Anastasia.

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Chapter 1

ANASTASIA

***

“Hello, love.” I tell a man, strutting up to the bar with a drink in my hand. He turns his head to meet my eyes and gets a good look at me.

“Well, hello pretty lady. Is there somethin’ I can do for ya?” He asks, a smirk taking over his face. He has a country accent, just like the file said. His green eyes are mesmerizing, but knowing what he’s been doing to young girls like me for the past 20 years makes me want to puke in them. Sick men like this one deserve to die, and that is what’s going to happen tonight.

“Yes, actually. I was hoping you’d take some time away from the bar to assist me.” I slur, keeping on my flirty façade as I run my finger down his arm. I watch lust form in his eyes as he rises from his chair to follow me to the bathrooms of the club. Holding onto his hand and staring into his eyes, we push our way past drunk dancers and flirty couples to arrive at the one-person bathroom.

I shove him inside and turn around to lock the door. Thank God there’s no one in here; they wouldn’t enjoy the view they’re about to get. I mean, they wouldn’t be able to live to tell another soul anyway. I’d have to kill them.

As soon as the door locks, I feel the man’s nasty hands reach around my waist and pull me to him. I play along for a bit, getting him distracted. You have to attack when they least expect it. I rub my ass on his hips which causes him to moan and I turn around to face him. Running one hand down his chest, he reaches to the back of my dress and starts to unzip it. I want to shake him off of me, for I am very uncomfortable, but I have to get the job done. I don’t want Dottie to hurt me again like last time. I have to follow through.

I unhook the man’s belt from his jeans and playfully push him up against the wall. He lets out a low chuckle while I grab his hands and place them above his head. I tie his hands to the pole behind him and rub my body against his. This man is so fucking clueless. He’s stuck now. I got him. I grab the bandana from out of his pocket and stuff it in his mouth, knowing what’ll happen next is sure to result in a lot of muffled screams.

I walk away from him slowly while he looks at me like I’m about to give him a show. Well, I am, but he’ll be dead by the end of it. I let my dress slowly fall down my shoulders to reveal the one thing that is sure to make even a grown man cry: the tattoo. The two roses that, to men like him, let them know that they are about to suffer a very painful death.

He glances down at my chest and his eyes go wide. He starts to wiggle and shout, making him look ridiculous tied up to that pole. I lift up the end of my dress to reveal the dagger that is tied up to my thigh. He squirms and yells some more as I walk up to him and unbutton his shirt to reveal a bare chest. I grab the dagger from its case and begin to trace the point of it down to his stomach. He tenses up and I look into his horrified, green eyes.

“You know who I am, right?” I question quietly, tracing lines up and down his stomach. He stays quiet until I put more pressure onto his chest, making him bleed. He yelps in pain as I trace more lines onto his bare stomach. The blood, a beautiful crimson red, falls down his upper body and gets soaked into the hem of his jeans. “Answer me when I talk to you, and if you dare to yell, this will be a lot more painful for you than you’d probably want it to be.” I whisper in his ear and yank the bandana from his mouth.

“Yeah,” He squeaks as I take the blade off of his chest and rest in by my side. I smirk at his anxious self as his chest quickly rises and falls.

“And who am I?” I question, zipping up the back of my dress so I have more control over my motions.

“Briar Rose,” He whimpers as I tighten the grip of the dagger in my hand.

“That’s right, and what do I do to crummy men like you?” I ask as I grab the bandana with my other hand to place in his mouth. He stays silent, so I elbow him in the rib, making him groan. “Answer me when I ask you a question!” I roar and he jumps at my booming voice.

“You kill ’em,” He wheezes, fear dripping from his voice. Before he closes his gaping mouth, I stuff the bandana back into it, making him scream. I place my dagger’s blade back onto his chest and continue to carve my masterpiece. Muffled cries of pain fill the room as I engrave my mark into him. Once I finish, I grab his hair and start to scalp his head. He wiggles and screams as I cut through his skin, making him feel the pain that he put onto those poor children. My heart hurts for them and by me doing this, I avenge their lives.

Once I’ve stripped his head of hair and skin, I run the blade across his throat slowly. He gargles as his eyes roll into the back of his head and, after a few seconds, he goes silent. I step back to admire my creation I’d carved into his chest. One big rose bleeds from it, making me smirk. “Briar Rose” has become my assassin name ever since I got my tattoo and I’ve learned just to take it in. I don’t tell people my name, so everyone knows this lady assassin as “Briar Rose”. Beautiful but deadly. Just how I’m supposed to be.

