An assassin falling in love with his mark is exactly the question Thianna Durston tackles in her new novel Vespar, the newest in the Order of the Black Knights series.
Special ops turned professional killer, Vespar McKauley is hired to take out Marcolm Rogers, son of his employer’s worst enemy. But Marc isn’t like any hit he’s ever done. He’s just twenty-one, he goes to a private university studying English Lit, and for fun he plays computer games with his friends. No drugs, no partying, no crime. The day he bumps into Marc and looks into his azure eyes, the world drops out from under him.
With his father in the Chicago Crime Syndicate, Marc and his mom have stayed out of the limelight, hiding from those that might harm them. He figures he’s safe at a small liberal arts university all the way across the country. Only midway through his senior year, he feels eyes on him and the shadows encroaching. Just as he’s about to run, he meets Vespar and experiences an instant attraction. When Vespar tells him he’s in danger and offers to protect him, Marc wants to believe him. But he’s been hunted before, and this time he isn’t sure he’ll get away. Especially when he finds out he is Vespar’s target.
Order of the Black Knights
Every century has seen its knights, but they are not always seen. Some of them do what must be done—getting their hands dirty when no one else is willing. Assassins and antiheroes who work from the shadows, they are called the Black Knights. From the time of the society’s creation in the 1100s, these men are cursed to repeat their lives of bloodshed. But for each knight, there is one who can bring out the man that waits inside and break the cycle. The question is whether or not the knight will kill his true love before he figures it out.
Two and a half weeks later, Vespar maneuvered his car into a parking spot at Reed College. Finding his mark had not been easy, which thrilled him. He did love a good hunt. Marcolm Bissini, now known as Marcolm Rogers, lived in Portland, Oregon, and was in his final year of college. Through his research he knew that Marcolm was also the son of one of the heads of the Bissini branch of the Chicago crime syndicate. His mother ran away with him when he was eight, and nobody had been able to find a trace of them. Well, not until Vespar.
Vespar was vigilant. Not only had he scoped out the area for three days, but he wore an earpiece that would pick up any voice for up to half a mile. There was a kid three rows away backing his ancient VW Beetle out of a spot. Two girls to the northwest chatted about an upcoming dance. And several professors droned on about boring subjects. The chatter of students as they went to and from classes drifted through his mind as he sauntered onto campus toward a specific classroom.
Rogers had to die in the next eleven days. First Vespar would get a good look at the twenty-one-year-old. He had already discerned the young man was stealthy. He changed jobs every few months. Apartments every few weeks. No doubt he knew someone was after him. Vespar almost wished he had more time. It would be enjoyable to chase his mark for a little while.
But no. His birthmark ached and reminded him he needed the kill. It had been over seven months since he last fulfilled that desire. There was no time to waste. During the last physical and psychological exams he had as he left covert ops, the doctors had some very unnerving things to say. Vespar could still remember what the psychologist told him. “Killing is your drug. You won’t be able to go for long without another hit. You need to get help, Lieutenant McKauley.”
But the rest of the medical jargon only confused him. The doc showed him a scan of his brain. It was all a mixture of black and gray to Vespar. “Your frontal lobe is not right,” the doctor said. He looked as confused as Vespar felt. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. You need to have someone keep an eye on it.” He suggested specialists, but Vespar ignored that advice.
His feet slapped lightly against the wet pavement, and he took in the students and the buildings. Would Rogers still look like the little boy in the picture? If he did not, Vespar would find him. He knew where Rogers lived. But it would still be good to get a look and take a mental picture of the man before his death. Why that was important, he did not know. It had never been important to him before. Maybe it was because Rogers was his first contract kill.
“Excuse me.” Vespar heard a male voice from behind him. “Pardon me. I… whoops.” A body tried to pass him and collided with his back, and while he instinctively switched his center of gravity enough to stay standing, the guy who crashed into him bounced off and hit the grass with a loud slap.
“Ow,” he groaned with a slight laugh. “That’s gonna leave a bruise.” The guy turned his head and looked up at Vespar. His bright azure eyes twinkled in the low light of the cloud-covered day. “Hey. Sorry about that. Glad I didn’t knock you over.” He grinned and showed slightly uneven white teeth. Slowly he stood up. When he looked down at his front, which was completely soaked from landing in wet grass, he shook his head. “Damn. Oh well. Can’t be helped.” Quickly he scooped up the book bag he had dropped.
“Sorry I knocked into you,” he said with another grin, and then he dashed off and called over his shoulder, “I’m late for class.”
Vespar stared after him, a mixture of confusion and doubt racing through his mind at the same time as his heart beat out a single refrain. “Kill, kill, kill….” Marcolm Rogers was not what he expected. He had a mop of reddish-blond hair, and freckles covered his nose. And that smile…. It had been friendly. He looked like the fucking boy next door.
What the ever-living hell?
Thianna Durston is a writer by day and supernova by night. Or at least that’s what the faeries tell her. And who is she to deny those pesky *cough* lovely little creatures?
She lives in the Pacific Northwest, though her heart belongs elsewhere. In the meantime, until she can return to the place she calls home, she happily lives in a city that still thinks it’s a small town. Thankfully, it has given her muse lots of amusing places to start a story.