"Alex! Alex, no! Stay with me!" Corkie knelt down in front of him, mindless to everything and everybody else in the room. He hung limply from his bindings, his knees dragging the floor as he head sagged between his up-stretched arms. Blood flowed from the wound, soaking his skin and dripping onto the floor. It was a small stab into his flesh, but with his other injuries, it was just enough to cause unconsciousness. If left unattended, he would eventually bleed to death.
Corkie was too shocked, too scared, too numb to cry. But the tears rolled down her cheeks anyway. "Alex...come on, baby...don't die...please don't die." She touched a finger to his pulse. It still beat, faint, but it was there. She opened his eyelids, checking his pupils. They dilated. That was good.
Then he groaned. "Corkie..."
"Oh, Alex," she cried out. "Don't you dare die on me, do you hear me?"
The bleeding had to stop...she had to do something. But there was nothing to staunch the flow, and the men in the room watched her with amusement.
"Okay...okay...I've got this," she said to herself, and pressed her fingers to the cut. Her knowledge of first aid came from survival training. She wasn't a doctor, but she knew how to treat a stab wound. That asswipe Pancho only sliced through Alex's muscle layer, but he was bleeding steadily. Add the beating he already suffered and he wouldn't last long. She whipped off her shirt, not caring that she knelt there in only her bra. She tore it into as many strips as she could and started winding and tying them around his torso. She wadded up the last piece and stuffed it under the makeshift bandage, right against the hole in his side, and Alex groaned again.
"I know, baby," she whispered. "It hurts; I know. But you will not die on me. I won't allow it."
"Corkie," he moaned, "live...you have to live..."
"I will, and so will you," she said, her throat closing up.
"Miss Brooks," Espinoza said behind her, and she turned her head, sending him a glare that should have fried him in that chair.
He stood up and adjusted his tie and cuffs. "Please...have a seat."
"Go to hell," she hissed and turned back to Alex. She cupped his cheeks, feeling the slick of sweat coating his skin. He felt cool...too cool, and that couldn't be good. His complexion paled under his tan, and—
Rough hands grabbed her arms, jerking her to her feet.
"Get off me!" she screamed and kicked out. "Let me go!"
Another set of hands wrapped around her legs, and two men carried her, twisting, biting and screaming over to the chair. She fought with every ounce of muscle and leverage she could gain, but in the end, her hands were tied behind her back to that chair, and her ankles together. Violent curses—real curses—spewed from her lips until Pancho stuffed a dirty wad of fabric into her mouth. And still she screamed around her gag.
"Now, Miss Brooks," Espinoza said. "If you will be silent for a moment..."
Alex moved. Only she could see him. All the others looked at her, and she stopped struggling to focus on Alex. He lifted his head...dropped it...tried to stand...fell back...and flexed his fingers above his bonds. Alex...please, don't move. They'll kill you!
He seemed to hear her silent plea. His head lifted just enough to see her through swollen eyes, and he nodded once, before slumping down again. Corkie saw only him. She listened to only him, even as Hibram Espinoza continued the tale of his son dying because Mario could not live without his Daniela, and him—Espinoza—feeling nothing but cold inside, wanting only one person to answer for Mario's death, her, and finding her, learning and following her activity for years, scheming his revenge, planning and replanning for just this moment. Knowing, because of who her father was, he could not capture her himself.
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Crazy Enough (originally titled "Black And White Rainbows")Romance
It was supposed to be an easy job. Get to Mexico, get photos of that bastard, Niro, and get home. But photojournalist Corkie Brooks did not account for a lone Army Ranger kidnapping her, stealing her photos, and then protecting her. Lt. Alex...