“Yum, yum,” Mr. Rogers replied, his lips snarling.
Mid-stir, I tensed. The world stopped. The most gut-wrenching, raw feeling I’d ever had crippled me. It was terror. Something was wrong, and given the intensity of it, I knew who was affected.
I didn’t think about the repercussions, I didn’t care about them—I only cared about getting to her.
Ducking into the walk-in refrigerator, I teleported out of the prison kitchen, middle of the day, with dozens of guards to account for my absence, knowing whatever pit-of-my-stomach feeling had just incapacitated me was more important than having to deal with the upheaval from disappearing from prison.
I was standing in the center of Emma’s room an instant later. Doing a spin, I ascertained it was empty. It was the middle of the day, so Emma should be in class, again, I didn’t know how to explain it, but I knew she wasn’t. Emma wasn’t anywhere close—I couldn’t feel her.
Another survey of her room and my eyes landed on a note resting on her bed. Panic clenched my throat. It was addressed to P.
Rushing to the bed, I snatched the note up and unfolded it.
Tag. You’re it. To ensure you play, I’ve taken out an insurance policy. Come find me or else I’ll play another game with your girl and your brother.
It was signed T.
I read the note again, wanting to convince myself I’d read the words wrong. When the message was the same the second time around, I crumpled the note in my palm and roared. Troy had Emma.
I kicked the wall, my foot going through drywall.
Troy had Joseph.
I smashed my fist through the door. All the way to the other side.
I didn’t know where he had them.
I rammed my head against the wall, sending another cloud of white dust into the air.
He was going to hurt them.
I fell to my knees, folding my head into my arms.
I felt helpless. I was helpless. I needed to find Emma and Joseph and I knew that eventually, I could.
I would tear the whole damn world apart until I found them, but I knew time wasn’t a luxury I had. Troy hadn’t specified, but I knew I had days, maybe even hours before he started to harm the people I loved.
I needed to find them. Now. And one person could find them for me.
Taking one last look around Emma’s room, I closed my eyes and concentrated on Montana. My father’s office.
I was kneeling on the mahogany wood floors of his dark office when I opened my eyes. It was empty.
Damn it. My dad was in his office more than any other place. Lunging up, I ran out of the office, making a quick layover in my room to grab my emergency pack and to change. Thirty seconds later, I was blazing down the stairs in a white undershirt, jeans, and steel toed boots. Wherever I was going, whatever I found, I was denting in some foreheads today.
Snapping the straps of the backpack across my chest and stomach, I shoved through the front door, pausing on the porch.
The barn. Father was in the barn with a few others.
“They took Emma and Joseph,” I said, appearing outside of the stall father, William, and Bryn were in, aiding a mare getting ready to foal.
“What?” Father said, his face dropping.
“I was just at Emma’s dorm and that Inheritor bastard Troy left me a note saying he’d taken them and he was waiting for me to come get them,” I said, gripping the metal bars of the stall.
“Are you sure?” Bryn said, wiping her arms on a towel as she came towards me.
“Does it look like I’m sure?” I asked, meeting her eyes.
Bryn inspected my face and swallowed. “Are you all right?” she asked, resting her hand on one of my forearms flexing against the bars.
“No,” I said, hissing the word through my teeth. I was barely hanging onto my composure. “I’m not all right. But I will be once I find Troy, anyone associated with him, and end each and every one of those bastards. I’ll be fine once I have Emma back in my arms and my brother back home with his family.” William came up behind Bryn, his expression unreadable. I envied him that. When life got grizzly, you never saw it affect William, at least on the outside. Me, I let everything I felt spill out on my face and body.
“Do you know where they might be?” William asked, his voice the calm to my manic.
“No,” I said, clenching my jaw. All I could think about was Emma and Joseph at the mercy of the likes of Troy and his gang. The thought made me drive my boot into the stall wall.
The laboring mare jolted.
“Do you know how many of them are with Troy?” William asked, looking over to our father, who was a vice of silence. He was somewhere else, lost in the recesses of his mind.
“No,” I answered, hanging my head between my arms.
“Do you know—”
“I don’t know a god damn thing!” I shouted, spinning on him. “All I know is they took her, William!
They took Emma. They took our brother.” My body was shaking from the buildup of adrenaline. “They took them!”
William and Bryn stared at me, having no words to calm me with and none that would work if they could muster any up. Then Bryn separated herself from William and stopped in front of me. Her arms lifted around my neck and she pulled me close, holding me so tight I knew I wouldn’t fall apart while she held me. My external earthquake stilled as I wound my arms around her.
“It’s okay,” she said softly, stroking my hair in almost the same way my mother used to when I was young. “We’ll find them. We’ll find them,” she repeated, again and again in my ear until I believed her.
