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Chapter One

Bored. Zain tried one more time to flick the paperclip into the cup five feet away on the floor. He missed for the tenth time. He tried not to look at the clock again, but as soon as he thought it, he did. 

Sighing, he sat back and glanced at the door to the king’s office. Whenever he was away, it was dull here. He didn’t blame him for going away with his mate for a few days holiday. Zain just wished he wasn’t left sitting here. When he returned, he planned to throw himself at his feet and beg to see the Factory when he did. 

The rest of his team and practically everyone else on an Alliance team were at the new secret factory. It wasn’t a secret for Zain. He’d known even before he was supposed to know. They’d left the blueprints out, and they’d been screaming, ‘Look at me.’ So, he had. He wanted to be there with all of the others. If he wasn’t safe at a location with that many team members—he wasn’t safe anywhere. 

He hadn’t heard from Asher again, not since the calls about the injured cheetah woman. A woman who had been missing for nineteen years. He’d been distracted when Asher called him because his head went to places he never wanted to revisit.  He tapped his hand on the desk. Nineteen years. That was the number. That was when his happy-go-lucky life as a nine-year-old had taken a nosedive and crashed—hard. 

He needed everyone to get back on the road, do ops and rescues, transports, and all the other things they did. Then his phone rang all the time. Any hour of the day. It was his job to have everything where they needed, and sometimes, before they knew they needed it. He was good at his job, and right now, he was bored stiff.

Getting up, he went over to the coffee machine and debated on making some. He’d already drank a pot full today, so more caffeine was probably not a good idea. On a normal day, he was moving non-stop. Today was not normal. It was just sad. Okay, one of the king's tasty drinks it was. 

He went into the office quickly and over to the fridge under the long counter. Papers, folders, and binders were spread out all over it. Zain cringed as he glanced at it. If he put it all away on the shelves, the king would just call him in to find it all over again. Opening the fridge, he studied his options. 

His phone ringing had him spin around, slam the door, and rush back to his desk. He almost knocked the phone on the floor reaching for it. 

“Go for Zain.”

“Zain. Have you heard from Shepard’s guards?”

“No, Jesse. They’re with him, why would I…”

“He’s missing.” 

Zain held the phone out and looked at it. He put it back to his ear. “He’s away with…”

“No. He’s not. Devin got the call from his mother.”

Zain braced his feet apart and stood there with his mouth open for a second. Jolting, he sat down in his chair and grabbed his list. “I’ll call…”

“Zain, tell no one.”

He tilted his head. “Shouldn’t we be putting out calls and rounding up people to go find…”

“No. We don’t know how they found him. The only ones that knew his location were his guards.”

Zain shook his head. “Well, clearly someone else knew.”

“I was there when he got the call. He’s with Calum now…”

“What about his mate? Our Queen. Shouldn’t we send…”

“I don’t know. I just wanted to give you a heads up because if Devin decides to tell all the departments, things around going to get…”

“Insane.” Zain scowled at the desk. He’d wanted something to do. This was not at all close to what he’d hoped for. 

“Listen, I have to go. I’ll let you know if I hear anything else.”

Zain nodded. “Okay.” He stood up. “If you need anything, let me know.”

“I will.” He hung up.

Zain looked at his phone and then set it on the desk like it was an armed explosive. He turned around and looked into the office at the empty desk. This was bad. This was so bad that he couldn’t even think of a word to describe it. 

He went over and quickly closed the door. “Okay.” He turned around and looked at his desk. “Don’t tell anyone. He’s still away on his getaway with his mate.” He nodded. That would only work for two more days, and then he was supposed to be here. 

He sat down at his desk and looked at it. There was nothing left for him to do right now. His eyes widened, and he stood up in slow motion. Aiden Tomas had their king. The whys and how’s didn’t matter in this moment to him. With the king missing, he was obsolete. It wasn’t like he had to be in this office to coordinate with his team. The king had him in this office to keep him safe. 

“They’re going to find him.” He nodded. “They will.”  He sat back down.

“So, I should—” He looked around. “—do something…”  His phone rang, and he wanted to cry in relief. 

“Hello?” He answered it quickly.”

“Zain. Raymond Hardy, here.” Like anyone could mistake his voice for someone else. “I heard Jesse call you, so I know you know.”


“Good. I’m told you know a lot. I need a list of the guards that were with our—Shepard Addison. Full files, send all the details.”

