Mon nom est Gin, et je tue des gens. C'est quelque chose que j'ai fait pendant des années en tant qu'Araignée, assassin professionnel, mais maintenant, c'est devenu une nécessité pour moi afin de survivre à toutes les voyous d'Ashland qui sont à mes trousses. Le monde souterrain est toujours dans la tourmente, et j'ai l'impression d'être sur la liste noire de tout le monde, ces jours-ci.
Pour ajouter aux problèmes de Gin, l'ex de son amant Owen est en ville. Salina est de retour à Ashland pour réclamer un vieil héritage de famille et elle pense que Owen est à elle dans la foulée. Comme si cela ne suffisait pas, Phillip Kincaid, propriétaire de casino et personnage louche touche-à-tout, a un lien mystérieux avec Owen et Salina.
Salina ressemble à une douce belle du Sud, mais il y a plus chez elle qu'il n'y paraît. Sa magie élémentale de l'eau fait d'elle une dangereuse ennemie - et quelqu'un qui peut lutter pied à pied avec les pouvoirs de glace et de pierre de Gin. Mais Gin est déterminée à venir à bout du programme meurtrier de Salina, même si cela pourrait lui coûter tout ce qu'elle a ... y compris Owen.
L'Exécutrice, Tome 7
Breaking into the building was easy.
Too easy for an assassin like me.
Hell, I didn’t even have to break in—I could have walked right through the front door, waved at the guard stationed behind the reception desk in the lobby, and taken the elevator up to the appropriate floor. Stroll into an office building holding a vase of flowers, an oversize teddy bear, or a couple of pizza boxes smelling of grease, pepperoni, and melted mozzarella, and no one looks too closely at you. Except to wish they were the ones who’d thought to order pizza for dinner.
The delivery ruse was one I’d used countless times before, and I would have done it again today—except he knew that I was coming for him. He was on his guard, and everyone entering the building was being checked and double-checked for weapons and to see if they even had the right to be there in the first place.
Besides, I preferred to be subtle about these things—to creep around in the shadows, leap out, take down my target when he least expected it, and then vanish back into the darkness once more. As the assassin the Spider, I had a reputation to uphold—that I could get to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Something I planned on proving once again this evening—no matter how tight my target’s security was.
It had taken me the better part of a week to scout out locations where the hit might go down. Home, office, the route in between, restaurants he liked to frequent, even Northern Aggression, Ashland’s most decadent nightclub, where he spent some time after hours. I’d eventually decided to do the job in his office, which was housed in one of the city’s downtown skyscrapers. He probably thought he was safe there, given the amount of security, but he was going to learn exactly how wrong he was.
It had taken another week and been a bit more difficult than I’d expected, getting my hands on the building’s blueprints and figuring out a way to get close to my target, but I’d managed. I always managed. I wouldn’t have been the Spider otherwise. Besides, I always enjoyed a challenge.
Now, I was into the third week of the operation, and it was finally time to put my plan into action, since the job had to be done before the end of the month. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but the target knew about the looming deadline and that I was gunning for him. Every day that passed meant that security got that much tighter and my job that much more difficult.
Two hours ago, I’d strolled into a downtown parking garage, wearing a black pantsuit and matching heels. I’d pulled my dark, chocolate brown hair up into a high, sleek ponytail, while black glasses with clear lenses covered my cold gray eyes. I looked like just another corporate office drone, right down to the enormous black handbag I carried.
The garage lay on the opposite side of the block from the front entrance to the skyscraper, but thanks to the blueprints I’d looked at, I’d discovered the two were connected by a series of maintenance corridors, which meant I didn’t have to go anywhere near the skyscraper lobby to actually get inside the building.
Always take the most unexpected route. That was something my late mentor, Fletcher Lane, had told me more than once, and I expected it to work just as well this evening as it had so many other times.
Still, I’d thought that my target might have a few guards stationed in the garage, hence my business attire, but I didn’t see anyone as I walked down the ramp from the street to the basement level. A few security cameras swiveled around in slow loops on the walls, their red lights blinking like malevolent eyes, but it was easy enough for me to walk through their blind spots. Sloppy, sloppy of him not to make sure the entire garage was covered by the cameras, even if it was on the other side of the block. This was Ashland, after all, the city that showcased greed, violence, corruption, and depravity in all their deep-fried, Southern glory.
