The Assassin

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In twenty-eight years, the one thing Kian understood, clear and with conviction, was that darkness dwelled deep inside him. He embraced it, used it, nurtured it…because one could not crush life with a single twist of his hands and not have darkness swirling around the heart.

It turned him cold, made him efficient, and near hard to kill. Problem was, the men after him felt the same. Each one came at him without fear, determination in cold dark eyes. Kian retaliated, holding a knife in his left hand, his gun in his right. Damage was the key. Injure vital points, Kian thought, as many as possible, and the body refused to function. He fought dirty, using his gun while his assailants tried to stab him. He shot into knees, inner thighs, slashed. His right arm stung when one of them caught a lucky break. Kian shut out all else and concentrated on surviving.

Kian breathed out hard when he paused to find only one remaining. He stood in a circle of twenty operatives. Each one mortally wounded, unable to move. His clip had one bullet left.

The Seventh stood by his motorcycle, watching…. waiting. His behavior made Kian wonder, but no matter. Local police would descend soon. They were his easiest getaway.

Kian lifted his right hand, the gun pointed at the only man still standing from the horde of operatives. A young man, just joined the company, Kian thought. There was hunger in his eyes. Kian wanted to laugh. He’d forgotten, unlike him, the men and women who joined Raja Securities chose to enter the organization.

“Walk away,” Kian said.

“Bringing you in will earn me points,” the young man said, his fingers gripped his gun too tight.

Still green yet, Kian thought.

“Don’t forget I gave you a choice,” Kian said, aimed his gun just as the young man pulled his trigger.

Kian fired his bullet on the same path as the young man’s, their bullets met, damaging each other, turning useless. Dropping his now empty gun, Kian threw his knife, the sharp pointy end lodging into the young man’s chest, an inch away from his heart.

The damage would keep the young man down for a few months. If they got to him in time, and the idiot didn’t pull out the knife, maybe the pain would force the punk to rethink his life choices.

In the distance, sirens filled the silence. Bad decision to fight it out in front of the Central Station, Kian knew. Too many frightened pedestrians, easy access for local police.

Kian turned to face the Seventh, who still stood out of the fight, not making any move toward Kian. The idiots on the ground around Kian were expendable. Kian jumped out of the circle of injured operatives with grace. He had given none of them the chance to fire at him, one of the many lessons from his grandfather.

Never hesitate in a battle,’ Seiko would say, ’lest the bullet be lodged in your belly before you can blink.’

Kian scoffed. His taskmaster was cruel and right.

So, he wondered, what was with the Seventh, playing coy. He heard them, before they came into view, two black choppers, with the serpent logo on their underbelly. Kian cursed under his breath, hating the smirk on The Seventh’s face.

He broke into a run, contemplating going into the Central Station, but then the security team in there had locked the doors the moment gunfire started. Kian had no choice but to hit the streets. The two choppers carried Hunters: operatives who operated electro-magnetic nets.

Serious hardware, Kian thought as he heard the sound of one canisters fired. There was no escape once those cords wrapped around a body. He had never found an escape trigger, and he had tried to wriggle himself out of one while he still worked for Raja.

How clever of the Seventh, Kian thought.

The streets seemed empty, police rolled into the scene, giving chase when they saw him start running.

Up above, the choppers came faster, Kian ducked under a parked car as one of the canisters dropped on the sidewalk, missing him by luck. The nodes dug into stone, the net crackling with energy as it electrocuted the ground. Kian scrambled away from the car, kept running, crossing traffic without looking, jumping over road barriers. The choppers hovered above him, the hunters seeking a clear shot.

Kian removed his jacket, as it slowed him down, dropping it on the ground as he ran. Staying close to trees on the sidewalk, or hooded doorways. The next street he came across left him wide open. The police cars made a turn, their sirens ringing. Kian watched the helicopters follow their path, no doubt already sensing his plan.

Shaking his head at the insanity protecting Daven was driving him to, Kian stepped out onto the road, oncoming police cars screeching to avoid hitting him. He put his hands up and placed them behind his head. The police cars came to a halt in a circle around him, the officers jumping out screaming for him to surrender.

The choppers hang back as Kian knelt on the tarmac and police officers ran to him, pushing him to the ground.

