I pinned him against the wall, one blade against his throat and another between his fourth and fifth rib on his left side, right under his heart. This bastard stood a head taller than me, so his smirk appeared even more condescending than if I looked at him from across the room. This whole plan had gone wrong. He wasn't supposed to be in this room. He was supposed to be in the next room. So, I had gotten caught off guard. Now I had a split lip, a bruised fist and I had broken the fucking coffee table.
Wait, this might be confusing. Let me backtrack. Why was I, a short, brunette female, holding a six-foot man hostage with blades? Why, that's a great question.
My crew and I were mercenaries. Whoever could pay us the most usually got our business, good or bad. Whatever your definition of 'good or bad' is, I don't care. Whoever pays us more is who we will work for.
Now typically, we can get the job done without any hitch or problem along the way. We don't get distracted and we most certainly do not get involved with our marks. That makes things way too difficult when they must be killed in the end. Or, well, sometimes, on the very rare occasion, they join the crew. We're a big operation as it is, eight of us, but hey, sometimes the operation must spread across the continent and the original two of us just couldn't accomplish that. So, our group had grown to eight.
Well, our most recent objective had required three of us - a scout, a researcher, and an executioner. I was one of the two executioners on the crew. So, Wyatt and I had a toss for who got to go. Our toss consisted of throwing a handgun in the air. This particular gun had a snake carved on one side. Whoever called the snake and it landed on the snake got to go. Why didn't we just throw a coin? Because that shit is boring, and we are mercenaries with no self-control. I called snake and the gun landed snake-side up. It threw Wyatt into a fit, but he could have the next one. We usually traded off anyway, but it had been awhile since we needed an executioner. Anyway…
Back to the point, our objective was given to us by a wealthy gentleman who owned several estates across the globe and knew people who could end all of us, so of course we took the job. He wanted us to kill a modern-day Robin Hood type. This gentleman wanted us to kill him as this Robin Hood character was robbing his secret vaults in his mansion. Why he didn't want us to kill him before because he obviously knew his plans, I don't know. We don't ask questions. We just do our job.
Anyways, we had Seth as our researcher, as always because that prick never got off his fat ass. He was the wizard behind the curtain. We only needed one of him. If we had another Seth, I might kill him myself. Damn, lazy prick. So, Seth managed to figure out how and when this Robin Hood (we still hadn't gotten a name yet) would be robbing our wealthy gentleman donor. So, after we figured out all entrances and exits - which took weeks, good god - we sent in our scout - the small, four-foot eleven Ginger Taylor. All she needed was a promise of five burgers per meal, each day, until the deed was carried out and she would gladly do it. Our wealthy gentleman delivered. She was probably the cheapest out of all of us. All you had to do was bribe her with food.
So, continuing, Ginger scouted the place out, tracking the easiest path through the mansion. After finding the easiest path, it was up to her to get me through the mansion having never been there. Luckily, with some food bribery, she gave in and told me the fastest route and the best place to intercept the Robin Hood - nope, during this time we found out his name - Hunter Lee. Lee was supposed to be in the first main study.
Keywords - supposed to be.
This motherfucker was not. Maybe Seth's calculations were off. Maybe Ginger fucked up somewhere, but when I went to the first fucking study, the motherfucker was not there. Nope. He was not. He was in the first fucking hallway.
As I was sneaking into the manor, I got fucking knocked in the face, splitting my lip. I had the twin blades on my hips, but I couldn't pull them out fast enough so I had to turn and slam my fist into a very hard jaw, bruising my knuckles and jarring my forearm, but I knocked him far enough away from me to pull out a knife. It was dark so I couldn't see the motherfucker, but I knew it was Lee by just the way he was built and moved.
I had kicked him into the first study, and he had tripped backwards onto a coffee table, shattering the wood. I'm not sure how he ended up against the wall. Adrenaline had surged through my veins. And then, that is how I ended up with a bleeding lip and bruised right hand.
And that is how we ended up in this situation currently.
"Well isn't it one of the Sinful Eight," he taunted from his place against the wall. I glared up at him, barely registering how close we were. He captured my attention, strong and firm against me. I enjoyed it, but that wasn't the mission here. The mission was to kill Lee, clean up the mess, and get paid. I had to kill him. It didn't matter how attractive he was… I mean, the way he was looking at me was incredibly hot… Stop it! When I killed him, I would celebrate with a victory waltz through the bars and take a man back to the house. I hadn't been relieved in a way too long.
"I'm glad we're world-renowned," I smiled up at him, pressing the blade harder against his neck. A trickle of blood slid down the knife to the hilt, pooling up and then dripping down onto his shirt. His condescending smirk did not change once. I glared at him.
"I thought they would send me the executioner, Wyatt, his name is, I think, but no," he tilted his head to the left and heat seeped into my veins. Holy fuck, this man was attractive, "they sent the pretty one to get the job done. Skylar, your name is?" I flushed. My lower body flooded with heat and I wanted to press my body against his. I blinked rapidly and pressed the tip of the blade against his ribs. Our number one rule was never get involved with a mark. It didn't matter how attractive they were, never get involved. Even Lewis, the biggest slut out of all of us, knew better than to break that rule. If Lewis didn't break the rule, I wouldn't.
"It doesn't matter, you picked the wrong guy to rob, Lee," I commented off-handedly, forcing myself to ignore his comment. "This is your last robbery."
"I think you can call me Hunter," he quirked a brow, smirking at me, "seeing as we're in such an…" his eyes dropped down to where our bodies touched, "intimate position." I flushed immediately and nearly took a step back in embarrassment because my body was not fucking cooperating with my mind. It was reacting inappropriately.
But I was a professional, so I didn't move. No matter my body's reactions.
