girls fancy him and say he’s really hot.”

“Do you like him?” I asked, getting annoyed in case she did.

“He’s my best friend’s boyfriend!” she protested, looking shocked at the question. “Rickie’s just a friend to me.”

I had forgotten about girls having those loyalty rules with their friends, but I was relieved she hadn’t said he was handsome or better looking than me.

“Still, I don’t know how you put up with them. They’re pretty annoying with their perfect couple shit.”

“I think they’re really lucky,” she said dreamily. “Wouldn’t you like to fall in love and find The One someday?”

“I don’t believe in all that finding The One bullshit,” I replied. “That’s just something out of those fucking annoying Disney movies.”

“Why do you think that?” she asked me curiously.

I couldn’t say it was because I had already been madly in love with someone; and if ‘The One’ really existed then everything wouldn’t have fallen apart and left me heartbroken.

I avoided her gaze, “No reason, I’m just being realistic.”

“Some people find the person they’re meant to be with,” she told me. “Look at Rickie and Star; I’m certain they’ll get married one day.”

“They’ll either split up or get divorced,” I told her. “The chances of them being happily married until they die are pretty rare.”

“That’s harsh,” she looked upset.

“It’s real life,” I corrected her. “That’s just what happens.”

“Well I think you’re wrong,” she told me confidently.

I actually envied her optimism. I wish I could go back to believing in it but I couldn’t.

I didn’t want to think about all that stuff anymore, so I distracted myself by wondering if Sarah liked me. She seemed to think I was good looking the day I met her, and she liked hanging out and talking to me; but maybe she was starting to think of me as just a friend.

I needed to change that. I wasn’t the type of guy who had female friends. I only had Coral but that was only because she used to be my boss. Plus I’d never think of dating her, she was old enough to be my Mum.

I decided to compliment Sarah to see if she revealed any signs of interest for me, “I really like your outfit,” I looked over her pink sundress which showed off her legs.

“Thanks,” she smiled, looking pleased. She was definitely into me.

I got closer and said quietly in her ear, “It would look even better lying on my hotel room floor.”

She was shocked by what I said then looked angry, “Don’t talk to me like that.”

I felt confused by her response. The last reaction I expected her to have was being mad with me.

“I was just flirting. I didn’t mean to offend you,” I explained, puzzled.

That stuff usually worked with most girls I had chatted up, so I didn’t understand why it had gone so wrong with her.

“I’m not a tart who will jump straight into bed with you,” she told me, annoyed.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to presume you were,” I apologised, feeling stupid. “I just get carried away sometimes, especially with attractive girls like you.”

“Just don’t do it again, okay?” she said, forgiving me.

 

I was in full flirting mode all week trying to chat up any girls I liked. I was a lot more careful about offending Sarah after my last attempt, but I was determined to keep trying. I didn’t make any moves on Kat because she wasn’t really my type and seemed kind of scared of me. I guess I did look intimidating but I was always friendly and talked to her.

It was very risky trying to flirt with Starlet. She was starting to talk to me, without there being any threats or violence, but I was still nervous in case she would switch back to it. I didn’t get anything back from Starlet in return. She would totally shoot me down or ignore me.

The most amusing response from her was when she caught me looking at her chest. She immediately wrapped her towel around her, shot me a dark look and told me to ‘fuck off and stop being a pervert’. I couldn’t help but laugh at that. What did she expect me to do when a hot girl was walking around in a bikini?

I don’t know why but even though she would keep rejecting me, it never stopped me from trying. I guess I couldn’t accept that there was one girl who didn’t fall for my charm. It made me more determined to get her.

I enjoyed flirting with Starlet, especially if it was to play my amusing new game of winding Rickie up. If he thought I was getting too friendly with her or staring at her too much, he would give me a warning look that meant in guy language ‘touch her and you’re dead’. I played up to the flirting just to annoy him and he looked so pissed off with me. I would purposely comment on how beautiful she looked and watch his eyes darken with anger like he was ready to kill me. He didn’t kick off or try and fight me because Carl was nearly always around to make sure he stayed out of trouble; but I could tell he wanted to.

I should have been more careful instead of acting like a prick, because finally he approached me in the hotel corridor when no one else was around and I knew I was in trouble.

“I know what you’re up to,” he told me angrily. “Stay away from my girl.”

“I can do whatever I want,” I replied unfazed. “Why? Are you scared of losing your girlfriend?”

“She isn’t interested,” he replied, not looking threatened by me stealing her at all. “She can’t stand you. The only reason she puts up with having you around is because she feels sorry for you.”

That stung and I wondered if it was true or not.

“Is that what she tells you?” I replied with a cocky smile, trying to keep up the act and pretend she really was secretly into me.

“She isn’t available so back off,” he threatened me.

I smirked, “I’m not scared of a little teenager like you. You won’t do anything, especially if your brother is around to tell you off.”

He suddenly grabbed me angrily, “Wanna bet?”

I could feel anxiety welling up inside me. Ever since I was attacked by Snider’s assassins I had developed a temporary fear of getting beaten up really badly again. However, I was determined to get over it. A bounty hunter couldn’t be afraid of anyone or anything. I definitely didn’t want to feel scared of Rickie; I’d never live that down.

He looked like he would start punching me any second, so I needed to do something quick.

“I’m not going to fight with you over her. What’s the point?” I said evenly, trying to steer away from any violence and not sound nervous. “It’s just harmless flirting. It’s not like I’ve slept with her or anything.”

“I know you’re thinking about it,” he replied angrily.

“If I really wanted to get someone in bed, I would have done it by now,” I told him honestly. “Starlet isn’t the only one around here and I’m not her personal stalker. There are loads of other hot girls I’m interested in.”

“I’m just warning you. If you ever dare try and make a move on her you’ll be waking up in hospital.”

He let go of me and I felt intimidated by his threat. I didn’t like to feel weak and anxious, especially against one of the people I hated.

“Who says you’ll win a fight against me?” I asked, trying to sound tough.

“Try it and see what happens,” he challenged me darkly.

I didn’t, so he turned and walked away. I had a feeling there probably would be a fight between us soon. It was only a matter of time before we clashed over something; there was already so much hatred between us.

Chapter 22

 

 

I didn’t waste my time worrying about Rickie. If we did get in a fight then I would just deal with it. I had other potential girls to think about anyway.

I went for a run along the beach to clear my head and get some exercise. I wondered if I could run the whole way around the island and how long it would take; then was distracted by feeling someone’s gaze on me. I looked over and saw two women watching me running. They were sat having drinks outside a restaurant facing the beach and started talking excitedly, looking my way. I flashed them a flirty grin and both of them blushed, looked away shyly and started giggling. I’d definitely still got it.

After two hours of running, I found myself back at the hotel and went to get some water from the outdoor bar. I smiled when I found Sarah there and went to sit beside her on the bar stools. I threw back a tall glass of ice water and ordered another as we started talking.

I waited for the right moment then got closer to her and whispered in her ear what I would like to do with her and my handcuffs later. Then I felt her slap me across the face and finally remembered our conversation, about not going too far with comments. I covered my stinging cheek with my hand, feeling stunned.

“I can’t believe you, Drake,” she told me in disgust and anger. “You’re a total sleaze.”

“Is there a problem?” someone asked behind us.

I looked up to see Mick, who was Rickie’s best friend. I definitely didn’t want to piss him off; he was better built than me with more impressive muscles.

“No, it’s okay. I’ve handled it,” Sarah answered him, then shot me a pissed off look before walking away.

I felt like such an idiot. Why hadn’t I remembered she didn’t like that stuff?

“Stop harassing the girls, Drake. It’s really not cool,” Mick told me.

“Who asked you?” I snapped.

“No one needed to. Sarah and Star are my friends and I won’t let you keep annoying them.”

“Whatever,” I said moodily, and walked away before he could threaten me with a fight too. It seemed as if I was having bad day and I couldn’t be bothered with any more trouble.

I felt kind of embarrassed and annoyed that I had failed to pull Sarah again. It was starting to dent at my pride. I was also pretty frustrated and needed to get laid soon. I hadn’t shagged a girl for months and that was a record for me.

