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The Assassin’s Heart by Alexis Abbott (1)


If there’s anything my parents have instilled in me over the many years of homeschooling I have received, it’s that people cannot be trusted.

No one is good.

Especially men.

So as I search desperately for the locket I lost under the hotel bed, and I hear the telltale sound of heavy footsteps, my heart begins to race.

I can’t be found here.

Maids in this hotel have been fired for much less.

I can hear faint, deep voices in a quiet, serious conversation, and then the click of a card key sliding through the sensor. My stomach turns. These guys do not sound particularly friendly at all.

Just as the doorknob is turning, my fingers close around my locket. But I don’t have time to get out of here, and I can’t be caught snooping around the floor of these strangers’ hotel room.

I decide that my best choice is to stand up and face the door, ready to smile sheepishly and apologize for being in their room past check-in hours. But when I try to bounce back up, I realize with a yelp of pain that one of the loose locks of my hair has somehow gotten tangled up in one of the coils under the bed! I’m stuck!

I do the only thing my body is programmed to do: I flatten myself to the ground and shimmy underneath the bed completely, clutching the locket and praying like crazy that these guys don’t notice me hiding here.

I am so going to get fired. It was a panic response and I instantly recognize how dumb it is, but it’s too late.

I hear the door click open and from my position under the bed, I can see two sets of men’s boots walk into the room, shutting the door behind them. One of them wanders into the bathroom while the other stands in the doorway looking at him.

I start to sheepishly shuffle to the edge of the bed, to take my chances with an apology, say I was still cleaning up their room and got delayed. But then I freeze when I hear what they’re saying, my blood running cold.

“We’re talking murder here. Are you sure you’re up for this, kid? This is serious. I’m not talkin’ about child’s play here, you understand? The blood’s gonna be on your hands, nobody else’s.”

I clasp my hands around my mouth to keep any sound from escaping.

This can’t be happening. No, this can’t be happening. Not to me. Not here. Not now. I’ve always been the good girl. Sheltered. Careful.

Becoming a maid at a middle-of-the-road hotel is not the ultimate dream job I had in mind when I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology two months ago. I poured so much energy, so much blood, sweat, and tears in the hopes of later going on to veterinary school.

It can’t end here, underneath a cheap bed in a middle-of-nowhere hotel, caught by two guests as they discussed... What, exactly?

Blood on his hands.


They can’t mean that literally.

I do my best to push the thought out of my head. They must be actors. Maybe they’re just rehearsing some lines back and forth, trying to remember them. I once found a fashion magazine on the bus—they were strictly forbidden in our house—and they talked about actors and actresses and how to practice for your roles.

And stuck beneath a hotel bed, my hair being painfully tugged by the coil, my breathing held, my body aching as I desperately try not to move, that sounds a lot more plausible than it being anything dangerous.

Why didn’t I just let my parents send me to the nunnery like they wanted? Instead, I secretly applied to university, got as many scholarships as I could, and went off to try to save the world in my own way.

And look where that got me.

My homeschooled life, being totally sheltered from alcohol and boys and fun and adventure, helping to raise my 6 siblings, being preened to be the perfect wife... It was all so safe, so secure, so... boring.

But this isn’t the adventure I wanted. My mother always told me that I was too naive to handle the great big world out there, and that sticking close to home, living a simple, modest life would suit me best.

As my heart thuds, and I hear the growled voices of the men in the room grow darker, I think she and my father were right.

The world is too dangerous for me.

Men are too dangerous for me.

Even a job as a hotel maid is too dangerous for me.

I hold my locket tight, squeezing my eyes shut and trying to drown out the sound of their conversation above me. My grandmother gave me the locket, and I always wear it. When I realized I had lost it in the last room I cleaned, I rushed back to find it. It’s a source of strength, and I’ve always kept it close to my heart since she first gave it to me when I was nine.

She was my confidante, the one woman who believed I was strong and capable of so much more than my parents wanted for me. All of my bravery comes from her, and I hold the locket tightly in my hand, trying to channel that bravery now.

My heart begins to beat more rhythmically, and my brain clears enough to think again.

I’m going to get through this, I promise myself. I won’t even get fired. It’s all a misunderstanding. I’m just a maid who dropped her locket and went back to get it. Everyone will probably just think it’s funny that some young woman would lose her head if it weren’t attached to her neck.

I start to feel a little bit better, bravery rising in my chest.

And then, in an instant, in a single phrase, it all fades away.

“Do you need a gun or do you already have one?”


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