Dark Redemption (Broken Souls #1) (2 page)

BOOK: Dark Redemption (Broken Souls #1)
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Chapter Three

 

 

“Oh Sofia!” the tiny old woman jumped up from her seat in the reading nook at the library as soon as she saw her. “I just finished your latest pages. My oh my, Mr. Collins certainly did have a good afternoon thanks to you!”

Sofia laughed out loud when the seventy-year-old grandmother waggled her eyebrows suggestively and then gave her a wink.

“I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Mrs. Collins.” Sofia took a seat next to her. “Any notes for me?”

She had met the vivacious woman here almost six months ago now, and after finding out she loved romance novels and had been an English teacher for forty years, Sofia had asked if she’d be interested in doing some beta reading. They’d gotten along like a house on fire ever since and met once a week for coffee at the library.

“Only a few here and there,” she answered. “I emailed them to you, dear.”

“Awesome. Thanks so much.”

“I can’t wait to see what happens to the three of them and that dastardly prince.” Mrs. Collins scowled. “I hope he gets what’s coming to him.”

“Oh don’t you worry,” she answered with a wink. “He does.”

After two years of writing full time, Sofia still was delighted when a reader got invested in one of her stories. It seemed to take her forever before she’d finally found what made her happy in life. Before she’d started writing, Sofia had just assumed she was a bit crazy. After all, normal people didn’t have random characters popping up in their heads doing God knows what, or began whimsical back-stories for the three people standing in front of them at the bank teller.

But it all made sense now. She was simply supposed to be writing these things down and getting them out of her head. She wasn’t weird or strange…much. She was just a writer. She had much fewer instances of friends and family staring at her oddly, asking her
what is going through that head of yours?

Now she just smiled and told them. Sofia learned quickly how un-curious most family members got when you began to tell them all about the ménage science fiction romance you were plotting…she didn’t think her brother would ever be the same again.

She was just leaving the library after doing a little research and having a nice catch up with Mrs. Collins when her cell rang. Sofia had been expecting a call from her mom, so she took a deep breath and answered. Her parents were only two days into a four-week Caribbean cruise and her mother was enjoying giving her only single daughter a play-by-play on all of the available men she’d met each day.

“Hi Mom.”

“Sweetie! What are you doing? It took you five rings to answer.” Her mom made it seem like five rings had been fifteen. “Are you okay?”

“Yup, I’m great,” Sofia answered. “I was just leaving the library and my phone was at the bottom of my bag.”

“Oh, the library? Did you meet anyone there?”

“Not this time, Mom.” She tried and failed to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. Her mom really did
not
appreciate sarcasm. “Pickings are slim this time of year, but I hear once the weather gets cold the men start to stream to public places to find wives. Maybe I’ll get picked up then…”

“Very funny, Sofia. Honestly, sometimes I wonder about you,” her mom continued. Sofia felt bad about teasing her now. “Don’t you want to be happy? Don’t you want a family?”

“I do want those things, Mom,” she answered, “but dating is complicated these days. It’s hard to meet people. Plus, I’m busy with work.”

“Well, you won’t find a man unless you get out of that head of yours and into the real world, and don’t be so picky. If I’d been as picky as you, I never would have given your father the time of day.”

“I heard that, woman!”
Sofia heard her father’s voice in the background and it made her smile.

“Shush, Robert. How in the heck you heard
that
when you never seem to be able to hear me ask you to take out the garbage is beyond me!” her mom yelled back away from the phone. “I might give out your number. Be open to getting a few calls.”

“Mom,” Sofia sighed, “please don’t…”

“Love you―bye dear!” Her mother cut her off and then hung up, leaving Sofia terrified about what kind of match-making she could do for her daughter on an ‘over 60’s couples’ cruise. Yikes. Now seemed like the perfect time to start screening all her calls.

