Taken

TEK’S NAME, his existence, was born of blood and violence—a daily reminder of the horrific drive-by that had caused his mother to go into early labor and taken his father’s life. That vicious event had brought him into the world, and it had tied him inexplicably, inexorably, irrevocably to Jamie. Even then Jamie had been there. In a bassinet next to him in that hospital nursery.

For the two of them, there had never been any other option besides cradle to grave.

It was why they’d had no choice but to run so many years ago. To fake their deaths, leave the West Coast behind, and start anew in one of the biggest, most anonymous cities in the world. He and Jamie had fled their shared past, but they could never be completely free of it. Going witpro meant going rat, and neither of them could have done that to their club. So they did their best to just disappear—putting a continent between the two of them and their old lives.

Three thousand miles didn’t feel anywhere near enough at this moment.

They found us.

Tek drove the cycle harder, pushing the engine into a determined, vengeful roar. His cell felt like lead in his jacket pocket, that cryptic text from Jamie banging around in his head, kicking up his adrenaline, each heartbeat and growling vibration of the powerful cycle alighting his every nerve. Tek was afraid, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt real fear.

You shouldn’t have left him alone.

Tek snarled, pushed the bike harder. No matter how many years he was removed from the kid who had nearly lost his soul to protect the motorcycle club, he could go back to that darkness when he needed it. And right then—unsure of just how bad off Jamie was, but feeling, knowing, that Jamie wasn’t okay—Tek let the pain and anger of remembered wrongs take him over and blacken his vision into dangerously honed focus.

If they were using any of his black poly ropes or suspension devices to cause Jamie any pain, they wouldn’t survive the night.

Tek skidded to a halt inside the parking garage next to the elevator, tossing the bike aside. He stabbed the button to call the car, but when it didn’t immediately arrive, he shoved through the door to the stairwell. He took the steps two at a time, mindless, his only thought, need, was to get to Jamie. How could he have been so stupid? So careless? He knew better than to ever leave Jamie alone.

It’s all my fault. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Tek pushed himself harder, ignoring the burn in his muscles and in his chest, one flight of stairs after another, cursing the limitations of his body. He didn’t know who they were, the club or the Feds. What he did know was whoever it was who had Jamie would pay dearly.

At the door to the fifth floor, Tek forced himself to slow, an almost impossible feat as his mind ran through worst-case scenarios. Adrenaline surged, demanding he act, but getting himself killed before he had the chance to save Jamie would be insanity. Cautiously he pushed open the door and moved into the deserted hallway. Glock in hand, finger hovering over the trigger, he could tell from his vantage point the door to their apartment was slightly ajar. Jamie would never leave it open or unlocked. The dread spread like poisonous vines, wrapping around his chest and throat, threatening to rob him of breath. Step by cautious step, he pushed down his fear, slowed his breathing, and clamped down on his shaking muscles. He let the cold dark place within him rise up, surround him until he was enveloped within its folds.

Before entering his place, he stopped and strained to listen for any sounds from within, but it was eerily silent. Weapon at the ready and using the doorjamb as a shield, Tek pushed the door open slowly, scanning wildly for any signs of danger.

The coffee table was crushed into several pieces of splintered wood, a lamp was smashed, and papers and knickknacks were thrown about the room, but it was devoid of anyone. The kitchen area showed the same disarray—overturned stools, broken dishes—not even their sleeping area was spared from the carnage. One hell of a battle had taken place; the only thing keeping Tek sane and focused was the lack of blood or a broken body.

Satisfied he wouldn’t be ambushed, Tek quietly eased the door closed behind him and set the deadbolt before moving to the last place to look—the bathroom. Heavy curtains covered the windows, keeping the room in nearly complete darkness. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the lack of light, but at least the covered windows would protect him from a possible attack from the next building over. He listened for sounds from within the bathroom, but the only thing he heard was the rapid beating of his own heart. Hand on the knob, Tek took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.

Please don’t let him be dead.

The bathroom was dark and empty. Tek flipped on the light and fell to his knees, losing the fight against the tendrils of dread. The note taped to the mirror left no doubt as to who had Jamie. We’ll be in touch, followed by a red eight. Crimson VIII had found them and now Jamie was in the hands of that sadistic fucker Rocco.

The air rushed back into Tek’s lungs as the rage within him began to boil and spewed from him in the form of an animalistic howl. It echoed off the walls of the small room, almost shaking them.

Tek continued to cry out until his throat was raw and no sound came out. His head slumped forward and he breathed raggedly. This was his fault. He’d left Jamie alone and now they had him.

“Oh fuck! They have my Jamie,” Tek groaned, fighting back the sobs that threatened to choke him.

“Think!”

Tek pushed himself to his feet. “Goddamn you, think!” He pounded his fist against his stupid skull. He’d broken his promise, failed Jamie.

He ripped the note from the mirror and crushed it in his fist, then made himself a vow. Soon it would be Rocco’s throat beneath the strength of his hands. He wanted to watch the life drain from the man’s eyes, the memory of Tek’s face accompanying him on his journey to hell.

The shrill ring of his cell caused Tek to jerk, and he pulled it from his pocket, hitting the On button without checking the display. “If you so much as hurt a hair on his fucking head, I swear to God—”

“Tek, it’s Blake.”

Shit! Tek squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “Ah… sorry, Blake, I thought you were someone else.”

