A second later, I heard, “411. What is your information?”
Tears wet my face. “This is Section 8, Hider 96. My location is at these coordinates.”
There was silence on the other end. They were listening.
“I’ve been kidnapped by the Bennett family.”
That was all I needed to say.
They knew what to do, and no matter where I went now, they would find me. That’s what we did. As soon as I gave them my Hider number, Blade would receive an alert. He’d be listening within a second, and right now, I felt sure he was locating me.
A minute later, orders should’ve been dispatched to the nearest Hiders, and within five minutes of those notices, they would be in a vehicle, heading for me.
I only had to wait for them to arrive.
I knew Blade, and one phone wouldn’t be enough for him. He would use this location to find other phones, and he would ping trackers on all of them. Unless the Bennett family had anti-trackers to mask their signals—which I had never heard of—Blade would track me even if we departed from this location before the Hiders found me.
“Four Hiders are en route,” said the voice at the other end of the line. “Terminate this number. Erase your steps.”
I erased the history of the phone call, put the phone back in the console exactly how I’d felt it placed, and went to work getting that window shut.
I had it shut minus a centimeter when the guards began moving.
They parted at my door, and I saw Tanner heading back to me, his head down and his jaw clenched.
I scrambled to my seat, sitting there as if I’d never moved. My head was down when his door opened and he got inside. I sniffled, wiping the tears away as the other two guards got in their seats.
I could feel Tanner’s gaze on me.
No one said a word, and a second later, the SUV started to pull away.
We were leaving.
Looking over, I watched the other three SUVs go ahead of us, and as we returned to the road, our pace kicked up compared to the speed we’d been traveling before. The tension I’d sensed outside had come into the SUV with Tanner. He didn’t lounge now, or take his phone out. He sat almost as a guard, except those guys seemed to sit even taller, even straighter, and with their heads back another inch.
Both guards kept their fingers on their earpieces.
We drove for a complete hour like that, until it got dark.
When we slowed, it was pitch-black outside, except for the headlights.
We turned onto a gravel road, forest still all around us. We went over a metal grid in the road, then through a gate after that. Moving at a snail’s pace, it was as if we were waiting for something until suddenly, we began moving faster. We hurtled down this narrow gravel road, and I clocked it around two miles before we slowed again.
This time, we paused before another grand gate, and it opened to reveal a house. The word mansion couldn’t describe it. It was more of a compound. The driveway circled in front of the main house, but there was another house just as big to the right and more buildings behind them.
My people were out there, but I had no idea how they’d get to me. A hopeless feeling filtered in until, no. I wouldn’t have that. I’d just have to get to them.
Then the doors opened.
It was showtime.
I didn’t see where the Master of the Bennett Universe went, but Tanner went up the stairs, surrounded by guards. Another two waited for me, and as I started up after him, two more moved in behind me.
They led me into a grand entryway with white marble flooring. Flecks of gold nestled within the rock, which matched a fountain off to one side. The underside of the fountain shimmered gold as well. A large, white-carpeted staircase circled around, curving upward, and that’s where my guards seemed to be taking me.
Tanner ignored me, disappearing somewhere farther into the house.
My guards and I kept going, all the way to the fourth floor and down a long hallway, then up another set of stairs until I felt I was in a whole other wing. We passed through a glass-encased walkway that led us from the main home into the second building, and then up another set of stairs. I tried to keep track of where we were going, but it was getting harder the farther we went.
They led me into a back hallway that rounded the second home and up one last set of stairs. A granite wall stood in front of us, and a guard pressed his earpiece, saying, “Here.”
An unlocking sound clicked, and a door opened for us. We went inside, and I knew this was my prison.
Though, for a prison, it was a nice one.
It was an entire apartment, really. Sleek and modern with black countertops in the kitchen and a dark oak dining table. The couches in the living room were black leather, sitting on a white rug, in front of a television that looked more like a small movie screen. The bathroom had an oval drop-in sink of black glass, with the same hints of gold from the entrance. A chandelier hung high over the kitchen table.
A doorway led into a room past the living room, and I could see the corner of a bed there. A sheepskin had been laid across the edge, creating a scene that could’ve been photographed for an interior design magazine.
Two of my guards stood to the side of the door, and the other two positioned themselves outside.
I didn’t ask questions, and none of them said anything.
I felt it in my bones: I was waiting for Kai Bennett.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to find an escape route from the apartment. But I still looked around to get my bearings.
Inside the bedroom was a king-sized bed, and a wrap-around deck beyond two sliding glass doors. As I stepped out onto it, my heart sank.
There was nothing for me to climb onto if I wanted to make my way down. The fall could’ve fit a thirty-eight-floor hotel, and I could see rocky terrain at the bottom. It was a rock-climber’s dream, or challenge, but not mine.
I jerked, my hands clenching the railing as his smooth voice slid down my spine. It awakened all my nerve endings, and I gritted my teeth, hating how I reacted to him. Those were the first two words he’d spoken to me in fourteen years, making four in total now.
I didn’t know this guy. Why did I react to him this way?
Turning around, I found Kai standing just inside the bedroom doorway, his head cocked to the side as if he found me a puzzle.
I’d seen it before, but his presence was like a punch to my sternum. He’d been devastatingly handsome at sixteen and he was even more so now, and that set my teeth on edge.
Dressed in a business suit, the shirt unbuttoned and the ends pulled loose from his pants, he had bare feet. He looked as if this trip to see me was the last thing he had to do before relaxing completely, as if I were an afterthought.
Then he shrugged off his suit jacket and shirt, catching the collars of both and tossing them on the bed. He turned to the closet behind him, which opened to showcase an array of men’s clothes.
My mouth dried.
This was his bedroom.
I glanced to a second closet, wondering if I’d find women’s clothes in there or more of his.
He brought out a T-shirt and pulled it on. It molded to him, revealing broad shoulders and a lean waist that had been trimmed down to a core of solid muscle.
His hands dropped to his belt buckle, and I pulled my gaze away and turned around.
Reaching out to steady myself on the railing, I heard his pants drop to the ground. My fingers clutched the steel railing, my nails digging into it.
“So are you?”
I hadn’t heard him move, but his voice was closer. I turned again to find him fully clothed, wearing a pair of dark gray sweatpants that molded to his bottom half the way his shirt did to the top.
He motioned to me. “Come on. I’m tired, and I don’t want to have this talk worrying my little sister’s dear friend might jump to her death.” He snorted to himself. “She’d really be furious with me then.”
There was a twinge in his voice. Exhaustion? I heard it now. I followed him, at a reluctant pace, as he went to the bedroom’s far wall and pushed a button.
Two doors slid open, revealing an entire bar built into the wall. As he poured a glass of bourbon, I saw the slope in his shoulders. There were bags under his eyes, and a tired softness around the corners of his mouth.
I really was an afterthought for him. He’d been somewhere else, doing something else, and whatever it had been had tired him out.
The power and charisma he exuded was still there; it was just slightly diminished. Slightly.
He was dangerous. I felt zapped by his energy, and as I moved into the main room with him, that zap just grew. He sucked the air out of wherever he was—so much that my insides started to feel his same exhaustion.
“Are you going to speak, or do I need to test your vocal chords a different way?” he asked, swinging his heated eyes my way. His nostrils flared as his hand tightened on his glass. “Hmm?”
Make them underestimate you.