Brighter Than the Sun Page 70

She turned and began running at full sprint, and Sean watched helplessly as she reached the gates of the compound. He closed his eyes and curled his fingers into tight fists at his sides.

It was always that way with Rusty. Like trying to hold water in a hand with fingers spread open. And he’d fucked up any chance he’d ever had of being able to prevent her from sliding even further away because she had him twisted in so many knots that nothing he ever said or did came out the way he intended.

CHAPTER 22

“WHAT the fuck am I going to do?” Joe demanded, despair filling his voice. “God, I didn’t even have the chance to tell her I loved her or that I wanted forever.”

“Stop it,” Garrett said harshly. “You can’t talk like that. We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt exactly what you’re feeling. You have to have faith, man. We’ll get her back.”

“The question is, who the hell has her?” Ethan muttered. “We’ve got two angles to explore. Asshole number one—her father. Or asshole number two—this Sebastian dickhead who used her and then planned to kill her.”

“Or a third angle—any number of the many enemies her father has made over the years,” Donovan added. “If Sebastian didn’t realize at first that Zoe’s old man didn’t give a shit about her, chances are a lot of other people didn’t either.”

God, the possibilities seemed endless, and Joe felt like beating his head against the wall. Why hadn’t he made the time to talk when Zoe had wanted to? She’d looked so hesitant and worried, and now he knew, goddamn it, he knew what she had wanted to tell him, and he’d blown her off for a fucking meeting that was so unimportant in the scheme of things that he wanted to hit something.

“She tried to tell me,” Joe said hoarsely. “This morning she said we needed to talk and she was so nervous and hesitant, but I put her off because of that fucking meeting. I asked her to stay, said we’d have breakfast and then talk about whatever she wanted. Fuck me! Why didn’t I just put her first?”

Sam’s phone rang and he snatched it up, putting it to his ear. “Talk to me.”

After a moment of silence, he said, “We’ll be right there.”

“Steele pulled all the surveillance. He has something we need to take a look at,” Sam said. “Y’all go on. I’ll round up the others and we’ll be right behind you.”

Joe was already running for the door, his brothers right behind him. They roared into the compound, skidding to a halt outside the war room.

“What you got?” Joe demanded as soon as they entered.

Steele punched in a series of commands and brought up surveillance footage of Joe’s cabin. A few seconds into it, Joe froze when he saw an unconscious, bloody Zoe being hauled out of his cabin by a man, closely followed by an accomplice. Rage boiled in his veins and he pounded his fist into the planning table.

Sam burst in, followed by the rest of the KGI team members minus Rio’s team, who were guarding the rest of the family at Frank and Marlene’s house. They all watched in horror as Zoe was tossed without care into the backseat of a black SUV while one man climbed in the back with her, the other getting into the driver’s seat.

“Freeze that,” Donovan ordered. “Back up one frame and hold. Can you zoom in and get a clear read of the license plate?”

Joe held his breath as Steele zoomed, and then impatiently, Donovan took over the controls and cleared the image until finally the numbers were visible and more easily read. Sean walked into the war room and Joe immediately barked a command to the sheriff to call in the plates and put out a BOLO for the entire state of Tennessee. The bastards couldn’t have gone that far yet. Unless they were flying Zoe out.

“Contact all local landing strips or any location a chopper could take off from,” Joe added.

To the shock of everyone present, the war room door opened again, admitting Rio and Diego, but the room exploded in chaos, with Nathan losing his fucking mind when it was realized that Shea was tucked solidly between them, their bodies forming a protective barrier around her.

“What the fuck?” Nathan demanded.

His furious gaze found Rio, demanding without words an explanation as to why his wife wasn’t safely ensconced with the other wives.

Shea pushed forward, rushing to Joe, throwing her arms around him and hugging him tightly. “I’m so sorry, Joe. I had to come.” She cast an apologetic look in her husband’s direction, pleading silently with him to understand. “I think I can help,” she said quietly.

For a moment Joe couldn’t breathe as hope seized him by the throat. Tears burned his eyelids at his sister-in-law’s unselfish act. An act he knew could cost her dearly.

“No! Damn it, Shea. No! You aren’t doing this. I forbid it,” Nathan said heatedly. “You’re pregnant, baby. You can’t take that kind of risk!”

The others were clearly at a loss as they stared back and forth between Nathan, Shea and the sudden hopefulness and relief that spilled into Joe’s eyes.

“Will someone tell me what the hell is going on here?” Garrett demanded.

“You all know my telepathy, or rather my ability to connect to people, is random,” she said, not meeting Nathan’s furious, panicked eyes. “The day of the barbecue, the first time Zoe met us all . . . I heard her. Or rather I felt her,” she quickly amended. “Her fear was overwhelming. It nearly suffocated me. For a long moment I couldn’t breathe, it was so gut-wrenching. I thought I would pass out.”

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