Driven to the Edge: A Bad Boy Hitman Romance

BOOK: Driven to the Edge: A Bad Boy Hitman Romance
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Driven to the Edge
Morgan Black

D
riven
to the Edge

Copyright © 2016 Morgan Black

Cover Design: Kasmit Covers

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places or events are entirely the work of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, events, or places is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Please purchase only authorized editions and do not participate in piracy of copyrighted materials.

1
~ Jake ~

T
he flight attendant thanks me
, smiling, on my way out of Business Class. She has no idea what I’ve come to her city to do.

It’s early enough that coffee is a must. I couldn’t sleep last night, my whole body on fire with anticipation and nerves.

Killing people is easy enough--I’ve done a lot of it. But never like this. After collecting my suitcase--hard-backed, silver, with equipment enough to kill half the people in LAX--I stroll into the line at an espresso kiosk, just another anonymous traveler in a suit.

It’s amazing what they let people get away with in checked baggage.

The kid who makes my espresso smiles too. And why shouldn’t he. I tip pretty good. Knowing what’s ahead of me, the last thing I care about is holding onto a few dollars.

And this right here is the crazy thing about crowds: any person you walk past could be someone like me. But until they whip the knife out and press it to your throat, you’re none the wiser.

I’ve got a usual driver when I’m in Los Angeles, but this time he isn’t waiting for me. I half expected that, given what transpired the day before. The usual crew won’t be chomping at the bit to help me anymore, not after what I did in La Jolla.

Settling down with my coffee, I power up both my phones: the smartphone for my cover identity and the burner for the shit that actually matters. There’s messages waiting on both.

Off-site luggage storage,
the burner phone says.
Receipt is in your email. Everything as requested.

God bless Vin.

Two weeks ago, Vincent Bartos and I were both good little pawns, me working for the Császár family’s accountant and he working for the Red Rock Riders, who sometimes moved their products. Now he’s my only ally in the entire world.

The smartphone is also full of goodies from Vin, but cloaked in a thin veil of legitimacy. Today I’m Jake Hawthorne, billionaire playboy tech entrepreneur. Jake is in LA for some meetings with potential investors, and as such his PA booked him a private driver for the weekend.

Your luggage is waiting at Storage Solutions as usual and someone from the Touring Club will be there to collect you at arrivals,
said the email. It was signed
Good Luck, Amber.

“Amber.” I laugh to myself. Can’t help it. If I have to take on the entire Császár crime family, may as well do it with a guy like Vin on my side who can still find it in him to joke around.

I finish my coffee in no particular hurry. My first meeting isn’t until noon, and it makes sense for a man like Jake Hawthorne to be late. Jake is the perfect cover for California: just another self-important self-made man that everyone will be all too happy to ignore.

I move through the crowd with anonymity and purpose. The sleek black Armani jacket and dark burgundy dress shirt--no tie, of course--are practically a uniform for the type of guy I’m imitating. Nobody needs to know the shiny leather boots are for moving silently and concealing a knife. Nobody needs to know the dark shirt is to keep any mess from showing up to a casual observer.

From the top of an escalator, I spot my driver. She’s... not what I expected.

For starters, she’s a woman. A petite woman in a black sheath dress that fits her well but leaves plenty to the imagination. Professional and demure. She’s got black shades perched on her forehead, wavy auburn curls pinned back by them. Her eyes are far-off, like she’s daydreaming about something that isn’t work, and whatever she’s daydreaming about has left the ghost of a smile on her mouth.

She’s wearing dark lipstick, a shade not quite as dark as my shirt. It’s easy for a moment to let my imagination out to play, to imagine some of that lipstick smeared across my skin, dark streaks of it as she lowers down, ready to wrap those lush lips right around--

A middle-aged woman dragging a child by the arm bumps into me from behind, hurrying down the escalator. I’d tell her to watch where she’s fucking going, but she’s gone before I can do more than growl. Then I’m on the ground floor, strolling casually toward the chauffeur in the black dress, taking my sweet time.

She’s holding a sign that says
Hawthorne
and I wiggle two fingers at her in the tiniest possible wave.

For a fleeting second, I catch a glimpse of it: the way her expression falls, her daydream shattered. She schools her face into a pleasant smile, congenial enough, but it looks nothing like the genuine smile she was wearing just moments ago.

“Jake Hawthorne?” Her voice is all professional neutrality.

“You’ve heard of me?” I put on a smile, bigger than usual.

“I’m with the Touring Club. I’ll be looking after you this weekend.”

