Read The Judas Relic: An Evangeline Heart Holiday Adventure Online

Authors: A.K. Alexander,Jen Greyson

Tags: #NA fantasy, #Paranormal, #fantasy NA, #NA series, #urban fantasy, #NA fantasy series, #bestselling NA

The Judas Relic: An Evangeline Heart Holiday Adventure (9 page)

BOOK: The Judas Relic: An Evangeline Heart Holiday Adventure
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Clay handed the waitress our menus, then turned to me and winked. “If I’m good will you let me get a piece of pie for the road?”

I rolled my eyes, relieved to be back on joking terms—at least for the moment. I agreed, because there was no chance he could behave himself for an entire meal.

 

Chapter Three

We ate quickly, eager to get started. Outside the deli, he pointed toward a beefed-up silver Hummer. “I’m parked over here.”

“Great. My bags are already at the jet.” I’d sent them with Malcolm when he’d left this morning for another mission, knowing they’d be safe and ready instead of having to drag them around.

He held my door for me and I climbed into the beast. “Nice ride.” The interior was dark grey and spotless. Clay was so flippant and carefree, the rough manliness of the vehicle caught me off guard. He climbed in and I inhaled the leather and his tropical air freshener, then relaxed into the seat, finally focused on the multiple tasks in front of us.

He pulled into traffic and I launched into our most pressing issue—the double-cross and deception from his buyer. “Who is this guy, anyway?”

Clay checked his rearview mirror and changed lanes, speeding past the slower traffic on the right. “I’ve never met him. That’s how I work with all my clients. He sent me a secure message through my system about five years back and I’ve stolen a dozen pieces for him.”

“Like what?” I pulled a notepad from my purse and clicked my pen. There was a connection in the details, I just had to find it and use the clues to track us back to the man who’d hired the hit.

He shrugged and turned on the radio, keeping the pop station low in the background. The bass thrummed through the floorboards, trembling through my feet. “Relics, mostly. The first one was an alabaster jar, then a trio of medallions, a single painting—tiny though—I palmed it and walked out without a single person blinking.”

I shook my head. Seriously, his cockiness new no bounds. He was good though, I couldn’t deny it. And I’d stuffed our last piece in my bra, so I couldn’t exactly chide him for being discreet. The only thing that ever mattered was completing the mission and staying alive.

“What else?”

“More of the same. You don’t really think you’re going to be able to find him through those are you? He had me fence half of them and he had private buyers for the rest.”

“How sure are you of that? Maybe he just told you that and used some of these pieces to misdirect you.” I grunted. “He obviously has no problem lying to you.”

We’d nearly been killed on Clay’s last mission. He’d called me in to help him and we’d been attacked in the middle of boosting what was supposed to be a fifteen million dollar painting.

“Yeah, but that’s why I think you’re wasting time on this. If he’d have wanted me dead, I wouldn’t be sitting here now.”

“You’re a fool to dismiss the hit.”

He glanced over at me, a wide sure grin showing his teeth. “I’m not you, babe. I don’t live and die at the end of a gun. If he kills me, who’s going to get him his next bauble?”

“There are plenty of thieves out there.” I closed my notebook and leaned back in the seat. “I realize you think you’re the best, but there are more than a few people who are nearly as good as you.” I turned toward the window. “And probably half the pain.”

“I heard that.” He turned up the radio and we moved through traffic to the turnoff to the airport, passing the public entry for the private one that I always flew out of. For a guy who’d been rattled by my unlimited access to lear jets, he’d come around fast.

Security waved us through and he parked along the tall chain link fence reserved for the few vehicles that stayed on the property. Most of the fliers out of here used private cars and I could have done that today, but he’d wanted to drive. Maybe he was more worried than he wanted to let on and was worried about someone tampering with his car. No chance of that happening in here with the level of security surrounding this airstrip and the guests using it.

We got out and walked to the jet, door open on the tarmac and waiting for us. Inside, I bugged him about it again. “Before we do anything, we need to eliminate that threat.”

Clay made a face. “I’m sure he was just sending a message.”

I blinked. Hits were the world I came from, people didn’t hire assassins as messages, they did it to take care of a problem. In all my years in the business, I’d never heard of someone going to all the trouble of hiring a kill just to pull it at the last minute in favor for a glancing blow.

