The Assassin

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Twelve

Twelve

“Daven.”

For a moment, Daven thought he was back home, and Naomi was waking him. Two firm shakes on his shoulders dragged him out of the blissful comfort of sleep. Rubbing his eyes, he shifted on the bed and sat up when he found Lina perched on his right side.

“What are you doing here?”

“Glad you’re finally awake. He must have given you a sleeping pill.”

Daven stared at her, then glanced down at his dress shirt and fear slammed through him.

“Kian.”

He sat up fast, forcing Lina to stand and give him room.

Daven ran into the living area to find their glasses of wine still sitting on the table they used last night. Digging his fingers into his hair, Daven looked around the hotel room.

Kian had really left.

“Daven,” Lina said, following him and he whirled on her.

“Why are you here?”

Lina moved to perch on the edge of the closest armchair.

“Kian’s gone back to the Serpent.”

The Serpent, meaning Raja Securities, fear lodged deeper in his chest. He had hoped that Kian was maybe going on the run, maybe taking on some crazy idea to hide…but going back to the people who made him—

Was that the reason they spent the day together yesterday?

Kian saying, ‘We should make memories…’

“Oh God,” Daven shook his head.

“They have Taewon,” Lina said, fear clear in her eyes. “It was my fault. I fell asleep and when I woke up, I found Taewon had detoured to Geneva because of a news report. One minute we were arguing in the car, the next, he was on the line at the airport determined to get here.”

Lina shook her head, pushing hair out of her face, her fingers trembling.

Daven forced himself to pay attention to what she was saying.

“Geneva?” Daven asked.

“Yes, keep up, Daven.” Lina scowled at him. “Taewon wanted to board a flight to the Netherlands. Raja Securities men grabbed him off the line. They don’t know me, so they didn’t touch me. But God, seeing them take Taewon, being unable to do anything.”

Daven cursed under his breath, remembering Kian’s odd reaction after seeing the stopped tracker. Kian kissing him, then urging him to go get his clothes from the car.

“He knew,” Daven cursed. “Kian knew and he didn’t tell me. Instead, he made us traipse all over the city—”

Daven let out a string of curses and rushed back to the bedroom. He needed to call Winston.

Lina followed him.

“Kian left you a message.” Lina held up a folded paper. “I found it on the table with the wine glasses. He insists you head back home. I’m supposed to make sure you board a flight to California, take you to a Naomi’s house and make sure you stay.”

“Fuck no.” Daven removed the white shirt he wore and threw it on the bed. He needed to find the phone, and start making calls. “I asked him not to make decisions for me, but here he is-, hell no.”

“It’s dangerous to do different, Daven,” Lina said, her tone too somber.

Daven stopped looking for the phone, sparing Lina a glance.

She looked…defeated, like a deflated balloon.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Daven asked. “Aren’t you worried about Taewon?’

A flash of anger raced through dark eyes and he felt relief. He needed her on his side.

“Don’t start an argument with me,” Lina hissed. “I’m going out of my mind not knowing where to start. With Kian shutting me out, I’m left with taking care of you. I’m beyond worried, Noland. I’m pissed.”

“Great, at least we’re on the same page,” Daven said, realizing Kian had taken the phone. “I can handle pissed, Lina. We’re going to need it to get through the next few hours. I’m afraid my damned boyfriend is going to get himself killed. I can’t let that happen.”

Not now, Daven thought grimly, right when he discovered a love he wanted to keep. He was not going to let Kian ruin it by going off to die.

Daven took a clean t-shirt and jeans from his bag, then hurried into the bathroom. He took a quick shower, letting the hot water sober him. When he was done, he dressed fast and entered the bedroom.

“I’m not going to California,” he stated, when he found Lina still standing where he left her. “Let’s get that straight first.”

“It’s your life.” Lina shrugged. “Saves me time. I need to track Kian and Taewon down. Finding Raja Securities is hard. I’ve only ever heard of them.”

“I can help with that,” Daven said with a slow grin. He hurried to his bag and packed up essentials. “Kian is not the only one with plots up his sleeves. We need to find a disgruntled UN official. I need to go do some groveling, you’ll help.”

“I don’t grovel,” Lina stated.

“Touch luck,” Daven said, slinging his duffel bag over his shoulder. He paused by the bedside table to take the keys to the car Kian gave him. “We’re going to need to turn into world class groveling champs to get the help we need.”

