The Caregiver Vignettes

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett to sign the contract

In The Caregiver Series we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord.

This vignette takes place before Book 1, after Vignette #3 & #5

Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , Vignette #3, Vignette #4, Vignette #5

Book 1 is FREE today and tomorrow! (Nov 1 & 2)

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Detective Inspector Romulus Moretti awaited Rafael Cisneros’ and my arrival at Heathrow. Our flight was delayed by a couple of hours and even when I called him to tell him we could hail a taxi when we got there, he insisted on picking us up himself, no matter how late it got.

It had been two weeks since our meeting in Miami and we’d kept in touch both by phone and email. He was more than okay with me asking questions and wanting more information, and he answered every one of them with enough detail to make me feel better about this.

Only thing was, I preferred his written answers. Our phone calls were lengthy. Too lengthy. And strayed towards more personal subjects every now and then.

I must confess there was something about him. Something I still couldn’t pinpoint and that made me feel a little queasy.

It’s probably that he’s a cop. I kept telling myself. Even if you’ve always dreamt of becoming one you have to accept the fact that you were raised not to trust them.

Baggage claimed, Cisneros lead the way to where Romulus was waiting with his police officer stance and a smug smile on his face.

“Cisneros.” They shook hands before Romulus turned to me, his smile softening to an almost tender one. “Miss Lang. Welcome to London.”

The moment we stepped out into the cold my stomach started doing somersaults. This was it. The one opportunity I’d been waiting for my whole fucking life. The chance to put my past behind and start anew. Bonus points for it to be in a different city also.

“Are you hungry?” Romulus asked as he held the passenger door of his car for me.

I stared at him for a bit longer than normal. “A bit.”

That was, apparently, the answer he was waiting for because he grinned and said, “There’s a pub near the hotel you’ll be staying. We could go there.”

Did I fail to mention he booked a hotel room for me? I always stayed at Cisneros’ while in London, yet he wouldn’t have any of that. I wasn’t in a position to protest, nor did I want to start an argument with the one that was only a John Hancock away from becoming my boss, so I said yes to that.

And yes to leaving Cisneros at his house before heading for said hotel.

And thanks but no thanks when Cisneros reminded me he and Bobby were only a call away if I needed anything.

What could happen, really? It wasn’t as if I hadn’t killed men double Romulus’s size.

We were off and the first thing Romulus did was sigh.

“What?” I asked.

“Rafael is always so stressed. Pissing himself all the time.”

“Only when there are cops around. Ever been to one of his parties?”

“No.” He drawled. “He’s never invited me to one. Are they any good?”

“Good? They’re the best. Nothing but champagne and cigars.”

“You smoke?”

“Depends on the occasion.”

A sideglance, a cocked eyebrow. I was getting some signals from this guy I didn’t really know how to interpret.

Or was it that I didn’t want to interpret them at all?

I wasn’t a naïve little girl. I knew where this could go if I let it.

Getting a good look at his hands I noticed he didn’t have a ring, nor did his ring finger show a lack of sun exposure over the last knuckle.

“Do you have any children?”

My inquiry took him by surprise, to the point of making him scoff. “Yes. Three.” I nodded, letting him be consumed by his thoughts about why I brought that question up, when he asked back. “Do you?”

Didn’t he know everything about me already?

“No.”

Now he nodded and said nothing more.

It takes two to play this game.

“Here we are.” He announced once we arrived at the hotel.

He took my luggage, checked me in, and escorted me to my room. “Everything’s paid for and if you incur in any other charges during your stay the agency will cover it.” He stood by the closed door while I inspected my surroundings.

“I haven’t signed anything yet.”

“It’s a risk we’re willing to take.”

I swung my bag over the bed to cover what my eyes were doing, which was studying him. He looked more relaxed than at the airport, although his arms were crossed over his chest.

His looks were more than agreeable, I must confess. A strong build, sweet dark eyes, and the grays in his hair really suited him.

“Do you need anything? Should I come by later?”

“Nah, it’s okay.” I glanced at my watch and it was late, but not too much. “Is that invitation to the pub still on?”

“I can give you some time to deal with the jet lag.”

“Nothing a couple of pints can’t take care of.”

He sent me a half-grin, uncrossing his arms and turning for the door. “I’ll wait in the lobby.”

I stared at the door as it shut behind him and didn’t notice I hadn’t moved until my mobile vibrated inside my jacket’s pocket. Bobby. I wasn’t picking that call up so I texted him I was okay before checking my makeup and heading down to where Romulus was waiting for me.

We walked over to the pub, sat at a table away from the windows and were quick to start on our beers, and plates of chips.

“Tomorrow we’ll visit Spring Gardens so you can meet your coworkers, get acquainted, see the premises.”

“And what is this about? Getting acquainted with the boss?”

He leaned back in his seat, giving a look around before staring straight into my eyes. “I know you’re not used to having someone supervise your work. I promise not to be the obtrusive kind.”

“What do you know about my work anyway?”

He pushed himself forward, elbows on the table, and drew his face as close to my side as he could. “I know all I need to know: that you’re the best. And, between you and me, I believe that, very soon, you’ll be surpassing your grandfather. A great feat for a 24-year-old.”

“You said my contract would start and end with you.”

“It will. You’ll work under me since the moment you sign to the moment you call it quits. In the rare case that I may have to be the one who ceases to work with the project, you’ll be free to decide if you want to stay working with us or not.”

