ONE STEP AFTER ANOTHER
Cover Credits: London Miller
The After Another Trilogy, book #1
Publication Date: September 14, 2020
Genres: Adult, Romantic Suspense, Crime Thriller, Organized Crime
He finds the unfindable, but she’s terribly good at hiding …
Penny Dunsworth is dead.
Well, she should be—a piece of her certainly is. The broken girl she once was no longer exists. Now a trained assassin for The League, she’s turned into the worst nightmare for the monsters who once haunted her every waking moment. She has to be … it’s the only way to keep her past safe. That is if she can keep it from catching up.
Luca Puzza is chasing a ghost.
He’s never once been able to catch her in the five years that he spent searching. Until now. The promise he made to find the girl who disappeared without a trace turned into an obsession that changed his life. But the woman he was looking for is only a shadow of who he finds. She’s dangerous … for his heart and life, and so are the secrets she’s protecting.
One can only play with monsters for so long before they start to notice you’re not the same. In this world, predators can just as easily become prey.
Except she stopped being a victim long ago.
And it’s time for this to end.
Note: One Step After Another is book one of the After Another trilogy following the same couple over a journey that takes them from present, to past, to future. The books should be read in order. The trilogy discusses triggering topics that may be uncomfortable for some. Please be advised and read at your own discretion.
“MISS Carter, whenever you’re ready.”
Regardless of how many times Penny Dunsworth used aliases—many times over her five years as an assassin working for The League—she had never really become accustomed to the revolving door of identities. It was part of the job. Expected, even. Yet, hearing another name that wasn’t hers still took Penny a second to answer.
“Thank you,” she told the driver currently holding the right side, rear passenger door open. “We won’t need further help, or the car.”
“I was told to be here at twelve to—”
“Excuse me,” Penny said, stepping out of the vehicle and turning her back to the man as she grabbed the edge of the car door. It forced the driver to move, but also allowed the other passenger in the rear seat to exit as well. “Hurry. We’re not drawing attention here, Delilah. Remember?”
Compared to Penny’s form-fitted black gown, matching hat—that was better suited for the beach than the formal dinner and event happening a few doors away inside the Manhattan hotel—Delilah’s white get-up was quite a sight as she left the vehicle. Well, Delilah wasn’t her real name, but it was what her papers said, and Marise liked the option when Dare handed over the five different identifications for the job. Choices were always good.
Today, Marise was Delilah. Penny was Georgina. And none of it was true.
The skirt of Marise’s white gown, made up of layers of chiffon, ruffled in the wind but not much. The silk cloak with the large hood that kept her blonde hair and most of her face hidden from any view up above—camera angles, mostly—kept the loose layers of the gown from blowing wildly.
Side by side on the street, Penny and Marise probably appeared to be total opposites. She towered over the girl’s four and a half feet by a foot and half in her patent leather pumps. Their gowns were a contrast in both color and style. Even their hair—Marise with blonde curls, and Penny in her pin-straight black wig—couldn’t be more different.
And yet despite those obvious physical differences, if anyone asked, the story was simple—Penny was Marise’s mother. Or … the identities they had taken on were a mother and daughter pair, for that matter.
On the surface, anyway.
Beneath that, well, things were a lot darker. As was usually the way in their business. A person couldn’t play with monsters and never come face to face with one, after all. In all her twenty-three years, it was one lesson Penny almost wished she had never learned. Thing was, if she hadn’t learned it, then she wouldn’t be who she was now.
“Miss Carter, this way, please,” said the man in a three-piece black suit with coiled wire hanging down from the comm in his ear. He held open the front door of the hotel while another man, dressed similarly, stood a foot back in the entryway. Definitely not hotel security—more likely part of the team for the father of the man Penny would soon be visiting upstairs in a suite.
Penny smiled. “Absolutely. Delilah, follow me.”
Her partner on the job said nothing but didn’t hesitate to trail behind Penny who followed the two men dressed in black. The men didn’t speak to each other, or the women walking only two feet behind. Or to any of the many people milling about in the large entry of the upscale hotel. Music and laughter filtered in through the open doorways of the bar and ballroom decorated in lengthy, sheer drapes.
Penny took all of it in. And barely even moved her head to do it.
Besides, it wasn’t like she hadn’t been to a dozen of these kinds of events when she was younger. A wealthy family, too much privilege and power … of course, she had been dressed up and dragged to things exactly like this just because it was good for their last name to be tied to it all.
Not that she cared to think about it.
She never did.
Liar, her mind hissed as a hundred memories passed through her brain, making her heart beat harder and her chest tight. She was a liar because she thought about it too much.
Penny had just become better at hiding it. The League helped with that. Not that she was willing to admit the training they put her through had helped beyond anything more than teaching her how to kill another human in fifty different ways.
“Step inside,” the man to the left said as he and his partner came to a stop near the elevators. Only one was already open and waiting.
Penny moved into the open elevator at the far right of a bank of four. Marise didn’t need to be told to follow, nor did she raise her head enough to allow the cameras outside or inside the elevator to catch more than a shadow or the curve of her lips. The same way Penny’s hat kept her face from view despite it not really going with the outfit.
Win some, lose some.
“Floor eight, right?” Penny asked, smiling at the suits waiting outside.
“Floor eight. Suite eight-oh-one.”
She knew that, too.
At least the assholes could feel like they were really doing something more than just delivering a man’s fetish.
Penny hit the button for the appropriate floor and waited until the door closed before she hit another. Two floors lower than the eighth. “You’ll be fine—just get the hell out of here and make sure they don’t see you leave, huh?”
Marise passed her a look. “What if he has someone waiting up there? Another one of those assholes in a suit—one with a gun?”
That was cute.
She could do these jobs alone except for when she couldn’t and needed a decoy. Say like another assassin who, when dressed up a certain way looked younger than she was. As far as Penny knew, Marise was somewhere in the range of eighteen years or so. About the same age Penny had been when she walked into The League five years earlier with a black folder in hand and no idea what would come next.
Except for tonight.
Because tonight, Marise—or Delilah—wasn’t supposed to look her age at all.
“Get off on the sixth floor,” Penny said. “No one will be waiting up there with him. They never have anyone. The entire point of what they do is the less who know, the better.”
Marise didn’t argue. She also got off the elevator on the sixth floor.
The rest, Penny could do alone.
Besides, she liked it that way.
CALLING ALL REVIEWERS, BLOGGERS, BOOKSTAGRAMMERS! YOU CAN NOW SIGNUP TO PARTICIPATE IN THE AFTER ANOTHER TRILOGY EVENTS!
One Step After Another: https://indiesage.com/one-stepbk/
One Breath After Another: https://indiesage.com/one-breathbk/
One Second After Another: https://indiesage.com/one-secondbk/
Bethany-Kris is a Canadian author, lover of much, and mother to four young sons, one cat, and two dogs. A small town in Eastern Canada where she was born and raised is where she has always called home. With her boys under her feet, snuggling cat, barking dogs, and a hubby calling over his shoulder, she is nearly always writing something … when she can find the time.
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