“Bree, do you want to go check out everything I got you?” Cierra asked softly.
She glanced at Cierra, “Sure, why not, Cierra, can I ask you something, though?” Bree began as they headed to Justin’s room.
“Do you miss Ben?”
“Yes.” She answered surly.
“Do you miss Justin?”
“I shouldn’t should I?”
“Well, I can’t tell you how to feel.”
“But it’s still wrong, isn’t it?”
Cierra sighed, “I don’t know, there’s so much we don’t know yet, Bree, but we’ll figure it out, Justin won’t give up.”
“Is he always so nice?”
Cierra smiled, “He’s usually pretty decent, I’ve never seen him like this, though, it’s definitely new.” She began to pull clothes out of the bags she had brought back.
Bree’s gaze landed on the lavender sweatpants and sweatshirt, “Can I wear those?”
“Of course,” Cierra handed them over. “I’ll step out so you can change.” She stepped out of the bedroom, closing the door softly.
Bree slowly stripped from the gray pants and t-shirt she had on and slipped into the lavender outfit. Was she ever going to know where she was supposed to be?
She hated not knowing anything, except for the fact she wanted Justin. She sighed a little as she sat on the bed, Justin and she had cuddled on earlier.
Cierra sat down on the couch as she pulled her phone out, she began to call Holly, “Holly, are you coming back?”
“I honestly don’t know, I’m still upset.”
“Holly, why can’t you just move on from him? It’s been years since you’ve been hung up on him and he’s not into you and hasn’t been, he hasn’t wanted anyone.”
“Yeah, and all of a sudden, his niece disappeared, and he runs into that mysterious girl in the woods, and he fell for her? Makes so much sense.” Holly grumbled.
“Holly, he’s not falling for her, she needs someone, for now, she’s been through so much.”
“It’s still frustrating.”
“I don’t know why he’s just not meant for you.”
“I guess so, I just figured he’d care that I was attacked today, but no, he pushed me away, but the minute she fell, he was all over her.”
“Okay, maybe he has fallen for her a little, but I don’t see how, he barely knows anything about her, I’m sure once he finds out who her family is he’ll ship her off to them and get on with his life.” Cierra tried not to sound mean, but it was more than likely true. She froze when she heard the sharp breath behind her.
Cierra spun around on the couch, and there stood Bree, “Holly, I’ve got to go.” She hung up the phone and stood. “Bree,” she began, but Bree stepped away.
“Is that what’s really going to happen?”
“No, please, Bree, I was just trying to calm Holly down.”
Bree stepped further away, “I think I need to leave.”
“Bree, please don’t.”
“Stop calling me Bree, who the hell even knows if that’s really my name or anything, I could just be faking everything.” She grabbed the knob and pulled open the door quickly.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know, but anywhere is better than here or the prison I was kept in.” And out the door, she went before Cierra could stop her.
She screwed up, Justin and Ben were going to be so upset.
Ben pulled the Sonata off to the side of the road, “Is this it?”
Justin looked around, “Yeah, I had my bike in between those two trees there, this was where I started.”
“All right, let’s go then.” Ben put the keys in his pocket then got out of the car.
Justin followed suit, and they grabbed their packs from the backseat and checked their guns. Good to go, they headed out into the woods. He didn’t know what he was going to do if this was indeed a hoax and his darlin’ was in on this. His faith was faltering a little, and he hated himself for it.
If this was real, he’d feel like a real lug head. He just had to figure all of this out. He took a deep breath as he and Ben trudged through the trees.
“Justin, you okay?” Ben asked carefully.
“I guess, I just have a bad feeling, something’s going to happen, there’s just something very messed up here,” Justin explained.
“About the girl you found or this whole situation?”
“You were kissing her when I opened the door, you kissed her in the living room today too.”
“Hmm, yeah, might as well admit it, I had no idea what I was doing. When she tilted her head up before we walked into the apartment I took crappy advantage of it, and she asked me to kiss her again when we were in the bedroom when she woke up, I’m assuming when Holly stormed out of the apartment. She was polite and said thank you when I did, and I told her anytime like it could ever happen again, and it did in the living room, if we solve this and she’s a part of it I’m in deep shit.”
“is that part of the reason we are out here?”
“That and I don’t want her coming back out here, you can’t fake being that bruised and skinny.”
“No, you can’t or fake the kind of pain she feels.”
“Now, who’s growing soft?”
Ben scowled and shoved Justin’s shoulder a little, “It’s not my fault, Cierra reminded me how it was when we first found her and that she only trusted me for a while, I imagine that’s how this situation is.”
“But you knew how old she was and everything.”
“Yeah, but I really think Bree’s no younger than eighteen, there’s quite a bit of time frame missing from when her mom died to now, but like you said, we’ll figure it out.”