“Us. That’s something you still haven’t explained.”

“You sure ask a lot of questions.” He was resting on his arms over the table now. “I wonder if you’d be so eager if it were you on the other side.”

Some guttural cat-like sound threatened to come out of my lips.

“Try me.”

He ordered another round and waited until we were served.

Ready. Steady. Go.

“Last job.”

“Two weeks ago.”

“For whom?”

Raised eyebrow. “A friend.”

“Where?”

“Monterrey, México.”

“Any other jobs in your agenda?”

“Not yet.”

“Do you have a concealed weapon with you right now?”

“Yes.”

“Is it the one you used for that job?”

“I use rifles for my jobs.”

“Who was the unlucky bastard?”

Pause. “A shop owner.”

“Shop? What kind?”

“Pawn shop. Arms trafficker.”

“How did you kill him?”

“Waited until he got into his car and shot him in the head from a building across the street.”

“Witnesses?”

“Nope.”

“How did it feel to pull that trigger?”

“Like always.”

“And how is that?”

I leaned over the table to join him midway. “Better than sex.”

“Is it?”

“Very.”

“I beg to differ.”

“Then you’ve never had a rifle in your hands and a target in sight.”

“I have.”

“Then you know it is.”

“I find many differences between both acts.”

“Like what?”

“I’m the one asking the questions.”

I sat back, my eyes not leaving his, and raised my hands to my sides.

“Shoot me then.”

“No.”

“Oh. Forgot you London police can’t walk around with guns.”

He pushed back the side of his jacket, reaching for something in one of his trouser’s pockets.

A pair of handcuffs.

And set them on the table between us.

“I don’t think I’ll need a gun when it comes to you.”

I sipped from my beer.

He tapped a finger on the metal contraptions, a half-grin etched on his face.

“I don’t think so either.”

When I went for the handcuffs he snatched them. “Not so fast. You sign the contract first.”

“So they sent you to dine me and wine me while sweet talking me into signing?”

“None of that. I’m just trying to make the process smoother. Everybody’s scared you’ll refuse our offer.”

“I should. Not only am I not used to being supervised, I’m not used to people denying me of what I want.”

He pushed the handcuffs to me as he gulped the last of his beer. I hastened to do the same, taking the cuffs in my fist and following him out of the pub and back to the hotel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the books!

Book 1 is FREE today and tomorrow!

Check out Book 1′s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

The Caregiver

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

On how Scarlett thought the ‘becoming an agent thing’ over

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer.

This vignette is a BONUS! In this one we meet a very important character from Scarlett’s past that will appear in Book 2: Roberto Cisneros.

Enjoy!

Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , Vignette #3, Vignette #4

Want to have them all together with a nice cover to read later? I’ve compiled these five vignettes in eBook format!

Get your FREE copy at Smashwords!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The red leather booth in the diner couldn’t contain both me and the colony of invisible ants that was crawling up and down my flesh. The memory of the meeting with that English dude and the other two agents seemed more and more surreal every time I replayed it in my head.

Cisneros hadn’t been very talkative afterwards. Not that we talked much anyway, only the necessary, which was mostly professional stuff: who to kill, where to do it, how much was in it for me… Except, of course, for the times where we’d all sit around his study talking through a cloud of cigar smoke, having a laugh over a bottle scotch or wine.

It was a whole other story with his half-brother, though. Roberto and Rafael had no blood ties, since Roberto was adopted by Rafael’s father after he married his mother. I often thought: had they been blood brothers, they wouldn’t be as close. They were as different as night and day, from their nationalities (Rafael was of Colombian ascent; Roberto, of Cuban), to their lines of work (one was a drug dealer; the other, a police detective).

Sitting with a clear view of the door is a must for everyone in a position like mine. And when the man with the brown suit, gun holstered under his jacket, badge pinned to his belt, pushed the door open, I was the first to see him. His olive eyes locked on me, and he smiled as he approached me.

“So,” he gave me a kiss on the cheek before sliding into his seat, “what’s this mysterious thing you can call me about but can’t tell me over the phone?”

“Well, hello. I don’t remember sleeping with you last night.”

His eyes shone over his sly smile. “Say the word and I can change that.”

“How’s the new wife doing?”

Jane, the old woman that waitressed there, cut in before he could reply. “You two having the usual?”

“Yes, Jane, the usual.” Roberto flashed her one of his smiles and made sure she was out of earshot before combing his dark brown hair back with his fingers and taking a deep breath. “She’s pregnant.”

What. The. Fuck.

“C-Congratulations.”

Jane brought us our coffees, giving me some time to process the news. No, I wasn’t emotionally involved with Roberto. We had something. Past tense. Not anymore.

Get a fucking grip.

“Thank you. If it’s a girl I’m naming her Scarlett.”

“The world doesn’t need another fucked up version of me.” I swirled the sugar in my drink while he poured a considerable amount into his.

“I wouldn’t say that. But we’re not here to discuss that. Are you going to tell me what you called me for?”

“I’ve been offered a job at Interpol.”

He choked on his coffee. I was quick to hand him a napkin, and pushed his arm away before he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Oh, come on! You’ll ruin your suit.”

“Interpol?” He dabbed the corners of his mouth with the napkin, his eyes wide. “Seriously?”

