I wasn’t sure how long I slept. When I woke up, my entire left side of my body throbbed with pain. I used my good arm to push myself up to a sitting position, as the orderlies wheeled in another gurney. Nope. Actually, it was my entire body that throbbed with pain, not just the left side.
Jet. You mother fucker.
The sad part was the real precision he had used. Everything designed to slow me down, to stop me. Not to kill me. Jet had made it seem like an impulsive hit against Section Five, but really, he had planned everything meticulously, down to exactly how he would cripple me to keep me from following.
That was always Jet’s problem. He still had a heart that worked.
Mine flipped over in my chest as I glanced to the gurney they’d wheeled in beside me. For a moment, Kala was there, beautiful and asleep, but then reality came rushing back entirely too fast.
I swung my legs off the side, pretending that my vision wasn’t swimming like crazy. They were moving her to a bed as I slowly pushed to my feet, using the pristine white walls in this room to steady myself.
“Daniel, you shouldn’t be up yet.” The doctor had followed the crew in, and now she frowned hard at me. Doctor White might have pretended to care, but she wasn’t much better than Sonya, and I didn’t like the idea of being unconscious in her care. “You should be resting.”
“What about her?” I nodded toward Naomi.
“Well, she’s sedated. She is resting.”
I gave her my best fuck-you-and-your-sarcasm face and tested out my weak legs carefully. The last thing I needed was to fall on my face in front of White. The floor was cold on my bare feet as I steadied myself.
Goddamn Jet. Everything hurt. He’d made damn sure I wouldn’t be able to follow until his trail went cold. He could be halfway across the world by now.
“What happened to her?”
“Sentinels found her in the corridor where Jet escaped from the complex.”
What the fuck was she doing out of her room? People were supposed to be keeping tabs on her. A recruit fresh out of indoctrination and they’d given her complete freedom around the complex. If it had been anyone but Naomi, I’d have called it negligence. But Naomi was a special case. They had let her roam around on purpose, knowing Jet’s unpredictability with anything involving Kala. They’d wanted her to stop him for them.
I clenched my fists, which hurt. I didn’t know what game Ryan was playing with me, but it was going to stop.
“Cameras where she was found?” I winced as I straightened up, not realizing that I’d been hunched over.
“Conveniently looped and inoperative for most of the complex, including the corridor where she was found.”
“What did she say?” I nodded again toward Naomi.
“Nothing yet.” The doctor sighed. “She’s been unconscious since she was found. Lost a lot of blood with that wound in her leg, so I expect her to be out a while longer.”
She shook her head. “Knife, actually. But I could tell, there was a bit of a fight or something, given the trajectory of the damage.”
She was watching me carefully, so I steeled myself into my usual mask, cutting out the emotions that raged inside my chest. Anger. Fear. Grief. Whatever it was, I tamped it out like a runaway fire. Emotions were a weakness that Section Five exploited. I would give them no more ammunition to use on me.
I cleared my throat. “Jet would never harm a recruit.” In his eyes, recruits were the innocents that needed to be saved. Agents were a different story. They’d already made the choice to be here, but not the new recruits.
“That’s not for me to decide,” the doctor replied. “Like I said, that wound in her thigh is not self-inflicted.”
“I see.” Despite my personal feelings that I had no business having for Naomi, I had more reason to ask because I was in charge of the recruits’ well-being. Because if I wasn’t here to safeguard them, Sonya would never stop fucking with them, fucking with their heads and their bodies. Their safety was always my main concern.
I knew people. I knew their breaking points. I knew how to push their boundaries without crossing those points. And most of all, I knew Jet’s breaking points, and the lines he wouldn’t cross. It wasn’t like Jet—no matter what—to attack a recruit that couldn’t defend themselves. And one as new as Naomi… Jet would see it as a weakness, to attack those less practiced or knowledgeable.
I had to find the tape from that corridor. I had to know what happened there.
Not that Doctor White cared. Her job was just to make sure recruits and agents stayed in good health. Section Five was as rough on the body as it was on the mind.
I forced myself to step away from the bed and towards Naomi. I needed to touch her, to make sure she was alive, sleeping, and not dead.
“Daniel, you should be resting,” the doctor said again.
“I’m fine. It’s just a shoulder wound.”
“And two broken ribs. And a broken nose. And various other bruised and broken areas,” she replied haughtily.
I chuckled lightly, instantly regretting that as my side burst into hot pain and my vision tried to blur. Jet had really kicked my ass, and all because I couldn’t kill him. I shuffled over to where Naomi laid and leaned against her bed, pretending it wasn’t because I couldn’t stand up straight. But I was pretty sure I’d fall over if I tried to move again.
