Authors: Jennifer Willows
The Laughing Assassin
What can a simple man offer the most deadly of women? Money? Love? Or an adventure with the promise of more to come?
Jaden Bishop is closed off to the possibilities of love and romance. She is a premier assassin, trained by Ronin warriors as a child after she was left orphaned. By day, she bakes cupcakes, and at night? She keeps her body honed by training the weapon forged by her childhood. Interpersonal relationships have no place in her life.
But none of that matters when it comes to love.
Jonah Whitmore fell for the mercenary woman before they met, via the World Wide Web and all of the information he could plumb from his computer. He needs Jaden’s expertise, but he wants the woman for himself. He will stop at nothing to make his goals reality. And that includes making the wily assassin his woman.
Contemporary, Interracial, Romantic Suspense
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
THE LAUGHING ASSASSIN
First E-book Publication: April 2013
Cover design by Harris Channing
All cover art and logo copyright © 2013 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Siren Publishing, Inc.
Letter to Readers
If you have purchased this copy of
The Laughing Assassin
by Jennifer Willows from BookStrand.com or its official distributors, thank you. Also, thank you for not sharing your copy of this book.
Regarding E-book Piracy
This book is copyrighted intellectual property. No other individual or group has resale rights, auction rights, membership rights, sharing rights, or any kind of rights to sell or to give away a copy of this book.
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This is Jennifer Willows’s livelihood. It’s fair and simple. Please respect Ms. Willows’s right to earn a living from her work.
Amanda Hilton, Publisher
To Debbie, you have been an author’s best friend and confidant. Thank you for the use of your dining room table when I needed the bachelorette pad to get a moment to myself and the use of your ears when I needed someone to listen to me mutter about everything and nothing all at once. To Olivia, thanks for letting me use your name to chop n’ screw around with, and of course, thanks for being porch buddies.
To my mommy, thank you for corralling the terrible twosome of Thing One and Two when I needed to work and transition into a single girl in the small city. And I am so grateful for the advice you gave me along the way.
To my children, may they never know just how twisted their mommy’s mind really is, even as they enjoy the benefits. To my editor, thank you, thank you, thank you! These edits were the easiest by far and I really appreciated the commentary along the way. To Siren BookStrand acquisitions, thank you for having me re-do the ending, the story wouldn’t be half as strong without the changes.
THE LAUGHING ASSASSIN
Copyright © 2013
Pay the Piper
It was an auspicious hour. Not only was it nearly midnight, but the mansion along the ocean was smothered in fog. Juan was certain that the dark shadow was more than it seemed on the slightly grainy monitor feed from the video camera, but the night watchman was sure someone waited there.
It was Jones’s fault, Juan knew. There was only so much evil one human could perpetrate before karma took over. Jones was too much the skinflint to spend money on better surveillance. But the man would pay any price to indulge his fetish for snuff and torture. If the cameras had been of just a hair better quality, the reception for the wireless feed would be much better. Then he would know if the shadows were what he thought.
Juan had long since stopped mentioning what he saw. The other guards just laughed at him, claimed he was the boy who cried wolf, but somehow for the last three nights he was certain that someone was watching and waiting for something to happen. Before he left for duty this evening, he did extra Hail Marys and several Our Fathers. Whatever was out there didn’t have good intentions.
He didn’t plan on dying tonight. But without proof, no one believed him. No matter what he said he saw, he was summarily dismissed by the rest of his coworkers as if he didn’t operate on all cylinders. As was, he could see the other guards and security personnel ignore his warnings then circle fingers at their temples after he spoke. As if he was muy loco. He couldn’t make the others around him see the bits and pieces that didn’t add up.
The first night he saw an extra shadow beside one of the gargoyle statues bordering the property, and on the second night he saw another odd shadow clustered in the corner of the fenced-in back wall along the garden. Tonight, he saw an unusually dark area near the ocean just along the beach. To a less wary person it would look as if flotsam or driftwood had washed onto the beach, but he knew better.
“Hey, Johnson, check that driftwood out,” Juan asked the patrolling guard using his radio.
“What and where?” The reply was quick and snarky, as if the man was humoring his crazy colleague.
“About two hundred feet to the left of you, check the beach.” He saw the patroller reach the mass in no time and shake his head before he kept on.
The radio crackled to life as Johnson spoke. “It was nothing, just a bunch of dead branches that washed up on the beach. You need a vacation.” Damn it, he knew that something was not right, but none of the other employees gave enough of a damn to do their jobs properly.
A man couldn’t live as their employer, Peter Jones, had and not make a few enemies. Somebody was gunning for Mr. Jones, but he didn’t have any concrete evidence. Even when he combed the places Juan was certain the stranger was at, not even footprints were left behind to mark the ground the person stood on.
He wasn’t able to make anyone see the truth, and he wasn’t sure if he should even keep trying to. Even now, after the debacle with an American girl a few months back, Mr. Jones still took yet another young woman just a few days ago and had his way with her in the basement dungeon right now.
For too many years, he had never known what was done to the children, but when his boss was done with them there was barely anything left to toss into the fire.
Normally the bodies were left in a burlap bag, which was tossed into a furnace, but on the last occasion the bag wasn’t secured completely. That single moment was three months ago, and even to this day, he dreamed about what he saw in that bag every night since.
There was nothing left to her.
The eyelids were missing, half of her limbs were broken, not to mention the raw brands burned into her skin or the permanent scream she’d died with was etched onto her face.
After that moment, he knew one thing for certain. Every last one of them, including himself, deserved to die. Even if he wasn’t the one responsible for the girls that had died a horrible death of mutilation and torture, he had known and abetted Mr. Jones in the heinous crimes after the fact.
One day, I will have to pay for what I’ve done, just like Jones will pay.
No sooner than he had the thought did the guard look back at the cameras and the beach flotsam was gone. And Juan knew that payback had begun.
* * * *
A shadow crept amid shadows in barely lit night. The clouds hindered the moon, and the fog covered each movement well. Jaden knew that she had to be quick. There was little time before the shifts changed and the guards would trade positions. That worked in her favor, as the guards who were to come outside would be blind in the night until their eyes adjusted to the change in ambient light.
Tonight she wore her favorite operational gear. Black fabric covered her from neck to heels. She had her sidearm holstered at the shoulder and about a dozen clips prefilled with ammunition if she needed the weapon for heavy lifting tonight. She had her face smeared in green and black grease paint to keep the shine of her skin from giving her away to the watchful. Her combat boots also got a facelift with a black marching sock over the entire sole of the shoe to keep her footprints from being matched. The outer sock also kept her boots from acquiring any evidence that she may have to explain away later. Not that she would get caught, as she was fully confident that she would escape this unscathed as always, but Jaden believed in being prepared for anything.
As soon as she found the underground entrance labeled in the schematic, she heard footsteps, and Jaden was forced to make a hasty retreat behind an azalea bush. At this time of year the flowers were everywhere and in magnificent bloom. Her heart had kicked up a notch, but she took even, slow breaths as she waited until the steps finally receded into the distance, and Jaden crept back to the sunken door.