Maddest of Minds

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Chapter Seven - Trouble in Paradise & Idris Kraven

My dear Miss Lovetta,

How do you do? Truly, it has been the longest time since I’ve seen you. I would express my sorrow over that, but I suspect I don’t have the correct words. I write you this letter under great duress and a time of great distress, but I do it regardless of the circumstances because of my love for you.

Just kidding. I just liked how that sounded.

You asked for information and as always I’m here to be of service. Nobody better than I to ask, right? Your information has been found, and I have to warn you it’s a bit of a bad scoop. I would have included the details in this letter if there wasn’t a threat of it being intercepted, but you don’t have to wait for much longer. I’m taking the earliest flight out of MR and will be seeing you Sunday morning.

Save a smile for me, Freyja.

Yours always,

Idris Kraven.

Freyja tried and failed not to smile as she read her friend’s letter. Idris was a charmer, but they rarely saw each other because he lived in the Modern Republic. They had met in the Abolition, and though the best technology existed for them to communicate, Idris preferred letters. He was strange like that.

He was a 19-year-old man who could find anyone anywhere. He had information on everyone or knew someone else who did. It didn’t matter to him in which part of the world the person lived; he’d find them, and he’d know all about them. Idris had a network of men he called spiders spread everywhere. He had men on the streets and thieves in the homes of officials. There was no one more resourceful and influential than Idris Kraven.

Freyja had trusted him enough to ask him for a check on Kai Mikhail, who was becoming increasingly suspicious. Idris had confirmed there was something wrong and she wondered what it could be. Perhaps their meetings had been planned, or perhaps he was a spy trying to become a friend and infiltrate her life. If that was the case, he’d be disappointed. Freyja didn’t make friends. Whatever it was, she’d find out. Kai Mikhail wouldn’t remain a mystery for much longer, and if he thought he could best her in a game she had been playing since the age of 18, he was in for a horrible surprise.

Freyja folded the paper and set it aside, crossing her arms and contemplating the door as she waited for Idris. He was an hour late, but he had never been known for his punctuality.

A knock sounded, as if she had manifested him by thinking about him.

“Come on in,” Freyja called.

A grinning, fresh-faced Idris emerged from the door, dark eyes twinkling, dressed in brown pants, white shirt, and suspenders. He strolled towards her, boots thudding on her smooth floors, hands in his pockets as he dropped into the seat across from her.

She smiled small, happy to see him. “Idris,”

He took her hand and planted a swift kiss on it. “My sweet,”

Freyja let out a breath that was more of a laugh. “I’m glad you could make it on such short notice. I appreciate it.”

Idris waved it away, unconcerned. “Not a problem. I was due for a visit, anyway.”

Freyja squinted at him, tilting her head. “A visit to whom?”

He smiled tightly, expression withdrawn. Freyja knew the next words he would say would be a lie. “To you, of course. Let me tell you how deeply it wounds me that you only seek me out for business. Aren’t we more than that?”

Freyja couldn’t help the amusement that surfaced. “Sure, if being from the same orphanage counts, then I admit we have quite the connection.”

He winked, leaning back in his chair. “You bet we do,” he looked at her expectantly. “Tell me how you know Kai Mikhail.”

“I wouldn’t go that far. We have met only twice. He showed up at my meeting with Erik, and recently he visited me with his team of so-called private consultants. While we’re on the topic, do such people actually exist?”

Idris lifted a shoulder. “Hell yeah, they do, sweet. They want to be lawyers, but they also want to be involved in business that brings them more money. What’s that term called…” He slanted his head and then snapped his fingers. “Right. Optimum profit. That’s their aim.”

“So, they’re criminals, just with the law on their side,”

Idris grinned. “Precisely. Cool, huh?”

Freyja rolled her eyes. “They’re spreading corruption under the guise of being lawyers. I call that disgusting. The least they can do is own their bad dealings and be upfront about it.”

