“No,” she sobbed. “You don’t want to take him on. Just leave me here. Walk away before you tumble straight into his trap. It’s the only way you’ll survive.”
Blue paused. Her words . . .
Those of a frightened captive, sure. But there was something else at work here, it seemed, something far more desperate than he was used to seeing from those he’d wrangled over the years.
He didn’t have time for a conversation but found himself flipping her over anyway, placing a knee in her stomach to hold her down and training a gun on the doorway, just in case they had any unexpected visitors. He also kept the syringe ready to be plunged deep into her neck.
She was fully dressed, he noted. T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. The tennis shoes looked odd on her. Too casual for the girl he’d come to know, the white canvas somehow out of place when paired with the bright colors of the rest of her clothing.
Watery eyes beseeched him. “Walk away. Leave Tyson and me alone.”
“I can’t. What do you know of your father’s plans for John, now that I’m coming in strong?”
She pressed her lips together in a thin, stubborn line.
“I’m going to find out one way or another. You can make it easy on yourself and talk now.”
“No. I can’t,” she whispered, her features tormented.
“You can.” Drawing on his compulsion, he said, “You will.”
But she shook her head, making him think her father had given her an injection of whatever made him immune to the ability. “I won’t. You don’t understand.”
She closed her eyes, and a tear beaded from the corner, cascading down her cheek. “I’m not a horrible person. I’m not. But he’s going to make me become one, and I don’t want to become one, but I will, there’s no other way, because I can’t survive on my own, don’t want to survive on my own.”
Enough babbling. He wasn’t getting any answers out of her. Frustrated, he jabbed the needle into her vein with a little more force than he’d intended, watched as her eyes closed and her head lolled to the side.
He double-checked her vitals before hefting her over his shoulder. When exiting the front door, he disengaged the lasers outside and fired a flare into the night sky.
Evie and Solo raced over to him.
“Got her?” Evie demanded.
Hauling her to the plane was easy. Locking her in one of the holding cells was satisfying.
Once they were in the air, Blue called Michael to tell him everything was set.
“I’ll find a way to reach Star and let him know we’ve got his baby girl,” Michael said. His tone wasn’t as affectionate as it used to be, but it wasn’t laced with disappointment or anger, either.
“I want to know what he says.” Blue paused, then offered: “Something’s off with Tiffany. She knows something, but I couldn’t get it out of her.”
“Whatever it is, we’ll find out. Time is on our side now.”
Blue scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Yes. You’re right. See you soon.”
“Wait,” Michael rushed out just before he disconnected.
Curiosity and dread warred. “Yes?”
There was a crackle of breath. “Listen, I know I haven’t been supportive of your relationship with my daughter.”
“I’m . . . sorry about that. You make her happy and that’s all that matters. Just . . . take good care of her.”
Shock hit him as his gaze found Evie—his gaze always found Evie. His heart seemed to beat for her, and her alone. She sat in front of Tiffany’s cage, waiting for the girl to wake up, determined to have a little girl talk. Every moment in her presence was a gift.
“I will,” he vowed. Just then, he thought loving Evie was what he’d been born to do.
TIFFANY WAS STILL SLEEPING when they reached New Chicago. And she was still sleeping when they carted her to a cage in Michael’s underground room at the boathouse. Nothing roused her. In fact, she was still sleeping an hour later.
“Go home,” Michael finally said. “Eat. Get some rest. You’re all operating on pure adrenaline. She’ll be here in the morning. Or afternoon. Whatever.”
Solo took off to be with Vika—where he’d left her, no one knew.
Blue and Evie weren’t far behind. They stopped to pick up a bag of Evie’s things, then drove to his safe house and fell into bed, exhausted.
When her phone rang, however many hours later, bright light slanted through the curtains. She groped for the cell perched on the nightstand.
“Hello?” she rasped.
“Sorry, sunbeam, but I need to speak with Blue,” her father said, “and he’s not answering his phone.”
“Hang on.” Groggy, Evie tried to hand the cell to Blue, who was curled tightly around her body, holding her as if he feared she would slip away.
“Put it on speaker,” he muttered. “I like where my arms are.”
She pressed a button. “You’re on, Daddy.”
“I sent a message through certain underground contacts, letting them know I have Tiffany. They let Star know. He called me but refused to talk about terms. He wants to talk directly to you, Blue.”
“All right. We’ll be there as soon as possible.”
“Also, Tiffany has woken,” Michael added. “I spoke to her at length and even used Evie’s truth serum, but I got no answers out of her. She’s definitely had some improvements since you last saw her.”
Blue stiffened. “Well, then, we’ve been asking too nicely. Might be time to change that.”
Evie hung up and set the cell on the nightstand. She dug through her bag, picked the purse she wanted, and filled it with everything she thought she might need. A golf ball, a pair of glasses, a coaster, a Rubik’s Cube, three tubes of lipstick, all in a different shade, and a package of freeze-dried ice cream.
“More weapons?” he asked, startling her when she realized he was standing behind her.
“Yeah. When I fit my fingers into certain grooves in the golf ball, it’s activated, and poisoned smoke will fill the air. You can breath it in, and that’s fine, but if it comes into contact with your eyes, you’re in trouble. And the Rubik’s Cube is actually a bomb. Line up certain colors, and you get to watch a room go boom boom.”
Grinning, he tugged her into his embrace for a quick kiss. “You are too adorable for words.”