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Guarding His Desires (Passionate Security Book 2)

By:Jaylen Florian

PART 1

1


Chopper


Alcatraz Island, fully exposed in the bright afternoon sun, still looks like a mound of secrets. Aleksey Nabokov visualizes himself ejecting from the helicopter and parachuting down onto one of the building rooftops so he can explore all of the hiding places, ledges, corners, and camouflaged chambers.

Aleksey likes to imagine his escapes. It is the way his mind has always worked. Even as a kid he understood his family's rescued felines and shared their need to discover every household nook and cranny possible for concealment and getaway.

The famous, cigar-shaped island may only be 22 acres in size, but Aleksey sees clearly from this bird's eye view that it is inhabited with abundant veils and disguises-a bonanza for the criminals who planned their escapes and an everlasting quandary for the prison guards who were tasked with monitoring every square foot. The challenge of being either man-the one fleeing or the one maintaining order-appeals to him.

The nudge of an elbow from the man beside him abruptly ends Aleksey's reverie. Zachary Fellini, his boss, is pointing at the much larger island ahead.

"I want to hike there," Zachary says. His voice is drowned out by the sound of the helicopter's engine and rotor, but Aleksey reads his lips and captures every word.

Angel Island, lush green and speckled with clusters of trees, structures with terra cotta rooftops, and serpentine roadways, appears like an emerald emerging in the bay. Watching Zachary excited and studying it, Aleksey wonders if he is searching for the camping grounds, the bike trails, the ferry terminals, or the relics from the island's military history.

The helicopter continues north over the Raccoon Strait and the southern tip of the Tiburon Peninsula before descending and landing on a helipad. A man with a shaved head, handlebar mustache, and casted leg welcomes them as they climb out of the aircraft.

"Nate," Zachary says, greeting him with a firm handshake and slap on the shoulder. "You look well. How's your recovery?"

"It's nothing," Nathaniel Balder answers, waving one of his crutches in disregard to concerns about his healing. "Just time and patience. I have become an expert at mastering both."

Aleksey does not speak to Nathaniel and remains a few feet behind Zachary, as deemed appropriate when his employer interacts with close friends and family. Nathaniel, a former world champion mixed martial arts fighter, politely nods at Aleksey to acknowledge his presence and help him feel welcome too. Aleksey watches the two titans-one surging to greatness and on the verge of becoming a championship contender, the other injured and likely past his prime-and knows that more than anything the common ground of their friendship is respect for each other's immeasurable tenacity. Because of this trait, both defeat men in the cage who best them with strength, agility, cunning, and fight preparation.

"I had no doubt," Zachary says. "The champ is never down for long."

"How was your flight?" Nathaniel asks him.

"Perfect, thank you. Let's take a ferry to Angel Island this afternoon."

"Another day, sure. But you are here now to get blown away by artwork, my friend."

"I will try to keep an open mind," Zachary replies. "But you know I think the whole art world is mostly a sham. The biggest con of nonsense. You insisted I come though, so here I am."

"I know your skepticism well," Nathaniel says. "But keep an open mind. If you cannot, then just keep your mouth shut and be a friend."

"Fair enough-and worth a helicopter trip across the bay."

Zachary and Aleksey join Nathaniel and his two bodyguards in a large sports utility vehicle and travel to a waterfront home on Belvedere Lagoon. Nestled among houses with modern and Mediterranean designs, it is a traditional Cape Cod-style home with second-story dormer windows jutting from the slanted roof. They are welcomed inside by the artist herself-a tall and lanky woman in tight jeans, knee-length boots, and a denim jacket. She amiably leads them through her home and onto her back patio without speaking.

On a deck of wooden planks cantilevered over the jewel-toned and still water, seven curvilinear vertical poles soar seven feet high on a square platform. Nathaniel charges ahead on his crutches, glancing over his shoulder for Zachary's reaction. Zachary and Aleksey follow Nathaniel to the deck, while the artist and Nathaniel's bodyguards remain on the patio.

"What is it?" Zachary asks, trying to keep the dubiety out of his voice. "Something abstract?"

"Take a closer look before passing judgment or asking questions," Nathaniel answers. "Let it make an impact on your senses."

"I just see rusted poles. How old is it?"         

