Merciless Saints: Chapter 3

WINTER

The Present – Winter 21; Damien 23.

“I don’t want you to go,” Sean says for the hundredth time as we step out of the mansion. My gaze goes to where our father talks with Cillian and the rest of the security team, who will escort me to the private airport.

Sean, my younger brother, has made his feelings abundantly clear. I wish he would understand I’m doing this for him. He’ll turn eighteen in a year, and then it’s expected of him to follow in our father’s footsteps. Sean will take over our diamond smuggling business, and someone has to protect him. That someone will be me because I won’t trust anyone else with Sean’s life.

When I turned sixteen, I learned the Hemsley clan owns Angola, Sierra Leone, the DRC, Ivory Coast, and Zimbabwe. Africa’s diamonds belong to us, which has placed a hefty target on our heads. It’s the reason our mother was assassinated, and I took a bullet to my neck, which is why the family business means so much to me. I’ve bled for it, and I won’t let anyone take it away from us.

Turning my gaze back to Sean, I say, “It’s only for two years. Keep your head low while I’m gone.”

I wish I could take him with me to St. Monarch’s Academy. It’s the only place on this goddamn earth that’s neutral ground. I need the training. I have to become the best for Sean. I just hate leaving him behind.

“Stay,” he begs, giving me a pleading look I usually can’t resist.

Taking a step forward, I lift my hands to his shoulders and lock eyes with him. “Listen to me, Sean. It’s only for two years. I need the training. While I’m gone, you have to be extra careful. Don’t leave the grounds unless you really have to. Always keep the guards with you and wear your bulletproof vest. Once I’m back, I’ll make it up to you.”

Frustration tightens his features. “I don’t care about that. I don’t want you to go. We shouldn’t split up. There’s a target on your head as well.”

I give my brother a comforting smile as I pull him into a hug. “I can take care of myself, and Cillian will be with me. Don’t worry.”

Sean’s arms wrap around me, and he clings to me as if he has the power to keep me here. “Please, don’t go,” he whispers, his voice tight with worry.

“Shh… I’ll be fine. Just take care of yourself. Okay?”

Sean nods, his grip on me tightening even more.

We both have our mother’s red hair and green eyes, but Sean got our father’s large build and strong features. He went through a growth spurt last year, shooting well past me. I, on the other hand, got our mother’s petite frame. At twenty-one, I still look younger than Sean even though I’m four years older than him.

When we pull apart, Sean shakes his head. “I have a bad feeling.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to me. St. Monarch’s is safe. Stop worrying, please.”

“It’s time,” Father says as he steps closer to us.

Nodding, I stand on my toes and press a farewell kiss to Sean’s cheek. “Keep your head down and stay on the grounds,” I remind him again.

He nods, taking a step back, frustration still tightening his features.

Father pulls me into a hug, then whispers, “You don’t have to do this.”

“I know.” I rest my cheek against his chest. “I want to. For Sean. For you.”

Father nods as he pulls back, his eyes drifting over my face. The corner of his mouth lifts. “Cillian will be stationed outside the academy. Don’t hesitate to call him if anything happens.”

I step back, and with love filling my heart, I look at the two men in my life. “You both worry too much. I can take care of myself.”

Father lets out a chuckle. “We should protect you, not the other way around.”

“No,” I grin at them. “You run the business, and I’ll keep you safe. That’s the end of the discussion.”

Father’s eyes lock with mine as they turn dark. “You’re the Blood Princess of the Hemsley clan. Never forget that.”

“I won’t, Father,” I promise. Turning away from them, I climb into the back of the armored jeep. My personal firearm, a Heckler and Koch, digs into my lower back, but I ignore the slight discomfort. I also have a Glock strapped to my ankle.

Before Cillian shuts the door, I look at my father and brother. “I love you both with all my heart.”

Sean’s eyes begin to redden with unshed tears. “Love you too.”

Father’s mouth tips up with a proud smile. “Love you, my princess. Call me the instant you’re safely at the academy.”

I nod as the door shuts, and then I focus on taking deep breaths because I can’t cry. This was my decision. I’ve learned all there is to learn from my private lessons with Cillian. Now I need to train with the best because they’re the ones who will come after my family.

For two years, I’ll live with my enemies. I’ll watch. I’ll learn. I will show them I’m a threat, and they will fear me.

