King's Capture by Vivian Wood

Chapter One


In a small, dark room near the Turkmeni shipping docks, I huddle. Dust drifts around the dank space, pervading it as it does every single place I’ve been in this damned country. Eros fidgets and looks toward the back of the room, pulling out his weapon. He’s not especially trigger happy, so I am not particularly concerned. It just tells me that the tension is getting to my brothers too as we stand at the ready.

There is little to do now but wait to see how everything that I have planned plays out.

“Hades…” Ares warns, his voice low. “We shouldn’t wait.”

His Highland Scots accent is as strong as ever. My brothers and I will always sound rough and coarse, as though we were all born in the middle of a Highland winter storm.

I lift a hand in response, watching the video camera intently. Behind me, my two brothers stand and await my orders. They silently sweat in their black suits, Eros clearly the more nervous of the two.

It’s unseasonably hot today, even for a Turkmeni summer. I can feel the perspiration dampening my expensive white button-up shirt on my lower back, sticking it to my skin. The need to take off my black Brioni suit jacket and roll up my sleeves presses down on me.

I dart a glance at Eros. His expression is drawn, his high cheekbones and smattering of freckles across his nose and below his eyes less striking than the grimace on his pouty lips. Eros is the bonniest of the three of us, his dark-haired good looks almost feminine, his striking features carved from the finest marble.

Ares leans forward, his eyes on the video screen. If Eros is a finely carved marble statue, then the same artist surely formed Ares by bluntly bashing a piece of rock until the edges are roughly hewn into shape. He’s all sharp edges and craggy flesh stretched over bone.

And me? I’m somewhere in between.

“Oi.” Eros calls my attention, snapping me out of my thoughts. “There’s movement.”

My eyes travel back to the screen. I need to focus now. This deal has the potential to make me over a hundred million dollars and it will be my largest international arms deal to date.

Assuming that this doesn’t suddenly go very, very wrong.

I tuck one hand under my chin and watch the figures on the dingy little screen in front of me. Two suited men stand on one side, the posture standoffish. Those are the agents I’ve hired to conduct today’s business.

Mateen Abdul and Soban Sadat make perfect straw men. They have immaculate criminal records. They also have a small shipping business that has existed in Turkmenbashi for several years prior.

They are currently squaring off with several men in uniform, members of the police force that watch over the shipping docks. I hold my breath as one of the policemen examines a thick sheaf of papers. He frowns, looking up at Mateen. He asks a pointed question, jabbing his finger to indicate the papers.

I turn my head, looking past my brothers to the local man I’ve hired as an interpreter. He looks to me automatically, even though there has been no explicit mention of which of the brothers Lyon is in power here. I’m the oldest brother. In personality, the natural leader.

Ares is the bravest brother but also the hastiest, prone to bloodthirst.

Eros is smarter than the two of us combined. But he also lets his heart and his libido lead in lieu of his head.

Which leaves only me. I think everything through, seeing everything from multiple angles. I am the most intractable of the three of us, the most decisive.

The interpreter senses that I am the one he needs to please. He scuttles forward, bowing his head.

“What did he say?” I demand.

The man seals his lips and looks at the video camera screen. The policeman asks another question, and I can tell by the anxious look on our interpreter’s face that the answer isn’t good.

“He is saying that the documents are a mess. That…” He pauses, listening. “He asks for identification from both men. And he just told his men to open the first shipping container.”

“That should be fine,” Eros says. “We have made plans for our cargo to be searched.”

Ares shoots him a quelling glance. “We made plans to have it searched by friendly agents that we have paid off. Not by some random police. The cargo is barely hidden by a few inches of rice. It gives way to what’s underneath with a quickness.”

“There is another contingency if the shipment is discovered.” Eros fidgets. “Right, Hades?”