I turned. Blade had started to run, and I took off after him.
They would find us. Kai had promised that. I had no doubt he would, but Blade needed to escape. I didn’t trust Kai with Blade’s life. I didn’t know if I trusted him with mine, but it didn’t matter right now.
I was breaking my promise, but I didn’t care. Kai had broken his too.
My heart was in my chest, but as I took flight behind my 411 operative partner, I shed the woman I’d become just being near Kai Bennett.
Each step I took away made things clearer. I was returning to that 411 operative Kai knew I was. My steps grew quicker, more assured, steadier, and the emotion drained from me.
I became calmer the farther away I got, and then everything clicked back into place.
My mission was to get free.
We could hear them yelling.
We were already over a ridge and down another small hill, out of their sight, by the time they realized their mistake.
But it wasn’t soon enough.
That thought plagued me. Not soon enough. Not for Kai. Not for the way he had everything planned and calculated ahead of time. It didn’t make sense, but I pushed forward. I had to.
Blade and I sprinted past trees, their branches whipping against us. He stumbled once, but rolled right back to his feet. Our Hider training came back to us. Regulate your breathing. Don’t overexert yourself. Keep your head up to see the best. Shoulders in a comfortable position. I pumped my arms when I grew weaker. Push off your heels. Roll through your toes in a circular motion. Envision your feet as if they’re wheels. Keep going.
We ran. It started drizzling, and we ran through that too.
We kept going downhill. There were two farms. We should’ve been close by now.
But that thought still bothered me. Kai had messed up, big time. But he didn’t make mistakes.
If that were true, then he’d wanted us to run.
The other option was to stay, unless it’d been a test. I’d failed if that was it.
But no. That was a mind fuck. If you’re given a chance at freedom, you take it. That was a golden rule for humanity.
“There!” Blade shouted, pointing ahead at a light.
It was one of the farms. Veering toward it, we paused just before breaking from the tree line. A large red barn loomed in front of us, the paint fading and stripped off. A large fence circled out for livestock, but there were no animals. The fence was broken in more than one place, and the grass grew tall. It hadn’t been mowed for a long time. There was a small cabin structure behind the barn, but the door was half gone. A side of the house had fallen in on itself. No one lived here, hadn’t for a long time.
“There might be shelter.”
Blade started forward.
I caught his arm. “No.”
“Come on.” He motioned to it. “I know it’s not ideal, but we need a break from the rain. At least for a little while.”
I shook my head. “No, Blade. It’s not right. Something doesn’t feel right.”
“What are you talking about?” He raked a hand over his face, wiping some of the rain away. It didn’t matter. More fell down from the tree above us. “I need a break. Five minutes, then we push off again.”
He started forward, and that’s when I saw the camera. It was positioned at the top of the barn, angled at us.
Right at us.
A bad feeling sank in my stomach.
I saw the second camera just as Blade stepped from the tree line.
And the first camera moved with him.
They were watching us. That’s why they were late in chasing us.
Oh my God.
He kept going, and that camera kept tracking him. The second was moving around, scanning up and down the trees. It was looking for me.
“Blade,” I called out. “Do not stop. Do not look back at me.”
His shoulders tensed, but he did as I said.
“They’re watching us. There’s a camera on you.”
“Go,” he yelled back.
I shook my head, though he couldn’t see. “I can’t.”
“Go, Riley!” He kept walking forward. “Go! I mean it. Find Carol. She’ll help.”
But I couldn’t. My stomach clenched in a tight knot, but I knew I wasn’t leaving him. Blade had a better chance with me as a captive than me free. The Bennetts had no loyalty to him. At least Tanner and Jonah cared about me. I had to trust that, trust that Brooke loved her brothers for a reason.
“I can’t go.”
I gritted my teeth…
I stepped forward.
The second camera snapped to my position. I stopped, my arms out, and because I hated just giving in, I raised my middle finger.
