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I huffed. “And nobody’s tried to kill you yet?”

“Surprisingly, no. I think the general consensus is that I did what any of us would’ve done in the situation. Do you know he… activated me, while I was there in the compound? Tried to make me kill the man I love?”

I sucked in a breath.


That part hadn’t made it into any of the stories.

Thatactivationstate was supposed to be a failsafe only.

Neverused against us.

“I can tell by your reaction that knowing that gives you a better understanding of why this all went down the way it did,” she said. “And again – this is in no way me trying to force anything on you, Tamra. If you tell me to fuck off, we’ll leave you alone. If you want no parts of what we’re doing here, but want my support or assistance to do something else – I’ll help you. I have a rose across the country right now, who started her own business, and she’s falling in love, and making friends – she has a full life. But… if you’re feeling incomplete…restless. Like you need a healthy outlet for the things theGardensowed into you… we could use your help here.”

I stared at her for a moment, then joined her on the floor. “And what, exactly, is…here?”

“Private security, on the surface. We don’t take government contracts, we don’t protect criminals. Sometimes our clients are assholes, sure, but without the murdering and trafficking and abuse and whatever else. We use the resources fromthatto intervene in situations where we… weren’t hired. Relocating someone before they can be abducted. Disrupting a shipment of children. And in today’s case… stopping the attempted murder of a woman and her child.”

My nostrils flared. “Only, that’s not really what this was.”

“No,” she agreed, a bit of that rage from before returning to her face. “It wasn’t.”

“Wilder didn’t answer, when I asked if we knew where May was.”

Alicia nodded. “That’s because he didn’t know yet himself. We weren’t looking at her as an offender – we thought she was a victim, which was why she was able to slip away. Luckily, Wilder had put that tracker on her jacket, and we don’t think she’s caught onto it yet. But it’s offline right now – meaning she’s likely underground somewhere, suppressing the signal. Assoonas she’s back above ground though… her ass is mine.”

“Yours?” I asked, surprised. “You’re going out yourself?”

“I have a thing about mothers who sacrifice their daughters.”

I bet she did.

That was yet another part of her grievance against theBelroses– they’d harbored and aided her stepmother, who’d orchestrated her father’s death, and the abduction of her and her sister.

Even though her sister was the stepmother’s biological child.

That fateful night that theGardenfell, the stepmother was killed right there in the compound. Who exactly had done the deed never publicly came out.

But personally…

“Will you help us, with May?” Alicia asked, pulling me from my thoughts. “She needs to be located, and most likely prosecuted. I think you could be of assistance with that.”

“I can commit to that.”

Something close to a smile came to her lips. “Good. And… we could use your help with Amelia as well. She’s asleep now, but she’s probably going to wake up terrified, wondering where her mother is. It would probably do her a world of good to see a familiar face.”

That poor little girl.

I sighed, and nodded again. “I can do that too,” I said. “Onthatfront… however I can help.”

“Good.” Alicia pulled herself to her feet, and started for the door, knowing I would follow. “Let’s get to work then.”