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domainkaufmann > The Mercenary: Skewed > Part 12
I nodded. "Yep, but it turned out I liked to shoot people too much." I gave a shrug. "I was fired, but like I said, I'd made some contacts by then, and word got out that I was good at taking people out. So I became a hired gun. Money was better, and I could work my own hours." I threw her a wink, and then instantly regretted my blase gesture. Her sister had been kidnapped by these people, and were after her blood, too. This wasn't a winking moment.

"You know, I don't get along with cops," she said finally.

"You don't get along with anyone," I quipped.

My words dragged a small laugh from her throat. "You have a point there."

"And anyway," I continued. "I'm not a cop anymore, so we're good?"

She pointed at me, and then back to herself. "Apart from the 'trying to kill me' part, and the 'me stabbing you' part?"

I shrugged again. "I'm not one to hold a grudge if you're not."

"Oh, I hold grudges. I'm like an Olympic champion at holding grudges, but I don't think I've got much choice but to let this one go for the moment."

I risked a smile. "Good."

I noticed how tired she looked, drained. Neither of us had slept in the past twenty-four hours, and I'd only had a couple of gulps of water. I doubted she'd had much more. If we were going up against someone like Tony the Hound, we needed to be feeling stronger than we currently were. I told myself this thought had gone through my head because of the practical issue of needing to be alert, and not because seeing Vee looking emotionally and physically exhausted had twisted something in my chest. I wasn't used to caring about other people-it was something I'd avoided, to the point of being unsure if it was something I'd even be able to do anymore.

I'd gone my whole life staying emotionally unconnected to anyone. I knew the reason why. My past had made me block off all connection, knowing that emotional attachment only meant pain. I felt like Vee had done the same thing, only not to the same extent. She obviously cared for her sister, even if she felt the emotion wasn't returned. I thought she was wrong on that point. I didn't know her sister, but anyone who had that amount of hatred for a family member did so because they still cared. Her sister acted as though she hated her because she was so badly hurt by what had happened. Had Nickie looked up to Vee, and seeing her do what she had meant she'd not only lost her mother in such a horrific way, she'd also lost the image she'd nurtured of her sister? I knew this because when I thought of my own 'family,' all I felt was a cold numbness.

I reached out and touched Vee's leg, my fingertips resting lightly on her jean-clad thigh, commanding her attention. "Let's keep going a little farther until we come to a rest stop. I know you want to get to your sister, but we're not going to be any good to her if we're both exhausted and weak from lack of food."

Her gaze moved from me and dropped to where my hand touched her leg.

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