Contains bad words and sex-y scenarios. Mature (18+) audiences only.
Note: In order to remain compliant with Amazon’s K/U legal requirements, I have to limit TDK online to the first 3 chapters.
Read the book here.
Giorgio dragged Joel by the gear strapped to his chest out of the way of falling debris, and then tossed him over his shoulder. Joel hung with his arms and legs dangling, unconscious, as they maneuvered through the crumbling building. They hadn’t seen the attack coming. The area, supposedly, had been secured, but Julien picked up the RPG headed their way at the last minute. At this point, Giorgio didn’t know if the entire team had been able to escape the roof and walls caving in on them.
To make matters worse, his comm links weren’t working, his sat phone was destroyed, and he wasn’t sure if the liquid running down his arm was his blood or Joel’s.
For the last several months, Julien had been telling Central, the singular unit responsible for the coordination of their missions, that all signs pointed to Central being compromised. Central had assured them of no such thing, citing that their missions were completely sealed above even country leader security clearances.
However, they’d been compromised before.
It was how Gage’s parents and younger brothers had been killed.
Giorgio navigated through the building’s dark hallways. Their objectives had included landing them right in the middle of the Syrian Civil War. With the millions who’d been displaced since the start of the war, they’d been contracted to lend some help to the rebel groups who had boots on the ground in the middle of the conflict as well as to help with civilian rescue.
Four hours after getting to their rendezvous point, they’d been attacked, which told him everything he needed to know.
This wasn’t about war. This was about them.
Another loud blast shook the floor. Cracks in the walls brought in extra light, but it was pointless if he didn’t have eyes outside. The entire building could be surrounded.
Gage’s voice suddenly came through the device in his ear: “Big man, you there?”
Giorgio stopped when he came to a large room that looked like, once upon a time, it had been a ballroom of some sort. The remnants of a massive chandelier sat in the middle of the destroyed opening. Once polished marbled floors were now cratered and crumbled. The only structures that remained virtually completely intact were the archways opening up to the grand space.
He lowered Joel to the ground and tapped to respond. “Da. I hear you.”
“Thank God, mate.” Gage’s voice was muffled by static, but his relief was still evident. “You alone?”
“I have agent.”
“I’m with Huang and Dez.”
Joel groaned, and Giorgio checked his arm where he’d felt the blood. There was a wound there, probably from the piece of metal he’d felt go through him after the first blast, but it wasn’t serious. It wouldn’t be enough to stop him from going home to Bez and Little Fish.
Gage’s relief transformed to urgency. “We’re trying to find Julien. He was the closest to everything. Ari would kill me if…Jesus. How the fuck did this even happen?”
The blasts gave way to the sound of automatic weapons.
Giorgio brought Mo’s face to mind and allowed her image to linger. “You are where? I am southeast. Is room like Cinderella. In story, where she dance with prince.”
Godmother Irina had told him Russian fairy tales. Vater had made it verboten and instead ordered her to tell only the ones written by die Brüder Grimm—The Grimm brothers—because of the brothers’ German heritage.
She’d ended up telling him both but had used English when teaching him about the Grimm tales, which was how he’d started learning the language. Now, he told the stories to Aleksi. All except for Baba Yaga. His Bez didn’t like Baba Yaga.
“Oh, the ballroom,” Gage said. “We’re close. I remember from looking at the building layout that there’s some kind of bunker near there. You know it’s rare for us to go somewhere where we can’t plan a subterranean exit strategy.”
Gage’s voice picked up like he was running. By now, the rest of the team would have heard the bullets. Julien was alone and, even if he was uninjured, he wouldn’t be able to defend himself against that many assault rifles. If anything happened to her husband, Little Ari would kill them, especially since he’d promised her he would protect Julien right before their very first assignment.
Joel darted up to sit, his body jackknifing, reached for the gun strapped at his waist and aimed it in Giorgio’s direction.
Giorgio didn’t flinch. “U tebja vsë v porjadke?”
They’d been around him long enough to know when he was asking if they were okay.
“Fuck.” Joel glanced around, his face covered in caked dirt and dried blood. “Fuck. What happened?”
“Bomb.” Giorgio tilted his head to indicate the blasts had come from the air. “You are not critical, da?”
Joel pushed to his feet, arms and legs shaking, and leaned against one of the columns that opened up to the ballroom for support. The gun dangled at his side. “I don’t think so.”
Footsteps caused them both to turn around. Gage, Dez, and Huang appeared, clothes torn with gashes across their heads and crimson stains of varying sizes on their bodies. When the trio looked up and saw them, they smiled like they were all the picture of perfect health.
“On the way, I heard from Julien,” Gage said, nearly out of breath. “He’s in the bunker. We’re not far from it.”
Gage led the way. Joel had taken some kind of projectile to the leg, which he hadn’t realized until he’d tried to take a step, so Giorgio continued to carry him through the halls until they came to an opening in the floor that had once been covered by heavy rocks. Had it not been for the explosion, they would have never been able to get through it in their current states.
They lowered into the hole, Dez and Huang helping Joel to the ground. Giorgio brought up the rear, and they followed the narrow path until the first sliver of light came through.
A figure appeared in the stream of light, gun raised. Then, the person fell to their hands and knees, and Julien’s low and quiet, “Thank God” echoed throughout the narrow cavern.
