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Isaak Koval, known to his brothers in Torpedo Ink as Ice, moved with the crowd of tourists down the Las Vegas strip. He could fit in anywhere. It was a gift, and one he worked on as often as possible. He'd learned early in life that if he chose, he could be invisible, or nearly so, fading like a chameleon into whatever background surrounded him. That gift had saved his life on more than one occasion.
He was very careful to keep several people between himself and the two men he followed. He wove his way through the tourists but was always careful his reflection wasn't caught in the glass as he passed windows and doors. That was simply a matter of matching steps for a moment. He kept his head down but his eyes up, scanning the crowd, the buildings and even the rooftops.
Heat waves bounced on the sidewalk, hitting him squarely in the chest. At times it felt as if he couldn't breathe, but then he'd been feeling that way for some time, even at home on the coast.
His quarry stopped for a moment just inside one of the doors leading to a casino, forcing him to stop as well. He couldn't get in front of them or take a chance they'd pick him out of a crowd if they spotted him more than once. There was a brick pillar just on the other side of the doors of the casino, and he paused there to pull out his cell and look at text messages, just the way dozens of others were doing. He glanced across the street to where his twin brother, Storm, mirrored his actions. Ice was able to keep the two men in sight while studying his phone, and then moving at a snail's pace with a group of tourists from India.
The two men they followed argued for a moment over something they read on their phones and began walking the strip again. They appeared to be looking for a good time, stopping briefly at the strip joints, as if debating whether they'd go in or not. They never did, and Ice didn't expect them to. His club knew just about everything there was to know about the men they were tracking down the strip. They knew for certain that neither man was looking for a night of fun with strippers, prostitutes or women they picked up.
They were coming up to a red light. That was always a danger zone. The two men, Russ Jarvis and Billy Kent, were in the habit of taking the opportunity to look around them when they got to a crosswalk. The crowd pushed together at the stoplights, and both men would casually turn and survey those beside and behind them. They often looked across the street to study everyone waiting to cross to their side.
Still, Ice could come up right on them, do them both just as the light changed and walk across the street with the crowd before the bodies fell. He wiped the sweat from his face and kept sauntering. His club needed the two alive long enough to lead them to the asshole they were hunting. He forced himself to put one boot in front of the other.
He was dressed in blue jeans and motorcycle boots. It wasn't like he had a lot of clothes to choose from. The tight tee stretched across his chest, damp now with sweat from the unrelenting heat. He fucking hated this place almost as much as he detested the two men he followed. Worse, he couldn't wear his distinctive colors. That felt like walking down the street naked, which would have actually been better than being without his colors.
Sometimes, like now, he thought he might go insane from the chaos in his head. He listened sometimes when Czar, the president of Torpedo Ink, their motorcycle club, and his wife, Blythe, said some things needed talking about no matter how difficult. That was such bullshit. Who did someone like him spill his guts to? And what fucking therapist would understand what he'd been through? What any of his brothers and sisters had been through?
He could just hear that conversation. How many men did you say you killed? How did you say you killed them? How do you feel about that? How did they fucking think he felt about that? It would be prison or a padded cell, and he'd been locked up most of his life and wasn't ever going there again. Not ever.
Ice swept off the silly ball cap he was wearing, the one covering his distinctive hair. He wasn't just blond; his hair blazed in the sun-platinum, gold, silver, it was all there. He wore it longish, but not as long as some of the brothers. He wiped at the sweat again and replaced the ball cap. As he came up to the light, he dipped into the brightly colored open tote a woman dangled so invitingly on her arm, lifted a small package and dropped it on the sidewalk just in front of him.
"Ma'am." He bent down. "You dropped something."
The older woman turned and her eyes went wide. "Oh no. Thank you. I bought that for my granddaughter."
He took his time rising with it, angling away from the light and keeping most of the crowd between him and his prey. He flashed a charming smile at her. "How old is your granddaughter, if you don't mind me asking? Because you sure as hell don't look old enough to be a grandmother." He meant it too, he didn't have to pour bullshit sincerity into his tone.
She beamed at him. "That's such a sweet thing to say. I'm definitely old enough. She's eight." She took the little package and dropped it into her tote, pulling her bag more securely to her. "I really like your tattoo. It's unusual."
He had a wealth of tattoos on his arms, chest and back, but she was referring to the three teardrops dripping down his face from the corner of his left eye. Those tears reminded him, every time he looked into a mirror, that he wasn't human anymore. Everything had been taken from him, leaving a shell. An empty shell. The tightness in his chest made it difficult to breathe again. He touched one of the tears as if just remembering he had them.
"Had them for years. You know the kind of thing you do when you're a kid."
She smiled at him again. "You still look like a kid to me."
Now he'd run out of things to say. She was nice. He didn't live in a nice world. He didn't know how to make conversation with nice people. He could beat the holy hell out of someone for her. He could kill someone for her if she asked him to. Shit, he might do both, but polite conversation was beyond him.
Of course there was always the alternative. He could pull out his gun and shoot the bastards right there in front of everyone. The cops would come and there would be a hell of a shoot-out, but in the end, he might have some peace. Might. There was probably a special place in hell for a man like him.
He didn't have the luxury of offing himself via cop because if he killed the two he'd been following for four fucking days in the hottest place in the world, then he would be condemning some little boy to a lifetime of hell. He knew what that was like. Shit.
