Authors: Zahra Girard
A Hitman Romance Novel
If you love PNR, check out my Wolf's Bane Trilogy
– Wolf's Bane Trilogy, Volume 1
– Wolf's Bane Trilogy, Volume 2
– Wolf's Bane Trilogy, Volume 3
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Table of Contents
Copyright © 2016 by Zahra Girard
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It's Friday, and I'm at home in the dirtiest bar in Los Angeles, with the type of people you never turn your back on.
On the table in front of me, brown liquor swirls in a dirty glass.
The air is fragrant with fine tobacco and smoke billows out from the edges of Mickey's mouth as his leathery face splits in a grin. The only light at our table are the glowing red ends of our cigars and the mischievous twinkle in the Irishman's eyes.
This place is dark, dirty, just like the people that call it home every Friday night.
Amid the tart smell of spilt alcohol that's already started to turn to vinegar, I can smell freedom. It's the one thing I want more than anything else. I've been in this business so long, I don't think the blood will ever come off my hands.
But if I can get my freedom, and what I really want to live for, it'll all be worth it.
A murky chuckle pulls me out of my thoughts and back to the table.
"You should have seen her, Ryker. Ah, lad, this bitch had tits as big as watermelons. Perky, too. The most beautiful things I've seen in ages. Absolutely beautiful." He sighs and shuts his eyes, remembering. A tongue slips out between his two wormy lips and gives them a lick. "I don't know who had the larger humps — this whore, or the camel she rode in on. I tell you, Libya is not nearly as bad as it sounds."
Mick spreads his hands in the general shape of a watermelon to show off how large his latest conquests' tits were.
They're pretty damn large.
I nod appreciatively. And I mean it, too. Tits like that are hard to come by.
"Sounds like a fun job," I say.
Mick nods and grunts, swirling and then downing his glass.
Mick's jobs usually end up the same way: wandering around in fucking nowhere for a long time, holding your dick in your fucking hand for-fucking-ever because he never fully vets the assignment, and then barely making it by the skin of your fucking teeth because Mickey
Shaughnessy has the best fucking luck in the entire fucking world.
Then come the prostitutes.
"The world's short one more Berber warlord and I have sandrash on my taint. Nothing special. But, what was special, was this woman, Ryker. I mean, she was like every fantasy I had as a wee lad. Really took me back to the good old days when I'd sneak off with my dad's
anytime there was a 'Women of the Congo' edition. Or whenever they found some uncontacted tribe in Brazil." He whistles. "The hangers on those lasses."
"Alright, Mick. I get it, and I'm happy for you. But let's get down to business and the latest way I'm going to say 'no' to you."
"You're saying 'no' to me, lad? You haven't even heard the pitch."
"With a capital 'N' and a capital 'O'. Followed by 'fuck you'."
"Come on, Ryker, this is a golden opportunity. And I'm putting the team together myself."
Mick's voice is sounds like he's been living on nothing but cigars and cheap whiskey for the past thirty years. Which, as far as I know, is probably the truth. His face looks like it, too. Worn, wrinkled. And in the center, a nose that's been broken at least a dozen times.
I take a drag from my cigar. Enjoy a sip of my whiskey. I take my time. This is not the cheap stuff.
Mick and I have a ritual. Anytime we are in L.A. — which doesn't happen that often — we get together at
The Empty Noose.
We have a cigar, we drink a round in silence, and then we talk shop.
Usually, he'll try to get me in on his latest sure thing.
"Mick, no. You said the same thing the last time around, and how did that turn out?"
He grins at me, cigar in his mouth, not even trying to hide his amusement.
"Hey, we still got paid, didn't we?" Mick still has that patronizing smile on his face, looking partly like someone's dirty old uncle and partly like a used car salesman.
He irritates me, but, I give the old man plenty of leeway. He's how I got into this business, after all.
I take another drink and shake my head. "Yeah, we got paid, but only after six months of running around through the Burmese jungle. It was a fucking nightmare, Mick, and you know it."
"That was more than ten years ago, Ryker. And how was I supposed to figure that our fucking employer would be so goddamned touched in the head?"
I roll my eyes. Hard. "Really, Mick? A Burmese warlord with a pet tiger named Lucifer? Fucking
That he feeds
? That didn't set off any alarm bells?"
Mick is practically blind once dollar signs get involved. But then he is the luckiest fucker I know. He could play cards against a leprechaun while blindfolded and come out aces.
Mick shrugs. "A job's a job. Besides, this one isn't in Burma. We're not going to be dealing with any of those jungle fucks. This one's in Riyadh. A chance to cash in, courtesy of some bored old oil sheikh. It'll be
I stand up. "Mick, no."
"Why? With how obsessed you are at being so close to your magic bloody number, don't you want a job that'll get you there? Unless you've been lying this whole time just because you don't like working with me anymore. Is the Viper too good to work with the man who got him started?"
Mick always brings out my nickname when he gets upset. He knows I hate it.
I only keep it around because I've earned it, and it's good advertising. You only get a nickname in this business by either fucking up spectacularly — like 'Lefty' Jimmy Miles did when he tried to pickpocket an imam on a dare — or by being good. Very good.
I earned my nickname on Mick's mission in Burma. I single-handedly salvaged the damn thing. Pulled the mission right out of the fucking ashes like a goddamned phoenix.
