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Vanquish the xander king.., p.3

Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2), page 3

 

Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2)
 


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  “Sam?”

  “Xander?”

  Xander’s eyes opened and found Sam’s face staring back at him, surrounded by a hospital room. The look on her face was different. Happy.

  “What’s with the look of love, Sam? It looks good on you,” Xander didn’t miss a beat.

  “You sarcastic son of a bitch. You scared the shit out of me. Out of all of us.” Sam held her smile.

  “All of us?” Xander sat up. Surrounding him were all white walls, an out-of-date television hanging in the corner, and a steady beeping coming from his hospital monitor. At the back of the hospital room, in two separate chairs, a beautiful blonde was asleep in each one.

  “Yes, all of us. Seems you make quite an impression on hopeless romantic—well, hopeless—young women. It’s been quite a contentious week, neither one of them wanting to leave your side in fear you’ll see the other first.”

  “You know you’re the only girl for me, Sam.”

  “Right. I’m just glad you’re all right.” Sam rubbed his hand.

  Affection? From Sam? Vegas Kelly was asleep in one chair and Special Agent Sarah Gilbright asleep in the other. Both looking like angels. It must have been pretty bad. How did—

  “Wait!” Xander shot up in bed, almost ripping the tubes from his arm and the stitches in his stomach. An awful pain drove in his belly like a train through a tunnel. “Did you say contentious week? I’ve been here for a week?”

  “I’m afraid so, you lost a lot of blood. It was touch and go for a while.”

  Xander began to rustle in the bed. So much so that Sam had to hold him down.

  “What are you doing, you’re in no condition—”

  “Let go of me Sam, I’ve got to get out of here.”

  “Xander, sit back, the Preakness Stakes is already over. I’m sorry, but you’ve missed it.” Sam already knew Xander’s concern.

  In front of him, Kelly and Sarah were awakened by his panic. But, the only thing Xander could think of was his horse. He had missed the second leg of the Triple Crown. He missed King’s Ransom’s big day. The Preakness was always the second weekend after the Kentucky Derby. This year, it came after the Kentucky Derby his big black thoroughbred had won just two weeks earlier. He was supposed to go straight from the yacht in St. Thomas to watch him win in Baltimore, Maryland. And, he missed it? He looked at the ladies who were now standing at the foot of the bed, and then to Sam, she could see the question in his eyes.

  “He won, Xander. King’s Ransom won the race.” Sam delivered the terrific news.

  Xander didn’t know why, but hard emotion ran through him. Unexpected emotion. Tears welled in his eyes. He knew that horse meant a lot to him, but it wasn’t until that very moment that he understood just how much. It was—the horse racing that is—his last ongoing connection to his lost father. Hearing the news from Sam that Ransom won made him so proud, and he knew it made his father proud as well.

  “There he is!” Kyle shouted as soon as he walked through the door and saw Xander sitting up. He noticed the emotion on his friend’s face. “Everything okay?”

  “He won?”

  “Who—Oh, Ransom? Of course he did!” Kyle sat a couple of coffees down on the bedside table and walked over to Xander, giving him a hug. “Don’t ever do that to me again. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”

  Xander, either high on the news of his horse winning or morphine, felt a rush of adrenaline from the surrounding love.

  “Looks like you’ve got a lot of people that love you, Xander. You are a lucky man.” Kelly rubbed his foot. Her smile still had the ability to melt steel.

  “Yeah, maybe too many people.” Sarah shot Kelly a look. She may as well have urinated on Xander; it wouldn’t have been any less subtle a way to try and mark her territory. Kelly returned Sarah’s look of distain with one of disgust.

  Sarah walked around the bed and Sam let her pass. She took Xander’s hand in one of hers and began to stroke his hair with the other.

  “I’m glad you’re okay, Xander. We almost didn’t make it to the yacht in time.”

  Xander took her hand.

  “But you did. Thank you. You saved my drunk ass, and Kyle and Kelly’s too. I’ll never be able to repay you what you deserve.”

  “It was nothing,” she smiled at him. Then, she turned that smile into a boasting sneer as she looked back at Kelly.