Sofia knew her mom meant well, but for some reason she’d always had a difficult time connecting with men. They were either too nice, or too passive, or she just couldn’t drum up any sexual interest at all. But not everyone was meant to get married and have kids, right? Couldn’t it be enough to find happiness in her work? Ugh, who was she kidding? She was lonely as hell and a large part was her own fault. She’d been hiding behind her work long enough. It was time to put herself out there and go after what she wanted.

When she walked into her cute apartment and noticed how cluttered it was, Sofia decided it was also time to organize her life. What better way to start than to finally get rid of all the excess crap?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

Okay, well
‘get rid of’
was maybe a larger step than she was ready for right at this very moment. What if she needed some of this stuff? Her mild hoarder tendencies aside, she sorted through the jammed closets and packed most of the stuff she knew she hadn’t used in years away in boxes. Huh, fifteen boxes…that was probably normal, right?

Sure it was, no one had room on their bookshelves for all the books they needed to keep anyways. Five boxes of books seemed completely reasonable. For a nano-second, Sofia heard her mother’s voice in the back of her mind telling her she should just donate them to the used bookstore, but thank the Gods it was quickly replaced by her own voice telling her she couldn’t possibly get rid of those books, she loved those books. Sheesh, disaster averted.

She made her way down the hall to the elevator and placed another heavy box at the doors.
Just one more
, she thought with a cringe. She’d purposely left this one last, as it was mostly filled with her old textbooks and was heavier than hell. Just as she finally picked it up and turned to leave the apartment, her neighbor’s door opened and she was relieved when Carl smiled and rushed forward to help her.

“Sofia, why are you moving all of this by yourself? Are you donating it or something?” the handsome man asked as he put the box in the elevator and helped her move the rest of them in.

“Nah, just doing some house organizing. I’ve been meaning to rent a storage locker and take all this stuff over, I’ve just been avoiding the heavy lifting,” she answered, trying not to fidget under his charming smile.

She’d had a bit of a crush on her handsome neighbor ever since he moved into the building about six months ago. He was very nice and extremely charming, so naturally she’d avoided all contact with him because she would blush and turn into a stuttering idiot as soon as he looked at her. Yes, he was also more than a little out of Sofia’s league, but a girl could dream, right? And boy did she ever. Thank goodness for batteries and her over-active imagination or Sofia wouldn’t be the cheerful person she usually was.

She didn’t really know much about Carl, other than he was nice and always looked like he’d walked right out of the pages of a magazine. They’d only spoken in passing, really. He’d told her he sold some sort of medical equipment and he seemed to be away traveling for work more than he was home.

The elevator doors closed and there was a moment of awkward silence between them as Sofia tried not to make a complete fool out of herself. Carl’s phone beeped and a deep frown formed on his face as he read a text, so she took the opportunity for benign conversation.

“Is everything okay?” she asked. “Did you get some bad news?”

When his eyes met hers, there was a flash of something she’d never seen before in them. It scared her for a moment, but then he was smiling once again, almost as if it had never happened.

“It’s just a little snag at work, but nothing I can’t handle,” he answered, suddenly very interested in the boxes piled up around them.

“Let me help you get these into your car, Sof. A little thing like you shouldn’t be hauling around heavy boxes,” he said with a wink as the elevator stopped in underground parking. “Did you get a good deal on a storage locker? I’ve been meaning to get one myself.”

“That’s so nice of you, Carl. Yes, that new place just off the 232nd freeway exit has a great price―you should check it out,” she answered awkwardly, watching him prop open the door with one of the boxes.

“Why don’t you go pull your car up and I’ll load them in for you.” Carl motioned her toward her small SUV in the corner of the garage.

She gave him her sexiest smile and went to grab her car, maybe it would be her lucky day and she could convince him to let her make him dinner as a thank you for all his help. One of the boxes must have popped open when they were carrying them because he was just fidgeting with the flaps on one when she parked and got out of the car. They barely got the boxes inside of her trunk, and thank God he’d been there to figure it out or she didn’t know what she would’ve done.