My heels cracked against the concrete as I headed toward the elevator, the harsh sound bouncing around like a Ping-Pong ball someone had tossed into the garage. Despite the fact I was in the business district, muggings weren’t unheard of here, and my eyes scanned the shadows, just in case there was anyone lurking around who shouldn’t be. Assassin or not, I had no desire to get blood on my clothes before I’d gotten close to my target. I was the only one getting away with any violence tonight.
As a final precaution, I reached out with my magic and listened to the stone around me.
People leave behind emotional vibrations in their surroundings, in the places where they spend their time, in the houses, apartments, and offices where they live, love, laugh, work, and die. All those feelings, all those emotions, especially sink into stone, whether it’s a concrete foundation of a house, the gravel that constantly crunches under the tires of a convertible, or even an expensive marble sculpture prettily perched in a living room.
As a Stone elemental, I can hear those vibrations and pick up on those emotions as clearly as if the person who had put them there was standing beside me, telling me all about how he’d used that marble sculpture to bash in his wife’s brains so he could collect on her life insurance policy.
I reached out with my magic, and the usual sharp, worried murmurs echoed back to me. Nobody much cares for parking garages, and the low mutters told me just how many folks had fearfully clutched their bags and briefcases to their chests as they hurried to unlock their cars—and the ones who hadn’t made it before they’d been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Par for the course in this garage and so many others like it in the city.
Still, there were no recent disturbances in the stone, and no indication that someone had set his sights on me. Satisfied, I shut the murmurs out of my mind, rounded the corner, and reached the elevator that led from the garage up into the office building on this side of the block.
A man wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase waited in front of the elevator, watching the numbers light up as it descended to our level. I gave him a polite nod, then pulled my cell phone out of my bag and started tapping the buttons on it, sending a message to no one.
The elevator arrived, and the man stepped inside, holding the door open for me.
“Going up?” he asked.
I waved him off. “I need to finish this text first. My reception always gets cut off in there.”
He nodded and let the doors slide shut. I hit a few more buttons on my phone, just in case there was anyone else behind me heading toward the elevator, but no one appeared. When I was certain I was alone, I put the phone away and headed to the far end of the corridor and a door marked Maintenance Only.
I looped my bag across my shoulder so my hands would be free, held my palm up, and reached for my magic again—but not my Stone power. Most elementals are only gifted in one area—Air, Fire, Ice, or Stone—but I had the rare ability to tap into two areas. So now, instead of using my Stone magic again, I grabbed hold of my Ice power and used it to form a specific, familiar shape—one that would help me get through this locked door.
A cold, silver light flickered in my palm, centered on the scar there, one that was shaped like a small circle surrounded by eight thin rays. A matching scar was embedded in my other palm. The marks were spider runes, the symbol for patience. My assassin name and so many other things to me.
A second later, the light faded, and I clutched two slender Ice picks in my fingers. Still keeping an eye and ear out for anyone else in the garage, I went to work on the door. I wasn’t as good as jimmying locks as Finnegan Lane was, but I got the job done in under a minute. I threw the Ice picks down on the concrete where they would soon melt away and slid through the opening, letting the door close behind me.
I stood in a long, narrow hallway set with flickering bulbs that gave everything an ugly, sallow tint. I paused, listening for the footsteps of the maintenance workers who used these corridors. But I didn’t hear any scuffles or whispers of movement, so I started walking. Even if I ran into someone, I’d just claim to be a lost worker bee, desperately trying to find my way back to the hive.
For once, my luck held, and I didn’t see anyone as I hurried through the hallways. Eventually, I wound up in the basement of the skyscraper where my target’s office was. After that, it was just a matter of picking another door lock and taking the service elevator up to the second floor, above the guards in the lobby. Then, I leisurely walked the rest of the way up the emergency stairs until I reached the top floor.
