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Excerpt for El Diablo by
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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


www.evernightpublishing.com




Copyright© 2018 Sam Crescent and Stacey Espino



ISBN: 978-1-77339-818-1


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: Karyn White



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



EL DIABLO


Killer of Kings, 6


Sam Crescent and Stacey Espino


Copyright © 2018


Chapter One


Xavier slid the patio door closed behind him, careful not to make a sound. The rich scent of coffee wafted in the air. Most people loved the smell. He fucking hated it. He pushed away childhood memories of picking coffee beans in his bare feet for twelve grueling hours a day. Right now, he needed to stay focused.

He was there to kill a man.

The oceanfront paradise belonged to a dirty trader. He’d pissed off the wrong people, spreading rumors and creating false market values. The men who’d lost millions because of him had hired Killer of Kings for some swift justice.

Xavier had been working for the notorious group of hitmen for over ten months now. He’d done his training with Chains and Killian, and he’d been fulfilling contracts for a few months. The work paid well, so he couldn’t complain.

Lazy footsteps shuffled down the hallway. He twisted a silencer onto the end of his Glock, not liking the leather gloves Boss insisted he wear. Mr. Strogonov wasn’t expecting him this morning. Nobody wanted a visit from El Diablo.

He watched as the man lifted the carafe from the coffeemaker and poured himself a drink. He wore a plush navy bathrobe and matching slippers, humming a carefree tune as he puttered around the kitchen. Strogonov was forty-three, only a few years older than Xavier himself. The bastard had some city miles, probably from the stress of ripping off his associates. When he turned around and noticed Xavier sitting at his dining table, he dropped the mug, the ceramic pieces scattering on the marble floor.

“Who are you?” His voice trembled, his lower lip quivering.

“Who do you think I am?”

The man looked from side to side, then reached for his neck.

“Your personal alert won’t work. I’ve already deactivated it. You didn’t think they’d hire an amateur, did you?”

W-who hired you?”

Xavier smirked. “You have more than one enemy? You’ve been busy.” He waved an arm in the air. “Stealing certainly pays well, doesn’t it?”

“I never stole anything.”

He set his gun on the glass tabletop with care, then stood up, slowly pushing the chair back into place. He rolled out his shoulders. “You’re far from innocent, Mr. Strogonov.”

I can pay you. Whatever they’re giving you, I’ll do better. Name your price.”

There was no reason for him to talk to this guy. Strogonov could beg and cry and offer him the world. It wouldn’t do any good once Killer of Kings was contracted. This was more than money; it was about reputation, respect, and getting the job done. He’d spent a lot of time with Boss and his men over the past year, and for the first time in his life, he felt connected. Being on top, ruling with an iron fist in some of the most ruthless gangs and cartels never fulfilled him. It only added to the loneliness, the disconnect he’d always felt. Chains and the other players at Killer of Kings were his equals, and the level playing field was surprisingly satisfying.

I need you to write a confession letter. Go on, grab a paper and pen. I’ll wait.”

“What for?”

He took a deep breath and exhaled. “Don’t make me ask you twice.”

The man scrambled around the kitchen, opening and closing drawers. Sweat beaded on his forehead, highlighting his receding hairline.

The top drawer beside the sink,” he said. “And bring a glass of water back with you.” Xavier had already scoped out this place, and taken all the steps to ensure the contract went smooth and clean. He had something to prove to Boss. Once the man had the pad, pen, and water, he continued, “Now, you’re going to apologize and spell out exactly what you did to alter the market.”

Once he had the suicide note, he could finish this hit. His gun was only a precaution.

I can’t do that. They’ll lock me away for the rest of my life.”

He shook his head. Jail was the last thing this bastard should be worried about. “Do you know what they called me back in Colombia?” Xavier massaged one of the man’s shoulders, making him flinch. “El Diablo. If you don’t know, that means The Devil. Some said I was a sociopath, that I lacked empathy. Others were more blunt, calling me a monster. Maybe they were right. But monsters aren’t born—they’re made.” He could have gone on, talking about his bullshit childhood, being sold to the barrio gang to pay a debt his mother owed. About the little sister torn from his arms. Sometimes he unloaded it all, knowing whoever he told was about to meet their maker. It was his therapy, a confession of his sins. He shoved Strogonov down into a chair. The man whimpered. “You don’t want to piss me off.” The trip down memory lane plus a wicked case of blue balls had put him in a less than stellar mood.

