Home > Last Hit: Reloaded (Hitman #2.5)

Last Hit: Reloaded (Hitman #2.5)
Author: Jessica Clare

Chapter 1


Daisy

It’s strange to be surrounded by a sea of people and still be lonely. I walk the campus path to class, hugging my iPad close to my chest, a backpack slung over one shoulder. I’m dressed in a dark gray sweater and jeans, my hair’s pulled into a nondescript ponytail, and I’m roughly the same age of everyone else attending school, give or take a few years.

But I don’t blend. I don’t think I even know how.

Maybe it’s because I’ve killed a man? Maybe it’s because the love of my life is an ex-mafiya assassin? Maybe it’s because the last year has given me more life experience than a lot of these people will ever have, but I’m still considered the “sheltered” one?

Who knows. Whatever it is, I feel like the square peg in a class full of round holes.

I duck into my Financial Management class, and as I do, there’s a row of women at the front I recognize from a class last semester. They’re taking the accounting block of classes, like me, because I want to learn how to manage Nick’s money and help him make more of it the legal way. They’re smiling and laughing, but when they see me, they get quiet. I see their expressions freeze over and they don’t make eye contact.

And so, even though there’s an empty seat next to them, I move to the back of the class. I try not to let it bother me.

I really thought it would be easier to make friends. I really did. But outside of my fiancé, Nick, whom I love and adore with all my heart; my father; and my old roommate, Regan, I’m alone.

Last semester, things were going fine. I enjoyed my classes and socialized with people. But then we got word that Daniel’s sister Naomi had been stolen out from under his nose while he and Regan were accompanying her. Rumors of a Bratva takeover started trickling through Nick’s networks. And my Nick? He is utterly cautious when it comes to my safety. So instead of letting me go to class on my own, he insisted on walking me to class and waiting at the door for me as each class finished.

I think that’s when the ostracism started. People started to look at me weird. Girls that I used to eat lunch with no longer go to the dining hall when I do. Maybe Nick inadvertently said something to someone. Maybe just seeing my big Ukrainian with the tattoo-covered neck and the designs crisscrossing his hands screamed danger.

Whatever it was, the women in my classes steer clear of me.

I can’t blame Nick. He wants to keep me safe, and I love him for it. After my kidnapping last year by Yuri and Vasily, I don’t mind his hovering. It makes me feel secure, even if it chases away any chance of friendship with “regular” people.

As I swipe my iPad and open the text to the class’s lesson, I tell myself that these things don’t matter. That the approval of my peers does not matter to me. I have Nick, and that should be everything.

But in some ways, not having any girlfriends to chat with makes me feel as if I am still that isolated young woman living in a boarded-up house with my father. I had no friends then, either. And funnily enough, I thought that friends and life would come easily once I escaped his house. And while Nick blazed his way into my life like a comet and paved a path for me, I still struggle with everyday things.

Like small talk. I never realized how much of a favor my friend Regan did me when she took me under her wing. But now Regan’s in Texas and I’m having to figure things out on my own.

The class fills up as we wait for the professor’s lecture to begin. There are two unfamiliar girls a row ahead of me discussing something called Real Housewives. I think it’s a TV show, based off of their conversation, but Nick and I don’t watch a lot of TV. There are so many other things to do with our time, like fix up the old apartment building, or go to the zoo, or take walks together . . . or simply make love. TV falls somewhere far down that list.

Still, I make a note on the margins of my notepad to check it out. Maybe I can watch a few episodes over the weekend and return to class armed with knowledge and a way to break into their huddled conversation.

Even as I think it, I scratch the words out. I can watch a few episodes . . . and then what? Introduce them to my assassin fiancé? Invite them over for dinner to the large, empty apartment building that Nick and I purchased and that no one else lives in yet except for my father? But could they please let me run a background check first?

I sigh and concentrate on my finance class instead.

If I cannot make friends, I can at least have knowledge.

***

My next class occurs after lunch. Even though Nick would prefer that I remain in class until he comes to escort me home, we’ve compromised. I won’t eat anywhere but in the crowded lunchroom, where I can be surrounded by people. It doesn’t matter that I brown-bag my lunch every day; there is safety in numbers. But I hate lunch. I hate that when I choose a table, I’m always the only one seated there.

I’ve tried sitting with other people, but I get nervous and end up staring mutely at them as I gobble my sandwich, which only makes everyone uncomfortable. To look like I’m busy, I text Nick a few hearts to let him know I’m thinking about him.

You are my heart, Daisy, he texts back immediately.

I smile and touch the art I had tattooed over my breastbone for Christmas. It’s a drawing of a heart and his name in Cyrillic, and it’s as dark and elegant as my lover. I love it, and Nick loves to see it on my skin. I think it touched him more than when I proposed to him, which is funny to think about. A ring is an outward sign that you belong to someone, but the hidden tattoo under my clothes is just for him, and ten times more intimate. I smile and text him back. What are you drawing today?

A very fat man, Nick sends back. He is sweating profusely. His balls look like shriveled meatballs.

I giggle on my peanut butter and jelly. Nick is taking art classes, and he alternately loves—and hates—his Drawing from Life Models class. Nick enjoys drawing interesting people, not pretty ones, so this man should be right up his alley. But the sweat, I imagine, is difficult to capture. Have fun, I text back. Dinner tonight is meatballs!

Now my cock is shriveled at the thought. I must go, love. Duty calls.

XO, I send, since I cannot kiss him.

I wish I could be more like Nick. Nick doesn’t want or need friends. He looks at me strangely when I say the girls in class don’t like me. What can they possibly not like?, he asks. I cried over it once, but only once, because it distressed Nick so. To him, problems are solved at the business end of a gun, and if he can’t help me, it hurts him. So I hide this.

I text Regan a little, but it’s clear from her slow responses that she’s busy. She’s helping Daniel with the stalls at the Hays ranch. I can’t imagine Regan doing manual labor, but she says she loves it and it helps calm her mind. If that’s the case, I’m all for it.

I’m relieved when I’ve wasted enough time fooling with my phone to go to my next class. Principles of Architecture is a labor of love. It has absolutely nothing to do with my degree plan, but when my advisor suggested fine arts courses, I gravitated toward this one. Learning about the differences in Greek columns and how ancient civilizations created load-bearing walls is pretty dry stuff to Nick, but I’m fascinated. Maybe someday I could design new buildings, buildings with both safety and beauty in mind.

This class is primarily first-year students, and I’m older than all of them, which makes me feel a bit silly. Luckily, I find the coursework so interesting that I don’t mind being older than the others. I’m also one of only two women in the class. The other is a girl with pale blond hair who’s even quieter than I am. Like a wraith, she slips in and out of class. I don’t think anyone realizes she’s present except for me, because I am on the hunt for friends.

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