Chapter 1

The running never stopped. I just kept running and running, and the footsteps still rang loud and clear. Someone was following me, and for once I didn't know who or why.

It wasn't that I didn't deserve to be hunted. I hunted people every day. The problem was that I didn't do anything to deserve it this time, or at least I didn't think I did. Regardless, I had a problem, as usual.

I rounded a corner, trying to lose the person again, and ran straight into someone. He was tall, probably around age forty, with dark hair and green eyes. Even worse, the man was a cop. It was very plain from his confident, yet suspicious manner.

"Are you running from someone, kid? You look like you've been running hard for quite a while." He looked genuinely concerned about me, which also screamed cop. After all, how many people are concerned about random teens anymore? Most people think we're all a bunch of criminals, which is true enough in my case, but I'll explain that later.

I put on a cool, nonchalant look and pretended to be a normal, moody teenager. "No, I just like to run a lot. Is there something wrong with that?" I put on a pretty good act, but he didn't buy it, so I took off and kept moving until I got home.

When I walked in the door, Sirius was waiting for me. Sirius wasn't my biological father, but he was married to my mother before she died and I lived in his house. He paid for my food and clothes, but even that came with a price. "Where have you been? I had another assignment for you, but I ended up handing it to Jake. Do you have any idea how badly he'll probably mess it up?"

I just shrugged, trying to keep calm, which would probably only tick him off more. "I was busy." I ran out into the kitchen, as usual, and started to make dinner. I might be a teenager, but I'm not stupid. If I didn't make Sirius his favorites after I already made him mad, he'd probably give me the beating of my life. Not that that was anything new, but it was the last thing I needed that day.

When dinner was done, I set it on the table and turned to go upstairs, where I usually went while Sirius and my eight step-brothers had dinner. Before I could leave the room, though, Sirius ordered me to sit. He only ever did that when he was either going to yell at me or hand me an assignment.

I obeyed, as usual, and sat quietly at the table during dinner. I was a little unaccustomed to eating at the table, so I didn't eat much. The boys watched me carefully throughout dinner, probably wondering why I was there.

After dinner, I cleared the table and tried to slip off again, but Sirius ordered me to sit down again. I did as I was told, knowing that he had a special job for me. Of course, there were always jobs I needed to do, but this was something new, and I wasn't happy about it.

"Everyone is free to leave except Angel." Sirius was dismissing them, so they all left. I really didn't like being alone there. That was never a good thing.

"What now?" I packed as much annoyance into my voice as I possibly could. I really didn't want a new assignment if I could avoid it, but I didn't want to tick him off either.

"I have a new, very interesting assignment for you." Sirius tossed a file across the table. I picked it up and looked it over.

"You must be getting piles of money for this one, Sirius," I said, looking carefully at the name and photo. They were very familiar from the news, which didn't make me any happier. Constant news coverage would make my job a lot harder than usual…and usual wasn't easy.

"Yes, and that should tell you that you had better do it well. I want your best work on this one, Angel." Sirius gave me a very meaningful look. It was his classic "or else" look. If I didn't do it well, I didn't want to know what "or else" would be.

I almost laughed at him. He always expected me, a seventeen year old girl, to do his dirty work, because he was too lazy or not good enough to do it himself. Instead, I sat quietly, as was expected of me, and looked over the file more closely. I was dealing with a senator, which wasn't good. I didn't like any of this, but I especially didn't like messing with politicians. They were too well-known, and investigations got too close for comfort.

"Well, I think I'll go to bed," I said. I stood to go upstairs, but Sirius grabbed my arm and pulled me back into my chair.

"I'm not done with you yet," he said. "I also have another issue to discuss with you."

"Another issue? Like what?" I asked, leaning back and putting on a cool face. "Another job? A new identity? Another tattoo?" Oh, yeah. By the way, I have a tattoo. It's an angel, my signature. Oh, and just so you know, my name is not Angel. It's Ari.

"Actually, I wanted to speak with you about the future of my business." Seeing my frown, he smiled. "You see, Angel, we both know that the boys can't handle it. They wouldn't know good business if it walked up and slapped them in the face. You, however, have a mind for deals and trade. You could easily run the entire thing. That's why I want you to start further training with me in dealing with it."

I stared at him, trying hard to keep my mouth shut. It didn't work. "You want me to WHAT? I don't have any time already and you want me to train to RUN THE BUSINESS. I've dealt with enough trouble for you! I will not get in deeper than I'm already in."

It was pretty obvious that he didn't like my reaction, but he just smiled and leaned back, copying my earlier position. "You don't have a choice, and you know it. You will do as I say or there will be consequences, and the price is one we both know you're not willing to pay."