Book Four - Cassidy Jones and the Luminous
There was a knock at the front door.
"Mrs. Carmichael," Jared predicted.
Mrs. Carmichael was a widow who lived a couple of apartments down. She kept Eileen and Jared in ample supply of homemade baked goods and motherly advice.
"I hope she's bearing gifts of warm chocolate chip cookies," I said, glimpsing one of his soccer shoes thrown on its side near the window. The cleats were packed with mud and grass. That explained the earthy smell in the room.
"Me, too." Jared handed me the jar. "Don't feed him too many. He's starting to get cricket belly."
"Charming. And no worries."
With distaste, I set the jar next to the terrarium just as Jared left the room, leaping over a pile of clothes on his way out. I would never want a pet that required live food.
"You'll have to make do with what you've got," I told Killer, bending over to peer at him through the glass. Hanging out in his shallow water bowl, Killer appeared not to give a hoot about the crickets hopping all around. "Not hungry, eh?"" I tapped the glass. The spider didn't flinch.
The front door opened. "Can I help-"
There was a fast movement of feet.
"Wha-" Jared gasped. A sharp smacking sound cut him short.
My heart leapt to my throat. I ran to the bedroom door and peeked out.
A rough-looking man with sunglasses bolted the front door. Another thug had an arm around Jared and a hand clamped over his mouth. I could see a red welt forming on Jared's cheek where he'd been backhanded. A third man held a gun on him.
Jared began to struggle.
The gunman cocked the pistol.
Glaring at him, Jared stood still
Think, think! I willed my brain, my heart hammering against my ribs. If I go out now, Jared could be shot. All that creep has to do is squeeze the trigger.
A shudder shook my body. My head swam. This could not be happening.
My frantic eyes latched on to the hockey jersey wound around my shoe. It had gotten caught on my foot when I'd run to the door.
"Tape him,"" the gunman ordered.
I yanked the jersey over my head.
"You have your old man to thank for this-"
I swiped the goalie mask off the bed.
""When you play with fire-"
Pulling on the mask, I dashed to the door and looked out. The thug in the sunglasses was wrapping duct tape around Jared's wrists while the other thug held him still. Jared's mouth was taped shut. I gripped his hockey stick leaning against the wall.
"-you don't decide when to stop playing."
I prayed the gunman would uncock the weapon and lower it. He didn't, keeping it trained on Jared. The thug binding Jared squatted down to tape his ankles together, while the other, wearing a sordid smile, held him still.
The gunman approached Jared. "Shame. You're a good-looking kid."
"No!" I screamed and shot out of the room.
Swinging around, the gunman released the trigger.
My eyes slowed the speeding bullet. I saw it coming and could have avoided contact, but the thug in sunglasses distracted me. His hand dove for a gun tucked into his waistband. My skin hardened as the hot metal tore into my left shoulder, stopping the bullet's progression. I launched forward, swinging the hockey stick back and into the gunman's chest. The stick snapped in half, and the gunman crumbled to the floor, his head smacking against the wood.
Without pause, I seized the thug who'd been going for his weapon. I grabbed him by the throat, lifting him off the floor and throwing him. He flew into a hutch that displayed Eileen's prized fine china. China and glass shattering, the hutch toppled over and pinned the man underneath. His sunglasses sat cockeyed on his face, and blood streamed from glittering shards sunk deep into his right cheek. It trickled over his drooping lips and splashed on the floor.
The man who held Jared released him and stumbled backward, his vile smile gone. I came at him in a flying kick, ramming my foot into his gut. His body curled around my leg, the impact propelling him backward. He took out a rocking chair and side table, sending the lamp and ceramics on top crashing. He rolled on the floor in agony, gripping his stomach, and squealed like a frightened pig.
I sprang at the creep, pulled him to his feet, and brought my fist into his face. Cartilage cracked under my hand, and blood spurted from his nose, splattering my face through the mask. I could taste it on my lips.
His eyes rolled into the back of his head. I released his collar, and he collapsed into a heap at my feet.
I spun around, prepared for another attack, but found only sprawled bodies, overturned furniture, broken glass, blood, and Jared. He was on his knees, his chest heaving, his round eyes full of shock . . . fixed on me.
My heart sank.
Jared was terrified - of me.