Hi guys! So here's a little treat: The prologue of For the Thrill! It comes out 11/08/14, go add it on Goodreads to see more updates and sexy promo images!
Prepare yourself for an intense ride, this book is full of smoking hot hitmen and a curvy, confident woman who maaaaybe doesn't know what she's walked into. ;)
When I think of summer, I always picture blue skies and sprinklers. No clouds, sweat on my throat and an Italian ice numbing my tongue. That was what it meant for me. That was the ideal.
So today, on a June Friday in the park, surrounded by smiling faces and with the weight of a gun in my pocket?
Well. It was pretty much perfect.
Don't get the wrong idea. The gun and the happy people aren't related in the way you think. I'm not a crazed mass shooter. I do have some morals. Some reason.
Right then, that reason was dressed in faded jeans and walking eight yards ahead of me. Thin as a rail, the man looked distinctly like he never ate. The hotdog he held was out of place in his bony fingers. He turned too fast, ketchup staining his neck collar. That red splotch was foreboding.
I wasn't worried he'd notice me. I didn't duck or dive or anything so ridiculous. Surrounded by the crowd that had gathered for the marathon, I was essentially invisible.
“You spot him yet?” The voice buzzed in my ear, feeding through my bluetooth earpiece. Those things had gone out of style sooner then they'd been released, but it was the only way Jacob could reach me. Plus, secretly? I suspect he thought they were cool.
Reaching up, I acted like I was scratching my nose. I never took my attention off of my target. “Just enjoying the sun at this point,” I whispered. “Hope you're not bored over there without me.”
Jacob snorted. “Race is about to start.” He paused, a smile coating his voice. “Sorry you'll miss the action.”
“Now you're just trying to be clever,” I said. Lowering my chin, I tightened my grip on my gun. The target—sorry, I guess I should use his name—Frank had changed directions. The way he was moving, heading towards the start of the marathon where Jacob was... I'd need to adjust my route. “How long, exactly?”
The earpiece crackled. I pictured Jacob, weeding closer to the starting line. “Announcer is out there, everyone is in position and doing that leg-stretch thing they always do. Fifteen seconds, max.”
In my chest, my heart was starting its familiar music. All drums, all going full tempo. Cutting across the grass, I took long steps to make sure I could get in front of Frank. Timing was everything, anyone who said otherwise was just waving away their own fuck ups. “Count down for me when his hand is up,” I said. It was a hushed demand. No one around me would hear.
Frank was slowing, his eyes—everyone's eyes—pointing at the end of the park. I could see the milling group of runners, the packed sidelines. I couldn't see Jacob, but I didn't try to. I was stuck like a magnet on Frank's approaching figure.
I'd been behind him earlier, now I'd circled in front.
“Four seconds,” Jacob stated flatly.
A cool darkness settled over me. It crawled from my belly upwards, then out; it made my fingers tingle on the gun. Frank wasn't seeing me, he'd slowed on the path. The hotdog hovered by his lips. The last thing he'd ever eat.
I never blinked, my lungs didn't even flex. One breath was all I needed.
“Three,” the voice said in my ear. I guided the Ruger from my inner pocket. “Two,” Jacob insisted, and I sensed his excitement—like he could see through my skull and experience what I was about to. He hadn't said it directly, but how could he not be envious? This was it, this was the epitome of our years in this business. Minutes from now, everything changes.
It always amazed me, the way a single second could stretch like chewed gum, going as far as your arms could spread before finally snapping.
Clear headed, I switched off everything but the hyper-senses I needed to execute the final steps. “It's up,” Jacob said. “Go now.”
Frank grunted, turning my way when I bumped into him. My nerves were at their peak, I could taste the battery acid on my tongue. It always started that way, an acrid burn that reminded me of what I was about to do.
The tip of the suppressor jammed into the man's chest. I aimed without looking; I knew exactly where the heart was. He met my stare, and I wondered—as I always did—what his final thought would be. “Bang,” Jacob whispered in my ear.
