A Wicked Ride
The Wicked, Book 1
by Avril Ashton
eBook ISBN: 978-1-55487-784-3
In order to save her family from jail, Sasha Forde must steal evidence hidden in a lawyer’s office. She sets out to do what she considers a simple B and E, but someone else has arrived first. He holds her life in his tattooed hands, but not for long.
Note: Prologue omitted.
Dust and cobwebs tickled her nose.
In the cramped stillness of an overhead air duct, Sasha Forde stifled a sneeze. She gritted her teeth, but kept her watery eyes trained on the activity in the lawyer’s office below her. Through the grate, she had a fairly unobstructed view of the three men dressed like her-all black, ski masks and gloves.
A rat, the size of a small cat, scurried past. Sasha bit back a scream. Someone would pay dearly for this. She’d been handpicked to break in and steal the evidence in the room below, but it seemed the men didn’t get the memo this job belonged to her.
She inched forward on her elbows, Baby Glock in hand, and rested her forehead against the grate. A bead of sweat escaped her cap and slid down her left temple.
“Go through every scrap of paper,” one of the men instructed. His deep voice appeared to rumble in the otherwise quiet room.
Was he the man in charge?
The two men fanned out to the row of file cabinets against the eggshell colored wall.
She studied the one who spoke. He stood like a linebacker, ready to move at a moment’s notice. Wide shoulders and lean, hard muscle dominated his frame. He wore a plain black sweatshirt with the hood covering his head. Black jeans were tucked into black combat boots laced halfway up. From her vantage point, his eyes were two black holes through the tiny slits in his mask.
As if he’d heard her silent appraisal, he turned. His sure footsteps brought him to the large oak desk located below her position. She held her breath while her heart raced.
He pulled out the high backed chair and it slid smoothly across the plush dark carpet. The linebacker flipped off the hood of his sweatshirt, folded his giant frame into the chair, and switched on the computer.
The tap-tap of his gloved fingers on the keyboard punctuated the silence. Over in the corner of the spacious office, his men went about their search. Sounds of cabinets opening and closing, and papers shuffling grated on her nerve endings.
She bit the inside of her cheek to stave off a groan. This is going to be a long ass night.
“Niko, it’s not here.”
Hushed words brought her out of her pity party, as the two men rifling through the cabinets reported their non-findings to the man at the computer.
Niko, huh? She filed the name away.
“Then it has to be here. She made two copies, and we already have the one from her house.”
She being attorney Harper Royce, the one whose office they currently occupied.
Niko paused and fanned himself with a yellow envelope lying on the desk. Turning back to the computer, his fingers beat double time on the keyboard. His men walked over to him and stood like sentries while he worked.
Damn, they’d already been to Harper Royce’s house. Sasha planned to do the house job last, since it posed minimal challenges compared to this one, but now she’d have to scratch it off her list.
How did these men know about Harper Royce’s investigation into Johan Vicente? From what she gathered from skulking around, the only other person Harper told about her extra-curricular activities was the informant feeding her Vicente’s business. Someone other than the man who’d sent Sasha didn’t want the authorities to get the incriminating evidence.
Sasha wiggled her left foot. Her clothes were damp with sweat. She needed a drink. Hell, she needed two. And she also needed a bath. No doubt the rodents and bugs in this particular part of hell had pissed and laid eggs all over her.
Oh, heads were going to roll over this. One of which was sure to be the linebacker’s below her. Her foster parents’ lives were at stake, which was why she chose to do this herself.
Everything had been going according to plan: Harper left her office at nine-thirty. The building shut down at ten. And at eleven Sasha had been set to slide out of the duct, then drop onto the desk below. The whisper of the door halted her plans.
She glared at her pink Timex. 11:46.
The triumphant words were barely spoken above a murmur, yet they resonated through her like a punch to the stomach.
Niko inserted a tiny blue flash drive into the USB slot on the computer. She watched in horror as the information she’d come for downloaded onto the drive. A stranger held it. He couldn’t know he’d just sentenced her foster parents to death, and her to an orange prison jumpsuit. The useless color fucked horribly with her skin tone.
Niko tore off his mask and stood. “Good thing there aren’t any cameras in here. I’m burning the fuck up.” His men murmured in agreement. He walked around the desk and stood facing her position as he held up the flash drive. She got the first glimpse of his face and her pulse stuttered. Sasha understood the implications of him having the information on the flash drive, yet her eyes devoured his brutal beauty.
Sweat dripped from his face onto the carpet. The overhead light glinted off his shaved head, the color of smooth copper. His high cheek bones and square jaw belonged on a New York runway, and the bump on his nose bridge indicated it’d been broken at least once. A neatly trimmed goatee framed the most suckable lips ever.
And tattoos. They poked from underneath his shirt like dark talons, wrapped around his neck from the left, then dipped back under his shirt. Even more spread up his nape, unto his skull and curled around his left ear.
She had the urge to see what the rest of his body looked like.
“Where’d you find it?” One of his men asked.
Niko wiped his brow with his sleeve. “Buried in a list for Christmas decorations. Two years old.”
His men chuckled. A smile shadowed Niko’s lips.
