Author's Note: This is the sequel to my story Secret Admirer. Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on that story and asked for a sequel. Also the M7 Hetlovers group on Yahoo! Special thanks to Lacey and Tammy for the help and encouragement.
RING RING RI . . .
Wilmington. Buck answered his phone.
Hey, Bucklin. Its Mike.
Recognizing the voice, Buck smiled. Mike! Long time no hear. Howve you been? Whats going on?
Im fine, and I was doing good until this morning.
Bucks smile faded. What happened this morning?
You remember the Thompson brothers. It wasn't a question.
They made parole and are being released today. I just got the word and wanted to warn you.
Thanks Mike. I appreciate it.
No problem. Watch yourself. Im betting they still want your blood for putting them away.
I will. And watch out yourself. They may want me more, but you arent their favorite person.
I know. Im late for a meeting. Talk to ya later, my friend.
Who wants you, Buck. Some jealous husbands? Teased JD.
Buck uncharacteristically ignored JD and went to Chris office, shutting the door behind him.
Chris looked up to meet his best friends eyes and didnt like what he saw in them. What's wrong, Pard?
Buck, as usual, turned the chair in front of Chris desk and sat on it backwards, resting his folded arms on its back. I got a problem. May need some time to take care of it.
What kind of problem?
You remember hearing about the Thompson brothers. Kidnappers.
They kidnapped that businessmans son and held him for ransom. Several years ago.
Thats them. It was my first case working solo as the detective. I found them and brought them in. They vowed that when they got out theyd make me pay.
Chris knew what came next. Theyre getting out.
Today. An old friend called to warn me. I dont want any of you getting caught in the middle. Give me some time off and Ill take care of this. Somehow.
Forget it, Buck. Thats not to happen. You cant really believe that me, or the boys, will let you be off on your own with two men hunting you?
Chris. . .
Even if I gave the order to let you handle this yourself, they wouldnt obey it; and Im not going to give that order. Were a team. You know that.
Yeah. I guess I do, admitted Buck.
Get in here. Chris ordered, knowing the others would be listening at the door. Hearing his raised voice they opened the door and entered, looking rather like little boys caught making trouble.
You talk so damn quiet that we couldnt hear what you were saying, Cowboy. Vin mentioned as he leaned against the wall. Chris office was suddenly crowded with all seven men in it.
Chris gave Vin one of his trademark glares; as always, Vin ignored it.
From nearby Josiah watched their exchange. He knew Chris hated to be called Cowboy, but that Vin was allowed to do it, and that from Vin it didnt really bother Chris. He just put on the act. It seemed to be a verbal assurance of the bond between the two men, especially to Vin. Josiah knew Vins history and that the reassurance of the unique bond he had with Chris was good for him. The fact that Chris made an exception for him, let him do something no one else could, meant a lot to the young man.
Knowing Chris well enough to understand his meaning Buck began. As a cop I helped catch and put away a pair of kidnappers. The Thompson brothers. The phone call was an old friend of mine telling me they are getting out today on parole. They swore that when they got out theyd make me pay for putting them in jail. The odds are good that theyre heading this way, looking for me, and revenge.
I'll get online and see if we can find any way to track them. Find out where they are and when they'll get here. And they'll have to have some place to stay when they arrive. I'll try and find out where that will be, volunteered JD.
I'll talk to some of my sources and have them let me know if any of them see the brothers, offered Ezra.
Josiah was next to offer help. I'll look over their profiles and see if I can figure out what sort of revenge they might be planning. What they're next move will be.
You'd better not end up needing my medical help, warned Nathan with a smile.
I'll keep that in mind, Nate. Buck assured him and grinned back.
Vin said nothing but looked over to Chris, making eye contact.
I'll shadow him. Watch his back.
Thanks. Watch yourself too. There ARE two of them.
No kidding. I know what I'm doing.
I know you do. Just be careful.
