~CHAPTER SIX~ Julie moved along the “homes” of her buddies. They weren’t friends, not really. They’d as soon stick a knife in someone’s back as to look at them. Some were all right, though. Moon and Toby were two of those she trusted to an extent. “Miss Rocky, you shouldn’t be wandering around this late. Get yourself a corner and stay there,” Moon whispered harshly at her. She hadn’t even seen him inside of his shelter. Julie was relieved. After Rodney, she didn’t want to lose anyone else. “I got you something. But you have to promise me you won’t share or let anyone else know you have it.” She handed him a shiny apple from the fruit basket she’d gotten. “Oh Miss Rocky! This is a treat. Yes, it is. An apple, a whole apple. I gotta share with my man Toby. He likes them too, he does.” Julie pulled out a second one and handed it to Moon. “I got one for him too. Plus, an orange each. Don’t go telling anyone. You know what will happen if you do. I don’t want anything happening to you.” “Yes, ma’am, they’ll steal it. Right outta my hand, they will.” He smelled the fruit as though it was manna to him, then looked up at her. “You didn’t steal this from someone, did you? They won’t be coming after old Moon for it back, will they?” “No, Moon. It’s yours fair and square.” She watched as he sniffed it again. “Moon, do you think I could bed down close to here tonight? My place is gone.” Julie stayed with Rodney most nights. They hadn’t slept together, but they had protected each other. She wasn’t even sure she could go back to their place now. Not yet anyway. “Yeah. Heard about old Rodney. Police had us all moved around that day. That butthole Sherman had me so mad that Toby had to hold me back some. Wouldn’t let us pay our respects or nothing. Shame, that. He was a good man, that Rodney. You stay here with me and Toby. We got us a new house just last week.” Julie looked at his new “home.” Someone nearby must have gotten themselves a new freezer and Toby and Moon ended up with a new house out of the deal. She was just getting settled when Toby showed up. He’d gone on for twenty minutes about the apple and orange. When they offered her the whole house in exchange for the fruit, she’d told them it was a gift and not a trade, but thanked them anyway. At sometime well after midnight, they settled down to sleep. Julie thought about leaving Molly’s home. She’d felt bad that she hadn’t thanked her. She decided to go by the hospital next week and tell her so. Julie was sure that had she stayed, Dr. Waite would have found a way to keep her from where she needed to be. She couldn’t do that, not now, not ever. The envelope that Rodney had given Molly was a surprise. Not only had Rodney found out who she was, but had also kept tabs on Julie’s family. They were still searching for her. Even after all this time.
Alyssa Howard was an heiress. Not just an heiress, but one with a brain. That was what the papers had called her when she’d graduated from Yale at fifteen with a business degree. She’d gone on to Brown University as well. She now had three degrees under her real name and had planned to use them running her daddy’s company for him. Alyssa’s father had been grooming her to run the company’s holdings when he retired. Howard Incorporated bought companies and buildings, revamped them, then sold them for a profit. They also had several hotels all over the world that catered to the rich, famous, and the small families. When Nathan Howard died suddenly when Alyssa was seventeen, he’d left her everything—over eleven billion dollars in company assets alone. Personal accounts and monies added another five billion, making Alyssa the youngest billionaire in the world. Alyssa’s brothers, Nathan the forth and Robert, both older than her, and their mother, had gotten an allowance. And Shannon and her sons were not happy about it. They were to get just over four hundred thousand a year that they would divide between them. And Alyssa held the purse strings. Samuel, her father’s brother, too, was on an allowance, but his had stipulations. Stipulations that he wasn’t happy about either.