“She’s lucky, actually,” the doctor said, coming to stand next to me. Her calculating gaze swept over the sleeping girl’s form. “Half an inch over and the artery would have been breached. She probably wouldn’t have survived then.”
Another check in the “Jet Knew What He Was Doing” column.
Up close, Naomi actually seemed like she was in much better shape than I was. Her body was relatively unharmed, except for her thigh and a few cuts and bruises, particularly around her neck.
Had Jet tried to choke her and she fought? It would make sense, if he was trying not to kill her. He’d have choked her out and she’d have been unconscious and unable to follow after him. The technique worked on people that couldn’t really fight back. That was why he’d gone a little more extreme with me.
But why stab her and risk real damage? Any time you broke skin, you ran the risk of real harm. Jet knew his anatomy as well as he knew his weapons though. If Jet had stabbed her, he’d made sure she would survive it.
That was yet another reason to watch her. Jet did nothing without a reason. Even though he wasn’t himself anymore. He had regressed into a weird, fucked up version of the Section Five programming. Meticulous. Deliberate. But his mind was running solely on emotion, not the reason that Section Five wanted him to run, and his decisions reflected it.
It could be his reasoning was that he couldn’t kill someone who looked so much like our sister. Or maybe he just felt sorry for her, knowing that she’d been stolen from the world to be here.
There was no telling with him.
And Naomi looked even more like Kala asleep. It was why I’d thought it was Kala at first when they’d brought her in. Yet, there was this other quality to Naomi that Kala didn’t ever have. It affected my ability to make reasoned decisions around her.
Maybe that was what Ryan wanted. Maybe he wanted me out of control, like Jet was now. I’d fallen for his tricks, let my emotions drip into this darkened world. I’d been weak.
“Daniel, you need to rest,” the doctor said. I clenched my fists. If she told me to rest one more time…
“I will,” I replied. “Not here.” She looked like she was about to argue with me again. I relaxed my hands and asked, “Is she in any more danger?”
She closed her mouth and regarded me for a long second before she answered. “Not for the moment. She is stable. We gave her a transfusion to help with the blood loss. She should make a full recovery at this point.”
Hopefully, the woman thought I was asking as her indoc supervisor. Not because I had these stupid feelings in my head, getting in the way. Looking like my sister should have put me off this stupid attraction to her. And it was an attraction. But there was something else within Naomi, a slitheringly sexy quality that had snuck up on me. I’d lost my emotional shield. I had to be better. Smarter. Or they would catch me too.
“Thank you, Doctor White.” I spoke flatly, in an obvious dismissal, and the doctor caught it. She looked like she wanted to protest being dismissed from her own work area, but said nothing. Instead, she nodded without a word and left the room.
I had to figure this out before the Pattersons did. Jet had spared me. He had spared Naomi. Why? Was it his heart, or his brain? If it was his heart, that proved he wasn’t as broken as I’d thought he was. Jet had always had a code he’d lived by. Despite all his anger, his sadness over Kala, and his hatred of Section Five, Jet never hurt innocents. Maybe that was why Section Five kept such a hold on him.
Until now, anyway. What had changed?
Unless… this new Jet, the one that just blasted his way out, the one that shot me and stabbed Naomi… Maybe he’d left us alive for an entirely different reason. And I was going to have to find out why.
I tensed, clenching my fists again as pain reverberated through my body, emanating from my shoulder and radiating outward in pulses. I faced the voice, knowing the man I’d see when I did.
Ryan Patterson stepped into the room, his hands shoved nonchalantly into his trouser pockets. As always, he wore a nice Italian-made suit that probably cost more than my car. He wasn’t an older man, which probably made him more dangerous than if he had been. Hell, he was probably only a few years older than I was.
This was the man that had recruited me in the beginning of Section Five. This man had taken advantage of my grief and my desire to keep my family safe. I should have realized then what I was getting into. Maybe Kala would still be alive. And Jet wouldn’t be insane and broken.
I met his eyes, holding that heartless gaze of his. “Ryan.”
“It’s good to see you awake. They weren’t sure for a bit there.”
“It’s minor,” I replied, letting out a small growl to end the sentence.
“I’m sure. There’s not much that can keep you down for long.” Ryan smiled. “How’s the girl doing?”
I regarded Ryan carefully, keeping my surprise at his question in check. Like Jet, Ryan did nothing without a reason. If he was asking about Naomi, he had something up his sleeve.
“Doctor White says she’s stable and will recover.”
“That’s good. A shame to see a recruit bashed so early in their training period.”
“About that, Ryan.”
“Yes?” He didn’t move, didn’t even blink.
“It’s not working out. She doesn’t follow orders. She doesn’t… I don’t think she’s going to comply like you want her to.”
“Are you recommending her termination?” Ryan asked.