The end of the tunnel led to the middle of a wooded area several kilometers from the turmoil at the falling building. Outside, close to a dozen jeeps were lined up around the exterior of the building. Some had men sitting in the back, their forearms leaned against mounted guns. Black flags waved in the wind from the front of the vehicles.
“We have to keep going,” Julien said. “I don’t have any way to jam their signals, nothing. We’re pretty much sitting ducks right now.”
Now that they could see him, they could see the bloodstains still visible in his dark shirt. His blond hair was matted to one side of his face. His breathing was labored and his eyes bloodshot red.
“I’m okay,” he said before anyone had a chance to ask. “Nothing serious. I already checked. Just hurts like hell. It’s not like I look worse than any of you.”
“I can get us an extraction,” Huang piped up.
“How far?” Dez asked. “We’re more than likely still inside these guys’ perimeter. Whoever the hell they are.”
“Not far, but it will be tricky without any tech.” Huang tipped his chin in Gage’s direction. “We only have your gut right now, so let’s hope it can still pick up landmines and attack dogs and shit.”
“Didn’t your lady tell you to stop cussing?” Joel asked, breaths still heavy.
Gage studied Joel’s frame. It was usually a good sign whenever he was still trying to provide comedic relief, but it was obvious the man was in serious pain.
He ticked his head. “Let’s go.”
They walked through the woods until they came up to a two-lane road. A jeep with a matching black flag had been perched, alone, as some kind of blockade, but Gage made easy work of sniping the driver and shooter.
Almost forty-eight hours later, they were in a location not known even to Central.
Huang had arranged for a clandestine extraction to a luxury villa in Mykonos. Gage and Dez had done what they could to patch everyone up since none of the injuries were serious enough to risk trusting an outside party coming in. Luckily, none of Joel’s wounds had included damage to any major organs or blood vessels, but he was still in a world of pain.
They were brought a large dinner of dolma, eggplant moussaka, Greek salad, souvlaki, baklava, and wine, but none of them could eat. Not when, in those forty-eight hours, they hadn’t made contact with their families. It also didn’t help that Julien had forgotten to cut off communication with Ari, so she’d likely overheard when the projectile hit the building.
Giorgio left his untouched plate, grabbed a tablet, and relocated from the main house to the roof deck overlooking the blue Mediterranean waters of the Aegean Sea.
“I got it a secure line,” Julien suddenly yelled throughout the house. “We’ll only have a few minutes, but that should be enough to do a quick check-in.”
Giorgio only heard one half of the sentence. He was already staring at the screen in his hand, waiting. When his Bez’s face appeared, he felt an unusual sensation in his chest. He didn’t recognize it, but he knew it had something to do with missing her.
“Gio? Gio! Oh God.” Tears filled her eyes. “Baby, are you okay?”
He searched her face. Her eyes had somehow gotten browner, more beautiful. It seemed impossible for anything about her to become more beautiful. “I am okay. There was problem. Is not safe here so we will come home.”
The right side of her mouth pulled into a dismal smile. “It’s never safe where you guys are so, if you’re coming home, it must be really bad.”
He took in the unfamiliar scenery behind her. She was sitting on a bed, but it was neither at their house or Gage’s. “Bez, where is Aleksi?”
She lowered the screen to where their son was cradled in her arms. “He’s right here. He’s asleep.”
The feeling in Giorgio’s chest returned. “He is beautiful, Bez.”
“Yes.” She lifted the screen back up to her face. “He is.”
“Ja skučaju po tebe.”
“I miss you too, baby.”
“Now, you will tell me.”
Surprise flashed over her face. The injuries she could see on his face were bad enough which was why she was withholding something from him; she didn’t want to add to his current pain. But she was his wife, his partner. His reason. Nothing he’d been through was more important than their safety.
“A woman showed up here looking for Auserwahlte,” she revealed. “She said she’d be back. For Aleksi.”
Giorgio’s grip nearly cracked the device’s screen. “And who the fuck is this woman?”
She adjusted so he could see both her and Aleksi in the frame. He still didn’t recognize the backdrop. “I’ve never seen her before but she spoke with a German accent. She got away. I’m sorry. But, it’s only because—”
“No excuses, Bez. You are safe. This is only thing that matter.”
She nodded, the tears creating streams over her cheekbones. “You don’t look good, baby. How bad is it?”
“I am coming home to you, Bez, èto jasno?”
“Yes.” She nodded again, wiping at her eyes. “Loud and clear.”
“If I have no heart,” he thumped his chest, “it does not matter. You and rybka, you are more important than my life, èto jasno?”
She hated when he said things like that because, just as important as her life was to him, so was his life to her. But she’d blessed him with much more than he’d ever be able to return.
“Bez.” He growled her name. “If there is problem, you do not keep from me. Even if you can handle, we handle together.”
The video stuttered signaling they were losing the connection.
“Bez, I am here.”
Her fingers tapped the screen. “F-uck. Not n-now. Pl-ease.”
“Bez, you are where?”
“If y-ou can still h-ear me, w-e are at t—”
The screen went blank.
Giorgio cursed and tossed the tablet, the throbbing in his muscles nothing compared to the rage he felt that someone connected to Vater thought they could threaten his son.
Mo and Giorgio are from the book, “Angels and Assassins: The Dark Knight.”