Chapter no 21 – The Hunte

Hunting Adeline

“Motherfucker, I will fuck you up,” Daire snaps from his computer chair, his chin tipped over his shoulder as he glares at me.

I roll my eyes. “You say that every time and never do.”

I wouldn’t mind if he tried. These men are trained killers just as I am, and a good old-fashioned fistfight might serve to release some of the tension crammed in my muscles. The weight of carrying frustration, anger, and anxiety in my bones is taking a toll. I’ve gone out on a few missions to take down rings in Oregon to relieve some stress, but it’s never enough.

I push away and pace the floor behind him. His office is inside the vault, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if it wasn’t for the door. They hollowed out the room and transformed it into a basement. Right at the round entrance is a staircase that leads you down to the bottom, which has been expanded to run beneath the ground floor, where Kace’s work area is. Just like the rest of the bank, it’s washed in browns, creams, and blacks; all of it screams money.

So of course, his get-up is a computer nerd’s wet dream. His desk takes up an entire wall, filled with monitors and TV screens hanging above. LED lights flash colorfully around the room, highlighting the sharp edges of Daire’s face as he searches through his channels again, checking to see if Addie was tagged in any locations.

“You’re looming over me. I can feel your breath on the back of my fucking neck.”

I exhale extra heavily, prompting him to whip around and send a fist flying towards my dick. I easily avoid it, but he manages to surprise me and stomp on my foot with his, forcing me to step back.


“You hover worse than a wife checking over her cheating husband’s shoulder,” he snips.

“I would say the scorned wife and I both have valid reasons.”

He grumbles something under his breath, leaning his face farther into the computer as he checks over the grid. His pet kneels beside us, head cast down, but I catch the hint of a smile on her face.

“Did you find out where Jillian and Gloria came from?” I ask.

Daire shakes his head. “Not yet. I can easily trace the ones kept in a holding facility—like the ones you take down—because those are checkpoints for girls to be transported to and from. But many of the victims are taken to groomers before they’re auctioned, and those are usually residential houses and oftentimes off-grid to protect the homeowners. Whoever Francesca is, she’s obviously a groomer and a well-hidden one.”

He has an entire map of transportation routes and checkpoints and insists that he would know if Addie were put up for sale or transported. There are minimal places to list girls for sale on the dark web, even for those who are selling their own children for profit, and Daire has access to every one of those channels. There is also an entire network for the auctions, moving girls to and from holding facilities, and other events where high-profile people can buy women and children, which Daire also has access to.

But Addie is too high-risk to be put through those standard processes. Claire is smarter than that. So, we’ve shifted our focus to tracking down this Francesca woman, but there are no homes in the state of Oregon owned by her.

“What was their last known location before they disappeared?” I ask. We’ve been narrowing our search down to surrounding towns within an hour’s drive from Jacksonville—where the auction was held—but unless they have cameras within or outside of the house, we have no way to confirm if Addie is inside any of them.

“Prior to being auctioned, Gloria was last seen getting into a vehicle in Grants Pass, and Jillian was picked up in Portland. She has records for prostitution, so she most likely was being trafficked beforehand that way.”

“Those cars are dead ends?”

“Yep,” he confirms. “Drove somewhere with no cameras and never seen again from there.”

“Fuck,” I curse, beginning to pace again. It’s the same ordeal with Xavier Delano. We were able to track his flight to Portland, Oregon, and a town car that drove him to the outskirts, but he fucking disappears again

after that. They’ve taken every fucking precaution to make sure there is no trail leading to this house.

Daire clicks through a map as he says, “There are hundreds of thousands of homes in our targeted areas. Addie has to be in one of them, but narrowing down where is—” He cuts himself off, his eyes narrowing in concentration as he murmurs, “Interesting.”


“There’s an old train system that used to operate in transporting girls near Grants Pass. It says it’s still active, even though this railroad line has been closed for decades.”

He goes onto Google Maps and tags the coordinates of the railroad, and then zooms in until it shows us a 3D view of it. The train is left abandoned on the railroad, the trailers corroded with nature and rust.

It’s in the middle of woods, with nothing but trees surrounding it.

Another decade and most of the wildlife will have taken over completely.

“It’s just odd that it’s still considered an active channel,” Daire says, his brows pinching and a frown tugging down his lips.

“Are there any residential homes nearby?”

“Doesn’t hurt to look,” he replies. He looks up at me. “Keep in mind, there’s no way to legitimately confirm that they’re holding girls in them unless you storm the place. My advice? Don’t do that.”