"You're going to die, Lee," I reiterated, pressing the blade closer against his ribs, but the action had lost its threat. I couldn't kill him without first seeing what was in his pants. I mean, he felt amazing against me. Ugh, god, the crew was going to hate me. He leaned his head forward as far as the knife against his neck would allow which was nearly to my nose because my grip had slackened against his neck. His mouth was level with mine and I could feel his breath against my face.
This was… not okay. Not okay at all. Nope. My body was starting to overrule my mind. Nope. Nope. Nope… he dragged his eyes from my lips to my eyes. I could always have someone later. I really could. I was attractive. I could have whoever I wanted. I didn't need him. But I wanted him.
"Mmm, I will lick the blood off your lip as I kiss you until you can barely breathe and I have you shaking underneath me," his hands dropped to my hips and he pulled me impossibly closer to him. I could feel… every detail of him against me. The knife against his ribs loosened. I was going to… I was going to cave. My mind screamed at me to fucking stop. Stop right there. No more. Hunter needed to die. Good fucking fuck. Stop. But oh, come on, why stop when he felt so good? Right there, oh yes, right there…
"Really?" I asked breathlessly. I was sorely tempted to just tilt my chin up and seal our mouths together to end this stupid teasing and get to the touching and feeling because I knew that was exactly where this was going. But I resisted, because despite being a woman, I was sometimes wrong.
He hummed some form of agreement as he lowered his mouth to mine. My eyes fluttered shut and my knife against his throat lowered to my side as he gave his all into the kiss. He kissed like a god. He commanded all my attention and tugged my bottom lip between his teeth, being gentle with the injured part, but following through on his promise. I groaned into his mouth and tossed the other blade to the side so I could slide my hands up into his hair.
Oh, yeah, I was going to be hated for this. I mean, the crew didn't have to know. It wouldn't affect them in any way. Obviously, I could make up some lie so that the other seven would believe that I had been outwitted, though it didn't happen often. I would be forgiven. Our wealthy gentleman donor would be angry but would forgive us of our sins and let us try again. That's how much he wanted this fool dead. I briefly thought of this job. I had to kill him. That's what I was sent to do. It could wait. It really could.
He dug his fingers into my hips as he suddenly seemed to start to enjoy the kiss. When you're kissing somebody, you know when they start to enjoy it. They lose themselves in you. And when he had captured my mouth the first time, it seemed to be to distract me, not because he wanted to, but now that this prick knew what a fantastic kisser I was, he started to enjoy it and forget his regular mission of distracting his assassin.
I realized my hands were in his hair and he spun me around, pinning me against the wall. The other knife clattered against the floor. I was now totally defenseless against this man, but that primal part of me eagerly accepted that. Let me be taken by this man in all the dark, primal ways. Oh, please! But as always, a small, rational part of my mind warned me to be careful. Of course, I was going to be careful. He was still a thief - and a killer. As was I! My mind retorted, but I pushed it back to the side. I wanted him.
"So," he gasped, breaking away to kiss down my neck, "are we going to fuck here on the sofa or am I going to have to pin you against the wall because you're going to be difficult?" He murmured in my ear. I moaned, tilting my head back. My knees gave out and he caught me, his fingers digging into my thighs.
I'd never gotten involved with a mark. We had rules. I know we did. But those rules never applied to me because I didn't break them. Those rules were for Lewis or Ginger or even Grayson. They didn't apply to me because I didn't break them. But this…
I had sex before, but I had never had this passion and I craved it and- this is stupid. I needed to stop because if this went any further than my crew was going to know that I slept with him instead of killed him.
Or… well… Wyatt and I had been overpowered by marks before. It wouldn't be a first. And Hunter was bigger and stronger than me. It was only - oh, good lord, he could do that with his tongue? And with his hands? Holy shit. Oh my… oh… it's a problem for another day. I gave into him.
"So, the wall?" He breathed in my ear, pressing his body into me. I moaned. He grinned against my throat and then I completely forgot what I was supposed to be doing.
"What the fuck happened!" Wyatt roared, throwing one of our lamps across the room. It shattered against the wall with a crash. None of us flinched. That was the fifth time this week and the twenty-sixth lamp this month. It was nothing new. We replaced a lot of things in this house because Wyatt was breaking them in anger or one of us was rough-housing or we pushed it over when we brought our… guests home.
"Relax, Wy, it's not the first time this has happened. Do you see the shiner on her cheek?" Seth called from his work room halfway down the hall. That fat ass never left his computer screens. Seven of us were gathered in the massive living space that connected to the second-floor balcony and the open kitchen to the left. But Seth hibernated in his computer room and only slunk out to grab food before hiding away again.
"Shut the fuck up, Seth!" Wyatt bellowed and then kicked the coffee table. Ginger leaped nimbly out of the way, stuffing a burrito into her mouth. She eased herself onto the couch opposite the kitchen, munching away happily like Wyatt's rage fest was the greatest thing she'd seen since the burrito truck yesterday.
"Look, Wyatt, I don't know what your problem is, we'll just get him the next time. He didn't steal anything because I managed to…" I blinked as I pictured Hunter above me and then I shook my head, "I managed to detain him long enough that he couldn't get to our wealthy gentleman's goods. Nothing went wrong except I got fucking punched and we must pay for the damn coffee table. So shut the hell up and stop complaining." I threw a pillow at Wyatt. He smacked the object away as he snarled at me. I stalked across the living room, refusing to look at the pissed off blond.
"I honestly don't blame him," Elizabeth told me as she footballed a burrito to Ginger across the living room. She turned to me, crossing her arms, "I could have done a better job than that and I'm like Ginger except I do a better job than her." I leveled a look of disgust at the preppy blonde. I turned my back on her to reach into the cabinet.
"Liz," I stated - this bitch always claimed she was better than the rest of us even though she barely did any work - "that's a steaming pile of shit and you know it. Peyton and I were the first ones to create this crew and we'll be the last one here because your arrogant ass-" I pointed at her with the jar of twizzlers I'd grabbed "-will get the rest of them killed."
