The Consequences of Sin
I hated the night. It was so full of darkness and secrets. When the sun disappeared, the world was cast in shadows, hiding the evil that lay in wait. When it was dark, I hunted. There was no sunlight to keep me at bay. The shadows caressed my body as I did things I could never do in the light of day.
“You ready?” Wesley asked me.
Wesley, aka Wes, was my best friend and partner. We’d grown up together in London, spending almost every day side by side, training for what we would become.
Wesley looked like an angel—his pale blue eyes and blond hair made him seem innocent. Over the years, I’d watched him grow from a round-faced boy to the chiseled man he was today. His strong jaw, full lips, and straight nose made him almost model-worthy. If it weren’t for the scar running straight from his ear to his neck, he could’ve been a model. He’d managed to land that trophy on a mission when we were only sixteen. I hated it, but he didn’t seem to mind it at all, often joking that it made him look dangerous. It did, but that was beside the point. To me, it made him look like an imperfect angel, if such a thing existed.
“Let’s do this,” I said as I threw my car door open.
Wesley did the same. We met on my side of the car and melted into the shadows surrounding us. At almost three in the morning, the normally busy London streets were deserted in this part of town.
We stayed silent, not even the soles of our heavy black boots making a sound. We’d been trained years ago on how to stay completely silent. We stayed in alleyways and shadows as we walked the two blocks to where our target was located.
When we reached the apartment building, I watched the front of the building for movement of any kind. After a few minutes, I turned to Wesley and raised an eyebrow. He shook his head before pointing up. I rolled my eyes. Of course he was going to make this difficult for us.
We made our way to the back alley. I nodded to where two dumpsters sat side by side. Wesley moved in front of me and climbed silently onto one of them. He grabbed my hand and hauled me up. The dumpsters were nothing for him since he was six foot three, but I had trouble since I barely reached five foot two.
“Fire escape,” Wesley whispered into my ear.
I looked up and saw one that was only six or seven feet above our heads. Silently, Wesley grabbed me and lifted me onto his shoulders. Careful not to hurt him, I rose until I was standing on his shoulders. I sprung up and managed to grab the bottom rung of the ladder. My arms strained as I fought to pull myself up. Once I was far enough up that my feet were on the rungs, I made quick work of the ladder. I reached the top and lowered the ladder, so Wesley could climb up behind me.
He grinned when he made it to the top. I rolled my eyes before moving on to the next ladder. It only took us a few minutes to reach the last fire escape, ten stories off the ground. Our target was located on the top floor.
Wesley moved ahead of me and carefully tried to raise the window. I almost laughed when I realized it wasn’t locked. People were such fools. Wesley shook his head in disgust before pushing the window up further.
We climbed through and dropped into a living room. I looked around, impressed. Our target obviously had money and had no problem showing it off. Even in the darkness, I could see the elegance of the room.
I pulled my gun from the small of my back and clicked the safety off. Wesley followed suit before carefully making his way down a hallway off to the right. We knew the layout of the apartment, including where the target’s bedroom was. We passed three doors before finally arriving at the correct one. I held my breath as Wesley slowly opened the door. The creak it made froze both of us in place.
We held our breaths and waited for movement inside the room. After a few moments of silence, we slipped inside. I swallowed roughly when I saw the two forms in the bed. We were here for the target only, but it was obvious he had company tonight. I closed my eyes for a brief moment, preparing myself for what I was about to do.
I walked to the target’s side of the bed and aimed my gun at him. Wesley moved to the other side of the bed and raised his gun. He stared over the bed at me, sorrow in his eyes. I knew mine mirrored his. Neither of us wanted this life, but we never got the chance to choose. We had been born into this world, and we would die in this world.
We were Mafia children—too young to be in control, but old enough to be the foot soldiers, the assassins.
I sent a quick prayer up to God, hoping that he’d forgive me for this sin along with every other I’d ever committed, but I had no doubt that he’d turned his back on me long ago. I didn’t blame him. As soon as my prayer was finished, I pulled the trigger, and another piece of my soul died.
We pulled up to the gates of the mansion Wesley and I called home.
“I can’t keep doing this,” I whispered.
“We don’t have a choice, Bree. We never did,” Wesley said as he took my hand in his.
“We could’ve said no,” I said quietly as the gates opened.
“Then, your father would’ve put a bullet in both of us. If he didn’t, my father would have,” Wesley said sharply as he pulled the car forward. “I won’t let anything happen to you, Bree. I don’t care how many times I have to kill. I’d do anything to keep you safe.”
“I know,” I said so softly that I wasn’t even sure he’d heard me.
Neither of us spoke again as he pulled the car into the underground garage. It was large enough to house at least fifteen cars at once. Every car we passed looked exactly like ours—black with tinted windows.
