Love On the Run Pt. 01bymadam_noe©
© Nora Quick 2012
SUMMARY: American Jessie Andrews shot and killed her stepfather in self defense 10 years ago. Hunted by assassins working for his employer as well as the DEA and FBI she's lived on the run in South America for ten years, unaware she holds the key to a missing cache of money and secrets worth killing for. Julian Vasquez is a DEA agent who stumbles upon her cold case and is determined to find her and use her to get to a drug kingpin flooding the Miami streets with drugs and violence. But can the instant lust between them grow into trust and love when danger surrounds them?
Life on the run wasn't really living. Jessie Andrews had spent the last ten years on the lamb and it was aging her. On the inside sometimes she felt like she was 100, not 27. Every moment was stressful; around every corner there could be an assassin, or worse, a cop. Death or prison, neither option had appealed, so she'd run.
She couldn't disguise her height of just three inches under six feet, but she could slouch. The baggy clothes she wore hid her slim frame. She'd cut her long, blonde hair short at first, dying it black. Now it was medium brown and hung to her shoulders. A perm made it wavy, and colored contacts turned her green eyes brown. She'd long ago let her tan fade to her natural pale setting and used heavy makeup to change the shape of her face. She wore sneakers at all times, sunglasses and hats, and traveled light, never carrying more than a small gym bag.
For ten years she'd been on the run. But it wasn't just the specters of possibility that haunted her days, in the night she dreamed of the horrible reality she'd left behind. It was Jimmy's face she saw, sometimes twisted and cruel, and sometimes filled with panic as his life bled out. Sometimes all she saw was the blood pool, growing larger, let loose from his body by the bullet she'd fired into his chest.
For ten years she'd been alone. No lovers, no husband, no children. No job greater than cleaning hotel rooms, washing dishes, whatever she could get for cash under the table for just a week. No roots. No family. No hope.
No second chances. The first three hitmen who'd come along had seen to that. She'd never thought of herself as a killer, but Jessie had a will to survive that sometimes even shocked her. They had come to kill her and she'd done what it took to survive. But the shakes had gotten bad, the anxiety too much, and she'd learned to keep going, to move on before they came, to stay one step ahead.
And now she was running out of steam, and starting to daydream about a life a woman could never have, not when she had to keep moving. There would never be such a thing as love on the run.
"What is now?" Julian's supervisor said with a sigh.
He'd been busted down to old cases. One little mistake in the field and the DEA was as forgiving as the damned IRS. He'd joined for the adventure, the glamour. Probably misguided reasons, but after life in special forces he'd craved it, and now riding a desk was hell.
"I got this old file, the Juarez killing."
"I was in the field on that one. Miami, ten years back, right? Have a seat." George was interested suddenly, and Julian sat, hoping for the best.
"You remember the details?"
George nodded. "Juarez was a small time dealer suddenly shot and killed by his step-daughter. We caught two clean-up men from the Diego family in Brazil going through the apartment. One fessed up after some...creative interrogation Juarez was strictly small time, street dealer under Gonzalez, the Cuban. Somehow he supposedly had five million in cash from Diego, double-dealing. Everyone thought the step-daughter had it, and she went on the run, disappeared. What was her name?"
Julian opened the file. "Jessica Andrews, seventeen at the time of the killing, twenty-seven now. They found her prints on the gun, neighbors said her mom O.D.'d when she was fifteen, Juarez petitioned for custody, got it temporarily which stretched into two years. They also said he was an octopus who knocked her around."
George sat back and drummed his fingers on his desk. "A few guys thought it was self defense, probably he tried to rape her. Beautiful kid, if I remember. All-American, blonde, popular in school. Damn shame, but it doesn't matter. We tried to find her, we were willing to give her immunity if she could produce the money or testify. Clark found her in Honduras six months later, and she ran from him before he could get two words out. No sign since."
