Element (Book 3)

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Ch 20 - I Think I Found Her

“It’s barely been that long since we were last all together. How can so much have happened?” Theodore asked incredulously.

“It’s the price we pay for knowing Xander and Noelle,” Malachi joked, making us all laugh a little.

We were at one of the safe houses, and we’d just caught the other members of the E’s up since Kenya was up to date. It’s safe to say that they couldn’t understand how things got so out of hand so quickly.

“What did you guys happen to find out?” Mordecai asked them.

“Well, you were definitely onto something when you said that the new organizations may all actually be one huge organization. From what we gathered, the divisions are based on the different purposes of the divisions. There’s a tactical division, which plans out everything, so there they recruit the smart minds. Then there’s a combat division. That’s the division with the fighters and agents who handle the physical aspects, so they’re forever training and learning new ways to fight. Lastly, there are the admin agents whose main purpose is to ensure the fluid day to day running of everything, as well as the acquisition of any material, weaponry or equipment needed in the organization,” Bart informed.

“That just sounds like every other agency,” I pointed out.

“True, except this agency is so big that each division has its own headquarters,” Garrett added.

That’s ridiculous!

“How did they even get that big?” Nigel asked.

“They’ve recruited agents from all over the world who lost their jobs from other agencies shutting down, or from being dismissed, unfairly or not. They’ve also gone shopping in security firms and military camps around the world,” Theodore informed.

“Uh guys, I don’t want to be the spoil sport here, but this is starting to sound like something we’ll never be able to defeat,” Malachi commented.

“Size means nothing when you have smarts Malachi. We just have to find out the numbers we’re dealing with, where they’re all scattered, who’s running the show and what their final plan is. With all that information, even just the people in this room could end up bringing the whole organization down,” Franco told him.

We’d all agreed without his knowledge that he was our mentor for this particular mission.

“I agree with my dad on this. If anything, our biggest challenge still remains the agency and Elle. For as long as we don’t know what is happening on that end, then we have a big problem,” Jayme added.

“Any luck with tracking Storm, Winter and Carter?” I asked my brother.

“Nope! Their trackers are dead,” he replied.

“And what about the twins?” I asked Nick.

“My brothers aren’t known as shadows for nothing. Tyler and Tyson are the best when it comes to hiding, and the only way to find them is if they let you find them,” Nick replied.

“So no?” Malachi joked, making me laugh as Nick glared at him.

“No Malachi,” Nick said.

Malachi shrugged. “I was just making sure.”

“So what’s the plan from here?” Aziel asked.

“Well, we have our mission on Lane, so we can focus on that until something else pops up on our other mission. What we know about Lane right now is that he’s in LA and he’s working on something big at his lab. It’s big enough that he needs funding for it, so he’s been putting together dinners and benefits to raise this money. To the public, he’s being a philanthropist, but in our world, he’s rounding up some of the world’s greatest criminals to get backing from them. Now, he’s obviously not working alone, so we need to figure out who he’s working with, or rather for. I highly doubt that he’s in charge,” I said.

We all seemed to be on the same page as Jayme switched on the big screen so that we could see what was on his laptop. “These are the hotspots where we are sure that Lane is most likely to be seen. Now as you know, Lane’s got one of the smartest minds in the world, so he’s perfected his security systems, as well as his all round technology, which also means he’s difficult to infiltrate. Our satellites can’t pick up anything on him because his technology blocks any feeds that aren’t his or permitted by him. The only time he is seen is when he’s on the move, and even then it’s close to impossible to get close to him. He recently hosted a ball and is rumoured to have left with a woman, but no one knows who the woman is. He paid some people off to hide the identity of this woman, so we’re not entirely sure if she’s a threat or not. He’s hosting a party tomorrow night. It’s a masquerade and it will be bigger than the ball, so we suspect that some serious business will be going down tomorrow night.”

“The mystery lady might probably be at the party, so we definitely need to get the E’s into that party,” Thales pointed out.

“We know one thing for sure; they’re going to try to invite a lot of socialites to hide the criminals, so we can create fake identities on both ends,” Nick added.

“Remind me again why you’re not allowed anywhere near Lane,” Zeya requested.

“We had a mission a couple of years back and long story short, we imprisoned his parents. He knows all our faces,” Malachi told her.

“And is Lane Mason his real name?” Vanessa asked.

