Will paced the small apartment where they had been staying. Mercy should have been back by now. It was almost eight. The night nurse should have taken over at least an hour ago. And what about Callie? Grace, whatever. Diego had insisted that the girl goes with his sister during the day.
He had hoped that Mercy would bring some news with her as well. He knew that Diego and Consuela Garcia kept her relatively isolated, caring for the man who had sired her. But if Dominguez was there, surely it would be harder to hide what was happening. And what of Cassandra McBride? Callie’s mother must have arrived by now.
Fuck, if he stayed in these four tiny walls, he would go insane. Though, he had been questioning his sanity, or at least, his thought processes for weeks now. Why had he brought Mercy here? There had to have been another way. She should have gone into hiding with her mother, like their original plan.
But if she had, would he have been able to infiltrate the Garcia operation? Would he have found Bebe? Not that he had seen his cousin yet. While he might not trust Roberto Garcia, he was sure he could Mercy. Still, perhaps it was some elaborate hoax designed to ensure his compliance. How did he know for sure that this girl was Bebe? It had been three years. Would he even recognize her if he saw her?
He had to get out of there. He would take a walk. Maybe if he headed out of the village towards the Garcia ranch, he would meet them on the way back. And if not? What then? Did he confront the guards? Demand to see Mercy? Was it worth the risk to go to Torreon? Did he dare take a taxi to the desert? Attempt to contact Mercy’s family. Try to get some help. But what if someone followed him? What if…
“Fuck!” Will picked up his leather jacket. It got cold after dark in the desert. He closed the door as he left. There was no point in locking it. Garcia could get in anytime he wanted, and no one else would dare trespass.
As he turned right at the foot of the stairs, he noticed a rather large group of men, trying to push and shove their way into the cantina that fronted for the brothel. He heard one speaking broken Spanish to the armed guard and older woman who ran the place on behalf of Diego.
“Aww, come on, man. It’s the dude’s bachelor party. And we heard this place has something special. Don’t you think he deserves his fantasy before shackling himself to one woman for life…” The man’s words were slurred as if he had been drinking. There was something vaguely familiar about his voice. But Will knew better than to become involved.
It was the woman who responded, surprisingly in perfect English. “As I told you before, we are rented out for a private event for the next three days.”
A darker-skinned man nudged his way forward. Mexican? Probably Native American from the features. He flashed the woman a smile that probably got him pretty much anything he wanted with women. But Will knew it would not do him any good this time.
“Please, chica, the groom just wants one taste of a sweet young thing before tying the knot. Come on, helps us out. We’ve come a long way to give our friend a bachelor party he’ll never forget. Just one girl? You have one that you can spare, right?”
“The lady told you no.” The goon by the door flashed a gun this time.
Will considered intervening. Perhaps he could both protect these drunk idiots and ingratiate himself with Diego. He was about to step out of the shadows when another figure appeared.
The woman turned to the newcomer, “And where do you think you’re going?”
If he had any doubts, they disappeared. While the words were Spanish, he recognized the voice even though he could not see her face. Bebe. His cousin was here. He was elated and heartbroken at all she must have been through.
“Bobby called the bar. I’m needed at the house. Now.”
The other woman continued to block the doorway, keeping the men out and his cousin inside. “Of course, if you want to argue with Diego, that’s your business, Esme.” He smiled to hear the fight that remained in her.
The woman stepped to the side, just enough to let the girl out. “I’ll be checking with Diego,” her words were more whine than a threat.
His cousin was barely out the door when hands drew her within the circle of men. “Hey, sweetheart, what’s your name? My friends and I have come all the way from Houston for my friend’s bachelor party. I promise you, we’ll make it worth your while.”
Will fought back the anger. How many sick propositions like that had his cousin endured? How many had she been forced to accede to? She was barely sixteen years old, for god’s sake.
“Any other time, handsome, I’d be more than happy to party with you. But right now, I need to help a sick friend.”
His stomach tightened to hear the teasing in her sweet voice. He remembered the innocent little girl who had sung so powerfully in the choir at her father’s church. How had this happened to her? And for the first time since this all began, Will faced the facts. No matter what happened, even if he did manage to get Bebe out of this place, nothing would be the same. She was not that little girl anymore.
As he stepped from the shadows, he was happy to see that the men had let his cousin go on her way down the road. He waited a couple more moments, listened as the men argued more with the woman. He waited until he was sure that the guard was too involved with the situation to notice him sneak away down the road behind his cousin.
