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Vanquish the xander king.., p.8

Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2), page 8

 

Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2)
 


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  Manning almost jumped out of his chair when the loud trill of the Motorola finally rang. He banged his shaking leg on the desk and pain rifled up his body like a chased cat up a tree. By ring number three he had managed a couple of deep breaths so he could answer the call normally.

  “You’re late.” Okay, not normally.

  “And you are incompetent.”

  The guttural grunt of the voice coupled with the Russian accent made Manning’s entire stubby body shudder.

  “I have it under control.”

  “This is what you said, just before your men ended up dead on yacht in the Virgin Islands. I don’t think you have anything under this control.”

  “Oh, and I suppose you are one to talk. You killed eleven people at that hospital and not one of them was the target, all while blowing the cover of your number one asset.”

  “Nicoli? Don’t worry about Nicoli, he will get job done. Unlike you.”

  Manning couldn’t sit still. He jumped up from his chair and began to pace the room. A waterfall of sweat cascaded down his lower back.

  “Listen Dragov—”

  “No. It is your turn to listen.”

  Manning’s legs stopped pacing, but his heart didn’t. It thudded against his chest so hard it caused a shortness of breath.

  “You have man now, in Xander King’s camp, correct?”

  “Yes.”

  “Can you trust this man?”

  “His loyalty is his calling card.”

  “Calling card? What this means?”

  “Yes, I trust him,” Manning got to the point.

  “Good. Nicoli is ready to move. As soon as your man reports to you, you tell me where Xander will be and Nicoli will kill him.”

  “One man won’t be nearly enough.”

  “You let me worry about this.”

  “Just make sure you understand, one man won’t be enough. And, there is no need to wait. I got a call from my guy a half hour ago. Xander held a meeting this morning; they are leaving for London tomorrow where they will be meeting with British intelligence that claims to know your every move. Jack tells me that Xander’s closest confidant, Sam—ex-MI6—knows of a mole inside your organization. They are going to form their plan of attack after those meetings, then come directly for you.”

  “This horseshit. I have no mole.”

  “Apparently you need to tighten it up.”

  “Me? Dragov tighten it up? Fuck you American piss ant. The fact that I am in situation to begin with is your fault. Don’t think I have forgotten this.”

  Manning’s stomach dropped. For a moment, he had forgotten that fact and let his big mouth poke the proverbial bear.

  “I-I haven’t forgotten.”

  “So, your man inside this Xander’s camp, he does not know our little secret, correct?”

  “No one knows our secret, Dragov. No one.”

  “Makes no difference to me really, but for you, big difference. You better hope Nicoli Pavlovich get to Xander before secret somehow get to him first.”

  “Are you threatening me, Dragov?”

  “Threat? No, no, no, no threat. Warning. If this Xander is legend that you say he is—which of course I doubt—then you better keep me in the loop on exactly where he is at every moment. Otherwise, maybe my enemy becomes your enemy. Вы понимаете меня?”

  “Yes, Dragov. I understand. Just make sure this secret stays between us. You wouldn’t want the CIA or the FBI taking any more interest than they already do in your business, would you?”

  “Then we have understanding. But, don’t worry my friend, our problem ends in London. Nicoli will make sure of that.”

  It’s a Long Story

  Xander pulled up the shade of the jet’s window, took a swig of his Red Bull, and let the warm sun wash over his face. Sam, Sarah, Kyle, and Jack were just rousing themselves from a night of sleep. They had decided to leave at night instead of in the morning like Jack had originally told Director Manning. Jack and Xander had just begun discussing the fact that Jack told Manning they were going to London, when in fact they were headed for Xander’s villa in Tuscany. Xander liked the location of the Villa. Remote enough to have it all to themselves, but only about a three hour flight to Moscow, about seven hours closer than leaving from Lexington when they were ready to end this thing with Dragov once and for all.

  Xander turned his attention from the sun floating over the Atlantic Ocean back to Jack. “And you’re sure he bought it?”

  “I’m sure.” Jack answered.

  “Why are you doing this, Jack? Why should we trust you?”

  Jack tilted his cowboy hat back, revealing more of his hardened face. His bushy eyebrows matched the silver of his hair and his deep brown eyes looked to Xander like the dark insides of one of those big liberty floor safes, stuffed full of secrets.

  “Well, so far, I guess I’ve given you no reason either way. All I can tell you is that I have been investigating what happened to your father for even longer than you have. The way it all went down has always smelled fishy to me.”

  “The two of you were that close?”

  “We go a long way back. He was a hell of a SEAL. Not like you, but still, hell of a good man too. We even worked a few cases together.”

  Xander’s face drained of its color. A look of pure confusion formed on his face. Sam leaned forward from her seat in front of them. The silence between them was filled only by the hum of the jet’s engines. All of a sudden, Jack’s face looked just as confused.

  “Wait, you mean you didn’t know? Jesus. Manning never said a word about it being kept under wraps. There were at least five others from the CIA at your father’s funeral.”

  “You were at my parents’ funeral?” Xander’s mind was reeling.

