The Hitwoman Plays Chaperone
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 16
Maggie Lee’s done a lot of questionable things that have made her question her own sanity. Chaperoning her niece’s class trip is one of them.
Not only must she attempt to corral a bunch of energetic kids, but at the same time she has to argue with the talking lizard in her bra, avoid a mysterious doppelganger, and chase down runaway horses!
And that’s just the beginning.
With her relationships and alliances in flux, Maggie is uncertain of what her next steps should be. Caught between the family drama caused by the return of her sister, Darlene, and her own efforts to save an innocent boy, Maggie struggles to make the right decisions and protect lives that hang in the balance.
Can Maggie navigate these latest landmines, or will relationships, or even a life, be lost?
You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you have to sit in the last seat at the back of the school bus.
Trust me, it wasn’t my idea to sit in the seat guaranteed to deliver the bumpiest ride, but it was what my niece, Katie, desperately wanted, to ride in the back with the “cool” kids, and I’d do just about anything to make her happy.
Or keep her safe.
Or keep her healthy.
My name is Maggie Lee. I’ve killed people to earn the money to pay for Katie’s medical care after she almost died in the car accident that killed her parents. Even though my “victims” were really bad people who deserved what they got, I’m not proud of what I’ve done.
I’ve done the unthinkable because I love my niece. It’s also why I agreed to chaperone her class trip and ended up in the back of the bus.
But even the bus ride, as I swear the driver intentionally hit every available pothole, was still easier to take than the discussions at the breakfast table had been.
My Aunt Susan had been in rare form, even for her. She’d lectured her sister, Loretta, about the dangers of going into business with my lottery-winning friend, Armani, despite the fact Armani had pledged to only be a silent partner and Loretta really needed the infusion of cash. Susan had hassled her other sister, Leslie, about her needing to get sober again. She’d harangued Loretta’s fiancé, Templeton, about living off of Loretta’s goodwill.
I’d kept my head down, my mouth shut, and hoped she wouldn’t pick on me next. I’m not that lucky.
“And you, Margaret,” she began.
I raised my chin and met her gaze steadily. The look I gave her was hard, almost angry. I had enough on my plate, preparing to chaperone my first school trip, without her giving me a hard time.
Susan hesitated when she saw my expression. “What do you have on tap today?”
“You know what I’m doing today,” I replied quietly. “It’s all Katie’s talked about for the last couple of days.”
“And after that?” Susan asked.
“I’ll probably take a nap,” I drawled sarcastically.
“Nap?” DeeDee, my Doberman pinscher who was curled up in the corner of the dining room, panted hopefully.
That dog loves her beauty sleep.
“What will you be doing tomorrow?” Susan demanded to know tapping her butter knife against her plate for emphasis. “Loretta and Templeton are back at The Corset.”
“And not a moment too soon,” I muttered. I had not enjoyed filling in for my aunt at her lingerie store, in fact, I’d found the entire retail experience to be an outer circle of hell.
“You need to be doing something productive with your time,” Susan lectured.
I bit the inside of my cheek and looked down at my plate to prevent myself from blurting out that I did spend my time productively, ensuring the safety of my family.
“Give the girl a break, Susan,” Loretta said sharply. “She’s been through a lot.”
“We’ve all been through a lot,” Susan snapped.
Katie ran into the room, oblivious to the tension. “All ready to go Aunt Maggie?”
I managed a fleeting smile for her. “You bet.” Without looking at Susan, I stood up and carried my dirty dishes into the kitchen.
Angel, the ridiculously handsome man hired by my aunt to care for Katie, was lounging against the counter, eating a piece of toast. He offered me an apologetic smile. “It sounded like World War 3 in there,” he said. “Thought it was safer for me to stay in here.”
I nodded. “Wise decision.” I bit back a grin, knowing that the man who looked like he could bench press his truck, was just as afraid of Susan’s wrath as the rest of us.
“All set for the big day?” he asked.
“I hope so.”
He smiled a little hearing the trepidation in my voice. “Don’t worry, Cam will bail you out of any trouble you find yourself in.”
“I hope you’re right about that.”
He narrowed his gaze. “You really are nervous?”
“I guess I should apologize for getting you roped into this.”
“Oh no. I’m really glad you suggested it. It’s the only decision I’ve made lately that Katie’s approved of.”
“She’s really excited you’re going.”
“And that makes it all worthwhile,” I said with a smile.
“I’m surprised Zeke isn’t going along,” Angel said in a deceptively mild tone.
“I don’t think he has much interest in the Revolutionary War period.”
Angel arched an eyebrow. “But he does have interest in you.”
I shrugged, unsure of how to respond to that. It wasn’t like I could explain that one of the reasons Zeke had stayed closer to me than my own shadow was that he’d been assigned the job of bodyguard by the mysterious organization we both occasionally work for. It was tempting to remind Angel that it hadn’t been all that long since I’d tried to kiss him and he’d refused, in all his gentlemanly goodness. I didn’t because I’d already had a rough enough day.