"Well, see, you sent me to archives. I know, I know," Julian held a hand up and cut off George's attempt at an admonishment reminder. "I was going through the Juarez file, and look." He spread three manila folders out across George's desk. "Two bag men for Diego and one who worked for Gonzalez. They were all killed while armed. Robbed of cash, each time a woman was seen leaving the scene. Baggy clothes, hat, glasses. They were all killed starting in Brazil and moving south in a straight line, following the highways. I think it's her, I think it's Jessica Andrews."
His boss looked carefully at each file. "So?" George sat back and closed the folders. "Last one was killed eight years ago. Even if it was her, she's long gone. And we have no interest. If she ever had the money, it's long ago, and witness testimony after ten years is worth less than my stapler. She can't help us get Diego, so she's of no use."
"The pattern suggests she's keeping to mostly small towns, little more than mining camps in some cases. It's likely she either still has the money, or has it stashed somewhere. If she still does it might bring one of Diego's lieutenants out if she retrieves it, comes out in the open. She's the perfect stalking horse. And the a pattern here..." Julian tapped a small map he'd brought along, spreading it on the desk, marked with the locations of the incidents. "She's probably hitchhiking, she's following highways but she moves real slow. By my estimate she's got to be in Chile now."
Sitting back George drummed his fingers on his desk. "So?"
"So, we've been after Diego for years! He won't set foot on U.S. soil and won't even leave the damn house, nor will he let any of hiss lieutenants cross any borders. He's fucking untouchable. If we can get one of his lieutenants we might be able to take him, and use him as a bargaining chip.
"If we find Jessica Andrews and she has the money, it might just get one them out to investigate. We grab him and maybe make him a deal to turn and give us something that'll stick."
"Five million is nothing to a man like Diego, Julian."
"Exactly! He sent assassins after her, and he wouldn't do that for a such a little amount. There's got to be something more, something with the money he's after, or something Jessica has."
His boss sighed. "So what are you suggesting? You want to assemble another team and go chasing after her? Do you really want a repeat of last time?"
Julian fought a blush. His last field case ended in disaster, partly because of stress, and partly because he couldn't control the witness he'd been assigned to protect. It had landed him stuck in archives and cold cases, and a repeat would mean a fate worse than death.
"This is different. Look, I have vacation time. I'll go on my own. Let me check things out. If I can find her, I'll call it in, let you decide to proceed. I'm going nuts at a desk."
George smiled distantly. "I know the feeling." He sat forward and put a game face on. "All right. Take your vacation. I can't tell you where to go. But you don't use your badge, you don't approach her. You get into trouble and we're not bailing you out. Two weeks. You find nothing and you get your ass back here. Break any of these rules and you'll wish you were back in archives."
Julian smiled. The hunt was on.
Jessie washed her face and stared at her reflection as the water dripped down onto her shirt. The woman in the mirror looked like a stranger. Most times she hated staring at that bare face, and other times it caught her like this, by surprise. With none of her heavy makeup, it was just her, a scared young woman weary of life in the shadows.
She was pretty, she supposed. Once she had been, definitely. Some even called her beautiful, and not just boys trying to get in her pants. Without her contacts in she looked younger with her naturally green eyes. The hair color was bland, the waves unfamiliar, but everything else...this was truth. There was no hard gaze of a stone-cold killer, only the wide-eyed nerves of a woman in fear.
She could relax. There were four days until her contact arrived with the papers she needed. A brand new, perfectly legal identity, and help crossing the national forest into Argentina. From there she'd go to Portugal, get another new identity, settle down. She'd be free to start her life.
Now was a vacation. The little town of Futaleufú was a commune of unpaved roads and shanties cheek-to-jowl with permanent brick buildings. The normal population was under 2,000 but it had swelled with the summer tourist season. People from all over came to hire guides and rafts and enjoy the rapids on the Futaleufú River. The atmosphere was old-world carnival and for once she was going to enjoy herself.
In ten years one thing she missed most was the touch of a man, the feeling of being held, being kissed, the feel of a man's body against hers. She thought of Henry, her high-school sweetheart, the only man she'd ever known that way, though he'd been a boy and she a girl, both seventeen, when they had taken that step.
