An: This chapter is dedicated to 'Weave the Magic' who is an avid supporter of this story. I promise it will not be forgotten. It just takes a little more effort to write chapters for this fic, than for some of the other stories.
Diversions and Deception
Fairmount Grand Hotel Kyiv
By the time the elevator came to a stop, Leah had completely changed from her dress and gold mask. Above the elevator sat the duffle bag Jacob had arrived at their hotel with earlier, which had then been transported to the current location by Demetri hours before the party commenced. Inside was a change of clothes, all black, as well as boots and an armada of weaponry. Leah had slipped on the dark jeans and long sleeved fitted shirt, as well as the black army issued boots.
Sliding a glock into the back of her jeans and the cell phone into a front pocket, she pried open the metal doors of the above level, her boot braced on the opposite metal beam inside the narrow elevator tunnel. After a quick check of the corridor, she dug her elbow into the semi-open door and hoisted herself up into the corridor.
The corridor for this level was much grander, vases filled with the same deep red roses as the ballroom lining the walls. Crouching down low she kept herself pressed against the wall as she moved down the hall towards to penthouse loft. With her eyes scanning the area, and her ears on alert, she heard the soft ding of the second elevator, the metal doors sliding open with ease. The distinct sound of the Eastern European accents rumbled as they grew every closer.
Having no other option but to move forward, Leah slid a key card from her boot, swiped it, and quickly crept into the loft.
"You owe me, Hale. If you remember correctly, I saved your ass back in South Africa. Without me your precious cargo would have never landed." Jacob hissed, all the while keeping the armed guards in the corner of his eye. He'd already noted that each guard had a glock and knew that they were men who didn't blink when they pulled the trigger.
"I suppose I owe you some information." The blonde mused, finishing his drink before telling one of the guards to fetch him another.
Inside the loft Leah pressed up behind the door, visually scanning the room. It was dimly lit, extravagant furniture scattered around the huge living space. Ceiling high windows curved around the room, the view of the capital city lighting up the darkness outside. Just on the edge of the lights Leah could see the Mariyinsky Palace, the ceremonial residence of the President of the Ukraine. Its sprawling grounds and structure were lit up, standing like a monolith even though it was surrounded by nearby buildings. Appreciating the view for only a moment, she got to work.
She'd remembered Demetri's words and even though there were supposed to be no camera's in the loft, she was still cautious. She made quick strides heading towards the left, passing through a large internal hall before coming to a stop just outside a metal door. Sliding the soft plastic layer from her palm she arranged the translucent strip. When Jasper Hale had taken her hand, his pointer finger had pressed straight onto the plastic. Light fibres had immediately detected the pressure and left a tiny fingerprint indent on the strip.
Laying the strip on the sensitive press pad, she touched the space over the print.
Lights came alive on the pad, the metal door sliding open soon after.
"What exactly is it that you want to know, Black? Don't tell me you're still holding a grudge because of the whole warehouse incident?" the blonde chuckled as he downed yet another drink. His words were starting to slur and Jacob took it as a good sign. Any type of advantage over an enemy was a plus. "You know that loose ends always come back to bite you in the ass. Tonight, seeming no exception."
Jacob willed his closed fists open as he spoke. "I want information on a soldier."
Jasper raised a brow. "American?"
"And what makes you think I would know anything about any American soldiers? I'm not exactly a friend of the US Military - anymore."
"He was taken. For reason's unknown. But he's alive, or at least, he was a year ago. I think Cullen Enterprises has something to do with his disappearance. And the attack on my unit years ago."
"Huh," Jasper responded, his posture straightening in the slightest. "And you came all the way to Kiev to ask such a question? That's a bit careless, even for you, Black."
Jacob nodded. "We were intercepted on a train. Bronze hair, slightly psychotic. I assume you know him."
The blonde sucked his teeth, placing the stout glass sharply down onto the desk. "What do you mean intercepted?"
He explained the incident on the train to a Jasper who was slightly reddening around the collar. Not from embarrassment, but rather anger.
