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Drive Her

By Bridget Midway



Description

Russell Griffing had it all. As Crush Crandall's head hatchet man in his crew, no one messed with him, therefore no one got to Crush. Even though his mother has written him off as a lost cause for running with a rough crowd, Russell knows he can do more with his life. His boss's wife thinks so, too, when she offers him the opportunity of a lifetime to be the boss at one of her businesses. Russell could see the light at the end of the tunnel until he got distracted.

Even though ten years older than her, Victoria Crandall has had a crush on Russell Griffing since first meeting him at the age of sixteen. When he rebuffs her advances citing her young age, she figures out a way to get his attention. Right after midnight when she turned eighteen years old, she takes a racy picture of herself and sends it to Russell as he's working an illegal job for her father. Little did she know that the picture would keep him distracted so much that he's caught off guard when police show up and arrest him.

After twelve years in prison, Russell is ready to collect money owed to him by his former boss. When that falls through, he now is looking for a bit of payback. When Crush asks him to pick his daughter up from the airport, Russell is only too happy to do so if only to get close enough to her to hurt her after Crush lied to him. When Victoria makes him an even better deal to keep her away from her father for the weekend, he decides to work for her if only to get close enough to make her pay for her father's lies. The more time he spends with her, the more he realizes how the old feelings he had for her never went away.

Victoria never thought she would see Russell Griffing again after her impetuous picture. Now that she fears her father may betray her to capture her decease mother's businesses, she needs an ally to help her. There could be no better one than Russell. But can she trust him to keep her safe, especially when she reveals an important aspect of his incarceration? Can Russell forget about the past to embrace a new future? Can love drive these two together?


Ratings


Excerpt

Chapter One

“Man, you don’t appreciate good torture.”

Russell Griffing had to be thankful he had his back to his associate Lenny and to the guy they had strapped to a chair in a vacant warehouse. They couldn’t see Russell hiding a bit of laughter.

“Isn’t the term good torture an oxymoron?” Russell hiked his pants leg up with his gloved hands to remove his favorite blade.

The man strapped in the chair screamed. As much as he could, he flailed his hands in between gripping the arms of the chair. Even with his ankles strapped to the legs of the chair, he managed to rock himself back and forth until he toppled to the floor.

Lenny laughed and clapped his hands. The sound echoed throughout the expansive but empty space. “Fucking idiot.” Then he looked up at Russell. “I’m not picking his ass up.”

“Leave him.” Russell sighed and shook his head. “I told you we should have gagged him.”

Lenny shrugged. “Ain’t nobody out here, man.”

“The screaming interrupts my flow.” Russell approached the poor white dude who had blood still dripping onto the floor from his mouth and nose, and from the cuts on his forehead, thanks to a sudden meeting between him, Russell and Lenny.

Lenny held up his hands, also covered in black leather gloves. “Lord knows, you don’t want to mess with your flow, man.”

Russell stood in front of their victim and cocked his head to look at his face. Although he didn’t want to, he bent over and hoisted him back up to a sitting position. The response had nothing to do with kindness or decency. Russell had a job to do. He needed to do it easily.

From where Russell lorded over him, he saw pieces of this victim’s brown hair matted together from dried blood and dirt from the dusty floor. Russell had slammed this idiot’s head into a brick wall pretty hard when they had found him. To the guy’s credit, he still had enough strength to get up and try to run away. Mistake.

Staging Lenny at the end of the alley when Russell had confronted this man prevented Russell from having to chase after this dude. Now Russell and Lenny had him in a familiar spot to collect payment for their boss, Crush Crandall.

“Please don’t do this.” Fat tears rolled down the man’s face. “I have a wife. Kids.”

“Was the wife the woman you were fucking in the bathroom when I found you?” Russell snickered. “You sure know how to romance a lady.” He crouched down in front of him. “And were you thinking about your kids each time you placed a fucking bet and lost so you can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads or clothes on their backs or food in their stomachs?”

Memories of Russell’s past came flooding into his head until punching this guy’s face over and over again helped relieve some of that anger.

“Oh, God.” In between punches, the man shook his head. “Stop. Please. I’m sorry. Shit. I’m sorry.” He shook his head, spraying blood that poured from his mouth over his face and onto the floor. “I know I fucked up. If I could take it back, I would.”

Russell had longed to hear those words from other people in his life. Hearing them from this loser didn’t take away his pain. He kept pummeling the asshole’s face until his arm became sore from the repetitive motion, and the tight knuckles over his fist throbbed.

