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No Mercy

No Mercy

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No Mercy

Lunghezza:
340 pagine
5 ore
Pubblicato:
Nov 5, 2020
ISBN:
9781682133965
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

When Damon Wessex, commander of England's Royal Black Guard retires, William, the King of England, sets forth a new approach to dealing with their enemies.
Just as skilled, just as fearsome and just as deadly as the king's personal assassin, there is one thing that sets them apart - their gender. Born in the shadows, her identity kept secret from the king's closest advisors, she carries out missions so sensitive that she simply does not exist.
NO MERCY is the story of the beautiful but deadly
Pubblicato:
Nov 5, 2020
ISBN:
9781682133965
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore


Anteprima del libro

No Mercy - Dawn Williams

America

Acknowledgment

For Dave—It’s not easy to live with a writer, as you well know. You catch me talking to myself, I wear pajamas the majority of the time, and you may have even seen in our browsing history ways to kill someone without leaving a trace and how to sneak a bomb onto an airplane, but don’t worry, it’s simply book research. You offer hugs, chocolate, and coffee on cue and give me more inspiration than you know. Thanks for loving me.

For my niece, Kara Dawn—Christmas, 2009—you gave me a priceless gift—a journal. It is from those pages that created this story because you believed in me. This one is for you.

For My Family and Friends—Many thanks for helping me unravel so many story lines and problems, for all those brainstorming sessions at restaurants, in hallways, in parking lots, etc., and last minute read-throughs. Your support is treasured more than you’ll ever know.

Page Publishing—Thank you Dave Rodax and team for making this book the very best it can be!

For Shane Leimgruber—Before I met Shane Leimgruber (Leimy) from Bluffton Utilities in Bluffton, Indiana, my husband, Dave Williams, told me that he was a very special person and that I would never meet anyone like him. It’s true; anyone who knows Leimy knows he’s a jewel and simply unforgettable.

Upon meeting him, I was in the early stages of creating one of the most important chapters of No Mercy; about a witness who risked assassination to come forward to provide details of a murder. I was struggling to flesh out this unique character. After spending time with Leimy, he left an indelible impression on me and it was then I knew the identity of my witness; Leimy.

Thank you for the inspiration, Leimy. I hope you enjoy this book. Your friendship is invaluable to us.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

—Albert Schweitzer

Prologue

Clairvaux Prison

Central France

1832

I’ve been captured.

I awake dazed and confused. It takes way too many minutes for me to realize where I am, but all too soon, I slowly drift out of my heavy fog of unconsciousness and see my dilemma.

Blackness shrouds me with the exception of the barest sliver of moonlight spilling in from a slim bricked window. The cool damp breeze weaves in, as did the stench stifling the air I breathe. I cough sending a piercing knife-edged pain through my chest and ribs.

With one eye matted and swollen shut, I peel open my other eye, just as battered, to discover I lay in the corner of an eight-by-ten-feet prison cell. Thick bars seal any opportunity for my escape. In between the occasional moans and groans of my fellow prisoners, I listen to the early morning chirp of crickets and the crackle of weak tree branches snapping and crashing to the forest floor.

As much as I wish this were a dream, I quickly determine it is a hellish nightmare. And for the first time in my life, I feel a strong surety my death is imminent with each coming hour. This situation, being captured, is the first for me. I couldn’t have landed in an eviler place. Freedom will definitely come at a price. Perhaps the price will be my life.

For that matter, no one escaped France’s formidable Clairvaux Prison. Although many men have tried, many have also failed. If they didn’t die from the fall from the towering walls, they did at the hands of the brutal guards after capture. The guards gave a whole new meaning to the definition of torture, for they were known to place you a breath away from death’s door then snatch you away, allowing you to recuperate only for them to make you suffer more. It is all a game to them.

The cool night air and dampness sent shivers racking up my weak body, causing a painful throb in my head to the tune of my heartbeat. I sit up slowly and press my hand to the back of my head to still the thundering ache and dizziness, but there is no such relief. Instead, I come away with fingertips caked with blood. I must gain my wits about me quickly if I am to survive.

