She pried at it, but it didn’t budge. Not that she had any kind of leverage. She tried again, unable to even get her fingers under it. She sighed but stayed in contact with him. “I have the feeling it can only be removed by whoever put it there.”
The muscles in Nick’s jaw twitched.
“Can you talk?”
“Let me guess, I have to tell you to talk?”
“Arn’ta rune,” she muttered softly, her anger building. “You can talk whenever you want.”
“Don’t thank me. This shouldn’t have happened to you in the first place.”
“Is that really your brother? He doesn’t look anything like you.”
“No, but he looks like my father so I guess he could be.” She did a quick calculation in her head. If he’d been two or three when she’d run… “Looks about the right age.”
“Any idea what your sister wants with you?”
“Not a clue, but I doubt it has anything to do with my parents dying.”
He nodded. “I doubt that, too.”
She lifted her hands. “Can you get this tape off me?”
His hand jerked forward, then dropped. He frowned. “No. There must be some kind of command built into the bracelet to prevent me from helping you.”
His mouth hardened into a firm line, and he rolled his gaze toward the front of the van. “When I get my hands on him…”
She sensed that he’d left his vow unfinished because of the possibility that Zane was her brother. She snorted. “Family or not, he took me hostage and is obviously behind Burnside’s stalking me. Do whatever you need to.”
He nodded. “Okay.”
“He’s got one of those bracelets on Burnside, too. That’s the other piece of jewelry Sheriff Merrow called about. I should have known.”
“How could you?”
If she had studied her history, that’s how, but when she’d run, she put all of that behind her. Refused to spend another moment giving it any more of her time. Decided her own way was all she needed. She sighed and stared at the ceiling, staying close enough that her arm was in contact with his. “My purse was in the beach bag and my cell phone was in my purse.”
“You already know my phone was in there, you checked for me.”
She groaned. “I really want to punch something.”
“I know the feeling.”
She thought for a moment, then tipped her head back and spoke loud enough to be heard over the van’s many noises. “Zane, please, we don’t have to do things this way. This is no way to treat family. I’d love to get to know you and Kyanna and see Mom and Dad again.”
His short bark of a laugh answered her. “Nice try. No more talking or I’ll stop this van and slap a fresh piece of duct tape over your mouth.”
She let out a long sigh. “So much for that.”
“Nice try, though.” Nick gave her a reassuring nod.
“We should probably get some rest.” She stared at the scratched windows.
“I’d rather stay awake. Be ready for when we stop.”
She looked over at him. “That might be a while.”
“You know where we’re going?”
“I think so. Back to the fae kingdom where I grew up, Rhoswynn. It’s in the mountains of Arkansas. Crap. I never connected Burnside being from Arkansas with the possibility he might be in league with my family.”
“Don’t worry about that now.” Nick squinted. “If we drive straight through, that might be…” He paused. “Close to nine or ten hours.”
“We’ll have to stop for gas at least once.”
He shook his head slowly. “This is diesel. I can tell by the growl of the engine. A van like this probably holds thirty-five gallons. It’ll be tight, but no, we won’t necessarily have to stop.”
“Get some sleep. Anything happens, I’ll wake you.”
She let out a deep exhale and closed her eyes, leaning her head on his shoulder as best she could. She tried to think about things that made her happy. Like Nick. And Jasper.
She went stiff.
“Jasper,” she whispered back. “I know he’ll be okay for a day or two, but—”
“He’ll be fine for longer than that.”
“With his appetite? I don’t know.”
“I gave him a whole can of food and filled his dry food bowl to the top. Maybe over the top. There might have been some on the floor, actually.”
She almost laughed. “Which is exactly what I told you not to do.”
She exhaled some of the panic that had been coursing through her a second earlier. Jasper would be all right. Someone would figure out they were missing well before Jasper went hungry. “I love you.”
Nick’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. He looked a little stunned.
She swallowed, realizing what she’d said. Then she shrugged. “Well, I do. Get over it.”
Then she closed her eyes and snuggled up against him, praying that they lived through whatever happened next.
She hadn’t realized she’d fallen asleep until the pop and grind of gravel under the van’s tires woke her. The watery light of morning filtered in through a few scratches on the painted rear windows.