We'd been hired to assassinate a target who turned out to be a ruthless Burmese general. A real son of a bitch who deserved everything he had coming to him. But he was still a general, which should've been another red flag for Mick, if the Irishman had bothered to do any research.
In the end, it'd been up to me to put together a Hail Mary ambush plan.
We hit his convoy hard, fast, and lethal.
I took the fucking heads off of twelve Burmese soldiers and that bastard general, with my high-calibre rifle at fifteen hundred yards. Only took me thirteen shots, too.
One bullet, one dead body.
I'm a professional.
That's how I earned my nickname.
Burma did a lot to boost my career. But it's made me picky, too. Suddenly, retirement became a real possibility if I played my cards right. Retirement is my Shangri-la.
But I know I can get there.
If I'm smart. Which means, no more missions like fucking Burma.
I take our empty glasses up to the bar.
"I didn't last this long by taking crazy risks, Mick. I don't have your fucking Irish luck. I have skill and common fucking sense. And I'm not going with you to fucking Riyadh because I plan to live to see my retirement."
I get another round and start back towards the table.
"And besides, you know Riyadh's a dry country, right? No booze. None. So what's so fucking good that it'll get you to sober up for a few days?"
No one even looks up from their glasses as Mick and I argue about whatever the fuck he's planning in Riyadh.
The Empty Noose
is one of those bars where people don't ask questions.
"One of the princes is making a fuss, doing his own thing, and the rest of the royal family feels like he's outlived his usefulness."
I can't believe my ears.
A prince? A fucking prince?
Those Saudis must be throwing out a lot of cash for Mick to overlook the fact that he was throwing himself into a guaranteed shitstorm.
"Really, Mick? A Saudi Royal? Are you that eager to die?"
"They let me name my own price, Ryker." More smoke billows out of the edges of his crooked smile. "They let me
name my own price
Down goes the whiskey. Mick's mission just became a little more tempting. All I have to do is say yes, and I can be swimming in more cash than I've ever dreamed of.
But these missions are rare for good reason.
I can see it now. Whoever the target is, he is probably holed up in some armed compound somewhere in the middle of the fucking desert with enough weapons to make a warlord wet with jealousy.
"No." I say.
"Your loss. You change your mind before next Friday, you call me."
"I won't. Too much to live for, Mick."
Mick laughs. "You mean all this?"
The Irishman gestures around him in a circle, pointing out the bar's beat-up tables, the broken juke box that would only play three different
songs, and the pool tables with their torn felt.
"It's all so fucking glamorous. I can see why you'd miss it."
"You'll miss it when you're eating sand in prison in fucking Riyadh."
Mick looks about to say more, but shuts up when my phone starts ringing.
I take it out of my pocket.
It's my work phone, but I'm not expecting any clients. Which means the only people who can get ahold of my number have the type of cash and influence to make it worth my while. So it's either a past client or a referral, and either way, they are not the kind of people you ignore.
A robo-voice is on the other end of the line.
Parking lot. Five minutes
I'm pissed. And not just because it's a robo-dialer, but because whoever it is has eyes on me. Here in the bar, or right outside.
"What is it?" Mick asks.
"I dunno. But whatever it is, I don't like it."
Five minutes and another pint later, I'm standing in the parking lot watching every set of headlights passing on the street.
It's another few minutes before they show up. Which doesn't surprise me. If they're the type to spy on me, they're the type to pull the power play of making me wait..
It's a black limo. Stretch. Tinted windows.
I shift my weight a bit just to feel the comfortable heft of the pistol against my back. There's another at my waist and a ka-bar rests in a sheathe against my ankle. Seven inches of hard, sharp steel. Perfect for quiet jobs. Like killing cocky bastards in limos.
The limo parks at the end of the lot.
The headlights flick on and off. Once. Twice.
"Right, I got you." I mutter as I start towards the limo.
Insides, it's spacious. Leather trim, dark, obviously expensive, but otherwise plain. Old money.
The only other man inside is a pale-faced suit who looks in his early thirties. He has a soulless smile and eyes to match. But something about his face rings a bell.
I make it a point to stay up on the news. And right now my potential-client's face is all over it.
If even half the rumors I've heard about this guy were true, I have to stay on my best behavior. Well, as best as I can do. There are limits, you know.
The other man just barely inclines his head.
"Yes, that's right. Shall we get down to business, Mr. Blackwood?"
I nod. "I'm all ears."
"I'm sure you're aware that right now isn't the best time for me or my company, DraxCorp."
That's the understatement of the year. The headlines of every paper in Los Angeles are still ringing with news about yesterdays FBI raid on DraxCorp headquarters and the boxes of stuff that the agents took out of there. Anytime the feds come from your place with dolly-carts loaded full of your shit, it's bad news.
Michael slides a pair of long fingers into his pocket and plucks out a photograph.
"This is Jessica Roan."
Late 20's, shoulder-length brown hair, more than cute and with enough curves that she has my full attention. There's gotta be a catch.
I take the photo.
"Pick her up. Take her somewhere out of the way. Then wait for further instructions."
It's too easy. I do not like 'too easy'. 'Too easy' is what Mick tries to sell me on. 'Too easy' finds you in the Burmese jungle, sick with giardia, running low on supplies, and planning a suicide mission against an armored convoy and happy because, even if you die, at least you'll no longer be in fucking Burma.