All the King's Men: The Beginning (8 page)

BOOK: All the King's Men: The Beginning
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"Of course, and you can call me Sev."

Sev was a big fucker with friendly, if not a tad guarded, blue eyes that quickly scanned the room as if he was used to analyzing his surroundings. Probably a habit from his days as a member of the special forces in the human military. Wide in the shoulders with thick, heavily muscled arms and a long torso, Sev looked like he could lift a dump truck without breaking a sweat. Obviously, he could deliver the physical goods his resume promised. And, damn! Tristan knew males and females alike who would kill for that head of long, blond hair that looked like something out of a Clairol commercial. Severin was sure to turn more than a few heads in Chicago.

"How was the drive up from Atlanta?" Tristan said as he gestured toward one of the chairs.

Sev took a seat. "Long."

"Did you drive straight through?" Sev's paperwork indicated he was a mixed-blood, which meant he was a day walker and could function in the daylight without cooking himself like barbecue.

Sev nodded. "Yes. I was eager to get started."

Leaning back in his chair, Tristan laced his fingers in front of him. "Well, we're eager to get you started once you're settled. Do you have a place, yet?"

"I'm closing on a house tomorrow."

Tristan nodded. "Sounds like you're well ahead of the game then."

"Yes, sir—sorry. Tristan."

He was going to like Severin. The guy was tough, experienced, and respectful, if not a bit on the quiet side. During their phone call, Sev didn't elaborate much on his personal life and gave short, concise answers. Not that Tristan got the impression Sev was being evasive. He just seemed like the type who kept his business private. Tristan respected that.

Tristan glanced at the guy's file. "It says here you were involved in the raid of that cobalt facility in Atlanta." He looked up as Sev shifted and grinned tightly. "I heard about that." A lot of Atlanta AKM enforcers had been killed in that raid. From the accounts Tristan had heard, the scene had been a bloodbath.

Sev cleared his throat. "Yes. I was working undercover there."

"What happened?"

With a shrug, Sev averted his gaze, clearly uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry," Tristan said. "If you don't want to talk about it—" It had to be hard to think about all the lives lost that day, some of whom Sev had probably known pretty well.

"No." Sev met his gaze. "I'm okay." He blinked several times and rubbed his palm over his face. "Shit just went way bad on that one is all. I wish I could have done more to stop it from happening, but…" He trailed off.

Tristan gave him a moment with his thoughts then asked, "Any idea who's funding these assholes?"

Sev shook his head, but there was something about his demeanor that made him appear uncomfortable, as if the memories of that day pained him. "No, but whoever it is, they've got a lot of disposable income. The drecks at that warehouse were well armed with some pretty impressive firepower you can't just buy at the local gun store. This was military grade."

"Yeah, that's what I heard." Tristan could tell the subject made Sev uneasy, which would explain why Sev had waited eight months to seek new employment. He had probably needed the time off to sort through the mental fallout. Somberness sank into the air, and Tristan's voice softened. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry you had to go through that. Clearly, you knew some of those who were killed."

Sev glanced at the floor and nodded sullenly. "One or two," he said quietly. "But life goes on, right?" He looked up again and forced a tight smile.

Tristan sat forward to rest his elbows on his desk. "If you're in this business long enough, you're bound to lose friends. I've lost a few myself." One of which was still alive and on his team. Micah. Well, and Malek, but Malek had handled the death of his mate better than Micah had. Now wasn't the time to dwell on the emotional casualties on his own team, though. Hopefully, adding Sev would spark new life into the group. "I've been following the aftermath," he said of the Atlanta tragedy. "Premier Royce has been on King Bain's ass to find out who's killing the drecks who survived the raid. I don't know if you've kept up on the news, but someone has been hunting those drecks down one by one, and what's left behind isn't pretty." Since the raid, the surviving drecks were being systematically eliminated, as if by an assassin, which could be seen as a violation of the peace treaty if the assassin turned out to be a vampire, especially if said vampire worked for AKM.

Sev blinked again, and his jaw clenched. "Yes, I heard about that."

"Any ideas about who could be responsible?" Maybe Sev had seen something that could help them find this mysterious assassin. After all, he had been involved and had more firsthand knowledge of the raid than anyone else he had spoken to about it. "Did you see anyone suspicious? Did anything stand out as unusual?"

After a brief hesitation where he appeared to think about it, Sev shook his head. "No. Nothing."

