Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2), page 22
“Xander, step away from that door. You’ve cheated death enough today. You stepping out that door and firing the last ten bullets in those pistols will do Viktor and Jack no good... Xander...”
Xander looked at Sam, then back to the door.
Sarah leaned forward and placed her hand on his arm. “Xander, please don’t. You’ll just be unnecessarily putting us in danger too.”
Xander knew she was right. He knew that Viktor and Jack were capable, and he knew there was nothing he could do to help.
For once, he let that be enough.
Peyton Manning’s Got Nothing on Xander King
As the jet backed away, Zhanna stepped in between Sarah and Xander, taking Xander’s attention with a worried look.
Her face held no expression. “You’re certain?”
“By my hands. I don’t leave doubt.”
Zhanna nodded. Her face slumped into concern.
“Your father?” she asked.
Kyle stood and looked at Xander, full of worry and concern. The plane jerked and started forward. Xander rebalanced and looked at Kyle.
Unlike Zhanna, Kyle didn’t need Xander to reconfirm. He knew it was over. His heart broke for his friend. Never in a thousand lifetimes when they started this journey of searching for the person who killed Xander’s parents had either of them ever fathomed it would end this way. Kyle didn’t say anything, he knew words could never suffice. He just wanted to be there for his friend.
“Uh, Xander! We’ve got company!” Bob shouted from the cockpit.
“Get us out of here Bob, let me worry about them.”
The plane lurched forward and the engines screamed. Xander regained his balance, and as if the captain had come over the loud speaker and announced the Grand Canyon could be seen out your right side windows during a flight over Arizona, everyone in the G650 rushed to get a look at what was coming. In the distance, as Xander peered over Sarah’s shoulder, the rising sun was shining on a topless Jeep Wrangler, military green, pulling out of the now wide open hangar door. The fire was still coming from the chain gun in Viktor’s helicopter, but Xander knew it couldn’t possibly have much ammunition left. It was also distracted by the few soldiers that were left beside the hangar, leaving the Jeep an open run at their plane, free from fire.
“That fucking twat!” Sam shouted from her seat by the window. She was peering out at the oncoming Jeep, somehow she had found a pair of binoculars.
“What?” Kyle asked.
With a stone cold killer look, Sam looked over to Xander. “Melanie. I never did like that bitch.”
She wasn’t joking. The two of them never seemed to mesh. Must have been some sort of primordial female instinct Sam had been tapping into.
“I’ll kill her!” Sam launched herself from her chair. Kyle caught her.
Xander tried reasoning as the plane began picking up speed, not far from the runway now. “Sam, we can’t stop this plane. What are you going to do? Jump out, shoot her, then jump back in? You’re starting to act like me.”
“I’ll run from the plane and leave her a little present.” Sam produced a hand grenade from her back belt loop. “A little souvenir I found in a bin outside the hangar.”
“Then what Sam? We go all Star Trek and beam you up to the jet? Bob is talented, but he’s no Scotty, and this plane is fancy, but it doesn’t have the technology of the Starship Enterprise...yet.”
Sam looked defeated. Xander knew how badly she wanted to end Melanie for turning on them. Xander would just be happy with getting everyone he loved in the air safely. He thought for a moment about how that was very much unlike him. Playing it safe. Had things already begun to change?
The Jeep was gaining on them. Close enough now to where Xander could see Melanie’s short black hair blowing in the wind. Two men in the seat behind her.
“Bob?” Xander shouted, glancing back between the window and the cockpit.
“I see them, Xander. Turning onto the runway now. Time to buckle up!”
Everyone heard Bob shout at them to buckle up, but no one listened. They all remained huddled around the windows, nervously watching as the Jeep grew closer. As the jet turned the corner onto the runway, the Jeep took an angle that if timed right, they would be within shooting distance around the middle of the runway.
“Bob!” Xander shouted once more.
Bob answered without words. The engines went into full thrust, throwing everyone back in their seats, and Xander to the floor.
“We’re not gonna make it!” Kyle shouted.
Xander picked himself up off the floor. The plane shot forward like a rock out of a slingshot. As it approached the position of the Jeep, it turned parallel and drove ahead of them in the strip of grass that separated the tarmac from the runway.
“Xander, why is that man standing—what is that in his hands?”
Xander knew without looking. The last thing Viktor had said before their call ended a minute ago was something about a rocket launcher. Melanie must have picked him up before racing toward them.
“Xander! They’ve got an RPG! I’m gonna have to veer off—”
“Just get us in the air, Bob!” Xander cut him off. Then he turned to Sam.
While everyone else looked at Xander like he was on fire, Sam didn’t hesitate. She tossed him the grenade.
“Xander!” Sarah was horrified. Kyle’s face crinkled in the way it might if the devil himself were standing in front of him. Zhanna, like Sam, knew what Xander was doing.
Xander rushed passed the first row of seats. “Get up!” He screamed at Kyle who was seated by what Kyle didn’t know was the emergency exit window. In a split second, Xander had decided on the emergency exit window, instead of the door. Once they had taken off, there was a possibility that the hydraulic door would not shut, forcing them to land. Chancing the fact that someone could once again catch up to them. The emergency exit window, however, manually popped inward, and could easily be shoved back into place once they were clear of the Jeep and rising to cruising altitude.
