As the elevator he was in headed to the parking garage of the Red Stone Security building, Kell dialed Charlotte’s cell phone again for the third time, but got nothing. It rang five times then went to voicemail. She’d texted him letting him know she was going into the interview and would put her phone on silent, but that had been almost an hour ago. How long did an interview for a volunteer position take anyway? He didn’t want to bug her or try to smother her, but after the past couple weeks he couldn’t curb his overprotective nature.
The security job for the day had been postponed until Friday. Their principal had been delayed because of personal issues Kell didn’t give a crap about. He just cared that he’d been called into work a job and now didn’t need to. He could have been Charlotte’s guard today rather than Vincent. And possibly gotten some much needed alone time with her before she picked Reece up from her parents.
“Screw it,” he muttered to himself as he started to dial Vincent. He hadn’t wanted to harass his friend since he was more than capable of protecting Charlotte.
But right now Kell wasn’t feeling rational. Before he could dial, his phone buzzed in his hand.
“Charlotte’s been taken,” Vincent said.
Horror slammed through him, making him stumble as he exited into the quiet garage. “Tell me everything.” His voice was hoarse, clipped.
“A masked man took Charlotte and her interviewer at gunpoint. There’s another entrance to the office I didn’t know about. I’m sorry man—”
“I don’t care. What happened?” He raced to one of the company SUVs he still had the keys for from the days cancelled job. Vincent could make all the damn apologies in the world after they got Charlotte back.
“The guy cuffed the other woman in a bathroom and took Charlotte. I heard the woman screaming and found her unharmed. By the time I got out to the parking lot the fucker had slashed my tires. The woman says it was only one man who took her, but I saw two vehicles—one sedan and one SUV tearing away from the road. I got their license plates and have Charlotte’s truck keys, but they’re gone.”
“I’m going to patch Lizzy into this conversation, but did you grab her purse or anything?” If Vincent had his truck keys he could only assume he’d retrieved them from Charlotte’s purse. Kell started the SUV but remained where he was, having no place to go and feeling completely useless. His heart beat an erratic tattoo against his chest, but he had to stay focused and calm until Charlotte was safe. Either the cartel, the 19th Street Gang, or Cecil Talley had taken her. None were good options.
“Yeah. It was in the office when I found it empty.”
“What’s in it?”
There was a brief shuffling on the other end while Kell used the add participant function to dial Lizzy’s direct number. He’d just seen her as he left Harrison’s office so he prayed she was still upstairs.
“Yeah?” she said.
“Lizzy, it’s Kell and Vincent. Charlotte’s been taken.”
The other woman sucked in a sharp breath. “What do you need?”
“Vincent, did you find her phone?” he asked.
“Just the company one, but not the red one I saw her using to text you earlier.”
Thank God. Kell didn’t let one ounce of relief slide through him though. Not yet. “Lizzy, I need you to track her if possible.” Courtesy of Red Stone’s technology he’d put trackers on both her phones. He just hoped she had hers with her. If they could just get a general area Kell would rip the entire fucking city apart to find her. She had to be alive because he refused to believe otherwise. Absolutely refused.
The fear was clawing its way through him, trying to shred him apart, but they’d taken her. They hadn’t killed her outright, which would have been the easiest thing to do.
“Okay…just one sec…her cell’s moving down Brickell right now at forty-five miles per hour. Whoever she’s with, they’re sticking to the speed limit.”
Kell sped out of his parking space, his tires squealing as he zoomed to the nearest exit. Lizzy continued giving them directions, both he and Vincent on their way to find her. There was no way he was getting off the phone to call the police. Charlotte was his and he was more than trained to find her. Both he and Vincent were.
“Lizzy, let Harrison know what’s going on so he can get a team together, but no cops. We’re taking care of this our way.” For all he knew there were more dirty cops on the force, but he didn’t want them involved for more reasons than just that. Whoever had taken Charlotte was going to die.
His friend tried to apologize again, but Kell cut him off. Right now wasn’t the time for any of that shit. Now he had to keep his head on straight and focus on his only goal. Finding Charlotte and bringing her home safely.
* * * * *
Charlotte felt as if someone had taken a two-by-four to her head. Groggily, she struggled to open her eyes. A bright light was shining directly in them so she moved her head and it immediately subsided, letting her start to make out shapes.
