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Authors: Vesper Vaughn

Tags: #hitman romance murder assassin mafia bad boy

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BOOK: Hitman's Hookup: A Bad Boy Romance
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The taxi driver was clearly in this for the bonus tip. Multiple pedestrians had to jump out of the way of our rampaging cab. I’d never been in a vehicle moving this quickly in New York City. My heart was pounding with a heady combination of excitement, pure terror, and a dose of the smoking hot, suit-covered muscular mystery man who smelled like a billionaire sitting next to me. He was probably adding another several beats to the tempo of my rushing bloodstream.

What a strange evening this was turning out to be. I stared at Phillip out of the corner of my eye. He seemed determined to not look at me. I wondered why that was. Oh well. At least this gave me time to soak him up. There was no two ways about it: Phillip was the hottest man I’d ever seen in my entire life.

I tried not to think too hard about what he looked like naked. I was already starting to sweat through my dress fabric from the heater blaring in the front of the cab. It was seventy-eight degrees outside but the cab driver clearly didn’t know that.

“I said fast,” Phillip insisted.

The cab driver slammed the accelerator and switched lanes, nearly crashing into a city bus. My body was thrown against Phillip’s and he caught me in his strong arms. Our eyes met, and I saw that flash of fire again. Then he pushed me off of him without a word.

CHAPTER FOUR

CRUZ

My target wasn’t in the restaurant. I checked my watch. Lily was bobbing with excitement. It seemed like she was this perfect little bundle of energy. I wondered how that translated to her in bed. Even with all of my experience and training, I’d never had to multi-task like this before. How was I supposed to keep a woman I’d just met entertained while also looking out for the sick bastard to arrive?

But she was pulling my attention even when I didn’t want to give it to her. It was all I could do to not stare at her until the world ended. Because she was fucking gorgeous.

Her obsidian skin seemed to be giving off a light of its own. The black dress she’d chosen was slinky and hung off of her ample curves. Her full lips and glistening, deep brown eyes were beckoning me to her, along with the waist-length, ebony braids that cascaded from her head. She was easily a foot shorter than I was. She looked like I could lift her with my pinky finger.

I wanted this woman like I wanted oxygen to breathe.

But I wasn’t here for that. I was here for work.

“Table for two,” I said to the whip-thin host behind the podium. “I’d like a seat in the back of the restaurant if at all possible.”

“Certainly,” he replied curtly. “Right this way.”

I slipped him one of my last twenty-dollar bills. I knew that I needed to get to a checkpoint soon to top up my resources. I filed it away in my brain for later. The waiter sat Lily facing the front of the restaurant. I stepped in swiftly to grab the chair. Lily nearly toppled over from the interruption. I grabbed her by the elbow to keep her from falling.

“You sit here,” I said, motioning to the other side of the table. “I like having a view of the city.”

Lily amiably switched seats. “Yeah, nothing says ‘view of New York’ like rich people stumbling out of the doors of the Bloomingdale’s across the way.”

I bit my tongue to keep from shooting a zinger back at her and unbuttoned my suit jacket to sit down. I liked witty women. But if I engaged too much I’d be distracted. Corina should have taught me that by now. When it comes to women, I’m a slow learner.

I surveyed the restaurant and took instant inventory of where the exits were, who was sitting where, and the flow of foot traffic in and out of the kitchen. I realized with a start that Lily was studying my expression with intense interest.

Lily tapped her wine glass with her fingertips. “Have you been here before?” she asked.

“No,” I replied curtly.

“Wow, really splurging on spontaneity tonight, huh?”

“What?” I asked her, confused and still looking at the entrance waiting for my target to walk in.

“I was joking,” she said. “I just meant that between you using an app you claim you’ve never used before and coming to this restaurant that you just seem
so excited
to be sitting in, it must be a banner night for you.”

I realized that she was prodding me. Pushing me. Flirting with me in her own way. I so desperately wanted to tangle with her wit, but I had to focus. “I don’t like excitement or unpredictability,” I responded quietly. “So yeah, this night is already a stand out.”

She pursed her full lips in thought. It seemed like she was trying to decide between further fucking with me or asking a genuine question. “What is it that you do for a living?”

