Shattered King(4)By: Sherilee Gray
I recognized her instantly.
Jude shook his head, a look of disgust on his face and held up his hands. “You need to talk to Van. I’m staying outta this shit. I fucking told him this was a bad idea.” Then he turned around and walked off.
I’d be talking to my brother all right.
Twenty minutes later I was back in Queens, striding across the underground parking lot toward the elevator that would take me up to our offices.
Van and I opened the King Agency before I went to prison. We started off doing personal protection and security, private investigation, mainly corporate, but some domestic as well, then moved onto high-risk fugitive recovery and missing person and kidnapping investigations. Coming from a rough neighborhood, living on the streets most of the time, you acquired certain skills to get by, to survive. Turned out that was better than any college education in our line of work. Clients started coming to us with jobs that other agencies refused to take them, either because they were too dangerous or crossed lines they weren’t willing to cross. We’d never had that problem. Higher risk meant higher pay. We were good at what we did, the best, which was why getting taken down for arson when shit was finally looking up for the King brothers had fucking near torn me apart. Being set up was bad enough, but being forced to put my life on hold damn near did me in.
Ironic that the same woman that drove me to succeed, the woman I loved, the woman I believed loved me too, was the one that took it all away. I’d wanted to prove that I could provide for her, that I could give her everything she was used to. A big house. Money in the bank. A nice life. The agency was the first thing that had truly been mine. I’d been so fucking proud of it, wanted her to be proud of me. Coming from a home where I was constantly told I was nothing, that I was worthless, I’d needed that.
Finding out tonight my own fucking brother was keeping something from me, something that involved her family, the same family responsible for setting me up, getting me locked up . . . yeah, I was pretty un-fucking-happy.
I climbed into the elevator and punched the button for the fifth floor, trying to lock down the anger riding me hard. I got a look at myself in the mirrored doors as they slid shut—it wasn’t working.
When they opened again I was outside our glass-fronted reception area, three and a half inches thick and bullet proof—something that hadn’t been tested yet, but the way I was feeling right then finding out how many rounds it would take sounded like an excellent way to blow off steam.
I pushed the door open, and strode into the stark white reception area, not surprised to see Ruby sitting behind the desk.
Ruby Styles was from our neighborhood, and a few years younger than me. Her home life had been about as fun as mine and Van’s. And when she’d come to us for a job, we’d decided to give her a shot in reception.
She lifted her head, tucking her purple streaked hair behind her ear, and shoved her black-rimmed glasses higher on her nose. Her eyes widened when she got a good look at me.
“Is he in his office?”
She shot to her feet. “What’s going on . . . ?”
I headed for the door that led to our offices, ignoring her calling after me, anger unfurling in my gut, and punched in the access code.
Shoving it open, I strode down the hall. Van’s door wasn’t closed, and I could hear several voices coming from inside. I rounded the corner and my jaw got tight. Zeke and Neco were there along with my brother, deep in conversation.
“Something you forget to tell me about tonight’s job?” I asked.
Van’s gaze shot to me. “Hunt, let me explain . . .”
“Yeah, that’d be good.”
Zeke’s eyes slid my way, giving nothing away. The Texan was at his usual spot, propped against the wall, tattooed arms crossed. Zeke Stanton was an ex-Navy SEAL, a sniper in a previous life—a life he chose not to talk about, ever. We’d all known each other since high school. Him and Van had enlisted together, been in the same unit. But Van had opted out before Zeke, left that part of his life behind before it marked him in a way his friend hadn’t been lucky enough to escape.
Zeke only talked when he had to, did not waste time on pointless conversation. He also had a stillness, an intensity about him that was perfect for surveillance. The guy could move around unseen any-damn-where like no one else.