Brooke tugged on my arm again. “Who cares? Let’s get drunk. This place has wine.”
We entered the kitchen, and she let go of my arm and went for the pantry. She opened the door to reveal a full wine rack just inside.
“See?” Her smile was smug as she grabbed two bottles and two wine glasses. “Eric, I assume you’re not joining?”
He took position outside the doorway that linked the kitchen to the sitting room and moved so he could stare out one of the larger windows.
She snorted, shutting the pantry door and going to the table. Plopping down with a dramatic sound, she leaned back in her seat. “You have no idea how exhausted I am. This whole ordeal has been tiring.”
She was telling me that?
But I sat. I was slipping into my old role without even trying. I only smiled at her.
She twisted the cap off the wine and poured two generous glasses. Pushing one toward me, she took hers and sipped. “Oh my gosh. That’s so good. They always has the best stuff here.” Her eyes narrowed, seeing I hadn’t taken mine. “Do you not drink? I know we snuck wine in the dorms, but maybe you’ve changed.” She perused me a moment. “You did look kinda hippyish when I saw your house.”
“I’m not hippyish. That’s my roommate.” But she wasn’t altogether wrong.
Being outdoors was my happy place. Raven had some hippy tendencies, and Raven and Riley had some similarities.
I straightened up.
I didn’t want her telling me who I was. That was for her to learn from me. It wasn’t her place.
“You’re being judgmental, sister,” Kai drawled, entering the kitchen.
My mouth dried at the sight of him.
He’d changed into a gray Henley and black pants. He was devastating in a business suit, lethal in athletic clothes, but with this shirt, he looked like power. Pure and simple—though there was nothing pure about his power nor simple about him.
Nevertheless, I felt a rush of relief, as if he were an ally coming to my defense. As if Brooke were my enemy.
I looked down at my lap, not wanting to see the way Brooke greeted her brother.
I didn’t want to see her hostility, because I didn’t think I could be hostile with a brother who loved me that much. Or maybe I’d see a fond resignation toward him, because while she didn’t agree with his actions, he had moved heaven and earth to find her.
That meant something.
“I’m not being judgmental,” she said.
Her reaction was neither. They’d just fallen back in place as if they were home, as if nothing had happened, as if they were arguing whether to play Monopoly or Bunko.
“You should take that back, brother.” She mocked him. “I was just saying what I saw.”
“You saw wrong.” Kai took the seat beside me, reaching for the bottle and pouring a little into a glass he’d brought with him. “I saw the inside of her house. I agree with Riley. Her room was simple, straight to the point—a bed, a counter, a desk, a closet. That’s it. Nothing extra. It’s a room used for sleeping. That doesn’t say hippy to me at all.”
I looked at him. “When did you see my house?” My room?!
But Brooke wasn’t having it. She propped her elbow on the table and pointed. “Okay. One, when did you see her house? Two, you were in her room?! Three, you’re acting like there’s something wrong with being a hippy. I have quite a few friends who are hippies. They’re hilarious to party with.”
Kai had kept a stone face before, but a grin cracked through now. He lifted his wine glass. “I never was. I was just guessing.”
“Agh! You suck.”
But he wasn’t guessing. I saw it in his eyes.
He had been in my house, my room because he’d been right. I didn’t have keepsakes or pictures or even a Chapstick out on my dresser. Nothing except my laptop. It sat center on my desk.
Brooke slapped a hand on the table, leaning forward, still gripping her wine glass. “Are you going to tell me what you did with Levi? I know you took him. Where is he? He’s not with this caravan.” She waved her glass around the room, indicating all the guards.
I could see three standing outside the window, two farther back in the woods, and another one right next to the house.
Kai just sipped his wine, eyeing his sister.
She made another frustrated sound, pretending to wring his neck in the air. “You drive me crazy sometimes.”
“Sometimes?” he teased.
