“Is everything all right?” Seth asks after a moment of quiet.

“No, I’ll brief you once she’s secure.”

There’s a pause before he asks, “Is there anything else I can do?”

“She is your only priority at the moment.”

It’s quiet again, but I can’t hang up yet. Not without Seth acknowledging what I just said. My gaze lifts to the rearview as a man exits his front door. As he walks to the car in his driveway, the headlights flash and it’s only then that I’m aware of how dark it’s gotten.

It wasn’t that late when I left the cemetery. I just wanted to make sure she was okay. It was foolish to think she would be.

It took me far too long to get to her. I never would have guessed when I got there that her brunette hair would tumble into a halo upon the tiled floor, followed by her small frame. My hand stings from the impact of bashing it against the dashboard a moment ago and I clench it into a tight fist, staring at the silver scar below my knuckle as I remember how she fell.

Fuck, she didn’t even make a sound for the longest second.

I thought she was dead. I thought he’d killed her. I thought Marcus had ripped her away from me, getting to her first, when she fell out onto the kitchen floor. I hate that the scar stares back at me in this moment.

It’s hard to ignore the splinter of pain that tears through me.

Why else would she not have responded? He’d killed her and shoved her in a cabinet for me to find. I thought it was merely her body falling and that she was already dead.

“Does she know about Jenny?” Seth’s question brings me back to the present. To her running away from me.

“That he has her?” I clarify and breathe in deep, staring at the picket fence in front of me. “She doesn’t know anything. I didn’t tell her about the note.”

She’ll live her life with unanswered questions unless I can give them to her, and right now, I wouldn’t be so cruel.

Even if she’d been fine. Even if she’d spilled out of that cabinet and ran to me like I wanted her to, I wouldn’t tell her. She’s barely holding on as it is. It’s not pity I feel for her, it’s worry.

“I’m not telling her that her sister’s alive until I know we can bring her back.” It’s one mess after the other. “False hope can kill what’s left of a person.” That’s the only explanation I give him. He knows about the note from Marcus. He knows Marcus has Jenny.

I’d rather she continue thinking Jenny’s dead. Just in case that’s how this all ends.

“We’ll discuss everything moving forward tonight.” Even as I give him the command, I hear the fatigue in my voice. The day has taken its toll. More than its fair share. “Has my brother gotten in touch with you?”

“About the men we sent out?” he asks to clarify.

“Yes.”

“We have men trailing the man seen with Jenny. His name’s Luke Stevens. He’s driving out west. We don’t know where to but he’s definitely taken orders from Marcus. He’s mentioned him twice on the calls taken from his car.”

“Don’t let him get far; I don’t give a shit if we blow our cover. Have our men grab him and bring him back here.”

“Consider it done.”

“Good. I want him brought in and questioned. I want to know everything about Marcus. About Jenny. Everything that bastard knows… I’ll get it from him.” There are enemies everywhere and everything is moving quickly. “Bethany needs to stay put tonight. Let her run it off. But stay on her and don’t lose her. I want an update every five minutes.”

“Of course,” he answers me.

Glancing at the clock, I change my mind. “Every three minutes. An update every three minutes.” I give him the order as I make a U-turn and head back to Bethany’s home, preparing myself for the evidence of what happened. “Briefing is tonight, war starts tomorrow.”

Bethany

I shouldn’t call Laura. I keep thinking it over and over again even as I stare at the bright white screen of my phone with her contact info staring back at me.

I’m so fucking alone. After driving to nowhere in silence for an hour, that’s what I’ve realized more than anything. I’m so fucking alone.

It’s sad when you realize there’s only one person left, and you can’t reach out to them, because God forbid if what happened to me affects her. I’d never forgive myself.

The darkness outside drifts in as I sit listless in the driver’s seat. There’s not a star in the black sky and the moon is merely a sliver. Not even the lingering snow reflects the light. It’s no longer white and bright, it’s dulled and nearly vanished as well.


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