Authors: Jennifer Harlow
"Hi," the doppelganger says with his voice.
A million different scenarios flash through my mind. Excuse myself and call the guys? Suspicious. Scream for Dobbs? He'll kill us both. Attack him? Um, no. He can snap my neck with two fingers. Play along wins by a landslide. "Hey," I say with a grin. "This is a surprise."
"I, uh, know," he says nervously. Jordan shuts off the TV and rises. "A pleasant one, I hope."
"Always." Oh, shit I think I just entered a mental chess game with Bobby Fucking Fisher. What does he know? What does he suspect? Why the fuck is he here? Attacking him now seems like the smarter option. Damn, my purse with all my weapons is by the front door. To buy time, I move to the bar with my eyes averted. "Though, if you're here to discuss an investment in Ambrose Pharmaceuticals, I am in no mood."
"That's not why I'm here, and we both know it."
Shit. My heart starts pounding in my ears. "I figured." I pour myself water, using sheer willpower to stop my hands from trembling.
Keep it together
. I spin around with annoyance on my face. "So say your peace."
"You have to stop investigating Cain. I know you haven't, even though I begged you to."
"And how exactly do you know that?"
He scoffs. "Please. I know
." He leaves it at that. Clever. "This isn't your fight."
I scoff this time. "Please. The second that cowardly, psycho fuck set foot in my town, it became my fight."
If I've offended him, it doesn't show. "You don't have to do this. You can sit this one out. Leave town for awhile."
Okay, now I'm really confused. What the hell is he playing at? He moves toward me. Lord even his walk is all Jem. Jordan stops two feet in front of me, too damn close for comfort. Now I notice the subtle differences. The faint smile lines around the eyes and mouth. He smiles more than Jem. Not surprising. Villains always seem to be having more fun than heroes. Really, it's the eyes. Same color, same shape, but there's nothing in there. No sparkle. No light. No soul. He's doing a better than average job of hiding this fact, seeming sympathetic and concerned as he stares. Fuck, this is creepy.
"Please. You cannot fathom what you are up against in that man.
. If you care about me, you'll just leave. I can't keep going with you here. I worry all the time. Where you are, what you're doing. I can't concentrate. You're in my every thought every minute. He can get to you anytime. Anywhere. I…the mere thought paralyzes me. Please, just go."
Oh. I get it now. My eyes narrow in confusion. Two can play this game. "Look…um, your concern is sweet and all, but uh, you're kind of making me uncomfortable here. Like, a lot. This is sort of coming out of left field here," I say with a nervous chuckle.
"It is?" he asks, sounding hurt. Nice touch.
"Uh, yeah. I never knew you felt this way. I mean, you're a nice guy and all, but I don't…consider you in that way.
. I mean, I like working with you and teaching you to sail and whatnot, but that's it. I just think of you as a friend." I gaze down at the floor. "And I'm, uh, actually, um, seeing someone. He's stopping by soon." And he can't get here fucking fast enough.
"I-I had no idea. Why didn't you tell me?"
I narrow my eyes. "We're not exactly close, Jem. I don't know who you're seeing, if anyone. Come on," I say, placing my hands on my hips. "Where the hell is this coming from? Really? You've barely said twenty non-work related words to me since we've met. The only time I ever came close to flirting with you, you were horrified. You're obviously not thinking straight. All this bullshit with your brother is doing your head in. Get out of town for a few days, get some perspective. Jesus." I sip my water. "Now, I'm exhausted and I gotta get ready for Brendan."
"Brendan Darby? The football player? Isn't he married?"
"Spare me the lecture, okay? It's none of your damn business. Just go, okay? God!" Rolling my eyes, I take a step away. Checkma--shit! I make it only the one step before his hand clamps on my arm to stop me. I let out a gasp and almost jump out of my skin. The look on his face, complete with wide grin, stops my heart. "What--"
"You're good. Real good. Had me fooled there for a moment."
He squeezes my arm hard enough I wince. "Please don't insult my intelligence."
"I don't…" His glare stops my denial dead. The jig is up. Surprised I lasted this long. I wipe the confusion off my face to match his expression. "Damn it."
Plan B time. Old Faithful.
