My body trembles; it’s not from a cold breeze or the temperature though, and not from the fear I know is somewhere inside of me. Instead it’s from the anger.
His eyes stay fixed on mine as he reaches down and lifts me into his chest before heaving me over his shoulder.
My teeth grit as he slams the trunk shut, turning to the side and giving me a view of a forest. All I see is a gravel drive and trees. So many trees. My heart gallops, both with that tinge of fear and with hope. I could run.
I’m not running. I’m not giving up this chance to find out more about the family name I’ve heard so much about lately.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I see my sister, and I hear her too. The Cross brothers, she whispers. She mentioned them so many times on the phone. He knew her. Or one of his brothers did.
As time stands still while I wait for the verdict I’m about to receive and what this man has in store for me, I remember the week my sister first went missing. I started with Miranda to try to figure out where my sister had gone. It made the most sense because Jenny told me she’d crash at a friend’s place whenever we got into a fight. Miranda and she were close. But Miranda didn’t have any idea what happened to her, only that she went out for drinks at The Red Room before she disappeared, a place I’d heard Jenny mention before. A place I knew I was headed to next.
All I had were two names and a single location. One name, Marcus, proved elusive—no one had any information on him at all. Not a single person inside The Red Room had any idea who he was. They wanted a last name, and I didn’t have one. He was a dead end.
I’d spent hours at that bar, waiting for something. Waiting for anything. Any sign of her, or for anyone who knew them. Everyone knew of Jase, but no one knew him. They couldn’t tell me anything about him. Nothing more than the dirt I dug up online.
They said he was one of the Cross brothers. The owner of The Red Room.
They said you don’t cross a Cross; they laughed when they said it, like it was funny. Nothing was funny to me then.
And when two men appeared from the back of the club, heading toward a side entrance, the woman next to me pinched my arm and pointed as the side door was opened for them.
“Those are the Cross brothers,” she said and then bit down on her bottom lip as she sucked it into her mouth. She was skinny like a model, with the straightest black hair I’d ever seen. Her icy blue eyes never left the two of them and I stared at her for far too long, missing my chance to catch the Cross brothers. The thick throng of people kept me from making it to them, and by the time I got outside, they were nowhere in sight.
I stalked that place for four days straight, waiting for Jenny to show up. An aching hollowness in my heart reminds me how it felt, sitting there alone at the bar, praying she’d walk up to me or someone would message me that they found her.
It was late on that last night, and hopelessness was counting on me to give up so it could take over, but I never would.
It was 1:00 a.m.; I remember it distinctly because I had an early shift the next morning, and I kept thinking I wouldn’t make it through my twelve-hour shift if I stayed out any later.
All the time I’d spent in the bar hadn’t given me any new information. Countless hours had been wasted, but I didn’t know what else to do or where else to go.
It was that night I got a better view of Jase. Only his silhouette, but it grabbed my attention and held me in place. The strength in his gaze, accompanied with a charming smile. He was handsome and beautiful even. I remember thinking he was the kind of man who could lure you in so easily and you wouldn’t know what hit you … until he was gone. He had that pull to him, a draw that made you want to go to him just to see if he’d look your way.
He came and he went and I sat on that stool, knowing my sister wasn’t coming.
That was then. This is now.
A grunt of pain slips from me as he hoists me up higher on his shoulder, one hand wrapped around my waist to keep my body from falling backward, and the other hand swinging easily at his side.