Dangerous Lies by Linzi Baxter
Tim “Ginger” Mueller hoped the beating would stop. He'd lost count of the number of days that had passed, since Carter plucked him from the ocean during a late night swim and stuck him in the cold make shift jail. The only thing he knew for certain was that he was on land because the room hadn’t swayed.
The angelic voice he’d tried to save disappeared into the night.
The concrete cell had no window, so he had no clue when the sun came up or down. His only measure of time was when Carter's man showed up to deliver either a beating or food. The man's fists against Ginger’s bound body seemed to happen more frequently.
Even the thug was out of breath most days as he laid the last punch. Ginger didn't need an X-ray machine to figure out which of his bones the man had broken.
Across the room, the large metal door creaked open, and the thug dropped his fists.
Ginger tried to lift his head to see who was there this time. He waited for Carter, the man he wanted dead more than anything, to enter.
The clicking heels alerted him that this was someone new. The chains around his wrists and ankles tightened as he tried to move. His team's chances of finding him were slim, and he didn't think he had many more rounds left in him.
“I guess I made the right decision to choose Carter all those years ago.”
Six years had passed since he’d heard Brittany's voice. At one time, he’d thought she was the love of his life and he’d wanted vengeance for her death. She’d faked her death and, even worse, cost his teammates their lives.
“Not going to disagree with you there,” he said, his throat dry. “I wish I would have known you were a backstabbing bitch before I proposed.”
God, he still couldn't believe he had been so naïve when it came to her.
Keys jingled against the metal as the gate to his cell opened.
“Ma'am, you need to stay on the other side,” the thug said.
“Look at the piece of shit. You think that man can get the upper hand on me? Furthermore, you're not in charge—I am.” Brittany's red heels stopped a foot away from his head. To prove her point, she propelled the sharp tip of her shoe into his stomach, and he’d expected the kick to hurt more. It was like she’d pulled back at the last second.
He really was losing his fuckin' mind. Probably due to the lack of food and no sunlight. He hoped something good would happen. Some days, he even hoped for death.
“Sorry, ma'am,” the thug said and stepped out of the cell. Metal clung as he walked out the main door.
Ginger groaned and laid on his back. “You waited until they had me on death's door before you showed up? Why Brittany, are you going to kill me?”
Nobody had interrogated him since they'd shoved him in the cell. He wasn't sure why Carter hadn't killed him.
A soft hand brushed a curly lock out of his face.
“I know you have no reason to trust me, but everything I did had a calculated plan and risk behind it. Carter won't be back for a month,” Brittany said.
Ginger groaned. “What does his schedule have to do with me?”
When a tear hit his cheek, he was pretty sure he had lost his mind.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Brittany shifted and unlocked the cuffs around his wrist, followed by the ones on his ankle. Ginger shot to his feet, but too fast. His head spun, and he latched onto the bars.
“Explain,” he said, not taking a step because he would end smacked down on his face.
“We don't have time for me to explain. Here's the plan. You're going to knock me out, take the gun, and kill the guard.” She explained, like they’d run missions together. Except they hadn't. He thought she was a school teacher.
“Why don't I kill the guard, take you with me, and you tell me why you betrayed me all those years ago?” The longer he stood, the weaker his legs felt. He wasn't sure he would be able to walk out of the room. Even if he made it out, he’d have to take out a guard and get past Brittany because he sure as hell didn't trust her.
There was a time he would have done anything she asked without even thinking twice. Now she could say the sky was blue, and he wouldn't believe a word out of her mouth.
“Why do men have to be so frustrating?” Brittany grumbled. “I don't have time to explain.”
He hadn’t endured months of torture to not get at least one answer. “I deserve an explanation. Was any of what we had real?”
God, he sounded like a pussy.
Brittany ran a hand through her hair and let out an aggravated sigh. “From the first time we met at the bar in DC, you were a calculated move to my goal. Did I plan to fall for you? No, but your—”
“Nope. Get back to the part where our relationship was nothing but a lie.”
Brittany pulled open her purse and handed him a protein bar. “Eat. You need strength. Carter has been my mission for years. My goal in life is to take down the men he works for and him. Nobody realizes Carter is just one of the puppets in a larger puzzle. I've worked years to get close to him and to get what I need.”
“And what is it you need?” Ginger asked, not sure what the hell to believe anymore.
“To find my husband.” She winced.
Out of all the things he’d expected her to say, to find her husband, wasn't one.