The back barn doors burst open, and all those guards from the warehouse came streaming out. Kai was in the middle, walking at a more sedate pace. His gaze landed right on me. He wore the same mystified expression as before.
Two of the guards grabbed Blade, another two headed for me.
I held my hands out. “If you grab me and shove me to the ground, I will kill one of you.”
They paused. One glanced back to Kai, who nodded, still walking forward.
“I’ll handle her,” he said. He nodded to Blade. “Take him.”
They put Blade in one of the SUVs.
Kai took my arm. He walked me to another SUV as the other one pulled away at high speed.
“Was that all a setup?”
Kai glanced at me as the door opened. I got in the back, not fighting, and slid over. He got in beside me. The door closed, and we took off. We only had one guard with us.
Kai was becoming more and more lenient with me. That was good, very good. I glanced over at him.
He was on his phone, typing, but said, “Marcus, can you put the heat on full blast for Miss Bello? She’s chilled to the bone.”
I refused to feel anything for his thoughtfulness. He was the reason I’d been out running. It was nighttime. It’d been raining. I was soaked.
He finished whatever he had to do on his phone, put it away, then reached behind him for a blanket.
He put it over my lap. “Get warm with this.”
I eyed him, pulling it up to cover myself.
There was no anger. There was almost nothing on his face, but there wasn’t the wall I’d grown used to seeing.
Without looking at me, he rested his head against his seat. “We let your friend keep his phone. He tucked it next to his junk. He doesn’t think we knew it was there, but we did. He walked through a full-body scan. We thought he might use it when you ran for your escape.” He stopped and looked at me now. His eyes were piercing. “Did he?”
My mouth dropped.
This was why it hadn’t felt right. It wasn’t just the cameras.
Goddamn him. Goddamn him!
My nostrils flared. “Were you watching the whole time?”
No hesitation. “Yes.”
“The woman? Was that a show?”
Still no hesitation. He answered freely. “No. She’s the head of a victim’s advocate group. She’s been after us for years. Her son died in a shooting. She thinks we’re to blame for her son’s murderer having his gun in the first place.”
“Was she right?” I bit out.
“Maybe.” His eyes dipped before coming right back up. Still no emotion. “There was no serial number. We don’t typically transport those guns, but we have in the past. Her son was murdered by his lover. I have no idea if we’re to blame or not.”
Why was he telling me this? This was more than I needed to know.
Then I knew. “Did you put a tap on me? You heard Blade tell me about her, didn’t you?”
His eyes enlarged, just a fraction of an inch. “No. We were given confirmation that she approached your friend, not the other way around. He didn’t even know her, did he?”
I shrugged, my jaw hardening. “Does it matter? She’s dead. You killed her.”
“She got one of our guns—”
“Bullshit! I know you don’t make mistakes. She was allowed to grab that gun.” I shouldn’t have been yelling, but I was. Too much had happened over the last few days. “You wanted a reason to kill her, and she gave you one. Self-defense. Your only mess-up is that I saw it.”
He didn’t reply.
And then—fuck. “You meant me to see that, didn’t you?”
Of course he did. I closed my eyes, my head hanging forward. I felt a headache coming.
“You wanted me to see because if I hadn’t, I would assume it was a blatant murder. Blade would’ve said the same, but we both saw, and if need be, we’ll testify it was self-defense.”
My God, of course.
Not a goddamn thing happened without Kai’s calculation behind it.
He was cold, ruthless, and not human. No one with humanity could plan all of this out to the umpteenth detail.
“Did you have cameras in the woods?” My voice was dull, bleak. It made me cringe, just hearing myself.
Honesty. That was one good trait he had. Maybe the only one.
“Of course, you fucking bastard.”
There was no fight in me anymore. Those words left me on a surrendering sigh, and I turned toward the window. We were moving fast. The trees rocketed past us. Here I was, locked in this vehicle. I was warm, but moments ago, I’d thought I was running for my life.