A scream of terror ripped free from my mouth before I started using my fists and nails to free myself.
I found my arms easily captured and I opened my eyes to face my doom. I blinked in confusion for several seconds before I found my voice. “What are you doing here?!”
My arms were pinned down by Char, dressed in a tuxedo with her hair swooped back. There was a cut underneath her eye from where my nails caught her. “You said if things didn’t work out to come to Vegas. I guess I should have figured with all your mysterious ways that the China Doll would end up being you.”
She let me go and I became aware of several things all at once. “I never told you my name, toots.”
She realized her blunder and put her hands up defensively. “Look, I know you must be completely freaking out right now, but I just want to help you.”
“You help me?” I snarled, looking around for anything that could be used as a weapon. “Just a few days ago you were a defenseless little puppy dog who could hardly handle a pocket knife, and now you think you can help me?”
“Nixie, please—“she took a step towards me.
“Stop talking to me and back off or so help me I will hurt you!” I screamed, causing her to back up a few paces.
Startling me further, Vance and a few of his men kicked in the door with their guns out. Char seized my moment of distraction and tackled me to the floor.
“Get off of me, you crazy bitch! Vance, help me!” I shrieked and squirmed beneath Char but couldn’t shake her off. I guess this was Karma for catching her off guard in the car.
“Is it just you two up here?” Vance asked Char, completely ignoring me. The men he came with were making quick work of securing the penthouse.
“Yeah, I managed to get here just in time, she threw herself off of the balcony!” said Char angrily.
“You two know each other?” I asked incredulously, my shock stilling my attempts to get free.
“Let her up, Charlize,” said Vance, grabbing one of my arms to help me stand. “Baby gal, I know you’ve got a lot of questions but they’re going to have to wait. Do you trust me?”
I glared hatefully at Char, but nodded.
“Mr. Wolffe is on his way up but we’re not going to let him get you. My men and I are going to hold him off and Char is going to take you somewhere safe. It doesn’t look like you care for her much, but for now I need you to trust her as well.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but snapped it shut without saying a word. Abe was coming. “Let’s go then,” I said grudgingly to Char.
She nodded hesitantly and made for the door. “There’s a car waiting for us in the garage, but we’ve got to move quickly. Wolffe’s men are everywhere.”
“Charlize, call me when you two are safe,” said Vance, loading up his glock. “Don’t worry, Nixie gal, we’ve got your back.”
Without a word, I followed Char through the halls as fast as I could. I was cooperating for the moment, but once we got into the car she was in for a nasty treat. We took the stairs and before we made it into the garage we heard the muffled roar of gunfire from the floors above. Char grabbed my arm and hurled through the garage door, pulling me into the dark safety beyond.
We ran towards a dark sports car that was already running in the corner.
“Get in the passenger side,” said Char, jumping up to slide over the hood of the car before hopping into the driver’s seat.
I rolled my eyes and entered the car, slamming the door shut behind me. Char pressed the gas hard and we took off down the strip heading west. She glanced behind her only once and let out a sigh of relief once she saw no one was following us.
“It’ll take a few hours before we get to our destination. Do you want to put some tunes on or…what?!” She demanded, once she saw the look on my face.
“Don’t ‘what’ me,” I snapped angrily. “You know good and well ‘what’, so spill the beans, Char—if that’s even your real name!”
Char ran a hand through her hair in agitation. “I don’t even know where to start…”
“Okay, how about you start with how you know my name.”
“You’re my charge, it’s my job to know everything about you,” she said softly, not looking at me.
“Wow, Captain Cryptic, please elaborate,” I growled.
“I know this is going to be hard for you to accept, but I’ve known who you were since you started working for Wiseacre. You were placed as my charge when we became aware that you were on the run from Abraham Wolffe.”
I let the words sink in. “Who is ‘we’ and why do you care about my relationship issues?”
Char snorted. “This is hardly a relationship issue, Nixie. He’s dangerous. How did you even get mixed up with a guy like him, anyway?”
I bit down hard on my bottom lip and looked out the window, not liking that the questioning had been turned to me. “I’ve been with him since I was 13. He wasn’t always like this.”
“Something that you have to understand is that he’s always been a monster, you just couldn’t always see it.”
“What do you know?” I spat. “Just because you’ve apparently been watching us from afar like we’re some kind of freak show doesn’t mean you can presume to know who we are.”
Char looked me over warily before looking back to the road. “Vance was right, you do still love him.”
“I just told Vance that so he wouldn’t try to shoot Abe and get himself killed,” I said in disgust.
“That’s what you think, but your quickness to defend him says something else.”
“Shut up about me!” I yelled, losing control of my temper. “Explain to me exactly what the hell you were doing in the motel when I met you, because if you’re the good guy in all this I’m having trouble understanding why you pulled a knife on me.”
Char coughed nervously. “That was a fluke. I, uh, was actually spying on you…there was no girlfriend. I know from past experience that you are, like I said previously, a badass. I just didn’t expect you to break into my car. So I pulled the pocket knife to scare you into stopping the car so I could take control of the situation, I never meant to harm you.”
“You’re an idiot,” I mumbled, rubbing my temples. “I have a hell of a lot more questions for you, but I’m starving. Can we pull over and grab a quick bite?”
“You’re not going to try to cut and run are you?” she asked suspiciously.
I rolled my eyes again. “Yeah right, and go where? With the whole world following me I don’t think I’d get very far. I just interrogate better on a full stomach.”
“I’ll stop at the nearest dive,” Char conceded. “Um, in the meantime there’s a bag in the backseat with some of your stuff in it…you might want to put some clothes on.”
The last of my adrenaline rush wore off and I realized I was still in my underwear and argyle socks.