By: Elise Noble

I glanced at my watch again and took one last look around my prison. No, nothing else worth taking. The matte black Rolex I wore was the only thing of value I was allowed, probably because I couldn’t kill anybody with it. The thirty-thousand-dollar watch had been a thirtieth birthday gift from the general a year ago. By then, our relations had soured to the point that I spent my birthday dinner with my ankles shackled to the floor while his staff served up a five-course feast complete with a fucking string quartet playing in the background. I’d refused to speak to him, and when we’d finished our coffee, the drugs he’d stirred into it kicked in, and he delivered me back to my cell to sleep it off. I know what you’re thinking—why did he bother? Because he could. With the general, everything was about control.

With that thought, I undid the strap. The bastard had probably put a tracking device inside. I’d already checked Twixy thoroughly, which was why he only had one ear now.

Another minute ticked by.

Please, let this work. According to the handful of books on child development I’d had access to, Tabitha was smart for her age, but would she keep to the plan? I’d always preferred to work alone because I never trusted a partner not to screw things up, but when my accomplice was two-and-a-half years old? Had I lost my damn mind?

No, General Zacharov had stolen it, and this was my only chance to get it back.

I pressed a kiss to Tabby’s forehead, waking her up, then put a finger to my lips.

“Stay still,” I whispered. “Okay?”

She stared up at me with her big brown eyes—her father’s eyes, not mine—and nodded.

It was time.

I took a deep breath and laid my beautiful little girl on the cold floor of our prison. She closed her eyes, a tiny smile on her lips. A smile that I mirrored. Yes, that was my daughter.

“Help! I need help!” I injected enough panic into my voice to make the guard stationed outside come right away rather than waiting until half-time.

He stomped up to the bars and peered through, his face screwed up in disgust.

“What do you want? I’m missing the football game.”

I waved over to where Tabby lay flat by the bed. “She just fell on the floor. I don’t think she’s breathing!”

Outwardly, I projected the fear of a mother with everything to lose, but inside I willed myself to remain calm as I studied every twitch of the bastard’s face, every movement of his hands. Did I look panicked enough? I was going for scared but not hysterical. No man wanted to deal with a hysterical female.

I increased the pitch of my voice slightly. “Help her. Please, you’ve got to help her!”

My fists wanted to clench, but I grabbed the bars instead. Please, Tabby, don’t move. Keep your eyes closed. I’d practised this over and over with her, always at night while the guards were lax, but training a toddler to keep still was almost as difficult as teaching a new conscript to think first then shoot.

The guard glanced through the doorway at the TV screen as it dissolved into static for a few seconds then looked back at Tabby.

“I’ll call for the doctor.”

He acted like he was doing me a favour, and I wasn’t sure whether his lack of compassion was passed down from his parents or instilled by the general.

Either way, his suggestion wouldn’t work. “The doctor’s on the other side of the base.” I collapsed to my knees beside Tabby and forced the tears to match my broken voice. “She’ll die before he gets here. Please, I need help with CPR. If she dies, I can’t go on without her.”

He knew that. They all did. From the procedures the general had put in place, anyone with half a brain could work out that he used Tabby to control me. Without her alive, I had nothing to lose but the general did.

If anything happened to my daughter, the young guard in front of me would have to explain to General Zacharov why he no longer had his favourite assassin under his thumb to do his dirty work. And the general was definitely the type to shoot the messenger.

A step backwards, a step forwards. I could see the indecision on the guard’s face and in his movements as I pretended to give my daughter mouth-to-mouth.

“Stay still, Tabby,” I whispered.

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