Mature (18+) Audiences. Contains bad words and sex-y scenarios.
From Episode 8:
He waited a beat, giving her enough time to get out of earshot, and headed to one of the paintings in the main living area. After a quick glance over his shoulder, he pulled it down off the wall, flipped it over, and detached a tablet. Right before he and Xara got caught up on the balcony, he’d gotten a message on his watch that said to check the image that had been sent.
He opened the attachment. There was an image of a man in sunglasses and a green tracksuit at a baggage carousel at the international airport in Honolulu. The next was him at an airfield, and it looked like he was chartering a small private plane.
“Mike?” Xara called.
He reattached the tablet and placed the painting back on the wall. “I’m coming, Xar.”
On the way upstairs, he grabbed a small black pouch from a compartment in one of the built-ins.
It was like they were kids again, back when they first moved to Texas, without children or responsibilities. Mike tossed back another flaming shot and leaned against the cushion of his seat, elbow propped on top. Across from him, in the middle of the dance floor, he watched Xara’s body movements as she danced. There were at least a couple hundred people in the nightclub, but the way the light spotted on her—and the way she made eye-contact with him with a lick of her lips—it was like she was dancing just for him.
Ant tore himself away from Val and came over to take a seat in the VIP section. Because of his father’s issues with alcohol, he rarely drank and when he did, he “only took a sip,” nursing the same glass of dark liquor for an entire evening. Mike didn’t like to be impaired because he never knew when he’d need more than a moment’s worth of clarity to keep the people around him safe.
Ant pointed to Mike’s glass. “I see fizz, brother. You drinking soda?”
Mike smiled, eyes still on Xara. “Yeah. The way this island is set up, I don’t need anything but sunshine, the beach, and my lady to get me right.”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
Ant held up his glass and Mike crashed his against it.
“But, really.” Mike tore his gaze away from his wife to address his friend. “You and Val have been parents for a while now. Has it changed anything?”
Ant drew a sip from his glass. “Some stuff, yeah. I mean, you don’t really linger anymore when you’re a parent. Me and Val, we used to go out to eat then take a walk somewhere after. I remember one time, and this was after we were already married, we sat on a park bench and talked until like two in the morning. On the occasions that we have her parents or my grandmother in town, we can do that, but it has to be planned. There’s no impromptu for us right now.” He took another sip. “And we didn’t get that much sleep in the beginning so we’d end up arguing about petty shit, you know? But, that didn’t last long. I’m not trying to be anyplace else but with my wife and son, so we made sure to sit down and get that worked out.”
A man Mike had noticed eyeing the women earlier was now closer to them than he’d been before. His blond hair was green beneath the lights and, from the open collar of his shirt and the thick chain around his neck, Mike could smell the cheap cologne across the club.
Ant went on. “Then there’s the times you come home and your wife’s on her belly in the middle of the living room talking to your son during his ‘tummy time.’ She’s smiling, he’s smiling. Or when, sometimes in the morning when we don’t feel like getting up yet and he’s already been fed, we sit him between us on the bed and just, I don’t know, be a family. I’m reading ABC books and saving fishing gear to my online shopping cart. It’s a balance but, for me, it always tips in the better direction.”
Mike finished his glass and tapped the bottom on his thigh. “Sounds nice.”
The man drew even closer. He was dancing with another woman with auburn hair, but every few seconds, his gaze landed on Xara and Val. He didn’t look like the man from the hangar picture, but that didn’t mean he still wasn’t some sort of threat.
Ant tipped his chin. “What’s up with ol’ boy?”
“You see him too?” Mike asked.
“He’s got a partner.” Ant pointed to another man across the room. “Dark-haired dude in the Mom jeans from 1989. You think they’re trouble?”
Mike smirked and scrubbed his chin. “Depends on what kind of trouble you’re asking about.”
“The kind that makes Xara call Val at three o’clock in the morning panicking but pays for the villa y’all are staying in.”
Reluctantly, Mike pulled his attention from the men. “Three o’clock?”
“You didn’t know?”
“No. What does she call about?”
“You dying. I don’t know all what you and your guys get into, but I don’t blame her. I mean, my job comes with its risks, but nobody’s firing bullets at me and there’s not a grenade in sight.”
“The grenades are rare.” Mike shrugged. “And, I’ll admit, I’m not handling that shit as well as I used to, not with Xara wanting a baby and all.”
A server walked into the section, swapped out their glasses, and left.
“Me?” Mike lifted the glass to his face and examined the contents. “I can see myself reading ABC books and buying fishing gear.”
Ant playfully punched him in the arm. “Man, whatever. Maybe baby tactical gear. A camo baby carrier.”
Ant lifted his glass to his lips.
Mike grabbed his wrist. “Don’t drink that.”
“The server, she’s not who we had before and it wouldn’t be enough time for there to be a shift change already. Plus, we’re in VIP. We spent money to be here and she doesn’t try to get us to buy a bottle? Wings? Something?”
Ant frowned at his glass. “You’re right.”
One of the men, the lighter-haired one, tapped Xara on the elbow. When she turned around, she smiled at him—a habit Mike noticed she and other women had because uninvited contact from large men often made them feel like danger would follow—and she tapped her wedding band.
The man shook his head.
She turned away from him, facing Val again, but he wedged himself between the women to demand Xara’s full attention.
Ant set down his glass. “Did that motherfucker just…? I’ll be right back.”
