Daven stepped back fast. His eyes filled with panic.
Perhaps he should have been gentler in his introduction. Still, it was always good to keep the truth in the open. Daven was an assignment. His mark. Given to him by the deadliest organization in existence. Their relationship had to be clear.
“I’m calling the cops,” Daven said, starting to head back to the house.
“That would be a mistake.”
“Two people are dead in the mall. You killed them. I ran because I was worried about my family. Now here you are—
“If your family still worries you, then you shouldn’t call the police. Police tend to make the situation messy.”
Daven stopped and turned to look at Kian.
Kian smiled, hoping to reassure the taller man. Daven’s green eyes filled with more panic and confusion. The man seemed on the verge…of a breakdown.
“The men you worry about have been moved by now,” Kian explained, with a small frown. Yui would make sure no one discovered the assassins. “Their deaths, concealed. I cleaned out all CCTV footage. No authority will believe your story.”
Daven took another step back.
“You’re wary of me.” Kian understood now. “I’m sorry if I make you uncomfortable. I can only give you facts.”
“What facts?” Daven asked in a whisper. “You said—are you going to kill me?”
“I have saved you three times.”
Kian considered that truth. He hadn’t meant to butt in, but watching Daven laugh in that food court, he had felt compelled to stop the janitor. At the cost of his own freedom, he grimaced, a freedom he valued above all else.
“The damage is done,” Kian said with an inward sigh. “Why would I kill you now?”
“But you said—”
Daven broke off, and wiped a hand down his face.
Kian looked at the windows in the house beyond. The curtain in the living room moved and he tagged his cap lower over his forehead.
“She’s not my woman. She’s my sister in-law. Her kids, my nephew and niece. I have to keep them safe no matter what. Do you understand? They can’t know about this!”
“You would deceive them?” Kian asked, noting that the woman in question was now watching them openly. She had pulled back the curtain and didn’t care that he saw her.
“Then you should introduce me to her,” Kian said. “Tell her I’m her new neighbor.”
“Hell no,” Daven looked horrified. “I don’t know what game you are playing, but you need to leave. Go and don’t come back. I want to forget we ever met.”
“That will be difficult,” Kian said. “I really am living next door.”
Kian lifted his left hand and waved at Naomi. She returned the wave after a moment of hesitation.
“When you are ready to learn more, find me there.”
Kian pointed to the ranch house on Daven’s left.
“Not as fancy as your house, but home for the last week.”
Daven’s eyes widened and Kian stepped closer.
“Don’t worry,” Kian said. “I’m your assassin. No one else is allowed to kill you, Daven Noland.”
Kian squeezed Daven’s shoulder and then crossed the grass patch between the properties to his driveway.
The couple who owned the ranch house had won a three-week getaway to a luxurious hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii. They hadn’t stopped to wonder which one of them entered the draw. Kian smiled as he reached the ranch house’s front door.
Kian glanced back at Daven and frowned when he saw the man still standing on the end of the driveway, staring at him. He gave Daven a small nod and entered his borrowed house.
Now, to get through time in Suburbia.
Kian groaned and dropped into an overstuffed couch. He hated remaining stagnant. Hated the possibility of Yui finding him, again. After what he had done at the mall, she would not be gentle with him.
An assassin next door, Daven scowled.
The last three months came to mind, and he bit his lower lip. The idea was not over reaching. The devious Musimbi had clout. Strong, unbreakable clout that could plant an assassin next door, in California.
Daven cursed his need to see Naomi and the kids. He had thought no one would notice him here. He should have gone underground until his obligations with OPT ended as he had been advised.
Daven gave up the walk, and headed back to the house.
“Who was that man?” Naomi asked, when Daven entered the house.
“Your new neighbor,” Daven said, keeping his tone light. “Did the couple who used to live there sell?”
Naomi frowned, then snapped her fingers with a small smile.
“Oh yeah, like two days after you showed up, the Jacobsons left on a surprise holiday. Imagine, they won a three-week holiday to Hawaii. How cool is that? Before they left, they came by and asked me to help out the house-sitter if he needed anything. He seems nice.”
Nice was not a word to describe this Kian. Daven remembered the scene at the mall and felt his blood pressure rising.
