A girl was crying loud.
My stomach tightened at the sound.
The cries grew louder as we approached a door to the left, and she was behind there. Whoever she was, she was behind there.
“Hopefully you’ll get some sleep,” the burly guy said. “Wouldn’t be surprised if she keeps you up with that racket.”
He didn’t have any sincerity behind his words, just pulled a fresh key from his set and shouldered the door in. Only dull outdoor light came in through the far window, but I could see her there, hunched on a bed with her legs to her chest, rocking back and forth like a girl gone mad.
Maybe she had gone mad.
Maybe I’d be joining her soon enough.
“Hey,” burly guy grunted, but the girl didn’t respond, just kept rocking and crying oblivious. “Hey, noisy chick, button your fucking mouth and say hi to your new roommate.”
Even I flinched when he flicked the light switch and the room lit up in an orange glow. I blinked once, twice, adjusting to the brightness before my gaze landed back on my alleged new roommate.
And then I gasped.
I gasped so loud that she stopped crying to turn her face in my direction, and then she gasped too, eyes widening huge as they met with mine.
“Paige?!” she asked, and her voice was hers even if it was croaky as hell. “Paige?! Is that really you?!”
I was with her in a flash, on the bed alongside her with my arms open wide, and hers were right back at me, crushing tight.
“It’s really me,” I told her. “I can’t believe it’s really you!”
But it was really her.
It was really, really her. Complete with her beautiful mane of dark hair, and her perfect curves and her pretty face, even in the madness.
In this crazy storm of nowhereville, holed up in the world of sixty days she’d escaped so well, it really was Rebecca Lane.
I waited until the door closed behind burly guy leaving. Waited until the key sounded in the lock and the footsteps sounded away down the hall. And then I asked her. I took one deep, solid breath and I asked her.
“What the hell happened to you?”
Drake wouldn’t pick up the phone. I dialled him on loop for that first hour straight, hearing his voicemail with enough regularity that I knew his slimy prick message by heart.
You have reached Henry Drake’s voicemail. Unfortunately I’m engaged on urgent business. Please leave a message or dial my secretary on…
I couldn’t stomach the idea of the urgent fucking business he was on that evening with my sweet Paige.
Eric was white as a ghost, nothing like the cocky younger brother I’d grown used to as he followed me about the place with the towel still clutched to his bleeding temple.
“Bran, don’t,” he tried for the hundredth time. “Getting him to answer won’t do you any good. Won’t do any of us any good. Hell, it won’t even do her any good, and you know it! If you take just one pissing second to think about it, you’ll know it!”
He was right.
Finally, after ignoring him for sixty minutes straight, I took a pause enough to accept that he was talking with some scrap of sense in his head.
His eyes widened as I threw the handset down onto my desk.
“Good,” he said. “Now let’s think. You think.”
“I need to do more than fucking think,” I hissed. “I need to get to the sonofabitch and get Paige back.”
“But why?! Why is she so fucking important?! She’s money, Bran. Money! That’s what Drake wants, that’s what you should want!” He shook his head hard enough that he winced and clutched the towel tighter. I didn’t have an answer for him. Couldn’t spit the words up from my throat.
Love. How the hell could I spit out the word love?
I was still staring at my cast aside phone as he continued. “You can’t go to him! You don’t know where he’s gone, but even if you did…”
He was right on that too. If I turned up, cold and alone on some crazy mission to get a sixty-day product back from his clutches, there’s no way I’d make it out of there unscathed, let alone with her alongside me.
“You’re right,” I announced to Eric finally, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Thank fuck you know it.”
I dropped myself into my desk chair, giving up my bid to get Drake to pick up my call and logging myself into our vast wealth of dark web systems and portals like I was scouting through a deck of cards. Eric watched on as I plugged myself into everything. Every scrap of communication, every bidding screen, every encryption window. It was time to turn my attention to the avenues of business Drake and I were both connected to, scrap talking man to man on a telephone line.