Month: November 2013

Meet the Characters: Scarlett Lang

I’d been wanting to write about the characters in my series, The Caregiver, for some time now, although I believe it’s a little too early to do so, don’t ask me why (maybe it has to do with the fact that I refuse to think of myself as an author). However, The Beast (Book 3) will be released into the wild soon and I thought it would be nice to give you some inside info about the main characters in the series (I may get to the secondary and tertiary too because I love them all so much).

Consider this something in the likes of loose character notes because these people tend to take matters into their own hands most of the time, leaving me as the mere channel through which they tell their stories.

So, let’s get this party started with the protagonist:

Scarlett Lang

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, USA, around March 1981 (don’t have an exact date but she’s an Aries) which makes her 31 years old at the time of books 1 and 2. Granddaughter to Adrian Lang, daughter to Daniel Lang and Margaret Lang. Became an orphan after her parents’ murder at 12 and went to live with her grandfather up until she was 17, when she married Xavi Pontevedra and moved to Puerto Rico. She didn’t become an active hit woman until after that marriage ended (only lasted a year) and she was taken under Rafael Cisneros’ wing back in Miami (right around 1999 – 2000). Rafael Cisneros was the one who coaxed her into becoming a nurse, all the while employing her as hit woman and helping her become the well-known assassin she is. Cisneros’ half-brother, Roberto, is another main character in her personal history, turning from childhood crush to lover around 2002 and keeping an on and off relationship with her until she’s offered the Interpol position within The Filius Project in 2005. The Gibraltar mission takes place in 2007, the Sayer mission in 2012.

      I wrote a post about face claims on my Tumblr and put up a collage with pics of the men in the series because it’s been so much easier to find male actors to fit my characters than female ones. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and like to think of every female character as an extension of myself, although the male ones are also extensions of myself… Or maybe it’s because I’m so jealous of them I can’t even… Emotions aside, I picture Scarlett a lot like actresses Emily Hampshire, Jemima Rooper, or Suranne Jones.
      I didn’t want to make her a sex symbol, nor a masculinized woman. A friend once commented on how much she liked to read scenes where Scarlett’s in a room filled with men and not have the situation turn into a sexual one (she was mainly referring to this vignette). Scarlett’s confident about herself and her abilities to the point of not having to prove them to anyone. And she prefers shirts and trousers rather than dresses, but I want to believe I’ve given her enough emotional balance to say she’s not a man with a vagina, or a woman with a dick, whatever rocks your boat. There is a lot of sex in Scarlett’s past. Part of it is revealed in Book 2, but Book 3 shows a tad more, and the possible prequels I’m working on thanks to the vignettes do have a heavy sexual component. There is the subject of BDSM, nevertheless, this is no Fifty Shades. I just wanted to show a female character that can walk into a dark alley and, although she’ll be scared shitless, can deal with the situation should she get mugged. And that, of course, enjoys sex as much as the next guy without feeling guilty about it.
      Also, I like that she’s got body issues like any other woman, to the point of even mentioning the fact that she can’t wear a gun between her thighs because she lacks the coveted thigh gap. This is also a loaded weapon in the hands of the wrong people. In Book 2 her new superior, DS Ethan Young, uses it when he tells her “I wasn’t aware that the Sayer mission was a deep penetration one. Romulus assured me you weren’t a honeytrap. Seeing you now I can tell what he meant. However, I know he was aware of the fact that Sayer was never a shallow man, unlike his colleagues.” The bastard. She may seem unfazed right then but, believe me, that kind of talk does hurt. And then he goes into slut-shaming mode in Book 3 and will keep it up in Book 4 because he’s a dickhead like that.
      Scarlett isn’t a complicated character, at least from my point of view. She’s pretty simple and even though she thinks she’s got a hold on life, she doesn’t. The situation she’s in is what’s complicated about all this and she’s trying to figure things out as well as she can. She’s made a lot of mistakes (haven’t we all?) and will keep making them until the day she dies.
      She’s no Cinderella. She’s a hit woman, for fuck’s sake. And even when she’s been dragged into this whole Filius Project shit, she’s never stopped being one of the best assassins in the world, which translates into a lot of money in the bank and a lot of traveling around. This being said, she’s no poor girl falling in love with a filthy rich prince. As a matter of fact, she may be one of the few that can look a drug lord like Armand in the eye when it comes to both nerves and financial stability. She doesn’t need anyone giving her anything, to the point where, in Book 3, she’ll be the one gifting Armand some pretty cool and expensive stuff. She has a life apart from him and his people and a lot of it will come to the light in Book 3.
      Even though she could be, she’s not alone. There are some revealing scenes in Book 2 where readers learn how Scarlett was abused as a child. This whole sad, dark past subject worked itself into the story. It was never my intention to do that but, somehow, it fit. However, this doesn’t mean she’s lived a secluded or estranged life, quite the contrary, she took it to herself to surround her persona with friends and allies that, although work related, regard her as part of their families and will do everything they can to help and protect her. Many of them don’t know what actually happened in her past (hence Bobby Cisneros’ reaction when it’s revealed) even when her grandfather, Adrian Lang, was also their acquaintance, yet that didn’t stop them from adding her to their circles. There’s Eliza Pontevedra too, who lived such abuses in tandem and acts as a sisterly safe haven when the past comes at them in waves. Then, when Armand comes into the picture, we can all see how she wins over his people and manages to bend them for her own purposes.
      “You seldom kill for your own benefit, Scarlett.” When Han, the Chinese Dragon Head, said this while I was writing Book 3 I had to pause and think for a while. There’s a scene in Book 2 where Scarlett has a bit of a breakdown after a very tense moment between her, Adrian, Bobby, and a very concerned George. But when Han spoke those words it all became so clear. Scarlett’s a hit woman. This means she’s paid to kill people that other people want dead, not her. Now the tables are turned and she’s finding out how different it is when you’re killing people you want dead yourself. It’s a whole other game she’s entering and it will prove not to be as easy as she thought.
All this said, I want to add that there’s a bigger character arc in the works between the vignettes/prequels and the books already in the series. This can be seen already in the vignettes (another one of those things that’s come as a surprise while writing them). The Scarlett pre-Gibraltar mission is very different from the post-mission one in a lot of ways. I like to think the pre-mission Scarlett would’ve never thought of getting married again, not even remotely, much less let herself get caught up in the illusion of planning a wedding and a happy ending kind of future…
But you’ll have to read Book 3 to know what happens with that!