I passed the reception in a sulk then stopped as I noticed who was at the desk. The female receptionist was one of those attention seeking, pretty girls. Her face was plastered with make-up and she was wearing a shirt that was half open and displaying most of her chest. I couldn’t see what else she was wearing from behind the desk, but I bet it was one of those short black skirts. Her hair was perfectly straightened and she had false nails that clicked a lot as she typed on her keyboard. I could tell right away she would be easy.

I went over and leaned against the reception desk, “hi.”

She looked up, unimpressed that I had interrupted her typing, and then her mood magically changed when she took in my appearance.

She smiled politely, forgetting all about her work, “can I help you?”

“I was wondering what time you got off,” I said, giving her a smile back.

She was immediately thrilled that I was coming onto her, “in another hour.”

“Why don’t you meet me in my room?” I suggested. “It’s number fourteen.”

“Okay,” she agreed, without even having to think or decide.

I couldn’t believe how desperate this girl was. She didn’t even mind that I wasn’t at least asking her out for drinks or a meal first.

“See you later,” I said and walked away grinning.

 

I was feeling a lot better the next morning. My confidence with getting ladies had fully restored after last night and my previous rejections had been forgotten.

I saw Starlet walking back to her hotel room alone, a beach bag on her shoulder and a smile on her face. She was wearing small denim shorts and a light green tank top with sandals. I missed the bikini.

I leaned against the wall, blocking the way to the stairs and grinned at her.

“Not got your boyfriend tagging after you today?”

She looked up at me, “what do you want, Drake?” I could tell from the tone of her voice that she was already annoyed by my presence.

“I was just asking. What’s your problem?” I said. “You should at least be flattered by my attention.”

“Well I’m not. I hate it,” she replied. “I don’t want you flirting with me, it’s so annoying. You know I’m taken and I’m not interested, so why do you keep doing it?”

“It’s not as if I’m doing anything wrong. So you’ve got a boyfriend, it doesn’t mean I can’t look at you.”

“You know you’re doing way more than that. You’re trying to cause trouble and piss Rickie off,” she said angrily. “I love him and I won’t let you try and split us up.”

“I’m not that spiteful,” I defend myself. “I’m not trying to ruin your relationship. If Rickie is that insecure about people flirting with his girl then that’s his problem.”

“You’re the one who has a problem. You expect me to be so taken in by your flirting that I’ll somehow want to sleep with you even if I have a boyfriend.”

I smirked a little, “I bet you’d want me if you weren’t taken.”

She shook her head in disbelief, like it was the stupidest thing she had ever heard, “You really think every girl wants to be with you? Well they don’t. You’re definitely not my type. I’m not into sleazy guys who think they can get anyone into bed.”

I felt shocked. I had never been properly rejected like that before and it was like a punch in the stomach. Now I couldn’t pretend there were other reasons why she wasn’t responding to me just to save my pride. She just wasn’t into me at all and that hurt.

“You don’t have to be such a bitch about it,” I snapped, feeling embarrassed and annoyed.

“Yeah I’m sure every girl who dares to turn you down must be a bitch,” she replied sarcastically. “Just leave me alone.”

She pushed past me and kept walking.

“Fine, I’m bored of chasing you anyway,” I called after her moodily.

She didn’t bother to reply with anything and I felt a little hurt that she really wouldn’t miss getting attention from me.

I was in such a bad mood over it I spent the rest of the day drinking at a bar I found along the beach. Luckily by evening I was too drunk to care about anything.

I started chatting up two girls who were friends on a night out. They enjoyed me flirting with them and we talked and drank together all night. We danced and did some tequila body shots until I was ready to get to bed. I tried to convince them both to come back to my hotel room and luckily they were both drunk enough to agree.

Chapter 23

 

 

I woke up feeling hungover but really pleased with myself. The headache was definitely worth it. Once the two girls left, feeling embarrassed now they were sober, I stayed in bed to recover. I finally got washed and changed, then went down to get some lunch since I had already missed breakfast.

I saw Sarah and Kat walking out of the hotel on my way out of the restaurant and grinned. I could flirt as much as I wanted with Sarah because she didn’t have a boyfriend lurking around and at least seemed attracted to me.

“Hey girls,” I called after them. “I’ll give you both a fifty second head start before I start chasing you.”

Kat rolled her eyes at me, “Drake, we’re not playing…” she tried to say, but I ignored her and started counting from one, covering my eyes.

I peeked from behind my hands to see if they were going to play along. Sarah pulled Kat along, starting to run. I smiled and covered my eyes again.

I finished counting then set off running in the direction they went. I looked around and spotted them a distance away in the hotel gardens and raced after them both, dodging around palm trees and bushes.

I soon caught up and managed to grab hold of Kat first.

“You have to give me a kiss if I catch you,” I teased her.

“No way,” she protested, shoving me away. “I’ve got a boyfriend back home.”

“Your loss,” I replied, and went after Sarah instead.

She squealed when I got her and tried to get away, but I held on tight. I pulled her towards me so her back was against me and kept my arms around her.

“I’m sorry for the other day,” I apologised quietly. “I felt like a complete idiot and I forgot all about our promise. Can you forgive me?”

“I warned you not to do it,” she replied.

“I know and I deserved the slap. I won’t say anything dirty to you again, this time I mean it,” I swore and turned her to face me. “Just checking, you’re single, right?”

“That’s none of your business,” she answered.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” I leaned forward and pressed my lips against hers.

I was disappointed when it only lasted two seconds because she pulled away from me.

“I was supposed to get a kiss if I caught you,” I reminded her, hoping she wouldn’t get pissed off with me for trying.

“You’re an idiot,” she said, but I noticed she smiled a little.

I smirked, knowing she was definitely into me, “So where are you two going?”

“To the beach,” Kat answered.

“Can I come?”

“Fine,” Sarah agreed reluctantly. “Just behave yourself.”

I put an arm around each of them, “I can’t make any promises.”

They just shrugged me off and I smirked, following them.

We found Starlet and Bryan already on the beach and went over to join them. I was feeling a little awkward being around Starlet, especially after our argument yesterday, but she didn’t seem in the mood for another row with me. Bryan was polite and friendly but I could tell he didn’t like me. All the lads seemed to be on Rickie’s side already. At least Sarah was a little pleased to have me around.

“Hi,” I greeted Starlet and sat next to her on the beach towel.

She was wearing a sarong over her bikini, but it still looked hot. I decided better than to flirt or give compliments, since I didn’t want to fight with her again.

“Don’t start, I’m not in the mood,” she warned, expecting me to start annoying her any second.

“I’m not doing anything,” I reminded her, hoping she would notice I hadn’t tried to flirt with her yet.

I noticed tears in her eyes and immediately softened. I’m a total sucker for pretty girls who are upset, “what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“There’s obviously something up.”

“I don’t want to talk about it with you.”

“So it’s about Rickie?”

She started crying at hearing his name and I felt bad. She looked so heartbroken and my own heart ached just remembering I had felt that with Kara.

“I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically, knowing how much pain she would be feeling. “Did you two break up?”

Starlet was too upset to answer and carried on crying.

“They’re over as far as she’s concerned,” Sarah answered for her, giving Starlet a hug and sounding cross with Rickie.

“Well, whatever he’s done he’s not worth it,” I told her. “You’ll get heaps of guys begging to be your new boyfriend.”

“I don’t want another boyfriend,” she said tearfully, in case I got the wrong idea.

I hated seeing her upset and I was surprised I even cared.

“Stay strong, you’ll get through it,” I said and put my arm around her shoulder to comfort her. “I never thought I’d get over my ex-girlfriend but eventually you let go and the pain fades.”

She smiled at me a little, “thanks.”

I looked into her eyes, wishing I could move closer and kiss her. At least it might make her feel better and I was totally up for rebound sex if she wanted it.

“Just give me a chance,” I blurted out. “You deserve better than this and I want to be with you.”

I waited for her answer or reaction, but then felt someone shove me angrily from behind and saw that Rickie had suddenly appeared.

“I told you to stay away from my girlfriend,” he yelled at me threatening.

Starlet looked surprised and hurt to see him. I stood up to face him in case he was going to start a fight with me.

I smirked, “she’s not your girlfriend anymore. Too bad; she’s obviously going to get someone better than you.”

The next thing I felt was his fist in my face. I fell back onto the sand, still in shock from his sudden attack. I could sense him coming towards me and felt punches again.

