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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317592
In which everyone is reminded that Bel and Nina aren't safe
It’s a little after two a.m. Moonlight bathes the hotel room in an eerie blue light, turning the furniture into oddly shaped ghosts. The curtains at the window stir a little with the movement of the air that the AC causes.

After meeting Talay, and hearing both his and Silo’s assurances that there really is nothing else she can do for the moment, Nina has spent the past week pretending to be on vacation: going for dips in the hotel pool, getting pampered at the spa, and visiting the parks and temples—and slowly going out of her mind.

Nina is not the kind of person who likes sitting around and waiting. But it’s not like she had any other choice. Since Bel and Kam haven’t found anything worth looking into either, Nina feels completely useless, and on edge. Useless, because she’s playing the waiting game while Talay digs through the Intelligence archives, and on edge because the targets on her and Bel haven’t been removed yet.

Which is probably why the hastily muffled footsteps that wake her up that night are only partly unexpected.

Nina opens her eyes in time to see the shadow that definitely doesn't belong to any of the furniture slide through the door and into her bedroom. It’s certainly a human shadow, but the face is carefully hidden, so the moonlight outside doesn’t catch so much as the outline of his features. The shadow is moving deliberately over to the bed, and there’s an oddly square lump where the shadow’s chest should be. Very carefully, Nina slithers toward the edge of the bed, keeping her eyes on the approaching shadow. For a moment, neither of the occupants of the room move—Nina is frozen near the edge of the bed, and the shadow frozen close to the door.

The shadow moves first, proving that it is in fact the human body of an intruder, and one that definitely is after Nina. It takes two strides for the intruder to cross the room, raising the square object and bringing it down toward Nina’s face.


Nina turns her head at the last second and the throw pillow that would have suffocated her hits the place where her head has been seconds earlier. She slides the rest of the way off the bed and rolls onto her knees in one smooth competent motion that throws her attacker off for half a second, and that half a second is all Nina needs to wrap her arms around the intruder’s legs in an attempt to tackle him to the floor.

There is a muffled grunt of surprise from her attacker and as he sways, Nina throws her weight against the legs, hoping the knees she’s currently wrapped around will bend completely and next thing she’ll hear is a body hitting the floor. Instead, strong fingers tangle inside Nina’s hair, and yank. Black dots dance before her eyes as she is tossed almost carelessly across the floor.

The impact of the floor against her ribcage has knocked the wind out of her, so it’s instinct that makes her roll a second time as her attacker aims a kick at her side. He misses and his foot makes contact with a chair leg instead. The sound of the chair crashing to the floor is accompanied by her attacker’s second painful grunt as Nina scrambles to her feet, running out of the bedroom and into the front room of her suite. She glances behind her in time to see the intruder raise his hand, holding something that glints metallically in the moonlight. A gun, or a knife? That’s a question Nina doesn’t want answered. She is almost at the door when her feet tangle with the edge of one of the rugs and she tumbles back to the ground. The intruder flips her onto her back, hands locking vice-like around her throat.

Nina’s vision blurs around the edges as her air supply is cut off. The pressure on her windpipe steadily increases as Nina reaches her hands blindly up, finding the intruder’s face and digging her fingers into the intruder’s eye sockets. The cry that comes out of her attacker’s mouth is louder this time, and confirms that he is indeed male, and as the pressure on her throat lessens just a little bit, Nina raises one of her knees, aiming for the man’s crotch.

Her knee connects with something soft and he drops her, bending double, and the metallic object in his hand hits the floor too. Nina has time to register that the weapon in question is a knife before she can get the door open and dart out into the hall.

No one is in the hallway and all the other room doors are closed, which strikes Nina as just a little odd given the noise she and her intruder had been making. There is a custodial closet at the end of the hall, and Nina yanks the door open and ducks inside. She’d known it had been too quiet.

She doesn't bother turning on the closet light—if there is one—she just stands there in the darkness, mind racing, heart pounding, pulling air into her lungs for all she’s worth.

He had found her.

Whoever wanted her dead found her hotel room and tried to kill her.


Which meant he would make a second attempt on Bel next.

Her phone is still in her room, so she couldn’t call anyone from there. Maybe the night porter will let her use the landline?

Nina presses her ear against the door, but is unable to hear anything out in the hallway. Does that mean there’s no one there, or that her attacker is standing silently in the hallway, ready for round two? Only one way of knowing for sure.

Nina braces herself, then slowly opens the door.The hallway is deserted. She can see the door to her hotel room is still open, but she’s not willing to risk going back in there, not even to get her phone.

She’ll use the hotel landline.
Nina runs down the hall in the direction of the stairs. She is halfway down them when she collides with something solid—something that grunts in surprise and then grasps her shoulders before she tumbles head first down the stairs.She lifts her head, meeting the eyes of the person steadying her.

It’s not the night porter.

It’s Gulf, staring down at her with a mixture of shock and concern—shock because Nina had slammed into him, and concern because she starts to shake uncontrollably.

