My Hider training kicked in, and I lowered my gaze.
I didn’t like the storm inside of me. I was all over the place—feeling enraged, then heated, then other things, but rounding back to hate. I needed him to view me as submissive, timid, so even though my neck tightened so much I could barely move, I forced myself to look at the ground.
The goddamn ground.
This guy—he didn’t deserve having me look down before him.
I knew he’d had thousands killed for the Bennett family. He’d murdered his older brother. And Brooke had never said anything, but I didn’t believe for a millisecond that their father had died in his sleep. Kai had killed him too.
He was a murderer, and he was behind so many girls being trafficked, behind millions of dollars of drugs moving through his territories—he didn’t deserve anything from me.
He deserved to be killed. And if he was the reason for Brooke’s disappearance, I was going to be the one to do it.
I would cut him from dick to throat, in that direction too.
He snorted again, this time with a twinge of genuine amusement. “Don’t kid yourself, and don’t insult me, Riley Bello. You don’t have a timid bone in your body. If you did…”
He started for me, and I couldn’t help myself. I raised my head, and I couldn’t look away.
“You wouldn’t be a Hider for the 411 Network,” he finished softly.
My worst nightmare.
He droned on, sounding almost bored, “You were recruited into their network when your father murdered your mother. Six months after I pulled Brooke from Hillcrest, they told you your mother was missing, but you knew. You knew what happened to her when you went home the next day.”
I was frozen.
“You went to her funeral. You sat beside your father, but you knew the whole time he’d killed her, because that’s what he did. He hurt her. It’s why you were sent away, so he wouldn’t hurt you too. Am I correct?”
I felt sick.
“Their recruiter agents approached you when you were shopping. It was the day after you’d buried your mother in an empty casket. You were at the mall with two of your friends, or two girls your father had deemed appropriate for you. You didn’t even know them, but they were daughters of his colleagues, and you didn’t like them. Am I correct?”
I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t stop listening. I couldn’t do anything as he stripped my world right in front of me.
He knew everything.
How did he—Brooke. Brooke must’ve told him.
He tossed back the rest of his drink. “That was the day you decided to leave, not because he killed your mother, and not because you knew you’d be next, but because they told you the real truth.” His eyes flashed at me, an unnamed emotion there. “Your mother was still alive.”
I couldn’t even swallow.
“How—” I managed to say. “How do you know this?”
“I’m not done, little girl.” A glint of cruelty gleamed at me from his eyes. “Your father did beat your mother,” he sneered. “He did believe he’d killed her. He did order her body to be disposed of, but it was a 411 agent he sent to do it. He believes your mother was thrown to the bottom of a cliff and her body swept out to sea, when instead, she was hidden by the 411 Network. And when they asked you to join them that day in the mall, you said yes so fast you never stopped to think what would happen to anyone you left behind.”
My gut twisted.
A flame flickered to life.
“What are you talking about?” I demanded.
He yawned—he goddamn yawned—and went over to the cupboard to pour himself a second glass of bourbon.
He spoke with his back turned to me. “You haven’t checked in with your father recently, have you?”
I narrowed my eyes. What was he talking about? Blade would’ve—
“Your friend Blade never told you…”
A knife plunged into my chest, hearing him say Blade’s name.
Kai turned back around, holding his glass in front of him. He leaned back against the wall, his eyes locked on mine. “…because he didn’t want you to leave your location, and he knew you would.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your mother had family.”
My aunt. My cousin. I had an uncle too.
I shook my head. “But they—”
They hated my father. They blamed him for her death. I knew they did.
“You had a cousin. Do you remember her? She’s your age, Brooke’s age.”
Tawnia. I didn’t know her that well. My mother had kept us away from her family, more for their safety than ours.
“No. What are you saying? My aunt hated my father.”
“She did. But she didn’t convey that adequately to your cousin.”
Was he…no. No.
I didn’t want to think about what Kai might be inferring. There was no way.
“My aunt would never allow that,” I hissed.
“Your aunt is dead.”
He said that in the same tone he’d used when he told me to leave Brooke alone.
“She’s fine.” “Your aunt is dead.” Both statements meant nothing to him.
He shrugged. “Maybe later.” He drank from his glass. “I brought you here for two reasons. One, a trade. You tell me where my sister is, and I’ll help with your cousin.”
Fuck. Seriously. Fuck. He was serious.
“What exactly are you saying about my father and my cousin?” I eyed him warily.
He finished his drink and set the glass beside him on the counter. “Your cousin didn’t believe your father murdered his wife. She believes your father lost his wife because she ran from him. She believes his daughter was so distraught at being abandoned that you got drunk and caused the car accident that supposedly burned your body to oblivion minus the few traces of DNA left behind. She believes your father is someone to feel pity for, and that he is loving, and kind, and softhearted, and rich. Your father preyed on your cousin, and I’m sure he enjoys the close resemblance she bears to his daughter and wife.”
My father was a monster, but so was the man standing in front of me. He was just as much a monster as Bruce Bello.
“You’re sick. You and him both.”
He stared at me, not moving an inch. An uneasy feeling traced up my spine, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I felt as if I had baited a cobra.
But Kai just nodded toward the door.
“Enough. We’ll continue our talk tomorrow.”
No one else was in the room. I hadn’t noticed the absence of guards until now. But as he spoke, the door opened and Tanner walked in.
“Take her to her room,” Kai told him. “She’s to stay there until I come for her.”
My lips parted.
The way he said that, I felt a bolt of fear slice through me, but then Tanner was next to me. He took my arm, leading me out as I stumbled over my feet, feeling numb.
I hadn’t felt this emotion for a long time, not since my father.
“Wait.” I had to know. Just as Tanner was about to walk me out of Kai’s apartment, I turned back. “How?”
How is he going to help with my cousin?
A glimmer of a smile taunted me. “I’ll have him killed.”
They knew it all.
They knew Blade, the Network. My father. My mother. They knew she was alive. Of course I’d known the Bennetts found me, but I hadn’t thought about it. I hadn’t wanted to.
Tanner pulled me down a flight of stairs, and I tripped again, almost falling, but he caught me and steadied me.
He wouldn’t look at me, though. His jaw was clenched, and his hand dug into my arm. It’d leave a bruise there later.
“How long?” I rasped. It seemed the only way I could talk since they’d taken me. “How long have you known?”
He didn’t answer, a vein bulging in his neck. We turned a corner, and there was another door in front of us. He banged on it, stepping back until it opened from the inside. More guards came out. There were always guards.
He motioned inside. “If you need food or anything, ask the guards. They’ll get it for you. This is your room until Kai wants to see you again.”
I stepped inside, but turned to him. “Tanner, how long?”
His eyes flicked up, and I saw remorse there.
“Since the beginning.” His lips pressed together. He looked as if he had more to say, but thought better of it. He shook his head and barked out, “Lock her in.”
The door slammed shut, and a whoosh of air hit me in the face. I barely blinked, everything in me going into shock.
They knew about the 411 Network, which wasn’t good. In fact, it was really bad. The 411 Network was an organization that hid people who couldn’t survive otherwise—those women and children, and sometimes men, who aren’t protected by the legal system, by cops or whoever else, so we step in. We hide them, sometimes making it look like they’re dead.
The “errands” we run are to pick up people who need transport somewhere else. We handle anyone needing to get into Canada—any survivor who needs help. We don’t discriminate, and most of the time, we aren’t told their names or situations.