I recall disposing of Geoffrey Westbury, an ex-intelligence officer for what I believe to be two days ago. He made the mistake of infuriating our English king when he botched a prison rescue at Clairvaux because of his lack of planning and arrogance that led to four of England’s prestigious Royal Guards dying at the hands of the brutal prison guards, and now with his latest action of accessing the monarch’s private chambers and stealing a prized gift from a Moroccan sultan, a flawless square pink diamond. On behalf of the king, I was dispatched to teach the thief a lesson he would never forget. And I did. I tracked him to central France, lured him out of his hiding and away from his mistress, and then eliminated him.

However, when I reached my coach, my driver, Jakes, was slumped over the seat, alive but unconscious. Before I could unleash my dagger, my head erupted in blinding white pain, exploding a thousand stars before my eyes and plunging me into darkness.

The only good that has come out of my current situation is Jake’s escape. However, the guards warn they will find him, and his death would be a surety. I have faith that his escape will lead him to King William IV and my father. However, I believe they will encounter difficulty in organizing my rescue. Regrettably, my three brothers are on similar missions in various countries and will not be participating in my rescue, and with that knowledge, I conclude I am truly desolate. Sadly, I am unaware of any man from England capable. Until then, I await my fate.

Meanwhile, my entire body screams in protest at even the barest of movements although far worse is the fiery pain shooting through my right shoulder blade. I tentatively slide my hand over my shoulder and across the jagged cut and flinch at its tenderness.

The guard with a matted dark beard and greasy dark hair that hangs limply down the middle of his back stands next to the flickering torch across from my cell and holds my gaze. If his smile is any indication, he finds immense enjoyment in torturing prisoners and relishes seeing me in excruciating pain.

A moment later, he walks away only to return with another guard of equal size. Purposely, they walk toward me. I don’t have a good feeling about this. I know in my state of weakness, if they attempt to rape me as they tried only hours before, they will possibly be successful this time. But to do so, they’ll have to kill me first.

With the loud rattle of a key ring, one guard unlocks my cell door. I have no strength to fight them off as they roughly grab my arms and drag me bodily from my cell and down the corridor. My knees scrape painfully against the rough dirt and rock mixture of the floor, shredding my skin.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a large gray rat the size of a small pup scurry down the narrow corridor toward me and seemingly not intimidated by humans whatsoever. I refuse to scream and voice my pain. I will not dare give them the satisfaction. Yet I know there is more to come when they lead me to a familiar large, secluded room lit by numerous torches.

They drop me unceremoniously onto the ground. As I eye the four blood-soaked ropes dangling from the crude vaulted ceiling, I know what is coming next, the same torture I experienced the night before.

You’ll tell us what we want to hear now, the guard boasts as he and his counterpart grunts their laughter as they tie my limbs to the thick ropes. They stand back and look proudly upon their handiwork, my body suspended in midair in a standing position. She looks like a fallen angel, his counterpart notes.

She’s no angel! the guard bellows as he absently pats his swollen right eye and cheek. She’s a beast with the limbs of an octopus!

Despite my situation, I laugh low at his comment, consequently making my cheek and ribs ache from last night’s fierce beating. I am far from being an angel and, surely, a sight to behold, clad in filthy, torn black breeches and a blood-soaked white blouse that gapes open, nearly exposing my breasts. The bottoms of my bare feet are sliced open by the guards, so I cannot escape on foot.

Uncontrollable shivers rack my weak body, undoubtedly from blood loss, causing me even more additional pain if that were possible. My teeth chatters and my neck feels like it could snap at any given moment.

Either way, she’ll be hung by sunrise, vows the guard. He gives me a rotten-toothed grin as he picks up his leather whip and walks toward me.

I bow my head and close my eyes. My long hair forms a curtain and shields my battered face as I pray for a swift death, for what they want to hear, I’d never tell them.

***

After awaking hours later, even I’m amazed. I still live to take another breath. Although now I pray I’m not hallucinating, I think I may have imagined the groan of a distant door opening. Upon hearing faint footsteps inside the corridor walking in my direction and a man’s muttered oath, I know I’m not dreaming. I listen keenly to the deathly quiet footsteps, not cumbersome and heavy like the guards. I allow hope to swell in my heart at the slim possibility I may be rescued. I hear the rustle of leather and footsteps halt before me.

