“What do you mean they took her?” He could barely understand Charlie’s frantic message because his heart had stopped beating.
“Did she say anything? Do anything?”
Charlie choked. “She was crying, sir.”
Alex felt the anger rise and the blood in his veins begin to boil from it. “I’m halfway to you. Don’t go anywhere until I get there.”
“Hey, boss. What can I do for you? Do you need a car?”
“Fuck yeah, I do,” he barked, uncaring how abrupt he sounded. Gerard was a big boy and he needed to get the picture in the quickest way possible. “Bring the Spyder around and do it quick. I think Harper has been kidnapped.”
“Fuck. On my way.”
The phone went dead before the elevator doors even closed. He had no doubt Gerard was already formulating a plan and the minute they met he would have a thousand questions that he couldn’t answer. Because he fucking knew nothing. Other than he’d tried to call her all day and she’d yet to return any of his calls or messages. That and the empty penthouse upon his return were enough to drive him mad, but this?
Instead of being concerned at the time, he’d begun planning the various ways he would deliver her punishment for ignoring him. It had been too long since he’d seen her and they had some time to make up for.
Not to mention a discussion about how they’d left things the last time they were together.
His fucking brother.
Ronin had stuck his nose in business that was not his and he’d been forced to fly to Italy to deal with it. This was precisely the kind of bullshit from his family that he’d been trying to get away from for the last decade. Between Ronin and his father, they’d fucked up more of his life than he dared think about.
He grit his teeth. Fuck Ronin. Harper was missing and he had no real details on why or how.
Although his gut was beginning to fill in the blanks whether he liked it or not. The timing of all of this was far too convenient. His trip to Italy, his inability to reach his woman, and now this. He didn’t believe in coincidences, especially not a string of them.
The doors swished open and Charlie rushed forward with a flurry of details. To the casual observer, the man might seem nothing more than an average doorman, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, he’d hired Charlie years ago while he was still on active duty with the Navy SEALs.
In his position, that kind of planning ahead became critical in more ways than one. While he’d dared hope his life never took this extreme turn, he’d prepared for it nonetheless.
Because fucking Ronin and his shitty asshole father could not be trusted. And they were dangerous. The pit in his stomach grew with every reminder of the crap his mother had gotten them into and how little she cared about that.
“Tell me every fucking detail,” he ordered. “You and I both know no detail is too trivial.”
“Yes, sir. It happened fast, so there isn’t a lot of information yet.”
Alex narrowed his eyes as his impatience flared.
“What? Why didn’t you notify me then?”
“We had reports of several smoke alarms going off in the building and were in the midst of investigating.”
“A fucking diversion.”
Charlie nodded. “Yes, sir. I believe so. While I wasn’t able to witness the two men approach, everything was picked up by the cameras.”
He shook his head. “Very little. I believe the unknown assailants were aware of our audio and video surveillance. While they weren’t able to avoid the video, they conveniently were positioned in a way that prevented most of their conversation from being picked up.”
Alex’s head was about to explode from the information he received. He’d paid a ridiculous amount of money to ensure he had the absolute top of the line security on this building, Harper’s tiny apartment, her place of work and any other place either one of them were likely to utilize. Even the Glass Kat had received a generous donation for upgraded security just in case.
“Do we have anything?”
When he rounded the desk to face the screens, each monitor had still images of Harper and the two men who’d approached her. While there was a lot of information to digest here, it was the image on the last screen that made his blood boil.
One of the men had a tight grip on Harper’s arm as he obviously led her to their vehicle. The fear stamped across her face solidified the man’s fate instantly. He would be the first one to pay for this.
And there would be others. Of that he had no doubt.
His stepfather and stepbrother were not the only ones in the family who didn’t cringe at necessary violence. While he didn’t seek it out like they did, he also didn’t shy away from whatever it took to get things done. Or to protect the ones he loved.
The pain in his chest at the sight of Harper in peril sliced deep. He had to get her back—quick.
“See this one.” Charlie pointed to one of the middle monitors. “That looks like a badge. It’s a little grainy, so I can’t quite make out the credentials for certain, but it looks like FBI to me.”
