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Home > Darkest Before Dawn (KGI #10)(10)

Darkest Before Dawn (KGI #10)(10)
Author: Maya Banks

“You think me a fool,” Bristow hissed, some of his earlier fire once again flashing in his eyes, his temper quick and churlish. “I don’t pay you to judge me. I pay you for absolute obedience. If you can’t handle that, then show yourself—and your men,” he added snidely, “to the door.”

Hancock did smile then, but it was mocking, meant to demonstrate contempt for Bristow and his utter lack of respect or fear of a man used to inspiring both.

“No, you pay me to do your dirty work. You pay me to save your ass. And you pay me because you fear that the many enemies you’ve made over the years will get to you, so you sought to hire the best and you did. By all means, if you are so confident in your abilities to see to those matters yourself, then my men and I will go elsewhere. There is always someone looking for one with my capabilities and who would certainly be more appreciative of them. I’m sure you will sleep just fine at night, confident in your safety.”

Fear didn’t merely flicker in Bristow’s eyes, like a shadow chased away nearly as soon as it appeared. His entire face whitened and he swallowed visibly. Hancock felt confident calling the coward’s bluff because above all things, Bristow feared death. His own, that is. He had no regard for the death of others and enjoyed being the instrument of death. It made him feel godlike and powerful, that he could decide whether another lived or died. And he loved others to have that knowledge of who and what he was so they’d fear him, acknowledge him and placate him, even worship him.

And there was the reason he despised Hancock so much. Because not only had Hancock proven himself invincible and impervious to death, but he held Bristow in no esteem whatsoever. He was confident in his own abilities and would never have to hire others to do his bidding. And he was a man others instinctively feared and deferred to. Bristow saw everything he craved—and lacked—in the man he’d hired, and he hated Hancock for it.

Not waiting, Hancock made a motion to his men as if to go, and he simply turned his back on Bristow, making sure at least two of his men had Bristow in their sight line so he didn’t do something stupid like pull a gun and shoot Hancock in the back. Which would be completely in keeping with his character, because Bristow was both a coward and not one who could control his temper.

“Maksimov will want her,” Bristow blurted out. “You have no idea how much. You don’t know who she is, only that I told you I wanted her.”

His tone was beseeching. He hoped to get Hancock and his men to stay without begging outright. He knew better than to command them to stay. And it tore at his already tattered pride to beg, to allow Hancock to know how much Bristow did need him and feared his world without Hancock there to be a barrier between him and his enemies.

It wasn’t Bristow’s desperation that stopped Hancock and his men. It was that one magic word. Maksimov.

Hancock slowly turned so he didn’t tip his hand. He leveled a stare at Bristow.

“Maksimov wants a lot of things,” he said matter-of-factly. “What makes the woman so special?”

“It’s not her,” Bristow said impatiently. “I mean it’s not personal to her. You don’t understand. She escaped from an attack on a relief center where she and many Westerners worked. She was the only survivor, and the militant group took no chances. They recovered all bodies and compared it to the list of people they knew worked there. They were the target. Once they discovered the woman wasn’t among the dead and was nowhere to found, they launched a search for her. So far, she’s evaded them and hasn’t been discovered.”

Hancock made a motion for his men to stand down and take their places in the room once more. A protective formation so Bristow was watched from every angle, though Bristow wasn’t smart enough to know that his every action was being monitored and that he’d be taken out immediately if he made one wrong move.

Hancock crossed his arms over his stomach in a deceptively relaxed and inquisitive mode.

“And why would this woman be of interest to Maksimov? So much so that you want me to track her and be the one to capture her before this group finds her? I doubt you have any interest in protecting her or saving her life, as surely when her pursuers find her—and they will—she’ll be dead. Or wish she were dead.”

Bristow seated himself behind the ornate desk he used for his business dealings. It reeked of wealth and opulence, but then Hancock would expect nothing less from a man who made certain everyone he came into contact with knew of his wealth and imagined power.

His eyes gleamed with . . . excitement. There was obviously something about the woman that gave Bristow an edge, imagined or not. His entire body bristled with impatience and anticipation.

“Because A New Era, the terrorist cell turning the country upside down hunting the woman, is well known and ruthless. They are feared by many. Entire nations fear them, and in fact even enemy nations have joined together in a summit to focus their combined efforts to stop them. They grow more powerful every day. They have unlimited resources and operate using fear and intimidation to achieve their agenda.”

“And what is their agenda exactly?” Hancock asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it? What does any fanatical terrorist cell truly want? They want power, reverence. They want people to not only fear them but to respect their capabilities. They want to rule the entire region, not just a single country or territory. They want nations to fear them and concede that they are superior to any military force. Their numbers grow steadily. They recruit far and wide. Men and women of any ethnicity, nationality. They are very persuasive and promise ultimate wealth, power and domination. And so far, no one, no army, no country, no organized effort has been able to get close to them. They have few casualties and are unaffected by them. Everyone who joins feels it is a great honor to die for their cause, and that makes them even more dangerous because they have no fear of death. They are . . . unstoppable.”

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