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Bishop. He rolled the word around in his mind, testing whether it fitted. He quite liked it as names went. It wasnâ€™t a bad one, better than some of the others heâ€™d had, but it wouldnâ€™t be his long enough to matter, anyway.
They never were.
He stared across the hotel dining roomâ€”with white cloths draped over round tables big enough to seat sixâ€”to the woman sitting in the far right-hand corner. She hadnâ€™t clocked him watching her since yesterdayâ€”or at least he didnâ€™t think she hadâ€”and ate her Beef Wellington in delicate morsels, gaze fixed into the far distance as though she had a lot on her mind. And she would have, if the other marks were anything to go by.
He looked at his own plate, the food there unappealing, and wished heâ€™d opted for the Wellington himself. A pork chopâ€”undercooked, the fat around the edge soggy and unappetisingâ€”seemed to mock him, the mashed potatoes next to it just as sloppy, just as stomach-churning. He pushed his plate aside and reached for a glass of water, catching a glimpse of his reflection owing to the harsh lighting from the chandeliers.
Bishop sighed. He appeared in sore need of sleep, those dark circles beneath his eyes the bane of his life. The inch-long scar on his cheekbone from an assignment last year had at last faded from deep pink to a paler shade, but it still marred his otherwise handsome face, still reminded him heâ€™d failed.
The one who got awayâ€¦
He grimaced, placing his glass on the table, turning it this way and that for want of something to do. Occupying his mind on occasions like this was always difficultâ€”he watched, he noted, he waited, over and over again, until his marks did what heâ€™d been told they would and he had to finish them.
A lock of his black fringe caught on his eyelashes, and he shook his head. Focusing on the woman again, he wondered why sheâ€™d been chosen for the job. That long auburn hair of hers would get in the way if she didnâ€™t tie it up, and her slender figure brought forth thoughts of a ballerina rather than an athlete who could cope with running for her life if the need arose. It would, too, if things went to planâ€¦and sheâ€™d be running from Bishop, lungs straining, leg muscles screaming.
Thatâ€™s if she ran. He might get lucky and catch her before she had a chance to flee, but things rarely worked out like that when he was on a job. Heâ€™d had to fight for the end result every time, Fate or Lady Luck poking her big nose in, stirring things up so he failed to get an easy rideâ€¦
He laughed. Couldnâ€™t remember the last time heâ€™d ridden a woman. Relationships were few and far between in his line of work. It was pointless trying to have one, his long hours, days away from homeâ€”weeks, sometimesâ€”didnâ€™t bode well for keeping a woman happy. Still, he had his right hand, and that had been enough. Until heâ€™d set eyes on Fallan Jones. Was that her real name or was she hiding, the same as him? He shouldnâ€™t care, hadnâ€™t in the past, but then his marks werenâ€™t usually so bloodyâ€¦attractive.
Fallan. He rolled that name around too, liking it more every time it echoed in his mind. He imagined calling it out when he came, when she clutched him to her, legs clamped about his waist, crossed at the ankles, heels driving him deeper inside a cunt he imagined would be tight. Soaked.
His cock twitchedâ€”the last thing he needed if Fallan got up and left the dining room. He willed it not to grow fully erect, thankful when it didnâ€™t. He neednâ€™t have worried. It looked as though she was going for three courses tonight. A waiter whisked her plate away, and another came by with desserts on a trolley laden with sweet delights.
She ought to be on that trolley, sweet delight that she is.
No, he mustnâ€™t think of her like that. She was a mark, nothing more, someone who needed taking out before she did any more damage.
She pointed to a high mound of profiteroles, and the waiter spooned several into a white dish, pouring melted chocolate over them with such skill that the brown liquid didnâ€™t dribble down the side of the jug. With the bowl before her, she nodded her thanks and the waiter moved away, pushing the trolley out of the dining room. Odd, that. He usually visited every table.
Suspicion took hold, twisting in Bishopâ€™s mind, a nasty coil of barbed wire that pricked all his senses, putting him on high alert. He stood, casually tugging the hem of his black suit jacket, and walked across the room to the doorway the waiter had gone through. The trolley stood in a corridor, abandoned, all shelves below the top covered with another of those white cloths. He smiled, thinking of every bad action film heâ€™d watched, where a gun-wielding man hid behind the material, ready to pounce.Double doors with circular glass at the top let him know the kitchen lay behind them and that he didnâ€™t have much time. Someone would come out of there in a minute, plate-laden hands held aloft, food piping hot, steam billowing like London fog. He sidled up to the doors and peeked through one of the windows, noting the busy staff in their sauce-stained white uniforms going about their business.