Leonidas squinted against a harsh stream of early morning sunlight out the window of his car. Rising from the low lying haze was the skyline of Atlanta. The same light reflected brilliantly off the angular glass buildings of the metropolis, making them appear to sparkle like ocean waves in the distance. He took the exit into the center of town, and the Five Points Metro Station. He had no real plan in place to find Alexis outside of casing the bus station, and expanding his search from there. He wasn't even sure what he would do when he found her. He just knew, given the condition of his father, it wouldn't be long before he would step into the rightful position of pack Alpha; the position every male in his family held since coming to America in the early eighteen hundreds. When he became pack Alpha, that prissy little bitch, Alexis, would be his... or he'd cast her out of the pack, or kill her. Regardless, she'd have no need for a mate if she couldn't submit to him.
He smiled to himself as he pulled his car into a vacant parking spot along the street in front of the Five Points Station. His decision to leave Ellijay early paid off and he'd gotten into the city before the morning traffic. Metro buses lined the street, and a few Greyhound buses filled slots along the side of the building. He imagined Alexis sleeping off her short journey at some dive motel within walking distance. She probably had no idea that he would come after her. His smile grew as he imagined how surprised she would be when he came busting into her hotel room and carted her ass right back up to Ellijay. Leonidas found the main entrance to the bus station on the side of the building. Inside the tiny office, there were schedules and routes posted on every wall, and one diminutive man wearing glasses and a sweater vest, sitting behind a partition. He asked the man about the bus from Dalton.
"The bus from Dalton came in about midnight, before my shift," the man said.
"I think my niece was on that bus," Leonidas lied. "Is there any way I can find out if she was on the passenger list?"
"Sorry Sir, I can't give that information out." The little man went back to shuffling papers at his desk behind the glass partition, trying to pretend like Leonidas' commanding presence had no affect on him.
Leonidas thought about breaking through the tiny window and grabbing the man by the throat. That would get his attention, but the man likely had the police on speed dial. He decided on a softer approach.
"Look, Sir," Leonidas forced the submissive words from his mouth. "I understand your position, but I must get some important information to my niece about a death in the family. Can you help me out?"
"I'm very sorry," the man said. "All those new regulations since nine-eleven makes it impossible to give out any information without a warrant."
Leonidas' face flushed with heat, and he fought hard against the urge to just force the information out of the man. The last thing he needed was a scene. No, he would just have to find her on his own. The man behind the glass probably wouldn't have any useful information for him anyway. He turned and left the office without another word.
He found a public phone at the front of the station along the street. Most of the pages were torn from the phone book but the hotel section was still intact. He bunched the entire section in his hand and ripped it from the phone book. After finding a long-term parking spot for his car, he grabbed his handheld GPS from its mount on the windshield and thumbed through his stack of hotel listings. A smile again stretched across his face as hope returned. He'd find Alexis, and have her back to Ellijay by that afternoon. Then, his succession to alpha would be secure and Alexis would be his mate, or she would be dead.
Sam had just opened up the bar when the bounty hunter came in. He was surprised to see Frost so early in the evening. He was just getting set up, and Becky and Paulina had not even shown up yet. He watched Frost looking around, scoping out the seating area for other customers, before walking up and taking a seat at the bar. He ordered a rum and coke, without the rum. Sam fixed his drink and thought about what Knuckles told him the night before. The bounty hunter seemed to be taking a liking to Paulina. Maybe he wouldn't have to be the one to convince Paulina to dance. Maybe he could get Frost to help.
"You took in Lefty the other night, didn't you?" He busied himself with washing glasses as he spoke.
"Yep," Frost pulled the virgin rum and coke toward himself. "Got lucky. Found him on the first night."
"It was lucky for Paulina too." Sam plunged a glass on the scrubber in the sink, placed it on a towel before grabbing another. "Although, she'll never admit it."
"You noticed that about her too?" Frost raised his eyebrows over his drink as he spoke. "She's got just a little bit of an independent streak."