“They arrested Kian,” Daven said, pacing the length of Winston’s desk.

Daven still couldn’t believe that Kian willingly walked into the police arrest. The incident was on every local television channel. The headlines called Kian an assailant.

“They’re calling him a mad man, Winston.”

Winston replayed a security video from the Central Station. In it, Kian fought twenty men, putting them down in under three minutes. The men had come running at him, and ended up lying in a freaky circle around him.

“He shot twenty men,” Winston said. “The police are not likely to release him without an investigation. Do you know what’s worse? No one is pressing charges. Absolutely no one, does that make sense? The police want answers—”

“I’ll give them,” Daven said, stopping, he braced his hands on Winston’s desk. “How can he get me to safety, and end up arrested?”

“You weren’t there to see how dangerous he is,” Winston said, his gaze hard. “He took down twenty men without flinching. If those choppers—

“What choppers?” Daven demanded.

“The black choppers,” Winston said. “They had the serpent logo on them. Your man saw them and took off.”

“Oh God.”

Daven walked around Winston’s desk to look at the laptop. He opened the files he had carted all the way from a Medical Camp in the middle of nowhere. The files Kian hadn’t known he carried. Daven opened one of the pictures on the screen and pointed at the black jeeps with the serpent logo on their sides.

“This logo?”

Winston gaped.

“Now do you believe me that they are after him because of me?” Daven accused.

Winston stared at the logo on the jeeps.

“You’re right and not. He made sure you weren’t at the scene,” Winston said, stopping the video to study Kian. “They might have been after you, but this,” Winston frowned. “They want him.”

Daven stared at Kian too. He had suspected all along that Kian worked for Raja Securities. After the story about Taewon, the doubt disappeared, still the thought of Kian working for Raja Securities left his stomach twitchy.

“He needs our help.” Daven stated, gripping Winston’s shoulders. “We need a ton of evidence to make a dent on Musimbi. Maybe he can help us.”

Winston winced.

“Is this your bleeding-heart speaking?”

“Yes.” Daven nodded. “If believing that will make you help Kian, then yes.”

Winston shook his head, and picked up the phone.

“I’ll see what we can do.”

Daven exhaled, hitting the enter button on Winston’s laptop to replay the video with Kian. His stomach tightened, watching Kian in action. Looked like the dodging bullets bit was real, Kian gave none of his attackers the chance to shoot back at him. How long would he have had to train to shoot so fast? To move that fast, to attack all those seriously trained men at once…and remain standing. Then there was the knife-throw at the end that made Daven shiver. The man in the video was different, not the Kian he’d kissed in an alley.

At the police station, Kian sat in a straight back, stiff metal chair, in a small room that made his skin crawl. He kept his head down, his hair a mess, hiding part of his face. Conscious of the security cameras in the room, Kian kept his gaze down, his hands fisted on the table. The handcuffs bruised his wrists, kept him put.

Outside, phones rang, police officers walked in and out of rooms, doors slamming, buzzing doors, loud and whispered conversations.

How long did he have? How much longer?

Kian closed his eyes, remembering the Seventh’s expression when Kian allowed the police to arrest him. It was a promise. Kian sighed. Well, it might be taboo to be caught by the authorities, but it beat being zapped by the nets. He didn’t need that kind of pain. Shaking his head, he plotted his next move.

Getting out of the police station…

The door opened and Kian looked up. Tendrils of fear snaked up his spine at the sight of the Seventh in a full suit with a briefcase in hand. Behind him was the Inspector in-charge.

“Your lawyer,” the Inspector said.

Kian scowled as the Seventh walked in and closed the door, keeping out the police officer. Fingers clenching tighter, Kian watched the man slide into the chair across him.

“You’ve kept me on my toes. I have to say thank you for keeping things interesting. This is the most exciting assignment I have had in a while.”

“Glad I entertain you,” Kian said. “Are you here to move this process along? I’m getting bored sitting here.”

“What is your plan?” the Seventh asked. “To run once I get you released? It won’t happen. Yui is determined to get you. You lost the organization a lot of money.”

“Do you always follow what Yui tells you?” Kian asked.

“It gets me what I want,” the Seventh said, sitting back, his gaze on Kian’s face. “She is going crazy over you. Who are you? I should have gotten the order to kill you, not take you in after such a stunt.”