A thunder-crack, all eyes were on the runners as the announcer's pistol went off. No one was watching me, no one saw or heard my silenced weapon fire simultaneously. And no one would see my lashes flutter with the thrill. Fuck, I thought to myself. That rush. That fucking rush. Nothing compared to this. Nothing from this bland world, anyway.
Believe me. I've tried every other high.
In my palm, the recoil was negligible. The casing clinked in the brass catcher, confirming I'd leave no evidence on the scene beyond the slug in Frank's flesh. I used the most common twenty-two caliber bullets in existence. The authorities could never match it, or know where to begin to try.
Frank stood there, too shocked to respond. He didn't even drop his hotdog. I didn't linger, the gun was back in my pocket and I was already walking past. Four seconds, that was all it had taken to erase another human being. So easy—too easy. Killing was what I was good at, it was simpler than opening a beer bottle.
Long legs, calm strides, I strolled over the plush grass towards the street. I was in no hurry. The job was done.
I was at the front gate before I heard the first scream.
“How did it feel?” Jacob asked me.
My grip uncoiled from the weapon. I smoothed the sweat from my neck. My brain was thrumming with a gallon of endorphins. “You know how.”
For a second, he was quiet. “No,” he said softly. “Not the kill. The fact it was your last one.”
Raising my eyes, I judged the brilliant blue sky and beaming sun. Sirens were coming in the distance; someone had called for an ambulance. It was no good, of course. How does it feel to know that was my last hit? I mulled it over, judged what the right answer was.
Jacob and I, we'd known each other for close to forever. We'd been kids, the first day he'd seen me alone on an empty playground and changed both our lives by walking over. If I could be fully honest with anyone, it was him.
That was what it meant to be Blood Brothers.
“Anticlimactic,” I said, ducking into the subway station. “Feels weird to imagine that was it. Is that strange?” I didn't let him answer. “But it's over. That was always the plan, right?”
The reception fuzzed below ground. Either I'd lost him, or he'd decided to bite his tongue. “Yeah,” he eventually said. “That was the plan. Hey. Let's celebrate tonight, okay?”
“Yeah.” I slipped into the subway cart. “Let's go big tonight. Make some memories.”
Jacob chuckled. “See you at the bar, Kite.”
“Sure thing,” I said. The earpiece clicked; radio silence. If I was right, Jacob would go all out for us both. He'd want to spend money, fill our bellies with alcohol and our lusts with women.
Lots of women, I hoped. Finishing a contract gave me a primal ache to bury my mouth and cock in some sweet skin. My—our—last contract. I guess it's good it went smoothly, but shit. Smoking an old man in a park is a little... unsatisfying. I'd told Jacob the word was 'anticlimactic.' That nailed it, alright.
In the mostly empty cart, I leaned on the window. It was yellowish in the tunnels, my reflection smudged and wobbling. Watching it, I recalled the summer day above me. The green grass, the smell of life. The sound of another man's final moments.
In my pocket, the gun barrel was still warm.
One two three four five. I walked the line, gliding my fingertips over the necks of every top-shelf bottle I owned. Their perfect symmetry, the way you could hold one and feel the weight of it. Quality.
Kite had never questioned me about the purchases. The guy never even peeked at an order slip. He didn't like paperwork, and he trusted me to take care of everything.
I didn't mind.
It meant I got to buy what I wanted.
Turning, I counted the bottles in the well behind the bar. A single twist, I could tell if they needed to be topped off. The liquid quivered from my prodding, sloshing beneath the single metal band that would say if the amount was right or not.
Aha, I mused silently. Pulling a bottle of vodka into the air, I held it to the light. It was a fraction lower than the marking. Gripping the stopper, the tip a razor edge of metal that could cut an unsuspecting finger or gouge out an eye—if used right—I started to refill it.
“I can take care of that, Mister Fallow!”
Glancing sideways, I noticed the waifish, creamy skinned bartender—Anabelle. I was probably giving her a heart attack, doing her job like I was. “It's nothing,” I said gently. Replacing the bottle, I lingered on the pointed tip. “I just like to have things a certain way.”
