Apricum (Apricum Kingdom #1)

Orphaned and in charge of keeping her young brother alive, Helga survives by using her powers to kill for hire. But, when she is kidnapped by people wanting to exploit her, Helga's life changes drastically. No longer sure who to trust, she escapes and goes looking for her brother Finn. But she's been keeping secrets even from those closest to her, and secrets have a way of finding you, in the end... [PG-15 for violence and language - keep in mind that the protagonist kills for a living. Some references to sex.]

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8. Seven

“Open this door right the fuck now, Raul!” I yelled, pounding on the door with all my (not inconsiderable) strength.

“What?” he snarled, flinging his fancy door open. He didn’t look nervous, but I’d known Raul for nearly six years now; I could tell that beneath his scowl, he was terrified. I snorted, glad to at least have my suspicions on who kidnapped me proven right.

“We need to talk.”

“Yeah well you just woke the entire street, sweetheart,” he drawled. I never found out where Raul was from, but he had a drawl to his voice that made me think of Papa’s old books’ description of a kingdom called America; they had pastures and cows. It wasn’t an image that fit Raul well. He would’ve looked more at home in a movie about drugs and prostitution - something out of what the books had called ‘the mafia’.

I smiled sweetly at him. “Yes, and you had me kidnapped last week. I think we’re even,” I said, pushing past him into his big house.

He nervously looked up and down his street before closing the door behind me. “I have no idea what you mean, doll.”

“Oh, Raul, let’s not argue,” I said in a laid-back tone. “I do so hate fighting with you.”

“Well, then, don’t, sweetheart,” he said in his creepiest voice. 

I rolled my eyes as I grabbed a bottle of vodka from his liquor cabinet. His smile turned lascivious as he moved toward me slowly. 

“You know I’d never hurt you.”

I narrowed my eyes at him and snapped my fingers. A stream of flame shot from my hand and created a tight orange circle around his body; not so tight that it’d burn him, but enough that he had to stop moving and could feel the heat.

His panicked eyes shot up to me and I shook my head at him.

Taking a healthy swig from the bottle of vodka, I eyed him carefully. “We’ve talked about this, Raul. I’m not a whore for you to pounce on. And I definitely don’t like being carted off to some gods-forsaken cave because of some pissing contest or feeling of emasculation you may have been suffering from.”

He gulped, his Adam’s apple bobbing in the flickering light of my flames. “I’m sorry, Helga. It’s just, you’re hot as fu - FUCK!” he screamed, as the ring tightened around him. “S-sorry. I didn’t mean no harm. But the clients, they’ve been getting angry that the bodies haven’t been turning up like they wanted, and you won’t listen -”

“And so because of that, you thought ‘hey, I know! I’ll kidnap her and leave her little brother unprotected and without food!’. Not the most brilliant plan you’ve come up with, Raul.”

He seemed ready to hurl. “I’m sorry! I assumed your little whore friend would take care of him!”

“Don’t call Freyja that!” I snapped at him, the flames flaring for a second before I got my temper under control. Raul was sweating in the circle of fire surrounding him. I took a deep breath. “You know what? Whatever. I don’t have time for this. I need a favour from you, and you’re going to listen very, very carefully.”

Raul nodded frantically, eyes glued on my face, pleading. 

“See, because of your brilliant plan to teach me a lesson, someone has now kidnapped Finn and Freyja.” 

If I had thought Raul had been pale before, he looked like the living dead now as he whimpered. “I had nothing to do with that, I swear! I was going to let you go in a few days. You know I’d never hurt the boy!”

I shot him a withering glare and he shut up. “I know. Not even you are that stupid.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I need you to tell all of your contacts that I’ve left the city. Spread the word that I’ve left, and am not coming back - not ever.”

He looked confused. “But… why?”

“Because I am leaving. So I guess I’m also here to hand in my resignation. Which reminds me, you owe me for the last job. So I’ll be taking my money, too.”

Raul now looked angry. “You can’t just quit! I’ve got jobs lined up for you for months to come!”

“Yeah, well, tough, buddy. Maybe you should think twice about your Human Relations. Handy tip: no one likes being kidnapped, it’s not good for business.”

“But -”

“Na-ah-ah, Raul.” I took another swig from the vodka bottle. “I’m leaving tonight with my money. And some weapons. So you just sit tight there, I’ll be right back.”

While he spluttered behind me, I dashed up the imposing staircase and into his office. I pocketed two knives, taking a belt holster for them too. Then I crossed to a pile of cash and grabbed some from the top. If I was going to infiltrate Court, I had to look the part, and that cost money.

Before I left the room, I had to get one last thing. I knew Raul kept the identification documents of all the people we killed for him for his side business of black market goods. I just hoped that the one I was looking for would still be here, not already sold.

After a few minutes of rummaging through his surprisingly organised filing system of IDs, I found the one I was looking for: a minor Lady from a neighbouring kingdom. She had been my last target, and she had struck me because of her hair - bright red, like mine. Her death had been commissioned by her own father, who thought she was a traitor to her kingdom. She’d been expected in Court two weeks ago, but I could always make an excuse about stopping to visit a friend on the way, or a broken car.

I exited Raul’s office with everything I needed and hurried down the stairs. I stepped up to him as I passed, extinguishing the flames, and patted his cheek.

“Good boy. Now be a dear, run along and spread the news, will you?”

“Helga -”

“Bye, Raul. I hope never to see you again. It’s been grand,” I said over my shoulder, walking out the front door. I let it slam shut behind me, muffling his frustrated yell of “SHIT!”

I allowed myself a small smile as I walked down the road and slipped into the shadows, disappearing quickly from the fancy neighbourhood. I was going into the viper’s nest, but nothing was as uplifting as pissing off Raul.

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