“Did you know your brother is an informant?” He frowned, casting his eyes down without a word. “Of course you did. I bet it was you who cracked him.”

“I did know. But it wasn’t me.”

“And neither of you told me.”

“No need to, you’re perfectly safe as you are.”

“You two treat me like a child sometimes.”

“Never.” He took another sip of his coffee before gently setting the cup down. “Now, about that job offer of yours…”

“This English dude came all the way from London to offer me ‘a deal.’ To work for some program they’ve come up with, go on missions for them, and, after all is done, whatever record I have will be erased, and I’ll be free.”

Jane arrived with Roberto’s pastrami sandwich, the red basket overflowing with french fries, my philly cheese steak with their signature onion rings, and two tall glasses of coke to wash it all down.

“That’s bullshit, Scarlett.”

“I’m not kidding.”

“Give me your wrist.”

I rolled my eyes before extending my arm over the table. “Sure thing, human lie detector. The dude’s also a detective, you know? Detective Inspector. They’ve got funny names for policemen there.”

He set his fore and middle finger on the underside of my wrist, taking a glance at his watch for a moment before proceeding. “When did this happen?”

“This morning.” I answered without hesitation. He’d always do this when he thought I was lying.

“And you say he was English?”

“Yes. Very. His name’s Romulus, said he works for the Metropolitan police and the Interpol. A bit of a douchebag, if you ask me.”

“And what kind of deal was it?”

“I already told you.”

“Scarlett…,” he chided me.

“Work with an interagency program that is seeking recruits with… how did he say it? Contacts. Yeah, that. They give agent status to people who are in the business but want out. A new life, a clean slate. The chance to put everything bad behind me. At last.”

His face dropped, and he let my wrist go from his grip. If anyone knew how much I’d been through in my still-short life, it was him.

“Never heard of such a program.” He scooped a half of his sandwich, “Why bring someone all the way from England?” and bit into it.

“Your brother deals with some London people.” I took off the top of my sandwich and put a couple of onion rings inside. “And the dude said they wanted me to work away from where I’m known. I’d be travelling around, not necessarily to England, maybe some other countries. Also, he said I’d be Interpol because he’s Interpol, but that there are others with different agency credentials.”

“I don’t know, Scarlett. Doesn’t sound right to me. Interpol doesn’t recruit people that aren’t already working in some agency or police department, much less send people on missions around the world.”

“I told him, and his answer was that the credentials were mostly for travel and payroll purposes.”

“Still doesn’t make sense.” He was attacking his food with a passion, as if channeling his emotions by biting and chewing on it.

“What did Rafael say?”

“That he’d been working with them for the past year.”

“See?” He picked a french fry and pointed it at me, “I didn’t know that,” then shoved it into his mouth. “I’ll have to talk to him about it. Did he know the guy that talked to you?”

“Apparently, yes. The dude knows Adrian and had even talked to him prior to our meeting.”

Roberto rose in height at my statement, taken aback. “What?! He spoke to Adrian about recruiting you?”

“Told me Adrian tried to talk him out of it, that I was no good. Oh, and he still hasn’t let go of the Scarlett the Scumbag thing.”

“Fucker.”

I finished the first half of my sandwich, took a large gulp of soda, and set my hands flat on the table. “I want out, Bobby. I- I don’t know if I can go on with this for much longer. There’s no life in this business. There may still be time for me. I’m twenty-four, you know?”

“You saying that makes me feel like a pervert.”

“Why? You’re only forty-six.”

“Only?” He chuckled. “Thank you. That’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me in a while.”

“I think I’ll be taking the offer.” I went on eating the second half of my sandwich; it was too good to let it go cold. “What’s the worst that could happen? That it’s some bogus program and I end up having to kill them?”

The last bit of his sandwich hovered in front of him, midway to his mouth. “Probably.”

“I’ll always have you to cover my ass for me.”

“You’re in luck, then. I’ve also got a job offer.” He finished his food and wiped his hands clean. “CIA.”

“Whoa. You’ve been wanting that for some time now.”

“Yes, I have.” He leaned over the table. “I’ll always be there for you, Scarlett. I appreciate you calling me to talk this over.” His eyes trained on me, I could hear the truth in his words. With Bobby, emotions were always only skin deep. “I’d advise you to think it through, even though I know you’ve already made your mind. If this is, indeed, a way out, then I’m all for it.”

I cleared my plate before pushing it aside.

“You know I’m always a phone call away.” He continued. “If there’s anything I wish is for you to leave all this behind.”

“Step into the light?” I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned back.

He pushed himself forward. “But never let it blind you.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!

Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!

The Caregiver book cover

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel

On how Scarlett met some of Armand’s most trusted men (Meet characters from Book 2!)

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer.

This vignette is a BONUS! In this one she meets characters that will make their appearance in Book 2: Ollie, Bradley and Cat.

Enjoy!

Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , and Vignette #3.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heaven was pissing down at us. The Bentley’s wipers weren’t enough as George drove us both to where we were heading: to meet with three of Armand’s most trusted men.

I must confess I was nervous about it. These guys weren’t known for their gentle ways. That, and the fact that George wasn’t exactly the nicest of people when it came to interacting with me, made of this endeavor one that threatened to leave the palms of my hands bleeding, with my nails dug into them.

