“You’ve been protecting him for fifteen years. Some habits are hard to break.”
She wanted to throw up. How could he think that of her after all they’d shared, how close they’d been? Or maybe she’d only imagined the connection on his side. Because it was very clear right now that he wasn’t budging.
Still, she had to say her piece. “That’s totally different from this. I can love my brother without loving the choices he’s made… But I can see that you don’t believe me.”
“I can’t risk it.”
Did he believe she might try to alert her brother? Sneak him away from a military op involving enough firepower to blow them all sky-high? She shook her head in disbelief.
Her heart shattered into a thousand pieces at his words, like the final tap on a pristine sheet of ice that fractured it apart, nothing left but deathly cold water beneath.
“That’s it for us then. You go do your job, and I’ll do my best to stay out of your way. But you do not have the authority to make me leave. As long as Lasky believes I’m a valuable asset, then I’m staying right here.”
She backed a step from him, her eyes memorizing the bold, strong lines of his face. Snow flurries fell between them, melting on his hair and sleeves. Her fingers ached to test the stubble along his jaw one last time, to brush the beads of water from his head.
“Good-bye, Wade.” She forced herself to turn away fast, before she weakened and changed her mind.
Or before he saw the tears clouding her eyes.
Through the sheen, she saw Flynn in the distance, standing just past the boathouse. At least they could work together to try and make some sense of what had happened in their village. Together with Misty they could try to find the people responsible.
Before she’d made it two steps, Wade clasped her arm. “Stop. We can talk later. But for now you just can’t wander off.”
What good would talking do? She didn’t, couldn’t, face him. “I’ll stay with Flynn and my sister. We’ll stick by Lasky. Now please. Let. Me. Go.”
He held her arm so long she thought he might argue. Part of her wanted him to stay and hash this out, reassure her she’d misunderstood somehow. His fingers slid away, releasing her with his own unspoken good-bye.
Her feet moved ahead of her heart, making fast tracks across the deserted frozen lot, needing to put distance between herself and Wade. She searched, anger clouding her mind. Finally, she caught a glimpse of a familiar figure outside the power plant gates. Flynn. He must have taken Misty away to find something to eat at the fishing festival.
She doubled her speed, sidling out a gate, past a guard, racing toward the dock. She glanced back over her shoulder quickly, only to find Wade stalking off into the swirling snow. Collecting his thoughts, maybe? She couldn’t blame him.
Approaching Flynn softly so as not to startle him, she called out quietly, “Flynn? Are you okay? Where’s Misty? Did you find something good to eat, because I just realized I haven’t eaten yet.”
He pivoted on his boot heel toward her slowly. The morning sun streamed down over his windburned face, creased in confusion. “Did you need something?”
“I just wondered if you’re ready to go back with me to talk to Agent Lasky. They’re ready for us to look at some more photos, help figure out who may have been responsible for the bomb.”
A creaking dock plank sounded behind her, giving her only a second’s warning before something solid jabbed against her back. “Don’t make a sound,” a female voice ordered, “or I’ll be forced to shoot you. The gun has a silencer, so no one will know.”
Her eyes shot to Flynn quickly. Why wasn’t he helping her? And then she couldn’t think of anything other than the familiar voice behind her.
The awful, awful recognition gelled inside of Sunny that her brother’s wife had a gun wedged between her ribs and might truly shoot.
Sunny looked back over her shoulder at the woman she’d called family for nearly two years. “What are you doing here? I thought you were camping with Phoenix.”
Some camping trip. Oh God, was her brother here too, somehow tangled up in this nightmare?
Her sister-in-law tugged her hood more firmly over her blonde hair. “Your brother is off doing what he always does, communing with nature as if somehow that’s going to heal the earth. I’m taking action. Since he won’t help me, I’ve just found others who will.” She jabbed harder. “Now, since you interrupted our getaway, you’re going to come along with us in the boat.”
With us? Her eyes went to Flynn. To the line of fishing vessels tied to the moorings down at the dock. To the SWAT team and Wade, all too far away to be of any help.
Oh God, why hadn’t she listened to him about the danger here? All the information they’d gathered and put together with intel pointed to the power plant, but maybe someone on the inside knew there had been a leak, because this group sure as hell appeared to carry off their plan with adjustments to work around the police and military forces in place. Now she truly was alone to fight this battle that could create such far-reaching horror for so many if Astrid got away.
And Flynn. She couldn’t even bear to think of what this would do to Misty. Sunny could have sworn his feelings for her sister were genuine. Maybe there was some hope in getting through to him. “But Flynn? I don’t understand.”
“Flynn? That’s Ryker.” Astrid laughed. Her voice, which had once seemed so lyrical when singing to her infant son, now sounded harsh and discordant. Her eyes lit with fanaticism. She swept a hand toward the nearest fishing boat, with a lean man, his back to them, already at the helm. “And that’s Brett—our partner in the biggest, splashiest front-page news this area has ever seen and just what we need to make people sit up and take notice.”
