“Fuuuck!” he moans through gritted teeth.
And then he laughs.
I keep my gun trained on him, never breaking my resolute disposition.
“Go ahead,” he challenges, grimacing under the strain of his wound. “I can buy new legs too if I have to—you’re not getting the information, no matter whose life you threaten me with.” Somehow he never loses his smile, even though it’s heavily manipulated by pain.
“Not even your wife?” I press him, shoving the gun in the air toward him in emphasis. “Money is more important to you than your wife?” The anger inside of me is growing, bubbling to the surface.
He laughs lightly, grimacing as he tries to adjust himself within the chair, both hands gripping his thigh underneath the table. The second I notice that I can no longer see his hands, I leap onto the table in front of him, jutting out my leg and planting the sole of my boot into his chest, knocking him away. The chair skids backward just inches, and wobbles precariously on its two back legs before settling evenly on the floor.
With my gun still pointed at his head, I reach down with my free hand and feel around for the gun I instinctively knew was affixed to the underside of the table. Still crouched on the tabletop, I slide Pinceri’s gun down the length of the table where Nora stops it with her hand.
Pinceri just looks at me from the chair, still smiling, shaking his head. Blood soaks his pant leg and drips into a small puddle beneath it on the expensive marble.
“Answer my fucking question,” I demand, glaring down at him from my crouched position on the table, my finger on the trigger.
“Two billion dollars is more important to me than anyone,” he says without hesitation, without regret. “Even my wife.”
I grit my teeth.
I wait for his response.
Turning away from the computer screen set up in Mrs. Pinceri’s home, I look at the woman standing in the room with an angry pinched mouth. Her gray-blond hair is fixed in curls above her shoulders. She wears a long cream-colored dress with a copper-colored scarf around her neck. In her tired, aged blue eyes is a look of vengeance. And pain. I’ve seen that look before, on women whose husbands have replaced them with younger, more vibrant companionship.
“What will it be, Mrs. Pinceri?”
She swallows, standing with her arms crossed as she stares only at the screen with the live image of her husband being fed through the camera hidden in Izabel’s face mask.
“Kill the bastard,” she sentences him with acid in her voice.
I nod and turn back to the screen.
“Take him out,” I hear Victor say.
I smile and push myself into a stand before jumping down from the table. Pinceri’s eyes follow my every move.
Clock is ticking away, I remind myself.
“Sure you don’t want to reconsider your answer?” I ask, though I know he won’t.
“You can go fuck yourself,” he spits out the words. “And tell whoever your client is, they can do the same.”
My smile gets broader and I wish that he could see it.
Pressing the barrel of my silencer to his forehead, I say with satisfaction, “Your wife is our client,” and witness his smile drop before I pull the trigger and splatter his brains against the wall.
“Let’s go,” Nora says behind me with urgency.
We dash into the hallway and head for the stairwell near the elevator.
“Two minutes,” I say as she swings open the door. “I don’t think we’re gonna make it.”
“We’ll make it.”
I hope she’s right because if we don’t, if we can’t get through the rooftop door before the automatic alarm is activated, we’ll set it off and Pinceri’s men stationed on the bottom floor will likely be waiting for us outside by the time we make our way down the side of the building.
“Maybe we should’ve taken the elevator,” I say between strained breaths as we make our way quickly up the concrete steps.
“No, the elevators are too slow,” Nora says; the sound of our boots hitting the concrete echoes down the stairwell behind us, much louder this time. “I counted the time it took for the elevator to make it to the ninth floor when the guard from the surveillance room made his way up, as well as the time it took us on the stairs on the way down—we’re faster.”
She never ceases to amaze me. And make me feel like an amateur.
Just a few more steps.
Not knowing how many seconds we have to spare, when we make it to the top, I shove both hands on the door knob and grit my teeth, pushing it open with all my strength, wincing as I brace myself for the sound of the alarm.
It doesn’t trigger. We made it.
Nora shuts the door quickly and instantly it locks from the inside. A tiny red light shows up on the door panel, a light that had not been there before when it was locked, which can only mean that the alarm has just set.
Even though we’ve certainly bought ourselves some time by not triggering the alarm, we don’t stop for even a second to rest—there is a trail of dead bodies left in the building and it’s only a matter of time before someone stumbles upon one and calls it in. I would like to rest, more than anything, because this stupid mask sticking to my head like a thick pair of pantyhose is making my head itch like crazy, just like it did when I had lice in the compound in Mexico—I’ll have to endure the itch for a little while longer.
Nora and I retrieve our black backpacks hidden in a dark corner on the roof.
“I’ve never done this before,” I say as I swing mine onto my back and latch it in place by the straps crossing my chest.
“You said you weren’t afraid of heights.” Nora’s backpack was secured to her back before mine even was.
She grabs the metal contraption from the rope cable I’m to descend from and attaches it to my harness, locking it securely into place.
“I’m not afraid of heights,” I tell her and swallow nervously. “It’s just that it’s a long fucking way down.”
She grins at me as she jerks one last time on my harness to make sure it’s secure.
“Then don’t fucking fall,” she says with a smile.
I smirk and follow her to the edge of the roof.
And without time to give it any second thoughts, I grab my rope cable tight in my gloved hands and step over the roof wall and begin to propel myself down.
By the fifth floor, down the side of the building, that tiny ounce of fear I had has drained completely from my body.
We keep to the building face, staying out of view of any windows as we scale carefully the rest of the way down, coming to a safe stop on the ground at the back of the building where there is no traffic and there are no people; just a row of stinking dumpsters and a dark alley that will lead us back to our car parked on the side of the road.
After unlocking myself from the rope cable, the first thing I do is peel off that damn face mask and shove it into the front of my bodysuit, between my breasts. Instantly I feel relief as the air washes over my itching, sweating skin.
Nora leaves hers on.
We make it to the car in under three minutes and are on our way back to Boston without a hitch.
During the drive back to Boston, Nora talks a lot as usual, but she refuses to talk about the mission.
“I think it went well,” I say as we ride down the dark, nearly empty highway. “No one alive saw us; the timing was cutting it close, but it was perfect, and—”
“Come on Izabel,” she cuts in, glancing over at me briefly from the driver’s seat; long, disheveled hair draping her shoulders. “Let’s not get into this right now. I want to relax, enjoy the drive back.” She looks over again and grins suggestively before putting her eyes back on the road. “So, about Niklas.”
I sigh and shake my head, slouching farther down against the passenger’s seat to get more comfortable.
“He’s a dick, Nora,” I say. “That’s about as much as I know, and it’s shit you already knew yourself—why don’t you try getting to know Fredrik instead? He needs a woman. Niklas…well, I think all you’ll ever get out of him is a good fuck or two.”
That didn’t come out right; I didn’t mean to insinuate that I think he must be ‘good’ in bed. Thankfully we turned the mics off a long time ago and Victor isn’t listening in anymore—talk about awkward.
Nora catches my eye, and when I look back over there’s a grin dancing on her lips.
“A good fuck or two is all I want.”
That doesn’t surprise me much, really, but it does spark a whole new topic.
Uncrossing my arms, I sit up straighter and look right at her with interest. “Just out of curiosity,” I say, “have you ever had feelings for a man before?” I raise my back from the seat, turning at an angle so she has my full attention. “I mean, something a little more than sex?”
Nora pooches out her unpainted lips and shakes her head. “Nope,” she says. “I have no interest in anything more than sex.”
I laugh lightly and fall against the seat again.
“Well, you never know,” I say with confidence. “That dirty little L-word has a tendency to sneak up on you, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it when it does.”