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Missing Half

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REX -- Chapter 1

July 2012

New York City

“REX ESSA! By the Moon Goddess above! Damn, it’s so good to see you!”

Kal Hunt’s voice boomed from behind them in the empty hallway of the luxury hotel Rex and Blade were staying in. They were making their way to the grand ballroom where Kal’s birthday celebration would soon begin.

Dressed in a traditional black and white tuxedo, the older man caught up with them and embraced Rex, slapping his back. Rex hadn’t seen him in a long time, and it felt good to be back in full swing as head of the distillery. He looked forward to reconnecting with his business contacts this night.

“My boy, you look good!” Kal let Rex go, took him by the shoulders, and looked him over. “Damn, I don’t remember you looking so damn strong! Charlene will love it!”

Who’s Charlene?

Blade’s question floated into Rex’s mind, but he knew better than to answer it right away.

“Kal, let me introduce you to my mate,” Rex said quickly. He stepped to the side and pulled Blade forward by the hand, and ignored Kal’s slight frown.

His mate looked exquisite in a black cocktail dress. The lace bodice with a high neckline met the thick diamond choker necklace that covered Rex’s Mark on her slender neck while a loose high-low tulle skirt concealed the knives strapped to her toned thighs. To the unobservant, Blade’s black stiletto pumps had a silver heel, but she had a shoemaker replace the original black heels with sturdy stiletto blades. The blade tips were well-embedded into specially designed black heel caps she could pull off when needed. Her lipstick matched the deep red of the velvet rose on the long sharp needle carefully inserted into her hair’s elaborate twist.

“I must be the only Alpha that doesn’t need a fucking bodyguard when he goes out with his Luna,” Rex had joked earlier that evening. “You’re a walking weapon, and a sexy one at that.”

That’s the idea.” She had said with a smirk.

Presently, Rex squeezed her hand.

“Kal, this is my mate, Blade. Blade, this is my friend and business mentor, Alpha Kal Hunt of the Shadowlands Pack here in New York City. Kal took me under his wing after Uncle Dylan retired and abandoned me to figure out how to run the distillery and everything else by myself, but Kal—”

“Persephone? Is it really you?” Kal whispered. He had turned pale as his wide light blue eyes stared at Blade as if she were a vision from hell.

Rex glanced at Blade, but she looked as guarded as her feelings told him she was. She was bracing herself.

Do you two know each other?

“Hello, Kaleva,” Blade said. “It’s nice to see you again. It’s been a long time.”

“Persephone?” Rex looked between the two.

Kal looked around the hallway before lowering his voice further. “I was told you were dead! Persephone, what the fuck are you doing here? Or are you Diana tonight?” Kal quickly glanced at Rex as if he just remembered he was there.

Blade shrugged. “I am here as my mate’s Plus-one,” she said, taking Rex’s arm. “And I’m not working anymore, so Blade is fine.”

“We need to talk immediately,” Kal whispered urgently. He turned and started to walk away. “Let’s go to my office.”

What the fuck is going on, Blade?! And how do you know Kal?

They followed Kal down a long corridor to a set of black elevator doors that dinged open. Kal put his face close to a retinal scan as soon as the doors closed and he pressed the top button.

I’ve worked with Kaleva before, as my grandfather’s operative. Blade released Rex’s arm so she could run her fingers along the elevator panel covered with a thick cloth.

Wait, you spied for Kal or on him?

Both. She glanced at him with a smile.

She was looking along the walls and the upper corners of the elevator when Kal faced them once the elevator began to move.

Kal chuckled. “I give you my word, Persephone, that you will not be either recorded or poisoned while you stay with me. While you are in one of my hotels, you are under my protection,”

“Please accept my apologies, Kaleva,” she said. “I did not mean to offend you. Some habits are hard to break.”

Kal nodded, but he frowned. “Does this mean Hades is still alive?”

Blade gave Kal a smile that did not reach her eyes. “I can only wish my father were still alive. Unfortunately, I was the only survivor of the fire that murdered my entire family,” she said.

You do not trust Kal.

I trust no one but you. If I had learned that before, my family might still be alive.

The elevator doors dinged again and opened to the wide, modern reception area Rex was familiar with. Kal led them to a conference room that had nothing but a small conference table and an even smaller table with drinks and a coffee maker. Rex looked around, bewildered. Kal always took him to his private office.

Don’t take it personally. It’s me he’s wary of. After what I pulled years ago, he definitely shouldn’t trust me.

“I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything about the hit on my family?” Blade asked.

Kal sighed and motioned them to take a seat. “I’ve asked, but I don’t know who did it. No one seems to know anything. I do know it was a shock to everyone in our community. Hades shouldn’t have gone out that way. He was an enemy to some, but a hero to most.” He went to the small table and poured himself a drink. “I don’t suppose I can offer you anything to drink?”

“Bourbon neat,” Rex replied. He didn’t see why he should behave any differently with whom he had always considered a friend, but it did bother him that his mate and Kal did not seem to trust each other.

