They were traveling south and Sam wouldn't tell her why. The last time she'd been on this stretch of road, she'd been traveling towards town instead of away from it. She'd been more miserable than words that morning when Ryker had driven her home from his house—the morning after her pregnancy reveal ended their commitment-phobic non-relationship relationship. Now, how fondly she looked back upon that month she'd spent with him. All her worries had seemed so huge but she'd been safer and more stable than she'd thought at the time. She'd had a job working with kindhearted people, the beginnings of cherished friendships... and she'd had Ryker. Infuriating, arrogant, brilliant Ryker, who, despite his flaws, had been fun and generous and caring.

She would give anything to go back to that time. Instead, here she was, racing along the coastline with a man she'd believed up until an hour ago was dutybound to protect her. Now, she didn't know what to make of him. He had been reduced to a state of desperation. His daughter's life was at risk and Emmie's own life hung in the balance because of it.

Desperate men were the most dangerous sort.

They'd left the streets of Moon Beach, turning onto the coastal highway that stretched south, leading to Ryker's house and eventually to California and beyond. Emmie used the time to try to talk sense into Sam. They could involve the authorities. He was an authority, after all; a federal agent. He had ties, connections. He should have told his bosses when he'd been approached by one of the Chamberlain Brother's stooges. They could have resolved the calamity, saved Ashlyn, and spared Emmie this twilight ride of terror.

Sam had slowed the car several times while she spoke, once even pulling into a narrow turnoff that faced the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. He let the car idle there for a good ten minutes, gun held low, not exactly pointed at her, but close enough so that she knew he wasn't giving her an opportunity to escape. As they sat, he tried to justify to her, and possibly to himself, why her idea would never have worked.

He'd already thought of everything she was saying. It was his first inclination, naturally, to involve his team, but there were problems with that. "I couldn't trust that one of them wasn't in league with the Brothers. And if they were, then what would happen to Ashlyn when they found out I hadn't stuck with their plan? They'd have killed her outright. You know they would have."

Plus, Sam reasoned, even if they'd managed to rescue her, that wouldn't have gotten Ashlyn to the treatment center in Germany. The Brother's European connections ran deep. He hadn't just taken them at their word, he'd checked into it, verified that what they were saying was true. There was an experiment happening, but it was closed to juveniles under thirteen. He'd never be able to get her into the program on his own, but they had pre-established relations with the right people. They'd promised him they could do it.

He knew their promises were shady at best, but the promise of a promise was enough for him. She would die unless they tried something drastic. Something desperate.

So, there they were; a desperate father and an innocent mother-to-be. Emmie's argument that involving the authorities was better than kidnapping her ended in silence. Her attempts to engage him went nowhere, but their car did. He pulled back out onto the road, still heading south. He picked up speed rapidly, as though the faster he went, the more determined he could allow himself to be.

Emmie wracked her mind for ways to keep him out of his head and in the present with her. She remembered reading about a young girl who'd been kidnapped about fifteen years ago. The parents gave a teary-eyed press conference in which they spoke through the camera directly to the kidnappers, repeatedly saying their daughter's name. The theory was that by naming her, it would humanize the little girl in their heads, therefore making her harder for them to kill. Emmie couldn't imagine that strategy working all the time, but in this case, it had. The kidnappers relented, dropping off the girl at a truck stop in South Dakota.

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