I wash off my dagger in the bathroom sink and place it back on my side. Once I’ve rinsed all of the blood from my arms, I walk out of the bathroom, locking it behind me.

I observe my surroundings, making sure that I blend into the environment around me. I study the people next to me, seeing how they interact and watching their actions. They seem so at peace with one another, talking to each other as if they were close friends, even though they’d just met. I’m then rudely interrupted by the buzz of a phone. I grab it from the inside of my bra and press to answer it.

"Wonderful work, Briar." Dottie congratulates me through the line. I raise an eyebrow in confusion, but then I remember he’s watching me through the security cameras in the club. He wipes the memory from every security camera I run into, making sure to keep my identity a secret. A low laugh comes through the phone that makes me shiver. That laugh never leads to anything positive for me.

"Go ahead and come back to the base, dear. I have to talk to you about something. In private." As he says those words, I feel my face pale and my hands start to shake. Being alone with Dottie is never good. Dottie doesn’t care for me or my feelings; as long as he has his best assassin, which is me, he’s happy. He doesn’t care for my mental health or well being, just my performance. And if I don’t perform well, he beats me until I do. The last time he beat me was almost 2 months ago. Record for the time being, but I can’t jinx myself now. I always have to be prepared for the worst when it comes to Dottie or Tye.

Tye, the English Mafia Underboss, is very touchy towards me. He can’t keep his hands to himself and that causes me to get uneasy around him. I mean, he is like Dottie, but more self-centered. Never one to care about others.

“Yes sir, I’m on my way.” I answer and hang up immediately. I exhale a large breath and make my way outside of the club. I feel sorry for the person who has to find that man I’ve left behind. Dottie didn’t give me orders on how to dispose of the body, so I just left it there. Not like it’s a big deal; there have been far worse situations than this one.

I arrive at the cab that Dottie sent out for me and step inside. I look to the driver through the front mirror and nod at him. He nods in return and starts the drive back to the base. I’m not one to spark up a conversation, so I sit by the window and admire the views of England.

I moved here when I was 10 years old. Well, not moved, more like “forced” to live here. The English Mafia has kept me in their grasp ever since the Italian Mafia killed my parents. Right in front of me. Ever since then, I’ve been with the English Mafia, training to be the best assassin, not only in England, but in the whole world. I’m definitely known as one of the best and my assassin name “Briar Rose” is well known. I’ve been sent around the world for missions, killing men and women who have done wrong. I try to think of myself as a hero, but that isn’t a word to describe me at all. I’m cold. Heartless. Emotionless. Feelings don’t come to me. I like to make people feel pain and fear. I rely on the adrenaline rush like a drug. I have to kill to stay alive.

One family I have to kill in order for me to be truly alive are the De Luca’s. The royalty of the Italian-American Mafia. The ones who killed my family. They are what drive me to become a better assassin. When I am given the day where I have to assassinate the De Luca’s, I’ll be ready. I’ve trained so hard for that one moment. After that, my life will be complete. They’ll go to Hell, where they belong. They won’t go unpunished.

We make it to the English Mafia base that’s hidden inside a mountain, opening a camouflaged door in the middle for us to drive though. When we make it to the base entrance, I thank the driver and hop out. I trudge towards Dottie’s office, stalling this meeting for as long as I can. As soon as I turn the corner, I feel a heavy hand land on my shoulder. I’m twisted around to come face to face with Tye. Oh no.

“Come on, sweetheart. Don’t get too nervous around me. I’m not that swoon-worthy,” He laughs while his hand on my shoulder slides down to my waist.

“You and your tremendous ego. Let me be, you wanker,” I snark, backing away from him which results with his grip on my waist tightening. I clench my jaw, holding in another smartass comment that would get me beaten.

“Remember who you’re talking to, darling. Chop, chop. The boss is waiting on his favorite assassin.” He sarcastically chirps and I fight to hold in an eye roll. This boy.

We make it to Dottie’s office with the slam of the door behind me. Dottie looks at me, his horrifying black eyes staring into my soul. I want to shiver, but I keep on my emotionless façade. I can’t let him see that he frightens me.

“Wonderful to see you here, Briar Rose. Please, have a seat.” Dottie directs, pointing to the chair in front of his desk. I sit down in the seat and Tye comes behind me, placing his hands on my shoulders. Personal space isn’t something the boy apparently knows, so I shrug off his hands. I then feel a sting come across my cheek, but I don’t react. Tye has no right to slap me, but it’s not like Dottie will do anything about it.

