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A Day Makes (The Vault #1)
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1635335744 (ISBN13: 9781635335743)
Mob enforcer Ceaton Mercer has killed a lot of people in a lot of different ways – he stashed the last two bodies in a toolshed belonging to a sweetheart marine researcher in an idyllic island community – but he’s really not such a bad guy. Over time he’s found a home of sorts, and he even learns he’s found a place in the hearts of the people he works with…at least enough so that they won’t put a bullet in his head because he’s outlived his usefulness to the boss.
But he never thought he’d find one day could change his life, and he’s about to discover how wrong he is.
Because in a single day, he meets the man who looks to be the one, the love of his life. It’s an improbable idea – a man who deals in death finding love – but it’s like it’s meant to be. That single day gets weirder and troubles pile up, forcing Ceaton to take a hard look at his dreary life and accept that one day can change everything, especially himself. His future might be brighter than he expects – if he can stay alive long enough to find out.
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CERTAIN TIMES in my life I could remember like yesterday. Meeting Grigor Jankovic was one of them.
I had been so close to getting away.
I purchased a plane ticket to Jacksonville with the very last of my cash, and as I sat on the airport shuttle while it made its way to Departures at McCarran International—everything I owned shoved into a small duffel—I tried to be hopeful. One of the guys I’d served with had offered to put me up for a month in exchange for helping him out with some maybe-not-so-legal activities. And while Florida had not been on my list of places to go, I was completely out of options.
After getting off the tram, I was waiting to cross the street to the terminal when a car cut me off, making it impossible to step off the curb. Backpedaling, I took a quick breath, prepared to disappear forever. They would kill me right there and I would be just another statistic, a dead ex-Marine who’d fallen on hard times, made questionable decisions, and ended up shot in the street.
But when the window lowered, a face emerged instead of a gun.
All my life, my curiosity had gotten the better of me. So instead of bolting, I waited to see what would happen next.
“Grigor Jankovic wants to speak to you.”
The first time I heard the man’s name was after I took a gun from a guy who was aiming it at me and I killed him. Now, I was hearing it from a man in a car, in what sounded to me like a Russian or eastern European accent. I couldn’t tell; I didn’t know for certain. All I did know was that it was the same name that was supposed to inspire fear… and was doing a damn good job. I’d gotten from the guy I killed a week ago that Grigor would gut me, and his friend had snarled the same thing right before I blew his brains out too. They’d promised me death with their dying breaths, so to be faced with the apparent devil’s minion was terrifying.
“He wants to put a bullet in me, you mean,” I stated to the guy in the car.
“No,” he corrected me. “Only meet.”
I studied his face.
“You should take me at my word.”
Maybe I looked stupid. People often felt they had to explain things to me more than once. Perhaps it was because I never just answered, instead always mulled my reply over before speaking, but I’d noticed most everyone felt compelled to fill the silence with the sound of their own voice.
“There’s no way in hell I’m getting in that car so you can drive me to some out-of-the-way private location to be tortured and killed.”
“Why would we do this?”
I shrugged, wishing I hadn’t ditched the gun I’d taken off that guy in the convenience store after the knock-down drag-out fight with Jankovic’s “associates.” But I couldn’t take it into the airport, and because I didn’t want some kid to find it, I’d taken it apart, put one piece in the sewer and the other in a dumpster close by the crappy roach-infested motel I’d been staying at.
“You watch too many movies.”
He’d caught me off-guard. “What?”
“I said,” he sighed, “you watch too many movies. We abduct people we will torture and kill. We do not ask nicely for them to take ride.”
“Is that right?”
I nodded even as I turned to bolt.
“Please do not make me chase you,” came a second voice, this one deeper and rumbling. I realized I could actually tell the difference, now clearly hearing a Russian accent as opposed to whatever the first guy’s was. “It will annoy me and start us off on wrong foot.”
Pivoting, I saw the driver’s side window had lowered, and the man there was scowling at me. He looked more dangerous than the one in the backseat. That guy had smiled, at least. This one had not.
“This is correct, yes? Wrong foot?”
He nodded. “Good.”
“So you were saying about your boss?”
“Da. Grigor,” he went on. “He wants only to speak to you about your run-in with our colleagues, that is all.”
I cleared my throat. “I have a plane to catch. It leaves in an hour.”
He exhaled deeply, clearly bored. “We will get you new ticket, first-class ticket, you need only to come and speak to Grigor.”
At which point the guy in the backseat—he looked good in his suit; the Italian wool blend surely cost more than everything I owned put together—got out and held open the door. The time to run had passed, so I swallowed down my fear and climbed in.
The ride was not what I expected. The guys kept up a running dialogue once I was inside, and what was nice was that even though English was most obviously their second (or more) language, they spoke it for me during the drive. What was even better was the way they ignored me, just talking instead about some guy who had pissed himself when Marko Borodin—the mean-looking one driving—had simply stopped to ask for directions.