That was when she realized she was in the trunk of an unmoving car and the light wasn’t exactly bright, but her face had been right in front of the tiny bulb. Not that any of that was important.
Rolling over onto her side, she brought her hand up to her face to brush her hair out of the way only to find her hands bound in front of her. As she struggled to remember what happened, she heard a gurgled moaning coming from somewhere close. The trunk of the car was cracked open a fraction, letting the noise in.
It sounded like a wounded animal crying out for help and made all the hairs on her arms stand up. The eerie cry was…pitiful and made something primal inside her want to hide. She froze as she heard a man’s voice speaking in Spanish. The words were low, guttural and the voice was raspy. It was followed by more moaning.
Then a sharp cry of obvious pain. She wanted to curl into a ball and cover her ears so she’d never have to hear something so creepy again, but getting the hell out of there was all that mattered.
She clearly remembered Cecil Talley kidnapping her at gunpoint then trying to shove her into a trunk. Someone else had been there too, but she hadn’t gotten a good look at them before something had struck her in the head. After that she didn’t remember anything else but someone had definitely tied her up.
Pushing up, she struggled to sit, her head hitting the inside of the trunk. She bit back the instinctive cry of pain, but as she struck the lid, it creaked as it popped open.
She froze at the sight in front of her. She had to be in a warehouse of some sort, but that wasn’t what was shocking.
A bruised and bleeding Talley was tied to a chair, his face swollen, almost unrecognizable and…oh, Lord, were those fingers on the ground lying in a pool of blood? Her stomach roiled but she kept it together as the masked man with the machete-type weapon turned to look at her.
He wore a red and black mask that looked like something from Halloween. She could only see his eyes, dark and savage, looking back at her. His long-sleeved T-shirt, cargo pants and boots were all black.
Jerking out of her shock, she gave in to the urge to flee. She managed to swing one leg, then the other over the trunk. With her wrists tied together in front of her it was a struggle and she fell to her knees. Pain ricocheted through her at the abrupt fall, but she shoved up and started running.
Charlotte made it four steps before a huge body slammed into her, twisting them until he had her pinned up against the car.
Breathing hard against her ear, she could feel the man’s elevated heartbeat against her back. Pure terror spiked through her and she tried to struggle but he held a knife to her throat. She went completely immobile. The blade didn’t dig into her skin, but it wouldn’t take much for him to kill her. He could do it so quickly, with one slice. Facing her own mortality, all she could picture were Kell and Reece’s faces. She wanted to tell Kell she loved him and hold her baby one more time. The thought of her son growing up without her made her want to sob, but she held herself in check, not wanting to give the man any excuse to slice her open.
“I didn’t expect you to wake up before I was done,” he rasped against her ear, his breath hot. There was a hint of an accent to his guttural words.
“I haven’t seen your face,” she managed to gasp out through her pounding fear.
“I know. It’s the only reason I’m letting you live.” It took a long moment for his words to register. A burst of relief flooded her, but before she could respond he continued. “You tell anyone you saw me here, your son will grow up without a mother. And I know exactly who you are Charlotte Bastien. You woke up tied in the trunk, found a dead man outside it and ran for help. Easy enough to remember?”
She hadn’t seen his face anyway and even if she had, she knew deep down she wouldn’t tell a soul what he looked like. She wasn’t letting Reece grow up without her or putting him in danger. Nothing was worth that. “Yes,” she said immediately.
Suddenly the weight was gone and she heard soft footsteps walking away. Though it terrified her to do it, she looked over her shoulder.
The masked man was standing behind the abused Talley, his knife right at the dying man’s throat and his dark eyes directly on hers. He slit the man’s throat as he stared at her. Charlotte didn’t pause as she turned and sprinted across the concrete floor into more darkness, her heart racing out of control.
She had no clue where she was going or even where she was, and she didn’t care as long as it was out of here. She could see a faint light from an open oversized door big enough to let cars in. City lights or moonlight, she couldn’t tell and she didn’t care.
It represented freedom.
Too terrified to look over her shoulders to see if the man had changed his mind about letting her live, she pushed on until she burst out into the quiet night air.
To the right she could see water. Biscayne Bay maybe, she couldn’t tell. To her left and in front of her, a parking lot and more warehouses stretched out. Everything was so quiet, the only thing she could hear was the slamming of her own heart as she veered left across the parking lot.