“Rickie, stop it,” Starlet begged him, sounding afraid.

He ignored her and carried on, so I got pissed off with him and started fighting back, throwing my own punches. I was concentrating so much on the fight that I no longer heard what everyone else was saying around us.

I heard Carl shout loudly at us and he pulled Rickie away from me. That didn’t stop us. We were still furious and wanted to finish our fight. Rickie tried to get to me and Carl stood in the middle, trying to prevent us from fighting again. Eventually Rickie shoved past Carl and we started on each other again.

Unfortunately our second fight only lasted a few seconds before it was pulled apart again, this time by Mick. He was really strong so he managed to keep Rickie held back from me.

I stood away from them, panting heavily and trying to catch my breath.

“Rickie, calm down,” I heard Mick saying quietly to him. “He’s not worth it.”

I suddenly felt the pain from my injuries and winced. I had no idea how much damage Rickie had done until I examined myself properly, but it really hurt.

“Your brother is out of control,” I told Carl angrily, hoping that Rickie would be in trouble. “I’m not putting up with that behaviour.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t cause trouble and leave Starlet alone. You’re obviously provoking him, stirring things up and trying to steal his girlfriend. How do you think he’s going to react?”

“It’s none of his business what I do. He’s blown his chances with Starlet, we all know that,” I looked hard at Rickie as I said this. I wanted to hurt him or make him angry. I wanted him to realise what an idiot he was for messing things up with Starlet, and I was pissed off that he had hurt her.

Rickie didn’t react to what I was saying or even look towards me. He glanced over at Starlet, looking hurt. His full attention was on her and I was ignored.

“Star, we really need to talk and try and sort this out,” he begged her, and Mick finally let him go.

I was going to tell Rickie to back off. He was the one who should leave Starlet alone. He hurt her and she was still cut up over it; yet he thought he could just explain his way out of whatever mess he did and win her back. I felt angry and hoped Starlet wouldn’t be so weak to give into him.

“I think you should go,” Carl said to me sternly.

I felt really annoyed. I had done nothing wrong, so why was everyone so against me?

“That’s funny, I don’t remember you being my boss,” I snapped.

“There’s been enough trouble here already,” Kat said to me soothingly, appearing by my side. “Come on, let’s go find a first aid kit so I can clean up your wounds.”

I couldn’t be bothered with any more trouble. It wasn’t as if it was any of my business and Starlet would just have to look after herself. I took the hint and left.

Kat was really kind to me, asking if I was okay and if anything hurt. I felt a little touched that she was being nice and looking after me. She walked me back to my hotel room and tended to my wounds gently. By then I had finally cooled down and my anger had fizzled away.

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” I said, letting myself be grateful. “You’re really good at this.”

She smiled, “I should be, I’m a trainee nurse practitioner.”

“Oh really?” I somehow held back making comments about a sexy nurse outfit. I didn’t want to piss her off when she had been so sweet and helped me out.

However, I couldn’t help wondering why they bothered being nice to me when they didn’t really like me. I knew Kat was hesitant around me and obviously didn’t trust me, but she still remained friendly. I wondered if maybe she just felt sorry for me or that it was her duty to help anyone, whether she accepted them or not, because that was her job. I couldn’t be bothered feeling upset about whether or not I was right. It wasn’t as if I really cared about what Kat or the others thought; so there was no point dwelling on it.

Chapter 24

 

 

I was immediately annoyed the next day to catch sight of Starlet and Rickie kissing near the pool, as if the previous day never happened. It was as if she had never looked so heartbroken and cried down at the beach. All that seemed to have been forgotten, and I was angry that Starlet had foolishly let him back so easily when he had really hurt her. I was disappointed that she wasn’t as strong as I thought she was.

“So, they’re back together?” I said disapprovingly to Sarah, who was sat by the pool.

“Yeah, they are,” she answered and looked happy for them.

“Why? He’s just going to hurt her again,” I replied, feeling annoyed.

“It was a misunderstanding,” she answered. “Me and Starlet thought he was cheating, but it turns out we were wrong.”

“Oh,” I replied, not trusting myself to say anything else. “Anyway, fancy going for a drink tonight?”

She looked up at me like I was crazy, “I don’t think so. I know its Star you really like.”

I shrugged, “I’m single; I can like whoever I want.”

She looked a little annoyed, “I know you’re only going after me because Star isn’t interested or you’re just trying to make her jealous. It won’t work.”

I laughed, “Why would I do that? I don’t play games. Besides, she’s too busy with Rickie to care what I’m up to. She’d be relieved if I left her alone, not jealous.”

“I guess you’re right there.”

“I have my eye on other girls, including you,” I replied flirtatiously. “I noticed you the first day we met.”

“Oh really?” she still didn’t look as if she believed me.

“That day you were wearing a black bikini, fancy earrings and designer flip flops,” I told her confidently. “You looked gorgeous.”

She blushed and smiled a little, realising I was right about her outfit, “thanks.”

“So how about that drink?” I asked again. “Tonight at the hotel bar?”

“I’ll think about it,” she replied and went back to her sunbathing.

I smirked and wondered what it was with these girls and playing so hard to get. I guess I preferred a chase anyway so it just made it even better.

 

That night I sat at the hotel bar by myself, thinking over a pint of Fosters beer. I had already drank six glasses before I noticed someone sit down on the bar stool next to me. I was happy when I realised it was Sarah and checked her out. She was looking gorgeous tonight, with her hair styled and make-up on, wearing a tight silver dress and heels. I definitely approved.

“I didn’t think you were going to show,” I said, a little surprised.

She shrugged, “I didn’t get any better offers.” I knew she was teasing me and smirked.

She smiled back, “Besides, it’s better than being alone getting upset over things.”

I ordered her a glass of Tia Maria, “About the guy…Josh?” I asked.

She looked surprised that I had remembered her saying something about him to Starlet and Kat a few days ago. I still didn’t know who he was and hadn’t wanted to ask in case she started telling me all about some stupid ex-boyfriend.

“Yeah, about him,” she answered, looking sad.

I felt sorry for her and wanted to comfort her, but it was hard when I didn’t know why she was upset.

“What’s the story with him?” I asked, bracing myself for a break-up story.

“He died before we came to this island,” she answered and I felt shocked. I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear that. “Snider’s assassins set our building on fire and we escaped, but Josh got trapped inside and the fire officer’s found him…”

Her eyes teared up and she looked distraught remembering it.

“I’m so sorry,” I said sympathetically, putting my arm around her. “I had no idea. That must have been awful.”

She got a tissue from her handbag and wiped her eyes.

“That must have been a really hard way to lose a boyfriend,” I couldn’t imagine how heartbroken and devastated I would have been in that situation. Maybe I should feel lucky I only broke up with Kara over drugs and not because of something like that.

“He wasn’t…well, he was my ex-boyfriend really,” she corrected me tearfully. “We were just friends after our break-up. We haven’t been together for over a year now.”

“Do you still like him?”

“No, it just felt weird when it happened,” she replied. “We used to be together and now he’s gone. I miss him being around as my friend.”

“I know it hurts when someone dies, but it will start getting easier, I promise; even if you still miss them.”

“Have you lost someone too?” she asked, wondering if I really did understand.

“My best mate Wez, happened five years ago,” I answered. “We were working together in a team and he got shot while we arrested a murderer on the run.” I still felt sad thinking about him and downed my glass to help calm the pain. I ordered another one.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, looking remorseful.

“It is part of the job,” I shrugged, starting on the next drink. “We both loved it despite knowing the consequences.”

“How long have you been working as a bounty hunter?” she asked, taking a sip of from her glass and looking interested.

“Seven and half years,” I replied, adding it up in my head. “I always wanted to be a police officer when I was a kid, but I blew my chances getting in trouble when I was a teenager. I guess this job was my second chance and turned my life around.”

I was surprised at telling her so much, but it was obvious I would get all chatty after so many beers. Usually I liked to keep things to myself rather than everyone knowing my business.

“What did you get in trouble for?”

“I was doing drugs and got pretty hooked on them when I was nearly seventeen. The police raided my friend’s party and caught me with them, but luckily I got off with a reprimand and went to rehab.”

“You’re not exactly a good guy, are you?” she teased.

