Chapter 29

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Two months pass. I trained five times a week with the Mafia, studying rapid assault, counter surveillance, covert communications, edged weapons, precise application of lethal force, unarmed combat, threat elimination and camouflage, none of which I expect to use. My skin got tougher, my eyes grew sharper and I can successfully beat Sage in a fight without getting my arm sliced open. By the time my training ended, Morrison actually congratulated me.

It's been a long time since I've been in prison. With the Mafia paying me a small advance, I don't need to associate myself with the bikers or any other crew for that matter. I still visit the odd friend here and there when I get bored. No one knows about the mission and no one asks questions. They gossip about how much they are getting scammed by Garcia and I continue to battle with the undeniable pleasure I will receive when he's gone. I never paid attention to how big of an effect he really has on the crews around this town, and how much he steals from them. I used to just think I was getting ripped off when I swapped drugs for less than they're worth, but turns out most of the money goes to Garcia's back end anyway. It's the fuel I need to start the fire inside me. Now I have a clear motive and no fear of the consequences or how difficult it will be to end someone's life.

The best part about not being involved with street crews anymore is all the time I get to spend with Nick. It's like having a normal life again. I honestly can't say I've ever gotten to know a person as well as I know Nick. And in the most cliché ways possible; ice-skating, out to dinner, staying in and watching movies. The normal couple stuff.

I struggled to be honest with him about the kind of 'activities' I used to participate in before we met, but within those two months after I slept with him ... my trust became greater than my guilt and disappointment. I admitted to him a lot of the crimes I'd committed. I told him about my mid-teens and why I left home. I told him things that should have gotten me thrown into prison. But he didn't arrest me, of course. I knew he wouldn't.

But no amount of trust will make me admit to the assassination. I'm in way too deep now. Not only that, I know Nick. He won't stop until the Mafia is apprehended, no matter how powerful they are.

I still show up on his doorstep with bruises splattered over me and I'm fitter than I was two months ago. Nick doesn't question it. A part of me wonders why but I know I shouldn't complain. If he was one of those nagging boyfriends who feel the need to delve into a girl's past just to protect her, I'd go crazy.

I stay at his house a lot of the time now. Maria is okay with us sleeping together and I have to get used to sharing a bed with someone. I've gotten to know Kayla, who is the sweetest girl I've ever met, and Maria, who always seems in another world but has a kind heart all the same. She is a lot like Nick.

One morning I get up early with Nick to say goodbye. I'm normally too tired from training at night to wake up with the sun like he does but I force myself this time. He nearly drops his coffee when I come down into the kitchen wearing his T-shirt.

"Fuck, you look so hot in that shirt," he growls. He is in too much of a rush to stop and stare any longer but somehow he manages to notice the giant bruise at the top of my leg and I see anger flash in his eyes. "I should really come downtown with you and watch this self-defense class of yours to make sure they're not just forcing you into a Fight Club."

I stretch the T-shirt down to my knees but it flings back up. "It's a fun class, but you'd get bored. It's probably nothing like they teach in the Force."

"Well maybe you should check out my classes at the station sometime?"

I smile, wondering how that would go. Me at the police station, joining in a kickboxing session with the cops who've taken me in a million times. Even if Nick teaches most of the classes, I'd still rather die.

"Catch some criminals, honey," I mock sweetly as he pecks me on the lips on his way out the door.

"Don't need to – I've already got one in my bed."

I laugh and listen to the front door swing open and closed.

Maria and Kayla won't be up for another half an hour. I look at the clock and know that there is one other place I could be right now, but I don't want to go.

Part two – or 'stalk phase', as I call it – began three weeks ago. The Mafia have given me orders to track Elizabeth Garcia and get to know every detailed aspect of her mundane life. So far I've only managed to sneak into the swimming center and watch her glide through the water for about an hour until she gets up and showers, climbs into a silver Mercedes outside and drives off. Her school schedule was also easy to follow.

Elizabeth is skinny and beautiful with big, honey brown eyes and flowing blond hair. She smiled at me once when she walked past me at the door of the swimming center and I tried to look like I wasn't there to stalk her. She seemed nice enough.

Today I decide to figure out an excuse to talk to her. From going through her phone – the one in the pink gym bag in the changing room – I discovered that she's having a party this weekend. When I told Morrison, he said I need to go. It's my only chance to become friends with her in a setting that isn't completely coincidental.

I leave the swimming center and take a shortcut to the bus stop, intent on spending some time at the beach. It seemed like an innocent enough idea. But as I walk down one of the back streets behind the car park, I come across a group of people standing around a dumpster smoking something other than cigarettes. As I pass, one of them recognizes me and I freeze in my tracks.

"Jess?" he asks.

Oh shit. Please don't be who I think you are.


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