Buck noticed the intense look between the two men that signaled they were communicating silently. He couldn't read the conversation; but knew his friends well enough to guess that he'd just gotten Vin as a shadow.
Chris broke the connection with Vin and looked at his team. Alright. I have some calls to make so why don't you guys go get started.
They filed out of the room and Chris hit the speed dial programmed for District Attorney Orin Travis; knowing he needed to be filled in on the situation.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Ross and Jerry Thompson sat down facing their contact, Jess Garret. I got that information you wanted. Wilmington isnt a cop any more. He works for the ATF as part of Team 7. But he does have a weakness. Her name is Inez. She owns a bar across town from here.
That wont last the week. Buck always has some woman.
Its already lasted three months. And he aint been seen out with any other woman since their second date. The girl between the first and second date got taken home REAL early, if you get my meaning. Hes really gone on Inez.
What woman would have a guy like him?
A lot. A while ago the local paper did a poll on the cities most eligible bachelors. Wilmington was third on the list, after a couple big money boys. Trust me. If you want to get Bucks attention, and make him come to you, get the woman. To keep her safe hell do anything you say.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Sorry, Darlin. But its safer if you arent anywhere near me for a while. Just for a few days until we get these guys. I couldnt stand it you got caught in the crossfire. Ill get tickets for next weeks concert instead, Buck promised Inez.
I understand. But you be careful. If I have to come visit you in the hospital. . . Inez left the threat hanging.
Buck tried to reassure her. The boys are watching my back. Ill be fine, except for missing you.
Just make sure you call me and let me know what you can. I . . . worry about you.
I promise. Ill call you again tomorrow and see you soon. Sweet dreams.
Night, Inez said knowing that with worrying about Buck her dreams would not be sweet.
Buck reluctantly cut the connection. He really would miss Inez. Hed become very used to seeing her almost every day when he stopped by the bar; or on their, now frequent, dates.
Several hours later Inez was about to close the bar. There were only two men left, sitting over in a corner. Theyd been there for a long time, but not drunk much. Inez walked over to them. Im sorry, but were closing. Youll need to leave now.
Sure, no problem, said one of them as they both stood.
But youre coming with us, finished the other one as he grabbed her.
As the first man reached towards her she was able to scratch his cheek as she slipped out of the hold and tried to run. He caught her and held her as the other one tried to tie her arms. She managed to punch him in the eye before he got her tied up. She felt small satisfaction in thinking he would have a black eye. They soon had her blindfolded and gagged as well.
She tried to keep a sense of where they were going, but from the back of the SUV she was unable to. After forcefully leading her to a small barren room they untied the gag and blindfold.
Now you can scream all you want. No one will hear. But, if you dont behave you might not get any food. Ross warned her. His eye was now very black.
Im sure Buck will demand proof youre alive. Well call him in the morning, and let him hear your voice. Until then get some sleep. Oh, and, dont go anywhere, taunted Jerry as they left the room.
She heard the lock click into place. There were no windows and her hands and feet were still tied so Inez had no way of seeing outside the room or trying to work on the door. Shed already guessed that these were the guys who Buck had been worried about, and was sure hed soon find her. Exhaustion, and a long day, took its toll and she fell asleep.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Buck woke up to the sound of his phone ringing. He glanced at the clock as he reached for the phone. It read 6:00. Wilmington.
Sleeping on the job while we have your pretty little senorita? Not good. Not good at all. Ross taunted.
I never bluff. Listen up.
Buck. Please do what they say, otherwise theyll kill me. Inez said, as instructed. She believed the earlier threat that theyd hurt her if she said anything else.
I believe you. And you had better believe this. If you hurt her, you'll pay in ways you never knew were possible.
Now whos bluffing? Well call you back later, Ross told him before hanging up.
Buck began to swear as he heard the line go dead. He hit the speed dial for Chris.
This had better be good, Buck, answered the sleepy voice of Chris Larabee, having checked the caller ID.
They have Inez.
The Thompsons? Asked Chris, now wide awake.
