He pulled out his phone, so I went ahead. I felt like collapsing on the toilet.
They’d taken my phone. I had no clue if they’d taken my bag too or left it behind in my car. I still didn’t really know how far away we were, but they were driving back roads for a reason.
They were smart, damn smart.
I left the bathroom, and even though I knew they had guards outside, I poked my head around for any escape routes.
There were none. The door that led to the rear of the gas station was kitty-corner to the front desk, and three guards stood in front of it. The clerk was a gangly teenager, standing off to the side by the register. Tanner had placed some water bottles, food, and a few other things on the counter, but the kid wasn’t ringing anything up.
A second later, the bell over the door jingled and an older man entered. He nodded to Tanner and walked around the counter, then did the same to the kid, who looked relieved as he slipped out the front door.
They’d called in the owner, or the manager. Whoever he was, he moved with purpose and familiarity as he began ringing everything up.
Tanner looked over as his phone began ringing. “Get whatever you want, Riley.”
My neck was stiff as I moved toward the beverage aisle. I needed water, food, but I didn’t move far so I could eavesdrop when he answered the phone.
“Yeah?” A pause. “We are.” Another pause. “Will do.”
Well, that was informative.
I shook my head and went to grab everything I needed. I bought a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant, along with water and a couple pieces of fruit, up to the front.
Tanner moved aside as I put them on the counter. “We have all of that for you where we’re going.”
“You didn’t tell me that.” I still pushed them ahead.
It was small, but it was my only way to resist. I didn’t think a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant would break the Bennett bank. They were billionaires.
The owner/manager didn’t meet my gaze as he rang my items up and bagged everything.
Tanner said something to one of the guards, gesturing to me. The guard nodded and moved toward me as Tanner went to the bathroom. I realized the guards were slipping into the bathroom through a back door I’d missed. They were coming in and out in pairs.
They had coordinated all of this to help them as well.
I went to the front door to wait. Two guys moved with me, and it was eerie how two other guys from outside came to stand near the door at the same time. I knew they were talking into mouthpieces, but it just showed how prepared and professional they were. A whole new level of helplessness washed through me, but a surge of anger came right after it too.
I didn’t like this feeling.
My father was powerful too, dangerous, and he’d never had a setup like this. He couldn’t have afforded it. He also didn’t have the need for it. I hated him, but he didn’t have the enemies the Bennett family did. Owning his trucking business wasn’t profitable enough to put him at the billionaire level. Not even close.
“Okay.” Tanner emerged from the bathroom, putting his phone away as he walked toward me. “We’re ready to go.”
I spied one of the men handing an envelope to the owner before picking up all the bags.
I had to admit, I was surprised they didn’t just go in, take what they wanted, and leave. The owner wouldn’t have done anything. No one went against the Bennett family, but he seemed happy as he skimmed through the envelope.
Tanner waited for me outside the vehicle, one of the guards holding the door for me.
I hurried my pace, then cursed myself for doing that. I could walk the speed I wanted to walk. There was a slight breeze in the air. It was usually in the twenties in June around here, but I shivered. The temperature had dipped lower as the sunlight began to wane.
I’d forgotten to look at the time inside.
I’d been so consumed with thinking of escape routes, then watching how the guards were operating, that I completely forgot. But, thinking back, I had taken a step toward the counter, and two guards had moved to intercept me.
They’d planned for that.
It wouldn’t have made a difference.
There had been no clock in the gas station, or I know I would’ve noticed it.
My throat started burning.
They really were prepared for me.
“How many girls do you kidnap?” I yelled to Tanner.
He glanced to me before rounding the back of the SUV. I could see him through the windows.
I snorted as a guard opened the door for me. “Is it a regular thing? Monthly? Bimonthly? Every week? Every few days?”
I didn’t expect a response as I got inside, but I was expecting Tanner to get in with me. I was going to keep taunting—another small point of resistance, the only thing I had going for me at this point.
But he didn’t get in.
His door closed abruptly, and so did mine. My leg had barely cleared the door before it slammed shut, then locked.
I looked around in alarm. I was the only one in the SUV, but they’d locked me in.
“Hey!” I banged on the window. My voice was probably muffled, but they could hear me. Or so I assumed. “Hey!”
No one looked.
Tanner had disappeared from his side.
A complete wall of guards came around my SUV, blocking everything except the little I could see through the gaps between their necks and heads. I moved around, trying to get a better look at what was going on.
I could see Tanner walking toward an empty section of the parking lot. Four guards trailed him, but stood a respectable distance back.
Something was coming.
Someone was coming.
And we didn’t have to wait long.
Three SUVs sped down the highway and turned into the parking lot, parking in front of Tanner with a swirl of dust.
I half expected all the doors to open and guards to emerge, since those looked like the same SUVs as we were traveling with. But they didn’t. The only door that opened was the back door of the second SUV.
Kai Bennett had arrived.
I hissed to myself as my blood boiled and froze all at once.
He’d only become more since I last saw him.
Taller. More good looking. More riveting. More dangerous. More, more, more. And I hated it. That had become more too.
I loathed him now.
There was no comparison between Kai and Tanner. Tanner had been the womanizer, the flirt back then, and besides the smirking asshole he was for kidnapping me, there were plenty of hints that he was still those things now.
But as I looked at the brothers standing across from each other, power dripped from Kai Bennett. Authority emanated from him, even just standing there.
Every single guard stood an inch taller.
The tension in the air went up a notch, and I felt it even inside the vehicle. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and goosebumps ran down my arms.
Sunglasses blocked his eyes as he listened to what Tanner was saying, but his eyes flashed in my memory—how dead they’d looked when he told me to leave Brooke alone, right after their father had told her Cord was dead.
I felt sick to my stomach, and my hand moved there, as if to keep the contents in.
No one else made my skin crawl with disgust except my father. Kai Bennett and Bruce Bello were cut from the same cloth.
I should have looked away, if only just to keep from emptying my stomach, but I couldn’t.
My heart picked up. I felt it pounding in my eardrums, and I tasted bile in my mouth. But still, I couldn’t look away. Resting a hand on the window, I scooted even closer.
I needed to try to read their lips—beep.
No. They couldn’t.
I heard another beep, coming from the front of the car.
Crawling forward, I heard a third beep. A phone had been left up there. There was a wall and a small window separating the front from the back, but I could get through that window. Feeling it, it moved an inch.
They hadn’t locked it, but I could see why. It took all of my muscles to get it open that one inch. A fourth beep sent my blood rushing through my body. Adrenaline and excitement filled me with almost a frenzied need to get to that phone.
I used my entire body to get the window open farther.
One more inch.
Goddamn, a fifth beep.
The phone was in the console, right underneath my fingers.
I tried again, almost throwing myself backward to get it open a bit more. I didn’t want to rock the vehicle, make them aware of what was I doing, but it worked.
I felt the SUV tremble, and I paused, glancing over my shoulder.
The guards remained with their backs to the SUV. The two Bennetts were still talking, neither looking my way. I was safe, for now.
The window had opened another two inches, more than enough to get my arm inside. Snaking it through, with my face pressed against the window, I reached down to the console.
I grabbed the phone, my fingers just grazing it. I cupped it and pulled my arm back through the window.
My pulse jackhammered inside me.
I was shaking, almost uncontrollably, but as I opened the screen, I nearly wept. No passcode needed. I dialed in a safe number to call.