The party was a typical dc power player’s party but this one wasn’t hosted in DC. Skylar Larson wasn’t exactly sure why, but she was grateful she didn’t have to travel to attend. Her father, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, was at ease in these circles. A surgeon herself, she was the best in her field, but this was not her ball of wax. She preferred the more “common” folk, as these uppity asses would call them. Her patients ran the gamut of those who couldn’t afford her services to those who could afford them many times over. Without a doubt, she’d rather work pro bono for those in need than deal with the arrogant jerks those with money tended to be.
She saw her father talking to the vice president of the United States, Michael Mason, and wondered what they were discussing. As a general surgeon, she was trained to take care of most surgical needs, skills Mr. Mason once required. He’d come to her about a year ago needing his appendix removed. As if she could turn down the vice president.
She was about to walk over to her father when someone touched her shoulder. When she turned to see who it was, she just about had to roll her tongue back into her mouth.
Shit, what’s Jaxon doing here?
Who cares? He’s fine as hell in that tux. Chris Hemsworth ain’t got nothing on Jaxon Storm.
Really, hormones? You make an appearance now?
Timing is everything. Let’s drag his nice ass to the back room and get to know him a little better, if you know what I mean.
Skylar mentally rolled her eyes at herself.
“Skylar,” Jaxon said.
Skylar put her hormones in check and gave Jaxon a genuine smile. “Jaxon, it’s good to see you. What are you doing here?”
Jaxon Storm was a member of Nine Circles Security, or NCS as they called it, and a total badass. As a matter of fact, he and his entire team were a bunch of badasses. She’d learned firsthand what they could do when they rescued her from a drug cartel in Tijuana close to a year ago.
Has it really been that long? Wow, it seems like yesterday still.
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Jaxon said as he pulled her to a quiet corner where they could talk.
“I’m here with my father. He’s friends with a lot of these people. What’s going on, Jaxon?”
And why in the hell is Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” stuck in my head?
It could be worse—it could be “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd.
Oh, God, that would be worse.
“It’s a very long story, but you could be in danger. I need you to stick close.”
Well, that will bring you back to reality rather quickly, Skylar thought.
“But my father. I can’t just leave. I need to be here for him,” Skylar said as she looked in the direction she last saw her father.
Jaxon gently took her chin and turned her to face him again. “Skylar, please. I need to know you’re safe, and the only way I’ll know that is if you’re with me. Please, honey. Don’t make me beg where everyone can hear.”
Skylar smiled. “Beg, huh? I take it you’re on coms.” Jaxon nodded. “I’ll tell you what, I won’t make you beg, and I’ll stay close to you . . .”
“I hear a but coming.” Her smile quickly turned sinister.
This is going to be bad. Shit.
“But you have to make me dinner. A real dinner, Jaxon.”
“Make you? I can’t take you somewhere and call it done?”
“Nope. No ordering takeout and pretending you made it, either. You actually have to cook it.”
Do you have a choice here?
Not if you want Sky to stay close, you don’t.
Jaxon sighed his resignation. “Deal. You stay close to me and do everything I ask, and I’ll cook dinner for you.”
“Deal. Now, you do realize you can’t weasel your way out of this since everyone on coms heard you agree to it.”
Jaxon rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah. Yeah, I know.”
Skylar gave Jaxon a beaming smile. “OK. So, now what?”
“Now you start planning for your demise,” AJ stated over the coms. Jaxon could hear him practically laughing.
“Oh yeah. She owns you now, Jaxon. This is what you get for talking shit about the rest of us,” Logan chimed in.
“Yup. You are so toast,” Taylor added.
“You too, Taylor?” Jaxon could hear everyone laughing now. “Fuck every single one of you.”
“I take it the guys are giving you shit for what they heard?”
Skylar couldn’t help herself, she laughed at him as well.
“Thanks, baby. I appreciate it.”
“No problem. Glad I could help. Just remember, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.” Skylar smiled and kissed Jaxon on the cheek.
“Ooo. Jaxon and Skylar sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g,” Logan sang.
“Mature, Logan. Real mature.”
Skylar gave Jaxon an inquiring look.
“Do you remember that old nursery rhyme about kissing?”
Skylar smiled. “No way.”
“Yes. That’s exactly what I’m hearing right now.”
She busted out laughing, then quickly covered her mouth, so she didn’t draw any more attention to them. “That’s freaking hilarious!”
“Thanks, honey. Really. I appreciated it.”
Skylar smiled and kissed his cheek again. “I need to find my dad and tell him I’m with you. He’s right over there talking to the vice president. Let me tell him I’ll be with you tonight, OK?”
Tom saw his daughter pulled into a corner with someone.