“I sure hope so, because I care about her.”
“I know, Justin, it’s obvious and congrats.”
“Won’t be congrats if we don’t figure things out, and I’m at a loss.”
“We’ll figure things out, our team never gives up.”
“Yeah, except for Holly,” Justin grumbled as he stepped over a log, followed by Ben.
Both of them were alert, darting their trained gazes around even while they were talking quietly.
“Well, it’s not a huge loss.”
“Yeah, I never should have brought her with us.” He ducked under a low hanging branch when a snap echoed throughout the trees.
Ben and Justin ducked behind two thick trees, holding their breaths as they listened. Their gaze collided when they didn’t hear anything else. They peeked out from the trees, but saw nothing.
They stayed hidden a few minutes longer when a figure came toward them but veered away off to the left.
Bree sighed, she wouldn’t belong anywhere, she knew that now. She roamed along the street when she found a bridge. She slowly climbed up onto the metal guardrail and sat on top, watching the clear water move gracefully below her.
She wondered what the water would feel like, if it would wash away the pain she felt. She wrapped her arms around herself as she debated on jumping or not. Was she that much of a coward? She hung her head.
Ben and Justin watched the figure disappear and looked at each other when Ben’s phone began to let out a soft tone. Ben silenced the ringer, but he answered, “What’s wrong, babe?”
Great, just great. She wouldn’t call unless it was necessary.
“Okay, on our way back, just keep looking.” Ben ended the call and turned to Justin. “We’ve got a problem, Bree’s gone.”
Justin didn’t need to hear more, he took off in a run back to the Sonata. Why would she leave? Why would she endanger herself like that?
Sure the town was small, but there was no way he was going to be able to find her quickly. “Does she know which way Bree went?”
“We’ll have to find out when we get there, she’s looking for her now, though.”
“Why would she leave like this? Knowing we are out here trying to find the others.”
They reached the car and threw their stuff back in, “To keep us from finding them long enough so they can be moved?” Justin demanded just another possibility that Bree was in on this, unless she was that manipulated, but she was so terrified, and there were signs of PTSD with her. Just like there had been with Cierra, “Ben, you trusted Cierra from the beginning, she was held captive by Rook, was made to do things for him, but you trusted that she had nothing to do with any of it, how did you manage that?”
“I went with my gut, and sometimes you just have to go with it.”
“And what if my gut is telling me she has nothing to do with this, but I also feel that I am misjudging because of those stupid kisses and that she’s a pretty face?” Justin dragged a hand over his face, frustration taking over.
“Look, Justin, no one can tell you which feeling to go with, but our guts are pretty good, you know that, we’ll figure this out, she’s like you said, terrified, I don’t think she’d be able to help these guys, especially after they beat her so bad, but this option is all yours.”
He gazed out the window, he couldn’t be played, he was too damn good. But how could he have trusted her so easily? Iris, Cierra, and Ben all warned him. He should have heeded that warning.
Cierra drove the streets, frantically her gaze flashed around as she drove. She was close to giving up when she suddenly saw the fragile thing sitting on the bridge’s guardrail she was driving over.
Fear squeezed her heart when she watched Bree stand on top of the metal railing. She pulled over as quickly as possible, making horns blare behind her. She crawled over the center console and rushed over to Bree, “Bree, don’t!” she called out but was pulled up short and an arm wrapped around her throat.
Bree turned when she heard her new name and staggered along the metal rail digging into her sock covered feet. She let out a gasp when she saw Burly had a hold of Cierra, “Let her go!” Bree yelled as she jumped down off the railing and onto the harsher concrete.
“Oh, now why would I do that?” Burly demanded roughly, pulling Cierra back, squeezing tighter.
“Because she has nothing to do with what you’re trying to do, and she won’t be any help to you.” Bree moved closer, fear clouding her. She couldn’t let him take Cierra.
“You aren’t any help to me either anymore, you’ve got my partner in an uproar, they want you taken out, now this pretty thing, on the other hand, will get us the money you were supposed to get for us.”
“No!” Bree yelled, moving closer. “Let her go, I’ll go with you instead, please.” She began to beg.
“How do we know this won’t be some trick to get your new lover boy involved and finding his niece.”
“Because they don’t even know where I am, please, let her go, I’ll go with you, and I’ll behave.”
Burly let Cierra go but shoved her down on the ground roughly, making Cierra let out a scream. Burly rushed forward and gripped her throat, “One wrong move, and you die, do you understand?”
Bree nodded her head slightly but tried her best to keep her gaze away from Cierra. As long as she was safe, that’s what mattered.
Cierra began to panic but pulled her phone out of her pocket, “Justin, you two need to hurry to the bridge on Main Street, I found her, but some man is here, and he’s going to take her, please.” She rushed out panicky yet quickly.