Yeah, yeah, I’m a hitwoman, and a fucking undercover agent, but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel nervous every now and then. We’re all human after all.

All the tension vanished, however, when we met with them on a street corner in Vauxhall. Standing under two matching black umbrellas were three men in equally black coats.

“Cat. Bradley. Ollie.” George said dryly. “This is Scarlett.” He wasn’t happy I was there. We were both out when Armand called us. He’d tried to convince him it wasn’t a good idea to take me with him, to no avail.

“About time we met you!” Ollie, with his longish curls and matching bright eyes, shook my hand eagerly. He wasn’t as tall as the other two, which made me like him instantly. “We’ve heard so much about you.”

“Hope it was good.”

George cleared his throat. Heh.

The one in the middle was the tallest, Bradley. He just smiled, and, oh god, what a smile… And then there was Cat, with his dark brown skin and green eyes. He waved at me and we made our way into the hotel.

Cat led us to the lifts, while Ollie and Bradley had an animated conversation that eased all my uneasiness.

“So, I waited and waited for the couple to show up.” Ollie’s raspy voice echoed through the hotel’s lobby, “it’s a two-million-pounds property and it’s exactly what they’re asking for. Armand would murder me if I let a client like that down.”

The lift’s doors slid open and we got in. George’s facade was as stern as always, yet the other three were grinning all the way.

Nobody would’ve guessed what they were really there for.

“Did they show up?” Cat asked when Ollie paused.

“They did, yeah… with a fucking dog.”

“A dog? There’s nothing wrong with that.” Bradley’s Australian accent clashed with the Brits’, as he leaned on the back wall, his umbrella dripping on the carpet.

“Not just any dog, you muppet. A Great Dane. The thing was the size of a horse.” They all laughed, even George. “No,” he proceeded, “but that’s not it. They bring it into the house, and it has wooden floors. The thing is scuffing the wood as it sniffs around. I tell the client and he just cocks an eyebrow at me and keeps walking.”

“Armand would’ve given him a piece of his mind.” Cat commented as he held the doors open for us. “Last time I had a client with a pet in an open house I shut the door on them.”

The corridor was dimly lit and the carpet had already been stained by wet shoes.

“You guys work for Armand’s real estate firm?” I had to know.

They turned their heads slowly to me, their longer strides leaving Ollie and me a few steps behind.

“Yeah, we all do.” Ollie stayed with me once we reached the room they were looking for. “It’s our day job. Except for George, of course.”

George merely looked up, then back towards the closed door in front of us.

“Open up, Geoffrey.” Bradley knocked and received no answer. “We know you’re in there.”

“So, what happened with the dog?” I brought Ollie’s attention back to me.

“Open the door, Geoffrey. Or else,” Cat warned.

“Not only did it scuff the floor. It pissed on one of the bedroom’s carpets!”

“Liar!” Bradley swiveled towards us.

“It bloody did! And, well, you know, the buyer didn’t want no stains on it.”

“Geoffrey!” George was knocking now. “Open the fucking door.”

“I had to pay to get the carpet cleaned and the floor restored before Armand learnt about it. With me own money!”

“Bradley,” George stepped back from the door, “do your thing.”

Ollie pulled me to safety as we watched Bradley kick down the door.

Forget stealth. These men got in and rummaged through the room like rabid dogs, except no pissing on the carpet.

“Geoffrey… come out, come out and play,” Cat crooned sarcastically.

It was a small room with only a dresser with a TV on it, a bed, a wardrobe, and an equally small bathroom.

George signaled me to stay by the door by raising an open hand at me.

Bradley opened the wardrobe to find a thin man no older than thirty-five hiding behind a large coat. “There you are!” He caught him by the collar of his shirt, pulled him out with a swift movement and threw him face up on the bed. “You think you can hide from us?”

Ollie cocked his head for me join him while he thrashed the dresser, throwing its contents all over the floor. I glanced at George.

“Oh, don’t mind ‘im.” Ollie nudged me, then whispered, “he’s a bit of a stuck up, ain’t ‘e?”

“You don’t have to say that twice.” I dug my hands into the drawer and felt my way around it until my fingers hit something cold and solid.

A folding knife.

“Where’s the money?” Bradley was shaking the poor man against the mattress. “Where the fuck is it?”

“I…” He could barely answer over the manhandling he was being subjected to. “I don’t…”

One rough push threw him, face down, on the floor and Cat was on him, punching his face mercilessly.

I gave Ollie the knife and he scoffed at the sight of it.

George knelt down next to the now broken-nosed man. “The money, Geoffrey. This is your last chance. We’ve given you one too many already.”

“Look what he had hiding in a drawer.” Ollie handed the knife to George.

“I did’uh mean to use it.” Geoffrey cried, his knuckles white from his tight grip on Cat’s wrists, who was holding him down by the neck. “I don’t have the money, but I will. I swear.”

“MacGowan said he lent it to you,” George said in a nonchalant tone while holding the knife to his face. “He didn’t want to get on Armand’s bad side, since he was the one who recommended you.”

George stood, giving the man no time to retort before Bradley and Cat went back to beating the crap out of him.

A gesture from Ollie cued me to follow him to the wardrobe where the bloke had been hiding and resume our search. There was nothing there either.

“Stop! Please!” Geoffrey’s screams were muffled by Cat’s fist.

