Recap: Amanda just left Hansen's office after he agreed to let her start the recruitment process.
She found herself standing at the end of the hallway that the second training room was in—the one where Jared was probably still roaming and living his best life. On the opposite end of the hallway, she saw two people dressed in their uniforms with golden-brown hair leaning against a wall and talking in hushed voices. Kaden and Robbie.
Before she reached them, Kaden looked up and Robbie spun around.
“You’re alive!” Robbie noted with raised eyebrows, like she was genuinely surprised.
“I was so scared when he made me leave, I thought I’d never see you again,” Kaden said, horrified.
She shook her head. “No, no, I’m fine! And you know what? Hansen actually is not too bad for the boss of an assassin organization.”
The twins looked at each other and grinned
“What?” Amanda asked, cocking her head to the side. What had she said?
Robbie was the one who spoke. “Hansen isn’t the boss of the organization, he’s just the leader of Group 13—our group here in this apartment in London. There are 25 groups that are placed all over the world, and nobody really knows anything about the person who runs it all.”
Her jaw completely dropped. This assassin business was…a much bigger deal than she’d thought. But if there were 24 other apartments like the one Group 13 rented spread out all over the world...there had to be one closer to California, right? Why would Blake have traveled so far?
“Are there any in America?” she pressed.
Kaden nodded. “Yeah, two actually! One in New Mexico and one in New York. But the people who go there are psychopaths, so that’s why Robbie and I didn’t go to either of them even though we lived in New York.”
His sister punched him hard in the shoulder. “Would you shut up? I’d like to keep some secrets in case the girl turns on us.”
Amanda smiled, but the lack of trust hurt. Not like she deserved any trust. She was exactly what they thought she was. “Hey, I am not going to turn on people who could end my life in half a second.”
They all cracked up, but then she remembered what had happened with Hansen. She went quiet, and soon the twins followed. “Oh, uh, Robbie…I might’ve told Hansen some story that included you about how I found out about this place…”
Her usually upturned lips set into a hard line, which looked like a practiced expression. Her face darkened. “You what? Actually, no. How did you find out about this place? I assumed Kaden brought you, but that’s obviously not true. Why are you here, Amanda?”
Kaden bit his lip, but Robbie kept her amber eyes locked on Amanda’s own chartreuse green ones. Her mind raced, and she felt even more panicked than when she was face to face with Hansen. What was she supposed to say? It was best to tell the truth, right? She thought she could trust them. But would they freak out and turn her in if they found out she wasn’t genuine? And would she be able to find out more about Blake if she told them what was going on?
She tried not to let her eyes water, becoming overwhelmed by how utterly depressing her situation was. “Could we—could we go back to one of your rooms?” she sniffled, voice thick with emotion. “I need to say something privately before Hansen calls you in. A-and you don’t have to cover my face with a bag th-this time. I’m going through the ste-steps to become an assassin, and if I don’t they’ll just ki-kill me anyway.”
Kaden’s entire face melted with sympathy, and Robbie's eyes lost their threaning edge but stayed supicious of Amanda.
“Yeah,” he said softly, soothing her like he’d been practicing that voice his entire life. “Of course we can, Amanda. Come on, let’s go to my room.”
He put a hand on her shoulder to guide her as her vision swam, and Robbie followed silently behind. She needed to stop being such a baby, she thought pathetically. She couldn’t lose it talking about Blake. There was no way she could let them know exactly how much he meant to her. And it wasn’t like she’d be telling them the whole truth, anyway. Just enough to keep their trust.
She hadn’t even realized they’d walked through the first training room with the throwing axes in the wall until they’d reached a thick metal door with a big face-scanner. It didn’t look familiar, but then again, she’d had a bag over her head when she walked through it.
Robbie stepped forward in front of the scanner and a green line passed up and down on the screen. Then, a click could be heard from the door, and she pulled open the door for Kaden and her.
They entered a tight space at the beginning of an old stone staircase that spiraled up and up for what seemed like forever. There didn’t seem to be an end in sight, and her legs already hurt just looking at it.
Well at least Amanda would have a lot of time to think about what in the world she was supposed to say about Blake.
Kaden opened his door and they all walked inside, but Amanda almost immediately ran out again when she saw a figure crouching at the nightstand by the second bed and writing something. He was a lean yet muscular young man with midnight black hair that had a stylish wave to it—reminding her of Blake’s hair but somewhat darker. There was also a prominent ruby colored band around his sleeve and aviators hanging from his shirt collar. But what mostly caught her attention were the reddish-brown stains on his cargo pants and black combat boots.
“Oh…hey, Arthur,” Kaden greeted like he’d been caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to be.
The dark-haired guy looked up to reveal the face of a model, and his pale, piercing eyes immediately skipped over Robbie and Kaden to Amanda. “Who’s she?” He spat in a deep, velvety voice.
Robbie stepped in. “This is a new recruit, Amanda. Amanda, this is Arthur Vince—Kaden’s roommate.”
