Surviving Raine - 2
This book is for Sue. You are a true teacher in heart and mind, and I can’t begin to list everything I have learned from you. I am eternally grateful for your dedication to my work, friendship, and generous hospitality.
A giant thank you to the wonderful group of people who constantly encourage me, keep me going, and ultimately make sure what everyone reads is quality work: Adam, Candise, Chaya, Heather, Holly, Ian, Jada, Tamara, and of course, everyone on my street team!
Special thanks for all the Surviving Raine fans out there who waited (somewhat) patiently for the continuation of Bastian and Raine’s story! You are the reason I write.
I didn't bother to wait until I got outside before I lit my cigarette. The sheer number of people who had shown up for the castaways’ welcome home media circus was insane. Maybe I couldn't get trashed like I wanted to, but I still needed some kind of silent fuck you to everyone there. Lighting up before I got to the door was all the obnoxiousness I could manage.
Outside, I leaned against the railing surrounding the patio area. I had no idea if I was in a smoking area or not, and I didn't give a shit. There wasn't anyone else out here anyway. They were all inside, monopolizing Raine's attention.
Somewhere inside my screwed up brain, I knew I was being ridiculous. I didn't care how ludicrous I was, but I still recognized it. When we had been alone on a life raft in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and then on a deserted island together, I'd had her all to myself. Now press people and some asshole congressman who was pursuing the vice presidency next year surrounded her. Sharing wasn't my strongpoint. I’d already shared one woman in my life, and I wasn’t going to do that again.
Raine isn't like that.
Logic was irrelevant. Knowing Raine wasn't the same kind of person as Jillian didn't matter when it came to my paranoia. Jillian had taken my trust, used it, and destroyed me with it. She’d taken my unborn child and run away with another man.
I took a long drag off the cigarette and blew smoke up into the air. I watched it dissipate in the warm Miami night and considered just what the fuck I was going to do from here on out. There was no going back to how things were. Raine was so fucking happy being back in civilization again, and though her happiness meant everything to me, all I could think about was the open bar back inside the reception hall and how easily I could sneak in, grab a shot of vodka, and sneak back out to the patio without anyone seeing me. Such is the mindset of a recovering alcoholic.
Was that what I was now?
Was that what defined me?
Fuck if I knew. Raine had made it perfectly clear that it was her or the drink, and the decision was—on some level, at least—a simple one. Vodka was something I desperately, desperately wanted, but I couldn’t live without Raine.
A slight scraping sound behind me and to the left brought me from my thoughts. When I turned to look, the cold blue eyes that met mine were unmistakable.
Every cell inside my body went on high alert like a decompression alarm in an airplane. All the oxygen seemed to evacuate my lungs, and there weren’t any masks in the area to secure around my head.
Inside his gaze, I could practically see the words forming in his mind. I was unfocused. I hadn't heard him approach. I was unaware of my surroundings, vulnerable, and stupid. The scraping sound from his foot was completely intentional. He could have killed me where I stood, buried in my own thoughts.
“Sebastian,” he said with a slight raise of his left eyebrow.
All my flight-or-fight impulses went into high gear. I couldn’t seem to find any words, didn’t have anywhere to run, and was pretty sure I wasn’t prepared for a fight against the man who taught me everything I knew about how to kill people. With what little breath I had inside of me, I took another draw on the smoke and tried to look nonchalant.
“Landon,” I replied, but my voice choked slightly; the smoke in my lungs got caught, and I started coughing. I nearly doubled over as the unfamiliar, overly-processed tobacco and nicotine—something I was no longer used to having in my body—ravaged my system and left me gasping.
As I recovered, Landon just watched me with a bemused look.
“Motherfucking Marlboros,” I growled.
Landon’s smirk widened, but he didn’t laugh out loud. He never really did.
“You’ve lost weight,” he commented.
There are certainly some people who would have considered his remark a compliment, but I knew exactly what he meant. I wasn’t as big as I had been—I’d lost muscle even before being stranded at sea—and his words held a slight tone of challenge: less muscle, less power. He was calling me weak, and I couldn’t argue with him.
“Living off fish and seaweed will do that to ya,” I said. I was still trying for nonchalant, but I didn’t think I was effective. Landon was still looking at me with his half-grin and raised brow. I tried to pull off a shrug, but it wasn’t working. I looked back to the cigarette perched between my fingers, but it didn’t seem to have any advice for me.
“You finally let someone in,” Landon commented.
I moved my eyes quickly to his as he motioned towards the door leading back inside—back to Raine. My chest tightened, and I wondered just how long he had been in the vicinity and what he might have seen and realized.
Since I first opened my mouth and told Raine about my sordid past, I knew I was putting her in danger. At the time, I had been reasonably convinced it didn’t matter. I didn’t think we’d ever make it back to the mainland and other people again.
But we had.
“What did you tell her?” he asked as he stepped forward and lowered his voice.
“Everything,” I heard myself whisper.
Landon nodded slowly. I had only confirmed what he already suspected.
As I held my breath, he moved closer, turned, and leaned against the railing beside me.
“I should probably kill you both,” he said with a minute sigh. He turned his head toward me. “You know I don’t want to do that.”
