Aric (The Boundarylands #7) - Callie Rhodes

Chapter One

"You must be the new girl."

Jocelyn Waters froze. She'd been surprised—and very relieved—to find the papered-over glass doors of the store unlocked. Shed tried every other door in this run-down strip mall, other than the seedy-looking bar at the end, but they'd all been locked up tight for the night.

She'd hoped to find the place empty, but instead, she'd come face-to-face with three women around her age.

Jocelyn had no idea what they'd been doing in this mostly empty retail space, but they were all dressed for a fun night out, with heavy makeup, teased hair, and sexy outfits.

"I—I'm sorry," Jocelyn stammered. "I think I have the wrong—"

But then she heard a sound that made her blood run cold. One that she'd been running from for six hours and several hundred miles—the unmistakable roar of an all-too-familiar engine.

"I mean, yes, that's me," Jocelyn said more forcefully, instinctively moving away from the door. "The new girl."

"You're late," the woman standing closest to her, a curvy redhead in a black bustier and faux-leather pants, scolded her with her arms crossed. "You're damned lucky Nicky is so forgiving."

"No shit," agreed a woman in a red dress with straight blonde hair down to her waist. "But the rest of us...not so much. So, if you want to make friends around here, I'd show up on time. Got it?"

Jocelyn had no idea what to say. Hell, she didn't even know where she was or who she was with. So instead of opening her mouth and giving herself away, she simply nodded.

"Nicky's already gone ahead," the first woman said, "but she asked us to stick around a few more minutes to see if you'd show or chicken out."

"I'm sorry." Jocelyn gripped her heavy leather work bag so hard her knuckles turned white, wondering what the hell she'd gotten herself into.

Sure, it was a little weird, but no matter what, it had to be a thousand times better than what was waiting for her outside.

Honestly, she'd been lucky to find any sign of civilization this far away from the cities.

For the last several hundred miles, there had been nothing but open grasslands, oak-covered foothills, and eventually, as the highway reached higher elevation, evergreen forests so dense that even moonlight struggled to get through.

Not a great place to have to look for somewhere—anywhere—to hide. But when she'd spotted a flash of cherry red in her rearview mirror, she'd had no choice.

Ever since she left the city, Jocelyn had been terrified that John was in every car that appeared in her rearview mirror. That he was moments from pulling alongside her, holding up that ugly black pistol she'd found in his office safe, aiming it through his passenger window and—

Bye-bye Jocelyn.

When an hour had gone by without her spotting any red cars, Jocelyn had started to relax, thinking maybe she'd managed to get away. But only seconds after passing a sign advertising GAS AND FOOD—NEXT EXIT, Jocelyn saw the glimmer of John’s red sports car growing larger in the rearview.

Her luck had run out.

Jocelyn should have known there would be no escape. Once out of the cities, there was only one damn northbound road. All John had to do was put his foot on the gas and let his ridiculously high-performance engine eat up the distance between them.

Jocelyn had briefly wondered why a professional hitman would own such a flashy car. Wouldn't it be better to blend in?

But John Barrington was full of surprises. As early as this morning, for instance, Jocelyn thought she worked as a bookkeeper for a construction contractor, not a contract killer.

"I'm Traci," the redhead said impatiently. "This is Hannah, and that's Courtney."

"Hi, I'm J—" Jocelyn checked herself. Using her real name probably wasn't the best idea. "I'm Jo."

"Come on, we can do all this introduction shit in the car," the blonde said, leading the way to the back of the store. "I hate being the last picked."

"What does it matter?" Traci said. "It's not like there's a bad one."

Jocelyn held back as the women filed toward the back door, frozen with indecision. She couldn't just go with these women, could she? She didn't know who they were or where they were going. And they obviously had mistaken her for someone else.

Maybe if she came clean and told them what was really going on, they'd help her.

Hey, so, funny story—today I found out that the man I work for is a professional hitman, so I stole evidence to give to the authorities and two million dollars