I grunted. “I do.” Larsen was the guy that took the cases the rest of us wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. He was the guy that represented drug runners and human traffickers. He was the guy that got child pornographers set free and the guy that reveled in the media attention when he boldly and unashamedly represented cop killers and serial rapists.
“Larsen is the druggie’s attorney. He also represents Aitor Acosta. When the kid was picked up the night of the robbery, he was babbling that he had to rob the bar because he owed Acosta a shit ton of cash. The kid was supposed to sit on a stash that he went and picked up from the border, but we all know what happens when you put a junkie in charge of several kilos of coke.”
I swore again and pulled even harder on my now out of control hair. “He blew through the stash on his own and didn’t have the drugs or the money to give to his supplier.”
“Yep. So Acosta sent the thugs looking for the goods. They shook up the girlfriend and that was enough to scare Dalton into robbing the bar so he could go on the run. Aitor has ties to every major Mexican gang operating behind bars. We think the kid told Larsen the girl has the stash, and that Larsen passed that info on to his other client. Dalton is trying to cover his own ass, like he has been from the beginning. He passed the buck to the girl, just like he did with the robbery.”
“Son of a bitch.” My hand curled tightly around the handle of my bag and I had to breathe slowly and deeply to keep myself from throwing a fist into the nearest wall. “He’s going to get her killed.”
The cop nodded in agreement and rocked back on his heels a little bit. “Understandably, the lawyer couldn’t tell us anything, but the way Dalton clammed up when he was ready to give us everything he had on Acosta and his operation speaks volumes. The D.A. had a pretty sweet deal on the table considering there were multiple felonies involved, but as soon as Larsen got involved, all of that information was taken off the table. We’re pretty sure the kid is being offered protection on the inside until the trial is over and until the drugs are found … which we know they won’t be.” He gave me a pointed look. “Since nothing is official, and all we have is speculation, and a sleazy lawyer with zero morals to go on, there isn’t much the DPD can do for her. She landed herself right in the middle of a big, fat, dangerous mess.”
I pressed down on the corners of my eyes next to my nose as I felt the pounding of a headache start to throb there. “She is way too comfortable being right there. I’ll pass along the information to her and her parents so everyone knows to be hyperalert. Thanks for the information.”
The cop snorted again as we moved to get on the elevator. “No problem. I usually consider you one of the guys that plays for the opposite team, but that girl …” He trailed off and all I could do was silently agree with him.
That girl … there was just something about her. She made you want to help her, to heal her, to protect her, even as she blindly chased after the very things that would hurt her, the things that would leave wounds on her mind, body, and soul.
When I got to my truck, I already had my tie off and had stripped out of my jacket. Avett had texted back that she was making dinner for everyone, so I should be ready to eat when I got to her mom’s house. After her reaction to my kitchen in my loft, I figured she liked to cook, but considering her age, I figured I was in store for something simple like spaghetti and meatballs. When I was twenty-two, I lived off pizza and Chinese food. Lottie didn’t cook, and when I was in school and working to pay for it, there was no way I had time to be domestic. So even if it was something simple out of a jar and a box, I told myself to pretend that it was haute cuisine because there was no way I wanted to hurt her feelings and run the risk of her deciding to stay with her parents instead of coming with me.
In the twenty minutes it took me to get across town and down into the Baker neighborhood where Avett’s mom lived, I decided that with the danger swirling around her and the scales in our relationship tipping into something far more serious than I had planned on, we needed to get away for a few days. She needed a breather from everything that had been tumbling down on top of her since the night she was arrested, and I needed a few days to acquire some peace of mind, where I knew she would be safe and secure. We had to go somewhere that no one would think to look for either of us. I wanted a place that was nearly impossible to get to. It was a place that was hidden and remote. I wanted her to see the area I had come from and to show her the man I had been, so that she would understand that we weren’t as different at the core of who we were as she believed us to be. I was going to show her where I called home and where I swore I would never, ever return to. This girl had been bringing me back to the start since the beginning.
Taking her to my mountains meant letting her see a part of me that I had spent most of my adult life trying to cover up. Taking her with me, back into the past, meant there was no more hiding behind the gloss and shine of all the things in my life I used as camouflage. It also meant I was going to have to be as real with her as she had been with me from the very start, and that thought scared me to death. The last time I’d been honest about who I was, where I came from, I was packing my bags and headed off to boot camp a million and one years ago. That much reality at one time was going to be difficult to wade my way through, but the idea of stripping off the façade, of walking through the smoke screen and coming out on the other side as someone of substance, as a man of actual value and worth, instead of one that was nothing more than a disguise, was acutely stirring.
When I got to her mother’s house, Avett threw open the door before I even lifted my hand to knock. I fell back a step as she hurled herself at me and I caught her with a soft “Oomph” as her tiny body slammed full force into mine. Her arms twined around my neck and her legs wrapped around my waist as I put a hand under her rear end to hold her up as her mouth slanted skillfully across my parted lips. I wrapped my free arm around her back and pulled her closer to me, enjoying the way her tongue tasted like something citrusy and tart and the way she moaned into my mouth as I deepened the kiss and used my teeth on her bottom lip. More than any of that, I got lost in how good it felt to have her excited to see me, the rush of having someone actually give a damn that I was gone all day. I couldn’t recall Lottie ever offering me more than a strained grin when I came home from a difficult day in court.