Russell had temporarily forgotten the first rule Crush had taught him in this business: Don’t make it personal. Ordinarily, Russell didn’t. He could kick a guy’s ass and not blink an eye. Maybe getting close to thirty had something to do with his recent shift. Or maybe for once he needed some retribution. Taking this asshole down a peg or two would give him some sort of payback.

Each time he inhaled deeply, dust flew into his nostrils. The smell reminded him of the old house he had lived in as a kid, the same place he couldn’t take his friends to after school. The same one he couldn’t wait to leave as soon as he could. The dirt and stench and roaches that existed in that warehouse now brought him back to a time he tried so hard to forget.

Russell felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Lenny through the red haze of anger and fear, fear of going back to the life he had before. He couldn’t do that.

“Save up that strength for what we came to do.” Lenny nodded toward the guy. “Besides, we still have somewhere to go after this.”

“The other job tonight?” Russell backed up to collect himself.

“That and the thing for Miss Eloise.”

Although Russell and Lenny worked directly for Crush, they would do anything for Crush’s wife, Eloise, and not because the woman could come off as a second mother. She could be just as ruthless and deadly as Crush. She did her dirt with style.

“Do you know if Crush will have some talent there?” It had been a couple of days since Russell felt the touch of a woman. That needed to be rectified and quickly.

That part of Crush’s advice of not making things personal Russell could adhere to without issue. He didn’t need a steady girlfriend. As long as he could get someone to fuck him or suck him, he had no problems. Anything else would complicate his life. He didn’t need anything fucking up his flow in that arena either.

“Supposed to be some hotties there. I plan to get my dick wet.” Lenny nodded before directing his attention to their job. “You ready to do this?”

The man stared at Russell for a beat before his swollen eyes closed and his chin quivered. “Please. I didn’t mean to—”

Russell waved his knife back and forth. The absentminded gesture got his point across. Crush’s client’s eyes went wide and he attempted to scoot back but couldn’t.

“I know. No one ever means to fuck people who extend a bit of kindness to them. But that’s where we are.” Russell held up his knife close to the man’s face, letting the little bit of light coming through the window shine against the blade. “So we’re going to ask you again.” He pointed to Lenny.

“We got to step this up, man.” Lenny tapped on his watch. 

Russell nodded. “Do you have Crush Crandall’s money?” He shrugged. “That’s all we want. We get that and we’ll leave you alone.”

The man’s tears mixed with the snot rolling from his nose and the blood covering his face along with the sweat that poured from his forehead. “Please. There’s no way I can get fifty thousand together in the amount of time that—”

Russell didn’t wait to hear any more excuses. In one swift move, he brought his blade down, chopping off the man’s thumb. He had become accustomed to hearing his blade slice through the air before it thwacked through flesh and bone in one easy slice. It still amazed him that it sounded like a swish in the air and a butcher’s chop when it hit skin.

Blood squirted from the open wound onto Russell’s pants and shoes like a bad Jackson Pollock painting.

“Fuck! Now I’ll have to go home and change.” Russell glared at the wet, shiny streak against the bottom half of his black pants. He would also have to get rid of this clothing that would definitely be used as evidence if this idiot actually went to the police.

“Yeah, you can’t roll up in Miss Eloise’s party with blood all over you. She’s not having that.”  Lenny waved his hand in the air at him.

The screaming emitted from the man could have cracked the remaining windows in the place. The shrieking disturbed resting pigeons in the open rafters. They cooed and flew around in a sloppy, circular pattern over the men’s heads. When any of them needed freedom, it slipped through one of the open broken windows at the top.

Russell wiped his blade against the guy’s shirt, smearing blood over the light-colored fabric. He glanced down at the floor to see a pale, blood-covered thumb. That hadn’t been the worst thing Russell had ever seen.

Russell sheathed his knife back into its leg holster. Then he retrieved a key from his pocket. He spoke to the man as he released the cuff on his injured hand. “Understand that this does not make up your payment.”

When Russell released his wrist, he put the handcuff key in his palm and wrapped the guy’s bloody fingers around it.

“Shit. Shit. You chopped off my thumb.” The man trembled. “Oh my God.” Chunky vomit projected from his mouth onto the floor next to and over the dismembered appendage.

Shock. Russell had seen that, too.

