Watch Your Back (Karen Rose) Online - Karen Rose Page 0,1

her happy,’ he said simply. ‘She doesn’t ask for much.’

Just do it! Before he makes you like him even more.

He edged to the end of the aisle, closer to the cash register. Pretending to scratch his head, he reached up under his Orioles baseball cap to yank down the ski mask he’d hidden under it to cover his face. It could be worse. The three of them were the only ones in the store. If he had to dispose of a lot of witnesses . . . That would be much worse.

‘That’ll be ten bucks,’ the cashier said. ‘How’s your wife, Paul? Pregnancy going okay?’

His wife is pregnant. Don’t do this. For the love of God, do not do this.

Ignoring the screaming in his head, John wheeled around, drawing his gun.

‘Everybody freeze,’ John growled. ‘Hands where I can see them.’

The cashier froze and John’s target paled, his hands lifted, palms out. ‘Give him what he wants, Lilah,’ Paul said quietly. ‘Nothing in this store is worth your life.’

‘What do you want?’ the cashier whispered.

Not this. I don’t want this.

Do it. Or Sam will die. Of this John had no doubt. The photo he’d been sent flashed into his mind. The gloved hand holding the gun to his son’s head had killed before. He would kill Sam.

Do. It.

Hand shaking, John pointed the gun at Paul’s chest and pulled the trigger. Lilah screamed as the man went down. John caught a movement from the corner of his eye. Lilah had retrieved a gun from below the counter. Clenching his jaw, John pulled the trigger a second time and Lilah crumpled to the counter, blood pooling around the hole he had just put in her head.

It’s done. Nausea churned in his gut. Get out of here before you throw up.

He took a step toward the door when he froze, stunned. Paul was struggling to his knees. There was no blood on the man’s white shirt. Holes, but no blood. Understanding dawned. The man wore a vest.

What the fucking hell? John lifted his gun, aiming at the man’s forehead.

The shrill beep of the door opening had him glancing to the left.

‘Daddy!’

Oh hell. A little boy. The devil had never said anything about a kid.

Fucking hell. Now what? What do I do now?

What happened next, happened fast. Too fast. Paul lunged toward John, grabbing for the gun. They fought, and John tried to pry the man’s hand away.

I need a clear shot. Just one clear shot. He’d aimed at his target’s arm, just to shake him loose, when the little boy charged, fists balled, screaming, ‘Daddy!’

John fired and Paul cried out in pain. And the child went silent.

Horrified, John and Paul looked to the boy who lay on the floor in a bloody heap. The bullet had gone through Paul’s arm and into the boy. Into his chest. The child wasn’t breathing.

No. He’ll die. I’ve killed a little boy. Oh my God. No. No. ‘No,’ he gritted out.

Paul collapsed to the floor, shielding the boy with his own body. ‘Get away from him,’ he snarled. He checked the boy’s pulse, tried to stop the bleeding, his hands shaking and desperate. ‘Paulie,’ he shouted. ‘Paulie, it’s Daddy. I’m here. I’m gonna take care of you. You’re gonna be okay. Just . . . keep listening to me, son. Listen to my voice. You’re gonna be okay.’

John had taken a step forward before he realized it. To help. To save the boy.

Grief and rage had Paul lunging to his knees once again, reaching to knock John’s gun from his hand, still shielding his son with his body. ‘You sonofabitch. Get away from my son.’

Sam. John had to finish it, or both of their sons would die for nothing. Willing his hand to be steady, he lifted the gun, aimed at Paul’s head. And pulled the trigger. The man dropped to the floor, covering his son’s body with his own.

‘I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry.’ Staggering outside, John made it to his car, managed to get the key in the ignition. And tore out of the parking lot. As he did so, he could already hear sirens.

He needed to get away. Needed to report in, to get Sam back. Then . . . he didn’t care. If the cops caught him . . . he didn’t care. He just had to get Sam to safety. He pulled off the main road, took the back roads that he knew so well. He was on autopilot.

He was . . . numb.