She wondered where he was, what he was doing. They'd been All-American kids, the high school quarterback and the captain of the cheerleaders. She'd gotten a scholarship to Northwestern and he'd been accepted, able to pay the hefty tuition thanks to winning the genetic lottery. He was probably married with kids, a great husband and a father now, but sometimes in the night she fantasized he'd be waiting for her, that perfect, innocent puppy love able to grow into something stronger.
Tonight she'd find a substitute. Casual sex was all she could handle in her life, and as the prospect had always seemed daunting she'd avoided it, but it was time to let go and experience what she'd been missing. For one night she wanted to lose herself in another being.
Jessie put on light makeup, just enough to look groomed but not disguised, dried her hair so it fell to her shoulders in soft brown waves. She put in the new contacts, turning her green eyes blue, and dressed in a white tank top and jeans. The jeans were baggy, covering her sneakers, but she left off the hoodie. Tonight she wouldn't hide her body, she hoped someone would take notice, someone that sparked her interest.
Her heart was pounding with worry, but the long lonely nights had added up. In just four days she would have new hair, a new identity, and take the last step before assuming a new life free from Diego's assassins and the American cops after her. What better way to say goodbye to this horrible life on the constant move than to take a step into a new life. A life that was not lonely, a life in which she could linger and enjoy things as they came. Tonight would be a preview of the joys of stability to come.
Satisfied she was as gussied up as possible, Jessie went through her ritual. She put all her belongings in her gym bag, slid it under the bed, locked the window and put the empty toilet paper roll right in front of the door, ticking off its placement with a small piece of chalk that made a white dot on the linoleum. If anybody came in, it'd move, and she would know. With the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the doorknob she pocketed the room key along with her petty cash and current fake I.D. in her pocket. Her big wad of cash was sewn into her bra cups, masquerading as padding. Jessie was ready for adventure.
The best bar of the commune was right outside the row of four rafting companies near the river. It was outdoor, a tiny establishment that sold watered down beer, tequila, and Cocoa Cola only. It was a bar in the open, a sign above running the length with no name, just a picture of two men in a yellow raft on the water holding beer glasses. There were six scarred bar stools in front occupied by locals, and twenty small four-top tables with ancient chairs on the pounded earth in front, most filled.
Jessie took a seat at one and signaled the waitress, ordering a beer in fluent Spanish. She paid in advance with a nice tip, knowing it would earn her a clean glass. She'd often lost herself in large cities to make contacts and find IDs, but her mainstays were these tiny towns and she knew how they worked.
She looked around at the collection. A few couples who probably had kids back at the shabby motels the town offered, many groups of young people. Most were South American but a few Gringos were there.
She watched four sit down, laughing and speaking in a way that made it clear they were Americans. They were two couples, close to her age, and one girl was blonde and tanned, young, healthy, and vibrant. She looked like what Jessie could have been, had her life not taken an ugly turn.
Her beer came and she thanked the waitress, unable to take her eyes off the group. She could have been young, and happy, traveling with Henry and some young couple they met at college, or work. Seeing the world as a tourist, not a fugitive. Maybe she'd be a teacher, a bartender, a doctor. She could have been anything, but for now she was boxed in.
That would change in Europe. Her life had been on hold, and it was time to start it.
She noticed quite a few female heads turning and followed their gaze to a man wandering into the bar area from the direction of the motels. All she could think was holy shit. He was tall, built like he should be modeling, the tight black t-shirt and loose jeans doing nothing to hide a sculpted body. He was tanned, his dark hair long and tied back in a ponytail. He looked like a local but the tattoo on his arm was US Army. A mercenary.
Quite a few soldiers burned out and moved down south. They made their living helping people like her, and the people she was running from. Mercenaries had no morals, they just worked for the highest dollar. He wasn't one of Diego's men, she knew, the kingpin hated Americans. Dear God, let him be my contact here early,, she thought, sipping her watery beer.
He was focused on the same American she'd been staring at, though his eyes seemed to take easy survey of the bar. Why shouldn't he stare? The girl was pretty, but her grooming, her smile, everything about her pushed her over the line to beautiful, even the way she lovingly looked at the brunette with his arm around her.
