Light from the Dark
After a year of picking up the pieces of his shattered life, former US Marshal Micah Beasley takes a job as bodyguard for a spoiled rich kid who can’t leave his house. It’s supposed to be a cupcake assignment. He just needs to get back in the game. What could possibly go wrong?
Brilliant and incredibly talented, Christopher (Kit) Auberon wears tragedy as a second skin. Kit is all that’s left of a powerful family. Seemingly forgotten, he’s spent his entire life in seclusion at the family estate, and he likes it that way. He’s free to play his games and create worlds without ever having to set foot in the real one.
Kit’s past is anything but forgotten. When death threats become real threats, Micah and Kit are forced to put their differences aside to discover who wants Kit dead.
But there are monsters in Kit’s closet that should never be disturbed.
The image in the mirror wasn’t familiar. He scraped the razor carefully over the scar that puckered his jawline from below the corner of his eye to his neck. Another inch in either direction and he’d have been dead or blind instead of flayed open like a fish on Friday.
Micah Beasley, formerly Marshal Micah Beasley swished the blade in the hot water and wiped the rest of the shave cream from his chin. He avoided looking at his reflection as much as possible. He had no choice when it came to shaving. He could grow a beard but the scarred area stayed hairless making him look as if he had a lightning bolt carved into his face. Or he could carefully not open old wounds and hope the mirror steamed up before he fell into that pit of despair that kept pulling at him.
He slicked back his hair and thought about getting a trim. There was no point. Not really. Just something else he didn’t have to do anymore. He didn’t have to do much of anything anymore if he thought about it long enough. Parting company with law enforcement had made him, well, not wealthy, but much better off than before the accident.
He chose to remember that day as an accident. Not as the clusterfuck it had been from the get go. A clusterfuck that had left him fighting for his life while his partner had lost his. No, that day was off limits. He leaned over the sink, eyes closed, breathing deeply to force calm into his mind. Calm. Just calm. Nothing else. Just blue skies with white clouds scudding by. A warm breeze on his face. A soft voice telling him to get his shit together.
Pity party was over. The candles melted to the top of the cake. Time to go back to work. Or go stark raving mad.
He dressed in the navy blue suit so dark it almost looked black, a powder blue oxford shirt with a thin navy tie. He looked company man to a tee. Exactly what that company might be, Micah didn’t have a clue.
The ride downtown was short. The driver waiting for him at the hotel didn’t speak much. He just drove. Micah looked over the notes he’d been able to jot down after the call came in. The company needed security people. And Micah’s name had come up. Micah had no idea who would have his name but right now work was work. He’d sat on his ass long enough.
The day was cold. Not bitterly cold. He could stand the wind in just his suit jacket. Cold never really bothered him. Much. The driver reminded him of the floor and said he’d be waiting to take him wherever he needed to go from there. He didn’t wish Micah luck or offer any words of advice.
Armed with only a slim portfolio and his winning smile Micah rode the elevator up to the fifteenth floor and stepped out into the offices of Gideon and Auberon. He wasn’t really sure what Gideon and Auberon did. He’d looked them up on the internet but found very little. Whatever it was, it seemed successful.
The receptionist greeted him cheerfully and pointed him in the direction of Mr. Gideon’s personal office. A second receptionist asked him to take a seat and informed him that Mr. Gideon was running a bit late but would be with him as soon as possible.
Micah didn’t like waiting. He didn’t like being unemployed either. He scanned the offices and wondered exactly what type of security a business this high up would need. Besides a security guard at the elevator he couldn’t think of anything. Unless the company was up to its neck in sketchy dealings, this wasn’t his idea of work. He’d left uniforms behind a couple of years ago and wasn’t going back now.
The door opened behind the receptionist and a tall man stepped out. Gideon, Micah surmised when he held out his hand and flashed a set of straight white teeth any politian would be proud of. Probably caps. Micah shook his hand.
“Mr. Beasley, thank you for coming on such short notice.” Gideon pumped his hand a couple more times, his smile growing wider, and more insincere with each pump. “I trust your hotel is to your liking and your trip in was uneventful?”
Micah nodded. He wasn’t one to bite the hand that might be feeding him before tasting the food. “It was pleasant and the room is comfortable.”
“Good, good,” Gideon ushered him into the office and Micah heard him ask the receptionist to hold his calls. “Have a seat. Or if you’d rather I have a full bar, just help yourself. Or coffee. LeAnne could have coffee sent in.”
“I’m fine.” Micah took the club chair Gideon indicated and sat across a glass and chrome coffee table from the man instead of the desk as he’d expected. So this was going to be informal. Nothing big. Micah placed his portfolio on the table and leaned back. He propped his ankle on his knee and waited.
Gideon cleared his throat he seemed oddly uncomfortable. Maybe it was the scar. Maybe it was that Micah didn’t seem friendly. He wasn’t friendly. He’d never been friendly. He’d never needed to be friendly. He was military and then law enforcement. He was a grunt and field work made for ugly work. He wasn’t up on his ass kissing skills. “I guess you’re wondering how I came by your name?”
“That would be my first question. I’m not exactly easy to find and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t on any security head hunter data base.” Micah tried to smile. The scar pulled tight and he winced instead. Gideon looked away, he seemed, repulsed. Well, join the crowd.
“I have connections in law enforcement, Mr. Beasley, and in this case I need someone with your particular training.” Gideon finally faced him again. The pleasant expression gone now that Micah had turned defensive.
“I’m not sure what your firm needs, but from what I saw coming in, I’m not the security guard type.” Micah was ready to go. He’d heard enough.
“It’s not for the firm. It’s a private, personal matter.” Gideon assured Micah.