Walking out of the hotel minutes later, Daven paused at the front doors when he saw Winston leaning on a blue jeep. Winston pushed his dark eyeglasses up, and waved at him.

“Someone you know?” Lina asked, beside him.

“Yeah,” Daven said, elated and relieved. “Looks like we don’t have to search too hard.”

Lina followed him to meet Winston.

Daven stopped a few feet away from his friend.

“Are you going to say ’I told you so’?” Daven asked.

“Later, when you’re not expecting it. Who is this lovely creature?”

Winston righted his dark glasses, and turned his attention to Lina.

“Someone who doesn’t care for flattering comments,” Lina answered.

Daven bumped her shoulder.

“Be nicer.”

Lina scowled at him, then flashed Winston a small smile.

“Forgive her,” Daven said, patting Lina’s head. “This is Lina. She’s a friend.”

“You’re making all sorts of friends these days,” Winston teased. He turned a wide smile to Lina.

“Well, Lina, Daven’s friend.” Winston opened the back-passenger door and waved her in. “Ladies first.”

“Where are we going?” Lina asked.

“You’ll see,” Winston said, when she tossed her bag into the back seat and got in.

Daven got in the front, and shifted to look at Winston when he got behind the wheel.

“Tell me,” Daven said, hopeful.

Winston started the car, and didn’t speak until he joined traffic.

“First, let me ask, what changed your mind?” Winston gave Daven a skeptical glance. “You weren’t too happy when I suggested tracking him.”

Daven stared at boats on the canal with a frown. Yesterday, being with Kian, watching him laugh, seeing him enjoy every second of their time together, had made Daven feel uneasy. As though they wouldn’t have another chance to be happy.

“Isn’t it enough that I slipped the pill into his drink?” Daven asked.

“You did it in the afternoon,” Winston pointed out. “The tracker came online while you two were on the canal. You didn’t know he was going to leave.”

Daven remembered nervous energy coursing through him when he slipped Winston’s pill into Kian’s coffee on one of their stops off the boat. It was still a miracle that Kian swallowed it without pause. Daven had visions of Kian pausing to spit out the nude-colored pill, and holding it up at him with questioning eyes.

The relief and the guilt were in equal measure when none of that happened.

“Well, for whatever reason you did it, I’m glad.”

Winston tapped his finger on the steering wheel.

“You gave us time to set up our systems. He moved too fast when he left the hotel. We would have lost him without the tracker.”

Daven breathed out relief.

“Where is he?” Daven asked.

“Do you have your passport?”

“Yes.” Daven turned back to look at Lina. When she nodded yes, he turned to Winston, eager to find Kian. “Where are we going?”

“Japan.”


On his twenty-eighth year, as the summer came to an end, Kian returned to the valley of his childhood. He stared at the river flowing through the valley, not with a child’s gaze but that of a man. His soul no longer pure, but marred…stained irrevocably by the worst to be found in the human condition, tangled in deception, thievery and murder.

The young boy who had once lived here, running along the river chasing after goats when he could, and swimming in the river would think the worst of him.

Be afraid of him, Kian thought. Think him damaged and foul.

That boy would take one look at him and feel betrayed. For Kian had become exactly what his grandfather wanted. He made no effort to escape the disabling influence that was Seiko Raja. Made no effort to change his future, as that boy would have wanted him to when he was able.

Well, Kian sighed, testing the zip ties on his wrist. They were tight, his hands locked behind his back.

He had tried escape, Kian thought trying to appease that young boy’s memory. He went into a different world for four years. Moved across the globe, keeping away from Seiko Raja as best as he could. He had lived away from the life for four strange years, seen all that he could of the world.

Until Daven Noland.

The doctor with a good heart and green eyes that made him want to be good, want to remember his childhood dreams. Despite what Seiko Raja turned him into, he had used it for good, somehow. He was here now to keep a man he loved safe, and rescue another he cared for.

That mattered, didn’t it?

The young boy from the past would have to accept that much.

There was nothing to do about the rest.

“Did you miss it?” Seiko asked him.

Kian refused to look at his grandfather. His gaze remaining on the river.

“I thought you might,” Seiko continued, his tone pleased. “You loved this river. Whenever you went missing in the compound they found you here. Swimming, or sleeping on the bank. It was hard work to get you to forget those habits.”

Kian kept his silence. His memories caught between bitter and sweet. Thinking about his distant past, it was clear now, his grandfather taught him to hide his true feelings. Taught him that being free with his heart could cost him all he valued.

