Unleashing Kokou by Kendra Mei Chailyn

CHAPTER1

Hank “Montana” Patterson

My tossingand turning must have woken Sadie again. The first time, she dropped featherlight kisses over my forehead until I sighed and drifted off again. The second time, she was facing away from me. As I rolled from my side to my back, then to my other side, she shifted around, rested her head against my chest and wrapped an arm around me.

Smiling, I kissed her head and wrapped my arm across her hip, pulling her even closer to me. There were so many things on my mind—most notably, the conversation I had with Daniel Archer a few days prior.

It had started with his manager reaching out.

“I’m not someone who needs to be handled.” I told the man who said his name was Andy. “If Daniel wants to speak with me, we don’t need a go between. He knows where I lay my head.”

“What am I supposed to tell him?”

“What I just said.” I’d growled into the phone. “Or whatever you’d like. That’s a you problem.”

Angry, I’d hung up and dropped the phone back into my pocket.

Time passed and Daniel had reached out. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to help with whatever he’d wanted to meet about.

Hell, I was still trying to figure out if I only disliked the fool or if I absolutely hated him.

It was a week later, and as I walked through the doors of our main office, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved. Then again, if he was in serious trouble, I’d feel like garbage should something I could have prevented happened to him.

“Hey Boss!”

I jerked around, reaching for my sidepiece.

“Damn it, Swede!” I growled.

“What’s your issue?” Swede wanted to know. “You’re walking into head office. You should have expected someone to be here.”

I sighed then rubbed my tired eyes.

Swede walked away, nibbling on a cookie and muttering to himself.

“I’m sorry.” I called after him.

“Yeah, yeah!” He tossed over his shoulder.

Eventually, I had to rant to someone. After I made a salad—I didn’t think my stomach could handle anything else with how queasy it was—I went and found Swede.

True to who he was, my friend didn’t hold a grudge. He merely smirked at me in that way he always did, offered me a seat then listen to what was on my mind.

“Are you taking this meeting?” Axel “Swede” Svenson asked, as he plucked a piece of cucumber from my plate.

“I’m thinking about it.” I replied. “I mean, he said it’s about a job.”

“I get that. But sometimes your indecision is just God’s way of telling you to just say no.”

I scoffed.

Exhaling loudly, I set my meal aside and leaned forward to speak with my friend and fellow protector. Swede had always been good with leveling me out. Usually, though conversations would be serious, he came through with humor.

“What does Sadie have to say about this?” Swede asked.

I sighed, remembering that Sadie and I started speaking about the situation, but we never got finished. Before I knew what was happening, we were making love.

I licked my lips. “Um—we kind of didn’t finish discussing it.”

Swede smirked. “You really need to learn to keep your hands to yourself sometimes.”

“You take that back!”

Swede laughed out loud.

“Seriously, she said she’d support my decision.”

“Well, there is nothing that says you can’t hear him out.” Swede suggested. “Want me to go with you?”

I shook my head. “Naw. I got this. I think.”

“Okay—I’ll make myself available just in case you need me.”

Nodding, I sent Daniel a quick text message to set up the meeting, then shoved my phone into my pocket. Swede went to pour himself a drink, and when he returned, I was still second guessing my decision to bring Daniel Archer back into my life.

“You’re thinking entirely too hard about this.” Swede told me.

“Yeah—it’s just one of those things.”

Swede exhaled a loud breath. “Well, you have backup if you need someone to put a foot up his ass.”

“I know.” I laughed.

“When you meet with him, be sure to inform him that if he messes with you, if—and that’s a big if—they find his body, it’ll look like an accident.”

“There won’t be a need for bloodshed.” I patted Swede’s shoulder affectionately.

“Who said anything about bloodshed?” Swede asked before sipping from his cup. “I know a million different ways to make that fool suffer without drawing a drop of blood. You should know better.”

Reaching over, I patted his shoulder and straightened myself to my full height. I grabbed my hat and exited the headquarters. For a moment, I stood in front of my truck and looked up at the sky.

It was clear, blue, slightly irritating.

That was my mood talking.

I made an annoyed sound in my throat before climbing into my truck and headed away from the Crazy Mountains, towering behind me like spectres.

The drive through Big Timber didn’t settle my dread. Before heading into the city, I stopped and bought myself a couple bottles of water. I drank one bottle in its entirety then set out on my way again, feeling a little better than I had.

I thought back to why Daniel and I never got a long.

To be honest, the war had never been between myself and Daniel Archer. It was a generational thing—his grandfather and mine had a thing.

Their sons had a thing.

And apparently, Daniel and I needed to carry on the darkness.

I never subscribed to it—not really. But Daniel had and as teenagers, he’d tried making my life hell. He almost ruined my chances in the military, but I wasn’t my father. I didn’t sit around and allow anyone to walk all over me.