Yes. Theyre gonna call back later.
Ill call the others. Well meet at the office as soon as we can.
Thirty minutes later the members of Team 7 gathered in the conference room. Having been told by Chris the reason for the early start none of them complained about being there two hours early. All of them were worried about Inez.
So what do we know so far? Chris asked his men.
Ezras southern drawl answered first. I have a meeting later with a man named Jess Garret. He is a known friend of the brothers and their most likely source of information.
JD took his turn. I didnt find anything yesterday that would tell us where theyre staying, but now we are pretty sure they were at Inezs bar I can try and follow there trail from there. Hack into some satellite or security system cameras.
Josiah was next. I looked over their records. They will stay together. Even though that makes them easier to find and contain. They wont check into a motel or anything that obvious. With Inez as captive theyll look for some place away from people so that they wont have to worry about her being heard or someone stumbling onto them. If she somehow managed to escape that would give them a little more time to get her back. I dont think theyll go for a warehouse. Theyll want a smaller abandoned building like a house or store. But they will have to come out to get food. I think they may stay somewhere other than where theyre keeping Inez. It would make things harder for us, and for them.
Buck agreed with that. Yeah. Thats how they did it with the kid. They stashed him and set up a ways away. Close enough to check sometimes, but not close enough to make it easy to find him after we got them.
Alright. Buck, you and JD get to work on the surveillance. Ezra, you make that meet with your contact, no matter what the rest of us are doing. Vin, you go with him as back up. Josiah, you and I will start going over the city maps and look for likely locations. Ezra and Vin can help us until they need to leave.
At 10:30 Buck phone rang. Everyone stopped their work and listened. JD nodded to his older friend to say the tracing program was ready.
We'll trade her for you. Tonight. Be ready and in your car outside her bar at 10 pm. We'll let you talk to her so you know she's alive, then give you directions from there. We see anyone else. Anyone at all. She dies.
The line went dead. JD swore.
Watch you language, kid, Buck automatically reprimanded.
No luck on the trace. Sorry. They must have one of those prepaid disposable cell phones.
That's OK JD. Thanks for trying.
So what'd they say?
They want me in a car outside Inez bar at 10:00 tonight. They'll let me talk to her then give me directions. I have to be alone, and no one can follow me. So we have eleven and a half hours. If we can't find her before then I'm going. Alone.
Buck, you did hear the last part of that message? Asked Vin.
What last part?
The part that says P.S. This is a trap.
Yeah, Vin. I know its a trap. But its Inez. I have to go, and they know it. I cant let her get hurt because of me.
Buck. . .
Chris. If we don't find her by tonight I'm going. They weren't bluffing. If I don't play it their way they will kill her.
And we can't play this their way, noted Nathan.
Josiah tried to calm things down a bit. So that means we have to find her before tonight.
Chris gave his profiler a grateful look. Josiah's right. We find her today, and they don't get to use their trap. Let's get back to work. Vin, Ezra, why dont you leave now and stop by Inez bar to see if you can find anything there?
The two agents agreed and left a few moments later. An hour later they called back to say they found signs of a struggle and Inez purse still in her office, but no other evidence.
When Ezra returned an hour later it was just in time to ride up the elevator with the pizza delivery boy. He quickly discovered that he others had ordered in pizza for lunch so they could all remain at the office.
Chris paid for the pizza and after the delivery boy left turned to Ezra. Wheres Vin?
Following Mr. Garret, who told me that hed met with the brothers yesterday. He said they all ready knew about Inez, but Im fairly sure that he told them. Vin hoped that hed want to let them know were searching for them and that he would go to them and tell them in person. Hell call as soon as he knows anything, so I suggest we eat while we have time.
You let him go alone?
Mr. Larabee. You should know as well as any that there is no let when it comes to Vin. He does what he feels is right. It is also the smart play.
Smart to let him go up against three men alone? Chris asked in a dangerously sarcastic voice.