Her smile was hesitant, but she rounded the bar to join me behind it. In her low-cut opal top and a pair of needed-to-be-oiled-to-fit-leather-shorts, she would have blended in better at a nightclub than next to me.
Our bar draws a gritty crowd, but I liked to dress a certain way. What can I say? Give me a fitted business shirt and a dark suit-jacket any day of the week. No one ever said anything about it—besides Kite, of course. We both owned the Corner Velvet bar, but only I acted the part.
Adjusting my sleeves, I peeled the dove-grey material back to check my watch. “We open in twenty minutes, Anabelle. It's Friday, remember that.”
“Sure sure,” she said cheerfully. Brushing her long hair back into a tail, she nodded at the door. “You uh, want me to tell you when Mister Lawson arrives?”
Kite's last name was unfairly misleading. “No. Just hand me a bottle of whiskey.” I didn't say which one. I didn't need to.
Anabelle grabbed the fat bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, slapping it into my open palm. Her pencil-thin eyebrows dipped low. “Everything okay?”
I cradled the bottle protectively to my side. “Certainly. We're just celebrating tonight, that's all.”
Her unease shifted, teeth bright in the overhead lamps. “Really! What's the occasion?”
I looked over her head to the door. Kite was pushing through, dressed in jeans and an over-washed green shirt. He'd changed out of his clothes from earlier. “Call it the end of an era,” I said evasively. Ignoring her baffled stare, I approached Kite.
Pulling up short by the door, he looked straight at the Johnny Walker. “Is that for me?”
“Thought you might need it,” I chuckled. Holding it out, I let him take it. The tattoos across his knuckles stood out, stark from how fiercely he choked the neck of the whiskey. “How are you feeling?”
Balancing the bottle on his palm, he gave me a wry smile. “Like you've let me down. This isn't enough alcohol to call this a celebration.”
Laughing, I patted his shoulder and guided him towards a quiet corner. “The night hasn't even started.” Our bar was big, all dark wood and rich blue booths. We knew the area, the kind of crowd who spent their money in this corner of the city. New York was full of young people who were burnt out from trying to 'make it.' They wanted to go crazy and lose themselves in drink and noise.
It was the crowd we preferred.
I know, I know. Hitmen are supposed to live quiet, subtle lives so no one catches them. The movies enjoy portraying it that way, at least.
I'd like to justify our actions, our love for alcohol and sin and sweating, screaming girls. I could say it was fine, we aren't killers anymore. That we're free of the burden. Safe.
But that would be wrong in two ways.
First, we'd partied like this since the day we came into money. Could we be blamed for that? After years of struggling and scraping, we suddenly had more cash than we'd ever imagined. Who wouldn't have gone a little overboard? The reality is we got hooked on the lifestyle and never came back down. Over time, I think we both got worse.
As for number two... we were still killers. We'd always be killers. That doesn't just wash off of you. The only thing that had changed—as of today—was we didn't take contracts anymore.
Frank had been our last.
The bottle thunked onto the center of the table. Kite uncapped it, taking a long pull right from the opening. He sighed through his nose, pushing the whiskey to me. Lifting my eyebrows, I nudged it back to him pointedly. Kite took the hint, swallowing another mouthful. “Good?” I asked.
“Burns like hell,” he chuckled.
“Right. So, good.” My smile didn't reach my eyes, neither did his. Kite wasn't acting like himself. I knew today would weigh heavily on us both, but I didn't want to think about the why of it. We'd finally done what we'd vowed at the start. Five years of contracts, get the money and set ourselves up. It was never supposed to be long term.
Who wants to be a murderer forever?
Staring at Kite, studying how he twisted the bottle on the table, I was now wondering. I couldn't lie, it had been an exciting life. There were ups and downs, but the ups... the ups made you soar like nothing else.
The buzz you could get from whiskey would pale when compared to pulling a trigger.
Reaching over, I took the bottle and forced some down my throat. It really did burn. Wiping my mouth, I stared at him over the rim. “Everything is fine.”