Zain nodded. “I can do that. Where do you want me to send the information?” He opened the bottom drawer on his desk and took out his leather notebook, which he wrote all sorts of information.

“Send it to Blaise, here at the factory.” There were voices in the background. “Do you have the information to do that?”

He didn’t but could find out in a flash. “Yes.”
“Good. I’ll be in touch.”

“Oka…” He hung up. Zain set the phone down and opened the book. The guards rotated every two weeks. The ones that had switched off wouldn’t know about the—he looked at the phone. Why didn’t Raymond say our King? He opened his eyes painfully wide. “Devin is now acting king.” Zain sat back and rubbed his hands over his face. Was this where his adult life crashed and burned?  He blew out a breath and sat forward again. The king made the decision spur of the moment, so only the guards with him would have known exactly where he was going to be. He nodded and flipped the page for the rotation schedule. Finding it, he grabbed a notepad, wrote the names down, and closed the notebook. 

“Okay.” Now, how did he get the files without anyone knowing? And how did he find out how to get them to Blaise? He laughed and then looked around. If his office was bugged—and he didn’t put it past Aiden’s spies, they’d think he was a half-wit. The answer was obvious. Illias. He would be able to get into the system and send it wherever. He frowned at his phone. Illias was probably at the factory with everyone else. His sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time seemed to have rewarded him with the coolest assignments. 

Clicking on his name, he typed with fast thumbs. Raymond Hardy. He paused. Why did everyone, himself included, always use the man’s last name? Honestly, how many Raymond’s did anyone know? Shaking his head, he looked back at the screen. Wants files for guards on King’s detail. I can’t access this.

He sat there looking at the phone because Illias replied faster than anyone he knew.

Names?  Was his reply.

He glanced at the list and typed the four names into the phone. 

I’ll pull them up and show him.

Zain rolled his eyes. He was right. Illias was at the factory.


He waited for a smart-alec reply because that was Illias’ MO.

Don’t panic. They’ll find him.

Was what he got instead. Blowing out a breath, he nodded. Of course, Illias would know where his head went when he heard. Trying not to.

Stay put. Keep your eyes and ears on full scan.

Zain grinned. Only Illias would say something computer-related for body parts. Okay. Shout if you hear anything.

You too.  He sent him a strong-arm emoji.

Zain replied with the one of a fairy flying wearing purple. Why? Because it was Illias, and he could.  Before their lives changed, they had been best friends. Only left each other's side long enough to take a bath and sleep.

Eyes and ears on full scan. Basically, he was telling him to watch out for anything out of place, or that shouldn’t be happening. Zain snorted. Nothing for months around here was normal. The very fact that they’d caught people who had worked for the Alliance for years helping Aiden Tomas was a testament to that. 

“Don’t panic.” He whispered and then looked around like he’d see someone listening. “I can do this.”



Chapter Two


He sat at the desk, leaning close to the screen. It was—two days? Possibly, since that call from Jesse. He couldn’t be sure. He’d barely slept since the king had been taken. With good reason, he was too busy checking and rechecking his backup plans. He’d even come up with a few new ones – that he hoped he’d never need. 

If they knew he watched the ops and listened in on the communications between the teams, he’d probably be a janitor for the rest of his life. He suspected Illias knew, but he wasn’t going to out any of his secrets. That was one thing Zain knew without a doubt. He could have been on one of these teams, he thought. He was good with a gun and could walk so quietly that no one would hear him. 

His heart felt like it stopped altogether as he stared at the screen. It was him. 

“Hold it so Journee can study him, York,” Illias said over the comms.

Zain’s heart started again and was beating so fast he couldn’t breathe.

“Asher.” Journee sounded scared. “It’s him. It’s the wolf.”

Holy hell. His worst nightmare was coming true right before his eyes. They’d gotten him. 

“Did I hear that right?” York asked. “You know this one?”

“He’s a wolf.” Asher’s voice was strained. 

“He was there the day our families were killed,” Journee whispered. 

Zain jumped to his feet, put his hands on top of his head, and stared at the screen. 

“All right, boys,” Amari’s tone told him she was done playing. “No one touches this one. He’s all for my pal, Asher.” Her face was on the screen now as she shoved him back against the counter. “Turn around, or I’ll make you suffer in ways you can’t even imagine.”