Dear god, a man’s voice whispers in a refined English accent. Bloody hell, I’m too late.

My rescuer thinks I’m dead.

Adrenaline rushes through my frail veins while my limbs remain frozen. I concentrate with all my might on moving just one fingertip on my left hand. Suddenly, I hear the whine of a dagger unsheathed. My body involuntarily flinches in a mixture of fear and dread coupled with what little fight I have left in me.

I’m here to help you, he murmurs.

You’re late, I whisper.

Milady has a sense of humor, he returns with a low chuckle as he makes quick work of releasing my body from the heavy ropes. I clench my teeth for even the barest of movement heightens my pain and darkness threatens to cloud my existence.

I fall into his waiting arms and swallow a harsh gasp, fearing I may alert the guards.

Carefully, he lays me upon the cold ground and smoothes back my dirt-laden hair. He swipes the grime and blood from my eyes but due to the swelling, I can only see through a sliver, which is very disappointing, as I want to see the brave face of my rescuer. Instead, I see a vague outline of his tall, powerful body swathed in black leather.

Go to the cell, I direct him.

We can’t, he whispers harshly in return. We have to get the hell out of here.

You must!

He mutters a string of foul curses under his breath.

I sigh in relief when I feel him lift my body gently up into his arms as if I am nothing but a feather pillow and carry me down the corridor toward my cell. My relief is short-lived with each step he takes as it crushes my battered ribs and robs me of my breath.

I point to my cell. I realize I place us in even more danger by taking the chance of capture inside the cell, but I am adamant as I direct him inside and point to the corner. I listen for any alarming sounds, which is difficult in between the captive’s loud snores.

Another round of shivers plagues my weak body. I reach out my trembling finger and tap it against a loose brick.

He lays me softly onto the cell floor, and I listen to him work quietly to loosen the brick from the wall. Inside, he finds my small black leather satchel and tucks it inside his vest.

I’m going to have to place you over my shoulder in order to have one hand free in case we run into resistance, he forewarns me. I have no time to swallow my scream before he picks me up, lays me over his shoulder, and runs with me not stopping until he reaches the boundaries of the prison leading into the perimeter of the inner courtyard.

Never have I felt such excruciating pain and pray that I will fall unconscious so I may experience the painless floating oblivion of dreams, but I fear that may not be the case.

Reaching the gate, the hinges protest mightily, gaining the attention of a guard. He’s coming after us.

My rescuer whirls around and hurtles a knife through the air at a blurring speed, hitting the guard dead center in his chest and killing him instantly. Maybe England does have such a capable man after all.

Who is this man?

The long trek up the hill and through the dense woods proves treacherous due to dew-laden grounds. A twig breaks a short distance behind us. I swallow my heart, fearing our capture and the all-consuming brutal deaths I know he and I will face at the hands of these savages if caught.

The wind rustles as an arrow jets by us. It grazes the tip of his right shoulder and immediately trickles blood down his back. He never flinches or stops running. I try lifting my hand to place over his wound to stop the bleeding but cannot. I loathe my weakness.

A second later, another arrow soars through the air slamming into a tree trunk less than a couple of inches from us. The thud of heavy footsteps nears as he quickly maneuvers us into the darkness of the woods and sets me against a tree trunk atop wet leaves.

Guard, he whispers the single word ominously.

Through the moonlit shadows, I watch him hide behind a thick trunk tree until the guard is upon him then he steps out and takes the guard by surprise as he wraps his heavily muscled arm around the guard’s throat.

He wastes not a second.

A loud snap pierces the quiet nighttime air.

The guard’s eyes are lifeless when he drops him violently to the ground less than a foot away from me.

A whistle signals in the near distance.

My brother is waiting across the ridge for us, he informs me.

The sweetest words I’ve ever heard.

Once again, he gathers me gently up in his arms and once again lays me over his broad shoulder.

He runs with me toward the Aube River as a fury of arrows rain down all around us. He never gives a backward glance until we are safely aboard the massive ship. Uncontrollable shivers tear through my body as I battle the cool night air. Unselfishly, he unbuttons his jacket and pulls me tightly against him lending me his body heat. I lay my cheek against his chest, listening to his hammering heartbeat, and I never feel so safe and thankful in all my life. I know only a handful of people who would be willing to risk their life for me, an assassin; yet this man, a stranger, did so although I’m sure he’s unaware of my occupation. I pray I survive this ordeal, so I may thank him in person.