Damn it. Tristan had hoped Sev could shed some light on the incident, as well as who had turned vigilante to hunt down the drecks who had survived. Looked like they were still at a loss, and Royce would just have to keep fuming. Oh well, there was nothing they could do about it tonight.

"Okay then," Tristan said, closing Sev's file with an air of finality. "How about we get you started right after the holiday? That'll give you a couple of weeks to get settled and catch your bearings before we start running you through the paces."

Sev looked relieved to leave behind the subject of the Atlanta raid and clapped his hands on his thighs. "Sounds perfect to me. I'm eager to get back to work."

"Great. I'll get the paperwork started." Tristan stood. Sev joined him as they began for the door.

"I'm looking forward to working here, Tristan. The Chicago branch is the most active AKM facility in the world, and I'm ready to finally get back in the field. I haven't worked since leaving VDA eight months ago, and the down time is aggravating the shit out of me."

Tristan chuckled. "I know the feeling. I—" He cut off as Arion and Io entered the office and nearly crashed into them, caught up in conversation with one another.

"Oh, shit!" Arion said, bumping into Sev. He grabbed Sev's arms and took a step back. "Sorry." He glanced at Tristan, and Io stepped aside. "I didn't know you had company."

"Ari, this is Sev. Sev, this is Ari and Io. They're on the team."

Instant calm emanated from Sev as he extended his right hand toward Ari. "Hey."

Ari shook Sev's hand. "Hey. Good to meet you. You joining us?"

Sev nodded and took Io's outstretched hand, but didn't take his eyes off Ari. "Yes. After Christmas."

"Great. It'll be nice to have some new blood around here," Ari said.

"Just watch out for Micah," Io added as he released Sev's hand.

"Micah?" Sev looked between Io and Tristan. "Who's Micah? And why do I need to watch out for him?"

Ari chuckled. "You'll see, but don't let it sweat you."

Tristan sighed. "Micah is…well…he's different. And a little difficult to manage. But that's my job." Tristan placed his open palm on his chest. "But he's really a good guy." Ari scoffed, and Tristan threw him a warning glance. "He is. No matter what these two clowns say. You just need to get to know him."

"Yeah, right," Io said. "As if Micah would allow a newbie to get to know him."

Tristan shook his head, unable to hold back his own grin. Not that he liked talking ill about Micah, but the guy did bring it on himself. "Guys, come on. Don't scare Sev before he's even part of the team."

"It takes a lot more than that to scare me," Sev said, smiling. It was the first genuine smile Tristan had seen on Sev's face since he had arrived.

"Good," Ari said, chucking Sev's shoulder. "Then, welcome to the team. I can't wait to work with you and see what you've got." Ari's gaze swept over Sev's stacked shoulders and broad chest as if he were sizing up Sev's skills by his physique alone. Then he issued a friendly nod. "See you later." Ari paused for a heartbeat, met Sev's gaze, smiled, and then headed into the office with Io.

Sev watched him walk away, and then followed Tristan into the hall. "Nice guys."

Tristan regarded him. "Ari and Io?"

"Yeah. Ari seems friendly enough."

"He is. His father is one of King Bain's liaisons, so I think Ari gets his diplomatic skills from him. Io's a bit of a player, but damn, the guy can hack. Best hacker AKM's got. And Ari's his best friend. You never find one without the other."

Sev glanced over his shoulder toward Tristan's office as if he'd left something behind, but then turned back around and kept walking. "I'm looking forward to getting to know them better."

"Plenty of time for that. As for the other members on the team, there's Malek, Trace, and, of course, Micah. All good guys. Even Micah. He's just dealing with some heavy shit in his personal life right now." Understatement. "But if you want to learn from the best, it's him. Micah has been around a long time. Trained King Bain before he succeeded to the throne."

"No shit?" Sev sounded genuinely impressed.

Tristan chuckled. "No shit. He's solid. Definitely a male you want in your corner." Unless shit went south with Jackson, and then no one would want to be near Micah. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, no amount of help from all the king's men would help to put Micah back together again if Jackson took off.

He walked Sev out and returned to his office to find that the rest of his team had shown up for their meeting. Even Micah. Surprise, surprise.

"Glad to see you tonight, Micah." He took his seat behind his desk. Micah hadn't attended a team meeting for a week. "I was beginning to think we'd lost you."