I smiled, “everyone always thinks of me as some kind of bad guy, but the truth is I’m not. I can’t be, especially when I enjoyed catching fugitives for the police and setting things right, so I must be good. I just seem to end up in trouble sometimes, like with the drugs…and Snider. It was the biggest mistake of my life meeting him.”

“How did you end up working for him?”

I sighed, “It’s a pretty long story.”

“I don’t mind, we’ve got all night,” she smiled at me.

I gave in and started to tell her, “my life got messed up. Wez died, my girlfriend left me and I lost faith with my job. We always gave criminals a chance, tried to help them turn their life around like I did, but I started to hate them. I quit my job and started working privately because I couldn’t find anything else. Then I got a call from Snider asking me to hunt down some people for him.”

“Why did you agree to work for him?” she asked in disbelief. “He’s obviously an evil psychopath.”

“I didn’t have a clue what this guy was at first,” I answered truthfully. “Once I’d met him it was too late. He made it pretty clear I had no choice.”

“He’s like that with everyone,” she agreed, thinking of something.

“To be honest, I don’t know why I’m here,” I said, feeling troubled. “You all hate me and even though I’m on your side now it’s like I’m still the enemy.”

“It’s not like that,” she reassured me. “We’re just wary of you because of what happened before. Plus I don’t think you help things by starting fights with Rickie and annoying Star. They’re both close friends of mine obviously.”

“Well, Rickie and I will never get on,” I said surely, “and Starlet…well I hoped she’d like me eventually once she got to know me; turns out she hates me even more.”

“She might have eventually accepted you as a friend if you hadn’t put her off with all the flirting and pissing off her boyfriend,” she told me honestly. “I think you’re okay despite everything, you just shouldn’t look for trouble so much.”

I laughed, “I guess not.”

“You’re not still hoping to get with Star, are you?” she asked, looking disapproving.

“No, I think it’s clear she’s not interested and happy with Rickie,” I answered, “but there’s a few girls here I’d like to get with,” I winked at her.

She rolled her eyes, “why don’t you just stick with trying to get one person? Seriously, girls aren’t going to be impressed if you keep trying to get off with every female here.”

I flinched a little because she’d hit a sore spot. I looked down, “I know…it’s just… I’ve not wanted a girlfriend for years now…it’s easier not to get attached.”

“Is that why you’re such a player? You’re scared of getting hurt again so you avoid relationships?”

“No, I’m not scared of anything,” I lied. “I just can’t be assed with all the drama and tears after what happened with Kara…”

I felt pretty down thinking about her and drank more.

“Why did you two break up?” she asked me, looking sad.

“She chose drugs over me,” I replied, feeling angry and hurt. “I couldn’t stay with a druggie and she didn’t want to give them up to keep our relationship.”

“That’s awful,” she said sympathetically. “Do you still love her?”

“I guess I do,” I answered sadly. “It broke my heart losing her. I still miss her and think about how she is.”

“How long was it since you separated?”

“Years ago,” I laughed at how pathetic that was. “I know it’s stupid. I don’t know why, I never seem to get over a girl I was madly in love with. I mean the real thing, not that stupid love people think they’re feeling but move on in a few months and not even care anymore.”

“Maybe you should try and move on from it,” she advised me. “Sometimes it’s better to just get on with your life than let things hold you back, even if you still care about them. It will just make it worse staying on your own.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” I replied. I knew it was starting to get a bit boring just sleeping around with girls, if that was even possible. Obviously it was good, but it was too repetitive just having random girls who all seemed the same.

“You’re the first girl I’ve ever got to know properly,” I admitted to her.

She smiled at me and I felt happy for some reason.

We talked about other things until it got late and I offered to walk her back to her hotel room. Before she could go to unlock the door, I pulled her close and she fell against me, surprised, her hands landing on my chest. I kissed her and this time she didn’t pull away and responded to it. We French kissed for about a minute before she parted from me, looking stunned and a little embarrassed by what had just happened.

She avoided my eyes shyly, “I should really get to bed,” she turned to unlock her room. “Good night, Drake.”

“Can I come in with you?” I asked cheekily and tried to kiss her again.

She avoided my lips this time, not wanting to give me the wrong idea, “I’m sharing a room with Kat.”

“So let’s go back to my place instead?”

“I don’t think so,” she declined my invitation.

“But I bought you drinks,” I said, feeling disappointed. I was hoping our night out would at least lead somewhere.

“So you think I should sleep with you just because you bought me drinks?” she asked, annoyed.

“Well…that’s how it usually works,” I said, and knew I would regret how awful that sounded. I was just so used to it always happening that way in the past that it was pretty much routine for me. I wasn’t used to this.

“You know what? I was actually starting to think you might be a nice guy underneath, but it seems like you really are a jerk,” she told me angrily. “Here, take the money for them if you’re so bothered about it.”

I was stunned as she threw a money note at me.

“Sarah, don’t be silly,” I picked it up from the floor and tried to give it back to her. “You don’t have to pay for those drinks. I got them for you.”

She snatched the money back, “Why do you still think I’m going to be so easy? I told you I’m not like other girls you get with.”

“I don’t think you’re easy,” I protested. “I just really like you.”

“If you do really like me, then show it,” she snapped. “I’m not some tart you usually go for. I don’t want a one night stand.”

“I know…”

“I want a relationship with someone, and if you can’t handle that then I think we’re done.”

She walked into her room and was about to slam the door in my face. I quickly held it open before she could.

“What if I am okay with that?” I asked her, feeling anxious.

She looked at me surprised.

“I know I’m not the type of guy you usually go for,” I continued, “but I think I might be ready to settle down and I really like you.”

“You want me to be your girlfriend?” she asked, surprised and puzzled.

“Yeah, maybe…let’s just go on dates for now and see how it goes?”

“Okay…” she answered. “I’ll have to get to know you before I decide on whether you’re good enough to be my boyfriend,” she smiled, almost challenging me.

I smiled back, “Sure.”

“I need to go before we wake up Kat. I think she’s sleeping,” she told me quietly. “See you tomorrow.”

“Night,” I replied as she shut the door; and I somehow made it back to my hotel room drunk.

Chapter 25

 

 

I woke up with a hangover the next morning and stayed in bed resting, taking some pain killers for the headache. As I lay there I was hit by what I said to Sarah last night. I replayed everything in my mind and felt shocked. I couldn’t believe I told her I might be ready to settle down. Was I talking shit because I was drunk? Or did I honestly want that?

I felt weird and confused, wondering what that meant. Was I ready to move on from Kara? Did I want an official girlfriend now instead of sex with random girls? I sighed, hoping I was ready to get over Kara and be happy again. Maybe it was time for me to be brave and try again. I couldn’t keep sleeping around forever or I’d grow old and lonely. It wasn’t as if I was considering getting married, that could wait until I was at least over thirty years old.

It made me anxious, even though Sarah and I weren’t officially together yet. We were just going on dates for now, so I reminded myself that I could deal with that. There was no commitment to be scared of after all.

I got washed and changed once my headache started to disappear and had breakfast in the restaurant, feeling a little happier. I saw that Sarah was already out sunbathing and went over to say hi, feeling nervous.

“Do you even remember what happened last night or were you too drunk?” she teased me, sliding her sun glasses up and resting them into her hair.

I sat down on the sun lounger beside her, “Yeah, I remember everything,” I smiled at her. “So when are we having this date?”

She shrugged, “how about now?”

I felt surprised, but then thought why not? It would be easier to get this first official date over with so I didn’t have to worry and over think it, “Fine by me.”

We talked and sunbathed together, flirting beside the pool. It felt good to spend time with a girl again, although I was still disappointed that we hadn’t got further than a kiss last night. I was happy and actually started to feel excited for our future dates and wondering if Sarah would decide to let me be her official boyfriend in the future.

We were having a good time until I heard a gunshot nearby and Sarah jumped with fright. I immediately felt nervous and looked around, checking if we were in danger of getting shot at.

“What’s going on?” Sarah asked me, her eyes wide with fear.

I looked over to where the sound had come from and my heart stopped. I saw a group of troops walking towards the hotel armed with guns. Snider was in the middle of them searching for us.

Sarah followed my gaze, “Oh no…how did he get here?” she sounded afraid and I felt pretty anxious myself, even though I would never show it.

