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Chapter One

 

 IT ALL BEGAN WITH A MURDER…

The woman in black stood at the entrance to the beautiful villa, her heart thudding in her chest. She breathed heavily and wiped the tears that had fallen down her cheeks. She felt so sick inside; she fought the urge to turn around and head home to bed where she could pull the covers over her head and hide from the world.

But she couldn’t. Her freedom was at stake.

She turned and scanned her surroundings. From her view, the quiet, upscale community seemed deserted. She adjusted her backpack and made her way on the outskirts of the wall to the back of the property. The sun had already set when she vaulted the fence, and she hoped that the approaching night was dark enough to disguise her.

She landed swiftly and immediately ran behind a huge apple tree while perusing the grounds for any sign of the bodyguards that would normally roam around.

She sweated profusely. Her nerves frayed. If they caught her, her life would be over.

She waited for a beat, but no one appeared.

Was this a stroke of good luck? She hoped to God it was. She needed as much as she could get.

She glanced around once more and ran hurriedly to the back door. She turned the knob gently, but it didn’t budge. She sighed.

I must try the front door, she thought. Damn.

Breathing deeply, she prayed her luck would hold out. She pulled a gun from her bag. Hopefully I won’t need to use this.

Crouching low, she hastened along the side of the villa. Fortunately, she encountered no threats, and as she approached the front door she returned the gun to her bag and turned the knob.

It was locked.

She spotted the alarm system on the side of the wall and her stomach fell. How the hell did I forget the alarm?

She tried to remember the password she’d used the last time she visited. What were the odds it remained unchanged?

She recalled the code and held her breath as her trembling fingers pressed the numbers. If she was wrong, she would be in big trouble. Time seemed to crawl as she entered the last digit and waited. She leaned against the wall in relief when the green light blinked.

Yes!

She gently turned the doorknob and entered quietly. Being familiar with the layout of the house, she proceeded to the living room decorated to match the personality of the man who stood in its center.

The navy-blue walls clashed well against the dark brown Bradington-Young leather sofa, which complemented the Snaidero white oak custom bar cabinet filled with his favorite high-end wine, a bottle of which was resting on the glass coffee table beside him. An Aperion Verus home theater system completed the simple but expensive décor.

He stood with his back to the door, his long, strong legs parted in a wide stance. His big hands were occupied with a glass of wine and a cell phone, which he stared at attentively.

She watched him as waves of affection flooded her. Even from behind, Mayor Amell Scott was gorgeous. She took in his firm behind and his broad shoulders connected to his muscular arms—the same arms that once held her with a promise he would never let go.

He was beautiful, but he was wicked—and a liar. And she was there to take his life.

Amell felt the presence enter the room and smiled knowingly, without turning around.

“You’re late.”

“I think I’m right on time, Amell.”

Amell froze on the spot, the glass of wine falling from his lax hands to the plush carpet at his feet. This was the last voice he’d expected to hear. He took a deep breath and turned around. The woman standing in the doorway dressed in full black, and a mask kept her face hidden. The outfit concealed her features, but he would know her voice anywhere. He had actually—many times—during their love making, when she would scream his name in ecstasy, repeatedly.

He had to give her the boot when she sent his wife a detailed email of their affair. Her presence in his home was not a good sign…she was always on the other side of crazy.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he felt his anger rising. This woman was the reason he was in the doghouse at home. His wife had always suspected his adultery but had never confronted him since his misdeeds were never explicit. Since the email, however, she threatened him with divorce. Because of this spiteful bitch, he was at risk of losing half of his hard-earned assets.

The urge to throttle her connected with an increasing fury that was dormant for a long time and it pushed him forward. He did not care; he wanted to choke the life out of her.

The glint of a blade halted him.

She brandished a huge knife, and suddenly Amell knew she meant business.

“What are you doing in my home—with a knife?”

She waved the knife lazily. “I’m here to end you, Amell.”

He laughed. “You want to kill me, cunt?”

She smiled sadly. “For everything you have done to me… you don’t deserve to live, you son of a bitch.”

