Brody sat in a windowless, concrete cell beneath the palace. The person manning the front desk was the same, grizzled veteran who had been working the night they’d hauled down Sullivan.
But this time, he was getting booked, he was getting pushed into the cell, and he heard the solid thunk of the steel door as it slid into place.
He sat on a cot that was too small for a man of his size, breathing stale air and staring at the toilet.
He didn’t care. He wouldn’t sleep. His heart was pounding too hard in his chest. He could put a name to the feeling, but he wouldn’t. It had been too long since he’d last felt afraid, and if he admitted the weakness, then all the time he’d spent training himself not to feel would be for nothing.
Death didn’t scare him, if it came to it. It was the waiting that got to him—being left alone with his thoughts and no alcohol or action for distraction. The thoughts of his wife and daughter that he struggled to avoid, the familiar guilt, floated to the surface of his mind.
Old wounds. He’d expected that. But now there was a new wound.
Capri wasn’t supposed to matter. It was bad enough being haunted by dead things, but she was still living, breathing, warm, and everything that made a person vulnerable. The surge of anger he felt, knowing she was right back where she’d started, back to being used by whomever Ekon deemed fit, was dangerous.
His anger was a selfish one, too. The idea that he might be erased completely, that others would know her as he had made him feel helpless, furious. She’d grown stronger, come into her own. One day, she might change her mind, escape this place, and run into the far reaches with someone. Someone else.
Anger, jealousy, the urge to protect, which had gotten him here in the first place…Each raw emotion drove home the message that he was still soft, still weak, still just as alive and vulnerable as she was.
He sat on the edge of the cot, booted feet flat on the floor, knuckles white where he gripped the metal frame. And he waited.
Hours later, the door slid open, and Haddaway appeared with a chair, his expression grim.
Brody remained impassive, glad to have a break from his own thoughts, in whatever form it came. The older man just sat there, looking at him, as if he couldn’t decide where to begin. Brody made the first move.
“Who’s the new advisor?”
“There isn’t one. It’s just me. Since you once worked for me, I’m sure this will be seen as some test of loyalty. He’s been anxious to test people’s loyalty since the shooting.”
Brody raised his eyebrows briefly in feigned interest, but otherwise he remained still as a statue, looking his former superior in the eye, waiting for him to speak up. He did, finally, and he struggled to keep his voice calm.
“So who fucked her?”
The gunman clenched his teeth and glared. He hadn’t been expecting that, but of course Ekon would have her checked. He had to make sure his Prize hadn’t been violated without his permission. Again, he found himself angry for her. Again, it made him angry at everything else. He remained silent.
“They found evidence of sexual activity,” Haddaway continued. “Four men to one beautiful woman. Was it one of you? All of you? I hear she’s not all that traumatized this time around. Maybe she’s gotten used to strange men inside of her.”
He watched Brody carefully as he said the last part. Brody knew the drill. Haddaway was hoping for a reaction, trying to gauge their relationship. His anger did flare, and he narrowed his eyes. He was sure it told Haddaway everything he needed to know.
“What did the girl tell you?” Brody asked.
“I haven’t talked to her. Ekon’s doing that himself.”
Brody clenched his fists. He hated the idea of Ekon going anywhere near her, but what could he do about it from here?
“You already know it was me,” he growled. “You have my DNA on file.”
Haddaway sat as still as Brody for a moment, two animals, eyes locked.
“You probably could have gotten away with serving some time. Maybe less if I vouched for you and reminded Ekon of the fact you saved his life not so long ago, of the fact you were a pretty valuable asset before you fell off the edge of the kingdom. But you had to fuck her.”
“Yeah,” Brody agreed, lip twitching in a smirk as he remembered. “I did.”
Haddaway stood abruptly. Brody stared at the wall behind him, sensing a lecture.
“You had potential, Shots. You coulda had my job one day if you wanted it.”
“What I wanted then ain’t an option now.”
“Well I’m guessing this isn’t exactly what you had in mind, either. You’d already won the girl for a night. Once wasn’t enough?”
“Once was too damn much.” Brody looked up at him then, angry, reckless, and struggling not to do anything stupid. Then again, if he did, maybe he could end all the bullshit sooner rather than later and have his old boss end him.
He held back. He still respected the man, for all it was worth. “You do what you gotta do, Haddaway.”
The older man looked at him for a long moment. They both knew exactly what he’d have to do. He turned and left with a sound that made Brody think he probably felt like hitting something, too.