Shattered King(5)

By: Sherilee Gray

But while Zeke kept his distance, Neco closed in.

Not only was Neco Malik our best tracker, he had skills with a computer that were second to none. He was an exceptional hacker, could get into anything, could override any security system with the click of a few buttons. He was an integral member of the team, and one of my best friends. We’d run together when we were kids. He had it rough growing up, a half black kid in a mainly white neighborhood. Having a mother who sold herself to pay the rent, and a father who he had never met, meant life had been far from easy. As a result, he’d grown into one mean, angry motherfucker.

The guy was like a brother to me, but right then, I needed him to back the fuck off.

Neco shook his head. “Just hear him out.”

“Before you pop a fucking artery,” Jude added, walking in behind me, voice nothing but a deep rumble.

I ignored them all and waited for Van to start talking.

My brother blew out a long breath and ran a hand through his hair. “I needed you to get into that safe, and I needed you doing it with a clear head.”

I curled my fingers into fists, knuckles cracking. Van could be a ruthless son of a bitch at times, but this was extreme even for him. “Keep talking,” I gritted out.

A muscle in his square jaw jumped. “I didn’t want to send you in. If there’d been any other way . . .” He crossed his arms, getting that stubborn look on his damn face. “You were the only one who could do what we needed in the time we had.”

union     City Insurance had called us a few days ago, after they’d received a claim on a painting. The painting I’d been looking for tonight. If it weren’t found, union     would be down three million. They wanted to avoid that.

This was the part of our business we didn’t advertise. Illegal in every way it could be, unethical as all hell. But it paid well, and with our unique talents, our success rate was extremely high. Put simply, union     City wanted the painting found. They didn’t want to pay out the money it was insured for, and they didn’t care how the King Agency made sure the job got done. As long as the painting was returned to its owner, they were off the hook.

A lot of insurance companies felt the same way. If the claim was fraudulent, their client sure as hell couldn’t accuse anyone of breaking into their houses and stealing it out from under them if it was already supposed to be missing. They definitely couldn’t say anything when their insurance company called and returned their items with a smile and a “Hey, look what showed up.”

Paying our fee, a fraction of what union     City would have to pay out if the painting wasn’t found, was worth it to them. The guys at our agency either confirmed it was insurance fraud, or tracked down the stolen item and stole it back.

Which was what I’d been trying to do tonight, only it turned out a few vital details had been omitted.

I stepped up to my brother’s desk and planted my fists on the surface. “I’m out of patience.”

Van cursed quietly. “Robert Carson is the claimant.”

A chill slid down my spine before it turned to steel. I had to plant my feet so I didn’t dive across his desk and beat the shit out of him. “You don’t see any problem, sending me on a job involving that family, without telling me?” No one in the room missed the quite fury in my voice. Even Zeke stood straighter.

Van casually undid the cuffs of his dress shirt and rolled up his sleeves, eyes never leaving mine. “We think Pierce is behind it.”

My nostrils flared as I sucked in a rough breath at the mention of Pierce, Lulu’s stepfather—and my ex-employer. I’d worked for him for a couple of years on and off while we were getting this place off the ground. Mainly debt collection, but occasionally I provided muscle for the prick, as one of his personal bodyguards. I’d met Lulu shortly after I started.

And I’d wished every day for the last three and a half years that I’d never laid eyes on her.

I choked down the rage. I had no damn choice. If I lost it, they’d close ranks. It’s what they expected me to do, why they hadn’t shared the details of the case.

I clenched my fists at my sides. “And the rest?”

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