I swallowed. The thought of losing Naomi now… I didn’t like it. And I hated that I didn’t like it. “Perhaps she is not suited to field work. She might do better in tech.”
“Well, Daniel, give her to Sonya. She’ll be ready.”
“I’ve put a lot of time and money into this one, Daniel. I’m not terminating her, and definitely not dumping her in the geek squad.”
I frowned. That wasn’t like the Ryan I knew. Recruits were a dime a dozen to him. He never cared about the money before. “Ryan—”
“Anyway, I came down here because I need your… expertise.”
I blinked. “My expertise?”
I slowly stepped back to my bed, feeling my legs wanting to give out. I sat down carefully, because I wasn’t about to let Ryan see me fall.
“I need you to find Jet.” Ryan’s voice came out low and angry.
“What?” Jet hadn’t even been gone long enough to get the fires he caused out, and Ryan was already set on hunting him down. There was something else at play here. Ryan hadn’t ever really liked Jet. He’d tolerated him because of me.
“I need you on your game. No one else knows Jet like you do.”
Kala had known Jet better, but I wasn’t about to bring that up.
“Is that going to be an issue, Daniel?” Ryan interrupted. His cold eyes dared me to challenge him. This was a test. He wanted to gauge me, see where I stood.
“Good.” Ryan seemed pleased, which made me nauseous. “We can talk about the specifics after you get some rest.”
“It’s just… I’m not sure I’m the right person. He is my brother. He knows me as well as I know him.”
“I’m aware. But I need someone who knows him, has history with him, can predict his moves. There’s no one else here that can do that but you.”
“I’m counting on him knowing you, Daniel. He will make a mistake.”
“Jet took a case, Ryan. Does this have something to do with that?”
“It has everything to do with it,” Ryan replied. “Jet didn’t just blast his way out.” Anger bubbled up inside Ryan. I could see it in the way his posture changed. I’d seen Ryan get angry before, many times over the years, but it wasn’t something that happened very often. The man liked to watch others hurt, but anger was not a usual part of his mindset.
“What did he steal?”
“He was very methodical about how he crippled us. He knew exactly how and where to hit us to keep us from following or tracking him.”
His gaze flittered over to Naomi’s sleeping form. His anger melted into a knowing smile. “But we have our own weapon.”
“Ryan?” He wasn’t answering the question.
“The girl. She’s in a unique position to bring Jet back.”
“So, the plan is still to bring Jet back? Not to terminate?” I wasn’t ready to talk about Naomi. I needed to know why Ryan was so interested in Jet first.
“I need what he stole back. For that, I need him alive. Otherwise, I don’t care how you do it. Just get it done.”
Ryan walked over to Naomi and grabbed her chin, pointing her head toward me. “She’s quite cute, isn’t she?”
Rage trembled through me like an avalanche as Ryan confirmed everything I’d been wondering for weeks. She wasn’t taken because of her technical skills, or her criminal life. This was why they’d wanted her, despite that she didn’t fit the profile. All because she looked like our sister.
I wasn’t sure why Ryan pointed it out to me now. Was he saying she was here to keep Jet under control, or me? Or maybe both of us.
“It took quite a while to find her. Lots that shared the physical qualities and the right mindset, but we needed the right qualifications as well. Once we found this one, it was worth bending the profile rules just a little for her.” Ryan smiled and patted her cheek lightly, like a treasured pet. “I think she’s going to be quite useful.”
“She doesn’t have the training.”
“She will,” Ryan replied. “Sonya’s been working long hours on this one. It won’t take long for her to fall into compliance.”
I couldn’t stop the shiver than ran down my spine, though I tensed every muscle in my body to keep it from being a visible shiver. Naomi’s screams had been heard all over the complex. I’d never been through the conditioning treatments, though I did have the tracker in the back of my neck. But I’d never needed the treatments. I’d always been a willing participant. In a haze of anger and guilt, I’d come here.
Ryan chuckled at some private joke to himself and moved toward the door. “Get some rest, Daniel. You look like hell.”
“She’s not going to be able to train for weeks with that leg,” I told him.
Ryan smiled. “We’re fixing that too. Doctor White put her on the accelerated program. She’ll be fully healed inside a week. You’ll put her in the rapid start program once she’s cleared by medical.”
He didn’t even wait for me to confirm his orders before he ducked out of the room and was gone.
I rubbed my good hand over my face, sighing heavily, and then slowly, sunk myself back to the bed. Staring up at the ceiling, it didn’t make the world stop. I wished it would. Ryan was going to make me hunt my own brother down, and use an untrained recruit to do it. How the fuck would that work?
Bait? That was about all she’d be good for until she completed her training.
Maybe Jet had had the right idea, after all. Maybe I should have let him blow this place into oblivion when we’d had the chance.
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