Home > Rush (The Brotherhood #2)(9)

Rush (The Brotherhood #2)(9)
Author: Penelope Black

“Shit. Sorry.” Sully holds the power button down.

Something in the air shifts, and my heart skips a beat. Dread slithers inside my veins, and my fingers start to tingle. I stop walking, and Sully walks right into me with a grunt.

“Something’s not right.”

Sully rubs his nose as he looks to the left, and then to the right. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, why is it so quiet?” My voice is quiet.

Wolf step next to Sully with a scoff. “Look around you, man. We’re sneaking around in these shitty woods at eight o’clock on a Friday.”

“Exactly. Where the fuck is all the noise? I don’t hear a single goddamn cricket or branch moving.” I look over my shoulder to glare at him.

“No shit, man. We don’t want them to hear us.” Wolf’s eyes widen. “What’s up with you?”

Sully slowly turns in a circle. “He’s right, Wolf. It’s too quiet.”

I tilt my head. “Do you guys hear that?”

“Wha—”

“Shh!” Wolf takes a step forward and cock my head.

“Is that . . . buzz—” I tilt my head to the side to listen.

“It sounds like . . . ticking?” Wolf interrupts me.

“Why the fuck—”

“That’s ticking!” Wolf yells, interrupting Sully.

My pulse thunders, and my adrenaline soars.

“We gotta get the fuck outta here!” Wolf yells, grabbing Sully and I by the shoulders and encouraging us to run.

I pull out my phone as I jump over a fallen tree and call my da. “It’s a fucking trap! Get back! Get back, Da!”

“What? Where are you, boyo?” Da yells into the phone. My heartbeat roars in my ears, drowning out anything he’s saying. I end the call and maneuver around some broken metal, glancing to the side to make sure my brothers are still with me.

Today is not the day we die. And god help the rats who laid this trap. They’re going to beg for death by the time we’re done with them.

We’re halfway back before the ticking stops.

And then the world as we knew it explodes.

“Rush? What’s wrong?”

Sully’s words snap me out of the flashback and I notice he’s several paces in front of me. I shake my head to rid the lasting images of my brothers flying through the air with a building on fire as their backdrop. “Nothing.”

“Then let’s go, man. We’re wasting time.” Sully looks at me with an eyebrow raised and a scowl on his face.

I jog to catch up to him and Wolf, and we resume our pace. We’ve been walking for ten minutes, so we should see the furthest cabin on the property any moment.

An explosion cracks in the night air, and we all still our movements. The hair on the back of my arms stands to attention as I survey the surrounding woods. I don’t feel eyes on me, and I’ve honed my instincts for just this sort of reason.

“There,” Wolf whispers as he points ahead and to the right. I follow the direction of his finger and see the corner of a one-story cabin with two others right next to it. None of them are on fire, though.

We follow Wolf’s lead and all head toward the cabins. I draw my gun and flick off the safety. Without a word, the three of us fan out to a cabin each. I head toward the cabin right in front of us, Sully takes the one to the right, and Wolf takes the one to the left. I don’t see the rest of the guys we brought with us, but I’m not surprised. There’s a reason we chose them for this.

With my back to the exterior, I inch along the wall until I reach the corner of the front of the house. I peek from behind the corner and see a small porch. I take a breath to center myself before I spin around the corner, my back still tucked against the wall and my gun raised in front of me.

A second explosion paints the summer air with thunder, and this time, I see it—flames engulf one of the cabins in the distance. Fear slithers inside my veins and urgency pounds at my temples.

Three quick steps, and I’m next to a window. I pull my arms in without letting go of the gun and tilt my head toward the window to peer inside. The drapes are drawn all but a crack, and I see the glow of a lamp. I’m on the other side of the window in one quick movement, stepping up the two steps until I’m next to the front door. I grab the doorknob with one hand and pause to listen for movement either inside the cabin or from Wolf or Sully. The crackling of the cabins burning is loud enough to cover up the other sounds. My nerves are dancing with urgency, but rushing protocol won’t help anyone if I’m dead. Once I’m satisfied with the silence, I carefully twist the doorknob and the door opens without a sound.

I pause for any reaction, and that’s when I hear it—sniffling.

My instincts roar, drowning out any rational thought as I fling the door open. It hits the wall hard enough to dent it, but I don’t even give it or the sound it created a second thought. I spare one glance into the living room and kitchen in this studio cabin and sprint down the short hallway to what I assume are bedrooms.

Soft grunts and thumps fill my ears, and my mind short-circuits.

I don’t think. I act.

I lift up a booted foot and plant it in the center of the cheap, flimsy door. The door breaks under the pressure of my boot, but it doesn’t open. I pull my foot out of the hole I made and lean toward it.

It doesn’t matter what I find in this room, it won’t change the way I feel about my little bird. But I don’t want this for her. I don’t want this experience to reshape her into something I can’t fix. I’m fearful of the impact on her soul.

I’ll raze the entire world to spare her a second of pain.

Nothing could have prepared me for the image I find as I peer inside the hole.

“Birdie.” Her name leaves my lips on an exhale.

She aims a gun at me, and if I wasn’t being crushed under my need to get to her, I’d praise her. Her gaze flies to mine, but it’s empty of Alaina. Her torn, dirty birthday dress, red hair wildly framing her face, tear tracks down her cheeks, leaving streaks of black mascara in their wake. Someone has broken my little bird, and that fractures something inside of me. Something I didn’t realize I was capable of.

I reach my hand inside the hole and grab the doorknob to unlock it. When I don’t feel the locking mechanism, I glance down. My jaw clenches when I see the lock is on the outside of the door. What the fuck kind of sick place only locks the bedrooms doors from the outside?

I flick the lock and push the door, but I meet resistance. I flick a glance toward Alaina and see that she hasn’t moved an inch, but her eyes follow my movement.

When I push against the door again, I watch her gaze flick toward the floor and then back up to me. I push one more time from the bottom half and finally it opens a little. From there, I wedge my boot inside and leverage the door open and push whatever has been blocking it.

Finally, the door is open enough for me to slide through. I’m not surprised to see a body. I give him exactly two seconds, just enough to note that I don’t recognize him, his pants are still buttoned, and he’s covered in blood.

I fix my gaze on the creature in front of me. She white-knuckles an unfamiliar gun—the dead guy’s gun if I had to guess. I tamp down my inner beast that preens at what looks like a pencil sticking out of his leg.

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