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She ignored it and listened to Avery sing the praises of some fourth-dimensional world thriller based in the seventies.

“So the kid lives in the walls?” Shannon asked, trying to grasp the concept.

“No, in another dimension that parallels our world. But the thing that rules that world can seep through the walls.”

Lori noticed the freeway they were on and questioned their path. “Are we dropping Shannon off first?” Even if they were, they were going the wrong direction.

“Change of plans.” Cooper looked through the rearview mirror.

Lori followed his gaze, noticed a sedan close behind them.

“Are we being followed?”

“They’re with us.”

Both Shannon and Avery turned to see what they were talking about.

“Why?”

“There’s been an incident.”

Gooseflesh rose on her arms. “What kind of incident?”

“I don’t have the details. I’m taking you to the safe house.”

“What’s going on?” Avery asked.

They pulled directly into the garage of the Tarzana home Lori had frequently visited in the early years of Alliance. More than one employee had lived in the house, and while it wasn’t a traditional safe house, it was equipped with every possible monitoring and detection system available.

Cooper walked in before them, silenced the alarm, and waved them through the door.

Blackout curtains prevented anyone from seeing activity inside. The old windows had been replaced with bulletproof glass. The house was a kind of pet project for Neil and his team. They renovated from the inside out, placing sheets of metal between the walls to help stop bullets. While there had never been an actual shooting incident in the house, it had seen its fair amount of high-action drama over the years. Hence all the protection.

Cooper ran upstairs.

“What’s going on, Lori?” Avery asked.

“I don’t know.” She had a bad feeling.

“What is this place?”

“The original headquarters of Alliance. Sam lived here before she married Blake. Eliza . . . Neil’s wife, Gwen. Most of the employees have lived here at one point or another.”

Cooper double-timed down the stairs, this time holding a very large, very angry looking rifle.

Avery sat down hard on the sofa. Shannon placed a hand on her shoulder.

Somewhere in the back of her head, something rang repeatedly.

“Lori, is that your phone?”

She pulled out of her daze and found her purse.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Cumberland.” She didn’t recognize the voice.

“Who is this?” Her question drew the attention of everyone in the room.

“I have someone here who wants to talk to you.”

Air rushed into her lungs.

“Say hello . . .”

“Screw you.”

“Danny?” The sound of her brother’s muffled voice stopped her cold.

She heard the sound of someone hitting flesh.

“Danny!”

Cooper moved beside her and forced her to tilt the phone so he could hear the conversation.

“Yes, yes . . . I have your little brother. I’m quite sorry about his nose.”

“What do you want?”

“So cooperative, perfect. All I need is a signed copy of the contract Samantha forgot to give me last week.”

“A piece of paper.”

“Well, that and perhaps a copy of Katrina Petrov’s file. That would be gravy. Yes, I think your brother’s face can be spared further damage with the simple click of the mouse.”

“I’m not at my office.”

“Well then, you might want to get there quickly. You have thirty minutes.” The line went dead.

Lori grabbed her purse and started toward the garage.

Cooper cut her off. “Where are you going?”

“My office. I have to go to my office.”

He placed both hands on her shoulders. “No, Lori. You’re not walking into a trap.”

“They have Danny.” Her eyes were wide, autopilot was talking, and logic wasn’t entering her brain.

“And they will have Danny and not you, until we extract Danny.”

“What are you talking about?” She pushed around him.

Avery ran in front of her. “Hey, Mission Impossible woman . . . stop and think like a lawyer.”

Lights from outside lit up the living room as a car pulled into the driveway.

Shannon walked to the window and pulled back the blinds. “It’s Sam.”

Lori ran around the others and met Sam at the door.

“They have Danny.”

She placed both hands on Lori’s face. “It’s being handled.”

The image of Danny laughing as he joked about Thanksgiving and turkey legs brought tears to her eyes. “What do you mean handled?”

She pulled Lori to the couch. “Reed got a call.”

“Reed? What does he have to do with—”

“Neil and Rick are on their way to get him out now.”

“I don’t like this,” she cried.

Sam looked up. “Shannon, how about some coffee. Avery, there’s food in the fridge.”

Both women took the cue and left the room.

Sam ducked her head in. “Neil and Rick are going to get Danny out.”

“You’re sure?”

“They haven’t failed yet.”

“And Reed . . . where is he?”

Sam blinked a few times.

“Sam?”

“He’s there, too, Lori. On our side.”

Lori looked over to where Cooper stood by the window, his AR-15 held loosely in his arms.

Let them live . . . please, God, let them live.

Chapter Thirty-Five

He jumped out of the Jeep, running.

Sandwiched between a cardboard factory and a building warehousing something in the fashion industry sat the botanical warehouse Sasha identified as housing Danny. It was Sunday, and the unions did a great job of making sure work halted for the weekends. Outside of a few cars scattered around, there wasn’t any outside activity.

He felt the mist known as Sasha nearby.

He practiced evasive maneuvers in an effort to not give away his position as he moved from building to building. The sporadic windows of the botanical warehouse were close to the eaves of the two-story building. None of which were accessible to him . . . or anyone else.

He swept his eyes over the rooftops and didn’t see movement.

The massive door to the warehouse was open by an inch. Instead of considering that route, where he would have placed a guard if he were holding someone hostage, Reed looked for other options. The north side of the building presented itself.

Out of his wallet, he removed two pins—the click of the door being relieved from the lock sounded like a gun. He froze, fearful the sound had given away his position.

Deep breath.

Inside, the low hum of voices brought him forward.

“Say hello . . .”

“Screw you,” he heard Danny say.

Reed peered around a pallet of boxes containing glass vases. The woman he’d seen at Starbucks stood in front of Danny, who was tied to a chair. Two men approximately the size of baby elephants flanked him.

“Yes, yes . . . I have your little brother. I’m quite sorry about his nose.” The woman’s English accent caught his ear, but her words screwed with his heart. She was talking to Lori.

The desire to point, aim, and shoot was one of the hardest things he’d ever denied himself.

He moved to another row of pallets. His eyes moved to the eaves of the building. Sasha said there were three more men.

Where are you?

“So cooperative, perfect. All I need is a signed copy of the contract Samantha forgot to give me last week.” The woman’s voice turned away.

At this angle Reed saw Danny’s face. He had one eye open . . . and damn, that nose was going to hurt in the morning.

“Well, that and perhaps a copy of Katrina Petrov’s file. That would be gravy. Yes, I think your brother’s face can be spared further damage with the simple click of the mouse.”

He could hear the desperation in the woman’s voice.

“Well then, you might want to get there quickly. You have thirty minutes.”

Movement off the west eaves of the building captured his attention.

Holy shit.

He pushed against the back of a stack of boxes, causing the glass inside to rattle.

The room stilled.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the woman nod in his direction.

Reed turned to remove himself from the thugs’ path to find a gun pointed at his head.

He froze. The grip on his gun loosened.

“Move, asshole.”

Two things calculated in his brain at the same time. The man with the gun in his hand wasn’t in this for more than money, or else Reed would already be dead. Second . . . Sasha’s information was wrong, and Miss Wannabe Alliance Bride was working with more than two men. In his head, he added a plus one to Miss Bride’s list. Now the question was, where were Petrov’s men?

The man holding a gun to his head had a repaired cleft lip . . . and the surgeon had an eyesight issue. A foot to his back had him stumbling into the center of activity, surrounded by Danny’s bleeding face, two thugs, and a nervous woman with a gun.

“Well, look what we have here.”

“Reed?” Danny wasn’t focusing, Reed could see that by the way his eyes swam around in his head.

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