Kal laughed. “And, of course, I only have the best damn bourbon.” He gave Rex his drink. He put two empty glasses in front of Blade, a tumbler and a stemmed glass, and crossed his arms. “Go on. Do your thing with the lighter. Your father always did it. The son of a bitch made a game of it.”

Blade stared at him for a second before shrugging. She took a silver lighter out of her black clutch, popped it open, and quickly passed the flame under the tumbler while she looked in. She put away the lighter and gave back the glass.

“Also a bourbon neat.”

Kal took the glass and poured two fingers worth, “That’s too bad. I have a fancy Argentine Pinot Blanc your father loved. I thought you kept to wine, like your father.”

Blade snickered. “That would show a lack of growth on my part, wouldn’t it, Kaleva?”

Kal sat in front of them on the conference table with his own drink and crossed his arms again. “Why didn’t you check your mate’s glass?”

Blade gave him a cold smile. “Why would you want to harm him? Rex poses no threat to you. His business is in spirits, yours in hospitality. I imagine you both profit very much from your association. And, he actually likes and trusts you, and you like and trust him.” She took a sip from her glass without taking her eyes off Kal. “Plus, what makes you think you’d still be alive if Rex had shown any kind of physical discomfort after taking a drink?”

Her sudden sweet smile made Rex uncomfortable. He had a feeling that a lot more was going on than he was getting. He’d never seen Kal so cold or Blade so hostile.

Kal surprised him, however, by laughing in his usual good-natured way. He didn’t seem offended and nodded in respectful acknowledgment.

“You are your father’s daughter, Persephone. Well, good. It took me years to earn your father’s trust, and I will also earn yours.” He looked at them both and laughed again. “Well, fuck me if this isn’t the strangest thing,” he said, shaking his head. “Rex Essa and Persephone. Together. You’re Fated Mates, I presume?”

“Yes,” Rex said, quickly relaying to his mate that Kal did not know about his past mate issues.

“Fate really does have a sense of humor. Either that or it likes to fuck with me.” He took a long drink from his glass.

“It’s okay to use my given name. I am Blade now. My father was Felix. Since his death, our organization is no more.”

Kal nodded. “Then you must call me Kal, please. Your father did.”

Blade nodded.

“--And that’s what I want to talk to you about, your organization. Do you know what your father and Cerberus were working on before—the accident?”

Cerberus? Rex asked.

Joaquin. Also, Abuelo told Kaleva that my twin was my cousin by Uncle Danny.

Shit. Your grandfather had serious issues with the truth.

Blade smirked briefly. My grandfather had a lot of serious issues.

Rex decided that it would be safer not to ask her any more questions until they were alone. He didn’t want to inadvertently undo whatever his mate had going on with Kal. As much as it pained him, it was obvious Rex had to choose a side.

“I have no idea,” Blade said, and she was sincere as far Rex could tell. “My father kept my assignments separated from my cousin’s. You knew my father,” she said with a twisted smile. “Sharing information was not his forté.”

Kal sat back and sighed heavily. He looked deflated.

“Blade, I need you to either remember or find out. Please.”

The meekness in Kal’s voice and the humility in his face alarmed Rex. Kal may be his friend but, like all Alphas, Kal was neither meek nor humble.

“Kal, what’s really going on?”

Kal swirled the ice in his glass.

“Before your father died, he was paid handsomely to find three individuals,” he said. “I brokered that deal, based on Hades’s success and reputation. They wanted to pay him in full, and he, unfortunately, accepted. I don’t know how much he knew or found out about the whereabouts of these individuals, but his—clients were left hanging.”

“That doesn’t sound like it’s her problem,” Rex said, trying to be fair. “Her father died, he was paid for that job, not Blade. How much was it?”

“Three million,” Kal said.

Rex didn’t blink. “Fine. I’ll give them their money back. Problem solved.”

To his surprise, it was Blade who shook her head. “That’s not how it works.” Her complexion looked ashen, and Rex knew it reflected a growing worry within her.

He suddenly received a strong infusion of love and gratitude with hints of regret through the bond.

Thank you, my love, but it’s not something easily solved with money. If it were, I have that money and could quickly pay it back.

Kal shook his head vigorously. “I wish it were that easy, Rex, but there’s something you have to understand. These are not nice people we’re dealing with, and they’re pissed at the Zamoras and at me. They paid Hades for a service, and they expect their money’s worth. To them, death is not an excuse for not getting what they paid for, and they will make Blade pay in the worse way for what Hades left undone, and it will not be pretty.” He shifted in his seat and stared at his tumbler. “I wish you hadn’t resurfaced, Persephone, but it was only a matter of time before they found you. And now that you’re in the mix, Rex, well, this shitshow just got a whole lot more complicated.”

“Who is it?” Blade whispered, and Rex could feel her growing fear at Kal’s implication, not just because of Andy, but because of him, too. “Who was my father doing business with?”

Beads of sweat had collected on Kal’s brow, but he looked up and faced her.


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