“What the hell have I done to you? I’ve been nothing but good to you. I enhanced your stagnant career, and I kept your secret. You would be nothing without me!”

You kept my secret? That’s why I’m here today, you ass wipe, because you couldn’t keep your flipping mouth shut. You told her my secret!”

Amell stilled, and his expression darkened. “She sent you here?”

She nodded. “She wants you dead.” She swung the knife. “And right now, so do I.”

Amell lunged at her. Unfortunately for him, her reflexes were sharp; she flung the knife at him and it stuck in his arm. Enraged, he stomped towards her, but he stumbled as the pain shot up his arm and his feet caught in the carpet. He swayed sideways and fell with a crash in the center of the coffee table, which shattered under his weight. He groaned and tried to rise from the debris. His hand bled heavily.

She swiftly pulled a hammer from the backpack and tested the weight, then swung it at his head. There was a sickening, cracking sound as the hammer connected with his skull. He slumped to the floor, semi-conscious.

She dropped the hammer and turned his head towards her, and Amell stared into the eyes that were cold and brimming with fury; the same eyes that once looked at him with love and passion. He saw no mercy there, and he prayed earnestly, asking God to forgive him of his sins and to show him mercy one more time.

But, in the back of his mind he knew his time had ended. He cried silently, and as he thought of his children the tears flowed even more. He wished he could see them for the last time.

Her mouth twisted, smirking, as she watched him praying for his life and she felt a rush of power when she realized she had reduced the great Amell Scott to a weak, quivering excuse of a man.

She picked up the hammer again, and Amell felt the fear rise like vapor in his throat, stifling his breathing and making him light-headed. His mouth opened to make one last attempt to beg for his life, but no words emerged. His eyes played substitute and remained fixed on the woman, brimming with a plea.

His appeal went unnoticed. She gripped the handle of the hammer firmly, and in the blink of an eye, she slammed it against his skull, again and again, until his sightless eyes stared back at her. She flung the hammer to the side, then dropped to her knees and stared at his body for a long time.

Her chest heaved with the unshed tears and she succumbed to the demand for release. She slumped further to the ground, and clutched his body, sobbing.

A part of her wished she never had to kill him, but it was her life or his. Caught between a rock and a hard place, she had to make a choice, all because of a secret that could land her in prison for the rest of her life.

What should I choose? She had wondered, when presented with the dilemma. What’s more important; his life, or mine?

Amell had used her, then ended their relationship when he was through with her. She loved him, but her feelings weren’t reciprocated. All he wanted was to screw her brains out and then leave to spend the rest of the night with his wife.

Amell had been right; he’d done a lot for her. He used his political influence to enhance her career; he gave her a penthouse suite uptown, he took her on trips and showered her with gifts, but she had wanted more than what was in his wallet.

She’d wanted his heart.

Unfortunately, Amell did not feel the same way she did. He kicked her to the curb the minute she made her feelings known.

Oh, how she was devastated!

She remembered when he organized her eviction from the penthouse, and how his bodyguards brusquely collected the gifts Amell had given to her. Sure, he was pissed that she’d written to his wife, but she did not expect that he would’ve stooped so low.

To hell with him, she decided.

He did not deserve her consideration. He was a cold-hearted snake, and hell was too good for him.

She stood and wiped her cheeks, then moved anxiously to his safe that was embedded in his bedroom wall. Amell has always been predictable, she thought, as she entered the combination and the safe popped open. He’d used the same digits for his alarm code.

She ransacked the contents of the safe, searching for a brown envelope she’d been instructed to retrieve. She spotted it at the bottom of the safe and quickly opened it to see what was inside—and her knees weakened.

The envelope contained a key she had been desperately looking for, and could not find—until now. She held it in her hands, debating.  Should she hand it over, or pretend she hadn’t found it?

Was it worth her life to double-cross the monster who held her freedom in her hands?

She had an important decision to make.

She was so lost in thought, she forgot to follow the final order; to leave the murder weapons behind. Distractedly, she jammed them in her backpack, and with one final look at Amell’s body, she headed out the way she came.

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