He knew, and he hadn’t told me, but then again, why was I surprised? This was something my father would do.
“Any other instructions?” Still so cold, Kai turned away.
“Yeah.” The side of his mouth he could still use tipped upward in an ugly grin. “I was supposed to kill you, or as much of your family as possible. Bello said he would pay me good if I did.”
Kai folded his head down. “Thank you.”
The spokeswoman cleared her throat, drawing everyone’s attention. “And his daughter, Kai? I assume you’ve helped resolve that.”
“I have. She is safe.” He turned to the ex-guard/my father’s would-be hitman. “Your wife and daughter will be cared for. I give you my word.”
It took a second.
Why would he speak that way? Why wouldn’t he just say they were safe and being cared for, not that they would be cared for? Why did the man’s head jerk back, his eyes glistening with tears as he nodded.
“Thank you,” he said hoarsely.
Kai turned back to the council.
Two men entered our room. Kai had been given a signal without anyone knowing, but it wasn’t them who spoke. It was the ex-guard.
He saw the men coming and leaned forward. “Sir, if I can say something?”
I held my breath.
I expected Kai to listen to him without emotion, being his ruthless, cutthroat self. He was the head of the Bennett mafia and no one else in this moment, but he didn’t turn to his past employee right away.
He looked to me first, and pain flashed in his eyes. It was there, then gone.
He grew resolved again, his face tightening up. Only then did he look back at the man.
A tear slipped down the man’s face. “I know what will happen to me. I betrayed you, and there’s a code. I broke that. For that, I apologize. I truly am sorry I didn’t come to you when I received that email. I just—” He looked away. “I wanted you to know that, and I know you’ll care for my family. Thank you.”
That was the penalty.
I shrank back against the wall. Kai was going to have this man executed because he’d tried to kill me.
As if sensing my turmoil, Kai regarded me again. His eyes were piercing, blazing with an unnamed message, and I gasped silently.
He held a hand up for the men, then brought it down.
The two men each took an arm, and they walked the disgraced guard out of here. Kai watched me as I watched him. There was no fight in the man anymore. He went willingly. He was already dead, and he knew it.
Kai wanted me to see this, all of this. There were two more to come. Why would he want me to see this? To scare me? To warn me? To ready me—
I jumped, clamping a hand over my mouth at the gunshot.
Kai had come over and cupped the back of my head. I would’ve hit the wall, but he cushioned my jerk. My eyes were wide, staring into his, and I couldn’t stop myself. A tear slipped down my cheek.
He bent forward. “Ssshhh. They can’t see you. I don’t want them to know you’re here.” His eyes closed. His forehead rested against my cheek, and his thumb rubbed the side of my jaw. “Trust me. Please.” He lifted his head again. “There’s a point to all of this. I promise.”
My heart pounded, but I reached up and grasped the back of his head, pressing his mouth to mine in a hard kiss. “Go. Do what you need to.”
His hand slid down my arm, and he pressed a softer kiss to my mouth before pulling away.
He returned to the front of the room, center stage for his council, before motioning to the door again.
It opened, and they dragged in my father.
My ribs were beginning to ache, but Kai said to trust him. I would do that, though it took all of my strength to remain in that room.
Kai whisked the bag off my father’s head. He was struggling, trying to run, and grunting around the duct tape over his mouth. The guards forced him down into the chair. He kept bucking back, the chair scraping against the floor, and Kai waited. The council watched.
No one spoke a word.
Kai waited for his prisoner to be subdued. The council was merely waiting for the next point on the agenda. This was their business meeting. What PowerPoint presentations were to others, interrogating/torturing/executing a prisoner was to them. Only one had even protested the time of this meeting. There were looks of resignation on the others, as if a late-night/early-morning get-together was common for them.
This was so far from what I had once been, but I lifted my head toward Kai and knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
We waited five more minutes as my father fought. Finally, two more guards came in and produced leather straps to wrap around him so he couldn’t move an inch in that chair. They even secured his head. He could only move his feet, and all he did was loosen his shoes enough to kick them off.
Finally, after another ten minutes, he stopped. A sudden deep sigh left him, and if he could’ve hung his head in defeat, I had no doubt he would’ve.
The four guards stepped back, and Kai moved forward.
“This is Bruce Bello.”
The spokeswoman snapped, “Yes. We know. Why are we being subjected to this? You are the head of this council. You do not need our approval for any of this. Just execute the men as you see fit. It’s my granddaughter’s birthday, Kai. A birthday. She wanted me to have tea with her and her ponies. As a grandmother, I will only get a few of these years before she grows up and replaces her love for me with her phone. Get to the point!”
Kai was unfazed. “There is a point, and I’ll get to it when I get to it.” He pointed at my father. “As you all know, this is Bruce Bello. He’s been running a distribution line for one of our families.”
“I cut ties with him. He’s remained working with another of our members.”
Now there was more of a reaction.
The spokeswoman’s eyes sharpened, and she leaned forward. Her hands flattened on the table. Around the table, more of the council began talking to each other. Their voices were no longer just murmurs.
She lowered her head, her eyes locked on Kai. “What exactly are you saying here? Stop pussyfooting around. Come out with it if you’re going to accuse one of our members of something.”
Again, Kai was unfazed.
He turned to my father. “We’ve not had the time I needed to question you, or to insure your cooperation, so I’m going to tell you this now.”
My father’s eyes had been scanning the room frantically, but he stopped and stared at Kai. Some of the wildness lessened.
Kai stepped closer. “It is in your best interest to be forthcoming.”
He leaned down, placing a hand on either side of the chair’s back so he had my father trapped. He spoke softly so I could hear, but I didn’t think the council behind him could.
“You will die at the end of this, but how is up to you. It can either be quick and as painless as possible, or it can be slow. I can make your death take weeks if I want to. It’s your choice.”
My father began scanning the room again, then closed his eyes. He moved his head up and down, the barest minimum of a motion because of his straps. It was enough.
Kai pulled off the tape over his mouth, all at once.
“Agh!” My father spat out blood. “Fucking hell, Bennett.”
“You will cooperate?”
My dad glared at him, still spitting out pieces of tape and blood. “Yes. I’ll fucking cooperate, but only if you tell me where my daughter is.”
Kai went still. His eyes narrowed to slits. “Why? So you can hurt her further?”
“So you can finish this job for me.”
“That bitch of a wife of mine slept with my business associate, but I could never prove it. She was worthless, hateful. She was a waste of my years. That girl too. Both of them been fucking up my life.”
He was still going, but I closed myself off.
I had known, and hearing it, hearing that he’d had no regard for us, this was nothing new. I’d always known.
“—and she was a fucking spoiled brat. We sent her away so I never split her head open on the floor. Couldn’t have that stain on my tile, you know. That stuff was fucking expensive. Sturdy. I humped my maid there a few times, so I knew it could clean up, but damned if I wanted blood there. Fucking bitch. She and her mother. I wanted both of them gone. Couldn’t stand either of them.”
He was still talking, poison spilling from his lips, and he didn’t even notice Kai was no longer paying attention. He was watching me.
A look of pity crept into his eyes, and I bared my teeth. “Don’t!” I mouthed. He hadn’t wanted my pity either.
A hardened expression firmed over Kai’s face, and he straightened up. “That’s enough, Bello.”