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett even further

[Crossposting from thecaregiverseries.wordpress.com]

I was all comfortable and relaxed at a table inside the hotel’s restaurant reading the morning paper and sipping coffee when the billowing of a black coat and the agitated tones of a male voice interrupted my concentration.

“There you are!” Romulus was rushing to my table. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

I put down the paper the moment he stood next to my seat, waiting for something.

After not obtaining a reaction from me, he lowered himself and kissed my cheek before unwrapping his scarf, taking off his coat, and joining me in the seat across.

“It’s six in the morning. I expected to find you still in bed.”

“You took my other key.”

“I did.”

“You weren’t planning on staying the night so I thought I’d get an early start.”

“Ready to order now?” A waitress stood by our table.

I was quick to recite my order. Romulus hesitated when she turned to him.

“Go on. It’s on the agency.” I encouraged him and he ordered something for himself.

An uncomfortable silence fell upon us after the waitress left.

“I thought you’d be… tired.” He said, taking the discarded newspaper to glance at it.

Tired? Not so much. My wrists sure didn’t like being handcuffed for as long as they were subjected to and my buttocks still stung a bit –he sure liked whipping that leather belt– but I couldn’t say the whole act warranted the tiredness required for me to sleep all through the night, though. It warranted me other things. Things I didn’t feel like discussing at the moment.

“Insomnia.” I blurted. “Hits me every now and then. Had I popped one of my pills I would’ve been out the whole day and missed the trip to Spring Gardens.”

“Pills? You mean sleeping pills? Aren’t you a bit too young for that?”

“The sooner the better for the pharmaceutical companies.”

“Maybe I could be of help?” There was that smug smile again. “Maybe I wasn’t rough enough for your liking?”

“There are only so many things one can do in a hotel room before they call security.”

“I have a flat.”

“No.”

“It isn’t mine,” he hissed. “A friend is renting his old flat and I thought maybe you’d be interested.”

“I’ve already got a list of apartments I’ll be checking out. I’m planning on buying one this time. Never been fond of landlords.”

Our food arrived and I hastened to start on mine.

“Are you nervous?” he asked.

I kept my head low so I could roll my eyes without him noticing. “Not at all.” I put my fork down. “Look. Last night was nice.”

“Nice?”

“Yes, nice. But it doesn’t change anything.”

“That was never my intention.”

“Then what was your intention?”

“I wanted you.” He paused to stare into my eyes. “I couldn’t care less about you signing with the project or not, it’s inconsequential to me. They’ll be the ones missing out, not you.” He stirred, doing that lean-closer-to-me move of his. “I liked last night. Didn’t you? I think we got along pretty well.”

It wasn’t out-of-this-world-great but it wasn’t bad either. He had what I called the Two S’s. Sexy and strong. “We did.”

“I’ve followed your career for a very long time, Scarlett. I know about your ex-husband and your association with Madame Beatrix. I’ve been to her clubs and they are topnotch.”

