Chapter 25

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"Your target's name is Alonzo Garcia, aged forty-seven, six-foot-one, brunette. He is the CEO of EIC industries in Las Vegas, a company dedicated to protecting computers from deadly viruses. We know it's a front for the underworld of crime, and Garcia is the leader. He also has billions of dollars invested in the company partnered with our contact, Joey Barbados. With his many connections, Garcia knows more about the dealings that go down in this city than the cops do, giving him the opportunity to scam money from those less fortunate, the local crews being some of them. Which is why – among many reasons – Garcia must be terminated."

I scream in a rush of energy and thrust my fist into the punching bag that Leon holds, causing him to stumble backwards and almost trip over. He gives me a surprised smirk of approval but Morrison doesn't bat an eyelid.

"Miss Knight, the point of this exercise is to nail into your brain who the target is so you don't forget," he says as he taps the screen of his phone.

"I get it," I sigh as I adjust the straps on my boxing glove and focus on the punching bag, imagining Morrison's face in the center. "Garcia is a back-stabbing prick who cheats all of the local crews because he's so mighty and powerful. Computer hero by day, mega bitch by night. I get it." I make a sharp right hook at the bag, then two left hooks and repeat the process, bouncing on the balls of my feet.

"If you say so," he mutters and continues reading. "Your contact is Elizabeth Garcia, aged eighteen, five-foot-nine, brunette. She attends Walford School for Girls four days a week. She practices piano, fencing, French and horseback riding on her Uncle's farm. She swims three nights a week and each morning at 5 am. Elizabeth is, what you teenagers would call, a very popular girl."

"Yeah yeah, can we talk more about Garcia?" I stop punching to take a breath. I hate this girl and I haven't even had the misfortune to meet her yet.

"No," says Morrison, "because you do not need to get to know Garcia. The key to assassinating him is through this girl, so you will know everything there is to know about her and you will like her."

"Well I'm going to need a lot more boxing therapy for that," I snarl. I think I hear Leon snicker. "Plus–" I spin and thrust my foot into the punching bag, sending Leon back on his ass. He grunts and jumps to his feet again. "Won't it look really suss if I know everything about this girl when I've literally never met her and–" I jab in quick succession until I run out of breath, "–I'm just supposed to ... become friends with her?"

"You will need to know this in order to become friends with her. You don't need to recite it all to her." Morrison is shaking his head in frustration, clearly wondering whether it was a good idea to recruit me after all. Instead, he mutters "teenagers" with a shake of his head and continues reading information while I box.

So Lizzie sounds like a class-A rich bitch. How the hell am I supposed to become friends with her? We are by far the most unlikely pair of people in the world, not to mention she won't look twice at me unless it's to turn her nose up. I can't just walk up to her and demand we become best friends because that won't work. Waiting around for her to give the lowly criminal girl a chance or even invite me to her home won't either. This mission seems virtually impossible and I haven't even gotten to the assassination part, which I have a feeling will be far easier than the recon.

Yet Morrison has faith in me. He might not show it, but why else has he spent the last two weeks training me?

"Did you get that Jess?" he asks.

I step back from the bag, breathing heavily, and grab my bottle of water. "Garcia will be at his most vulnerable during the evenings when he is with his family. That's my best chance."

"Your only chance," Leon snickers.

I pivot and thrust my foot into his face rather than the bag but he is far more experienced than me and catches it with a flick of his wrist. A quick shove and I am the one on my ass this time. The four guys watching snicker.

"Leon's right, Jess," says Morrison. He turns off his phone and shoved it in the inside pocket of his coat. "Once you're invited in, wait for dark when he has skeleton security. Then make the kill. But you're nowhere near ready for that yet."

I shudder and begin removing my gloves. Just the thought of killing makes me want to hurl. I've never had blood on my hands before, as hard as that is to believe. And now I am training for it. Even though the true reason I'm doing this is to get revenge for Belle – which means killing Morrison anyway – and to protect everyone else I love, I am still a seventeen-year-old with a conscience. I'm afraid to answer the one question that haunts me every time I think of this mission: When the time comes, can I really bring myself to murder someone with my own hands?

"We'll continue next session with weaponry. I need to leave – I have a meeting downtown." Morrison marches to the exit door of the warehouse.

"Finally I'm useful," says one of the men I've never heard speak before. He has a very sharp British accent. "I dunno why I'm even 'ere half the time."

"We're his guard, Nate," says Sage as he snatches the gloves off me and shoves them in the gym bag. "He feels safer with us around."

"It's bullshit, that's what it is," Nate snarls, twirling his gun by the trigger loop. "I'm not a bloody bouncer."

"Pays the bills," Sage replies.

Ignoring me completely, the men pack up the rest of their gear and leave the warehouse. Sage does give me a small smile as they depart, but I don't return it. I simply stand in the warehouse, the long globe on a string swinging high above my head. Tonight isn't the first night I've heard everything there is to know about Garcia and his family, but tonight is the first night that I feel real fear for what I'm getting myself into. This isn't just some swap in the park or a supervised beat-down, this is murder. I could go to prison and never be let out again. Sure they're training me, and sure these guys are killers anyway, but I have my whole life ahead of me.

What life? asks a voice in my head. You gave up the one good thing you had. You let Nick go, and now he's going to marry some blond skank and have kids while you rot in a four-by-four cell or in some camp with other skinny women who smoke and leer at you all day.

I don't want to do this. But I know I don't have a choice.

Just look on the bright side Jess, says the voice, trying to be optimistic. If you succeed, you'll be a hero in the streets. No one will mess with you ever again and you can get on with your life exactly as it was. No, better. You can start a new one with Nick.

I like the sound of that. So we're not compatible and if he ever found out what I've agreed too, he'd hate me forever. I deserve some amount of happiness, right? I can be selfish, right?

Yes. I can be selfish.

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