“What?” I croaked.
He flicked his eyes to the ceiling. “I know what you smell like, darling.”
The back of my neck heated. I snuck a look at the staff woman, but she didn’t pause. She folded a shirt I’d worn every other day here. She knew it was one of my favored ones, then reached for another I liked.
“That’s none of your business, Tanner.” I stiffened.
“I know that. I just don’t care. Listen.” He gripped the sides of the doorframe and let himself fall forward, his elbows pointed out. He began pushing back and forth, his biceps bulging from the motion. “Yeah, how we brought you here was shitty. But you know our name. You wouldn’t have come if we’d asked, and you wouldn’t have helped find Brooke either. You know it. We know it. Kai’s the one who has to make those shitty decisions—but make no mistake, if it wasn’t him, it’d be me. We have a whole family full of sharks who want to come in and take what we have. We will not let that happen, any of us. We’re Bennetts. That means something, even with Brooke.”
He tipped his head forward, his eyes knowing. “And you know it too. What Kai should’ve done, and I’m assuming he didn’t, was emotionally blackmail you. He should’ve said there’s a damn good chance Brooke’s going to do something stupid when she sees him on that doorstep. She’ll get someone killed because she doesn’t act rational sometimes. She jumps before looking where she’s going. Kai could’ve said that, but he didn’t, did he? Chew on that a second, huh?”
I swallowed over a hard knot. “What are you talking about? Who’d get killed?”
He shrugged. “Take your pick. Brooke. Kai. Brooke’s man—and Brooke will then blame herself or Kai.” He pushed off the doorframe, turned, and slid his hands into his pockets. “You should go, my two cents, but what do I know?” He strolled away, whistling once he got to the hallway.
The woman was done. My bag was packed and in her hand. She waited beside the bed.
I was going to regret this. I knew I would. “Put that in the vehicle Kai is leaving in. I’m going with him.”
She nodded. “Of course. I’ll notify him now since they’re leaving the driveway already.”
But she was gone, hurrying out.
I blanked a second, then went into overdrive. I couldn’t travel in my pajamas…or maybe I should? No. That was ludicrous.
I grabbed a pair of black leggings, an oversized black hoodie, a black tank top, a pair of underwear, and a bra. I went to the bathroom, changed, and washed.
What am I doing?
I slipped on a pair of black flats.
I have no idea.
My throat constricted. Panic clawed at my chest.
Grabbing a hair tie, I piled my hair into a messy bun and left my wing.
It took a second to figure out what was wrong.
I blinked, and it hit me. There were no guards.
I was completely alone.
I didn’t have a phone. I wanted a phone. I needed music when I flew. I hated not having music. Or a book? Maybe I should’ve grabbed a few from their library, but I was already off and weaving toward the front entryway.
Was I making a mistake?
After what we did—my body instantly warmed, and I bit back a groan.
It was going to happen again. More. More would happen.
But Brooke. Kai. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. Brooke would listen to me. She would. Tanner was right about that. She’d talk first, before doing something rash. Right?
Was this all a calculated move? Had Tanner been supposed to come in, lay on a guilt trip, and send me running after Kai? Because, fuck. That’s what happened.
I stopped at the bottom step, the entryway beckoning me. A pair of headlights shone outside. They were waiting for me.
“He won’t come in for you.”
This time Jonah stood behind me, a drink in hand. He was dressed much like me, in a sweatshirt, but with sweats on the bottom.
“You’ll have to go to him. He’s been notified that you changed your mind, but the decision has to be yours. Totally. He’ll wait, but not for long. He’ll go without you, so decide quick. Otherwise, the next vehicles will be leaving in six hours. We’ll take you back to your other life.”
My other life.
He was right. If I went with Kai, somehow, in some way, I would be returning to my old life. But if I stayed, even if I went back to Blade and Carol, could I really return to that world?
I’d broken my vow.
I was still breaking my vow, now actually going with the person the hider wanted away from.
