Axel reaches my table and clears his throat.
I turn to him. He gestures to the girl to be brought forward.
“Ms. Doe. Liza’s sister,” he says, sounding almost bored.
I shift my gaze to meet the girl’s frightened one and all I can think for a moment is how her almond-shaped eyes match the color in my glass so perfectly.
Pretty. Very pretty.
With smooth olive skin and hair so dark it’s almost black.
The photo I saw didn’t do her justice.
“Let her go. She’s not going anywhere, are you, sweetheart?”
I don’t expect an answer.
When they release her, she brings the huge bag that was apparently on her shoulder in front of her.
She’s clutching it like armor between herself and me.
“Get rid of that.” I gesture with a quick nod of my head to the tote. I want to see the rest of her.
When one of the men reaches to take it, she pulls back, hisses at him. Actually hisses.
I chuckle, sip from my glass, and watch, surprised to be entertained.
In the background, I register the gavel coming down once. Twice. The number is making me very happy.
When the bag is gone, she looks back at me, her face flushed. She doesn’t seem to know what to do with her hands but eventually closes her fingers over the back of the chair in front of her.
At least she’s not making a spectacle of herself. Not yet, anyway. Not that anyone here would help her if she made a run for it.
She’s wearing a heavy jacket. Too heavy for this time of year.
“Are you Mr. Hawk? I think there’s been a mistake.”
Axel mutters a curse under his breath, takes her arm, pulls out the chair she’s gripping and puts her in it.
“That’s better,” I say.
He stands to the side, leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest. His eyes narrow as he scans the crowd and they fall on one man in particular.
I look at the man, make note of who it is.
“Errand?” I ask him.
He turns to me, gives me one brief nod.
“I’ll take care of this,” I say to him. “Go.”
He looks at me. “You sure?”
I glance at the pretty girl sitting stiffly across from me and give him a one-sided grin. “I don’t think Ms. Doe will give me any trouble, will you?”
She just stares at me.
Axel chuckles. He makes his way through the crowd and it’s like the parting of the sea as he approaches. Which is why he works for me. He’s one mean son of a bitch. It’s good to have him on my side.
The noise of the crowd intensifies as Calla is removed from the stage and the curtains are closed. It’ll be a little while before the next one is put on the block.
I turn my full attention to the woman before me.
“Hawk,” I say.
“Just Hawk. Not Mr. Hawk.”
“Melissa Doe. Strange name.”
“This is a mistake.” She reaches into the giant tote, which is lying at her feet.
One of the soldiers puts a hand on her shoulder, stopping her.
I give him a shake of my head.
He steps back.
I don’t think she’ll pull a gun out of the thing. She’s not the type to even own one.
She gives him a nasty look and resumes digging around to pull out her wallet. “Look,” she says, opening it, taking out her driver’s license and holding it out for me to see. Her hand trembles. “My last name is Chase. You’ve made a mistake.”
When I reach to take the license, she pulls it away. I raise my eyebrows and hold out my hand, palm up.
She looks at it, and, very reluctantly, puts the driver’s license in it.
“I don’t know you. I don’t know—”
“You’ll get to know me,” I say without looking up, studying the license instead, turning it over. “This isn’t a very good fake. You’ve never been pulled over?”
“What?” She flushes, eyes huge and panicked. “It’s not fake.” Her voice is a little higher.
I tuck it into my jacket pocket.
“That’s mine,” she starts weakly.
Without taking my eyes off her, I raise my hand and one of the servers comes over with an empty crystal tumbler. I pour whiskey into it, push it toward Melissa and think how much I like the sound of her name. It’s soft and sexy and her lips are full, and I can smell the fear coming off her and fuck, I take a deep breath in because nothing—and I mean nothing—gets my dick hard as that sweet scent.
“Drink,” I say.
“My driver’s license.”
“You’ll get it back. Drink.”
Trembling hands come to the table, one moving to take the tumbler.
She looks at it.
I look at her. At thick lashes concealing those pretty eyes from me. A lock of wavy, dark hair falls out of its messy bun on the top of her head. She tucks it behind her ear as she brings the glass to her nose and sniffs.