Clay’d been lucky to survive the hit on him, and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been there to save him by killing the shooter before he could finish the job. I had a hard time believing that was the end of it.

“Humor me. Tell me about every interaction you’ve had with this buyer so I can figure out who this is and identify the real threat. I think this is bigger than you screwing up the heist. Has there ever been anything out of the ordinary on any of your deals?”

He reclined the leather seat and propped his hands behind his head. “You mean other than the time that guy pulled a gun and shot me?”

I took the seat next to him. “Was there anything else about that heist that stood out?”

He was silent long enough that I thought he’d fallen asleep on me, then one eyelid popped open, blue eye staring intently at me. “He called me.”

I leaned closer. “Okay. That’s something. Do you remember anything about the call? Had he ever done that before?”

He sat up and shook his head, then ran a hand through his blond curls. “No. Like I said, we always dealt through the secure site. I didn’t even know how he got my number.”

“And you seriously didn’t see anything wrong with that?” An anomaly like that would have sent up no less than a dozen red flags for me. But Clay had already proved that I was a lot more suspicious and cautious than he’d ever be. Where I saw nothing but issues and problems, Clay only saw opportunities and challenges. In this, as in everything else, we were day and night.

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Discover how Lina and Clay met and found the first relic in
The Archangel Agenda.

(Keep reading for a sample)

The Archangel Agenda

And Azazel taught mankind to make swords and knives and shields and coats of mail, and taught them to see what was behind them, and their works of art: bracelets and ornaments, and the use of rouge, and the beautifying of the eye-brows, and the dearest and choicest stones and all coloring substances and the metals of the earth.
— 1 Enoch 8:1-2

Chapter One

A blast of air conditioning hit me in the face as I opened the door, home from the funeral. I shivered as it kissed the wet tear tracks on my cheeks. Griffin’s mom wanted to have him buried in the family plot, and who was I to argue, even if it meant standing outside in the sweltering Manhattan heat.

I avoided my reflection in the mirror above the small table by the door and dropped my keys on the polished surface. My damp hair stuck to my neck and I dug through a plastic bowl filled with odds and ends for a hair tie. One of Griffin’s cufflinks rattled in the bottom and my breath caught. I picked it out from the nest of rubber bands and loose change, and cradled it gently in my palm. The cool feel of the silver buckled my knees.
 

He’d refused them at first, telling me they’d been too expensive. If he’d only known just how expensive, he’d have blown a gasket. It was one of the many secrets I’d kept from him.

“These are diamonds, Lina,” he’d said, brushing his hand through his dark wavy hair and eyeing me with light green eyes that took my breath away every time I looked into them.
 

“They are.” I smiled. They weren’t just any diamonds, but canary diamond square cufflinks.

“Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Why?”

I touched the collar of his button down and pulled him closer to me. “Because, you deserve them. You, Mr. Griffin Jacobs, have just passed the New York State bar, for God’s sakes! We need to live a little. And, you totally deserve them!”
 

“You’re crazy and sweet and wonderful and I don’t deserve them.”

“Shut up and just say thank you and kiss me.”

He’d obliged with a slow and lingering kiss. Later, naked and curled in each other’s arms, a moment embedded forever deep within my soul took me a little by surprise. My head on his chest, Griffin played with the long tendrils of my hair. He leaned over me and kissed the top of my head, and said for the first time, “I love you, Evangelina Heart.”
 

As I stood dazed staring at the cufflinks that had cost me a pretty penny, I almost felt his breath on my face as he whispered the words and I wanted so desperately to hear him say them again in that very moment, for just one last time.

I was smothering in my new black dress and I frantically searched for the zipper. In my fumbling, the cufflink slipped from my sweaty, shaking fingers and skittered across the hardwood floor. “Dammit,” I said, dropping to the floor and scrambling after it, looking nothing like the poised, controlled assassin I’d been trained to be. Tears burned my eyes and blurred my vision.
 

“Dammit! God dammit,” I repeated over and over again.

I crawled across the floor, the knees of my pantyhose snagging and running but I didn’t care. I had to find that cufflink. I stretched one arm beneath the couch and my fingers grazed my Glock and the handles of three knives, but not the cufflink. I pushed the gun out of the way and patted the bare floor, searching,
needing
this one thing of Griffin’s, this one final “I love you.”
 

