Last Hit: Reloaded

Last Hit: Reloaded

Synopsis:

With their explosively sexy novels, the bestselling authors of Last Breath, Last Kiss, and Last Hit have proven themselves a force to be reckoned with. * Now comes an all-new to-die-for novella in their acclaimed Hitman series

There was a time when Nick loved the fear he instilled in his enemies. His tattoos alone promised danger, but it was the look in his eyes that delivered on it. A contract killer since he was just a boy, Nick has now forged a new life and a new identity with the woman who followed him, captured him, and changed him.

He terrified Daisy. Once. But she couldn t resist, and she ignored every warning. It paid off. Now she s part of a new beginning, a fresh start in America helping him to leave behind a reckless and violent past as a professional killer. But the past is never easy to outrun, especially when so much of it thrives on revenge.

A new threat has emerged from the shadows, and now Nick and Daisy have no choice but to rely on Nick s killer skills to protect them from everything they ve tried so hard to escape.

Includes a bonus excerpt from Last Kiss.

Excerpt:

Chapter One
      DAISY
      It’s strange to be surrounded by a sea of people and still be lonely. I walk the campus path to class, hugging my iPad close to my chest, a backpack slung over one shoulder. I’m dressed in a dark gray sweater and jeans, my hair’s pulled into a nondescript ponytail, and I’m roughly the same age of everyone else attending school, give or take a few years.
      But I don’t blend. I don’t think I even know how.
      Maybe it’s because I’ve killed a man? Maybe it’s because the love of my life is an ex-mafiya assassin? Maybe it’s because the last year has given me more life experience than a lot of these people will ever have, but I’m still considered the “sheltered” one?
      Who knows. Whatever it is, I feel like the square peg in a class full of round holes.
      I duck into my Financial Management class, and as I do, there’s a row of women at the front I recognize from a class last semester. They’re taking the accounting block of classes, like me, because I want to learn how to manage Nick’s money and help him make more of it the legal way. They’re smiling and laughing, but when they see me, they get quiet. I see their expressions freeze over and they don’t make eye contact.
      And so, even though there’s an empty seat next to them, I move to the back of the class. I try not to let it bother me.
      I really thought it would be easier to make friends. I really did. But outside of my fiancé, Nick, whom I love and adore with all my heart; my father; and my old roommate, Regan, I’m alone.
      Last semester, things were going fine. I enjoyed my classes and socialized with people. But then we got word that Daniel’s sister Naomi had been stolen out from under his nose while he and Regan were accompanying her. Rumors of a Bratva takeover started trickling through Nick’s networks. And my Nick? He is utterly cautious when it comes to my safety. So instead of letting me go to class on my own, he insisted on walking me to class and waiting at the door for me as each class finished.
      I think that’s when the ostracism started. People started to look at me weird. Girls that I used to eat lunch with no longer go to the dining hall when I do. Maybe Nick inadvertently said something to someone. Maybe just seeing my big Ukrainian with the tattoo-covered neck and the designs crisscrossing his hands screamed danger.
      Whatever it was, the women in my classes steer clear of me.
I can’t blame Nick. He wants to keep me safe, and I love him for it. After my kidnapping last year by Yuri and Vasily, I don’t mind his hovering. It makes me feel secure, even if it chases away any chance of friendship with “regular” people.
      As I swipe my iPad and open the text to the class’s lesson, I tell myself that these things don’t matter. That the approval of my peers does not matter to me. I have Nick, and that should be everything.
      But in some ways, not having any girlfriends to chat with makes me feel as if I am still that isolated young woman living in a boarded-up house with my father. I had no friends then, either. And funnily enough, I thought that friends and life would come easily once I escaped his house. And while Nick blazed his way into my life like a comet and paved a path for me, I still struggle with everyday things.
      Like small talk. I never realized how much of a favor my friend Regan did me when she took me under her wing. But now Regan’s in Texas and I’m having to figure things out on my own.
      The class fills up as we wait for the professor’s lecture to begin. There are two unfamiliar girls a row ahead of me discussing something called Real Housewives. I think it’s a TV show, based off of their conversation, but Nick and I don’t watch a lot of TV. There are so many other things to do with our time, like fix up the old apartment building, or go to the zoo, or take walks together . . . or simply make love. TV falls somewhere far down that list.
      Still, I make a note on the margins of my notepad to check it out. Maybe I can watch a few episodes over the weekend and return to class armed with knowledge and a way to break into their huddled conversation.
      Even as I think it, I scratch the words out. I can watch a few episodes . . . and then what? Introduce them to my assassin fiancé? Invite them over for dinner to the large, empty apartment building that Nick and I purchased and that no one else lives in yet except for my father? But could they please let me run a background check first?
      I sigh and concentrate on my finance class instead.
      If I cannot make friends, I can at least have knowledge.
      My next class occurs after lunch. Even though Nick would prefer that I remain in class until he comes to escort me home, we’ve compromised. I won’t eat anywhere but in the crowded lunchroom, where I can be surrounded by people. It doesn’t matter that I brown-bag my lunch every day; there is safety in numbers. But I hate lunch. I hate that when I choose a table, I’m always the only one seated there.
      I’ve tried sitting with other people, but I get nervous and end up staring mutely at them as I gobble my sandwich, which only makes everyone uncomfortable. To look like I’m busy, I text Nick a few hearts to let him know I’m thinking about him.
      You are my heart, Daisy, he texts back immediately.
