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Elizabeth Grant had never been and never would ever be a smoker, but there were times when she wished she was because her job was extremely stressful. It wasn’t so much of what she actually did, but the waiting that did her in. She liked to be active, to have something to do. She was currently sitting at an outdoor café, sipping a glass of strawberry lemonade, her forest green eyes hidden behind a chic pair of dark sunglasses. She was wearing tight black pants with knee high boots over them, and a black tank top underneath a denim jacket. Her wavy blonde hair tumbled down her shoulders, and she ran her fingers through the untamable strands, staring at her cell phone, as if that could make it would ring faster. But alas, she was having no such luck.
Elizabeth – Lizzie, she preferred - worked for the Nocturnal Defense Society, which was a government agency that specialized in maintaining and enforcing equality between humans, vampires, and werewolves. Her job was that of an assassin, and she was damn good at it. When her boss needed her to take out a high profile leader, she did it in under twenty-four hours. Whether it was someone from humanity, werewolf society, or vampire society – it didn't matter. Whatever they needed, she did it, and usually, without question. It was her job, after all; it paid the bills.
In her occupation, she only had a couple of ground rules that were important when handling any particular case: First and foremost, those she did take out had to be guilty. None of the reasonable doubt bullshit; there had to be irrefutable evidence against any particular target. Secondly, she liked to work alone. She didn't want to be responsible for somebody else, and she didn't want to grow attached to someone who, in all likelihood, was going to die from this job. The only reason Lizzie survived so long in this area of business was because she was smart and fast. She showed no weakness, and she wanted to keep it that way. And finally, her last rule whenever she accepted a job was to let her handle the details her way. If they wanted to do it a certain way, they could hire someone else to do it, or they could do it themselves. Just give her the target and get out of her way. She would handle the rest.
Lizzie started tapping the heel of her right foot so it clacked against the pavement beneath her and threw her eyes over to her phone once more. "Come on," she murmured under her breath. "Come on, come on, come on…"
Her thoughts drifted once again, as her ears continued to meet the hollow sound of silence. Little girls didn’t typically dream of growing up to be assassins, but somehow, Lizzie always knew that that was what she wanted to do. She was raised by her mother Carmen, who, in her day, was the NDS' top assassin, outranking even the men. Of course, this meant that her mother took extra ribbing and the sexism that went along with any female accomplishment, as well as tons of competition from her fellow assassins, but she didn't mind. Lizzie had no idea who her father was, but she never really cared and Carmen never offered any kind of information. In fact, her mother took that secret to the grave with her.
When Lizzie was fourteen, her mother died on the field, a bullet straight between the eyes. Nobody knew how this was possible, as Carmen was shot from a close range, when she was smarter than letting herself get caught, let alone killed. After her untimely death, there was also the problem of Carmen's daughter. Who would look after her? Ultimately, a single mother named Kathleen who had a daughter of her own and worked in the research department of NDS took her in. From that point forward, Lizzie was determined to become an assassin, and did whatever it took in order to accomplish her goal. She started running every day and developed a workout regimen to increase her strength, her core, and her balance. She started eating better, though she never denied herself a sweet indulgence every once in a while. And she sacrificed the majority of her social life in order to research and study.
Two years later, she was taking classes with eighteen year olds, training with the best people in her desired department, and studying her ass off. When one wanted to join the NDS, no matter what the field, schooling was required, especially multiple classes in Sociology. The Nocturnal Defense Society protected humanity against those that were nocturnal – vampires and werewolves more specifically. The different species lived together in Somerset, and while the law stated that everyone was equal, each species thought that they were superior. Because humans were weakest of the species, it was decided that the NDS would be created to ensure that they wouldn't be taken advantage of or bullied, but it also served as an equalizer. Members of each species worked side by side with the goal that one day, society would deem that they were all equal and that the NDS was no longer necessary.
At twenty-one, Lizzie became the youngest assassin on a team of four. For the first year, her teammates didn't trust her due to her age. They thought that the only reason she was there was because of who her mother was. But sooner rather than later, she won their trust and started to increase in rank. It wasn't until her partner was killed right in front of her did she finally decide to go solo. Many people in her unit thought she was just being snobby, but she didn't care. No one would understand what she had experienced and she didn't want to go through it again.
