The man smiled warmly for the camera, head canting just so as he listened to the question from one of the reporters. He was tall, his dark hair feathered back from features that bordered on pretty. The gold framed glasses upon his nose only seemed to enhance rather than detract from that. The question was too soft to be caught by the mics, but the man must have heard it clearly. He ‘ahh’ed softly, bobbing his question as whoever continued to speak before chuckling.
“We are cooperating fully with authority figures,” he assured those present as well as the camera itself in Korean. “I have personally reviewed the footage as well as provided the original footage to the police,” and he gestured to the stately man standing at his side. “If they managed to get into our home without accessing a single door?” He whistled low. “I want to find this rogue, whoever he is, to find out how! I’ve been trying to learn that trick since I was a teenager!” and added a wink for the camera. Chuckles echoed from the gathered reporters as well as those on the stage surrounding the man.
His dark gaze stared steadily into the camera, his smile dying from his features. It was amazing how quickly he went from ‘charming’ to ‘deadly serious.’ “I look forward to your return to Korea.”
Then the smile was back, and the man had turned towards the audience once more, brows arched.
The words themselves didn’t matter so much as how easily he said them.
Chekov uttered a dark expletive, violently yanking his earbuds free and flinging his phone aside. It bounced off his sister’s arm before tumbling to the floor at her feet. The three Japanese business men across the aisle paused in whatever they were saying to turn their attention towards the twins. They stared at them for several long moments before turning away to continue whatever debate they were having.
For her part, she barely looked up from her magazine, nudging the phone back toward him with her toe. “And what did he have to say about last night’s adventures?” she asked lightly, flipping to another page.
He ignored the phone, glowering out the window at the ocean far below. “Nothing.”
“Ah,” she murmured, bobbing her head as if he had just parted with some gem of wisdom. “He said nothing was stolen.”
Chek’s gaze snapped towards her, and he glowered. Words were on the very tip of his tongue, but something clicked in, and he growled again, leaning forward to snatch the phone up from the floor before snapping back into place, leaning as far back in the seat as it would allow.
And in first class, that was quite a bit.
“Honestly, what did you expect?” she asked, flipping a long golden lock back over her shoulder, but never looking up from her magazine. “Samjoku Securities has been doing this for a very long time. Even before grandfather’s time.” She finally folded her magazine over, arching a fine brow at him. “Did you really believe he was going to acknowledge we took anything? Then he’d be forced to admit what is lurks below their home.”
“He didn’t need to lie,” Chek rumbled, crossing arms over his chest. He fully admitted he was in the midst of a fine temper tantrum, but he couldn’t seem to make himself stop.
“Ah, you’re upset he didn’t acknowledge you,” she murmured, and the magazine flipped open once more. “Acknowledge your ability?”
“We spoke,” he snapped, hitting a button so the seat popped upright once more. “How could he just… pretend that didn’t happen? We need to go back.”
“We are not turning around. We have an appointment to meet our buyer in San Francisco then we’re supposed to be in Montreal for our next job. You realize this little rivalry is one-sided, don’t you?” The question was a veritable purr, and he had the strongest urge to shake her for it.
He turned his gaze out the window and recline his seat to a more comfortable angle.
“Did he mention the boy?” The question surprised him, but he could feel the anxiety twinge inside of her.
His eyes closed on a sigh. “The boy will wake up in a few days, Lex. I’ve done this plenty of times. Week tops, depending on how strong he is. He’ll be fine.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have done that. He was just a boy,” she said softly, and when he glanced her way, he found her staring out the window as well. “They’re not human, Che, and they’re going to look for us now.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have Opened all those trinkets of theirs,” he shot back, but his temper had finally started to calm once he had vented his spleen. “That’s really going to piss them off. Not being human and all, maybe you shouldn’t have done that.”
She snorted, tossing her head. “If I hadn’t, we never would have made it out of the city, much less gotten on the plane – they would’ve already found us,” she pointed out. “Their reaction time was quite impressive.”
Maybe his temper hadn’t calmed, and he could feel it seething once more, just beneath the surface. “After Montreal, let’s return to Seoul. Show them what we can really do.”
Her elbow caught him by surprise as it drove into his side. “No. Families like that have long memories,” she hissed. “We’re not going back only to poke the bear.” She shook her head. “Child.”
“I’m older than you.”
“But three whole minutes – congratulations.” She lifted a hand to lightly touch the elbow of a passing stewardess. “Ma’am?” she demured, switching to English as she spoke. “Could we get some bottled waters here.” She jerked her chin towards the three business. “And a bottle of champagne for my friends over there?” She turned her bright smile on as she bowed her head deeply to the three. “Omedetō,” she offered to them.
They were startled the blonde hair, blue eyed Russian could speak such flawless Japanese, but the three were eager to launch into conversation, prattling on excitedly about the deal they had closed mid-flight.
And providing more details than they really should, strictly speaking, to a woman they had never before met. Amazing how many were swayed by a pretty face – their accounts would be drained by the time they landed.
Chek pulled the sleeping mask down over his eyes, and began to plot vengeance. His pride demanded it…
* * * * *
“Did you hear Skripach was in Seoul?” Brian was in full mope over lunch.
Bea sighed, pointing her fork at the boy. “I didn’t see a single press release.” She shook her head. “We’ve talked about this, Bri. They’re on their way to Montreal. They gave a full week lead time.”
“Purely speculation,” Bea assured him firmly. “Besides, if it was really him, he never would’ve been stopped by some home security system. Why would he bother?”
“She,” Brian corrected. “And she’s done it before. Two years ago, she broke into that mansion at coo… coo…” He frowned to himself. “Coo…”
“Kuala Lumpur,” Bea finished for him, sticking her fork in the cafeteria’s rendition of meatloaf. “And it was outside of Kuala Lumpur,” she added. “It was a mansion.”
“This was an estate. Jo, tell her.”
Jo didn’t bother lifting her head from the table. “No way in hell I’m getting drawn into this.” She tilted her head to the side to peer at Thane. “What are they talking about?” she asked in a stage whisper.
Thane had his whole chunk of meatloaf on his fork, held upright like a popsicle. He chewed thoughtfully, looking between the two before shaking his head. “They lost me at sckripping.”
“Skripach,” Bea and Brian corrected in unison.
Jo folded her arms over her head just as Jake settled into the seat at her side. “Hey, losers. What’re we arguing about now?” Which started the whole conversation over again.