Honeybun on the Run
Honeybun Heat, Book 7
by Sam Cheever
Electric Prose Publications
Ebook ISBN: 978-13112191-4-5
Print ISBN: 978-1512209594
[ Romantic Suspense, MF ]
She’s fighting to protect everything she cares about. He can’t resist a damsel in distress. But he has no idea how high the cost will be if they fail.
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Clovis Honeybun stood in the shadows by the terminal door and watched people file onto Bus 86159 to Las Vegas. He’d been there for over an hour and hadn’t seen a guy matching the description he’d been given. The bus was due to leave at 10:10 PM, just moments away.
The late Spring weather was unseasonably cold, turning his breath to mist and making him shrug more deeply into his coat. Clovis rubbed his hands together, musing that the weather for the coming weekend was supposed to be in the eighties.
Weather whiplash. Welcome to Indiana.
A door at the side of the tan, metal-sided building opened and a big man wearing the light gray shirt and khaki pants of a driver’s uniform came out, carrying a Styrofoam cup and talking on a cell phone. The driver had ebony skin and a bristly jawline that was covered in a tidy beard, except for a thin, jagged line where a scar bisected it. He headed for the Vegas bus.
Clovis touched his earpiece. “The bus is about to leave and the target hasn’t shown up.” He straightened away from the wall, scanning the area one last time. “Are you sure your information was correct?”
The tiny electric transmission device remained silent for a moment and then Alf’s voice barked into Clovis’s ear. “We thought it was, but apparently not. Okay, bring it in.”
“Roger that, bro.” Clovis headed for the door into the bus terminal, stopping as it flew open. He stepped back to let a mismatched couple exit the terminal.
By habit, he assessed them as they moved on by.
The woman looked to be in her late twenties. She was pretty with curly black hair framing a small face. The woman’s chin was delicate and her eyes were a light brown. She wore a black, leather jacket over a lacy knit shirt and black jeans that hugged her long legs and rested just above slender ankles. Her tiny feet were covered in brightly colored sneakers.
She wore large, gold hoops through delicate earlobes and chewed her gum rapidly, cracking it loudly as she lifted her gaze toward Clovis. Her intelligent, brown gaze fixed on Clovis for a moment, held, and then swung dismissively away.
Clovis felt the sting of that casual disregard in the center of his gut.
The guy she was with was a cocky punk, probably in his early twenties. He was wearing oversized jeans that hung too low on his hips. Black and white plaid boxers stuck out the top. He held her close with an arm around her neck, more like a choke hold than an affectionate embrace, and glared at Clovis as he shuffled past.
The guy wore a canvas work jacket, the sleeves of which had been cut off, and both of his arms were covered in colorful tats. A tattered, dirty Colts hat sat sideways on his head, showing a close-cut cap of thick dark hair beneath.
Clovis was so distracted wondering why a woman like her would be with a punk like him, it took him a beat to notice the guy fit the description of the man they were looking for.
He started after them, speaking softly. “Alf, I’m getting on the bus. I think our guy just showed up.”
“What? Wait a minute, Clovis. That wasn’t part of the deal. Your backup has already left.”
The couple had reached the bus. The woman climbed inside first, handing their tickets to the driver. Clovis stopped, bent down and pretended to tie his boots as the guy turned back, sliding a hostile gaze over him. “Six feet tall, give or take an inch, dark brown hair and eyes. Dual sleeves. It could be our guy, Alf.”
“Just give Phillips and Dael a couple minutes to get back there. Stall the driver.”
Clovis straightened as the young thug stepped into the bus behind his pretty girlfriend. “That would be a large negative, bro. They guy’s suspicious. If I stall he’ll bolt. Catch up to me at the first stop.”
“Clovis! Don’t get on that bu…”
Clovis pulled the ear bud out of his ear and dropped it in a trash container as he walked past. He stepped inside the bus and smiled at the driver. “Hey man. I didn’t have time to buy a ticket. Can I just pay you cash?”
The driver looked past Clovis to the empty asphalt beyond the open door. “You don’t have any luggage?”