“I’ll be upstairs,” Daven said, heading to the stairs.
He needed to make a call.
“Well, I’m in the den. The kids are watching TV in the living room,” Naomi said. Her gaze followed him. She worried, but he could only smile at her. “Daven.”
He paused half-way up the stairs to look at her.
“Today was great,” Naomi said, giving him a bright smile.
“For me too,” he answered.
Up until the end, he thought, when the crazy appeared in the form of a deadly handsome Japanese man.
Naomi nodded and headed to the den leaving Daven to his grim thoughts.
Upstairs, Daven went in search of the black bag he had stashed in the closet on arrival. He found Naomi had left it on the shelf, untouched. She had simply arranged his new clothes around it. Daven took the bag to the bed. He unzipped a hidden side pocket and retrieved a burner phone.
Sitting on the foot of the bed, Daven turned on the small phone. One minute later, he speed dialed the only number in the contact list.
“Are you safe?”
“I’m alive,” Daven answered.
“Why do you call?”
“Bizarre incident that left two men dead in a mall, and a man who claims to be my assassin living next door.”
“That is not good. Can you leave?”
“Fuck, Noland, have I taught you nothing?”
“You told me to go where they would least expect me to be. Not many know about my ex-sister in-law.”
“Why aren’t you dead?”
The question was cold. Daven shivered at the implication.
“I don’t know,” Daven said.
Judging Kian’s skills in the bathroom at the mall, Daven had no chance against the man.
“The assassin introduced himself, said I didn’t have to worry. I called because that sounds insane. You promised to keep my family safe. I’m already risking so much.”
“Do find out more from the friendly assassin, try not to piss him off. Call me tomorrow, same time. I’ll have answers.”
The call ended and Daven threw the phone on the bed. He wiped a hand down his face and got up. Walking to the windows on his left, he opened the curtains and stared at the ranch house next door.
Daven Noland would seek him out. Of that, Kian was very sure. Daven’s brand of noble loyalty would force him to Kian’s door. Kian leaned his elbows on the kitchen table, his gaze on the handsome face in the laptop screen.
Daven Noland was hot merchandise. His worth: 2.5 million Sterling Pounds. Cause of death classified: Mandatory Ambiguous. Any hint of foul play and the client voided the pay load. If Daven set foot in the ICC, the payload was void.
Kian scrolled down to the security level.
Kian gave a short whistle.
Yui wasn’t joking when she said highly-classified. The contract was open to Tier 1 operatives. Raja Securities ran seven top tier operatives, plus one silent operative.
Seven, Kian thought.
That left three operatives in play, now that he had decommissioned four. Three deadly assassins who would come looking for the gorgeous man with dreads next door.
Kian frowned. He should cut his losses here. Daven knew he was in danger. The man could go to the authorities, or call in the people he was reporting to. Still…Kian closed the laptop and reached for the bottle of expensive Bacardi on the kitchen table.
The Jacobsons loved to drink. One of them had to have a serious drinking problem. Kian had discovered a stash of serious liquor bottles in the cupboard above the kitchen sink.
Taking the laptop to the kitchen sink, Kian doused the laptop in Bacardi. He struck a match and dropped it on the laptop. Fire ignited, immediate and hot, tipping the bottle to his lips, he drank a healthy gulp and watched the laptop burn.
Two more fiery sips and he poured the rest on the laptop increasing the intensity of the flames. The fire burned out and Kian turned on the water to help. There would be no tracking his access point now.
Kian threw the blackened mess in to a garbage bag. Washing the sink, he emptied the Bacardi bottle and put it in the garbage bag too. He was wiping down the kitchen counter when he heard footsteps behind the house.
Heavy steps trying to be stealthy, they came around to the mud room, which also served as the laundry room. The screen door opened and closed. Kian finished wiping the counter, and threw the wet napkins into the black trash bag on the floor.
“Who sent you?” Daven asked behind him, then a click.
“Put the gun away.” Kian turned to find Daven pointing a small revolver at him. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“The only person who’ll get hurt is you,” Daven said, his gaze hard, green eyes burning with rage.
