“We were setting a trap for Walt. We wanted him to think that we believed Eve was indeed mentally ill and that we were concerned she was a danger to you and Cammie. We wanted to set him up. We needed incriminating evidence. We needed something. And we had to find a way to take him out. Eve overheard the part that made it sound like I was going to give her up and that all I cared about was you and Cammie. But that’s not true, Travis. I want all three of you. I want to marry Eve and I want the four of us to be family. A real family.”
Hope glimmered in Travis’s eyes and then they dulled again. “But Rusty said—”
Donovan grimaced. “Rusty was pissed at me because she thought I’d betrayed Eve as well. She saw Eve. She knew what Eve believed. And she knew Eve was devastated by it. Rusty cares a lot about you, Travis. Eve and Cammie too. She has a huge heart and she was taking me to task for what she thought I’d done. She was angry because she felt helpless and she knew Eve was in danger.”
“You mean it?” Travis whispered. “You want to marry Eve? And you want me and Cammie?”
The hope in Travis’s voice broke Donovan’s heart.
“I very much want you as my son and Cammie as my daughter. One day I hope to have children with Eve, but in my heart, you and Cammie will always be my first children.”
Travis slowly nodded his acceptance.
“Now, Travis, listen to me. This is important. We can’t afford to waste any more time. I need to know if Walt said anything about Eve.”
Travis closed his eyes and when they reopened, the grief shining nearly sent Donovan over the edge.
“He wouldn’t tell me. He refused. I thought he might bring her here. He didn’t know I knew about this place. But I didn’t think he’d go back to his house. He tried to bargain with me. Told me I had to choose between my real sister and my half sister. He said if I’d contact you to expedite Cammie being returned to him, he’d give me information on Eve. But if I didn’t, he’d get Cammie back one way or another and I’d never know what happened to Eve.”
“I wish I’d been the one to kill him,” Skylar said darkly from behind Donovan.
“Did Walt come here often?” Donovan asked. “We turned his home inside out and couldn’t find anything that would lead us to Eve. I’ve investigated every angle. Except this one. A friend of mine came through for us with an in with the IRS who backtracked one of his fake organizations to this house.”
“I don’t know how often,” Travis admitted. “I wouldn’t have known about it all, but I overheard him on the phone with someone giving them the address and the key codes to disarm the security system.”
“Odd that he’d go to such extreme measures for a cabin in the middle of nowhere,” Joe murmured.
“Eve said that Walt had manufactured an entire medical history documenting her mental illness from an early age and that he even had a physician’s statement. She said he produced them the last time she called the cops to go to your house. Did you ever see those papers after that?” Donovan asked.
Travis’s eyes widened. “No. I didn’t. You would have found them if you searched our house. But maybe . . .”
“They’re here,” Donovan finished.
He abruptly rose.
“Edge, you and Swanny clean this up. Make it look exactly as I said it went down. Sam, you have the gun, right? Give it to me so my prints are on it. For the record, I shot the bastard.”
“No fucking way,” Sam said emphatically. “I shot him. You’ve got too much of a personal stake in this.”
“I can’t let you do that,” Donovan said just as emphatically. “You have a wife and a daughter and another child on the way. I’m not letting you take the fall for this if it gets messy.”
“You have family too,” Sam pointed out. “I’ll get on the horn with Resnick and have him wave his magic wand. The bastard owes us big and he knows it. Besides, when I explain, he’ll take care of it. There’ll be a fuckload of red tape, but if I can get his ass out here, he’ll have the connections to make sure this goes down as a righteous kill.”
Knowing he didn’t have time to argue, Donovan nodded.
“The rest of you are with me,” Donovan said. “I want no stone uncovered in this house. There has to be something here. It’s the only option we have left. The clock is ticking for Eve, if it hasn’t expired yet. Find me something that points us in the right direction.”
“I know this slays your control-freak asses, but my team needs to take lead on this and go in and shut it down,” Resnick said.
Typically, he had a cigarette dangling from his mouth, and he inhaled, then exhaled in short jerky puffs, a sign of agitation.
They were gathered outside a maximum-security private holding, a mere thirty miles from where Walt’s house outside Wasco was located. Their exhaustive search of Walt’s cabin had paid off. The arrogant bastard not only kept the fake medical history he’d compiled for Eve in a safe in his office, but he also had a diary where every detail of the last twenty years had been meticulously accounted for.
Donovan couldn’t believe someone as careful and as cunning and intelligent as Breckenridge would be stupid enough to have written evidence of his crimes, but as Skylar had explained, he thought himself invincible. Untouchable. And he was too egotistical not to have it accounted for. He kept it hidden for his own enjoyment. His legacy, written down. Things he took pride in. The killing of his wife and how pathetically easy it had been. How he was afforded sympathy and admiration for the way he’d taken in his stepdaughter and his smugness over the fact that he controlled his entire family.
It had disgusted him and made him even more fearful that he’d already killed Eve and disposed of her body. He’d spoken of having a cover story, but he’d left off there. Donovan had gone crazy and his brothers hadn’t been able to control him. Until Skylar had uncovered financial records. Off the books under a fake corporation. And the only payments were made to a private facility outside Portland, Oregon.
It had to be where he had stashed Eve. And if he was paying them the sums of money and hiding it, there was something here he didn’t want the world to know about.
Sam made a rude noise and Donovan just stared holes through Resnick.
“No fucking way I’m leaving Eve’s fate to you and your lackeys,” Donovan bit out.
