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To kill or not to kill. That was the question, the eternal one that seemed so patently obvious.
Kill. Kill. And, yes, kill. Like really. Who pondered this type of shit?
As Cole spied on the happy families cavorting on the neighboring property—swimming and barbecuing and playing fucking tag—Quick, someone hand me a bag to barf in—he seriously contemplated what he should do. Logic said Cole should end their domestic misery with the pull of a trigger. Make that three pulls because, to be fair, he should shoot all three guys he spied on.
Imagine the screams. The absolute chaos. What about the fact that he’d probably do the world a favor?
Didn’t these men know sinners didn’t get to have a happily ever after? These men weren’t society’s finest. They weren’t even human.
Then again, neither am I. Within Cole nestled a bear, hibernating for the moment, his ursine half saving himself in case things got up close and personal. It could happen, especially if Cole chose to leave this tree and opt for something a little more old school. What if he didn’t shoot his targets but, instead, adhered to some outdated unwritten law that said fights should be paw to paw. I wonder how I’d do against those three?
His bear’s simple answer. Cole’s lips stretched, the grin of a true predator.
The squeals of the little boy being tossed in the air by a proud papa yanked his lips straight. Had he grown so cold as to destroy that child’s chance of a stable family and future?
Don’t forget your own fabulous childhood.
What childhood? He’d never had a chance to be a boy raised by his father. Never got to know the soft touch of his mother. If he couldn’t have it, why should anyone else?
The continued domestic happiness grated, nails dragging raggedly across his skin. The laughter pierced his eardrums. And yet, his distraction didn’t come from that entirely.
A car rattled and choked as it rolled past on the nearby road, its muffler in dire need of repair. Nothing a roll of duct tape—the good kind bought in a hardware store, not the dollar variety—wouldn’t temporarily fix. The acrid smell of fumes, carried to him via a downwind draft, brought back memories of the ’69 Chevelle he’d rebuilt in his early twenties.
I loved that car. A shame he had to blow it up. Worth every drop of sweat, though. The insurance money went to good use.
Nowadays, he drove a luxurious, fully loaded Mercedes. Creamy gray leather seats, the supple material cannibalized from real animals, the height of decadence for someone like him. He’d chosen a manual gearshift, wanting the sensation of control. I am in charge of all this power. In charge of a mean machine whose powerful engine purred when he shifted those gears.
First … Second … Third. Yes!
Indeed, that was a boner in his pants. He dared any man not to get one when driving a sweet set of wheels. Wheels that screamed power, and not just because of the hundreds of horses harnessed in its engine. This car said, I am the man. Anyone who didn’t agree would find himself relocated to an unmarked grave. He didn’t like it when people argued with him.
He’d left his sweet ride at a gas station earlier today, about a half mile from the edge of Fabian Garoux’s property. A cab had brought him along the public access road that wound through Garoux’s property. The mobster had bought all the land he could and then proceeded to protect it. Knowing cameras watched, Cole waited in the backseat of the cab for the precise location to launch the app on his watch that caused a temporary glitch in all wireless signals. In other words, he threw out a bunch of meaningless junk that made a bunch of noise.
While the jamming happened, he paid the driver and hopped out of the taxi within yards of the location he’d scouted. He’d mapped his way well and quickly moved to the cover of the trees, hiking about a hundred yards to his destination. He launched his disruptor app every dozen or so paces, interfering with signals to cameras that might be watching.
But it wasn’t the cameras that were the most dangerous. It was the patrols on this property, especially by the nonhuman guards who served Garoux, the city’s crime lord. The mobster didn’t live in the city. Situated outside of town, he owned enough acreage that a shifter could hunt without worrying about anyone hearing the screams.
No witnesses. No crime. No retaliation.
A good killer did the job without fanfare. Which could get boring. Sometimes being too good at a job led to an itch to try something new.
Maybe after this job, he’d branch out his services, because it sure would beat the boredom that came with sitting in a tree situated on a plot of land, a simple three acres, in the midst of Garoux’s territory.
And why had he chosen this particular spot? A search of the records showed the property deed registered to one Nonna Smith, an elderly lady living here with her spinster granddaughter. Farmers, as he’d discovered when he’d dug deeper. Holdouts who had refused to sell when Fabian bought the surrounding properties and melded them into one big plot. A big plot with a missing chunk as the women held out against the big bad wolf next door. A perfect spot with a view that sat downwind.
Pow. Pop. The car on the road continued on its way, noxiously belching, soon fading from sight and hearing. Noisy fucker. Smelly too. That was probably why he never heard or smelled her approach, not a single ounce of warning until the distinctive click of a hammer being cocked.
“Care to explain what you’re doing in this tree?”
Apparently, I am falling. That was the clever thing Cole wanted to say when he found his nimble grace suddenly gone in the face of her unexpected appearance. How could a man remain stable or even speak when his bear stirred his beastly head and, with great glee, announced, Mine?
Copyright © 2018 by St. Martin’s Press
Copyright © 2018 by Eve Langlais
Copyright © 2018 by Milly Taiden
Copyright © 2018 by Kate Baxter