Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2), page 7
“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Xander.” Sarah turned toward him, all the sincerity in the world in her eyes. “It’s been a while since I’ve had an evening of laughs.”
“Well, you’re very welcome. Does that mean you are calling it an evening?”
“I really better. Otherwise, I’m going to say something embarrassing that sober me will regret in the morning.”
Xander wanted to invite her to his room. He really did. However, all he could hear was Sam’s voice in his head, nagging him to death about making things more complicated. Women.
The two of them stood and Xander leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. She smelled wonderful. Like vanilla and flowers, chocolate and wine. For a moment they stood face to face. Her hand on his arm, her eyes lost in his. Their hot breath, sweet with wine, rapid between them as their hearts found a quickened pace. Sarah nervously dropped his stare with a giggle and grabbed her clutch from the table as she took a step back. The temperature seemed ten degrees cooler just outside of his aura. They both could feel the heat.
“All right then.” Xander broke the silence as he gathered the port and the stack of plates. “Sleep well, I’ll see you bright and early. Thank you again for being here.”
“There is nowhere else I’d rather be,” she said. She then took two slow steps backward then turned to go inside. She hoped he hadn’t noticed the way she was biting her lip. Or, maybe she hoped he had.
Xander had noticed. He noticed everything. It’s what made him such a fantastic lover. It was the way she bit her lip that left him hollow. It reminded him of Natalie. He walked inside, into the kitchen, and sat the decanted port wine down on the counter. Julia turned from the sink and gave him a smile.
“Are you finished for the night, Xander?” Xander always insisted that everyone working for him called him by his first name. His pause before answering caused her smile to grow. “She’s a lovely woman.”
Xander knew what Julia’s smile meant, and he couldn’t help but laugh. “Can you get me two more clean glasses?”
Sam had just finished washing her face when she heard a knock at her door. She knew it was Kyle, come to attempt one last tipsy advance. She couldn’t help but smile. He was going to absolutely love her negligee. She always wore some type of lingerie to bed. It made her feel sexy. She had never been happier about this little habit of hers than she was in that moment. She took a sexy stance, hand on her hip as she stood by the bed, ten feet from the door. Only the soft yellow light from a lamp in the corner helping her glow.
“Who is it?” She smiled.
“It’s Kyle. Can I come in?”
Kyle slowly opened the door, and the look on his face made Sam warm in places that hadn’t been touched by anyone but her in quite some time. Kyle couldn’t have wiped the astonished look on his face off if he wanted to. Not even with bleach. There in front of him stood Sam in something Kyle had only dreamed of seeing. The tall, long legged Brit had on a sheer black baby-doll negligee. The black bra was vaguely see-through and attached to the bottom was a sheer black veil hung down to the tops of her thighs. Behind that sheer he could see a flat stomach that met with perfect hips, covered only by a black thong. He could almost see her tenderness, if it wasn’t for that extra sheer veil clouding the way. He couldn’t help but swallow uncomfortably as a warmth of his own gathered below.
“You like what you see?”
Kyle stepped all the way inside the room. He couldn’t speak. He just gave a nod.
“What? Have you nothing to say? The ladies’ man himself is speechless? I don’t know what to say myself.”
“Y-you look amazing, Sam.”
“You’re sweet when you’re vulnerable.” She walked toward him and she could see his body tense in nervousness. She was aware of the power she had over him. And she reveled in it. The closer she came to him the more he could see the outline of her nipples through the sheer bra.
Now she was standing right in front of him. “Whatever am I going to do with you?”
Kyle answered without hesitation. “Whatever the hell you want.”
To his surprise she took him in her hand, feeling that he had become aroused. She absolutely loved the deep breath he couldn’t help but take in his surprise. She moved closer, gently moving her hand back and forth.
“You like the way I look, Kyle?”