“I’m above your pay grade.”

“Bullshit.” The Seventh scoffed. “There are seven of us in the Top Tier. You’ve decommissioned six of us, cleared out the highest paid, except for me. You should be dead.”

The Seventh frowned.

“I have heard rumor of an eighth operative. An unknown, meant to police the Top Tier.”

“Should you tell me so much about your organization?” Kian asked, looking around the room.

“No need to worry.” The Seventh smirked and patted his briefcase. “Our tech has improved. We are quite alone in here. Unless you count Yui, who is jacked in to my phone.”

Kian met the Seventh’s dark gaze.

“What do you want?”


“You won’t get me,” Kian said. “I’ll confess all to the foot soldiers out there.”

“It won’t hold.”

Nervous energy took Daven to the bathroom as the wait in Winston’s office drove him crazy. Winston promised Kian would be released into his custody, pending an investigation. Once that was done, Kian would have freedom to leave.

Daven let a sigh escape, anticipating seeing Kian again. He walked back to Winston’s office, and paused at the door when he heard Winston talking to a team of men.

“There are no charges brought against him. The video is the only evidence, as the victims have disappeared. The police are in a quandary,” one of the men said. “Especially now that a lawyer has appeared.”

“Fine, we’ll extract him from local police,” a second man said. “We have more than enough evidence on our side to hold him under investigation. Charge him with criminal offenses, the video is sufficient.”

“The lawyer must have come from Raja Securities. They will get him out and make him disappear,” Winston said. “We need to keep him somewhere they can’t reach him. This Kian is not an easy person to hold in custody.”

“There is a second option,” the first man said. “He trusts Dr. Noland.”

Daven froze, hoping Winston would shoot the suggestion down.

“Yes, he does seem to trust Dr. Noland,” Winston agreed. “Kian will cooperate in order to keep Noland safe.”

“How long do we hold him once we get him?”

“Indefinitely,” Winston said. “A man like that is a well of information. He is dangerous, well-trained, and if we play it right, he will lead us straight to Raja Securities and their clients.”


Daven frowned, leaning on the wall outside Winston’s office, his thoughts on Kian. Taewon had begged him to save Kian. Did this constitute as saving? Locking Kian up indefinitely, would that keep him safe?

Daven shook his head, and stared at the floor.

Kian who fought off assailants to keep him safe, escaped flying nets, and rogue cars. Kian who loved coffee, and an eccentric man whom he tracked on a phone just to know he was safe. Daven reached into his pocket and pulled out the white phone Kian had given him.

Once he entered the ICC hours ago, Daven tried calling Kian again, but the number refused to go through. He stared at the little dot on the map steadily moving south toward Italy. Daven wondered what Taewon would do in this situation.

“I couldn’t save him. I hope you manage it.”

“How?” Daven whispered, staring at the phone.

Putting the phone back into his pocket, he glanced into Winston’s office, saw them still deep in their plans.

Deciding those plans would only clip Kian down, Daven turned away from Winston’s office and headed down the corridor. He would go to the police station. Not that he knew what he could do to help Kian, but he had to try. He would not let it end this way.

“Hold on, Kian,” Daven murmured, as he took the elevator down to the parking lot. “I’m coming for you.”

The Seventh folded his arms against his chest. Kian fought a scowl. The Seventh’s confidence irked him. Which meant only one thing, Raja Securities had the Chief of Police’s weakness checked, probably the man’s family.

Kian’s record of arrest would disappear, and the Seventh would pull him out of the station, straight into a Raja Securities van.

“Okay.” Kian shrugged, the Seventh had him in a corner. “Say you get me out the door, what keeps me from killing you?”

“Your Dr. Noland might be safe right now, but he has a family back in Oakland. Those sweet, innocent children and the woman. I might have fun with her first. She’s beautiful, sexy—

Kian stood, jumping on the table in one move. He had his handcuffed hands locked around the Seventh’s neck even as the man pushed up to his feet. Kian held on when the Seventh turned around and fell back on the table, banging Kian’s back on the hard table. Kian bit his lip, absorbing the pain even as the Seventh tried to break his back again. Kian wrapped his legs around the Seventh’s waist, holding on, as the man tried to get him off.

