“That’s not what I asked,” Nash growled.
“I know.” Jacko knelt down, and it took a moment for Skylar to realize he was taping up Nash’s mouth, too. Now they were both bound and gagged. Completely helpless. Then he patted Nash’s pockets, and Skylar thought the guy had gone completely mad until she heard the sound of jingling car keys.
“Not the best getaway car,” Jacko mused. “I’ll have to ditch it soon. But it’ll do the job, for now. You two wait here, while I go sort out a few things. I won’t be long. Then I’ll let you in on my little plan,” he added gleefully.
Jacko disappeared out the door, and she and Nash were left alone in the shed.
Skylar rolled onto her side so she could look at Nash. He scooted around so he could tip his head up and stare back at her. This was what it had come down to. How long did they havebefore the gunman came back? His sky-blue eyes fixed on hers, and she poured all the words she couldn’t say through her own gaze as she stared back at him.
She’d thought she’d felt powerless to stop Craig back when he’d been beating her every other day. But then she’d finally come to realize that she could escape him; that it wasn’t her fault Craig was like he was. And day by day, she’d grown stronger, devised a plan to leave him. Then the day after she’d escaped, he’d found her and raped her, as a punishment for leaving him, and she’d retreated inside herself. Retreated from the world, from the unfairness of it all. Deciding that she would live a strong life on her own terms, not reliant on anyone else. That she never need truly trust another human being again; apart from her family.
But her time with Nash had changed all that. Changed her perception of herself. Had given her hope.
But when he’d pushed her too hard the other night, she’d acted on instinct, letting old habits dictate her decisions.
Now she wanted to take back all those hurtful words she’d uttered the other night. She hadn’t meant them. She knew that Nash was only trying to help her. And perhaps she should let him. Logically, she understood that to move on from any trauma, you needed to release it first. To get closure, find justice, and then improve day by day. And she thought that’s what she’d done. But now she realized an important part of the jigsaw was missing. Justice. If she were to truly move on, then she needed to confront Craig. And get justice for herself. Nash had been right.
As she stared down at Nash, another surge of that all-encompassing emotion threatened to overwhelm her. It took her a moment to comprehend what it was. It’d been so long since she’d felt something this pure and strong.
She was in love with Nash.
He was everything to her. If only they could get out of this alive, she’d tell him so. She’d been stupid and spineless, and it’d taken Nash to wake her up out of her small, safe little world.
Tears leaked from her eyes. She wanted to whisper the words in his ear, shout it out to the world.
Almost as if he was reading her mind, his own beautiful eyes filled with tears, as well.
They both lay there, unable to speak, unable to reach each other, crying.
Jacko strode back into the building. “Right. I’ve got everything sorted. Let’s have a little fun.” He rubbed his hands together. “So, Nash, me mate. You wanted to know what I have planned?” Jacko knelt down next to Nash. “Like I said, I make a point of researching my hits thoroughly. Call me a perfectionist.” Jacko gave a shrug of delight. “And so, I know all about your little episode in that car crash, where your friend nearly burned alive. That was pretty scary stuff. But it’s why you became a cop, right?”
Skylar’s breath caught in her throat. What was this bastard saying? Nash’s eyes had gone hard, and he was struggling on the floor.
“So, I figure the one thing you’d hate the most in this world is to watch someone you care about burn, while you lay helpless, unable to save them. What do you think? Am I on the mark there?”
Nash let out a roar of rage from behind his gag and tried unsuccessfully to lash out at Jacko. The gunman merely stood and stepped out of range. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” he said ominously.
This time, her heart stopped beating. No. Surely, he wasn’t going to burn her alive? While Nash watched? Surely, no one could be that cruel? That brutal?
Then Jacko glanced at her with cold, glittering eyes, and she knew he could.
NASH BUCKED AND thrashed and struggled until he could no longer breathe, and his wounded leg was red-hot with pain, but to no avail. No. No. His heart was breaking. He finally went limp, and as if Jacko had been waiting for the opportunity, like the moment a wild brumby irrevocably gives in to its fate, the gunman grabbed him under the shoulders and dragged him out of the shed.
Nash held Skylar’s gaze as he was towed backward. Tears streaked her face. Those tears of love he’d seen in her eyes had been replaced by tears of terror. Then he lost sight of her, and he was outside. Jacko dropped him on the ground and went back to secure the door.
“I still need to figure out how I’m going to kill you,” Jacko mused from beside him. “But perhaps after the trauma of watching your girl die in a fire, a bullet to the head might be a small mercy. What do you think?”
Nash grunted, sending the man daggers with his eyes. Jacko smiled and dragged Nash farther back until they were a good fifty meters from the building. He leaned Nash against the trunk of a large eucalyptus, where he’d get a good view of the shed as it burned. It was dark outside, the only light spilled from the small side window and escaped through cracks in the walls and around the roof, but otherwise they were in complete darkness. But the darkness was his friend.
Behind his back, Nash was furiously twisting his hands forward and back. Flexing, then releasing. The rope rubbed hisskin raw, but Nash ignored it. Even back in the shed, when Jacko had been telling them his plan, Nash had felt a little give in the ropes around his wrists. Not a lot, but enough to give him hope. And now he worked those ropes like his life depended on it. Which it did. The evening air was warm, the heat of the day slow to leave the country. And Nash had worked up quite a sweat with all his thrashing and struggling; continued to work up a sweat as he fought against the ropes. His palms were slick with perspiration, as were his arms and wrists. And the moisture acted as a lubricant.
Even while he was working his bonds, Nash kept an eagle eye on everything going on around him. Jacko had moved Nash’s car, he could see the shape of it farther down the driveway, ready for Jacko’s getaway. He twisted his left arm up and sideways, as far as his screaming tendons would allow, while at the same time contorting his hand, pushing his thumb down until he thought it might dislocate. The ropes slipped a little. He held his breath. Now all he had to do was get his knuckles through and…
His left hand was free.