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Authors: Carole Mortimer

Shadow Alpha

BOOK: Shadow Alpha
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An Alpha series novel

SHADOW ALPHA

by

Carole Mortimer

USA Today Bestselling Author

 

COPYRIGHT

Copyright © 2015 Carole Mortimer

Cover Design Copyright © Glass Slipper Designs

Editor: Megan Stevens

Formatter: Matthew Mortimer

ISBN: 978-1-910597-04-0 mobi

ISBN: 978-1-910597-05-7 ePub

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All Rights Reserved.

  

DEDICATIONS

For my husband Peter, as always.

And a big thank you to Karin McLeer for graciously allowing me to use her name for one of my characters.

Chapter 1

“Mind explaining exactly why it is I’m visiting you at ten o’clock at night, Gregori?” Dair showed no emotion, neither facially nor verbally, as he stood facing the man seated beside the fireplace. The library they spoke in could have graced the home of any wealthy and successful businessman with an eye for elegance and taste. Except in this case, it didn’t.

Gregori Markovic was wealthy, yes, very much so. But a successful businessman? Hardly. Not unless you called ‘organized crime’ a business.

The other man shrugged. “I always leave at 11:30 to arrive at one of my clubs at midnight.”

“So this meeting is to suit you and not me.” Dair grimaced.

“Of course.” Gregori gave an arrogant nod of his head.

Russian by birth, the other man had arrived in England thirty years ago as a child of six with his father and pregnant mother. Within months of stepping foot on English soil, his father Dimitri had challenged Jack Montgomery, the reigning lord of the London underworld. Once the killing had stopped, with neither of them willing to back down, the two men had agreed to an uneasy truce, dividing the empire in half, Dimitri taking on all the things in that empire that Jack wanted no part of.

Just two months ago, on the death of his father, Gregori had become head of the Markovic family.

Dair was Jack Montgomery’s nephew.

And he didn’t welcome receiving a summons from a Markovic. But neither could he afford to ignore it. People who had done so in the past had lived—or died—to regret it.

But that didn’t mean Dair had to like it.

Gregori stood up. “Would you care for a drink, Dair?” He paused beside a silver tray bearing crystal decanters and several glasses; another touch of elegance so at odds with whom and what Markovic was. “I have a Scotch single malt whisky.”

Dair’s unease deepened as the other man offered him his drink of preference. Coincidence? Dair didn’t believe in coincidences. Especially when it involved a Markovic.

Admittedly, Gregori didn’t appear to be the ruthless bastard his father had been, but after such a short time in power the other man’s leadership of the Markovic family was still something of an unknown quantity.

He was more outwardly urbane than his father had ever been, and had spent several years at university acquiring a law degree. But Gregori had then used that knowledge to bend the law without actually breaking it. Most of the Markovic operations, especially the nightclubs and casinos that were Gregori’s main interest, were now run within, if not exactly to the letter of the law.

Dair had left London and joined the army at eighteen, first as a regular soldier, then as a member of the English Special Forces. Fifteen years later and he was now several years out of the army and owned and ran Grayson Security, one of the most successful and prestigious security companies in the world.

Gregori employed his own security—some of his men were standing on the other side of the study door, ready to enter if their employer seemed in any danger from his late night visitor—so Dair didn’t think that was the reason the other man had requested he call on him tonight.

“I won’t, thanks,” Dair refused the whisky.

The other man ignored his refusal as he poured the amber liquid into two of the glasses. “Come and join me by the fire, and we can drink a toast to your cousin Lucien and his lovely new wife. It was a beautiful wedding, wasn’t it?” He lowered his muscled length back down into one of the armchairs on either side of the log fire burning in the grate.

Ah.

This man’s unexpected presence, just six weeks ago, at the wedding of the only son of Jack Montgomery, had announced without any words being spoken that the truce between the two families was to continue under Gregori’s reign.

It would be wise on Dair’s part to assume that the other man was about to collect on that public gesture.

How, Dair had no idea, but no doubt Gregori would tell him. In his own sweet time.

“The happy couple has returned from their honeymoon now?” Gregori prompted as Dair slowly lowered himself into the opposite chair.

“Yes.” His sipped the whisky, grateful for the inner warmth it gave him; the heat from the fire wasn’t too comforting when he felt as if he were literally sitting in the lion’s den. “I was sorry not to be able to attend your father’s funeral; I was in the Caribbean at the time, adding more security on the island, readying it for Lucien and Nicky’s arrival.”

“No matter.” Gregori waved away the apology. “In fact, it’s probably as well that you weren’t there,” he added with a frown.

Dair immediately tensed. “Oh?”

The other man gave an inclination of his head. “That way you were not seen and recognized as being a member of the Montgomery family.”

Dair’s mouth twisted. “Possibly because I’m not.”

“We both know that’s not true.” Gregori eyed him mockingly. “Your mother was the sister of Jack Montgomery’s deceased wife. Admittedly, you and Lucien have distanced yourself from the family for many years, but ultimately blood is thicker than water, no?”

Dair’s jaw tightened. He had recently been reconciled with his mother, and Lucien was more like a brother than a cousin. Both those things made it difficult for him to deny Gregori’s claim.

Instead, he chose to remain silent.