“Remember your place here, doll. Don’t you dare try-” Tye starts, but is interrupted by Dottie.

“Tye, leave. I need to talk to Briar about some important business.”

“Can I not stay and listen? It’s probably not-”

“Just leave the bloody room, goddamnit, Tye!” Dottie roars and Tye gets up and immediately leaves the room.

We both sit there in silence for a moment before Dottie clears his throat and looks at me. A sinister grin pulls on his lips and all I want to do is sprint out of the room. “Thank you for coming here, Anastasia. I have some business to talk to you about. You won’t like the topic, but just deal with the burn of the flame. It’s about your parents.”

I feel my face pale of color. I haven’t talked to anyone about my parents in a while. Even though it happened 9 years ago, I still have a fresh cut from the pain the memory has given me. Every time I think of them, all I can think about is that night. Their screams. Their blood. Their-

“With them being murdered in all, I’d imagine you’d best remember the events of that night. Do you know-”

“Stop.” I demand. I can’t handle the memories. The pain is killing me slowly and making me vulnerable. The last thing I’d want to be right now is sensitive. Dottie’s eyes turn dark.

“What did you just say to me?” He hisses, sending shivers down my spine.

“I told you to stop. I can’t hear this right-” I start to explain before I am thrown out of my chair. I gasp in pain as my body hits the ground and I’m kicked in the abdomen. I groan in pain, curling up into a ball to avoid other kicks to the stomach.

“You do not tell me what to do, Anastasia!” Dottie roars, smacking me across the face as I try to get back up. The slap causes me to fall back onto the ground.

Goddamnit, I feel so weak. I can’t be this way in front of Dottie. I need to be strong.

“Ye sir, I’m sorry-” I start, but am unable to finish when I am grabbed by the throat and lifted off the ground. I lock eyes with Dottie, struggling to breathe as his grip around my throat tightens. I wheeze as I move my hands to his and try to loosen his grip on my throat. His breath, that reeks of alcohol, is filling my lungs and causing my eyes to water.

“Sorry isn’t enough, Ana.” He bites, venom laced in his voice. He throws me to the ground once more, and I gulp in the precious air around me. My lungs burn from lack of oxygen and my whole body is shaking from trauma. He grabs my hair to tug on it and my head hits his knee. I grab my head to try to stop the throbbing, but he grabs my wrist, pulls me up, and shoves me back into my chair. All the air is knocked out of my lungs and I feel a lone tear run down my cheek. I wipe it quickly before he notices.

“Remember your place here, Anastasia. You belong to me.” He smirks and sits back into his chair. He’s the only one who knows my true identity. To all others, I’m just Briar Rose. He uses my weaknesses against me, like knowing my identity. He could release it at any moment and I’d immediately be placed on the International Mafia Hit List.

“Yes sir,” I choke out, still breathing hard from my punishment.

“Now, back to what I was saying before you rudely interrupted me,” He hissed, crossing his arms across his chest. “That night, do you remember the men that brutally killed your parents?”

My skin starts to tingle in anger as I nod my head. A smirk comes across his face. “Who were they?” He asked.

“The De Luca’s,” I spit, trying to keep my rising rage down so I don’t act out.

“That’s right. Now, I want you to use all of your anger that you have towards that family and assassinate them. Ana, I’m sending you out for this job to kill the De Luca’s. I feel you’d be best to make sure they’re tortured enough for their crimes.” He says, and my heart is practically beating out of my chest. What? I’m going to-wow. This is probably the kindest thing this man has ever done for me.

“Yes sir, I promise I won’t let you down. I’ll make sure they are-”

“No need to promise. I know you will make sure they pay for what they’ve done. You will fly out to Chicago, Illinois tomorrow morning. Be ready by lunch time. Do I make myself clear?” He demands and I nod my head with a grin. “Good, now leave and get some sleep. You have a big week coming your way, sweetheart. Oh, also, you will bring your phone with you to give me updates.” He adds, and I nod my head and walk out of his office. Once I close the door, the biggest smile spreads across my face. I can’t believe it. I’m actually going to kill the De Luca’s.

I want to skip, jump, scream, and laugh. Really, just act like a bloody child, but I won’t. I need to be professional. I wipe the smile off my face and go back to my tough girl façade. I walk through the halls and into the chambers. Dottie doesn’t want to give us rooms, so we live in the equivalent of prison cells. I’ve learned to cope with it, but others complain. They end up getting beaten for it.

