Tears Of Salvation: Chapter 19

ALEXEI

Half of me is happy, and the other half is murderous.

St. fucking Monarch’s.

The air is tense in the security room as we stand by a round table, putting a map together. Demitri, Isabella, and I are trying to remember the layout.

Isabella points to the south side. “There’s a courtyard here. Guards patrol every five minutes.”

Demitri gestures to the west. “The outdoor shooting range. It’s too close to the armory to breach from there unless we blow it up.”

“Isabella,” I say as I grab a pencil and lean over the map, “How many guards are on the south side?”

She thinks for a moment. “I’d guess between ten and fifteen.”

I write down fifteen, then glance at Demitri.

“Stationed near the shooting range?” he asks. “Easily double. I’d prepare for thirty guards.”

Then he shakes his head, and it has me asking, “What?”

“The guards aren’t the problem. We’ll be able to get through the first line of defense.” His eyes lock with mine. “It’s the custodians I’m worried about.”

“Two always follow Madame Keller,” Isabella mentions.

“And there’s Miss Dervishi and Mr. Yeoh, the instructors,” Demitri adds. “They trained us. They’ll be able to anticipate our moves.”

Fuck.

“Where would the other custodians be?” I ask.

The last time I was at St. Monarch’s was almost two years ago, and I didn’t pay attention to the guards.

“Two in the hallway leading to Madame Keller’s office and two near the armory.”

I write the numbers down. “When we breach, we’ll have three highly fucking skilled people to deal with stationed by the armory, then two outside the office, and two on the inside.”

“And Madame Keller,” Demirtri adds. “Don’t underestimate her. She might be old, but she can still fire a gun just as good as any of us.”

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Besides the first line of defense and the nine skilled people, we’ll have to find a way to get through the fucking vault door that will seal them in the office.” I think for a moment, then say, “Unless we just blow that part of the building. Would the walls be steel-reinforced?”

Demitri shakes his head. “Maybe the back of the office where the cabinets with weapons are, but not the sides.”

Nodding, Isabella agrees, “Demitri’s right. After remodeling the castle, they kept the walls intact because of the historical artwork. The ceilings as well.”

“At least we have that counting in our favor,” I mutter. I stare at the map. “First line of defense will easily be sixty men. Second line, I’m guessing twenty.”

Demitri lets out a sigh. “Final line of defense seven and a vault door.”

“Nine,” Isabella corrects Demitri. “Counting my mother and Hugo.”

“You shot Hugo during the attack, and I’m pretty sure Demitri and I got shots in as well, so he might be out of the picture,” I say.

“Let’s count him just in case,” Isabella replies.

Lifting a hand to my face, I scrub my knuckles over my jaw. “And that’s not adding the custodians and assassins in training.”

“We’ll have to take Nikhil and Sacha.”

I glance at Demitri and see the worry for Ariana’s safety if they’re not here to protect her. “We’ll send Ariana to the island.”

Demitri nods.

“I’ll leave Tristan with her,” I add to set his mind at ease.

“What about MJ?” Demitri asks.

MJ is Hailey’s custodian that my brother got her for protection. From what Carson’s told me, she’s good. “I’ll talk to Carson. Hailey can join Ariana on the island.”

“Maybe we should leave them on Damien and Winter’s island. Cillian and their guards will be able to protect them better than Tristan.”

I begin to nod, knowing Winter’s personal guard, Cillian, is good and tough as nails. “Good idea.” I let out a heavy breath. “Now to figure out what kind of weapons we’re looking at.”

“A lot,” Isabella chuckles, shaking her head at the map.

Ariana comes into the security room. “Time for a break, guys. Come eat.”

I drop the pencil on the map, and when Demitri and Isabella follow Ariana, I glance back at the numbers I wrote down.

Worry gnaws at my insides like a fucking rat.

I’ll be risking everyone who means something to me. My friends. My brother. Demitri. Isabella.

There’s a chance some of us will die.

Closing my eyes, I contemplate calling the whole thing off and waiting Sonia out. She can’t live there forever.

Demitri comes back into the security room. “What?”

I shake my head. “I’ll be risking everyone I love. Sonia’s not worth it.”

Demitri places his hand on my shoulder, and we just stare at each other for a moment, then he says, “We don’t back down, Alexei. If we do, Sonia wins. It will make her stronger and you weaker.”

I let out a slow breath and lift my chin. “We don’t back down.”

 


 

ISABELLA

 

“Harder,” Demitri orders.

I shake my head. “I’ll hurt you.”

“That’s the point, Isabella.” His eyes are hard on me. “Show me what you can do.”

We’ve been sparring for the last hour, and it just doesn’t feel right attacking Demitri. After all, we’re on the same side.

He lets out a breath, then says, “If you manage to hurt me, it’s my own fault for not blocking you. Give me your all.”