Resnick’s eyebrows rose, but then other than agitation smoking—which he frequently indulged in—the man didn’t get worked up about much. Unless you counted the whole fiasco with Shea and Grace. It had been the first time Donovan had seen the man express any kind of emotion. It still amazed him that apparently the man had a heart underneath that give-a-fuck, good-of-the-country bullshit facade.
“Listen to me, Donovan. I’ve already got messes I’ve got to clean up for you. I’m not adding another. If my team goes in, this falls under the heading of a federal raid. You just happened to show up behind us and as such bear no responsibility in what goes down. This has to be done by the books. My lackeys, as you term them, are good and you damn well know it. They won’t fuck this up.”
“He has a point, Van,” Garrett said in a resigned tone that told Donovan he didn’t like the situation any more than Donovan did.
“Goddamn it,” Donovan swore. “Okay, but let’s roll. We’re wasting time. Time that Eve doesn’t have. I want her out of this hellhole.”
“Then let’s do it,” Resnick said, motioning to his team leader.
“We’ll let you know when we’re in and it’s clear,” Kyle Phillips said as he walked by Donovan. “But wait for my signal. Don’t fuck this up, Kelly. Think with your head and leave your emotions out of it. It needs to go down on the level.”
Leave his emotions out of it. When his heart and soul was in this goddamn hellhole enduring God only knew what. Yeah, leave his emotions out of it. Like that was going to happen.
Sam put a restraining hand on Donovan’s arm as if he realized how perilously close Donovan was to saying fuck it and charging in ahead of Kyle Phillips and his team. He shook off Sam’s hand.
“I’m cool. I’ll wait.”
So he stood and simmered, waiting, each second passing in agony. He listened, straining toward the building nestled in a grove of trees, isolated from the rest of the world. The entire complex was surrounded by a high stone wall with barbed wire coiled at the top. It was a goddamn prison and it gutted him that his Eve was in there. Treated like an animal. Worse than an animal.
It seemed an hour had passed, and maybe it had. He wasn’t the only one simmering with impatience. His brothers and Nathan and Joe’s entire team were twitchy with agitation.
“Chaps my ass that we have to take orders from that asshole,” Skylar muttered. “He’s not my goddamn boss.”
Sam grinned beside Donovan. “I’m liking her a hell of a lot. I admit, I had doubts when I first hired her on, but I wanted to see what she was capable of. You have to admit, she’s perfect. She has the delicate, harmless cheerleader look about her, but she’d remove your balls without remorse and then shove them down your throat after she broke your kneecaps.”
Joe snorted, having overheard Sam’s comment.
“Who would you put your money on in a bar fight? Her or P.J.?”
Donovan rolled his eyes at the juvenile comment.
Sam pretended thought, or maybe he was actually considering the ridiculous scenario. Garrett chuckled.
“My money is still on P.J. She’s ruthless. And, well, she takes shit personally. Now more than ever. Not saying that’s a bad thing. I’ve got her back and always will,” Garrett added in a more serious tone. “Sky can separate her emotions and get the job done.”
“She can still fight dirty,” Sam added. “Which is why I like her. She’s a good addition to the team. And not that this is the time or the place to discuss this, but I have someone lined up for Rio’s team. He’s down two men now and he can’t continue operating that many short. But he gets the final say. I can recommend, but it’s his team, and like Steele, they run them their way. I may sign their paychecks but I can hardly be considered their boss.”
Garrett cocked an eyebrow. “Who’s the guy?”
Sam smiled. “Not a guy. It’s a woman. P.J. and Skylar have worked out well for us. I have a qualified candidate who came highly recommended. I think she’d be a good fit for Rio and his team. She’s reclusive like they are. Doesn’t say a whole lot, but she can kick ass with the best of them. She’s a crack shot. She could take you down in hand to hand,” he said to Garrett, ignoring his snort of disbelief. “She’s also an expert in explosives. Specifically defusing bombs. She worked bomb squad for NYPD. Before that, she was in the army, a fact Nathan and Joe should appreciate. She’s good and I want Rio to take a hard look at her. If I can drag him out of his fucking cave long enough.”
“How long has it been?” Donovan demanded, impatient with the chitchat. He knew his brothers were only trying to distract him. Get his mind off the fact that just below, Eve’s fate hung in the balance. And they were at the mercy of fucking Kyle Phillips and his black ops team.
And yeah, he had to hand it to the young Marine. He was badass in his own right. But he didn’t have a personal stake in this. Donovan did.
On cue, Kyle’s voice came over the com and Donovan covered his earpiece so he wouldn’t miss a single word.
“It’s clear. And Donovan, you need to get in here. East wing. Last room. Make it quick.”
Donovan swayed, his heart nearly stopping. There was uncharacteristic concern in Kyle’s voice. The man was a robot. Programmed to do the mission and only the mission. No emotion. No feelings. Just achieve the objective.
“Oh God,” Donovan whispered even as he broke into a run, his brothers and the team running after him.
He burst through the doors, briefly took in the fact that the personnel were all on the floor, hands above their heads, facedown. He ignored them and got his bearings before sprinting down the hall of the east wing.
He ran through the open door and stopped dead at the sight that greeted him. Tears burned his eyes as he stared at Eve. Or what used to be Eve.
She was restrained in a straitjacket, sitting in a chair in the corner staring sightlessly out the tiny window that overlooked the back garden. Her hair was bedraggled. There was a bruise at the corner of her mouth and dried blood in a line down her chin. Her eyes were hollow and vacant and she was pale as death.
“I couldn’t get her to respond,” Kyle said quietly from where he stood a few feet from Eve. “She’s not there. I don’t know if she’s checked out or if it’s the meds they have her on, but something’s not right. I didn’t even get a flicker of response. She has no idea I’m even here. She just stares right through me.”