“Not until you tell us what you did with that money!” Bradley’s shitkickers landed on his ribs, getting a loud crack in response.

“He did’uh give me nofing!” He rolled to his side, his arms wrapped around his torso. “MacGowan’s a fucking liar.”

Ollie glanced at me and I had to peel my eyes from the scene unfolding in front of our eyes to meet his glance. I hadn’t realized how mesmerized I was by it.

Bradley’s leg was travelling backwards when Ollie called him out, “Oi, give her a chance.”

“No,” George snapped at him. “She shouldn’t even be here.” Then he turned his eyes to me. “Get Armand on the phone.”

The built-up momentum of Bradley’s kick wasn’t put to waste as the force of it made contact with Geoffrey’s torso once more, making him squeal.

I rang Armand’s mobile and he was quick to answer. I told him what was happening and he asked me to put him on speaker so Geoffrey could hear him.

“You’ve messed up enough times, Geoffrey.” Armand’s deep tones made everyone perk up. “Your pathetic excuses are reason enough to kill you.”

“MacGowan lied to you!”

“I have no reason to believe that.”

“It’s true! He did’uh lend me nofing. Said he did’uh care.”

Armand went silent for a moment. I kept the phone pointed towards the beat up man even when my arm was starting to shake.

“Kill him.”

All of a sudden, George had yanked the mobile from my hand, turned off the speaker and started talking into it in a low voice.

Ollie took the opportunity to push me towards the man lying on the floor. “Come on, just a couple of kicks,” he said, with an ear-to-ear smile.

Geoffrey’s eyes bulged as I approached him, my stare blank on his bleeding face. He muttered something I couldn’t comprehend.

“Excuse me?” I leaned forward, holding my hair away from my ear.

“Don’t let them kill me.”

What?

Oh, he was begging to the only source of estrogen in the room.

A rush of adrenaline ran through my system. It made me straighten my back and kick his already aching body twice before answering:

“Sorry, pal. Boss’s orders.”

Another kick and George’s grip was on my elbow. “Enough.” He handed me my mobile before turning to Bradley and Cat. “Take him to bathtub.” He then unfolded the same knife I had retrieved from the drawer, “It’ll make it easier to clean.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!

Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!

The Caregiver book cover

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel

On how Scarlett got into this mess in the first place… (The Caregiver Series vignette #3)

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she met Romulus Moretti, the one that would become her superior at Interpol, years before the story on the book starts. It gives a glimpse of how and why she became an agent. Enjoy!

Read Vignette #1 here.

Read Vignette #2 here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a fucking long corridor. I kept glancing at the backs of the two men walking in front of us, thinking how wrong all of this felt. The air conditioning was a nice change from the scorching Miami sun, that was for sure.

Their names were Douglas and James. They introduced themselves when we reached the lobby of the unidentified building we were in, right after we exchanged some of the most uncomfortable handshakes I’ve ever experienced.

Cisneros’s incredibly sober look didn’t help either. I was sure they were cops, it showed in the way they walked with their puffed chests and the permanent grimace in their faces. Why we were there was beyond my comprehension. All Cisneros told me was to trust him.

He’d never given me a reason not to.

But, as they say, there’s a first time for everything.

The officer by the name of James opened the door to an office and ushered us into a pair of chairs in front of a cheap-looking metal desk, then left. Douglas stood behind us in silence.

Cisneros was fidgeting with the edge of his jacket over his lap. I was starting to believe it hadn’t been a good idea to leave my gun in the car, like he asked me to.

James opened the door –apparently, he was the designated doorman– and a tall man, dark hair peppered with gray at the temples, appeared. We stood to greet him but he crossed us.

“No need for that.” His English accent struck me. “I promise this will be quite quick.”

He was the oldest of them all. Douglas didn’t look more than forty, and James could only be a couple years older than me, nowhere close to thirty.

Cisneros stirred in his seat. He had deals with some London people but they never came to the States, he always flew to meet them there.

“My name is Romulus Moretti.” He proceeded to sit behind the desk and place the folder he had been carrying on the desktop. “I’m a Detective Inspector from the Metropolitan Police in London, and do believe me when I tell you I’ve been looking forward to this meeting, Miss Lang.”

“Have we met?” As soon as I spoke, Cisneros gave a little jump. Odd.

“No.” He drawled, as he started pulling pictures out of the folder and setting them on the desk. “But I know more about you than you think. Come. Take a look at these.” I stared into his eyes and he gave me a half-grin. “I don’t bite.”

I don’t need to say that phrase didn’t make me feel any better about this.

I pushed myself forward and felt the color on my face vanish. An array of pictures lay between us. Pictures of victims I had murdered. Blown heads, bloodshot eyes, brain matter scattered on the pavement.

“What is this about?” I flashed Cisneros an angry glance that he didn’t meet. “What the fuck is this?”

“It’s OK, Miss Lang. We’re not here to prosecute you. We’re here to make you an offer.”

“Whatever it is, I’m not interested. Thank you.” I rose, but a pair of hands were immediately at my shoulders, pushing me down.

“Not so fast, Miss Lang,” Moretti barked, nodding at James, encouraging him to make sure I sat back down. “You can’t jump to conclusions if you haven’t even given me the chance to explain.”

I rearranged my shirt and stared angrily at Moretti, all the while shooting darts out my eyes at James.

