Final Protocol

Final Protocol

Tip #1: Don’t get on her bad side.
Tip #2: There’s no good side.

Her name is Silence.  If she was ever known by any other name, she doesn’t remember.

She is a killer.  If she was ever anything else, she doesn’t remember.

She has an owner. If she was ever free…well, that she does remember. She was free and then somebody gave her to a madman to pay a debt that wasn’t hers. She’s his toy, his pet…and his trained killer. She kills at his whim or she dies.

She has a target. Her so-called owner…the man who makes her life a living hell.  If she could kill anybody in the universe, it would be him.  But he holds her life in his hands.

And she has a wish—to find a man she barely remembers. A man she knows she once loved.  The man who betrayed her and stole away her freedom.

With one final target between her and the tantalizing promise of freedom, she moves in for the kill. There’s one problem. There’s something strangely familiar about her mark. Something that echoes in the void where love used to live.

Warning: One woman with a mission, one evil bastard who lies as often as he breathes, and a man who’ll stop at nothing to find what he lost. Be warned…some questionable consent lies within.

Excerpt

I caught the comm and activated it. The scrambler would delay my response as it bounced it around, making it impossible for him to find me. He’d try, and it was entirely possible he would track me down after I’d left here—long after I’d left. But that wouldn’t do him any good and it pleased me to think of him chasing after my shadow.

“What do you want?” I asked sourly.

“I want to know why the job wasn’t completed.”

I curled my lip.

Overhead, a fat drop of water collected. As it started to fall, I closed my eyes and then held still as it let go and came down toward me, hitting me in the middle of my brow. I welcomed the cool, wet relief, a balm against the rage I felt any time I had to deal with this bastard.

I hated him.

I loathed him.

I needed him to survive.

“The job wasn’t completed because there were complications. I would have called you to discuss them if you hadn’t had your watchdogs outside my home. I don’t like it when you do that,” I said softly, opening my eyes as I began to weave the careful web of lies I’d crafted during my journey. Did I go through with this? Or just end it? Even if I found the botanist, Gold would still seek me. I knew him. He’d never give me up.

“Complications,” he murmured in a voice that sounded of silk and poison.

Just the sound of it was enough to make me shudder. I knew that voice, so well. It had murmured to me when I was barely clinging to life. He had put me there more than once. And more than once, he’d found me there and nursed me back to health—it was only fair, since every time I’d ended up in that precarious position, it was because of a job he’d sent me on.

And then there were the other times, times that made me hate myself even more.

Maybe I did have a soul.

If I was as empty as I’d like to think I was, then I couldn’t hate myself.

“Tell me,” he continued, and the sound of his voice drew my nipples tight even as revulsion ripped through me. “Silence, tell me of these complications.”

“He knew I was coming. I told you it was problematic to accept a job on Aris. The ariste are not an easy race to assassinate.”

“Were there guards?” He sounded curious.

As far as my body was concerned, he might as well have been in front of me, his hands, beautiful and elegant, stripping my clothes away. But my mind blistered with rage and my hands shook with the need to wrap around his throat, to throttle him, to hurt him. I could kill him, two times over, before he could strip me naked. I’d learned well. I knew how to kill, just as he’d planned.

Only one thing stopped me.

The bioseal he had embedded in my brain.

But one day, even that might not be enough.

“No.” I managed to keep my tone bored. “But nobody truly understands the ariste, do they? As he knew I was coming, I didn’t know what else he knew. If he knew to plan for me, perhaps he even knew about you. I didn’t wish to bring that mess to your door.”

There was a sigh, heavy, regretful. “You say the right things, Silence. If only I could believe those words.”

“What good does it do me to lie? You hold my life in your hands.”

“Hmmm.” There was a pause and then I heard a soft crackle. “Come to me. I have another job. It’s…important, and if you do it, we will wipe this slate clean.”

Slowly, I sat up, my body protesting as the night spent on stone made itself known. “Clean?” I echoed.

What…he wasn’t going to beat me? Punish me to make it clear how very unacceptable this was?

He chuckled. “Yes. All will be forgotten. But don’t make me wait. You won’t like the consequences if I have to send Dahm to hunt you down. He’s already on your scent trail.”

Liar. I kept that locked behind my teeth. If Dahm was on my trail, he’d be here already. But the threat was enough to have me up and moving.

I thought of the botanist, thought of the decision I’d made.

Then I thought of what Gold had promised. Would he lie? Yes. If it suited his purposes, but why would he suggest such a reward?

“Why now?” I asked softly. “Who is the target?”

“Come in and we’ll discuss it.”

There was something in his voice that made me tense.

I recognized it.

Very little got my keeper worked up. Very little. This job though, it had him on edge. Was it possible he meant it?

I turned to look at the entrance to the cave, debating.

“Silence…foolish, foolish girl. I know where you are now,” he murmured.

I closed my eyes. An amateur’s mistake. I’d just made one. He couldn’t control my thoughts, no. But if he tapped into the bioseal, he could access them—and he’d just done that, enough to see what I could see.

“I’ll come in,” I said flatly. “But pull in your dogs, Gold.”

“That’s a good girl.”

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