I tell her I don’t need a hand with my bag and she whisks me out the door, to where a sleek, black-windowed Maybach 62 loiters in the pick-up area. I can’t help but pause to admire it. It’s so low to the ground, like a fighter with a lower center of gravity lurking in anticipation of violence. There’s over five hundred horses under that hood, a fair step up from the Mercedes or even the Aston Martins that make up the Császár fleet.

When I look up, she’s watching me. Her eyes turn up just a hint at the edges, a glimpse of smirking green. She caught me looking.

“Gorgeous, isn’t she?” The professional veneer is gone from her voice now. She sounds appreciative, almost sultry, the same admiration woven into her words that must have been visible on my face.

“That she is.” I lick my lips, slow and purposeful. “Must have been difficult to wrangle on such short notice. I appreciate it.”

She hefts her slim shoulders, nonchalant. We’re flirting now. It’s a subtle change--the way she turns her body and the toes of her pointed black heels toward me.

“Only the best for our clients,” she says. “That V12 will get you anywhere you need to go. And in a hurry. Solid chassis, body and windows thoroughly armored. You’ll be safe and secure and punctual as long as you’re in my hands, Mr. Hawthorne.”

I make a show of examining her, not bothering to hide the naked interest in my eyes. She isn’t too tall--the heels lend her the illusion of height, though. And what height she does have, man, it’s legs all the way up.

For just a moment, I consider it such a shame that I only came to LA to kill people.

“And what hands they are.” I flash her a hint of a grin. “Although really, if you’ll be looking after me all weekend I should probably know your name.”

She curls her dark lips at me and tips her head up, just a hint of a nod.

“Alicia.”

She doesn’t offer me her hand to shake. Which is a shame, because I wonder what she feels like.

“Thank you, Alicia. My PA sent your boss a copy of my itinerary, I believe?”

She dips her chin down, curls giving a single bounce.

“Sure did. If there’s anything you need before getting down to business, just let me know.”

I climb into the rear of the Maybach, sinking into the plush leather seat with an immediate, relaxed sigh. The vehicle’s entire interior is done up in leather so light grey it’s nearly white complemented with polished chrome accents. It looks like it costs four hundred thousand dollars, all right.

It’s a little upmarket for the real me, but it’s par for the course for Jake Hawthorne.

“Storage Solutions is our first stop, Mr. Hawthorne. I’m sure you know how to use the intercom if you need me.”

The smoky grey glass separating the passenger compartment from Alicia is raised at the moment. But for some reason, I find myself wishing I was still looking at her.

Careful,
I remind myself.
Can’t afford to get distracted. Not when you’ve got a war to wage.

2
~ Alicia ~

I
might be
the only person in Los Angeles who loves airports.

Every time I drop a client off, there’s just a certain thrill about it. The sound of jets roaring overhead, the constantly rotating menu of exotic destinations on the departures board. I wonder about who’s bound for Helsinki and Tokyo and Melbourne, not without some jealousy.

Rolling into the drop-off lane in four hundred grand worth of armored steel has its benefits, too. People turn their heads when the Maybach rolls up, even in LA. And even if it’s not me they’re looking at, I still get the benefits: it gets other drivers out of my way.

I get the text from HQ just as I’m dropping off another client. Mr. Kazuo Ishii is off to Toronto, our business concluded, and I steal a glance at my phone while helping him with his bags:

If you’re still at the airport, we’ve got a pick-up for you.

For a moment, I flirt with the idea of just lying.
Sorry Val, left already.
Mr. Ishii is an early riser, which means I’ve been on the clock since five-thirty in the morning. I’m tired. I’ve already put in forty hours this week and it’s only Friday morning.

But when Mr. Ishii thanks me for my assistance and presses five crisp hundred-dollar bills into my hand, I know I can’t reject the job.

The Touring Club charges a premium price for its services, and my hourly rate is better than your average Uber driver, but it’s the tips that make it all worthwhile. A short-notice airport pickup on a weekend has potential in the tips department.

Sleep sounds great, but when you owe as much money to the bank as I do, sometimes sleep is yet another luxury out of your price range.

As soon as I’ve bid Mr. Ishii a fond farewell, I roll the Maybach into a parking spot and call up HQ.

“I was hoping I’d hear from you,” Val says in lieu of hello. She’s our dispatcher. Not quite my boss, but the grease that keeps the well-oiled Touring Club machine working.

“You’ve got me.”

I check my makeup in the rear-view mirror. My eyeliner and shadow are simple most days: sweep of black, some smoky grey or maybe a dash of copper to highlight my eyes. Mostly I’m just glad it tricks people into thinking I look awake.