She succumbed, her face melting to a smile. “Yes. Annoying. You. You keep things from me, thinking it’s in my best interest. But you can’t make all my decisions for me. You’re only four years older than I am, Kai.”
“Four or forty. Same difference,” he shot back.
“You’re such a dick.” But she was smiling, and she didn’t mean it.
She loved him, as much as he loved her.
This was their relationship. Volatile, but well-meaning. Irksome, but loving. Reckless, but safe.
She was safe with him.
An ache burned deep in my chest.
I was jealous, again.
I wanted this relationship. Seeing it made me realize how much I hadn’t had it growing up.
Blade. Carol. I tried to remember them, because they cared.
Not like family should care.
That voice was right. It stabbed me, but it was true.
I didn’t want to feel ungrateful. Blade did care. I cared for him too, but since being taken by the Bennetts, old wounds were surfacing.
Suddenly, I didn’t want to endure anymore. I didn’t want to hear the fondness these siblings held for each other, so deep it was in the foundation of their entire beings.
I shoved back from the table. “Excuse me.”
I should’ve said something better, more convincing, but I couldn’t muster it. I fled to my room, shutting the door, leaving the light off. I stood in front of my window, my arms crossed tightly when the door opened.
I turned because I didn’t recognize the voice. It wasn’t Kai or Brooke who stood there.
It was a stranger, dressed head to toe in black.
He started toward me, a gloved hand in the air. “Your father se—”
A white bolt of fear sliced through me, and then I screamed.
Best first line of defense: scream. Try to tear down the building using your vocal chords.
The guy cursed.
Behind a ski mask, I could only see his eyes. He sailed past me, and we locked gazes for a split second.
He launched himself through the window just as stampeding footsteps arrived and my door burst open. One, two, three guards ran through, guns drawn, and they went right to the window, the one with a gaping hole in it now.
Kai appeared, taking my arm, but when he started to pull me close, I resisted.
“You okay? What happened?” he asked, but two of the guards were listening too.
I told them, and one raised a radio to his mouth. He began broadcasting the details.
“What happened?” Brooke asked from the doorway, a guard’s hand on her shoulder. She was pale, her eyes bulging. She held her hands in front of her chest. “Riley, you okay?”
I could feel Kai next to me, but I was shaken. I couldn’t lie. Not because there was guy in this house, this bedroom, or even because someone tried to come at me.
It was my father.
Kai barked, “Everyone. Leave.”
One by one, they did as he ordered, and the guard shut the door. Kai indicated for me to follow him. We went through the bathroom into the adjoining room, and he checked to be sure it was secure. He double-checked the patio door and the closet. The window. All for me.
I ran my palms down my jeans. They were sweaty. “My father knows.”
I hadn’t told the guards that part. Just that a guy came at me.
“He said, ‘Your father se—’ and then I screamed. Kai, he was wearing brown contact lenses.”
He was still, so still. It would’ve sent chills down my back, but they were already there.
“Are you sure?”
I nodded. “Around six feet tall, medium build, and I noticed the ring of brown color on the white part of his eye. Colored contacts.” A ball lodged at the back of my throat. There was no moving it, swallowing it, forcing it away. “He said your father. My father knows.” And now the million-dollar question, “How does my father know about me?”
Kai turned to face the patio door. His shoulders were rigid. “Because someone betrayed me.” He turned back, an apology in those dark eyes. “I made inquiries about your father’s whereabouts when we returned earlier this evening.”
Tears burned in my eyes.
I shook my head, wiping them away. I would not cry over that man. Ever.
I had made the decision to go after him, but this was happening too fast. I wanted more time.
“I’m sorry, Riley.” A fierce promise burned in Kai’s eyes. “I will find this man. He won’t get off the estate. I can promise you that.”
I shook my head. “How could he get someone here? How could he know this was where we were? I told you only three hours ago. No one could’ve… “ Oh, God. Unless they were already here.
I was surprised, but Kai wasn’t.
“It’s one of your guards,” I choked out.
“Yes,” he hissed.