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 so swiftly, almost as if the 130 pound dead weight of a grown person in his arms didn't affect his performance, or stealth.
Luke finally made it to his jet black 707 HP sedan, and carefully laid the woman in his backseat.
His Mother's voice rang in his head, suddenly.
She always told him to keep blankets in his trunk, just in case.
Just in case, what, Mom? 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.
Although the money became a bonus after he saw Megan for the first time. Her beauty was striking but there was something different about her. Something he couldn't quite figure out...
So naturally, being a private eye, he wanted to. He almost felt like he needed to figure it out, and he would have done it without being paid, easily.
Without speaking to this woman, it's quite noticeable that she was something out of the ordinary. Ordinary in upper class Los Angeles wasn't anything close to what Megan was...
Her hair, short and choppy, 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, he saw a surreal 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. She had a slight smile on her face.
The uneasiness was growing in him quickly, though. Why did he feel bad for her? Because of her shady husband? For watching her like he had?
Hadn't he killed people? Why did she matter? No one ever mattered to him.
But the situation alone kept his attention. Her scumbag husband overpaid a private investigator thousands of dollars for 13 months, only to be the cheating abuser himself.
The man was psychotic and obviously a narcissist. And his alcohol abuse made every bit of him worse. She didn't deserve any bit of it.
Luke knew he was psychotic, too. He was beginning to hate himself though, and he wondered if Megan had something to do with that new found resentment.
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, in Chinatown, at the restaurant where he met Michael. Michael Thomas sat across from him, looking the way he always looked...
Luke assumed he was probably a closet homo by the way he groomed himself. It was common in L.A. The sandy blond-haired douche smiled, across the table from Luke, at some hole-in-the-wall diner.
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 two-story, though. His home was paid off and well worth it.
Especially at this time in the morning when the sun was barely breaking and you can see the city's dark silhouette.
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...Almost in a distant, but familiar way.
Luke's thoughts drifted to age 14. He remembered this same feeling when it was his turn to present his report at school...
Then the feeling that followed, when the entire class laughed at him choking on his words.
The feeling he had when the words that he worked so hard present were nothing but stutters followed by an entire classroom of laughing peers.
He couldn't breathe. That stupid, familiar feeling...
The acne that covered Tommy's face stuck out in his mind much too easily. I'd love to forget the punk.
But the feeling he got from beating the lights out of Tommy and getting kicked out of school..Then his Mother sending him to a therapist...breathe in, and now breathe out....
But suddenly, Luke could no longer breathe at all. The flashback ended just as quickly as it had come and breathing seemed even further away.
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.
His vocal cords were once again diminished and he felt 14. Helpless and terrified.
Terrified of the angel laying in his back seat...
With her eyes open.
...(to be continued) Thanks for reading. <3