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When they'd finished eating, Virginia was adamant that neither Mark nor Lily clean up after them. She and Janine worked on clearing the dishes, both of them laughing as they explored his kitchen, making up imaginary uses for gadgets they had never seen before.

Once done, they joined Mark in the living room to find him busy building a fire. The front door opened and two men walked in, laden with video equipment. They were the men who had come out of the house the night she arrived with Simon. This is awkward, Virginia thought as Mark grabbed her hand and started heading in their direction.

Cameras and satchels were placed on the floor as introductions were made, putting names to the faces of Adam and Ben. Virginia had forgotten how tall Adam was, a giant really. Ben looked short beside him, even though he still had a couple of inches on her. She guessed they were both older than Mark, looking closer to forty. They seemed friendly enough, easing some of her concern.

"Ma'am . . . little lady," Adam said with a polite nod to each of them while Ben produced a quarter from behind Janine's ear.

Janine gasped and asked him to do it again.

He obliged, placing the two quarters in her palm, telling her they were lucky and not to spend them.

Janine danced on her toes as she held on tight to the treasure in her hand.

Adam turned for the kitchen, bellowing, "Lily, what's for dinner? I got a hole in my gut the size of Texas!"

Ben shook his head. "Food is all he thinks about." He bent down and picked up the equipment at his feet, along with that abandoned by Adam, before shuffling off toward the office with the awkward load.

Ten minutes later the door opened again and the man from the gate entered the house, accompanied by another.

Mark continued the introductions. "Bruce, Steve, this is Virginia and Janine."

"Yeah, we've met," Bruce answered gruffly.

Steve made more of an effort, extending his hand in greeting. "Cool," he said to Virginia before turning to Janine and doing the same. As Janine pumped his arm with gusto, he laughed. "Wicked handshake"—his smile reached his eyes, eliminating any tough-guy first impression—"but try this." He lifted his hand, rotating it with the thumb and pinky extended in a hang-loose gesture.

Janine tried to imitate it, looking more like she was hailing a cab.

"Bruce and Steve are brothers," Mark said.

"Oh." Virginia nodded, noticing the similarities in their height and facial structure. Steve was a good looking guy. He was the younger of the two, closer to Paul's age. With his shaggy blonde hair, muscular build, and easy smile, he looked like the stereotypical California surfer. Bruce, on the other hand, had darker features with sandy brown hair that could have used a good trim. Bangs partially shaded his already dark eyes, as if to hide them. And, although there was a family resemblance, he had a much more menacing look to him.

"That's nice that you get to work together," she said.

"Sometimes," Steve teased, glancing at his brother. He seemed puzzled by Bruce's demeanor and gave him a nudge with his elbow. "We'd better go have dinner before Lily flips out on us for letting it get cold."

"Anywhere but here sounds good to me," Bruce muttered as they headed to the kitchen.

Mark frowned at Bruce's retreating figure. "Sorry. Bruce is a little . . . overly cautious."

More like overly obnoxious, Virginia said to herself.

Mark spent the next hour or so telling her stories about the men she had just met while Janine played at the pool table. She learned that Bruce and Steve were his security detail while Ben and Adam worked together on special projects. She didn't ask what that meant, but after seeing all the equipment, she had to wonder if they had created the report Mark had given her after Jack's death.

The Dangerous Ones [✔️] (#1 in the Chilvati Series)Where stories live. Discover now