Swallowing the regret, I check my phone and see Cason’s text that they’re secured and safe. He sent it only ten minutes ago. She’s safe. And at this moment, she’s still in my grasp. That’s all that matters.
I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath until I read that message and then the next, a text from Daniel saying that he was almost to the safe house.
Go straight to them, I text him and then add, It’s over. There’s just a message left to send.
Jase is peeking over my shoulder and his lip twitches as he mutters, “message to send,” and then kicks in the back door, a door scarred with bullet holes. It reveals two men on their knees with a row of my men behind them.
“What are your names?” My voice bellows in the small room that looks like it was once used for entertainment. A busted bookshelf stands in the back left corner, board games spilling out over the floor and the projector screen straight ahead is littered with small holes.
Nearly every house on this block and the next will be just like this. The people were cleared out two days ago, bribed or threatened to leave, whichever method was more effective.
Jase crouches down in front of one of the two men and says, “If I were you, I’d answer my brother.” The man behind him, the one pointing a gun at our captive lets out a single rough laugh and the man next to him follows.
“Fuck you,” the old man says. He’s on his knees and bent like that makes his stomach look even larger. He’s got to be in his forties and as he spits at Jase’s feet, the wrinkles on his face tighten. He nearly topples over without being able to put his hands out in front of him; they’re cuffed behind his back, just like his friend to the right of him.
Jase stands up and moves to the next man, but when he does, my heart drops and a sick feeling spreads through my veins. “Where’d you get that hoodie?” I ask him and come closer to him, close enough to grab his collar and pull him up to look at his face.
He’s younger with beady eyes and thin lips. He doesn’t say anything at all, but there’s a hint of a smile on his lips like he knows a secret I don’t.
“You,” my voice comes out harsh as I drop the asshole in the black hoodie and let him fall hard on the ground. He coughs up a laugh and I grab the old man’s shirt, fisting it and the back of his head with my other hand.
“What’s his name,” I grit out the question and shake the old man, repeating myself in a scream that rips up my throat when he doesn’t answer. “What’s his name!”
“Fuck, I don’t know!” The old man looks back at me like I’ve gone mad as I breathe heavily, my lungs heaving air.
“This one is Talvery,” I drop the old man and move to the one in the hoodie, the one whose eyes are nothing but a well of blackness.
“This one is hired,” I speak as I crouch in front of him, feeling my heart race.
“Talvery doesn’t need to hire anyone.” The old man speaks up until his executioner chambers a round and the click shuts him up.
“Where did you find this one?” I ask the man standing behind him. When I peer up, I see it’s Logan.
He looks to his left and then to his right, stuttering to answer.
“Logan,” I stand slowly, “Where did this one come from?”
“He was inside the line, shooting at the target, sir,” another man speaks up.
“The target?” My heart pounds, but I remind myself that Daniel should be there.
“The safe house,” the soldier clarifies.
A cold numbness runs through me as the man in the black hoodie, barely on his knees says, “My partner went in and finished what I started.”
I turn to my brother, who’s already on his phone. “Where’s Daniel?” I ask him as my chest heaves for air. I squeeze the gun harder and when the fucker laughs at me, a deep laugh that chills the very marrow in my bones and fills the room, I whip it across his face, feeling the force of it splinter up my hand.
“Confirmed man dead in the safe house, wearing a black hoodie,” Jase’s response soothes the fear, bringing my rage down to a simmer.
“He’s dead?” I ask Jase to tell me again as relief teases me.
“Addison said Aria shot him.”
“She never fails to amaze me.” As much as the pride fills me, there’s nothing but rage that shows. Anger that they got close to her. To my songbird. They came close enough to hurt her. My fists clench tightly, spreading the thin skin across my knuckles as I breathe in slowly, deeply, seeing nothing but red.