“Taewon brought those habits back, showed you how to rebel. I should never have insisted you take the Seoul contract. He ruined my work.”

“In the lifetime we’ve not seen each other, is that what you’ve thought about, Grandfather?”

“That, and how to punish you for leaving me,” Seiko said with a sigh. “Now that I see you in front of me, it hurts me to think of you in pain.”

“You never had such a weak heart before,” Kian scoffed.

“I said that it aches to think of you hurt, not that it won’t happen.”

Kian turned then to look at Seiko.

“I came quietly,” Kian said.

“You came after making a mess,” Seiko sighed. “The incident at The Hague has us in the spotlight. Quite inconvenient for us when we thrive on secrecy.”

Kian wanted to see Taewon, but he had known it would take time. Seiko had two burly men guarding Kian’s every step. On any scale, a scuffle with these two would leave damage. He needed to stay fit until he knew where they held Taewon. The fight to get Taewon out would take everything he had.

Everything, he thought with a grim sigh.

Returning his gaze to the river, Kian decided everything was worth the price. The least he could do for Daven, Naomi and her children. His sacrifice for their happiness and freedom was a fair trade.

The boy in the past would approve.

Kian straightened his shoulders, letting his gaze roam the lush valley he once loved.

“Ah…Grandfather, has age turned you into a reminiscing fool? Why are we in a compound I haven’t seen since I was seventeen?”

“I brought you here to remind you of your roots.”

“Sounds like sentimental crap.”

“Pushing my buttons?” Seiko asked with a chuckle.

“Am I?” Kian asked.

“Don’t bother. Kian, coming home has a price. Raja might be yours but you gave it up once. I’m going to punish you for that first,” Seiko said, nodding to the two men. “Take him inside. Make preparations to find what I need from him.”

Kian kept his expression blank, even as the two men grabbed his arms and led him toward the main compound. His grandfather wanted to teach him a lesson, draw out his anger, and Kian refused to give him the satisfaction.

Kian let the men holding him do the work. They practically carried him into the bunker-like building used to hold captives and traitors. Surgical light in every corner, the floor concrete, with only thin mattresses placed in the middle of the three cells walled with thick glass.

Taewon stood in the middle cell staring at him in shock.

Kian grinned in relief as Taewon pounded the thick glass door, tears spilling down his cheeks.

The two men holding Kian paused outside the thick door of Taewon’s cell. A buzz filled the room and the door slid open. Taewon stepped back as the two men pushed Kian into his cell. The glass door slid closed and Kian stood before Taewon.

“Why?” Taewon demanded, wiping tears with the back of his hand. “I made the mistake. You shouldn’t have—”

“Taewon,” Kian said with a small smile. “You’ve gotten thinner. Why aren’t you eating?”

Taewon scowled and pressed his palms on Kian’s chest.

“Bastard. Idiot. I thought you had a brain. Why are you here? What are you doing here, Kian? Why?”

Kian let Taewon vent for a minute, then stepped closer to Taewon. He met frightened dark eyes and wasn’t surprised when Taewon pulled him into a tight hug, then hard sobs followed. It took five minutes for Taewon to calm down. When he did, Kian sat on one side of the thin mattress, legs folded, his hands still locked behind him.

“Aren’t they going to free your hands?” Taewon asked.

He sat across Kian, restless and nervous. His eyes blood shot from all the crying.

“They have us locked in a cell. What do they think will happen?”

Kian looked at the corner, where a camera was mounted on the outside of the cell.

“They’re afraid I will cause damage.” Kian frowned at the camera sure that Yui was watching him. He turned to Taewon. “I’m going to get you out of here, Taewon. Do you believe me?”

Taewon looked around the thick glass walls of their cell. He was in a thin t-shirt and jeans. They were dirty, and it was obvious he had not gotten a chance to clean up. He shivered, rubbing his arms, unsure of Kian’s words.

“Taewon.”

Taewon looked at him, and Kian held his gaze.

“Do you trust me?”

Taewon nodded.

“Say it,” Kian said, needing Taewon to believe him.

“I trust you, Kian.” Taewon gave him a wan smile. “I’m sorry too. For making you come back here.”

“It’s not your fault,” Kian said. “I was bound to come back. Can’t keep running forever.”

“Kian.”

There was fear in Taewon’s voice. No hope in his eyes.