Clovis pulled three hundred dollar bills out of his wallet and handed them to the driver. “Keep the change. I lost my luggage in a car fire.” He slid his gaze over the other occupants of the bus, looking for the target. He found the couple two-thirds of the way back. The guy had his head resting on the seat already, his hat pulled low over his eyes.
The woman’s gaze was fixed on Clovis, a slight frown marring her delicate features.
Clovis’s gaze snapped around, realizing the driver had been talking to him. “Yeah, sorry. I’m tired. I keep zonin’ out.” Clovis laughed. His gaze slid back toward the woman.
The driver didn’t smile. In fact his gaze was slightly hostile as he handed Clovis a receipt. “Take a seat so we can get moving.”
Clovis inclined his head. “Thanks. I’ll do that.”
* * * *
Something about the tall blond god with the square jaw and the intense blue-gray gaze made Emma uncomfortable. Her instincts told her he was going to be trouble.
All kinds of it.
He was way too comfortable with himself, too self-assured, and he had an assessing way of looking at her that screamed cop. Though the close-cropped red-blond hair and ramrod straight carriage looked more like military.
He flicked her a glance as he started up the aisle and she barely resisted the urge to look quickly away. She held his gaze instead, daring him to cross the invisible line she placed between her and most people. Despite her cool glance. He didn’t look away. In fact his sexy lips curved upward slightly, just enough to let her know he wasn’t put off by her demeanor.
Emma frowned. She didn’t like the way his gaze slipped over her, hot and soft, before flicking quickly over the man sitting next to her.
In her line of work, Emma Banks had gotten good at reading people. She read body language like words on a page. And the man working his way down the bus aisle, his muscular bulk barely fitting between the seats, was just a little too interested in her and Shawn.
He slipped into an open bank of seats across the aisle and up a couple from Emma and turned toward the window, seemingly tuning out everyone else in the bus.
Emma wasn’t fooled. His broad shoulders were stiff and square under the dark green of his coat. His neck was rigid, his jaw tight.
She’d lay odds he wasn’t looking outside as they pulled away from the bus station and drove along debris-strewn streets toward Highway 70. He was checking out the other passengers in the bus through their reflections in the glass.
Emma knew this without question. Because it was exactly what she would do. She shifted in her seat, tucking her oversized bag between her and the window.
“Sit still, bitch,” Shawn grumbled. “Can’t ya’ll see I’m tryin’ to sleep here.”
Emma shot him a look but didn’t respond. She was used to his nasty mouth and surly treatment. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t put up with before. And the last thing she wanted to do in that bus was draw attention.
But when she looked up, Emma met a hostile blue-gray gaze across the bus and her own eyes widened at the look of rage on the blond god’s face. That time she did jerk her gaze away. He’d caught her off guard. And she didn’t have any idea what to do with the open hostility she’d seen in that sexy gaze.
* * * *
Clovis clenched his hands into fists, forcing them to remain on his knees, as the asshat across the bus disrespected his pretty companion. The worst part for Clovis, the part he never understood, was that she took it from him.
Like she deserved it.
His fists loosened on the thought. He’d never get that. Women never deserved mistreatment. Sometimes it was best to walk away…to bite your tongue so you didn’t say something in the heat of temper…but disrespect? Not a chance.
His mama had raised him better than that.
The pocket of his jeans started to vibrate and Clovis frowned. Damn Alf. He’d never been good at rolling with the punches. Clovis had learned years earlier, in the superheated geography of Afghanistan, that he needed to be flexible to survive.
In his mind he was still surviving. Always surviving.
The bus rumbled down the highway, the interior lights flickering occasionally, as if all the bulbs were on the edge of expiration, awaiting only a good pothole to send them to their deaths. He half wished they’d hit that pothole. He felt exposed sitting up there, with darkness beyond the cloudy glass, lit for everyone to see.
He preferred staying in the shadows.
His phone vibrated again and Clovis hit Ignore. He quickly texted Alf.
Can’t talk right now. I’ll keep you posted.
A moment later, Alf texted back. Phillips and Dael following in white Crown Vic. Stay in line of sight.
Clovis’s thumbs flashed over the keyboard. Got it.