“I need to know you can hold your own against Demitri, or I won’t risk taking you with me,” Alexei suddenly says.

I glance over my shoulder as he walks toward us. Crossing his arms, he stops on the side of the sparring mat, raising an eyebrow at me as if he’s daring me.

“Okay,” I mutter. Another thing that’s frustrating is that I can’t remember the training I received. I have no idea what I can and cannot do.

Suddenly Dimitri lunges at me, and twisting his body into the air, his leg darts out. Automatically, I dart forward, and grabbing hold of his leg, I pull my body up and manage to wrap my legs around his neck. I twist myself and flip him, and then we both crash to the floor, Demitri’s full weight knocking the air from my lungs.

“Fuck yes!” Alexei shouts. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.”

Demitri rolls off me, letting out a chuckle. “Good move.”

I let out a groan as I peel myself off the mat. “You weigh a ton.”

“Again,” Alexei orders.

Glaring at him, I say, “It’s easy to stand there and give orders.”

He tilts his head and then begins to remove his coat. “Okay. You and me.”

I let out a burst of laughter. “Actually, I meant you should go find something else to do.”

Alexei shakes his head as he removes his boots, and then he steps onto the mat. “Come on, babe. Dance with me.”

“Rules first,” I say as I keep my eyes on him. “Not the face.”

“And not between the legs,” he adds.

“Deal.”

I dart forward and take a swing at Alexei. He blocks the blow, and then his fist connects with my right shoulder. Knowing he didn’t use his full strength, it still stings.

Jumping back, Alexei shakes his head at me. “Come on, little princess. You can do better than that.”

I run, and jumping at the last minute, I grab hold of Alexei’s shoulder, but as I swing myself into the air, he turns around and grabbing hold of my arm, he yanks me down, causing me to fall to the mat.

Rolling over, I push myself into a kneeling position, and then I use the back of my hand to wipe the sweat from my forehead.

Alexei crouches in front of me with a bottle of water. “Take a break. Demitri and I will spar. Watch us and memorize the movements.”

I take the bottle from him and nod, not feeling half as badass as he’s made me sound. Climbing to my feet, I walk to the side of the mat.

Demitri and Alexei face-off, and then Alexei smirks at his custodian. “It’s been a while.”

Demitri smiles. “Take it easy on me.” And then he attacks.

The bottle of water is forgotten in my hands as my eyes move to keep up with the two men. Neither’s getting a blow in. It seriously looks like they’re completely in sync with each other. I focus on their actions, and they feel familiar.

God, the fight will keep going until one of them grows tired. Only then will the other be able to get past the blocks.

They’re equally good.

Suddenly, Alexei manages to wrap his arm around Demitri’s neck, and twisting his body, he slams Demitri down on the mat.

Speed. Alexei’s faster.

The two men chuckle as they climb to their feet, and then Alexei asks, “What makes you stronger than your opponent?”

“Speed.”

“Good girl,” he says with a wink.

I toss the bottle of water at him. “Get off the mat so I can train with Demitri.”

Alexei catches the bottle then gives me a fake hurt look. “Why not train with me?”

“You’re faster. I’d like to actually train instead of being on the defense all the time.” Then I smile at Demitri. “Demitri’s also more patient than you.”

“I’ll leave the two of you to train then,” Alexei chuckles as he walks to where his coat and boots are.

I wasn’t lying, Demitri’s much more patient than Alexei. Plus, he’s a good trainer, and his energy is calm.

We practice for another hour, and with Demitri’s guidance, I start to move faster, feeling more confident with every move.

When we take a breather, Demitri smiles at me. “You’ll get there, Isabella. You did well for your first day.”

“Thanks,” I say breathlessly.

“Same time tomorrow.”

I nod at him. “Okay.”

When Demitri begins to walk away, I say, “Thank you.” He stops, and when our eyes meet, I add, “For training me. I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome. Take a warm bath to relax your muscles.”

As he walks away, I stare after him before turning my attention to Alexei, who’s been silently watching us.

“I like my instructor,” I tease Alexei.

Instead of getting jealous, he gives me a pleased smile. “I’m glad to hear that. Demitri’s very important to me.”

“You’re the best assassin and clearly trained in fighting. Why did you get a custodian?”

Alexei glances to the doorway where Demitri disappeared through. “I needed someone I could trust one hundred percent.”

Frowning, I say. “But you have Carson.”

Alexei shakes his head. “Even brothers can turn on each other. A custodian is loyal until death.”

Nodding, I walk closer to Alexei. “Well, I’m glad you have Demitri.” I smile up at him. “And me.”

He just stares at me for a moment. “Do I?”

The smile fades from my face. “Of course.”

Alexei holds the bottle of water out to me. “Drink before you dehydrate.”

I take it from him and swallow a couple of sips while a weird feeling slithers through my heart.

Alexei doesn’t trust me.

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