Frustration and rage bubbled up in me. “You scared him away!”
The man leaned back staring down at me like I was certifiable. And maybe I was because I felt my company slipping away from me. Who would I be without Jackson Bonds?
“I kept him from killing you.” He shot back. Flat lips and brows angled down in anger.
“I think I’d rather be dead.” I stood and my head swam, staggering back a step I righted myself.
“Who the hell are you?”
He handed me a card. “I’m Rebel.”
The card read Brotherhood Bonds.
I gave him the stink eye. “You did scare him away so you can get him yourself.” I fisted hands on my hips.
He stared at me a minute before turning away. “You are crazy.” The words drifted toward me.
Well, now what? A thought hit me and I chased after the man walking away from me. He had a fine ass and broad, straight shoulders. He was just as cream worthy as the night in the bar.
Get your head on straight Elle, you need him to catch Stone, not in your bed.
“Wait up,” I shouted after him.
He didn’t slow. I picked up my pace and ran until I was in front of him. I turned, facing him.
His expression turned arctic but he stopped. Arms crossed across his chest, he looked good enough to eat. But that was beside the point, I needed his help. “You owe me.”
His jaw slackened, incredulity passed across his face. “Say again.”
“You lost me Stone, so you owe me.” I asserted, standing arms across my own chest.
“How do you figure?” He spoke with a slow deliberateness as if he thought I was stupid.
“You just do.” I stomped my foot. “So now we’re partners, we’ll bring him in together.”
His brows crinkled then he threw his head back and laughed. “I got men to help me. Surely
Jackson Bonds does too?”
Hell, he knew who I was, that wasn’t good. Every bounty hunter in Dallas was gossiping about the feud between Daddy and me.
“You have one of the five contracts, right?” I started again.
He blew out a breath before he nodded his head once.
“Stone isn’t going to go easy. You need help.”
“Not your help.” He glared at me, stepping around me, moving off again.
Shit. Desperation drowned me and I blurted out, “What will get you to help me?”
He walked on two steps before slowing and turning back to me. “The truth.”
Why couldn’t he have asked for a kidney or even my spleen? I had no desire to tell him the truth.
He gave me an expectant look then his face shut down.
I was losing him. “Fine! I’ll tell you.” I sucked in a breath and my ribs screamed in pain. “Meet
me at the diner two blocks from here.”
“I know it.” He moved away.
I turned back to my truck trying to figure out what the hell I should say to him. How little could I get away with? Maybe I could make up a story? One that didn’t devastate my pride or make me sound pathetic.
I backed out of the driveway I’d blocked, should have run the fucker over, but too late for that. I drove to the diner, parking in the side lot. I hadn’t found a plausible story to tell what’s-his-name. What had he said? Rebel. I wonder how he got that name.
Never show your fear. I stood straight and reminded myself I was a Jackson before I strode into the diner. Rebel sat in the far back corner and a cup of coffee already sat in front of him. I tried to ignore the pulsing buzz of attraction. My nerve endings were sending up serious smoke signals. I’m sure the signals read. Jump him. Jump him now. Stupid body. I had a lot more at stake than a night of fun.
I sat across from him. “I’m Elle Jackson.” I held out my hand.
“I know.” He eyed my hand before clasping it in a crisp hand shake. Not too firm and not gentle like he feared I’d break. Already, I liked him.
“Are you sure you want the truth? I could think of lots more pleasant things to do.” Like getting my finger nails pulled out.
Fiery eyes dropped to mine and his lips tugged up in a half smile.
Shit, that wasn’t what I meant, but it’d be a better trade than the truth.
He must’ve read something on my face because his fell into serious lines. “The truth.”
I glanced down at my fingers and tried to get my thoughts in order. When I was ready, I looked
up at him. “My father is crazy.” Shit that wasn’t what I meant to say.
His lips twitched into that half smile again.
“He raised me to take over the business, then he had a heart attack, and now he is determined to sell the bonds business to save me from myself.” My hands shook. “He gave me two ultimatums—raise $500,000 in bonds or he’d sell the company.”
He stared at me as if he read every hidden thought in my mind. He spooked me, not only because I was wanted to taste him more than take my next breath, but because he saw too much, made me feel too much.
“Why not use one of your own guys?” He lobbed the question at me, but I knew harder ones were coming my way.
He was too smart, too hard, and too damn perceptive to let me off easy.
“He’s,” My voice shook and I stopped until I pulled myself together. “He’s being a prick.” I
spewed the words that pissed me off even more than the ultimatum. “If I use one of the people at the company, he won’t give me credit for the bust, even if it is my contract. That’s another thing—we can split the bounty, but it has to be turned in on my contract.”
“I didn’t agree.”
My world started to crumble, but I shored up my shaky core. Fake it ‘til you make it.
“But you will.” I spoke with ferocity as if I could will the world to bend to me. I wish.
His lip twitched but he didn’t smile.
“How did you convince Gus to give you the 48 hour contract?” His eyes turned cold.
So that’s what had him on edge. He hated that I’d gotten an advantage on him. Rebel might be more competitive than me. Wouldn’t this be fun? Not.
“I went there with bourbon and begged.” I hated admitting how I’d had to play on Gus’s love for me. He’d been like my uncle growing up. “I’ll beg you if I have to.”
“Nope, just answer one more question. What was ultimatum two?”
Why that question? Fuck. My mouth opened and closed. Just say it, I castigated myself. But the words wouldn’t come. I stared out the front window trying to get my shit together. The simmering anger built into a raging fire. I wasn’t doing this. “That’s none of your business.”
“True enough.” He placed cash on the table and moved to leave.
“Stay.” I placed my hand on his wrist and electricity sparked between us.
My pride had already been decimated. Why did I care what this stranger thought of me?
“I can get married.” I spoke through gritted teeth, but I made sure he understood that option wasn’t happening. It’d be the same as letting my father win.
The bastard threw his head back and laughed, I contemplated choking the life out of him even ashis sexy laugh sent quivers through my belly.