  Kelly rolled her eyes and walked over to the other side of the bed, bumping Kyle out of the way. She put her hand on Xander’s cheek, stroked it and leaned in for a long, passionate kiss. She pulled her head back and gave him the most sincere look.

  “I’m so glad you’re all right. I was so worried about you. You saved my life, and my friends’ lives, by getting us down into that panic room.”

  Kelly gave him another open-mouthed kiss and as she rose up, she gave Sarah a—take that—sneer in return.

  “Raeer!” Kyle cat growled from behind, mocking the two women vying for Xander’s attention.

  Sam was utterly revolted.

  “Okay ladies, get a fucking grip. Jesus. The man’s been awake for all of two minutes and you are already smothering him. You think that’s gonna keep a man like Xander?” She snapped at them.

  “All right, all right.” Xander laid back down in the cramped hospital bed. “Sarah, thank you so much, but I’m sure you have some special agenting to do. And Kelly, don’t you have to get back to California?”

  “We are in California, baby.”

  Xander shot a look at Sam.

  “I thought it best to get you out of Lexington. Horse country is a buzz about what happened to Xander King, the owner of their beloved King’s Ransom. We are at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. We’ve all been taking turns at the beach house until you came round.”

  “Oh, that makes sense.” Xander could only imagine the buzz in the racing world. A scintillating scandal with the owner of the horse going for the Triple Crown. The stories practically wrote themselves.

  Wait, the stories...

  “What did you tell the press? What do they know?” A worried look came over Xander.

  “Sarah did a great job helping us spin this. She released a statement that the government was investigating an attempted robbery and murder. Fortunately, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that people would want to steal from a billionaire,” Sam explained.

  “Is that what happened?”

  Sam saw the confusion on Xander’s face.

  “Oh... right. We have a lot to discuss Xander, but now is not the time.” She glanced over to Kelly.

  “What? Now is exactly the time, Sam. What the hell were Russians doing coming after me in the middle of the Virgin Islands?”

  “Not right now Xander, you’re not well.”

  The heart-rate monitor began to pick up speed beside Xander’s bed.

  “Don’t bullshit me Sam! Tell me what’s going on!”

  At that moment, the hospital door opened and in walked Natalie Rockwell.

  “Is this a bad time?”

  An Explosive Conversation

  “I flew in from Paris as soon as I heard.”

  Kyle cleared everyone from the room and pulled a chair over beside Xander before he left the room with them. Kelly, at first in awe that Natalie Rockwell was in the room, quickly came back down to earth when she realized she was there for her man—Xander. Kyle promised to explain while they were on their way out. After glancing at Kelly and Sarah, Natalie gave Xander a brief “I see how it is” look, then sat down and took his hand. For Xander, it was like seeing the sun itself. Her beautiful face was cast aglow in the harsh florescent light that hung above them. He had missed her so much.

  “My news made it all the way to Paris?”

  “Well, there is this new thing called the Internet,” she teased. Her smile doing more to take his pain away than any medicine could ever possibly achieve.

  “Right. So you were checking up on me?” He flashed a wry smile.

  “Not a cha
nce. I was checking up on my four legged friend, King’s Ransom. And of course, when I went to see if he’d won The Preakness, all of the stories were more about his owner. Xander...what is going on? Is this really how you want to live your life?”

  “So much for pleasantries.”

  “I’m sorry. It’s just that...”

  Natalie trailed off. A look of pain held tight on her face. She was hurting, and it was his fault. All of a sudden the pain from the wound in his stomach came back in a rush to say hello. Or maybe it was heartache.

  “No, I’m sorry Natalie. I should have never dragged you into this...into my life.”

  “Which, still, I clearly know nothing about.”

  “You do. You know me. The rest of this, well, it’s a mess. My mess.”

  “Talk to me. Let me in. I can help you—”

  “Natalie, thank you for coming, but I’m sure you are needed back in Paris.” His own words sounding like someone else’s.

  The hurt on Natalie’s face thickened.

  “So, that’s it?”

  “I’m no good for you, and you know—”

  “I know what?” Natalie’s face hardened, her jaw set. “I don’t know anything except for the way you make me feel. No one has ever made me…You know what? You are just scared.”