“No. He changed it just before he went dark to forewarn us so that we would know once he made his return. He’s been busy on the dark web and wherever it is he was hiding, so him finally coming out, especially as wealthy as he suddenly is, raises a lot of flags in our world. However, you don’t need to know his real name. You just need to know that he’s one of the realest, smartest and most dangerous threats we’ll ever face,” I told them.

“Alright, fair enough. We may as well start planning our disguises then,” Theodore said.

Which is exactly what we did.

We set Vanessa, Zeya and Garrett up with rich socialite personalities, while setting up Kenya, Theodore and Bart up with the kind of personalities that would have people from our world curious about who they are and what they could bring to the table.

People like Lane Mason.

I wouldn’t admit it out loud, but his resurfacing had me a bit on edge. It’s very rare that I’ve been sent on a mission where I had to form a bond with someone and then screw them over. Lane could’ve very easily been my best friend if he wasn’t a target, despite being four years older than me.

I was eleven when I met him, but even then he knew I had the intelligence of someone even older than him, so he knew he could talk to me. He was the first ever target that I got close to and then screwed over.

And it honestly hasn’t affected me much since, until now.

I can’t say I know what it’s like to not only feel betrayal on that level, but to then lose your parents, so for the first time in a long time, I can’t truly read the potential danger of a situation. Lane’s resurfacing could have to do with anything.

And not knowing what, is exactly what had me on edge.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked her. I’d just arrived back at my place here in LA.

“What? I don’t get a kiss hello?” she mocked.

“Tell me what you’re doing here or I will attack you,” I warned.

Especially since she’s gone rogue.

“My, my lover, aren’t we a bit tight today! Is your fiancée holding out on you?” she taunted.

“Wife actually; not that it has anything to do with you,” I said before realizing something.

That was the first time I’d referred to blossom as my wife out loud.

She laughed, and for a moment I was worried. “You actually married that cheater?”

“Cheater? What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Oh, this is even better. You have no idea what I’m talking about,” she said happily.

“Rio, get to the point or get out of my house,” I told her.

“Alright fine lover boy, calm down! It just really makes me laugh that you’ve lost your leash on that psycho. She’s rubbing shoulders with the wrong crowd,” she commented.

She did hear me tell her to get to the point right?

I sighed. “What the hell are you on about?”

“You see, my new bosses sent me on a mission to attend the ball Lane Mason recently held, and once I heard that my brother would be there, I knew it was an event worth going to. Unfortunately it was super boring, but you would not believe who I caught the host leaving with at the end of the night,” she said.

So she wasn’t rogue after all.

“Who?” I bothered to ask, uninterested as I headed to the kitchen.

“Why your beloved wife of course,” she responded, making me freeze in step.

“What?” I asked, turning to face her.

“You heard me. Darling Noelle Solano left that ball with Lane Mason. She was in tears from what I witnessed, and when I headed back inside, there was a British man looking all over for her. If I’m not mistaken, Lane paid off people to not tell this man where she’d gone. I was tempted to, but I was more curious about why she was there to begin with,” she explained.

My mind was buzzing with all the possibilities, but I wasn’t able to concentrate enough to pinpoint a single trail of thought. The only thing I was sure of was that the British man was probably Carter, and if he was panicked, looking for her, then who knows why Lane took her to begin with.

She could potentially be in danger.

“Did she look like she was in danger?” I asked Rio.

“Quite the contrary. She looked shaken up about something, and he even put his jacket around her as they approached his car since it was raining. I highly doubt she was taken by force,” she replied.

I was curious. “Why are you telling me all of this?”

She smirked. “I don’t know. I guess I wanted to see the panic on your face when you realize that one of your enemies is currently with the person you love the most in this whole world. Finding out that you actually married her is the icing on the cake.”

I couldn’t show her any weakness.

“In case you didn’t notice, you pointed out that my wife is a psycho. While I don’t agree with that term, it just means that you’re well aware of her capabilities, which means you know that she can take care of herself,” I pointed out.

“Oh, I know that part, but can she protect herself from whatever is going on between her and Lane on an emotional level? You didn’t see what I saw Six. There’s definitely something there, whether or not she was faking it,” she said.

I couldn’t let her get into my head.

“If this is you trying to throw me off, it won’t work,” I told her.

“I don’t need to throw you off. Whatever you and your friends are thinking of doing won’t stop what’s coming, so I’m not too worried about that. I just came to tell you about this because some pathetic part of me still cares about you. I should probably also mention that the eldest and youngest Tsar siblings were there if that’s of any relevance to you,” she retorted.