Kian liked the fire in Daven’s eyes. However, the green fiery gaze, as handsome as it was, presented danger in the form of unpredicted behavior. Daven’s grip on the gun was sloppy, his hand shaky. His aim would be iffy, but the damage would be painful. Kian didn’t need painful wounds.
Better to take it slow with this one.
“Alright.” Kian leaned on the counter and folded his arms against his chest. “What do you want to do with that gun?”
“I want answers.” Daven looked around the kitchen with a frown. “Why are you here? Who sent you?”
Kian smiled again.
“I told you. I saved you. Second question, curiosity sent me.”
“Not good enough,” Daven said, his gaze rebelling against Kian’s answer. “What did you mean by, ’you’re my assassin’?”
“I don’t understand.”
Kian stared at Daven.
Had he not been clear?
“Who sent you to kill me?”
“The person who ordered the kill is not in the records,” Kian said. “You are worth a cool 2.5 million sterling pounds. You’re the second most expensive contract I’ve had.”
Daven’s green eyes filled with panic, again, and Kian wondered if he shouldn’t have mentioned the money part. Daven’s hand got shaky and Kian straightened. One mistake and Daven’s finger would press on the trigger.
Kian sighed, he needed to get the gun away from Daven.
Daven stopped and closed his eyes.
“Why aren’t I dead?”
“I saved you,” Kian repeated.
“Yes, I got that. Why?” Daven asked, his voice rising with frustration.
The more agitated Daven got, the shakier his hand got.
Kian had yet to figure out why he saved Daven, so he shrugged.
“Seemed like a good idea, at the time.”
Kian’s answer made him falter, distracting him from his line of questioning. His hand waved in the air, the gun shifting from side to side.
Kian did not want any bullet wounds especially with the top three on the way. Taking advantage of Daven’s momentary panic, he closed the distance between them, his fingers wrapping around Daven’s thick wrist. Kian lifted Daven’s right arm up to avoid any unplanned bullets and smoothly took the gun from Daven.
Kian stepped back and held the gun up, the hellfire end facing down and smiled at Daven.
“Don’t point a gun if you’re not going to use it,” Kian said. “Otherwise, it will be used against you.”
Daven’s gaze remained on the gun, fear clear on his handsome features.
Kian removed the bullets from the chamber, put them in his pocket and placed the gun on the kitchen table.
“You’re safe with me, Dr. Noland. Please, have a seat,” Kian said, indicating the chair he had vacated minutes ago. “We have a lot to discuss.”
“Why would I accept an invitation like that from a man who has confessed to wanting to kill me?”
“I’ve also confessed to saving you. Shouldn’t that count?”
Daven shook his head.
“I should call the police—”
“But you won’t,” Kian cut in, heading back to the kitchen sink. He took the clean coffee pot and half-filled it with water. “Coffee? I have a delicious Arabica Dark Roast. The scent alone will make you melt.”
“I don’t want to talk about coffee.”
The outburst was understandable, Kian thought, reaching for his precious can of coffee. Setting up the expensive coffee maker the Jacobsons owned, he measured the right amount for two cups and sealed the can tight. He busied himself with getting two mugs from the cupboard, watching Daven in the corner of his eye.
Daven paced for a moment, his hands at his waist, his gaze going to the gun that was now harmless. When Daven glanced at him, Kian focused on checking the coffee maker. Minutes passed and he was rewarded with two fresh cups of delicious dark roast. He smiled and turned to look at Daven.
“Sugar?” Kian asked, already sipping from his mug.
He never messed with the raw taste of coffee, much preferring the full-body taste, the smoky finish, and the caffeine kick racing through his system. He closed his eyes with a soft sigh.
“Have you not drank coffee before?” Daven asked, his voice full of marvel.
Kian opened his eyes and looked at Daven. His gorgeous mark was sitting down at the kitchen table, looking disgruntled and impatient. Kian smiled and took the second mug to Daven.
“I love coffee,” Kian said, unable to hide the pleasure of it as he sat across Daven.
Daven added a spoon of sugar into his mug, then placed the spoon on a napkin on the table. He sat staring at the coffee for a second.
“It’s not poisoned,” Kian offered with a grin.
“You’re fucked up,” Daven said, looking at Kian. “Talking about poison, assassinations, murder…what you did at the mall…that’s not normal.”