"That little bastard knows I own this part of the world. He should have sought permission before descending on one of my fucking cities," he hissed. Even though they were attacked in Poland, the Eastern Bloc belonged to Hale, his tentacles reaching far and wide. "I'm going to have to speak to Carlisle about the disappointment he calls a son."
Jasper's eyes swept back to him. "What exactly do you want to know about the soldier?"
"Do you know anything about his disappearance?"
Jasper stared at him, contemplating his next words. "Even if I did know a little something, it would cost you. And to be honest, I don't think you could pay even if you wanted to." A slow smirk graced his mouth. "Perhaps I would be able to come to an arrangement with your lovely lady friend?"
Jacob couldn't help but growl, his fingers biting into the leather arms of the couch. "She's not part of our deal."
Both of Jasper's brows raised this time. "You think you have a choice?" The blonde looked sharply at a guard. "Please go and fetch Jacob's... guest from the ballroom."
Before Jacob could get up, two of the guards shoved him back down into the leather, cursing him in their local tongue. "Don't you fucking touch her!" he hissed, darkness creeping over his eyes as the guards began to secure his wrists behind his back. "I'll kill every one of you before you lay a finger on her."
Jasper laughed, wholeheartedly this time. "And how do you suppose you are going to do that? I have dozens of guards crawling over this place, Black. I would honestly like to see you try."
"Come on, you slow piece of shit," Leah hissed as she jammed the USB into the laptop of the office which sat behind the metal door. The machine whirled to life as she copied the entire hard drive to the stick.
The sudden vibration of the phone in her boot initiated a mini panic attack inside her chest. Pulling it from her boot she placed the cell against her ear, awaiting instructions.
"They're looking for you," the familiar voice rattled off. "As soon as the files are downloaded, begin your ascent to the roof."
There was no time for questions as the line went dead.
"Son of a bitch."
The guard's accent was thick when he re-entered the room and spoke lowly to Hale. Even so, Jacob understood every word.
'Slav cannot locate the girl.'
'Well check the whole hotel, you idiots. What do I pay you for?'
'Sorry, sir. But no one has seen her since she entered the elevator.'
Japers gaze flicked to him, curiosity roaming over his face as if he were finally putting the jigsaw pieces together.
'Check my suite.'
The security guard rushed out of the small room barking into the radio, leaving them once again on their own.
Taking another sip of his liquor, Jasper's heated glare fell over him, heating every single inch of his skin. "You have some nerve, coming into MY party, and STEALING from ME!"
Jacob remained impartial even though his heart was beating out his chest. Leah didn't have long, and the presence of incoming guards were going to hinder the task at hand. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Jasper shook his head, his lip tight against his teeth. "You're a terrible liar, Black. All you Americans are."
Jacob merely grunted in response.
"You're American solider - he may very well be alive, but in what condition, who's to say. The Cullen's have been taking test subjects for years. Stupid of them to take Americans if you ask me. Governments ask too many questions. And you know me Jacob, I am a business man. I transport, I obtain the unattainable. If the price is right, there is very little I cannot source. Perhaps there was a reason your American was taken, one which you haven't yet considered. Maybe you are too afraid of the truth to even contemplate it. After all, there are no coincidences in this world."
Taking the last sip of the brown liquor, Japer nodded to a guard who remained near the door, behind Jacob's line of vision. "Nikolas. Remember - clean. No mess. I'll have your eyes taken out if I need to replace another rug."
Jacob struggled with the bonds of his ropes as the guard replied in his native tongue.
"Goodbye, Jacob. I would say it was a pleasure, but it wasn't. I will have fun with your lady friend however. Pity you won't be around to hear her screams though. Such a pity."
As the close of the door sounded with Jasper's exit, the distinct sound of a trigger clicked just behind Jacob's skull.