The Seventh reached for his briefcase, and Kian tried to kick it out of the way. Tightening his hold on the Seventh’s neck, straining to control the taller man, Kian bit his lip when a hard elbow dug into his stomach. He grunted, his hold loosening, enough to allow the Seventh to reach for his briefcase. It opened, and the taller man grabbed a silver syringe.

Kian dropped his legs to the floor, kicking the back of the Seventh’s left knee. The Seventh stumbled forward, falling to his knees. His grip on the syringe remained tight, and Kian gave a harsh cry when he felt the needle sting into his left upper arm.

Kian used his cuffs then, pressing them against the Seventh’s throat. Using his weight, he put all the pressure he could around the Seventh’s neck and gave a harsh cry when he fell back with the Seventh’s dead weight on him.

His wrists stung, his breath came in short bursts. Kian closed his eyes, tired. Tired of running, tired of fighting, tired of dealing death. Freeing his arms from around the Seventh, he pushed the man’s dead weight off him, and opened his eyes.

Panic swept through him when his vision turned hazy. The contents in the syringe worked fast. Kian cursed under his breath. His hands moving over the Seventh’s body, he searched the man’s suit pockets for the handcuff key. He found it on the inside pocket in the suit jacket. It took him precious minutes to unlock the cuffs. Once done, he got to his feet, clinging to the table.

Now to escape, Kian thought, walking to the door.

He just needed to make it outside the police station. Better to pass out in an alley than in here. Calling on years of focus training, Kian opened the door and started the long journey through the deadly maze of a police station. One mistake and he would be back in custody.

His muscles felt like weighed-down lead when he found the locker room. His brain muddled and his vision blurry. He fought the darkness as he drew on a police jacket and pulled on a cap taken from an open locker. Coming out of the locker room, he used the wall to keep balance. He took one wrong turn, and almost gave himself away when he ran into four officers heading out. They walked by him talking fast, and he followed them. They led him to the exit.

Fresh air hit him hard but it wasn’t enough to stay the darkness. His steps faltered, and a gasp escaped when a strong arm went around his waist, holding him up. He started to fight off the owner of the arm, but even that seemed too much for his lead-heavy muscles. He lost the battle to stay conscious, and the darkness swallowed him up whole, along with fear at the thought of seeing the inside of Raja Securities and his grandfather again.

Twenty-Fourth Winter

“He is dead.” Kian lied, meeting Seiko Raja’s gaze. “Burned to a crisp in the yacht.”

“You dare lie to me?” Seiko narrowed his gaze. “What did that boy give you? He’s changed you, Kian. Turned you into a creature I don’t recognize.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

Kian stood rooted to the floor in his grandfather’s office. He forced every muscle in his body to relax, took steady breaths to control his heartbeat. His grandfather could read him like a book.

One mistake—

“Taewon is alive.” Seiko stated.

Kian fought the panic with ruthless control.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kian said, keeping his tone neutral.

Seiko stared at him, then got up from his chair, walked around his desk and came to stand before Kian. Kian met Seiko’s dark gaze, holding it, then his grandfather stepped back and hit him. The punch across his face was hard, heavy enough to make him stumble back. When his grandfather came at him with a second hit, Kian took it, allowing the force of it to drop him to the floor. Blood filled his mouth as the third hit had him biting the inside of his mouth, Kian pressed his palms to the tiled floor and he let out a harsh sigh when his grandfather cursed and stepped away from him.

“Mrs. Kim wired the amount last night. Forensics found Taewon’s DNA in the yacht’s debris. What did you use?”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Kian said, refusing to acknowledge his grandfather’s findings.

Seiko kicked him in the stomach then.

“You smuggled Taewon out of Tokyo, but we can’t find how. Taewon is in the wind, all because he told you he loved you. How pathetic does that make you?”

Kian closed his eyes, keeping his head lowered, not daring rise up when his grandfather wanted him on the ground.

Seiko crouched beside him and he felt gentle fingers touch his hair.

“Are you this desperate for love?” Seiko asked a sneer in his tone. “Isn’t what I have built for you enough? Don’t you understand the importance of your existence? You cannot have any weakness, Kian. You’re a Raja. You must always show strength.”