Which means Storm, Winter and Carter either went looking for blossom, found her and joined whatever she’s doing, or they were looking for her at the ball.

“I guess I should thank that side of you then. Since it’s my moral duty to, I need to ask you to leave the organization you just joined,” I told her.

She scoffed. “Not even Silo could convince me to, and once upon a time, you could’ve, but you have no power over me. I think I’ll do with my life whatever the hell I please.

“You are better than this Rio. This kind of life is not who you are,” I argued.

“Don’t try that shit on me. You don’t even know who I am,” she spat.

“Except I do,” I reminded.

*FLASHBACK*

We were on our way back from a mission in Ireland, and my tracking system alerted me that Rio was at a location that was on our way home. I managed to sneak out in the middle of the night and head to her.

Luckily for me, she was also done with her mission.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, surprised to see me outside the door.

“I was heading home and found that you happened to be along my route, so I thought I should check up on you,” I told her.

“It was two years ago Xander. You don’t need to keep checking up on me like this,” she pointed out.

“And yet you like that I do,” I countered.

She shrugged. “Can’t deny that much.”

“What have you been up to?” I asked.

“Oh you know, just busy with missions,” she lied.

“You mean just stirring up trouble,” I corrected as she handed me a glass of gin.

“Me? Trouble? Imagine those two words in one line,” she said, feigning innocence.

“Which poor soul has fallen in love with you now?” I asked knowingly.

“All the wrong ones apparently,” she replied before gulping down the gin.

“Rio...” I trailed off.

“I don’t understand why you keep checking up on me if this isn’t going anywhere,” she pointed out.

“It’s too complicated. Besides, I check in on everyone,” I argued.

She sighed before heading to the door and opening it. “Just go Xander.”

“Are you sure that’s what you want?” I asked.

She nodded. “It is.”

***

It never is.

Every time I’m close to walking out the door, she always begs me to stay, and I do because I know that’s what she needs, or at least in the past it’s what she used to need. Now I’m not entirely sure, so she may be onto something.

“No Xander, you don’t know me. You know the old misguided me who was hopelessly in love with you, but I can guarantee you that I have seen the light. I know my true potential now, and I’m not going to let anyone, especially you and my brother, to keep me from it. The two of you will just have to learn to live with it, and if you know what’s wise for you, then you’ll stay out of our way,” she said icily.

“So this is really it? You’re just going to walk away from an organization that gave you everything, for one you barely know anything about?” I questioned.

“See? That’s the problem with you and Silo. The two of you have just always seen me as this damsel who needed to be saved all the time and who didn’t know just what she was getting herself into, except I’m a lot smarter than the two of you would like to believe. I know what I’m doing and I know where I’m needed. Take this as my last warning to you. Stay out of our way,” she said as she stood up to leave.

“Fine, but answer one thing for me. Is Lane a part of whatever you’re a part of?” I asked.

“I don’t know Xander. That’s your job to find out, and given the fact that your wife is getting all chummy with him, I’d hurry if I were you,” she said before walking out.

I didn’t go after her because I knew that it was useless to. She’d said her piece and she was officially only an enemy if we ever cross paths with her. What she informed me about with regards to blossom, had me all kinds of curious, but I wasn’t going to share the new information with anyone just yet.

Alerting them that my wife is with our target without a game plan in my head could only serve to possibly get her killed.

Or get her compromised from what she’s doing.

I’m not stupid, so I know that she’s with Lane on behalf of the agency somehow. What I don’t know is just what her mission is, and just how deep in she’s willing to go. Without that kind of information, we could all be in danger.

Especially since we wouldn’t be too sure on whether she’sthe one on this mission.

We’d gone through the rest of the flash drive, but nothing on it made sense. Jayme, Nick, Thales and Franco have been trying to run algorithm tests on it to figure out the sequencing of the data, but I’m beginning to think that there’s no sequence to begin with.

Which makes me wonder just why Hugo gave it to blossom.

While he was checked off as a possible ally, he was also checked off as a possibly enemy, and that wasn’t sitting well with me. To be as good as I am, I’ve always relied on efficiency and clarity. There’s nothing I hate like having things in the balance, and this was one thing that I truly needed confirmation on.

It would also make it a hell of a lot easier to know just who to look out for with blossom.