Once everything had been written out, Xavier neatly folded the paper and tucked it into the breast pocket of Mr. Strogonov’s robe. “Very good,” he said. “Now take these with the water.” He set two pills on the table beside the glass.

“What are they?”

Don’t worry about it. Take the damn pills.” He picked up his gun to punctuate this sentence.

Within minutes of swallowing the lethal drugs, Strogonov slumped over the glass table, the water spilling.

Drip, drip, drip off the edge onto the marble floors.

This job was too easy. Xavier liked to use his gun or knives, something challenging where he could let off steam. But Boss wanted a textbook suicide, so he delivered.

He walked to the kitchen window. The view above the sink was breathtaking, clouds tinted with pink and orange reflected on the ocean’s surface. It was way too fucking early to be awake.

Xavier tucked his Glock into his shoulder harness and left the way he came. Strogonov had an ex-wife and no children. Even if he’d had a family, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Xavier was fucked up in the head, always had been. He never felt guilt or regret when killing. Maybe he was numb to the bloodshed … or he really was a monster.

Once he got to his car, settling back against the soft leather, he called Boss.

“Job’s done.”

“You’re on a roll,” said Boss. “I have another contract for tomorrow. You’ll love this one.”

He scrubbed his hand over the stubble on his jaw. “Oh?”

“You’ll have to get your hands dirty. I’ll email you the details.” The line went dead.

Boss never was one for small talk. If you did your job well, you got more work, and he left you alone. If you fucked up, he’d ride your ass. He demanded perfection and rarely gave second chances. The man had a reputation for a reason.

The only reason Xavier started this job was in exchange for information about his sister. Boss had given him a few leads, but nothing that panned out. He kept promising more, but after a year of waiting, Xavier was starting to wonder.

The highway drive was usually a bumper to bumper nightmare, but this early in the morning, it was relatively clear. He hit the gas and headed home. Over the past few months, he’d made more money than most men earned in a lifetime. Hitmen with good track records made a very lucrative living. But chasing the almighty dollar was a road leading to nowhere. He knew that well, but it didn’t stop him either. He had nothing to lose.

Forty minutes later, he drove along his winding driveway. His home was a modern marvel, set on a vast acreage. He valued his privacy and security. By now he knew money couldn’t buy happiness, but he always had something to prove. As if owning the best was the measure of a man, or could erase the memories of living in the slums of District 4 of Soacha.

The only thing that marred the perfect landscape was the little yellow Kia with rust around the fenders. It belonged to the live-in housekeeper he’d hired a few months ago. Once his training was over, he had no time for anything on the home front. She had her own living area on the far east wing of the mansion. Ms. Alesha Sanders knew not to enter his office, the basement, or to leave her live-in suite after hours. Keeping a civilian on his payroll wasn’t recommended, but sometimes it was nice to play normal and get away from all the bullshit.

He’d interviewed over a dozen potential housekeepers. Xavier had no time for anything but his contracts. He needed a woman to cook, clean, and keep his domestic affairs in order. The interviews were on a downward spiral until Alesha sat across from his desk.

She was young and curvy with freckles across her nose. Her lips were full and pouty, and he doubted she knew how tempting she was. She wore a plain cotton dress with a white cardigan. He wasn’t sure what it was about her, but he knew she was the one for the job.

Of course, he had Maurice do a full work up on her. She’d been living on her own since she was eighteen. No criminal record. No dependents. Ms. Alesha was a twenty-seven-year-old waitress turned housekeeper. Her references were impeccable, but he’d already decided to hire her before doing the background check.

Some days he regretted his decision to hire her because he hadn’t been able to bring women home knowing she was under the same roof. He wasn’t sure why she kept messing with his head. Alesha was a housekeeper, not his fucking wife.

