Author’s Note: So it took me most of the day, but I did accomplish something on this story today. I was starting to worry about it, thinking I wasn’t going to add anything even after what seemed like a decent start when I was waiting for my ride, but somehow it almost came together.
At least… as much as any of my scenes with action ever come together…
Unfortunately, I think I have to leave it there and get some sleep since I’ve gotten nowhere since I finished.
“I’m never going out to another meal with you.”
Shaelynn would have glared at him if she could take her eyes off the gun in front of them, but she wasn’t an idiot. She had to watch and wait. Both of them knew how to disarm gunmen—that was part of Ambrose’s training, one of his favorite drills—and they could do it if given the opportunity. They had to wait and watch for the right moment.
No, she did. Nolan was the target. He was the one this idiot was focused on, and he was going to have to hold his attention while Shaelynn intervened. All of it had a sick sense of déjà vu to it—she’d done all this before, in training or in their escape, and all with Nolan at her side as her “partner.”
He’d been able to talk his way out of anything before. She had to trust that he was going to do that now. She had the option of going for her gun or taking the one in front of them, and she had to pick the right one that didn’t get either of them shot. If she hadn’t been in the middle of arguing with Nolan when they left the restaurant, this wouldn’t even be an issue. She’d already have her gun, and that guy would be on the ground.
She’d lost focus, but then Nolan had a bad habit of doing that to her, too. The whole thing went back to her argument with Nora, which still pissed her off. Nolan had left it alone for the first part of the meal, but once he was done with his pancakes, he’d apparently considered it fair game when it wasn’t.
Nora was the one overreacting this time. She wasn’t giving her brother enough credit. Nolan had never needed Shaelynn, not half as much as he claimed or pretended. He had done fine on his own before their “marriage,” and he’d done just as well after she left thirteen years ago. Nolan was fine. He only needed her now because someone wanted him dead.
“You don’t want to do this.”
The man with the gun snorted. “You don’t get it, do you, Sheppard? A guy standing in front of you with a gun—he wants to use it. He wants to kill you.”
Nolan laughed. “Actually, considering the way I was raised and the amount of times a man had a gun pointed at me—no. Ambrose might have considered it a few times when he had one pointed at me, but there were at least two dozen times when it happened that the person across from me had no interest or desire to kill me. I’m sorry. The gun thing doesn’t scare me as much as you might think.”
Shaelynn was tempted to smack him. Of all the ways to handle this, he had to pick the worst one. Provoking the guy wasn’t an answer. He had to know that baiting the guy into proving he meant that crap was the wrong way to go. Talking him down might have worked, but not like that.
“It’s a good thing you never became a hostage negotiator.”
“Hey, I negotiated just fine when my sister, my wife, and I were the hostages,” he said, and she glared at him.
“You’re both idiots,” the man snapped. “I have a gun. I am going to shoot you.”
“Yeah, sure,” Nolan said, shaking his head. “Thing is, if you were going to do it, you’d have done it before. You’d also have the safety off.”
The other man frowned, looking down at his gun. He was still staring at it when both of them moved. Shaelynn had the gun out of his hand and in hers about the same time as Nolan had his arm wrapped around the other man’s neck.
“I don’t think this kid had any idea what he was getting into,” she said, and Nolan nodded, maintaining his grip as the guy squirmed in his hold. “And we were not hostages.”
“You don’t think so?” Nolan asked, looking a bit torn—he didn’t seem to know if he was willing to put enough pressure on the guy’s neck to get him unconscious or not. “It wasn’t like we were in that cult by choice, and there was some negotiating and fancy talking and side-stepping going on in addition to all that soldier crap and attempted brainwashing. I had to learn how to work around them, and you don’t get to be ‘head’ of the house by lacking social skills. I had to negotiate my place as well as work for it.”
Shaelynn shrugged. She didn’t want to think about that. What Nolan had done was survive, and that was all that really mattered. He’d kept his principles in spite of everything, and she had always appreciated that about him, but that was where it ended.
“You have your phone?” She looked over at the doors, sure they were going to draw a crowd soon enough, and as it was, they looked like the criminals—other than maybe the kid’s clothes. “I think we’d better call that lieutenant or maybe our fed friends.”
“In my pocket, but I’m betting if I let go, he runs,” Nolan said. “Where’s yours?”
“Back at the hotel.” She caught his frown and shrugged. “Only people who would bother calling were right there with me, so why would I need it? I actually hate those things.”
“I’m not surprised, but it is kind of inconvenient at the moment.”
“Oh, just knock him out already. We’ll deal with the fallout from that when the cops come,” she told him, and he looked at her. She shrugged. “Right now, you’re going to look like the mugger. If you would rather explain that to the police or anyone who passes by, feel free. Did you forget that your face is all over a magazine cover and people will probably recognize you on sight?”
Nolan’s eyes darkened. He tightened his grip until the kid sagged, then eased him down to the ground with a shudder. “I hate that I know how to do that.”
Shaelynn didn’t say anything. She’d been ready to shoot if she had to, and she didn’t know that she would have felt any kind of remorse about it. That was the difference between the two of them—it always had been.