The Reluctant Assassin

an excerpt



Chapter One

Petra grunted.

Damn that bastard was sneaky; he'd kicked her right in the tit. She couldn't believe she'd forgotten to put her body armor on. Which the twat facing her kindly reminded her whilst wearing a smirk.

Shit she detested him.

"Missing something?"

"Yea, a fucking gun to shoot you with." She swung a punch that hit fresh air along with a long expletive. Glancing at the mirror lined wall, Petra didn't miss the frustration stream over her tutor's strained expression. How his body stiffened as he watched her spar. When he'd covered his face, Petra knew it was because she looked like a child swatting at flies.

Bejesus, how long before they woke up and realized she wasn't cut out for this crap?

Her twat of an opponent twirled around dancing lightly on the balls of his feet. Freaking hell, he looked like a ballet dancer. Briefly Petra wondered if he were gay and wouldn't be surprised. Not that she had a problem with anyone's sexual preferences. It was just the creep before her she loathed.

Francis the wanker with his wide toothy grin that irritated the hell out of her. God but she'd like to knock those pearly teeth down his throat and watch him choke.

A scream tore through her throat as she crash landed with all the elegance of a rhino hitting the floor. Christ, that was another thing she couldn't do. Roll. Well, she'd achieved it once, and due to her small but curvy body, hadn't stopped. Instead, Petra had curled up resembling a hedgehog on speed before smacking into the wall and cracking the plaster. It was something that Francis enjoyed bringing up over and over. Petra so wished she could torture the bastard.

That had become an ambition of hers. She didn't have many. Was much like a sloth sliding through life beneath the radar. But she craved to slam a pointed red patent stiletto right between his legs. Why red, she couldn't say, but it matched her mood. Petra wanted to hear Francis scream like the girl he was, to see him bent over double, in sheer agony.

His snort brought her back to her present predicament.

Placing a foot on her stomach, Francis dug the edge of his heel into soft flesh. One word mister, one frigging comment about a diet, and you'll be history, she hissed beneath her breath.

"Concede?"

His nasally voice irritated the crap out of her.

She eyed his crotch, this was going to be sweet revenge. Surprising herself, she shot up with a burst of adrenalin and head butted him in the nuts. Splintering pain burst through her temple, and she collapsed back. What the fuck?

In the distance, she heard his snigger that resembled a sea lion in labor. "I've got a guard on."

"What's it made of, frigging steel?" She blinked, trying to stave off the stars flying around and swatted at the hand hauling her up. Bejesus, her head felt as if it had been put in a washing machine on a fast spin cycle.

Her tutor didn't move, instead, he remained leaning against the wall. Bleak despair covered his face. "Why do you insist on putting yourself through this?" His exasperation ripped over her with a snap of anger.

She lay on her back trying not to look like a swatted fly. Her arms and legs outstretched, her head still banging. "I'm not, for fucks sake. Cedric, how many times do I have to tell you. I'm not meant for this shit. Try having a word with my uncle."

"No-one gets through to that man, or tries to take him on."

So frigging great, because they were all shit scared of Theo, her life was in ruins. At least that was how it appeared. When the word job description had come up, not in her wildest dreams did she think it would involve killing people for pities sake.

"Come on, Petra, think you've had enough." Vaguely she recognized her uncle Theo's voice. It held a thread of ice, and she knew he'd kick Francis for this. At the tight grip on her arm, thought maybe not, he was simply pissed she'd lost another bout.

However, she managed to snarl at the obnoxious twat that hovered close by. "Why you need so much protection for that little package is beyond me." Pleased at her bitchy slight, which was good for her, Petra winced at his reply.

"Most things are beyond you because you're a stupid bitch," Francis called after her with a hoot of laughter.

Theo's bad assed glare covered him. "Boy," he drawled the slight out. "I'll be back. Wait here. I need to discuss a certain something."

Cedric broke into a racking cough, but remained silent.

Francis's laughter faded, and Petra held back a chuckle as his cocky expression was replaced with fear.

Yes, there was a God.

Petra wanted to punch the air, because Theo's idea of a conversation concerned his fists. It was how he put his point across. The bear in him demanded it.

***

Petra adjusted her gown and spared her uncle a small hesitant smile. She loved him to bits, but shit, he was on a different planet if he thought she could do this.

Shaking her head, she tried not to laugh. He had no sense of style and stood out like a beacon. His sheer size ensured that. The fact he was big. Nah, she amended that, big was an elephant. Her uncle Theo was a frigging colossal giant, a sweet and gentle one.

