Guarding His Desires (Passionate Security Book 2)

By: Jaylen Florian

PART 1





1


Chopper


Alcatraz Island, fully exposed in the bright afternoon sun, still looks like a mound of secrets. Aleksey Nabokov visualizes himself ejecting from the helicopter and parachuting down onto one of the building rooftops so he can explore all of the hiding places, ledges, corners, and camouflaged chambers.

Aleksey likes to imagine his escapes. It is the way his mind has always worked. Even as a kid he understood his family's rescued felines and shared their need to discover every household nook and cranny possible for concealment and getaway.

The famous, cigar-shaped island may only be 22 acres in size, but Aleksey sees clearly from this bird's eye view that it is inhabited with abundant veils and disguises—a bonanza for the criminals who planned their escapes and an everlasting quandary for the prison guards who were tasked with monitoring every square foot. The challenge of being either man—the one fleeing or the one maintaining order—appeals to him.

The nudge of an elbow from the man beside him abruptly ends Aleksey's reverie. Zachary Fellini, his boss, is pointing at the much larger island ahead.

"I want to hike there," Zachary says. His voice is drowned out by the sound of the helicopter's engine and rotor, but Aleksey reads his lips and captures every word.

Angel Island, lush green and speckled with clusters of trees, structures with terra cotta rooftops, and serpentine roadways, appears like an emerald emerging in the bay. Watching Zachary excited and studying it, Aleksey wonders if he is searching for the camping grounds, the bike trails, the ferry terminals, or the relics from the island's military history.

The helicopter continues north over the Raccoon Strait and the southern tip of the Tiburon Peninsula before descending and landing on a helipad. A man with a shaved head, handlebar mustache, and casted leg welcomes them as they climb out of the aircraft.

"Nate," Zachary says, greeting him with a firm handshake and slap on the shoulder. "You look well. How's your recovery?"

"It's nothing," Nathaniel Balder answers, waving one of his crutches in disregard to concerns about his healing. "Just time and patience. I have become an expert at mastering both."

Aleksey does not speak to Nathaniel and remains a few feet behind Zachary, as deemed appropriate when his employer interacts with close friends and family. Nathaniel, a former world champion mixed martial arts fighter, politely nods at Aleksey to acknowledge his presence and help him feel welcome too. Aleksey watches the two titans—one surging to greatness and on the verge of becoming a championship contender, the other injured and likely past his prime—and knows that more than anything the common ground of their friendship is respect for each other's immeasurable tenacity. Because of this trait, both defeat men in the cage who best them with strength, agility, cunning, and fight preparation.

"I had no doubt," Zachary says. "The champ is never down for long."

"How was your flight?" Nathaniel asks him.

"Perfect, thank you. Let's take a ferry to Angel Island this afternoon."

"Another day, sure. But you are here now to get blown away by artwork, my friend."

"I will try to keep an open mind," Zachary replies. "But you know I think the whole art world is mostly a sham. The biggest con of nonsense. You insisted I come though, so here I am."

"I know your skepticism well," Nathaniel says. "But keep an open mind. If you cannot, then just keep your mouth shut and be a friend."

"Fair enough—and worth a helicopter trip across the bay."

Zachary and Aleksey join Nathaniel and his two bodyguards in a large sports utility vehicle and travel to a waterfront home on Belvedere Lagoon. Nestled among houses with modern and Mediterranean designs, it is a traditional Cape Cod-style home with second-story dormer windows jutting from the slanted roof. They are welcomed inside by the artist herself—a tall and lanky woman in tight jeans, knee-length boots, and a denim jacket. She amiably leads them through her home and onto her back patio without speaking.

On a deck of wooden planks cantilevered over the jewel-toned and still water, seven curvilinear vertical poles soar seven feet high on a square platform. Nathaniel charges ahead on his crutches, glancing over his shoulder for Zachary's reaction. Zachary and Aleksey follow Nathaniel to the deck, while the artist and Nathaniel's bodyguards remain on the patio.

"What is it?" Zachary asks, trying to keep the dubiety out of his voice. "Something abstract?"

"Take a closer look before passing judgment or asking questions," Nathaniel answers. "Let it make an impact on your senses."

"I just see rusted poles. How old is it?"

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