“Listen to me.” Russell waited to speak until he got some eye contact. When the client continued staring at his dissected digit on the floor, Russell slapped his face hard. “Do I have your attention now?” His palm tingled as much as his knuckles ached.

The man looked up and nodded. “Y-y-yes, sir. Yes, sir.”

“Good.” Russell took a deep breath. “Crush is willing to grant you a week’s extension for his money. If he doesn’t get it then, my associate and I will pay you another visit. Next time it won’t be just a thumb. It might be a hand, a foot, maybe that limp dick of yours.” He leaned down to get eye to eye with him. “Or maybe we’ll go after your wife and kids. Don’t fuck with Crush and we won’t fuck with you. Understand?”

He nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“I’ve given you the key. You can undo your restraints.” Russell snickered. “Good luck doing that without a thumb, though.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh.” He patted his hands over the man’s chest and pants pockets until he found his cell phone. Russell removed it and waved it in front of him. “I’ll hold onto this. I’m sure you can make the walk to get some help. It’s five miles to the nearest business or payphone. I’m sure you won’t bleed out by then.” He patted his shoulder. “Good doing business with you.” Then he looked at Lenny. “You ready?”

“Been ready.”

Russell walked out of the dilapidated warehouse toward his expensive SUV, a far cry from the piece-of-shit ride he had to share with his mother, chauffeuring his little brother to and from school and football practice.

He put his hand on the hood before he moved around to the driver’s side. “Shit. I just had my baby cleaned. I don’t want to sit in it with that asshole’s blood all over me.”

“You ain’t getting in my ride.” Lenny snickered. “I told you to start wearing those painter’s coveralls.”

“That shit is not sexy. I have to maintain my look.” Russell unlocked his door. Before getting inside, he tossed the man’s phone as far as he could into the body of water by the warehouse. “You know what?” He removed his pants and shoes and stuffed them into a plastic bag he had in his vehicle.

“What the fuck, man?” Lenny chuckled first as he stared at Russell.

“My home is private. Nobody will see me getting out.” He jumped into the driver’s side.

“Do the speed limit and obey every traffic sign. You definitely don’t want to get pulled over.” Lenny laughed.

“I’ll see you at the party.” Russell started to speed off to the main road.

By the time he got to the main street, he did as Lenny advised and obeyed the speed limit and traffic signs. He would have blown through every red light before tonight. Now Russell even slowed down and stopped at the yellow lights. He didn’t need any police problems tonight…or any night.

He pulled up to the front of his two-story brick home in an area of Virginia Beach that he used to envy each time he walked by it to go anywhere. Long windows decorated the front of the home so that anyone that drove in front of his fairly secluded home would see the impressive large chandelier hanging from the tall pitched ceiling.

Russell hopped out of his ride and grabbed the bloody clothes from the back area before he went into his home. Thanks to the regular cleaning service he employed, his home smelled like flowers, a far cry from the dust and dirt stench he had just left. The aroma could have come from the large flower arrangement trumpeting from a crystal vase sitting on a circular table near the front door.

He liked little touches like the flowers that he had around his home. It reminded him that just because he came from nothing, didn’t mean he had to look like it.

Russell padded up the marble staircase to his bedroom where he stripped out of his boxers as he kept walking and entered his en suite bathroom. He hit the light switch next to the doorway to illuminate the expansive room.

He’d always imagined having a bathroom that would look like it would be worthy enough for some rap guy to have. He even had a Scarface poster hanging in his bedroom.

Russell stepped into his walk-in shower stall and turned on the water, which rained balmy streams of water from five showerheads above him. The only thing that would make this moment complete would be to have a sexy woman or women washing him. That would be breaking his other rule, though. Never bring a chick back to his place.

He didn’t mind fucking a random woman at her place or a hotel, his preferred location. He would be damned if after his hard work he would let some woman in looking to score a meal ticket.

Russell stood still under the hot pellets, letting it wash away his day, his actions. He didn’t bother looking down at the drain by his feet to see if he could see any blood swirling down. He knew what he had done, what he had to do. He kept his eyes closed and relaxed under the calming shower, taking a couple of deep breaths to ease his mind for the rest of the night.

He only opened his eyes when he heard his phone ringing. “Damn.”

Russell suspected the call came from Lenny, reminding him that they had a party to attend, and Miss Eloise didn’t stand for tardiness.