“Before we met, Seth was working on a secret project for the CIA. My husband is a genius when it comes to building state-of-the-art technology. Carter took him in the middle of the night.” They'd spent months together, and all of it was a mission for her. He wanted to hate her but at the same time, he understood the lengths a person would go for a loved one. He'd gone years chasing a vendetta because he’d thought Carter had killed her.
“Why not release me sooner?” he asked, wondering if she’d just told him more lies.
“I had no clue you were here. Carter had me on another project. I intercepted a communication he had with one of his men. The woman in the ocean is in danger. Carter's about to go after her. He's making moves, and I can't blow my cover...I'm so tired of people dying.”
“You don't think he'll suspect something is up when you fake my escape?”
He knew he wouldn't be able to simply walk out the door.
Brittany pulled a gun from her purse and handed it to him. “If you make it look good, he won't think twice. I'll stage it like the escape was Gavin's fault.”
Funny how on his last day he’d found out the name of the man he planned to kill on his way out the door.
“I'm supposed to let you go, and then what? Hope he doesn’t attack my friends again?” Ginger asked.
Sometimes he wished he'd gone to school and become an accountant like his father. Nine to five boring job, with nobody shooting at you, nobody double-crossing you, and they sure as hell spend months being tortured.
His mother had begged him numerous times over the years to retire. Now his mom would have beaten him with a frying pan if she had any clue to the shit he went through in the cell or how close he came to death. Hell, he still wasn't out of this situation and could very well end up in a gutter or the river.
“Here.” She pushed a cell phone into his hand. “I'll reach out after I find my husband, but I need you to protect my sister Rose and her son. Don't let anything happen to that boy.”
Ginger took a step toward the cell door. He had everything he needed. He could leave Brittany in the cage, walk out, and never turn back. Except there was a slim chance everything she said was true.
“Was there any time we were together you hadn’t lied? I did get my head knocked around a lot, but you clearly said you had no siblings and your parents died.”
She winced and looked away. “I’ll never apologize for looking for my husband, but are you going to let another innocent person be hurt because of me?”
He would probably regret his decision. “How do I find Rose?”
“Remember the apartment I kept while we dated?” She paused until he nodded. “At the back of the building near the dumpster has a loose brick. The key is there. Inside the apartment, you will find Rose's information.”
Ginger wondered if this was all a dream. “Why would Carter go after Rose?”
Brittany glanced at the closed door. “She has something Carter could use against me.”
He tried to be patient with her, but he was at his wit's end. “Tell me where Carter is, and she won't have to worry about danger.”
“In time, I'll give you information,” Brittany said. “For now, you're going to have to trust me.”
“I'll never trust you.” He didn't care if the words hurt her. She’d used him to get to her husband. God, he was so dumb that he’d fallen in love with a married woman.
“All I need is for you to make it look real,” Brittany said. She stepped so close her lilac perfume filled the air. “I need you to knock me out.”
He remembered her stating her plan, but he couldn't punch Brittany no matter how much he hated her. “Use makeup or something. I'm not going to hit you.”
“We are running out of time,” Brittany said. “You can think of it this way. If you don't hit me, I will be dead, because he won't believe me when I say you just walked out the door.”
The door to the room banged open. The thug who’d tortured him for weeks stepped in to the room. Ginger didn't think twice as he raised the gun and put a bullet in the center of the man's chest.
Ginger used the bars to keep himself upright as he stumbled a few steps. There was a good chance the thug had broken his leg and a few of his fingers. His swollen eye made it hard to see, but he didn't want to wait to find out if Carter had more thugs on the way.
“You have to hit me,” Brittany said as he stepped out of the room.
Freedom. Ginger steadied himself against the wall as he limped down a narrow hallway only to see a set of stairs at the end. He wasn't sure he could pull himself up the steps, but he would try.
The clicking of Brittany's heels made him turn around.
“I’m not going to hit you,” he said. His entire body throbbed with each step, and he was unsure he would make it up the stairs.
“Please, help Rose. I know you have no reason to trust me, but if you help her, I'll feed you information.” She wrapped her manicured fingers around his arm and helped him up each step. When they reached the top, he wanted to collapse to the floor, but he couldn't.
“I'll call her.” He glanced down at Brittany. “What do you plan to do?”
Her eyes darted to the side. “I'll pay someone to beat the crap out of me and stage this. Time is not on my side. You need to leave.”
His leg killed him as he hobbled out of the house into a dark street. The warm, humid air hit his skin. The burner phone Brittany had given him was in the front pocket of his jeans. He stared at it, debating who to call.
He limped a few blocks until he was near a bench. He collapsed to the sand and called the only person he knew could help him.