I shake my head, smiling across at him, at how desperate and afraid he is. It alone gives me some satisfaction, seeing him squirm, the way he’s begging for his life without outright begging.
I step a little closer.
Hamburg doesn’t move because he can’t. Fredrik is behind him.
“Oh, this has nothing to do with me,” Victor says to Hamburg. “I kept my word. I never came after you. But Izabel, on the other hand,” Victor taunts in his trademark casual manner, “well, you didn’t make any deals with her, unfortunately for you. And I don’t own her. I never did. She’s here of her own accord and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Hamburg looks right at me, the anger shifting in his face to something more pathetic.
“P-Please…I’ll do whatever you want,” he begs, “give you anything you want. My money. My house. Just ask and it’s yours. I’m worth millions.”
I step right up to him and I can smell the stench of his sweat. He stares into my eyes underneath a shrinking gaze, one filled with hatred and horror. His large frame trembles inches from me and I know that if he thought he could get away with it, he’d grab me right now and choke me to death.
Suddenly, his expression changes to better fit his scathing words. “You won’t do it,” he taunts, sneering coldly as he looks straight into my face. “You don’t have it in you, to kill in cold blood. You killed my guard out of self-defense. You won’t kill me. Not like this.” There’s humor in his eyes.
I stand poised in front of him, my index finger fixed against the blade of my knife pressed against the side of my leg. I don’t say anything, I just watch him, smiling with faint, yet obvious amusement, at his wasted attempts to save his own life.
He steps to the left and starts to walk away. I let him.
“I’ll get you all a drink,” he calls out, raising his finger up beside him. He removes his oversized suit jacket and lays it over the back of the leather chair next to the marble table. Then he starts undoing the buttons of his dress shirt.
I’m behind him like a ghost, sliding the blade across his throat before he has a chance to take his fingers away from the last button. A chilling gurgling sound fills the space, followed by Hamburg choking on his own blood. Both of his hands come up as if he were trying to fight his way out of a plastic bag. Red splatters from the side of his throat, and he falls to his knees with his hands pressed over the cut. Blood pours from between all of his fingers and drenches his shirt.
I watch him. I watch him not with horror or regret or sadness, but with retribution. My eyes feel wider as the air from the balcony hits the backs of them. I can’t stop looking. I can’t turn away. But I can feel Victor, Fredrik and Niklas’ eyes on me, watching me revel in the moment of my first official cold-blooded kill.
Hamburg chokes and weeps, tears dripping from his eyes as I move around in front of him and crouch down to his level. I study him, the way his face contorts, the way the blood-red is contrasted so starkly against the white of his shirt. I watch the terror in his eyes, the fear of the unknown overshadowing him so quickly.
A small smile creeps up on one side of my mouth.
Hamburg falls forward onto the floor, his heavy body jerking and convulsing for only moments until it goes completely still. He lies with his cheek pressed against the marble tile, his mouth open as well as his eyes. They stare out at nothing, filled with nothing. Blood pools around his head and his chest, soaking up within his clothes.
Still crouched in front of him, I lean over on my toes toward him, my forearms propped on the tops of my legs.
“That’s how those people felt when you strangled them to death,” I whisper to his corpse.
I rise into a stand and take one step back before the blood pooling on the floor inches its way to my boot. One by one I look at Fredrik, Niklas and then Victor and all of them give me the same silent approval. But it’s in Victor’s eyes that I see so much more. An everlasting bond between us not created by this moment, but by that night we crossed paths in Mexico. Thrust into each other’s lives by a twist of fate and held there by our rare similarities and our need to be together.
We are one in the same.
One year later…
Victor comes into the bathroom of our New York house to find me relaxing in a bubble bath. I look up at him casually as he pulls his gun from the back of his pants and sets it on the counter. My hair is pinned to the top of my head in a sloppy bun. I lay against the tub with my arms laid out along the sides, one knee drawn up from the water, partially covered by bubbles. It’s been a long day. I killed John Lansen, the CEO of Balfour Enterprises and r**ist extraordinaire, and still have his blood under my fingernails.
I close my eyes and relax.
“Where have you been?” I ask Victor without raising the back of my neck from the tub.
“Cleaning up your mess,” he answers calmly.
Compelled to look at him after his accusation, I open my eyes again to see him looming tall over me.
“What do you mean?” I ask. “It was a clean kill.”
He cocks a brow and looks down at my hands.
“Is that so?” he says incriminatingly. “Clean means no blood at all. No fingerprints. Nothing left behind, not even your scent.”
I sigh and close my eyes. “Victor,” I say, waving my fingers above the side of the tub dramatically. “I didn’t leave anything behind. I cleaned up after myself. Spotless. Ask Fredrik. He was there. He double-checked everything.”
