Taken by Midnight (Chapter Thirty-one)
The sun had just begun to dip below the opposite horizon, casting its last, long shadows across the snow-covered yard of the tall Victorian. And in that yard, filing out of the front door wrapped in blankets, antique quilts, and crocheted afghans, were easily a dozen bedraggled, haggard young women.
Several were already in the Rover parked in the driveway. Still others were being escorted out of the house by Alex and Dylan.
"Jesus Christ," Brock whispered, awed by the enormity of what had occurred.
Renata was standing near the Rover, helping some of the former captives into the backseat.
Where the hell was Jenna?
Brock scanned the entire area in a quick glance, his heart climbing up his chest. God, what if she was hurt? Dylan surely would have said something if there'd been casualties, but that didn't keep the rock from forming in the pit of his stomach. If anything had happened to her …
"Hang on," Niko said, as he pulled in to the driveway, then steered the big SUV right up onto the lawn.
Brock leapt out even before the vehicle had come to a full stop.
He had to see his woman. Had to feel her warm and safe in his arms.
He ran across the frozen yard, his boots chewing up the distance in mere seconds.
Alex looked up at him as he tore toward her.
"Where is she?" he demanded. "Where's Jenna? Did anything happen to her?"
"She's fine, Brock." Alex gestured toward the open front door of the house, where the bloodied corpse of at least one Minion lay visible and motionless inside. "Jenna's making sure the rest of the women get out safely from the cellar where they were being held."
He sagged at the news that she was okay, unable to hide his relief. "I have to see her."
Alex gave him a warm smile as she led one of the shivering, wan Breedmates toward the pair of waiting vehicles. He stepped forward and was about to vault up onto the veranda porch.
The small, feminine voice–so unexpected, so distantly familiar–
stopped him dead in his tracks. Something clicked in his brain. A spark of disbelief.
A grinding jolt of recognition.
"Brock … is it really you?"
Slowly, he pivoted around to face a diminutive, dark-haired female who was paused in the driveway, just off the steps of the porch. He hadn't noticed her when he'd passed her a moment ago. Good Christ, he wasn't sure he would have recognized her if she'd come right up to him in the street.
But he knew her voice.
Beneath the grime of her captivity and the neglect that had made her cheeks sallow, her alabaster skin marred with dirt and scratches, he realized that he did, in fact, know her face, as well.
"Oh, my God." He felt winded, as if someone had kicked all the air out of his lungs. "Corinne?"
"It is you," she whispered. "I never thought I'd see you again."
Her face crumpled, and then she was sobbing. She ran to him, throwing her thin arms around his waist and weeping hard into his chest.
He held her, unsure what to do.
Unsure what to even think.
"You were dead," he murmured. "You vanished without a trace, and then they pulled your body from the river. I saw it. You were dead, Corinne."
"No." She vigorously shook her head, still sobbing, her small body heaving with soul-racking gasps. "They took me away."
Fury flared in him, burning through the shock and disbelief. "Who took you?"
She hiccuped, drawing in a shaky breath. "I don't know. They took me away and they kept me prisoner all this time. They did … things to me. They did horrible things, Brock."
She buried herself in his embrace, clinging to him like she never wanted to let go. Brock held her, struck stupid by all he was hearing.
He didn't know what to tell her. He had no idea how what she was saying could possibly be true.
But it was.
She was alive.
After many long years–decade after decade of blaming himself for her death–Corinne was suddenly living and breathing, wrapped in his arms.
Jenna climbed the cellar stairs behind the last of the captives. She could hardly believe it was over, that she and Renata, Dylan, and Alex had actually located the women and managed to set them free.
Her heart was still pounding hard in her chest, her pulse still racing with adrenaline and a profound sense of accomplishment–of relief, that the ordeal for these nearly twenty helpless women was finally ended. She guided her last charge around the slain Minions in the parlor and led her outside to the veranda. Dusk was gathering now, washing over the crowded yard in placid shades of blue.
Jenna breathed in the crisp, twilight air as she stepped onto the porch behind the shuffling Breedmate. She glanced over toward the driveway, where Renata and Niko were helping some of the females into the Rover.
Rio and Dylan, Kade and Alex were busy on the snowy front lawn, walking still more released women into another of the Order's SUVs.
But it was the sight of Brock that made her freeze in place where she stood.
Her feet simply stopped moving, her heart cracking open as she saw him locked in a tender embrace with a petite, dark-haired female.
Jenna didn't need to see her face to know that it would match the sketch Claire had provided. Or that the fragile beauty wrapped so gently in Brock's strong arms was the same young woman in the photograph he'd kept with him all the years after he'd thought her dead.
By some miracle of fate, Brock's past love had been returned to him.
Jenna choked back her bittersweet sob, realizing that he'd just been granted the impossible: the gift of love resurrected.
As much as it tore at her own heart to witness it, she couldn't help but be moved by their tender reunion.
And she couldn't bear to interrupt it, no matter how desperately she yearned to be the one in his sheltering arms at that moment.
Steeling herself, she took a quiet step off the porch and headed past them to continue the evacuation of the other freed captives.