Read No One Lives Forever Online

Authors: Jordan Dane

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense, #General

No One Lives Forever

BOOK: No One Lives Forever
5.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Table of Contents

Hotel Palma Dourada
Cuiabá, Brazil

Gripping his nine-millimeter Beretta, Nicholas Charboneau peered through the peephole of the penthouse suite, responding to a soft knock. The red and black uniforms of hotel personnel should not have given him any cause for alarm. And yet, the hair at the nape of his neck reacted to a rush of adrenaline. Two men stood by a rolling cart of white linen, covered with food platters and a bottle of Brazilian merlot with a distinctive label.

Compliments of the house ... or a Trojan horse? The bottle of wine told the tale.

A lazy smile curved his lips. At his age, he relied more on wit and cunning, leaving the chest thumping to younger men. He had no intention of answering the door, making himself vulnerable.

"No way," he scoffed, muttering under his breath. "Nice try, but never would've happened."

"Who is at the door?" The voice of his young bodyguard, Jasmine Lee, drew his attention. Drying her black hair with a towel, she stood near the wet bar dressed only in the white robe of the hotel. "Did you order room service, Nicky?"

He raised his hand and shook his head, silently mouthing the word

Her body tensed, dark eyes flared in alert.

The sound of shattered glass from across the room broke his concentration. Jasmine darted from his sight, heading toward the noise.

As he rounded the foyer corner, three men dressed in black paramilitary uniforms burst into the room from the balcony, guns raised. Without hesitation, Jasmine tossed her towel toward the nearest man, a distraction. She punched a fist to his solar plexus, doubling him over. To finish her attacker, she elbowed the back of his head, toppling him to the carpet. Now she faced another, chin down and fists raised in defiance.

One down. White queen takes black knight's pawn, threatening the rook.

Nicholas's body reacted on pure instinct as chess maneuvers ran through his head, a practice in discipline and control. Adrenaline fueled his anger. He raced across the room, Beretta leveled. Unarmed, she wouldn't stand a chance if they started to shoot. He chose a spot to her far right, forcing the men to split their attack. A tactical maneuver.

Nicholas squared off with the man he'd coerced into turning his back on Jasmine. His assailant flinched, fear in his eyes as he faced the Beretta. Not wanting to start any gunplay, Nicholas backhanded him across the jaw, knocking him down.

Wincing in pain, the man writhed on the floor, holding his jaw. Blood dripped through his fingers.

Two down. White knight to king four, checkmate in two moves.

He smelled victory. With Jasmine at his side, he tilted his head and glared at the final man, his gun aimed dead center between the stranger's eyes. "Who sent you? And you better pray I believe you."

"Mãos ao alto."
The stern voice came from behind him.

Clenching his jaw, Nicholas wavered for an instant. He gripped the Beretta, maintaining what little tactical leverage remained. But he had a feeling all that was about to change. Unwilling to lower his weapon until he knew for certain, he shifted his gaze to catch a reflection in the mirror behind the wet bar.

The seductive country of Brazil had beckoned Nicholas to its borders, the fertile ground of corruption awaiting his influence. Now, the reality of that summons had a face. The room service attendant narrowed his eyes in challenge, matching his stare in the mirror.

Despite the night air coming from the open doors to the balcony, he noticed the man had a bead of sweat at his temple. The droplet lingered on the brink of a sun-weathered crease, one of many lines marking his face.

Nicholas did not speak Portuguese, but since the uniformed man held a Kalasnikov assault rifle aimed at his head, understanding the native tongue became a moot point. The universal language of the AK-47 made his meaning perfectly clear. He lowered his weapon, allowing one of the men to take it, then raised his hands in compliance.

He had no option. Given the odds against a semi-auto rifle in tight quarters, they were severely outnumbered. And one of the men held a gun on Jasmine.
Check. The black bishop had taken his queen out of play.
As in the game of chess, he would voluntarily topple his king to concede, not wanting to risk Jasmine's life.

Checkmate. Game over.
In an instant everything changed.

Glancing toward Jasmine, Nicholas noticed her dark eyes communicating a clear message. He knew from experience she would fight if he gave her the slightest encouragement. The beautiful woman's unspoken connection to him made words unnecessary. With a subtle shake of his head, he gave his order.

You and I shall live to fight another day, my love.
He would not challenge the inevitable. Whatever the purpose of these intruders, he would soon find out.

"I'm sure there's been some kind of mistake." He glared at the menacing faces of the five men. The two who entered through the front door via passkey had wheeled in a large portable table. Aroma from the food wafted in the air, making his stomach grind. "The hotel knows never to send me wine made in Brazil."

Insulting the local wine was his calculated attempt to determine whether these men spoke English. The leader's expression remained deadly focused on him. The man held the rifle tight to his shoulder, clenching the weapon in a taut grip. With no reaction to his first offense, he ventured a second for good measure.

"I hope you realize . . ." Nicholas raised an eyebrow. ". . . there will be no gratuity."

The head honcho had no sense of humor, nor did he apparently speak any English. Nicholas would not be dissuading him with his keen negotiating skills. Without the use of his quick wit, his best weapon would be gone from his arsenal, along with his gun. He churned his brain, considering his limited options.

The intruder spoke again.

quer tirar sarro de mint, porco americano? Respeite quernapontaa arma na sua cabeça. Você vai saber logo quern esta engarregado ou vai morrer."

The comment had been directed at him. With so few visits to this country, he had picked up very little Portuguese, but he did recognize the term
American pig,
and the word
had something to do with death.