I knee him in the balls with all my strength while at the same time smash my glass against his head, shattering it. Pain ripples through my hand and hopefully his head. He releases my arm, and I make a mad dash toward the door. I get all of five steps when a hand clamps my hair, snapping my head back hard enough for whiplash. Before I can process the pain, I'm flung over the back of the couch, landing on the cushions before bouncing onto the hard floor. My bleeding hand stings when I land.
was a stupid idea.
"Get up," Jordan orders. I manage to rise, and when I turn I spot the gun pointed at me. Of course. At least his head is bleeding. One point for effort. I lift my hands in surrender. "Nice try. Now, sit down. Time for a real chat." Glaring at him, I do as he says. Jordan rests on the other end of the couch. "Know that if you scream for help, I kill you then the butler."
"I won't scream. I wouldn't give you the satisfaction."
Sighing, he rolls his eyes. "Save the tough girl act. We've done enough lying for one evening, don't you think?" He wipes his blood with his sleeve. "Just out of professional curiosity, what was it that gave me away? A lot of time and research went into this meeting. Surveillance, breaking into his apartment, rehearsal. What was it?"
"You're here for one. They don't come to the house, not since you literally blew into town. No contact anymore, at least not with me. But I knew for sure when you said
were the one who begged me to stop investigating. It wasn't Nightingale, it was Liberty," I lie. "Your brother and Tempest just backed her decision. I haven't heard from a one of them since. And third, your brother would never, not in a million years, hit on me. I've given him a dozen chances to, and he stared at me as if I was crazy. I don't think he has a lustful bone in his body, at least not for me. I would have found it." I scowl at him. "Not surprising, though. After what you did to him, you might as well have cut that part out yourself."
"You really expect me to believe there's nothing between you two? I've been following him almost since he arrived in this hellhole of a city. I've seen the two of you together on multiple occasions looking rather cozy. He apparently even informed you of his double life."
"That wasn't by choice. I figured it out early on. Came to town at the same time. Same height, weight, eyes, desire to shrink away whenever I touched him. I confronted him, he fessed up. Which is why we had so many meetings. Not only is my company thinking of investing in his wonder drug, but we were trying to take down a syndicate, which we did. We're both busy people, we found time whenever we could. But that's it. He's a colleague, and yes, a friend. And when you kill me, which I'm guessing is what you're here to do, he'll feel bad. You might even make him cry, but you won't destroy him. Just like you didn't before with Uma or all those times you attacked Independence in an attempt to gain his undivided attention. You know why? Because he's better than you. Smarter. Stronger." I meet his blank eyes, giving him the full force of my glare. "You will not win. He will beat you. Every. Time."
"You know, for just a friend, and knowing him such a short time, you certainly do hold him in high regard."
"Just calling it like I see it. I know his type. Like I know yours. You're nothing but a selfish man-boy throwing a tantrum because your brother is ignoring you."
"A bit simplistic, don't you think?"
"Is it? When your brother might, just
be starting to find a glimmer happiness, of normality, you have to show up, to what? Save him from this horrible fate? Or maybe
just can't accept the fact he can live without you. Because from where I'm sitting, it doesn't seem like you can live without him. You're acting like a psychotic, jealous ex-girlfriend whose boyfriend has moved on. Is that it? You want to fuck your brother, and if you can't have him no one else can, Jordy?"
He pauses, and then raises an eyebrow. "Who says I haven't? Fucked him, that is. It was just the two of us for many years. Many cold, lonely nights in that compound with only each other for comfort."
His grin grows as the revulsion on my face intensifies. "You're lying," I say.
"Don't you wish I was," he says. "No, you don't have a sibling, let alone a twin, so you wouldn't understand. Since birth you have a built in friend and built in competitor all through life. A comfort and a nightmare. And there are times you feel like one person. You're both in your own microcosm, a hostage to one another, and yes, there's no room for anyone else. And try as you might, you cannot be happy without them. And you hate them for it. But how can you hate someone you love so much?"
"I don't know," I say.
know, so please refrain from judging and commenting on concepts you know nothing of," he says with an undercurrent of anger. Cain's quiet for a few tense seconds as he studies me. When his shoulders relax, I know I've passed his test. "No, my brother could never love you. You're far too low-brow. Uma had class. She was bright. Beautiful. You're just…common. You couldn't turn his head if it was on a top."
"Fuck you asshole," I hiss.