“If you look at me that way, I’m going to wish I still had kissing rights with you.”

“Don’t you?” Taewon asked, a phantom smile curving his lips.

Kian thought of Daven then.

The heat of their kisses, their bodies tangled together, Daven’s love washing over him…his heart ached at the thought of never feeling it again. Meeting Taewon’s gaze, Kian shook his head.

“I see you faced your truths,” Taewon said, with a wistful smile. “Does our handsome Daven with a bleeding heart love you back?”

Kian chuckled.

“Why do you call him that?”

“He is a doctor, Kian. One that relied on your brand of skills when his work landed him in trouble. I’m guessing he’s going to keep your life interesting.”

Kian studied the mattress, remembering Daven’s pleading gaze as he fought the sleeping pills the night Kian left.

“I drugged his wine, told him I cared and that’s why I was leaving him in a strange bed in some hotel. I’m a bastard.”

“You are a bastard,” Taewon agreed with a chuckle. “Gosh, I bet he’s angry with you.”

“He’ll be angry for a while, but he’ll go home to his family.”

“You wish,” Taewon said. “He’s not me.”

“Huh?”

“I said your Doctor is not me,” Taewon said.

Kian frowned.

“When you brought him to Paris, he hid in the bathroom, talking about people dying in the middle of an African desert. I figured a guy able to stand up to that could take on a man like you, Kian. He’s strong.”

“You are too.”

“I’m not,” Taewon said, staring at the glass walls around them. “This is breaking me already. I’ve cursed myself a billion times for not listening to Lina. She must be so worried. I left her—”

“Taewon,” Kian said, his tone gentle. “Lina is with Daven. She’s safe.”

“I left her.” Taewon’s eyes filled with tears and spilled down his cheeks. “She loves me and I left her like you left me.”

Kian stared at Taewon in shock.

“Do you know painful that is?” Taewon scoffed. “Of course, you don’t. You have no idea how hard it is to worry about someone you care about. Otherwise, you would not have stayed away from me the way you did. Poor Lina, she probably can’t think straight because she’s blaming herself.”

Kian kept his gaze on the mattress aware there was nothing he could say that would make Taewon feel better. Stuck in a cell together, any assurances would sound empty.

Kian lifted his head.

“Taewon, do you wanna kiss me? I’ll let you do it, if it will make you feel better.”

Taewon scowled at him.

“Do I look that pitiful?” Taewon asked, anger replacing the dejection. “Kian Raja, don’t think I’m a desperate fool in need of your pity.”

“Pity? Why should I pity you? I’m told I’m a pretty good kisser. Daven loves kissing me—”

“Are you boasting right now?”

“I’m only pointing out, that I’m sorta trussed up here,” Kian said, indicating his tied hands. “If you wanted to take advantage…I’m helpless to fight you off.”

“Helpless,” Taewon scoffed, shaking his head in a laugh. “You’re about as helpless as a shaved lion.”

Kian smiled then, glad to see Taewon’s mood changing. He locked away the sight of Taewon laughing, then Kian’s shoulders tensed when he saw two guards walk in. The glass doors opened and Kian got to his feet fast, Taewon following suit.

Kian moved in front of Taewon to guard him, but the two men were not interested in Taewon. They grabbed Kian’s arms, and dragged him out of the cell.

“No matter what,” Kian said to Taewon, stalling the two men from dragging him out. “I’ll get you free, Taewon. Do you hear me?”

“Kian—”

“Trust me, Kim Taewon.” Kian ordered, and allowed the two men to take him.

Kian turned to watch the glass doors slide closed. Taewon stood staring at him, fear in his eyes. Kian decided it would not be for too long. The cells would be the safest spot for Taewon right now.

Kian took in a deep breath, vowing never to see fear in Taewon’s eyes again.


Tied and gagged, Kian gripped the armrests on the reclined chair, his gaze on Yui who paced around him. Her arms held behind her back, every bit the wicked mistress in a red dress and heels that he could use as weapons.

“You kept him alive,” Yui mused, her gaze on a screen overhead, placed there so that Kian could see it even while tied to the chair.

They were watching the surveillance feed into Taewon’s cell. Taewon paced the length of his cell, running fingers through his hair, agitated.

“You fooled everyone,” Yui said with a sigh. “He must have been a hell of a lay for him to change you the way he did.”

Kian couldn’t talk. Yui’s friends had gagged his mouth with a black ball that tasted like burnt plastic.