Done with the shower anyway, Russell turned off the water and opened the glass door to get a towel. He rubbed his feet over the plush mat by the shower before wrapping the large, white towel around his waist to retrieve his phone. When he saw the name on the screen, he answered it immediately.

“Mom?” Russell ran his hand over his still dripping wet hair.

“It’s me.”

Russell exhaled when he heard his baby brother’s voice. “What are you doing at Mom’s place?”

Quinton, like Russell, hated the house they grew up in, and wanted out as soon as he could. “Making sure the power company cuts her lights back on after I paid her bill.”

Russell squeezed his eyes shut. “She needs to leave that place and come stay with me. I have plenty of room.”

Quinton’s snickering could be heard through the phone. “You know that’s not going to happen.”

Russell nodded. “I know. Dirty money.” He turned and leaned his ass against the counter. “You’ve graduated college and gotten a fancy new job now. Why doesn’t she—”

Quinton cut Russell off. “Mom has already told me several times that she is not going to be a burden on her kids. I’ve practically begged her to move in with me. It’s a tiny one-bedroom apartment, but I don’t mind sleeping on the couch in the living room. Hell, you and I have slept in worse places.”

Russell didn’t want to remember those times.

“You know you can stay with me, too.” Russell wiped the dripping water from his eyes. “Mom wouldn’t let you move in with me as soon as I moved out since you were still in high school. That doesn’t mean I still don’t want to look out for you.”

Quinton let out an exasperated breath. “You know I can’t do that.” He raised his voice. “I’m trying to start up a business. If banks find out about what you do…”

Russell’s gut tightened when he caught his own brother’s disappointed tone in his voice. No. Not disappointment. Shame. Quinton started to slide in on the side with Belle.

“Fine. I can foot you the money to—”

“No.” Quinton’s snappy answer left an uncomfortable pause between them before he spoke again. “I’m going to do things my way. I’ll let you know if I need help.”

Russell nodded like Quinton could see him. “How did you know her power got cut off?”

Quinton sighed hard. “I visit regularly. You know, you can, too. You still live in the same city.”

Russell shook his head. “Last time I did, Mom wouldn’t let me in the house.” Not that he wanted to go in there in the first place. “I want to take care of her. I offered to buy her a house in a better location. I would handle her bills. She wouldn’t have to work another day in her life.”

He looked around his grand home and suddenly felt like an asshole for living so well when his own mother had no power.

“You don’t get it.” Quinton cleared his throat as though he needed to be clear to make his next point. “She wants nothing to do with you or your money if you’re still doing the same thing you’re doing.”

Russell turned off the heated floor feature when he felt his natural body heat rising. “Don’t fucking judge me. I make a good living. I’m not living with rats and roaches anymore.”

“Not the animal and insect kind. You deal with a different kind of vermin.”

Russell pushed himself away from the counter to stand on his own two feet. “And if you go in business for yourself, you will, too. Believe me. No matter what you do, there are snakes everywhere. I’m just trying to make sure you don’t get snapped in a trap.”

“Who are you on the phone with?”

Russell heard Belle Griffing in the background. His heart accelerated as though the strict disciplinarian he remembered growing up could still see him. He even stood up straighter like he used to when he lived with her.

“It’s Russell, Mom.” Quinton’s voice sounded muffled like he had placed the phone against his body.

Russell heard some rustling on the other end like his mother had taken the receiver from Quinton.

“Let him live his crooked life.” Belle sounded like she growled the words.

Instead of a salutation, Russell heard a distinct click before a dial tone buzzed through his phone.

“Damn it.” Russell closed his cell phone and tossed it on the counter.

He braced his hands on the granite counter and looked at himself in the mirror. No matter what his mother and uptight brother thought, Russell knew he did what he did to make a better life for himself. Nothing wrong with being selfish, although if his mother knew what he had done tonight, she would have done more than hang up on him.

He couldn’t concern himself with that now. He had a party to attend with people not related to him, but who treated him better than his own family.

Russell dried himself off completely before he stepped into his walk-in closet and put on pants fresh from the dry cleaners, and his favorite shirt. He had to look good for Eloise’s party. Then he thought about the rest of the evening. He had a bag of clothes and shoes he would have to take to a nearby dump where he had made some close connections in order to incinerate to destroy evidence. He didn’t want to have to do the same thing with this outfit in case things didn’t go as planned.

After glancing down at his Rolex, he realized that he didn’t have time to rethink his clothing choices. He had to go. He had to party before he did the deal of a lifetime.