"Mrs. Carroll," Hawke says, setting me down suddenly and grabbing the edges of my shirt. He jerks it back into place and covers up all my bits.
"Father Dell used to ... set a box outside this door to collect donations for the homeless," the woman said, staring, not at the giant man in the body armor and guns, but at me. Me!
I try to move, but Hawke tightens his grip, the muscles in his arm bulging and tensing like steel. I can hardly even breathe. But having that big, solid form behind me is... exhilarating. Hawke smells like leather and musk and man.
"Yes, well, that's an excellent idea," he grumbles as I stand there like the typical mob-daughter that I am. Here is a person, unconnected to all of this shit, and I'm not screaming or calling out for help. Because back home, all that would do is get the old woman killed.
At least, that's what my father would do.
"We'll ... look into that," he continues, reaching past me with a big hand, and slamming the door closed in the old woman's face.
"Your cover is fucked," I breathe, but Hawke just grunts and lets go of me before putting his hands on my shoulders and turning me around to face him. His eyes bore into mine as I swallow past the lump in my throat. I look up, up, up at him and wonder if this is the moment where it all ends. "So, are you going to kill me now?"
"Kill you?" Hawke asks with a long exhale. "Not exactly."
He steps back and gives me a look, propping his hands on his hips.
"Not ... exactly?" I choke out as our gazes meet and a hot thrill takes over my body.
"You have two choices here, Natalia: let us take you to the nunnery ... or stay here."
"And if you do go to the nunnery," Arsen says, grinning maniacally, "you best be careful. We have agents there, too. And they'll be watching."
"Agents?" I ask as Hawke looks me straight in the face.
"If you stay here, you also have two choices," Hawke continues. "Wait us out until we finish what we came here to do ... or let me teach you."
"Teach ... me?" I ask as Hawke sucks in a breath.
"Dude, are you serious?" Colt asks, storming over to us and looking between me and Hawke like he's crazy. "Just let her go, man!"
"I can't let her go!' Hawke roars, and my skin erupts in goose bumps. "I can't let her go now.
" "She doesn't know anything," Colt says, sounding exasperated. "Let her walk, man."
"She knows enough," Hawke responds with a sigh. "And she's his daughter. I ... can't let her go." He stares at me, and I imagine that in a different scenario, hearing those words--I can't let her go--would be a breathtaking experience.
"So ... my choices are go to the nunnery or ... you really are going to kill me?"
"You can stay here until we're finished with our mission. And then we'll let you go. But, if you stay, consider signing on with us. After that life you've led, you'd be a perfect candidate."
"This is ridiculous!" Colt shouts, throwing up his hands and pacing a short, wild rut in the floor. "You can't hire her."
"She's perfect," Arsen says, slinking up behind Hawke and taking a seat on the edge of the table. "With all the shit she must know."
"I'm willing to hire you to be a part of my team," Hawke says, "but you'll have to be willing to work."
"Work for ... what?" I ask and he gives me a tight smile.
"If you joined our team, your life would change forever. I'll give you a rundown, and if you think you're up for it ... we'd love to have you."
"Hear that?" Arsen smirks. "We'd love to have you."
Blinking at the group of men in front of me, I have a bad, bad feeling about this.