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Lesser Evil
Author: Penelope Sky

 

ONE

 

 

CAMILLE

 

 

It was the perfect night.

Million-euro Bugattis, bright-yellow Ferraris, and a few Lamborghinis pulled up to the Parisian estate. Rich people in tuxedos and gowns stepped out, and they let the valets take their cars away. The three-story palace was lit with a golden glow, the fountain in the center splashing with a gentle backdrop of water.

When my driver pulled up to the front, I felt my heart tighten like a fist.

Would the black wig disguise me?

The bright-red lipstick?

The green contacts?

Would he see right through the charade?

The door opened, and Raymond helped me out of the car.

I recognized him.

But he didn’t seem to recognize me.

Hidden in the crowd of aristocrats, I emerged into the downstairs parlor, immediately swallowed by waiters with trays of bubbly champagne and triangles of bruschetta. I had business to take care of, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing a flute and a slice of bread. I enjoyed both, my eyes scanning for the man of the hour.

It didn’t take me long to find him.

As if he had the focus of a spotlight, he was surrounded in that golden glow, a shine to his eyes. A woman was at his side, a petite brunette who had her arm tucked in his, looking up at him like every word he said was utterly fascinating.

His dark hair was slicked back, and his dark eyes looked like fresh espresso first thing in the morning. Instead of holding a flute of champagne, he held a glass of scotch. It was a power move—like everything else he did.

Rich. Powerful. Handsome.

Every man wanted to be him. Every woman wanted him to be her husband.

But he wasn’t quite what he seemed.

I knew the mansion like the back of my hand, so I snuck away from the crowd, keeping my eyes on the butlers to make sure they were distracted, and then made my way upstairs. My heels tapped against the hardwood, but the sound of violins seemed to muffle it. The brightness of the chandeliers disappeared as I arrived on the second floor. The music and conversation were lower, like someone turned the dial on a stereo.

The second floor seemed vacant.

I left my empty flute on the nearest surface then continued up to the third floor.

The anxiety worsened, because now that I was so close to my goal, I was more terrified of losing it. I put my life on the line for this, but it was worth it. I crept to the third floor, careful to remain quiet even though no one was around. My breaths grew louder and labored because my lungs weren’t getting the air they needed. I turned down a couple hallways until I found the spot.

I tried the door.

Locked.

I’d anticipated this scenario, so I pulled out the pins hidden in my hair and tried to open the lock. I picked at it exactly as Bones had told me, hitting the mechanism just right to get the lock disabled. I’d practiced on several doors, but in the heat of the moment, it was hard not to tremble and fumble.

Click.

Thank gawd.

I pushed the door open and found his most prized possessions behind glass, as if it was a jewelry store.

There it sat, right in the center, the pearls iridescent and flawless.

I crept forward and tried to find a door to slide open, a lid to lift, but there was nothing. Then I saw the gentle flash of red light, the alarm that protected all the irreplaceable gems inside.

Motherfucker.

I’d have to break the glass with my elbow, grab the necklace, and hightail it out of there as quickly as possible. The servants had an elevator so they could bring their food cart to the different floors and serve His Grace… or whatever the fuck they called him. I would use that to make my escape, take the elevator to the basement. It was the fastest way to get down there, so they wouldn’t be able to follow me immediately.

“Jet-black isn’t your color, darling.” The deep voice was playful on the surface, making the threat underneath indistinguishable. But it was there, masked by his charm, subtle as it left his handsome mouth.

I released the breath I’d just taken.

“But that dress…was made for you.” His eyes drifted down my body as he spoke. It was obvious in his tone that his gaze ravished my body, that his hands would grab my hips once they came near enough.

I’d come all the way here for this necklace—and I wasn’t leaving without it.

I slammed my elbow against the glass. It shattered into pieces, cutting my arm in the process and setting off the alarm.

I snatched the pearl necklace and ran for it.

He blocked my path, a slight smile on his lips, threat in his eyes. “You think I didn’t recognize you? You think an ugly wig and cheap lipstick are enough to hide all the details my hands could recognize in the dark?”

I faked to my right then ran to my left, my heels wobbling around my ankles.

He grabbed me by the elbow, but his hand slipped on the blood.

I tripped and fell to my knees, the necklace still in my hand.

His heavy body dropped on top of mine, forcing me onto my back, his fingers squeezing my throat so tight I could barely breathe. His handsome face hovered over mine, an indulgent sneer spreading over it. “I knew you’d come back.”

I kicked out my knee but missed my target.

He squeezed me harder. “What is it about that stupid necklace?”

The rage burned me alive, gave me a surge of strength I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I jerked my head up and smacked him as hard as I could.

It hurt like hell, but it was enough to give me time to crawl away.

He grabbed me by the ankle and dragged me back.

We locked into a battle, his hands trying to pin mine down, my legs flailing and kicking whatever I could reach. I bit into flesh, scratched his skin, did whatever was necessary to break free. I got a fist to the face for it, a scar to my neck from the tightness of his choke hold. He wouldn’t kill me—but everything else was on the table.

“Darling.” He pinned me hard to the floor.

“Don’t fucking call me that!” I threw both arms down on his head and found my opening.

I ran for it, but then I halted after only making it a few feet.

The necklace. I’d dropped it.

From his knees on the floor, blood smeared across his teeth, he held up the pearl necklace. “You aren’t going anywhere.” He slowly rose to his feet, ready to pursue me once again.

I had to make a choice. Leave it behind—or become a prisoner once again.

I ran for it, his footsteps loud behind me. I knocked down everything in my path to create obstacles, kicking off my heels because they were only slowing me down, and took the stairs instead of the elevator.

I heard a loud thud behind me, as if he’d slipped on one of my heels.

Good. That’d buy me some time.

I made it to the main floor, and everyone turned to see me sprint down the stairs and push through the crowd.

Surely, he wouldn’t let himself be seen chasing me right in the middle of a dinner party, would he?

When I got to the front door, I turned around and realized how wrong I was.

He had just made it to the bottom of the stairs, his maniacal eyes locked on me with blood lust.

Shit, shit, shit.

I bolted outside and saw a Ferrari parked in the roundabout. The owners had just exited the car and tossed the keys to the valet.

I ran like the wind, snatched the keys out of the valet’s hand, and apologized the whole way. “I swear, I’m not stealing your car!” I jumped in the door, slammed it shut, and hit the lock button.

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