“Do your colleagues take part in these practices too?”

“No. They don’t.”

I picked up my fork again. “Okay, let’s make this clear. Judging by how things developed last night I can tell you’re not trained in BDSM.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That you’ve visited Beatrix’s clubs once or twice doesn’t make you an expert.”

“Maybe you can teach me, then.”

I looked at him from under my eyebrows and even the chewing wasn’t enough to make him stop smiling.

I was about to change that. I was getting myself into something I wasn’t completely sure about and needed to keep the upper hand somehow. If only with him.

“I don’t mind starting an affair with you but would prefer we keep it private, even more if I were to sign that contract and become an employee under your supervision.” The smile was fading by now. Good. “We negotiate a contract that will specify boundaries. Meet at undisclosed locations. You don’t come to my place, I don’t come to yours. We’re never seen in public together other than during activities concerning our work relationship.”

“Wait.” He shook his head.

“What?”

“Where’s the sentiment in this?”

“Sentiment?”

Uh-oh. I’m not dealing with a sentimental little kid, am I?

“Does it surprise you that much that someone just wants to be with you? Plain and simple?”

Huh?

“I’m sorry. Was there supposed to be any sentiment in this? I gave you what you wanted.”

“And what was that?”

“To fuck the new recruit. Now you can walk into your office with your chest all puffed on the knowledge that you had me before anyone else there.”

“God, Scarlett, no!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you going on about?” Then took a deep breath. “I-”

Oh don’t fuck with me!

“I researched you, Moretti. You’re divorced with three children from two different women. You have been to Beatrix’s clubs more than once and actually got your ass kicked out from her Frankfurt one.”

“That was a misunderstanding.”

“Everything in life is a misunderstanding.”

“What do I have to do to prove to you that this is not what you’re thinking?”

I cleared my plate, pushed it to the side, and was about to say something when he crossed me.

“Has it been that bad? That awful? To feel unappreciated for so long?” He wiped his mouth with the napkin and set it aside. “You’re young, skilled, clever, yet I can bet my life no one has ever told you these things to your face. There’s a loneliness that is only felt when you’re in the company of others. You keep yourself busy with work and have only pursued relationships that you knew wouldn’t give you what you really wanted, that would leave you as empty as you were the moment you walked into them.”

Now he was getting on my nerves.

My mobile vibrated in my pocket but I kept my sight locked on Romulus’ because I knew who it was. The only person that would be calling me so early, probably locked inside a bathroom so his pregnant wife wouldn’t hear him.

“I’m not saying I’m what you’re looking for. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m just asking for a chance to show you that it’s not all angst and hardship. That there’s fun to be had.”

He smiled. Wide.

I couldn’t help the slight tremor that took me over.

“When I met you in Miami I told you if you signed with us I’d make it worth your time. Sign or not, I’m keeping that promise.”

“Are you?”

He twisted away from me, reached out to the unoccupied table behind him, plucked a flower from the arrangement it held, and presented it to me.

“To the very last second.”

I took the flower and held it to my eyes.

The mobile ceased vibrating.

And so it began.

——————————

Go to: The Vignettes

Part 2 of Bye Bye KDP Select

Tonight I can write the saddest lines… No, not really.

Yesterday I wrote this post about Book 1 of my series leaving KDP Select behind after spending the last couple of days trying to publish it through NOOKpress, Kobo, Smashwords, Wattpad, and on the blog I started for the series, all this while writing page after page of data for my thesis (on self-publishing). I was exhausted and I’m saying this to try and justify how shitty that post was. Worst post I’ve ever written and it got a lot of attention so I’d like to rectify things with another post, written first thing in the morning and after a nice cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast.

I had been thinking a lot about how to market my books. Trying to get more attention, more sales. I’m currently unemployed, finishing my Masters, and trying with all my might to make my creative side work for me. I’m a DIYer from head to toe (literally, yes, I even groom my dogs and cut my own hair), so self-publishing was a no-brainer when I decided to venture into publishing my writing. However, when it comes to selling and marketing, I’m my own worst enemy. My telemarketing days back in college left me scarred for life (they kept me for as long as they did because I spoke English, if not, I would’ve been given the sack my first week).

But that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here because of the Bye Bye KDP Select title.

My friend and author extraordinaire Todd Keisling has been debating over marketing stuff too, only he’s been more outspoken about it. I have not. We’ve had convos about it and after this post he wrote, I thought I’d give my two cents about this. Yesterday’s post also sparked a Twitter reply from @ljndawson in which she mentions the fact that the 3 months thing just doesn’t work.