  “Scared?” Xander looked confused.

  “That’s right. That’s why you are pushing me away. I’m not like whoever hurt you in your past. I’m not them.”

  “Natalie, you are the one that said you needed time. And, I’m not some psychology patient. No one ever hurt me.”

  Natalie saw right through that statement. It was as if she knew Xander better than he knew himself, and that scared him. She let him know this with a look.

  “Fine, you don’t want to open up to me? You don’t want me in your life, Alexander King? Then stop leaving me messages saying otherwise.”

  “Messages? I haven’t contacted you, not once. Messages...” he scoffed.

  “Yeah, Xander, messages.”

  She was so sexy when she was angry.

  “Like?” He did his best to look clueless.

  “Like whiskey and roses on my balcony in Paris?”

  Xander couldn’t help but smile. Clearly his message had been received.

  “Whiskey and roses?” He played dumb.

  “Don’t. And don’t do it again.” Natalie stood up. He had hurt her feelings. “If you don’t want me, I’ve got plenty of other things going on in my life. I’m sorry I ever came here!”

  Natalie turned and huffed toward the door. Before she could make it there, and before Xander could stop her and try to explain, the entire east wing of the hospital exploded and burst into a fiery flame. The blast was so strong it knocked Natalie to the floor, the flames could be seen from Xander’s hospital window, lighting up the otherwise black night. His IV stand was knocked over and the entire structure shook beneath them. The lights flickered on and off as a rumble settled in around them.

  Sam blasted through the door, helped Natalie back to her feet, and went straight to Xander.

  “We’ve got to get out of here, now.”

  Natalie was visibly shaking. “What’s going on?”

  “Not now, Natalie. Just help me get him up.” Sam looked at Xander. “Can you walk?”

  The two of them pulled Xander to a sitting position. His stomach wailed in pain.

  “Guess we’ll find out. And, Sam?”

  “Yes, Xander?”

  “Don’t look at my equipment, it will ruin every other man for you from here on out.”

  “You’re insufferable.” Sam rolled her eyes as she helped him out of the bed.

  “You know what this is about, Sam?”

  “It’s about you and your need for revenge.” Sam snapped at him.

  Natalie helped steady Xander on his feet, wearing fear and confusion on her face.

  “This explosion has to do with you? What the hell?”

  Xander looked dead into her eyes.

  “I told you I was no good for you.” He turned to Sam. “Do you have another gun?”

  “Of course I do.” She walked over to her black leather jacket, pulled out a nine-millimeter, cocked it and handed it to Xander. “How’s your equilibrium?”

  “I’m fine,” he answered.

  Natalie was watching in horror. “Who the fuck are you two?”

  Sam ignored Natalie’s question and while Xander pulled on a pair of black joggers, she checked the In Case of An Emergency map on the wall beside the door. Sarah ushered Kyle and Kelly back into the hospital room with a pistol in her hand and a battle-ready expression on her face. It occurred to Xander at that moment that Sarah Gilbright just might be a badass.

  “Okay, spill it right the fuck now. What are we dealing with here, Sam?” Xander was through with being kept in the dark.

  Sam tore the emergency map off the wall, walked back over to Xander, and motioned for Sarah to join them. Apparently, Sam considered Sarah a badass as well. Otherwise, she would have never let her in the huddle. Before a strategy could be fleshed out, gunshots rang out from a distance followed by screams from the last few of the staff trying to exit the hospital. Sam looked up at Xander, stone-faced.

  “I’ll explain when we get out of here. Just know these are high-level Russian ex-military, same that invaded your yacht. We’ll need some of that X-Man magic right about now.”

  “Okay, so what do we know?” Xander asked rhetorically. Shots continued from a distance and commotion in the hallway was constant. “Obviously, they are after me. Judging from the playdate on the yacht, they aren’t fucking around. But, we have to assume that they have been following reports of my condition this week, and we must also assume they have someone on the inside. Someone on the nursing staff. So, they still think I’m in a coma. Blowing up the opposite wing is a distraction—”

  “If they have an insider, they would know where you are. Why not just blow this room and leave?” Sarah asked.

