When Ciaran Black, assassin and killer fashion connoisseur, must steal from his arch-nemesis the only shred of magic left in his dimension, things go horribly wrong. (Poison prompt from the End-of-Summer Writing Contest)

Chapter 1

One might argue that the number one necessity for an assassin is their weapon. I beg to differ. First of all, a highly trained, extraordinarily skilled, and exceptionally talented killer, such as myself, needs only their bare hands to accomplish the job. I like to make the point that the most important component lies with the outfit one chooses to wear.

Case in point- my ensemble. For years I have worn a similar getup comprised of a simple, skin-tight black shirt, a dark jacket zipped up over it. Designed to look like a skull, a mask covers the bottom half of my face, and I keep my hood up so that victims can see only the slightest glint of my eyes, which, contrary to many articles and wanted posters, are light green, not a “dark, soulless black,” thank you very much. (Not that anyone lives long enough to find out anyway.) Sometimes, a belt hangs around my hips, dripping with weapons. Under that are the leggings. The final, and by far the best, installment of my suit are my boots. They’re simple black combat boots, laced up to mid-shin, padded and having plenty of ankle support for optimal chasing-after-unwilling-victims.

Now I slipped a plain dagger into the hidden inside pocket of my left boot. I know I said I can kill with my bare hands, and I wasn’t lying, but I much prefer the trusty weight of a knife. The sound of a neck snapping beneath my fingers is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Besides, I shouldn’t need a blade. I’m going to dinner. Okay, so maybe it’s a dinner with my rival and fellow assassin under the pretense that I didn’t want to be enemies anymore that was actually an excuse so that I could get into her house and rob her, but that’s not the point. I swore to myself that I would never go back to her mansion, but when she stole my pendant, I couldn’t possibly stay away. To everyone else, including her, it just looked like a rock on a chain, a useless chunk of onyx, but to me, it was pure power. That stone was the last remaining sliver of magic in my dimension, and now it was gone just because she knew it was, for some reason, important to me.

I hurried out of my apartment and to my car. Usually, I would just go across the roofs of buildings to get somewhere, but Adrienne Gable insisted on using her blood money to upkeep a mansion on the edge of the city an ungodly distance away. As I turned the key in the car, it grumbled unhappily from disuse. After a moment, the protests turned into the steady hum of a functional automobile, and I heaved a sigh of relief.

As I pulled onto the street, my fingers wrapped tighter around the wheel, squeezing until my knuckles went white. The forty-five minute drive was excruciating, the thought of death looming in my mind. Driving scared the hell out of me. The idea that any of the surrounding vehicles could crash into me and steal my life in an instant was terrifying. Ironic, isn’t it? A killer, afraid of death.

Not soon enough, the gilded gates of the mansion’s entrance materialized from the winter dark hanging over the evening like a blanket. I slowed so the cameras could see me. The gates opened leisurely. After a deep, steadying breath, I drove through.

I had decided to leave my mask at home, but now I regretted it, my face feeling naked and vulnerable without the cover I had gotten used to. Down the winding driveway I went, palms sweating nervously. Finally, I pulled up in the big circle in front of the majestically imposing building. Forcing my features into those of neutrality, I climbed gracefully out of my car, closing the door in one fluid movement. It was like I had flipped a switch in myself. Suddenly, I wasn’t an anxious wreck, but a confident killer, chin up, stalking forward like I owned the place.

My resolve crumbled halfway up the front steps, and I considered turning around and running away. I didn’t let this part of me show, just stood up straighter and rung the doorbell. It chimed sweetly, and I blinked, taken aback. It was so unlike Adrienne, that delightful sound. Then realized that it was exactly like her- angelic only on the surface.

The door swung open, revealing Adrienne, the light behind her giving her a heavenly glow. I was relieved to see she had taken the same path as me, wearing her self-prescribed assassin uniform- a black crop top and leggings hugging tightly to her form. She looked just how I remembered her- thin but muscular, softly curved but sharp on the inside. Her hair was cascading down her shoulders, dark and silky, though she usually held it up in the confines of a ponytail or bun. I had told her once that it was prettier down, and I wondered now if she had used that against me tonight.

She smiled dangerously, like a cat that had finally caught its prey. “Hello, Ciaran.” She gestured behind her. “Come in.”

Looking at her and remembering our shared past, I almost bolted, but then my eyes caught on something glittering at her throat. The stone. I followed her in and compliantly sat across from her at the table, mind racing to come up with a plan. I could feel the magic radiating from the stone, drawing me towards it.

To avoid having to come up with something to say to the girl I once loved, I picked up the water in front of me and took a sip. That snapped me back to the present. The liquid burned going down my throat, making my stomach churn and head spin. The poison was fast, already coursing through my veins. The last thing I saw was Adrienne’s victorious grin before everything went black.

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