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The cold wind whipped around me and Melissa as we stood a good distance from my father, who remained sitting on the hood of the Hyundai. My eyes were locked with his as I debated whether I should lie my ass off or tell the truth. If I knew any better, I wouldn't dig myself into a deeper hole than I already had.

"You told your dad?" Melissa asked.

"No." I started towards him. "Chapman must have."

When I approached my father, I could tell he was displeased. I mean, who wouldn't be, right? His daughter, who had cheated death so many times, was visiting the very man who had started it all.

It was when we got into hearing range that he addressed me.

"Have you lost your damn mind?" he muttered.

I shrugged. "I think so. Haven't you?"

"Why the hell would you visit Stanley in prison?" He stood from the car. "He's still connected with Malvardo, Alexa! That man is one of the most dangerous people in the world!"

Okay, I hadn't thought about that.

"I needed information about his daughter," I spat. "You know, the woman who tried to kill me and kidnapped your other daughter."

"How did you even get in to see him?"

I flashed my fake ID.

Our identical brown eyes locked with each other. He was trying so hard to protect me. I knew that. I knew that and still didn't care.

"You're done," he stated. "I'm not letting you put yourself in any more danger."

I stepped back. "You're not telling me what I can and can't do."

"The more you involve yourself with this woman the riskier it becomes!" he stated. "If Malvardo finds proof that you're still alive, all hell will break loose. Don't you understand?"

I furrowed my brow in confusion. Was my father saying that Malvardo didn't know we had escaped Paige and his minion? That Diaz had failed in taking care of us?

"What do you mean if Malvardo finds out we're still alive?" I asked.

"He thinks we're dead?" Melissa included.

I watched my father's jaw clench. He looked down at the ground and sighed.

"The night I killed Diaz... before I got you to the hospital, I found his cellphone," my dad revealed. "He was in contact with Malvardo, or someone close, and they wanted proof you were dead."

I could feel my heart pounding.

"I sent a picture of you two to the number in hopes that it would satisfy whoever was on the other end." Dad ran one of his hands through his hair. "The fact that no one has come after you means he bought it."

Melissa had a look of shock on her face, and I assumed I looked the same. That's how we had evaded Malvardo for so long. He still believed we had died months ago.

"Or at least that's what I thought," my father continued. "There were two men staking out Derik's this morning. I think it's some of Malvardo's men."

Two men? There were two men staking out Derik's? This morning when we had left to head to Alvin's, the coast had been clear. Had they showed up after? Had they found Alvin? Was he okay? And was it truly Malvardo's minions or were they really special agents in connection with Victoria?

I truly believed it was the latter.

"I don't think those were Malvardo's men," I said. "They're special agents. We believe they're connected with Victoria."

"How do you know that?"

"Melissa and I found badges in their car last night."

I could see the relief flood my father's face, even if it was only for a second. Of course, we weren't in the clear yet. Even though we had outsmarted the kingpin, there were still two agents looking for us, and I was positive they didn't have great intentions.

"Alexa, let the police take care of Anna's case," he pleaded.

"No," I declined. "I can't."

"Why not?"

I almost told him. I almost showed him the note, but if I did he would surely tell Chapman. And if Chapman found out, Anna would be killed.

"Because she's my sister." My throat tightened. "Because I can't just sit at home and wait while Paige does God-knows-what to her!"

"This woman is dangerous!"

"I don't care!"

"I can't lose you too, Alexa!" my father shouted.

Things went quiet as I listened to the cold wind whip around us. I felt my body shiver, but I was sure it was from his words.

"Melissa," my father stated. "Can we have a moment?"

She nodded as I handed her the car keys and watched her climb into the driver's seat. It wasn't until we were alone that he spoke again.

He stared at the ground. "I-I can't lose both of you."

My heart clenched at the pain in his voice. The fact that this seemed to be hurting him just as much as it was hurting me only fueled my fire. It made my chest ache.

"Anna needs me," I whispered. "She needs me and I'm not there for her."

Worn brown eyes met mine. I studied the wrinkles on my father's face. I wondered if I looked this worn to people who had known me before all of this.

Even if my father and I deserved suffering for our past decisions, Anna sure as hell didn't. She didn't deserve any of this.

"I have to be the one to find her," I whispered. "I have to, and I will. I promise I will."

Dad wanted to argue. He was a lot like me when it came to what he believed in. I had done it so many times with Anna, but he knew I was going to do what I wanted regardless of what he said. He knew because he was the same way. He understood.

"Please just..." He stopped. "Come back with her."

I went to say, "I promise," but flexed my jaw shut. I couldn't promise. I couldn't promise I would make it out alive, because Paige wanted me dead. But even if I died, I would make sure Anna made it back home. Melissa would make sure of it at my request.

I nodded. "I will." Then I looked at the car. "I uh... I should go."

I went to step around him but his strong arms embraced me. The warmth from his massive body surrounded me like a blanket. I felt his love hug me like body armor. My eyes burned with emotion.

It took me a second to reciprocate, but when I brought my arms around my father for the first time in years, I felt the permanent crack in my heart mend. Like the pain I was so used to feeling had disappeared, and I could breathe again. I had felt this with mom, but it hadn't been this strong.

That's when the tears showed on my water line. I squeezed my eyes shut at the sensation and buried my face into my father's coat. I had to bring Anna back. I had to bring her back for mom and dad.

I pulled away and wiped my eyes before stepping past my dad. I knew if I looked back I would lose my head and begin to cry. I couldn't look back.

I got into the car.

"Drive," I demanded.

Melissa only hesitated for a second before complying, but not before I saw the sad eyes of my father.

AndI couldn't help but watch him disappear into the rearview with tears in my eyesas we left him behind in Kings County.

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