"Have I hit a nerve? I suppose I must have. It must be hard having a penchant for falling in love with men above your weight class."
"You don't know what the fu--" I stop myself. I'm getting too emotional for this conversation. "Look, if you're going to kill me, then just fucking kill me already. I'm bored with you."
His grin grows. "Really? I'm having fun." Those sapphire eyes catch mine, and the smile slowly falters. He points the gun to the side, away from me. "I'm actually not here to kill you. I mean, I will if I must, but that is not the purpose of my visit today."
Those words should bring relief, but I'm still at Defcon 1. "Then what the hell do you want?"
"I wanted to meet the newest addition, gage your threat level." His nose twitches. "Minimal. Which is a disappointment. Your work with Alkaline was impressive, but it must have been the exception, not the rule. All bark, no bite. Shame." The gun returns to my chest. "But really I want access to your computer. I have research to do. I searched the majority of the house but couldn't locate it.
will show me where it is and how to use it. Were you lying when you said you had a gentleman coming over?"
"Well, then we best get to it. Don't want you to miss your adulterous fun. Get up."
Fuck. Going to a second location never ends well. With the gun still on my person, we rise. Cain picks up the satchel from the floor he must have brought. I don't like it, but I lead the way toward the fireplace. For a second I'm convinced he's lying, that he's going to shoot me in the back of the head. I press the button under the fireplace, and it slides open. Still no shot.
The psycho keeps the gun against my shoulder the entire way down the ramp. "Huh. It's smaller than I imagined." I slowly march toward Doris. I'm about to enter the password that sends a warning to the others, but Jordan moves the gun to my temple. "No tricks, Miss Fallon. And familiar faces show up while I'm here you're the first to go, then your old friend upstairs. As I said, I don't want to kill you, but I will. Correct password please." Fuck again. I do as he says. The main screen pops up. "Looks simple enough. Suppose it'd have to be for you to use it."
"Gee, I can't tell you how wounded I am by your low opinion of me," I say, deadpan.
I get a quick smile from the villain. "I am sure you'll recover from the disappointment." He sets the satchel down and reaches into his pocket. My breath catches when he pulls out a syringe, using his teeth to get the cap off.
Before I can form a defensive tactic, the needle pierces my neck. Whatever's inside burns through my veins. As the darkness envelops me, and I lose function of all my limbs, I hear the words, "Say hello to my brother for me."
Fade to fucking black.
A stinging chemical smell. Brendan and Dobbs above, shouting my name. Black.
Sirens. Jostling around as a car moves. Black.
Bright lights. Doctors and nurses circling me. Black.
When I open my eyes for the fourth time, I manage to keep them ajar for more than a second. Four walls, machines attached to my arms, antiseptic smell, and a gurney. Hospital. The right side of my head throbs, and when I touch it there's a bandage over my matted hair. My neck where that fucker injected me is sore too. At least I'm alive.
Brendan is asleep in a chair in the corner snoring lightly. My attempt to sit up fails the first time, but the second successful one alerts my guard. He lets out a snorting snore, and his eyes fly open. "Oh, hey," he says, sitting up as well.
"Evening," I say as I settle into the gurney.
He checks his watch. "Actually, it's just past two AM." The gentle giant stands and walks over. "How you feeling?"
"My head hurts."
"Yeah, you whacked it when you hit the floor. They already gave you a CT scan. There's no swelling so probably no concussion. Just a couple staples for the gash and some blood loss. Jem said they'd do more tests when you woke up."
"Is he here?"
"He's around somewhere, but…"
"We both thought it best he keep his distance. Because of, you know. So I pulled guard duty."
"You know it was Cain?"
"Yeah. I came over around nine to check on you, but your butler told me you were out with Jem, which I knew was a lie. I'd just left him at the docks an hour before. When you weren't in the living room, I opened the fireplace and found you bleeding and unconscious on the floor. We tried to revive you, but when we couldn't, your butler phoned an ambulance and I moved you upstairs. Seems Cain injected you with an anesthetic. It's not dangerous or anything, no long term effects, just knocks you out for a couple hours." Brendan sits on the edge of the gurney. "I called Jem while we waited for the ambulance to make sure he'd be the one to examine you. We checked you in under a fake name, but there have been a few calls. We've just kept silent."