     



 

"It's brand new. I commissioned it. This sculpture was created just for me."

"The metal already rusted this much from the ocean air?" Zachary asks.

"The metal is not rusted at all," Nathaniel answers. "It is actually pristine. The corrosion, which is purposeful, is only on the iron-laced primer."

Aleksey, uncomfortable that his boss will inadvertently ignite Nathaniel's legendary temper, walks away to the side of the artwork for a different perspective. Reaching a 45 degree angle from the front of the sculpture, he notices the poles align into a hazy and familiar shape. Aleksey motions to Zachary, who joins him and together they look at the art piece from a new vantage point.

"The Buddha?" Zachary asks Nathaniel.

"It could be," Nathaniel answers.

"Why are you being so coy?"

"A masterpiece is like a mountain. You behold something new from every angle, shadow, and position of the light."

Zachary and Aleksey, eager to cloak their opinions of what they both consider to be an atrocity and a gimmick, let themselves become distracted by a pack of swimmers who are gliding away around a bend in the lagoon. Nathaniel looks to the sky, then his watch, and speaks with one of his assistants-a burly man with a broad nose, gravelly voice, and wide-set eyes-about taking the lead to coordinate the ground operation. As they hear the helicopter approaching, Nathaniel, Zachary, and Aleksey retreat to the patio. The chopper hovers directly above the deck and drops steel cables. The burly man carefully fastens the cables to the sculpture, then yells and motions that the endeavor is ready.

Nathaniel and the artist hold their phones to capture video of the helicopter hoisting the sculpture up over the lagoon, then westward over Belvedere Island and Richardson Bay toward Sausalito.





2


Park




Nathaniel's SUV travels north on Tiburon Boulevard and stops at a park. Aleksey exits the vehicle, which then heads in a U-shaped direction-northward, westward, and southward- toward Nathaniel's hideaway on a hill high above Sausalito's commercial strip of bayside shops, restaurants, and ferry terminals.

Aleksey descends a steep slope to reach the park's primary footpath that wiggles along the coastline. A few miles across Richardson Bay he can see one of the colossal red towers of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking over the Marin Headlands. He puts his hands in his pockets and slows his stroll to a leisurely pace.

Aleksey is relieved, not disappointed, that he is barred from knowing the exact location of Nathaniel's hideaway. According to Zachary, Nathaniel keeps it a secret from everyone but his primary assistants and some close friends and family members. The former champion blasted like a rocket to the highest level in the professional fighting world with a plethora of enemies in his wake, due largely to his prickly trash talking, heinous threats and crimes against his opponents in and out of the cage, and incessant grudges. Along with the money, fame, endorsements, and glory, Nathaniel acquired a furtive lifestyle and fear of constant retaliation by countless combatants. Zachary once told Aleksey that there may be no bounds to what Nathaniel is capable of to ensure his hard-fought privacy and safety.

Zachary occupies a similar world and takes precautions for himself. But Aleksey knows Zachary is far less controversial and suspects that Zachary's greatest source of animosity from opponents and others is due to his longtime friendship with Nathaniel. Whereas Nathaniel cannot travel without a security team, Zachary usually roves only with Aleksey, his foremost bodyguard.

Aleksey wanders past a soccer game, a birthday party, and a group of people throwing flying discs for the joy of their leaping, athletic canines. Behind a knoll and adjacent to a playground, he discovers a small art fair. Paintings are displayed on makeshift walls and cloth-covered tables under pop-up tents. Children run about with their faces painted to evoke animals and superheroes. Several booth stations prominently feature award ribbons they presumably won earlier in the day from judged contests.

An artist with a long beard, tie dye tunic, and moccasins is offering affordable portraits created on the spot. Aleksey, impressed with the realism of his sample works, hands the man twenty-five dollars and takes a seat across from him. The artist requests that he smiles, but Aleksey refuses and opts for an expression conveying a ruffian. The artist studies Aleksey's face and clothes as he sketches with color pencils and completes the portrait in less than a quarter of an hour. Finished, Aleksey stands behind the artist to review the drawing.

"Here you are," the artist says. "Where will you display it?"

"I don't know that I will," Aleksey answers, aghast at the vicious portrayal in front of him.         

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