“I love a good romantic story,” Yui confessed, stopping to face him. “I really do, Kian, and yours takes the top. I never imagined a soft bone in your body. This weakness is a surprise. I’m a generous woman. I will give you two choices. One, I torture him to get answers from you, or two, I torture you, and you agree to give me answers.”

Kian stared at her.

“What?”

He rolled his eyes.

She frowned and then chuckled.

“Right, you need your mouth.”

Yui stepped up close, and spent a few minutes undoing the ball gag in his mouth. She placed it on a table behind Kian’s head, and grinned.

“I have idiots for minions. What a pretty mouth you have,” Yui said, her thumb sliding over Kian’s bottom lip.

She leaned down and licked his lips, the sensation annoying him.

“I always wanted to do that. When you first came to Raja Securities, you were young, bright, untouched. It was wonderful watching you get corrupted by each mission.”

“I thought you wanted answers from me.”

Yui met his gaze, her hand dropped away from his lips and she frowned.

“Why did you let him change you?” Yui demanded. “Why?”

“Taewon knows nothing. Using him against me is useless. He and I haven’t been together in years.”

“You saved him.” Yui smiled. “That’s enough to use against you, Assassin.”

“What do you want?” Kian asked, his tone bored.

He tested the ties on his arms and legs, tired of getting tied, cuffed and locked down.

“Your grandfather says you have an important piece that could destroy Raja Securities. Any chances that you’ll just give it to me free and clear?”

“Is that why you have me tied to a chair?”

“No. I like tying you down. It makes me feel…,” Yui leaned over him. “Happy? No…let’s say powerful.”

“You like power, don’t you, Yui?”

“Very much,” Yui replied with a wicked smile. “I have plenty of it, thanks to your grandfather. Now, he says you have something that will take my power away. You understand how that spoils my day?”

“Quite,” Kian said, with a short nod. “Since we’re leaving Taewon out of this, why don’t we get on to the next part of the schedule? What kind of torture do you have in mind? Whipping? Removing teeth? Pulling my toenails? I think removing teeth his perfect. It’s painful, but you’ll be helping me reduce dentist charges.”

Yui’s gaze hardened.

“Do you think this is funny?”

“I hate this place, and I’m here. So, no, this is far from funny, Yui-san.”

“You’re too eager for the pain.” Yui shook her head. “This is the biggest problem with you elites. Your training killed the fear of pain and death inside you. Do you want to know why I put you inside Taewon’s cell?”

Kian bit his lip, afraid he had misread the situation.

“In your hurry to soothe your man, you revealed much about yourself,” Yui said with a smile. “More than I would have ever gotten with pain. That man,” Yui pointed at Taewon. “You came here for him. So, I might not torture him, but I can kill him slowly.”

Yui moved to a console on his right side, and Kian turned his head as much as the ties around him allowed. He watched her press down a red button, and twist on a regulator. His gaze hurried back to the screen. Taewon still paced in his cell.

“He won’t feel it,” Yui said, walking back to Kian’s side. “No pain, or torture, just poisonous gas putting him to sleep for good. He has twenty minutes, then he will have reached a point of no return.”

Rage soared, Kian wanted to rip Yui’s heart out with his bare hands. His fingers in tight fists, he fought against the bonds holding him into the chair. Shaking hard, his gaze on Taewon who was still pacing.

If Taewon could stop, Kian thought, desperate.

If Taewon could stop pacing, then he wouldn’t breathe it in too fast.

Yui moved into his line of vision, and hatred for her grew deeper.

“There’s a special kind of hell reserved for you,” Kian hissed.

“You too,” Yui replied, matching his tone. “Where is it?”

“Turn it off, and I’ll tell you.”

“You’re not in a position to negotiate,” Yui said. “Your grandfather would love that man dead. You’re the only one who cares if he lives or dies.”

Kian cursed under his breath, seeing the truth in Yui’s gaze. Closing his eyes, he wasn’t aware of the tears sliding down his cheeks until he tasted them.

“I’ll give it you,” Kian said, still struggling against the bonds around him. “Yui, turn it off, and I’ll give it to you.”

She studied him, her gaze filled with surprise.

“Just like that?” she asked, her gaze moving to Taewon who had thankfully stopped pacing, fingers pressed to his temple. “What did he do—?”

“Turn it off!” Kian ordered, worried. “If he dies, I won’t forgive you, Yui.”