Our plans had been stalled until the next day, so I took some sleeping pills with my medication, and for the first time in a long time, I managed to fall asleep. I had a dreamless sleep, but I was thankful for the hours that I’d managed to get in anyway.

I woke up well into the morning the following day, and I could hear Malachi, Thales and Aziel outside my bedroom. It sounded like they were in the lounge, but with the amount of noise they were making, one would’ve sworn they were right outside my door.

“What are you assholes doing here ruining my sleep?” I asked them.

“Did you hear about Elliephant and who she’s currently with?” Malachi asked me.

So that’s out.

“No, who?” I asked, heading to the kitchen.

“She was reportedly seen leaving with Lane, but there’s nothing to confirm that because Lane probably wiped any evidence of that,” Thales explained.

I didn’t react.

Aziel picked up on my nonchalance. “You already knew. Why make us tell you if you already knew?”

“I needed to know what you knew first,” I replied.

“And how did you find out?” Malachi asked me.

“Rio was here last night to tell me just that,” I informed.

“And is she the only one you happened to explain your new ink to, because you sure as hell don’t seem to be willing to explain it to anyone else,” Thales told me.

I shrugged. “No one asked.”

“No one knows how to broach such a subject with you Xander. None of us were going to come out and interrogate you about the fact that not only is your wedding ring finger tattooed, but that Elle’s initial’s seem different by one letter. Did the two of you actually get married?” my brother questioned.

“We may have, but it’s our business and our business only,” I pointed out.

“You couldn’t be more wrong. Anyone who links those two tattoos, links the two of you,” Aziel pointed out.

“Not if I hide mine. We agreed that I would be the one to since more people know about me calling her blossom than they do about her calling me Bond. Also, a whole lot more people know her initials than mine, so again, it makes sense that I be the one to hide my tattoo. I already have the concealer with me, and for as long as I apply it every six hours if I’m in public, then I should be fine,” I explained.

“This was still the worst idea on both your parts, but I’m not even going to attempt to understand it. I think it’s more important that we figure out what exactly Lane wants with Elle,” Aziel said.

“We’re doing nothing,” I said.

“What?” the three of them shouted.

I crossed my arms. “Look, if there’s one thing I know about my wife, it’s that she would never allow herself to be taken by anyone she didn’t want to go anywhere with. For all we know, we could interfere with her mission and get her killed, and that’s not a chance I’m willing to take.”

“And what if it turns out that Lane is exactly who she needs to actually carry out her mission?” Malachi questioned.

“Then we stick to our own mission of finding out exactly what he’s up to, and try to put a stop to it, preferably without having to cross paths with blossom,” I replied.

“I’m pretty sure that even you know that what you’re saying is borderline impossible,” my brother pointed out.

“I know, which is why I need your help on this. No one else can know about this,” I pleaded with them.

“Nick and Jayme are going to figure it out soon, and if she’s with Lane, then there’s a high chance that she’ll be at the party tonight. You can’t hide this forever Xander,” Malachi pointed out.

“I know I can’t, which is why I only need to hide it long enough to come up with a solid plan. I just need to not have any distractions while I figure things out,” I responded.

“Fine! The masquerade event buys you time, but you’d better come up with something good,” Aziel warned.

“You can bet on that. Rio mentioned something else though. I think Carter was at the ball, because apparently a British man was looking for blossom shortly after she’d left with Lane,” I told them.

“Do you think he was genuinely looking for her, or was he in on the whole thing?” my brother asked.

I sighed. “At this point in time, I have no idea. We have to leave room for all possibilities though, so anything is possible.”

“They do realize that we didn’t need any more complications right?” Malachi joked.

“It wouldn’t be our kind of world if there were no complications,” Thales and I said simultaneously.

We met up with everyone else back at the safe house in the afternoon to put everything else into play. We weren’t sure about surveillance simply because it was Lane’s event, so he might have everyone screened for bugs and the likes, but we decided to risk it anyway.

We figured that it would take a little too long to screen everyone, so they might not even do it.

We ran the E’s through their identities, and like the professionals that they are, they’d already memorized everything. They’d admitted that working with us had made them better, and for the first time, I was seeing it.

They were almost as synchronized as we are.

“Right! Jayme and Nick will be running comms and techs for you while the rest of us stay here. We’ll be connected to their feed, but we won’t be able to communicate with you. Trust your guts on this, and gather as much information as you can,” Franco told them.

“This isn’t our first mission,” Zeya reminded.