So far, she’d kept her distance and followed the rules. It would be a shame if he had to kill her.

****

Keeping her boss happy was Alesha’s number one priority. Getting this job had been no less than winning the lottery. She had her own suite, something so beautiful she almost cried when he gave her the tour. The pay was incredible. Her boss was hardly home, and never bothered her. Alesha had her fair share of nightmarish encounters with men when she’d waitressed at a few local bars. It didn’t take long for her to change careers. She couldn’t stand strange men touching her or constantly propositioning her. Her coworkers may have enjoyed the attention, but it only made her sick. There weren’t too many options without a secondary education, and fancy diplomas weren’t made for people barely able to pay the rent, never mind tuition and books.

She’d been doing well as a cleaner for the last eight years, but it wasn’t until being hired by Xavier Moreno that things really started looking up. Her situation seemed too perfect, to the point that she constantly worried he’d lay her off or fire her for screwing something up.

He’d gone out much earlier than normal today, so she decided to prepare a special dinner, something that required more prep time than usual. His tastes could be demanding, and she tried hard to make things he’d enjoy as she learned his likes and dislikes. By now, she knew he detested coffee and didn’t like onions in his eggs. Every day was a learning experience.

As she peeled some carrots by the sink, the security alarm dinged, signaling someone had entered through the front door.

He was home.

Her heart began to race. Yes, he was her boss, but she’d be lying if she said she only had platonic feelings for him. The man was an enigma, rarely talking to her, coming and going at the strangest hours. She still had no clue what he did for a living, and didn’t dare ask and risk pissing him off. He was very private, and made it crystal clear when he’d hired her.

She did find it odd that a man his age with both looks and money was living alone in such a big house. There were no family photos, no visits from relatives, and he’d never brought a woman home that she knew of. Even though he gave her every other weekend off with full pay, she rarely left her suite. Where would she even go? This was as close to home as she had. Even her own mother had wiped the slate clean nine years ago when she married her new husband, and that included Alesha. They hadn’t spoken since.

Of course, it secretly pleased her that Xavier never brought home dates. It kept her fantasy alive, the one where he fell madly in love with his maid. She giggled under her breath.

“Something funny?”

She dropped her peeler into the sink with a clang and whirled around, wiping her hands on her apron. “Nothing, sir. I didn’t hear you come in.”

Don’t call me sir. It makes me feel old.” He tossed his keys on the counter with a jangle and shrugged off his jacket. Her eyes darted to the gun strapped to his body, and she froze in place. He noticed her staring and looked down. “Relax, it’s registered. A man can’t be too safe these days.” He winked at her.

Of course. A man like Xavier Moreno would be a target for criminals. She’d just never seen a gun in real life. “I’m sorry, sir.”

He frowned and crossed his arms. “Alesha…”

“I’m sorry … Mr. Moreno.”

“You can call me Xavier. I won’t bite.”

Xavier. Just hearing him say his own name with his slight accent made her wet. He was pure masculinity, confident, and drool-worthy. This was probably the most time she’d spent with him since being hired. He was usually gone before she started working in the kitchen, she wasn’t allowed in the main house after nine at night, and he always came home late.

He dropped down in one of the dining chairs and loosened his collar. He had intricate tattoos that climbed up his neck, and she had to stop herself from staring. “You were up early this morning,” she said, trying to start some small talk.

“I had a business meeting with a new client. Way too early for my liking. I think I’ll go back to bed for a couple hours.”

You did go to sleep late last night.” She bit the inside of her cheek, wishing she could take back her words. Xavier loved his privacy, and she sounded like a stalker.

“You’re observant.”

He stood up, cracking his neck to each side.

“Sorry, the walls are thin and I’m a light sleeper.”

I’ll keep that in mind,” he said. Xavier started walking away.

Alesha wanted to tell him to stay, to talk to her, to tell her more about himself. She loved the subtle scent of his cologne since he’d entered the kitchen. Her entire body took notice of everything Xavier, from his commanding presence to the intensity in his dark eyes. But she kept quiet and picked up her peeler. You’re such a chicken shit, Alesha.

