The cottage wasn’t hard to find. So far everything Bradley had said was right on the money and yet Ariana couldn’t shake the nerves riding her system. If Hal was inside of there she was going to have to face him and his security team. The cottage looked small and homely but that was only a ruse. She could sense the different guards patrolling the property and all the traps set up for rogues daring to cross the land.
“We have to plan every iota of detail before we make a move.” She said to Marc and Jax. “Kid’s arrows would be helpful right now.” She chuckled weakly at the irony but she didn’t regret leaving him safe at home. “I need a second.” She turned away from where they were crutched down watching the movement inside the cottage. So far they hadn’t seen anyone but a few guards outside.
Jax laid a comforting hand over her shoulder and squeezed. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking…” with a sigh she looked from Jax to Marc and noted how they both regarded her to tell them what came next. “I don’t know.” This was her area of expertise and yet she was so lost. “Hal tends to win a lot and the last time he turned me into this.”
Marc asked, carefully. “Do you remember when he grabbed you?”
“Yes. I remember us on the rode and when that truck crashed into us then when he let you go.” Ariana answered softly as she watched his reaction.
Marc lowered his eyes down to his hands. That time on the cargo ship was the first time he told her he loved her and now she remembered it. The memory was thick in the air and either could ignore it. “The first time we weren’t prepared to go against him but that’s not the case now.” His voice was hoarse with all the emotions he was trying to push back.
With a sigh Ariana looked back at the cottage. “I hate to say this but I think we need to scope out the location and come back with better supplies.” Her body and panther protested against such a choice. Her animal wanted her cub and the woman wanted her child. Another second couldn’t go by without her fighting to get her back. “Forget that. We’re not going anywhere.”
Jax held her close to his side. “What do you see?”
“Six patrolling guards outside, one positioned at the front door. So far no movement inside but knowing how Hal works, he’d be low to the ground just in case of an emergency. He always looks out for number one.” She kept her eyes trained on the two windows waiting for a shadow, anything that would confirm her daughter was inside.
“Low to the ground?” Marc asked. “The basement?”
“Most likely. We’ll go in smooth and disarm the guards and inside if Livvy isn’t here Hal must be. I’ll get him to talk.” She knew her ex unit chief was somewhere close because there were too many guards and he was the only hunter who traveled with such backup. With a plan laid out the three of them went their separate ways.
Wit the most heat in the front that’s what Marc and Jax focused on as Ariana ran around back and took care of any guards patrolling those grounds. Marc had told her the basic layout for these cottages and she knew once through the back door what to expect. Like the cabin the backdoor lead into a kitchen and inside the kitchen was a door for the basement. With no one attacking her she took a quick minute to listen.
It was quiet, eerily so with no movement coming from any of the main rooms. Wasting no more time she turned around and headed for the basement. Her heart thudded loudly against her ribs as she moved deeper and deeper into the unknown. She prayed there weren’t any armed guards down there waiting with their guns ready after hearing something from outside.
She moved slow and low in a crouched position. There were sixteen steps to get down to the basement and each one felt like a mile. At the end of the staircase was a large open floor plan. There was a table with three chairs and nothing else. The moment she got back to the cabin she vowed to make Bradley beg for death.
She stood there in the middle of the large empty room with tears pricking her eyes. This couldn’t be it, it wasn’t possible to get this close and still lose. It was obvious this place was being used by the hunters, there were guards outside and every inch of this cottage carried Hal’s scent. As she scanned the grounds one more time she noticed a small pink ball that couldn’t be any bigger than a quarter.
|Alyssa Miller||as Ariana|
|Sean O'pry||as Jax Reed|
|Andrew Stetson||as Marc Reed|