That looks like one of Brass’s men. Why is he here?
“Tom. Tom, are you listening?” Mason asked.
Tom turned back to face his friend. “Yes. I’m sorry, Mr. Vice President. I was distracted for a moment.”
“Tom, we’ve been friends a long time. Please call me Mike like you used to.”
Tom smiled at his friend, then gazed back toward his daughter. “You’re right. I’m sorry, what were you saying?”
Mike followed Tom’s line of sight and realized he was looking at his daughter standing in a corner with someone.
Shit. I know who that is. If he’s here, are others?
Never changing his expression—he was a politician, after all—he continued, “As I was saying, I have an opportunity I think you would be interested in. Is it all right if I send a couple of associates to your office to discuss?”
Tom pulled his attention back to his friend and forced himself to listen. “Sure, Mike. How’s next week sound?”
“That should work.” Mike saw Skylar and a man he knew worked for Nine Circles Security heading their way. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to make the rounds.”
“Of course. It was good to see you.”
“You too, Tom. We’ll talk soon.”
Tom nodded as the vice president walked away. He turned back around and saw Skylar and Jaxon approaching.
“Daddy, if you’re good, I’m going to hang out with Jaxon.”
Tom smiled at his daughter. “Yeah, honey. I’m fine.” He looked at Jaxon. “I assume you’ll get her home safely.”
Tom looked back at his daughter. “OK then. I’ll take the car tonight. Do you need anything from it?”
“No, I have everything. I’ll see you tomorrow, OK?”
“Yeah. Be safe.”
“I will, Daddy.” Skylar kissed her father’s cheek, then she and Jaxon walked away.
Jaxon monitored the situation as he and Skylar walked toward Logan. The rest of the team was scattered around the room monitoring things. This type of shindig was not his ball of wax. There were way too many fake people, like politicians and the rich, all of whom would say one thing to your face and something else behind your back. Put him in the desert with a bunch of bad guys shooting at him any day over this.
Unfortunately, thanks to events of the past year or so, he and his team were now here, trying to find out exactly what was supposed to go down tonight and who was involved. Thanks to Mia and Justin, they had an idea, but nothing concrete…yet.
Jaxon turned his attention to Skylar when she stopped dead in her tracks, a look of fear frozen on her face. He gently turned her head to look at him. “What is it?”
“I . . . I remember him, Jaxon.”
“Who, baby? Who did you see?”
“The man I was forced to save when I was kidnapped in Tijuana.”
Jaxon followed her gaze and saw she was looking at the man Senator Stephen Smith was about to meet. The leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Mike Mason hurried away, hoping no one had overheard his conversation with Tom. He couldn’t let his hand show yet. He needed a little more time before things came out into the open.
Mason spoke quietly into the communication gear he was wearing. Coms not connected to his security detail. “Dominic, take him out. Now.”
“Roger,” Dominic responded as he took aim at his target. He knew it was twisted, but this was his favorite part of the job.
“Shit,” Taylor announced across the coms. “I have a sniper at my ten o’clock. Looks like he is taking aim. I’d guess at the senator, based on his angle.”
Jaxon heard Taylor’s report through his earpiece. “Son of a—”
“What? What is it?” Skylar asked, panicked.
When Jaxon heard the report of the first shot, he grabbed Skylar, tossed her to the ground as fast yet as gently as he could, and lay on top of her protecting her, then heard a second shot.
“Sniper down,” Taylor reported.
Skylar sat up and looked at Jaxon. Fear filled her voice when she asked, “What’s going on, Jaxon?”
“Senator Stephen Smith was just shot, honey. I’ll explain everything, just stay with me like you promised, OK?”
“Mr. Vice President, we need to get you out of here.” Mike nodded to the Secret Service agent and followed him to the waiting car. Once inside, he made a call.
“Is this line secure?” the person on the other end asked.
“The senator is dead, and a weak link has been removed, but we have another problem,” Mike said.
“And what is that?”
“Nine Circles Security. They were at the party tonight. They must know more than we think.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Think about it. We sent Al-Said after them. Then the incident in Tijuana, and now this. They’ve been involved in all of it. They aren’t stupid. They must be piecing it together.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Let’s send one of our friends after them to see what they know.” Mike smiled as he pictured it.
“I’ll take care of it.”
Justin glanced back at the senator as he stepped into the hall. He wasn’t going far but needed to make a call, and the room was currently filled with doctors and nurses getting Senator Smith settled. “Brass, it’s Justin. The senator survived his latest surgery. He’s in ICU as we speak.”