“Nina?” Gulf’s eyes scan her face, her tangled hair and the red welts that are starting to appear on her throat. “What the hell—”

She doesn’t let him finish. Instead, she throws her arms around him, not caring that this is probably the last thing that he’s expecting, or wanting, but just needing to feel something that isn’t dark or violent or terrifying. If that something happens to be the man that Silo is dating, then fine. She can feel awkward about it later. Right now, she just wants to stop shaking.

“Ok, ok, ok,” Gulf puts his own arms around Nina, letting the warmth of his body pressed against hers calm her down. “I won’t ask if you’re ok, because clearly you’re not; and you don’t have to tell me what’s wrong either, unless you want to.”

“What are you doing here?” While Nina is relieved that Gulf is the one she bumped into and not her intruder, she’s also genuinely curious. “Your restaurant’s on the other side of town, right?”

“Believe it or not,” Gulf says. “I was looking for Silo. Em said he was working late, but he wouldn’t pick up my calls, so I thought he might be with you.”

“He’s not,” Nina is fighting to keep her voice steady. “I don’t know where he is. Someone—someone was in my room. Someone was in my room, and they—”

“You don’t have to talk about it now,” Gulf interrupts her. “My car is downstairs. I’m going to take you somewhere safe, and then I’m going to call Silo, and Bel, and anyone else you tell me to, ok?”

Nina nods, and follows Gulf downstairs.

Silo has had his phone on Do Not Disturb all day, and hasn’t checked it until he comes out of his office just now. There are also eight missed calls from Gulf, two minutes apart. Eight missed calls, and one text.

GULF: Trouble. My condo. Right now.

Alarm bells sound off in Silo’s head. Did whoever want Nina and Bel dead decide to come after Gulf too? Was Gulf even the one who sent the text, or someone else? He doesn’t even bother responding, just gets in his car and drives. By the time he reaches Gulf’s condo, every worst case scenario has played in stereo sound through Silo’s head, complete with hospital bills and potential body count. He’s not sure if he feels surprise or relief or both when he sees Gulf standing outside waiting for him.


“Are you ok?” Silo scans Gulf’s body, looking for bruises, grazes, blood. “I’m sorry my phone was off all day—”


“But I didn’t want any distractions, in case—”


“And then I saw all those missed calls and your text—”

“Silo.” Gulf grasps Silo’s shoulders, holding the other man still and pressing his forehead against his. “Take a breath. Breathe. I’m ok. It’s not me that’s in trouble. It’s Nina. Someone attacked her in her hotel room. No, you don’t have to go all crazy, she’s safe now. She’s upstairs, with Bel and Kam. I called them right after I called you the first time.”

Gulf’s condo is on the top floor of the building, and it’s high class in every sense of the word. There’s a picture window in the living room with a door leading onto a balcony, and a separate kitchen space. One door leads off the living room into a master bedroom with its own bathroom and walk-in closet, and a smaller door behind the kitchen leads to another bedroom that’s only slightly smaller, with a half bath and laundry room next to the second bedroom.

Nina is seated on a leather couch in the living room, her head in her hands, with Bel next to her and Kam standing grimly in the opposite corner, arms crossed. She lifts her head as Silo comes into the room, and he can see that her eyes are red rimmed and slightly wild, and there are darkening bruises on either side of her throat.

“Nina.” Silo is across the room in two strides, ready to throw his arms around her.

“It’s fine, I’m fine.” She waves him off, shying away and trying to arrange her face into a less miserable expression. “Don’t touch me. I’ve been hugged enough for one night.”

“Here,” Gulf emerges from the kitchen with a somewhat lumpy dish towel in one hand, which he holds out to Nina. “For the bruises. Sorry I don’t have an ice pack, but ice cubes work just as well, right?”

Nina takes the cloth-wrapped ice cubes from Gulf and presses them to one side of her throat. She’s stopped shaking, but her eyes are still red rimmed. She cried in the car on the way over to the condo, but she isn't crying now. Kam is the next person to speak.

“You’re sure you didn’t see his face?”

Nina looks like she wants to throw the ice cubes at him. “He didn’t turn on the lights before he attacked me, so no, I didn’t.”

“But he knew where to find you,” Kam persists. “Which means he knows where your brother is, too.”

“He?” Silo raises one of his eyebrows, an expression that Kam matches.

“‘He’, ‘she’, ‘it’. Whoever broke into Nina’s hotel room.”

“Definitely male,” Nina confirms. “I know that much. I don’t know if it was the same person who attacked me before, but he wanted the same thing.”

“That’s why you gave me a copy of the USB,” Bel says. “In case something like this happened.”

“That psycho was after a USB?” Gulf asks, turning to Silo. “You didn’t tell me that.”

“I told you Nina and Bel were in trouble and being followed.” Silo replies. “That’s all you needed to know.”

“And what about now?” Gulf crosses his arms. “What’s on it?”

Silo and Nina exchange glances. Kam rolls his eyes, but Bel speaks up first.

“Cases my dad was working. But they’re all closed so I don’t know why they’re still important.”

“Yet,” Nina adds. “We don’t know why they’re important yet.”