If they could get clear of the Jeep.
As Xander pulled the release, just above the window, and the window released slightly toward them, Xander could see the Jeep just on the side in front of the wing. The man in black, hoisting the rocket launcher onto his shoulder. There were a million things that could go wrong here, Xander knew it, and any mistake would end in all of them dying. Whether it be from the rocket, or by the very grenade he held in his hand. He also knew that if he didn’t throw the grenade, they were certainly dead. The G650 was a big ass plane. It would take a blind man to miss its back end with a rocket launcher from anywhere inside of fifty feet.
With the grenade dangling from his mouth by the pin held in his teeth, Xander took the now visible handles on the left and right side of the emergency exit window in his hands, jerked it out of place and handed the removable window and attached panel to Kyle. Wind from the near one hundred mile per hour streak down the runway filled the cabin and the roar of the engine just outside the open window screamed back at them. So loud that when Xander pulled the grenade from his mouth, the pin still in his teeth, he couldn’t hear Sarah scream in horror as Xander began to cook it off in his right hand. He glanced at Kyle. Kyle stared at the grenade like it was a bullet that had already left a gun that had 40,000 knives and an evil witch attached to the end of it.
“Now, Xander!” Sam screamed from behind him.
As if someone hit the slow motion button again, seconds to Xander felt like minutes. He was at the count of three in his head. The jet had really picked up speed now, the nose of the Jeep had just disappeared from sight. He could no longer see the man holding the rocket launcher, but he could feel the man’s finger wrapped around the trigger, getting ready to squeeze. The nose of the jet began to pull upward.
Now or never.
These were not normal circumstances.
The suction of the Rolls-Royce engine, just to the right, outside the open window would be strong enough to suck in just about anything while running at full throttle as it was then. Couple that with the force of the wind blowing back toward it, even a fifty yard throw might not make it around the engine. The fact that Xander had drop down and heave the grenade side-arm to get it out the window took at least twenty yards off his maximum throw. He had no choice but to try.
With everything inside of him, an animalistic roar from his lungs, the tendons and muscles in his arm and shoulder bending to their furthest reach, Xander brought his arm forward, released the grenade, sending it through the window at fastball speed, exactly two seconds before Xander expected it to explode. Slow motion turned to fast forward, and in one second the grenade skipped off the wing of the plane, out of suction range of the engine—YES!—dropped quickly out of sight—YES!—and less than one second later they heard an explosion, just as the back wheels of the plane lifted off the ground.
“YES!” Kyle shouted, hands raised from the seat in front of Xander. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
“Yes?” Sarah screamed in the form of a question as she white-knuckle-clutched the seat underneath her. Then—“Yes!”—as the elated look on Zhanna’s face said they were clear. Not to mention the obvious fact that their plane hadn’t been blown to smithereens.
Two seconds later, as they all roared cheers of—we’re alive!—excitement, they heard an explosion in the distance, off the left side of the plane. Surprised, they looked at each other for a split second, then rushed over and looked down out of the rear windows to see an explosion cloud of black smoke pluming toward the sky in the middle of an empty field. Jack would later explain to them just how close the rocket had come to clipping the rear end of the plane, and how the explosion moved the line of fire just enough at the very last moment. He would go on to say that he and Viktor’s view from the helicopter as they were pulling away was quite spectacular. “Down right amazin’,” to quote him exactly. He also would mention that Viktor shouted Xander King’s praises for the entire excruciating four hour helicopter ride back to Ukraine.
While watching the black smoke fill the air for a few moments, they all let the fact that they had just completely cheated death wash over them. And as everyone hugged each other with the hugs that only survivors of a near-death experience could enjoy, Xander popped the emergency exit window back into place and collapsed into the adjacent, white leather chair.
He didn’t so much as fidget for well over six hours.
Six hours later, it wasn’t the rustling of movement around him, it wasn’t the hum of the G650’s engines, and it wasn’t even turbulence that finally woke Xander. Instead, it was the sweetest scent in the entire world that roused him from the depths of exhaustion.
It took him a couple of attempts at opening his eyes before his lids actually lifted and, when they did, his stomach screamed and his mouth watered when he saw a mini pizza, a can of Coke—condensation still sliding down its side—and, of course, a magnificently beautiful bottle of his very own King’s Ransom bourbon. He hadn’t thought about food in a while, what with all the little distractions of the past two days, but now it was apparent that he had never been hungrier in his entire life. He glanced to his right and the cabin of his plane was filled with people whom he cared for most in the world. Short of his family, these people here were pretty much it for him. Sam glanced over and noticed Xander waking.
“Cheers old boy, I thought you might fancy a little sustenance. I would have made you something else besides pizza, but I’m not sure you actually like anything else. Not to mention, the only thing you stock the freezer with, is well...pizza.” She gave him a warm smile.
Xander ran his hands up and down his face and smiled back.
Before Xander could answer, Kyle popped his head over the back of Xander’s chair, mussed Xander’s hair, and handed him a Red Bull.
