To Catch A Cheetah
“Is there anything else we can do?”
Chase sighed at the pleading look in Delilah’s large, beguiling eyes, wishing that he could honestly answer yes to her question. “The third option is where we both walk away, and try to go it alone, and end up dead within a week. Though,” he admitted thoughtfully, “I’d probably have much higher chances of surviving without you holding me back anyway.”
“Yeah, well,” Delilah snapped, her eyes sparkling fire now. “Not everyone can be a badass shifter assassin, like you, now can we?”
“True, which is why your best chances of survival lie with me.” Chase raised a brow. “So what’s it going to be?”
Delilah pursed her lips. “I don’t see what difference it makes if running with you is going to get me shot anyway.”
Chase shrugged. “Chances of survival depend on our ability to get moving, which ought to be now, considering that we’ll have an entire guild of assassins looking out for us,” he said. “But thankfully my Guild Master’s reach doesn’t extend too far, so there are limits to what he can do, though admittedly not many.”
“I’m not sure if that’s all that reassuring.”
“Think of it as a kind of adventure then,” Chase suggested. “A chance to travel, to experience the thrill of danger, and the excitement of seeing new places and new faces. Something I imagine you probably didn’t get much of here, with your father.”
Delilah snorted. “You sound like a travel agent trying to sell me an all-inclusive cruise package or something.”
Chase’s lips twitched. Delilah’s spunk and sense of humor were oddly refreshing… and unfortunately distracting, he realized as he checked his watch. “We don’t have much time,” he observed with a frown. “If we’re going to do this, we have to decide right now.”
Delilah’s eyes widened. “Is someone going to come after us already?”
“Yeah, I’d suspect so,” Chase admitted. “This was supposed to be a relatively simple job, and if I don’t report back soon they’re going to be suspicious.” Not to mention that his Guild Master had already been a little suspicious, Chase recalled with a wince. He should have known better than to give himself away like that.
“Right.” Delilah got to her feet and brushed some imaginary dust off her leggings. “I guess I’m going with you, then.”
“Great. Then let’s get you packed.”
* * *
“Are you sure going to your apartment is a good idea?” Delilah asked, gnawing on her lower lip as Chase navigated the car through traffic. She wasn’t sure whether or not she was more nervous about his racecar maneuvers, or the fact that they were shooting through Midtown in a stolen car he’d boosted a few blocks from her house.
Or maybe it was just that they were running for their lives. There were so many things to be worried about right now, that Delilah wondered if she could keep track of it all. She’d just spent the past fifteen minutes packing what she could of her life in a small duffle bag, which included only the bare essentials as Chase had warned her they could carry nothing indicative of the lives they were about to leave behind. It had been particularly hard to leave behind the photograph of her mother holding her as a baby, as it was the only proof Delilah had that she’d ever had a mother in the first place – she’d died not long after Delilah was born. But deep down inside she knew that if her mother had been alive, she would have wanted her daughter to do whatever it took to keep herself safe – and if that meant leaving behind mementos, then so be it.
“If there was any way that I could avoid it, I would,” Chase admitted with a scowl, as he cut off a Mercedes by swerving into the left lane, and then hanging a sharp turn that caused Delilah to push against the door. She was pretty sure the little Geo Storm that Chase had boosted wasn’t meant for these kinds of maneuvers, even if it had been spruced up with a nice little paint job that made it look flashier than it was. She sincerely hoped that they were able to get it back to its owner; it was clear this was somebody’s first or second car, and she’d hate to be the one to take it away from them. “I have to go pick up a few things that I’ll need in case we have to leave the country at some point.”
“Like what?” Delilah asked.
“New identity… including a passport.” Chase replied, his eyes never leaving the road. “I had one made awhile back, just in case. You can never be too careful.”
“You had a fake passport made? Why?” Delilah frowned. “Wouldn’t your… umm… agency provide them to you?”
“Guild,” Chase corrected, “and yes, but this is one they don’t know anything about.”
“What made you decide to make your own?”
Chase sighed. “I’m thirty five years old,” he told Delilah as he turned down another street corner. “In the assassin world, that’s considered middle age, and when you get to being middle aged you have to start thinking about the future.” He paused. “It occurred to me that I might want to get out of the assassin business someday, so I took some steps toward making that happen.”
Delilah’s lips formed a small ‘o’. “So they don’t let you retire at the Guild?”
Chase shook his head. “Not really. When you’re past your prime, you simply get moved up to… management,” he said. “And while I might have decided to go that way when the time came, I wasn’t willing to box myself into a corner by making that my only option.”
“I see.” Delilah was silent for a long moment as she thought about everything Chase had told her. “Sounds like you don’t exactly have it easy as an assassin.”
Chase barked a laugh. “That’s an understatement,” he said, and then his eyes softened as he glanced at her. “But, I have to admit, it’s nice to have someone to talk about it with.” He reached out and squeezed her hand gently.
Delilah opened her mouth, but before she had a chance to say anything Chase pulled into an alleyway behind an apartment complex, and parked the car. He stared at her for a long moment, then said. “I wish I could leave you in the car, but I can’t risk it. You’re going to have to come up with me. And we need to be in and out quickly.”
“Okay.” Delilah’s heart jumped in her throat as Chase got out of the car and scanned the area, clearly looking for threats. The seriousness of the situation was just starting to hit her, she realized as adrenaline started pumping through her veins, making her jittery. She’d entered a world of intrigue, and danger the moment she’d stepped out of her house with the man who was sent to kill her – the man who was her only hope of staying alive.
He gave her a signal, and she got out of the car, praying for her legs to hold her steady. She’d changed out of her dress and coat, trading them for a more practical pair of jeans, sneakers, a hat, and a jacket with a collar high enough to cover the bite marks at her throat, and was suddenly grateful for the drab attire – it would mean less eyes looking her way. Chase came over to her, his dark blue eyes hard as he surveyed her, making sure she was ready.
“Stay behind me and do exactly as I say,” Chase ordered quietly. “If I tell you to run, you run. Don’t try to be a hero – anyone we might meet could slay you in a heartbeat, and I can take care of myself so don’t try to help.” He flashed her a brief grin, then headed for the back stairway, and she followed.
They climbed to the fourth floor, and by the time they got to Chase’s apartment door Delilah’s legs were aching. I guess I’ve got to get in better shape, Delilah thought, shooting a sour glance at Chase, who wasn’t even remotely out of breath. She was so not built for this kind of life. But all thoughts of her aching legs flew out the window, as Chase’s expression grew deadly serious, his hand hovering on the doorknob.
“There’s someone waiting for us inside,” he murmured out of the corner of his mouth. Delilah’s eyes widened, and he clapped a hand over her open mouth before she could say anything. “Don’t speak. I’m going to take care of him, but I need you to stay out here until it’s over, okay?”
Wait outside where someone else could come and grab her? Her eyes must have screamed her thoughts, because Chase grimaced and said, “Yeah, I know. But it’s the best I’ve got. Here,” he said, sliding a dagger from his boot and handing it to her. “Use this if you need to.”
A gun would have been better, Delilah thought, shooting him a venomous glare, but she took the dagger, and slid the blade from its sheath. The wickedly sharp blade gleamed in the afternoon sunlight, and she suddenly felt a little safer, knowing this thing would definitely do some damage if she struck with it.
She turned to thank Chase, but he was already gone, the open front door, the only indication that he’d been there at all.