I went into the KDP Select thing after a lot of reading and pondering about it. Amazon has always been the channel with most sales for me so it didn’t feel wrong to give them the exclusivity to my works. It was like getting into a relationship with someone you’ve known for a while and even when you think ‘yeah, I can handle this’ there always comes a time when you start feeling the belts on the straightjacket getting tighter for no apparent reason. Especially when you’re not getting off on it. Three months become an eternity when you’re not comfortable.

I don’t wanna be kept, I don’t wanna be caged
I don’t wanna be damned, oh, hell
I don’t wanna be broke, I don’t wanna be saved
I don’t wanna be S.O.L.

A lot of blogs I read spoke about the magical after-sales authors encountered after a KDP promo. Your book is free for a couple of days, then when the promo’s over stardust falls from the heavens and you’re blessed with sales. Kind of like those TV shows that get high ratings only because they come right behind another, more successful show. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? I mean, I LOVE giving stuff for free. I really do. I once met a chef that kept giving away recipes she came up with and when asked why she kept giving them away (we were part of an online community) instead of writing a cookbook and selling it, she answered: “because for me, recipes are like butterflies, they come to me freely and are meant to stay that way, free.”

Stories are like butterflies for me. Murder butterflies, but butterflies nonetheless. I can’t keep them captive, they are meant to be enjoyed by everyone out there, not just me. So the KDP Select thing didn’t feel wrong or whorish. I didn’t feel I was becoming Amazon’s bitch by taking that step. I’ve never seen Amazon as the big bad wolf, I owe it the opportunity of publishing my work on a platform that we all have to admit has an enviable standing. I tell people I self-publish my books and they are like ‘yeah, good for you’, I tell them they are on Amazon and their eyes grow wide in disbelief. I smile and add, “put Artistikem in the search box and you’ll find me.” I’m searchable on Amazon, goddammit. Step aside [random famous author name]!

However, as I was starting to think I was immune to the KDP Select promo fairy dust, Todd’s numbers and comments opened my eyes to the reality that there are too many freetards out there roaming like the walkers from The Walking Dead, feeding off people like us that are willing to give away free stuff with the ultimate goal of getting at least one teeny tiny sale.

My novella, The Caregiver, keeps hitting the Top 20 and Top 10 in its category when I do the promo thingy. Then, when the free ride is over, it plummets back to the shadows. Meanwhile, The Caregiver Vignettes 1-5, with no reviews, no nothing, doesn’t hit lower than 30,000 in rank in its category. Why? Because it’s free.

I know everything they say. If your book isn’t selling revise the story, change the cover, get reviews, do a naked streak around a football field with your book’s title written on your skin. But there is only so much one can do. I hire editors for my books. I’m almost certain my covers don’t suck (we’re a team, hubby and I, I do graphic design and he’s a photographer, so we know a bit of what we’re doing). I plug myself on social media but not too much because I value my Internet friends enough. So what the fuck do I have to do to get more sales?

Kill all the freetards? Scarlett charges too much for every kill and I’m no drug lord with enough money to pay her to do the job.

Deal with the freetards? I have no idea how to do that but I’m going to try.

Now that The Caregiver is out of the KDP Select binder, I plan to make it perma-free to try and hook readers with it. Not just 5 days out of 90. I’ve read of other authors doing it with their series and, sincerely, I always knew it’d come to that at some point. This may be the best timing since Book 2 has been available for a while, Book 3 is currently suffering under editor Stacia Rogan‘s scrutiny (the poor thing. I mean the book, not her), and I already started on Book 4.

What else will I do? I’ll keep The Vignettes coming. They are great mental exercises, they help me brainstorm what’s coming next, and oh man are they getting interesting. They may possibly add up to a prequel in the near future. And to think I had already started one about Scarlett’s early years.

I’m rewriting a sci-fi/romance/thriller I wrote years ago and posting it on Tumblr and Wattpad.

Visibility and exposure are a common mantra among self-publishers and I’m putting all my money on it to turn my fate around.

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time

Bye bye KDP Select

Not exactly a bye bye because it’s just for Book 1 of The Caregiver Series. I’d probably drop Torn in the near future, that’s still to be decided. I want to make Book 1 perma-free to try and give the rest of the books a kick in the butt. Let’s see how that goes.

Anyway, The Caregiver is now free of the Amazon exclusivity shackles and will become available through other channels before the end of the year, in time to celebrate the release of Book 3. Yay!

For now, I’ve given The Caregiver Series its own blog. Book 1 is available there, as well as the vignettes (I’ve been writing more of those lately) and some other neat info you may find useful or just plain entertaining (like this list of characters). More things will be added with time, so keep your eyes peeled.

Also, if you’re a Wattpad user, The Caregiver is now available there too so feel free to check it out: http://www.wattpad.com/28636561

That’s it for now, folks. ‘Til next time.

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.

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

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