He didn’t need to hear her growl to know it had. This mess, it was a warning. Valdero’s goons would be thorough.
“The cops are here,” he said needlessly, since the thin windows didn’t block out the sound of approaching sirens. “One of the goons is in the building across the street watching from the window.”
“The police will protect me,” she said, her fingers twining together before she shook them loose as if trying to toss off the nerves. “Won’t they?”
Castillo turned, his careful gaze assessing as they swept the room. Then he looked at her and shrugged.
“Probably. But they don’t know what they’re up against, so whatever protection they offer might not be enough.”
“You can tell them,” she insisted.
“No can do, sweetheart. Missions are confidential. If my superiors want the cops filled in, they’ll do it. But I’ve gotta warn you, they’re out of the country for the next little while. A week, at least.”
“But my apartment is trashed. They’ll have to wonder why. They’ll investigate.”
He had to hand it to her—she didn’t get hysterical or dramatic. Her tone was even, her expression calm. But he could still see the anger and just a hint of fear. Since she was a woman, his instincts said to soothe and protect. But training and experience told him that she’d be safer if that fear stayed front and center. So he went for honesty instead.
“Yep. Chances are the police will suggest you stay with a friend while they do.” He eyed her living room, then tugged on his lower lip. “So, got any friends with disposable furniture?”
“Okay.” Dominic knew perfectly well the best way to get a woman to do what he wanted was to agree with her. It didn’t put them in a friendlier mood, per se. Mostly it tended to make them suspicious, and they ended up doing things his way out of sheer contrariness.
Was it any wonder he loved them?
“I’d guess you have about three minutes to decide,” he told her, gauging the distance of the sirens and the traffic. “You wanna take your chances with the cops, deal with the results while they figure out what’s going on, that’s fine. You wanna come with me and be safe, grab your stuff. I’m outta here in two minutes.”
Biting her lip, she glanced at the broken glass splintered across her floor, then at the window.
“Would you be taking me to a Navy base?” she asked, apparently forgetting she didn’t know anything about what her nonexistent brother did for a living.
He could. No matter how many connections Valdero’s drugs bought him, he couldn’t finance his goons onto a secured base. But Castillo’s role in this mission was still on the QT until the team notified him otherwise. Lane hadn’t said what they wanted Castillo to do with her. Just that her capture would make their rescue of Banks much, much more difficult.
“Nope. No base. Somewhere closer, safer,” he replied. He glanced at his watch, and added, “You’re down to a minute, fifty seconds.”
He could all but hear her teeth grinding from across the room.
With a final glare, she snagged a duffel from the pile of her things next to the closet, then started grabbing clothes off the floor. The bag half-full, she hurried into the bathroom, where Dominic could hear her dumping toiletries in, too.
As soon as she came out, he grabbed her arm.
“I’ve still got forty-five seconds and I’m not done packing,” she said, yanking her arm free. She tossed the books she’d been carrying earlier into the bag, then ran into the kitchen. Dominic damn near dropped his chin when she pulled the oven door open and yanked out a covered casserole dish.
“Sweetheart, I’ll feed you on the road. You don’t gotta bring food.”
She ripped the lid off, pulled out a slim laptop and a bright orange plastic box, adding them to her bag, then zipping it tight.
“I’m impressed. I didn’t know you could bake yourself a computer,” he mused, grabbing her arm tighter this time and pulling her toward the door.
“This isn’t exactly a secure building,” she said, tilting her head toward the shattered door as they passed it. She looked as if she was going to try to close it, then grimaced when she realized it was pointless. Castillo knew the cops would board it up, order the landlord to replace it. What was left of her stuff was safe enough.
“Stairs,” he ordered.
As they clattered down the dimly lit stairwell, Castillo took stock.
He wasn’t much on urban rescues. Most of his missions took place in the forest, the desert, the mountains. He was unarmed, had had time for only a minimal reconnaissance of Reno and had no backup.