Black Jack (Elite Ops 4)

Page 95

His expression softened, turned gentle. “No, she didn’t scream at you. Because whenever she did, she had to face not just your father, but also your uncle. We did our best to shelter you. Sadly, it seems it was in vain.”
He was gazing at her as though he held some affection for her. The way he watched her when she was a child. He had spoiled her just as her father had.
“Your father and I had hoped that by combining forces we could compel your mother to allow you to have your dreams,” he said quietly. “You wanted to join MI5. You wanted to be adventurous. She wanted you to marry well, have children, and become a replica of herself. To her, that was her measure of success. Unfortunately, it seems to be how she and her friends measure their success. By how well they can turn their daughters into younger versions of themselves. She had your husband picked out, the sex of your children and their names. She had already decided where you would live, close to her of course, and who your friends would be. It would be her way, or no way at all.”
“You make her sound crazed. I mean, more than usual.” She needed another drink just to hold back the anger that she was only now seeing this. And not because he was telling her it was the truth, because she had witnessed it herself.
“Not crazed, simply arrogant, and certain of her own power.” He shook his head. “She’s royalty, remember?”
It was coming together so slowly, too slowly. Lilly felt the heavy weight of agonizing knowledge as it began to settle into her heart, to slice at her soul. She wanted to scream in denial, but she couldn’t. She had to hold it back, she had to focus on the truth rather than the fantasy world she had lived in as a child.
Desmond wiped a hand over his face as Lilly kept a careful eye on him, as well as Isaac.
“I was helping your father.” He stared at the whiskey in his glass for long moments before gazing back at her. “God, he loved her.” He leaned his head back against the chair and stared at the ceiling. “He loved you better, though, and she knew it.”
Lilly’s lips trembled for a brief second before she controlled it. Instead, she met Travis’s gaze, saw the compassion in it, the regret.
“How did she manage it?”
Once again Desmond shook his head. “I don’t know. Harold had figured it out. He told me that night, but he didn’t tell me it was Angelica. He was going to fill me in the next morning. The next thing I knew, you were both supposedly dead. I only figured out it was Angelica about six months ago and have been trying to pin her down with hard proof ever since.”
Lilly swallowed tightly as Travis moved from the loveseat to stand beside her, to lend her his support, his warmth.
“How did she find me? I changed everything about myself.”
“Everything but certain mannerisms,” Desmond pointed out. “You attended a party in Bangladesh a few years ago for the ruling family’s oldest son. We were there, along with Jared.”
Lilly flinched at the pain that struck her temple, as well as the memory. She remembered it. Clearly. She had been forced to leave the party early when Jared had kept hitting on her. He’d danced with her, flirted with her. Her own brother. It had been more than she could bear.
“Your mother commented several times that Lilly Belle was so similar to her Victoria.” He gave a harsh laugh. “Hell, I didn’t even catch on.”
“The pictures found in Desmond’s files were taken by Samuel,” Travis revealed. “Your mother had him following you.” He turned back to Desmond. “I’m guessing you stumbled across the pictures in Angelica’s files and made copies.”
Lilly watched as Desmond pinched the bridge of his nose and fought back the dampness in his eyes.
“I hired Isaac for his reputation and his ability to keep his employers alive,” he finally stated harshly. “We’ve been trying to catch her embezzling the money. We’ve tried to find a way, especially since your return, to get the proof we needed.”
“She’s smart, and she has the money to hire others to do her dirty work,” Travis said coldly. “She sent a hit o
ut on Lilly yesterday. They found the safe house she was staying at. Ten men arrived to kill her and the three young women she had taken refuge with.”
“My God.” Desmond sat forward, swallowed tightly, then looked to Isaac. “I may need another drink.”
Isaac turned to the bar just as the large glass window of the room shattered.
Travis pushed Lilly to the floor as Isaac was thrown against the bar by the bullet that slammed into his body and jerked him around. Another tore into his shoulder and he landed on the floor unconscious or dead, she wasn’t certain which.
The doors to the library flew inward and four assailants rushed the room, automatic rifles drawn and leveled on them as Lilly stared up in horror.
Her gaze went around the room quickly. She couldn’t see Nik. Where had he gone? Had he been in on this? Had he betrayed the Ops?
She had to swallow against the bile in her throat as pain pierced her head. Memories were swarming her now, racing into her brain with a speed she couldn’t fight.
She was an operative. A highly secret operative, one whose very existence depended on the agency that had saved her. An agency whose survival depended on their ability to never be revealed.
“Well, Desmond, it looks as though you’re as stupid as your brother.” Angelica walked into the fray.
Resplendent in cream silk, she wore slacks, a matching top, and heels, which, combined with her light hair, gave Angelica the angelic appearance her name implied.