The conclusion to the second duet in the Lilah Love series. Love Kills concludes where Love Me Dead left off.
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It’s as if time stands still.
Jay, Kane’s idea of the bodyguard that I don’t need, is now lying on the ground bleeding out, while I’m running down a dark alley toward his shooter, gambling that I’m not about to bleed out with him. Gambling that this person in front of me, dressed as a woman and holding an umbrella, doesn’t want me dead, too. Gambling that this is, in fact, the Umbrella Man, who wants to keep playing games with me. Gambling that I’m about to be close enough to use the gun in my hand and shoot the fucker, with the intent to kill him, and do so with a smile on my face.
I’m halfway to my target, the person and that umbrella, when a hard, loud crack sounds, echoing through the alleyway, the origination source impossible to pinpoint.
“Get down, Lilah!” Jay shouts, and I consider the very real possibility that the Umbrella Man is behind me, or worse, the sick fuck has another sick fuck helping him kill people, and that sick fuck is now behind me. In which case, Jay is all but dead, and the woman in front of me, really is a woman, not the Umbrella Man, meaning she needs my help.
I launch myself toward her, and the instant I’m in motion again, another crack breaks through the stiff rain-laden air, seeming to come from right in front of me. I can feel the moment that bullet zips past me. He’s fucking firing right at me, testing me, pushing me, trying to scare me.
I don’t stop moving, but a part of me gives him what he wants. I react. I brace for impact when I normally wouldn’t give a fuck. Clearly, that’s changed, and I know why—Kane fucking Mendez. I fucking want to live for Kane. I don’t want to leave this earth because of that man, and I hate him right this minute for making me a scared little bitch. I hate scared little bitches. Another crack sounds, and this time, I’m certain the sound is coming from above. Instinct has me looking upward, scanning rooftops, when suddenly, the person in front of me crumbles to the ground.
That’s not the Umbrella Man.
“Call an ambulance!” I shout at Jay and then I forget about protecting myself.
I lunge for the person sprawled on the pavement to find it is a woman, an umbrella over her head, along with her hands, which I assume to be taped to the handle, as was the case with the prior victim. Thunder roars above, and more rain begins to pelt down on me in cold droplets, but I push onward. I kneel next to the victim who has lipstick smudged all over her face and a bullet hole in her chest, a hole gushing blood. Nothing about this fits what I know of the Umbrella Man who kills with poison. I check for a pulse, and there isn’t one.
“Take cover!” Jay shouts. “Take cover.”
I ignore the warning because let’s face it—if the shooter wanted me face down and bleeding out, I’d be face down and bleeding out. My focus is now on the eerily silent Detective Williams, who’s still tied up in the corner, no longer shouting out warnings. I grab my flashlight, shining it toward her location to find her slumped over, which I’d bet my crime lord Latin lover, who says he’s not a crime lord, means she’s dead. I jerk my flashlight right, standing as I do, searching the dark shithole of an alleyway, that feels like it’s about to swallow me whole.
A movement, or more a shift in the air, has me swinging back to my light left, when suddenly a man comes from above, jumping to land a foot in front of me. By the time he’s steady on his feet, my weapon is steady in my hand and pointed at him, right along with my light. Un-fucking-fortunately, his gun is pointed at me as well. I’m a good shot. He’s better.
I blink to confirm that the most notorious assassin on planet earth, at least that’s still living, is standing in front of me. A man who recently did me and Kane a favor, which means nothing. A favor from this man won’t stop him from killing you the next time.
“What the hell are you doing here, Ghost?” I demand, because this man doesn’t play games about killing. He just pulls the trigger, and yet, he’s wasting time pointing a gun at me.
“Saving your ass,” he says, “say thank you.”
“I can save myself, which includes killing you and becoming a hero.”
“A hero to who?” he asks.
“Everyone you might kill in the future, which we both know will be many.”
“But you won’t kill me,” he counters. “You’re too like me to want to see me fall.”
Too like him. It’s not a statement that I wear easily, but it’s one I wear too well for comfort. “Did you kill those women?”
“Yeah, honey, I killed them. They were both booby traps. It was you or them. Look for yourself.” He shines a flashlight on Detective Williams’ hand, where it dangles near the ground, a gun taped to her palm.
“Her finger is right above the trigger,” he says. “The minute you tried to move her, she’d shoot you. It’s really a clever setup if you get the time to study it and appreciate the thought that went into it.”
And knowing all this, that bitch, a member of law enforcement who vowed to protect and serve, called me forward, lured me in.
“She didn’t take her oath seriously, now did she?” he asks, reading my mind. “She lured you further into the trap.”
Which makes me wonder if she was involved in this, if she felt safe. If she was playing the victim. If she was him. My gaze jerks back to Ghost. “And the other one?” I demand.
“She was booby-trapped, but that was irrelevant. I showed the other one mercy. He poisoned her. It wasn’t going to end well for her.”
“You show mercy?”
“Even I do, indeed, put a wounded animal out of its misery.”
I move on. “How do you know he poisoned her?”
“I saw him set the whole thing up.”
He saw him.
A statement that says Williams wasn’t the Umbrella Man. “And you let this happen?” I challenge.
“I don’t get involved in other people’s business.”
“And yet, here you are,” I say dryly. I don’t wait for a reply. “Who is he?”
“Sick fuck had paint on his face.”
“But it was a man?”
“It?” He laughs. “Yes. It was a man.”
Now he’s just pissing me off. “Why the fuck didn’t you shoot him? …