Read Sister Assassin Online

Authors: Kiersten White

Sister Assassin


To Erin, Lindsey, Lauren, and Matthew—siblings, friends, partners in crime

to peel it off and I want to kick Aunt Ellen for making me wear it. And it's short, my legs in white tights stretching out too long under the hem. I haven't worn this dress in two years, not since I was nine, and I hated it then, too.

Annie's dress is just as stupid as mine, but at least she can't see how dumb we look. I can. I don't want to be embarrassed today. Today is for being sad. But I am sad and embarrassed and uncomfortable, too.

It should be raining. It's supposed to rain at funerals. I want it to rain, but the sun bakes down and it hurts my eyes and everything is sharp and bright like the world doesn't know the earth is swallowing up my parents.

My parents. My parents. Mom and Dad.

Annie cries softly next to me, her head bent so low we're nearly the same height. I'm glad she can't see any of this, can't see the caskets, can't see the mats of fake green grass around them. Just show us the dirt. They are going in the dirt. I would rather see the dirt.

I reach out and take Annie's hand in mine. I squeeze it and squeeze it because she is my responsibility now, and no one else's.
I'll take care of her
, I promise my parents. I'll take care of her.

spaniel puppy, I know I won't be able to kill him.

This, of course, ruins my entire day.

I tap my fingers (tap tap tap them) nervously against my jeans. He's still helping the puppy, untangling the leash from a tree outside the bar. And he's not only setting it free, he's talking to it. I can't hear the words but I can see in the puppy's tail that, however he's talking, he's talking just right, all tender sweet cheerful comfort as his long fingers deftly untwist and unwind and undo my entire day, my entire life. Because if he doesn't die today, Annie will, and that is one death I cannot have on my conscience.

Why did he have to help the puppy? If he had walked by like he was supposed to, I could have crossed the street, followed him into the alley, and ended his life as anonymously as possible.

Now he is more than a photo and a location. He is panting-puppy salvation. He is legs that stick out at grasshopper angles as he gives the spaniel one last ear rub. He is shoes scuffed up and jeans worn thin and dark hair accidentally mussed. He is eyes squinting because of forgotten sunglasses and heavy backpack throwing off his balance. He is too-big ears and too-big smile and too-big eyes and (too-big too-big too-big) too real for me to end.

I stay in the shadowed recesses across the street. Why did they send me on this one? Why couldn't it have been stealing bank account information from a CEO or blackmailing a judge? I could have done those. I do those. All the time.

I haven't messed up this bad in two years. I've done everything James asked me to, everything Keane wanted me to. I've kept Annie safe, and so what if how we're living is no way to live, at least it's
. James let me come alone on this trip, and I know it's a test to see if I'm really theirs, if they can trust that my need to protect Annie cements me to them forever, no matter what horrors I'm doing. I can't mess up.

Technically I haven't yet, I could still do it, I could still keep Annie safe and sound in her room where she sees nothing but fractured visions of life. Maybe she's already seen this, maybe she knows it ended for us the moment this boy helped that puppy and became a person to me.

That dumb dog has killed us all.

But the decision is made and I have to cross the street and finish what I've begun. Now. I can't plan it. Planning isn't safe—it begs for Seers to spy on you. I have to just go.

My feet step onto the asphalt, carry me across, and I don't know what to do. For so long my brain has been trained to ignore the
pulsing constantly, trained to work in spite of knowing everything I'm doing is always bad. Now I am thinking only for myself, using my instincts for my own good.

Which, for whatever reason, means this guy needs to come with me now, somewhere I don't know yet, but I feel like north is the right direction. I am about to become the grateful owner of the silky-eared engineer of my destruction.

“You found my puppy!” A voice that is not my own but what he needs to hear slips out of my mouth, and the instant his eyes meet mine (gray, he has gray eyes, I would have closed his gray eyes forever), I know I have him for as far north as I need to go, and after that I will figure it out.

