Page 71 of The District

He waited another few minutes before his brother’s voice came over the line. “Hey, Eric. What’s up?”

“I need a favor, Ryan.”

“No small talk? Must be important. What do you need?”

“Christina’s mother lives in San Miguel and she hasn’t answered her phone in—hours. She’s elderly, and Christina’s worried about her.”

“Christina? I thought...”

“Don’t ask. Can you contact someone over in San Miguel to facilitate this?”

“Sure. Does this mean you and Christina are getting back together?”

“Don’t ask. Give the San Miguel P.D. my number and ask them to call me after they do a safety check.”

“Sure and don’t be a stranger.”

“Thanks.” He pocketed his phone. “Ryan’s on it.”

She closed her eyes. “I’m worried. Remember when we met Darius? He wouldn’t shake my hand.”

“He was pretty wound up that day.”

“Maybe he didn’t want contact with me. Maybe he was afraid I’d read him.”

“Can you do that?”

“Not really, but I’m sure Vivi filled his head with exaggerations of my power.”

“So Vivi’s not really your sister.”

“I guess not. I’m surprised that Dad knew all along and still mentored her. I mean, what would be the point?”

“Maybe,” Eric replied as he traced a pattern on the window with his fingertip, “he thought she was his daughter at first and by the time he found out, the blood didn’t matter anymore.”

“But the blood does matter—it matters to Darius Cole.” Christina chewed on a fingernail. “Eric, Libby must’ve known about me and Vivi. She told us she traced family trees. Darius got the information from her and then killed her when he thought she was going to tell us.”

Eric shoved his hands in his pockets to keep them from pummeling the wall. “That must’ve been him at the coven meeting the other night. We were worried about him seeing us, but he must’ve been even more worried about us spotting him there.”

“I was face-to-face with him. How could I not know?” She clasped her hands to her chest. “His cologne—I smelled it when I climbed the tree overlooking the site of Nora’s murder. It’s him. Vivi’s right.”

Someone knocked on the door and called out, “Room service.”

Christina dug her hands in her hair and took a spin around the room. “I can’t eat. Why hasn’t Mom called yet?”

Eric opened the door and ushered in the waiter with the room service cart. After he signed off on the check, he lifted a silver dome from one of the plates, and the smell of roast chicken wafting from the tray didn’t make his mouth water.

He clanged the lid back down and took a sip of water instead. “Sit down and eat, Christina.”

She stopped her nervous pacing and skewered him with her dark gaze. “Can you?”

He downed the rest of the water and wished for something stronger. When his cell phone buzzed in his pocket, he dropped the glass. He answered and tapped the speaker. “Agent Brody.”

“Agent Brody, this is Chief Picard with the San Miguel P.D. Mrs. Sandoval is fine...”

Christina released a noisy sigh and sagged against the credenza.

“But was tied up and—the little girl is gone.”

Chapter Seventeen

A fury, hot and potent, burned in Eric’s chest and he slammed his fist against the wall as Christina sank to the floor.

The chief continued, and Eric had to close his eyes to focus on his words. “Mrs. Sandoval didn’t see her attacker. He came at her from behind and knocked her over the head. When she came to, she was tied up and her granddaughter was gone. My officers are canvasing the area and we have our crime scene techs on the way for fingerprinting.”

Eric exchanged more information with Chief Picard, giving him Darius Cole as a possible suspect. The chief assured him they’d have the SFPD check out Cole’s apartment in the city. When he hung up, he joined Christina on the floor.

She sobbed against his chest. “He’s not going to be waiting for the police at his apartment. He has our little girl. He’s going to take her blood, just like the others. She’s third-generation legacy of one of the most powerful brujos in the coven.”

And a second-generation victim of kidnapping. He’d failed Noah Beckett, and now he’d failed Kendall. He didn’t deserve to be a father.

Christina clung to him. “We have to find Cole. We have to save Kendall. You were right. It’s all about power and he wants to take hers.”