Angel took my silence to be agreement about Zeke. “You two have a complicated relationship.”
“So do we,” I countered.
Angel tipped his head to the side. “No we don’t.”
I sighed heavily. From his perspective, things between us don’t have to be complicated. From my perspective, knowing that I act as a paid assassin for his uncle, the mob boss, things are quite complicated. I’d mixed business with pleasure, with my redheaded murder-mentor Patrick Mulligan, and that hadn’t turned out so well.
Not that it turned out badly. We seem to be feeling our way through a post-lover relationship to a current friendship.
“Now’s not the time to talk about this,” Angel said easily. “You’ve a lot on your mind.”
“And a lack of productivity,” I said bitterly, thinking about Aunt Susan’s critique of my lifestyle.
“Try to stay out of trouble today.” Angel closed the distance between us and pecked me on my cheek. “It would be nice if things calmed down so we could figure us out.”
Before I could voice a false protest that there was no us, he left the kitchen.
Templeton, arms full of dishes, hurried in. “Run, while you still can,” he urged in a dramatic whisper. “A moving truck arrived next door. Susan’s heading out to meet the new neighbors. Take advantage of her distraction and make your escape.”
I nodded, unable to speak. While no one else knew who the new neighbors were going to be, I knew that my sister Darlene had bought the house. I dashed down the stairs into the basement and announced, “I’m going to kill her.”
“Who?” Piss, the one-eyed cat, asked, sticking her head out from under the couch.
“Can I help?” That question came from Godzilla, the lizard, God for short, as he prefers to be called, who was lounging on a piece of driftwood in his terrarium.
“Darlene,” I spat out.
“You do know that she’s been considered dead for a number of years already,” the lizard reminded me haughtily, clearly disappointed I wasn’t really going to kill someone.
I turned to my feline companion, looking for more empathy.
She flattened her good ear. “What has she gone and done now, sugar?”
“The moving truck is next door. Why wouldn’t she tell me she was moving in? Why did she choose today, of all days, when I’m not even going to be around to do it?”
“She didn’t tell you?” God flicked his tail, his annoyance matching mine.
“No, she didn’t tell me. Just like she’s never really told me why she disappeared all those years ago or whatever she did to first attract the attention of the Redcoat brothers.” I sighed heavily. “This family and their secrets.”
“Good thing you’re not keeping any,” God mocked.
I considered throwing a pillow at him.
“Quit winding her up, smartass,” Piss hissed. “She’s already wound tighter than a two-dollar watch.” She turned her good eye on me and purred soothingly, “How can we help, sugar?”
“I can’t take DeeDee with me on the trip, so how am I supposed to explain to everyone how her daughters know my dog?”
“I can help with that,” a voice said from the top of the stairs.
I whirled around to glare at Zeke who was standing there, watching me.
“Haven’t you ever heard of knocking?”
“You didn’t close the door.” He marched down the stairs and surveyed the room. “Who are you talking to?”
“God and Piss.”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry I asked.”
“You knew she was coming?” I accused angrily.
I squinted at him trying to tell if that was the truth. His expression was innocent enough, but what else would you expect from a professional conman?
“Really,” he promised.
I half-expected him to offer a pinky swear, but all he did was smile reassuringly.
I looked away. It didn’t really matter. It wasn’t going to solve the problem that Darlene was moving in next door, on a day I wasn’t around.
“Are you ready, Aunt Maggie?” Katie called from the top of the stairs.
“Coming!” I called with as much false cheer as I could muster.
Zeke gave me a thumbs-up. “It’ll be okay.”
I pinned him with my stare. “Fix this.”
“I’ll try,” he pledged seriously.
This time I believed him.
I glanced over at the lizard. “You want to stay or go?”
For once, he seemed indecisive, swinging his tail from side to side as though conducting his own version of eenie, meenie, miny, mo.
“Go,” Piss meowed. “I’ll tell you everything that happens here. You can’t leave Maggie alone today.”
“Your logic is sound,” God declared. “She can’t be trusted on her own.”
I may have groaned, knowing that even my pets didn’t think I was capable of chaperoning this trip independently. Still, I picked up God out of his glass enclosure and put him on my shoulder. I’d take any help I could get, even the snooty, know-it-all kind.
Zeke’s expression, when I glanced back at him, was one of amused horror.
“This place better still be standing when I get back,” I warned him. “If my family implodes, there will be hell to pay.”
He nodded, even though my family hovers at the edge at any given moment of any given day and there was really nothing either of us could do about it. It was an unfair assignment, but Zeke was too good a friend to say so.
As I climbed the stairs, my stomach churned nervously.
A feeling that only got worse at the back of the bus.