Chances were Bridge was pissed.
Chances were he was thinking of all the ways to divorce me, kill me, then resurrect me and kill me again.
I knew I was being impetuous, but Darcy’s life hung in the balance. His sister. I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. So I was going into the fray, stepping in and doing the thing that I needed to do. The thing he wouldn’t want me to do. But Darcy was just a kid. I was a full-grown adult who had dragged my family into this mess. Darcy didn’t have to pay for my mistakes.
As the car entered the park, I leaned forward. “We can stop here.”
The taxi driver glanced around. “Ma’am, it’s dark now. Late. You sure you should be walking through here by yourself?”
I sighed. “I appreciate the chivalry, but I know what I’m doing.”
At least I hoped I knew what I was doing. Because I assumed I was being watched. And if I was being watched that probably meant I was being tracked by Middleton’s goons.
I’d ditched my phone at Belinda’s restaurant because that was the most obvious way for my team to track me, but I didn’t want the kidnappers getting ahold of it. What if they could track our activities that way?
Besides, I knew East and Telly well enough to know there was another way for the team to track me. I just had to be patient before activating it. If my guess was right, it was in my boot. I prayed to God it was.
I had to see Darcy’s face, know she was safe, and know there was a way out. Until then though, I needed to act the part.
I shoved open the car door and gave a smile to the driver as I paid him. “Thanks for your concern.”
He shrugged, and when I slammed the door closed, he idled for a moment as if waiting to see if someone came for me. Which, honestly, was kind of him. Most people probably would have left me to it. But still, I marched into the park, a chill running through me as the shadows closed in.
God, this was so stupid and risky. Why did the rational thoughts come after I decided to do the thing that I probably shouldn’t be doing? That was the way of it. I made the decision, forged my choice in steel, and as soon as I was holding this award for stupidity, I’d wonder how the hell I ended up there.
You’re going to have to make better decisions.
I was going to have to figure that out. I couldn’t go through life like this anymore. I was going to get someone killed. If not myself, then someone I cared about.
Focus on Darcy.
I took the gravel path. The silence was eerie. Beyond the blanket of nature sounds, the owls hooting, the flapping of wings, the chirping of crickets, I could hear the bustle of the city. Knowing it was there without feeling the immediate noise of it was jarring. Like I’d been transported to a secret garden but could still feel the reverberations of the real world around me. Once my brain filtered the sounds of the city, I kept walking. Eventually, at a massive tree about 100 meters away from the entrance, I took a deep breath. Everything was going to be fine. I was going to be fine. If no one showed up in an hour, I would just go home. Easy. I would have to face Bridge’s wrath, but that was fair enough.
Once I made it to the tree, I shivered as I waited. This had to work. Or had I miscalculated horribly? I couldn’t have. I was good at reading people. Middleton had taken Darcy because he wanted Bridge’s attention. And he wanted access to me.
He’d taken Darcy because she was the easier target. Me, not so much. Therefore, if I made myself an easier target, he should be watching.
I felt a shadow behind me and told myself not to stiffen. But it was one of those impossible things. A holdover sixth sense from our primordial days, the one that warned us of danger, that took in all the stimuli and processed it as run the fuck away.
The urge to run was palpable, the fear, the pumping adrenaline. When an arm wrapped around my waist and a black bag was yanked over my head, I worked hard not to fight it this time. After all, I had already been kidnapped once. I knew what to expect, right?
Except the first time you were kidnapped by your husband who loves you and most certainly wasn’t going to hurt you. It was funny how my own husband kidnapping me had prepared me for the actual danger… like a practice round. I knew what was at the end of this. Darcy.
I tried to keep track of how long they held me. Tapping my fingers in time to the watch on my wrist. I wasn’t well-trained enough to be able to determine rights and lefts and directions. But that wouldn’t matter, provided they didn’t strip me down naked.
And if they do, what are you going to do about that?
I worked the heel of my boot on the floor. The little nub on the bottom was still there. Christ, I prayed I was right about East’s paranoia.
I was counting on one ace in the hole, and I hadn’t given much thought about what to do if it didn’t work out. But this had to work. Period. It was the only idea I had. And if it didn’t work, at least Darcy wasn’t going to die alone. Honestly, Darcy was unlikely to die anyway. She wasn’t who Middleton wanted. He wanted me.
And you’re walking right into his trap.
I was. But if that’s what it took to keep Darcy safe, then I was willing to do that.
Have you considered what that would do to Bridge?
Bridge would survive as long as he had his sister. I had to focus on getting her home. If I could at least give him that, then he would heal.