Gregori sighed. “I have a proposition to put to you. One I hope you’ll accept,” he added determinedly as Dair’s eyes narrowed. “As a reciprocal gesture of goodwill on behalf of the Montgomery family.”

“I already told you I don’t represent the Montgomery family.” His mouth twisted derisively. “I’m really not the man for this, Gregori. Whatever
this
is.”

“Not even if it involves my sister?”

“Little Katya?” Dair was too surprised to mask the emotion.

“She prefers to be called Kat now that she is older.” Gregori shrugged ruefully.

Katya Markovic would have been what—fourteen or fifteen?—when Dair last saw her. All arms and legs, like a filly, with huge black eyes and the heavy weight of her long black hair confined in a single plait down the length of her spine. A beautiful girl on the brink of womanhood.

“Surely that should be Mrs. Orlov now?” he added dryly. Dair may have left this life behind a long time ago, but it was a fool who didn’t continue to know everything about the key players in it.

As Dimitri Markovic’s daughter, Katya had been a protected and prized member of that society. Her marriage to Sergei Orlov several years ago, the only son and heir of Ivan Orlov, one of the most powerful men in the New York underworld, had united those two influential families.

“I remember you were always kind to Kat whenever it was necessary for our two families to show a face of solidarity.” Gregori ignored Dair’s taunt.

He gave a wary shrug. “Katya—Kat, made it easy to be kind to her.” She had always seemed like a gentle soul to him, to have somehow remained untouched by the corruption that surrounded her. As if, for the main part, she had no idea it even existed.

Although he doubted that was still true after living with the Orlovs for so many years.

Gregori nodded. “I’d like for you to be kind to her again—”

“I think you need to stop right there, Gregori.” Dair placed his glass down on the table beside his chair. “I run a legitimate security business. I don’t get involved in Jack’s business, nor do I run errands for the Russian mob!”

“This has nothing to do with ‘running errands’ for anyone.” Gregori gaze had darkened as he reached out and clamped a hand about Dair’s forearm to prevent him from standing up, easily displaying the strength beneath his outer urbanity.

“Take your hand off me, Gregori,” Dair bit out between gritted teeth. “Before I’m forced to make you.” At which time, his chances of getting out of here without sustaining a severe beating at the very least, in retaliation, would be nil.

The Russian’s jaw was tight with tension as the two men waged a silent war with their eyes, black against grey-green, before Gregori slowly, reluctantly, released Dair’s arm to once again lean back in his armchair and stare down at the flames of the fire. “I need you to do this for me, Dair,” he rasped harshly. “I need you to go to New York and find Kat.”

“Find her?” Dair repeated sharply. “What the hell do you mean
find
her?”

“She’s disappeared.”

“I don’t understand...”

Gregori’s expression was tortured. “Kat was not...she was unlike herself, at my father’s funeral. She seemed...distant, removed—”

“Grief does that to some people—”

“I thought the same at the time,” the other man cut in harshly. “But the two of us have always been close, and since her return to New York I’ve heard from her precisely twice. Just two hurried telephone calls, the first in which she assured me she was well, and the second to tell me that I wasn’t to worry about her.”

“Which instantly made you worry about her.” It now caused Dair to worry about her too. Ivan Orlov was a vicious bastard, and Sergei was well on his way to following closely in Daddy’s footsteps, whereas Katya—Kat—was light and full of expectation. Innocence. “Why the hell did you ever let her marry such a bastard?” he demanded impatiently. “You all knew what the Orlovs were like—”

“I didn’t allow it,” Gregori rasped. “I protested strongly against it. My protests were overridden, as was usually the way with my father,” he sighed. “In the end Kat made the decision herself and did what she believed to be right for our family.”

“The same ‘family’ that doesn’t even know where she is right now?”

The other man’s mouth tightened grimly at the rebuke. “Whenever I call Sergei he insists she’s fine. He says Kat was a little unwell, depressed, after my father died. The doctor has advised she go away to a clinic for a while, to rest. With no telephone calls, and no visitors that might affect her recovery.”

“What doctor? Which clinic?”

“I don’t know!” Gregori bit out violently.

“What the hell—!”

“She is no longer just my sister, Dair, but Sergei’s wife.” A nerve pulsed in the other man’s jaw, as evidence of the supreme effort of will it was taking for him to remain inactive. “As he reminded me again earlier today when I spoke to him on the telephone,” he added bitterly. “After which I called you to arrange this meeting.”

Dair gave a shake of his head. “This whole thing stinks of some sort of cover-up by the Orlovs.”

“You think I don’t know that?” The other man fixed him with that penetrating dark stare. “Do you have any idea how much I want to go to New York and rip the city apart until I find Kat?”

Dair could clearly see the strain the other man was under; there were lines grooved beside his mouth, dark shadows beneath those glittering obsidian eyes. “Then why the hell don’t you just do it?” he came back just as aggressively.

“Because I’m no longer just Gregori Markovic, I’m now also the head of the Markovic family!” The older man stood up restlessly. “I’ve already expressed my concern to Sergei in regard to Katya. He has insisted that she is being cared for. By going to New York myself now, and insisting on seeing her, I would be as good as calling Sergei a liar—”

“Why not do that, when that’s exactly what you believe he is?”

BOOK: Shadow Alpha
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