Authors: Jackie Ashenden
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To all my fantastic readers.
If I could take you all out for coffee I would.
Seven years ago Elijah Hunt lost everything that gave his life meaning.
Now, he'd lost it again.
This fucking bullshit was starting to get old.
The subway car rattled through the dark tunnel as he sat there with his fingers curled around the Colt in the pocket of his overcoat, watching the woman who sat opposite and a couple of seats down the car from him.
She hadn't seen him, hadn't recognized him. But then he'd made damn sure she wouldn't.
She looked like she was in her own little world anyway, staring down at the fringed leather purse she held tightly in her hands as if it contained the secrets of the universe.
Violet Fiztgerald. Daughter of the biggest prick God had ever put on this earth. The prick he'd spent the last seven years serving.
Not anymore. That prick was now dead and so was everything Elijah had worked toward.
He wasn't just pissed. He'd gotten beyond that. Way, way beyond it.
He was now in the cold zone, the dead place. Where only one thing had any meaning anymore: Take them down. Take them
There was just one thing he needed in order to make that happen. Violet. His handy little backup plan.
She shifted in her seat, glancing distractedly at the drunk sitting a couple of seats away, an expression of distaste flickering across small, precise features heavily masked by the makeup she wore. Thick black eyeliner and dark blue mascara. Full red mouth. Her long blonde hair in its ridiculous dreadlocks was pulled back in a ponytail, and as she changed her hold on her battered-looking purse, the many silver bracelets she wore around her wrist made chiming sounds.
She was wrapped in a long and completely over-the-top dark blue coat of worn velvet, belted tightly around her waist. The boots on her feet were black and scuffed, lacing right up under the bright fall of her Indian silk skirt. In addition to the bracelets around her wrists, she wore heavy silver hoops in her ears and a little blue sapphire that glittered in her nose.
Ever since he'd become Fitzgerald's right-hand man, Violet had been dressing like she'd stumbled over a box of theater costumes and just put them all on.
She looked ridiculous. A poor little rich kid trying rebellion on for size. When he'd first met her, she'd just come back from college after studying psychology against the express wishes of her parents. Then, not a couple of months after being back, she'd left again to pursue yet more study. She was one of those perpetual students, without a goal or purpose, substituting academia for a proper job. He despised her. Especially when not long after she'd come back with her master's degree, she'd then taken off to India and Europe, claiming she needed some “me time.” And all on her father's dime.
Spoiled, that's what she was. Unfortunately for her though, the days of swanning around doing whatever the hell she wanted were now at an end.
The lights flickered as the train went around a corner, then began to slow as it approached the station.
Keeping an eye on her and her mother had been one of his jobs, so he had an idea where she was going. And if he was right, she'd be getting off here.
Sure enough, as the train drew up to the platform, Violet got to her feet.
Time to go.
People were beginning to crowd around the doors, but he had no problem making sure they moved out of the way as he came up behind her. She was a full head shorter than he was and smelled faintly of some kind of hippie shit perfume. Sandalwood possibly.
Filing the observation automatically away, he brought the Colt out discreetly and bent his head so his mouth was near her ear. Then he jammed the muzzle against her back and said coldly, “Scream and I'll kill you.”
She stiffened, jerking around to face him, shock written all over her pretty features.
He allowed her a glance, since one look into his eyes would be all she needed to know he meant business, and gave her an icy smile. “You don't want to die, do you, Violet?”
Eyes the color of fine turquoise widened, her pupils dilating. Her gaze flickered all over his face, probably taking in the bruises and cuts left by fucking Zac Rutherford's fists. He probably looked like he'd gone ten rounds with Muhammad Ali, but that was a good thing. The more terrified she was, the less likely she'd fight himâand he really couldn't be bothered with yet another fight right now. He'd rather shoot her and be done with it.
Elijah pressed the gun firmly into her back. “Eyes front. We're getting out right here.”
A visible tremble shook her, and for a minute he wondered if she'd be stupid enough or afraid enough to ignore him and scream. Which would put a major fucking wrench in the works.
He cocked the gun. Kept the cold smile on his face. “Make the right decision, princess.”
She paled. Her gaze flickered again, then abruptly she turned back to the doors.
Excellent. At least one thing was going right for him today.
The train stopped and the doors opened, and Violet got out with him close behind her. “Head for the exit,” he murmured as they moved through the crowded platform. “Nod if you understand.”
