I nod with reluctance.

How long will you allow yourself to cut corners for me, Victor?

“I’ll teach Nora everything she needs to know,” I say looking back at her.

Then I take my seat again.

“You’re key to making this work,” Victor says.

How long will you take the alternate route just to keep me out of harm’s way?

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to help bring this tyrant down,” I add.

How long…?

And I will do whatever Victor asks of me, but a large part of me wants to be the one on the inside. Not because I feel the need to prove myself. Not because he’s letting Nora go instead of me and I feel any sense of jealousy—this has nothing to do with jealousy, or reckless determination; I want to be the one because I spent nine years of my life in Mexico among these men and I feel that if any mission should be mine, it’s this one.

“In the meantime,” Victor announces, “with Niklas’ absence, and considering the changes made in this Order, Nora will be your new partner.”

I nod with acceptance.

“And I’ll continue to train you while I work with you,” Nora says.

“The two of you will go on several missions together before the mission in Mexico,” Victor says. “You will focus on your current missions for now, but be preparing for Mexico just the same.”

Quiet falls over the room as each of us think about the road ahead.

“And what about Niklas?” I ask, determined not to let him be forgotten. “Are we planning all of these missions without him?”

“For now, yes,” Victor says. “Until things between my brother and me have been resolved, it’s best to assume he won’t be part of any missions.”

I nod in agreement.

The five of us spend the next thirty minutes discussing the details of our future missions, including getting an early start on Mexico. It’s very strange sitting at this table without Dorian and Niklas. And with Nora, instead. I miss Dorian’s sarcasm and ridiculous comments about women that should rub me the wrong way but never do. And I miss my fights with Niklas and his cold stares and the stink of his cigarettes lingering on his jacket.

Finally, when the meeting comes to a close, Fredrik stands from the table.

All of us look at him.

“Unless there’s anything else,” he says, looking only at Victor, “I have somewhere I need to be.”

“And what could you possibly have to do?” Nora asks, her voice laced with taunt, her dark red lips spreading into a grin. “A man as cold as you are can’t possibly have any kind of life outside of this Order.” She smiles sweetly, wickedly.

Fredrik and Nora rarely speak to each other, but every now and then, her taunting personality gets away with her. Yesterday she brought up how he couldn’t break her and how she’s now the second woman to beat him. She’s trying to get a reaction from him—I really have no idea why she’d want one—but Fredrik is, as always, unfazed by her taunts.

So far.

He takes his briefcase from the table.

“Lunch,” he says simply.

Nora’s brown eyes light up with suggestion. “Oh? And will you be dining alone at this lunch, or would you like some company?”

Fredrik walks down the length of the table. He never looks at her, but then he never really looks at any of us.

“I prefer to dine alone,” he says.

Nora just shakes her head, smiling. Nothing ever seems to faze her, and I admire that about her. Quietly, of course; I’d never let her know it.

Fredrik looks back at Victor, waiting.

“I’ll be touch,” Victor tells him. “If things go as planned you’ll be interrogating a man by the end of the week.”

Fredrik nods, places his hand on the door and pushes it open.

“But don’t leave the country,” Victor calls out before Fredrik leaves. “I think it’s safe to say that your alone time is over.”

“Of course,” Fredrik says. “I’ll be waiting for your call.” The door closes lightly behind him as he exits the room.

Victor turns his attention on Nora.

“And what other information do you have for me on the SC-4?” he asks.

Nora brushes her silky blonde hair away from her shoulders and folds her hands together on the table in front of her; her short are nails painted red to match her lipstick. James glances at her briefly, the same way he does every few seconds, but tries not to make it so obvious.

“Also by the end of the week,” she says, “I’ll have everything I know on them at your disposal.”

Victor nods.

Then he says, “You have a long way to go before I even begin to trust you; a difficult road ahead.”

“Yes, I’m well aware,” she says in return. “If you trusted me already, I wouldn’t have the respect for you that I do.”

Nora looks at me.

“But some trust,” she says, indicating the kind I have for her, “is very much appreciated.”

I nod, accepting her thanks.

Victor looks between us, but says nothing more. Nora is my project, my responsibility, my burden to bear. He accepts that and won’t deprive me of her and what I need from her even if he fears she is a mistake, but I know he’ll be watching her every move.

“Well, I for one,” James speaks up, “am glad to have you aboard.” He smiles dopily.

Nora passes him a sultry look, causing his big, round face to turn red.

“Not sure how Niklas will feel about it,” James adds, “or even Dorian—if h-he ever gets out of that cell, of course”—he glances at Victor—“but I suppose time will tell.”

Yes, time tends to hold the answers to everything. And the way things are now, how things have taken such a drastic turn in our Order, I’m both anxious and afraid to see what time reveals. I guess the only thing I can do is wait. Wait for Niklas to come back and hold my breath as whatever is destined to happen between him and Victor, happens. Wait for the day that Dorian’s fate will finally be decided. Wait for the moment if, or when, Victor finds out about the child I had with Javier, and brace for the consequences of the truth. Wait to see if my judgment is, in fact, off by a mile and Nora ends up making a fool of me, after all.

Waiting. Time is a cruel bitch.

23

Fredrik

About eight years ago…

Seraphina. My angel with black wings. She smiled; a crimson sheen on her lips, framed by hair as black as my soul, her eyes as deep as the bottomless pit that is my heart. She laid near the warm body, her long, white fingers coiled within the girl’s silky blonde hair. Her breasts lavish and full, pressed against the girl’s smaller ones. They were both naked, curled around one another. They were waiting for me.


Tags: J.A. Redmerski In the Company of Killers Book Series
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