  “I sure was. I remember seeing you and your sister there. Awful thing. I’m sorry, Xander, I just assumed you knew.”

  Sam, apparently slow on the uptake tried to catch up. “I’m sorry, did I miss something? Assumed he knew what?”

  “Dad was in the CIA.” Xander said, not to anyone in particular. More just letting it settle in for himself.

  “That can’t be. You or I would have come across this information.”

  Jack cleared his throat. “Well, that’s part of what I meant by smelling fishy. After the funeral, they never really even attempted to answer the question about who was responsible. Which, I guess isn’t all that strange. You know, it’s a thankless job. When you are an undercover agent, and you die, they often think it better just to act like you never was.”

  “This makes so much sense.” Xander looked over at Kyle who was also wearing a shocked expression. “Kyle, what you said was true. My dad would never have been involved with someone like Dragov. Not unless he was trying to take him down.”

  “And that’s exactly what he was real close to doing, too,” Jack explained. “Last time I spoke with him, he didn’t give me details, but he was in Russia, and he seemed excited. I can’t believe you didn’t know. I mean, I know yesterday you were speculating on whether or not your dad would have dealings with him, I just assumed you meant outside of working the case. I’m so sorry, son.”

  Xander cleared his head. He actually felt a weight lifted. “So, you said fishy. You had to have meant something else.”

  “It’s a long story.” Jack shifted in his seat. He wasn’t sure he should share the information on the tip of his tongue. However, the very reason he had himself put on this assignment with Xander was because of this information. And, as loyal as he was, it was at this very moment where he had to decide who his loyalty was with. He searched the faces of the people surrounding him on Xander’s plane, then back to Xander. Not only had he heard all of the amazing stories of Xander’s time in the military, he had followed it himself with a keen eye. That would probably be enough to swing his loyalty Xander’s way. It is the information about Director Manning he happened across in Russia last year that made the decision easy.

  Xander could see Jack
arguing with himself. “I have a feeling it isn’t that long of a story. Besides, we’re still an hour outside of Florence. Take your time.”

  Jack Shifted in his seat, took a sip of his coffee, and thought for a moment about his classified mission in Russia. And then he thought about who he called just before he boarded Xander’s jet a few hours ago.

  “Well?” Xander interrupted Jack’s train of thought.

  “That’s a deep subject.” Jack stalled.

  “Really?” Xander began to grow impatient. Usually he could appreciate stupid jokes, now he wasn’t in the mood.

  “I’d rather you hear it from the horse’s mouth.”

  “I don’t get it. Another bad joke?” Sam asked.

  Jack leaned forward, elbows on his knees. He had already chosen Xander’s side. “I’ve got someone meeting us at the airport in Florence. I’ll let her tell you and you can make up your own mind.”

  “Her?” said Xander.

  Jack clasped his hands together and nodded his head.

  “Vitalii Dragov’s daughter.”

  Did I See a Wood Fired Pizza

  Oven by the Pool?

  The gorgeous and sleek Gulfstream G650 landed in Florence, Italy about an hour later. In that hour, Xander had time to throw exactly two conniption fits. One of which ended with Sam untangling the collar of Jack’s ugly plaid shirt from Xander’s iron grip. As they came down the steps of the jet, Xander stopped his stride toward the helicopter and turned back to Jack one last time.

  “Explain to me again why I am going through with this?” Then he looked at Sam. “And you, you’re okay with this? With Vitalii Dragov’s estranged daughter coming with us to my home in Tuscany? Literally letting the wolves into the pasture?”

  “I made some calls before we landed, Xander. You heard me make them.” Sam spoke over the winding down of the jet engines. “My source in Moscow confirms everything that Jack is saying about her. She not only has no contact with Dragov, but she testified against him in court. She is as much an enemy to him as you are.”

  “Is this source as reliable as your source was in Syria?”

  The look of shame on Sam’s face was enough to let Xander know that he had gone below the belt. Sam had apologized over and over again about James. She was deeply hurt when he turned out to be a traitor, and Xander knew it.

  “I’m sorry, Sam.”

  “No, you’re right.”

  “I’m not. I trust you, and your judgment. You know that.”

  Sam nodded, still stinging from the comment.

  “It’s just that this seems crazy to me. Am I wrong?”

  “You’re not wrong, Xander. It does seem crazy.” Sarah spoke up.

  “Thank you. Kyle?”

  “I don’t know man, is she hot?”

  Xander was too upset to give that an answer. “I’m serious Jack. If she’s so estranged, then how does she have any information whatsoever about Dragov that could help us?”

  “Because her best friend is Nicoli Pavlovich’s niece. The two of them grew up together. I swear to ya Xander, she can help. Just let her explain.”

  Every ounce of Xander’s intuition screamed at him to not let this happen. He very rarely didn’t listen to it. The tension between the four of them was thicker than a pine knot. Sam felt obliged to relieve it.

  “And, to answer your question, Kyle, I sure as hell hope she isn’t hot. The last thing we need is another distraction for the two of you.”

