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Home > Darkest Before Dawn (KGI #10)(9)

Darkest Before Dawn (KGI #10)(9)
Author: Maya Banks

He was a law unto himself, and that would never change. God help him, he didn’t want it to change. Never would he sit back and allow someone else to do what was his duty alone.

Bristow was seething with impatience, taking Hancock’s prolonged silence for disdain and insubordination. As much as Hancock wanted to tell him to get fucked, there was a higher purpose at hand, and Bristow mattered only as much as a pawn used to achieve that higher goal. Hancock wouldn’t get rid of him yet. But he would allow the man to know who was really in control. Bristow would know not to cross Hancock, even as he wouldn’t be certain why. It would be nothing Hancock said—directly. But Bristow would know absolutely.

“You pay me,” Hancock said mildly. “I hired and pay my men. They follow my orders. Never think otherwise.”

Though the statement seemed bland, a simple truth, there was a soft warning that Bristow didn’t misunderstand. For a brief moment fear flashed in the career criminal’s eyes before he visibly chased it away with a shake of his head, a scowl replacing any hint of intimidation. He hated the feeling of inferiority. That Hancock, so rough around the edges, hard and unyielding, not handsome or appealing by anyone’s standards, could possibly make a man like Bristow feel so . . . subservient. And yet he was too aware of Hancock’s power to challenge the man who worked for him. He was . . . afraid . . . of him. And that rankled most of all.

Hancock almost smiled, but he was too disciplined to do so. He wanted the little bastard afraid of him—of his men. And he damn sure wanted the power-hungry warlord to know just where his men’s loyalties lay. It wasn’t with Bristow, and he’d be a fool to ever believe so.

“Now, about this woman,” Hancock said, deliberately bringing them back to the original subject. “What could be so important about a lone woman that you would risk pissing off one of the most powerful men in the world?”

Once again, anger flashed in Bristow’s eyes. Impatience caused a twitch to his right eyelid, and he was barely maintaining a grasp on his temper. With anyone else, he would have already acted. He would have ordered the person who dared to question him and suggest he wasn’t the most powerful man in the world to be killed. And it wouldn’t be a quick merciful death either. Hancock had witnessed Bristow’s depravities firsthand. He’d been forced to participate in order to prove himself. To enter Bristow’s inner circle, gain his trust—and confidence—and position himself as Bristow’s second in command.

The man was foul, and only the knowledge that when Hancock brought down his primary target he would then take out Bristow and dismantle his entire organization had kept him from killing Bristow on the spot. But he needed this man—or rather pawn, as loath as he was to admit it. Any idiot with Bristow’s connections would do. It wasn’t personal to Bristow or any greatness he perceived on his behalf. Maksimov, the primary target, the end goal, was a cagey bastard, and Hancock had come close too many times to count, only for the Russian to elude him.

He was determined that this was his final chase. It would all end here. He would bring down every kingpin in this macabre chain of evil. They preyed on the innocent, providing the necessary tools for anyone with the money and the means to wage war on the innocent. They were the cause of so much bloodshed. Rivers of it. Hundreds of thousands of deaths could be attributed to the links in the chain, but all pieces led to the same man. Maksimov. He had his fingers in every imaginable pie there was. If there was a way to profit from pain, suffering and terrorism, he found it.

Ironically, Maksimov provided equally to opposing factions, no doubt finding it amusing to see groups waging war against one another with weapons he’d provided, his pockets fat from the veritable monopoly he held on arms, explosives, every imaginable military weapon and even the necessary components to build nuclear weapons.

He was on every civilized country’s most-wanted list. He was the most-wanted man in the world, and yet no one had succeeded in taking him down. Over the years, Hancock had tasted failure more times than he wished to remember as he relentlessly pursued Maksimov. Took advantage of avenues to him. Cultivated partnerships with those high up in the chain leading to Maksimov. Were it not for an attack of the very thing he swore he didn’t possess—a conscience—he’d have nailed the bastard twice over.

He’d mentally berated himself a hundred times, and yet he couldn’t find it within him to have true regret over the choices he’d made. The only thing he’d been able to summon was the iron will to never again put the good of the one over the good of the many. The price was too high. He’d sacrificed his objective for a single innocent. On not one, but two occasions. And when he imagined how many thousands of innocent people had died—were still dying—because he’d saved two innocents, two people who were nothing but good—everything he wasn’t—it only hardened his resolve to never again forfeit his honor, his belief system. He understood that the loss of the two women he’d chosen to forfeit his mission in order to save would have been a travesty. The world needed people like Grace and Maren. But he had no choice but to once again embrace the emotionless existence he’d lived for so many years and wrap himself deep in the layers so he would feel nothing but the burning drive to complete his mission at all costs.

He would not feel guilt over sacrificing the few for the many. It was a choice no one should have to make, but it was what he’d been made into. His skills honed by fire. Taught by the best. The knowledge that completing the mission at all costs was necessary and that failure was not an option had been so solidly ingrained into him that it had become a part of him. No, not a part. It had become all-consuming, the whole of his existence. So deeply rooted in his soul that it became who he was. What he was. Until there was nothing left of the person he’d once been, and in his place a ruthless warrior had been born. Forged by fire. Resolve of steel. No hesitation to do his sworn duty and uphold the only honor and code he adhered to. His own.

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