For Sean. For Father. For our family business.

While we drive to the private airstrip where the jet is waiting to take me to Switzerland, I stare down at my hands.

I feel Cillian’s gaze on me, and forcing a smile to my lips, I lift my head to look at him. He gives me a lopsided grin, but it’s tainted by the worry he feels about me leaving home. “Remember there are six syndicate groups. The Custodians, consisting of the best protectors. You’ll train with them.”

I nod. “My goal is to break Demitiri Vetrov’s records.”

Demitri became a legend during his time at St. Monarch’s. Now he protects the top assassin in the world, Alexei Koslov, making them an unbeatable team. I need to be better than them because right now, we don’t stand a chance if they are hired to come after us. The thought makes my jaw clench and my top lip curl up.

Cillian nods, then he continues, “It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to hurt because none of the custodians in training will hold back just because you’re a woman. They all have the same goal. To become the best.”

I swallow hard, fear slithering into my heart. I have no idea what to expect.

Cillian’s eyes darken with worry as he says, “The other five syndicates consist of Arms, Assassins, Smugglers, Cartels, and the Bravta. Only the wealthiest crime families get to attend, so they can cultivate the specific set of skills needed to run their family businesses. There’s only one rule – no killing. So at least there’s that.”

I nod while memorizing everything he’s telling me. After all, knowledge is power.

When the jeep stops right by the private jet, I wait for Cillian to open my door. My eyes continuously scan over my surroundings as I step out of the vehicle, and I tug at the bulletproof vest that’s tightly wrapped around my chest. It matches my black pants and boots, which I like to think of as my combat outfit. I want to dress up as much as the next girl, but that’s only for special occasions.

My spine is stiff as I ascend the stairs with Cillian right behind me. Once I’m safely inside the plane, I let out a breath of relief.

Six hours and I’ll enter the safety of St. Monarch’s. A lot can happen in six hours, but at least I have Cillian with me.

Pulling the gun from behind my back, I set it down on the seat beside me. I unstrap the vest and take a deep breath as I place it next to my firearm. Cillian does the same where he’s seated across from me.

“Are you sure, poppet?” he asks.

Our eyes meet, and knowing it’s useless trying to hide my feelings from him, I say, “Even though I’m terrified of the unknown, I have to do it.”

“I’ll be right outside St. Monarch’s,” he assures me again. Our guards aren’t allowed on the premises. I guess it’s to ensure everyone’s safety.

This time a genuine smile tugs at my mouth. “Yeah, at least I’ll have you there.”

As the jet begins to move, I lean my head back and stare out the window.

It’s just two years, Winter. You have to do this for your family.

 


 

DAMIEN

 

Standing in my personal quarters, I cross my arms over my chest as I watch everyone arrive at the academy.

St. Monarch’s has been my home for the past twenty-two months. As the best protector in training, I will be paired with the top assassin when I graduate. I won’t settle for anyone else but Carson. It’s my only goal. The bidding date hasn’t been announced yet, though, and I’m growing impatient to be free of this place.

I watch as Adrian Vincent climbs out of his armored jeep. He’s Carson’s competition and probably the first one I’ll kill the instant we step outside the gates of St. Monarch’s. There are four assassins in training right now, and they’re taught to live by a code – don’t kill for sport.

But Adrian’s different. I see the thirst for blood in his eyes. It’s not about the money for him. Once he starts killing, it will be for pleasure, and he’ll try to take out the competition first. He’s arrogant enough to believe he could actually succeed in killing Carson.

Another armored jeep pulls up, and I watch as an older man climbs out of the driver’s side. He walks around the vehicle to open the passenger door for someone. A flash of red draws my attention, and then my gaze locks on the woman getting out of the jeep. St. Monarch’s only allows you to attend once you’re over twenty-one, so she must be of age even though she looks younger.

When the woman turns around and stares up at the windows, my gaze narrows. Winter Hemsley. She’s even more beautiful than I heard.

The man, who’s probably her personal guard, says something to her, and it makes her smile. I watch as they hug each other, and then she takes a couple of steps away from the jeep as her guard climbs back in the vehicle to leave.

Winter moves with grace, and my eyes take in her petite curves, clearly visible under the tight-fitting black pants and shirt, before settling on her face again.