"Your confidence is alluring, Elizabeth, but we both know Skylar and Wyatt are the professional killers. You've never killed a man in your life; therefore, you have no actual blood on your hands and your thoughts are invalid," Peyton descended the main staircase that connected the kitchen and the main room. I stuck my tongue out at Elizabeth. She returned the gesture.
"So, what are we going to tell our wealthy donor?" Lewis asked, bringing us back to the topic at hand. He offered Peyton a hand to step down to couch level, "Skylar let the mark get away - I apologize," he looked up, knowing that I gaped at him, "but it's true - and the job is not done. What are we going to tell him?" He asked again, pushing a glass to his lips. Our personal Adonis had a point.
"We failed and we'll send in a better killer this time around," Wyatt barked. I leveled a hard look at him as I stuck a twizzler in my mouth.
"You couldn't do a better job than I did, Wy," I retaliated as I slammed the jar down onto the counter, just to emphasize my point, "he didn't steal shit and what's that?" I mocked, glancing around like somebody was speaking, "oh yeah! You've missed your fair share of marks too! So, you have no damn room to talk!" My blood boiled beneath the surface. Sure, yeah, I did let Hunter get away. That was on me. But when Wyatt wanted to fight, I wasn't going to hold back. I fucked Hunter; I was in the wrong. But Wyatt wanted a fight. I would fucking give it to him.
"HEY! Hector was a one-time mistake!" Wyatt shouted. Oh, yeah. I loved bringing up Hector Castro. Drug lord extraordinaire and one of the latest marks that Wyatt missed. He'd only missed three marks. Two in his early career when he was just learning how to kill and Hector Castro, big fat man. Somehow, Hector had gotten away from him and knocked him out. Hector had no reason to get away from Wyatt. But he did. And I would never ever, ever let this motherfucker live it down.
"But you still missed, bitch!" I shouted back, my voice cracking at the end. Adrenaline pumped through me. Oh, Wyatt and I were going to fight today -
"What are you? Children?" Peyton snapped. Wyatt and I snapped to attention like dogs who had just gotten caught barking - which I suppose we were… "Grow up. You've both missed marks before. I didn't teach you all to be foolish and immature and fight amongst yourselves. I am a better teacher than that."
"Why don't we just send both of them in?" Ginger piped up, crossing her legs underneath her. We all looked at her. The tiny scout munched happily on her burrito like a rabbit, "So, if one fails, the other can pick up the slack." Wyatt wrinkled his nose in disgust, glancing over at me.
"That's a god aw -"
"That's a wonderful idea, Ginger," Peyton cut in smoothly. "It's exactly what I was thinking. I just didn't speak first. Executioners," she turned her hard-gray eyes on me and Wyatt, "does that sound like a plan?" Peyton and I had started this crew and now she ran it. She didn't do the killing anymore. She just relaxed, schmoozed our clients, and basked in her glory. She was our boss.
"It's whatever, fine," Wyatt waved her away, storming up the stairs. I glared after him, silently sneering. Lewis set his glass down and followed the other executioner, intending to calm him down.
"Leave him, Lewis," I rolled my eyes, "he's acting like a child." Lewis turned eyes to Peyton, intending to get confirmation that he should let Wyatt go. My irritation spiked at his movement. I had just as much authority here. We had been the first two. I was a veteran at this bullshit. I had even recruited Lewis. I had seen how he pulled males and females alike and how deadly he could be when he put his mind to it. Now we used him to get information from unsuspecting people. And he looked to Peyton. I frowned. She shook her head.
"Skylar is right. He will come around eventually and when he does, we will discuss a plan of action forward," she waved her hand. He dipped his head once and then he, too, left the living room. I rubbed my forehead.
"When is Mr. DiAngelo asking to schedule a meeting so we can discuss another plan of action forward?" I inquired. I closed the jar on the twizzlers only having opened them to have something to do with my hands. They weren't necessarily my favorite. Peyton frowned as she joined me and Liz in the kitchen. I leaned back against the counter as she started to get things out to cook. She took great pride in her cooking skills. It was one of the only normal things I had ever seen her do. It was almost dinner time.
"Tomorrow," she said, "he wants us to bring Seth along as well so he can have him set up an advanced security system. And Ginger," Peyton called to our little scout. The brunette sat up like a meerkat, eyes wide.
"Yes, Pey?" she returned. Peyton scowled at the nickname but didn't object.
"We will need you as well tomorrow. Mr. DiAngelo wants to take you to the Fawkes Institute-"
"Wait, wait," I pushed forward, raising my hands. "Fawkes? As in, the Fawkes Annual Ball for Raising Money blah blah? Whatever it is? Why are we going there? That's dangerous as shit. Not only is it full of political influential figures, it's full of other assassins, killers, and mercenaries. Not to mention, the amount of security-" Peyton turned to me, a patronizing smile on her face. I heated. I hated when she treated me like I was lesser.
"Sky, are you scared of a little danger? Mr. DiAngelo knows that Mr. Lee will be at this event. We need Ginger to scout out every possible way he might escape. We may even need Elizabeth. This venue is big. He cannot beat you like he did yesterday in public-" he couldn't do what he did to me in public, I almost laughed at the thought. Just fuck on the stage in front of all the senators. How amusing would that be? - "and we can corner him effectively, especially if you and Wyatt work together as a team."
"I'm not scared of anything, Peyton," I crossed my arms, "you know I've stood against the best and come out on the other side. I'm worried." She raised a perfect brow. We had drifted apart as the crew grew larger. And she treated me as a lesser rather than an equal like we were supposed to. "It is going to be extremely dangerous. Lee won't just be at this event. We can track him down after or, fuck, even before!"
"Mr. DiAngelo is our client, Skylar," she turned her back on me. I sneered at her. "We will do as he asks." There was no point in pushing it further. When Peyton set her mind on something, it was accomplished. Even if it was incredibly stupid.
"Fine. What time do we need to be ready?"
