Blaire - Part One(4)

By: Anita Gray

Maksim doesn't hesitate. He says a powerful, “With my life,” then it's quiet again.

Why do I feel like I'm being interviewed for something?

“Okay,” says Charlie eventually, nodding to himself. He then summons my attention by rasping out my name. “Maksim tells me you can hack into any computer system.”

Bingo. He is interviewing me.

“You can answer him,” Maksim says. So I nod, my hands still firmly folded behind my back.

“How can you do that?” asks Charlie.

“My friend,” Maksim butts-in, clearing his throat, “the details are better left unsaid. Just know that my little pet is masterful at-”

“I'll decide what details are better left unsaid,” Charlie says. Sitting forward, he puts his elbows on his knees and narrows his blue eyes at Maksim. “I'll consider pardoning things that might make this girl feel uncomfortable but you'll tell me the finer details.” His square jaw ticks, though when he stares up at me, that anger in his face... it... it vanishes. “How can you do that, Blaire?”

“I spent three years in a room with books, codes and computers,” I say without thinking, and bizarrely without Maksim's permission. “I taught myself the things I know.”

Charlie gives Maksim a baffled look, wrinkling his nose. “She actually thinks she became a hacker in three years?” No one answers him, and he runs a hand through his thick black hair, ruffling the strands at the back of his neck. “C'mon, don't try to take the piss outa me.”

Maksim's face tightens with what almost looks like… fear? No. Can't be. He shakes his head at Charlie again.

“All right.” Charlie lifts a hand, understanding Maksim's expression.

Is he hiding something from me? Why won't he just tell Charlie that he bought me from a man in Russia, or insist it's none of his business?

Digging into his jeans back pocket, Charlie pulls out a piece of paper and passes it to me between scissored fingers.

I glance at Maksim. He signals for me to take the paper, so I do. I briefly touch Charlie's fingers in the process and a warm, tingly sensation spreads through my body, causing me to snatch back my hand. Our eyes meet then in a moment of dead quietness. His are glowing like he knows what I just felt.

Everything around me becomes nonexistent. Even Maksim fades into the background. And I just look at this man who's invading our personal space with pure bafflement. He doesn't look away; doesn't blink. A pool of anxiety coils inside me, making my toes curl in my trainers.

I have a dark feeling he's going to turn the world as I know it upside down.

“It's the latest in technology for a certain CCTV system,” he says softly, insisting I take the paper from him. “Here you go.”

To break whatever the fuck this is, I pinch the piece of paper out of his fingers and scan the notes written down, mentally willing my heart rate to calm. It's the details for London's closed-circuit television system.

“Can you shut that down for fifteen minutes?” Charlie asks, his voice still unexplainably soft.

I've entered this system a few times before. Maksim likes to know that he can control a city for if trouble breaks out.

“Can you shut it down, my little pet?” Maksim says.

“I can shut this down for four, maybe five minutes before I get locked out.” I lean over to give Charlie back the piece of paper, avoiding his touch—and his eyes. I have the contents of the note now stored in my memory.

Charlie shakes his head, screwing up the piece of paper in a large hand before tossing it across the office. “I need fifteen minutes.” He exercises his eyes on Maksim, who seems a little uncomfortable, pulling open the top buttons of his shirt. “You said the redhead can get me fifteen minutes. I. Need. My. Fifteen. Minutes.”

My protective instincts kicking in, I step closer to Maksim's desk. No one talks to my master like this with such contempt. No one.

I center my attention on Charlie. He’s glaring at Maksim, his nostrils flaring.

I have to protect Maksim.

I have to ensure nothing happens to him.

Maksim is all that matters.

“Can you do it, my little pet?” Maksim says in a rush of words, visibly nervous—I hate that. “Can you get the fifteen minutes?”