Billows 3: Rogue of the Pack

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Chapter 1

1

The office was designed to be as open as possible, with glass partitioning, glass desks with stainless steel frames, wide-open spaces, and cushy, white sofas in communal areas such as the tea room. The only spaces that were different were the visitors’ lounge, the ops room or “think tank” as the team called it, and my office.

The visitors’ lounge was a small room that was able to seat ten people around a glass table where clients were seen. A wall dedicated to a holographic projector that was linked to the ops room divided the two spaces. Each setting at the table was equipped with an ipad and stylus pen, allowing for digital notes to be taken and automatically recorded. The chairs were white and comfortable and each had a pocket for tissues as the work we did was often sensitive, especially to a mother who lost her daughter. The room was also equipped with microphones and cameras and recorded any movement within the room.

The think tank was the room where all the operations were designed and worked out till the finest detail. It held the most sophisticated, advanced, and malleable technology outside of the Pentagon. Whenever I walk into it, I feel as though I am walking into the offices of NCIS or even Star trek. There were two walls covered in different kinds of monitors – CCTV, GPS, digital maps, and other forms of screens. A central console filled with holographic keyboards and other technological toys was manned by an eighteen year old genius... who barely nodded as I called a greeting.

And then there was my office. It was red, and grey, and imposing but welcoming, if that was possible. The inner wall was frosted bulletproof glass, while the outer wall was dark, tinted windows. There were two items that could always soothe my restlessness – my overly large executive chair in grey and red plaid, and the yellow wood desk that my youngest brother, Mateio, made me. It was large with six drawers that each held a secret pocket. There was also a shelf that pulls out and reveals my favourite collection of guns and knives.

But what always got me tearing was the carving on the front. Three knights kneeling in front of a princess, handing her roses. Their armour was dented, and their helmets were lying beside them. Yet, the look on each of the four faces was filled with utter devotion. The knights were replicas of my brothers and I in stature and the princess was that of our sister, Kira.

I always run my fingers across her face when I walk past my desk. It calms me. And allows me the connection we have missed for four – no, five – years now.

My heart stops. Five years since –

“Good mornin’, Luc.” My thoughts were brought sharply back on track by the annoyingly cheerful voice of my assistant, Antoine. I closed my eyes as I turned towards him because his office wear always either left me speechless or blinded. So I close my eyes and mentally reviewed his wardrobe so as to acclimatise my eyes... unless he was wearing something new. “Luc?”

Shit. Too long...

“Yeah, um, mornin’, Antoine.” I slowly open my eyes and peer at him through my lashes. And blink. “What the fuck are you wearing?”

At the almost hurt shock on Antoine’s face, I realize that I had spoken out loud. “What do you mean ’what are you wearing’?”

“I’m sorry, Antoine, but even you’ve gotta admit, it’s a little... bright?” He looked down at the daffodil yellow suit, lime green shirt and orange tie. The cream loafers really did tone down the ensemble quite well.

“The weather has been so dower lately that I felt I needed to brighten up the office.” He shrugged as he put my coffee and breakfast plate on my desk.

Okay, he had a point. Today was the first snow – free day we’ve had this week. I walked around my desk and set my laptop bag on the corner. I slowly lifted the cover on my plate to see what delights our office chef had prepared for breakfast. She was a gem of a find. And I was glad that I had no scruples about stealing her from Matti’s bar. I closed my eyes as the smell wafting from the gap seduced me into far off lands, just to be knocked back to the present with Antoine setting up my laptop.

“You don’t have to do that,” I told him as I put a bite – sized ball of hash brown into my mouth. I couldn’t stop the groan that escaped as I discovered the cheese in the centre.

Antoine raised his eyebrows as he turned to me. He gave a big sigh as he lifted the cover from my plate and set my cutlery to perfection. I settled into my chair and inspected my breakfast of bacon – wrapped omelette muffins, cheese – filled hash brown balls, pork bangers, mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers, and toast. I began eating as Antoine gave me a break down of the day’s activities.

Both our heads popped up at the knock on the door. “Sorry to bother, chief, but here’s someone to see you.”

I looked up at my head of operations, Dane Eckhart, and smiled my thanks. “Antoine will fill you in on what’s happening, especially with that Hopkins case. Also make sure that Sam is back for the Tennyson briefing on Thursday.”

“No problem,” he said as he unwrapped his lanky six foot one frame from my office door. And he was promptly propelled further into my office by the six foot two hulk of my younger brother, Tylor – affectionately called Ty.

“Hey,” I stood up and hugged him tightly. He had been out on assignment in Yemen for a few weeks and I had missed my brother. The two of us shared Matti’s apartment and tried to spend as much time as possible together although our work often took us away from home for several days at a time. And it was dangerous.

He brushed his hair out of his eyes and squinted at Antoine. “Hey, Antoine. What did Elana prepare for breakfast?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head as I remembered those flavours filtering on my tongue. “It was divine,” I moaned.

Ty laughed as he shook his head. “Basher,” he mumbled as he moved aside for Antoine to leave the office.

“Hi. I’m Antoine. I’m Luc’s assistant. Can I offer you some tea, coffee, croissant, muffin, milk?”

“Oh, yeah. Um, Luc, this is not really a social call. We need your services.”

I quirked an eyebrow. “We?”

He moved aside and I was able to see the tiny woman that his bulk was hiding. Her dark auburn hair was braided in one of those funny plaits that started at the top and lasted forever, emphasizing her high forehead and sharp cheek bones. Her eyes were wide and really green and really bewildered. Which I can understand, as the room was filled with all of us guys being over six feet, apart from Antoine, and we weighed over six hundred pounds collectively. And she was five foot six and possibly a hundred pounds with her feathery silver earrings. She looked familiar though.

Antoine patted her arm as he passed her, and loudly whispered, “Don’t worry, dear, they don’t bite.”

“Only on request,” I muttered, but realized, again and too late, that it was loud enough to be heard when Ty chuckled softly. I covered my face with my hand and chanted shit until I felt the blush subside. She was a client, after all. “Let’s go to the lounge,” I growled.

I led the way to the chorus of Ty’s laughter.

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