“For you,” Kian said, sipping his coffee.
Daven sighed and sat back in his chair, not touching the coffee.
“What do you want to talk about?” Daven asked, his gaze full of mistrust, a tinge of disbelief about the whole situation.
Kian studied Daven.
Then because he needed to make a decision, he crossed his arms against his chest and dropped the façade.
Daven sat up with a harsh inhale, his gaze more wary than before, fear growing in green eyes.
“What did you see at the Medical Camp in Dadaab?”
“How do you know about that?”
“My employer is thorough,” Kian answered. “The only information I don’t have is who wants you dead and the real why. There is a detailed list on how you should die and by when, and what should kill you, but no who, or why. Care to fill me in?”
“How can I trust you?” Daven asked, clearly not willing to give Kian the answers he wanted.
“You are alive.” Kian lifted his left brow. “That should be enough to earn trust points.”
“How do I know if I tell you the truth, you won’t kill me anyway?”
“Even I don’t know the answer to that question,” Kian answered.
The reasons why Daven had to stay alive were dwindling. Kian didn’t like trouble, and fucking with an ongoing assignment would send trouble pouring out of the sky. This, here, him sitting across Daven…he didn’t understand it himself.
“Have you heard of the Russian Roulette?” Kian asked.
Daven stared at him for a full minute, then nodded.
“Have you played it?” Kian asked.
Daven shook his head, no.
“Pity,” Kian said, his tone cold.
Daven gaped when Kian picked up the gun on the table.
Kian’s gaze was cold: brown and ice-cold. It chilled his blood. He rather wished for the man who had playfully offered him coffee. Had he met this Kian at the mall, he truly might have ran to the nearest police station.
“It is a deadly game of chance,” Kian said. “Were I to load one bullet, you would have one in six chances that I might shoot you. How do you like those odds?”
Daven swallowed hard, his palms getting sweaty.
“Ah, you should know,” Kian continued. “When I point a gun, Dr. Noland, I mean business.”
“You said I was safe with you,” Daven said, forcing his voice to remain calm.
“Yes, and I mean that too,” Kian said. “However, I must calculate the risks of staying close to you.”
“And you think me telling you the truth about what happened in Dadaab will help this situation?”
“Yes,” Kian said.
Kian reached into his pocket and got one bullet. He loaded the bullet into the cylinder, spun it, and clicked it back into place.
Kian pointed the gun at Daven and pulled the trigger.
Daven sat frozen in his seat at the click that filled the room.
Daven got up too fast, tipping his chair to the floor in a scramble to get away from Kian. His back against the kitchen wall stopped his progress, his gaze on Kian who sat quite calm in his chair.
Kian placed the gun on the table.
“Relax. I’m done proving my point.”
“That you have no conscience?” Daven asked, trembling despite his best efforts to remain calm. His mouth tasted bitter, fear gripped his lungs.
Kian crossed his arms against his chest.
“I will only tell you the truth,” Kian said. “You are marked for death, Dr. Noland. The organization I work for creates mercenaries. Efficient masters in the trade who leave nothing to chance.”
Daven didn’t move or acknowledge Kian’s comment. His gaze remained on the gun on the table.
Kian had actually pulled the trigger.
“Me, sitting here, talking to you,” Kian continued, his words important, but frightening to Daven. “Consider it your first shot in the game. Nod if you understand me, Doctor.”
Daven dragged his gaze away from the gun to Kian. The Asian man at the table threatening him looked too handsome to be this cruel. Kian hadn’t flinched when he pulled the trigger, not one flinch at the click of the gun.
“Do you understand?” Kian asked again.
“When I ask for information, give it,” Kian said, his gaze dark, threatening. “There are three men plotting the best way to murder you in your sleep. Unfortunately for you, they are quite good at their job. If you want to live, decide what path to take now.”
Daven breathed out his fear.
He needed to take hold of the situation if he was to survive. He thought of the months in Dadaab. Musimbi and his gang of merry men, how cruel they were to helpless villages. He had no doubt now that Musimbi was the reason Kian sat in that chair.
If so, perhaps—
Daven took in a deep breath and plunged.
“Your pep talk is frightening.”