Micah sighed and slouched in his chair, legs stretched out in front of him, his fingers laced over his stomach as if he wanted to be anywhere else but there. "Can the bullshit, Tris." Then Micah's brow crinkled as his gaze slid up to meet Tristan's. As the two exchanged glances, Micah's eyes narrowed and his scowl deepened as he shifted and straightened in his seat. He looked like a jungle cat getting ready to pounce. Shit. What had Micah just picked up from his mind?

"Josie's pregnant?" The words left Micah's lips with an air of disbelief and something else. Loathing, maybe.

Tristan hadn't told the team, yet. He had planned to do that tonight. "Well, shit, Micah. Thanks for ruining my announcement."

Micah simply looked away, frowning. No apology. No congratulations. No nothing. Just apathy. Tristan understood Micah's reasons for his lack of interest. It had to be hell to desire something that badly and not get it, only to be reminded repeatedly—as others mated and had children—that he would always be left wanting. To hear that Josie was pregnant had to feel like a knife to Micah's gut. The added torment was that Micah obviously wouldn't have any children of his own with Jackson, even if they stayed together, which was looking more and more like they wouldn't. So, yeah, Tristan's good news had likely ripped open old wounds that had never fully healed, and on top of everything going on with Jackson, hearing that Josie was pregnant probably sat as well on Micah's stomach as spoiled meat.

Off to the side, Trace watched Micah closely, as if he was aware of and concerned about Micah's inner turmoil. The rest of the team ignored Micah and offered their congratulations over the good news.

"How did that happen?" Malek asked, smiling.

Tristan shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I just got lucky."

Micah rolled his head around to glare at him. "Yeah. Lucky you."

Micah's anger and resentment were understandable. But just because Tristan understood Micah's pain didn't mean he had to quell his own excitement. And damn if he would let Micah steal his thunder on this, especially under the circumstances. For decades, Tristan had thought Josie would never have his baby, so he had every goddamn right to be happy and excited about the little miracle happening in his life right now. Screw Micah.

"Yeah, Tris," Ari said. "You're a lucky bastard. Not many males can say they're a dad when they haven't actually mated." He paused. "I hope I'm not that lucky. I don't need any rugrats running around."

Micah spit out a harsh laugh, shot Ari a glare, and then looked away.

"What?" Ari frowned at Micah.

"You're such an ass," Micah said. "You need to mate a
female
to produce
rugrats
, dumbass."

"What the fuck?" Ari said. "Where the hell did that come from? I'm perfectly aware of where children come from, asshole."

Io growled and sat forward. "Shut the fuck up, Micah. You're the dumbass around here."

Micah flipped Io off. "Don't worry, Io. I won't try to kiss your
boyfriend
." He glanced at Ari out of the corner of his eye as Ari's mouth fell open.

Io jumped out of his chair and jabbed a finger at Micah. "Fuck you, motherfucker! I don't go that way and you know it!"

"Mmm, you're turning me on, Io." Micah grabbed his crotch and blew Io a kiss then looked back at Ari. "That make you jealous, Ari? Me talking to your
boyfriend
like that? Blowing him kisses?" He chuckled…actually chuckled like he was in on some private joke.

Rage exploded as both Io and Ari went after Micah. Trace leaped from the wall and shoved Io back as Malek pulled Micah away.

Tristan had had enough. He jumped out of his chair, and before anyone knew what was going on, he had Micah by the throat and dragged him away from the others. "I've had enough of your shit, Micah. You'd better calm the hell down and NOW!"

Micah snarled. "Or what? You'll pull rank on my ass and rip out my trachea? Go ahead. Do it." Blind fury with an edge of anguish shone from his navy blue eyes, and for an instant, Tristan felt as though Micah wanted him to do exactly what he'd just said, which would kill him. The look on Micah's face told Tristan all he needed to know about the state of Micah's relationship with Jackson. It was getting worse.

Part of Tristan—the new father he was going to be within the year—wanted to pull Micah in, hug him, tell him that everything was going to be okay. But hugs and consolation weren't Micah's thing. He was too macho for shit like that. Besides, hugs and sympathy weren't what Micah needed. That shit would only piss him off more. Still, Tristan didn't want to lose him. Micah had trained him, for God's sake. He was the toughest fucker Tristan had ever known, and he was the most lethal with a blade and a bow and arrow. The guy could hit a flea from fifty yards.

BOOK: All the King's Men: The Beginning
12.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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