All things considered—this was not a good sign.

The man standing before him clearly had Indian blood coursing through his veins, with his mocha brown skin, pitch-black hair, flat nose, and high, angular cheekbones. The hotel uniform did little to disguise his raw, primitive intensity. An ancient lineage reflected in his dark eyes. The man looked out of place in this urban setting.

So why was he here—and holding a rifle with deadly determination? Desperation forced men to take chances. Unlike the men in this room, Nicholas was not desperate. At least, not yet. Greed was a familiar vice in his area of the world, but Brazil had refined it to an art.

"I'm sure we can come to some .. . arrangement. If you would allow me to get my wallet, I'll reconsider your gratuity." Carefully, he gestured with his hands, making the universal sign of payola.

Encouraged, he watched the head man give a nod, directing one of his followers to act. Nicholas heard a sound behind his back. Maintaining eye contact with the leader, he resisted turning around until—

He gasped when something pierced his neck, a sharp sting. Pain forced him to wince and shrug a shoulder.

Too late. The damage had been done.

"What have you—"

Within seconds the skin at his neck burned. Muscles in his legs tingled. His equilibrium challenged, he felt weightless and the room swayed. Walls drained their color.

Gravity pulled at him, forcing him to submit to its will. Nicholas dropped to his knees, his arms falling limp by his sides. He no longer had the strength to lift them. From the corner of his eye he caught a motion.

Jasmine fought for her freedom, a blur of white. Sounds of a struggle distorted in his head, as if filtered through mounds of cotton. Noise deadened to a dull throb—an erratic and faint pulse. A dark shadow eclipsed his line of sight, and an arm was flung in retaliation. He sensed Jasmine's loss. It spurred him to stay conscious. His concern for her overwhelmed his body's surrender to the drugs injected into his system—drugs flooding him with an unmerciful indifference.

Falling face first to the carpet, he held one eye open, searching for her. The muffled sound of his breaths came in shallow pants, slowing with each passing second. With his eyesight failing, he sensed Jasmine's dark hair near his face. Her familiar scent penetrated the veil of his stupor. The coppery smell of blood tainted the memory.

Was she...?

The possibility of her lying dead by his side made his heart ache. Dulled outrage compounded his torment. If anything happened to his beloved and loyal bodyguard, the eternal damnation of hell would appear like a day at the spa for the bastard committing the deed.

He vowed this with his last moment of consciousness, before he drifted through a threshold to his own brand of hell.

The foreign woman lay at the feet of Mario Araujo. Blood trailed from her mouth. Drops of deep red marred the luxurious white robe. It had not been necessary.

But time was of the essence if his plan were to work at all. With a quick gesture, he ordered his men to move into action.

"Esta na bora de sair da cidade com a nosso premio, camaradas. Vamos sequir conforme a piano.

They hoisted the American's body, jamming him into the hidden compartment of the room service cart. Tomorrow he'd feel the pain of his unceremonious departure from the city. For now, the drugs in his body made him a compliant guest.

As leader of his people, Mario had taken the job of scout. He would not order his men to undertake such a risky job if he wouldn't make the same sacrifice. After all, the idea of kidnapping for profit had been his from the start. So for two years he worked at the menial job of bellhop under the name of Rodrigo Santo. He'd taken the name and identification of a young boy who had died years ago in his village.

The dead rarely took offense to fraud and were good at keeping secrets.

Mario studied his usual prey at the deluxe hotel and suffered the indignities of the
world. Normally, he resorted to luring his targets from the hotel by way of an official-looking document from the Interior Ministry of Brazil or a memo from the Prosecutor General's Office. And business had been fruitful.

Then, nearly a year ago, a man made contact with him over the phone.

He remembered the conversation as if it were yesterday. Mario had gotten the call at the hotel, during work hours. The voice on the phone specifically asked for him and threatened to expose his little enterprise. The man claimed to have proof of his involvement, even had times and dates and known accomplices. Mario had listened, sure the police would bust in and make an arrest that instant, hauling him from the hotel in handcuffs. But when that didn't happen, he regained his composure and assessed his situation in a different light.

"What do you want in return?" he had asked.

"In return?"

"Yes. You'd have me arrested if that were your purpose," Mario persisted, hoping he'd guessed right. "What do you want?"

After a long silence the man began to laugh, an abrasive sound.

"You see? I knew I picked the right man. You and I are going to get along."

To this day, Mario hadn't told anyone of the secret alliance he had made, not wanting to put any of his people at risk. And with his new partner, he had no complaints. His enterprise thrived more than before.

So when the man had called about a rich American, he listened again. The kidnapping had been ordered and planned in haste, without Mario's usual care. His "associate" had told him the foreigner wouldn't stay long and would be far too cagey to be lured from the hotel, as the others had been.

Normally, Mario's instincts would have cautioned him against moving forward with the plan, but two things swayed him.

First, everything had fallen into place without effort, making it too good to pass up. The rich foreigner was delivered into his hands, yet another generous gift from his anonymous benefactor. Second, and more important, his associate had shared vital information on the American and his purpose in this country. For Mario, this carried far more weight than any ransom.

BOOK: No One Lives Forever
5.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Love and Truth by Vance-Perez, Kathryn
Being a Girl by Chloë Thurlow
Claiming The Alpha by Adriana Hunter
Mr Perfect by Linda Howard
Cheddar Off Dead by Julia Buckley
Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George
Missing: Presumed Dead by James Hawkins
The Fox Hunt by Bonnie Bryant