“Good. Now that I have your attention, I can proceed by telling you that after being in contact with your grandfather for a while, we’ve decided to make you a deal. I’m currently working for the Interpol in the United Kingdom and have taken part in an interagency project that is seeking recruits…”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Moretti, but I think you’re mistaken.” My interruption drew a nice frown in his face. “If you know me as well as you say you do, and if you’ve spoken to my grandfather, you should know there is no way an agency like the Interpol would even consider hiring me.”

The frown melted into a sardonic smile. “That’s exactly why this is a deal and not a job proposition. You see, Miss Lang, this project requires both expertise and… connections. We’re not looking to recruit sheltered young men and women that dream of becoming agents just to put a spice in their lives. We’re looking for people that have been there, and – literally – done that. Young people like you, with the skills and the desire to get out of that life.”

“Get out?” A sideways glance confirmed Cisneros was looking intently at me.

“Yes.” He leaned forward, his hands steepled over the desk. “Get out. We are aware of the tension that has permeated in your relationship with your grandfather. And Rafael here has told us about your intentions to leave the murder-by-contract business as soon as you finish studying. You will not be removed from the life you lead, all you will have to do is pick up the phone when we call and be available to go on missions when we ask you to.”

“Missions? Military kind of missions?”

“There will be some akin to military jobs. Undercover work may also be necessary. You’ll have a steady paycheck and agency credentials. In your case, since you will be working under my supervision, we would be arranging for you to have Interpol credentials.”

This didn’t make any fucking sense.

“I’ve been working with them for the past year.” Cisneros spoke like someone that had broken a vow of silence. “Scarlett, I know how much you want to leave all this behind you.” He turned to me and some of the nervousness had slipped off his features. “It’s not too late to change paths. At least not for you.”

“What if I refuse?” I switched to Moretti. “What if I don’t want any of your shit?” I spat out that last word in utter disgust.

Moretti snorted, then looked at me from under his eyebrows. “When was the last time you spoke to your grandfather?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Six years ago?”

“He’s never shown any repentance from the things he did to you, or has he?” He was staring at me, searching for whatever sign my face was giving away. “He still regards you with that nickname he had for you. What was it? Scumbag?”

Oh poker face, don’t forsake me now. “Yes.”

Again, Cisneros was looking intently at me. Fuck this psychological shit.

“This doesn’t make sense at all. They could’ve sent someone from the Miami Police Department, not you from the other side of the Atlantic.”

“It is in our interest that you work far from where you’re already known. I was randomly selected to recruit you. As I said, this is an interagency program, so you will be working with other agents with Interpol credentials, as well as from other agencies. It really doesn’t matter as long as we can guarantee that travel won’t be a problem.”

“What’s the catch?”

“There is no exact catch. Just the fact that you will be working for us, all under my strict supervision. You will have to travel, and it may be required that you spend some time in London, but that hasn’t been decided. Other than that, you will receive, as I said, a steady paycheck, while having the liberty to go on with your current job.

Once your work with us is done, your record will be clean. You’ll be given a clean slate, a new life, Miss Lang. Away from the world that has hurt you, from those that have deserted you. The same world that took away your parents and forced you to live a life of misery and loss. Isn’t it time you took your knowledge and used it for good? We are giving you what you crave, a second chance in life. We don’t give this out to just anyone, you know?”

I rested my eyes on Cisneros and, when he faced me, it was with a solemn plea in his eyes. He was mentally setting his hand on the small of my back and pushing me, ever so gently. Like a father would.

Like he always did.

“I’ll have to think about it.”

“Take all the time you need, Miss Lang.” Moretti rose from his seat, collecting the pictures and putting them back into the folder. “We will be in touch.” He strode to the door, where James was, already waiting for him. “This is James, by the way, but we all call him Jimmy, and that is Douglas.”

Cisneros and I were standing next to our chairs. “Yeah, they introduced themselves.”

“Great. After you, then.” He gestured us to the open door and when I had crossed it, he cut between Cisneros and I to set his hand on my back while leaning into my ear. “Your grandfather told me you were no good. That I would be disappointed.” He then shifted to step in my way. “I beg to differ.” His teeth gleamed through his smile. “And I would love to prove that old man wrong.”

He patted my shoulder and started down the corridor, an air of casualness in his stride.

I looked at Cisneros and he held my gaze.

“Please?” The porter called James nicknamed Jimmy interrupted, beckoning us to follow him out.

Decisions. Decisions.

I rushed towards Romulus’s receding back. “Hey!” He paused, waiting for me to reach his side. “What if I say yes?”

He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side. “Then I swear I will make it worth your time.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!

Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!

The Caregiver book cover

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel

On how Scarlett got the job (The Caregiver Series vignette #2):

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she met with his sister, Helga Sayer, days before the story on the book starts. Enjoy!

If you haven’t read Vignette #1, what are you waiting for?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was rushing around my flat, pulling my jeans on while searching for my nurse uniform. It had been ages since I wore it and, quite frankly, I didn’t even think it would fit me anymore. Cisneros told me to bring it to the meeting in case Helga, Armand Sayer’s sister, wanted to see it. He said she was hard to please. I promised I would do my best.

Take the sniper rifle with you. I reminded myself as I slid inside the shoulder holster and secured my Sig Sauer in it.