Four Seasons Hotel Westcliff
Johannesburg, South Africa
February 3rd, 2012
Leah entered the hotel lobby, her hazel eyes strategically sweeping the entirety of the open entry. People, mostly dressed in suites and evening gowns, continued to meander between the marble pressed columns. The waft of cigar smoke and branded whisky filled her senses the closer she drew toward the exclusive restaurant within the prestigious hotel.
It was known as the meeting place for international dignitaries and visiting Presidents or Prime Ministers and it was definitely a place her father would choose. Her military eye picked up several plain clothed security guards who were hovering around dignitaries she'd rather not acknowledge, and a few just beyond the reach of guests.
Clasping the clutch tighter inside her palm, she headed towards the small table for three, which currently only housed her father.
Harry Clearwater was a man, larger than life in both personality and size. He had always been a bigger man, and Leah could spot her father's form from a mile away. Not to mention his huge smile.
He stood as she approached, placing his glass down first.
"My elusive and illustrious daughter. You are, indeed, alive." His deep voice announced with a chuckle, his outstretched arms offering her a familiar welcome.
Leah couldn't help but scoff in amusement as she accepted his embrace. "Of course, I'm alive. We spoke last week."
"We did. It just seems such an occasion when I get to see you in the flesh. You and you brother are just so hard to get in the same room at the same time. Please sit."
Leah sat to the left of her father, casting a soft glance over at the empty table setting. "Is he coming?"
Harry smiled gently. "He called earlier. Something came up. He assured me that he would catch up with you later."
"Busy saving the world, huh?"
Harry squeezed her shoulder. "Just like his sister."
"I don't save the world, just the US Government's ass." Leah smiled tightly.
Under the table she gently rubbed the healing skin over her knuckles. She had only been home for a month, but this time the scars were taking longer to heal. Maybe it was just more mentally draining this time around. The weather of the Middle East often agreed with her, and it was coming home that hit the hardest. The air seemed too thick in the US, dense and constrictive. The desert held a calmness about it, a silence which she longed for when she was no longer there.
After a selection of entrees and playful banter, Leah cradled her drink in her palm. The dancing flames of the candles inside the water vases flickered across the table, casting strange optical shapes against the white table cloth. The chandeliers, the flowers, the burning wicks of candles, the scent of men thriving on their own importance, made her stomach twist. She wasn't a figure head, never had been. She had always been a part of the action, not played the dainty parts in movies. She was a solider, and the fact that she sat in a semi-sheer, navy dress, unsettled her immensely.
"Tell me about Bagdad," her father began once the waiter delivered a surplus of extra drinks and hurried away with his generous tip. "Your mother says you've been quiet after this last deployment. How is General Stone? Still sniffing around the Pentagon for the Chief of Staff position?"
It wasn't a secret that her father detested Mark Stone. The problem was, she had no idea why.
"Don't answer that. I already know he is." Her father replied, taking a sip of his drink. "Leah?"
She glanced at her father, blinking slightly. "Bagdad was... successful." She rubbed at her knuckles again. "We acquired a fair amount of intelligence connected to the bombing at the Embassy gates. They were lucky there were so few casualties for such a busy time of the day. With the pulling of troops from Iraq they were reducing their staffing numbers already. Soon, the Embassy will only operate on a skeleton staff basis."
"I heard about that. You think this will be your last trip to Iraq?" Harry asked, setting his drink down to slice into his prime cut of meat.
"Honestly, no. The US will never completely pull out of the region. Politics and all that. But that's your end of the table to deal with, not mine. I just follow my orders."
"It used to be so clear, the difference between right and wrong. Politics nowadays are just so... grey. Sometimes people get so caught up in trying to do the right thing, they end up doing the opposite." Harry sighed, wiping the corner of his mouth with his napkin. "Back when I was still working in the Pharmaceutical game, it was the same thing. Passing hurdle after hurdle, until you're not even sure what you are trying to achieve anymore, and at what cost."
Leah stared at her father's face, a myriad of emotions flashing over them. She had been too young to remember her father's former life, a chemistry and bio-genetic specialist. Her mother often accounted her own memories of Harry being away for long periods of time, except when she was pregnant with Leah herself first and then her brother. She had been told by a big mouthed aunt, that after Seth, there would be no chance of having more children for her parents. They had been dubbed miracles to begin with.