So when they approached her with their “plan,” Alyssa ran. The plan was sick and perverted. Their plan made Alyssa Howard become a nothing. The clippings that Rodney had saved for her said that there was a reward for anyone knowing about her, living or dead. She didn’t have to wonder why Rodney hadn’t turned her in for the money. Two million dollars would have gone a long way to comfort most people. But Rodney had been her friend, almost like her father had been to her. Julie wondered what her family would think if they knew their missing daughter slept most nights under their noses. Looking across the parking lot from where she slept most nights Julie watched the guard walk the perimeter of the Howard Building, not knowing that less than fifty yards away, their boss slept. Julie snuggled down on the cardboard sheet that Toby had found for her and pulled her coat tighter around her. That’s when she thought of Dr. Cain Waite. Cain had kissed her. She’d been kissed before, she’d even had sex a couple of times when in a night of loneliness and stupidity, she’d had a classmate “do her.” Julie doubted that Cain would “do her” in quite the same way, neither would it be as clumsy and unsatisfying. Cain was gorgeous, sweet, and polite. Well, not to her really, but she had seen him around others and knew that he could be. To her, he was bossy, rude, and...well, really bossy. But he had also called her lovely. No one had called her that since her father. Julie rolled to her back, wincing at the pain. Cain was going to be so pissed when he figured out she had left. Even more so when he figured out where she’d gone. Smiling, she kind of wished she could see the look on his face when he did. Well, she thought, he’d forget about her soon enough. She was where she wanted to be, where she needed to be. ~~~ Cain wasn’t mad at Julie, he was furious. The little twit was gone. And not only was she gone, but she was hurt too. When he found her, and he had no doubt that he would, he decided that he was going to paddle her backside but good, then he was going to make love to her until she was too sated, too relaxed to leave him again. “You know that if she doesn’t want to be found, you won’t find her, don’t you? She has more aliases than I have ever heard. Half the people we talk to won’t answer us; the other half have no clue who she is,” the cop, Neil James, mused. Cait had assigned him to help Cain look for Julie and he was, frankly, driving Cain nuts. “I’m going to find her,” Cain growled for the third time in the last twenty minutes. “Have you asked those people over there? I’m going to ask them; you go over there and ask.” “Who should I tell ‘em we’re looking for? I got no idea what to call the stupid girl. Why she’d be out in this sort of weather is beyond me. I’d want to be in my…” Cain tuned him out. If he didn’t, he might choke the life out of the cop. How a person got through life as negative as Neil was beyond Cain. He walked up to the next “house” and knocked on the top.
Cain looked around the area. There were perhaps twenty men and women staying in this area of Columbus. Their homes varied as much as the people living here. Boxes from large appliances, sheets pulled over strings. Two people he’d seen so far were living in a car, the front wheels gone and the back ones flat. Most of the people were dirty and had smelled so bad that Cain was thankful they were out of doors. But others were clean, if not a little worn down. Cait had told him not to wear nice clothes when coming down here. He’d already figured that out, but he was sure her reasons were vastly different than his had been. He needed to blend in and his suit pants wouldn’t have done that. She’d also told him not to take out his cell phone or his wallet, and under no circumstances was he to give anyone money. He‘d be killed in a quick breath of air if he did. Cain could smell the man before he poked his head out of his box. He leaned down to speak to him when he looked as if he wasn’t going to come out. That’s when he saw the two oranges and the apple. The fruit basket. Cain wasn’t sure how he knew Julie had given this man the fruit, but he did. When the man noticed that Cain was looking at them, he covered the fresh fruit with his blanket and glared up at Cain. “I don’t need no preaching. I get enough of that on Wednesday when I get my free meal at the shelter on Tuesday. It’s Friday now, and I want you to peddle your wares somewhere else.” Cain was slightly confused about the timeline, but hurried on before the man went back into his shelter. “I’ll give you two more oranges and a pear if you tell me who gave you those oranges.” The man eyed Cain for what seemed an eternity and just when Cain was about to double the offer, the man spoke. He had a great deal of suspicion in his voice, but he did answer. “Pears are mighty expensive, boy. You must want her real bad. I think maybe you’d go for...three pears and four oranges. I think that’s worth some information, don’t you?” He smiled up at Cain. Cain would have bought him a crate of whatever he wanted if he led him to Julie. But now it was a matter of pride and bargaining. He knew the man wouldn’t just take the fruit. He’d seen what thinking someone was trying to give charity had made Julie feel. “All right, but two pears. As you said, they are expensive. And if this is the girl I’m looking for, I’ll give you some bananas too,” Cain said after careful consideration. The man looked at his stash then back at Cain. “She in trouble? I like Miss Rocky. She ain’t done nothing but be a good girl to me and my Toby. But a man has to eat.” Cain’s disappointment was profound. Miss Rocky wasn’t who he was looking for. He’d pay the man anyway—a deal was a deal, but he was disappointed all the same. “No, she’s not in trouble. Just...I’m sure Miss Rocky isn’t who I was looking for anyway. If you’ll wait here, I’ll go and get you your payment. You did keep your end of the bargain.” Cain stood. He was tired and thinking maybe Neil was correct. Julie didn’t want to be found. He’d been looking for two days now and still nothing. He was about to turn away when the man spoke again.