"10 am, go inform Wyatt," she ordered. I stiffened, half-tempted to tell her to fuck off. She had no business treating me like I was some dog, like I was Wyatt. Liz watched the whole exchange silently. She might've been preppy and annoying, but she knew when to be silent. I glanced over at her and she gave me an apologetic frown before she joined Peyton's side to start helping her cook dinner for tonight. I turned on my heel and marched out of the kitchen.
Fifteen years doing this bullshit. We started as two young women with a broken past and a useful skill- killing. We earned our reputation. And we did it together. And now here she was, bossing me around like everything that we went through didn't mean anything to her. I was almost glad I hadn't killed Lee. It was one secret way I got one up on her. I had control of how our missions went and all she had to do was make sure we executed it. Wyatt and I - we were the ones with control in the assassinations. Technically. We made sure the mark died. It wouldn't take long for me to find Wyatt. I knew his solace was the porch that overlooked the valley. For such a violent man, he found peace in one of the least violent things. And despite how often we fought, Wyatt was one of the ones I was closest to in the crew. We had tried the whole dating thing. It didn't work. But when I needed something, he offered and vice versa. He had been one of the first people we had recruited, an unrefined assassin until Peyton and I had taken him in.
I slid open the glass door and approached him. He leaned over the railing, scowling at the scenery. He had the pistol that had our snake on it holstered at his hip. We traded the gun back and forth depending on who was going to meetings and who wasn't. He looked like a killer. His shoulders tensed immediately as my foot hit the deck. I rolled my eyes. We were going to bicker again. I could feel it. Our fights were heated, but I didn't truly hate him. We killed for a living and we had a competitive streak between the both of us. And we sometimes did physically fight, but in the end, we always supported the other against whatever opposed us. We had no other choice.
"Wy," I joined his side. He didn't look at me. "Peyton says we're meeting with DiAngelo at 10 tomorrow."
"Amazing," he drawled, "can you leave now?"
"She also mentioned we'd be going to the Fawkes Gala-" he rounded on me.
"You're fucking joking? Doesn't she know-"
"Yes, she does, and she doesn't care. She says DiAngelo wants us to take Lee out at the Gala," I shrugged and propped my hip up against the railing to watch him explode again. It was always amusing to watch, especially if it wasn't at me. "I don't make the rules, Wy, not anymore. I just follow them."
"We are the most hated crew because we take all the business. And she wants us to risk our lives for some stupid mark? DiAngelo's money is good but not that good. I won't go. I actually value my life," he snarled.
"I do, too, but what Peyton says goes, you know that. We just have to hope that the political influence there is strong enough to deter anyone from attacking-"
"It won't be enough, and you know it. The last time we went to that Gala we nearly lost Grayson. Albeit, he crossed a line, but the point still stands. Peyton needs to figure out something else-"
"Wyatt," I interrupted. He frowned at me. "You don't have a choice. We'll go to the Gala and be careful. Lee probably won't show, and we can see the new crews who think they can take our business. It'll be a win-win for us. Just… just try not to lose your temper."
"Me?" He scoffed and rolled his eyes, but I could tell I had somewhat convinced him. His mouth curved into a half-smile. "I never lose my temper. I just yell because you do."
"Oh? Is that right? So, I'm the one who breaks all the lamps in our house?"
"Oh, fuck off, Sky."
I crossed my arms as I leaned back from the conference table. Wyatt and I flanked Peyton on her right and Ginger and Elizabeth flanked Peyton to her left. She had decided that both scouts were needed because the Fawkes Institution was a big establishment. And the assumption was made that DiAngelo would take both to go.
DiAngelo sat across the table from us, his men flanking him on either side. The calm irritation on his face was mildly impressive. He was one of the only men I had met who could pull it off. A Spaniard, a multi-millionaire, tech titan, and apparently master of the poker face. He was built like a mountain, but quiet. Quite intimidating. And yet I had decided to fuck Lee on the furniture in his study. I smirked and glanced over at Wyatt. The man mirrored me, slouched, arms crossed.
"I'm so glad you have invited us back to try and eradicate a problem that is infecting both of us now," Peyton started, laying her hands flat on the table. A picture of the sincerest apology. "He harmed one of my executioners," she gestured to me. DiAngelo's dark eyes landed on me as if to assess that I had indeed been harmed. I pursed my lips, daring him to judge me. "But she managed to make sure he did not steal anything from you that night. We are not incompetent-"
"You destroyed my home-"
"Which we will pay for when we complete the task you have required of us," Peyton interjected with a soft smile. He frowned and then sat forward.
"Agreed," he conceded. "We have information that Lee will be at the Gala next month. He is going to flaunt himself in front of everyone to prove that he cannot be caught and… I would very much like that night to be the night he dies. He has… wronged me." I sat forward.
"Wronged you? Excuse me, Mr. DiAngelo, but he hasn't even stolen anything from you, yet. I stopped him-"
"Yes, it seems you did but how did you do that? It should have been so easy to kill him but why did he get away?" DiAngelo interrupted. I glared at him.
"He put me down. It happened. But he hasn't stolen anything from you," I challenged, "why hunt him? If he's stealing from your competitors doesn't it look good for you? While you stand tall, the others fall around you."
"He is bad for business," DiAngelo said softly. I took a deep breath. "He needs to die." I could see Peyton glaring at me from the corner of my eye, but I ignored her. DiAngelo and I had a staring contest. I truly had never made eye contact with someone of this much power. Why exactly did he want Lee dead?
"Miss Rowan," Peyton interjected. I held DiAngelo's stare a little longer before looking at her.
"You'll forgive me," I got to my feet. "I just know that what he will be asking us to do at that Gala is incredibly risky. And while I will do as you ask, Miss Hartford, but I will not sit around and plot our deaths." Wyatt snorted.