Just before he left the kitchen, she summoned up enough courage. “Could you do me a favor before you leave?”

“What is it?”

She held out a glass jar. “Can you open this?”

He eyed her skeptically.

As he approached, she realized just how tall and buff he was, his shoulders and biceps straining against the fabric of his shirt. She couldn’t help but stare at the gun now that it was within arm’s length. It unnerved her. Xavier took the jar and twisted it open with ease, then set it on the counter. He didn’t move away.

When she looked up to gauge his expression, he pulled the gun from its holster. She gasped. “This scares you?” he asked. He released the clip and checked the chamber, then handed it to her. “Take it.”

Alesha shook her head. “No, I can’t.”

It’s unloaded. You won’t conquer your fears unless you face them.” He reached down and grabbed her wrist, pressing the gun into her palm. It was cold and heavy against her skin. She wrapped her fingers around the handle, still afraid even though it was rendered harmless. She wondered if Xavier was afraid of anything. “Good girl. There you go.”

He moved behind her until her back was pressed to his body. Xavier reached around her sides, enveloping her, bringing her arms straight out in front of her. Every move was slow and deliberate. Her body thrummed, her cheeks heating. He bent over enough so that his face was next to hers. She even felt a brief brush of his stubble on her skin.

Just like that,” he whispered close to her ear. “Look through the sights and aim at your target. Never hesitate. Take a breath and pull.” He placed his finger over hers and pulled the trigger. The gun made a sharp click, and she jumped. “It’s okay, I’ve got you.”

She wanted to melt into his arms. The heat of his body warmed her bare skin, but she still broke out into gooseflesh. “I think it’s safer in your hands,” she said, returning the pistol to him.

He grabbed the clip and then returned the gun to his holster as if he’d done it a thousand times. “You’re a natural, Alesha. I’ll have to give you lessons.”

Her name sounded perfect on his lips. “That sounds like fun.” No, it didn’t. Guns terrified her, but she wanted another chance to be close to Xavier. A one on one lesson sounded intimate, even though she was certain he was just being a nice guy.

“You’re jumpy. I just want you to know you never have to worry while living here. No one will ever hurt you.”

It was an odd thing to say, but she liked the confidence in his voice. He made her feel safe. Alesha hoped she hadn’t crossed any boundaries. Maybe the lesson was a bad idea. The last thing she needed was for things to get awkward between them and for her to lose her job as a result.

“I’m very happy working here,” she said for good measure.

“The place has never been cleaner.”

Disappointment assaulted her. She was just the damn maid, and she had to remember that. He was any woman’s wet dream. Alesha tucked her fantasies back into her imagination where they belonged.

Chapter Two


The last thing Xavier should be doing was showing his very sexy housekeeper how to hold a gun. That was a big mistake on his part. What he also didn’t like was the look of disappointment in her eyes when he said the house had never been cleaner. What did he miss?

How could a compliment make her react that way?

He was trying to be nice, not something he usually bothered with.

Until she came along, his home had been a shithole.

Honestly, he didn’t like picking up after himself, and because he had plenty of money, when he was done with clothes, he tossed them. There was no time in his life for dirty laundry, cleaning dishes, or worrying about hydro and electric bills.

That shit, as sexist as it would sound, was woman’s work.

He had more important things to do.

Will you get back in your fucking head?” Viper said. “I want to make it home to my wife and kid. You’re making so much noise the birds are getting distracted.”

They were flat out on a roof. The building beneath them was abandoned but would give them a perfect vantage point.

Their target?

One of the heads of a ring specializing in trafficking women.

Boss had a real beef when it came to trafficked women and children, so when the price was right, he was more than happy to make the kill. There were a lot of things Xavier knew about Boss and respected him for. If only the bastard would hand over everything he knew about his sister.

What he didn’t get was Boss’s conflicting interests when it came to women. He had women who worked at Killer of Kings.

Xavier had seen them. Deadly little women who didn’t look like they could harm a fly and yet he’d seen how evil they could be. With Boss though, there were the women that he killed, women that he fucked, and then civilian women that he suggested needed to be protected.