I cracked open the stairway door and looked out over a sea of cubicles divided by clear, plastic walls. I’d gotten here right at quitting time, and everyone was trying to wrap up their work for the day so they could be out the door by five sharp to get their kids, get dinner, and get home. Everyone hunched over their phones and computers, sending out a few last messages, and no one noticed me slip out of the stairway, softly pull the door shut behind me, and stroll into their midst.
I kept to the edge of the cubicle area and walked down a hallway until I came to a corner office I knew was being used to store supplies. The door was open, and I stepped inside like I had every right to be here. I looked over my shoulder through the window, but no one so much as glanced in my direction, so I went into the private bathroom that was attached to the office and closed the door behind me.
I stood behind the door, counted off the seconds in my head, and waited, just waited to see if anyone had spotted me and had alerted security. Ten … twenty … thirty … forty-five … After the three-minute mark, I felt safe enough to move on to the next part of my plan. Now that I was on the appropriate floor, all that was left to do was get to my target’s office.
I removed a small, electric screwdriver from my bag, climbed up onto the bathroom counter, and used the tool to open one of the grates on an air duct vent high up on the wall. Of course, I could have gotten into the air ducts down in the maintenance corridor. The only problem was that those grates were all wired into the security system. The second I popped one open, an alarm would sound to alert the guards in the lobby, who would come running with their guns drawn ready to plug me full of bullets.
But my target hadn’t bothered with alarms on the grates up here in the rarified corporate air. Few people thought to properly secure the doors, windows, and air ducts on the upper levels of their homes or offices, figuring that preventing someone from getting inside on the ground floor was good enough.
Not when it came to the Spider.
Once the grate was open, I climbed back down, stripped off my suit and glasses, reached into my bag, and put on my real clothes for the evening—cargo pants, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a vest, and boots. All in black, of course. Yeah, wearing head-to-toe black might be a little cliché for an assassin, but you went with that worked—and best hid the bloodstains.
I put the suit, glasses, and heels into the bag, looped it around my chest, got back up onto the counter, and hoisted myself up and into the air duct, making sure to close up the grate behind me. Like many buildings in Ashland, the ducts here were made slightly oversize, just in case a giant maintenance worker ever had to squeeze inside, so I didn’t have any problems moving through them. I slowly, carefully, quietly, crawled through the air ducts until I reached the office I wanted. Then, I eased up to the grate there and peered through the slats to the other side.
The duct opened up into an impressive office. A large desk made out of polished ebony stood in the back of the room. Pens, papers, a monitor, two phones. The usual office detris covered the surface, while two black leather chairs crouched in front of the desk. Matching furniture in varying shades of black and gray filled the rest of the room, along with metal sculptures, while a fully stocked wet bar took up the better part of one wall. Behind the desk, floor-to-ceiling windows offered a sweeping view of downtown Ashland and the green-gray smudges of the Appalachian Mountains that ringed the city.
The office was empty, just like I’d planned for it to be right now, so I didn’t have to be quite as quiet as I used my screwdriver to undo the grate on this vent and put the loose screws into a pocket on my vest. I practiced removing the grate from its frame until I was sure I could do it without making any noise, then I slid it back into place. I also reached into my bag and drew out my weapon for the evening—a small gun made out of plastic.
Normally, I carried five silverstone knives on me—one up either sleeve, one in the small of my back, and two tucked into the sides of my boots. I liked my knives, and those were the weapons I used on the majority of my jobs. But my target had an elemental talent for metal, which meant he could sense whenever the element was near, just like I could the stone around me. In fact, metal was an offshoot of Stone.
Since I didn’t want to give my target any hint I was here, I’d decided to leave my knives at home tonight. I wasn’t as good with a gun as I was with a blade, but the one I’d brought along would get the job done in the office’s close quarters.
As a final touch, I reached into my bag and pulled on a pair of black gloves, making sure the thin leather covered the spider rune scars embedded in my palms. The scars were really silverstone that had been melted into my flesh years ago by a particularly vicious Fire elemental. I didn’t think my target would be able to sense the metal in my palms—not through the duct—but the gloves offered another small bit of protection, and I wasn’t going to take any chances.
