Taken: Chapter Two

Lorcan

I tapped my fingers on the table, studying the man seated across from me. Big, as much muscle as fat, and supposed to be intimidating.

For most people, he probably did the trick.

Unfortunately for him, I was a long way from most people.

We’d been here for hours, going around and around in circles.

I didn’t want Durl, I wanted his boss, the one running the show.

If I took out this lump, there’d just be another brainless muscle-head sitting in his place by this time next week.

Take out his boss, though… and we could bring down the entire racket.

Whoever Durl worked for had a big enough stake in trafficking humans that it’d put a serious dent into the market.

Which is why Ronan had sent me here to put up with Durl’s thick-headedness rather than just beating the information out of him.

Of all of my brothers, I had the reputation for being cold.

Calculating.

It was a useful skill, even if it wasn’t exactly accurate.

If his boss got even a tingling that someone was after him, he’d disappear like a puff of smoke in the wind. I wasn’t going to risk that happening, not by a long shot.

So, I put up with Durl for now.

Until he handed me his boss on a silver platter, I’d keep putting up with him.

Even if tossing him across the bar was looking more and more tempting.

“Look,” I finally said, leaning across the table, attempting to keep my voice level, even while I thought about how easy it’d be to pull out his trachea. “I need a considerable amount of labor. ‘Bots ain’t gonna cut it. They’re too expensive to maintain. People, though? They’re easy and cheap to replace. So, unless your boss wants me to take my business elsewhere, he’ll stop hiding behind his lackey and come do business like a real man. I’ve already bought a handful from you, but if we’re going to do real business, he’s going to have to step up. It’s how I’ve always run my operations and I don’t see any reason to change.”

Durl let out a huff and crossed his arms in front of his chest. The look on his face told me he was considering teaching me a lesson.

Please.

I briefly wondered how far I could push him. If he threw the first punch, if he cracked, it would give me the excuse I so desperately wanted to kick his ass without blowing my cover.

No such luck.

“You must have a death wish,” the guy practically growled at me. “Don’t know if you’re brave or just damn stupid.”

I just shrugged. There wasn’t much reason to get into a battle of wits with a half-wit.

Either he’d relay my message to his boss and get me my meeting or I’d have to find another way to infiltrate their organization.

Annoying, but doable.

A waitress walked over, showing more skin than not. “Can I get you fellas anything?” She batted her eyelashes and wiggled a bit, leaving me no doubt about the definition of that ‘anything’.

But a tame, perfunctory roll, even if it filled some of the time Durl was wasting, wasn’t going to do anything to take the edge off my appetites.

Durl ordered a drink, but I waved her off.

I wanted my mind sharp and alert, just in case things ended up going south.

Doc had given me a lot of advantages. I wasn’t enough of an idiot to slow those down.

After the waitress wandered off, Durl glared at me one more time, then started tapping away on a datapad.

I leaned back in my chair, scanning the bar. At least my message was being passed along up the chain.

On Outlander Terminal, you usually didn’t want to get caught sticking your nose into someone else’s business. It was a good way to end up dead.

I had no intention of ending up dead. Nor did I care about whatever petty crimes these folks were neck deep in. All I cared about was Durl and his little trafficking ring.

While there were high-class joints on Outlander Terminal, this wasn’t one of them.

The false windows were caked over with generations of grime, and the air was thick with smoke from synthhash, as well as some other, harder drugs.

It was a wonder anyone could breathe while they were in here. Then again, most of them were probably too drugged or drunk to notice the heavy air.

While Orem had been making strides becoming a bit more legitimate under Granny Z’s reinforced rule, Outlander Terminal made no such promises and never would.

Then a woman walked by the table, catching my eye. For a second, I thought it was Cintha, a jeweler back on Orem.

It was possible I’d volunteered for a few extra shifts helping Granny Z’s forces patrol the Under.

And maybe I’d stopping in her shop, just to make sure things were alright. She worked hard and was a friend of Xander’s mate Loree.

Besides, now that so many of my brothers had mates, there would probably need to be presents, and baby things, and…

Really.

It had nothing to do with the halo of her hair, her gorgeous eyes or her quick smile when she crafted a piece just right.

How her deft fingers spun metal into beauty.

The woman across the room turned.

My chest loosened, and I sank back into my chair.

Of course, it wasn’t her.

Cintha would have no reason to be on Outlander.

Good thing, because, for a moment, I’d been ready to march her out of this dive and send her curvy ass back to Orem, where she’d be safe.

Durl’s datapad chirped, and I refocused. But before Durl could even look at the message, a commotion broke out. The man at the table next to us stood up roughly, the chair skittering backwards before toppling over. He slammed his fists down on their table, shouting at the guy he’d been sitting with.

Idiots.

They were both drunk or drugged or maybe both, slurring as they traded insults. Whatever was going on, it didn’t concern me, and I had no intention of getting involved.

I turned my attention back to Durl, fixing him with my gaze. When I cleared my throat, he looked back over at me, clearly annoyed at me interrupting the show.

Void forbid this man do some actual work.

It was going to be a small miracle if we got through this meeting without me losing my fabled control.

When the one man lunged across the table at the other, I let out a low growl. The two men wrestled on the floor until they crashed into my chair, which was more than enough to set me over the edge.

I glared at the two men as I stood, grabbing them both by the back of the neck and easily lifting them into the air.

As I marched toward the door, the crowd parted in front of us. These guys may have been some of the biggest outlaws in the Empire, but even they weren’t stupid enough to get in the way.

At the entrance, I kicked open the door, then tossed both men onto the corridor. They landed with a rough tumble, groaning as they did so.

Then I turned back to the rest of the bar, glaring at them all, daring them to do or say something. “If anyone else wants to act like children, take it outside,” I said before walking back to where I’d been sitting. I placed both hands on the table and glared down at Durl, my patience more than worn through.

“Well?”

Durl sat still, his hands balled into fists, his knuckles white. It looked like he was ready to shit himself. Either that or run out the door after the two I’d just tossed out.

“Are we doing business, or should I go elsewhere?” I prompted.

Durl finally seemed to remember what he was there for.

He nodded, then stood. “You’ve got your meeting. Though you may regret it. We’ll contact you with the time and place.”

“Good,” I said, then turned my back on him and walked out. I kept my senses alert, just in case he decided to try and brain me from behind, but by the time I crossed the threshold of the bar, he still hadn’t moved from the table.

*************

Taken is up for pre-order! (but I still want to know what you think, because I’m needy like that 🙂

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