She didn't turn this time, but gave a jerky nod.
Keeping the gun pressed firmly into her back, he stayed close as they made their way to the escalators, people oblivious around them, all the while keeping an eye out for anyone tailing them. He wasn't fool enough to believe that just because he'd lost the men Rutherford had sent out after him, he was safe. No, not after the fight the other man had put up back at Fitzgerald's apartment.
His shoulder ached at the memory, but Elijah ignored the pain. Focused instead on the massive, black, volcanic rage that filled him. Rage at seeing the man he'd been chasing for seven years die from a gunshot wound to the head.
Everything he'd done, everything he'd worked for, gone in the blink of an eye.
Because that fucking bitch Eva King had taken his revenge from him.
He should have killed her up in that apartment, but he hadn't. He'd let her go to catch Fitzgerald off guard, to break the impasse Rutherford and King had gotten themselves into.
He'd expected Rutherford to go for Eva to protect her, but none of them had done what they were supposed to do. Eva wasn't supposed to shoot Fitzgerald in the head. She was supposed to collapse in a heap of fear and Rutherford was supposed to protect her while Elijah took the shot at Fitzgerald instead.
But none of it had gone to plan. Eva had taken up the gun and shot Fitzgerald, and then Rutherford had turned on him. Then Rutherford had shot him.
The bullet had gone through his shoulder and it hurt like a bastard, but Elijah was used to ignoring pain. After picking up the Colt from the dead body of the security guard on his way out of the building, he'd found an alley to hide in, ripping his shirt apart to use as a makeshift bandage while he put his coat on over the top. Then he'd had to think on the fly, try to remember what his backup plan was supposed to be if everything turned to shit.
He'd had to work fast, find Violet quickly, because once her father's death was discovered, the police would be all over it and not only would his element of surprise be gone, but she'd be protected. And not only by the police.
Violet Fitzgerald's best friend was Honor St. James, a member of the group who'd fucked up his revenge plans, and once Honor knew Fitzgerald was dead, she'd be running to her friend to make sure she was okay.
Which wasn't going to happen. At least not now at any rate.
As they came up out of the subway station, the icy wind of a late New York winter crawled under the overcoat he wore, sending tendrils of cold over the bare skin of his torso. He considered the sensation, then discarded it. He would have to get inside and out of the wind to deal with his wound soon enough, but he could manage for now. It wasn't as if his hostage was any danger to him.
Almost as soon as the thought crossed his mind, Violet made a sudden lunge to the left.
Stupid girl. Even with a gunshot wound his reflexes were better than most Navy SEALs.
He shot out a hand and grabbed her arm, hauling her back against him while jamming the muzzle of the Colt hard into her side.
“Bad move, princess,” he hissed in her ear. “Do it again and I'll shoot you right here and now.”
She was trembling, he could feel it. “W-W-Why are you doing this?” she stammered, her voice hoarse and ragged with fear. “W-What did I do?”
“Just shut up and do as you're told and you won't get hurt.” Keeping a hold on her arm, he forced her to walk to the edge of the sidewalk near the street. “Now, flag down a cab. We're going for a little drive.”
“My father willâ”
“Your father, Violet, is dead. And if you want to live, you'll do whatever the fuck I say, understand?”
She'd gone totally still at that. “Noâ¦” It was a quiet, almost inaudible whisper.
But he had no time for her grief or her shock or her pain. He knew Fitzgerald had loved his daughter in his own twisted way and that Violet had no idea what her father was. That this news would come as a complete shock to her.
Too fucking bad. Life was short, then you died. And she was going to find that out the hard way.
“Get. A. Cab.” He made each word as hard and as cold as a bullet. He'd let her collapse once they'd gotten back to the apartment he'd maintained for this very purpose. An apartment that no one knew about, that no one would find. The perfect bolt-hole he could disappear into while he formulated his escape route.
Or at least that had been the old plan, for after he'd taken his revenge and killed Fitzgerald.
Now, though, he'd have to think of something else. A use for his little bargaining chip, a way to bring it all down.
He wasn't going to let the past seven years all be for nothing. He fucking
It took Violet a while to flag down a cab, and when one finally stopped, Elijah could feel the cold starting to settle down through his skin, going deeper. The gunshot wound ached and so did his hands, and his face was no doubt bruised as well; Zac Rutherford was a mean bastard who knew how to throw a punch.