“Except it’s one of your most dangerous,” Nigel countered.

Their arranged transportation had arrived and the six of them headed out once they were ready. I was feeling apprehensive about everything, so I headed outside to breathe and gather my thoughts. I wasn’t surprised when my brother followed after me, and we both stood outside and took in the view, not saying a single thing.

Until he blindsided me.

“I think I found her.”

I turned to him, wide eyed. “Are you sure?”

“I mean, she fits all the criteria. I’ve run everything through three times already and the results aren’t changing. I got woken up by the notification this morning, but I didn’t want to tell you anything until I was sure,” he said.

“What does this mean?” I asked.

“It means we need to be rogues on an already rogue mission. We both know that no one else can know that she’s alive because that will raise a whole lot of other questions, but we need to leave right now,” he told me.

“We can’t leave,” I reminded.

“I thought you might say that, but you should know that according to my results, she’ll be at that party. I know you’re already worried about Elle, so we may as well break the rules and just go,” he pointed out.

I knew exactly what we had to do, but this was also something that could very well get me discharged from Cypher. There’s a lot that they’ve put up with on my end, but this was just downright risky.

Except with what was at stake, I knew what my answer was.

“Did you get us suits?” I asked him.

“They’re back at my place. We can make up some excuse about needing to head there to collect information I left there,” he told me.

And it worked.

No one questioned why we were really leaving, and honestly, they didn’t have any reason to. We didn’t look the least bit suspicious. We drove to his place and quickly got ready to leave for the party. I was more anxious than ever as we finished up, both helping each other to put on our cufflinks.

“I got us onto the guest list using aliases, but given the size of this party, I doubt anyone will care about our back story,” he said as he handed me my mask.

“Thank you Thales. I know you didn’t want to do this initially,” I said to him.

He smiled. “I should be thanking you for pushing me to. This could be huge, so we’d better leave before we miss our window.”

He disabled any trackers on us while I cut off any feed connected to us. He was driving simply because my nerves were shot. We were about to make a huge discovery, but more than anything, I was nervous about seeing blossom.

Especially if she’s had to get close to Lane for this mission.

I pushed the thought aside as we reached our destination. I needed to be focused for this, especially since I wasn’t supposed to be here. The valet took the car keys from Thales before he and I headed to the door. We confirmed our identities and we were let in without being searched.

Which on its own was enough to raise alarms as we shared a knowing look.

I have no idea how to describe what happened next. Immediately, I turned slightly, and my eyes found my wife. She was laughing and she looked stunning in an emerald dress, and even though she was in a mask, I knew it was her.

As if she could feel the magnetic pull between us, she turned to face me briefly. She bit her lip, smiled and turned back to the people she was talking to. She knew it was me, just like I knew it was her- masks and all.

“That’s the creepiest and most romantic thing I’ve ever seen. The two of you found each other in a room filled with more than a hundred people, with masks on,” Thales commented beside me.

“It’s a pull. I can’t even describe it,” I replied, my eyes now glued to the hand on her waist.

“Remain calm Xander. Remember that she’s not the main reason why we’re here,” he reminded.

“I know,” I said before heading towards the bar.

I needed something strong to drink if I was going to survive this party.

“Hi! Can I please get a chocolate martini?” my wife ordered beside me as I downed the vodka in my glass.

“Sure thing,” the bartender said before going to make her one.

“You need to slow down there,” she commented.

“Trust me. I need this to survive what my eyes are seeing,” I replied. She made me laugh a little as she stuck her tongue out at me.

“What are you doing here?” she asked me in Greek.

Well that’s new.

“I’m not here to disrupt your mission if that’s what you’re worried about. The E’s are here for that,” I told her, responding in Greek.

She shot me a sultry smirk. “Worried about me?”

“Always,” I replied. We were still communicating in my home language.

“I’m fine Bond. I love you, remember that,” she said as her drink arrived. She winked at me before walking away.

I should’ve known that she could speak Greek fluently.

Before I could do or say anything, the bartender who had served me told me that I was requested to go to the room on the card he’d given me. I didn’t ask questions and instead headed that way, making sure that I could still feel my weapon in my shoe.

I opened the door and there were guards everywhere. Thales was also there, and his eyes were fixated on the teenage girl sitting in the office chair, looking like she runs the show. My eyes widened when she smirked since I understood why my brother was as shocked as he was.

“Hello Thanos. I hear you and Thales here have been looking for me.”

“Rose?”

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