Chapter dedicated to Prince_Ella13. Thanks much for reading and voting, my friend!

We are stepping back a few hours to catch up to Alaric's POV...

Chapter 74 – Sundown– Alaric's POV

Fuck, fuck, fuck!

I vibrated in fury. There was no way she could outmaneuver Marku in the woods on her own. I still didn't know how the hell she had gotten free, but I was going to find out. I strode purposefully toward our surveillance room, with General Raed following closely on my heels. All of the security personnel jumped to their feet when I barged through the door.

I barked out an order, "Show me where the alarm sounded!"

Instantly, one of them dropped back into his chair, his fingers flying across the keyboard. Several images materialized on the multiple screens. He stated efficiently, "It was the southeast corner."

I leaned forward, studying the video. I watched as Loki hauled ass with Raine tight against his back. They went into the building, but never came back out. I could only assume they exited through the rear door. The building obstructed the camera's view, but I was fairly certain what happened. Raine never could have made the jump on her own, but Loki must have vaulted over the wall, and into the woods.

I spun to leave the room and commanded Gen. Raed, "Come with me!"

Given the daylight, we had to use our access corridors to cross the compound, toward my residence. I growled in frustration at having to run slower than I could have outside. From behind me, General Raed kept up with my still fast-pace and asked, "You have a plan, don't you?"

I did, but time was not on my side. Once Marku got her to a secure location, it would be almost impossible to free her, without declaring outright war between two nations. I cringed, knowing Quinn would never risk it. And while, undoubtedly Cage would release every last resource he had, Armand was still in control. I was uncertain to what extent he would be willing to go, to get his daughter back, but didn't have much faith in him either. He was a man of war above all else, and would do whatever was strategically best for his kingdom.

Anger crashed through me hard and strong. I blamed Armand. If that bastard had not shown Raine that he had considered Marku's offer in the first place, she never would have believed Marku's lie.

My first stop was Talon's.

When Gen. Raed and I burst through the door, Ivy screamed and ran away from us, to the other side of the room. I didn't even bother to look at her. Instead, all of my attention was focused on Talon, who was now kneeling in front of me on the floor. He was visibly shaking.

I ground out, "Was Raine wearing the necklace I gave her?!!"

Talon looked at me and blinked, confused by my unusual question. From my peripheral vision, I saw General Raed also raise his eyebrows questioningly.

"The sapphire! Was she wearing it?!" I demanded harshly.

"Ye...yes... I believe that she was," Talon stuttered.

I nodded and hissed, "Tell me the exact conversation she had with Marku!"

He quickly rattled off the details. There was no new information. Without another word, I spun and shot out the door. I needed to get to my laptop. General Raed followed me silently. When I burst into the bedroom, I saw her note on the desk: 'Alaric, I'm sorry for not saying goodbye in person. Love, Raine.'

My stomach twisted, but I shoved back the pain. I couldn't afford to feel any emotion right now if I was going to be able to rescue her. I opened the laptop and quickly logged in. From behind me, General Raed murmured, "It is a tracking device, isn't it?"

I nodded my head. I had given it to her because I had been worried something like this might happen during the Alliance Meeting. I hated to betray her privacy. I could have told her what it was. I probably should have. But, maybe a part of me feared she would actually run away from me, if given the opportunity.

I studied the map on the screen, searching for the beacon that would reveal her location.

It wasn't there!!

I growled in frustration, clicking furiously over the keys, trying to reset the transmitter-receiver connection.

Still nothing.

After several more tries, I had to acknowledge the truth. Something had gone wrong and it wasn't working! I spun the screen away from me angrily, not wanting to be reminded of my disappointment, and dropped my head into my hands. I struggled to keep any faith that I would be able to recover her. The odds were almost impossible, given Marku's several hours head start. All I could do now was wait for the cursed sun to go down, and try to follow her trail.

..........

As the hours ticked by, I grew more and more restless, repeatedly checking my phone for the time. Only thirty minutes remained before the sun would descend, and we could hunt for her.

I had already made arrangements for a task force of ten vampires to join General Raed and myself. In addition, hundreds more would be deployed into the surrounding woods. Without the beacon, I wanted to cover as much ground as quickly as possible.

Abruptly, General Raed hissed, "Alaric!"

My head snapped up, alarmed by his tone.

He had walked past the desk, and spun my laptop so that I could see the screen.

It was transmitting!!

I shot to my feet and crossed the room to him, staring intently at the map. I was shocked to find she was only an hour away, particularly when I took note of how fast she was moving. Way faster than any vehicle, which meant a vampire was running with her. And there could only be one vampire running in the daylight – Marku!

Shit, I had harbored the unrealistic hope that maybe she had slipped through his fingers. However, she must have done something significant to avoid him, for it to have taken him hours to find her. But in the end, there was no doubt that he had her now.

I quickly rearranged our plan, keeping the task force of ten, but deciding it was no longer necessary to flood the woods with vampires when I knew where she was. I also transferred the reception data from my laptop to my phone, so that we would be able to see her location at all times.

..........

The instant the sun dropped in the sky, we were in motion, running like hell through the forest. I estimated we were approximately an hour and a half behind them. We had to make up that time, before he stopped someplace with her. We ran for an hour, and I was pleased to find we had gained fifteen minutes on him. I estimated there was only an hour and fifteen minutes distance between us now. He wasn't running as fast as he could have, which meant he presumed they had gotten away completely undetected.

Twenty more minutes transpired when abruptly, the signaled slow down and then stopped altogether.

Fuck! I wanted to catch him, but I didn't want him to stop running before we did. I quickly searched to determine her exact location.

My stomach sank.

It was a hotel.

And we were still almost an hour away...

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