Vin has more than held his own against greater odds than that. Nor will he be going up against them. He is following Garret. We all know that he will not be seen. If there where two of us the chances of being seen increase by far more than double. Garret will be so busy watching to see if I followed him that hell never notice Vin. He knows my face, Vins he does not.
Chris had to admit that's Ezra's arguments were valid. Youre right, Ezra. It was the smart move. Lets eat.
Buck wasn't satisfied. Wait. This guy gave them Inez?
Her name and location. I am confident of that much. But he will lead us to them. You may dismantle him, as slowly and painfully as you like, after he leads us to the men who have her. As Ezra spoke he looked into his friends eyes. Those eyes, Ezra had witnessed first-hand, could heat a person's blood, or turn it to block ice with nothing more than the intensity and passion they conveyed. Even knowing the emotion in them was not directed at him Ezra had to repress a shiver. He didnt think hed ever seen eyes so intensely cold. Not even Chris Larabees.
All right, grumbled Buck as he snagged a piece of pizza and began to plan what hed do to the man who had put Inez in danger. His mood took an even darker turn as he realized that should be himself. He had put her in danger. It was because of him that she had been taken and hurt. He was the one responsible. The guilt washed over him in a wave and he felt like he was drowning. Hearing his name he looked up.
Buck? Chris asked as he walked over to his best friend. Hed seen the sudden change in Buck and was worried. As soon as he saw Bucks eyes he knew what was wrong. Hed felt the same emotions after Sara and Adam had been killed. The same guilt. Buck had gotten him through it and he swore to himself that he would get Buck through it; he owed that to Buck. He also swore that Buck would not lose the woman he loved.
Its not your fault, Pard. Inez would be the first to tell you that. You told me that after Sara and Adam died. Told me it wasn't my fault. Just like it wasnt my fault Sara and Adam were killed its not your fault Inez was kidnapped.
You picked a hell of a time to start believing me about that, noted Buck.
If you let the guilt take over you will not be able to help Inez. With that guilt youre feeling will come anger, trust me, I know. Right now you need to focus you anger where it belongs, on the Thompson brothers--- not yourself. Well get her back and then she can tell you herself that she doesnt blame you.
She may not, but I do.
Buck, you are the most stubborn person I know.
Then you havent looked in a mirror.
Chris decided to ignore that, knowing it was to close to the truth for him to deny. Well get her back alive.
God knows I would give my life for hers. I'm just afraid the Thompson brothers won't let me choose that option, Buck said in a quiet voice.
None of the others knew how to respond to that.
Almost an hour later Chris nerves were frying, and Bucks were all but gone. Chris grabbed up his ringing phone. Where the hell are you, Tanner? And what the hell took so long? Demanded Chris in an angry, but low, tone.
Vin answered in a soft voice. South side of town. I was hoping that theyd go and check on Inez and I could follow them. No luck. She might be in the building. Its that old church that burned down last year.
OK. I know the place. Stay hidden and well be there soon. Well go in. You watch if they try to escape and follow them if one makes it.
Good to go, replied the former Army Ranger. See ya soon.
Closing his cell phone Chris looked at the others. Theyre at the church that burned down last year on the south side. Vin isnt sure if they have Inez there or not.
Then we should wait until we know. Follow them to her, argued Buck.
And if she is there and they dont leave? Or if they manage to lose us? We can get them to tell us where she is.
What if she is in there? We go in shooting and they could kill her! Or one of us could by accident.
I know youre worried about Inez, Pard. We all are. You know the statistics. The sooner we get to her the more likely shell be recovered alive. And we are going to get her back alive. Now lets plan this and go get Inez.
Things went as planned and within the hour the Thompson boys were tied up in one of the side rooms in the church. The members of Team 7, especially Buck, had been unhappy to find that Inez was not there.
Who do you want to question them, Chris? Asked Vin whod just joined them in the room with the prisoners.