“Father,” William said, breaking the minute of solace, “where are they?”
“Thanks, Bryn,” I whispered, giving her one final squeeze before I shouldered up to William, who was watching my father with an expectant expression.
Father startled, his eyes clearing as he found his way back to us.
“You were able to get past their Shielder?” William said, crossing his arms.
Father blinked a few times, his face lined with confusion.
“Where are they?” I asked, feeling hope take root.
“Son,” he began, lifting his hand.
“Father, we don’t have time for this,” I said, working to keep my control. “They’ve got Emma and Joseph. I need to get to them. Where are they?”
Father sighed, meeting my gaze. “You realize the reason they called off their Shielder, right?” he began. “It’s a trap. That’s the only reason they’d let their location be uncovered.”
“Good,” I replied, my muscles twitching to life, ready to go into action. “I’m a pro at springing traps.
Where are they?”
Bryn came up beside me, and the three of us stood shoulder to shoulder.
“You can’t go in there alone,” he replied, looking between the three of us like he was trying to convince each one of us. “That’s exactly what they want.”
“That’s exactly what I want,” I replied, stepping forward, wanting to reach into my father’s mind and pull out the location with my fingers. Emma and Joseph were one teleportation away and I stood here arguing with my father, trying to pry it from him.
“We go together. All of us,” he said, the note of authority in his voice clearly a verdict coming from the Chancellor. “I will not allow you to teleport there on your own to be killed. If you want to have a chance at saving Emma and Joseph, you’ll wait for the rest of your family to accompany you.”
“Understood?” he said in a clipped tone.
I knew he was right. He’d been elected Chancellor of our Alliance decades ago for a reason—it was because Charles Hayward was a man that thought with his head and executed his plans precisely. He wasn’t a loose cannon that flew off the cuff like me. I knew he was worried about losing me, he was worried about losing Joseph.
I understood where he was coming from. “Fine,” I said, meeting his gaze. “Understood.”
“Good,” he said, nodding his head as he turned his gaze on William. “Get the plane ready, son.
We’re leaving as soon as we tell the others.”
William paused, clearing his throat, and maybe I imagined it, but I swore I felt he was suggesting something when his shoulder barely touched mine. “I’ll get everything ready. What are the coordinates I’ll need to plug into the GPS?”
God, I loved my brother. The final pairing of numbers were still spilling from father’s mouth when I disappeared from the barn.
I understood where my father was coming from, but I didn’t give a damn. My girl was out there at the mercy of scumbags; now was not the time to execute perfectly laid out plans. Now was the time to beat some heads in.
North Idaho. Not quite Canada, not quite the United States—it was a land all unto itself. The coordinates landed me smack in the center of a forest that looked like neither man nor time had touched. It was wild, the way it was at Earth’s inception, and the way it would remain until its demise. For them to get Joseph and Emma here sometime between when I’d left her dorm early this morning to the time I found the note this afternoon, they had to have a plane. A fast one. Where they could have landed it in this tree infested land was a mystery, but a plane meant they had money and had been planning this out for a while.
Neither conclusion comforted me.
I didn’t have to phone Sasha to ascertain this was the location those two Inheritors had disappeared on my trackers—not that I could have gotten reception in this never ending wall of trees—I could feel it.
Not the evil that rolled off the puffed out chests of Troy and his men, but her. Emma. The tether tied around my heart cinched tighter, to the point of throbbing, alerting me she was close.
I didn’t know how many men Troy had at his disposal, but I guessed it had to be more than ten to kidnap Emma and my brother. I might tease that my brother was the soft baby of the family, but you did not want to stand on the other side of my line from my brother when the flag dropped. Joseph was just as proficient in the art of ass kicking as I was; he was just more calculated where I was more careless.
Either way, he could hold his own against a handful of Immortals, so that meant Troy had more than a handful.
That meant they needed a considerable sized space for their headquarters. There were no dwellings on the surface within sight—there were likely no dwellings for hundreds of miles—and they sure as hell weren’t hanging out in the trees. Assured Emma was close, that meant one thing.
They were below the surface.
I’d been to enough rodeos to become familiar with about every sort of possible hole man, beast, or Immortal could wind up in, and I’d be willing to bet, if I could get my hands on a topography map of this area, I’d find a network of underground caves weaving their way below my feet.
Now that I knew where they were, how did I get down there? There had to be some sort of entrance, likely close and definitely hidden exceedingly well. Scum like Troy were hiders; they hid in the shadows, pouncing when their victim’s backs were turned.
Starting right where I was, I began combing through each square foot of moss-covered soil, inspecting every ancient tree, investigating every rock outcropping. Nothing.