23 is the number of times Lucas Black was hired as a hit man. 22 is the number of times he followed through with the expectations of his clients, without a second thought.
It was 3:13 in the morning and the adrenaline that was pumping through the veins under his dark skin felt intoxicating.
Not nearly as intoxicating as the scent of vanilla and peaches that was filling his nose, or the undeniable beauty of the woman he was carrying ...even if she was unconscious.
Drool dribbled out of the corner of her mouth but everything about her was still perfect.
"Well, she's unconscious", he shrugged while sprinting full speed down the road,
"She could be dead."
His feet moved swiftly, almost as if the 130 pound dead weight of a grown person in his arms didn't affect his performance, or stealth.
A mile later and Luke finally made it to his car. He struggled to open the door but the woman remained asleep. After a moment the door laid the woman in his backseat.
As he closed the door of his car his mother's voice played in his head.
She always told him to keep blankets in his trunk, just in case.
Just in case, what, mom? He thought to himself. ...Just in case I decide to kidnap the woman I've been hired to kill, and she happens to get cold in my back seat?
He shook the thought and tried to regain focus.
Luke had been on this woman's trail for 13 months. Her name was Megan Thomas.
Her husband, Michael Thomas, was young and financially successful, so hiring Los Angeles' best Private Investigator wasn't an issue for him.
He wouldn't admit it, but after so long, he felt like the pay was a bonus to seeing Megan regularly. She was beautiful.
Her physical appearance was out of the ordinary in upper-middle class Los Angeles.
She reminded Luke of one of those singers from the 80's; she wore skinny jeans, heavy metal band t-shirts, and scuffed up Vans most of the time.
Her appearance alone, is noteworthy in this part of L.A. But it wasn't just that...when Luke looked at her, it's like he could see glow around her.
And after watching her for so long, he knew other people saw it, too.
So when Michael Thomas presented Luke his "special request," after 13 months of tracking, watching, and monitoring her every move, he had no choice but to take her.
He looked down at her rosy cheeks as she slept in the seat. She was smiling.
The uneasiness was growing in him quickly. He didn't understand himself. What was he going to do after she wakes up? How was he going to successfully explain any of this?
He hated Michael Thomas for all the things he'd witnessed. But that hate had never been stronger. Luke thought about how he hated himself, too. He knew he was slightly psychotic for the things he's done.
He wanted to forget about his dark side now, but could he? He had taken 22 lives without flinching...but he wasn't like Michael. Was he? He could feel his irritation growing...
Why wasn't he a better person? Would he ever change? Could he ever change?
But as he raced down the dark street with Megan fast asleep, Luke started to focus on only one thing: protecting her. He had to. She was perfect in every way.
He didn't have any idea what he was going to do, or even say, after she woke up.
He didn't think that far ahead...
But Luke knew by the look in Michael's eyes and that smug grin, that if he declined the so-called offer, the guy would just find another person to kill her.
So feeding Michael some bullshit to buy himself a window of time is exactly what he did....
He thought back to earlier that day, in Chinatown, at the restaurant where he met Michael. Michael Thomas sat across from him, looking the way he always looked...
Michael presented his offer, smacking his perfect white teeth and full lips. With every shovel-full of chow mein noodles, Luke could feel the rage inside of him grow.
He wanted to reach across the table and feed the guy his fork. And his chopsticks. And his- he couldn't, obviously. Unless unwanted attention was suddenly what he was after.
Instead, he thought quickly, keeping his composure, the same way he always did.
He spoke with his voice low and quick, his eyes fixed on Michael, and oddly aware of everything happening around them.
Luke got up after responding to Michael, and leaving a fifty dollar bill under his plate. He smiled at the Asian owners, standing near the door to what he assumed was the kitchen, and walked out.
He told Michael it would go that Megan would "take her own life and her poor widowed husband would find her days later, after returning home from a business trip."
Michael jumped on the idea, of course.
He immediately tried to brag about the sleaze-ball he was planning on taking with him but Luke quickly ended that conversation by getting up and walking out.
"I fucking hate that guy."
It felt like hours past when Luke finally pulled into the familiar, gated driveway. He raced up the dark path to his house. He had the driveway paved for almost 6 months now. He loved it.
But not nearly as much as he loved his house. He worked closely with the architects in planning and designing it. This house was one of a kind.
Luke sat still for a moment after parking. What now? He stared at Megan from the front seat for nearly five minutes...she really was quite beautiful.
He could see his breathe as he tried to mentally prepare himself for what would soon happen.
It felt difficult to breathe. He tried to focus on his breathe.
But suddenly, Luke could no longer breathe at all.
He froze still, eyes wide, like a deer in the middle of the woods, staring at it's predator. He wanted to move, but his body wouldn't let him.
He tried to move his mouth but sound wasn't coming out...he had never felt so terrified.
Terrified of the angel laying in his back seat...
With her eyes open.
...(to be continued) Thanks for reading. <3