Kian kept still, not moving.

“You have your mother’s heart,” Seiko said on a sigh. “Weak and utterly useless, she never understood why you had to grow up the way you did.”

Kian refused to acknowledge his grandfather’s mention of his mother, his parents. His parents whom he didn’t know, who he desperately wanted to know, but could never. He feared them dead. Still, Seiko mentioned them every time he wanted to subdue Kian.

Not this time, Kian thought. Never again.

Taewon had given him strength to take back his own freedom.

Taking in a deep breath, Kian forced his anger, and fear back in to the deep box he hid in his chest. Wiping all emotion from his voice, and his face, he sat back on his heels and met Seiko’s gaze.

“Kim Taewon left me a gift before he died,” Kian said.

“He’s alive.”

Seiko narrowed his gaze, studying him.

“He died screaming insults to Raja Securities.” Kian shrugged. “He handed me a micro-flash holding information. All the operations carried out throughout the organization’s existence. He must have accessed our system when I was checking in. Everything is so well documented.”

Seiko’s gaze hardened.

“Where is it?”

“I kept it safe.”


“I’m leaving, grandfather,” Kian said, holding Seiko’s gaze. “You will not send operatives after me, or try to stop me.”

“Or what?” Seiko scoffed. “You’ll release that information to the authorities?”

“No authority will bring you down,” Kian said. “That I’ve known for a while. There are too many in office who owe you favors. What gives you power, is the heavy veil surrounding Raja Securities, and I’ll burn that veil down if you don’t leave me be.”


“I want a life without you,” Kian stated.

“You would dare do this?”

“I’ll do worse if you don’t let me leave.”

“He changed you!”

“Taewon opened my eyes,” Kian said, watching his grandfather rise to his feet. “He gave me another option—”

“He destroyed my work,” Seiko cut him off, bitterness in his every word. “If I find him, Kian, I will end him.”

Kian closed his eyes and bowed his head.

“Don’t talk ill of the dead, Grandfather.”

Seiko cursed under his breath.

“Where will you go?”

“Does it matter?” Kian asked, refusing to look at Seiko.

“Give me the flash,” Seiko said. “Give it to me, and you are free to do as you please for as long as you wish.”

Kian lifted his head, then. He knew Seiko well, knew that statement was bait, a test.

Getting to his feet, Kian wiped his mouth and shrugged.

“If I give it to you, you’ll send me back to the seventh sub-floor. As you’ve done every time I made a mistake. I’m not looking forward to a battle right now, so I’ll keep the micro-flash, Grandfather. Don’t wait up for me tonight. I won’t come home.”

Kian gave the man who raised him a short bow and turned his back on him.

He was at the door when Seiko spoke.

“When you come back to me,” Seiko said. “I’ll make you crawl, Kian. You will have to beg for mercy on your knees.”

Knowing his grandfather’s threat was real, Kian opened the door and left his grandfather’s office in a daze of fear and excitement…free for the first time in his life.

Until now….Kian thought as the fog cleared. His tongue felt heavy, and wooly. Kian swirled his tongue in his mouth, it felt like he had cotton in his mouth. He did not open his eyes, needed to keep the pretense of being under until he better understood his position. Gods, if Yui’s people had him, he was in for a battle and a half. His muscles ached, his head ached…miraculously, he felt…comfortable.

The mattress soft, the sheets caressed his skin like silk, the scent in the air clean. He frowned. Opening his eyes, he stared at the white ceiling.

A gentle hand pressed against his forehead, and he blinked when Daven’s face came into view. Elation flooded him, almost paralyzing him.

His throat too dry, the best he could do was stare into green eyes, his heart beating a mile a minute.

“You have been out for two days.” Daven brushed strands of hair away from his forehead, and leaned over him. “Gave me a fright when you passed out at the police station. I thought you were dead.”

Kian closed his eyes, and swallowed, hard. He rubbed his tongue against the roof of his mouth, finally getting rid of the taste of cotton.

“You?” he managed to croak out, his gaze on Daven. “How—?”

“You’re not the only one with tricks up your sleeve.” Daven gave a soft sigh, pressing a kiss on Kian’s forehead. “I upset Winston when I spirited you away.”

“Where are we?”

“Amsterdam,” Daven said. “In a hotel room.”

