I slide the door shut behind me as I enter Shane’s recovery room, deep inside the secure hospital Leukos is contracted with. Shane looks pale and small, swaddled in the hospital bed, surrounded by pillows and blankets, but his eyes are open, staring at the ceiling. “Hi,” he says, not looking at me.
I walk over the bed and sit down beside him, taking his hand in mine and giving it a squeeze before I release it. “How are you feeling?” I ask softly.
Shane turns his head to look at me, not quite meeting my gaze. “The doctors say I’ll live.”
“Are you in pain?” I ask, looking at the drip in his arm, and then at the bandages bulging around his middle.
“I have good drugs,” Shane says with a ghost of a smile. “Everything is all… shiny.”
I smile slightly, and then get up, unable to stay in place a moment longer. “Shane…”
I’m not even sure how to start, what to say, how to say it.
“I trusted you. I thought we trusted each other,” my voice is even, but dangerously quiet.
Shane closes his eyes, and then opens then, watching me pace back and forth at the foot of his bed.
“You lied to me. You LIED to me. How could you do that?” I ask, my voice rising several octaves despite my tenuous control.
“I didn’t lie,” Shane says. “I… omitted the truth. I skirted around some details…”
“Don’t play me,” I say angrily. “We’re friends – we’re colleagues. How could you not tell me that the man I’m in love with is your LITTLE BROTHER? How could you…”
Tears start trickling down my cheeks and I brush them away furiously. I haven’t cried as much in years as I have in the last few days, I muse.
“Em, I’m sorry,” Shane says. “I have no excuses, but I have at least a ghost of an explanation.”
“Let’s hear it, then,” I say, marching over to the chair and sitting down again, my arms crossed protectively across my chest.
“I didn’t tell you, I didn’t tell ANYONE about Connor – or about my father. I couldn’t put them at risk. I knew my father was into something dangerous, and I knew I had to put distance between all of us to keep them both safe. I couldn’t make them a target, and I couldn’t let anyone use them to get to me, or vice versa. It’s a dangerous game I’m caught up in, Em, and for years, I’ve had absolutely no idea how to get out of it.”
I can hear the pain and anguish in his voice, and I soften slightly. “Does Connor know? Does he know anything about you – about Leukos?”
Shane shakes his head. “He thinks I’m an accountant.”
This makes me smile a little. Shane is the furthest thing from an accountant I know.
“So when you warned me about getting close to him…”
“Believe me, Em, I’ve always wanted a girl like you to make my little brother happy, but not at the expense of his life – or yours,” Shane says quietly.
“I just can’t believe that you didn’t tell me,” I say, all the fight going out of my voice. “We don’t keep secrets – not from each other.”
“But surely you can see why I had to keep this one?” Shane implores, and after a long moment, I nod.
“Yeah,” I agree. “I can.”
Shane sighs and takes my hand in his, squeezing it. “I’m sorry, Em. Really.”
I nod again, and try to gather my thoughts. “So… what now?”
Shane shrugs slightly, wincing at the tug on the bandages around his middle. “I’m not sure. The only thing I know for sure is that Connor still isn’t safe. You need to keep him safe. For both of us.”
“You know something… something from Stepanek’s camp, don’t you?” I ask, not wanting to hear the truth.
Shane nods. “The hit on Connor is still active.”
I wince. “Shit.”
“Listen to me, take Connor and run,” Shane says, his eyes boring into mine. “Fast.”
“I’m not running away, Shane,” I say immediately. “No matter how far we run, we’ll always be running, we’ll always be targets.”
“At least go for a few days,” Shane pleads. “I’ll be released tomorrow, and then I can start digging to see if there’s a way for you and I to get to Stepanek. It’s the only way to eliminate the threat against Connor and my father.”
“Assassinate him?” I ask softly, looking over my shoulder as though someone might be eavesdropping.
“Take him out of the game, yes,” Shane says. “Leukos can’t seem to get close to him, but maybe… maybe we can.”
“Go off profile?” I ask, incredulous. Shane is the most rule abiding of all of us, so for him to advocate going off of Leukos’ books is a big deal.
“Just this once. Just for this,” Shane says quietly. “It’s what I have to do to protect my family. To protect all of us. Afterwards, I’ll make it right with the powers that be.”
I bite my lip, trying to find alternatives.
But we really don’t have a lot of options.
“Are you in?” Shane asks. “I know I’m asking a lot, Em, but…”
I silence him with a wave of my hand. “Yes. I’m in. But you’re going to have to work fast to find us a way in. To find a way to… eliminate the threat.”
“I can do it,” Shane says, his voice confident now. “I’ve been working on contacts, and I think I can find a weakness. I’ll get us close enough, and we can take Stepanek out, eliminate his whole organization.”
“If you can, I’ll do it.”
“In the meantime, I’m serious, Em… you and Connor have to get out of town for a few days, at least. In fact, leave the country. Go somewhere secluded.”
“Where?” I ask, wracking my brain for places in Europe I know where we could hide.
“Use the farmhouse,” Shane says, and I snap my fingers.
“Perfect,” I say with a smile. The farmhouse is a safe house Leukos set up years ago in Normandy, France. It’s rarely used, and not monitored by the organization unless it’s part of a mission. “You have a key?” I ask with a grin.
“Yeah,” Shane says with an answering grin. “I have a key.”