Oh Jesus. He couldn’t even muster relief over the fact she was alive. She might be breathing, but how much of her was left? Would she survive this? Would he ever get his Eve back?
“I want to know what the hell has been done to her,” Donovan barked. “Get on it. I want whoever’s in charge down here now, and I don’t give a fuck what has to be done to make him talk.”
Donovan walked quietly over to where Eve sat, still as a statue, her eyes focused on some distant point. For that matter, it didn’t appear that she was seeing anything. She’d withdrawn into herself, a shield to reality.
He knelt in front of her and then saw the restraints, the fact that she was unable to move. Furious, he grabbed his knife, but Garrett was there and gripped Donovan’s hand before he could flash the knife.
“Slow down, man,” Garrett said quietly. “It might freak her out if you brandish a knife as pissed as you are. You talk to her. I’ll cut her loose from behind.”
Knowing his brother was right, Donovan shoved his knife back into the clasp on his belt, and then he reached up to gently touch Eve’s face, hoping for some sign of recognition. But she didn’t react to his touch. Didn’t so much as flinch. Her eyes remained vacant. Empty. Lifeless.
Panic was starting to seize him and he shook uncontrollably. He wanted to weep like a baby, but he had to hold it together for Eve. She didn’t need him to be a wreck. She needed him to be strong. Her rock. The only solid thing in her current existence.
Garrett quickly freed her and they unwrapped the straitjacket until she was finally free. Her arms hung limply at her sides. It was as if she were completely unaware that she was now free. Her gaze remained fixed on some distant point out the window.
“Eve,” he said gently. “Eve, honey, it’s me, Donovan. You’re safe now. I’ve got you. Travis and Cammie are safe. Your stepfather is dead, honey. He can’t hurt you anymore. You’re free.”
She didn’t respond and his dread only increased. He wanted to yell at her. To shake her until she snapped out of it. But he wouldn’t do any of those things because he’d never show her violence of any kind. She needed tenderness and gentleness and he’d give that to her and so much more. He’d give her his love and he’d never give her any reason to ever doubt that again.
Joe came back in, all but dragging a guy wearing a lab coat. It was obvious he was scared shitless and that Joe had put the fear of God in him. If that wasn’t enough, Skylar immediately got into the man’s face, and she looked damn scary. All cheerleader jokes aside, this was not a woman who looked harmless. She had death in her eyes and she flashed a wicked-looking blade in the man’s face.
“You have two seconds to tell me what the fuck you did to her, or I start carving you up into tiny pieces. And it won’t be quick and it won’t be painless. I’ll make you bleed and suffer, but you won’t die. You’ll only wish you had,” Skylar spat.
The man went deathly white and it was obvious that whatever threat Joe had issued paled in comparison to the one Skylar just issued.
Donovan had to admit, Skylar in badass mode was pretty damn impressive. Edge just smirked, pride in his gaze as he watched Skylar in action. Swanny stood back, a half smile quirking his lips as he too watched with interest.
“She hasn’t been harmed. Physically,” he hastily amended. “She’s been heavily sedated since her arrival. She came to us already medicated. She’s been this way since she got here. We were told to keep her in lockdown mode and that she was a suicide threat and that we needed to keep her in restraints because she had violent tendencies and had injured others who cared for her in the past.”
“What the fuck did you give her, and how much?” Donovan roared.
“I can give you her records,” the man stammered. “Everything is documented. Her last dose was just half an hour ago and we were instructed by her physician to medicate her four times daily and to keep her in a state of sedation until he reevaluated her when he returned.”
“Bullshit,” Donovan growled. “Just who the hell is this physician who gave you orders? The fucker never planned to return. They wanted her kept like this.”
“I’ll give you every piece of information we have,” the man said. “Just don’t hurt my employees! They’re innocent. They’re just here to care for our patients.”
“And yet you have so few,” Skylar snarled. “This big-ass private facility and you have, what, four patients? All undoubtedly from wealthy families who pay you a hell of a lot of money to take care of their ‘problems.’ Am I right?”
Guilt flashed in his eyes, and Donovan knew Skylar was dead-on with her assessment.
“Donovan,” Resnick quietly spoke up. “Take Eve and get her away from here. I’ll handle things here. This will fall under federal jurisdiction. We’ll shut it down and handle it through the proper channels so that this place is shut down and everyone involved will be arrested and held accountable for their actions. There’s nothing for you to do here. You’ll just muddy the waters. I’ll make damn sure that Travis is in no way linked to Breckenridge’s unfortunate death. Trust me to do this. I’ll make it clean and you, Eve, Travis and KGI will not be remotely involved.”
He was asking a hell of a lot, and Donovan burned with the need for revenge. For blood. He wanted to mete out punishment on every fucker who’d been responsible for doing this to Eve. But Resnick was right. Eve was his first and only priority. Revenge had no place in his priorities right now.
Closing his eyes, he nodded his agreement. Then he carefully cradled Eve in his arms, his heart breaking as she lay limply against him, her eyes never moving, her gaze never changing.
He hurried out of the facility, wishing he could burn it to the ground and take everyone in it down in flames. Ethan had slipped out, unnoticed by Donovan, and he was waiting in an SUV out front.
“Get to the airport so we can get the fuck out of here,” Sam said, putting his hand on Donovan’s shoulder. “The jet is fueled and ready to go. Nathan, Joe and Skylar will ride with you and Ethan. We’ll be on your six. Get her on the plane and let’s get the fuck home.”