When he chose to be.

He also knew she didn't approve of his career choice, one he appeared to love. It came natural to him. Hell, it so wasn't her.

A make-up assistant, maybe librarian, or even a shop worker, but no way was she cut out for what he'd insisted on. He knew her aversion to blood. She was a wimp. Heck she wasn't any good at a single thing, and with this cloak and dagger, the need for discretion, well that wasn't her. If anyone could put a foot in it, make the proverbial shit hit the fan, then it was Petra.

Which was why she couldn't understand the reason he'd chosen this profession for her. Heck, she knew he treated her as the son he never had, but this was taking the piss.

Even if her rearing had been, well strange, not quite normal, she'd accepted it. But she was so not cut out for this career.

She was female, she was pathetic at self-defense, her idea call the police or use mace spray. Petra's body wasn't built for fighting, neither unfortunately was it a temple to be worshipped, deciding she lacked too many requirements.

Theo just didn't get it, coward was her middle name, and she had no inclination to save humanity from the bad guys or whatever the fuck he did.

Briefly closing her eyes, she recalled Alice, her one and only friend from school. Not that the isolation bothered her. When you had a hulking uncle that liked gambling and drinking, in between taking people out and working for the resident mafia, friends were limited. You got used to being avoided like the God damn plague. Which was why Alice was so special, why she meant so much. She was the only person, only female she'd talked to. That Petra could confide in, well when she could get hold of her.

They'd left college to go their separate ways, Alice wanted to be a beautician, get married and settle down with two point four kids. Her friend was also human, so wouldn't quite understand the concept of Lycans, demons, and frigging vampires to name but a few.

It was the one subject she never discussed, was fearful to reveal and lose her only friend.

Heck was it her fault she had a shifter as a Godfather, even though she was human? Jeez, most kids grew up with teddy bears, she had the real frigging thing, a seven-foot grizzly.

A smile broke free thinking back to their trips into the woods. How she'd thought it normal to ride on the back of a full grown bear. In later years, she'd learnt that he was different, that her life was not quite normal. As a child she'd adapted; as an adult she'd begun to rebel.

But nothing could get past her uncle's resolve, what he wanted. Because Petra was a push over, unable to stand up to him. Heck, she was weak, and it confused her that he honestly thought she'd be capable of this job?

Petra wished she could take up the same career as Alice, but that was a no go area. She'd often gotten around her uncle Theo by batting her eyes and pretending to cry, appealing to his cuddly bear, but not this time. He had been adamant, and she wondered if it was some sick family tradition.

But as jovial as he could be, he never spoke about her parents, never once explained what had happened to them.

When she'd asked, his reply was to shrug his shoulders. "They disappeared, Petra, and no one has seen them since." Then a shadow would cross his face, absolute raw pain, before he covered it and changed the subject.

And she'd never followed it up, pushed for an answer, too afraid of what he'd reveal. Petra put her hands up. Yep, she was a coward, an ostrich preferring to bury her head in the sand.

She jumped when her name was called, jolting her back from her musings, and stumbled forward at a forceful nudge from Theo. His type of push was to catapult her into the center of the room.

Fuck, this had to be a joke. One look at absolute shock on Cedric her trainer's face confirmed it. He lowered his eyes and scrubbed a hand over his face. Whoever had been on the board checking the exam results had either screwed up or were being paid a king's ransom to allow her to pass.

And if it were the latter, she wanted to know why. Not the who, because at the sight of her beaming uncle, there could be no one else. Petra might be accused of being many things, stupid wasn't one of them.

At least not entirely, although it was a statement she wouldn't make to many people. Aware of their opinion and that included Francis. One she loathed with a passion because he'd kicked her ass too many times. Had taken a pleasure in it. Then Petra grinned at the black eye which Francis had acquired. It was still partially closed. Thank you, God and Uncle Theo.

Dark angel Solomon towered over her. He smelt of mothballs, and she wrinkled her nose.

"Well done, Petra, you have qualified as a member of the Angels of Death Academy. You have passed the trials to become an assassin."

Well done? It was a frigging farce and a miracle. Out of all the subjects she could have studied and attempted, this was taking the piss. And it was all down to her frigging uncle. She knew it, frigging hell, even that moron Francis stared at her with a knowing scowl.

Yet her face remained impassive.