I arch a brow in response. He rolls his eyes and turns back to his computer, realizing he’s talking to a person that just barged into Mama T’s house unannounced to get to them. What’s stopping me from doing it to anyone else?

The answer is nothing.

“I’m going to need a long session with my pet after dealing with you,” he mumbles.

“You’re welcome.”

He smirks but focuses on the screen as he navigates through the forest. For a long while, he doesn’t find anything. Long enough that I start pacing a hole in the floor behind him.

“Found something,” Daire announces about twenty minutes later, drawing my attention back to him. I come up behind him and lean down to get a better view.

If the fucker says I’m hovering again, I’ll steal his pet and drop her off somewhere random just to inconvenience him. Asshole is fucking blessed to have me so close.

A massive run-down house emerges from the trees. It looks like its prime was in the early 1900s. Still, it’s livable, big, and definitely well-hidden.

My heart picks up speed, and for the first time, I feel an inkling of excitement.

“Where is it located?”

“Merlin, Oregon. Only about fifteen minutes from Grants Pass, give or take.” He pauses. “And about an hour from Jacksonville.”

By the time he finishes his sentence, I’m nearly vibrating.

When the satellite picture was taken, only a rusted red pickup truck was parked outside of the house. I snatch my laptop, quickly searching the license plate to find the owner.

“Rocco Bellucci,” I mumble, immediately digging into his background. “Got a few charges for public intoxication, domestic violence, and battery.”

Daire shrugs. “Pretty standard charges for ninety percent of the male population.”

Next, I check to see who owns the house, Rocco’s name appearing once more. I rap my fingers on the laptop, anxiousness buzzing through my nerve endings. This house is suspicious, but nothing about it indicates this is a grooming house.

It’s not registered under a name I recognize, and there isn’t any physical evidence that girls are being held here.

Digging my phone out of my pocket, I pull up Jillian’s number. After promising she’d help any way she could if I had more questions about Addie, I had Ruby get her a burner phone.

It rings for several long seconds before her bored, accented voice comes through, “Yeah?”

What a fluffy, warm person she is.

“You mentioned before that Francesca had a brother,” I state.

“Yeah, he’s one of the people I’d love for you to murder,” she answers. “Well, what’s his fucking name?”

“Rocco. Don’t know his last name.”

My world tilts on its axis. The possibility that we just found Addie is almost too much.

“Helloooo?” her voice rings out.

“Were you kept in a three-story colonial home?” I name off a few more attributes of the property that might be recognizable, and when she doesn’t answer right away, I almost crack the phone in half.

“That’s it,” she says finally.


“Jillian?” “Yeah?”

“I’m going to murder so many fucking people for you.”

The last thing I hear is her snorting before I hang up the phone, and I look up to meet Daire’s rounded eyes.

“We found her?”

“We fucking found her,” I confirm, immediately pulling up directions to the house.

It’ll take about four hours to get to Merlin from Portland, but I’ll need to prepare first. I won’t know how many people will be occupying the house beforehand, so it’ll be necessary to have Jay in my ear and Michael and Ruby with me in case there are more girls being held there. I’ll have several more mercenaries following close behind if I need backup.

“Z?” I look up. “What if she isn’t there anymore?”

My eye twitches from the mere thought. The possibility is high, but at least I’ll have the people in my hands that can lead me straight to her.

I meet his stare, and for just a moment, I unleash the darkness. “Then a lot of people are going to die.”



“I have news,” Jay says through the car speaker. It’s six o’clock in the morning and still pitch-black, the sun not even broaching the horizon yet. Dense fog is shrouding the roads, making it hard to see.

I’m five minutes away from Francesca and Rocco Belluccis’ house, Daya in the passenger seat next to me, while Michael and Ruby are driving

behind me. It’s only about ten minutes from the Rogue River, so acres and acres of National Forest surround the property.

Last night, I managed to hack into a few of the satellites. The government likes to tell people that satellites aren’t interested in your house, but that doesn’t mean they don’t intermittently take images.

Jay’s flipping through them now, but he hasn’t seen any sightings of Addie.


“I sent a drone over the house,” he starts. “And the entire property is in an absolute upheaval. There are about thirty men currently searching around the property. Half are in the woods behind the house, and the other half are walking the road.”

Right when he finishes, two black SUVs fly past me, and I spot several men on foot up ahead.

“Shit,” I mutter, slowing down until I come to a stop right beside a man. “Jay, let Michael know what’s going on and keep a drone on us.”

