Donovan Bryce sat in his car just a few blocks from the restaurant he had just visited. Unfortunately the visit was for business not pleasure. He remembered how acute the aromas became when he thought for certain he wasn't get out of the establishment alive. They were likely already permeating the air as the cooks in the kitchen worked their magic, but it was only at that moment he became aware of them.

Then he had been given the opportunity to taste their creations, eating despite the hunger he originally had having since dissipated. He knew refusal would have enraged the man who had sat across from him, Frederick Baldi. A seemingly docile individual, but he learned that was just a facade to catch people off guard. Donovan bet it worked almost every single time. Underneath that mask was a very cold, calculating sociopath. It was likely how Baldi had secured his position with the Valentine family. The trait ran deep in that lineage.

Birds of a feather flock together and all that bullshit.

He imagined there were groupings of people within his profession too. Places where like-minded individuals could congregate, swap stories, network for future jobs. Donovan grimaced at the thought of it all. He much preferred to stick on his own. The world he frequented wasn't one bound by any morals or honor. Just money. And where he could once state proudly that he had never crossed any of his lofty rules — turning down any offer involving the dispatching of women, children, or just overall good people — one sit down had diminished those rules to nothing more than guidelines.

Technically he hadn't carried out the assignment yet, but Donovan knew full well what failure to comply would mean. What refusing the job, refusing Benedict Valentine again, would mean. Maybe he could twist and justify it all based on the price he would have to otherwise pay. Embrace a pinch of solace in understanding that it was either their life, or his own. Sure, they may not agree with the assessment, but surely any reasonable person would understand the situation on some level, right? I mean, fuck, they'd do the same if in the same boat. The rationalizing helped some.

He grabbed and opened the manila folder that was sitting in the passenger seat. The first of many photos slid and he caught it was his thumb. An upper body shot of a woman whose youthful skin and shiny blonde hair disguised her age. The next few, being taken from a distance, showed her dainty figure and horrible fashion sense. Though, he supposed it wasn't horrible so much as just... ordinary. That was probably the point.

Frederick had manufactured an entire dossier on his intended target. A woman named Molly Carver.

Someone who his employer believed was directly connected to the death of his only son, Richard Valentine. There were obviously a lot of rumors and discrepancies about Richard's death, but most people in his line of work, and with any critical thinking, never truly believe the "official" story.

And now to sweeten the dish of vengeance, Benedict Valentine had sought him out. Sicced his lackey on him, killing two birds with one stone. Forcing Donovan, who had once refused a contract, to do his bidding — purposely against his personal code — and the assassination of his son's killer. Sociopaths, the whole lot of them. Donovan knew that the odds of him being snuffed after the job was completed were high. The Valentine family hated their loose ends.

All of this served on a platter of false respect. Mr. Baldi's parting words still stung. Never forget this gracious opportunity that Mr. Valentine is bestowing upon you. Second chances are hard to come by. But the deal was sealed. The contract confirmed. He closed the folder, leaving it to be more fully examined elsewhere. Somewhere he could focus and make proper arrangements.

Donovan knew he only had one chance to pull this off. One chance to live, if he wasn't already dead man walking.

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