He was a blubbering idiot. Putty in her hands. She leaned her head toward his, her luscious lips inching ever so close to his. She brushed up against them as she spoke. “Then I’m glad you got an eyeful, you pervert.” She gave his body a shove out the door and gave him a wink just before she shut it.
Kyle bent over and put his hands on his knees. His breath was hurried and his manhood throbbing. “Fuck,” he said to the walls in a huff.
“Everything okay there buddy?”
Kyle jumped, not expecting Xander to be there. He covered the bulge in his black cotton pajama pants and looked up at Xander. The smile on Xander’s face was priceless, and embarrassing.
“Sam put the ole tease on you, huh?”
“I think I’m in love.”
The two of them shared a laugh and Kyle gave Xander a wink as he looked at the wine and two glasses in his hands. “Looks like I’m not the only one? I’m assuming that’s not for me.”
Kyle threw up his hands. “I’m on your team, buddy.” And he walked away with a laugh. “I need a cold shower.”
Xander smiled to himself as he was left alone in the upstairs hallway. He’d accidentally seen Sam’s regular sleep attire once. He could only imagine the look on Kyle’s face when he’d seen it. With a shake of his head, he got back to tending his own business and walked toward the opposite end of the hall. The same hall that just a couple of weeks ago he had shot and killed nine men that had intruded on his home. He tried not to think of it, but every time he walked passed the stairs he couldn’t help but recall seeing Natalie there, fear fixed on her face, tears running down her cheeks while she was held at gunpoint. The two of them never stood a chance of working out.
He shook it off and transferred the decanter to his right hand balancing it and the wine glasses as he gave a quiet knock on Sarah’s door. He waited a moment, put his ear to the door, but heard nothing. He gave one more quiet knock and turned the doorknob as he gave a slow push.
“Sarah?” He whispered, then immediately stopped movement as the bedside lamp showed him her quiet, eyes-closed face. She had already fallen asleep. He stood in the doorway for a moment. Captivated. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She was gorgeous. The covers were pulled up tight around her chin so he didn’t feel like a pervert as he looked at her. He wanted nothing more than to wake her, but he just couldn’t. She was so peaceful. As much as every ounce of Xander hated that the CIA was now a part of his life, he couldn’t help but know that she was on his side. And, most importantly, if it came down to it, he knew he could trust her.
He stepped quietly across the carpet to her bedside and did his very best to shut off the lamp without waking her. He then poured a small amount of wine into a glass and left it on the nightstand. He wanted her to know he was thinking of her before he went to bed, silly as that may be. A strand of moonlight worked its way through a small break in the curtains and fell gently across Sarah’s face. His mind flashed to seeing Kelly in bed on the yacht in a similar fashion.
Damn he loved women. He didn’t have many vices, but a beautiful woman just might be the death of him. He softly brushed a lock of hair from her cheek, bent down, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She rustled slightly, then fell back to oblivion.
Sleeping Beauty, he thought. Then, he retreated back to his bedroom at the other end of the house.
Kyle wasn’t the only one that needed a cold shower on this night.
A Friend of the Family
The sun came up over L
“Beautiful land you got here, Xander.”
“Thanks Jack. How was the drive?”
“Quiet, just like I like it. That stud of yours stay here between races?”
“Sure does, he’s in the stables out back. You like horses?”
“Love ‘em. Grew up on a big farm in Montana. Used to break the wild ones for my daddy.”
Montana man, Xander knew it.
“Whew, tough work. You’re a better man than me.”
“No question.” Jack smiled, little yellow Chiclet teeth gave a wave as he did.
Xander returned the smile. Jack’s way reminded him of his father. Xander re-introduced Jack to Sam, Kyle, and Sarah and they each pulled up a chair ready to listen to what Sam had to say. Everyone got the awkward from last night out at breakfast where they all laughed and like Jamie Foxx, they blamed it on the alcohol. Sarah asked about the wine on her nightstand and Xander played it off that he must have accidentally left it when he shut off her lamp for her. Sarah knew better and she kicked herself for having the ability to fall asleep so easily.