Justin was a member of Nine Circles Security but was undercover as Senator Smith’s lead protection agent. Justin had been wearing his coms gear three days earlier when the senator dismissed him to meet the Sinaloa cartel leader at the party. If he hadn’t been dismissed, the senator might not be in the condition he was in now.
“That’s good. Is your cover still intact?”
“Yeah. Brass, Blackhawk confirmed today. I’m in.”
“Roger that. Let me know if anything changes. Watch your six, Justin,” Brass said, making sure Justin watched his back.
“I will.” Justin hung up with Brass just as the doctors and nurses were leaving. He glanced down the hall and saw Annie and two other Blackhawk Security assholes approached the senator’s room.
Let’s just call them Goon One and Goon Two for now.
“Annie. What’s going on?”
“We’re here to take care of some business. The boss wants you in on it as well.”
“What’s with these two?” he asked as he nodded toward the men.
“They’re here to make sure we do the job. It seems there are questions as to my . . . effectiveness, and you’re new so not exactly trusted right now. Shall we go in?”
Shit. How am I going to keep the senator alive and not blow my cover? Justin thought.
He opened the ICU’s sliding glass door for everyone to enter. Once inside, he closed the door and the privacy curtain. Annie and the goons walked over to the senator’s bed, where he lay, still unconscious from his latest surgery.
“What’s the plan?” Justin asked.
Damn good question, Annie thought.
“We shoot him,” Goon One stated.
“Yeah, great idea. Then we can try to avoid the rest of his security detail as well as hospital staff and the police since your dumb ass would bring them all to our door with the noise from the shot.” Justin saw Annie hide a smile. Goon One did not look happy at his statement.
“Look here, you little pissant. Just because you’re some hotshot rent-a-cop for this guy doesn’t mean you know shit. Seeing as he was shot on your watch proves you don’t know shit.”
Justin took offense to Goon One’s statement. “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, asshole. When your boss tells you to do something, no matter how much you object, you do it. Besides, we wouldn’t be standing here right now if your guy actually made a kill shot.”
Take that, asshole.
Justin saw the man’s face turn red with anger.
“Enough,” Annie quietly ordered. “None of us should be here right now so let’s just get this done.” All three men nodded. “Good. As for the senator, the easiest way to do this is to inject an air bubble into an artery. Considering he’s just had major surgery, it should be written off as an accident.” The two goons with her nodded their agreement. “Ready?” Again, the goons nodded.
Justin watched Annie closely. As she spoke to the utter morons with her, she ever so slowly moved closer to the senator’s heart monitor cables. She prepared a syringe with an air bubble, then injected it into the senator’s arm. Justin was no doctor, but he knew enough anatomy to know she was nowhere near an artery. When she removed the syringe, Justin saw her disconnect the cables from the heart monitor, causing the alarm to go off. It appeared the senator’s heart had stopped.
Dumbasses didn’t see what she did. Question is: Why did she do it?
“We need to leave. Now. The staff will believe he’s coded and rush in here.” No sooner had Justin finished his sentence than they heard the Code Blue call over the intercom.
“Wait. He’s still breathing.” Goon Two looked over at Annie. “What did you do?” he asked as he walked over to where she stood. “What the fuck, Annie? You disconnected his monitor to make it look like he was dead. You didn’t kill him at all!”
Annie had a feeling Justin was working for NCS but didn’t know for sure. Right now, she prayed she was right. She looked over at him, ready to make her move.
Please be with me on this.
She winked at Justin, praying he would understand and back her up. She looked up at the asshole staring down at her and jabbed the needle into his neck, pushing air into his carotid artery. He was dead in a matter of seconds.
When Annie made her move, Justin attacked the one standing beside him. He was bigger than Justin, which said a lot considering Justin himself was six and a half feet tall and over two hundred pounds of muscle. Lucky for Justin, the goon couldn’t fight worth a damn. A solid punch to his solar plexus then one to his jaw knocked him out. “What in the hell just happened?”
Annie smiled at Justin. “It seems you just stopped an attempt on the senator’s life.”
“Yes, it seems I did,” Justin agreed as he returned Annie’s smile. “What about you?”
“Me? I’m an innocent bystander that heard the commotion and came to help.”
You have to trust someone, so why not him?
He did just cover our asses.
Plus, Kayla and Mac trust him, or he wouldn’t be here right now.
Annie took a deep breath while she reconnected the senator’s monitor. She spoke softly when she said, “I know you work for Nine Circles Security. I know you’re undercover.”
What the fuck? How in the hell does she know that? Son of a bitch!
Justin kept his expression neutral. “What makes you say that?”
“Kayla may have let it slip they had someone undercover with the senator.” Annie took a breath, then continued, “When she asked me to work for her.”