That was through years of schooling, nothing to do with ADA, because she'd learnt nothing from them. Her blank expression was from nights of learning poker and bluffing Uncle Theo and his cronies.

"Thank you." Taking the scroll Solomon held out, she gave a small smile and left the dais.

To anyone watching, it looked as if she'd just passed a degree.

In a sense, she had. Except this was one in killing, how to murder someone close up, how to track, how to lie. Hack into bank accounts, have the ability to handle any situation, stay cool and retain control.

None of which she could do. Petra and guns didn't work. Loading a weapon was on a par with fixing a flat on her car. It was a case of knowing a man that could do it for her. As long as she had her mobile, there wasn't a problem. Neither did she excel in armed combat; her idea of hand to hand fighting was to run like fuck.

Petra swore a long string of oaths, because Uncle Theo knew she was crap at it all. Hell, she couldn't even knock up a sponge cake, and yet he expected her to be proficient in self-defense? Her gun freaked her out, and twice, she'd nearly shot herself so decided on safety, and removed the shells. She really needed to talk to her uncle one on one before she was assigned a task.

A whoosh slammed out of her as Theo gripped her in a bear hug. A serious controlling son of a bitch grizzly pull. She pushed against him. "Will you cut it out? I need to frigging breathe."

His smile slipped over a round face, the earring he wore glinted in the light, and his snap of chilled grey eyes surfed over her. "You don't know what this means to me."

She nodded and cricked a brow. "Yes, I do. It means you get your house back to yourself and you're turfing me out."

He slammed a hand to his chest. "No way, but as a reward for passing, I just happen to have this." He dangled a key in front of her. "You'll enjoy your own space."

Despite her reservations that it was blatant blackmail, she shrieked and snatched it off him. "Are you serious? My very own flat?"

His roar of laughter burst over her as she launched her arms around his thick neck. "It will come with security, though. Plus make sure you pay the rent on time, I've put down a bond."

Damn, she'd hoped he'd bought it for her, then shrugged. This was Uncle Theo who gave a whole new meaning to the word miser. "I'm a qualified assassin, and I need babysitting?"

"Yep."

At the look on his face, Petra wasn't arguing. It was clear he realized she was crap at protection.

For as long as she could remember, Theo had been fiercely protective. Every prospective boyfriend had been vetted before she was allowed out with him. That was after the pep talk he was inclined to give.

As soon as they paled, she'd cursed, and knew he was giving a friendly piece of advice on breathing. The fact they'd hurried through their date gave her a clue, yet not one had revealed just what threat he'd used.

At the happiness on his face, reasoned how could she be mad at him then gave in with a resigned sigh. Hating her job, knowing damn well she wasn't capable. Had come at the bottom with each grading on fighting and academics, yet still she'd passed?

Either someone doctored the documents, or they didn't give a toss who went through. Recalling her uncles' nod to Solomon and Cedric at the ceremony along with their wide smiles, knew the answer.

They'd been bribed. Any surprise and shock on their faces had been staged.

What she couldn't work out was why. Well apart from the obvious, a healthy bank balance. Why would an uncle that worshipped her put her in danger? It was beyond her comprehension. As were most things, unfortunately. When she'd asked, he'd given her a cryptic reply.

She'd remembered his response as if it were yesterday.

"It's necessary. I need to know you can take care of yourself."

"I'll take up self-defense."

"It's not enough. One day you'll understand. The family you'll become part of will help and support you."

"Why? I've got you." She really didn't get where he was coming from.

"Not forever, babyface. Things happen, and trust me, this is for the best."

With a resigned sigh, she'd dropped her questioning, recognizing the stubborn tilt of his jaw.

But whatever, this was her career now, and boy, she wasn't looking forward to her first assignment.

Someone had forgotten to mention she couldn't kill a spider, and they expected her to take someone out?

Oh for fucks sake, she was in trouble.

The party after the graduation ceremony was in full flow when a celebratory firecracker exploded. She hit the deck, sod being responsible, self-preservation kicked in. It was only when her uncle gripped her ankle and dragged her out from the table she'd curled up beneath, she dared to meet his resigned expression.

Petra tried to ignore the sympathetic titters as she'd searched the floor. "I've, er, lost a contact lens." Yet she couldn't stop the flush from heating her face. It switched from red to glaring lobster, and she cursed her new vocation.

Assassin, killer, murderess.

Shit fate was a bitch, along with her uncle Theo.