Where had the damn thing gone to?

I finally found it and rolled over on my back, clutching it to my chest. No one would have been proud of the sniffling, snotty disaster I was right now but I didn’t know how to make it stop. I let myself cry for longer than I should have, then I forced myself to stand up and channel those emotions into a ball of revenge. That would serve me far better than being a sorry hot mess. A well of anger started in my gut and I planned to utilize it—to make something come from all of this.

I walked to the kitchen and poured a glass of water. The air conditioner kicked off and silence hung in the air like Griffin’s aftershave.
 

There wasn’t going to be a good time to pack his stuff, so I carried the cufflink to the closet and pulled down a box, dumping out last year’s tax returns and pushing them into a pile in the corner with my toe. I’d worry about them later.

The box was too light with just the cufflink in it, but I carried it to the bedroom and set it on the end of the bed. Waterworks threatened again but I swallowed them down and added them to the quickly growing revenge-orb. That was the only way emotions served me—as fuel for action.
 

I stared at the small wooden statue and bowl on my nightstand. They were the only pieces I had left of Mom. They could fit in the palm of my hand, and I’d carried them with me everywhere since we’d excavated them together all those years ago. Was Griffin up in heaven with her and Dad? Was there even such a place? I rested my hands on the edge of the box and bowed my head. I hadn’t prayed in over a decade but I didn’t have anything to lose. The South African rebels had made sure of that.
 

“Um, God?” I paused.
 

That wasn’t right. Mom had never prayed to the usuals—she’d spent too much time digging up religious relics and hunting history to offer up her prayers to a generic god. She’d always prayed to the archangels, trusting them to carry her most precious requests straight to God’s ears. It had been so long since I’d heard her prayers, and her favorite archangels weren’t Michael and Gabriel. She’d picked the two who’d first been actual human men on earth. I knew my mother had been eccentric but her connection to the archangels always appeared real and deep to me. In my grief, my memory seemed to lapse as for some crazy reason I couldn’t remember the angels she constantly prayed to. What was wrong with me? It was like a blurry block was watering my brain down.

I drew a shaky breath and dug through my memory where I’d hid all the tender ones of Mom. There were so many nights when I’d come across her standing in the middle of one of her digs, arms outstretched, head tilted back, lost in prayer. Enoch was one, but she used his holy name—his name after he became an archangel—Metatron? No, she’d told me there was a different one, one who carried the prayers… Mom had told me his name more than once… Elijah’s holy name, Sandalphon? Yeah, that was the guy.
 

“Hello, Sandalphon? I have no idea what you need to know to make this one a priority prayer, but it’s a rush job.” I sighed, feeling the weight of the last month’s events settle heavily onto my shoulders. “Can you just let me know that they’re all okay? That they’re in a better place? I know…” I closed my eyes and choked back the tears. “I know Griffin didn’t go in peace, so can you at least let me know that he’s found some up there in heaven or wherever? Okay, thanks, um, bye.”

I felt like a moron, talking to myself. But it couldn’t hurt, right?

A knock echoed through the apartment and I stilled. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but the men who’d killed Griffin weren’t the type to knock. It was probably Ms. Finnick from down the hall. I tugged at my pencil-lined skirt, wishing I hadn’t gotten distracted and would have changed. The visitor knocked again and I hurried down the hall and checked the peephole, grateful to see Malcolm.

I flipped the deadbolt and pulled the door open. His face was drawn and sad today, making him look older than his sixty-one years. He’d held his age well, but gray tinted the black hair of his sideburns and a few wrinkles creased the lines of his dark brown skin. “Hey, girl. Doing okay?”

I forced a smile and nodded, blinking back the tears. “Yeah. Come in.”

He closed the door behind him and pulled me into a hug. We’d been together since he’d rescued me from the foster system fifteen years ago when I was an angsty teen. Even so, we didn’t do a lot of physical contact. Maybe it was our line of work—I didn’t know a lot of killers who were big into hugging. But right now, I needed the solidity of him. His big frame engulfed me and I pressed my cheek to his chest and held on tight.
 

BOOK: The Judas Relic: An Evangeline Heart Holiday Adventure
7.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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