“We’re two minutes out, try to stop him, don’t let them leave.”
Cierra didn’t know how to fulfill that request, she didn’t have a gun or anything, she always left the weapon handling to the guys and Holly, “You can’t take her!” she made a step to Bree and the man, whose arms bulged below his tight black shirt, hoping the guys would get there soon and in time.
“Oh, and who’s going to stop me, you two?” the man demanded, letting out an evil, gruff laugh.
She froze, he was right, she and Bree couldn’t stop this.
The man stepped backward from her, pulling Bree with him.
Cierra’s gaze widened when she saw Ben and Justin running up the sidewalk soundlessly, at least she stalled enough.
As Ben drove past Cierra, Bree, and the man Justin knew as Sal, Justin almost jumped out of the car, but Ben latched onto his arm, “Take him from behind.” Ben pulled over quickly, almost jumping the curb. They got out and hurried to get their guns.
Justin knew Bree wasn’t a part of this, she couldn’t be, she looked so scared as she stared at Cierra. His heart was almost bursting out of his chest as he rushed up the sidewalk.
“Cierra, please, just let him take me, I won’t have you go through what he can dish out, just let us go.” Her voice broke a little.
The man holding her backed up, and Justin drew his gun, “One wrong move, and this gun has a bullet with your name on it.” Justin gritted out as he pressed the gun into the man’s skull.
Sal turned but then in a split second shoved Bree toward the metal railing, “Take your pick, the girl or your niece.” He pushed Bree with so much force it sent her over the railing.
Justin’s breath caught as he heard her scream. He dove to catch her but missed her hand as she sailed down through the air to the river below.
“Bree!” he yelled. He almost went with her until Ben grabbed him. Justin shook his partner off, and he rushed down the sidewalk to the dip that would take him to the river. He began to panic when she didn’t come back up. “Bree!” he yelled again right before he dove into the chilly water. Why wasn’t she coming back up? As he got further to the middle where she was tossed, his feet barely touched the bottom.
He sucked in a lung full of air and dipped below the water. He saw her lying at the bottom. He rushed through the water and grabbed her with one arm and pushed up from the bottom. They broke through the top, and he pulled her back to the grassy dip.
“Justin, Bree!” Cierra yelled as she skidded down the dip.
Justin got to his feet and pulled his darlin’ into his arms, getting them out of the water, “She’s not breathing!” Justin exclaimed as he laid her down. He knelt beside her and tilted her head back and began to perform mouth to mouth on her.
He felt like time stopped as he tried to get Bree to breathe. He couldn’t lose her. Finally, she sputtered and began to spit up the water. He turned her to her side as she continued to release the water.
She finally stopped and laid down against the ground.
“Babe?” Justin rubbed her thigh gently, but she didn’t turn to him, her breathing was heavy as was his. His heart wasn’t beating as fast now from the fear, though.
He leaned forward touching his forehead to her shoulder as his hand moved up around the front of her and squeezed her to him gently.
She let out another body shaking cough, spitting out more water.
“He went after the guy.”
“Damn,” he moved his head from his darlin’ but didn’t move his arm. He began to stand, hauling her up with him. He picked her up and climbed up the dip quickly. He rushed to the car Cierra had and placed his darlin’ in the front seat. “GO home with Cierra, I’ll be there soon and don’t you dare try to run again.”
She didn’t respond, and her eyes were so lifeless, but he had to go help, Ben. He stood from the car and shut the door as Cierra rushed around to the other side.
“Get her home, don’t let her leave, what way did Ben go?”
“That way.” She motioned with her head in front of her. “Justin, both of you be careful, and don’t blame her, this is my fault, I’ll explain later.” She ducked into the car and began to head back to the apartment.
Justin took off the way Cierra had directed him, his boots pounded against the pavement as he made his way to find his partner and friend.
He would have to handle Bree later. He felt relief when he spotted Ben running in front of him. Justin pushed himself harder and finally caught up to the bigger man, “Ben, are you still hot on his trail?”
“No, dude, I lost him.” Ben panted out as he slowed down. “I thought I could catch him, but he’s gone, just totally disappeared, Bree, okay?” “More or less.” Justin clamped down on his anger. He’d just have to stay with Bree, make sure she stayed put and safe.
“A little shaken but I think she’ll be okay, we’re going to have to talk to them when we get to the apartment, I sent them there.”
“Instead of a hospital?”
“Yeah, I think she may have hit her head, but I’ll monitor her tonight to make sure she’s okay.”
That was a long fall.”
“Yeah, I know.” He gritted his teeth at the thought of the eight-foot drop, at least. “Come on, let’s head back, if she’s not doing okay I’ll take her in, I just wanted to get her off the streets.”
“Okay.” Ben glanced around quickly, and then they made their way back to the Sonata.