Misty slipped away from Agent Lasky, actually fairly easy to do since it had turned into a ghost town, with everyone evacuated. Authorities were confident about their security in place and busy as hell searching for more bombs. Sidling past two local cops on their radios, she scanned the huge parking lot, the outbuildings, the perimeter trees by the bay, for Flynn and Sunny. Sometime over the past twenty minutes she’d lost track of them and as much as she hated to admit it, she needed them.
Winding her way through the festival, she was scared and feeling her deafness more acutely than ever in the four years since she’d lost her hearing. Out of her comfort zone, away from everything familiar, she found this overcrowded, fast-paced world overwhelming. There was so little time to react and so many surprises—people, carts, cars, you name it—zipping past and startling her.
Of course it didn’t help that she was positively nauseous over how she may have unknowingly aided the people responsible for this through her emails with Brett. How easily she’d been lured in. Somehow, he’d known all the right buttons to push to get close to her.
To learn more about the people around her.
A body jostled her from behind as she stuck close to the sidewalk near the water. She jolted, spun around, and sagged with relief at a father kneeling to help his kid with a fishing rod. “Sorry, ma’am.”
She just smiled her apology, painfully aware of how her voice would label her now, make her more vulnerable.
Had she even eased Brett’s path in staging this bombing attempt? Or had he merely worked his way into her affections so he could keep tabs on when she planned to leave? Agent Lasky seemed to think the murders may have been an attempt to keep the community contained. Either the rest of the unaccounted-for people were dead as well, or they were somehow involved in this plot.
Or worse yet, other plots.
So where was Brett now? According to his wife—Misty swallowed back bile—he was on the run and she had no idea where. Andrea Livingston was being questioned further and her home was staked out, only twenty miles away. How much more betrayed must that woman be feeling?
The wind carried the scent of the sea as she circled past a line of three boats on trailers with the power plant logo stamped along the side. Beyond the gate, a small fishing festival was well under way. Looking down the length of the dock, Misty’s eyes locked on Flynn with Sunny. His broad shoulders and back were so wide and dependable. She was lucky to have this second chance with him. She wouldn’t throw it away.
Sunny turned to step from one level of the dock to the next, her face tipped toward Misty for the first time. Misty waved and started to call out across the fifty yards or so that separated them.
Sunny’s eyes went wide. And not in happiness or surprise, but with unmistakable terror. Misty had spent too much of the past four years reading people’s nonverbal cues to doubt herself, even from a distance. She froze in her tracks, half-hidden behind the row of boats and meandering people.
“No,” Sunny signed fast, one hand low behind her back. “Gun. Hostage. Help.”
Horror iced through Misty as her sister was loaded into a security boat tied to a mooring.
Frantically, she studied Sunny closer. The early morning sun caught a glint of metal pressed into her sister’s side. Most definitely a gun held in the mystery woman’s hand. And oh God, Flynn was actually helping by hauling Sunny along? She couldn’t wrap her brain around the possibility that he could do something so horrific, that he could be involved in this criminal nightmare…
Because it couldn’t be him. Somehow, even if it seemed impossible, that had to be Ryker. Her brain began to register the differences. Now she just had to figure out what to do next.
Misty’s chest went tight with panic, her knees wobbly, and she grabbed the nearest mooring post for support. Only a split instant to make a decision whether to press ahead and scream or slip away and search for help. And if she chose wrong, her sister would die. Others could die from the stray gunfire.
Her grip numbing as she held on to the boat for balance, she looked behind her for help, but Agent Lasky was out of sight. Everyone else at least a hundred yards away on the other side of the fence. God, why had she wandered so far away?—but if she hadn’t she wouldn’t have found her sister. And why weren’t there more police on the dock?
She made her decision. She couldn’t even waste a second for a final look, or good-bye, or I love you. But then her sister had to already know.
Misty spun on her heel and ran full out toward Agent Lasky. She didn’t have to be able to hear to know the boat carrying her sister was already roaring away.
Wade had once held immeasurably still for five hours in a Central American jungle after stabilizing an injured pilot who’d punched out of his F-16 doing drug interdiction patrols. Their ride out had been diverted due to antiaircraft fire, and with drug lords crawling around behind every banana tree, he hadn’t dared move.
He’d only been on this frozen rooftop a half hour, scanning the perimeter for suspicious activity, but it already seemed twice as long as that jungle stint. He would feel a helluva lot better when he had a chance to talk to Sunny, to figure out a way to sort through the anger in her eyes. Still, even knowing that the SWAT team and the local police were crawling all over the place, even sending out a boat to patrol the bay, didn’t ease the knot in his gut at the thought of her here helping.
His earpiece buzzed with chatter from the bomb squad as they discussed ways to either disable the device or contain the blast. Fire trucks and EMTs waited outside the fence. And the MH-60 was still parked right where they’d landed a couple of hours ago.
“Hurry up and wait” had never felt so damn excruciating before.
McCabe’s knees popped again as he shifted positions. “Wanna swap places? I just got a clear view of your girlfriend.”
“Where? What’s she doing?” Damn it, she should be far, far away from this place. “Hang on and I’ll be over in a second. There’s something funky going on outside the gate.”