“Could you not give out my full name?” Arthur said with a sneer, standing up and tossing aside whatever he’d been writing. But the name Vince sounded familiar…
“Oh!” Amanda suddenly exclaimed, gaining the attention of everyone in the room in her attempt to stall her conversation with the twins. “Are you Helen’s husband?”
His eyes narrowed and he started to cross the room towards her, but Kaden and Robbie stepped in front of Amanda—Robbie obviously fighting a snicker. Arthur settled for standing a few feet away, fuming. “Would you keep her name out of your mouth? I don’t know why you’re wearing a Red uniform, but if you’re a recruit, you’re a Yellow. A Yellow shouldn’t know anything about me or Helen.”
She glanced down at the red on her sleeve, recalling the rankings or levels that she still didn’t understand—not that they really mattered at the moment. Then, Robbie reached up and patted Arthur’s shoulder.
“Why don’t you drive down to the Tech building and see what you can do about getting that room with Helen?” She suggested, casually brushing off her ripped jeans and military jacket. “We need to have a private conversation, and I’m sure Kaden would love to tell Hansen all about the late night calls you have with your wife if you don’t get a move on.”
Arthur scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Whatever, Rune. Kaden would never, but I need to talk with the head of Tech anyway. Have fun with your gossip session or whatever.”
He pushed past them and gave Amanda one more suspicious look before grabbing a pair of keys off the hook by the door and leaving.
Why would a woman who seemed so sweet like Helen marry a guy that acted like such a jerk? She couldn’t help but wonder in the back of her mind. No matter how good looking he was, even the bad boy appeal wasn’t strong enough to overpower that nasty personality.
Kaden shut and locked the door, then let out a breath and made his way over to his bed. “Sorry guys,” he sighed. “I should’ve known Arthur would’ve been here. He always finishes training quickly.”
“How old is he?” Amanda wondered aloud as the three of them lounged on Kaden’s bed, trying to buy herself some more time to think of something to say. “He didn’t look old, but he’s married, so…?”
He rubbed his temple. “Uh…twenty-two years old, I think? But he likes to pretend he’s more than that, even though there’s only one person actually older than him in Group 13.”
She nodded, slightly surprised. Twenty-two was young, but it seemed ancient compared to the other assassin’s she’d met. “And…wait, how old are you guys?”
As Kaden started to speak, Robbie pounced on top of him and covered his mouth. He grunted angrily, but she just covered his face with a pillow. “That is not relevant right now,” she barked, jabbing her finger in Amanda’s direction. “You’re supposed to be telling us the whole truth about why you’re here.”
She finally freed her brother, and he shot upright with a dazed expression, tousled curly hair, and his glasses askew on his face. He promptly fixed them and put on a determined expression. “And also what the situation is with you being Blake’s friend!”
Amanda’s eyes widened at the same time that Robbie’s did, and she wanted to wrap her hands around Kaden’s neck. No, no, no! She wasn’t ready to say that part yet! Robbie whirled around to look at her so fast that her hair whipped her guilty looking twin in the face. Amanda was surprised by the reaction, and how shocked and pained the girl's expression suddenly was.
“Blake’s friend?” It sounded as if Robbie was trying to keep her voice cold and indifferent, but it edged on hysterical. Her fists curled around the gray sheets on Kaden’s bed. “What do you mean Blake’s friend? Amanda, you know Blake Thornton?”
Her words failed her. Amanda couldn’t think of a single thing to say in response to Robbie's face that grew angrier by the second or the concerned look in Kaden's eyes. She looked back and forth wildly between the two assassins staring intently at her. Her eyes burned and her head pounded, and she wondered if she could outrun them if she got a considerable head start—because she’d rather find Blake herself than explain what was really going on. What can I say to them?
She took a long breath. Best to tell the truth right? Or most of it, to keep everyone happy. “Yeah, I do know Blake Thornton. In fact, he was my best friend. And I…well I came here to follow in his footsteps. Be an assassin and all? Is that upsetting to you?”
Kaden chewed on his chapped bottom lip and gave Robbie a nervous side-eye, scooting away like he knew an explosion was coming. But she just stood up and angrily buried her face in her hands. “It actually is upsetting because Blake isn’t here anymore, you idiot! He just disappeared, and then you show up claiming—”
That set her off. Amanda jumped to her feet with a clenched jaw—her hands balled into fists like she really thought she was going to punch a trained killer. “I know that, Robbie!” she shrieked, eyes beginning to brim with tears. “It’s because he’s dead! Your stupid organization, or-or that serial killer, they murdered my best friend!”
Robbie’s face that had been contorted with fury immediately fell and her brows furrowed. Kaden looked still as a statue, just staring at his sister. But before any more of a reaction could be exposed, Robbie shoved past her and stormed out of the room.
Amanda’s attention turned to Kaden and his horrified expression. His gaze followed Robbie’s path to the doorway she’d torn through, and without looking at her he blurted out, “I-I need to—”
“Go,” She huffed. He immediately sprinted out of the room in chase of his twin, and flung the door closed behind him.