“I don’t give pep talks,” Kian answered. “What did you see in Daadab?”
Daven swallowed hard, his gaze returning to the gun on the table.
“I won’t tell you,” Daven said, meeting Kian’s frightening gaze.
There were innocents depending on him, their lives more precious than his own.
Kian sat unmoving, his gaze hard to read.
Daven wondered if the man would attempt to shoot him again. He hoped not. Two minutes passed, then three…Kian still sat unmoving.
Daven started to worry he had pushed the limit, then Kian let a soft sigh escape.
“Going blind might be a fun option.” Kian glanced at the time on his wrist watch. “It will be easier to walk away if I don’t know the truth.”
“Will you help me?”
Kian chuckled and leaned his elbows on the table.
“I’ve confessed to being an assassin hired to end you. You’ve gone and refused to tell me why I was hired to kill you. Now you ask me to help you. Are you insane?”
“A little,” Daven said, hope blooming. “You said you saved me three times. Why not a few more?”
Kian stopped, stood fast and moved to the closest wall.
The lights went out.
Daven blinked in the darkness a few times, then saw Kian’s shadow move to the mud room. Daven didn’t hear the door open or close, he stood frozen against the kitchen wall for a full minute.
A frightened scream filled the air, jolting Daven into action. He raced after Kian. His heart in his mouth, bile on the tip of his tongue, he ran to Naomi’s house, jumping over the short hedge that separated the properties. He climbed two short steps to the side door, entered into a corridor and stopped short when he saw two men dressed in black from head to bottom run into the living room. Kian followed them, his speed prompting Daven out of his own frozen state. He raced after Kian, only to stop at the archway into the living room. One man was on the floor, a blood stain forming on Naomi’s cream carpet.
Kian had him in a chokehold on the floor, his arms tight around the man’s neck, unrelenting. The intruder scratched at Kian’s arms, then the fight went out of him and he stopped moving. Kian pushed the man off him and got to his feet. In the next minute, he was busy searching the two men’s pockets.
“They’re alive, just passed out. Find your sister in-law,” Kian said.
Daven felt cold fill him at the sight of the men on Naomi’s living room floor. He had brought this here. Brought violence into a house Naomi considered a sanctuary for her children. Nausea rose and he bent over, gagging.
“Keep it together, doctor,” Kian said, in a steady voice.
He worked steadily, amassing a small arsenal of weapons from the intruders.
“Go find the woman. I frightened her.”
Daven gasped, turned and raced up the stairs. He found Naomi crouched behind a small table, her arms wrapped around her. She was trembling in fear. Daven rushed to her, and pulled her into a big hug.
“Naomi,” Daven said, rubbing her back. “You’re safe.”
“Daven.” Naomi’s voice shook with fear. “We need to call nine-one-one. Thieves broke in—”
“Oh, Naomi, I’m so sorry,” Daven said in a soft whisper.
“Why are you apologizing?” Naomi asked, gripping his shoulders. “I’m so happy that you’re here. If you weren’t, I’d be crazy with fear.”
Daven broke off, guilt riding him hard. Naomi trembled in his arms.
“Why don’t we get you off the floor?”
“I need to check on the kids,” Naomi said, standing up when Daven urged her up. “God, my babies sleep here, Daven. I can’t believe thieves broke in to our home.”
Daven frowned when he heard sirens. Looking behind him, he expected to see Kian at the landing, but there was no one.
“Hear the sirens?” Daven assured Naomi. “It’s taken care of.”
Naomi gasped and latched on to Daven’s arms, her gaze wide with fear.
Daven turned to see Kian standing a few feet away.
“The police are on the way,” Kian said. “She needs to talk to them. Will she be alright to do that?”
“Who are you?” Naomi asked, her voice shaky, but strong.
“New next-door neighbor,” Kian replied.
Daven wrapped an arm around Naomi’s shoulders.
“Let’s go downstairs. All this talking will wake the kids.”
“They haven’t come out of their room,” Daven said, keeping his voice down. “Zena is too curious. She would have come out by now if she was awake.”
Naomi shook her head and slipped out of Daven’s arms.
“I need to know my babies are fine.”
She hurried two doors down the corridor and pushed open the children’s bedroom door. She entered their room and Daven turned to Kian.