"Have you heard about the new billet that is trying to pass in congress?" Harry asked, taking another bite of his steak.
Leah waved to the waiter, telling him to bring her another dry gin. "Genetically Modified crops? I've heard."
Her father sucked his teeth, his posture stiffening. "It's a touchy subject with a lot of opposition. What do you think about it?"
"From what I've heard, I don't know enough to think anything about it. Hard sciences aren't my forte. But using untested plant specimens on humans? Risky... at best."
"Hmm," Harry replied, his eyes flicking from her to somewhere else inside the packed restaurant. "What if those same crops could feed the world, ten times over? What if we could banish hunger in every third world country? Forever?"
Leah stilled her hand on her glass, her forefinger toying with the moisture on the glass. "And the cost?"
"Barely one US dollar per person."
"No," she started, shaking her head. "Not the monetary cost. The human cost. How many people would they need to use, to know for sure if it were safe?"
Harry stared his daughter down. "Eleven million. Give or take. Just a drop in the ocean for some of those countries. It is risky, but the result could end world hunger."
Leah took a large sip of her drink to finish it and collected her purse. She stood, feeling the silk of her dress drop back down to her ankles. "I don't know about you, but I sure as hell don't need eleven million reasons to keep me awake at night."
Executive Suites, Fairmount Grand Hotel Kyiv
2126 hours, present day
She could hear the commotion of hard steps from the rapidly filling hallway. As soon as the USB hit complete she tore it from the side of the laptop, shoving it inside her front pant pocket.
Her eyes scanned the room briefly again, resting on the huge glass panes. The sound of Demetri's voice over the cell rolled inside her head.
'Make your ascent to the roof.'
Blunt thuds pounded at the door, a mix of Eastern European dialects rattling off behind the steel structure. It was too late. There was only one way in and out of the adjoined room. There was no way she was going to make it back to the elevator, or even past the other side of the door were more and more men were swarming. The ricochet of bullets struck the door will violent precision. It would hold only for a few more minutes and then it would be end game.
Taking a breath her eyes floated back from the glass to the office chair.
Jacob squeezed his eyes shut as he heard the slip of the safety, the cool metal still pressed firmly into his skull.
He never dreamed he would be back in Europe, willingly.
It was a waste land to him, a show of a wasted life, one in which he no longer dreamed of. Not with Renesmee anyway.
His eyelids now hid images of flowing black hair, intense eyes, the tiny smirk that would grace her mouth of when they would argue and she would believe she were right.
She was maddening, intolerable, and headstrong.
But somewhere in between, he had fallen for her.
Fallen for everything she stood for; for her grace, the way she loved with a fierce protectiveness of not only Seth but of Morgan, of her family. She was good. A goodness he hadn't been privilege to for so many years. He knew she was dangerous, but to be this filing, this… consuming, was more than just dangerous. She was a weakness, his weakness. The thing that made him hesitate. The thing that made him think more than he should have. She brought to life emotions and options he would never would have contemplated before.
Hearing two dull shots behind him, Jacob opened his eyes slowly.
Feeling the ropes from his wrists being cut he spared a glance over his shoulder. "You're late."
Demetri grinned. "I am never late."
"You are this time." Shaking off the ropes Jacob stood, rubbing his wrists. Staring down at the dead guard he smirked. "Two in the head. I'm impressed."
"Where's our girl? Did she get the files?" Jacob asked urgently, collecting the weapons and ID scanner from the deceased man. There was no doubt the items would come in handy.
"About that... we have a problem." Demetri said hurriedly, already making his way to the door. "She's heading to the roof. But by my calculations, they are going to beat us to her."
"Fuck," Jacob swore, sliding the gun into the back of his belt. "We gotta hustle. Tell me again, what's on the roof?"
"It is as you requested."
"Well we better hope our fighter pilot can also steer a chopper. Let's go."