“Corporate mergers,” I replied automatically.

“Christ, my eyes are glazing over just hearing you say that,” Lily said with a guffaw.

“What is it that you do?” I asked, still keeping one eye on the entrance to the restaurant.

Lily’s expression darkened. She sipped from her wine glass as if she wanted to avoid the question. “I’m a surgeon,” she replied.

I raised my eyebrows. “Really?” I hadn’t expected a surgeon to be using a dating app. My curiosity was getting the best of me, and before I could stop myself, the words were out of my mouth. “Where’s your pager?”

She raised her eyebrows. “You’re an observant one,” she said. “Considering you’ve barely looked at me the entire evening so far, I’m sort of shocked.”

“Looking at a woman as beautiful as you is like staring into the sun. I don’t need to do it for too long to have you burned into my memory.” Lily tilted her head down slightly and bit her lip. She was blushing. I liked that. My curiosity tickled me again. I hadn’t been planning on getting this involved, but now I really wanted to know. “You didn’t answer my question.”

She leaned forward and folded her hands on the table. “I’m taking a leave of absence.”

“You don’t look old enough to be much more than an intern. I didn’t know hospitals allowed that.” What was it with this woman? I hadn’t been this genuinely invested in someone’s story in years. I found myself wanting to know everything. She was an enigma.

No one was an enigma to me. Not anymore.

“I graduated med school at nineteen. I’m twenty-four now and in my last year of residency. In six months, I’ll be starting my cardiothoracic fellowship. Well. In
nine
months now, I guess, since I’m taking this…sabbatical.”

I raised my eyebrows. I could tell there was more to this story. “Were you just burned out?”

Lily cleared her throat and shook her head. “I’ve said enough. Now it’s
my
turn to ask the questions.”

I felt myself clench with nervousness. “I didn’t realize we were taking turns.”

Lily squinted at me. I didn’t know how she was doing it, but I felt like she was x-raying my brain. It was unnerving. “What’s your real name?”

My fist tightened under the table, but I kept my well-practiced poker face. “Phillip.”

She shook her head and smiled. “Nah, I don’t believe you. You still don’t look like a Phillip to me.”

I shrugged. “Well, you can blame my parents for that.” I shifted imperceptibly in my seat, my eye still on the door. “You don’t know anything about me. How could you think I don’t look like my name?”

“I know that you clocked the exits the second you walked in here. And that you’re clearly waiting for someone who isn’t me. I know your game,
Phillip
.” She said my name sardonically.

I tried to keep my expression neutral, but my heart was threatening to beat out of my shirt. This woman was a force of nature. It was everything I could do to not stare at her tits and instead focus on her eyes. “Oh really. And what is that?”

“I think your ex-girlfriend’s coming here tonight, and that you know that because you stalk her in your miserable, lonely apartment at the top of the city. And you wanted to make her jealous. I think you’ve alienated most women you’ve come in contact with recently because you’re so hung up on your ex you can’t pay them the proper amount of attention. So you hopped on Pyre until you found the type of woman you thought would make her the most jealous.” She smiled and leaned back, drawing her hand over her own body. “You made an excellent decision. I look fucking hot tonight.”

I drew my thumb across my lips. It was an old habit when I was thinking about fucking a woman. “You spoke no lies in your last sentence.”

She tried to hold back her smile and bit her lip in what looked like embarrassment. “And what about the rest of my theory?”

It took me a few seconds to figure out how to respond to her conjecture. It was creative and if it kept her from asking more questions about why I was
really
here, all the better. “Well, you certainly got me there,” I said, exhaling as dramatically as I could. “But do you
really
think a guy who looks like me couldn’t get any woman he wanted out on a date with him at the last minute?”

Lily’s eyes flashed as if I’d just offered her a challenge. “Okay, hot stuff. Then why did you go trolling for a last-minute hottie on a fucking
app
if it’s
that easy
to get a date?”

I sipped from my water glass, contemplating her response. “Time crunch. Why not use technology if it gets me what I want?”

Lily raised her eyebrows, and I was distracted by the long, thick eyelashes she batted at me. “I thought you said you liked to do things the old-fashioned way?”