“I thought you told me not to call the police?” Daven asked.
“That was then,” Kian said. “Now, this is the easiest way to keep your sister in-law safe.”
Kian pulled off black gloves Daven hadn’t seen him wear, and ran fingers through his hair mussing it up. He pushed the gloves into his jeans pocket and walked up to Daven. One moment, Daven stared into unreadable brown eyes, the next, Kian leaned up and locked their lips in a startling kiss.
Daven stood stock still caught between surprise and shock at the feel of Kian’s lips covering his. A burning heat raced down his spine when Kian sucked on his lower lip. Daven reached up to push Kian away, only to hold Kian in place. Then Kian ended the kiss as abruptly as it started, moving his lips to Daven’s neck. He sucked hard, making Daven groan, his cock hardening in an instant.
Naomi’s embarrassed cough behind him pulled him out of the lustful haze.
Kian stepped away, and gave him a small smile.
“To be continued,” Kian murmured, loud enough for Naomi to hear and headed downstairs.
Naomi raced up to take Daven’s arm, her apprehension momentarily gone. She grinned at him.
“You’re a fast worker,” she said, excited. “The house-sitter next door is hot. I see why you couldn’t keep your hands off him.”
Daven winced realizing what Kian had done.
When they got downstairs, Naomi clung to him when they met the two intruders now hog-tied with cords from the living room curtains. They were still passed out. Kian opened the door, to reveal two police officers.
“Now you get here.” Kian greeted them, his tone tinged with just the right amount of annoyance and relief. “Where were you a few minutes ago when the bastards broke in?”
“Sir, I’ll ask you to please calm down. Is anyone hurt?”
“Yes,” Kian said, stepping back as the police officers walked in. “The thieves. We caught them ourselves.”
“Is this your house, sir?”
“The house is mine,” Naomi said, taking up Kian’s argument. “And he is right. If it weren’t for Daven and his boyfriend, I’d be robbed blind by now, probably murdered in my sleep.”
Kian seemed to fade into the background after that as Naomi took over recounting her encounter with the two thugs. Daven kept seeking out Kian who stood by the fireplace, still, not offering any information. Having established his reasons for being in the house, no one bothered to ask him questions. The police officers called in reinforcements, the intruders were carried out of the house, unceremoniously.
Daven, and Naomi answered questions, and once it was established nothing was stolen, the police left.
“That was tiring,” Naomi said, closing the front door. “It’s almost three in the morning. Who wants a cup of coffee?”
“I do,” Kian said, already heading to the kitchen.
Naomi gave Daven a wink.
“I’ll go check on the kids. Why don’t you guys make the coffee? I’ll be right down.”
Daven sighed when she hurried up the stairs. Her heart so clear in her actions. Naomi was eager to have him tied up in Silver Close. If he fell in love with the next door neighbor, the better for her. He would find a reason to stay with her. Looking around the messy living room, Daven wondered what she would say when she discovered he was the reason those men had violated her home.
“Come on, Daven,” Kian called from the kitchen. “You look like you could use caffeine.”
Daven scowled at Kian, then glanced up at the staircase landing. Naomi was still with the kids. He hurried to the kitchen.
“Stop making so much noise. The children,” Daven admonished taking a seat at the kitchen table.
“Are still sleeping. Have been through the whole incident,” Kian said, opening and closing cupboards in search of mugs. He smiled when he found them and got three mugs. Glancing at Daven, he sighed. “You’re not happy with me.”
Daven scowled at him.
“My sister in-law and half a dozen police men think you’re my boyfriend.”
“Would you rather I told them I’m your assassin?”
Daven glanced to the kitchen door, afraid of Naomi walking in right then.
“Go with it, Daven. I rather liked kissing you. We would be good together.”
“Then what?” Daven scoffed. “You’d kill me in my sleep?”
Kian brought him a mug of coffee.
“Drink it, Daven. Your blood sugar is down. That has to explain your dead sense of humor.”
“This is no laughing matter.”
Kian took his own mug and leaned on the counter.
“Naomi is on her way downstairs. Sell my story, Daven. This is the best for her. In a few hours, you are going to break her heart when you leave this house.”