He tipped his glass back and drank some more whiskey. If only he could drink himself to sleep, now, that would be nice. But with the cold, hard knowledge that his life was coming to an end, Sam just couldn’t seem to relax no matter how much he drank.
A slight whisper of sound from behind caught Sam’s attention. He frowned and turned his head. From the corner of his eyes, he watched a dark shadow slip almost silently into his room.
Sam watched as the shadow moved along the wall, seemingly unaware he was there. The person—and it definitely was a person—moved with silent grace, making no sound as they stepped across his library floor. Sam sat still and considered his options. Adrenaline surged as the threat registered in his mind, even through the haze of whiskey.
People didn’t just slip in to libraries in the middle of the night for nothing. Either he was being robbed or someone had other, more chilling ideas. Either way, Sam was a warrior; he was not an average, portly king who allowed his men to do his defending. He trained with his men daily. And he would not accept his castle being breached lightly.
He cleared his throat and the shadow stopped dead. Sam grinned, stood up, flipped on his desk light, and…
The grin he had pulled onto his mouth drooped the moment he saw that the intruder was a woman.
She was dressed in tight black leather trousers, tight black leather Basque and black leather boots up to her knees. Sam raised a brow and watched as she straightened up from her hunched position. Her long black hair was tied tightly and severely off her face, and braided into three long plaits at her back, which shimmered in the low lamplight.
But what struck Sam the most was not the dark hair and sexy clothes, no, it was the ruby red of her lips against her pale flesh.
She was stunning.
Sam watched as her expression morphed from surprised to calculating. Her eyes narrowed and her mouth tightened. She turned and faced Sam fully, and it was then that he saw she was holding a gleaming blade in her hand.
Sam looked at the blade, then up again. He smiled. “Now pretty lady, put that down; you might take your eye out.” Sam pushed a large amount of male chauvinism into his voice, and watched how the tone made the woman flush.
He could see by the way she held the blade that she knew what she was doing, but Sam was also good enough to know he could disarm her easily.
“Are you King Sam?” she asked. Her voice was a mixture of purr and snap, and Sam found that he liked it.
He placed his glass down and puffed his chest. “The one and only,” he drawled.
The woman stiffened her shoulders and took a step closer to him. Sam shook his head
and sat back down in his chair; the woman stopped walking and watched him with a deep frown.
Sam picked up his whiskey, took a sip and eyed her over the rim of his glass. She watched him watching her, her dark brown eyes glittering with confusion.
“So, have you come to kill me? Or rob me?” he asked as he leant his head back against his chair.
“To kill you,” she replied, her head held high, and her blade held loosely at her side—properly, threateningly.
Sam admired her confidence, her cool deliverance of her words, even as he watched fear pass over her pretty face. He searched for any signs of what kind of demon she was, but found none. She had no horns, no tattoos—not that much of her flesh was on show—which Sam thought was a shame. So he guessed she was a human.
“Why?” he asked as he sipped his drink again.
Her eyes flashed and her breathing hitched, and Sam saw her hand twitch on her blade. So, little miss assassin was emotional about the ‘why’s’ of it.
“I don’t think it matters why; it only matters that I am here to deliver your death.” She spoke through her teeth, and Sam watched her advance. She expertly flicked her knife over in her hand, and Sam felt a prickle of unease tickle the back of his neck.
He stood up and began to grin at the idea that the little slip of a woman thought she was going to attack him and win, when she lifted her arm and let the blade fly right at his head.
Sam ducked, just in time for the blade to just miss his cheek. His skin tingled as if it were cut, and when Sam lifted his hand to feel it, his fingers came away wet with blood. He stared at the woman, and anger suddenly overcame him. He jumped over his desk and lunged for her.
She ducked, spun and darted out of his grip. Sam swore loudly and threw the small drinks-table out of his way to get to her. She was fast, agile, and Sam felt as if he was chasing an oiled cat.
The woman growled in temper, picked up a glass ornament and threw it at Sam with deft precision. The heavy object smacked off his shoulder and Sam grunted. Pain lanced his arm and stole his breath, but it only made Sam angrier. He reached across the small reading-table in front of him, not taking his eyes off the girl, and snatched up a letter opener. Her eyes flew wide a moment before she reached around her own belt and slid out a blade so lethal-looking, all Sam could do was laugh. Bitterly.
“Oh, Come on! What’s a little thing like you gonna do with a man’s tool like that?”
Something about his sentence made her eyes flick wide, and Sam saw the moment she had enough. She leapt across the space, her braided hair flying out behind her, and Sam had mere milliseconds to avoid the knife as it slashed down by his shoulder.
She swallowed hard and spoke again. “You keep calling me little assassin, but that’s what I do—not what, or who I am. My name is Snow.”
Sam felt his heart clench at the defense in her tone. He saw the deep furrow on her brow, and felt an answering ache for her. She—Snow—was clearly more than just an assassin. Sam even suspected she was much more.
“I’m Sam. My title is king, but that’s what I do…not what I am, not really.”
Snow smiled, and Sam watched her eyes sparkle a little. He stepped closer to her, drawn to something he couldn’t explain—pulled closer to the only woman who had ever really piqued his interest further than a passing interest.
Snow shifted under the covers, and pulled herself up into a half-sitting position. She winced a little, but Sam watched how she sucked in a deep breath to ward off pain.
Brave little assassin. Brave little Snow. Sam liked her name; it suited her.
“So, Sam, what are you really if not just a king?’ Snow asked.
Sam huffed, and shrugged. “I never really found out,” he replied honestly, still standing in the open space of her room. He didn’t know if she wanted him to stay or go. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, either.
This felt dangerous, risky.
He looked at the door again, debating if he should go. He already knew there was something about Snow that drew him; did he need to add to the draw by getting to know her? She was supposed to be a business deal, nothing more.
“Would you stay for a bit, please, Sam?”
Sam turned and his insides melted, at the way her voice cracked—as if asking for him to stay was hard for her to say. He supposed for a woman as…hard as Snow, it was. And that little weakness, her asking for him to stay, was enough to make him ignore his better sense and listen to the strange need that thrummed forcefully within.
He was a lost man. Someone knife me in the heart, now. Because Sam had a feeling this little assassin was worming her way inside it.
“So you can try to kill me again, Snow?” He grinned, trying his hardest for cool—funny—his usual default personality, when all he wanted to do was pick her up and hold her close to his chest—warm, safe and his.
Really, knife me now.
Snow grinned back and shook her head. “I'll take a day off.”
After a brief hesitation where his head tried to corral his body into leaving, Sam moved to her bed. He was just about to perch on the edge, when Snow stopped him.
“Not on my bed, Sam. Sit on that chair—over there.” Snow pointed to a high-backed chair, her face fierce, her voice scandalised.
Sam laughed. “I think you may possibly be the first woman who has told me to get off their bed in a long time—in fact, ever,” he joked, even as he plunked himself down on the hard chair. Sam ignored the oddly unsettling disappointment, and crossed his hands behind his head.
Snow leaned her head back against the pillows and smiled. Sam couldn’t breathe for a moment as her plump, full, red lips pulled back into a smile so beautiful she stopped all thought in his mind—including the disappointment. Her eyes wandered over his face, and Sam forced himself not to move, or fidget—or adjust his fast-tightening trousers.
“I have no doubt that not many women could resist you, Sam.”