Available now: Through the Darkest Hour
Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Read Chapter One below and then go pick up your copy!
I check for cameras before pulling my bike down an alley I know will come out near Bisson Corp to swap out my clothes. When I head back to the road, I look like any other motorcyclist. As I head toward Jordan's office building, my throat thickens. I look up and see the Nightwatchman -- Levi -- leaving the same way I did.
My stomach knots as I watch the man I have more feelings for than I'd like race away from his crime scene. I wonder how many more secrets he has from me. The thought makes my chest tighten, so it's hard to breathe. Where I usually mask my emotions, I let them take hold because they're the perfect cover-up for what I'm about to do. I slam on my brakes, so I skid out and jump off my bike in a panic, ripping my helmet off and tossing it aside as I run to the front doors.
"Ma'am?" the front desk attendant's eyes widen.
"The Nightwatchman, " I point toward the door wildly. "I just saw him swinging away from the building."
Just then, the elevator dings and the doors slide open to reveal a bloody Jordan. By the looks of it, Levi caught him before he could exit. He has two black eyes and a kunai sticks out of each of his legs.
It doesn't make sense. Jordan should've been able to get away and call the police. Why did he stop?
I rush forward and held him stand. "Jordan, Jesus Christ. What did he do to you?"
Part of it's an honest question.
Jordan's jaw is slack, and his eyes are foggy as I place him down against the wall outside the elevator.
"I didn't tell him," he says, voice hoarse.
My heart jams in my throat as Jordan leans against me, chest heaving.
He looks up, gaze boring into me. "I didn't tell him."
It's as if he's protecting me from something by not saying anything to the Nightwatchman. My skin tingles, but I tell myself it's just the blood loss messing with him. I rip my jacket off and glance over my shoulder. The front desk woman is blinking at us, jaw slack.
People are idiots when it comes to seeing someone injured. They either freak out, or do what this lady is, and stand and gawk uselessly.
"What are you waiting for? Call 9-1-1!" I yell as I pull my tank top off since I'll never be able to rip the leather to make a good tourniquet. I put my jacket back on, and Jordan's head lulls to the side.
"I'm so sorry." His breathing is ragged. "Your scars...so sorry. So sorry."
"It's fine," I say his eyelashes flutter, pain racing through his eyes and I'm not sure if it's for me or what's happened to him. "You didn't make them."
A tear trickles past his nose as I yank on the fabric of my tank top, so it splits.
"Trust me?" I ask as I lean down. The woman behind us is finally on the phone, and I can hear sirens in the distance.
Jordan gives me a sad smile. "Always."
The man must be delusional. He's Robbie's dad, and I hardly know him, yet he makes a statement like that. I don't stop working on stemming the blood flow as that thought knocks into me.
Levi did this to his best friend's dad.
To protect me. Either Levi cares for me that much, he doesn't trust anyone or both. I close my eyes and inhale as the sirens come to a stop in front of the building. When I try to stand, Jordan grabs my hand.
I bite my lip as EMTs rush into the building, gurney in toe, followed by Paul and a slew of street cops.
"Ana?" Paul's jaw drops. "What are you doing here?"
Jordan holds my hand tight, and I give a slight nod down to it, so Paul's attention moves down. His eyes widen and then soften.
"I was going to Lucky House for sushi." I shake my head, closing my eyes for effect. "Then I caught movement in the skyline, and it was the Nightwatchman repelling from the building. I knew something was wrong so I rushed in, and as I did, the elevator opened, and Jordan was inside like this."
I make my voice strain at the end like it's all too much, which it is. I don't understand how twisted things have become. Jordan doesn't drop my hand as the EMTs work to get him on the gurney.
"Jordan is a family friend?" Paul guesses, realization painting his face as he seems to remember I'm not just a cop. I'm an ex-Elite.
I nod. "I dated his son for some time."
"Her mother was my best friend," Jordan adds, and I'm unable to prevent the way my head snaps back to him. He swallows as he nods up at me.