She wished she could see his eyes, but he stood too far away for her to tell.
“Alright.” Niko hustled his men. “Maysin, take care of the flash drive so we can get the hell up outta here. J, with me.” He motioned to the third man.
The one called Maysin sat in the chair Niko vacated. His dark ponytail escaped from the back of his mask and hung to the middle of his back. He pulled out a drill no bigger than the palm of his hand and proceeded to dismantle the computer. Niko and J stood guard on either side of the door.
Maysin drilled holes into the hard drive he’d removed from the computer’s innards. The handy little tool barely made a purr as he decimated the best evidence anyone ever had against Johan Vicente, gun runner, drug kingpin and all around nasty motherfucker. More importantly known as the man promising to end the lives of Sasha’s foster parents, if she didn’t produce the information on the computer.
Done drilling, Maysin rummaged in the pockets of his dark jeans, only to reemerge with what looked like a couple of magnets the size of Sasha’s BlackBerry. He used the magnets to scrape against the hard drive, again and again, making it so nothing on the drive would ever be recovered.
Nice really. Except now she’d have to hurt him and J. Niko? Well, since he appeared to be the mastermind of this little OP, she had other plans for him.
When he’d accomplished what he set out to do, Maysin left the magnets on the hard drive and they left the way they came. Through the door, single file.
Niko brought up the rear and at the door he turned. His dark gaze swept the room one last time. With a curve to his lips, he pulled his ski mask back on and turned around. The door closed behind him. He disappeared.
She felt his absence like a physical ache, until she remembered he had something she needed. She’d get the drive soon.
As head of the notorious Shadow Gang, she led her team in retrieving the most sought after and hard to find items. Retrieving had a more sophisticated ring to it, unlike the more common term. Stealing. She’d disbanded the group a few months go, choosing to go legit and partner with her brother in the nightclub business. Her identity and that of the other members were safe, or so she’d thought, until she had a face to face with Vicente.
He laid it all out for her as if she still wore knee highs on the playground. She’d break into Harper Royce’s office and make sure the evidence the lawyer had against him disappeared. Sasha didn’t question why a hotshot lawyer, and not the state, had the evidence. If she refused to do Vicente’s bidding, the world would know the identity of the members of The Shadow Gang, and her foster parents would be killed.
Hell of a choice. She could go to prison, but she wouldn’t sentence the others to the same fate. Not if she could prevent it. And there was no way in hell she’d allow him to hurt one hair on her foster parents’-the Hughes-heads. So, she’d booked the Hughes on a two week cruise to the Caribbean, mumbled something about an early anniversary present, and waved them off yesterday. In the end she agreed to Vicente’s terms. He knew she would. She’d procure the evidence, be the good little thief she once was.
Times like these were when she missed Terry the most. Terry Garraway founded the Shadow Gang, and recruited her when she was eighteen. He became her lover and best friend. Sasha could’ve used some of his cool logic right now. Unfortunately, he died three years ago. Gunned down in the streets for his wallet. She swallowed the bitter taste thinking of him always left in her mouth. Her failings, not his.
Now here she was; all alone since she chose not to tell the others about her deal with the devil. She’d been thwarted by a linebacker with a pretty face and bitable lips.
Sasha grinned in the darkness, present discomforts forgotten. A few more minutes and she’d finally be rid of this place. She had a flash drive to recover, a couple skulls to crack, and a brand new toy to play with.
The homeless Wino she’d paid a Benji to watch her car in the alley behind the building reported three men dressed in black, hopping into a like-colored SUV. He squinted up at her from his bed of cardboard, while she questioned him on the direction the SUV headed. A bony finger pointed down Broad Street, toward the Central Waterfront. She gave him an extra five and got into her car, smiling.
If prompted, Mr. Wino would never be able to identify Sasha. He saw and spoke to a woman with short spiked black hair, a ring in her nose and a long ugly slash across her right cheekbone. She also had a thick and distinct southern accent.
None of those characteristics matched Sasha at all. She tipped her invisible hat to Paula Deen for the cooking lessons, and the borrowed accent.
She stepped on the gas.
Central Waterfront in Seattle’s downtown area, once the oasis of maritime activities, was being converted over for urban and recreational uses. The piers, centuries old, were now housing restaurants and storefronts. There was an aquarium, several parks, and one hotel. Over the water, no less.
She drove straight down Broad and turned left on Alaskan way. The Edgewater Hotel sat on pier 67, and since she didn’t want to announce her arrival, she parked two piers over. She’d back to check out the vehicles, see if any matched Mr. Wino’s description.
She sat in the car and peeled off the fake wound on her face, and unclipped the ring in her nose. “Ouch!” That motherfucker pinched. She shoved the pieces of her disguise into the glove compartment of the rusted ten year old Ford Fiesta she used for jobs, and slammed it shut.
She checked her image in the rearview as she pulled off the wig, and tossed it onto the backseat. Her fingers combed through her hair. She winked and blew herself a kiss. Unlike the Wino, Niko would meet the real Sasha Forde.
Poor, unsuspecting fool.
Her linebacker didn’t know it yet, but Sasha had him in her sights and she always caught her prey.
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