Home > The Final Hour

The Final Hour
Author: Brittney Sahin

Prologue

 

 

Emilia

 

 

Las Vegas, Nevada (Ten Years Ago)


“Would you stop worrying?” Chanel yelled in my ear as the audience roared, many on their feet, pumping their arms as if they, too, wanted to be inside the Octagon and fighting at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. “I promise, hanging out with me won’t land you on Santa’s naughty list. Too late, anyway. Christmas was last week,” she teased, poking me in the side with her elbow.

“I’m not worried,” I finally responded, the protest bubbling from my lips like a hot drop of acid.

I caught Chanel’s brown eyes as she fingered strands of honey-brown bangs away from her face. “Liar.”

Maybe I was lying, but if our fathers ever found out we were friends, I couldn’t imagine the consequences. Our families were sworn enemies. The good-versus-evil kind.

So, I couldn’t stop myself from constantly looking around and searching the crowd. Ensuring no one was spying on us. Or hell, checking for snipers in the wings. A two-for-one special. Take out the daughters of two of the most powerful men in the world with two quick pops.

I forced my focus back on the ring just as one of the fighters slammed his fist hard into the other guy’s jaw. Chanel turned my way, stealing her eyes from the view of the scene. For the daughter of a killer, she sure hated blood.

We were sitting in the second row back from the cage. It was round three between Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone. From the looks of it, the fight would go to a decision.

It was much less exciting when judges chose a victor. Selecting a winner based on strikes and takedowns still felt too subjective. Too open to personal biases. I wanted a clear result. Let the fighters go at it until someone tapped out or was knocked out. That’s how the underground fights were handled back home in Italy, at least.

Chanel crossed her long legs, much more comfortable now that the fight was over. “Just remind me why I flew halfway around the world to hang out with you for your birthday, yet instead of partying, we’re watching men beat the shit out of each other?”

I checked my skinny silver watch as we waited for the winner to be declared. “Not my birthday for thirty minutes. And how can you not love this? Two people inside a cage going at it. It’s primitive and raw. And it’s also controlled, so you don’t need to worry. No one is dying tonight.”

“We have a lot in common, Ems, except this.” She smiled. “But you’re the birthday girl, so I’m here for you and whatever you want to do.”

A friend of mine managed the shows at the MGM Garden Arena, and he helped me get tickets the second they were available. Thankfully, he had no connection to my father or Chanel’s, which meant our attendance together shouldn’t raise any flags if he spotted us. Not that he’d recognize Chanel. We were in the States, and most Americans were unfamiliar with our families. And that meant Chanel was most likely right. I needed to cut the worrying. Damn the strange nagging feeling in my gut, though.

My attention abruptly swung to four men in casual business attire. Dark trousers and jackets, crisp dress shirts with the top buttons left undone. They headed down our row toward the empty seats next to us. Many of the VIPs showed up at the last minute to watch the evening’s main event, which was up next, so I shouldn’t assume they were secretly sent as assassins to take one of us out.

I shifted closer to Chanel when one of the nicely dressed men filled the chair next to mine, his arm bumping into my bare one.

“Pardon,” he commented, but I offered a tight “no worries” nod without casting a look his way. I didn’t need to put a face to the suit. I’d met a lot of businessmen in my two years thus far in Vegas, and none had ever been worth a minute of my time.

“You sure you want to be here?” I overheard him speak. “There are other events I’d be happy to take you all to.”

Apparently, the suit disliked fighting as much as Chanel.

The Irish lilt of his voice was an interesting surprise, though.

Plot twist.

I did have a weakness for an Irish accent—who didn’t?

I glanced at Chanel while I continued to eavesdrop on the suit, contemplating the odds of his looks being as sexy as the sound of that deep, baritone voice. A sexy businessman was preferable to a sexy hitman, at least.

“You don’t like fighting?” a different voice chimed in, American from the sounds of it. “You’re Irish. Isn’t an affinity for a good fight a requirement if you’re from Dublin?”

Yeah, not a hitman. Unless he’s a really good actor.

“Just not a fan of fighting. I have my reasons,” the Irishman responded, a glib tone to his voice.

I had the sudden urge to lure an answer out of him. Uncover the truth. Apply a little pressure and discover whatever it was that had this Irishman probably wishing he were anywhere else.

“Fighting is cathartic. Watching it. Doing it. Trust me.” A raspy, flirtatious edge sounded through my tone. “You don’t know what you’re missing.” Why did I just say that?

The Irishman didn’t respond. Maybe he assumed I’d been speaking to Chanel.

A few moments passed before he shifted in his seat, inadvertently bumping his leg into mine, and the movement sent my black clutch sliding off my lap.

With lightning-quick reflexes, he snatched the clutch before it hit the ground. I was somewhat shocked to realize he’d been faster than me.

And hitman was back on the table.

My gaze followed the line of his suit jacket down to his strong hand that now offered my clutch. “Thank you,” I said softly. Dragging my eyes up his white pressed shirt, sans tie, and along the tan column of his throat, I paused to appreciate his handsome face. A clean-shaven, not-quite-chiseled jawline. Full lips that begged to be kissed. To be tasted. A perfectly straight blade of a nose. Short blond hair, the top a touch unruly, above brilliant blue eyes that now held mine. He couldn’t be but a few years older than me. And the looks did indeed match the sexy voice.

I kept my hand on top of his as he remained holding my clutch between us.

I wasn’t one to get starstruck or become speechless. No tingling sensations because of a man unless I was mid-orgasm. And butterflies? The only kind I’d experienced were the ones that flitted around in our yard while I practiced archery when I was younger.

Of course, my life was unique, and maybe that meant my responses to normal situations were also different.

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