The Insiders

Page 27

The intruder came at me, but I ran him over. Literally. He came to the bed, and that was the time my feet made contact with the bed. I bowled him like he was a pin and I was the bowling ball, and I didn’t stop.

He made a sound, yelling my name, but no way. No way, Jose. Of course the intruder would know my name. They broke in for me. They sure as shit hadn’t broken in for Kash or for introductions. Slamming down on the floor, my heart in my throat, I tore down the hallway, the stairs, and I was sprinting for the door when the person recovered enough to come to the second-floor landing.

He yelled out, “It’s me! Matt! Stop!”


I wasn’t stupid. I still wasn’t stopping. But I looked over my shoulder just as I rounded the corner and I got a glimpse of him, his hand outstretched toward me.


My feet were pounding the pavement. Stop? Keep going? If I hadn’t almost been kidnapped once, maybe I would’ve stopped, because that seemed the rational thing, but it happened once. No way was it happening again. I was heading down the sidewalk as a barrage of security guards were running to meet me. They came from everywhere. Back. Front. Left. Right. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a few popped up from underground.

“Ms. Hayes!” One was yelling at me, a hand toward me while he kept his gun pointed downward.

“Ms. Hayes.” That same guy was almost to me. He was slowing down. They were all slowing down—well, the ones who were surrounding me were. I couldn’t stop. I just couldn’t. My brain was not commanding my feet, so I slammed into one of them. They caught me up, and that’s when I looked over my shoulder again. A group had separated from the others and was approaching the villa. Their guns were out, and they weren’t making a sound. They were doing a bunch of hand signals to each other as a few were touching their ears, getting their commands that way.

I just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop moving, fighting, running. Because of that, I almost ran up the side of the guard holding me, and he grunted, tightening his hold. “Stop, Ms. Hayes. Stop. We have you. You’re safe.”

I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying, and I couldn’t stop.

He cursed, grunting.

“Take her out of here. Take her to the house.”

The guard nodded behind me. I knew I needed to stop, but I wasn’t used to fear like that. Fear that told me that if I stopped moving, I could die. If I stopped moving, they could take me again. If I stopped moving, Rafe, Clemin, and Boots could get me again. Arcane.

I couldn’t stop moving. Ever.

And because of that, the guard needed a second man to help hold me as they carried me, holding me up so my feet were in the air, still trying to run. I looked like I was trying to ride a bike. That’s how I was when they carried me inside the mansion, past a group of staff who had congregated in the hallway. I recognized the room a split second before the door opened and there stood Marie, her eyes wide, her face pale, and her stocky body not letting them pass.

“Move, Marie.” The guard wasn’t waiting for her. He barked that order and she had a split second before jutting aside for us. He deposited me on the floor and I was off, but by then my brain had more control over me. Just my heart was pounding, and I had to walk off my nerves, so I immediately began pacing the large table in the middle of the room. Round and round again. Round and round.

I never stopped, not after the two guards started to leave and I croaked out, “Don’t leave. Please.” Or after Marie settled in, just watching me. I wasn’t paying her attention anymore, or the guards who remained after my request. One was in the open door, guarding us, and the other was just watching me.

I just kept going.

I had no idea how much time passed before we heard movement in the hallway again. More guards were coming toward us. They paused. There was a conversation at the door, then the one guard shifted aside and Matthew stepped inside the room.


Nope. I wasn’t having it. I kept walking around that table because it was the only thing that was making sense in my life at that moment. The table. It was long and rectangular shaped and the perfect thing to walk around, so that’s what I was doing.

“Bailey.” Matt’s voice softened. He was cautious as he approached me. “Stop. You can stop.”

He reached out as I made a pass by him, and I shoved his hand away. “Don’t. Do not!” I stalked past and went for another circle.

“I know what happened to you.”

That made me slow down, but I still couldn’t stop. Feeling helpless and powerless made you need to do something, anything to push that feeling aside. It was the most terrifying thing a person could experience.

I couldn’t endure that again.

Matt’s voice dropped low, breaking. “They tried to take Cyclone once, too.”

Oh, God.



Matt spoke as I kept pacing around the table. “He was four and he doesn’t remember it, but it was the most traumatizing day of our lives. They got him. They actually got him for a few minutes. Then Kash found ’em and he tore them apart. Those kidnappers are in prison now and they’ll never be free. And they’re in the kind of prison where no one knows it even exists, that kind. My dad made sure of that. Kash made sure of that.” He paused, hesitating. “There’s been two other rings who have tried to take us. Both times, Kash caught them. He stopped them, and he’ll stop who’s tried to take you too. I promise.”

I didn’t know I was crying till then, till my hand raised to wipe something tickling my cheek. Feeling the tears, I looked at my hand oddly. I didn’t cry. Hayes women did not do tears. What was this wetness?

My eyeballs were sweating.

Kash. I needed to talk to Kash. I didn’t know why. I wasn’t questioning it. I just needed him. He had texted earlier in the day, but I hadn’t had the heart to reply. Now he was all I had the heart to hear from.

“Where’s Kash?”

Matt paused, frowning. “You want to talk to Kash?”

I jerked my head in a nod. “Please.”

I had stopped. I hadn’t realized that, either. There was a whole bunch I wasn’t paying attention to, but that was the point of walking, of getting numb. I wanted to turn off the world. That’s how it worked. Once I felt safe, I’d come back.

I was still waiting.

“I’m sorry I scared you. I didn’t know.” Matt was speaking closer to me. He had a phone in his hand. “I wanted to talk to you, but when you reacted … I knew what happened to you. I’m really, really sorry, Bailey. Truly sorry. Cyclone gets nightmares. He doesn’t remember what happened, but it’s like his mind does, or whatever part where dreams still remember. Not that often, but maybe once or twice a year. I’ve heard them. They send chills down my back when I hear ’em. I feel sick thinking about what could’ve happened. I am so sorry. So sorry.” He kept repeating those last two words as he gently, slowly, and so tenderly stepped in so he could hug me.

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