Brighter Than the Sun

Page 67

Shame swept through her, through every judgmental bone in her body. She’d been so convinced that her position in the KGI organization was provisional, that somehow she was a second-class citizen, the rookie who had to prove what a badass she was so she’d fit in with all the other badasses that surrounded her. Worse was the fact that there were already two female warriors who were obviously as qualified as their male counterparts and treated as equals. She’d seen nothing but respect leveled at P.J. and Skylar. She wanted that same respect and yet had done nothing to earn it except act like a bitch with an ax to grind and a bad attitude. Hardly the team player she professed to wanting to be. It was she who had a hell of a lot of learning to do, not the others.

It embarrassed her that she had been the one coming in with preconceived notions, not her new teammates. She was the one with a chip on her shoulder and she’d made a complete ass of herself when she had nothing to prove to anyone.

Was it any wonder the others weren’t exactly extending their friendship? Loyalty? Absolutely. Backup? She had no doubt there. But camaraderie, friendship and a true sense of belonging? Not so much, and that was on her.

A loud buzz interrupted her somber thoughts and she glanced sharply around as the entire room came to attention, gazes intent and tense, ready for action. A few curses rent the air and someone muttered, “All good things must come to an end.”

Donovan was the first to reach the phone she realized was the secure line, which never meant a social call or someone calling for a friendly chat. It was a call to arms.

“Kelly here,” he said tersely.

There was a long pause.

“What the fuck? Slow down, Joe. Tell me what happened.”

The entire room surged closer to Donovan, concern etched on every single person’s face, most especially that of Nathan, Joe’s twin.

“Fuck!” Donovan exploded. “Keep your cool, man. We’ll be there in two.”

He hung up amid a chorus of demands to know what the hell was wrong. He ignored the outcry and began issuing orders.

“Nathan’s and Steele’s teams with me. Rio, your team stays here to organize communications and act as backup. Until we know what we’re up against, I need every available man at the ready.”

Allie frowned. “He’s one of our own. Shouldn’t we all be going?”

Nathan and his team turned to Allie, their expressions not the friendliest. Even P.J., Cole and Dolphin closed ranks with Nathan and the rest of his and Joe’s team.

But it was Sam who held his hand up to silence the others before they had time to respond.

“We live and die as a team, and thus far you haven’t proven to be a team player. And this concerns one of our own, so I only want those who are committed one hundred and ten percent to this family to be involved in this mission. Because we are family, not just some fucking organization that collects a paycheck and calls it a day. Now, we’ve wasted enough fucking time while my brother obviously needs our help. Donovan can give a report on what he knows on the way. Now move out. Double time.”

“I was unfair to you all,” Allie said in a low voice. “I owe you all an apology, but as you said, right now one of our own needs our help, and my wrongs can be righted later if I’m given that opportunity.”

“Rio? It’s your call,” Sam said to the team leader.

Rio simply nodded. “Fall in and let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Ninety seconds later, four vehicles roared to a stop outside Joe’s cabin. Nathan led the charge inside and his heart sank when he saw Joe sitting on the couch, his face buried in his hands. He looked up when he heard the others enter and Nathan winced at the raw agony and grief reflected in his twin’s eyes.

Nathan sank onto the couch next to him while the others stood by, tense and ready to go to fucking war if that’s what it took.

“What happened?” Nathan asked softly.

“I left her here,” Joe said painfully. “I left her here unprotected. I told her I wouldn’t be gone long. Asked her to stay and we’d have breakfast when I got back.” He gestured at the living room that looked as though a tornado had hit it. “This is what I came home to. And the bedroom . . .” He broke off, choking on the words, once more burying his face in his hands

Sam gestured to Dolphin and Baker to check the bedroom.

“What was in the bedroom?” Nathan pressed quietly.

“She fought hard,” Joe said painfully. “Her blood is on the floor, Jesus, even the wall. Splattered like some asshole hit her hard enough to spill her blood. I left her here, goddamn it!”

“You couldn’t have known, Joe,” Skylar said gently, taking the seat on his other side.

She slipped her hand into his, holding tightly.

“No, but if I hadn’t dragged my fucking heels about building inside the compound, if I had my house already built, she would have been there, safe, inside the compound where some asshole couldn’t get to her.”

“The question is who?” Sam said.

“I think Rusty probably has the answer to that question,” Sean said grimly from the doorway as he propelled Rusty inside.

Joe was on his feet immediately, his expression pleading. Rusty rushed into his arms, tears running down her cheeks. He crushed her to him, holding her tightly.

“You have to help me, Rusty. You have to tell me what you know. Everything. Don’t leave anything out. Someone has her. She’s hurt. Her blood is all over my bedroom.”

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