Home > Far from Bliss (Nights in Bliss, Colorado)

Far from Bliss (Nights in Bliss, Colorado)
Author: Lexi Blake

 


Prologue

 

 

Bliss, CO

 

Michael Novack woke at the sound of the gun going off. Even through the murky fog that had overtaken his brain, he knew that sound.

Something had gone horribly wrong.

Where the hell was he? Why was it so hard to think?

There was another gunshot and then shouting. Fear sparked through him, wrestling with the confusion that came from the dull pounding in his head.

He forced himself to sit up, his muscles moving like he was trapped in thick mud.

He was in Colorado. He was a US marshal on a job to protect an important witness. Alexei Markov. The information was all there in his brain. If he concentrated enough, he could get it.

Alexei was former Russian mob. He was testifying against some of his syndicate’s American partners. Including a couple of dirty politicians.

He had to get to Alexei, had to do his job. He’d been eating dinner and having a beer with Jessie.

Jessie. God, where was Jessie?

Jessie was his partner. Jessie was his lover. If someone had slipped him a roofie, had they done the same to Jessie?

A vague image of Jessie handing him the beer crossed through his brain even as he looked around the tiny room they’d been sharing at the Movie Motel. Jessie had been his partner for years. She’d become his everything. His friend. His lover. One day she was going to be his wife, though she kept putting it off. She wasn’t the girliest of girls. She wasn’t the one who sat around and planned a big, gorgeous wedding. He would have to tempt her with Vegas and beers.

Yes. She’d been the one to hand him the beer.

Pain flashed through him, and he realized he’d hit his knees and was on the floor. Why wouldn’t his legs work right?

A scream sounded out but he couldn’t do anything to stop it. His muscles were useless things, and his eyes weren’t working right either. He thought he was calling out Jessie’s name but he couldn’t be sure. Where was Jessie? She was smaller than him. If she’d gotten the same dose…

Jessie had given him the beer. He could see her standing there popping the top off and smiling at him.

Hadn’t he known something had been off the last few months? Hadn’t he worried something was wrong with the woman he loved?

Darkness took him, and when he opened his eyes again, an eerie blue and red light pulsed through the room in a thin line. He’d shut the heavy curtains earlier but there was a small gap. No. Jessie had done that. He liked watching the movie while they ate. It was a quirky place they were staying at, but he enjoyed it. Jessie hadn’t wanted to watch the Doris Day movie playing on the big screen this evening. She’d promised him something far more R rated than the film.

She’d shut him off from the outside world and then handed him that beer. Why couldn’t he remember anything else?

He groaned as he pushed off from the floor. He had to talk to her, had to find out what had gone wrong. There had to be an explanation. Maybe he was mistaken about the whole thing.

“Jessie.” Her name cracked from his lips.

He forced himself to move for the door. The lights. He knew those lights. Those lights meant trouble.

Those lights meant he hadn’t done his job.

His head was starting to clear. What was he thinking? Jessie wouldn’t have drugged him. That was a ridiculous thought, and it came from all of his fucking insecurities. She wasn’t in the room therefore she was out there. Out there doing the job.

He glanced over and the shoulder holster she’d placed on the dresser earlier was gone. Panic started to thrum through him. How long had he been out? He’d heard screams and gunshots and then he’d passed out again.

He moved for the door, not even considering grabbing his own weapon. He wasn’t in his right head. He could just as likely shoot Jessie or Alexei as save them with the damn thing at this point. Besides, those lights told him the worst was probably over.

He stumbled and managed to get the door open and walked into his nightmare.

 

 

Four hours later he sat in the Bliss County Sheriff’s Office. He’d been through an exam by the very doctor who’d nearly been murdered by Jessie and then taken here to the station house to give his statement. Oh, they’d offered to do all of this in the morning, but Michael wanted to get it over with.

Nate Wright was talking but Michael barely understood what the sheriff was saying.

“According to Holly, Jessie told her she was being paid one hundred thousand dollars by a man named DiStefano to facilitate things for the professional he hired to kill Markov.”

Jessie was dead. He’d seen her body himself. He’d known it was her the minute he’d seen the body bag. He’d known she’d done all the things his lizard brain had accused her of. She’d drugged his drink. She’d popped the top off and then turned, ostensibly grabbing the rest of their dinner. But it would have been easy to slip a little pill in there while her back was to him.

Nate stopped, obviously waiting for some kind of a reply.

He didn’t have one.

“Michael, I have to ask…” Nate seemed determined to tiptoe around the real subject.

Michael simply waited. He wanted to hear Sheriff Wright say it. Needed to hear the words so they could sink in.

“Michael, did you know your partner was working for DiStefano?”

Yes, there it was. There was the question every single person he knew, had ever known, would ever know, would ask. The question that would sum up the rest of his fucking life.

“If I did, then I’m as much a criminal as she was. If I didn’t, then I’m not much of a marshal.”

Nate’s head shook. “That’s not true.”

But it was. “And she wasn’t merely my partner. She was my fiancée. I was planning to marry her. I thought I was in love with her. We spent most nights together, so I should have known.”

“She told Holly and Caleb that you didn’t know, but I had to ask the question.”

“Of course.” He felt like he was outside his body. Like he was saying words but they didn’t make sense because he was standing back and unable to feel anything. Shock. This was what shock felt like.

He’d seen it before. He’d seen it on the faces of survivors. It was the same expression on the faces of people who couldn’t believe someone they loved had done something criminal.

He’d known something was wrong with Jessie.

Or was he fooling himself again.

“Mike, you do understand that this wasn’t your fault, right?” Nate asked the question in a soothing tone, like the man was used to dealing with powder kegs and didn’t want the one sitting in front of him to go off.

What Nate didn’t understand was that he had nothing left. When he’d seen Jessie’s body, he’d howled his pain. He’d felt his body overcome with a wave of grief, and he’d let it all out.

Now he was numb. Blissfully so, in a way. It was good to stand outside of himself and feel nothing, to look at things logically.

He couldn’t go back home. He didn’t have anything to go home to. Jessie’s family had become his, and he couldn’t think about seeing them again. Not now. Oh, he would have to at some point. There would be a million questions he would have to answer, but he couldn’t go back to that house where he’d been the dumbass who let a criminal lead him around by the dick.

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