The woman was talking to him, but he couldn't hear a thing she said. The crowd moved and he risked a glance over his shoulder. The two assholes were already in the street. He turned back to the street and moved with the woman, angling his head down and toward her as if fully engaged in everything she had to say.
He had a lot he could tell her. Specifically, that he was so fucked up that if he was in a roomful of hot babes stripping for him, he couldn't get it up unless he commanded it. That was getting damned tiresome. What was the use in having chicks blow him when he had to force his body to cooperate? Yeah, that would make a great conversation. He could ask her advice.
Maybe he should ask Blythe and shock the holy hell out of her, not that much shocked her. She'd taken Czar back and taken the entire club in as if she were a mother hen. He had to admit he actually felt affection and admiration for her when he thought he was long past real emotion. Blythe and her troubled children. He could relate to them-unfortunately for them.
He walked with the older woman for another block, listening to her chatter on about her adorable granddaughter. When she paused and he had no choice but to fill the silence with words, he talked about his darling "nieces" and "nephews." He supposed it wasn't a lie. They didn't have to be related by birth. All members of Torpedo Ink were his brethren. That meant their children were part of his life, right? That was how it worked in his world whether it did or not in the "normal" world.
Movement caught his eye as he turned the corner with a little wave at the woman, who went straight. A white dress with flowers all over it. Not just any dress. A fuckin' sundress like women wore in old movies. She was across the street, standing in the sunlight, and she might as well have been wearing a halo. She looked so beautiful she took his breath away. He actually stopped walking right there on the sidewalk to stare at her-which was fucking nuts because he was on a job.
The top of the dress was fitted, and its wearer had amazing tits. They filled out the material of the sundress to perfection, pushing against the bodice as if seeking freedom. The front of the dress was tight but gathered around the cleavage line. His palms itched to tug down that fitted camisole and free those mouthwatering tits. His mouth actually salivated. He would stand behind her and slowly pull the material free until the bodice was under those soft curves and her tits spilled into his hands.
She had a face most men would fight and die for-at least him. High cheekbones. Large eyes. A mouth made for kissing. Lips to wrap around a man's cock. Just like that his fucking dick reacted. On the street. Looking at a fully clothed woman. The proverbial girl next door. What the hell?
He dropped his hand over the front of his jeans, just to make sure he wasn't having some kind of a hallucination. He was shocked when nothing ever shocked him anymore. He didn't have natural erections. That had been beat out of him a long time ago. There was nothing whatsoever normal about him and sex. Nothing.
He forced his hand away from his jeans and took another long look at the woman. Her rib cage and waist were narrow, accentuated by the tight bodice. The skirt flared out, drawing attention to her legs. She had gorgeous legs. He could almost feel them wrapped around him. Hell if his erection was going away anytime soon, not when he was having fantasies like that about her.
She hesitated at the crosswalk but then turned to walk back toward a man who seemed to be calling out to her. He thought he was a breast man, but the way her perfect ass swayed with that white floral skirt was enough to change his mind.
Her hair glowed in the sun, so shiny it hurt his eyes. Dark, cascading down her back, it was thick and just wild enough to ruin that good-girl vibe she had going on. She shook her head at something the man said to her and started to turn away, back toward the street. The man, dressed in an impeccable suit, grabbed her arm and jerked her back to him.
Ice felt it then. The glacier. That blue well deep inside him, glacier cold, so cold it burned. Need was there-the need to kill. It was . . . overwhelming. It swept over him like a tidal wave, yet deep inside he was frozen. He took a step toward the edge of the sidewalk. Cars rushed by, but he hardly noticed them. Time had tunneled. Pulled him into a cold, dark place he was all too familiar with.
A whistle pierced through the glacier, the sound causing a long, jagged crack to penetrate that deep, dense blue. That note shook him out of his head, and Ice glanced away from the couple. His twin, parallel to him, was already at the crosswalk and headed toward him with the green light. Shit. He'd just made the biggest ass of himself in the history of mankind. His brother was already as worried as hell, and this little episode wasn't going to take any pressure off.
Their quarry was a good block ahead of them. Storm had dropped back to cover him. He gestured toward them and started walking. He couldn't help stealing a glance at the couple. She continued to shake her head. The suit was angry, glaring at her. Making demands. She refused. Good for her. Money didn't make up for lack of character. He should know. He had more money than he knew what to do with, but character? Not so much.
"What the fuck?" Storm hissed, falling into step beside him. "We can't lose them."
They picked up the pace, winding through the crowd to catch up with the two men they followed.
"I wasn't planning on losing them," Ice muttered, pulling his cap down farther to shadow his face. "I knew you were on them."
"A woman? You almost blow this hunt over a woman? You need to get laid, Ice, we can pick up a dozen women when we get this thing done."
Ice looked at his brother for the first time, letting him see how close he was to losing his shit.
Storm scowled and shook his head. "You go, I go. That was the deal we made."
"We were seven years old when we made that deal," Ice reminded quietly. He risked another look at their prey. They were separated by quite a few people. One group of tourists kept stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, and the crowd flowed around them. Because they were close and looked alike, Ice slowed the pace again, staying behind the photograph-crazy sightseers. "Neither of us thought we'd live to see ten."
"You go, I go. That's the deal," Storm insisted.
"Why do you have to be so damn fuckin' stubborn?" Ice asked, keeping his voice low.