“We’ll need half a dozen or so to go through the docks every month. We’ll have them all coded and chipped so they’re easily accounted for.” Vadik reaches down and grips the woman’s wrist. She doesn’t fight him. She stays still and allows him to twist her arm so we can all see a tattooed barcode on the underside of her forearm, just below her wrist. His fingers point to a reddened bump on her skin. I assume that’s where they implanted the chip.
My fists clench by my sides and my breathing threatens to pick up. But there are too many fuckers here. I don’t have a gun on me. I’d be dead if I tore him apart like I want to.
“They’ll be fairly broken in, although not all respond as well as Ava here has. She was the Russian princess when her father had the territory. She was a keepsake and a bit of a trial run for how to handle this product. So we’ve had a few weeks to teach her proper behavior.” The woman, Ava, doesn’t flinch or react as he drops her arm and kicks her legs. She merely bows and lies flat on the ground with her arms at her side. Her face is turned with her cheek lying against the concrete.
“That’s where my associate, Kane, is going to come in.” My skin prickles, and a chill runs down my spine as Vadik slaps my back. I’m supposed to do this shit. That’s not what I signed up for. I stare straight ahead and grind my teeth rather than responding. I can’t say no. I’m dead if I do.
“He’ll have the product ready and ensure they’re packaged nicely for shipment.” I glance down at the woman and look into her eyes. I'm surprised to see a flash of defiance in them that leaves so quickly I almost start to think I imagined it. Her body tenses, as though she’s preparing to take a hit. I swallow the lump in my throat and force myself to look away. I can barely stomach this shit.
“We don’t partake in this area of business,” Vince finally responds. He’s firm in his words, but there’s no emotion behind them. None of his men seem to hold an attitude toward the fact that a woman is bowing on the ground in chains. Part of me wishes they’d act on the disgust I saw on their faces earlier, but they don’t. So I’m left standing here with no fucking options.
“I understand this would be a new venture.” Abram walks forward as he talks to Vince, leaving Vadik and me standing next to the girl. Next to Ava. “I’d like to give you some time to consider the amendments to this business opportunity.” He gestures back at me and adds, “Kane will stay on your territory and get a feel for your operation.”
Vince clenches his fists and interrupts Abram. “We don’t allow that.”
“You didn’t allow that.” Abram corrects him with a grin. “Just know that I don’t do partial orders. It’s all or none, and all on my terms.”
Vince narrows his eyes at this. He seems to weigh his options and then looks back over his shoulder toward the men behind him. “I need a minute to discuss this over with my men.”
“Take two weeks. We’ll need that long to gather the first shipment. And Kane will need time to learn your protocols and how to handle this particularly fragile product.”
Vince’s eyes flash toward me and I want to punch that judgmental look off his face. I don’t do this shit. More than ever I feel backed into a corner. I don’t mind being a prick to assholes. I think of it as part of the bad karma they have coming their way. But this shit? I don’t fucking like this.
“Kane De Rocca?” Vince asks, and I nod my head. His eyes flash with surprise and then he gives me a knowing look. Just as I knew about him, I’m sure he knows all about me and the shit I’ve been through.
“Kane,” Abram turns to me, effectively dismissing Vince and his crew. “Take this one and head on down with them. I’m sure they have somewhere you can stay.” He motions toward the girl on the ground next to me. “Hold on to this one until the others are collected.” He points to my hangar as he says, “This will be perfect for housing them.” He speaks loud enough for everyone to hear as Vadik walks behind him, ushering Vince and his men back to their vehicles. He’s thanking them and talking about how great this business will be for everyone involved. His voice gets lost as I watch them walk down the landing.
Abram leans forward and grips my shoulder tightly, forcing me to awkwardly bend at the waist to his level so he can speak directly into my ear. “Learn everything. I expect a full report.” He leans away from my ear, still gripping my shoulder. I meet his eyes and give him a tight nod in return. “Consider it your first test.” He pats my shoulder. “We’ll be back in a few days to see how you’re handling this one. Don’t disappoint me.”