The French guards fight fiercely for my return, so they can undoubtedly torture and kill me. They put up a hefty fight for miles downstream, however, the king’s guards quickly squash their efforts, and we are able to escape unharmed.

The king’s guards will pick you up momentarily, he whispers in my ear.

While he holds me close, my lips are only a breath away from the column of his throat. I give into my urge and place my cool lips against his neck. I can’t resist, especially knowing there is every possibility that I may never meet this brave man.

Thank you, I whisper.

My actions jolt him. He jerks back and looks down at me curiously. I feel his warm sweet breath flutter across my cheek, sending a tingling down my spine.

Suddenly, I feel blackness hovering, threatening to swallow me. I fight it. I yearn to know the man who risked his life to save me.

You’re welcome. Who are you? he asks.

Just as I am about to lie to him because I cannot tell this stranger the truth, I glimpse up to see my father’s agonized face.

Is she alive? he asks.

Barely, my rescuer replies, and then I know no more as a sense of peacefulness washes over me. I close out of this world, knowing I’m going home and thinking about my rescuer and praying our paths will someday cross again.

1

Castle Kendrick

Outskirts of London

Four months later

Time is ticking.

From the dance floor, I hear the grandfather clock strike ten thundering chimes. I skirt around the enthusiastic crowd of mask revelers, leaving the ballroom and exiting the castle. I rip off my dance card, pick up my skirts, and walk quickly up the winding path illuminated by lanterns. Every so often, I glance over my shoulder to ensure no one follows me. I cannot afford to have witnesses.

The grounds are serene as guests are inside, enjoying the masquerade festivities. I follow the shadowy path down the riverbank where I catch sight of a man wearing a flamboyant jester costume and black mask.

My target stands less than twenty feet away from me.

Vincente Guiliano.

Adrenaline pulses through my veins as I raise the hem of my gown and untie the scroll attached to my right thigh.

Mr. Guiliano.

He whirls around, looking somewhat startled at me. Through his mask, his eyes give me an appreciative sweep.

Yes, I’m him, he informs me as he steps in front of me, bowing low and kissing the back of my gloved hand.

On the outside, Vincente Guiliano’s tall stature and muscular build looks pleasing to the eye coupled with his dark raven hair and olive skin. He possesses a mesmerizing smile. However, on the inside, he is a ruthless man not to be crossed. As the formidable crime lord of the DeManzi Organization, he has infiltrated himself solidly into London’s underground and has wreaked havoc on the innocent.

We meet at last, he drawls as he looks at me intently with his piercing mink eyes.

Are you ready to do business? I ask.

He shrugs and gives me a mocking laugh.

I smile at him over my shoulder as I stroll away from the clearing into the cover of the trees. As I hope, he follows me out of sight of any wandering guests.

I hand him the scroll. He barely spares a glance at the parchment tied with a blood-red silk ribbon and doesn’t bother to open it. Instead, he gives me a lazy smug smile and steps closer. The scent of strong liquor laces his breath. I really want to kill him this very moment and be done with it.

What will it take to have you all to myself tonight? he whispers huskily.

Well, I muse, nothing short of a miracle, I’m afraid. In the meantime as you contemplate how that miracle will occur, you may want to review the list of my contacts, I offer with a nod toward the scroll.

I trust you. That’s the least of my concern. His dark eyes bore hungrily into mine.

My gaze narrows on him. Well, that’s a shame because it may have prolonged your life maybe a minute or two.

Confusion reigns in his eyes for an instant then he abruptly throws back his head and roars with a rich deep laughter.

I take this opportunity to thrust my fist forcefully against his throat, the area closest to his chest, his trachea to be exact, successfully collapsing his windpipe and immediately sealing off his air supply.

He drops to his knees and doubles over in pain.