“Obviously, what’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Tek picked up his gun from the floor and returned it to the holster at the small of his back. “Now isn’t a good time.”

“Too bad. Now what the hell happened to Jamie? And don’t you dare say nothing. He’s the only one who could elicit that kind of response. Is it the Feds or the club?”

Tek froze. Blake knew? But—

“You don’t actually think I’d have made you head of security if I hadn’t done my homework?” Blake asked when Tek didn’t respond.

Blake was as insanely protective of Ty as Tek was of Jamie. It shouldn’t surprise him that Blake had done his homework, but it did. Blake couldn’t know all the things Tek had done before working at the Guards. No way. With that info, Blake wouldn’t have made him head of security and damn sure wouldn’t have let him within a hundred yards of Ty.

He began rummaging through the closet, looking for the Tec-9 Jamie had bought him. “No, I don’t suppose you would,” Tek finally admitted.

“So then talk to me. Who’s got Jamie?”

Tek found the gun and checked the clip. Finding it full, he slid it back into place and set the gun on the table. He then began arming himself, strapping his knives on his wrists and calves.

“Tek, dammit, talk to me.”

Tek sighed heavily. “I thought I’d seen the head of our old club in town, but like an idiot, I convinced myself I was seeing shit that wasn’t there. Paranoid, ya know? I was wrong and now he has Jamie.”

“What are we going to do about getting him back?”

“We? There is no we. This is on me, Blake. I’ll get him back.”

Once again Tek found himself stopped dead in his tracks when Blake began to laugh. “You’re going to take on the entire club on your own? Don’t be a fool, Tek. You need us.”

“Us?” Tek asked in confusion.

“Your family here at the Guards. Now tell me what you need.”

Tek sat down on the bed hard as the full weight of the situation crashed in on him. He didn’t know what to do next or where to look. “I need Jamie.”

“I know, son. What do you know so far?”

“Nothing,” Tek informed Blake dejectedly. “They said they’d be in touch.”

“Okay, I’m sending a car for you.”

“No—”

“I didn’t ask. They obviously have been following you and Jamie. They know where you live and work. Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re being watched right now. Which means I do not want you left alone.”

“Fuck! Jamie’s cell. I can track him.”

Hope surged through Tek and he hit the End button. Dammit, what was wrong with him? Jamie needed him and he was acting like a dumbass. He fired up the app and homed in on Jamie’s signal. Tek’s pulse raced as his fingers swiped across the screen, expanding the map over the blinking red light.

“Hold on, Jamie.”

As quickly as it had risen, the hope plummeted as he recognized the location where the blinking light was originating from. He tossed the cell aside and stood on trembling legs, scanning the area around him. A heavy, frustrated breath escaped him when he spotted Jamie’s cell sitting on the kitchen counter. He ran his hands through his hair, fighting the urge to rip it from his skull. Tek’s hand was shaking so bad, he had a difficult time picking up the cell and punching in the security code. The last shred of hope was ripped from him as he scrolled through the messages and e-mails and found nothing that would help him find Jamie.

With a spirit born out of soul-wrenching despair, Tek cried out and threw the cell against the far wall, smashing it into hundreds of tiny pieces.

Unable to hold back the tidal wave of grief, Tek laid his head down on the counter and sobbed.

How long he was lost in his anguish, Tek didn’t know. He wept, the hopelessness pouring out of him like a tsunami, purging his heart of the cruelties he’d inflicted and in turn had been inflicted upon him and Jamie.

Neither of them had ever asked to be born into this fucked-up world of hate and intolerance. They damn sure hadn’t asked to be forced into a life of blood and violence. They were now paying the price for their birthright. Tek let out a bitter snort of laughter. They’d been paying that fucking bill their whole lives.

The time between cradle to grave whooshed by, and now it seemed as if the grave was beginning to open up before them.

Tek would not live in a world without Jamie, the idea too horrible to even contemplate. How did one survive without their heart? The answer was simple—

They didn’t.

A knock at the door got Tek moving, but it wasn’t enough to pull him from the hopelessness he’d fallen into. Uncaring, he opened the door without pulling his weapon or checking the peephole.

“Hey, Tek. You ready?” Smitty—the newest bouncer at the Guards—asked.

“For what?”

Smitty rubbed a hand over his bald head and gave Tek a confused look. “Boss said I was to give you a ride to the club. Didn’t he tell you I was coming?”

“I’m not going anywhere.” What if they came back? He needed to be here. He had to take a minute and figure out what to do and how to find Jamie.

“But I got to bring you, boss’s orders.” Smitty looked crestfallen at the prospect of disappointing Blake. Smitty was nearly as big and meaty as he and Jamie were, but Tek wasn’t convinced the man’s elevator went to the top floor. Yet he was a great asset to the club. If Blake told him to watch the door, no one was coming through without permission. Smitty was completely loyal to Blake.

Tek thought about all the possibilities until his head throbbed. He seriously doubted Rocco was going to show up on his doorstep and hand Jamie back to Tek. He supposed it didn’t matter if he was home or at the club. In fact, nothing mattered other than getting Jamie back. And if there was the slightest chance Blake could help…. “Yeah, I’ll come with ya,” he finally said to Smitty. He wasn’t going to accomplish shit pacing around the apartment. He needed some fresh air, needed to clear the fog of dread out of his head and start thinking, formulate a plan.