“But flying to New York…”
“A necessary evil. I don’t have the time in my schedule to drive, and like I said before, you’re an exception.” His eyes heated before sliding to the back curtain. “You don’t want to lie down?”
I was tired. I was wired. I was all of the above.
I was confused mostly.
I shrugged, holding my phone with the music. “I’m good for now.”
He nodded, sitting back. He picked up the papers. “If you change your mind, I did pick this jet specifically because of that back area for you.”
“You have more than one plane?!”
Hour one, I was content.
Hour two, I was restless.
Hour three, I took the flight attendant’s offer of a drink. I needed something to settle me.
Hour four, I went to sleep on the back seat. I left my phone and headphones in the other seat, so I could hear the background buzz from the engines. Every now and then, I caught a snippet of conversation from the guards. Their murmuring settled me somehow, lulling me into sleep.
Hour five, I woke to screaming.
I jerked upright, finding the flight attendant crouched on the floor next to me. Her hands covered her head, and she’d curled almost in a ball. She raised her head, and I could see she was terrified.
“What’s going on?”
I scooted to the side, my heart jackhammering.
The curtain had been pulled shut, and I reached forward.
“Don’t!” she hissed, grabbing my hand. “He’ll kill us.”
“No. The man.”
“You will die!”
That voice didn’t sound human. It was high-pitched and animalistic, like a cat screeching.
I slipped to the floor to see under the curtain. A wall of men stood in front of me.
What do I do here?
Fear for Kai coursed through me, but my training also kicked in. Whatever was happening, letting the man stay in control was the wrong thing to do.
I moved to the opposite side, where the attendant was crouched. She watched me, her arms shaking. Tears slid down her face as she shook her head at me.
She knew I was going to do something.
I was stupid.
Kai had security guards.
They had a better chance of handling this, but where was Kai? Had he already been hurt? How had this happened?
The curtain moved an inch, and I almost gasped when I saw one of the guards watching me. He shook his head too. His face was deadly serious.
I mouthed to him, “What’s going on?”
He shook his head, closing the curtain.
That was Kai. Some of my fear eased, just a bit.
“I want you to die!” Another strangled scream.
He must have a gun or a weapon if they weren’t rushing him. God. What weapon? Was it pointed at Kai?
“I know, but there are people on this plane who don’t deserve to die this way.”
“That’s where you’re wrong! YOU’RE WRONG! They all deserve to die. They work for you. They should all perish. It’s been deemed. YOU.”
Another thud. I could feel his footsteps through the plane.
There was a rush of thuds, as if he ran forward or someone ran at him.
I looked under the curtain, my heart in my throat, and the wall of men was gone.
Jumping up, I peered through to make sure, and I was right. They’d all rushed him.
“No, no.” A clammy hand grabbed my arm. The attendant tried to pull me back. “Don’t go out there. Please.”
I’d never forget that sound. It was like the bleating of an animal dying slowly, asking for help in its last moments of life.
I didn’t think.
I tore my hand away from hers and rushed out, going to my seat and huddling down for cover. I could peer around it, just one eyeball.
The men were on top of a guy I didn’t recognize. His skin had a green tinge to it, soaked from sweat, and his eyes were wild. One guard held a gun, just by the end, and two others patted the man down.
Kai stood over him, staring.
I recognized that set in Kai’s shoulders. I knew what it meant. He was furious. But he was keeping it reined in.
One of the guards looked up at Kai. He gave him a firm nod as both of them stepped back. The others who had been pinning the man down stepped back too. All of them gave him a wide berth until only the man and Kai were left in the center of the plane.
Slowly, so slowly, Kai reached over and took the gun from his guard.
The man’s eyes darted from it to Kai. They were almost vibrating in his head.
His lips parted. “What—what are you doing?”
That’s when I saw that Kai had gloves on. And he was wearing a jacket, not one I recognized from before.
The man didn’t have a jacket. He wore just a shirt.
A sick feeling rose in me.
Kai was wearing that man’s jacket.
He had gloves on.
He was holding that man’s gun.
“This is the third time you’ve tried to kill me and my men,” Kai said calmly.
What? Shivers went up my spine. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.
“The first time, you went to prison. I let the police handle you.”
Kai’s hand fit around that gun like his own glove, like he’d been holding guns since he was three, like it was second nature to him.
“The second time, you went to a psychiatric hospital,” he continued.
The guy began crying, shaking his head, moaning. He crouched down, covering his head with his hands the way the flight attendant had been moments earlier. He rocked back and forth on his heels.
“No. No. Please, no,” he repeated. “Don’t do this.”
Kai crouched down close to him. “You lost your family to a drug deal. You blame me for those drugs. I took pity on you. I understand how grief can make you do bad things. I gave you mercy the first time, and the second time my sister pleaded on your behalf. She knew your wife, said you were a good man. You were a janitor at a hospital where she volunteered. My brother remembered you too, said you were a good worker there. That was the last time.”
I sat back, no longer cowering behind the seat.
“No, no, please no. Don’t do this. No, no, please no.” He spoke faster, the words running into each other until he looked up and saw me. He stopped speaking.
His eyes darkened.
He was mad at me. I didn’t care.
I couldn’t look away from this man. He was skinny, his face gaunt as if he hadn’t eaten in days. Seeing me changed something in him. The crying stopped. He sat up. He no longer cowered.
Kai stepped back to give him space, stepping back again as the man stood.
The man never looked away from me.
Kai stepped to block me, but the man yelled, “No! No. I am about to die. I want to stare into the eyes of a woman.”
A savage growl ripped from Kai. “Get her out of here!” he barked at his men.
“No! She’s your woman, yes?”
There was no response. Two of the guards moved toward me, but I held them off. Shaking my head, I stood too. My legs were weak, but I wanted to see this. I didn’t know why. Maybe I didn’t want to be the one cowering in the back? Maybe I didn’t want to put my head in the sand, knowing what was going to happen but letting Kai shield me from it?
I stepped out, putting a hand up as another of the guards tried to block me. “No. I want to give the man what he wants. We all know what’s going to happen anyway.”
He wouldn’t hurt me. He couldn’t. Kai wouldn’t let that happen.
Something whispered to me in the back of my mind. I should stop this. I should try to help him. He was sick—that was obvious—but I remembered waking up to his screams. I remembered the flight attendant. I remembered the other two times Kai had spoken about.
Even Jonah, even Brooke. They wouldn’t have fought for this man again.
They were Bennetts, like Tanner said. It blazed inside of me now.
Kai was a Bennett. Kai was the leader of the Bennetts. He would not let this happen again, and because of that, I said, “Let him see me. Please, Kai.”
The last guard moved aside, so I stood a few feet behind Kai. The man shifted to the side to see me around him.
I was a ball of writhing nerves.
There’s a feeling in the air when you’re about to see someone die. Your gut clenches, and what’s about to happen, you know is wrong. But thinking about it in that brief moment, I couldn’t think of a time when someone’s death had felt right. Maybe if life has been lived to its fullest or the person is crippled in pain with no hope…but I’d never seen that happen.
However, in this moment, I knew the wrong feeling wasn’t about him dying. The wrong was about how he had lived, the pain and anger that must’ve been with him.
I was guessing because as I stared into that man’s eyes, I only saw death. Whether it was his, his wife’s, his child’s, I didn’t know. But I saw blackness, and I felt a cold emptiness creep into me. This man’s look of death was different than Kai’s, and maybe I’d think on that later.
He gave one last strangled scream, launching himself at me, and Kai shot him.
I sat in the back of an SUV, a blanket around me, and I was…calm.