Planning is not my friend. Impulse is.

“This is your dog?” he asks, and his voice is deeper than I thought it would be and as kind and warm and untainted by violence as I knew it would be. He takes me in, my wide blue eyes, china doll lips, long brown hair: I am the picture of teenage innocence.

I lean down and pull the dog toward me. No tag on the collar, I get to name it. “Yes! Thank you. My dad—” I hesitate and look toward the bar. His gaze follows mine and then snaps back, sympathetic color flooding his face on my behalf.

Guys are so easy.

I stand, keeping my eyes on the dog as though I can't bear to meet the boy's instead. “Well, uh, he was supposed to be back two hours ago. I got worried. Chloe needs to eat.”

“I didn't find her,” he says, his voice soft and bright to try and compensate for my embarrassment. “Just untangled her. She's a great dog.”

My cue to look up and recover. “She is, isn't she? She's my best friend in the whole world. Oh, gosh, that makes me sound like a loser.” I giggle just like I should. He smiles. (His gray eyes, they will haunt me forever with what I would have done—what I still could do—what I still should do—oh, Annie, have you already seen this? Did you know when I left that I'd kill us both?)

“No, not at all. I love dogs. I had a German shepherd growing up; I still miss him.”

I twist the leash around my hand, drawing his attention there. Small hands, safe hands, hands he probably thinks he might like to hold once he figures out whether or not I'm too young for him. It makes me sick to look at my hands. “There's a deli a few blocks away where I can get something for Chloe. Do you—I mean, if you aren't doing anything, I'd love to say thank you for helping my puppy, and if you wanted to come along, I could—it'd be my treat?”

I know he's going to say yes before it comes tumbling out of his lips and I smile in shy delight. He wants to get away from the bar of my pretended shame, and he wants to get to know me better and figure out whether or not I'm old enough for him to be interested in.

What on earth can this stuttering-arms-and-legs-and-nervous-hands guy have done to get on Keane's hit list? I'll have to find out. Because I'm going against Keane (oh no, oh no, they will kill us both) and I need to know as much as I can to try and fix it. When they give me things to do, they never tell me why. Just what. They want me operating on as little information as possible. I'm not like the other girls, the ones who choose to help them, who like money and power.

They know I have no choice, but if I did, they'd all be dead.

“It's this way.” I walk in the direction we need to go. It feels right, in the same way you feel a drop coming up on a roller coaster before you go over the edge. I'm falling, but I'm falling exactly how I'm supposed to.

“I'm Adam, by the way.”

“Oh,” I say, with another giggle. “Yeah. I'm Sofia.” I almost miss a step. I told him my name—my real name. Why did it come out like that? I always lie. “My friends call me Fia, though. Or, well, I guess my dog does, since I already told you she's my only friend.”

He laughs again. He likes me so much and he wants to know how old I am—I can read it in every line of his body. “Do you live around here?” he asks.

“Just visiting. Kind of a field trip, I guess.” I see his eyebrows rise involuntarily and even though I am a dead girl walking I smile, really smile. He's scared now, but not of what he should be. “I'm seventeen.”

A relieved exhalation. “Oh, good. No offense, but you look young.”

“They always tell me I'll like it when I'm older.”

“They said the same thing when I was the awkward, horrible, six-foot two-inch wonder at thirteen.” He smiles, remembering, and I wonder what he was like then. I wonder what he is like now. “I'm nineteen, by the way, just in case maybe I look a lot older or younger than I really am.”

“No, you look exactly like what you really are.” He does not lie, this nineteen-year-old boy. With his body or his face or his mouth. My finger taps out the why-why-why of his death. “Do
live around here?”

“Studying, actually. At the university hospital.”

“Are you going to be a doctor?” My voice is tinged with a bit of awe. I think it's right for what he thinks of me, but my eyes are tracing the lines of the empty sidewalks stretching out in front of us. I still don't know where we are going; I let the dog trot to the end of the leash.