“I’m not the bodyguard type either.”
Gideon closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Micah had that effect on most people. Good to know that strangers weren’t immune. “Mr. Beasley, if you would hear me out.”
Micah waited, giving Gideon time to sort through his frustration. “My nephew is in danger. I need someone to head the security team that I’ve hired to protect him. Someone who understands the need for utmost discretion. You worked with witness protection with the US Marshals. You would understand my nephew’s needs better than most of the candidates that have come across my desk over the years. I’m talking long term. Family men find it a difficult assignment.”
“And the money?” Micah would ask about the nephew if the price was right. He’d spent too many years putting his life on the line for nothing. If he was going to go merc, then he’d damn well get paid for his skills.
“Name your price.” Gideon relaxed, money talk tended to mean certain things were settled. They weren’t, but Micah didn’t have to tell him that.
“One million.” He tossed the amount out to get a reaction.
“A year?” Gideon didn’t even flinch.
“Up front. And if I’m still here in a year, then we can renegotiate depending on job performance.” May as well go all in and force Gideon’s hand. The desperate tended to agree with just about anything. Yet when it came time to deliver the terms conveniently slipped their minds.
“Half up front. And the rest paid out in monthly increments for as many months as you remain on the job. We’ll renegotiate in one year.” Gideon smiled. He’d obviously played this game before.
“Still depends on the job. I’m not changing any diapers, or chasing down spoiled teenagers with the keys to Daddy’s Porsche.”
“My nephew is long out of diapers. I assure you. He’s twenty-six. And he doesn’t drive. In fact, he very rarely ever leaves his apartment. But if, in the event he must leave the apartment, then it will be your job to get him out unharmed.” Gideon’s smile faded completely. His face now grim as he discussed his nephew.
“I see,” Micah said, even though he didn’t. Not yet. He needed a much bigger picture than that hastily sketched sales pitch. “You mentioned that his life is in danger.”
“There have been threats over the years. Nothing that ever amounted to anything. Just people looking for attention. But recently the letters have become…well, a bit more informed. As if the authors of the letters had inside information. And earlier this month an intruder made it into the house. I’ve been complacent over the past few years. After all Christopher is an adult and it’s his property and his life.”
“But?” Micah heard one coming. And frankly, if this was an issue then why wasn’t the nephew the one doing the interviewing? Too much here was off. Gideon was either lying or purposely hedging the truth.
Gideon sighed again and this time he reached for a slim tablet and handed it over to Micah. “My nephew is extremely agoraphobic. He hasn’t willingly left the estate since he was a teen. He isn’t capable of protecting himself. I don’t mean to imply that he is mentally deficient. He isn’t. If anything he’s one of the smartest men on the planet. Which again, makes dealing with him immensely difficult. Extreme intelligence coupled with extreme paranoia and it’s like dealing with a bomb about to explode. I never know what might set him off, but in this case, Christopher is not his own worst enemy.”
Micah thumbed up the video file on Christopher J. Auberon. The letters dating back fourteen years all carefully scanned in and coded. The security report on the break in dating two weeks prior. Yet still not much more than that. “You’ve gone to the local police?”
“With each new letter. And with the recent events. Yes.” Gideon checked his watch, the time seemingly now of great importance. “The estate is remote. The sheriff’s department understaffed. They think I’m being overprotective.”
“And your nephew?” Micah found a photo of a young boy with haunted eyes. Nothing current.
“My nephew doesn’t speak, Mr. Beasley. He sleeps with his bedroom light on. He’s not in any condition to decide what is and is not a threat and what is simply harassment. To him, all of the staff is out to get him. He trusts no one. And he’s the reason I can’t keep staff for more than a few weeks. He’s a terror. But in this case, the danger to his person is external. And I would pay whatever it takes to make sure he is unharmed for a month. Or for a year.”
“I see.” Micah closed the tablet. He had a name and a birthdate and very little else. Letters did not a threat make. Nor did a failed burglary. But money was money. There had to be a catch.
“I will insist on a six month contract at the very least. Half a million dollars up front and all that. You understand.” And there it was. The catch. Micah was selling his soul for at least half a year.
“I’ll have to get back to you.” Micah didn’t have anything better to do. And hell, another six months of hiding from the world suited him more than he would ever let Gideon know.
“I’ll need to know in the next—” Gideon looked at his watch again. “Hour. I have another interview then. You came highly recommended but I have to hedge my bets. You understand.”
“Absolutely.” Micah rose and held out his hand. “I’ll discuss it over lunch with your driver. Then get back to you.”
“Looking forward to hearing from you.” Gideon escorted him back to the receptionist and that was it. He was left to contemplate his next move.
“Your car is waiting downstairs Mr. Beasley. And is at your disposal for the rest of the day.” The receptionist walked him to the elevator, her smile cheery. “If you need anything. Absolutely anything, just ask.”
Micah ignored the innuendo in that and smiled that same fake smile everyone in this office seemed to favor until the doors slid closed.
He’d ignored the driver on his way in. But now, Micah stopped beside the man to assess. Tall. Blond. Blue eyed. Good face. Not too young. Not older than him. “Where can I take you Mr. Beasley?”
“My hotel room.” Micah felt the need to let off steam. The driver didn’t even flinch.
“It would be my pleasure.” The door closed behind him and when they arrived at the hotel, the driver pulled into the parking garage instead of dropping him at the door.
They didn’t make it upstairs. The tinted windows in the back all the privacy he needed to kill an hour with one of Gideon’s perks. After all he was about to give up six months of his life in service to this family, he may as well get something in the process. And the driver was more than willing to go anywhere Micah wanted. And Micah wanted the whole tour.