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Chapter 2 | Catherine Vale

Chapter 2

To Catch A Cheetah

Chapter 2

Five years later…

Chase tugged his woolen cap down around his ears to shield them from the cold as he walked briskly through the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. It wasn’t quite winter yet, but fall winds were still sharp enough to nip, especially at night, and it paid to dress warmly.

Not that Chase generally had an issue with body heat, but for some reason, his ears never really seemed to warm up. Genetics, he guessed with a sigh, as he tugged on his cap again. As a shifter he had an internal body temperature that was ten degrees higher than that of an average human, and yet he still suffered from cold ears. Go figure.

He turned down a street lined with brownstones and stopped at the second to last one on the left side of the street. It looked perfectly ordinary, family home just like the others lining this street. Even the security keypad didn’t stand out, not in this day and age when everyone who could afford to was installing state-of-the-art home security systems, even the little old ladies who didn’t know how to use them.

Chase trotted up the steps, ignoring the intercom button as he punched in the five-digit code that would allow him entry to the house. The lock on the door slid free with a soft click, and Chase pushed open the door, stepping into the foyer of the middle-class home. A coat rack stood off to his left, a living area furnished in masculine dark browns and greens to his right, but he availed himself of neither, instead striding past both to the storage closet near the back of the house. Shutting himself in with the cleaning supplies, Chase used his night vision to locate the second keypad hidden behind a panel in the wall, then punched in a different five-digit code. The glass screen glowed green, and then the image of the keypad disappeared, replaced by a print scanner that Chase laid his hand against. It hummed, then glowed green again as it verified him, and the floor shifted abruptly, then began slowly descending beneath the ground.

The hidden elevator reached the bottom of the shaft, and the door slid open to reveal a long, concrete corridor lit with fluorescent bulbs that glowed from the ceiling. Chase followed this corridor down to the end, passing several doors, then turned left down another corridor and entered the second door to his left.

“Alexander,” Guild Master Sharpe greeted him, using his last name as was customary amongst guild members. He stood at the end of the long, oval oak table the guild always gathered around for briefings or meetings of any kind, dressed in a dark navy suit that was tailored perfectly to his broad frame. His salt and pepper hair was leaning more towards grey these days, and his ice blue eyes stood out starkly against his tanned skin.

“Guild Master.” Chase bowed, then inclined his head to Sharpe’s assistant, the slighter, shorter shifter standing next to him. Dressed in dark grey, his black hair slicked back to show off his widow’s peak, Wesley resembled nothing so much as a crow, which was fitting considering that was what he turned into. The shifter inclined his head in return, his mouth pressed into a thin line to indicate his usual displeasure with Chase – not that Chase really gave a rat’s ass. Wesley was a stickler for protocol, whereas the Guild Master had always been more concerned with results, and Chase had never failed to deliver on that front.

“Have a seat.” The Guild Master gestured to one of the high backed, padded wooden chairs, then took a seat himself. Chase followed suit, not bothering to glance around at the opulent furnishings – he’d seen the oak paneled walls, the Persian rugs, and the expensive paintings countless times, and knew exactly where everything in the room was, including several hidden escape routes he was convinced some of the other guild members didn’t know existed. Instead, he settled his gaze on the manila file sitting near the Guild Master’s hand, which he presumed contained, his next mission.

Following his gaze, the Guild Master smiled slightly, then slid the file across the table to Chase. “I suppose we may as well skip the pleasantries,” he said as Chase eagerly opened the file. “As usual, your targets, and everything you need to know about them is in the file.

“Targets?” Chase asked absently, as he studied the profile sheet that was the first page of the file. It showed a picture of a dark-haired vampire with perfectly styled dark hair, and a sinful smile Chase was sure had lured many a willing sycophant to his bed. Disgust curdled his stomach, and he fought back a sneer – he’d always hated vampires.

“Yes, there’s two,” the Guild Master said. “Dane Cunningham, the vampire depicted there, and his daughter, Delilah.”

“Hmm.” Chase flipped to the next page, which showed a young woman with auburn hair and large green eyes that gazed out of a heart-shaped face. A spark of recognition lit off in his brain, and though he couldn’t place the where or the when, he knew he’d seen this woman somewhere before. He studied the file and then frowned. “It says that she’s human.”

The Guild Master nodded. “She’s his biological daughter; he had her before he was turned.

“So he’s a relatively new vampire,” Chase mused, flipping back to study the man’s profile again. “And already he’s managed to piss off the mafia?” He shook his head. “I’d say he was going places if he wasn’t so stupid.”

The Guild Master shrugged. “I suppose he figured that since he’s immortal now, he can get away with doing things like not giving the mob a cut of his cocaine profits,” he said. “The important thing is that we have to take them both out.”

“The daughter,” Chase murmured as he flipped the page again to study her. “She does his books?”

“That’s the information we have,” the Guild Master confirmed. “And our orders are to take them both out, so that’s what we’re going to do.” He studied Chase’s face for a moment. “Is there a problem with that?”

“No, sir.” Chase kept his voice and heart rate even, not giving the Guild Master any indication to think that he was lying. The truth was that they went after humans very rarely since as a shifter guild they were mostly hired to go after supernatural targets, and though he’d killed a few humans in his time, he’d never been asked to assassinate a woman. But if he didn’t do it, someone else was going to, so he might as well take the job. What difference did it really make, with all the blood he already had on his hands?

“Good.” The Guild Master eyed him for a moment longer. “Then you accept full responsibility for this mission, understanding the consequences of both failure and success?”

“I do.” Chase inclined his head. The consequences of success were in reference to the fact that he would be adding another death to his toll, and opening himself up to the possibility of investigation and possible capture by higher authorities. The consequences of failure meant that he would be executed, as the Guild would not suffer an incompetent member to live.

The way Chase saw it, it was all the same, since if he got caught, the guild would kill him anyway to protect their secrets. The only way to stay alive was to do the job he was assigned, and be careful not to leave any trace behind. And considering that he’d been doing this for more than a decade without so much as a close call, he was pretty sure a small-time assignment like this was going to be nothing more than a blip on the map of his long, bloody life.

And yet as he scooped up the file and walked out of the room, he couldn’t help but think that something in his life was about to change, and not necessarily for the better.