I’d had enough with my father and his disappointment in me—I didn’t need it from some idiot with a God complex.

I didn’t like fighting, but Daniel had it coming.

One day everything was going wrong.

Everything I touched went to hell and I wanted to go home, shower and climb right into bed. Daniel started in on me. Apparently, he didn’t like being ignored.

He shoved me.

I took him down like a linebacker.

Someone pulled me off him—to this day, I still didn’t know who—and I was raging.

“I’ll kill you if you ever put your hands on me again!” I snarled. “You won’t live long enough to regret it.”

I struggled against the arms holding me back.

I kicked and punched and screamed. In my madness, I was willing to take out all my anger on him. I wanted him to feel my anger, my pain—all of it.

“Hank, come on now!” The voice cut through the ang when I looked down into his face, all I saw was blood. “Look at him. I think he got the message.”

When I looked down at Daniel, his face was covered in blood and bruises. His left eye was already swollen shut and his nose was crooked.

Later I found out it had been broken.

I regret nothing.

Later that night, someone had asked if I meant what I said about killing Daniel.

“I said what I said.” Was my reply before I walked away.

Afterward, his father stopped talking to mine. The man even started crossing the street when he saw me. Daniel vanished from our small town about a week later.

Rumour had it, his father sent him abroad to boarding school.

I didn’t care.

Now, after all these years, up he popped, wanting to meet about a job he thought I’d be interested in.

Sighing, I pulled into the parking lot of the luxury building, a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Still, I parked, climbed from the truck, and made my way through the shiny glass doors. The security stopped me to have me sign in, then called up to Daniel’s penthouse to get permission to let me in.

It was a struggle not to reach across the desk and clubber this idiot.

Swallowing my irritation, I turned on my heels after he gave me some instructions to access the section in front of Daniel’s door.

Every step of the way, I wondered why I even agreed to meet with him. Still, it was too late to turn back.

When I stepped out of the second elevator, the door in front of me caused me to arch a brow. It was painted gold—at least I thought it was paint. There were two large plants sitting on either side of it, with an unnecessary welcome mat.

I didn’t get a chance to knock—an older man opened the door.

“Hank Patterson.” He greeted me with an extended hand. “I’m Andy Klein—Daniel’s manager.”

Reluctantly, I shook his hand. “Hello.”

“Come in.”

Removing my hat, I entered the foyer of the penthouse. I didn’t want to be there as the bad feeling was still swirling in the pit of my stomach.

Andy closed the door and walked me further into the space. When I entered the living room, he motioned to one of the comfortable looking sofas, but I remained standing.

“Um—would you like something to drink?” Andy asked. “Tea, coffee—”

“No, thank you.” I replied. “Where’s Daniel?”

“He’s on his way.”

“He wants to meet with me, and he couldn’t care enough to show up on time?” I demanded.

“It’s not on him.” Andy shrugged. “It’s just been a rather strange few days. He’s been stretch quite thin.”

I scoffed. “If he’s not here in five minutes, I’m out.”

Andy nodded and exited the room while pressing his cell to his ear. While I didn’t hear what he was saying as he disappeared down the hall, I knew he was probably trying to figure out where Daniel was.

The thing was, Daniel had always been that way. He was never on time for anything because his parents were wealthy and thought people should cater to them.

I didn’t really go with that plan.

I believed a man should be of his word—he needed to honour his responsibilities and show up when he was supposed to, where and when he was supposed to.

If I was late for a mission my team was screwed—my friends, brothers would get hurt.

Irritated, I walked over to the glass wall and stared out at the land around us. The view was amazing, but the sun was now hidden behind some rather angry looking clouds. I was hoping the rain wouldn’t start until later in the day, but I supposed I had no way of controlling that.

Unfortunately.

“Sorry, I’m late.”

I didn’t turn right away.

His voice alone annoyed me more than it probably should after all those years.

It was a quick pause, but I used it to gather myself before shifting on my heels.

“What do you want?”

“It’s good to see you, Montana.”

“Don’t call me that.” I shook my head. “You haven’t earned that right.”

Daniel licked his lips and dragged his palm along the back of his jeans. “Did Andy offer you something to drink?”

“Cut the small talk, Daniel.” I told him. “What do you want?”

“I hear you’re running a team called the Brotherhood Protectors.” Daniel sat in one of the chairs. He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his thighs. “I need your help.”

“Call the cops.”

“The cops know.” Daniel explained. “It’s just right now, I don’t think it’s their top priority and I can’t just sit around and do nothing.”

“Then hire celebrity bodyguards.” I tossed my hands up. “I hear you can afford that now.”

“I don’t trust them. Not with this.”

“And you trust me?” I demanded, incredulously. “You don’t even like me.”