Yui sighed and moved to the console. The red button went dim and Kian’s gaze went to Taewon who was now moving to sit on the mattress. Probably lightheaded…Kian knew he needed to get Taewon out of there.

“Release me,” Kian said, looking at Yui.

“You can tell me from there.”

“Actually, I have to show you. Hiding things from Raja is no easy matter,” Kian said with a slight smile. “Show me to a computer, laptop, or workstation whatever…”

Yui studied him for a moment, weighing his words. Then because she had no choice but to get the information from him, she came up to the chair and undid the locks on the ties holding him. When he was free, she stepped back, her hand swiping a gun from the table behind the chair.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Yui said.

Kian jumped off the chair, rubbing the red marks on his wrists left there by the strong ties. Shrugging the tension from his shoulders, he moved to the console, checking to make sure the poisonous gas would not release.

Turning to Yui, he smiled when she opened the door, and six guards walked in.

“Just in case,” Yui said, as the men surrounded Kian. “Take him to the Operation Center.”

Kian was glad she went out first, he didn’t trust her not to turn on the machine while he wasn’t looking. One last glance at Taewon on the screen, he allowed the men to lead him out into the maze of corridors. The Operations Center turned out to be a large round room in the middle of the building. Definitely larger than he remembered, a lot more staff at play.

Kian realized then that his grandfather had moved operations from the main tower in Tokyo to this compound. Elation swept through him sending fresh adrenaline coursing through his veins.

Yui’s men led him to a workstation in the middle of the room.

Yui pulled out a chair for him, her men urging him to sit with impolite shoves on his shoulders. Kian sat, scowling at them in irritation.

Imbeciles!

Staring at the keyboard before him, Kian looked at Yui then.

“Must you have this data?” Kian asked. “Why don’t you let Kim Taewon go? I’ll stay with grandfather for as long as he wants. I might even consider being the heir he trained.”

“Being the heir is your burden,” Yui answered. “I doubt you can push it aside much longer. As for that data you’re holding hostage, think of it as the only lifeline Kim Taewon has, without it, your boyfriend is dead.”

Kian sighed.

“Well, you shouldn’t have said it like that, but I understand.”

Touching the keyboard, the screen came to life and he got to work.

Taewon had helped him set up a very private server, needing to find a way to keep the Raja Securities package data safe. A small device could get lost at any time, or get damaged. The server kept many secrets, and he didn’t need to carry it around.

Kian smiled as he set about accessing it.

When he was in, he brought up the information on his screen.

Yui hissed, and he glanced up to see Yui’s face and personal information on the overhead screen. She hadn’t trusted him enough, and wanted his access into their own system monitored by her staff. No matter, their surveillance gave him a way into the Raja system.

“Toshio,” Yui called. “Check his information. Make sure we have it contained.”

“Yes, Yui-san,” Toshio called from Kian’s right.

Kian knew then that he had less than two minutes left. Toshio was highly trained, he would know what to look for, so Kian focused, his fingers typing fast. He searched out Kim Taewon’s information on the Raja Servers, and deleted it.

He killed the surveillance feed in Taewon’s cell. Taewon’s life needed to stay a mystery, forever if needed, after all, Taewon’s father was still President of a nation. Kian did not want to take chances with Taewon’s life ever again.

Kian then worked on deleting all information and surveillance with his name. With that in progress, he collected information on one Musimbi, who was currently in Geneva begging for aid. He compiled endless lists of deals with Raja Securities, weapon sales, assassination orders, including pictures, video and voice recordings.

Packaging it neatly in one report, Kian highlighted Raja Securities in other connected cases currently at work. The last thing to do was activate the connection created by Taewon on his private server to thousands of news portals online.

“Stop,” Yui said, her gun coming up to press against Kian’s left temple. “Your fingers irritate me. I’m nervous, Kian. What are you so busy doing?”

“Giving you complete access to my server,” Kian answered, his tone light. “I’m not tech savvy, it takes me time.”

“Toshio?” Yui called.

“We are good,” Toshio said. “His list of operatives is more comprehensive than our own. We’re going to need complete access to his server to contain it—”

“Get on with it,” Yui said, pushing her gun harder into Kian’s temple.

Kian scowled at her and started sending out packets of information around the world. Raja Securities’ secret power was obscurity. Kill that, and their power diminished.

No more hiding, Kian thought. No more assassination jobs. Dropping his hands away from the keyboard, Kian pushed his chair back, and met Yui’s gaze.

