That was her phone? He was a murderer and a thief. She yanked out her Beretta and pointed it at him. "Don't move."
"Not that again. I can't help you if you keep fighting me."
"Yeah, like you really want to help me." She eased toward the staircase. "I heard you talking to your friend. 'Oh, Laszlo, we have company. Put the dead body in the trunk.'"
"It's not what you think."
"I'm not stupid, Wolfman." She continued to move toward the stairs. At least he was staying put and not making any moves. "I should have shot you the first time."
"Do not fire the weapon. The men below will hear it. They'll come up here, and I'm not sure I can defeat all of them."
"All of them? My, don't we think highly of ourselves."
His eyes darkened. "I have some special talents."
"Oh, I bet you do. I bet that poor girl in the trunk could say a lot about your special talents."
"She's incapable of speech."
"Well, duh! Once you kill someone, they tend to be lousy conversationalists."
His mouth twitched.
She reached the stairway door. "If you come after me, I'll kill you."
She pulled the door open, but in the blink of an eye, he was there. He slammed the door shut, wrenched the gun from her hand, and tossed it aside. It hit with a clunk and skittered across the rooftop. She squirmed, wiggled, kicked at his shins. He grabbed her by the wrists and pinned her against the door.
"By God, woman, you are hard to control."
"You better believe it." She pulled against his grip, but couldn't free her wrists.
He leaned closer. His breath stirred her hair and feathered her brow. "Shanna," he whispered her name like a cool breeze.
She shivered. His hypnotic voice tugged at her, lulling her into a sensation of comfort and security. False security. "I won't let you kill me."
"I don't want to kill you."
"Good. Then let me go."
He lowered his head, his breath tickling her throat. "I want you alive. Warm and alive."
Another shiver zigzagged through her body. Oh God, he was going to touch her. Maybe even kiss her. She waited, her heart hammering in her chest.
His voice whispered in her ear, "I need you."
She opened her mouth, then snapped it shut when she realized how close she'd come to saying yes.
He moved back, still gripping her wrists. "I need you to trust me, Shanna. I can protect you."
Her headache returned with a vengeance, cold pain stabbing at her temples. She gathered all her strength, every fiber of resistance, and rammed her knee into his groin.
Breath whooshed out of him, strangling his shout before it could erupt from this throat. Only a few garbled croaks emerged. He doubled over and fell to his knees. His complexion, pale before, turned a mottled red.
Shanna winced. She'd gotten him good. She spotted her gun beneath the patio table and ran to collect it.
"Holy Mother of God!" he gasped, supporting himself on all fours. "That hurts like hell."
"It's supposed to, big guy." She dropped her Beretta back in her purse, then sprinted for the staircase.
"I never - no one's ever done that to me." He gazed up at her, his contorted expression of pain mellowing into a look of stunned wonder. "Why?"
"Just one of my special talents." She stopped at the staircase door and grasped the knob. "Don't follow me. Next time, I'll shoot you down there." The door opened with a loud, scraping noise.
She stepped onto the stairway landing and let go of the door. With a loud creak, it started to swing shut. She was halfway down the stairs when it closed with a final bang and left her in total darkness. Great. She slowed her pace. The last thing she wanted was to act like one of those girls in the movies, always tripping and twisting her ankle, then lying there helpless and screaming when the bad guy arrived. The banister ended, and she was on the bottom landing. She inched forward with her hands stretched out until she reached the door.
She yanked the door open and was greeted by light. The hallway was empty. Good. She ran to the elevator. A sign dangled in front of the metal doors. Out of Order. Damn! She glanced back over her shoulder. So the scumbag had lied to her. He couldn't have brought her up the elevator. She looked around for a service elevator, but couldn't see one. However he'd gotten her on the roof, she didn't have time to worry about it.
She located the central stairwell. Thank God it was lit inside. She rushed down the flights of stairs and reached the ground floor. There was no noise behind her. Thank God. It appeared that Wolfman was not giving chase. She inched open the stairwell door and peered outside. The lobby was dimly lit and empty. The building's main entrance boasted two glass doors. Through them, she could see the black cars and hit men.
She slipped into the lobby, and hugging the walls, she retreated toward the back entrance. The glowing red exit sign called to her like a beacon, promising freedom. Safety. She'd find a taxi, go to some obscure little hotel, and then, in the safety of her room, she'd call Bob Mendoza again. And if the U.S. marshal was still missing, she'd empty her bank account in the morning and take a train somewhere. Anywhere.
She peeked outside, saw no one, then exited the building. Immediately a strong arm encircled her waist and pulled her back against a rock-hard body. A hand smacked across her mouth in an iron grip. She kicked at his shins and stomped on his feet.
"Stop it, Shanna. It's me," a now familiar voice whispered in her ear.
The Wolfman? How could he have beaten her down the stairs? She moaned her frustration against his hand.
"Come on." He pulled her down the street, past a row of empty umbrella tables. A banner fluttered overhead, announcing the name of the bistro. The next shop had a glass storefront, lined with burglar bars. He dragged her into the recessed doorway. The awning overhead shaded them from the street lamps. "Laszlo will be here soon. Just stay quiet until he arrives."
She shook her head, trying to dislodge his hand.
"Can you breathe all right?" He sounded concerned.
She shook her head again.
"You won't scream if I let go? I'm sorry, but I can't have you making noise with the hit men so close." He loosened his grip.
"I'm not that stupid," she mumbled against his palm.
"I think you're very intelligent, but you're also in deep shit. That kind of stress can cause anyone to make a bad move."
She turned her head to see his face. His jaw was strong and lean. His eyes were focused on the street, no doubt scanning for danger. "Who are you?" she whispered.
He glanced down, and a ghost of a smile haunted his wide mouth. "I'm someone who needs a dentist."
"Don't lie to me. There's a gajillion dentists out there."
"I'm not lying."
"You lied about the elevator. It's out of order. I had to use the stairs."
His mouth tightened, and he resumed his search for danger without bothering to answer.
"How did you get here so fast?"
"Does it matter? I want to protect you."
"Why? Why should you care?"
He paused. "It's complicated." He looked at her, and the pain in his eyes took her breath away. Whoever this man was, he understood suffering.
"You're not going to hurt me?"
"No, sweetness. I've had my fill of causing pain." He smiled sadly. "Besides, if I really wanted to kill you, I could have done it a dozen times by now."
"How reassuring." She shuddered, and his arms tightened around her.
Across the street, a neon sign glowed. The neighborhood psychic was still open for business. Shanna considered making a wild dash across the street and calling the police. Or maybe she should ask about her future. Did she even have one, or had her lifeline run out? Strange, but she didn't feel endangered. The Wolfman's arms were strong.
The chest she was leaning against was broad and solid. And he claimed he wanted to protect her. She'd been so alone lately. She wanted to trust him.
She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and coughed. "Jeez, it stinks here. What is this place?"
"A cigar shop. I gather you don't smoke?"
"No. Do you?"
He smiled wryly. "Only if I'm out in the sun."
Huh? Before she could respond, a dark green car drove past them, and Wolfman started dragging her toward the curb.
"That's Laszlo." He waved to get his friend's attention.