“Under whose name?” Kian asked, sure they needed to move.


Daven placed his hands on Kian’s shoulders when he would have moved.

“I paid cash, called in the reservation using a fake name, and checked in alone. No one knows you’re here.”

Kian closed his eyes relief making him feel weak.

“Doctor, you surprise me.”

“I know how to protect too,” Daven said, his tone teasing. “Kian, you’re hurt. A gush on your right arm, a cut on your left side, your back has dark bruises and I can’t tell what they injected in you without lab tests.”

“A sedative,” Kian murmured. “Powerful enough to bring down an elephant in two minutes. I have used it before on my targets. I’ll be tired for a few more hours yet.”

Daven started to get up but Kian held on to Daven’s right arm, stopping him.


Kian broke off because he didn’t know what he wanted. The relief that he wasn’t in Raja Securities custody was making him stupid.

“Can I get some water?”

Daven sat on the side of the bed and reached for a glass of water on the side table. Kian closed his eyes when Daven leaned over him, slipping an arm around his shoulders to help him up. Kian focused on drinking water, soothing his throat. Then his brain tuned to the fact that Daven wore a t-shirt and shorts, and held him too close

Kian rested his head on Daven’s left shoulder. He turned his face into Daven’s t-shirt, taking in his clean scent.

Daven placed the glass on the bedside table.

Kian forced his muscles into motion, curling in closer into Daven. Daven allowed it, wrapping his arms around Kian, holding him as though he held a child. How absurd to think of it that way, yet Kian drank in the comfort of Daven’s embrace. Daven’s presence dispelled the fear swirling in the depths of his stomach. His heart thundering in his ears when Daven pressed his chin on top of Kian’s head and rocked him.

“You took a few years off my life,” Daven confessed in the silence.

“How did you know to come to the police station?”

“The whole damn country watched you get arrested,” Daven said. “You made quite a sensation shooting up a storm at Central Station. I almost had a heart attack watching those helicopters hurl those nets at you. Jumping into tunnels, running in traffic…,” Daven sighed. “Can you not do these stunts again?”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have made it,” Kian answered.


Daven shook his head.

“Hiding is okay, Kian.”

“If I hide, they would find you,” Kian said. “They’re already threatening your sister in-law.”

“Naomi is safe,” Daven said. “I called her this morning.”

“Have her go on a trip,” Kian said. “Tell her to take the kids to some happy fun-filled place.”

“Why?” Daven asked, sinking fingers into Kian’s hair, he tagged Kian’s head back until Kian had no choice but to look at him.

“I met the man in charge of your contract,” Kian said, the darkness calling again. “I was contemplating letting him take me in, until he threatened your family. We fought. I don’t know how much damage I caused him after he injected me with the sedative. I can’t tell if I killed him or made him pass out. If he recovers…”

Kian sighed.

“I wanted to be able to keep Naomi safe for you,” Kian murmured, then drifted off.

Daven watched Kian sleep, his arms tight around him. Seeing Kian this way, asleep and vulnerable, unnerved him. This man who had fought off assailants, escaped flying nets, and been arrested for his sake…Daven traced a finger over Kian’s jaw.

No wonder Taewon had begged him to save Kian.

“What are we going to do with you?” Daven asked in a whisper.

Daven touched the corner of Kian’s lip. The red bruise small compared to all the others he discovered decorating Kian’s body. Daven pressed his lips to the small bruise, kissing the painful skin, the caress gentle.

Daven closed his eyes, savoring the feel of holding Kian, his thoughts returning to two days ago.

On the ride from the ICC courts to the local police station, two things set him on a different path, the same path as Kian, he supposed.

The first, he betrayed Winston.

Winston, who only wanted justice for innocent souls, and to put a deadly organization down, had wanted to take Kian into custody for the sake of their investigation.

Daven couldn’t bear the thought of Kian behind bars, indefinitely. He just couldn’t. So, he walked away determined to get Kian to safety.

Driving out of the courts was easy. No one cared about the ones leaving, Daven scoffed. The harder task was finding the police station holding Kian. When he did find the police station, he had stood outside wondering what to do next. Then as though fate was showing him the way, Kian walked out of the police station.