The newcomer looked around and all the tables were filled. She made her posture relaxed, open, and caught his eye. He smiled, his handsome face split by a wide grin, and the effect was devastating. She heard a few sighs as he sidled up to her table.
"May I sit with you?"
She kicked the chair opposite her out and signaled the waitress. "Sure."
"Thanks. I'm Julian."
He sat and didn't offer his hand, something she appreciated for fear of fainting. Up close he was impossibly even better looking, the faint lines at the corners of his eyes and a small scar at his temple adding to his devastating effect. "Sandra," she gave her current false name. "Someone you know?" She gestured to the blonde with her glass.
He turned and looked back, forcing a sheepish laugh. "Actually, I was trying to figure out if I knew her. She...looks like my friend's kid sister. Haven't seen her since she was a teenager though."
"You should say hi."
"I don't want to intrude." He ordered a beer fluently from the waitress and knew enough to pay first and tip well. Turning back he relaxed, his posture still alert, his eyes watchful though he was clearly trying to be polite. "I'm supposed to meet friends, but came down early."
Yeah, right, she thought. "Same here."
He looked her up and down, and she tried not to blush. It was a blatant scan, and wasn't this what she wanted? Yes, and no. Oh, this Julian was a dark fantasy, to be sure, but she'd been hoping for someone more...biddable.
Still, every other single man she'd seen was too old, too young, not what she was looking for. With the false bravado she'd mastered in her fugitive life she sat up straight as he took his beer and drank a long pull.
"So, your room or mine?"
It had been a long time since Jessie felt in over her head, but oh, boy, did Julian make her enjoy the feeling of being at someone else's mercy. He was a great kisser, and his first kiss lived up to the promise of his aura and presence, devastating her. Following his lead was scary and thrilling all at once, but once they touched she couldn't stop herself from wanting more.
They'd gone to her room and as soon as the door closed she barely had a moment to double check the little cardboard roll when he was on her. Two hundred pounds of pure male pushed her back against the door as his hands clutched her head, turning her, angling in for a devouring kiss.
She had no idea how a one-night stand was supposed to go, but she was happy to let him take the lead, and it certainly seemed he knew what he was doing. Their clothes came off quickly and she had no chance to admire him in the dark before his mouth and hands were everywhere.
Years of pent-up frustration were boiling to the surface, and Jessie's mind went under. She was afraid she'd come too fast, still clothed, just from his wandering hands and firm lips. She felt a flash of panic and then his tongue slid in and he felt so damn good she stopped caring.
Together they struggled to get her shirt off and before she could toss it away he hooked his finger into her bra cups and jerked them down. She heard him say "pretty," in Spanish and then Julian ducked his head.
He pinned her hips with his hands and lathed her breasts. She buried her hands in his hair, pulling it from the tie as his tongue swirled, flickered, and seemed to do a million clever little things that drove her crazy. Jessie could only mewl and moan, nearly sobbing with relief as heat spiraled through her, hotter and hotter.
He tugged at her pants and she undid them, barely ahead of the press of his hot palm against her stomach. She knew her eyes glazed over as her body began to thrum, but he just hooked his fingers into her panties and jeans and together they pulled them off.
Returning to her breasts did something clever with his teeth, brushing them lightly over her stiff nipples and her breath hitched. He slid down, leaving her to groan at disappointment at the loss of his hot mouth on her sensitive breasts. Julian chuckled and nudged one of her legs up, putting it over his shoulder as he settled to his knees. Her standing leg felt weak, and his hands returned to hold her up as much as keep her still.
When he ducked down, leaving the wet, aching tips of her breasts firming in the cool night air, she wasn't prepared for the coming storm. He devoured her. Lips, teeth, and tongue worked in concert and she came almost instantly, too long denied. He suckled, and flicked, and even as her contractions began one thick finger slid inside her. She wailed with the climax as he pressed on, consuming her, murmuring, making his lips vibrate against her.