I think well let Buck ask them where Inez is. Im sure he can persuade them to talk, Chris answered with a rather vicious smile, knowing exactly how Buck would persuade them.
Buck smiled in pleasure, but it wasnt his usual pleasant smile. Only a handful of people had ever seen that smile, and they had all died. Screaming. In agony. There was one exception to that, and he turned away, being sure to pull JD with him. Chris knew Buck wouldn't want JD to see that smile, or the actions that would follow it. Vin also followed them out to join Nathan and Josiah who were standing informal guard outside the door.
Buck made a mental note to thank Chris later. He knew Chris had no problem with what he was about to do, and he had no problem with Chris seeing him do it. But JD was another story. Not that he thought things would get too bad, but JD was still an innocent in many ways, even now, after all he had seen and done since joining the ATF.
Buck felt a combination of relief and worry as he looked at the two. He was sure the black eye and scratched cheek had been Inez doing. It relieved him to know that she had been conscious and fought back. That did not surprise him at all. But her worried that they may have made her pay for fighting against them.
Before I start asking you questions, I'm going to tell you something. I love Inez, and I will save her, even if I have to kill you and damn myself to do it. That means I dont give a damn if I break the rules for interrogations and get kicked off the ATF. Also means I don't care if I have to kill one of you to get the other one to talk.
The brothers looked in Bucks eyes to see a frightening combination of fire and ice, then exchanged suddenly nervous looks; finally realizing that theyd gone to far when they'd taken Inez.
Outside the room JD turned to Chris. Why?
Chris didn't bother pretending he didn't understand the question. Because it's what Buck wanted, JD. Trust him, it's for the best; and our quickest way to find Inez.
I wish you guys would stop treating me like a kid.
He isn't, and neither am I, so don't start acting like one. Buck may, I repeat may have to use methods that are unacceptable to the ATF. He's already risking his badge, he doesn't want to risk yours too.
But he's willing to risk yours? You can't tell me that as the leader of Team 7 you wouldn't get in at least as much trouble as Buck.
You're right. As his superior I would get in trouble. Buck knows I'm more than willing to take that chance with him. It's not that he thinks the rest of you aren't, but there's no reason to risk you guys if we don't have to.
Don't feel bad JD, the rest of us are out here as well. Vin reminded him, hoping to get him not to take it personally.
So when Buck gets done with them are we taking them in to charge with kidnapping?
If there's enough of them left. If not we bury the bodies, replied Chris.
You're joking, right Chris? Tell me your joking, pleaded JD.
You know Buck. He isn't going to kill them. They may end up wishing he would, but he won't.
Mostly cause if he did they couldn't tell him where Inez is, added Vin.
Nathan started looking through his bag to make sure he had the basics to take care of the two when Buck came out. But his main concern was to be sure he'd have enough left to care for Inez. He was worried what condition they were going to find her in. He thought it was good that Buck was questioning them now. Before he saw an injured Inez. Usually Buck was the most good natured man Nathan knew. But he also knew Buck had one Hell of a temper, and that seeing Inez hurt would about guarantee that temper being set off.
Chris was thinking along the same lines, having seen his best friends temper first hand; and planned to ban Buck from getting near the two once they had Inez. He thought that would be helped by the fact that Buck would want to stay by Inez side as she recovered, physically and emotionally.
Josiah was worried about Inez emotional state. He knew that even if she hadn't been badly hurt physically the emotional damage could be extensive. Especially if they had raped her. He preyed she had been spared that. He looked over at Nathan and knew he also shared that hope, and worry.
Buck opened the door and stepped out, not bothering to close it behind him. Nathan went into the room as Buck talked to the others. I know where she is. A deserted house about 10 miles from here. Let's go.
One second, Buck. JD, Vin and Ezra will stay here to guard these two and call the police to come get them. Josiah, you'll come with Buck, Nathan and I. He paused to look into the room. Nate?
These two will hold until the police get here. I'm ready to go, reported Nathan as he came back to the door.