Wesley parked the car into its usual spot and shut it off. He squeezed my hand once before swinging his door open and climbing out. I sat still for a moment, forcing my emotions away. I would be in front of my father in only a few moments. If he knew of the battle raging inside of me, he’d kill me himself.
My father, the great Oliver Bowen, was the second-in-command of one of the largest Mafia families in London. He hadn’t gotten to where he was without being ruthless. Even me, his only child, had been subject to his cruelty. He’d claimed it was to remind me of my place. I thought it was simply because he was a dick.
Once I got myself in check, I climbed from the car and followed Wesley into the mansion. The house was silent this late at night. Everyone who lived here was either out on a job or asleep. The wicked rested after all.
We climbed the stairs up to the third floor and walked down the hall to where my father’s office was. Wesley knocked loudly and waited a moment before swinging the door open and stepping inside. I stayed close to him. He made me feel safe when I was around my father.
“Wesley, Bree,” my father greeted us from behind his desk.
I nodded and trained my eyes on the wall behind him. I hated my father. I wouldn’t look at him unless I had to.
“Oliver,” Wesley said, his voice devoid of emotion.
I wished I could have even an ounce of the control he had. My father terrified both of us, but Wesley never let him know it.
“I take it, everything went well?” my father asked.
I glanced at him and saw that his gaze was on me. Our bright blue eyes met briefly before I looked away again. My father was a handsome man, a man of raw power. His blond hair was kept military short. I couldn’t think of a time when I had seen him out of one of his tailor-made suits. He rarely smiled, but if he did, I knew it meant someone was going to die. That was the only time he smiled—ever.
“We had no problems at all. The target was taken care of. He had a guest in his household, who we took care of as well.”
“Good.” My father paused. “Did you help him, Bree? Or did you just stand there?”
I looked up at him but didn’t answer. My father had forced me to work with a few of his men when I first started helping out with the family business. I’d hesitated, and they had gleefully let him know that I was weak. Since then, Wesley or whomever he forced to work with me would have to report back to him.
“She took out the target herself,” Wesley said, coming to my rescue.
My father nodded. “Very well then. You are dismissed, Wesley. Bree, I need to speak with you.”
Wesley bowed briefly before turning to leave. My eyes locked with his as I pleaded with him not to leave me alone with the monster in front of me. He frowned and shook his head just enough that I could see it. He had no choice but to leave. We both knew it. I was simply being a coward.
Wesley left, closing the door behind him. The room stayed silent as my eyes rose to meet my father’s. He tilted his head to the side, studying me. I kept my face devoid of any emotion, but I was terrified of what he would say to me.
“Brendon and his father will be here tomorrow morning at nine. You will greet and interact with them. Dress as we’ve discussed.”
I closed my eyes and fought to keep my breathing steady. I hated Brendon. I’d met him only one other time, but that was enough to know that I couldn’t stand him. He was a pompous, demeaning ass who thought he was God’s gift to women. He was also the son of one of the biggest crime families in Ireland.
My father and Nico, my father’s boss, planned to marry me off to Brendon to join our families together. I hadn’t bothered to tell them that we weren’t living in the 1700s anymore. It didn’t matter to them. They saw me as a piece of property and treated me accordingly.
“Is there a problem, Bree?” my father asked, his voice like ice.
I quickly shook my head. “No. No problem, Father.”
He stood and walked around his desk to where I was standing. He towered over me, and it took everything in me not to turn and run.
“Do I need to remind you again of what is expected of you?”
“No.” My voice shook.
“You will do everything in your power to win Brendon over. Fail to do that, and—well, let’s just say things will not go smoothly for you. Are we clear?”
“Yes, Father. I will not fail you.”
“I should hope not. You’re dismissed.”
I bowed before quickly turning and walking to the door. As soon as I was back in the hallway, I started running. I climbed the stairs to the third floor and ran past my own room, heading straight for Wesley’s. I didn’t even bother knocking before slipping inside and locking the door behind me.
Wesley was sitting on his bed. His head jerked up as I threw myself at him. I sagged into him as his arms circled around me and tightly held me.
“Bree, what’s wrong?” he asked, his breath tickling my ear.
“Brendon,” I said. My body started to shake, both from the job we’d done tonight and the thought of seeing Brendon tomorrow.
Wesley’s whole body went rigid as he cursed softly. “When?”
“He’ll be here with his father in the morning. I’m expected to entertain them.”
He cursed again before pulling me tighter against him. “I’m so sorry, Bree. If there were anything I could do, I would.”
“I know,” I whispered.
I knew he would if it were possible. Wesley would do anything in the world for me, but his hands were tied. He couldn’t go against Nico and my father without the fear of a bullet finding itself in his skull. He was just as trapped as I was.
I knew my situation would only get worse if Brendon decided I was worthy of him. If he took me back to Ireland, I would be at his mercy and completely alone. Sometimes, death seemed like the better choice.