  “Dibs.” Kyle smiled at Xander. It took a moment, but Kyle had the magic touch.

  “Fine. But, it must be said, this just doesn’t feel right to me. And Kyle, this one is all yours.”

  Xander turned toward the helicopter. It was bad enough that she would be inside his home, there was no way in hell he was going to let Dragov’s offspring in his bed too. He enjoyed living far too much to take that risk. Kyle was a little more careless in that regard.

  As the five of them approached the helicopter, a tall, fiery-red haired, long legged hourglass shaped woman stepped out of its cabin. She wasn’t hot, she was a total knockout. If Xander didn’t hate her father so much, he would have immediately turned to Kyle and made him take his dibbs call back. Her white blouse flapped open from the stirred wind the rotors above had created, enough so to reveal a milky-white skin that was rounded into two amazingly curved mounds. Her tight black pencil skirt revealed that her curves didn’t stop at her torso. She was truly a sight. As Xander approached, he looked deep into her cat shaped, bright green eyes, the skin around them almost translucent, and then couldn’t help but move his glance to her naturally pink pouty lips that would have made Angelina Jolie jealous. Then he walked right past her outstretched hand and pulled himself up into the helicopter. For once, he let his big-head make a decision. Kyle quickly took that empty hand and introduced himself, apologizing for Xander’s behavior. Sam shook her hand and pulled herself inside, taking the seat next to Xander.

  “So much for no more distractions,” she shouted over the sound of the helicopter. Xander just turned and focused his attention out the window.

  Twenty minutes and one hell of an awkward helicopter ride later, they were hovering over a sprawling estate in the vine filled hills of Tuscany. Xander paid twenty million euros for it early last year and had only visited once in the meantime. He looked out his window, and all of Tuscany stretched out in front of him. The first thing that came to mind was Lexington. The terrain was stunningly similar. Beautiful rolling hills, acre after acre dedicated to farmland, alcohol production, and at the end of it all, a city that held almost an identically sized population. Obviously, the history was much longer here, but the people in Kentucky had a similar pride for their home as the Florentines. His home was directly below them now. It stood atop a hill in the town of Greve in Chianti, a town in the province of Florence. The manor house, constructed in the 16th century, had multi-shade red clay tiles for a roof, and matching sand colored stone with red accents as its walls. The pool area extended out the back and had breathtaking views of the vineyard below it, and beyond. The grapes in the vineyard should be in the fruit set phase, and will just be showing the signs of the fertilized flowers developing a seed. This would be Xander’s first year of growing here. He had Cabernet, Canaiolo, and Sangiovese grapes currently on the vine. He couldn’t wait to combine them to make his own Chianti. King’s Ransom Chianti no less. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  The Helicopter made its way down to the open grass field at the front of the manor. The Manor had plenty of room for everyone to have their own space. Ten bedrooms. And even if it wouldn’t have, any one of the seven farmhouses on the property would have sufficed.

  “Are you kidding me?” Kyle shouted as he put his arm around Xander who was smiling. He had forgotten that this was Kyle’s first time here. “Did I see a wood fired pizza oven out by the pool?”

  Xander smiled again. “I’m making pizzas tonight.”

  “Of course you are. A little vino too?”

  “Indeed.”

  The chopper let everyone out then immediately lifted off, and headed back toward the airport. Just like that, the silence of the countryside surrounded them.

  “Man I love that sound,” said Jack.

  “There is no sound.” Sarah laughed.

  “Exactly.”

  Xander couldn’t agree more. The older he became, the more he enjoyed being out of the fray. And this place was officially out of the fray.

  “Xander!” Melanie shouted from the front door. Her infectious smile nearly knocked the black framed glasses from her face. Xander always loved her quirky style. Her short black hair bobbed up and down as she ran to him.

  “Melanie?” said Kyle. “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” Kyle stepped in front of Xander and took her in his arms. Kyle and Melanie had been a flirt-a-second ever since Xander had brought her on board to assist with all of his toys and business affairs.

  “Oh yeah, I’ve been here a week and never want to lea
ve!”

  “Hey Melanie, how are you?” Xander gave her a hug.

  “I’m amazing. And so happy you all are here!” She smacked Kyle on the ass. “I’ve got us all set up for this evening. Everyone’s room is ready, and the chef will be here at five to start working on the pizza!”

  Xander loved her infectious personality. He literally had never seen her in a bad mood. He assumed, if she ever got bad news, it probably bounced right off the gleam of her smile.

  “Great, thanks Mel.”

  The day turned to evening and Melanie made sure that everyone was settled in. Xander managed to avoid Dragov’s daughter entirely. So much so that he didn’t even know her name when she approached him as he sat in a lounge chair by the pool, staring off at the countryside.

  It startled him when she stepped in front of the sun. Her long legs made their way into a pink sundress and her red hair blew in the warm breeze.

  “I am sorry that my presence here is disturbing to you, but I thank you for having me at your beautiful home.” Her Russian accent thick, and even though the dress didn’t seem to be her style, she wore the hell out of it.

 
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