“Hank…”

“Hank, nothing.” Exhaling loudly, I dragged my fingers through my hair then forced myself to sit across from him. “Start at the beginning.”

“I don’t know if you watch hockey—”

He stared at me as if he expected me to say I did. I merely stared back at him.

“Right.” Daniel nodded. “I play for the Montana Rebels. At the end of last season, we were in the playoffs for the first time in over twenty years. Final game—this one is for all the marbles. I choked.”

“What does you choking in a game have to do with my protectors?”

“I have a kid.” He told me. “And ever since I lost the game for the Rebels, I’ve been getting death-threats.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong—but wasn’t that game like—months ago?”

He nodded. “I’ve been getting the odd comments. People yelling garbage at me in public, an email here or there. But it escalated a week ago.”

“What happened a week ago?”

“Someone showed up at my kid’s school and tried signing her out.”

“Signing her out?”

“She’s six.” Daniel explained. “The kids who go to this schools are the children of senators, actors, high profile lawyers, athletes.”

“Children who are potentially high risk.”

“Right.” Daniel nodded. “The school has a safe list.”

“Explain that.”

“It’s a list of who can sign the kids out—who can pick them up.” Daniel told me. “If someone isn’t on that list, who tries to get the kid, the cops are called. I supposed this person didn’t know that. When the school refused and threatened to call the police, the person ran. I don’t care what happens to me—I just want someone to be with my baby until we can figure out who’s behind this.”

“You’re telling me, someone is trying to get to you through your kid over a stupid game?”

“It’s not a stupid game to them.”

“I don’t care.” I snapped. “I mean, are you sure this has something to do with a few disgruntled fans? Maybe it’s someone you’ve pissed off.”

“I know you might not believe this, I’m not as big of an asshole as you think I am.”

“You’re right.” I told him pointedly. “I don’t believe but. But as much as I dislike you, I’m not going to go after your kid to get your attention. That’s below the belt and completely ridiculous.”

Daniel smiled—a sad smile. “I know I’m not your favourite person and I have no idea if I can ever fix that. But I will pay you or your crew for this.”

“Where’s your daughter now?”

“She’s staying with a friend of mine.” Daniel replied. “Evelyn—you remember her.”

I nodded.

How could I forget Evelyn?

“But she can’t stay there forever.” I continued. “The school has been allowing her to do virtual schooling. She’s miserable. And I don’t like her being so far away from me.”

“And her mother?”

“We’re not together.” Daniel rose and walked over to the glass to stare down. “Kennedy wasn’t exactly planned, and it turned out her mother didn’t want children.”

“Do you have custody?”

He nodded and turned to face me. “Full custody ever since she was a baby.”

“I have no active protector to spare right now.” I explained to him. “But I have one on hiatus. Let me give her a call and see if she’s willing to help. If not, we’re going to have to find an alternative.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m not doing this for you.” I reminded him. “Your daughter doesn’t deserve any of this.”

“I understand.”

“Do you have an office I can use for a couple of minutes?”

“This way.” Daniel led me down the hall.

Andy was there on the phone but when Daniel told him what was happening, he got off his call and left with Andy. Exhaling a breath, I found the contact I needed in the video call software and hit send.

“Cowboy.” She greeted me.

Music was playing in the background.

I tore my eyes from the view and to the screen.

Abeke “Kokou” Bolande grinned at me, her dark skin glowing, her brown eyes shimmering mischievously.

“Are you having a party?” I quirked a brow.

“Something like that.” Her Nigerian accent was thick. “They tell me that I need to be social. I’m trying a thing. Let me go outside—hang on.”

When she was out, she lifted her phone again.

“You know I love it when you call me, Cowboy.” Kokou leaned forward. “But I can tell from the look in your eyes that this isn’t a social call. What’s up?”

“You remember Daniel Archer?” I asked.

“The kid that tried bullying you when you were younger.” She nodded. “What about him?”

“Someone tried grabbing his kid.” I told her. “It’s a long story—but right now we need someone to make sure that doesn’t happen until they can find out who’s behind the attempt.”

“Is this your way of telling me you’re recalling me?”

“My way of calling in a favour.” I sighed.

“You’re willing to burn a favour for him?”

“Not for him…”

“The kid.” Kokou smiled beautifully at me.

“Right. What do you say? Can you do me this solid?”

“For you, Cowboy?” Kokou smiled. “Aww, you don’t need to use up a favour for this. You know I got your back. Gimme a couple of days to get back stateside.”

“Thanks, Kokou.”

She winked at me and was gone.

When I went back into the living room, Daniel faced me, his eyes hopeful.

“You’re in luck.” I told him. “It seems we’ve caught her in a good mood. Right now, she’s in Nigeria and will be stateside in a couple of days. In the meantime, we’ll work on a schedule to see if a couple of my guys are willing to double up until we can do better.”