I nearly choked on my water. I’d managed to infiltrate high-security banquets with heads of state and been asked fewer questions. She’d caught me. Thankfully she started talking before I needed to respond.

“This is what I think. I think that you’re an asshole. I think that you’re only half as attractive as you think you are. I think that you’ve burned every woman you’ve ever come into contact with, and you needed a stranger to come play along with your game. That’s what I think.”

She was so at ease in grilling me; it was like she was drawing energy from the interrogation. Her face was glowing with excitement.

The waiter mercifully interrupted this exchange. I ordered the lobster linguine while Lily chose the fried octopus.

“That sounds adventurous,” I said with a smile.

She shrugged. “I like challenges and excitement. I’m going stir-fucking-crazy in my apartment not working.” She seemed to have forgotten how she’d nailed me only a few minutes before. “Do you like your job? Because I feel like you don’t like your job.”

I shrugged. “It’s work. It pays the bills. It’s…steady. I’m good at it.”

“But is it what you
want
to be doing? You basically go in and fire people, right? Crush them and their dreams? You’re George Clooney in that airplane movie. I’m sure they chose you because you’re hot. Softens the blow.” She drank from her wine glass again, her pillow lips wrapping around the thin rim of the glass.

My mind flashed to her wrapping those lips around something else. She couldn’t weigh much more than a hundred pounds but there was clearly a lot of fire in that little, curvy package. I could probably fit her in my pocket if I tried hard enough. “I fire one person and it saves a hundred more from losing their jobs. I don’t think you can call that evil.”

The door to the restaurant opened and my target walked in. He wasn’t alone, but with a thin, young blonde woman on his arm. I knew that must be his newest wife.

He was constantly upgrading from what I’d read in the file about him.

Lily tapped her fingers on the table. “Ah, so you play the moral calculus game? Utilitarianism. What’s good for the most is the greatest good. What’s one person’s life if it improves the lives of a thousand more – that kind of thing?”

“Don’t you think that way?” I asked her.

She scoffed. “I’m a
doctor,
Phillip. It’s my job to treat every single life as valuable and precious. It’s easy for me. The patient is put in front of me; I treat them. I don’t make the moral decisions. I just do my job.”

“Well, then we’re basically the same at heart,” I replied, watching my target sit down at the prime booth in the restaurant. His wrinkled jowls wobbled sickeningly as he coughed. He looked like he wasn’t long for this world already. I wondered vaguely if I’d still get paid if he kicked the bucket before I got to him. “
I
also don’t decide who gets fired. I just go where they tell me to go, they put the person in front of me, and I tell them it’s over.”

I suddenly realized I wasn’t talking about my fake cover job anymore. The metaphor was a little
too
strong.

Lily smiled. “And you trust that whoever made the decision made the right one?”

I nodded. “I don’t really have any more of a choice in the matter than you do. If I can’t trust the people I work for, then what do I have? You work for your patients. You have to trust them for them to trust you.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s not that different after all.” She stared at me for a long time without saying anything. Then she laughed.

“What?” I asked her defensively.

“I don’t know. You’re…different. There’s something about you I can’t quite put my finger on. I just don’t know what it is.”

I drank from my glass of water nervously. “Are you always this perceptive?”

She shrugged. “I’ve been told I have a knack for ruthlessly pursuing justice and the truth. Or so my grandpa used to say. He also said that one day I’d run out of energy. Hasn’t happened yet, though.”

“Were you close with your grandfather?” I asked.

Lily’s eyes darkened for a second. “Yeah. He raised me. My parents died in a car accident when I was a baby.” She paused. “Do you want to see my lightning bolt scar?”

I laughed heartily at the Harry Potter reference. I’d never read the books but I’d taken Matthew to see all of the movies. I felt a surge of happiness and nostalgia that took me out of place and time for a moment. I was supposed to be working. I wasn’t supposed to be feeling good. “You’re good,” I said. “How much of that story was true?”

“All of it, except the scar. As far as
you
know, anyway.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Maybe I can go looking for it later tonight,” I parried.

BOOK: Hitman's Hookup: A Bad Boy Romance
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