I’m met with a guard who takes me to my cell. He shoves me in and locks the door behind him so I don’t try to escape. After I hear him walk away, I squeal and jump. This is probably the best bloody thing to ever happen to me in the past 9 years I’ve been here. I stop my celebration when I hear a sniffle behind me. I whip around to find Issac staring at me with bloodshot eyes and a busted up face. I run over to his side and grab his hand.

“Issac, what happened?” I ask, running my hand over his cheek. Issac, or “Echo” as the assassin world calls him, is my unbiological child. Ever since he came into this horrible mafia world, I’ve kept him under my wing and trained him to protect himself. He is so innocent, sweet, and kind that I don’t know why he was given the cards he was dealt. He doesn’t deserve this life, none of us do.

“Dottie beat me again. I failed another mission, Rose. If I fail again, he said he’s gonna kill me. I don’t wanna die. I wanna get outta here,” He croaks and begins to sob again. I pull him into my chest and let him find comfort in me. It breaks me a little to see him like this. At 18 years old, no one should be treated the way any of us were being treated.

“You won’t die, Issac. I’ll make sure of it.” I whisper, rubbing his back in circles to try to calm him. He shakes in my arms, hugging me tightly.

“I heard about your mission, Rose. How will you protect me when you’re gone?” He sobs, hugging me tighter which causes me to suffocate. I shove my worries aside and continue to talk to him.

“I’ll keep in contact with you when I’m gone. I’m not abandoning you, Issac. I’ll be gone for, at most, a week. I’ll be back before you know it. I’ll train you for a bit before I leave in the morning. How about that?” I offer and he nods his head in my chest. He lifts himself off of me and wipes his tear streaked face. He gives me a soft smile, which I give in return. He’s the only person in this place who brings out the good side in me. My only ray of sunshine in this fucking hurricane of a place.

“Okay. Thank you, Rose. I owe ya,” He says, but I shake my head.

“No, you don’t owe me anything. You’ve given me enough,” I reply and he nods his head. He crawls into his bed and pulls a thin blanket over himself. “Goodnight, Issac. Be ready for training in the morning,” I say, hopping into my bed on the opposite side of the room.