I roll down my passenger window, and the guy bends at the waist, eyeing Daya and me with impatience.

“Everything okay, sir?” I ask.

“Everything’s fine, nothing you need to worry about.”

“Looks like you’re having a search party. Do you need help?” I push. “Nah, just looking for my dog.”

I arch a brow, and Daya gives him a look. “You must really care about this dog,” she remarks.

“Yeah, the bitch is priceless,” he retorts. “Now keep it movin’, you got cars behind you, dickhead.”

But I’m already rolling my window up and pressing hard on the gas. “Hear that, Jay?” I ask, my chest tightening.

“Yep. Do you think it’s Addie?”

I shake my head, my thoughts racing faster than my car.

“Jillian mentioned other girls in the house, so it could be any one of them, but there’s a really good fucking chance. I don’t think they’d have a massive search party like this for a regular girl.”

“It sounds like Addie. She’s brave.”

I bite my lip, a plethora of emotions rising in my chest—excitement, fear, and pride.

I make a quick decision to head towards the train. I have no idea what direction she’s gone in, but I know she’s too smart to take the road. Too many possibilities to get caught and brought right back to the house. But there’s a chance she found that train, and is using it as a guide out of the woods. Or seeking refuge in it.

Daya’s phone buzzes for the millionth time, and she sighs as she taps on


“Her mother again?”

“Yeah,” she says softly. “She’s been a wreck since Addie went missing,

and I think she’s told every police officer in the state about themselves and their momma because they haven’t found her yet.”

“She knows we might get her today?”

She nods, “Yeah, I probably should’ve waited, but I’ve just never seen Serena like this before, and I guess I just wanted to give her a little bit of hope, ya know? It’s been over two months, and I think she was all but convinced Addie’s dead.”

I flick my gaze to Daya. “She’s going to get her daughter back today.

Call me psycho, but my girl is close. I can feel it.”

Before Daya can respond, Jay’s voice cuts in. “Oh, shit.” “What?” I snap.

“About two months ago, there are a couple satellite images of a massive gathering at the house. I looked to see if there was an influx of flights and hotel bookings, and sure as shit, there was. I mean, dozens and dozens of high-profile men from all around the world flew in and stayed in surrounding hotels. One of them was Xavier Delano; he has booked into a hotel forty-five minutes away every week for the past month.”

Just like Jillian had said—he’s been visiting her often. “Fucker,” Daya mutters.

White-hot fury builds in my chest, an ever-present volcano ready to erupt at any second. And it has, many times. Resulting in a lot of traffickers dying and a couple of buildings burnt down. I try to concentrate, otherwise I’ll go blind with rage again, and my car will go careening off the side of the road.

I come up to a dead end, my only option being to turn left or right. “Jay, is the railroad line up ahead?”

“Yep, a few hundred feet,” he confirms a moment later.

“We’re going to search on foot, but I have a few men on standby, and I want you to send them to the house just in case. I don’t want anyone to leave.”

“Got it.”

I turn left and drive for a few seconds before coming across a hiking trail. There’s a small lot, so I quickly whip into a parking space.

“Put your Bluetooth in,” I tell Daya, sticking my own in my ear. Michael has pulled in the spot beside me, and the four of us exit the cars.

“Is it Addie?” Michael asks immediately.

“We don’t know for sure, but I think it is, and she can’t be far.”

Ruby gasps and puts a hand over her heart, always one to be theatrical. “Oh! We best hurry then. She’s probably so scared, poor girl.”

Michael nods, a small hopeful smile tipping up his lips.

“Help direct us to the railroad line,” I tell Jay after calling him on the Bluetooth while pulling out a cigarette from the pack.

“Those will kill you,” Jay complains. I look up, noting the drone stationed fifty feet above my head. I raise my hand and give it the finger. Jay chuckles through my Bluetooth and tells us where to head.

It takes us about five minutes of speed-walking to find the train. “How long is the train?”

“This one is larger than most. Stretches about two miles. You’ve got about a half-mile to your right, and the rest to your left.”

I turn to Michael, “You and Ruby go right, and Daya and I will go left.” He nods, already taking off in the direction. “See you soon,” he says,

waving a hand, Ruby quickly following after him. “Ruby!” I call. “You got a gun, right?”

“You’re damn right I do,” she shouts back, not even glancing behind her. Smiling in approval, I head in the other direction, my bones rattling with anticipation.

I’m coming home with my little mouse tonight. And then? We’re going to burn down the world together.

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