THEY were in the air an hour later, and Donovan sat holding Eve, cradling her in his arms. He talked to her in soothing tones, telling her of his love for her, that she was safe now. That they were going home. That Travis and Cammie were all right.
The minute they’d arrived at the airfield, Travis had been distraught over Eve’s condition. Relieved that she was alive, but then immediately devastated when he learned of what she’d been subjected to.
Donovan instructed Nathan to put Travis in the cockpit with him as a distraction. Perhaps Eve needed the familiarity of family. But Travis was a hot mess and Donovan worried that it would only make things worse for Eve. Not that she seemed remotely aware of her surroundings. But he wanted—needed—this time with her alone without having to comfort Travis as well. Nathan would take care of him.
Joe entered the lounging area of the jet while the rest of the team stayed in the rows between the cockpit and the area that had the couch and the two armchairs. He took a seat opposite Donovan and glanced up at his older brother, sympathy and understanding brimming in his eyes.
“Look, I know I can’t say I know how you feel,” Joe began. “I haven’t been in love. I’m the only unattached brother, so I won’t insult you by saying shit like I understand what you’re going through. But I’ve seen it with every single one of you. I’ve been there when the worst has happened. She’ll get through this, man. She’s strong. She’s a fighter.”
“But she thinks I betrayed her,” Donovan said painfully. “What reason does she have to snap out of it, to even respond to the man she believes in her heart and soul betrayed her, used her and lied to her? Look at her, man. She’s gone. She’s not here. She’s checked out and I don’t know if it’s the meds they forced on her or if she’s just checked out because her reality doesn’t bear living.”
“Remember how Shea was when we found her,” Joe said gently. “Remember how out of it she was. How worried Nathan was that he’d lost her. That he’d never get her back. All Shea needed was time and his love. Our love. The support of her family. Our family. Eve needs that too. She’ll get there, Van. She just needs you to surround her with your love. She needs to know you love her and that you’d never betray her. She’ll pull out of this. Maren has already been called in and is waiting. She’ll see what’s to be done and if she needs more than Maren can provide. Whatever it is, we’ll get it for her. With you and our family behind her, and with Cammie and Travis with her and Walt being out of the picture, she’ll pull through this. She just needs time. Just like Shea needed time. But she’ll get there. I believe that to my soul. I wouldn’t just say shit to pacify you.”
“I can’t bear the thought of her thinking—knowing—that I did this to her,” Donovan said hoarsely. “I’ll never love another woman the way I love Eve. She’s it for me, man. The one. I knew it from the first day I met her. And I should have been clearer. I should have laid it out to her, but I thought we had time. I was arrogant and convinced that I’d take Walt out, that it would be easy. That my plan to draw him out was going to be a piece of cake. I was so wrapped up in what I wanted that I didn’t consider any other possibility but it going the way I wanted. And Eve paid for that. I should have been up front with her from the start. I was trying to shield her, and in doing so I made her believe that I threw her under the bus. All that shit about my weakness for women and children and especially children. Jesus, even I can see how bad that looks, how bad it sounds. I can understand why Eve thought what she thought because my entire family had recited those damning words for the world to hear. How must Eve have felt every time someone tagged on the especially children, as though she were some afterthought. Not as important as those kids when she’s the heart and soul of it all.”
“Stop torturing yourself,” Joe said. “It’s not doing you or her any good. Save it, man. Wrap her up in your love and support. Bring her home to Cammie and Travis. She’ll pull through this. We won’t entertain any other option. And you damn well know the Kellys are a stubborn, tenacious, overbearing lot and once we set our minds to something, come hell or high water, we’re going to make it happen. She’s family. She’s one of us. And there’s no way in hell any of us are giving up on her.”
Donovan smiled, some of the agony easing. Just a bit.
“It’s a hell of a note when my baby brother is kicking my dumb ass,” Donovan muttered.
Joe grinned. “I’m savoring it. It may never happen again.”
“Thanks,” Donovan said sincerely. “I’m glad you and Nathan are out of the army and working with us. We weren’t complete until you two joined. Now we’re whole.”
A shadow passed through Joe’s eyes, and Donovan knew he was remembering how close they came to losing Nathan. Joe’s twin.
“Just remember that I felt what Shea felt. That I had the same link to her that Nathan did. I saw what she saw, felt what she felt. And she went through hell. She was tortured and when we found her, she was a lifeless shell of her former self. But she came around, and so will Eve. Just give her time. If all they did was keep her drugged, then that’s something that can be overcome.”
Donovan gently thumbed the shadow of a bruise on Eve’s mouth and the dried blood at her lip. “Someone hit her. And if they hit her once, who’s to say they didn’t hurt her in other ways? We may never know what she endured. Even if she comes around, she may never remember all that happened to her.”
“Maybe that’s for the best,” Joe said quietly. “Some things are better left unremembered. All she needs to know is that she’s loved and she’s safe. The past doesn’t matter any longer.”
Donovan nodded. “You’re right. I know you’re right. But goddamn it, I want to shed the blood of every single motherfucker who had a part in doing this to her. And to leave it all to Resnick? It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
“And the most selfless,” Joe said. “You walked away because that’s what Eve needed. She needs you. And so instead of getting revenge, you walked away because Eve needed you. You did the right thing, Van. Don’t ever think otherwise.”
Donovan gathered Eve close in his arms, closing his eyes as he pressed his lips to her forehead.
“Come back to me,” he whispered. “Come back to me so I can tell you I love you. So I can tell you I love you every single day of our lives from this point forward.”