“I doubt it. See this one.” He pointed to another image and the outline of a gun visible underneath the man’s suit coat. “I don’t have to see the weapon in person to know it doesn’t look standard government issue. I think they were someone else posing as FBI.”
The man nodded. “For sure. They knew where our surveillance equipment was placed, at least enough to avoid some audio detection, and the minute I exited the building they got her in the vehicle before I could reach them.”
“I’ve got my cell phone. Keep on that video footage until you find something else that helps. We’re going to need it. Call me the second you have something.” He raced towards the entrance and the car waiting at the curb. Going after them after this much time seemed futile, but he had to try.
Gerard frowned as he shifted smoothly into gear. “Not much so far, sir. A general direction. I’ve got someone hacking into traffic cameras now, but it’s going to take time. You’ll have the info on your phone and the car’s navigation as it comes in.”
“Time is a luxury we don’t have.”
Alex clenched the muscles in his jaw. There were very few options for this kind of thing. Business rivals seemed unlikely. His relationship with Harper was too new for anyone to take this seriously yet. And he’d managed to keep it out of the media thus far so they wouldn’t know to use her as leverage. That left only a few close people who still should not have known shit.
The word popped into his head for the billionth time in the past twenty-four hours. That little shit had caused him more than his fair share of trouble over the years, but his chaos in Italy had come out of the blue and intersected a critical deal that left him no choice but to go there immediately.
“Did anyone else approach Harper while I was gone?” She’d left his apartment after three days and returned to hers, that much he knew. He’d also assigned Gerard as her personal security detail, so he’d not worried too much. His plan for tonight had been to explain his absence and subsequent silence and get her back into his bed—for good.
He would have laughed at Gerard’s assessment if his phone had not pinged. He glanced down and saw a video still image of the vehicle that had taken Harper. The picture was taken with a low quality street cam so he barely made out her head in the backseat. But he trusted his team knew what they were looking for.
“Take a right there.” He pointed to the next road as Gerard shifted the car down and took a hard right that any other vehicle might have refused to navigate. He was beginning to appreciate every dime he spent on this one more and more.
“That’s all they got? This feels like a wild goose chase.”
“Charlie told you already?” He was kind of impressed how quickly his team mobilized.
Gerard tapped his earpiece. “I was live with Charlie by the time you entered the lobby, sir.”
Definitely impressed. If only it were some kind of fucking drill and not Harper’s life depending on them to find her.
The car slowed and he looked up to see they’d reached a crossroad. “Your guess is as good as mine at this point.”
Gerard took a sharp left and shot the car to full speed in an instant.
“Why left and not right? You don’t think they took her to the airport?”
He shook his head. “Nope. Too much red tape and too many variables to deal with there. They’d either be going to a private airfield, a residence or other private building in which case we’d be screwed. Or they could be headed for the docks or the closest helipad.”
“Helipad.” Alex tightened his grip on his phone, opened the keypad and pressed the code for his pilot.
“Already on the way, sir. Both the jet and the copter have been mobilized and we are ready to go with either.”
Gerard winced. “Not usually, sir. However, I did not see this coming. My team had eyes on Ms. Allison at all times in your absence, so I don’t know how this happened.”
“Ronin.” He finally voiced his thoughts out loud.
Gerard’s head swung sharply. “You think he has something to do with this?”
Thankfully Gerard had enough sense not to refer to the bastard as his brother, or stepbrother or family. Not while his blood boiled with the idea that Ronin had taken Harper from him. Before this their family ties were tenuous at best. If his gut turned out to be right—he could barely contemplate.
“I think it’s the only thing that makes sense. I have no other suspects.”
“Ronin Kavanaugh is a child,” Gerard spat, his disgust more than evident.
He nodded. “I don’t disagree that he’s still young and stupid. But he’s also volatile, unpredictable and a certified genius. The little fucker could do some serious damage if he ever put his mind to it.”
“And why would he want to take Ms. Allison? To hurt you? Is he even aware of your relationship with her? Harper seems quite reserved. She doesn’t fit the profile of a woman grasping for the golden ring. I’ve seen no evidence that she has publicized her time with you. She doesn’t even have an Instagram account.”
Alex sighed. “This traffic is taking too much time. We aren’t going to find them like this.”