We'll see each other again. Soon. I'm sure we'll have more to . . . discuss after I see how Inez is. Buck told the two before turning to follow Chris out the door.
JD watched his big brother leave and made a mental note never to be on the receiving end of that particular tone of voice. Repressing a shiver he went to see how the two prisoners were.
He could see that Jerry would soon have a black eye to match Ross's and Ross now sported a split and swollen lip to equal Jerry's cheek. JD couldn't see any other visible damage, which surprised him. Then he realized that Buck had probably been wise enough to use body punches that would leave less visable damage, but hurt more.
7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Inez leaned back against the wall and rested her tied wrists on her knees which shed pulled up close to her chest. Theyd given her some food this morning after the call to Buck and she figured it had to be well past noon. As she, again, considered her situation she found herself strangely unafraid. Even while part of her hoped Buck wouldnt accept their demands and walk into a trap, she knew he would. For her. The more she thought about that the more she realized its significance. Buck loved her. He loved her enough to walk into a trap that could easily kill him just for the chance to keep her safe. She wasnt sure why she was so certain of that, she just was. She thought maybe it was womans instinct.
Telling herself that Chris and the others would never let Buck get himself killed she tried not to worry too much about him. It did not work. But she knew the men, and knew that at this very moment they were looking for her. There was no doubt in her mind that they would find her. There was also no doubt in her mind that Buck was blaming himself for her kidnapping. She didnt blame him at all. The men who kidnapped her were the guilty ones as far as she concerned.
With nothing else to do Inez thought about her relationship to the ladies man; who wasnt acting like much of a ladies man any more. Oh, he still flirted and treated any woman he met to the Wilmington Charm, but it was simply habit. Hed gone out with another woman between their first and second dates, but that had already been scheduled, and she knew he hadnt spent the night with the woman. No, strangely enough, she had no doubts that Buck was being faithful to her. Shed come to look forward to him stopping by the bar to see how her day went, or drag her out for a quick bite to eat. The actual dates were wonderful. He was very thoughtful and planned them well.
At first shed worried about how soon hed expect them to become intimate, but hed never even come close to pressuring her or acting impatient. He was always the perfect gentleman, but also managed to let her know he found her sexy and desirable. The week before, shed gotten up the courage to ask him about it. Hed given her a gentle smile and told her that, while he did desire her and wanted to make love with her, he was not going to take things to that level until she was ready. That it would be her choice. She had been stunned into silence. Now she realized that if she was killed one of her few regrets was that shed never have the chance to be with the man she loved. That shed never have a chance to tell him, and show him, that she did love him.
The thought startled her. She loved Buck? Yes, she admitted, she loved him. She tried to tell herself it was just this situation making her feel this way. That she didnt want to die believing shed never been in love. But honesty forced her to admit that it wasnt just the situation. She loved Buck, but had been too scared to face it before now. She prayed shed have a chance to tell him what shed learned.
Inez tensed as she heard noise outside her room. Voices calling to each other, and calling to her. It took a few seconds to register that it was more than two voices and that the voices were familiar.
BUCK! BUCK! IM IN HERE! She screamed. Seconds later the door frame shredded as the door was forced open.
Buck instantly knelt at her side. Inez. Darlin. Youre safe now. Ive got you, Sweetheart he softly reassured her as he gently pushed a lock of hair out of her face. Buck made quick work of the rope on her wrist as Nathan cut the rope on her ankles. Buck looked into eyes full of a vulnerability that called on every instinct Buck had to love and protect. To treasure.
Inez put her arms around his neck and began to cry out the tension and fear against his broad shoulder. He sat against the wall and carefully lifted her into his lap then stoked her back as he murmured comforting words into her ear. She never felt the two tears that ran down his cheeks to fall into her hair. The other three men stepped outside to allow the couple privacy.