      I smile and touch the art I had tattooed over my breastbone for Christmas. It’s a drawing of a heart and his name in Cyrillic, and it’s as dark and elegant as my lover. I love it, and Nick loves to see it on my skin. I think it touched him more than when I proposed to him, which is funny to think about. A ring is an outward sign that you belong to someone, but the hidden tattoo under my clothes is just for him, and ten times more intimate. I smile and text him back. What are you drawing today?
      A very fat man, Nick sends back. He is sweating profusely. His balls look like shriveled meatballs.
      I giggle on my peanut butter and jelly. Nick is taking art classes, and he alternately loves—and hates—his Drawing from Life Models class. Nick enjoys drawing interesting people, not pretty ones, so this man should be right up his alley. But the sweat, I imagine, is difficult to capture. Have fun, I text back. Dinner tonight is meatballs!
      Now my cock is shriveled at the thought. I must go, love. Duty calls.
      XO, I send, since I cannot kiss him.
      I wish I could be more like Nick. Nick doesn’t want or need friends. He looks at me strangely when I say the girls in class don’t like me. What can they possibly not like?, he asks. I cried over it once, but only once, because it distressed Nick so. To him, problems are solved at the business end of a gun, and if he can’t help me, it hurts him. So I hide this.
      I text Regan a little, but it’s clear from her slow responses that she’s busy. She’s helping Daniel with the stalls at the Hays ranch. I can’t imagine Regan doing manual labor, but she says she loves it and it helps calm her mind. If that’s the case, I’m all for it.
      I’m relieved when I’ve wasted enough time fooling with my phone to go to my next class. Principles of Architecture is a labor of love. It has absolutely nothing to do with my degree plan, but when my advisor suggested fine arts courses, I gravitated toward this one. Learning about the differences in Greek columns and how ancient civilizations created load-bearing walls is pretty dry stuff to Nick, but I’m fascinated. Maybe someday I could design new buildings, buildings with both safety and beauty in mind.
      This class is primarily first-year students, and I’m older than all of them, which makes me feel a bit silly. Luckily, I find the coursework so interesting that I don’t mind being older than the others. I’m also one of only two women in the class. The other is a girl with pale blond hair who’s even quieter than I am. Like a wraith, she slips in and out of class. I don’t think anyone realizes she’s present except for me, because I am on the hunt for friends.
      Through chance, she gets to class and slides into the empty seat next to me.
      I should take this opportunity. I need to say something witty. Maybe about the rainy weather? Or what about today’s subject? According to the syllabus, we’ll be talking about the ancient Romans and their use of concrete as a building material. So I look over at her, smile brightly, and what comes out of my mouth is, “Rain and concrete today!”
      She gives me a startled look and shrinks down into her seat.
      I probably deserved that. I hunch down in my own seat and stare miserably at the front of the lecture hall. Rain and concrete? Really, Daisy?
      The class passes miserably slowly, and even my interest on the subject can’t save things. When class is over, I take my time gathering my things and pretend to study my notes intently. Everyone files out ahead of me, and I’m the last one out the door.
      When I exit into the hall, Nick is waiting for me.
      My Nick is beautiful, but he’s utterly foreign to the bland students of Minnesota U. Even though he is wearing a long-sleeved shirt with a polo collar, I can see the tattoos on his neck of the knife, the spiderweb. His hands are covered with Cyrillic writing, and if his arms were exposed, they would be covered with even more tattoos. They tell a bloodthirsty history, and anyone in Europe, I am told, would give him wide berth at the sight of them. Here in the middle of nowhere, America, they simply think he is odd. Maybe a gang member. And his beautiful pale eyes light up at the sight of me.
      My spirits are down, but I manage a smile for him and tilt my face up for a kiss. Nick pulls me in close and his mouth brushes over mine, and his touch never fails to send a shiver down my spine. I love this man. I would kill for him.
      I have killed for him.
      “You look tired, milaya moya,” he tells me as he wraps an arm around my waist. “Long day?”
      “Just a lot of homework,” I tell him, and lean in to inhale his scent. I never get tired of anything Nick. Ever. I could bask in his attention all day. Even his presence here is like a balm to me. “How was your class?”
      “Good,” he tells me. His classes are always “good.” Later, he might show me his artwork, but not here.
      When we get outside, Nick immediately pulls out an umbrella and holds it over me. I try to take it from him, but he insists on holding it. “Are you not mine to care for?” he says, a smile on his mouth.
      It’s on the tip of my tongue to tease him back, when I notice a huddled group under the building awning, hiding from the rain. It’s Joanne and Maggie, two girls I was friendly with last semester. They see me with Nick and immediately start whispering, even as he holds the umbrella over me like I’m some sort of princess.
      I want to make a silly joke about it. About how Nick is a sweetheart and just an over-protective fiancé with reasons for worrying about my safety.
      But the words stick like glue in my throat, and I remain silent as we head to the parking lot and Nick’s car.
      After dinner, Nick and I work on our homework together. Normally we also try to do a bit of handiwork around the apartment, but I plead a reprieve tonight, feigning a headache. I don’t have it in me to grout tile or paint walls or hold screwdrivers while Nick cusses at the wiring.
      Instead, we snuggle on the couch, and Nick traces the lines of my hand with his fingers. He’s got such long, strong fingers that I could study them for hours. They’re the hands of an artist and an assassin, and it’s a fascinating dichotomy to me. He is so many things, and I am just weird Daisy. Weird, useless Daisy.
      I make a frustrated sound in my throat.
      Lazily, Nick looks over at me, his expression full of contentment. “Hmm?”
      “Nick, do you think I’m weird? Be honest.”

© 2015 Jen Frederick



Last Hit: Reloaded

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