Fuck, fuck, fuck.
They were already on me. I saw the shadow as one grabbed my arm. I swung with a roundhouse at the same time I jumped in the air.
Tanner and the other guy were barreling after me.
I couldn’t take on three guys, and seeing more co-workers coming down the stairs, I started screaming.
One of them grabbed me and yanked me back against his chest as Tanner bit out, “Shut her up!”
A hand covered my mouth.
I bit down as I kicked in the air. A roar came from behind me as my foot smacked against something, hard. I threw my body sideways, and the guy dropped me from the sudden movement.
A shadow moved in from the side, and fast.
Everyone seemed to pause, and time slowed as Tanner fell back a step, and then the shadow was there.
An arm wrapped around my waist and lifted me as if I weighed nothing. I looked slender, but my body was all muscle. I knew how much I weighed, and that feat was impressive.
Then I stopped thinking as another arm wrapped around my neck, applying pressure. He was putting me out.
I couldn’t fight. He immobilized me and then…
? ? ?
I came to in the back of a car and immediately felt my pockets. They were empty. My phone was gone.
Looking around, this was the back of a luxury car…no, SUV.
One guard sat next to me and another across from me. I knew what they were by how perfectly they were positioned: upright, shoulders back, one hand on their thighs next to their gun holsters, and the other checking in with their earpieces.
The other occupant sat diagonal to me, slouched down, his feet spread wide and his phone in front of him.
When I looked over, Tanner smirked. “Heya, ballbuster. I see you got more spunk than you did when you were a preteen.”
He looked older, but he still had the shaggy blond hair Brooke’s pictures had showed at school. And that same smirk too.
“Fuck off,” I growled.
Looking around, I saw only forest moving by at a fast pace, probably over a hundred kilometers. There was an SUV in front of us, and looking back, I saw another trailing. Shit. No. There was a third behind that one. Four in all.
“All this for me?” I asked, though as I spoke, I knew the answer.
Tanner Bennett was in this vehicle. The convoy was for him, not me.
What time was it and where we were going? I needed those answers. I could formulate my escape plan then—They found me!
I hadn’t taken that in.
If Tanner was here, that meant the whole Bennett family knew about me. They. Had. Found. Me.
Pure and genuine panic started to filter in.
They knew my father.
Did he send them for me?
Had he found out about me?
They were capable of murder. Were they going to ki— I had to wait and think. Be clear-headed.
After the oldest brother had died, it was ruled an accident, but I knew Brooke never agreed. After her father and Kai left that day, she’d broken down, saying Cord was murdered. That had been all she ever said. She’d never talked about how he died, just that he was dead.
Three months later, we’d found ourselves back on the front steps of Hillcrest again. This time Brooke hadn’t been crying. She’d been pale and holding on to my hand as if it were a life preserver, but she’d known why they were coming again.
They were coming for her.
Her father, Anthony Bennett, the patriarch of their family, had died in his sleep.
Kai Bennett, the oldest remaining brother, was the new boss of the family, and he wanted Brooke back at home.
That was the last day I saw her, until the pictures on the news after her recent disappearance.
There were whispers around school after Brooke was gone that Kai had killed both his rivals. Brooke and I continued to talk on the phone and email for a few months after she left, but I never asked. I knew she’d never tell me anyway, even if she knew.
Fear trickled through me, expanding to my toes as I looked around the SUV again. Were her brothers behind Brooke’s disappearance?
Or—ice lined my veins—was Brooke dead too?
“Don’t do it, Ray ray.”
I gritted my teeth. “Don’t use that name. That was Brooke’s, not yours.”
Tanner laughed, raising his phone again. “All I’m saying is don’t let your mind wander down to all the dark and twisted places you’re going. Let us get where we need to go, then you can embrace all the accusations.” He continued to chuckle as his attention went back to whatever was on his phone.
“Where are we going?”
He smiled, his gaze not leaving the screen. “You’ll see.”
I bit back a growl. “What time is it?”
I had two hours before Blade would start looking for me. They had a two-hour head start. That was it.
“You’ll see,” he said again. He still didn’t look at me.
The lie fell from my lips so easily. “I’m diabetic, Tanner. I need to know the time to see if I need to check my blood sugar.”
He looked up then. So did the guards.
His eyes narrowed. He didn’t move his phone. “You’re lying.”
I rolled my eyes. “Right. Who’d lie about having diabetes?”
“Someone who wants to judge how far away we are from her hiding spot.” He smirked again. “And speaking of, why Calgary? You know we have holdings there, right?” His eyes slid up and down my body, lingering on my lips. “Though, I have to say, the woodsy, all-natural look you have going on works for you. Makes me think of embracing some wood too.”
I felt a flush trailing up my neck.
What was this? Tanner was flirting? No, this was just his personality. Brooke had talked about how he was a player, even back then. It seemed that hadn’t changed. In a way, it calmed me a little bit, finding something still the same. Something at least sort of familiar.
But I had to know. Feeling my throat growing raw, I rasped out, “Did you find me for him?”
Tanner lowered the phone to his lap. His head tilted to the side.
He didn’t reply, just stared at me for a full minute. He wasn’t going to answer, damn him.
“My father,” I clarified.
His eyes widened a fraction of an inch. An emotion flared before he stomped it down. His phone came back up, and his gaze returned to it. “No. Now shut it and chill.”
“My blood sugar—”
“You’re not diabetic. You weren’t when you were twelve, and there’s no way you got type 2 since then. Stop insulting my intelligence.”
I could try the door, jump out of a moving car, and tear through the woods—but that would only work if I could run after I landed. We were moving so fast, it would be useless. They had four fucking vehicles here. Who knew how many guards were in each of them.
I sat back. I would wait to see who was at the end of this drive.
That was my only option.
I slept for a while—not sure how long—but we drove for three hours after I woke up before we stopped. I’d been counting and looking around until we pulled into a gas station. There were no other businesses around it, just forest. I had to figure they’d picked this place for that specific reason.
Once our vehicle stopped, both the guards got out and opened our doors.
Tanner put his phone away and sighed. “Don’t try anything, Gone Girl.” He gestured outside. “See all those guys?”
Ten of them got out of the cars and took up positions around the gas station.
“They will surround the station so you can walk free in there, but if you try to make a run for it, they’ve been approved to shoot you.”
My eyes flew back to his.
He seemed smug. “With that said, have fun peeing. Pick anything you want inside and put it on the counter. We’ll foot the bill.” He whistled as he got out on his side. His door closed, and the guard followed him as he went toward the building.
The guard on my side was still waiting. My stomach clenched, but I got out too.
I needed a camera—just one connected online would be enough for Blade to find me. It was past time now that my roommates would’ve realized something had happened to me. They probably looked for my car, which would’ve still been at work, and Blade would’ve sent all the alerts on full blast for me.
We were trained for situations like this. I just needed to leave a trail of some sort. As I crossed the parking lot (empty except for our vehicles), I spotted a camera at the corner of the building.
I raised my head so he could get a positive ID.
“It won’t work,” Tanner called from the door. He waved to the camera. “They’re offline. It’s why we come here.”
But there’d be video, at least. Some proof that I’d been here. Blade would find it, eventually.
I stepped inside, and as if hearing my thoughts, Tanner added, “The whole system was shut off before we even pulled in. We called ahead.”
He stopped to look over the magazine rack, pulling out an issue of something that had Brooke’s face on the cover
His mouth tightened. “Go to the bathroom, Riley. I’ll still be here when you’re done.”