Ten minutes later Nathan heard Buck call him back in. Chris and Josiah followed. They found Inez calm, but still in Bucks arms. Her head rested against his chest, one hand also lay on his chest and the other on his shoulder, just behind her head. Nathan realized the connection between her being calm and being held by Buck and simply knelt down near the couple. Inez, can you answer a few questions for me?
Good. Are you hurt anywhere besides your wrists and ankles?
No. They didnt hurt me.
Did they. . . . try anything? Nathan asked, trying to be delicate.
No. Even as she said it the thought drifted through her mind that it truly would not have mattered to Buck if they had raped her. She knew it would to some men, but that Buck was not one of them. She wasnt sure how she knew this, she simply accepted it, and loved him more for it.
She realized she must have zoned out while thinking.
I am tired and sore, but otherwise fine.
Did they feed you? Are you hungry?
They gave me some food this morning. Im hungry. . . but dont want to eat. I. . .
Thats OK. Its a normal reaction. You need to keep youre strength up, but youre bodys so tense it knows you wouldnt be able to keep much down. Well start you with some soup or maybe a milkshake if that sounds good to you?
A little of the light returned to Inez eyes. A thick chocolate milkshake sounds good.
Nathan looked up and shared a look with Josiah, neither surprised by the request. Chocolate- - womens comfort food. Both thought it a positive sign. Nathan returned his attention to his patient.
Lets see about getting those cuts cleaned up and wrapped, he suggested. Since she was still holding onto Buck he began with her ankles. They both had a ring of bruising and scrapes, and he knew her wrists would be the same.
Finally Chris spoke, using a voice no one had heard in years. The men who did this are on their way to jail. JD, Vin and Ezra are seeing to that. They will never hurt you again. Buck looked up at his best friend, recognizing the tone Chris had used to calm Adam after he was hurt or had a nightmare. Hed never expected to hear the tone again. Chris paused and his voice gained a razor sharp edge. They will pay for what they did to you.
Thank you, Chris. That is good to know.
Inez. This alcohol is going to sting. Ready?
She nodded and bunched material from Bucks shirt in her hands as she tensed. After using the alcohol to disinfect the cuts Nathan smeared them with antibiotic ointment and wrapped them.
Im gonna need to see your wrists.
She very slowly, very reluctantly released her hold on Buck. He kissed the top of her head as they watched Nathan repeat the process he'd used on her ankles.
Done. Lets get out of here.
That is the best idea Ive heard in a long time, Inez agreed; causing the men, even Chris, to smile.
She began to move to stand up but Buck adjusted his hold then stood up, still holding her in his arms.
I can walk, Buck.
I know. But I dont want to let go of you just yet. Please?
Not at all unhappy with the idea of staying in his arms, she nodded her agreement against his chest. Very well. I'll humor you this time. But in the future I can walk on my own. Inez told him in a half teasing, half serious tone.
Buck sighed in relief. Inez still had her spirit and wasnt afraid to put him in his place - she was going to be fine.
Buck, you get her home. Well worry about getting her statement against them tomorrow or the next day. If you dont think she should come in just call and Josiah can come take her statement at her place. Youre off duty until further notice.
Yeah. If either of you need anything just call.
They all understood Chris wisdom in letting Josiah take her statement. He would be best able to get the information they needed with out causing Inez more trauma. Buck was to busy being grateful he had time off to care for Inez to realize Chris other purpose in placing him off duty. While off duty he would not be able to get anywhere near the Thompson brothers. Nathan and Josiah were aware of that purpose and thought it was well done.
Since they'd collected her purse, with her keys in it, from the bar Buck had it in his car. He finally let Inez stand when he put her down to open the door. He supported her with an arm around the waist as they walked into her house.
I want a very long, very hot, shower, she told him.
I'll get a chocolate milkshake ready while you shower. Buck told her and left her at the door to her bedroom.
She felt so cold, so alone, as he removed his warmth and shivered, nearly calling him back. The hot water helped a little.