"I did not dismiss you-"
"And I do not care," I gave Peyton an easy smile, "you know when I do a job, I get it done. So, whatever you instruct of me, Miss Hartford." I dipped my head to DiAngelo and marched myself out of the room.
I looked at myself in the mirror, trying to see what had changed about me. What had completely made me throw my morals - no matter how twisted - out the window for some random reason. I never fucked up a mark. I never messed up. Sure, I lost marks, sometimes. But I never willingly let someone get away. Let alone sleep with them.
I touched the cut on my lip. It was crazy that it was just last night that it happened. That I had gotten overwhelmed by something as juvenile as hormones. I frowned and leaned back. It didn't matter. Wyatt would probably take the kill at the Gala anyway. Liz and Ginger were indeed taken to the Fawkes Institute to check out the place. Wyatt and I would set up a plan of action and we would execute it. Wyatt would take the kill, rub it in my face for a few weeks, and our way of life would move on.
So why… oh why was I concerned about Lee's safety? I had no attachment to him except for the quick session we had against DiAngelo's wall. But he intrigued me. The way he was so willing to throw his life away. What if I hadn't been so freely gratuitous with my mercy? He had a pair of solid steel ones for playing with his life so freely.
Maybe it was that arrogance, that confidence, that attracted me to him. He gave me the option to take control of the situation and Peyton had taken that away from me when she took control of the reins. And Lee had given me that option back. If only for a moment. I let out a laugh.
"Something funny, Miss Rowan?" I turned around with a flash, raising my hands in defense. And there he was. That gorgeous asshole. He looked surprisingly casual, dark jeans and a t-shirt. He had a bruise on his cheek and there was that fun little cut from my knife on his neck. It added to his looks rather than detracted from them. I blinked at him. Like he wasn't real. My mind had conjured him up. It probably did.
"How the hell did you get into the house? Seth has all these-"
"Cameras, yeah," he tilted his chin back and ran his finger over the cut, looking in the mirror. "You know, those knives were very sharp. Just a little touch-"
"Mr. Lee, what the hell are you doing in this manor?" I snapped. "DiAngelo still has a hit on your head-"
"Yes, yes, I know," he waved away my concerns and moved towards me. My back hit the sink as he left six inches of space between us. Barely six inches. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and lifted his eyes to examine himself in the mirror again. He was just as vain as he was arrogant. "Seth might have set up some very nice cameras, but they are easily hacked. At least, with what my money can buy-"
"Lee, what are you doing here! I still have orders to kill you-"
"And Seth, despite what you think, has friends in the hacker community who pay him on the side-"
"-I know," I blinked, shaking my head, raising my hands. "Peyton doesn't-"
"-so, a simple paycheck and a few words and I was onto your property like," he snapped his fingers and his dark eyes locked onto mine. I inhaled sharply. His grin was seductive, and I wanted to push him against the wall and have a repeat of last time. "Just like that."
"What are you doing here, Lee? I should kill you. We talked to DiAngelo - I should kill you." My voice dropped to a murmur and his grin dropped to a faint smile. "I should finish the job that I started," I raised my hand and traced the cut along his throat. His eyes never left mine. "I should cut your throat and put you on a silver platter for Peyton and DiAngelo to see. And I would get the pay because I managed to lure you on to my home turf and then I killed you in my own bedroom," I dropped my hand down to his hip. "Using my feminine wits."
"That would be very clever of you, Miss Rowan-"
"Call me, Skylar, since we're in such an…" I raised a brow, "intimate position." He grinned at me, that teasing grin of a boy who knew exactly what had happened between you and him in the past and would love to have a repeat of the performance. "Why are you here, Hunter?" I asked, my breath catching in my chest.
"The better question is why haven't you hurt me yet, Skylar? I am open for you to harm. For you to kill," he pressed closer to me and my eyes fluttered shut. You will not give into him again. He's using you. He probably was using me. He would twist my arm with his charms, and he would take this time from me and run off into the world with some extra info and an extra wad of cash. All because I couldn't keep it in my pants. But he was alluring. He was dangerous. And he did this with everyone.
"Hunter," I murmured and opened my eyes, "why are you here?" He took a deep breath and stepped away from me. That alluring, charismatic man vanished before my eyes and I saw a tired one take his place. The transformation was almost magical.
"DiAngelo wants me dead, but he's the real monster here," he stepped backwards until his back knock on the door jam.
"All millionaires are monsters-"
"DiAngelo murders innocent families in poor countries to take their land, Skylar," Hunter snapped. I raised a brow in surprise. Yes, a completely different man than the one who got out of my grip yesterday. Was it just yesterday? "He is the one you need to kill, not me."
"Suppose you're right-"
"I am right, ask Seth to check for you."
"Fine, you're right," I conceded and crossed my arms, "then what would you have me do about it? Kill DiAngelo instead of you? Turn my back against everything I have worked so hard to achieve-" Why, oh, why was I even still talking to him? I kept knives everywhere in this house. In fact, there was one in the cabinet beneath the sink. Hell, there was one in the dresser behind him next to the door. It would be so easy to kill him and take the money. But his words had some credit. People like Hunter didn't start vicious rumors. They were ruthlessly honest because lying truly didn't get you anywhere except into a deeper hole.
"You haven't achieved anything. Peyton has. She's the one who runs the show," he countered. Red blinded my vision and I surged forward, digging my fingers into his shirt.
"Peyton and I did this together. We started this together-" I started with a snarl. He pushed himself off the wall. His hands wrapped around my biceps, holding me against his frame. There was anger and frustration written across his handsome features.