Finally, the car stopped. I waited for the men who had taken me to collect me. I assumed they were men because they felt like they were taller than I was. One of them had calloused hands, rough, much larger than mine too.
Breathe, Emma, breathe.
I tried to force calm into my body. I tried to force my brain not to spin. I knew what to do. All I had to do was execute.
You’d better execute because yours and Darcy’s lives depend on it.
Thecardoor opened, and several hands dragged me out roughly. They zip-tied me with my hands in front of me, and I couldn’t see because the black bag was still over my head. They didn’t carry me, but instead frog marched me over uneven gravel. My boots made a scraping, clopping sound with every step. I realized that gravel and not the usual cobblestones meant we weren’t anywhere in Central London. But there were ambient traffic sounds, which meant there was a road nearby. At least we weren’t out in the sticks. Where else would you keep someone you’d kidnapped when you needed silence? A warehouse maybe? If Darcy and I could escape, maybe we could make it to a main road or something.
My mind kept playing all the scenarios over and over again. There had to be a way out of this. Finally, I heard scraping of something heavy and metal. I assumed a door of some sort. And then one of the men grabbed my arm so tightly he nearly squeezed the life out of it. That would certainly bruise tomorrow. “Oi, easy does it, mate.”
He leaned in, and through the black bag I could smell the rancidness of his breath. “I’m not your mate.”
His voice was thick, heavy, and not British. Eastern European maybe? This certainly didn’t feel like my mysterious note sender. Which meant he either worked for Middleton or I’d managed to piss off someone entirely different. Or I was being human trafficked. It was a cornucopia of bad scenarios.
After a few stumbling steps, someone shoved me forward, and I fell on my side to the ground, my hands planting on smooth concrete. The pain fissured up my arms. “Fuck, that hurt.” I stumbled to my feet. Someone stood behind me, jerking me back and yanking the hood off.
I blinked furiously, trying to get my bearings. The room was dimly lit, but well enough that I could see. And in the corner, there was a girl in what looked to be pajamas with a hood over her head. “Darcy?”
Her head snapped to the side as if she was searching for me. “Emma?” Her voice was muffled.
“Darcy, we’re going to get out of here.”
The one who’d pulled me back apparently didn’t like that and backhanded me from behind, sending my head to the left. I tasted blood and scowled. “Oh, I see you’ve got a gentle touch.”
“Shut up. You’re not allowed to talk.”
Two men with guns stood near Darcy. One stepped forward. “Oh, the boss isn’t going to be happy with this one.”
I pulled myself to my full height, which wasn’t that impressive considering who I was dealing with. These men were enormous. The lads were tall and lean, elegant fighters, but these men were packed with muscle and built like brick shit houses ready to act as a tank through your life.
I hoped to God I knew what I was doing.
The one who’d stepped forward with the gun inclined his head. “Bring her here. Tie her to the chair. Gag her if you have to. I don’t want to listen to her mouthing off.”
Darcy laughed. “Oh, you like the way I mouth off better? What else can I say about your mother? I mean, clearly she’s a whore. Not to denigrate sex workers. She’s just a whore because she fucked you, your grandfather, your father, and her brothers and uncles, too, for no money.”
He went to strike her, and I called out to him. “I’m pretty sure you were told not to damage the merchandise, so hands off the little one. Besides, can’t you handle a little girl?” The one behind me slapped me in the back of the head again. The force of his hand took me so far forward I almost stumbled again. “Same goes for me. I know I’m supposed to remain unharmed. I’m pretty sure that’s how he likes his victims. So hands off, you fucking twat lizard.” He scowled at me, leaning in right against my cheek. “Ugh, mate, your breath. I don’t have a mint but maybe ask around.”
He looked like he wanted to pick me up and smash my head into the concrete. For one long moment, I worried that he would do just that and forego whatever fucking amount of money Middleton was paying him. Instead, he shoved me and leaned forward. At least his breath wasn’t nearly as rancid.
“If you don’t fucking shut your mouth, I’ll just simply forget I wasn’t supposed to harm the young one and let the boys have some fun with her.”
Fuck them. “I mean if you don’t like money, fair enough.” The one with the gun secured my feet and tossed me down on the concrete next to Darcy, and I leaned toward her and removed the hood from her head. “Are you okay?” She nodded. The three men that had been sent to guard us wandered away toward the card table by the door. “We’re going to get out of here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’m sure.” And as discreetly as possible, I reached for my boot, praying to God that what I’d seen earlier in the car was accurate. It was just a small pin in the side of my heel, but I’d felt it. I wiggled the tiny latch with my nail until it gave way. And when it did, I found what I was looking for, pressed it, and prayed to God that the lads got the beacon.