Of course, Gerard was right, but that didn’t give him more patience over this nightmare. Quite the opposite. He was going to crawl out of his skin if they didn’t find something soon.
As Gerard struggled through the clogged streets of the city, Alex searched his memory for random puzzle pieces that might provide evidence that Ronin had taken her. There had been no direct communication between him and his brother for quite some time. His latest bullshit mess had come down in the form of interference that had created a business emergency for Alex to deal with.
But that had come about more than a week ago. If he’d created that as a diversionary tactic, why would Ronin wait until his return to the city before acting? He could have snatched her with a lot less trouble from her own apartment or her work.
While he’d provided security in both places, Gerard had warned him it couldn’t compare to his own set up in the penthouse. However, at the time he’d been unwilling to push Harper into staying. Why?
He wanted their relationship. So much so, he hated it when she left his apartment. If he thought he could have gotten away with it, he’d have locked her in until his return. She belonged to him. Whether he could assign emotional attachment to it or not, he wasn’t sure.
With that last thought still resonating through his mind, Gerard slammed on the brakes and brought Alex’s full attention back to the task at hand. They’d arrived at the heliport, but it was apparent Harper wasn’t here. No helicopters were waiting to take off on any of the pads.
He climbed from the car and reached for his phone, the screen still blank. It didn’t appear their hackers were having any more luck than they were.
“I’m going in to check on any recent flight plans,” Gerard said. “Maybe I can find something or maybe Charlie has some new info.”
Despite his head of security’s severe demeanor and efficient ways, he could tell that the man had about as much faith as he did that they were going to find her anywhere nearby. Whoever had taken her definitely knew what the fuck they were doing and the time it had taken them to respond gave them more than enough time to get away.
And Charlie was equally efficient as Gerard. If he had something to report it would already be reported. Instead, Alex dialed a number on his phone that he wished he could forget forever. Better yet, his life would be a thousand times better if it had never entered his life.
He stepped onto the dock and walked some distance away from the heliport for privacy. The phone on the other end rang four times before it was picked up by voicemail. His blood boiled as he pictured the smug bastard on the other end ignoring his fucking call.
He shoved the phone back in his pocket without leaving a message and headed to the other end of the waterfront. There was only one person he could think of who could have informed Ronin of Harper’s existence in his life and that bastard had better have some answers.
As he made his way past several buildings blocking his view a dangerous level of anger brewed inside him. He’d never thought he had a taste for violence, but today he craved it. He wanted to choke the man responsible with his bare hands. The sense of it so primal he knew he wouldn’t stop. For Harper, he would kill.
And for the first time in his life he caught a glimmer of what Ronin must feel all the time. That unquenchable thirst for violence that could only be sated one way.
When Alex rounded the corner, he froze. At the end of the pier where he expected to see an overdone, over the top yacht, sat nothing. He stared at the water beyond disbelieving. Victor Sokolov had announced plans to be in New York City for at least two more weeks before taking off for his next adventure. The latest interview had been online that very morning. Only hours ago.
Since then something had changed.
Alex closed his eyes and saw Victor grab his arm on the way out of the party with Harper. He’d asked about her specifically. He’d fucking remembered her.
Had he notified Ronin and that’s why he left New York early? That would be a pussy move even for the Russian douche. They were in the midst of several lucrative deals that still needed some negotiation.
“I have some information, sir.”
Alex flinched. It didn’t surprise him that he’d not heard Gerard approach. That was one of many skills he was hired for.
“Let me guess. Viktor Sokolov.”
“Yes, sir,” Gerard confirmed. “While he was not on board, the helicopter was one of Mr. Sokolov’s. The attendants apparently know it well.”
Of course they did. Sokolov had enough room on that blasted boat of his for more than one and he never traveled light. He also refused to sit in traffic. Every meeting with him had to be in a building with a helipad. Fucker rode around the city in that thing like a fucking chariot.
Now he was gone and all evidence pointed to Viktor being involved in Harper’s kidnapping. He may not have taken her, but he sure as fuck facilitated it. For all he knew she was currently being whisked to some location where Ronin waited for her.
Either way, this was his fault. He’d deal with Viktor and Ronin as quickly as possible, but there was no one to blame but himself.
He’d made one mistake. ONE. His first in many years. And now Harper would pay the price…