Book: OtherSide Of Fear (Outside The Ropes #3)

Previous: 19: Surrounded
Next: 21: Oath


20: Never That Good

“REGAN.” HE WAS QUICK TO CLOSE THE space between us and wrapped an arm around me.

His touch snapped me out of my stunned state. I jumped back, out of his reach. “What are you doing?”

“It was only a hug.” He held up his hands in innocence.

I bumped into a table behind me; the class was cluttered with them. I placed my palm on the desk, stopping my retreat, forcing myself to face him. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s been a long time.” He spoke soft, a strange smile on his face as his eyes scanned over me. “I wanted to contact you sooner.”

He took a step towards me, and I took a step to the side, keeping the distance between us.

He frowned. “Relax. I’m only here to talk. I know you’re married.”

“Talk about what?” I stood up tall with my arms crossed over my chest. Talking is what I was afraid of. I couldn’t think of one good reason for him to come find me. “I don’t think we have anything left to say to each other.”

“I’m sorry,” his voice was heavy with sincerity.

That stopped me, and I met his honey brown eyes for the first time since he walked into the room.

“I heard what happened.” He placed his hand on my elbow, so light I almost didn’t care, but I shifted out away all the same.

He sighed, dropping his hand. “I’m sorry I didn’t do anything when you came to me about that man. Maybe if I had, it could have been different. But I didn’t know the right people then. I couldn’t—”

“Stop,” I had to silence him, his words took me to a time and place I didn’t want to go. “That wasn’t your fault. There’s nothing to apologize for.” I looked past him to the door. “I have to get to class.”

His hand gripped my elbow as I tried to pass him, this time with much more force. “Not yet.”

My heart leapt to my throat. I knew it wasn’t his guilt that brought him here. I jerked away from him, spinning towards him so the door was behind me now. At least he wasn’t blocking me in anymore; I had that advantage. But he was strung with energy, practically on his toes and hands at his side, ready to pounce at my next move.

“I didn’t know people then.” He spoke with force, voice as rigid as his body. “But I do now. I can help you now.”

“Help me? With what? Damien’s dead, there’s nothing left to do.” I tried to cover my nerves with the lie of ignorance, like all my problems were dead.

“With what you’re involved in now.”

I widened my eyes and gestured out the door. “What? Statistics? Economics?” I laughed with no humor. “I’m involved in school. That’s it. Come on, Anthony, if you have something to say, say it. I’ve got to get to class.”

“I’d give up on making it to class. We have a lot to discuss.” He was still poised for attack, and he had the height and reach advantage.

I dropped the idea of running. Best to hear him out, talk him down from whatever he thought he could do, whatever he thought he knew.

“Fine.” I took a step forward and he flinched, relaxing when he realized the direction I moved.

Pulling out a chair, I plopped into it and waited for him, like a kid in the principal’s office.

“I got that degree I was going for when I met you,” he spoke casual as he pulled his own chair in front of mine.

“Congratulations.” I had no clue what he was talking about.

“It came with a promotion. I moved to detective.”

“Good for you.” My palms were clammy, tingling, the feeling spread over me.

“Then I moved up to the FBI.” He paused, eyebrow raised like everything should be made clear with that one statement.

And it was.

Painfully clear, icicles growing and stabbing in my stomach. I needed out of this room. Out of this conversation. Now.

“I’m part of the team investigating a trafficking ring that crosses borders, we think its hub is here in New York.”

“That’s impressive. I’m happy for you. I always knew you would do well.” Everything in my body was reaching for the door, but I stayed still, resisting the urge.

“Regan.” He grounded out my name. “Your name has shown up a few times in the investigation.”

“My name?” I didn’t have to fake this reaction.

He didn’t smile, but excitement flickered across his features. He nodded and leaned forward in his chair. “I can help you. If you tell me what you know.”

He was getting closer to me, and I didn’t like it. I sat back in my chair and scoffed. “You tell me what you know, because I have no clue why my name would show up.”

He stared at me like all my secrets were written on my skin. “The first time was innocent enough. You were rescued from being sold to Shadow, one of the FBI’s most wanted. But then, when your name came up again, attached to Gage’s, more questions started being asked. Maybe you are more than a victim here. Maybe you know more than you let on. So what do you know Regan? Who are these people that Gage has you involved with?” His voice was getting harsh, and his features hardened. “I know it’s him. I can help you this time, just tell me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I stood up. “I already talked to the FBI after everything happened. I told them what I know. If you all want to question me again, do it the right way and call me in.”

“Dammit, I’m here as a friend, Regan—not an agent right now.” He rose to his feet and moved in front of me, blocking the door. “You’re involved with some dangerous people, in some dangerous business. I can get you out.”

“Oh please Anthony, cut the crap. You didn’t come here as a friend.” I tried to push by him, but he gripped both of my arms.

“Think about your baby.”

My confidence burst, taking my fight, and I froze in his hands.

“That’s right. I know, everyone on the case knows. So do you really think others don’t know?”

“It’s not a secret.” I pulled out of his grip.

“Don’t go.” His voice and gestures were meant to calm me, but he was stalking towards me, backing me from the door at the same time. “I’m worried about you. We use to be friends.”

“Never that good of friends.” I was close to spitting. My escape was blocked; all that was left was fight. I’d try and stick to words.

“That’s right.” His dimples shown even though the laughter was harsh, and his eyes hardened on me. “You don’t do friendship. You just use people to get what you need. How’s that working out for you?”

“Wow.” He suddenly looked small to me. “Get out of my way. I’m done talking to you.”

“Don’t make another stupid choice. You will end up in prison or dead if you stick by Gage.”

I should just walk out the door, but he kept throwing Gage’s name around and I had to know. “What is it you think you have on him?”

“The women working at his strip club, where are they from?”

I shook my head, confused. Shouldn’t he be questioning me about the money coming in—the drug money and its source?

“Where do they go?” He was stepping closer. “Where is the paper trail on any of them?”

He was standing over me. “Maybe you don’t know, but think about it.”

I looked to him, sinking deep into darkness. “You said you were part of an investigation for trafficking? You meant—”

“Human trafficking.” His eyes were hooded, looking down on me. “We’re still trying to find Shadow, and we know that club has something to do with it.”

I don’t know how I was still standing. My mind cracked in a shock of white, and it took a moment to refocus.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Gage has nothing to do with any of that. He’s selling the club.”

“We know. No one stays owner very long; it’s constantly rotated. So who is really in charge?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I would keep repeating this till I got out of that room. I needed to talk to Gage.

His hand was on my elbow, steadying me, his voice soft. “I knew you didn’t know. I knew you couldn’t possibly be part of this.” His other arm wrapped around me. “It’ll be okay. Just tell me what you do know. A name. Any name.”

“Don’t touch me.” I pushed away, feeling claustrophobic as the room closed in around me.

“It’s okay. I’ll leave now. But,” he produced a card from his pocket and handed it to me between the tips of his fingers. “Call me. I’ll meet with you. No one has to know.”

I looked at the card it was for a restaurant.

“You can do this. You can save people from this if you talk.” He nodded as I took the card out of his fingers. “We’ll talk soon.”

Then he slipped out of the room, leaving me in the middle of a nightmare.

Previous: 19: Surrounded
Next: 21: Oath