It was the cap, Daven thought. He recognized Kian because of the cap, the angle of Kian’s jaw. He had spent enough time studying Kian’s face on their ride into The Netherlands. Then Kian’s steps faltered and Daven panicked hurrying across the street, reaching Kian just as he started to fall.

“It’s me,” Daven said, when Kian started to pull out of his arms. “It’s Daven, Kian. Don’t fight me, or we’ll attract attention.”

“Daven,” Kian slurred. “Doctor, you shouldn’t…be here.”

“Have I told you I find it sexy when you call me Doctor?”

“Being watched…,” Kian continued as though he hadn’t heard him. “The Serpent…wants me…must get away.”

Daven hoped Kian was just paranoid as he walked them across the street to the car. Opening the passenger side, he helped Kian into the passenger seat. Buckling him in, he reclined the seat then shut the door. Hurrying around, he entered the driver’s side and started the engine.

Glancing at Kian, he panicked when he saw blood on Kian’s dark t-shirt. Pushing the police jacket aside, Daven pulled up Kian’s t-shirt and cursed when he saw the cut on Kian’s left side.

It was deep, bleeding.

Reaching in the backseat, Daven got a sweater he’d dumped there and pressed it against Kian’s side. The pressure jolted Kian out of the depths. Daven had to grab Kian’s hands as they reached for his neck, ready to fight him off.

“Kian.” Daven kept his voice steady. “It’s Daven. I’m not hurting you.”

“The doctor,” Kian slurred again. “Shouldn’t be here…Naomi in danger…must protect her.”

Kian passed out again, this time, turning lifeless. Worried, Daven pressed two fingers to Kian’s carotid, seeking a pulse. Relieved when he felt one, Daven covered Kian’s wound and drove out of the parking spot determined to keep Kian safe.

The second decision, Daven thought now, was Kian.

Stroking a finger along Kian’s jaw, tracing the small bruise on Kian’s lip, he sighed. Of course, he was the crazy bastard who decided to fall for a man who only knew how to get hurt and bruised.

Shaking his head, Daven shifted, and carefully helped Kian stretch out on the bed, making sure he was comfortable. Daven pulled the sheets over Kian, and got off the bed. Taking the phone on the bedside table, he walked to the windows, and dialed Naomi.

“We’re headed to Disney World,” Naomi said, when she answered the call. “You’re on speaker phone, Uncle Daven.”

“Uncle Daven,” Zena said, her voice full of delight. “Mom is taking us to see Mickey Mouse at his house.”

“And the Pirates,” Aram said. “Have you met a pirate, Uncle Daven?”

Daven couldn’t help the smile.

“No, I haven’t, Aram. Be sure to ask him about his gold teeth.”

“Argghh…aye, Captain, I will,” Aram said, imitating a pirate with a laugh.

“What will you buy me, Zena?” Daven asked.

“A magic carpet,” Zena said. “So you can ride it and come join us, fast.”

Daven pressed his face into the curtains, closing his eyes at the love the kids gave him.

“Will you come meet us, Uncle Daven?” Zena asked, her voice full of hope.

“I’m working on it,” Daven said. “I miss you guys.”

“Miss you too,” both Zena and Aram said.

“Can I talk to Mommy now?”

“Yes,” they both chorused.

A second later, Naomi spoke.

“We left early in the morning. I didn’t tell anyone we were leaving.”

“Good,” Daven said, his gaze going back to the bed where Kian still slept. “I’m sorry about this, Naomi.”

“Hey, don’t apologize. If this makes you come back home faster, I’ll do anything.”

“I’m working on it,” Daven said, though now he wasn’t sure he could make it back. What with walking out on Winston, and hanging out with an Assassin. “Naomi, even if I don’t make it home, I’ll make sure you and the kids are safe.”

“Don’t say that to me,” Naomi exploded. “Just don’t, Daven. I have three office spaces ready for you to check when you get back. I’ve even gotten a lawyer to help with the legalities of setting up your practice. Don’t you dare let me down, Daven Noland. Find a way to get back home, or so help me…”

“I’m sorry,” Daven said, his gaze still on Kian.

“I’m going to end this call now,” Naomi said. “You will call me in twelve hours, and I hope you’re more positive then. Stay safe.”

She ended the call with that and Daven took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

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