“God, how am I going to get these out of here at the storage place?” She laughed as he fit the last one in.

“Just ask the guy at the desk to help and flash him that sweet smile of yours,” he said with a wink and a knockout grin. “I’m certain he’ll help you out.”

“I’ll try.” She couldn’t help but blush at his comment. “Say, how about as a thank you for all your help, I make dinner for us…are you free tonight?”

Sofia could tell she’d surprised him. God knows she’d just shocked the ever living hell out of herself by asking him out. Her regret was immediate and she felt like the biggest loser as he paused for a few seconds, and, of course, she thought he’d say no until he smiled once again.

“That’s sweet, Sofia. You know what? I haven’t had a home-cooked meal in as long as I can remember. That sounds great,” he answered, closing the hatch on her truck.

“Okay…great. How about seven at my place?” Sofia was already planning to make her four cheese and black truffle cannelloni; she was hoping to impress him.

Carl took a quick look at his watch and seemed to think about it for a moment, then smiled back up at her. “Sounds perfect. I’ll see you then. I’ll bring the wine.”

She was so incredibly impressed with herself as she watched him get back into the elevator, and then she got into her car to drive out to the storage lot. Sofia wasn’t really the type of woman who asked guys out…especially hot guys. She was the geeky girl who normally kept to herself, but she’d been determined to get some excitement in her life this year and she was off to an amazing start.

Oh shit,
she thought abruptly.
He’s coming over to my place!
She had a lot of work to do to get the food made and clean up if she had a hot date coming over tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

 

Hours of panicked grocery shopping and frantic cooking later, and dinner was almost done. Sofia sprinkled the last of the cheese over her pasta dish and popped it back into the oven to melt. She took a quick look at the clock. It was almost seven-thirty, and she started to get a bit nervous that Carl hadn’t arrived yet. He seemed so nice. Surely he would have let her know if something had come up and he couldn’t make it, wouldn’t he? The old Sofia would have just assumed he was blowing her off and wallowed while she ate alone and polished off a nice bottle of red wine, but that was last year’s Sofia.

This year’s Sofia had promised herself she was going to be fearless and proactive. She decided she’d just pop over to see if he was simply running late. She stopped in front of the mirror by her door to double check her lipstick and was pleased with what she saw: her long brown hair was falling perfectly in wavy curls, drawing focus to her soft eye makeup and bold red lipstick. Feeling great, she walked down the hall and knocked on Carl’s door.

There was no answer the first time, but she knocked again just in case he was in the shower. When she heard some noise on the other side of the door, she was relieved he was home after all.

“Carl?” she said through the door. “It’s me, Sofia. I just wanted to make sure you were still coming for dinner?”

But when the door opened and a dark-haired man stood on the other side, Sofia was confused. Did Carl have a roommate? She’d certainly never seen anyone else coming or going from his apartment.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said to the stranger with a small smile. “Carl and I had dinner plans for seven and I thought I’d see if he was just running late or if something had come up. I’m Sofia from apartment 305 across the hall.”

“Hello Sofia,” the large man said with a sexy smile. He stepped back and motioned her inside. “I didn’t know Carl was seeing anyone. Please come in.”

Sofia walked into the apartment and curiously looked around. She was a little shocked at the mess. Carl had always seemed so meticulous in his appearance. But then again, you never could tell how clean someone was until you lived with them. Clearly these two men were slobs.

“So, you’re Carl’s roommate? I didn’t notice that he had one. You must work odd hours, as I’ve never run into you in the building before.”

“Yes, I work night shifts mostly. Can I get you a glass of wine while you wait?” he asked, pouring two glasses. “Carl’s just in the shower.”