“Come on, let’s go,” I said quickly, grabbing her arm.

I pulled her along as we ran to the hotel for safety.

“What about Star and Kat?” she looked around for them worriedly. “Drake, we have to find them.”

I sighed impatiently. We didn’t have time to look but I wanted to make sure they were safe, since they were Sarah’s friends.

“I’ll go and look for them,” I offered. “You stay safe in the hotel, okay?”

She nodded and was relieved to see Carl and Bryan inside. My eyes scanned around the hotel searching for Starlet and Kat, but they weren’t here so I went to look outside. Kat was running towards the hotel, so I held the door open for her.

“Sarah and the others are over there,” I pointed and she rushed in, thanking me.

I looked for Starlet wondering where she was, and felt relieved when I finally caught sight of her and Rickie coming over. There was a huge panic outside but the three of us somehow managed to get inside the hotel.

“Hide in the ballroom,” Carl yelled to us and I followed behind Sarah as we ran.

I heard a window being smashed through and looked over to see one of Snider’s troops aiming to shoot at us. Sarah screamed as we heard the gun fire and I pulled her out of range, keeping her protected. I felt scared as I heard a few people behind me getting shot down. Luckily most of us made it into the ballroom unharmed.

“Are you okay?” I asked Sarah, concerned.

She was shaking, looking terrified, “yeah, I’m fine. You?”

I nodded in answer and looked around at the others. Starlet, Rickie, Kat, Carl and Mick had made it in safe along with seven others. Mick started to block the doorway with help from Carl, so none of the troops could come into the ballroom after us.

“They’ll know we’re here,” said Sarah worriedly. “That troop might have seen where we were heading.”

“We’re safe for now,” said Carl, trying to keep everyone calm. “This room is perfect, there are no windows and only one way in that’s now blocked, so hopefully we’ll keep them out.”

“But what if we don’t?” Kat asked anxiously. “If they do get in we’ll be trapped!”

“Hopefully Snider and his troops will all be arrested before they can get in,” Carl answered.

I tried to keep Sarah and Kat calmed down, even though we were all feeling anxious and wondering if they would try and get in. It felt awful waiting around, but eventually the dreaded sound of a loud thud at the doorway came.

Kat and Sarah gasped and hugged each other tight, feeling scared. I stayed beside them, determined to do whatever I could to protect them and keep them both alive.

Snider and his troops succeeded in breaking in and the gun fire began.

“Get down!” I ordered Sarah and Kat and pushed them to the floor, trying to shield them with my body.

I looked up to keep an eye on what was happening and saw Mick take on Snider. Starlet and Rickie started fighting against the two troops, and I hoped Starlet would be careful and not get killed by them.

Carl saw an opportunity for some of us to escape while the door was free to use and I pulled Sarah and Kat off the ground so they could make a run for it.

A few others escaped too, but then I heard a loud gun shot and saw that Snider had shot Mick. Starlet was really upset and tried to go over to him but Rickie stopped her.

I was anxious that Snider would finally see me here, since I was high up on his hit list after betraying him. However, his eyes were on Starlet and he seemed angry and determined to get her instead. I wondered what she could have done to him to piss him off this much.

Rickie stood in front of her protectively as Snider strode over in her direction.

“You’re not getting anywhere near her,” Rickie told him threateningly.

“Stop wasting time playing the hero, Rickie,” Snider sneered back. “Unless you’re too stupid to realise, I’m the one who’s armed with a weapon.”

“I don’t need a weapon to take you out. I’m not a coward like you. I don’t have to hide behind a gun or have troops to fight for me.”

“If you want to take me on, then go ahead, try it,” Snider challenged him.

I waited to see if he really was brave or stupid enough to go for Snider, holding my breath. I noticed a smirk on Snider’s face that made me feel uneasy. He was up to something.

“Rickie, don’t move!” Carl yelled at him.

Rickie stopped himself. He stayed where he was, keeping Starlet from becoming a target.

“You’re not killing anyone else,” Carl told Snider.

“I’ve waited so long for this moment,” he said and aimed the gun at Carl.

I seriously thought I was going to witness Snider shooting him in the head and felt sick.

“Go ahead, kill me,” Carl told him, “but that won’t stop people fighting against you. I took over as leader when you killed our previous one, so someone will replace me just as easy.”

“We’ll see about that,” Snider replied angrily. “Once I’ve got rid of all your freedom fighters, I’ll kill anyone else who stands in my way. Soon everyone will fear me and stay in line with my rules.”

“All evil dictators get taken down eventually. Your day will come,” replied Carl.

I held my breath, not wanting to see what was going to happen, but unable to take my eyes away from the scene. Then the unexpected happened as Snider seemed to change his mind and smirked.

“That would be too easy. I want you to watch your team die first,” he aimed the gun at Rickie and Starlet instead.

I felt anxious, wanting to help Starlet before he could shoot her.

“No!” Starlet was really upset at the thought of Rickie getting killed.

“Stay back,” Rickie told her. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Don’t worry, she’ll be next,” Snider told him, “and you won’t be alive to protect her from the bullets.”

I wondered what I could do to stop all this. Maybe I could try and attack him, but Mick had already tried that and died, plus he was quite a distance away and would probably shoot me down before I even got to him.

Suddenly I saw Carl had a gun in his hands and aimed it at Snider. I wondered where the hell he got it from before realising one of Snider’s unconscious troops was near him, so he probably grabbed a left over weapon.

“Put the gun down!” Carl warned him. “If you pull that trigger then I shoot too.”

We all hoped this would scare Snider enough not shoot us but instead he laughed.

“We both know you’ve never used a real weapon in your life. You’re not man enough to pull that trigger on me even if you could use it.”

Snider didn’t waste any more time. With the gun still aimed at Rickie, he went to pull the trigger. I watched in shock and my heart leapt with fear as I saw Starlet push Rickie out of the way, just as the bullet was fired.

Chapter 26

 

 

I could hardly breathe with being so anxious. I was so afraid that Starlet was dead and had given her life to save Rickie. I ran over to her body on the floor, feeling sadness rush through me as I knelt down to see if she was still alive.

“What happened?” Carl appeared beside me.

“She pushed him out of the way,” I answered, feeling upset and angry that she had done it.

I wondered why she hadn’t stayed safe behind him like he asked. I understood she loved him and was probably trying to save him, but I wouldn’t have been upset if it had been his life that was taken instead of hers.

“Oh no,” Carl sounded upset too.

I got closer to check her body, desperate to help her somehow, but at the same time dreading to find her already gone. I hoped there was some way I could still save her and felt relieved when she moved. At least she was still alive.

“Star! Are you okay?” Carl asked her.

I held her arm and back firmly as I helped her stand up. She tried to steady herself, her body shaking with shock. I hated to see her looking like this and felt so sympathetic that I just wanted to look after her. I don’t think she even registered me; she was looking anxiously over at her boyfriend.

“Rickie!” she immediately went beside him with tears in her eyes.

I looked over at his body for the first time and knew it wasn’t good news when I saw the blood.

“I’m so sorry,” she sobbed to Carl. “I tried to…” she broke down and I felt awful just watching her.

“It’s okay, Star. You did your best,” Carl said to her.

She started to cry hard, devastated. “Rickie? Can you hear me?” she sobbed, still hoping.

I thought he was dead until Carl turned him over and we heard him groaning in pain.

“I’m here. It’s going to be okay,” Starlet started talking to him comfortingly, looking after him.

I felt touched and jealous at the same time, wishing I had someone to do that for me if I was in trouble. Maybe Sarah would, even if we weren’t together yet.

Carl started to clean him up and tried to look for the bullet wound.

“He needs medical help soon,” I told them. “He could still die with blood loss.”

“He’s not going to die!” Carl snapped at me.

I gave him an annoyed look. Who the hell did he think he was, snapping at me like that? I was trying to help after all.

My anger died down when I looked at Starlet. She was so devastated and worried.

“Please, go find someone who can help,” she begged me, her green eyes pleading.

I didn’t waste any time. I got to my feet and sprinted off on my mission. I didn’t stop running until I caught sight of Maria and quickly told her what had happened. Luckily she found two medical nurses, who had just arrived in the ambulance, and led them over to where Rickie was.