But…my eyes were glued to those headlights.
I knew my decision. I felt it deep down.
I went outside.
I hadn’t ever really considered not going. I’d been fooling myself.
The door to the SUV opened. Kai sat to one side, and I got in.
The inside was warm, a slight trace of bourbon in the air.
I sat back, not meeting Kai’s gaze, and smoothed my sweaty palms down my legs.
Had I just made a mistake?
Then he placed a phone in my hand. “For you to use.”
I choked up.
I turned on the screen, saw the WiFi connected already, and knew what this really meant.
He’d just offered me real freedom.
Next he placed a pair of headphones on my lap.
Without another word, I plugged them in, put them on, and found some music. I slid down beside him, and it wasn’t long before I fell asleep.
I felt… I didn’t want to think about how I felt.
It was a way I shouldn’t have. I knew that much.
Kai traveled via private jet.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Privacy and security were so important to them. It made sense.
We rolled up to the plane in a private hangar and got out. There was a slight drizzle in the air, a faint smell of manure underneath. I shivered, ducking my head as we went up the ramp.
The flight attendant gave me a professional smile, indicating for me to take a seat. I was surprised how big the plane was—ten people could fly with us.
I took one of the seats in the back, and one by one, the others filled with Kai’s security guards. I wondered if more guards were coming, flying separately, or if he had a whole fleet to meet us when we landed. They kept the seat across from me open.
One guess who was going to sit there.
My phone buzzed, and I opened it up.
Me: Who is this?
I shot a look at Kai, but his back was still turned to me as he spoke to the pilot.
Me: How did you get this number?
Blade: Your man sent me a text with the number, said you’d be using it. You’re with him for real?
Me: No. I’m with him for Brooke.
Blade: He’s brainwashed you.
I waited a second before replying, my stomach rolling over on that one.
Me: Maybe. If he hurts Brooke, I’m going to kill him.
The phone rang, and I answered, “Hey.”
“What the fuck are you doing sending that text? It’s his phone. He’s going to be monitoring your texts.”
Kai turned now and made his way back. His eyes found me, took in the phone pressed to my ear, but he had no reaction. I shifted lower in the seat, getting more comfortable.
I lowered my voice, “He knows.”
“I told him.”
Blade sighed. “I don’t know what game you’re playing with him, or if that’s what you’re doing or not. Just…be safe, okay?”
My nerves were stretched so tight, I could’ve bounced a penny off them. “Oh, I will,” I remarked as Kai took the seat across from me.
We hung up, and I busied myself picking a new song.
“You didn’t tell him we were going to New York?” Kai asked.
I paused. “It’s none of his business.”
Kai frowned, but as I had in the car, I plugged in my headphones, buckled my seatbelt, and got cozy in my chair.
“You knew I would talk to him.”
Kai shrugged. “What part of being here of your own free will means you can’t make phone calls?”
He frowned, then grinned. “Touché.” Sitting back, he pulled out some papers as we taxied to take off.
Once in the air, the flight attendant began serving us drinks and food. I asked for a blanket.
“There’s a full seat in the back.” Kai gestured behind us, and through a privacy curtain, I saw he was right.
It was almost big enough for two people to sleep on.
“I know you didn’t sleep last night,” he added.
“Do you?” Why did I bait him? I grimaced. “Don’t answer that.”
He didn’t, just smiled.
I didn’t know how to handle this Kai. He was smiling. He was kind. He was…not being calculating or ruthless, or holding the seat in a death grip.
“I thought you didn’t fly,” I said.
“I don’t, if I don’t have to.” He shuffled his papers. “And fear isn’t the reason we prefer not to fly. It’s because why risk another loved one the way we already lost one?”
His eyes were steady on me. He put his papers down, turning to face me as he leaned over the aisle. His voice lowered. “I will do almost anything for my family, and if traveling by vehicle a few extra hours is it, it’s an easy choice.”