With the grate and my gun in position, all that was left to do was settle down and wait for my target to arrive.
I’d been inside the air duct for almost an hour when the office door opened, and two men carrying briefcases stepped inside. Both wore expensive tailored suits and shiny wing tips, marking them as the movers and shakers they were. My target was having an after-hours meeting with his money man to go over company financials and other sundry things.
Too bad it was a meeting neither one of them would live through.
Through the grate, I watched a third man step into the office—a giant who was almost seven feet tall. He also wore a suit, although his wasn’t quite as nice as those of the other men.
The two businessmen hung back while the giant did a sweep of the office, peering behind the desk and the wet bar, then going into the private bathroom and repeating the process by glancing into the shower. The nightly sweep of the office was another reason I’d chosen to make my approach through the air duct, rather than just hiding in a dark corner somewhere.
A moment later, the giant stepped back out into the office. “All clear, sir,” he said. “The rest of the floor has been swept and is empty as well.”
My target nodded his thanks, and the giant left the office, closing the door behind him.
The second man immediately moved over to the bar, grabbed a bottle of expensive Scotch, and poured himself a healthy amount in a cut-crystal tumbler. He swallowed the amber-colored liquor and nodded his head in approval. Then, he turned his attention to his friend.
“Any sign of her today?” the drinker asked.
The other man, my target, shook his head. “Nothing so far.”
The drinker grinned. “Well, since the Spider hasn’t come to call yet and it looks like you get to live another day, let’s get down to business. I happen to have someone waiting up for me tonight. I’m sure you know what I mean.”
My target smiled at that, and the two men opened their briefcases. They spread the papers inside over a table in front of the bar, then sat in the chairs on either side and got to work.
“Now,” the drinker began, “as you can see from these latest tax and earnings figures …”
I waited until the two men were thoroughly engrossed in their conversation before I slowly, carefully, quietly, removed the grate from the air duct opening. I paused, waiting to see if they’d noticed the slight, furtive movement above their heads, but of course they didn’t. Few people bothered to look up—even those being hunted by a notorious assassin like me.
I put the grate to one side of the duct and made sure the gun was within easy reach in its slot on the front of my vest. Then, I slowly wiggled forward until I was at the edge of the opening. I drew in a breath, let it out, and slid forward.
I let my weight and gravity pull me down before grabbing the edge of the duct, flipping over, letting go, and landing on my feet facing the two men. They’d barely had time to blink, much less get to their feet, before the gun was in my hand and trained on my target.
I double-tapped my target in the chest, and he dropped to the carpet without a sound. I trained my gun on the second man, who leaped to his feet, put up his hands in a placating gesture, and started backing away.
“Hello, Finn,” I said in a mocking voice to the drinker. “Weren’t expecting to see me here, were you?”
Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, looked at me, a clear plea in his eyes. “You don’t have to do this. You’ve proven your point by icing Owen there already. This whole thing was your lover’s brilliant idea, not mine. Don’t blame me for his mistakes.”
I gestured with the gun at Owen Grayson’s prone form. “That’s not how I remember things. In fact, I distinctly recall you being the mouthpiece behind this whole situation. You were the one who kept pushing and pushing me. Well, tonight, I finally decided to push back.”
When he realized I couldn’t be reasoned with, Finn decided another tactic—bribery. “I’ll pay you whatever you want to put the gun down and walk away, you know that.”
“I do know that.” A cold, cruel smile curved my lips. “But walking away is not nearly as much fun as this is. You know that as well as I do.”
“No, please, don’t—”
I pulled the trigger twice, cutting off his protests, and my foster brother joined my lover on the floor.
J'ai adoré ce tome parce qu'on entrevoit un autre coté d'Owen : on voit sa vulnérabilité et on en apprend plus sur sa jeunesse. Cependant, le plus intéressant reste la constance de Gin : elle est prête à tout pour protéger les gens auxquels elle tient, même si ses actions peuvent lui faire perdre ces personnes au bout du compte. Le roman est drôle et plein d'action. On rit, on s’énerve et à la fin on est très satisfait par ce roman !
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