I feel Victor’s body hovering closer as he sits down on the side of the tub.
“But what order did I give you, Izabel?” he asks, as calmly as before. “Before you set out on that mission with Fredrik, what did I ask of you?”
“No blood,” I answer, still with my eyes closed. “Poison the man so that it looks like a heart attack.”
I open my eyes again and look up into his dominant gaze, the green of his eyes darker than usual.
“Poison is Fredrik’s thing, not mine.”
“You defied my orders,” he says, “and it will be the last time.”
I smile at him and drop both of my hands underneath the water just to feel the bubbles on my skin. I know Victor isn’t truly upset with me. This has become a game we play with each other: sometimes I do the opposite of what he says and he punishes me for it. It’s the kind of game we both win. I would never have defied his orders on a mission of importance. John Lansen was just a loose end and another one of my training missions.
“What are you going to do to me, Victor?” I ask with a seductive gleam in my eyes. I bring my left leg out of the water and prop it on the side of the tub, just behind where he sits. “Are you going to punish me?”
With his sleeve already pushed up past his elbow, his right hand moves across the length of my leg slowly and then falls beneath the water. I gasp when his fingers find me.
“I’m taking you out of the field until you learn to control yourself,” he says, two of his fingers slipping between my nether lips.
The back of my neck presses harder against the tub and my legs fall farther apart.
“And what if I can never control myself?” I ask breathily, barely able to concentrate on him talking while his fingers continue to move between my legs like that.
He’s such a bastard. And I f**king love him for it.
Two fingers slip inside of me and my legs begin to tighten and tingle when the pad of his thumb moves in a hard, circular motion against my clit.
“Open your eyes,” he says softly, but demandingly.
I do, just barely, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to control my lids. I whimper and moan and bite down so hard on my bottom lip that it hurts.
“If you can’t control yourself, then I’ll have no choice.”
“…No choice…than to what?” My bare chest heaves. I reach beneath the water in search of his hand, coiling my fingers halfway around his strong wrist and then trailing them down toward his own fingers as they continue to move in a circular pattern.
Then he stops.
He pulls his hand from the water, stands up and dries his arm off with my towel hanging over the shower door.
I stare up at him blankly.
He walks out of the bathroom and leaves me sitting here, alone, unsatisfied and sexually frustrated.
“Hey!” I shout out to him. “Where the hell are you going?!”
I growl under my breath, shoot up from the water and step over the side of the tub. I grab Victor’s gun into my wet, soapy hand as I storm out of the bathroom and into our bedroom. He’s standing with his back to me next to our king-sized bed, taking off his dress shirt with a casual, uninterested grace, which only frustrates me further.
I step up behind him, soaking wet, water and bubbles dripping onto the floor, and I go to shove his gun into his back. But he’s too fast and he whirls around at me, taking the gun from my hand and shoving it under my chin, all in two swift seconds that pass me by in a blur.
The barrel is cold against my flesh. The intensity in his eyes sends a shot of heat through my body and between my thighs. My br**sts are shoved against the hardness and warmth of his chest, his free hand positioned in the center of my back, his long fingers splayed.
“No discipline, Izabel.” He studies my face with a hungry and calculated sweep of his eyes. He licks the side of my mouth and shoves the gun deeper into my throat. “You will never learn.”
I try to kiss him, searching for his mouth with my own, but he refuses me, teasing me with the distance of his lips barely an inch away.
He licks me again. And then he shoves me down on the bed and crawls between my nak*d legs, still dressed from the waist down in his black slacks. I shudder when I feel his hardness pressing against me through his pants. My body breaks out in shivers as he drags the tip of his tongue upward between my br**sts.
He kisses one side of my jaw, and then the other.
“Maybe you should get rid of me,” I whisper onto his lips.
“Never,” he says, kissing me once softly. “You’re mine for as long as you breathe.” His mouth covers mine ravenously.
That was how I became what I am, a sex slave turned killer. And that was the beginning of not only a love affair between Victor and me, but of a new underground assassination ring that is so secret it has no name.
Four became five six weeks ago, when we welcomed the blond-haired, hazel-eyed devil, Dorian Flynn, into our group. And while although there are many who work for us, spread out over several countries, the five of us are central to the entire operation, with none other than Victor Faust at the head of it all.
Niklas is still an intolerable bastard who loves money and women and pissing me off. Indirectly, of course, but he knows what he’s doing. Even after a year, he and I still pretty much despise each other. Maybe I despise him a little more than he does me, but we manage for Victor’s sake. For the most part we stay out of each other’s way. I still have yet to make things even with Niklas by shooting him. But I’ll get around it. Eventually.