He sat up, fingers curling on the edge of the table. “I know that, Jacob. Stop acting like I'm depressed.”
“Stop pouting like a sad puppy,” I countered. Kite narrowed his eyes on me, but there was no threat. Keeping my face emotionless, I forced the whiskey back into his hand. He didn't have to take it, I couldn't make his fingers close on the neck... but they did. “I know you, Kite. I know you better than anyone.”
Wrinkling his nose, he shot his eyes away. “Then you know I don't want to go into this.”
“The fact that there is a this—”
“Dammit, Jacob!” he snapped, gesturing at me with the bottle. “How can there not be a—fuck, a this, a whatever!” Lowering his tone, he leaned towards me. In the red lamps, those black eyes resembled fresh blood. “It was a big deal. I didn't want it to be, but it was. Imagining that it's done just makes me feel so...”
When he didn't finish, I linked my hands on the table. “So empty? So stale?”
He actually flinched, a smile slow to grow. This one was genuine. “Yeah. Of course you know what I mean. I'm acting like this is all about me, but it's the same for you... isn't it?”
His question was a plea; a hint of something vulnerable in a man who could cut a life short as fast as his hand could close on a weapon. Kite had that side to him, a sensitivity that was out of place. It made the cruel half of him more shocking. People never got to see both sides, of course.
“Yes,” I said flatly. “It's the same for me. Kite, it's okay to admit it. Thinking that it's all done... it's weird, but it's for the best. We'll be able to pay off this bar in a few years without gaining any suspicion, and we'll be living the high life until we're too old to get our dicks hard enough to take advantage of it.”
His laugh took him by surprise. Kite couldn't resist copying my grin. I knew what cheered him up. “I'll never be that old,” he snorted. “Speaking of which, this place better get busy tonight.” Another gulp of whiskey, and when the bottle came down, Kite looked the way he normally did. That dark humor, those knowing eyes and sharp smile.
Yes. This was better.
“It's Friday night in downtown New York,” I said. Taking the bottle, I sipped it. If I felt the fuzz of alcohol in my brain, Kite had to as well. “When has it not gotten busy in here?”
Chuckling, he jumped from his seat and brushed back his short, copper hair. “Fair point. If all else fails,” he said, pointing at Anabelle. “I'll just wet my appetite in familiar waters.”
Rolling my eyes, I turned my chair, reclined it. “She's seen you take hundreds of girls into the back, I don't get why she puts up with you.”
“Because I'm good with my hands.” Winking, Kite cracked his back. He stood over me, suddenly hesitant—waiting to speak. I was patient. I always had been. “Things are really going to change now, aren't they?” he asked.
“Yes. They have to.”
His lips tightened. “Are you worried it won't be as good?”
“What won't be...?” I trailed off; I knew what he was saying. Life, will life be as good without the plotting and killing and violence. I spoke without mulling too hard. “We made a promise, Kite.”
He switched hands with the bottle. For an instant, it was a club. “Fuck the promise, I'm asking if you're worried the way I am. That life will be boring now. Forever.”
I couldn't answer that. It was a challenge to imagine a world where we didn't witness that flicker—that light—vanishing from someone's eyes. Saying it, though? That would lay too much credibility to the idea that the two of us were sinister creatures.
Was it possible to miss the adrenalin high of murder and still claim some humanity?
Kite spared me. “Forget it,” he sighed, looking over my head. Turning, I saw what he did; a crowd was forming, eager half-dressed women who were ready to have some fun. Slamming the bottle onto the table, he gave me a gentle shove. “It doesn't matter. I'm ready to give this 'celebrating' thing a fucking shot.”
I said... something. It was a pointless, encouraging babble to make him believe I would forget what he'd asked me. That was what we both liked to do. Enough substances in your brain, your veins, and you could forget all sorts of junk. At least, for a little while.
Glancing over, I studied the Johnny Walker. Half the bottle of whiskey was gone. Yes, if we wanted to try and emulate that bloodlust of a high...
Well. We'd need much more alcohol than this.