“Not everybody is as brave as you, Freyja darling,” Idris smiled, though his expression was weary. “’Sides, that guise helps them make connections, lure investors, get customers,” he spread his hands in a wide gesture. “More profit, more exploitation of resources. Who would want to give that up?”

Freyja had to admit he was right. By being a part of the law, they got away with not being suspected by it. They got away with doing things and laying low. It was beneficial for them, and she guessed she could respect it, since she was much worse. She murmured in agreement.

Freyja glanced at Idris. “How’s your father?”

His smile was strained. “David’s fine. Alive and healthy.”

Unfortunately, was the word left unsaid in the air, daring them to acknowledge it. Neither of them did.

Freyja cleared her throat. “Tell me about Mikhail.”

Idris nodded, straightening. “He’s bad news. There’s a lot to unpack, but the only thing that I thought would concern you is that…” he winced slightly. “He works with Ten.”

“Excuse me?”

Freyja’s breathing escalated. The man worked with someone she wished had never entered her life, and she had let him into her house. She had talked to him. She had tolerated him and in turn let her guard down just for that moment.

She had thought about him. Wondered about him. She had done all that, while he had been laughing at her. She remembered his amused expressions, entertained smiles. The hatred had nowhere to go but inwards, bringing her at the edge of imploding. The room tilted and disgust coiled in her belly like a cobra ready to pounce. Tension filled her shoulders as she made a noise of resentment, wanting the bad taste out of her mouth.

Idris pointed a finger at her. “Exactly,” he muttered, as if he felt the same. “Mikhail is Ten’s top choice when it comes to handling dirty business. Well, I’ll say. Corrupt men belong with corrupt men.”

“That’s an understatement,” Freyja said absently, mind still reeling. She struggled to control her breathing. She hated her own reaction. She had known Mikhail wasn’t anywhere near a stellar man, but the fact that he worked with Ten made her opinion of him droop even lower. She was sure he didn’t even care, but he was now on her avoid-or-kill list. And she was itching to get rid of him, so he’d better stay far away.

Get the messy business handled, keep the dirty secrets under wraps.

The next time she saw him she would slam her fist into his pretty face.

Freyja turned back to Idris. “Did you find out what he wants with me?”

Idris scratched his jaw. “That’s the thing. Ten doesn’t seem to know his topnotch trusted detective is dallying with you. It’s almost like Mikhail hasn’t told him about it yet. My guess is he wasn’t here on Ten’s orders.”

Freyja frowned in thought, the clock ticking, ticking in the background. “It wouldn’t be surprising if Mikhail plans to serve my head on a platter to his master. Would make for a fabulous gift.” she mused darkly.

Idris’s lips pursed. “Hmm. Or here’s a saner theory, sweet. Maybe he has a motive of his own.”

Freyja shook her head slowly. “I do not care, Idris. I will not be fraternizing with the enemy no matter the case. He’s connected to Ten and is therefore a person of interest to me only when it comes to murder.”

Idris laughed and eyed her with a grin. “You’ve never pulled any punches.”

Freyja lifted a brow. “Would you rather I lie?”

“I would rather you do what’s best for yourself,” he said with a sober expression. “Use all these men, Freyja. You get Mikhail, use him to get to Ten. You get anyone else who can be a steppingstone to slitting the throat of the big boss, you use them, too. Screw the proper methods, sue the people with influence.”

Freyja felt herself smile. Big boss. Idris was a mixture of proper and insolent, and the contradiction wasn’t lost on her.

“I play dirty every day, Idris,” she reminded him. “These people wouldn’t be a big deal for me. I’d discard them without a second thought. And if it were anyone else, I wouldn’t even hesitate. But…” she blew out a breath, glancing at the sun that peeked out of the enormous clouds. “But Mikhail isn’t a good man. And I know no one I associate with is good in any way, but he doesn’t seem loyal. I can’t afford to trust him with anything. If he’s displaying disloyalty to Ten – which is well and good; the bastard deserves no less – then he could double cross me just as fast. I’m too far into this now to take a risk like that.”

