Killing was a lot like sex. You didn’t have to enjoy it to be good at it.

Kelly Wood had done plenty of both for her government. For the last fifteen years she’d been able to bury her past on a remote Oklahoma ranch in a perfectly normal life — until thirty minutes ago. Now she faced the worst time in her life as she packed only the most necessary items in a black bag. The color reminded her of death, and death was what she used to do best.

With one phone call, her world shattered. She could still hear Janko’s voice, deep and smooth as still water, and twice as deadly.

“Hello, KC.” She’d almost dropped the phone as her hand trembled. Dread wrapped around her like a shroud. Hang up now! had been her first thought. The second had been to run with her kids as fast and as far as possible. It was already too late; she just hadn’t known it yet.

“What’s the matter? Out of sight, out of mind? I guess you’ve forgotten me.” As he chuckled at his joke, her throat closed.

How could she forget the man who’d shown her how it felt to kill, how it felt to live, the man who’d taught her everything she knew about hatred — and love?

Forget Steven Janko?  Hell, no!  Never.

“Go away, Janko! Stay out of my life.” She’d slammed the phone into the base unit only to have it ring again immediately. Did she really think she’d get rid of him so easily? With her heart pounding, she channeled her rage, and her fear, then picked up.

“I have your kids.” 

In an instant everything stopped. Her breathing. Her pulse. Her life. “You bastard! What have you done?” If he’d been standing in front of her, she’d have killed him with her bare hands.         

 “What I had to. I need you to eliminate a mark –”

“And if I refuse?” 

“You won’t. Not if you want your kids back.”

“I’ll do it, just don’t hurt my children.” She hated the desperation that had seeped into her voice. Reining in her emotions, she concentrated o his brief instructions, then hung up without another word.

As if it was the last time — and maybe it was — she walked into the living room, stopping long enough to touch the rodeo and sports trophies Ashley and Tyler had won. Those things she’d thought so important yesterday meant nothing without loved ones to share them with.

She turned off the table lamp, leaving the room gilded by the fading spring sunset. The warm glow did not penetrate the coldness she felt inside. She stared for a moment, gathering memories, then went out the door, closing it behind her. The hollow thud echoed in the garage. She wasn’t leaving her home, only an empty shell. Her life here, as she knew it, was ending and another would begin, as soon as her children were safely encircled within her arms.

And as soon as she’d killed Janko.

*                                               *                                                           *

Steven Janko sat in the darkest corner of the Talco airport lounge, his attention riveted on the leggy blonde entering the concourse. Kelly, always KC to him, hadn’t lost that fluid, purposeful walk he’d found so exciting. And still did.

He pulled hard on the cigarette, glad that his favorite vice hadn’t been banned here yet. Waiting for her to arrive had given him too much time to think about her. About what might have been.

And now, what might be.

 

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