He glanced to the side of the room, and just like that, the image was gone. The call was done, and in a few seconds, the remaining guards had exited the room. It was only Kai and me.
“Are you sure that signal couldn’t get hacked or watched by the government?”
“Yes.” He stepped in cautiously. “We’re safe. I make sure of it.”
He was making sure I was okay with his touch too.
I grabbed his hands and stepped into him. My arms slid around him, and I rested my head to his chest.
He’d fulfilled his promise. In one afternoon, he’d done more than I ever could in an entire lifetime as a Hider.
He’d helped. Even though he was in the mafia, he’d still done well today.
“Thank you,” I murmured, feeling his hands sweep through my hair.
His arms tightened around me, and I felt his lips on my shoulder. A deep, shuddering breath left him. “You don’t hate me?”
I pulled back to see him. “Is that why you brought me in here? To loathe you?”
“No.” He bent back down, nuzzling me. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I brought you in here. I wanted you here. I wanted you to understand this world better. I wanted you to see that you don’t have to regret hating your father, in case you did.”
I felt his tension and reached up, my hand cradling the back of his head. My fingers began running in small circles, comforting him.
“Is that what you do? Regret hating your father?”
His body tightened, then relaxed. “No, but you’re better than me. I can see you feeling that. I wanted to line everything up for you and let you deal with your father, but I can’t bring myself to let you go or haul him in here.”
I laughed softly, “So let’s not. Let’s handle him another time.’” I tipped my head back to grin up into his eyes.
He lifted his head, his eyes darkening, dipping to my lips. “That sounds perfect.”
I framed his face with my hands and nodded my head, feeling his arms tighten around me, knowing he wouldn’t let me fall.
His body was riddled with tension and knots. What he’d done just now, pulling all of that off, I could only imagine how much energy it had taken.
“Let’s go upstairs.”
His lips were on mine almost before I finished speaking, and he swept me up in his heat, the tingles already spreading through me, his arms holding me fast. He carried me out of the room, to an elevator, and we rode it to the next floor.
Kai was standing shirtless at the window, looking out at the lake when I woke up in the morning. He had a coffee cup in one hand, and his other rested against the wall.
Fuck. A magazine cover right there.
I pushed back the covers, reached for a robe, and padded over to him.
He grinned, bringing his arm around me as I fit in next to him.
I slid my arms around him. “Did you sleep?”
A half laugh/half snort came from him.
We hadn’t slept, hardly at all.
There’d been a frenzied need in Kai, a desperation to release whatever demons had been in him through the long night before. The first time had been rough. The second slow and loving. The third had been in the shower. For the fourth, he took me from behind. And still, a few hours later, he reached for me again, pushing inside and watching me the entire time.
I was sore as I leaned against him.
He smoothed his hand down my back, resting it on my hip. “I told you to trust me last night.” He stepped back, his hand finding mine. He set his coffee down on the nightstand and pulled me toward the closet, where he handed me an oversized sweatshirt. I pulled it on, along with a pair of pants. He tugged a Henley over his head and led me to the elevator.
His guards were waiting for him, and they fell in step around us.
We all walked outside, then down to the lake’s edge. There was a small dock with a boat tied to it and two people waiting on it.
As we stepped onto the dock, one of them stood up.
His hood was pulled over his head, but after a moment I recognized him and faltered. It was the first prisoner from yesterday, the guard that had been blackmailed by my father.
He extended his hand, tears glimmering in his eyes. “Thank you, Mr. Bennett. Thank you.” His voice cracked. “This means a lot. You have no idea.”
Kai shook his head before stepping back to stand beside me. He nodded to the other man. “You gave him his paperwork and everything?”
The man nodded. “Yes, sir. He’s set to go. New ID for him and his family. I’ll drive him up, make the drop so he can reunite with his family, and continue to my normal fishing expedition. I’ll take good care of him.”