“Goodnight, Rose. Sleep sweet.” He whispers. Before my head even hits the pillow, I’m dead asleep.

~~~

“Get up!” The guard shouts in the hall, making me jump. For once, I had actually slept and I just so happened to have slept in. I look to my side to see that Issac had already left the room and I roll my eyes. Could have at least woke me up, mate.

I drag myself out of bed and walk to the cell door, which is being unlocked for me by the guard. “Pack your things and get ready quickly. Boss wants you out of here before lunch is served.” The guard demands and I nod my head. I run off to the toilet where I handle all of my business. I walk past all the other women in there, young and old, who are cleaning themselves up for the day. Not even one of them has a smile on their faces. They look emotionless and tired, making me feel bad for feeling a small ounce of happiness. I don’t deserve be happy, but I am.

After I am done with the toilet, I go back to my cell to change into some training clothes, which consist of a sports bra, spandex, and trainers. No one cares what we look like in this place, for God sakes, I could be starkers and no one would care. We’re comfortable around one another, a small family if you will.

I go to the cafeteria and grab an apple to eat for breakfast. I don’t eat much now because I like to spend most of my day training. I do drink a lot of water, though. I would never want to be dehydrated. I grab a bottled water while taking a big bite from my apple and walk off towards the training room of the base. I arrive there to be met with a very excited and chuffed Issac. He’s doing jumping jacks and stretching to warm up for our workout. Good, he knows I don’t go easy on workouts. I throw my apple core in the bin beside the entrance and walk to Issac.

“Ready to train, Echo?” I ask, grabbing the wrap he’d set on the bench to wrap my hands.

“Always,” He responds, taking a big chug of water from his bottle and setting it down on the bench. “Damn girl, you lookin’ fine today!” Issac drags, looking me up and down. I chuckle while ripping the leftover tape off my hands and walk over to Issac. We mess around with one another by doing this. It’s friendly play.

“Thanks, mate. Your arse is looking quite ravishing this morning,” I say and shock him by smacking his ass. He gasps in surprise and I chuckle once more, walking over to the indoor track. “Get ready for a HIIT workout, Echo. I’m not going easy on you this morning!” I shout and and I hear him groan while he walks up to me. We begin to warm up by running laps, doing cardio workouts, and doing a few reps of weight lifting. Yes, I do those too.

We finish with cardio and walk over to the punching bags. I start to punch mine and realise that I have some inner rage I need to get out of my system. I feel my punches become harder and harder, causing my wrist to cramp, but I refuse to stop. I think of my parents and how they were killed. I think of Dottie and how evil he is. I think of the De Luca’s and how it will feel to kill them. The De Luca’s. Yes, the thought of De Luca blood on my hands feels almost therapeutic-

“Briar Rose! Boss is loading out in a few minutes. Tidy up and get ready to leave,” A fellow assassin, whose name I have yet to learn tells me to my side. I snap out of my trance and nod my head, barely understanding what he just said. I walk over to Issac, who’s punching the life out of his punching bag. He stops when he sees me and the grin on his face falls.

“Leaving now?” He whispers and I see his eyes start to water. He’s scared and he has every right to be. It makes me a bit concerned for him. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I leave this week. Blimey, he may even be dead by the time I return.

“Yes. I’m sorry Issac, but I’ll be back before you know it. Just...try to make it through this week. Fight. Fight, at least for me, okay?” I ask him, pulling him into a sweaty hug. He nods his head and squeezes me tight. I pull away and lay a kiss on his cheek. “Call me if you need advice. Hell, if you’re even bored call me. I’m here for you, Issac.” I assure him and he nods his head. With one last hug, I turn around and walk out of the gym. I don’t say goodbye for the reason of hoping to see the person again. If my parents didn’t get a goodbye, then others most certainly don’t.

I head to the toilet once more to take a quick shower. The cold, refreshing water falls onto my skin, giving me a moment of clarity. For once, I feel relaxed. I feel like I’m going to make something of myself once the De Luca’s are gone. Avenging my parents is all I’ve ever wanted to do, to find their killers and make them suffer. To hear their screams and watch their life leave their bodies. I feel like a psycho at the moment, but what has to be done must be done.

I finish up my shower and walk over to my cell, a white fluffy towel wrapped around my body. I was able to buy this with some money I stole from the people I killed a while back, and I treasure this towel more than anything. No one else can use it, just me. A lot of people are jealous of it but, oh well, don’t get your knickers in a twist. Once you become emotionless and cold like I am, you’ll find that it’s easy to kill someone. Just...you all need some work.

I changed into a comfy outfit which consists of gray sweatpants, a white tank top, and the same trainers I wore for workouts. If I’m going to be flying all the way to America, I might as well be comfortable while doing it. I pack all of my clothes and necessities into a suitcase Dottie had loaned me for the long trip. I didn’t have much, just makeup, a few outfits, and toiletries. I zip up the bag, stand up, and look around the room. Oh how I’m not going to miss this place.

I catch my reflection in the mirror in the corner of the room and gasp. I look like my age. It sounds like complete rubbish, I know, but for my job I need to look older than I am. I try to aim for 22-24, and usually fool some with it, but looking in the mirror right now, I see a 19 year old girl. One that actually looks alive too. I throw my hair into a knot on the top of my head and sigh.

A shine of light takes me off guard until I realize it’s my ring on top of my bed. I walk over to grab it, slipping it onto my middle finger. Well, it’s not my ring, it’s my mother’s engagement ring. It’s a white gold rose ring with a little diamond in the middle of the rose. My mother fancied roses, cliché, but true. It’s probably where I got my love for roses. It stands for beauty and pain; the struggles of life that can bloom into something beautiful.

My family wasn’t rich. My father and mother worked hard for what they got. They were proud of what they’d accomplished in life, especially when they had me. They told me stories and stories about how I was the sunshine of their life, the missing piece of their puzzle, their little flower.

My father called me his little flower, saying how I’d blossom into something wonderful one day. He was a kind, selfless, and hardworking man. He spent hours at work to help our family stay stable. He told me that he worked so many extra shifts to be able to afford mother’s engagement ring and couldn’t stop telling me how she reacted when she saw the ring. She cherished this ring more than her own self and I’m glad that I am able to start wearing it now. It didn’t fit on my fingers at 9 years old, but over time I grew, and now I’m finally able to fit it around my finger. I stare down at the ring, watching it shine in the light overhead.

“It’s time, Mother and Father. The De Luca’s will pay, I swear on my life they will. They should have thought long and hard before messing with a Grey.”

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