  “Because, if they are willing to go to these lengths to kill me, they have to make sure that I’m dead. The only way to do that is to personally see to it that I am gone. They won’t chance it on a blast. Hence, the distraction. Someone—probably their best assassin—is on his way to this room right now to finish me. You all must leave, right now.”

  Sam put her hands on her hips.

  “Leave? We’re not going anywhere.”

  “Let’s give them what they are expecting.”

  “What, you lying here on this bed? No way, they’ll kill you.”

  “I hate to break this huddle, Sam,” Kyle said from the door as he peered out the small window that looked out into the hall, “but, the hallway is clear. They must be getting close.”

  “Sam, get everyone out of here now. Use the map to find the best route.”

  Sarah stepped forward and pulled out her cell phone.

  “We’re not leaving you Xander, let me call this in, I can have a CIA chopper—”

  “We don’t have time for this! They won’t get here in time and I will not be owing the CIA any favors.” Xander walked over to the hospital bed and laid the gun on the table. “The police will be here any second and they will be focused where the explosion occurred. It will just be me and my assassin. I like those odds. Sam, leave me a cell phone and I’ll call you when I am finished here. Do not let Sarah call this in.”

  Sarah folded her arms while Sam nodded her head toward him. Natalie couldn’t help but make a plea.

  “But Xander, this isn’t a joke, they’ve blown up half the hospital already. They’ll kill you!”

  Xander walked over to Natalie and took her by the shoulders.

  “Sweetheart, this is what I do. You are in the best of hands with Sam. She will get you out of here, just do everything she says and you’ll be fine. I promise.”

  “Sweetheart?” Kelly stepped toward them, a jealous scowl on her face.

  Sam stepped in and exchanged looks with Kelly and Natalie. “Can we pl
ease sort this out after we survive the professional killers and gunmen with all the explosives?” She then looked at Xander. “You really know how to bloody complicate things don’t you?” Then back to the women. “If you want to survive this mess, follow me. Romeo here is quite good at handling himself. We’ll see him soon, if you all can do without him for even a few moments.”

  Sam’s sarcasm lay thick on all of them. After another loud explosion—this one even closer—they focused their attention on following her.

  “Xander, do not underestimate what is coming, and I will do the same as I take them out of here. My phone is there on the bedside table. Call Kyle if you need me. I will come back and let Sarah handle getting them out.”

  “I’ll be fine, Sam. Just make sure you get them out safe. If you run into trouble, call me. Now go!”

  Xander took in the concerned look on everyone’s face as they stared back at him.

  “I said go!”

  Kyle nodded to him and then ushered them behind Sam out into the hallway. Natalie gave one last worried glance before turning the corner of the wall. The hospital had become eerily silent now. The door closed behind them and Xander walked over to the window to see if he could get an idea of just what they were dealing with. The sun had yet to rise. He was thankful that it was a time of night where there might not be as many family and friends around visiting patients. He couldn’t believe what he was doing had brought all of this on so many innocent people.

  Things had to change.

  His life had to change.

  Sam’s phone chirped from beside his hospital bed. He walked over to see if it was for him.

  A text from Kyle’s phone: X, you were wrong. Not just 1 assassin. 4 men are heading your way, heavily armed. Sam is headed toward you. I promise, Sarah and I will get Natalie and Kelly out of here.

  See you in a bit.

  BE CAREFUL.

  As If I Haven’t Had a Bad Enough Week,

  Now I’m Seeing Ghosts

  Those four men didn’t stand a chance. Xander wished that Sam would have just stayed with the others until they were safe. He figured she thought he was weak, just being out of a coma and all. Remarkably, he felt good considering. He slid the phone into the pocket of his joggers, reached across the bed for his gun, and just as he almost had his fingers on it, a bullet ricocheted off the table and hit the wall. Xander saw a gun pointed at him through the small squared door window as he dove behind one of the lounge chairs someone had pulled up to the foot of the bed. Two more shots fired and one bullet skipped through the window behind him. He would have just made his exit that way but he didn’t want to leave Sam alone with the four other gunmen.

 
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