“What’s Boss’s issue with this guy?” he asked.

It’s not our place to question why we do certain things. We get the job done and move on,” said Viper.

I know what getting the job done means, asshole. Don’t you ever get curious?”

I do about a minute each night before I go to bed when I can think about all the shit Boss makes me do. After that, I wait for the next call, and hope my kids don’t ever find out what I do.”

“I don’t know how you can have kids.”

Again, El Diablo, I don’t give a fuck what you think. We all make a life from it. Boss gives us the opportunity to do our best work.”

Xavier snorted. “We’re not fucking artists.”

Nah, we’re worse. We paint the streets in blood and watch other people pick up the pieces. I have no illusion that the place I’ll end up in is hell. I’ve got too many kills to think otherwise.”

“You believe in that shit?”

I believe that when we die, it’s not the end of us. That we move on to another place. My wife, she’s the good part of everything. The light to my darkness. She’ll be in heaven.”

“But you’ll be in hell?” Xavier asked.

I’ll be where I need to be. I know what kind of man I am.” Viper glanced toward him. “What kind of man are you? Are you even trustworthy? I know Boss has given you his vote, but I know who you are. You’ve been loyal to nothing and no one your entire life. You’d probably turn on all of us for the right paycheck.”

Xavier stared at Viper.

When he was younger, Viper wouldn’t have been wrong.

Growing up with nothing, he had no problem stabbing friends in the back to get what he wanted. They were in a dog eat dog world, and there was nothing anyone could do to save you. His mother sold them like dogs. His sister was taken from him, and he hadn’t seen her since. He knew how cruel the world was. A part of him hoped she’d been killed. That someone had the mercy to put a bullet in her brain so she would never know true pain.

That was his biggest fear—that his sister had lived a life similar to his.

The only thing that drove him in this world was his thirst for vengeance. To find the men that took his sister. To make them all pay.

He’d been one of the best locators in the world. He could find anyone, but his sister evaded him at every turn. Even with the breadcrumbs Boss had given him, she was still an enigma.

There was almost nothing he knew.

No way of finding her.

Boss had managed to get hold of information such as her port of entry and her alias. That information was his reason for joining Killer of Kings. But he needed more. Even if she was dead, he wanted to know the truth.

He’d be able to pay his respects and move on.

“Why did you agree to this assignment?” Xavier asked, smirking.

He didn’t care that little Viper didn’t like him.

Being liked in this world never helped anyone.

Viper shook his head. “You’re a fucking idiot if you think any of us has a choice in this. Boss tells us what to do, and we do it. I could be at home right now. Setting up a nice barbeque. My wife marinating some steaks. Instead I’m baking my balls off, waiting for this piece of shit to show up so I can blow his brains out. I have no desire to be here, but this is the price I have to pay.”

Xavier shrugged, watching through his lens. The apartment they were staking was impressive, even for his standards. It was spacious, and he saw the kitchen from his position—all top of the range gadgets that screamed money.

This was what he didn’t get. Crime wasn’t supposed to pay, and yet he’d taken down more rich criminals than he liked to think about.

The real truth was that crime paid the bills.

You got a couple hundred grand waiting for a cop to turn a blind eye, they’d take it. Businessmen were the same.

It sickened Xavier, especially as he’d been one of them. The temptation of money when he’d been poor had been too strong to turn down. It meant power and security.

He was no better than those pieces of shit, which was why he never looked in the mirror anymore.

There was a time he’d look into his eyes and remember the horrors he’d experienced. That drove him to keep on going. To make sure he never suffered at another’s hands again.

Only, as time went on, he came to see that the more he looked in his eyes, the more he realized he hated himself. He fucking hated what he saw.

The real monster was staring right back at him.

“We’ve got movement.” Tilting his lens, he saw six men enter the apartment.

There was a woman. She wore nothing, and for some reason he wondered why no one had stopped them. Her hands were bound, tape covered her mouth, and her face was bruised.

Xavier focused the lens as they moved to the apartment. The man, their hit, threw her across the room. With her hands bound, she crashed onto the table.


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