Though Lizzie was now twenty-three and living on her own, she was still incredibly close to Kathleen Simmons, the woman who had taken her in years ago. In fact, Lizzie's best friend was Kathleen's daughter, Rachel, who excelled at researching, just like her mother. Lizzie was continuously grateful she never had to worry about Rachel because she was rarely, if ever, in the field and therefore, it was highly doubtful she would ever be harmed in any way.
A chirp caused her thoughts to suddenly disappear, and she glanced down at her phone resting on the surface of the table. An unknown number popped up on her caller identification, and her lips quirked up. "Finally," she muttered before flipping open the phone and placing it over her ear. "Grant," she greeted in her no-nonsense tone she usually used while on the clock.
"Good afternoon, Miss Grant," a familiar, articulate voice on the other end of the line greeted. His voice was breathy and formal and slightly odd when compared to others, but he had a natural tone of authority imbedded in his speech, and though it wasn't quite intimidating, it commanded respect.
"Good afternoon, Jackson," Lizzie said with a mischievous glint in her eyes. She knew how much her boss detested when she called him simply by his last name without any form of Mister or Sir beforehand. Luckily, the two went way back, and as long as she wasn't addressing him this way in public or in front of other agents, he usually let her get away with it.
A heavy sigh filled the phone, and it was moment before Jackson said anything. "Yes, well, I've got you an assignment that you’ve no doubt been waiting for," he said almost dismissively but not in a callous way. He paused a moment, knowing that Lizzie was quite impatient, especially when it came to learning information about a client or a hit. She bit her bottom lip, trying to suppress the urge to reach through the phone and strangle him until he gave her what she wanted to know.
"Go on," she said, trying to keep the sharp edge out of her voice. Really, she was trying to work on patience, but it was so hard when she had a boss like Jackson who tried at every opportunity to take full advantage of her particular default.
She could practically hear Jackson smile through the phone and waited another moment before he finally decided to continue. "Are you familiar with the Dragulia family?" he asked her.
"You mean the vampire clan?" Lizzie asked, puzzled. "Aren't they royals in their culture?" She never had to take out a royal before and she highly doubted she would. “The ones who live forty-five minutes by train into the wilderness on the east side of Somerset, completely opposite of Sterling’s pack?”
"They are," Jackson replied.
"Well, isn't it a little obvious taking out a royal?" She tilted her head slightly and slid her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "I mean, I don't even remember hearing that they've done anything to threaten humanity, but then again, it could be because no one trusts me with such information. You know, for your top assassin, everything's been pretty hush-hush when it comes to me. Why is that?"
Another sigh escaped, Lizzie could imagine him reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "You're getting off topic, Miss Grant," he said with slight exasperation. It would seem that he, too, had to work on his patience, except it only seemed challenged whenever he was around or was speaking to Lizzie. "And anyways, this isn't a hit."
She furrowed her brow as she took another sip of her lemonade. "I don't understand," she said. "I'm an assassin. Why would you be giving me a job that has nothing to do with killing someone?"
"It's not so much killing someone as it is protecting them," Jackson corrected. "I have just been informed that Nikolai Dragulia, the vampire next in line to claim the throne once his father retires from the position, has just been threatened. Apparently, there is a hit out for him in the vampire clan because a few people don't think he would make a good king. He has requested your presence personally in hopes that you would be his bodyguard until this whole thing blows over."
Lizzie's mouth dropped open and it took her a long moment before she finally responded. "Wait a minute," she said, still flabbergasted. "This guy wants me to babysit him? That's the job that's so important? You want me to babysit a royal? There is no way I'm going to waste my time with something like this. You can't be serious."
"Well, I am," Jackson said. "Money talks and it has spoken. So I suggest you pack in order to make your train."
Before she could argue some more, the line went dead.
It was times like these when Lizzie, if she had smoked, could have really used a cigarette.