Some makeup ― not too much, not too little, ― a jacket and a scarf wrapped around my neck… I shoved the uniform into a messenger bag and slung it over my left shoulder.

I hailed a taxi, gave the address to the driver, sat back and tried to relax. I’d been to Cisneros’s place multiple times, but this was something new altogether. The butterflies in my stomach said it was so.

Yeah, yeah, Ferdinand, I better not fuck this one. Blah, blah, blah.

The cabbie dropped me off in front of the gates, giving the rifle case a long hard look while I produced the notes to pay the toll.

“You don’t want to know what’s in it.” I winked at him.

His answer was to drive away as quickly as he could.

Pussy.

I walked up to the gate and smiled into the security camera, waving my hand sheepishly. The gate opened and I made my way through the driveway to find Ferdinand walking towards me, followed by another one of Cisneros’s henchmen, one by the name of Marco.

“Come with us, Miss Lang.” Fer grinned, welcoming me with an extended arm, ready to take my rifle case. “Mr. Cisneros is waiting for you in his study.”

Sure, sure, protocol and shit. I could walk into that house through the backdoor in the middle of the night and no one would give me any trouble. We climbed the stairs in silence and he held the door to the study open for me.

“Scarlett!” Cisneros rose from his comfy leather armchair, a scotch in one hand, a cigar in the other. “Always a pleasure to see you.”

He pulled me into one of his hugs. His, because they were the really awkward kind, the kind some men give to feel you up instead of greeting you. Ferdinand hated them. I just plain ignored it. I’ve known the man since I was a child. He was there for me when I needed him and I had always been grateful for that.

When had I needed a sly git like him? Back when I was eighteen years old and I had gotten on my grandfather’s bad side, with nowhere else to go. He gave me my first job, treated me like a real pro and kept an eye out for anyone who gave me any shit. He was like a father to me, in a dysfunctional kind of way.

“Meet Helga Sayer.” A woman with thin lips and defiant eyes stepped forward.

I tried to smile as I met her outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” Her eyes traveled from my face all the way down to my feet and back. I was tempted to ask her how much I ranked after she tallied me, when Ferdinand interrupted.

“Everything’s ready.”

Everything?

Fer took my rifle and led us downstairs, to the backyard. They had set a shooting range for me. This was going to be fun!

They stood inside a bulletproof cabin and not a word was spoken as I laid my weapons on a table and took my time to set my rifle. Helga’s eyes were trained on me and I made a point out of showing her how much of a professional I was.

That’s when I saw someone jumping over the concrete wall to my far right and make a run for it behind some bushes. I didn’t think twice before I pulled the Sig and aimed it at the bush where the figure had apparently halted.

Silence.

Then there was a shuffling to my right, and a masked man was running towards me, gun in hand. Two bullets whizzed past my ears as I ducked, shooting him right in the heart. The one behind the bush moved again, running towards the left side of the garden. I couldn’t see him but I could easily hear his steps on the grass, the light brushing of his boots as he shifted.

Straining my ear a bit more, I could hear his low panting.

A quick mental calculation, knowledge embedded into my subconscious, alerted me when he raised his gun to aim at me through the green thickness.

One shot. His body fell on the ground with a thud.

I trod cautiously on the grass, approaching my victim with my gun still aiming at him, even though I already knew he was dead.

He was on his back, legs bent under him, a blood-gushing hole right between the eyes.

I lowered my gun when a slow clapping rang from behind me.

“She always delivers.” Cisneros and Helga appeared at my side. “Always.”

The woman’s eyes inspected the dead man on the ground, then turned to me. I held her stare and she seemed content to find my breathing was as steady as hers.

“Come with me. We shall rehearse your interview.”

Rehearse? What the fuck?

I wrinkled my nose at Cisneros but he wasn’t looking at me.

His eyes were on Helga’s backside as she made her way back into the house. “You’re in,” he turned to me, “just go with it,” patting my shoulder before following her steps.

I walked over to the table, where Ferdinand was waiting for me.

“What the fuck was that?”

“I’ll take that for you.” He took the gun from my hand. “You better go before she changes her mind.”

“Cisneros was the one who told me to bring my rifle.”

“You were brilliant.” He was unloading my gun without looking at it, his sight on me.

“Don’t do that.”

“What?”

“The smile on your face.”

He wiggled his eyebrows at me.

“Oh, grow up!” I did an about face and stepped into the house to face whatever crazy thing was in store for me.

[Art by Arocho, visit her blog, she's awesome!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!

Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!

The Caregiver book cover

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel

On how Scarlett learnt about her mission (The Caregiver Series vignette #1):

In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she was assigned the mission, days before the story on the book starts. Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was morning. A cold, gray London morning to be precise. I was crossing Lambeth Bridge to meet Ferdinand at the Albert Embankment. I remember how I had studied every possible map before coming here, anxious to start working in the field again…

Then I was sent to an office, filling forms and filing papers.

Fuck yeah, the Interpol agent life!

I pushed my gloved hands further into the pockets of my leather jacket, feeling the gun concealed inside, praying it wouldn’t turn into an ice cube. Thing is, I grew up in Miami, spent summers in the Caribbean or Southern Spain. Nothing as cold as this. Nothing.

I got off the bridge and turned right on Albert Embankment, down the steps, and soon enough Ferdinand’s smile came to sight. Always bright, always inviting. I often found myself dodging it as if it were throwing daggers at me.