Will waited until he was out of the village before he began to run. If he could just catch up with Bebe…
He was not sure how long he had been running. It was too dark already to see much further ahead, but he had to be getting close to her by now. And when he caught up? What then? What would he say? It wasn’t like he had any plan yet. But that didn’t matter. He just wanted to let her know that they had come for her. That he was not leaving without her.
He felt the arms wrap around him from behind. The guy was bigger and stronger than he was. He could tell that from the power behind the running tackle. He would have to use his brain to best whatever goon Diego had following him. They rolled for a moment in the dry dirt and rock. He looked for some advantage.
Until the man spoke, “Will, stop.”
He peered through the darkness, barely making out the bulky outline of the man that went with that voice, “Ryan? What are you doing here?”
Will’s heart pounded. If Ryan were here, were there others? Might this be the help he had prayed for? Their way out of this mess. But why now? He had not been able to get word to them. How had they known?
His friend held out his hand and helped Will to his feet. He could make out another figure in the darkness. This man was smaller, but most men would be when compared with Ryan Ranger.
“What are you doing here? How did you know to come? I couldn’t get to the phone to send you a message. I don’t understand…” His mind was reeling. He knew he needed to calm it. But Ryan’s next words made that impossible.
“Will, this is Chad Wilson. Cassie and Callie McBride have been staying with him.”
Will found himself back on the hard ground. The man had tackled him so quickly that he did not have time to react. The wind was knocked out of him. And honestly, he did not have the will to fight this man. Whatever he did to him, he deserved. “Where are they? Where are my daughter and Rose?”
Ryan pulled the man off of him and helped Will to stand once again. His friend was careful this time to keep his body between him and the other man. “I don’t understand. Who is Rose? And what do you mean – your daughter?”
“Cassandra McBride is going by the name Rose now. And her daughter, Callie, isn’t McBride’s child.” Ryan turned to the other man, “But neither Cassie nor Chad knew the truth until McBride took them to him.”
Will nodded his head. “Makes perfect sense. That was why he was so sure that no one would ever find them.”
“But you did. You kidnapped my daughter, and now that monster has the woman I love too.”
He closed his eyes and sought courage deep inside of himself. “I know it doesn’t help, but I truly am sorry. I won’t try to make excuses because there aren’t any, but you should know that Garcia has my sixteen-year-old cousin and the woman I love too. My cousin was kidnapped off a Dallas street while she waited for a bus to school. She was just twelve. And…”
He could not bring himself to say the rest. The reality of what had happened to his cousin was still choking him, squeezing his heart. He felt the hand on his shoulder squeeze gently. “Okay, if we’re going to get them out of here, we need to work together. Is your cousin back in the village? Jack, Reb, and a bunch of the others are trying to get into that place now.”
“But we figured that Garcia might be looking for Chad and me, so we decided to do a bit of recon out in the desert. There are a few more checking out the house.”
Will shook his head, “Bebe was right ahead of me. I was trying to catch up. I haven’t been able to talk to her. Hell, I hadn’t even seen her until tonight.”
“The young woman that went past was your cousin?” The other man spoke this time. Will nodded.
“Where’s Mercy? Her sister will have my balls if anything happens to her.”
“She’s somewhere on the Garcia compound. They have her caring for the old man, their father, during the day. She usually comes back to the apartment they gave us at night. But she should have been back there by now.” Will turned to the man. Chad, he said his name was. “Your daughter is with her.”
“Okay, this is good.” Ryan sighed.
“Good? How can you say that? Garcia has my cousin, Mercy, and Callie. Probably Cassie, too, though I don’t know that for sure. And trust me, that man is not the only monster in that family.”
“His mother and brother, too, I know. But think for a moment, Will, they are all in one place. You know as well as I do that it is easier than trying to coordinate simultaneous operations. Can you get in there? Provide us more intel on their exact locations and conditions?”
“No, Garcia doesn’t trust me. I haven’t been back inside the compound since the day we arrived. I’d hoped that…”
“Kidnapping my daughter would prove your loyalty?”
He could not blame the man for the bitterness in his voice. “Something like that. Though honestly, I was more worried about keeping the woman I love alive. I think we have that in common at least. And just so you know, Garcia has my child too.” He turned to Ryan as he spoke, “Mercy is pretty certain she’s pregnant.”
“Okay, then let’s hope Rex and the old men have better luck than we have been so far.”