It was then that I noticed the penguin—small, but pinned just inside his coat collar. He’d been watching me, waiting, and I stepped closer to Kai’s side.
Kai was using a Hider operative for this man.
A look passed between the Hider and me, a shared understanding. He knew who I was too.
I… I had no words.
The fact that Kai had done this, that he was using my previous employers for the very mission I’d held so dear to my heart—it meant more than I could’ve imagined.
Kai shook hands with the boat driver, the ex-guard again, and they prepared to go. His arm came down around my shoulders, and he pulled me in close, leaning his head down to rest against mine.
We watched them pull away, then head north on the lake. As they disappeared, the guards moved back to give us privacy until it was only Kai and me on the dock.
I tipped my head back to see him. “You kept him alive?”
He nodded. “He was one of mine. He should’ve come to me straight away, but he was one of mine. The council thinks he’s dead, and that’s all that’s needed. If I hadn’t killed him, they would’ve tracked him down and done it themselves. Knowing that, he’ll stay hidden and silent for the rest of his life. If he shows again, he knows what will have to happen. But he was one of mine first. I take care of mine.”
Kai had an odd look on his face, his eyes distant, a slight frown. Then, shaking his head, he cleared the look away and draped his arm over my shoulders. We walked together back inside.
For once, things felt right. Things felt like they’d be okay. Finally.
? ? ?
So much seemed to have happened right after the council meeting. Kai told Brooke about Levi—the truth of what he’d been planning and doing, and the truth about how he’d met his end. She’d broken down.
Kai had asked Eric to be here when we broke the news to her, and he was at her side. I’d glanced around as she wept, my heart tearing for her pain. I wasn’t sure who was going to go to her. So when both Eric and Jonah hesitated, I started.
Then Kai surprised everyone. He’d scooped her up first, cradling her like she was a child. He’d rested his forehead to hers, whispering something over and over again.
Jonah and Eric seemed as surprised as I was.
But Kai knew what Brooke needed. He’d held her for a good hour, carrying her to the couch and holding her almost on his lap. Jonah had sat on the other side of her, his hand on her arm. Both brothers had tried to be there for her.
I’d sat on the floor, within reach if Brooke needed me. Eric did the same.
I could hear Kai whispering to her.
“We’re here for you. I’m here for you. I’m so sorry, Brooke. I’m so sorry.” He was almost rocking her back and forth. “We love you. Tanner loves you. Jonah loves you. I love you. We’re here for you. We will carry you. I’m so sorry.”
Jonah’s hand had clenched her shirtsleeve. “We love you, Brooke,” he’d croaked out. “We’re fucking Bennetts. You’re a fucking Bennett.”
She passed out after another hour of crying, and that night, Kai was the one who’d carried her to the vehicle. Jonah had walked behind, holding her bags, and Eric went with them. Kai placed Brooke inside the SUV, draped a blanket over her, and kissed her forehead.
She’d looked shattered. Pale. Her face was tear-drenched, but when Kai stepped back, she’d reached for me. “Riley.”
I went to her, hugging her, and I kissed her forehead as well. “I’m so sorry, Brooke.”
She nodded, sniffling. More tears slid down her cheeks. “I loved him. I did, but he betrayed me.” Her voice broke, and a hard look flashed in her eyes. “He had to die.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I nodded before hugging her once more and easing back. She caught my hand, squeezing it. “Take care of my brother.”
I nodded again. “I will.”
Her eyes clung to mine— fierce, yet outlined in wetness. “I’m a Bennett. First and foremost. If you hurt my brother, I’ll come for you.”
My mouth almost fell open, but Kai caught my hand and tugged me back. Jonah and Eric had gotten in on the other side. Eric nodded to us through the window. I saw Jonah raise a hand before the vehicle pulled away.
I hadn’t known how to process what Brooke said, so I just accepted it. The family loyalty was strong.
Kai’s arm had come around my shoulder. “What’d she say to you?”