"Look," he said, finally looking at Frost directly. "I know you like her. You waited around till closing time last night just so you could give her a ride home."
"I wasn't here for her," Frost said. "I was watching a new skip."
"Your new skip wouldn't happen to be Knuckles, would it?"
"Maybe, maybe not." Frost stared across the bar counter at him. "But that's my business."
Sam fell silent, going back to washing glasses. He wondered if Frost noticed, he was washing the same glasses over again. Frost held his glass with both hands, sipping it once in awhile like he was afraid of being accused of lingering.
"What do you know about Paulina," Frost asked him, as he nursed his drink.
"What's to know? She's the new waitress," Sam countered. "The rest is, how did you put it?" Sam couldn't help but smile, amused at himself. "My business."
"Fair enough." Frost went back to sipping his drink.
He realized negotiation was not the bounty hunter's strong suit. He went back to washing his glasses and wiping down the bar top for a while, but kept looking at Frost. He finally put down his towel, and grabbed the counter with both hands, leaning in close to Frost, as if he had a secret to tell.
"Look, Frost," he said. "Maybe we got off on the wrong foot." He shifted left to right as he leaned over the counter, nervous but using his own negotiating skills to his advantage. "I know you want to bring in Knuckles, but I don't want my bar torn up in the process."
"I probably wouldn't grab him in here anyway," Frost said. "You probably got nothing to worry about."
"That's just it," Sam said. "I think I do have something to worry about. Knuckles has taken a liking to Paulina too. He wants me to make her a dancer, replace Becky."
"Seems to me, that's not his decision to make." Frost took a long pull of his drink, finishing it off before finishing his statement, "Or yours."
Sam thought about it. It really wasn't his decision, but if he couldn't make it happen, he feared he might come into work one day to find his bar in smoke and ashes. He sensed Paulina liked this guy, though, and a word from him would go farther toward convincing her, then he could expect to get alone.
"Her dancing may distract Knuckles, or his thugs, long enough for you to grab him without too much resistance," Sam said, hoping he sounded more convincing to Frost than he did to himself.
"Her dancing may distract him, but I don't think he'd give up without a fight," Frost said.
"Just think about it, maybe mention it to Paulina, and see how she feels about it." Sam had an urge to look away, wash some glasses, but if he did, Frost would probably see right through his facade of trying to help.
"It could help," Frost said. "We'll see what happens."
Sam was pleased with himself. Although he couldn't see his new waitress deciding to dance on her own, at least he wouldn't be seen as the bad guy for suggesting it to her—that, and he really wanted to keep his bar. The first early customers filtered into the building, taking seats at the bar. Paulina came in next, with Becky right behind her. They both said a quick hello, and then hung around Frost, who'd taken a table near the back of the bar but along the far wall closer to the stage.
Leonidas walked around downtown Atlanta until the sun disappeared behind the tall buildings, casting a layer of shadow on the streets below. He had checked nearly every bar and hotel, covering the area in concentric circles outward from the metro station. Every place he went was another dead-end. He was beginning to wonder if maybe Alexis was not in Atlanta after all. She was smart, probably too smart for her own good. She could have done any number of things to trip him up. She could have bought a ticket, but taken a later bus into the city. She may have caught a taxi, or another bus, and found boarding somewhere near the college—it was a place she knew well. The search was taking much longer than he'd planned for, and he knew, the only way he'd find her now, is if he just happened upon her somewhere. Frustrated he wasn't finding any sign of Alexis, he gave up the search downtown, and started working his way back to the midtown metro station to get his car. From there, he'd take a drive to the college campus, visit some bars in the area, maybe stop at some hotels and boarding houses.
The bitch is mine, and she knows it.He was resolved to find her, no matter what it took. He just wasn't sure what he was going to do with her after that. As evening approached, the bars began to fill, and Leonidas took his time checking each one along the path north toward midtown.