Buck didn't think the water would be good for the bandages Nathan had just applied, but understood her need of a shower and would redo the bandages after. Nathan, considerate and careful as always, had sent some with him. As he'd expected there was a carton of Inez's favorite Triple Chocolate ice cream in the freezer and he scooped a generous amount into the blender then added the milk. It was soon ready and he put it in the freezer to stay cold until she was ready.
After a while he heard the water turn off and several minutes later Inez door opened. She was wrapped in a thick white terrycloth robe over pajama bottoms and a tank top. As Buck had predicted the bandages were soaked. She had a comb in her hand and was pulling it through her long hair. She winced at the movements it required of her injured wrists.
Here, sit down and I'll do that for you, offered Buck.
She smiled at him and took a seat at the table where Buck had just placed her milkshake. Once her hair was combed out Buck deftly braided it to keep it out of her way.
How'd you learn to do that, Buck?
Do you want anything to eat?
No. I'm fine, he assured her.
When she was done they went into the living room. Buck sat on the recliner, and without really thinking about it Inez sat in his lap. Wanting him to hold her again. Needing to fell his arms around her again because in his arms there was a comfort that existed nowhere else on this planet, that no one else could ever provide for her.
Buck was slightly surprised, but very pleased, and held her close. He reclined the chair back and pillowed her with the long, lean length of his body. Inez knew she had come home for good. And it scared her to death. Cradled against him, she felt sheltered and protected. Loved. Inez felt herself dozing off. Her final thought was what had she gotten herself into with Buck? And more importantly. . . why didn't she want to get herself out?
Buck stayed awake listening to the steady sound of her breathing. He said a silent prayer of thanks that she was here safe in his arms. That thought brought back his guilt and he had to keep from tensing up, not wanting to wake Inez. She wasn't safe with him. Being with him is what had gotten her caught in the first place. This time she was alive, but next time. . . He swore he could feel his heart break in his chest as he made a decision. To protect Inez he would have to let her go. Two tears slid down his cheeks unnoticed.
A few hours later Inez woke up. She instantly felt something was wrong and knew it as she looked up and saw the soul deep pain in Buck's eyes. Buck?
I love you, Inez. I. . .just wanted you to know that.
I do know that. What I don't know is why that hurts you.
You're the one who's hurt. Because of me. That's what hurts, he explained.
Her eyes softened in understanding. Buck, please don't feel guilty. I don't blame you.
Not wanting to continue on this topic Buck decided on distraction. I don't deserve you, Inez. I really don't.
Well, if you want to try and deserve me you could start by getting me some food. I'm feeling a little more hungry. Inez informed him with a small smile.
I think ole Buck can take care of that. But first, we need to redo your bandages. They got soaked in your shower. As he spoke Buck brought the recliner into it's upright position and stood with Inez in his arms. He put her back down and kissed her forehead before going to get the bandages.
Inez was amazed at his gentle touch as he undid the old bandages put on more antibiotic ointment the new bandages.
So what do you want to eat? Buck asked as he put things away.
Nathan suggested soup, and I really like that vegetable beef soup they serve at Soup's On.
Sounds good to me. I'll call JD and ask him to bring some by.
You're spoiling me, accused Inez
Buck just gave her one of his trademark smiles. I know.
I'll just have to find a way to make it up to you won't I? Teased Inez
Glad she was feeling well enough to joke a bit Buck teased her back. Sounds like fun.
It will be, she promised. Inez had every intention of keeping that promise once she was healed.
Buck flipped open his phone and hit the right speed dial. Hey, JD. It's Buck. I need you to do me a favor.
Of course, Buck. Anything you need. How's Inez doing? Asked the young man.
She's doing good, just hungry now. You know that place Soup's On?
Inez wants some of their vegetable beef soup, and I don't want to leave her alone.
Sure, I'll be over in a little bit. What do you want?
Same thing, and maybe one of their sandwiches.
OK. See you soon. We're all about to leave for the night anyway.
Thanks, JD. I owe ya.