Her gaze sweeps over the buildings and grounds, on guard and ready to defend herself should a threat appear.

The sight of her makes my heartbeat speed up a little, and it has the corner of my mouth curving up. Not many women manage to elicit any kind of emotion in me. Then again, Winter Hemsley is no ordinary woman. She’s the Blood Princess. One of the heirs to the Hemsley’s smuggling empire. Her grandfather orchestrated the massacre of many villages in Africa. Ruthlessness runs in her veins. 

A merciless beauty radiates from her, designed to bring men to their knees for her to walk over, using them as stepping stones in her climb to the top.

Another car pulls up, which belongs to Vince Blanco. I tilt my head as I watch the two enemies come face to face. The Blanco family had Rose Hemsley, Winter’s mother, assassinated. Winter was also shot during the attack, and the Hemsley family has lived in hiding ever since.

But still, here she is. The breathtakingly beautiful Blood Princess who survived an assassination attempt. It’s a rare sight indeed.

Winter and Vince lock eyes, and I’m surprised when Vince is the first to walk away. It looks like he’s chuckling.

Winter’s gaze follows Vince until he enters the building, and the hatred turning her face to stone makes a smile form around my lips. She’s got fire. I’ll give her that.

I keep watching as one armored jeep after the other pulls up. Hours later, when the last attendee has arrived, I turn away from the window, not happy that twenty-one people will be attending St. Monarch’s. I’m going to miss the peace and quiet from when it was just nine of us. Hopefully, I won’t be here for much longer.

There’s still three hours until Madame Keller, the architect of St. Monarch’s, gives the welcome speech at dinner. Grabbing my hand tape, I walk out of my room and start to wrap the fabric around my fingers, palms, and wrists. I don’t look up as I make my way to the gym.

Soft murmurs fill the hallways as all the new attendees make their way to their assigned quarters. St. Monarch’s Academy used to be a castle built in the late seventeen hundreds. It’s situated right outside Geneva, and although the furnishings have been renovated, the wooden floors creak with every step.

I walk to the back of the academy and enter the last sparring studio at the end of the hallway. There are a couple so we can have privacy when we train. Growing up, I’ve learned every fighting style known to mankind. I’ve spent the past eighteen months creating my own combination, taking moves from Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Kung Fu, and wrestling.

Removing my earphones from my pocket, I’m just about to put them in when I feel eyes on me. Glancing over my shoulder, my gaze connects with Paulie’s. Paul Connor will probably end up working with Winter Hemsley, seeing as they’re both Irish.

“Did you even go home?” Paulie asks as he steps into the room.

“No.” After my uncle joined Demitri in America, there’s nothing to go home to.

I watch as he wraps his hands, then he grins at me. “Take it easy on me.”

I turn my body to face him. “There’s no such thing as easy in our world.”

Paulie lets out a chuckle. “Fine. Just don’t break anything.”

“You should fight Hugo,” I say. I actually like the Irishman.

“He’s not here yet.” Paulie begins to circle me. “Come on. Teach me something.”

Slowly, I shake my head. “You know that’s not how it works.” Paulie starts to jump lightly, and it has me adding, “Take the out I’m giving you, Paulie.”

“I’ll fight,” a woman’s voice comes from behind us, and it has our heads snapping in the direction of the door.

“As I live and breathe,” Paulie chuckles. “The Blood Princess in the flesh.”

She’s even smaller and more stunning up close. Her creamy white skin makes her red hair look dark, and the fierce expression in her eyes has them sparkling like emeralds.

With the full intention of finding another empty studio where I can train, I begin to walk toward her.

“You’re leaving?” Paulie asks.

“It’s crowded,” I mutter as the side of my body bumps against Winter’s when I pass by her. To my surprise, she doesn’t stagger backward, and a spark jumps between us.

“Or just afraid to get your ass kicked by a woman,” she says, an edge to her voice making it sound like a warning.

Stopping in the hallway, I take a deep breath before I glance over my shoulder. Our eyes lock, and for a moment, heat sizzles between us.

I wonder if she’s as feisty between the sheets.

She doesn’t look away, but instead, her gaze narrows on me as if she can read my mind.

Deciding to teach her a lesson, I murmur, “If you can beat Paulie, I’ll consider fighting you.”

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