Once we were out of the hotel and Rickie was put into the ambulance, I found Sarah and Kat waiting. They looked relieved to see that we were all still alive. They both greeted Starlet and Carl worriedly and then Sarah came over to me and hugged me tight. I felt surprised but pleased.

“I’m glad you’re safe,” she said and I felt touched that she cared.

A team of SWAT officers went into the hotel to try and arrest Snider and his accomplices, but I knew they were going to find him dead.

“I’m so sorry I wasn’t here,” Maria apologised to us all. “The body guards helped fight them off and I helped once I got here, but unfortunately most of them were killed. I called for re-enforcements as soon as I could and hopefully the SWAT team will arrest them. Are you all okay?”

“A few of us are dead,” Carl answered, “but the rest of us are safe. Rickie has a gun wound but hopefully he’ll be okay.”

“What happened?” asked Maria. “Did Snider find you all?”

I quickly started to fill her in because I saw Carl hesitate, “Snider somehow tracked us down and him and his troops appeared at the hotel and started shooting,” I told her. “We tried to hide away but he found us…”

“Where is he now?” she asked me urgently.

“He’s still in the building but he’s dead.”

Maria looked confused, “how did it happen?”

I didn’t answer, not knowing what I should say since Carl looked nervous of admitting what he did.

“I shot him,” Carl told her shakily and she looked really shocked.

“He’d already shot some people,” he explained, looking guilty. “He was going to kill Star and Rickie next, so at first I threatened him with a gun, trying to scare him into backing down. He didn’t and I ended up shooting him as he fired at them.”

“Good job, Carl. I know it’s hard but it’s something that has to be done if there’s no other option.”

Sarah stared at Carl in shock, unable to believe what she was hearing.

“Did he really do that?” she asked me quietly.

I nodded, “it was self-defence. He’ll get off being charged.”

Starlet went to the hospital with Rickie in the ambulance and Carl followed them in a taxi. I stayed looking after Sarah and Kat, who were both still in shock.

“It’ll be okay,” I comforted them.

“What about Rickie?” Sarah asked worriedly. “The wound looked pretty bad. He won’t die, will he?”

“He’ll get help,” I replied vaguely, not knowing the answer.

“Of course he’ll be fine,” Kat answered her determinedly. “He’ll be taken straight to Accident and Emergency. The surgeons will remove the bullet and sort out the wound. If he’s lost a lot of blood then they’ll give him a blood transfusion.”

Sarah nodded looking a little more reassured and then turned to me, “Drake, what happened in there after we left?”

I sat down and filled them in on everything.

 

Rickie and Starlet arrived back to the hotel the next day and Sarah finally calmed down once she knew he was okay. Maria booked our flight back, so we were going home by jet the next morning. I felt a little relieved at the thought of returning home again, although I would have rather stayed on the island with Sarah instead.

Sarah helped me pack up all my things once she had finished with hers.

“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “I feel kind of lucky I’ve met you.”

“Aww, that’s sweet,” she smiled.

“I mean it. You’re the only one here who gave me a proper chance. At least when we get home I can look forward to taking you out on another date.”

“There must be something else you want to get back to. Isn’t there anyone you miss?”

I thought of Coral and Bruno and smiled, realising that I did have someone to see.

“Yeah, I suppose there is,” I answered.

We took my suitcase over to reception and left it with everyone else’s. Maria seemed to be going through them, looking in an open suitcase.

“I’ve just come to check your cases before you leave. Is that okay, Drake?”

“Yeah, sure,” I answered, wondering why she wanted to search them. “What exactly are you looking for?”

“It’s just a routine check for safety,” she answered vaguely, but I knew she was looking for something and didn’t want to tell us.

“Well there isn’t anything dangerous in mine,” I answered. “Sarah helped me pack so obviously I have nothing to hide.”

I sat with Kat and Sarah to wait, feeling ready to fly home. We were talking about what we would like to do first when we finally arrived back. Sarah looked up to see Rickie and Starlet walking in and smiled over at them in greeting. I looked down at the floor awkwardly, trying to keep out of Rickie’s way after our fight. So much had happened yesterday that I couldn’t be bothered with silly arguments anymore, life was too short.

I looked up curiously when they said they had something to tell everyone, wondering what was going on. They announced that they had got engaged last night and surprisingly I didn’t really mind. I guess I had gotten over the jealousy and just accepted they were together. I wanted to be with Sarah now so nothing else really mattered.

Sarah and Kat were really thrilled and went over to congratulate them. I stayed away, knowing it was not a good idea for me to get involved. Rickie would want me to stay well away from his fiancée and I was fine with that. Everyone was talking excitedly and I just left them to it.

“Drake,” Maria called over to me and I went over to see what was up.

She was looking through my opened suitcase with my clothes spread out around her.

“What is this?” she asked me.

I looked at what she was talking about and saw a very small, round object.

“No idea,” I answered. “Where did you find it?”

“It was stuck on the material inside this jacket,” she replied.

“I don’t know how it got there. I’ve never noticed it before.”

Carl came over to see what was happening, “Have you found something?” he asked her, looking worried.

“I found this on his jacket, it looks like some kind of microchip,” she answered, still holding it in her palm.

Carl’s eyes widen a little as he saw it, as if he had recognised something bad, “Snider used them to track people so he could find out locations.”

They both looked up at me, obviously thinking it was my fault that Snider managed to track us down.

“Drake, did he give this to you?” Maria asked me, but it felt more like an accusation than a question.

Everyone in the lounge suddenly stopped talking and looked over to see what was going on and I felt embarrassed.

“No. I had no idea about it, I swear.”

Sarah came over, “Drake, what’s going on?” she asked, looking puzzled.

“Why would I want him to find out where we are?” I asked Maria and Carl. “He wanted me dead too, remember?”

“That depends on whether you were still working for him or not,” answered Maria. “He would have obviously rewarded you for finding the location he needed.”

Everyone, including Sarah, now seemed to look at me in surprise and disappointment, as if I was a traitor.

“I’m not!” I insisted, annoyed that they thought it. “I stopped working for him the day you arrested me; then I nearly got killed for helping you out. I’m not going to stand here and be called a liar after everything I’ve done.”

I expected Carl to start accusing me as well and I was surprised when he didn’t, “I think he’s telling the truth,” he told Maria. “When Snider used them last time no one knew it had been planted on them. It was done in secret so he could track people without them knowing.”

“So you’re saying someone must have planted that thing on my jacket so it would lead Snider to you guys?” I asked, feeling awful.

“Looks like it,” replied Carl.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he planned the whole thing,” Maria said thoughtfully. “It’s obvious that if he tried to kill Drake then we’d have to put him in protective custody along with the rest of the freedom fighters.”

“You mean the only reason I’m not dead right now is so he could use me?” I asked, feeling angry and sick at the thought of it. “So I wasn’t so lucky to stay alive from their attack at all? They just did as much as they could without me dying from it.”

Sarah put her arm around me sympathetically.

“It’s a possibility,” Maria replied, considering it, “or maybe he came up with the idea after his assassins failed to finish the job. They couldn’t exactly try again with the police watching over you. Someone could have easily attached it to your jacket before you left the hospital.”

“I was wearing the jacket when I got discharged,” I answered, thinking back to it, “but I had it on the day I was attacked too.”

“Who knows what happened, but it’s obvious now how he found us,” said Maria, “although the police will have to investigate how he managed to get here.”

“I’m really sorry,” I said guiltily, looking down at the floor. “It’s my fault what happened yesterday.”

I wished I had noticed the microchip sooner, then none of this would have happened and people who were killed yesterday would still be alive. I felt horrible knowing I could have prevented it.

“No it’s not,” Sarah insisted, looking upset that I was blaming myself. “You didn’t know he’d planted it on you.”

“But if I hadn’t come here then you guys would have been safe.”

“It was my choice to bring you here,” Maria reminded us. “Maybe I should have thought it through more.”

“There’s no point any of us blaming ourselves,” said Carl. “It’s Snider’s fault that this happened and no one else’s.”

Maria’s mobile interrupted us by ringing and she answered the call.

“The private jet has arrived,” she informed us after she had hung up. “We should make our way to the airport.”

Chapter 27

 

 

The private jet landed at Twilight City after our flight and Sarah looked so happy to be home.

“I can’t wait to see my family and friends again,” she gushed and hugged me excitedly. “I bet they’ve all really missed me.”