“It’s done,” Kian said.

“Toshio?” Yui asked, looking to Kian’s right.

“Yes, we have access,” Toshio answered his mistress, sounding pleased.

“Great,” Yui grinned. “Take him to meet Master Raja. I’m sure they have much to discuss.”

“What about Taewon?” Kian asked, as Yui’s men helped him up.

“That is a topic to discuss with your grandfather, Kian. It is no longer my place to touch Kim Taewon.”

Kian dropped his head and hid a smile as Yui’s men led him out of the Operations Center.

Now the hard part, he thought.

Finding a way to leave this compound free of Seiko Raja.


Daven glanced up from the book he read on his lap. Lina slept in the seat across him, a burgundy blanket wrapped around her. They were ten hours into their flight to Japan.

Winston sat with his team, making plans Daven didn’t understand. All he knew was that if their plans worked, Kian would be back with him, possibly.

The television on the wall overhead was on, tuned to an international news station.

The words ‘Breaking News!’ filled the screen, and the newscaster came on. Minutes later, the screen filled with scenes of Geneva police making an arrest. Daven got to his feet, moving to add the volume on the television when he recognized the man in cuffs.

Interpol has today arrested a prominent Somalian Activist at an NGO Aid summit in Geneva. Mr. Musimbi has been connected to a network of mercenaries, and is suspected of drug trafficking and murder. Investigators say there is evidence of Mr. Musimbi engaging in crimes against humanity in various Somali villages, we will keep you updated, as information…

Daven turned to find Winston pacing the aisle talking on a satellite phone.

“In relation to the Musimbi case, scrutiny has fallen on an elite private security company named Raja Securities. New information implicates the company in a slew of assassinations…”

“Winston,” Daven said, panic filling him at the thought of Kian who was at Raja Securities. “Shit’s going down, and we didn’t land yet. Is this part of the plan? Tell me this is part of the plan.”

Winston hurried to his side, gripping Daven’s elbow.

“My office called. Emails with attachments the size of a small planet popped in thirty minutes ago. Not just my office, but major media houses across continents. Our case blown wide open around the globe. Do you think this is something Kian would do?”

“It would be a last result,” Daven said, his knees weakening.

Kian would work to make sure Daven didn’t have to hide like Taewon, for the sake of Naomi and the kids. That no one would come after him, Daven gasped sinking into the closest chair.

Remembering Kian’s whispered words the night before.

I’m going to protect you. You have my heart, Daven Noland. Always will, no matter where I go.”

“He would do it to keep me safe,” Daven said, panic turning into blood-chilling fear. Did Kian think there was nothing else to live for? That all Daven needed was safety?

“I have teams at the ready—”

“What are you waiting for? Send them in now,” Daven said, meeting Winston’s gaze. “Do you think Raja Securities will forgive him for this? Do you? He’ll be dead by the time we land. I’m not going to bring back a corpse. Do you understand that?”

Winston hissed.

“You’ve gotten meaner since you met him.”

“Are you going to make the call?” Daven asked, pointing at the television. “That right there means Kian is in a sticky situation. One that includes him and possible death. Winston, if we land and he’s not breathing, I really won’t forgive you.”

Winston cursed under his breath and walked away, punching numbers into his satellite phone.

Afraid that he did know what Kian was thinking, Daven got up and hurried to Lina’s side. He forced back the urge to shake her awake, and instead, squeezed her hand gently. When she opened her eyes, she sat up.

“What?”

“You know Kian, right?” Daven asked, still holding her hand.

Lina frowned, pushing hair out of her face, her gaze moving around the busy cabin.

“Is something going on?” Lina asked. “Did we land?”

“Lina.” Daven squeezed her hand again and forced her gaze back to him. “Do you think Kian would give his life for the sake of keeping me and Taewon safe? Is that something—?”

“Daven, I would think you understand him by now. You know he would.” Lina pushed the blanket around her away. “What’s happened?”

Lina confirming his suspicions did nothing to calm him down.

Daven hated to think of Kian in pain, but dead—

Daven closed his eyes as Lina got up, hurrying to Winston’s side, when Daven wouldn’t answer her questions. He could not handle the thought of Kian dead. Daven breathed out, and then in, he stared out into a dark sky, and prayed.

“Keep him alive,” Daven whispered. “No matter what happens, keep him breathing, I can work with that. I can heal him, but you gotta keep him alive.”


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