As Ant went to handle the blond man, Mike rose, made an arc through the crowd toward the darker-haired one, and tapped the man on the shoulder from behind.
“Don’t.” He shook his head. “Don’t even fucking think it.”
The man held up his hands in surrender. “I don’t mean trouble. We didn’t know the pretty women were taken.”
Mike was about to argue that they’d clearly seen them walk in with him and Ant, but then he spotted another face. A more familiar face. This was the man from the hangar, and he was over where they’d been in VIP, trying to discreetly glance at their drinks.
Mike made his way back over to their group and slipped his hands around Xara’s waist. She didn’t flinch.
“What if I was some random dude?” he whispered, his breath brushing over the curls at her temple. “You’d just let him grab on you?”
She leaned back into his chest. “I always know when it’s you, Mike.”
“Come on. Let’s go.”
“Where?” She faced him. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“I’m hungry and the service here is crap,” he lied, the man still in his peripheral vision. “If we leave now, there’s a little local restaurant not far from here where we can get some authentic Polynesian cuisine.”
She didn’t believe him, but he didn’t need her to believe him. Not right now. What he needed was for her to trust him.
“You’re right.” She nodded and, ironically, looked directly at the man. “Me and Val were just saying how the drinks weren’t that great. Hey, Val?”
“Right behind you,” Val said.
“Go with them,” Mike urged. “I forgot my wallet over in VIP.”
“Want me to stay?”
He pressed a tender kiss to her lips. “It’s okay, baby. I’ll catch up in a second. I don’t want you just standing here by yourself with these thirsty motherfuckers.”
Val took her hand and they headed toward the exit.
Mike doubled back, using the crowd once again for cover, and bumped into the man from the hangar. The man hissed and grabbed his arm, but there’d be no evidence of an injection. No bruise or incision. And, by the time he tore his gaze away from his arm and looked through the crowd, he would have already lost Mike.
Mike pulled out his phone, set a timer, and then went to meet up with Ant, Val, and Xara.
* * *
“Baby?” Mike nuzzled Xara’s neck. “Baby, you awake?”
She groaned, eyes closed. “No more, Mike. I’m sore.”
He laughed. “Okay. I’ll let you sleep.”
He crept out of bed, stepped inside the massive walk-in closet, and quickly changed into his gear. Considering the acrobatics and pure exhaustion he’d put Xara through a few hours ago—and the way he’d outlined that sexy ass dragon tattoo on her side with his tongue—coupled with their fun night and her full stomach, she’d be out until morning. All the way out. There were times she slept like a kitten which made it more difficult for him to sneak out, but he was pretty confident he’d be able to slip in and out unnoticed tonight.
After changing, he went to the patio balcony and rappelled down the edge to the ground. The descent took him in front of the main windows in Ant and Val’s room, but based on the position of their silhouetted shapes through the closed curtains, they weren’t going to be checking for him anytime soon.
He sprinted across the yard to one of the rentals he’d had dropped off, one of them a personal delivery engineered to emit as little sound as possible. That one, he’d had parked in a garage a little off the property. To Xara and their friends, it was a workshop they wouldn’t have any reason to enter. A workshop only housekeeping used for one reason or another.
As the car coasted quietly down the driveway, he pulled up the satellite system on the touchscreen. The device he’d placed in the hangar man’s arm indicated he wasn’t too far away, which meant the man had been tracking them when the medication inside the device had taken effect.
When he reached the location pinned on the satellite, he spotted a Mercedes that had run off the road. The front grille was currently dented by a tree, the hood tented. Hangar man was inside, blood on his face, eyes and mouth wide open. Mike had expected having to confront the man at some point, but after a quick check for the man’s lack of a pulse, it looked like that would no longer be necessary.
The Benz was an older model, so it probably didn’t have an emergency call system that would have been automatically activated.
He sent an untraceable alert to let emergency personnel know there’d been an accident. At the end of the day, it would look like this man had been driving under the influence, which had caused him to run off the road and meet his end with a tree trunk.
He went through the man’s things and found passports from seven different countries, all with different names.
He took everything.
Maybe one of them was an actual link to the man and he’d be able to use the information to link it all back to Mosvar. But if the little fuck thought he was about to ruin his and Xara’s vacation, he was in for a wild surprise. And if Mosvar thought, just because Argun was dead, he was done with him…then he was an even bigger fool than Mike had taken him for.
* * *
Xara heard when Mike’s shoes landed on the balcony floor. She heard the clinks and zips of him removing something, most likely climbing equipment, from the railing.
He went into the closet, there were more sounds, and then his warmth enveloped her from behind.
It was just as she’d expected, ever since the car ride.
Something was up.
The real reason he’d wanted to leave the club that night wasn’t because he was hungry. Someone had been there. Someone was watching them.
This job of his followed them everywhere, and she was about sick of it. Just once could there not be a scope aimed at her husband’s neck? Just once could there not be a red dot on his chest? Not even in fucking Maui?
He kissed the back of her head and dragged her closer.
At least, considering the way he touched her, he hadn’t killed anyone.
Episode 10 – Don’t Touch Her
“Don’t turn around.” He moved behind her. “He didn’t set it up right. You would have made it halfway through and when you got to that drop there,” he pointed across the way, “it would have come undone.”
“What?” She wished she could look at him. “Are you sure? How do you know?”
He laughed, but the sound held more darkness than mirth. “I do shit like this for a living, Xar. Why do you think I let his ass flirt with you?”