The Tin Man (Inner Circle #1) by Kailin Gow

Prologue



Dante Black

Age 18

San Diego, California U.S.A.





I pulled up in front of the Jones’ house in San Diego and killed the engine. Staring at the steering wheel, I tried to steel myself for what was to come.

It had been months since the explosion at Black Biotech. There were nights when I still had nightmares about that day. Nights when I could see myself heading up the elevator of the high-rise with Summer. Hand in hand we had walked to an office window and looked out at the spectacular lights of Los Angeles.

In my dreams, her long, caramel colored hair always blew in the breeze and her beautiful big hazel eyes were always filled with wonder.

Then, out of nowhere, my father would appear, the Condor sent to make sure I follow through with my mission or he would complete my mission for me. In every dream, I argued with him, wanting to change my mission, wanting to savor my last moments with Summer, but he always came back, with a shotgun aimed at me or Summer or with a switch in his hands… the very one that would ignite the explosives that would topple Black Biotech’s building.

Some nights I managed to wake up before the dream became the nightmare that it truly was, but most nights I simply relived the reality of that day. The horrible reality of that deadly explosion.

I looked up at the house, the house where Summer now lived with her mother, Meecham. As usual, a wave of intense guilt swept over me as I thought of Summer’s injuries following the explosion.

Not only had I not been able to save her, but I myself had been thrown outside seconds before the explosion went off. I couldn’t save her.

Good, but that had only added to the guilt for what had happened to Summer.

Swallowing my anger and frustration, I got out of the car and headed to the door.

“Yes,” a voluptuous young blonde woman said as she opened the door. Her eyes lit up as she looked me over, but she remained calm and cool. “Can I help you with anything?”

“Yes,” I said, not willing to play along with her flirtatious greeting. “I’m Dante. Dante Black.”

“All right,” she said with a hungry smile as she looked me over. “You’re quite handsome. What is a good-looking guy like you doing?”

“I’m here to see Summer,” I added. “Is her mother, Ms. Meecham Jones, here?”

A tall woman with Summer’s hazel eyes and caramel hair finally came to the door. “Who is it, Brenda? Oh…” she added as she saw me. “Dante.” She turned dismissively to Brenda. “It’s all right. I’ll take it from here.”

She opened the door wider to let me in. “Dante. Dante Black. This is a surprise. I never thought I’d ever get to meet you in person. I’m Meecham Jones, Summer’s mother. My little sister Sookie did tell me all about you and Summer the year Summer stayed with Sookie in her Malibu pad. I do apologize about Brenda,” Meecham said as she led me to Summer’s room. “She’s a nurse our family friend hired to help me with Summer. It’s been months since the accident…”

“I see.” I said softly. “Is Summer doing better?” I couldn’t help the desperation in my voice. She was completely bandaged and barely alive when I sneaked by her house and saw her from afar.

“She’s doing better,” Meecham said. “Sookie did her best handling things until I got home from my mission. I’m glad we were able to keep Summer safe and incognito at home while she is healing, but I’m afraid it’s taking a while longer than we hoped. And her memory of the year she spent with Sookie never returned.”

My heart fell. Summer still didn’t remember us. She still had no idea who I was.

Meecham gently pushed open a door and gestured that I stay put while she went to Summer’s bedside.

“Summer?” she said gently. “Are you awake, Summer?”

Groggy, Summer opened her eyes and looked at her mother. She offered her an almost imperceptible nod.

She still had a cast on her arm and a large bandage across her chest. There was also a small bandage at her throat from the tracheotomy she’d needed. While they were neatly covered with the white and yellow quilt, I knew that her legs had suffered much damage as well. The doctors had said that it would be a while before she would walk again.

“How are you feeling this morning?” Meecham said.

“Not bad,” Summer said as she shifted to sit up a bit more.

“There’s someone here who would like to see you,” Meecham said. “Are you up for it?”