Chapter 1

Elizabeth Grant had never been and never would be a smoker. However, there were times when she wished she was because her job was extremely stressful. It wasn't so much of what she actually did, but the waiting that did her in. She liked to be active, to have something to do. Currently, she sat at an outdoor café, sipping a glass of strawberry lemonade, her forest green eyes hidden behind a chic pair of dark sunglasses. She wore tight black pants with knee high boots over them and a black tank top underneath a denim jacket. She raked her fingers through the untamable, blonde strands, staring at her cell phone, as if that would make it ring faster.

No such luck.

She drummed her fingers on the surface of the small black table, ignoring the sunshine and the birds singing nearby.

Elizabeth – Lizzie, she preferred - worked for the Nocturnal Defense Society, which was a government agency that specialized in maintaining and enforcing equality between humans, vampires, and werewolves. Her job was that of an assassin, and she was damn good at it.

Not that she took pride in killing. She was still kept up at night with nightmares of what she had done. Her drumming fingers tapped harder and it took everything in her to refrain from shredding the paper napkin that was wrapped around the utensils.

Even the bad ones didn't deserve death. At least, not the sort of death she was paid to bring.

When her boss needed her to take out a high-profile leader, she did it in under twenty-four hours. Whether it was someone from humanity, a werewolf society, or a vampire society – it didn't matter. Whatever they needed, she did it, and usually, without question. It was her job, after all; it paid the bills.

At least, that was what she told herself. It didn't help her sleep at night.

In her occupation, she only had a couple of ground rules that were important when handling cases: First and foremost, those she did take out had to be guilty. None of the reasonable doubt bullshit; there had to be irrefutable evidence against a particular target.

Secondly, she liked to work alone. She didn't want to be responsible for somebody else, and she didn't want to grow attached to someone who, in all likelihood, was going to die on the job. The only reason Lizzie survived so long in this area of business was because she was smart and fast. She showed no weakness, and she wanted to keep it that way.

Finally, she wanted to handle the details her way. If her employers wanted her to do it a certain way, they could hire someone else to do it, or they could do it themselves. Just give her the target and get out of her way. She would handle the rest.

Lizzie started tapping the heel of her right foot so it clacked against the pavement and gazed over to her phone once more. "Come on," she murmured under her breath. "Come on, come on, come on..."

Her thoughts drifted once again, as her ears continued to hum with the hollow sound of silence. Little girls didn't typically dream of growing up to be assassins, but somehow, Lizzie always knew that that was what she wanted to do. She didn't think she could do anything else.

When she was fourteen, her mother died in the field from a bullet straight between the eyes. Nobody knew how this was possible when she was supposed to be smarter than letting herself get caught, let alone killed.

After her untimely death, there was also the problem of Carmen's daughter. Who would look after her? Ultimately, a single mother named Kathleen who had a daughter of her own and worked in the research department of NDS took her in.

From that point forward, Lizzie was determined to become an assassin, and did whatever it took to accomplish her goal. She started running every day and developed a workout regimen to increase her strength, her core, and her balance. She started eating better, though she never denied herself a sweet indulgence every once in a while. And she sacrificed her social life in order to research and study.

A couple of pigeons landed near Lizzie's feet. Her first instinct was to shoo them away, but she stopped when she saw them hopping to some crumbs nearby. Who was she to deny them their breakfast?

Though Lizzie was now twenty-three and living on her own, she was still incredibly close to Kathleen Simmons, the woman who had taken her in years ago. In fact, Lizzie's best friend was Kathleen's daughter, Rachel, who excelled at researching, just like her mother. Lizzie was continuously grateful she never had to worry about Rachel because she was rarely, if ever, in the field and therefore, it was highly doubtful she would ever be harmed in any way.

A chirp caused her thoughts to suddenly disappear, and she glanced down at her phone resting on the surface of the table. An unknown number popped up on her caller identification, and her lips quirked up.

"Finally," she muttered before flipping open the phone and placing it over her ear. "Grant," she greeted in the no-nonsense tone she usually used while on the clock.

"Good afternoon, Miss Grant," a familiar, articulate voice on the other end of the line greeted. His voice was breathy, formal, and slightly odd when compared to others, but he had a natural tone of authority imbedded in his tone, and though it wasn't quite intimidating, it commanded respect.

"Good afternoon, Jackson," Lizzie said with a mischievous glint in her eyes. She knew how much her boss detested when she called him by his last name without any form of Mister or Sir beforehand.

A heavy sigh echoed in her ear and it was a moment before Jackson said anything. "Yes, well, I've got you an assignment that you've no doubt been waiting for," he said, not in a callous way. He paused.

Lizzie bit her bottom lip, trying to suppress the urge to reach through the phone and strangle him until he gave her what she wanted to know.

"Go on," she said, trying to keep the sharp edge out of her voice.

She could practically hear Jackson smile through the phone and waited another moment before he finally decided to continue. "Are you familiar with the Dragulia family?"

"You mean the vampire clan?" Lizzie asked, puzzled. "Aren't they royals in their culture?" She never had to take out a royal before and she highly doubted she would. "The ones who live forty-five minutes by train into the wilderness on the east side of Somerset, completely opposite of Sterling's pack?"

"They are," Jackson replied.

"Well, isn't it a little obvious taking out a royal?" She tilted her head slightly and slid her glasses up the bridge of her nose. The pigeons were still pecking at their food. "I mean, I don't even remember hearing that they've done anything to threaten humanity, but then again, it could be because no one trusts me with such information. You know, for your top assassin, everything's been pretty hush-hush. Why is that?"

He sighed again and Lizzie could imagine him reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "You're getting off topic, Miss Grant," he said with slight exasperation. "And anyway, this isn't a hit."

She furrowed her brow as she took another sip of her lemonade. "I don't understand," she said. "I'm an assassin. Why would you be giving me a job that has nothing to do with taking someone out?"

"It's not so much killing someone as it is protecting them," Jackson corrected. "I have just been informed that Nikolai Dragulia, the vampire next in line to claim the throne once his father retires from the position, has been threatened. Apparently, there is a hit out for him in the vampire clan because a few people don't think he would make a good king. He has requested your presence personally in hopes that you would be his bodyguard until this whole thing blows over."

Lizzie's mouth dropped open and it took her a long moment before she finally responded. "Wait a minute," she said, still flabbergasted. "This guy wants me to babysit him? That's the job that's so important? You want me to babysit a royal? There is no way I'm going to waste my time with something like this. You can't be serious."

"Well, I am," Jackson said. "Money and politics talk and they have spoken. So I suggest you pack in order to make your train."

Before she could argue some more, the line went dead.

Thank you so much for reading this chapter! I hope you enjoyed it!