“Now, it’s the perfect meal.” Kyle smiled.
Xander’s heart was full in that moment. Sarah walked up and took a seat beside him. Her smile was as bright as a flash photograph in the darkest of caves.
“Dig in, sleepy head.” She rubbed the back of his hand. “I managed to patch up your leg while you were sleeping. The bullet must have just grazed you, but it opened up the fresh scar tissue from the bullet you took on the yacht. That’s why there was so much blood.
Xander glanced down at his bandaged leg, gave it a reassuring wiggle, and picked up his plate.
“Thanks. Wow, I was really out.” He acknowledged everyone as he pulled the first slice from the individual sized pie. Even though it was just a frozen pizza, the first bite may as well have been the greatest bite he’d ever taken. They say your taste buds are muted at high altitude. In that moment, Xander couldn’t find an ounce of truth in that statement. He knew the weight of what happened in Russia with his father would settle over him soon, but until it did, he was going to do his very best to enjoy what was in front of him.
“You guys get any sleep?” Xander asked with a mouthful of sauce, crust, and cheese. Sarah poured him a drink and everyone gathered around him with a drink of their own.
Sarah answered, “We all dozed off for a bit. I think it was the showers that really helped us feel better.”
“Shit, I bet I smell like a subway tunnel.” Xander laughed as he wiped his mouth.
Kyle raised his glass, Zhanna, Sarah, and Sam did the same.
“To Xander. Best friend,” he gestured from himself to Sam. “New friend,” he nodded toward Zhanna. “And lover friend,” he nodded toward Sarah. Sarah turned the shade of a fire truck and smiled the smile of a thirteen-year-old girl who just got passed a love note from her crush. Xander couldn’t help but smile back at her beautiful aura. Kyle continued, “I know the last couple of weeks—hell, the last ten years—have been tough, but I just want you to know that we are here. Whatever comes next for any of us, we always know that you have our back, and we just want you to know that it has meant the world to us to have your back, too. We love you and we are excited to take the next steps of this crazy life together. Cheers, brother.”
Kyle clinked Xander’s glass, and everyone else followed suit, agreeing whole-heartedly with Kyle’s words.
“Thanks, Kyle.” Xander took a sip of his King’s Ransom bourbon and Coke. The sweet mixture tickled his mouth and brought saliva to his jowls. “I can’t thank all of you enough. I’m sorry that I made my personal vendetta everyone else’s problem, but my life will forever be better because of your help. Zhanna,” he took her eyes with his, “we don’t know each other very well, yet, but I thank you for getting me inside your father’s compound so that we could do what we both set out to do. And I hope we can get to know each other better soon.”
She gave him a nod. “I do as well, Xander. Believe me, it meant as much to me as it did you, what happened back there. Thank you.”
Xander nodded, then looked at Sarah. “Sarah, you came out of nowhere. Next to Sam, you are just about the baddest woman I’ve ever met. The way you handle yourself in the heat of things is truly inspiring. Not to mention how miserably gorgeous you are.” He winked.
“Me?” Sarah smiled at him. “Xander, I don’t think there is a woman alive that has looked into those baby blues and ever been the same.”
Xander really wanted to end the toast right then and take her to the bathroom to shower with him, but he forged ahead, taking his eyes from hers and moving them to Sam.
“Sammy,” Xander’s voice faltered a bit. “You continue to amaze me. There isn’t
Samantha Harris, the sentimental.
Xander smiled and moved on.
“Kyle, no words brother. I love you.”
“Love you too, X.”
Xander sat his drink on the table in front of him and grabbed another slice of pizza.
“Let’s all just enjoy the rest of this ride back to Kentucky, get a good night’s sleep tonight, and, after a massive breakfast, I say we plan a celebration worthy of royalty for tomorrow night. That sound okay with everyone?
Everyone was indeed okay with that plan. It was hard not to be.
Eight hours later they landed at the Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky. A fleet of drivers chauffeured them to Xander’s horse farm and everyone settled into their beds. Xander had gotten a call on the flight from Marv, letting him know that he and Mary Hartsfield had made it safely back to Langley. He also informed Xander that Jack had checked in and they were safe in the Ukraine. He said Jack mentioned that Xander owed him big time. Not because of his help with the mission, but for having to stay the night in the company of “that crazy fucker” Viktor.
All in all it was a successful mission. No one that wasn’t supposed to die ended up dying. That is always a success.
Xander told Kyle goodnight and led Sarah by the hand, down the hall to his bedroom.
“I can sleep in the other room if you need some time to yourself, Xander.” Sarah whispered as they approached his door. Xander answered by pulling her inside his room, shutting the door behind them, and kissing her on the lips with a hunger saved for only those kisses that you really mean.
“You sent the text that night that saved my life here at the house. You knew all of those men were coming for me.”
Sarah didn’t speak. She just gave him a smile that turned every gear in his libido.
Words were spoken after that, but not in conversation, in the throes of passion. They made love for hours. Her skin became his skin, intertwined in the timeless dance that lovers dance. Their minds above the clouds as their bodies became as one. A connection that enveloped the two of them so completely, that neither one of them would ever be the same.