Zain reached over and shut off the monitor, then pulled the earbud out of his ear and dropped it on the desk. This was bad. So, so bad. “No, no, no.” He turned around and looked at the door and then remembered that this was the only place he was safe. Was, the keyword in that. With Sheppard Addison missing, his safety wasn’t guaranteed.

“Okay.” He spun back around and looked at his desk. “It’s fine. They found him.” They got one of the two. Neither of them probably hadn’t given him a thought in all these years…

The door to his office opened, and he almost dove under the desk.

Barack stood there. “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

The large man grinned at him. “I know you listen in. Most of us do when we’re not out there.”

“The-the op? Yeah. I did for a bit—” He motioned to the papers all over his desk. “I have so much to do right now. I couldn’t stay on long.”

“They got some good ones today.” Barack grinned. “I’m looking forward to meeting them.”

Zain blinked. “They’re coming here?” That was beyond bad. “I thought they weren’t bringing any back here…”

“One of them is very special.” Barack smiled, and it wasn’t in a friendly sort of way.

“Well, good.” Zain nodded and resisted the urge to look at the clock on the wall to see how long it would take them to transport him here. 

“Talk later. I have to go make sure the four walls he’ll be looking at for the rest of his life are nice and clean.” Barack left and closed the door. 

Zain looked at the door for several seconds, waiting to see if it opened again, and then turned around and rushed over to the filing cabinet in the corner. He dug the key out of his pocket and opened the bottom drawer. Inside it was a large waterproof shipping package. He grabbed it, shut the drawer, and then went over and stuffed it into his backpack. He wasn’t going anywhere without it until he knew it was going to be all right. 

Setting the backpack right beside his chair, he sat down. He needed to get things in order, just in case. They wanted a fake ID for Deva and supplies ready to send to wherever she was going. If Journee Snow found the island, they were going to send a large team, maybe two, there to shut it down. He pulled his notepad out from under the pile of folders and looked at it. It was a list of what would be required. He had a list for everything. Even some of his lists had lists. Being prepared was his thing. He’d learned that at a young age and had only honed the skill as he got older. 

“It’s going to be fine.” He nodded and opened the top drawer of his desk. There was nothing special about the contents of this drawer—everyone kept a handgun with their pens and paperclips, right? “I’ve got this.” 

He glanced at his phone and debated on calling Illias but changed his mind. He was up to his neck in team members and communication between the teams and team leaders right now. He didn’t want to freak him out. Except, he probably already was because he’d seen what Zain had on the screen. He knew.

“Okay, my King, it’s time to come back to the office. Break free. Kick some ass. Do whatever you need to do to get back here. I really, really need to talk to you now about—” He looked around the room. He didn’t trust that no one was listening. “You know who that did, you know what.” 

His phone rang, and he was ready to bolt for the door. Forcing air out of his lungs, he grabbed it and answered it. “Yeah?”

“Really, since when do you answer the phone that way.” 

It was his team leader on the other end. He needed to be normal. “Brain was occupied.” He forced a small laugh.

“That’s not a bad thing.” 

Zain cleared his throat. “What can I do for you, boss?”

“I’m just checking that you have everything set up for Deva…”

“I’ll have the paperwork for her to travel by tomorrow.” He frowned. “Asher can’t get there that fast, right?”

“No. We’re hopeful that it doesn’t take too long to find it, but with only knowing an approximate area to look in…”

“Yeah. There’s a lot of water that way; could take them a while.” 

“Just as long as they find it. That will be a big win.” Someone was talking in the background. “No news yet, but we have people on it.”

He didn’t have to clarify what he was talking about.

“If you hear anything about it, give me a shout.” Jesse was asking him if anyone was off around the headquarters building. 

Zain nodded and looked down at his backpack. “Of course.” He held his breath until Jesse said goodbye and hung up. 

Looking at the time, he decided that was enough time in the office today. He needed to get home and figure out what he was going to do. Any calls came through his cell, so he could pretend he was here and everything was fine if anyone called. Everything was not fine, and he doubted it was ever going to be again. 

Before he reached the door, his phone pinged in his hand. He looked at it. Stick with he plan. Don’t panic.  He snorted. Easy for Illias to say. He’s surrounded by big, scary team members twenty-four, seven. 

He typed his reply quickly. Got it. Stuffing his phone in his pocket, he opened the door and hurried through it. 

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