Brooklyn lay back, just enjoying the peace and quiet. Closing her eyes, she imagined all the things she wanted to say. What would her first conversation with Eli be like? Would he like her voice and find it comforting?
She could hear Eli’s and Luca’s voices carrying through the woods, and she could also hear the birds and insects singing out a melody, when she suddenly felt the coolness of someone blocking the sun from her face. She opened her eyes, instant trepidation sending her heart racing.
It was him, the face from the forest.
She tried to roll over, but it was too late. He had her by the throat.
Her eyes darted from side to side, looking for the agent who was supposed to be watching her.
“Don’t worry; your guard decided to lie down for a while. It’s just you and me, and you’re going to listen if you don’t want that yappy kid to end up like your brother. I know you can’t scream, and I wish we had more time, because the things I could do to you . . . ” He squeezed her breast, hard. “You’re going to get an offer on the club. It’s more than you deserve, but we don’t want to raise suspicion. You’re going to accept that offer, and if you tell anyone about our little chat, the kid is dead. Nod if you understand.”
Brooklyn nodded, struggling for breath.
He lessened the grip on her throat, smashing his mouth down on hers. She thrashed back and forth, trying to get away, panicking for oxygen.
When the man pulled back, he ran his tongue up her face. Then, raising a finger to his lips, he showed her his gun. “Not a word, or the kid dies.” Ever so calmly, he released her, got up, and sauntered into the forest as Brooklyn flipped over, gasping for breath.
She couldn’t stand his grossness on her, and even though she was struggling for breath, she grabbed a water bottle and poured some in her hands, washing the saliva off her cheek and lips. She went through one bottle, scrubbing her skin, and then another before she felt remotely clean.
It hit her that the agent was somewhere, hurt. She had to find him. She ran frantically, looking around. Suddenly, she didn’t hear Eli or Luca. Oh God, did he hurt her family? She had to find them.
Running in the direction they had headed, branches whipped at her face, but she was beyond feeling anything. She wasn’t strong enough to survive losing them. She needed help. It hit her that she had people she could text. With shaking hands, she sent a group text to Sabastian, Alessandro, Santino, and Grant.
9-1-1 on the mountain. Hurry!!
Santino was the first to respond. We’re on our way. What happened?
Brooklyn: There was a man. I don’t know where anyone is. Please, help me find them. Please, Santino, I’m so scared.
Sabastian: Hide yourself. We’ll find you.
Grant: Brooklyn, stay calm. We’re tracing your phone. We’ll find your location. You and I are going to keep conversing until we get to you. Is Jared missing too?
Grant: Don’t anyone else interrupt. Brooklyn, I’m going to continue to ask you questions. Alessandro’s going to type them from his phone and read me your answers so I can also talk to my team. Answer with as much detail as possible.
Alessandro: What happened?
Brooklyn: Eli and Luca, I can’t find them or hear them. Help, God, please help me.
Alessandro: I know you’re scared, but you need to answer so we can find everyone. Now tell me what happened.
Brooklyn: Luca and Eli went looking for bugs. I was lying down, and I woke up with the man from the forest, his hands around my throat. Now I can’t find anyone.
Alessandro: Did he hurt you? Do you need an ambulance?
Brooklyn: No, but I don’t know about anyone else.
Alessandro: Good. What did the man say?
Brooklyn: I can’t tell anyone.
Alessandro: Please, Brooklyn, tell me. I can’t help if I don’t know who did this.
Brooklyn: No, they’ll kill Eli!
Alessandro: I’ll protect Eli. Tell me.
Brooklyn: No, you can’t protect us. Look at what happened. No!!
Grant needed to distract her so she didn’t lose it, so he changed the subject.
Alessandro: I want you to stop, look around, and listen. Can you hear or see anything?
Brooklyn was crouched behind a tree. She pulled the phone close to her chest with one hand and leaned around the tree, looking around to see if she could see or hear anything. The ironic thing was that all she could hear was the roaring of blood flowing through her body. It was so loud it was muting the sound of the birds and insects. She forgot about her phone as her mind went places it shouldn’t.