Mr. Guiliano, you and I have a similar acquaintance, Melisande Cavanaugh. The same lady, by your order eight years ago, was shipped from her homeland in Ireland to Venezuela where you enslaved her to work in your brothels. You and your henchmen led her to believe she was starting a new life. Fortunately, she escaped but only after years of abuse, and here we are today. She’s the same lady you met in London three months ago and fell hopelessly in love with. She gave you a lead into buying full interest into my trafficking businesses in three neighboring countries.

His face turns a mottled red and bluish hue as he looks up at me with wide, disbelieving eyes. He chokes on his blood while it spews from the corners of his mouth. All the while, I stare at him with unveiled contempt.

These past months, I learned you are a careless and impatient man and you value money and power above everything else and care not whose lives you destroy in your path. Because of your greed, you drained your organization of every red cent and paid me handsomely. Therefore, it gives me the greatest pleasure to inform you that I’m not a brothel owner, nor am I involved in the business of human trafficking. It was a façade. The money you’ve paid me was donated to the local orphanages. The days of you selling young women and children into slavery are over.

On wobbly legs, he stands and shakes his head vehemently in denial at me. He tries to speak but his speech is garbled. My eyes catch a glint of silver, a dagger he clutches in his right hand. His eyes are wild as he staggers forward and lunges wildly at me. His strength is colossal as we wrestle over the dagger, and he manages to plunge it through my gown, slicing into my right thigh. Fury rips through me. It’s time to end his life. I twist his wrist and slam my elbow into his face disorienting him and allowing the dagger to tumble to the ground.

Pain shoots up my thigh as I bend over and swiftly scoop up his dagger and ram it into his thigh, immobilizing him. His arms flail as he continues to try to fight me while I hold him in my grasp. Clutching my cross necklace, I squeeze the center of the large emerald stone. The necklace disengages from the bottom half, becoming a deadly razor-sharp dagger. I thrust the dagger into his juggler vein. Blood spurts to the rhythm of his heartbeat. I take a quick step back to avoid any blood splatters and to ensure I keep my gown clean for when I make an appearance back inside the castle for my alibi.

It takes only a gentle nudge from me for him to fall face forward into the rushing gurgling river. I predict he’ll flow through the Thames River within a few hours.

I feel such relief knowing the deed is finally done. I kneel and feel piercing pain coursing up my thigh as I swirl my dagger into the water and wash away his blood. I pluck a leaf from a nearby tree and wipe my blade clean then snap my cross necklace back in place.

On my way out, I reach down and pick up the scroll lying discarded on the ground that is nothing more than a map I used to distract him. I find the nearest lantern and let the corner of the scroll catch fire. Within seconds, it disintegrates into a pile of ashes. Seeing nothing other than wandering guests some distance away, I spy a vacant bench nearby and breathe a sigh of relief. I limp over and sit down heavily on the bench. Carefully, I raise the hem of my gown to assess my wound. Blood rushes down my leg. It burns like hell.

After removing bloodied layers of tulle clinging to my gash, I peel off my bloodstained stockings and toss them into a nearby bush. The slash is about an inch deep. The edges are puckered, gaping, and need to be bound quickly to stop the bleeding. From the underside of my gown, I rip a couple bands of clean tulle and use them as a makeshift bandage. I lower my gown just in time to hear a set of muffled footsteps approaching.

My head snaps up. Warning spasms of alarm ripple through me as I watch a tall, lanky man with dark blond hair dressed formally in a dove-grey suit and matching mask saunter up the hillside toward me. With his hands stuffed deep in his breech pockets, he carries a confident smile on his thin lips.

I grind my teeth in irritation and plaster a smile on my face. The last thing I want or need is a man’s company.

Here sits the most exquisite woman at this masquerade ball, and yet she’s all alone, he announces with his nasal-sounding voice that instantly grates against my nerves.

I train my eyes on his every movement.

With a perfunctory bow, his cold, clammy hand reaches for mine. Good evening, milady.

Good evening, I reply. I feel his grip tighten, and after failing to release my hand, I jerk my hand away.

Your name? the man arrogantly demands, coming to stand before me, blocking my view of the revelers.

This is a masquerade ball. Therefore, I seek anonymity on this eve, sir, I inform him all too sweetly while simultaneously mashing my lips together at his highhandedness and try to look around him.

His expression clouds with annoyance as he sits down next to me without so much

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