Beyond the Breaking Point - Lori Sjoberg Page 0,1

you American?” The question came in softly spoken Spanish. Her voice carried a slight Southern accent. North Carolina, or maybe Virginia.

Fuck, she wanted to talk. To him. In a way, he supposed it made sense. He may be a freak, but he was the only gringo in the bar. Hell, the only gringo in town. It was the only possible explanation for why she’d chosen him, of all people. Usually, his size served as a deterrent, and if that didn’t work, the scars on his face did the trick.

Unfortunately, they hadn’t worked today.

Then again, the blonde was seated to his right. Perhaps she simply hadn’t seen them. He twisted his head toward her, making sure the entire left side of his face was in full view when he answered her question with a simple, “Yes.”

Her shoulders slumped on an audible exhale, her expression giving no indication that she’d noticed the cross-shaped scar that went from one side of his cheek to the other and from just below his eye to the edge of his beard. “Oh, thank God. Listen, my name is—”

“No,” he said with a subtle shake of his head. “This isn’t the kind of place where real names are used.”

Her pale eyebrows drew together. “Then what am I supposed to call you?”

He drained the last of his beer and set the empty glass on the bar. “I don’t give a shit. Use whatever floats your boat.”

“Okay, Tiny.”

He pegged her with his best hard look, and she didn’t so much as flinch. Feisty little thing, wasn’t she? Any other time, he might have found it amusing. But right now it just annoyed him.

Clearly, she wasn’t going anywhere until she said whatever was on her mind. Wade held two fingers up to the bartender, and the dark-skinned man in tan pants and red checkered shirt poured two shots of tequila. Wade slid one toward the woman.

She shook her head. “I don’t drink tequila.”

“You do now.” He tipped his head toward the shot glass. “People in bars who don’t drink attract attention. Is that what you want?”

Not waiting for a response, Wade downed his shot, and the burn of cheap tequila scorched a trail down his esophagus. Then he gave the woman an expectant look, and she stared down at the glass as though it contained strychnine.

With obvious dread, she picked up the glass, her nails short and ragged. After a brief hesitation, she tipped back the shot, her throat muscles moving as she swallowed the alcohol.

Eyes watering, she sputtered. “Oh, that’s disgusting.”

Yeah, it was an acquired taste, like raw oysters, black licorice, and conversations with total strangers. “It gets easier with repetition.”

She pushed the glass away. “I’ll take your word for it.”

The front door creaked open again, and this time two police officers stepped into the bar. One was thin, the other stocky. Both appeared to be in their early twenties, which wasn’t surprising considering the short shelf life of cops in this part of the country. They wore midnight-blue uniforms, with old school Berettas and collapsible batons tucked in their weapons belts.

At the sight of them, all conversation stopped; the only sound in the room came from the television. Neither officer spoke; they just looked around as though searching for someone in particular. The thin one looked to the bar, pointed at the blonde, and said, “Señora.”

The woman tried to act casual as she turned her head away from the policemen, but the pounding pulse at the base of her throat told a totally different story.

Wade stared at her for a second or two, annoyed with himself for not being able to read her better. He used to be pretty good at that shit, but the skill had dulled from disuse. “What kind of trouble are you in?”

“I’m not—I mean—” She blew out a breath. “It’s complicated.”

Wasn’t it always? “Did you kill anybody?”

“What? No.”


“No, of course not.”

“Señora.” It was the policeman again, a little louder and more insistent this time. When she didn’t answer, the pair started toward the bar.

Panic widened her eyes as the color drained from her face. He’d seen that look a thousand times before, mostly from people he was about to arrest. The classic cornered animal.

It wasn’t his business.

She wasn’t his problem.

Not to mention, getting involved could raise his profile and potentially fuck up his op. And yet…he couldn’t stand idly by and watch her get detained by the police. In this part of the country, nearly every level of law enforcement had been corrupted