Jordan wasn't friends with Father. It was Mom he cared for. Goosebumps rise up my arms against the cool leather that covers them. My head spins with too many realizations at once. That' must be why it bothered Jordan I didn't remember him.
Paul squeezes my shoulder as I walk by, keeping pace with the medics. "We'll meet you there."
I give a stiff nod and then pull out my phone to call Robbie. When we get to the ER, he's already pacing at the entrance.
"Dad! Dad, are you okay?"
"He's lost a lot of blood, Sir," the EMT explains when Jordan doesn't respond.
Robbie's eyes dart over his father, from the wounds on his legs up to his shoulders.
"This young lady did a great job stopping the flow," the EMT says as he jumps out and helps pull Jordan's gurney out.
Robbie takes his fathers other hand and squeezes. Relief washes over his face when his father's fingers tighten around his. Once we're inside both of us let go as Jordan's led behind doors where we can't follow. Robbie collapses into one of the waiting room chairs, hands wrapping behind his neck as he leans down.
"It was him, wasn't it? The Nightwatchman?" Robbie looks up at me, and his eyes are dark with anger and sadness.
I sit next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Yeah."
My throat thickens.
"My dad is not a bad man. You know that, right, Ana?"
I pull my lips into my mouth, and he looks over his shoulder at me. "Just like you knew your dad was never good, I know mine is a man who's done things he's been forced to do."
I shake my head as my heart hammers.
"Everyone in this city lived in fear of your father. Mine did what he had to do to protect his family." Robbie stands, hands behind his head. "After you were kidnapped, Dad ended up working for Marvin... Business trips. He never talked about them, just said it was business for your dad." He runs a hand over his face and then points to the door his dad was brought through. "I could hear him crying for days. Guilt weighs on a man, Ana. I wish it were different now that Marvin is dead, but it's worse."
I know he's right. It's as if Father's death inflamed his Trinity -- angered them and sent them into a blind rage no one was prepared for, and all sides are pounding on the city.
"Did you know my mom was friends with your dad?" I ask, and Robbie's chest rises as he nods and sits next to me.
He reaches for my hand, eyes a warm chocolate color that relaxes me. It reminds me of why I fell for him. I know in the depth of my soul that he's a good person.
"My father hated your dad -- from the time we were kids. He said the only reason he stayed around was for your mom...and then when we started dating, he seemed to get it." He swallows hard. "I think he loved her secretly...your mom, I mean."
More revelations I'm not prepared for. Robbie's parents divorced shortly after he was born, but on good terms. There had always been rumors the only reason they married was because she was pregnant.
My mind goes to the picture in Father's office. I didn't think anything of the fact that Jordan had his arm around Mom's shoulder and Mom was right next to Lori with her arm around Father. Logically, it was a balanced photo, men on the outside, women on the inside. But maybe there was more to it than that.
"I never realized..." My voice trails off as memories flash of trips to Robbie's house -- how Father's demeanor changed after the divorce and those trips became less frequent. A shiver runs up my spine. "I'm sorry the Nightwatchman came after your dad."
"You believe me then, that my dad is good?"
I give him a weak smile, but it seems to reassure him.
Mom loved one evil man. It's possible she loved two.
But right now, I'm not sure of anything. Did Mom even love Father, or was it a marriage of convenience because of me -- because she couldn't have the man she loved?
Levi walks through the emergency room doors, and his eyes lock on us. Robbie stands, and he pulls him into a hug.
"You okay, man?" Levi asks, voice strained, and every part of me goes numb. He sounds genuinely upset.
"Shaken, but Ana got there just in time."
Levi's nose flares. "Always walking right into danger."
I feel my cheeks heat up. Could he have seen my eyes just as I saw his? He pulls me into his arms and then looks down at me.
"One of the many things I love about you."
His eyes are conflicted, flashing with emotions -- kindness laced with guilt and another that I'm trying my hardest to ignore. I don't think he knows Night Hawk and me are the same. I glance over at Robbie, and his words play over in my mind.
He did what he had to do to protect his family.
Levi's eyes, like Robbie's, say he's a good man. The question is whether or not I want to bet my life on it, or worse, my heart.