“I’m scared,” I told Wesley. “I’m going to lose what little I have. I’m going to lose you.”
He stayed silent. There was nothing he could say. We both knew my words were true. I would leave for Ireland, and he would stay here and continue to kill or do whatever was asked of him.
“Come on,” he said suddenly as he dropped me onto the bed and stood. “Let’s go play.”
I grinned, the first one of the night. “Let’s go.”
He took my hand in his and led me from the room. We walked back down the stairs to the first floor and made a right. When we reached the doors at the end of the hall, he pushed through and flipped on the light switches. I squinted for a moment as my eyes tried to adjust to the bright lights. I looked around at the massive room. Every piece of gym equipment imaginable was tucked inside along with a wide-open space we used to train.
Wesley and I had started our training at an early age. By the time we were ten, both of us were deadly with not only weapons, but with our bodies as well. We started referring to our grappling sessions as playtime since it seemed to be the only part of the day either of us enjoyed.
Neither of us had been to school. I wasn’t even sure if the government knew we existed. We’d had classes here in the mansion in the mornings, followed by strict fighting and weapons lessons in the afternoons. Besides us, there had been only three other children, and they were all a few years older than us. Wesley and I had been together since diapers, and the bond that had formed between us ran deeper than my father or anyone else realized.
“You ready to get your ass kicked?” Wesley asked as he kicked his boots off and pulled his shirt over his head.
I considered him my family, but even I had to stop to admire his body. The years of training had molded his body into a deadly weapon. He was pure muscle, his arms and stomach solid steel.
I smirked at him as I took off my boots. “Are you? I know how embarrassing it is for you when you have your ass handed to you by a chick.”
He laughed. “Bring it, babe.”
We moved to the mats and slowly started circling each other. If it came down to strength, I would lose in an instant. Lucky for me, I had one hell of a kick, and I was fast. Wesley might be stronger than me, but he wasn’t nearly as fast. Plus, I was tiny. It made avoiding him almost easy at times.
I grinned at Wesley as we moved. There was a fire in his eyes that I rarely saw anywhere else but in this gym. He enjoyed our sessions as much as I did. It was the only time we could truly enjoy ourselves. Plus, we got to kick the shit out of each other.
Wesley suddenly darted toward me, his arms out in hopes of pinning me. I twisted sideways, and his fingers brushed my arm. Before he could recover, I spun and kicked. I gave a tiny shout of triumph when my foot hit his stomach. He grunted before backing off.
“That was too easy,” I said, pretending to yawn.
“I’ll give you easy,” he grumbled as he came at me again.
He aimed for my stomach, but I blocked his arm with my own. He caught my arm and flipped me until I was on my back on the ground. A split second later, his body was on top of mine, pinning me.
I cursed as I fought to free myself. When he didn’t budge, I decided to fight dirty. My teeth latched on to his arm, and he yelped. His weight shifted enough that I was able to break free. I shot to my feet and jumped out of reaching distance.
He glared at me. “That wasn’t cool.”
I rolled my eyes. “At least I didn’t knee your boy parts. Count your blessings.”
His frown deepened. “Leave those be. I need them.”
I laughed. “Sure you do.”
He lunged for me again, but I was ready. I jumped out of the way. His body moved past mine, and I decided to take a chance. I leaped on his back and wrapped my arms around his neck, cutting off his air. He tried to break free, but I held tight.
I yelped when he moved backward. My back hit a wall, and I gasped when my head connected as well, but I didn’t loosen my hold. He rammed into the wall again and again before finally dropping to his knees. I instantly released him, and he started coughing.
“Are you okay?” I asked as I crouched down next to him.
He shook his head. “You have one hell of a stranglehold.”
I grinned. If he was capable of speech, he was fine. “Not my fault you’re weak.”
He glared up at me. “Do you want to go another round? You got lucky. It doesn’t happen often.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, unable to stop myself. “It wasn’t luck. You’re just pissed ’cause I won.”
“Whatever,” he mumbled as he stood, pulling me up with him. “I think that’s enough for tonight. You need to go to bed. You’re going to have a long day tomorrow.”
Just like that, my good mood disappeared. For a few minutes, I’d forgotten what I would have to face in the morning. I broke free from his hold and turned for the door. “You’re right. Good night.”
“Bree, wait!” he said as he grabbed my arm and spun me back to him.
“I…” He hesitated. “It’ll be okay. I promise.”
I laughed humorlessly. “No, it won’t. We both know it won’t ever be okay again.”
He pulled me to him and kissed my forehead. “I love you.”
“Love you, too,” I whispered.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he pulled away and walked toward the door.
I stood there until he disappeared from sight. “Me, too.”
Things would never be all right. I was about to lose my best friend and the only home I’d ever known.