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A hitman falls in love with his target.
He'd also promised to protect me and I was grateful for that promise, no matter how unlikely his ability to keep it.
I crawled along the wall on my knees and twisted my body around until I was sitting with my back against the stone fireplace. This took me out of the line of fire for the other gunman. I could still see Jared as he used Darkie to cover himself. Jared didn't have a clear shot because the other man was hidden behind a support beam.
"Carter," Jared said, his voice steady and light.
"Yes. Is it Jared these days?" The voice came from behind the support beam.
"Jared is fine. Why do you want to kill me?" said the-man-whose-name-could-be-Jared-but-not-likely.
"Who said that was my goal?" Carter answered.
"CJ caught my bullet. Let's not play games. You've wanted me dead for a while now." I could see Jared's breath as he spoke, the room was so cold. I assumed CJ was the name of the guy I'd thought of as Darkie in my head all night.
"He could have been my target."
They spoke casually, as if they were old friends sharing a pitcher of beer in a bar, not two men with guns trained on one another.
"You and I know if CJ were your target you would have just said so. You said 'could have been,' which means he wasn't." Jared's voice dropped a level and fingers of ice raced up and down my spine.
"There is another person in the room besides you."
"True, but we both know if she were your target, it's still me." What the hell did that mean? I scrunched down, praying that I wouldn't be noticed by either of them as I assessed my chances of making it to the door.
"You're slipping. She distracted you."
Jared's eyes darted to me for a nanosecond, then they returned to Carter almost too quickly for anyone to notice.
"You're unfocused. Sloppy. You're getting soft. She's a problem."
"What's it to you?" Jared said. His hand dipped lower as if his arm were tired. Not good, I thought. "I've killed everyone you've ever told me to without question."
"That's not true. Her..." Carter started.
"No, Carter. They're all dead. Everyone you've ever told me to kill."
"Not true. I distinctly remember asking you to kill her. Yet somehow there she is." Carter's voice was still in the friend zone. He laughed. "Are you still trying to sell your betrayal to me even now?"
"I didn't betray you." The playfulness was gone from Jared's voice as if it had never been there. "You set me up. Was it the money?"
"That's not the job. You're supposed to be a killer, my assassin. There is no blame here, not if you were doing your job."
"I didn't want to believe...you've lost it," Jared said firmly. "Even before Cantana."
"It's you. You! If you'd just...It doesn't matter, not now. I've got a job to finish. You had your chance. If you'd just done what you were supposed to do, everything would have been fine. But you trusted him over me. You owed me this. You owed me your loyalty. She's just an assignment."
"I trusted you. Blindly," Jared said. Instead of rising in anger his voice went lower, colder. "But he was right."
"Don't judge me. You're off the rails. Not me! Don't pretend you haven't killed hundreds. That's the fact that you want to suddenly make go away. I trained you to be perfect. I've never seen better. I've worked with a lot of assassins, but you, you have this pureness that's beautiful. You kill without thought, without feeling. You weren't supposed to care." Carter stepped forward, looking nothing like I'd imagined. He was short and bald, barely over a hundred pounds. His voice was the biggest thing about him. Well, that and the gun in his hands.
"Be my creation, Jared. Right now. If you kill her we can both walk away from this. It'll prove your loyalty to me. The money is unbelievable and I'll forgive the lie." Carter paused for a heart-pounding minute as Jared stayed frozen, not moving a muscle.
"See, you are the one who has lost it. What is it? Do you think she could ever care about you? Is that what you're thinking? Is that why you betrayed me? Is she why?" Carter smirked.
"No, she doesn't matter.