Brighter Than the Sun Page 73

Shea? Joe, I mean they, need to know there are more than just the three men inside the room they’re holding me in. There are more. A lot more. Outside, keeping guard, and they’re heavily armed.

Do or say nothing to raise their ire, Shea whispered into her mind. Be meek and mild. Don’t tip your hand. Let them think you’re terrified. Be brave and wait for us, Zoe.

Shea? Can you do something for me, please?

Anything, Zoe.

If . . . if I die, will you please tell Joe that I’m sorry. Tell Rusty and the rest of your family I’m sorry. I never meant to endanger you all. And tell Joe . . . She paused a moment, battling a fresh surge of tears. Tell him I love him and that he was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Shea was fierce, power surging into Zoe’s mind, giving her a burst of strength and a reprieve from the relentless pain in her head.

Don’t even think it, Zoe. Don’t you dare give up. We’re coming for you. Joe’s coming for you.

Zoe held tight to Shea’s firm vow. Maybe she was losing her mind, but the conviction in Shea’s voice was not imagined. Shea—and Joe—were her only hope.

CHAPTER 24

THE entire KGI organization converged on the small, rural town of Bucksnort, Tennessee, crawling like ants over the entire terrain, investigating every possible hiding place. Shea had insisted on going and wouldn’t back down. Her connection to Zoe was integral to the rescue operation, and so in the end, they had no choice but to include her as the point of contact with Zoe.

Shea kept in constant communication with Zoe, though with each session Zoe seemed to grow weaker, a fact Shea kept to herself so Joe wouldn’t completely lose his already thin hold on his own sanity. But she worried for Zoe, because she knew that in addition to the abuse heaped on her by the asshole in charge, Sebastian, she had also suffered a head injury. While Shea could buffer her from the constant barrage of pain, she couldn’t heal the wound. Only Grace could do that, and Shea would never drag her pregnant sister into a situation where she or her baby could be seriously harmed by taking on the wound herself.

By following the hazy images picked from Zoe’s mind, she was able to identify certain road markers and excitedly directed the way when she recognized one of the paths from Zoe’s memory.

None of the KGI members liked that Shea, being pregnant, was even remotely involved in the situation, but had little choice in the matter when Zoe’s life hung in the balance. Allie had remained conspicuously quiet, absorbing the oddity of what she was witnessing with wonderment, not the skepticism one might expect.

“Shit,” Shea murmured when she directed the convoy of vehicles to stop. A worried frown tugged at her lips and she looked at Nathan and Joe in alarm.

“What is it, baby?” Nathan asked.

“The place they’re holding her is a veritable fortress. I told you what Zoe said about there being many armed men guarding the perimeter of the building where they’re keeping her. She was in and out of consciousness when she was carried in, so the memories were jumbled and confusing to her. But I’m reading what she did see as more comes back to her, and it isn’t good. The outside is heavily fortified. There’s no way to get in there quietly or without a fight,” she added in a worried tone.

Joe smiled and squeezed Shea’s hand in comfort. “Fighting our way in and out is what we do, sweetheart. Besides, we have a secret weapon. You.”

She tried to smile, but it wavered and her face fell completely. “I don’t want any of you to get hurt,” she pleaded.

Nathan kissed her softly. “Promise me you’ll stay back and out of the way. If I have to worry about you and covering my team, then I do you both an injustice.”

The members of KGI all assembled a half mile from the abandoned factory where Zoe was being held prisoner.

“Allie, I need you and Baker to set explosives around the most heavily reinforced sections of the building, away from where Zoe is being held so she isn’t caught in the blast. I don’t particularly care who else gets caught in it. And I need it done fast,” Sam ordered tersely.

“Yes, sir,” Allie said, motioning for Baker to follow as they melted away, each carrying a pack with enough C-4 to bomb a small city.

“P.J., Cole, Diego and Dolphin, I need y’all on sniper duty covering north, south, east and west wings. Take out any targets in your sights. Signal when it’s all clear.”

Sam’s gaze wandered over Nathan, as if he knew his brother wasn’t going to like his next order. “I need you to fall back and stay with Shea.”

“Now wait a damn minute,” Nathan protested.

“She has to be protected at all costs,” Sam said quietly. “This isn’t about taking you out of action. She’s our only means of communication with Zoe. If she’s hurt or captured, we’re fucked. I need you to make sure that doesn’t happen. Plus, if things go bad, you’re our best chance at reaching Shea before she’s too far gone.”

Nathan reluctantly conceded the point.

“The rest of you split up. We’ll converge from all directions, gain access as soon as Allie and Baker have set off the explosives. It needs to be a quick in and out, and I don’t give a fuck about casualties unless they’re our own. I don’t want there to be so much as a scratch on any of you.”

“Donovan, Garrett, you’re with me. The rest of you fan out. Joe, Shea believes Zoe is being held underground in a cellar. Rio, Ryker and Terrence will take your six and go down with you. As soon as we achieve our objective, we’re out of here. We have ten minutes, starting now.”

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