"Peyton has been getting a stipend from DiAngelo for months! They are behind this together! She's sleeping with him-" I released him and went to step away from him, but his fingers dug into my arms. He was lying. He was lying. Peyton might have been a killer, but she was not underhanded. She wouldn't just let someone destroy lives to take things because that's what happened to her- to us. We lost everything to a man just like DiAngelo and we took the matters into our own hands. She would not-
"She would not share a bed with a man just like the one that hurt us! She wouldn't!" I pleaded, my voice catching. "Peyton wouldn't do that… not… not to me…"
"She's with DiAngelo, Skylar…" his voice dropped, and his grip loosened a fraction. "And I'm the one who found out. So, this whole working DiAngelo charade is her trying to cover up that she is making a profit off destroying lives," Hunter said and lifted my chin so I could make eye contact with him. He wasn't lying. Men like him didn't lie. I hardened, lowering my eyes.
"Fine… what can I do about it? Kill DiAngelo, risk the wrath of my crew, and then go on the run? Like you?" I retorted and when I stepped away, he let me.
"Kill DiAngelo. You say Peyton wouldn't do this? Kill DiAngelo and stop him. Stop her," he gestured to where he assumed her room would be. "Don't let someone go through what you had to-" I raised my hand.
"DiAngelo is just one man. There are so many others out there like him-"
"Yes, but DiAngelo is with Peyton," Hunter interjected. "And he can be the first of many."
"I've killed before-"
"That's not the point, Skylar, and you know it. Do something about DiAngelo. I've warned you and I've given you the facts. It is up to you. I'm not giving you an order or demanding you do something. Hell," he raised his hands, stepping into my bedroom and out of my bathroom, "I won't even pay you. I'll just let your conscience do the talking."
"I am literally a killer for hire." I followed him. It was strange to see him in my room. This man, one of my marks, someone I should kill, was walking into my room like he owned it. Like there were not seven other people living in this house that would gladly kill him. Especially my fellow executioner across the hall. "Do not… Wyatt is across the hallway-"
"Wyatt doesn't scare me," Hunter turned to face me. That confidence that he wore like a comfortable jacket slid right back on.
"He should. He started off- it doesn't matter. You need to leave."
"Think about what I said, you have the power here. I'll be at the Gala, whatever choice you decide, whatever scheme you and your Sinful Eight decide to do," he took a deep breath. I stood in front of him, daring him to… to do what I wasn't sure. He licked his lips as he looked down at me. All six foot two inches of him. "Whatever you decide to do, you can have that weigh on your conscience." He bit his lip in thought before he grabbed my face and kissed me long and hard. I melted into him instantly. He broke the kiss and then he was gone.
Wyatt and I stood on the second-floor balcony overlooking the empty room. The Gala would be held here in two week's time. Ginger and Elizabeth stood in the center of the massive room, pointing out various things that scouts noticed. We had been scouring this place for weeks and they still hadn't covered every exit and entrance and possible scenario. DiAngelo had spoken with the owner of the Institution so my crew could examine the space in private without all the inquiries.
"There is something wrong with you," Wyatt murmured as we scanned the room. DiAngelo's men guarded the doors. Did these men know who they were working for? Did they care? I doubted they cared. I rubbed my face.
"Besides the obvious, there is nothing wrong with me," I drawled. He leaned against the railing with a scoff.
"You've been quiet for days. Ever since that little blow up with DiAngelo - which was weird by the way- you've kept your head down and avoided Peyton. You and Peyton always side together," he reasoned, gesturing with his chin to where DiAngelo and Peyton stood side by side. Her auburn hair was done up in a twist and she wore business casual that hid her true power. DiAngelo touched her back and I forced back a snarl. After Hunter had mentioned that she was sleeping with him, I looked for it. And now that I was paying attention, I could see it. I could see how she whored herself to him. How she let him use her- "Skylar."
"It's nothing, Wyatt," I waved him away, leaning on the railing as well. Deflect. Deflect. Deflect. "I'm fine."
"Maybe you should stay home from the Gala. You might fuck up this hit," Wyatt suggested. That hit my pride like a sledgehammer. I didn't fuck up hits. I was calculated. I rounded on him.
"You just want to take the glory from me. I need my redemption if I want the next one. I get this hit," I retorted. He grinned at me, shaking his head.
"Nah, you don't get the kill. This mark goes on my list." He tapped his pocket. "If you manage to pull your depressed head out of your ass, maybe I'll even tell Peyton you helped me." He winked at me and then pushed off the railing. "Two weeks for things to settle, Sky," Wyatt reminded me as he sauntered away, "or that hit is mine alone and I will never let you live it down." I watched him walk away and the mirth dropped as soon as his back rounded the corner. I turned back to DiAngelo and Peyton. She turned into him, covering her mouth with her hand as she whispered to him.
How had I not noticed the intimacy? Or when his call had come in eight weeks ago that she had been adamant we take this job even though Hunter was too low-profile, something we would never, never take because we aren't amateurs. We had over fifteen years of experience and the simple assassination of a thief? It was almost embarrassing. Obviously, I had fucked that, quite literally, and gotten some useful, if not life-changing, information from it. And Peyton had no idea that I had gained that information.
And she was so proud that she had pulled one over on us, the Sinful Eight, that she couldn't even see that her best friend had pulled away from her. I tapped my chin. Peyton and I had stopped becoming friends the second our crew grew bigger than just the two of us. Twelve years ago. It was as irritating as it was heartbreaking.
We lost our parents together because they got in the way of a blood feud. And we had vowed to end men like that. We trained ourselves. We became renowned ourselves. And she threw that away because of her arrogance and a man that killed people just like our parents. He had to have been some kind of man to change her mind.
He needed to die. And I would do that.
It would be simple. Ginger and Elizabeth had laid it out. The high-profile people, such as senators and politicians would be gathered in a separate ballroom during the middle of the Gala for some important meeting. Elizabeth would be there to make sure that Hunter would not be among them. We would kill Hunter when the most important, the most guarded people, would be out of the way. Less security, the better. Of course, the assassins, the mercenaries, the killers, etc., etc. would be there but they knew when to step back and let a kill happen. They would mingle and sip their fancy drinks and turn their backs when we killed Hunter. A nice throat cut in a dark hallway. It wouldn't have to be clean. DiAngelo's men would clean it up like they had promised before.