Sam took her natural position at the head of the room, just in front of Xander’s desk. “Good to see you again, Mr. Bronson. I know you are the lead, as designated by Manning, but I hope you don’t mind if I begin as I have already gathered several key points of intel.”
Jack stood up and adjusted his jeans at the oversized and overwhelmingly hideous gold belt buckle. “Just so we’re clear. Manning did appoint me the lead,” he made air quotes with his fingers, “but, frankly, I am very aware that you are way ahead of me with what is going on. Now, I know my fair share about Dragov and his operation, but I am surprised that I was actually put on the team. I’m assuming Manning doesn’t trust any of you so he called in an old Navy comrade out of retirement to be his eyes. That about how y’all see it?”
Xander couldn’t help but be relieved that this wouldn’t be a battle the entire way. “I think you hit the nail on the head, Jack.”
“Okay, well good. But, that don’t mean I can’t be of service to ya. I still have skills, and though my hair may be gray, I assure you, those skills haven’t wavered.”
Sam nodded and thanked him. “I am very aware of your skills, Mr. Bronson. And, they will fit perfectly with what we need.”
Xander wasn’t surprised at all that Sam had done her homework on the new guy. She probably already knew how he took his coffee and how long it took for him to take a piss. “If you don’t mind, what is your specialty?”
Sam answered for Jack. “He’s probably one of the five most well regarded snipers in your military’s history.”
Xander looked at him, impressed. Jack nodded to Sam.
“I’d say that about sums it up. I make a mean flapjack and can start a fire from sticks too, if the need should ever arise.”
They all laughed. Xander liked Jack, but he was still put here by Manning. And he did not like Manning. There was something slimy about that son of a bitch, so it would take Xander just a little more time with Jack to give him the full green light.
Jack took his seat and Sam went into full detail on everything she had learned about Vitalii Dragov, Nicoli Pavlovich, and the scumbags they associated with. She told them all about Dragov’s multi-billion dollar crime ring. Some of her contacts were able to shed some light on the ghost that Nicoli had become and she did everything she could to help them understand that other than Xander himself, there might not be a more proficient killer on the planet.
“The way it went down at the hospital was an anomaly, I assure you. Nicoli Pavlovich doesn’t miss, and he won’t miss again if he gets another chance.”
“Okay, so why Xander’s parents?” Kyle asked. He turned to Xander. “I don’t get it, I knew your dad, he was like a second father to me. Sure, he was gone a lot, but he would never have been involved with a guy like Dragov. No way.”
“If I may?” Sam jumped in. Xander nodded. He already knew what she was about to say. It was going to hurt to hear it out loud, but he was glad Sam had given him the info to read prior to the meeting. It would help the sting.
“According to a file that Manning sent over yesterday, unfortunately Kyle, you are mistaken.” Kyle just shook his head in disbelief. He wasn’t going to buy a word that came out of Sam’s mouth. “Martin King was an oil man, that, the entire world knows. He took what his father started and made it even bigger. He apparently did such a great job that it caught the interest of the world’s largest crime boss, Vitalii Dragov. Now, Kyle, part of what you said I believe is true. Xander’s father would not have been involved, I believe, if Dragov hadn’t forced him. That being said, in a file I was able to not so legally get my hands on, he stayed on and together the two of them made a lot of money.”
That sentence, though Xander didn’t believe it, really hurt.
“It was when Dragov got wind that Mr. King was going to turn on him that he made the decision to get rid of him. Unfortunately, Xander’s mother was caught in the crossfire. I’m sorry, Xander. I know this is tough to hear.”
Xander stood and walked to the front of his desk. The sadness hung heavy in his eyes. Sarah and Kyle both looked on with empathy.
