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Chapter Thirty-Four

Jared

This had to work. We had to get Casey back safe and sound, and we had to do it fast. No one argued with me when I insisted we leave Levi out of the plans. He’d asked for time off with Allie, and he was going to get it. If he had a clue what was going on, he’d be at the helm himself. All would be fine as long as I had Casey back before he discovered she was missing. If something happened to her, he’d kill me. But then again, if something happened to her, I’d want to kill me too. The girl meant a lot to me, and I swore that if we all got out of this mess, I’d make an effort to become her friend.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Toby didn’t bother to hide the skepticism in his voice. He’d used the same tone of voice every time he spoke during our trip back to New York.

I glanced at the large stone house set into a wooded lot in upstate New York. It definitely looked like the kind of place shifters would live. “Everything checked out.” My men spotted suspicious activity and possibly bears on the property only the day before.

“But it looks empty.” Cade somehow managed to tag along on this little adventure as well. I couldn’t complain. He came with plenty of reinforcements, and I wasn’t taking chances.

I stretched, trying to get rid of a crick in my neck. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so stressed. “Maybe that’s the whole plan.”

“There’s no one here.” One of our men walked over. “We searched the whole place, it’s completely empty.”

“Maybe it was all a set up. They wanted us to think they were here.” Toby started to pace which only made things worse. “They wanted to keep us off their trail, and it worked.”

I needed to stay calm. Getting agitated or angry at each other wasn’t going to help anything. “They had to have left someone behind. The trick is finding them. It’s impossible that they disappeared without a trace.”

“I agree. We’re going to find her.” Toby seemed to relax at my words. Hopefully he understood how important maintaining our composure was. “We’re going to find her. They don’t want her dead. Otherwise they would have done it earlier. We have to stay level headed and figure out where they moved, and we have to do it now.”

He didn’t need to say any more. Needing her alive might not be an indefinite thing, and it also didn’t mean they wouldn’t hurt her.

“Let’s leave men to comb the property and head over to your grandfather’s place. I’ve heard he may have been involved in this stuff too.”

“My grandfather?” Toby groaned. “He was dealing with these idiots too?” Although frustrated, he didn’t sound surprised. Old man Blackwell wasn’t exactly known for being honorable.

“Sounds like it. Do you know anything more?”

He pulled out his phone, glanced at the screen, and answered. “Toby.” He walked off.

I resisted the urge to follow. Toby wanted to find Casey more than anyone besides me. He wouldn’t be goofing off. Still, I watched him, hoping his facial expressions would give me a hint at what was going on. He turned away, ruining any chance of that.

“What is it?” I asked when he walked back over.

He had a bewildered expression plastered on his face. “That was Tim. Rhett came in with some info.”

“What?” I hadn’t heard anything from the cousin since I interrogated him.

“I guess he heard from Vera. Casey told her to find us.”

“Where is she now?” This was it. Another lead, something to go off of.

“She’s supposed to meet us at my grandfather’s house.”

“Let’s go.” I transformed, glad to have my wings out. Toby did the same, and we left all but a handful of men to continue scouring the property. We flew the short distance to the Blackwell estate, telling the other men we brought with us to circle the house. I didn’t know what to expect when we landed, but I did a double take. “Casey?” Was Casey okay? Was she just waiting for us?

“No. That’s not Casey.” Toby walked to the porch stairs.

“Oh. Now I get it.” The gorgeous brunette walked down the steps. She might as well have been strutting down a runway. She gave us both a once over. “No wonder my sister was spending her time with you two.”

On closer inspection, I noticed the differences. Vera was a few years older, and her hair had more of a reddish highlight than the gold in Casey’s hair. She also held herself differently. She had more confidence, and she definitely wasn’t trying to hide her figure underneath her tank top and shorts. Instead of Casey’s blue eyes, Vera’s hazel ones stared back.

“Now I take it you’re Jared?” She turned toward me. Her eyes roamed up and down my bare chest. I didn’t mind the attention, although it distracted me.

“What gave me away?”

“I assumed the head of security was a crow.”

“Oh, yeah, um, of course,” I stammered. Was I tongue tied? Was I really tongue tied around a girl?

“Where’s Casey?” Toby interrupted. His crazed personality was back.

“And you must be Toby.” She turned her attention to him, and I felt robbed. I needed those eyes on me. I was like a little boy or something. I needed someone to slap me.

“Yes, and I assume you’re here to help us?” There was a wariness to his voice. That snapped me back to attention. Vera had gone to the bears willingly, hadn’t she?

Vera gave him a disbelieving look. “Of course. I love my sister.”

“So do I.” Toby closed his eyes for a second. I assumed he was thinking about Casey. “But you can’t blame me for being skeptical. You disappeared on her with no warning.”

Vera’s lips twisted into a smile. “Good. You passed the test.”

“What test?” I asked. By Toby passing, did that mean I failed?

She turned to me. “You just checked me out. I’d hoped my sister had picked a guy with eyes only for her.”

“That’s great and all, but please tell us where she is.” Toby might as well have been on his knees with the way he was begging.

“I will, but can you at least get me water first?”

“Of course.” I wanted to find Casey, but that didn’t mean we had to be rude. “Do you have the key, Toby?”

“Yes.” He walked to the front door and punched in the window. “How’s that for a key?”