I took Wyatt's hand as he helped me out of the fancy car, I was too lazy to know the name of. We had the money for it. Money that Peyton got. Dirty fucking money. I took a moment to appreciate how nice Wyatt looked. He was dressed in a black sports jacket and with a black shirt that hugged his frame. He even left the top buttons undone to tease whoever was looking. And with his blonde hair, he stood out and I would be the envy of every woman here. And Wyatt would be the envy of every man. I wore a deep blue dress that was just low enough to be provocative but high enough that any man would have to be in my space to see down my dress. My hair was up to expose my neck. A silent and beautiful killer. We walked up together, arm in arm, smiling and laughing like we weren't cold-blooded killers who killed for money.
I scanned the security at the doors as we walked in. High-profile political ones. We would have no one turning the other way at the door. So, this event wasn't the regularly funded one. This was a political event. Which would have been nice to know a few weeks ago. A fact DiAngelo kindly left out.
"Not paid security," I leaned into Wyatt with a soft smile. He turned into me as we passed the doors with a look of practiced heat.
"This will make everything difficult when we need to leave," he kissed my cheek and brushed his nose against my ear. A look of a promise. My eyes wandered around the crowd, assessing each man. And there, Hunter stood in a dark suit and a crisp white shirt, sipping a glass of champagne. He laughed with a female senator I didn't remember the name of.
"There he is," I breathed, and Wyatt drew away from me to see where my eyes had gone.
"You can't kill him, can you?" Wyatt said softly. I stepped away from him, shocked.
"What the fuck do you mean?" I growled.
"You found something out. That's what has been bothering you. You're sleeping with him. Or... Or…" he trailed off at my silence, "what did you find out? Skylar… if this ruins our hit, I deserve to know." I took a deep breath and gave him a practiced smile. I slid my hand into his. Two people desperately in love with each other who just needed to get some alone time. We had practiced that many times. I led him into a dark hallway, giving the security at the doors that half-breath of 'please, just a moment alone with my love' and they let us through.
I opened a door to some random room, a room full of paintings and I shut the door behind him.
"Skylar, what the hell is going on? Peyton won't think much of us sneaking off, we do that often at these events-"
"Peyton!? Peyton is the problem, Wyatt! She is fucking DiAngelo. That is why we took this stupid hit. And she is getting money off him. And that money is coming from destroying lives and destroying families. Just like what happened to us!" I snarled. He stared at me. My chest heaved at the weight of releasing it all. Everything processed in an instant and he nodded once.
"Okay? That's it? Not a 'you're crazy, Sky, go fuck yourself and let's just do the job-'"
"You're not wrong, not often. And you are never wrong about shit like this. We may fight and we may be competitive, but you are not often wrong. And I hate Peyton. I always have. And if she's in DiAngelo's pocket, then DiAngelo must go," he waved his hand as if that were the most obvious thing in the world. "We might be killers, but we do not condone the killing of innocents. And that is how Peyton is getting her money."
"I- I really… I didn't expect this… I didn't expect you-"
"We are the executioners. You know the rest of the crew thinks we're less than they are because we get our hands dirty. We stick together. So, what is the new plan?" I crossed my arms. He shrugged as if to say 'well.'
"I… DiAngelo," I blinked rapidly and recovered, moving deeper into the room. "DiAngelo will be with the senators. He is one of the biggest donors here-"
"Great, so we can't kill DiAngelo-"
"I didn't say that. He… he should stop before going into the ballroom to talk. He's going to look over the men and I can lure him. Peyton will already be in the room, sitting at his table, waiting for him." I placed my hands on my hips and looked at the beautiful paintings on the wall. They hung like sentries. He was about the looks and what she could give him. I could give him those same exact things. I just came in a different package. "I will lure him away. You just have to make sure Peyton stays where she is."
"I can do that," he nodded and moved to me. He offered me the hilt of a knife. I almost laughed. My weapon of choice. "Make it hurt, my beautiful, beautiful partner in crime. And make Peyton hurt."
"You know, if we lived a different life," I turned to look at him and his brown eyes danced with amusement. "I would have loved you."
"And you don't love me now?" He teased. I slid my hand around the hilt and kissed his cheek.
"Not like I could, Wy."
I scanned the crowd a few hours later. I sipped on champagne. I played my part. I looked pretty and I held knives and I did all the killing. I played my part for Peyton. For her. For the crew we built, and she threw it all away for some rich asshole who gave her some dick on the side? I bit my tongue to keep myself from snarling out right. We were monsters. I wouldn't deny that. We took filthy money all the time. But we also vetted the source. We made sure that money was not earned by taking innocent lives. And I fought tooth and nail each time we did take jobs like that. And I didn't take the kill or go in as the lure. I avoided them and I hated her for it.
And now here we were. I finished the champagne as the bell was rung for the high-class senators and businessmen to go into the ballroom. My eyes settled on DiAngelo and Peyton, the wealthy Spaniard and the beautiful auburn beauty who ran the most dangerous organization in the world. And she took it all with a smile. DiAngelo paused to talk to someone and urged Peyton to go on ahead of him. The look she gave him was of adoration. He touched her cheek with a whispered promise, and she went inside. I watched as the sleek assassin of my friend slid past DiAngelo and linked arms with Peyton. Confused, yet pleasantly surprised, Peyton smiled warmly at the handsome executioner and they started chatting. Wyatt, despite his anger, was amazing at schmoozing beautiful women.
I set my glass down on a passing tray and moved forward, my eyes set on DiAngelo. I slid past senators and guards and people to get to him and I did. He turned into me just as I found his side. I let out a laugh of embarrassment.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. DiAngelo. I didn't mean to bump into you, I was, uh, looking for someone," I gave him a soft smile, a smile I had practiced, that was full of promises. He studied me for a moment and returned my look. He put his hand on mine that touched his arm.