He slid the phone back into his pocket and laid his head back, scoping out the other passengers through the reflection in the glass. Near the front, a few rows behind the driver, was a young black woman and a boy of about four. The kid bounced off his seat like a frog on meth, his tiny ball cap sideways on his head from being constantly beaten against the seat as he hopped and bashed against it over and over. His all-suffering mother had told him a dozen times to calm down and sit still, but Clovis knew that wasn’t going to happen. He remembered being a kid…energy sizzling through his veins like a shot of pure adrenaline. He and his brothers had spent every minute of every day outside, playing ball and running around, until the energy became manageable enough for them to come inside and sit down to eat under his mom’s critical, always assessing eye.
Clovis smiled. His mother had demanded perfect manners at the dinner table. No squiggling, no fighting, no hopping around. She was a smart woman, was Mrs. Honeybun. She knew eight boys living under the same roof would quickly overrun the parents if she didn’t keep them under a tight rein.
And tight the rein was. Like a vice. But love softened it. Love and acceptance.
Clovis watched as the mother across the aisle gently grasped the boy’s narrow shoulders and placed him back on his butt on the seat. He’d never understand the depth of patience women had with their offspring. He’d always considered it one of the great wonders of the world.
In front of him, five rows up, was an elderly man with longish, snow-white hair and a long beard. He wore a pastel blue fedora, the brim circled in strips of black leather with turquoise beads on the ends. Like Clovis, the man stared out the window at the lights and cars flashing past. He hadn’t moved since Clovis sat down and seemed deep in thought. On his way up the aisle, Clovis had taken note of the walking stick the man held, resting on the floor between his knees with both hands covering the worn brass handle. Given his age, Clovis decided the older gentleman was most likely suffering from a hip issue.
A shrill giggle drew Clovis’s gaze to two young girls across the aisle. Blond and blue eyed, they looked to be in their early teens and he remembered seeing a harried looking woman in an ill-fitting blue suit settling them on the bus, kissing them on the cheek, and then climbing off the bus with a worried look on her tired face. She’d stood as the bus pulled out, her dark eyes glistening with tears. When she’d waved goodbye the two girls hadn’t seemed to notice. They were high on their adventure. Clovis speculated they were being sent to spend time with their father. Most likely the victims of a nasty divorce.
Despite their obvious joy in the trip, Clovis couldn’t shake a sense of depression at their plight. Clovis was a hard core traditionalist and believed kids should live with both parents whenever possible. But he was pragmatic enough to know that sometimes it wasn’t possible and, from what he’d seen, they had a good mom, one who was worried about them traveling alone. He decided in that moment he’d keep an eye on them.
A harsh, wet cough sounded from the back of the bus, deep in the shadows created by the wall of the bathroom. Clovis spotted her in the window reflection, dark greasy head bowed and emaciated shoulders vibrating under another wet cough. Smoker. Maybe more. Could be meth, Clovis speculated. The woman scrubbed a bony hand across her lips and tucked lank, dark brown hair behind one ear. She was unnaturally pale, her eyes shifting constantly around the bus. Paranoid. Probably meth.
Clovis frowned. He’d have to keep an eye on her too. She sounded like she needed medical care.
The first, heavy thrum of rain drops hit the roof of the bus, followed by a sense of hesitation, a gathering of pressure, before the skies above opened up and dumped a deluge of huge, pounding drops onto them. The world beyond the glass wavered and glistened behind the sheets of falling rain.
Thunder rumbled somewhere, followed by a spear of distant lightning. Clovis settled deeper into his seat and the bus slowed, as visibility plunged beneath the deluge.
“Shit,” grumbled the punk a few seats back. “Fuckin’ weather.”
Clovis’s gaze lifted to the window, found hers. She was staring across the bus at Clovis, her gaze speculative. For just a beat their gazes caught, held, and Clovis’s body tightened with awareness. Then she looked away and he was left staring at her pretty profile, though he sensed she wasn’t unaware of being watched.
Something about the woman tugged at Clovis. On the surface she was a woman who allowed herself to be mistreated…dominated…but something in the set of her delicate jaw told Clovis she was no pushover.
If that was true why was she with the punk? Why did she let him talk to her like she had no value? Clovis crossed his arms over his chest, suddenly tired. He’d never understand women. Though he was determined to keep trying. Because figuring them out was more than an educational exercise. It was tons of delicious fun.
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