Home > Honey Trap (The Guild #1)

Honey Trap (The Guild #1)
Author: Tate James

 

 

1

 

 

S hadow Grove. Such a curious place, full of all manner of interesting people and surprisingly one of the easiest cities I’d ever disappeared in plain sight within. The people of Shadow Grove—and the neighboring Cloudcroft and Rainybanks—were so acclimatized to the criminals running their city, they simply kept their heads down and minded their own business.

It was odd . But I liked it. Maybe I would buy a house in Shadow Grove.

Except I’d made a promise to keep someone in this town off the Guild’s radar… which meant I probably shouldn’t draw any unnecessary attention from the Circle—the Guild’s leadership council—by moving in down the road.

Still, it was the casual anonymity of criminals on these streets that had brought me back to Shadow Grove just over a year since I’d last visited. Apparently, Hades’s and her Timberwolves’ iron grip over this area had made it the perfect hiding place for fugitive mercenaries.

“Can I get you anything else?” A waitress leaned over my table, clearing my empty pie plate away and offering a friendly, slightly flirtatious smile.

I gave her a bland smile back, adjusting my glasses that I didn’t even remotely need. “Another coffee, please.”

She nodded, and I watched the swing of her hips as she headed back to the counter to make my coffee. She was pretty. Maybe my mission could wait another night while I sampled some of the local goods.

The waitress disappeared into the kitchen, and my gaze caught on a child sitting at the counter, wearing some expensive black and gray private school uniform. A child who was staring directly at me.

My eyes narrowed and she didn’t flinch. How peculiar. Children generally didn’t like me, that was no great surprise. But she was staring at me, when everyone else in the coffee shop had barely noticed I was sitting there. Either I wasn’t blending into the background as well as I should or this kid was more observant than most adults.

“What?” I snapped when the kid didn’t look away. She didn’t even blink. Weird girl.

She quirked a brow, totally unfazed. “Is that a Beretta M9?”

My brows shot up and my spine stiffened. Who the fuck was this kid? The crest on her school uniform said she attended the local school, Shadow Prep, and her copper red hair was tightly wound into two braids making her look as innocent as pie. Except for her eyes. This was a kid who’d been to hell and back.

I clicked my tongue, putting the pieces together from my previous research into Shadow Grove’s key players—and their weaknesses. “Good eye. Diana, right?”

Her brow dipped in a scowl. “And who the fuck are you?”

An old woman reached over from behind the counter and gave the girl a light cuff around the ears. “Watch your mouth, child. Leave the man alone.”

The kid—Diana—just scowled harder but turned her attention back to the school books open on the counter in front of her. A moment later, my pretty waitress returned with my coffee and another flirtatious smile. My focus was still on the kid, though. Sharp little thing, spotting my concealed weapon and accurately identifying it from a distance. Her guardians were training her well.

I quickly pushed the curiosity from my mind, though, when the man I’d been waiting for walked past the cafe window.

“Thank you,” I said quickly, cutting off the waitress’s offer to meet later for a drink, “I have to go.”

Not bothering to wait for a check, I tossed a wad of cash onto the table and made my way out of the coffee shop to tail my mark. He’d been harder to track down than a lot of my assignments, but that was to be expected. After all… he was a mercenary, just like me.

Okay, not quite like me. But he was Guild-trained, meaning it’d taken me several weeks to get this close rather than the easy couple of days it took for mundane targets. In a way, I was sad this assignment was almost over.

The best part was yet to come, though.

My mark, for all appearances, was a boring, unremarkable kind of guy. In his mid-thirties, dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt, with no less than three guns—Glock 19s by my guess—and six knives decorating his body. Thank fuck for that. I was in the mood for a good fight, and nothing was more disappointing than a Guild-trained mercenary just surrendering when they saw me.

It only took three blocks before my target noticed me following him, and the corners of my mouth kicked up. This might be more fun than I’d anticipated. I should have known Shadow Grove wouldn’t disappoint.

His pace quickened dramatically, and within a few more blocks, he was full on running. I no longer needed to hide the fact that I was tailing him, so I matched his pace easily but made no attempt to catch up. Why would I when he was doing all the hard work of getting away from the public for me?

Chuckling under my breath, I chased my scared little rabbit away from the busy shopping street and into the quieter, run-down residential area. I was still in no hurry to catch up, leaving the same hundred yard gap between us no matter how fast he ran. It must be infuriating for a skilled mercenary to be toyed with like this.

He ducked around corners and jumped fences, doing everything he could to shake me, but it was futile. Now that I had him in my sights… surely he had to know the Guild wouldn’t just let him go?

A moment later, my sneaky mark disappeared out of my sight, and I needed to pause to decide which way he’d gone. Left. Definitely left. I barked a sharp laugh as I realized that my prey hadn’t run into a park, like I’d initially thought. It was a cemetery.

Shadow Grove never failed to entertain me, that was for sure.

Up ahead of me, I caught a glimpse of my target sprinting down a row of taller headstones, some carved angels and monolithic stone crosses. Seeing as how I couldn’t have picked a better location to kill a man than this, I launched myself over a series of grave markers and increased my speed.

Silent and deadly.

He never even saw me coming, too busy looking for me over his shoulder until he ran straight into my knife.

The impact reverberated up my arm, but I held strong, bracing against the man’s momentum.

To his credit, my prey didn’t scream. He didn’t shout for help or beg for his life. He just grunted, peering down at his midsection where I still gripped the handle of my knife, its blade entirely buried in him—and probably poking out the other side, too.

“You fucked up, Jean-Claude,” I informed him, as though my blade in his flesh wasn’t driving that point home enough all on its own. “Don’t worry, this isn’t the one that will kill you.”

The mercenary winced, clearly understanding that I meant to make his death painful.

“Leon,” he croaked. “Not who I expected.”

I felt the corners of my mouth curl in a cold smile. “I never am, Jean-Claude.” Yanking my knife free of his gut in a squelching tug, I then quickly slammed the hilt into his temple to knock him unconscious. It wasn’t necessary, but it sure did make things easier.

The disgraced mercenary crumpled to the ground, and I carefully wiped my blade on his sweatshirt before tucking it away. Jean-Claude wasn’t a small man, so I needed both hands to drag him off the path and farther into the cemetery where it was less likely we might be overheard.

Just to be safe, I’d keep it quick. The last thing I needed was for some nosey Timberwolves to intervene, because then I’d have to kill them and deal with the fallout from Hades. Doable, but not my idea of entertainment. Better she not know I was ever in town.

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