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Take (Deliver #5)
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He’s a notorious crime lord, a kidnapper, and an artist.
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Kate had been watching the storm gather strength for two days. Turbulent clouds collided beyond the barred window, howling and banging against the concrete walls of her prison.
The wind wanted in as violently as she wanted out.
She’d been here before. Not in this dingy stone building or in these exact restraints. This place was utterly foreign, the scratchy rope on her wrists too primitive to be real.
But dammit, it was real. And intimately familiar. So much so it hadn’t taken her long to shake off the shock of being kidnapped. Again.
The last time she found herself in shackles was four years ago. Back then, she was just a clueless eighteen-year-old girl. She hadn’t understood who had taken her, what they wanted, or how she—a nobody from nowhere Texas—could be of interest to anyone.
But this time was different.
When two men captured her at gunpoint behind the diner where she worked, she’d guessed why, how, and who was behind it.
That was a month ago.
She’d been locked in this room for a goddamn month and still hadn’t glimpsed her captor. Not once had she heard his name whispered on the guards’ lips.
That didn’t stop her from shouting her assumptions from the rafters.
“Tiago Badell!” Her hoarse roar echoed down the dark corridor, aimed at the door that remained closed at the end. “I know you can hear me!”
She’d grown bold in her isolation. Impatient. Desperate. And reckless.
“Show yourself, you fucking coward!” She yanked at the rope on her arms and glared at the end where it secured to the steel beam overhead and out of reach.
With her hands bound together in front of her, she couldn’t loosen the knot between her wrists. God knows, she’d tried. Weeks of gnawing on the rope shredded her lips, her fingernails broken and jagged from useless clawing.
She was being held in a second-floor antechamber to another room. Beyond the reach of her leash were two doors. One at the end of the hall. The other led down to the main level and the armed guards who patrolled the property.
The rope allowed her access to a mattress and a doorless bathroom with no mirrors. There was no furniture. No objects that could be fashioned into a weapon.
Hygiene, clothes, and food—the basics were granted and nothing more.
She ached for fresh air, exercise, her friends, human contact… The list was inconsolably long. But what consumed her thoughts more than all else was the dark, elusive door to the other room.
Someone lived in there, and she was certain that someone was Tiago Badell.
Three times a day, an elderly man delivered two servings of food. With skin the color of midnight, he floated through her chamber like a shadow, never speaking, never meeting her eyes. He always set one serving before her, just within reach. The other he carried to the room down the hall.
He wasn’t mute. Sometimes, voices drifted from beneath the door in a language she couldn’t decipher—the old man’s raspy accent and a deeper, richer timbre.
When she first arrived, the old man would linger in that room for hours. Lately, his visits had grown shorter. He would slip behind the mysterious door and emerge shortly after with empty platters.
He was in there now, having just dropped off her dinner.
Steam rose from the tin plate on the floor. Rice, chickpeas, and grilled meat—the spicy aroma made her mouth water, but she was too focused on the corridor to eat.
Lightning flashed, illuminating the window and strobing the stone walls of her prison. She strained to hear voices from the other room but couldn’t detect a word amid the thunder.
“Tiago!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Come out, goddammit! Tell me why I’m here!”
Didn’t matter how often or how loud she yelled. He never came out.
Was he sick? Hiding? Protecting his identity? She still didn’t know what he looked like.
A few weeks before she was taken, her close friend, Tate Vades, left for Venezuela’s Kidnap Alley to penetrate Tiago’s compound. It was an insane undertaking, but not unexpected. All her roommates—Tate, Ricky, Martin, Luke, and Tomas—had a habit of running headlong into danger. After escaping Van Quiso’s shackles, they banded together to take down as many human sex traffickers as possible.
Camila Dias had been the first to escape. Although she no longer lived with them, she continued to lead their vigilante group of Freedom Fighters.
Tate’s latest mission focused on rescuing Camila’s missing sister, Lucia, who allegedly worked for Tiago Badell. As if Tate’s endeavor wasn’t risky enough, he took Van Quiso along as his backup.
How the hell could Tate trust the man who had enslaved and raped him? Sure, Van expressed regret for the hell he rained down on her and her friends, but it was too little, too late. Kate would never forgive him, and she sure as fuck didn’t trust him with Tate’s life.