“And Bel has a copy and Nina has the original?” Gulf asks, starting to put puzzle pieces together.

“I have the original,” Silo says. “Nina gave it to me when she came back to Bangkok, but whoever attacked her couldn’t have known that.”

“So then they’ll come after you?” Bel asks.

“I said I have the original.” Silo says. “But that doesn’t mean it’s in Bangkok.”

“So where is it?” It’s clear from looks on several faces that Gulf isn’t the only one who is confused.

“Somewhere safe,”

Silo’s voice is reassuring, but Bel doesn’t feel reassured. He can’t stop looking at the bruises on his sister’s throat. This wasn’t something that could be shrugged off as an accident. This was an actual attack. Before, Bel had taken Nina’s warnings about his life being in danger half-seriously. What happened tonight made it real.

“What do we do now, then?” His voice is stupidly shaky and he takes a breath to steady it before continuing. “And don’t say ‘wait’, because that can’t be all we can do!”

“It is,” Nina says. “I know that’s frustrating—”

“Frustrating?” Bel protests. “It’s fucking terrifying! I’m not just going to sit here—”

“There’s not anything else you can do at this point,” Nina cuts him off. She also tries to keep her voice steady. “But that’s why I hired a bodyguard for you, so something like this doesn’t happen to you.”

“And what’s going to happen when that psycho comes after you again? Or me?”

“Nina can stay here.” Gulf says. “At least for tonight.”

Nina looks up in surprise. “Are you sure? You don’t have to—“

“Nina, I’m already involved, and this is a two bedroom condo; so let me do what I can to help.” Gulf turns to Bel. “And you’ve got at least five people looking out for you. Your bodyguard is around you twenty-four seven, and then there’s Silo and me and Nina—”

“Who’s the fifth one?” Silo asks before Kam can squash the person who used the word “bodyguard.”


Silo stares at Gulf. “As in, my sister, Em.”

“Yeah.” Gulf doesn't even flinch. “She’s dating your assistant, so she was bound to know what was going on sooner or later, same as me.”

“Why don’t we broadcast it and get the whole city involved?” Kam snarks.

Nina glares at him. “That’s not funny.”

“No,” Kam’s face doesn’t change expression. “It’s not.”

“There’s one problem we can easily solve right now,” Silo says. “And that's get some sleep. Nina and Bel are both safe for now, and staying up all night won’t do anyone any good.”

The look on his face dares anyone to protest. Bel and Kam leave without another word, but Gulf stops Silo from following them.

“You should stay here tonight,” He says. “Nina shouldn’t be alone.”

Silo shoots him a confused look. “But you’ll be here.”

“I’ll get a hotel room.” Gulf lowers his voice so that only Silo can hear. “Nina needs you. I understand that. Just take care of her, don’t worry about me.”

He goes out the door before Silo can protest, so Silo locks the door and goes back to Nina.

“Now that everyone is gone, can you tell me how you really are?”

“Honestly?” Nina lets him sit next to her on the couch, but she stares dead ahead, taking a shaky breath before she responds. “I feel like whoever this is has been circling even before I came to Bangkok. Just circling and circling until I’m backed into a corner with no way out.”

Silo takes one of Nina’s hands in both of his. “Listen, you’re safe right now, and so is Bel; and worrying about what could have happened won’t do you any good.”

“Where’s the USB?” Nina asks.

“My house in Pattaya. I’m going back there this weekend and I’ll try to break into that locked file. And you—”

“I’m going to go find another hotel,” Nina tries to stand, and Silo pushes her gently back onto the couch.

“Gulf offered you this place, and he’s already left, so take it. I’m going to stay with you.”

“You shouldn’t—”

“Stop it,” Silo doesn’t raise his voice, but Nina flinches just the same.

“I’m not doing anything—”

“Yes, Nina, you are. You’re doing the same thing you’ve been doing since we were in high school. When you’re afraid of something, or you can’t control something, you push it away and force yourself to do something else or try to handle it yourself. But avoiding the problem doesn’t make it go away, and you can’t solve everything on your own. Don’t shake your head at me, because that’s exactly what you’re doing. Sometimes you’re so damn stubborn I want to strangle you!” Silo is having trouble keeping his voice level, but tries when he sees the look on Nina’s face. “Sorry, bad choice of words. Don’t tell me what I shouldn’t and shouldn’t do. Don’t push me away. Accept the help that’s been offered, and stop feeling guilty for what you can’t control.”

Nina is silent for a minute. She is staring at their joined hands, digesting what Silo has said.

“I don't know what to do anymore.” She whispers.

“I do.” Silo hasn’t let go of Nina’s hand, and his thumb strokes along the back, tracing each vein and making goosebumps pop up and down the length of Nina’s arm. “Just for tonight, I know exactly what you should do. Stay here, in this well-secured condo, with me.”

Nina hesitates, watching Silo’s thumb tracing circles on the back of her hand.

“Nina,” Silo’s push is gentle, but insistent. “Please.”

She takes a breath, and then looks up into his face.


"15. Nightmare

read from beginning "1. Phone Calls in the Dark
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