I wonder if Keane has a Seer (other than Annie) talented enough to see me yet. I wonder how I am going to hide this from the Readers and the Feelers. I wonder how bad it will hurt to die, and if I will mind so terribly much after all.

“In a way. I'm really more on the research side than treating people. When do you graduate?”

I turn with my smile, ready to make something up, and I see them.

Three men. Dark clothes, thin jackets, nothing notable about any of them. They are not looking at us as they approach from the next street over. They are coming for him or for me or for both of us.

Dear, dear intuition: Why did you lead me in this direction? Because being ambushed by three men is not my idea of a good plan. At least they aren't women; my thoughts and emotions are still safe. Men can't get in my head.

“Come on,” I say, tugging the leash and hurrying down the sidewalk.

“What kind of field trip are you on? Will you be in town for a while?”

“I have no idea. My plans changed about five minutes ago.” I look over my shoulder to see the men, three (tap tap tap—I hate the number three), thick shoulders, one gun between them based on the way the guy in the middle is walking (that was a mistake, they should all have guns—guess they'll find out), matching our pace and getting closer.

Maybe I don't remember what it's like to not feel wrong all the time. Maybe without the constant low hum of pain in my head, the twist of my stomach, that feeling you get just before something bad happens that you can't know is going to happen but you know anyway, the feeling that has been my constant companion these last five years—maybe without it I'm nothing. Maybe I can only choose right when I'm choosing on someone else's orders. Maybe I am about to die even sooner than I thought.

I lean over and scoop up Chloe, burying my face in her silky fur. Okay. I can die today. If I die, they'll never know I didn't do what they told me to, and Annie will be safe. Keane can't use her to punish me if I'm dead. But I'm going to get Adam out, because otherwise this whole thing was pointless.

“In here.” I veer into a narrow alleyway between looming brick buildings. It's open on both ends, good, no recessed doorways, not as good, but it'll do.

“Is this a shortcut?” he asks, looking back over his shoulder to see what I keep looking at.

I set Chloe down and unhook her leash. “Shoo,” I say. She looks up at me with her sorrow eyes, and I let out a low growl from the back of my throat. “SHOO!” Tail between her legs, she scampers out of the alley and to safety.

That's one of us.

“What did you—why did you let your dog go?”

“Not my dog.” I put my hands on my hips and look up into Adam's confused face. “Listen carefully. I was here today to kill you.”

An unsure smile twists his lips as he shifts his weight, trying to figure out how to tell me my joke isn't funny. “Uh, that's—”

“If I were going to kill you, you'd already be dead. I don't know why you're supposed to die, I'm hoping you can tell me, but right now we don't have time because three men are about to come in the alley and either they want to kill you or me or both of us. Which sucks. So stay out of my way and I'll try to get us out.”

He opens his mouth to ask what I'm talking about when the three men turn into the alley and slow down, approaching us with wary eyes and tight smiles. Their smiles are lies.

Most smiles are.

“There you are,” I say. I stand in front of Adam, casually putting myself between him and the three men. Dark hair on the right—movements tight, too much muscle mass, won't be quick. Sandy blond in the middle, packing the gun, will try not to engage in hand-to-hand because he's psychologically dependent on his weapon. Stubble on the left—lean, fluid movements, my biggest problem.

They stop right in front of me, and I still haven't figured out which one of us they are here for.

“James didn't tell me I'd have backup,” I say. Their eyes flicker to each other, only a split second, but it's enough. They aren't with Keane. “He really needs to warn me about these things. Would've saved me the trouble of pretending to flirt with Lurpy.” I jerk a thumb toward Adam, deliberately not saying his name. “You guys got it from here?”

Sandy blond with the gun smiles, his teeth wide and white and even. “Yeah, of course. We'll take Adam with us.” Bingo. They know who he is.

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