“Who are you meeting from the coach?” Kat asked me politely.

“No one,” I answered, shrugging it off like it was no big deal. “My parents live in Australia but I’ve got friends I want to visit now I’m back.”

After we were through security and grabbed our bags, we got a coach ride back into the town centre. Kat jumped off to be reunited with her boyfriend and her little sister, so I awkwardly stayed with Sarah and met her family and friends.

I booked myself into another hotel for the night, since I didn’t really know where I was heading from there and it was getting too late to bother travelling. I tried to consider my choices; wondering if I should stay here and hang out with Sarah, or move back to live near Coral and Bruno. I was still planning on working as a bounty hunter, travelling around the country for each job, so it didn’t really matter where I lived.

It was too much to decide and I was still tired from the flight and all that happened yesterday, so I just slept in my hotel bed and hoped I would figure out my decision the next day.

I slept in and was surprised to wake up at half past eleven. I got washed and dressed, deciding to have a quick lunch at the hotel bar, since I had missed breakfast times. I went to look for Sarah after eating, using the home address she had quickly scribbled down for me yesterday. We couldn’t give each other our numbers because our mobiles were still with the police, but we were finally getting them back that day.

I found her flat and was nervous as I knocked on her door. It felt so strange that I had gotten used to hanging out with her every day, even though I used to be only around the same girl for less than a day before. It felt even weirder for me to break routine now we were home and not on the island instead.

She answered the door looking gorgeous in a dark blue, velvet top and tight black skirt with heels. I checked her out and smiled.

“Hi. Have you already had lunch?” she asked, looking a little shy to see me too.

“Yeah, I had it at the hotel. You?”

She nodded in answer, “so…what do you want do today?” She played with her hair, feeling awkward, and I couldn’t help finding it cute.

“I’m planning to go catch up with my friends, so you can come with me, if you want to?” I asked hesitantly. “It’s a two hour drive but we can get dinner out somewhere nice.”

She smiled at my suggestion, “sure.”

I felt a little relieved, happy that she did accept and hadn’t turned me down.

“But first I want to get my mobile back from the police station,” she reminded me. “I can’t wait to have it.”

I agreed and we went to collect our mobiles at the local police station before getting into my Range Rover. Sarah was still looking a little sad and didn’t talk much. She was obviously still grieving for her two friends who were killed the day of the hotel raid. I wanted to ask if she was okay, but I was anxious she would burst into tears and I didn’t know how I would handle that. Instead we listened to the radio while I drove.

When we were almost there, I started to feel anxious that I had made a big mistake. It was a huge step for me to actually date a girl, but it was also a big step to go back to my old work place and see Coral and Bruno again. I wondered why I had decided to do both at the same time and whether it was a good idea.

I felt that familiar warm feeling inside as I saw the old office where I used to work, but my heart ached remembering the good memories. I was so happy back then, years ago. I hoped it wouldn’t be too much and trigger any grief for Wez. It would feel a little strange to see Coral and Bruno too after all that time. We would have a lot to catch up on.

“So this is where you used to work?” Sarah asked me, looking up at the sign.

“Yeah,” I answered. “It feels so weird to be back here.”

I walked into the office with Sarah following me. Coral and Bruno both looked up, probably expecting a new client had arrived, and their jaws almost dropped with surprise when they saw it was me instead. At first they just stared and couldn’t believe I was really there. I grinned at them and Coral rushed over excitedly and gave me a hug.

“Aww, I can’t believe you’re back here! This is a big surprise,” her eyes watered a little as she looked up at me. “How are you, Drake? We haven’t seen you in ages.”

“I’m okay,” I answered, wondering how I could start on telling them what had been going on with me. Too much had happened in those last few months.

“It’s good to have you back,” Bruce said happily, grinning at me.

I suddenly remembered that Sarah was here with me and started to introduce them all. Coral was delighted to see a girl with me and was quick to make friends with her. Bruno was polite and shook her hand, then gave me an impressed smile and slight nod to tell me he approved and thought she was hot.

Coral turned back to me, “We’ve been so worried about you, especially after the phone call from the hospital…” she looked relieved to see that I was safe. “What’s been going on? You’ve got into trouble, haven’t you?”

“Kind of, but I’m fine now,” I answered. “Thanks for the fruit basket. I ate most of it in one day.”

Coral laughed a little, “no problem. I just wish we were allowed to visit.”

“So what’s been happening with you?” Bruno asked me, frowning a little. “We haven’t heard from you since you were in hospital.”

“It’s a long story,” I replied, knowing it was too much to answer.

“Well sit down and fill us in. I’ll get us some drinks,” Coral told us and brought me and Sarah over to the seats in the waiting area.

Sarah sat next to me while Coral went off to the kitchen to make my black coffee and Sarah’s hot chocolate. I noticed that two new guys were working at the other desks and they looked over at us curiously, wondering who we were. I guessed that they must be the new employees who took over mine and Wez’s job.

Coral soon returned with the drinks and a packet of biscuits and Bruce finished a phone call at his desk and came over to join us.

“So,” Coral said, sitting down and looked at me, intrigued. “I think you’d better start at the beginning.”

I began to fill them in on everything and they listened quietly, looking shocked for most of it. When I had finally finished, Coral sipped her coffee trying to take it all in.

Bruce looked wide-eyed, “man, that’s pretty rough.”

“I’m glad you’re okay now, Drake,” said Coral, looking a little upset by what I had told them. “I can’t bear the idea of you getting involved with some dangerous criminal. At least you got out of that in the end.”

“Yeah, me too,” I agreed, feeling relieved and free now that I didn’t have to worry about Snider.

“So, you two met while you were away?” Coral asked eagerly.

“Yeah, we did,” I smiled over at Sarah. “She was one of the people they were after, so we both were in protective custody and spent a few weeks hanging out.”

“Are you two together?” Bruno asked, grinning.

Sarah blushed, looking shy and not knowing what to say.

“We’re friends for now, but I’m still trying to impress her,” I answered, smiling over at Sarah.

“He’s a wonderful guy, trust me,” Coral told her. “He’d make a good boyfriend.”

I felt a little embarrassed and Bruno hid a snigger and raised his eyebrow at me, knowing how much of a player I was. The whole idea of me being a ‘boyfriend’ probably sounded hilarious to him since he knew what I was like.

“Let’s go out for a drink tonight after we finish our shift,” Bruno suggested. “It’s been a while since you last visited and we need to catch up and have fun.”

“Yeah, okay,” I agreed and looked over at Sarah to check she was okay with it. She nodded in reply.

“We’ll meet you at our pub at seven,” Coral told me excitedly. “I’m sure you two will have other plans for today?”

I nodded, “We’re going somewhere for dinner.”

Coral suggested some restaurants, making sure I was taking Sarah somewhere nice, and then we had to leave so Coral and Bruno could return to work.

Chapter 28

 

 

Sarah and I had our second official date having dinner at a nearby restaurant. Everyone was glancing over at us like we were a cute couple and I had to try not to feel unsettled by it. Once we had got our food and started chatting, it was like we were back on the island hanging out as usual. Somehow it didn’t feel weird at all to be there with her. I was relieved that she seemed to be distracted from her sadness and was enjoying herself.

Afterwards, we met up with Coral and Bruno at the pub to have a few drinks. Unfortunately I couldn’t have any alcohol since I was driving back, so I got stuck with a boring J2o orange instead while Bruno teased me with his pint of beer.

Coral and Sarah started having a girly chat over glasses of wine and I felt happy that they had become friends. While they were busy talking, Bruno and I caught up properly with some guy talk. He was telling me all about his new girlfriend and showing me photos while I smirked. She was pretty hot but he made it clear it was just temporary between them.

“So, you haven’t changed your mind about coming back?” he asked eventually, looking hopeful. “Coral and I would love to have you back on the team. The two newbies are good but they just aren’t the same as you and Wez.”

I smiled sadly, “maybe I will come back one day…I don’t really know where I’m heading right now. All I know is I like hanging out with Sarah, so maybe I’ll stay near her for a while.”

“She’s totally hot. Have you shagged her yet?” he asked quietly, careful that neither of the girls could hear him.

I shook my head, “I’ve tried but she’s looking for a boyfriend and doesn’t sleep around.”

