Between Shadows

By: Chanel Cleeton

An Assassins Novel




Chapter One



How does the game go? Two truths and one lie?

Easy enough.

“My name is Mandy. My favorite color is black. I’ve never killed a man.” I nibble on my lower lip; my gaze darts around. The living room is crowded as the aroma of pot and beer mixes with the scent of sweat and bad decisions. Ten of us sit in a circle playing this game. I wait to see if anyone calls me out.

“Your favorite color isn’t black. You’re wearing a purple sweater. That’s the lie,” the girl across from me shouts, her voice triumphant, her words muffled as she takes a swig from a bottle of tequila.

I peer down at the bright purple sweater, ducking my head in embarrassment. “Shit. I forgot about that. You’re totally right, that was the lie.”

The girl grins, baring her teeth at me. “Told you I’m good at this game.”

If you only knew.

I turn, my face partially hidden by a curtain of hair, and study the guy whose arm is draped around my shoulders. I lean into the curve of his body; the smell of his cologne and the sickly sweet aroma of the joint they’ve been passing around fills my nostrils.

“I’m not very good at this game.”

He runs a hand through the ends of my blonde hair, twisting the strands around his fingers like a rope, using the leverage to pull me closer, so close our lips nearly touch. Our breath mingles. I want to pull back, even if it’s just an inch, want to breathe, but I don’t. I stay perfectly still, my lips parted as if begging for his kiss.

He leans closer, his mouth on mine; his tongue plunges inside with a wet caress. His hands drift to my ass, cupping and squeezing, pulling me onto his lap, rearranging me so my legs straddle him. I fight the embarrassment growing inside me; I give myself over to his hands and lips until he releases me, a knowing gleam in his eye.

Finally.

I look around, expecting to see curious gazes cast our way. It’s best if I’m not memorable, but no one seems to have noticed or cared. It’s that kind of party.

He thrusts a glass into my hand; my fingers slip against the edge. “Have another drink. You aren’t relaxed enough.”

“I’ve already drunk too much. I should be getting home soon.”

We both know my protests are half-hearted at best.

How long have I been here? An hour, maybe? Too long.

He takes a swig from his beer.

“But you haven’t seen my room yet.” His tone is husky as he leans closer; his lips tease the curve of my ear. “Just come up for a moment.”

Yes.

“We just met.”

“You can trust me.” The faintest of Scandinavian accents threads through his voice, but it’s enough to yank me out of the party and back into my head.

I lean away from him, blocking out the noise surrounding us. I study him, taking in his appearance, hoping I look more like a lovesick girl than what I really am, pretending I haven’t been watching him for months now.

He has a trustworthy face, and he knows it. His skin is pale, his hair dark, his eyes a soft shade of blue. His build is average, his smile just a touch too tempting. He’s the boy next door—every girl’s dream.

But I know what he really is. I know his dark hair used to be blond; his blue eyes are the work of contacts. I see what Lauren Armstrong once saw.

In spite of that, no, because of that, I walk upstairs with him, leaving the safety of the party behind me. His fingers curl around mine in a move that is more possession than affection. My feet stumble over the steps, my head bent, mind racing.

A familiar sensation comes over me, crashing like a wave. It’s been months. Months studying his pictures, learning his likes and dislikes, reading old articles and examining footage from the murder.

Months planning for one night.

Michael Duncan, formerly Jay Reinholdt, stops in front of a door at the end of the hallway. “Here it is.”

It’s silly, really, that I still get a little bit nervous. But I do.

I walk in first, the quiet click of the door shutting behind me and the turn of the lock music to my ears. The hardest part is pretending I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the fight to maintain my composure and control as instinct and training kick in. I’m like a racehorse at the starting gate, chaffing at the bit, ready to push through and get to work.

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