“Unfortunately, what we did in Syria a couple of weeks ago resulted in the loss of a dear friend. But, I know Sean would be proud of all of us. He’s somewhere in the great beyond cheering us on right now. You all know what it means to me to look into the eyes of the man that is responsible for the death of my parents, right before I take his life. But you need to know that this is my fight. Not yours.”
“Let me just stop you right there son.” Jack stood up. “I know I don’t know you very well, but I know by your track record that you’re a righteous man. And I don’t know any of the rest of you here, but I believe I know why you’re here. Cause you would lay your life on the line for Xander, mostly cause you know he’d do the same for you. And though our reasons might be different, Xander, ain’t a god damned one of us letting you do this on our own. And we know full well what’s at stake.”
Xander let that set in. He appreciated what Jack was saying. He could see it in his friend’s eyes that they all agreed. The bridge he couldn’t form was over the gap in what Jack’s reasons were exactly.
“I appreciate that Jack, but why exactly do you give so much of a damn? You have to see it from my eyes, we don’t even know each other.”
“I can’t say exactly, but let me just tell you that Manning, though he wasn’t aware of it, was influenced in his decision to bring me on board.”
“Okay, but that isn’t enough. You know why we are all here. If we are going to war together, it’s only fair that we have that same level of familiarity with you.”
“Then you can go, Jack. And tell Manning to go fuck himself while you’re at it.” The sincerity in Xander’s statement could be read loud and clear in his eyes. Jack thought it over for a moment then readjusted his belt.
“If I tell you why, you have to promise there won’t be another question. Not one.”
“I don’t make promises I can’t keep Jack. Tell me why you’re here so we can get down to business.”
Jacked paused, considering.
“Your daddy was a friend of mine.”
A chill wrapped around the bottom of Xander’s spine and slithered like a snake all the way up his back. And that was without knowing the full implications of Jack’s statement.
He would know, soon.
Director Manning Has a Secret
Back in Langley, Virginia—just above CIA headquarters—a dark gray rain cloud hovered ominously overhead. It was a metaphor for the darkness that hovered over Director Manning. He sat alone in his office nervously working his leg up and down, waiting for the untraceable old Motorola StarTAC cell phone to ring. The call was supposed to come in at nine in the morning. It was now passed nine-thirty and with each passing second, Manning’s mind raced. He couldn’t understand how in the hell he had put himself in this situation. The Director of the CIA was afraid. How on earth is that even possible? How many bad decisions had to be made to get him to this point? His shaking leg only picked up speed along with the continuous rise of his blood pressure.
All of this was Xander’s fault.
If he’d just kept on with his vigilante justice and not been so hell bent on revenge. If Manning hadn’t put a woman in charge of watching Xander, a woman that, of course, fell for the pretty son of a bitch, he wouldn’t be in this spot either. All he wanted to do was make sure that Xander stayed in his lane. Stayed away from the big boy business.
Away from Manning’s secret.
The secret that now involved an inevitable clash of the titans—Xander King against Vitalii Dragov—and he had a sickening feeling that in the middle of all of it, the blame would in some way get shifted to him. He knew Sarah was compromised, so he just let her go deeper in with Xander. At least then he knew what she was up to. Jack would report anything to the contrary back to him. He still wasn’t exactly sure why he put Jack on it. The suggestion came to him in the form of a report that showed the retired Special Agent Jack Bronson’s dislike of pretty boys. He’d pretty much dedicated his life to hating them. He was a rugged, good ol’ boy that was loyal to the core. Some of the men that had worked alongside him had reported back. That was the reason he chose him. Someone who had been off the grid, didn’t like pretty boys, and would be loyal to his boss to the end. He didn’t like the way the meeting between Jack and Xander had gone, however. He hadn’t counted on the fact that Xander was just a good ol’ boy at heart himself. This factor could be a fatal mistake in this high stakes game of life and death. What is done is done. Manning would just have to count on that loyalty that everyone he spoke with said made Jack the man he is. Loyalty. He just hoped the momentum of his loyalty continued to swing his way.