Idris studied her intently. “Okay, sweet, I understand. All I’m asking is for you to think about it.”

“No,” she drawled drily, shifting her focus to the document on the desk.

He waved a hand to demand her attention. “All I’m saying is to wait and watch what he wants. If he hasn’t told Ten, he’s going to approach you. Sooner or later. You know it too. Let it happen. That’s all I’m asking for.”

Freyja eyed her burgundy carpet in thought. “You’re right. I’ll have to get rid of the carpet for the day so that he doesn’t bleed all over it. It’s custom-made and costed me a fortune. I wouldn’t want it ruined.”

Idris barked out a laugh. “Man,” he shook his head with a grin. “Remind me why we aren’t seeing each other,”

Freyja shot him a droll look, exasperated. “Because you once kissed Luna and told us both that was why you preferred men,

Idris grimaced. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. Luna was amazing. A good kisser – great, actually – but…”

Freyja raised a hand. “I don’t want to know. It is also because you’re the last person I’d go for,”

He snorted. “Rude,”

Before Freyja could respond, the twins entered her office, Blake scowling, Mila grinning widely.

“Idris!” exclaimed Mila, bouncing as she leaned in for a hug. “What a pleasant surprise!”

Idris indulged her with a smile, wrapped his arms around her. “Mila,” he greeted, patting her back once before leaning back. “How you been, sweet?”

Mila beamed. “Just super, thanks. What brings you here so early? You’re always welcome, of course. Visit more often. Did Freyja tell you about Evangeline? Well, if she hasn’t, let me tell you. She is the sweetest child I’ve ever met. You’ll know when you see her for yourself.”

Idris glanced at Freyja questioningly. “No, your friend doesn’t tell me many things. Who’s Evangeline?”

Freyja sighed. “Don’t be like that. I was going to bring it up eventually. She’s… Luna’s daughter.”

Idris did a double take. “What?”

“A hellion,” Blake muttered under his breath before handing Freyja a paper. “Look at this.”

Freyja arched an amused brow at the drawing. It was a stick figure of Blake on the roof of a castle with a satchel, a crown visible in it. The words My Flynn Ryder were scrawled below in familiar loopy handwriting.

Freyja flicked her eyes with a smirk. “I think it’s sweet,”

“Told her it was Blake, not Flynn. The brat called me silly for not understanding the reference and flounced off as if she was the one mad.”

Freyja gave him a look of mock horror. “Blake, you broke her heart. You should go apologise.”

Blake’s scowl deepened, though a spark of humour lit in those eyes. “How about you tell me when you’re free so I can strangle the life out of you?”

Freyja addressed the drawing again, shaking her head in amusement. “Sorry, schedule’s full.”

Idris grinned. “When can I meet this girl who keeps Blake on his toes?”

Blake narrowed his eyes. “Mind your business, Kraven.”

Idris remained unperturbed. Freyja noticed his eyes dropping to Blake’s body and blatantly checking him out. He didn’t have the decency to hide his indecency. “Fancy ten minutes in the closet with me, sugar?”

A smile ticking her lips, Freyja leaned back and crossed her arms as she saw Blake struggle to keep his indignation contained. She knew how overbearing and direct Idris could be at times, and he was clearly messing around at the moment, but Blake was outraged, because truthfully, it didn’t take much to rile up the big man.

“No,” Blake grumbled, making for the door.

Idris followed him. “Ever think of channeling all that energy into something more pleasurable?”

No,

“Hey, Blake?”

“What?” This from gritted teeth.

“I’m sorry for bothering you. I can’t find the off switch.”

Blake muttered something inaudible in return

Idris lowered his voice. “Care to perform a search?”

A swat sounded, followed by Idris cursing, and an “Ow!” and Blake snapping something before they were both out of earshot.

Freyja exchanged an amused glance with Mila, whose eyes shone with mirth.

Idris Kraven was impossible, and Blake Lance had just been made into his new object of entertainment. If hell didn’t break loose under her roof in the next few days, Freyja would consider it a mercy.

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