“Scarlett.” He kissed my cheek and offered his arm to me.

“Fer.” I nodded. “I’m freezing.”

“Oh come on! You’ve been living here for how long?”

“The two most boring years of my fucking life.”

He sighed. “Let’s walk.”

So we did. I walked on his left, thinking that maybe, if things got funny, I could just push him into the water and make a run for it.

“Did anyone follow you here?” He was eyeing me out of the corner of his eye.

“Nope. Nobody.”

“Good.”

“You said you needed to talk to me. I don’t have all day. I have papers to file.”

“Moretti asked me to call you.”

“Moretti? He sees me every day at the office. Barking orders and making me brew his coffee.”

“Have you been in contact with Cisneros lately?”

I waited until a man jogged past us to answer that, taking my time.

“Maybe.”

They often tell you not to stay friends with your ex-boyfriends. But Ferdinand was my colleague and his ranking was higher than mine so, yeah, I was stuck with this one.

“Every time they use a sniper to kill some drug dealer I pray it wasn’t you. Then I dig up the details and see your name all over it.”

He didn’t mean that literally, of course. I knew how to do my job. In and out, quick, nothing that could be traced back to me. Then I was back to kicking the copy machine and dragging my boots on the rug, just so I could give someone a nice jolt.

“You gonna turn me in?”

“You know I won’t.”

“Then?”

“Are you hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Let’s go grab a bite.” There it was again, the smile under those gleaming brown eyes. Ugh.

He liked the pub on the corner of Tinworth Street, so we went there and, to my dismay, sat at one of the tables outside.

“Tell me when my nose falls off because I won’t be able to.”

“I don’t want anyone eavesdropping on us.”

A waiter gave us the menus and I asked for a cup of coffee. Really hot coffee.

“It’ll ruin your appetite.” Ferdinand said, matter-of-factly.

“Better for me, maybe I’ll lose some weight. I should, really, I can’t carry a gun between my thighs since they rub together. There are some agents that have this huge thigh gap. One could stick an Uzi between their legs.”

He chuckled. He knew it was true. Fer never bullshitted me. I was no femme fatale, no eye candy. That’s how I liked it, though. I was a Plain Jane. I’d blend in without any difficulty.

And I wasn’t asked to fuck anyone either.

The waiter brought me a steaming cup of coffee. I took off my gloves and held it as if it was a baby chick, feeling the relief of warmth in my hands, at last. I inhaled its aroma and forgot where I was while Ferdinand ordered food for both.

“I was talking to Romulus,” he brought me back as soon as the waiter was out of sight, “we’re giving you another chance.”

“That’s very kind of you.”

“I’m being serious, Scarlett. We’ve decided to give you the Sayer mission.”

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

I had to set the cup back on the table gently. “You’re not kidding?”

“I’m not kidding. He was attacked, a single gunman surprised him as he was leaving a restaurant with his wife. Two shots to his left leg, another one to his right arm. He’s house-bound, recovering, and his sister is looking for a caregiver. It’s not just because you actually went to nursing school. She’s looking for someone that can act as a bodyguard in case anything unusual happens.”

“Aaaaand?” Something in the way he drawled on the last sentence made me think there was more to it.

“She wants someone that wouldn’t cause too much of a stir, if you know what I mean.”

Ha ha! Being the Plain Jane does pay.

“When do I start?”

“You’ll meet with his sister, Helga, tomorrow at Cisneros’s place. He’s recommending you. They’re friends.”

I picked up the coffee cup again even though I didn’t think I needed it anymore. I was going to the field again, and with no one else but Armand Sayer, London’s number-one drug lord.

“Oh,” I breathed, trying to suppress the giddy smile from my face.

“Now, Scarlett, I must warn you–”

“Here we go.” I rolled my eyes. Fer was always lecturing me. “That I better not fuck it up this time?”

“Yes.”

“I haven’t fucked anything up. The Gibraltar mission was a fail because Cisneros couldn’t stand his ground. That deal went sour the moment we stepped out of that plane.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Neither do I.” I sipped the hot liquid, wishing now it was whiskey or something set aflame.

“What about the wife?”

“Rumor is she left. He’s alone.” He was looking at me from under his eyebrows.

“Who do you take me for?”

“You keep yourself safe, you hear me?”

His bare hand reached out for mine over the table. I set mine in his and let him squeeze it.

“I will.” I grinned, letting some of my excitement out.

Then the waiter brought our food and I tried to indulge on the flood of emotions going through my system. It had been too long since my last mission and, truth be told, there was no other place I felt more like myself than out there with my gun or my rifle aiming at a nice head, and then watching it blow up.

We wrestled for the bill and I let him win, or he’d never let it go.

“I’ll send you the details later.” He waited for me to put on my gloves, “please, be careful.”

“I always am.” His sly smile told how little he believed that. Really, who did he take me for? “Love turns people so bloody soft.”

He hugged me tight. I wrapped my arms around him, not too tight, and held still until he released me.

“Don’t fuck it.” He pointed a finger at me and gave me a peck on the lips before turning to cross the street.

Bastard.

How could I fuck what could be the most important mission in my entire career?, I thought as I threaded my way in opposite direction, towards Spring Gardens.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the book!

Check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Or buy it, it’s only 99¢ (£0.77, €0.89)!

The Caregiver book cover

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel