Blade glared at Kai. “Really? You sure about that?” He raised his voice. The words were for me. The attitude for Kai.
I couldn’t stop myself. I looked over. Kai was ignoring Blade, his gaze focused solely on me.
I swallowed over a lump.
This wasn’t going to end well, but having said that, no one had died. Yet.
I motioned to the woman in front of Blade. “Who is she?”
He shot me a look. “No one.”
I frowned. She wasn’t no one, but he gave me a second meaningful look and ooh now he wanted to wait till later to talk. I rolled my eyes. Fine. I’d grown accustomed to riding long hours in silence.
But this time we only rode an hour and a half before the van pulled onto a gravel road, then paused. The door to a large warehouse opened, and we drove inside. The warehouse door closed at the same time the van door opened. Three guards were there to greet us.
Kai got out first, going off with one of his men, their heads bent together.
The guards got out, and one by one, we were led out after.
Blade was taken to a corner, with four men guarding him.
They took me to a different corner, on the completely opposite side of the warehouse. Four guards also stood by me. The woman was left in the middle of the floor, with four guards taking point around her in a square. Someone pulled the van around to face toward the door, probably for a quick getaway if necessary.
Then we waited.
Minutes ticked by.
My body ached. The adrenaline from the hotel, then the nerves and the fighting in the elevator—it was all hitting me. I was thirsty. My stomach cramped from hunger, and I struggled to keep my head up.
One of the men must’ve noticed, because a guard brought over a blanket and bottle of water. He left them at my side, along with a second blanket folded up to use as a pillow. I felt guilty because they didn’t offer the same luxury to Blade or the woman, but it was a battle to keep my head from resting there.
The minutes kept trickling by, and I gave up the fight.
I fell asleep.
? ? ?
“Are you sure?”
A male voice was near my head.
A second male voice, “Yes. It’s the same woman.”
“She was with Riley’s friend.”
Not a question, a statement of fact. It was Kai talking, and he sounded confused.
I tried opening my eyes. I wanted to ask who he was talking about and then— Darkness.
? ? ?
“I don’t know anything!”
That was Blade.
I bolted upright, my heart pounding in my chest.
He was surrounded by Kai and more guards. I only had one with me now.
Seeing me awake, he cleared his throat. “She’s up.”
Kai immediately turned for me, coming back. He strode around the woman, whose head hung almost to the ground. Her hands were behind her back, but still not tied up. Her legs were crisscrossed in front.
Her position looked painful.
Kai ignored her. He knelt before me, looking me over. “You’re okay?”
My chest clenched. I was his prisoner. He shouldn’t talk to me with that amount of concern.
“I’m fine. Just tired.”
He studied my face before nodding, and he stood up. “Come on.” He took my arm, helping me stand. He picked up my water bottle and the two blankets and took me over to the van. He opened the back door.
A bed had been made there, and there was another water bottle and some crackers waiting.
“You can rest here while we get some answers.”
Blade glared at me from across the room, but it wasn’t as heated as earlier.
Kai waited for me to climb in.
“My friend?” I asked softly.
“Will be fine. It’s the woman we’re figuring out. You sure you don’t know her?”
There was an edge in his voice. I gave him a more sharpened look. “What are you saying?”
“It would be beneficial if your friend told you how this woman came to help him. It would be beneficial for him…and you.”
A wall moved back in place over Kai’s face. He wasn’t letting anything show, but I’d been around him long enough to know that wall was something. When he had to make a hard decision, when he was about to do something he knew others wouldn’t like, that wall showed up.
I pressed my lips together and looked back to Blade. “I can ask him, but he won’t tell me if he thinks you’re listening.”
“I can bring him over here. You can both eat.”
“No.” I shook my head. “Let us go out there—take a walk or just step a few feet away. I can ask.”
Kai was back to studying me. “You would actually help?”
I didn’t respond. I knew if I didn’t help something I didn’t like would happen. But I didn’t want him to know that. I shrugged.
He tipped his head forward. “Fine.” He signaled with his hand and went to speak to a guard. Immediately, the others hauled Blade to his feet.
“Hey! Hey! What are you doing?”
Hearing the panic in Blade’s voice kicked me in the sternum.
They didn’t answer. They only dragged him to the door.
He twisted and struggled. “No! NO!”
Finally, he went limp like I had before. They kept dragging him until he saw I was coming too. Then he put his feet under him at least. Kai remained back, but a guard walked beside me.
Blade’s eyes found mine. They were diluted with horror.
I swallowed over another lump, feeling my heart sink. Again.
“Riley, what’s going on?”
I lied. “They want to talk to the woman.”
He shut up, and a transformation came over him. He was angry. I saw the steam rising, and wasn’t surprised when he jerked his hands free from the guards. They reached for him, but he shrugged his body away. “I’m coming,” he growled. “Okay? Can I walk out of here on my own?”
With jerking motions, he began to move.
I didn’t know why he was jerking. Poor circulation? But Blade wasn’t like that. He did yoga twice a day. Maybe I’d slept longer than I thought?
Either way, he was walking almost regularly by the time we stepped outside.
I must’ve slept longer than I thought. It was dark outside. We were surrounded by trees and a bright moon, which gave enough light to show we were on a hill. I caught sight of two farms farther down in a valley. The woods seemed to stretch on for miles. They must’ve brought us farther out than I’d realized.
Small rocks had been laid down instead of pavement, and the guards spread out around us, letting us walk down the driveway.
Blade drew near me. “What’s happening?”
“Are you okay?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Some of it’s an act.”
I got it. Make them underestimate you. It was a good act, but a little too good.
“Blade. I’m serious. Are you okay?”
He didn’t reply at first, then ducked his head. “I fought back before. They roughed me up, just enough to subdue me. Once I stopped, they did too.” He sneered at the nearest guard. “I have to say, for working for the Bennett family, they’re scarily professional.”
Yes. They were, but I’d witnessed how Kai took care of his men. He either didn’t want to worry about turnover or he actually cared about them. Or who knows. He might’ve just trusted these guys and didn’t want to burn them out.
I needed to stop giving Kai more credit than he deserved. Fucking attraction had started to blind me to what he did for a living: he was in the mafia. He was a bad guy. He did bad things.
“Yeah,” I said faintly, my stomach growling. “I’m surprised too.” I eyed him again. “You’ll be okay?”
“I’ll be fine as long as we get away or maybe get some food.” He gave me a lopsided grin. “It’s good to see you. I haven’t said so before now.”
He was right. I stopped and we hugged.
“It’s good to see you too.”
His arms still around me, he said into my ear, “The woman found me. I don’t know who she is.”
I whispered back, “What do you mean she found you?”
A shudder went through his body. He burrowed his face in my shoulder. “The broadcast went through the Network’s service. I saw he’d released the other Hiders, but killed one. A day later, she was knocking on my door saying if I wanted to go after Kai Bennett, she would help me.”
That didn’t— “She sought you out?”
She’d recruited him.
“You don’t know her?”
“No—” he began.
A bloodcurdling scream ripped through the air.
Everyone outside ran for the warehouse.
The guards got there ahead of us, and as the door opened, I could see the woman reach for one of the guard’s guns. There was more shouting, and then a gunshot.
The woman’s back arched, and she crumbled to the floor.
No matter what Kai said, I knew there wasn’t a blood bag for this one. The woman was dead. Blood poured out of her forehead.
I stopped in my tracks, staring at her lifeless body before lifting my head.
Kai stood over her, the gun in his hand. He was the one who’d shot her.
Then the door slammed shut in front of me.
I didn’t comprehend anything after that, not right away.
Blade did. He grabbed my arm and whisper-shouted in my ear, “LET’S GO!”
They’d left us alone.
I couldn’t think about it.