"It's quite okay, Miss Rowan. Can I help you find them? I know quite a few people here," he dipped his head to the security surrounding him. He moved us off to the side as people filed in. I slipped my hand into his.
"I wanted to apologize, Mr. DiAngelo. My outburst and my… coldness…" I trailed off and I walked into a dark hallway. The dark hallway with a view. The moonlight would stream down on us. He would think it romantic. He followed just like I knew he would. He shut the door to the hallway.
"I know you must have your reasons for being that way, Miss Rowan. I do not blame you for it. In fact, I… admire," he stepped into my personal space. I inhaled sharply. "... you for your courage to stand up to me."
"Oh, Mr. DiAngelo," I let out a breathless laugh, "please don't flatter me. I know that you and Miss Hartford are… in a relationship. I wouldn't want Peyton to be angry with me." I blushed and looked away. My hand fell to my thigh. I had tucked the blade away there. The slit up my leg was high enough for me to reach it whenever I needed it. And it would be easy. It would be so easy to get him.
"Oh, please, Miss Rowan-"
"Skylar, Mr. DiAngelo," I interrupted, turning into him. He caught my hands at his chest, pushing me up against the wall between two statues. "My name is Skylar."
"Skylar…" he breathed. I wanted to hiss at him, spit in his face. He manipulated Peyton and killed innocents. I hated him. "Peyton is of no concern to you. She is… a business investment. Your crew is valuable, and I need her, but if I have you…" he pressed his nose into my neck. I tilted my chin up, exposing myself to him. He gave in easily. I moaned softly, a lure. My hands dropped down to his hips, down to my hip. I dragged the dress up and his hands touched my thighs.
"Sir…" I gasped and then my hand found the hilt of the knife. "I can't…" I slid it out as quietly as I could.
"Shh," he murmured and kissed my ear, "let me show what I can do for you." I grabbed his face with my free hand, pulling his head back so I could look him in the eyes.
"No, Mr. DiAngelo, let me show you what I can do for you," I let out a snarl, my lips curling in a cruel smile as I drove the knife straight into his ribs, once, twice, three times. "You are a corrupt man," I said softly as he fell to my knees, "and you broke my friend." The blood was fresh and warm. I had conquered him. I had made the right choice. I had saved my friend. The one who had betrayed me.
"Skylar!" Peyton's startled scream pulled me to reality. I looked up, calm. She stood in the doorway, her hands covering her mouth. She looked so in un-regal this moment. I couldn't help but feel like her whole image was crafted. And I suppose it was. She loved to think she was in control, but she never truly was.
"Peyton, I'm so glad you could be here to witness this." I gestured to her lover.
"What… what have you done…" she choked. She stumbled towards me; her feet unsteady. "Skylar…"
"Don't! Do not pretend you are the victim here! You have been in bed with DiAngelo and his dirty money for months!" I snarled, the anger finally clicking. I stalked towards her. She inhaled and drew her shoulders back, the tears spilling down her cheeks. "You knew exactly how he was getting his money and yet you still slept with him-"
"It wasn't just that, Skylar! I am in love with him!" She shouted.
"He wanted to fuck me; did you know that? He was going to toss you aside as soon as I offered myself up to him," I spat. She shook her head and stepped away from me.
"No, Nicholas loved me-"
"He didn't," I retorted. "He set us out to kill Hunter because Hunter knew what he was doing-"
"Hunter?" she asked, and recognition ignited. "Hunter! This was him! He manipulated you into doing this! You've been acting strange for weeks! -"
"You were fucking the man that destroyed us, Peyton! Fucking him! Men like him destroyed our lives," I cried in rage, "and you jump into bed with them! What kind of woman are you?"
"Do not… do not come at me with that, Skylar. You are a killer. Your hands are just as filthy as mine," she sneered. I rolled my eyes and threw the knife on the ground with a clatter. I looked over my shoulder at DiAngelo as he bled out on the floor.
"At least I don't take children from their parents, Peyton. Cry over the death of a monster. But I'm done. I am done with you and the Sinful Crew we have created. I have no idea how long you've been in bed with monsters, but I won't stand for it anymore-" I spun on my heel and stalked away. Heat doused every nerve. I stepped in the quickly spreading pool of DiAngelo's blood, leaving a trail of blood in my wake. Just like I did in my true life.
"They won't side with you, Skylar!" she shouted after me. I froze. "The rest of the crew won't side with you. I will turn them against you-" I looked over my shoulder, fury in my eyes.
"Do your worst, Peyton Hartford. I will be the only one standing at the end of this," I snarled. I gave her one last look. My best friend. The one who betrayed me and everything we stood for. It was over. And then I fled.
"You did the right thing." I inhaled, my fingers tightening on the butter knife at the table. It had been three weeks. No one had found me. I hadn't been killed. Of course, I had moved halfway across the world to France where the men were quiet, and the wine was delicious.
"Hunter," I tilted my chin as a gracious offer to sit at my table. "It is not very wise for you to be sneaking up on a woman who is hunted." He chuckled and sat down in the seat across from me. He looked just as good as the last day I had seen him. Dark hair messy and unkempt but in sexy way and casual clothes. A killer disguised as a man.
"Killing DiAngelo was the best thing you could have done-"
"It also put me on the run from the most elite killing organization in the world," I interjected with a slam. The wine glasses rattled on the table. He raised a brow. "She's after me, Hunter. And it won't be long until she catches me."
"Maybe…" he conceded. I rolled my eyes and looked out over the river. I didn't need him to repeat what I already knew. "Or maybe not." I took a deep breath, irritated.
"What do you mean-" I turned to glare at him, but Wyatt appeared out of thin air and took the chair next to him. "Wyatt."
"Hello, Sky," he grinned and took a bite of my bagel.
"What are you both doing here?"
"We're here to help you take down the most elite killing organization in the world," Hunter said as if I should have figured that out by now. "Starting with Peyton Hartford."