Normally Sofia would have just left a message with his roommate and went back to wait for him, but why not stay and chat a bit with the handsome man…even if he was a little intimidating? He was kind of on the huge side, at least two inches taller than Carl’s six-foot frame, and the muscles showing underneath his black sweater were evident. The other thing that was piquing Sofia’s interest were the tattoos she could see trailing out of the vee around his neckline, as well as on his arms under the pushed up sleeves. Combined with his dark tousled hair and smoky gray eyes, it was clear he was the bad boy to Carl’s cultured metro look.

She smiled as she took a large mouthful of the dark red wine. It had a nice, robust flavor, but at the end of it, there was something odd about the taste. An almost metallic tinge to it. She noticed he just watched her drink it, not touching his own glass.

“What kind of wine is this? It’s got an interesting flavor,” she asked him, noticing the alcohol hitting her harder than normal for her first glass. Had she forgotten to eat all day or something?

“It’s a special vintage,” the stranger said as he stood from the stool and walked closer.

Sofia had to strain her eyes as her vision seemed to be going blurry now. What in the hell was going on? When he stepped right up to her and took hold of both her arms, the charming smile was gone from his face and she knew she’d made a horrible mistake.

“You…” her voice was now a quiet slur as she could barely speak, “…not Carl’s roommate…”

“No, lady I’m not, and I’m afraid Carl’s
not
in the shower,” he said as he stopped her from falling off the high stool. “In fact, Carl is nowhere to be found, but as his girlfriend, I’m sure you can help me with that little problem.”

That was the last thing she heard before everything went black.

 

***

 

Eitan Kent picked up the small woman and placed her over on the couch while he figured out what his next move would be. Seems that Ben Donovan, international information broker and murdering sociopath, also known as ‘Carl’ to the delectably naïve neighbor he was sleeping with, must have figured out his location had been compromised today. Eitan wondered if there was a leak somewhere in his boss’s organization, as it was clear that Ben had made plans for the evening, so someone must have alerted him before he fled.

When Eitan had gotten the tip from his handler this morning that something had finally pinged on one of Donovan’s cover identities, he was thrilled. They’d been trying to catch this guy for years and it would be a huge payday for him if he could beat the Russians to him. The contract was to recover the information that had been stolen from a CIA operative and dispose of all evidence…which meant Ben Donovan was a man living on borrowed time.

As a hired mercenary, Eitan didn’t think too much about the men he was hired to kill. A job was a job and most of the people who ranked a contractor with his skill set had been doing enough evil in the world that they ended up getting what they deserved. But when that bastard Donovan had found the undercover operative and stolen the classified information from her, he’d also left her tied up with her throat slit, and that just didn’t sit right with Eitan.

Was it the woman thing? Nah, not really. The agent hadn’t been some innocent, she was a seasoned operative and knew the risks of her job. Besides, he’d fought enough women in combat over the years to know they could be just as deadly as men. But it just wasn’t sporting to tie someone up and kill them that way, it was cowardly. He always made sure to at least give them a fighting chance when he took someone out. He certainly didn’t have any issues with some torture if specific information was needed from a mark, but when it came to a kill? Up close and personal was more his style―that way you always made sure the job was done.

He’d already looked through everything in Donovan’s apartment that afternoon and didn’t find any sign of the zip drive or clues to where he may have gone. It was sheer luck that sweet little Sofia had knocked on the door when she had. He took another look at the woman still sleeping in front of him. She certainly wasn’t anything like the high-class call girls and arm candy Donovan was usually known to associate with. The file attached to the contract didn’t have any other record of the man getting involved with civilians…especially where he’d been living at the time, so there must be something special about this one. Maybe she was in the business? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d met an assassin dressed up like a sweet little librarian. But her behavior when she’d come to the door just seemed a bit too innocent for that. He guessed he’d just have to wait and see once he checked in with his boss.

He’d get them settled back at the apartment here in the city he’d rented for this job, then Eitan would figure out just which methods he would use to get Donovan’s whereabouts out of this little beauty. Having more than a decade in all types of interrogation training made him confident that she’d tell him everything he needed to know.

 

BOOK: Dark Redemption (Broken Souls #1)
8.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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