He couldn’t have cared less about Raine—I knew that. What he meant was that he didn’t want to end me, not that he wouldn’t put a bullet in my head, because he totally would, but he didn’t want to kill me.
Had he talked to Joseph Franks? Did the Seattle mob boss know where I was and what I was doing? He had to; we had been all over the news since we’d been found. They had even included my real name and my connection as a squealer with the crime lord.
“Leave her alone,” I said quietly. “Do whatever the fuck you want with me, but don’t touch her.”
What should have been a threat came out as nothing more than a desperate appeal. I turned toward him, tossed my smoke to the ground, and tried to stand up a little straighter. I had several inches on him in height, but I always felt small in his presence.
“Please,” I said. “Please, just…just let her be.”
He stared back at me with his ice-blue eyes.
“Not necessarily my decision,” he said.
“Have you talked to him?” I asked quickly. I didn’t need to name Franks; he was a given.
“Not since you resurfaced,” Landon said. “It’s only a matter of time.”
“I won’t say a fucking thing, I swear,” I told him. “And she won’t either.”
Landon tilted his head to one side but didn’t comment.
“Please,” I said again, “let me have this.”
I looked into his eyes, and for a moment, they softened uncharacteristically. In that instant, he was the father I never had and I, the prodigal son. His chest rose and fell slightly as he breathed deep and considered me.
“I tried to keep you out of the light,” he said. If I didn’t know him better, I could have sworn there was a hint of remorse in his voice. He shook his head slowly. “You had to go and get yourself on the fucking news. Damn, Bastian—how am I supposed to cover that up? You’re out in the open, sober, and hooked up with the daughter of Henry Gayle. Do you really think he’s going to ignore that?”
“I didn’t fucking do it on purpose!” I growled.
“Do you think that matters?” Landon took a step closer to me, his eyes cold again. “Do you think that changes anything? In the eyes of the cops, you’re a potential source for more information. In the eyes of Franks, you’re a potential threat. You knew that the minute you walked up to the Seattle PD and told them about that night. You told them he’d killed two cops, and since then, I have done everything I possibly could to keep you hidden, to keep you alive.”
He shook his head slowly.
“And now you come back like this? With her?”
I could practically hear my own heart beating.
“Convince him,” I said.
Landon rolled his eyes, and I reached out and grabbed his forearm.
“You can convince anyone of anything,” I said. “Tell him I’m not a threat. Tell him I’ll behave. I swear to God, Landon-”
“You don’t believe in God,” Landon interrupted, shaking his arm free of my grip.
“Then I’ll swear on whatever the fuck you want,” I snarled back. “I’ll do anything—just keep him away from her.”
Landon stared at me with his stoic and intense eyes.
“He’s going to want you to fight,” he said. “Prove your loyalty again.”
“I can’t do that anymore.” I shook my head quickly. “Not with her around me.”
“You may not have a choice.”
“You told me there is always a choice,” I reminded him.
“Yeah,” he agreed, “live or die. You’ve managed to weave yourself a noose and wrap it around your own neck.”
“There was nothing I could do about that,” I insisted. “I didn’t even know—not until we were in Venezuela. Whoever went digging for information found what he wanted. It’s not like I told anyone my real name; they already knew.”
“He might not believe that.”
“Convince him.” I tried to make my words sound like a command, but we both knew it was a plea. If Landon went to bat for me, I had a chance. If he didn’t back me up, I was going to have to grab Raine and get back into hiding as quickly as possible, and I was fairly certain she wouldn’t go willingly.
“I’ll try to hold him off,” Landon said. “I don’t know how long that’s going to last.”
With a sharp breath, I closed my eyes in a moment of relief. When I looked back up, I caught a strange expression in Landon’s eyes—one I hadn’t seen before. I had no idea what it meant, and he went icy as soon as he realized I was looking at him again.
“I’ll keep quiet,” I promised. “Not a fucking word. I swear, Landon.”
“Bastian?” Raine’s voice fluttered from around the other side of the shrubs lining the doors to the building. I turned my head to look at her and then looked back to where Landon had been standing, but he was already gone.
“Right here,” I called out.
“What are you doing out here?” she asked.
“Just having a smoke,” I said, fully aware that I no longer had one in my hand. I quickly reached into my pocket, pulled out another one, and pointed it toward the doors. “I couldn’t take any more of that shit.”
“Well, that shit is pretty much over now,” she informed me. “Congressman Howard is putting us up for the night in the hotel across the street.”
“Congressman Howard wants to shove his dick into you,” I growled as I shoved the cigarette into my mouth and lit up.
“Oh, he does not!” Raine said, scolding.
I rolled my eyes.
“Did he get you a room adjoining his?” I asked.
I was being a dick, and I didn’t care. I had no doubt what that asshole wanted, and what he wanted was mine. Fucker.
Raine just narrowed her eyes at me.
I shrugged and smoked some more. If she didn’t want to admit that he wanted in her panties, that was her problem. If he actually tried to touch her, I was going to be his worst fucking nightmare. I could already see it in my head: the fucker leaning in just a little too close, dropping his hand down to cop a feel of her ass, and me coming up from behind and snapping his neck.
Nah, too quick. I’d have to make him suffer.
Raine’s voice brought me out of my musings.