“Miss Rocky is a good girl, you know. She didn’t get mad at me when I cut her up the other week. Scared, I was, having myself a bad dream and all. All she’d been doing was telling me to get my fool self out of the rain. I sliced her belly right open, I did. I quit sleeping with the knife in my hand now. Too dangerous for an old fool like me to do that.” Cain looked around. It was her and he knew it. “Do you know where she is? That’s the girl I’m looking for.” “She’ll be back directly. Miss Sally, she got herself a nasty cut the other day and Miss Rocky went to take her to the clinic. They’ll get nasty with us when we go. Miss Rocky, she gives it right back to them. Funny thing to watch her get all up in their faces like she does.” The old man laughed. “Spouting off them rules like she done wrote them.” Cain just bet she did. He nearly smiled, then the anger surged forward. Damned girl. He was going to string her up when he found her. Then he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. But she was certainly not going to live here anymore. Cain was about to thank the man when he saw the bane of his misery coming toward him. He was glad that he’d seen her first or she might have run. But he was nearly to her when she looked up. The older woman she was helping was still walking and talking even though Julie had stopped. “Hello. Are you my Carl?” Cain looked at the older woman again, Sally, the man had called her. “No. No, not my Carl. He wasn’t as pretty as you are.” When Julie took a step back, Cain grabbed her arm. “I don’t think so, Miss Rocky. You’re coming with me. Now.” “I don’t want to. I like it here. How did you find me anyway?” Julie asked as she struggled against his grip. “Oranges. If you try to run, so help me I will chase you down and beat that beautiful ass of yours. I’m in a foul mood and—” “Well there’s a shocker! Cain Waite in a foul mood. You’ve been in one since I’ve known you.”
He felt his lips twitch. Damned girl. Cain pulled her tight to his body. “Do you think there’s a correlation there? You’ve tested my temper since I’ve met you.” “See here. You let Miss Rocky go. I don’t care how many oranges and pears you bring me. You let her go right now, boy. I will hurt you.” Cain looked at the man coming toward him. His gait was slow but sure and Cain did not want to hurt him. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, especially a man protecting the same person he was. But the older man was sporting a bat. “Julie,” Cain growled low. “Tell him to stop. Tell him I’m not hurting you. I don’t want to cause any trouble. I just want to take you home with me.” Cain waited and so did the man. Cain never took his eyes off of Julie’s face. He was sure of one thing, there was going to be a fight, but he would lay odds it wasn’t going to be with the man behind him. She looked ready to do battle and he was sure she would take skin and blood when she was finished. “It’s okay, Moon. I know him. I don’t like him or care for him overly much right now, but I know him. I have to go with him for a minute, then I—” “Moon? You know her, right? I’m trying to get her off the streets. You know this isn’t the kind of life for a pretty young woman. You tell her that she needs to come with me, please,” Cain said to Moon. Sally stepped forward. “Oh, dearie, if he wants you to get off the streets, then you should listen to him. He’s right. This ain’t no life for the likes of you. You’ll be worn down in no time and you know that Rodney would want you to. So long as he ain’t expecting you to turn tricks...you ain’t, are you, young man?” “No, ma’am, I’m not. I just want her to get off the streets and safe. Just like you do,” Cain answered. He suddenly had a thought. He wondered if that was how she had survived all these years. Cain hoped if it had been her way of life, that she had been safe. “I really, really hate you right now,” Julie said as she jerked away from him.
Cain watched as she went back toward Moon’s house. He followed her. There was no way he was letting her out of his sight again. Not now that he’d found her. Cain watched as she gathered up her few things and stuffed them into a plastic grocery bag. She had another pair of pants and a few books. Then she kissed Moon and told him to tell Toby that she’d see them both around. He reached to help her by taking the bag to carry for her. He stepped back when she growled at him. No one had ever growled at him before and it startled him somewhat. Not even that stupid dog they’d had as kids. But he was sure, in that second, he’d never been so afraid. Not that she’d kill him, but he was pretty sure she would hurt a couple of his more...private parts if he tried to reach for it again. He simply pointed the way to his car parked down the street. Julie didn’t say another word to him. Not all the way across the lot of the Howard Building’s parking lot nor when he’d opened the car door for her. He did nearly lose his fingers when she jerked her door from him and shut it before he had time to move fast enough. By the time they got to his house, he was pretty angry himself.
Stay Tune for Next Week Chapter Seven
Books In the series
THE HUNTERS -
1 ROYCE – http://smarturl.it/royce
2 CURTIS – http://smarturl.it/curtis
3 JESSE – http://smarturl.it/jessethehunters
4 DANIEL- http://smarturl.it/danielthehunters
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Kathi S Barton
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