Home > The Protector(2)

The Protector(2)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas


My focus remains forward, my direction automatic, like I’ve run the route a million times. I probably have. The same faces, mostly women’s, all smile hopefully when they see me pelting toward them, their backs straightening, their breathing suddenly forced into something close to consistent. Today might be the day I stop and say hi, or maybe even toss them a quick smile as I race past. Like I said, huge disappointment. They’re each just another face among a sea of meaningless faces, humans in my way. I round every one of them stealthily, my body working automatically to avoid any collisions.

Half an hour in, my mind’s starting to feel clearer, and the sweat is purging the alcohol from my system. All of it seeps from my body over the last mile stretch of my run until my lungs start burning with need.

Done.

I break down my pace and come to a slow stop outside Nero’s café, looking up to the sky. I nod to myself, satisfied. 7:20 on the dot. Pushing my way through the door, I grab a napkin and wipe my forehead as I stride toward the counter. I scoop up a bottle of water as I pass the fridge and crack it open, glugging down the whole thing before I make it to the server. She’s rung it through the till before I have a chance to reach into my pocket and retrieve a note.

“Your black coffee is on the way,” she says, having a quick check over her shoulder as she speaks.

“Thanks,” I mutter, tossing the empty water bottle across the café. It lands with accuracy in the bin. My black coffee is on the counter by the time I return my attention to the server.

Every day, the same. I scoop up my coffee and leave.

The traffic is building as I walk down Berkeley Street, collecting a newspaper from my usual vendor. He’s holding it out to me as I approach, his face smiley. “Early this morning, mister.”

I nod and take the paper, flipping him a quid before scanning the front page. The anger rises from my toes the second I catch a glimpse of the headline.

19 DEAD IN TURKEY AFTER HOLIDAY SHOOTING

 

“Bastards.” I swallow down the fury, as well as the helplessness, and read on. Evacuations being made, tourists warned not to travel there. Turkey has been added to the list of other red zones. The whole fucking world is a red zone these days. I fold the paper and toss it in the bin as I pass. I don’t know why I do it to myself. There’s nothing I can do to help. Not now. I’m not needed. Or wanted. My destructive rampage in Afghanistan took care of that. The faces of my comrades, my friends, start to break down the wall of defense in my mind. Happy faces. Dead faces. I blink back the flashback, forcing it away before it can take hold. I need another fucking ten-mile run.

* * *

 

I flip on the shower and leave the temperature exactly where it is. Freezing fucking cold. Bullets of icy water hit me from all four directions, ensuring my whole body gets a punishing. It feels good. Real. My head tilts back on my neck and gives the spray access to my face, while I mull over my workload for the day. Clean my gun…for the fourth time this week. Check my e-mails. Maybe call Abbie.

The last one has been on my list each day for the past four years. It remains unfulfilled. Just call her. Let her know I’m alive. That’s all she needs. All I can give. Yet I can’t bring myself to return to the past. My breathing slows, my head dropping. Gunfire, explosions, screams.

E-mails!

I scrub at my cheeks, pulling myself back from the brink of an anxiety attack, and grab the shower gel. I need to get on with my day. After I wash down and wrap a towel around my waist, I grab my pills and pop one as I pad into the open space of my apartment, over to the foot of the panoramic windows where my desk dominates the space. I lower to the huge black leather chair and fire up my laptop, looking out across the city as my computer loads, resting back in silent thought.

Just text her. Let her know I’m still alive. I laugh coldly under my breath at my pathetic reality. Abbie is the only person on this planet who probably cares if I’m dead or alive. Or maybe she doesn’t anymore. It’s just me. No family. No friends. No parents.

From the moment my mother and father were killed on Pan Am flight 103, I had one purpose. War. I was seven years old. I didn’t even really understand what had happened, but I knew there were bad people out there and they needed to be stopped. The burning need to fight the evil grew as I got older. My grandmother took care of me until old age took her. Then there was no one to worry about me anymore. I could join the forces and do my bit. Anything to help.

My sharpshooting ability was soon noticed and I was pulled from the cadets. They handed me a rifle. I never looked back. I aimed, I fired, I hit. Over and over again, and each time I felt a sense of achievement. No guilt. Just achievement. Because there was one less dangerous bastard in the world to be worried about.

Ding!

The ping of an e-mail pulls me from my thoughts. “Hello, gorgeous,” I say to myself when I see her name on my screen. I’m suddenly hopeful of some respite. It’s been two weeks with no assignment, and I’ve been losing my fucking mind. Two weeks with nothing to do but drink, screw, and fight to keep my mind away from haunting memories.

As always, and typical of Lucinda, her note is simple and straight to the point…which is undoubtedly why she’s the only woman I actually like.

But my contented smile soon drops away the more I read.

CLIENT: Trevor Logan—business tycoon and property owner.

SUBJECT: Camille Logan—Youngest child of client and only daughter.

MISSION: Shadow

DURATION: Indefinitely

VALUE: £100K p/w

 

I lean back in my chair, my fingers forming a steeple in front of my mouth. One hundred grand a week? There must be some kind of catch. A shadow mission? I haven’t undertaken one for a long time, and I’m not sure if it is such a good idea now, for no other reason than that the subject is the daughter of Trevor Logan—a ruthless businessman who has stomped on anyone and everyone on his way to the top. I’ve seen him in the papers, more recently in a court battle when he was accused of suppressing a minority shareholder of a firm he bought in to. Of course, he won. He always wins, and the press always backs the prick. The man is unbearably sanctimonious, and I can’t imagine that his precious daughter is any different. Lucinda must have considered this.

She should know better. She knows my past. The horrors, every dirty little detail. This kind of job would require constant surveillance, a full shadow. And for a woman like that? No way. I’d end up strangling her…or, worse: the constant reminders of another woman who had the same qualities could accelerate my flashbacks.

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