Assassin's Heart(2)

By: Sarah Ahiers



Val shrugged. “No night, really. My mark didn’t show. Either got wind someone put a contract on him, or he got lucky.”

“Luck doesn’t last forever,” I quoted the familiar assassin motto.

Val grunted. “I’ll get him tomorrow night, or the next. I’m patient.”

It was easy being patient when he didn’t need the money a completed kill would bring. But it wasn’t Val’s fault he was rich, or that my Family wasn’t anymore.

Val leaned closer to me, his thigh pressed against mine. A moment later his hand followed, fingers resting on the leather-clad skin of my leg. And though I couldn’t feel the circles his fingers traced, I still shivered beneath his touch.

I pulled away, every bit of me protesting.

“I’m working,” I whispered, but it sounded weak even to me. “And someone could see us.” That sounded even weaker. Our relationship was a secret, and the thrill of keeping ourselves hidden was half the fun.

Val chuckled. My chest tingled again, but he kept his hands to himself.

I took a slow, quiet breath.

The man below took a step, another, and then he stumbled again. I watched him closely. I was responsible for him now. He belonged to me. He wavered again, before steadying himself against the wall.

“That your mark?” Val asked.

I nodded and reached to the back of my belt for my small water skin.

“He doesn’t look like much. Did he anger someone?”

“No. Personal request. Has an illness or something and wants our help to lead him to Safraella a little early.” I pressed the warm metal nozzle against my lips.

Val nodded. Sometimes people paid clippers to help them commit suicide. These were always the simplest jobs. But even with a suicide request, I remained professional. It kept my skills honed if I treated every mark like they might flee or fight.

“How long are you going to watch him before you make a move?”

I swallowed the water and returned the skin to my belt. “I already did. He just doesn’t realize it yet.”

The man staggered a few steps into the street. I held my breath. He collapsed. Easy. Not that they always were. I cleared my throat. But it was a god’s work I performed, and no one ever said Her favor came easily.

Val shook his head. “You and your poisons. When did you get him?”

“After his dinner. He always buys a wineskin from the same vendor. Wasn’t hard to make sure he got one laced with something extra.”

“Nice. Though I’d choose a knife in the back any day.”

I nudged him again. “Be careful what you wish for in the dark, no?”

A stranger approached my mark, stared at him, then glanced around before walking away. Good man.

I stood. Val silently dropped off the roof and into a darkened alley to wait for me while I finished. No need for anyone to start a rumor about the Da Vias and Saldanas working together.

I climbed down and approached my mark. The streetlights spilled over my dark cloak. No one would bother me when I was about my work. No one would dare. Not if they valued their lives.

I hummed a song under my breath, a nursery rhyme my nursemaid used to sing to me when I was young. It was a silly little thing about falling asleep and feeling safe and warm. I’d hummed it once when I was marking my first solo kill, and the habit had stuck. It seemed right. Maybe someone would sing to me at the end of my life.

I checked the man’s pulse. Quiet and still. The poison I’d used was painless. Hopefully he’d soon stand before our goddess Safraella, and She would quickly grant him a brand-new life where he’d feel safe and warm once more.

Behind me, the door to the bordello opened, pouring more light onto the street. “You there,” a woman shouted. “Boy, get away from that man.”

I glanced over my shoulder.

“Didn’t you hear me?” The woman stepped from the doorway, her colorful skirts reflecting brightly against the lights. Her face was bare, her feather half-mask put aside now that her nightly duties were done. “Shoo! Go on before you get yourself in real trouble.”

I stood and faced her.

She took one look at my mask, the right half bone white, the left half decorated in black flowers, and her painted face lost all color. She took a step away. “Clipper!” She clasped her hands together and held them to her face as she bowed her head. “I’m sorry, Mistress Saldana, I’m sorry.” She backed away. “I didn’t recognize you. I thought you a child trying to rob the dead.”

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