Terrence Moss. Conrad Harris. Gold Team Leader. Darius Hawthorne. The Vault. Juggling all these names would bother some, but for Darius, it’s business as usual. When he closes a chapter in his life, he leaves a name—and the people associated with it—behind. He’s managed to keep a few colleagues, even fewer friends, and no companionship through his forty-plus years… but that’s now changing.
The newest chapter of his life is bringing serious change: a stable home, a recovered identity, an unlikely family, and now a chance encounter with the one man Darius ever loved: Efrem Lahm. The reasons they parted are still valid, and there’s no way they can trust each other. But Efrem has already decided he won’t let Darius go… and Darius will have to decide if he wants to take a chance with his heart this late in the day.
SOMETIMES IN life, being a person’s protector translated into trivial situations like making sure they called when they got home safely after leaving your place for the night. At other times caretaking took on a more life-or-death connotation. Me looking after Trevan Bean was the latter, which was why I came along to what appeared, on the surface, like a normal everyday meeting with his fairly new boss, Marc Eastman.
“You know,” Trevan teased—he’d learned to do that over the course of our acquaintance—“having you come with me is like bringing a gun to a knife fight.”
“You’re saying I’m overkill?”
“Yeah,” Trevan said, grinning wolfishly. “That’s what I’m saying.”
Once upon a time, he’d been terrified of me. That had stopped years ago, which said more about me and how scary I wasn’t anymore than anything else.
It made sense. I was tired. Though I didn’t like to admit it, after twenty-plus years of killing for my country under the umbrella of the military, and then for profit as a private contractor, I was more than ready to quit. The chances of that happening, of everyone letting me quietly walk away, had been, originally, slim to none. As a rule, contract killers didn’t retire; someone retired them. The fact that I would be spared that was still very new, a blessing that had blindsided me. It wasn’t, however, only my good fortune. The man we were there to see was also reaping the rewards of my newfound lease on life. Had I still been thinking I had no future, I would have been far less patient with him.
When we reached the penthouse on the slowest elevator in existence and I exited, I counted five men in the room—not including Marc Eastman and his second-in-command, David Seta, who were sitting out on the balcony, Eastman on his phone. Conspicuously missing was Dean Fortney, Eastman’s muscle, the guy in charge of security. It looked ominous.
One of the men waved Trevan and me outside onto the balcony that looked out toward Ren Cen. It meant all those men between us and the door, but I was still pleased to have a great view of all the other buildings. It meant Ceaton Mercer, my number two, my guardian at meetings like this one, would have no trouble making sure Trevan and I remained healthy. Eastman had no clue whom he was truly dealing with. Sadly, that ignorance would end with this meeting.
Gesturing for Trevan to go ahead of me as I trailed behind him, I noted the sharp contrast between the white rugs, furniture, and walls in Eastman’s home and the black overcoats Trevan and…