By Veronica Forand
Note to self: first thing in the morning, send Jordan some flowers to make up for the long hours spent away from her. She deserved at least two dozen red roses arriving at their house to brighten her afternoon. The image of his sexy wife and her long legs and beautiful smile melted away some of the stress Max had felt while dealing with his latest case.
His eyes strained to read the words on the computer screen. Two quick motions to draft and he’d be done and able to curl up with Jordan in their bed. A faint thumping sound echoed outside his office door. Probably the cleaning service. A few seconds later, the noise transformed from footsteps to shuffling.
Max stood and stretched. He needed to ask them to wait to vacuum. He couldn’t concentrate with the roar of their industrial monster of a machine. Before he reached the door, it flung open and the shadows of three men pushed their way into his office too fast for him to react.
They, the mysterious bastards who broke into his office, shoved him into a wall, nose first. Pain shot from his forehead through his cheeks and into his inner ear. He snorted up blood as he tried to maintain his breath. The coppery tang coated his mouth until he spit it out. He wanted to aim the bloody sputum at his tormentors, but they stood behind him out of his line of vision. He wouldn’t have seen them even if they had turned him around. Max couldn’t open his eyes. The nose must be broken at some screwed-up angle.
Someone restrained his arms behind him. He could feel heavy cord being wound around his wrists. He tried to pull free, but each pull on his side, caused his arm to be torqued in the opposite direction by his captors. The angle they twisted his shoulders could cause serious damage if he fought too much against them. Surprise, panic, and fear merged in his gut. And his eyes stung like acid poured into his cornea.
“Who are you?” He tried to spit out the words through the stream of blood flowing down his throat. He gurgled and finally managed to say something akin to the question.
The response was immediate. Two, maybe three, men punched and kicked his torso, his legs, and his face until he no longer could sit on his own. The stabbing pain in his gut must be a broken rib. Max choked in as much air as he could tolerate, but each inhalation ached. Would it feel better to just stop breathing?
The final kick in the face across the already broken nose knocked him cold.
A throbbing throughout his body woke him and reminded him of his place in hell. Feeling drugged, he lay on his back, his arms tied behind him. His shoulders no longer had feeling. Someone had tied a cloth around his eyes. The pressure of the tight material over the bridge of his nose made the pain constant and unrelenting. He turned to a fetal position, only to land on a dislocated shoulder. The van or truck he was in made enough movement to remind him of every injury he’d received from the bastards who tied him up. Probably a disgruntled client. He couldn’t keep everyone from going to prison, but he usually managed to reduce the time to a minimum.
At least his captors found him in his office and not at home. Jordan would be safe there. His wife of five years had enough problems growing up in Brooklyn with a low-level crime boss for a father. She didn’t need to be involved in her husband’s problems. Images of her exotic beauty with olive skin and deep brown eyes cooled his nerves. He needed more time with her. He craved more time with her.
The vehicle pulled over to the side of the road. From the constant buzz of traffic sounds and the planes overhead, he must still be in the city. He tried to take a deep breath, but his throat was swollen and his nose stopped functioning after the last kick in the face. A chill crept over him and his body reacted by shivering uncontrollably. A door opened and light filtered in through the edges of his blindfold. Cars honked and sped by in the distance. Noises seemed muffled, perhaps by buildings. Was he in an alley?
Two men, strong like gorillas only not as articulate, picked him up with unnecessarily rough force. One ape grabbed him under his arms and dragged him to the edge of the van floor. The aching pull on his twisted arms caused him to moan. The other guy lifted his legs and they yanked him up off the ground. He heard the door slam behind him. That would make guy number three. Max braced himself for his descent to the ground, yet they continued to carry him up onto a sidewalk.
He knew when they’d arrived at a building, because they used his head to push a door open. His breathing became more strained with the inability of his lungs to fully function behind a broken rib and a blocked windpipe. Each step down what felt like a never-ending hallway hurt. Arriving at another door, they shoved his head into it again. The force of the blow added to the disorientation and numbness of his defeated body.
If they were going to kill him, he wished they’d just get it over with, but they continued to hold him in place for a few minutes in a room that echoed as though encased in concrete. The thugs situated his body upright in a wooden chair with his arms draped behind him.
A chair? Maybe an interrogation?
Someone lifted his face up by yanking on his hair. Another pulled off the cloth covering his eyes. White light blinded him and he squinted through the pain. The outline of a person in front of a window barely registered. He shut his eyes and rested them from the onslaught of the sun’s rays. Opening them slowly, the outline became more clear. A woman. A beautiful woman. His beautiful woman.
Panic roiled through him. He couldn’t deal with her getting hurt, because of him.
“Jordan? Are you okay?” His voice strained through a broken jaw.
The tilt of her chin, the placement of her hands on her hips, and the solid stance of her legs told him not to worry about her.
“Max, darling. I really care about you, but it’s not working. Your long hours, the stingy allowance you give me each week.” She picked up some papers from the small table next to her and a pen. Strolling over to him with the confidence of a mafia daughter, she wiped some blood off his face with the back of her hand. “I wanna divorce.”