“Y’ think you’ll go official with her?” he asked, a little surprised.

“I dunno,” I answered, nervous of what he would think of my decision to date her. “She’s the first girl I’ve thought about becoming my girlfriend for ages, so maybe I’m ready to settle down and try the whole relationship thing again. It depends if she likes me enough. I could get stuck in the friend zone if she decides I’m not worth it and I can’t deal with that shit.”

“No way, she seems into you,” Bruno reassured me. “Just don’t screw it up; she seems like a nice girl.”

I thought about what Bruno said on our drive back to Twilight City late that night. It was hard saying goodbye to them and Coral was nearly in tears again and hugged me tight before leaving, making me promise to come back and visit them again soon.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” Sarah asked me. “You seem at home here and they obviously would love to have you back.”

I sighed, “I’ve not really decided what I’m doing yet.”

“I guess you’ll be moving on soon now all this trouble is over?” she asked, sounding a little sad.

“I dunno. I guess I could stick around for a while depending on how these dates are going,” I replied and she smiled.

“What about work? Don’t you have to go back?” she asked.

“It’s easy when I’m a bounty hunter, I can stay anywhere I want and occasionally just go wherever the jobs are. My other flat has already been rented out while I was away, so my stuff’s in storage. I can easily get it brought over to where I’m staying next.”

“You’d really stay, just for me?” she asked. “Wow, you’ve really surprised me.”

I felt a little embarrassed for her to know, but if I hadn’t admitted to it then maybe she would think I wasn’t trying and not give me a chance.

“Well…maybe you’re worth it,” I replied reluctantly.

When we got back, I walked her to her flat, feeling a little nervous, “So when can I take you on our next date?”

“Saturday, if you’re still here?” she answered, smiling up at me.

“I will be,” I promised.

 

We decided to go ten-pin bowling on Saturday, for something new to do. I was a little disappointed when Sarah turned up in jeans and trainers instead, going for sensible wear for bowling. I was looking forward to watching her try and bowl in a skirt or dress.

“Will you be annoyed if I win?” she teased, as we sat changing into those awful bowling shoes in our alley.

“Probably,” I smirked. “Guys don’t really like being beaten.”

“Pity I won’t be making it easy for you,” she smirked.

She went to select a bowling ball, struggling to pick most of them up.

“Try this one,” I handed her a light weight one that children probably used.

“Thanks. I hate how they’re all so heavy, but that’s not a problem for you. I bet you could lift a lot heavier stuff that this.”

“Definitely,” I agreed. “I could easily lift you up.”

“Don’t you dare,” she giggled and pushed me away to play her turn first.

I was expecting her to be pretty bad at it, but she was good considering she didn’t play much.

“What do I get if I win?” I asked, winking at her.

“Don’t get any ideas, I’m not sleeping with you yet,” she replied.

“Just a kiss then?” I asked.

“Maybe,” she smiled at me, “and what do I get if I win?”

“Whatever you want,” I grinned, “but I doubt I’ll lose.”

I won our first game and wrapped my arms around her waist, pulling her close.

“Where’s my kiss?”

“I didn’t promise you’d definitely get one,” she teased.

“Aww, come on. I like your kisses,” I leaned in and we started a passionate kiss that was even better than our last one.

I was determined to win our second game too, but she played better and I just managed to win by ten points.

After another kiss, we shared a large bowl of curly fries with Pepsi.

“I think I’ve decided now…whether I want to be your girlfriend or not,” she told me.

I almost choked on my fry and felt nervous, “Oh yeah?” I replied, my heart thudding.

“I like you,” she replied, “so…do you still want a relationship?”

“Yeah, I think I do,” I answered. “I really like you too, so why not?”

“Don’t screw this up,” she said. “I’ll only give you one chance.”

“I won’t,” I promised, and she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a long kiss.

 

 

Drake is a character from my teen action series ‘Freedom Fighters’.

 

If you enjoyed this book, you’ll love the series!

(Turn the page for more info)

 

Starlet has always wanted to be a Freedom Fighter like her parents. However, being a Freedom Fighter has a lot of risks and life on the run isn’t easy, but Starlet is determined to put her life on the line for the price of freedom, no matter how dangerous it is.

 

Available to download at Amazon:

[+ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Freedom-Fighters-Twilight-City-Book-ebook/dp/B00B3WZ0YA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419426794&sr=8-1&keywords=michelle+leyland+freedom+fighters+]

 

England: £0.99

America: $0.99

Canada: $1.10

Australia: $1.10

 

When Rickie finally gets the call to say that the evil dictator Lord Snider has now been found, he and Starlet go straight to Dragon City to find out what he’s up to; but they soon discover that he’s not after revenge or to reclaim Twilight City. 

 

Lord Snider is now planning to take over Dragon City instead and wants to kill the Mayor in order to dominate. Rickie, Carl, Starlet and the others must return to their roles as freedom fighters and begin a new fight to protect another city from evil. 

 

Available to download at Amazon:

[+ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Freedom-Fighters-Dragon-City-Book-ebook/dp/B00HWYJBOI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419703478&sr=8-1&keywords=freedom+fighters+book+2+michelle+leyland+]

 

England: £1.99

America: $2.99

Canada: $3.36

Australia: $3.99

 

Carl is shocked when he hears that Snider has escaped the high security police cell, leaving a death threat to kill him and all the freedom fighters. The team must go into hiding, avoiding attacks from hired assassins.

 

Carl has enough trouble keeping everyone safe without cute police officer Maria getting involved.

 

In the final showdown with Snider, who will live and who will die?

 

Available to download at Amazon:

[+ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Freedom-Fighters-Lost-City-Fighter-ebook/dp/B00SHLJBTK/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1433152552&sr=1-3&keywords=michelle+leyland+]

 

England: £1.99

America: $2.99

Canada: $3.36

Australia: $3.99

 

About the Author and Illustrator

 

Michelle Leyland was born in 1990 and spent all of her life living in Lancashire, England. She has always loved writing and drawing and since the age of 13 has dreamed of becoming a published author and illustrator one day. She has written several fiction stories for children, teenagers and adults, and illustrated all her children’s books.

 

Michelle also loves to play drums, dance, sing, go to concerts, daydream and read.

 

Visit her website: www.michelleleyland.com

 

Twitter: @MLeylandAuthor

 

Facebook page: Michelle Leyland (Author and Illustrator)

 

 

Books by Michelle Leyland:

 

 

Farm Frenzy (Young children book)

 

Secret Love (Adult book)

 

Freedom Fighters: Twilight City – Book 1

(Teen book)

 

Freedom Fighters: Dragon City – Book 2

 

Freedom Fighters: Lost City – Book 3

 

Bounty Hunter (Teen book)

 

Sexy Love: Book 1 (Teen book)

 

Dating Dilemma: Book 1 (Teen book)

 

 

Coming soon:

 

Freedom Fighters – Book 4

 

 

Bounty Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Violet Star Publishing

 

 

Published by Violet Star Publishing.

United Kingdom

Category: Teenage, Fiction

Published in e-book format 2015

Copyright Michelle Leyland © 2015

Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design Inc

http://www.gobookcoverdesign.com/

ISBN: 978-0-9926320-5-2

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Table of Contents:

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28


Bounty Hunter

*Suitable for readers aged 15 and over. Contains drug use, language and sexual references. Drake got off to a bad start at sixteen; getting in with the wrong crowd, partying all the time, taking drugs and failing his high school exams. After rehab, he gets a fresh start to turn his life around. With his life-long dream of being a police officer shattered, he starts working as a Bounty Hunter instead. He loves his job, makes new friends and falls in love with a gorgeous Spanish girl named Kara. However, his perfect and happy life soon changes when everything falls apart. Just when he thinks his situation can’t get any worse, he gets a call from a new, mysterious client and finds himself in even deeper trouble. Drake is a character from my current teen series: Book 1 - Freedom Fighters: Twilight City (OUT NOW) Book 2 - Freedom Fighters: Dragon City (OUT NOW) Book 3 - Freedom Fighters: Lost City (OUT NOW) Book 4 - Freedom Fighters (Coming Soon)

  • ISBN: 9780992632052
  • Author: Michelle Leyland
  • Published: 2016-11-25 18:20:23
  • Words: 48689
Bounty Hunter Bounty Hunter