“Joaquin has a pickup at ten forty-five, but there’s a crash on I-10. He’s not gonna make it.”

The Touring Club has a policy: you can’t ever be late. I feel a momentary pang of sympathy for Joaquin. I’ve been in his shoes before. Sometimes shit just happens.

But at the same time, an extra job is an extra job.

“I can grab it. Just the day, or is he a weekend booking?”

Most Touring Club clients that fly in on Fridays leave by Monday morning. Weekend jobs are always nice for someone like me, someone with no family and no kids. Being paid to sleep in five-star hotels and eat breakfast buffets? With clients that sometimes don’t leave the hotel ‘til ten or eleven AM?

What’s not to love?

“He’s booked through Monday with the possibility of an extension. Full service, all your usuals taken care of.”

“Just him? No bodyguards or anything?”

“Just him.”

I don’t hesitate.

“I’ll take it.”

And that’s how I find myself escorting Jake Hawthorne into the Maybach.

I’ve never heard of Jake Hawthorne, but that doesn’t mean much. A lot of our clients, obscenely rich though they may be, aren’t exactly celebrities. Heirs, company directors, regular people who got lucky with their investments, all of them have sat in the back of my car.

But I have to admit, there’s something about Jake that catches my interest.

It isn’t quite the way he dresses, though the tightly-tailored blazer fits him like a glove. And it isn’t quite the way he acts, because I’ve barely known him for three minutes by the time he’d in the back of the car. I can’t put my finger on it.

He’s the sort of guy Val would say “has an aura.” But I don’t know much about auras, if I believe in them at all.

HQ has already sent through his itinerary to my work phone, which I load into the Maybach’s satnav display. The first stop is a pretty standard one. A lot of our clients pick up bags or work stuff from Storage Solutions. It’s got a roll-through lobby just like a hotel, quick and painless.

Leaving the airport and all its daydreams of getaways behind, I drive us the first few blocks to Storage Solutions and pull up in front. The Maybach purrs. I swear it feels restless sometimes, like a caged lion that can’t believe I’m not pushing it to its full potential.

Soon enough.

I get the door for Jake and flash him a polite smile. He arches his eyebrows--thick eyebrows, expressive eyebrows, the eyes beneath them gleaming like whiskey--and holds up a single finger. As if to say
won’t be a minute.

I watch him go. I can’t help it. He’s a lot to look at. From the broad shoulders of his powerful frame to the slow and confident swagger in his walk, I can tell he’s a man who looks after himself. He’s got dark hair that’s short on the sides, a little shaggy on top. Coupled with the stubble that shades his jaw, he looks more rock star than code geek.

But that’s what’s en vogue for those tech guys right now, isn’t it?

Through the tall glass doors, I watch him approach the front desk. He glances side to side as he steps in, standing with his back straight, like he’s scoping the place out. But he relaxes when the young blonde at the counter speaks to him. They talk for a while. I thumb through the rest of our itinerary on my phone.

Storage Solutions, Isobel Towers, a couple generic-sounding office buildings I’ve never been to before. Pretty standard stuff.

Someone wheels out a carrying case for him, a big heavy plastic one as heavy-duty as his suitcase. But he doesn’t take it and go.

He stands there and talks to the receptionist for ten more minutes.

I can’t hear what they’re saying, but the body language makes it obvious. She leans in toward him, then he leans in just a bit toward her. She toys with a strand of hair, winding it around her finger.

“Unbelievable,” I say to myself.

It’s certainly not the first time I’ve had a client that can’t keep it in his pants. But noon is creeping closer. Jake’s going to make himself late for his own meeting.

The receptionist scribbles something on a piece of paper and passes it over to him. He takes it with a gracious smile, then tucks it into his jacket pocket.

When he rolls the big carrying case out the door, he’s grinning like a fox in the henhouse.

I stand by the driver’s door, my arms still folded, and hit the button for the trunk once he reaches the car.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” he says. “I’ve got some things I need in here for my presentation.”

With an easy nod, I walk around the car and slide the trunk shut once again.

When I open his door, he pauses before ducking inside.

“I do like a girl who can follow orders,” he says, his mouth twisting up in a teasing smile. His fingertips--big and thick with calluses--brush mine on the door frame. Before I can even think of a comeback--let alone whether a comeback would be wise--he slips into the Maybach.

I shut the door, irritated.

Well, if he’s late to his own meeting on account of making me stand around while he makes eyes at office workers, that’s on him.

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