Chapter 1, Dead Rats And Smug Kisses
Gunshots echo against the tunnel walls, making it hard to know where they’re coming from. Mold and years of who-knows-what cover the cement walls and floor.
I bite back a scream as I step on a dead rat’s body. I try to ignore the crunch of bones being crushed by my black boots.
I’m going to kill whoever betrayed us.
I push myself to run faster, my bodyguards covering me on all sides. All of us are weighed down by the bags of money we are carrying from our recent robbery. But my bodyguards and I were trained for endurance and speed, keeping us ahead of our pursuers.
Our feet hit the ground hard as we run for our lives. As much as I hate running from a fight, I know when I’m outnumbered. And I also know when it’s time to make an exit.
I’m usually more stylish with my dramatic exits, like an explosion or fire. But this time, I’ll have to settle with just getting out of here alive.
I see the light up ahead, with the ladder leading up to the way out of here. I hope I don’t have to visit these stinking tunnels ever again.
I hear the familiar click of a gun and immediately duck, moving to the side as I keep running. A warning is about to come from my lips, but I’m too late. I don’t warn the bodyguard to the right of me on time.
A bullet takes him out straight through the head. I don’t even blink.
He falls to the ground, along with three bags of money. I let out a frustrated breath.
“Prendi i soldi!” I yell in Italian, and immediately one of my bodyguards obey. He turns around, grabs the three bags of money near the fallen bodyguard, and runs to join us again.
I give a satisfied nod to the bodyguard that got the fallen money. I’ll make sure he gets good credit for this job.
If we get out of here alive.
We speed up the pace even more for good measure, not wanting to be the next one shot down.
We’re so close to the light, to the ladder, that I can almost touch it. Just a few more steps.
“Not so fast,” A muffled male voice growls from a few meters away. “Turn around, drop the bags of money, and don’t move. You run or try to escape, I shoot.”
I scoff but turn around. I just need to stall for a bit until I can come up with a plan. My bodyguards turn around with me and we all drop our bags of money. Annoyed with this delay, I frown as I face where the muffled voice came from.
There are multiple men, dressed in black, all wearing masks. Trained to look for any weapons an opponent might have, I immediately notice that all the men either have a gun or a wicked-looking blade in their possession.
But one man stands out among the rest. I can tell by the way he stands that he’s the leader here. In front of the group, he stands proud, fearless, and evidently arrogant. He’s a broad, strong-looking man. Black hair peeks out from his dark hoodie.
He wears a mask that covers everything but his breath-taking green eyes. My eyes dart to the impressive-looking gun in his hands. Not one I’ve seen before, and that’s saying something.
I wonder if he was the sharp-shooter that took out one of my bodyguards.
Along with the gun, I notice the slight bulge of hidden knives covering his athletic body. And a belt full of compartments holding who-knows-what in it.
He’s prepared for anything.
Anything except me, though. I have a knack for surprising people.
I contemplate between nicknaming him Clover or Mr. Sharp. I settle on Clover.
Continuing my study of Clover, I settle on a nice greeting.
“Hey, you owe me a bodyguard,” I say, angling my head to the body a few meters behind him.
His mask covers most of his face but looking at his green eyes shows me his amusement and shock. I do tend to both amuse and shock people. It’s my specialty.
Plus, it’s good at distracting people with guns from shooting me.
“Well you owe us a few thousand dollars,” Clover responds in a muffled voice, looking pointedly at the bags of money on the ground around my bodyguards and me.
“Tell dear uncle Fuego that I personally stole the money. He of all people should understand why.” I crow, a tinge of bitterness evident in my words.
Clover makes eye contact with a guy close to him, and they share confused looks. It’s the only distraction I need to grab the small bomb from my boot and start it, throwing it at the group of black-clad men.
It’s a 20-second countdown.
Despite the training the men probably have, one look at the decreasing time on the bomb sends them running in the direction they came from.
“Andiamo!” I yell at my bodyguards, and they hurriedly grab the bags of money from the floor. I shove them up the ladder before me, wanting to do one last thing before I leave.
Only Clover and three other men remain, turning their attention from the bomb to me.
“You guys defuse the bomb. I’ll take care of the troublemaker.” Clover directs, lifting his gun to aim at me as the three men hurry to stop the bomb.
I waste no time and grab a dagger from one of the many on my body and throw, the blade hitting the gun right out of Clover's hands.
As quickly as I threw the blade, I grab another and throw again. The blade whirrs through the air and skims the right side of his forehead. The wound begins to bleed as he blinks in shock.
′That should leave a scar.′ I muse to myself with a smile.
With that, I smirk at him as I grab onto the ladder, climbing until I’m almost at the top.
With one last look at him, I blow a kiss. I’m just able to catch a glance of his shocked and furious expression before I’m completely out of the tunnel.
Now that’s the kind of exit I like.
Not a moment after I climb out of the tunnel, the loud boom of an explosion goes off from below. I guess they didn’t defuse the bomb in time. What a shame.
Taking a deep breath of the non-sewage smelling air, I join my waiting bodyguards nearby. We’re in an alley, the walls two brick buildings.
Waiting for us as planned, brand-new luggage cases sit patiently, ready to be filled with thousands of dollars. A few colorful hats and jackets are folded on top of the luggage, our simple disguises.
A few minutes later, we are ready. With our hats and jackets, as well as our money-filled luggage, my bodyguards and I are transformed into everyday traveling citizens.
One by one, we merge into the crowd of bustling people on the sidewalk.
Our taxi is waiting a few meters away, and after putting our luggage in the back, we jump in. I sit next to the taxi driver while my bodyguards sit in the back.
Our taxi driver is not just any taxi driver. He’s our escape driver and my favorite person in the world - Jaxon.
Meeting his sky-blue eyes, I lean forward and kiss him. I feel him smiling as he kisses me back.
Breaking away, I sit back and strap on my seatbelt.
“Step on it!” I yell.
“Yes, ma’am,” He concedes. And with the screech of tires, everything around us blurs as we speed away.
“How did it go? You guys are a little late.” He remarks.
“Well, Jaxon, let’s just say there was a bit of a delay, due to a betrayal,” I explain.
His eyes darken. “I’ll make sure we find out who it was,”
“I’ll help,” I offer.
Jaxon looks like he’s about to protest, but with one pointed look, he nods.
With a sigh of relief, I relax in my seat.
How exhilarating it is to just barely escape the arms of Death. But it takes a lot of energy. I trust Jaxon with my life, so I don’t worry as I close my eyes.
I wonder what my next near-death experience will be.
And I know for sure that there’s many more to come because that’s what it takes to get higher ranks. It's what I need to do to get my rightful place back from my uncle.