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Crowds of people swarmed around me, both tourists and locals, while the deafening noise of chatting, shouting and cars hammered against my ears. My breathing was shallow and panic shot through my mind like a bullet.
But on the outside I just looked like a regular teenage girl walking the streets of London, like many had done before me and many would do after me. The surrounding people never noticed anything different about me. They didn't guess that there was something I was trying to hide, someone I was hiding from. They didn't guess my secret – and that was exactly the way I wanted it.
The busy city of London was the perfect place to hide – but I felt even more vulnerable. I couldn't notice anyone following me, or even defend myself if they were. Everything I’d learnt in the past two years was completely useless. Everything I’d learnt since…never mind.
Deceiving people was part of my job (I was even quite good at it), but I couldn't deceive myself. People normally accepted what I said without question; I think that was why they agreed to my plan. My silky dark brown (almost black) hair hung down to my waist and my eyes shone brightly like emeralds, standing out against my lily white skin. But I was a beautiful monster…I was an assassin.
Yes, that’s right. I, Alina Volkov, aged sixteen, was an assassin. That’s why I was running: I’d been sent to Wales to kidnap a girl called Katherine Bishop, who was the same age as me. I couldn't go through with it, running away from the school last night. I was here in London to meet Lucien, a friend of my father’s, who was going to help me.
You’re probably wondering why a girl like me is an assassin. Well, when I was fourteen I found out something that changed my life – my dad was an assassin! Charlie and some other ‘colleagues’ had come to our house, because they wanted to kill my dad after he had left them. Desperate to help him, I told them that I would join them if they would leave my dad alone. They accepted, but I haven’t seen my dad since.
I was walking along the street, glancing over my shoulder nervously, when I saw him, sat in a coffee shop staring at his phone. Not Lucien, but Zac. Zac, who used to be like a brother to me, but who I hadn't seen for more than two years.
As if sensing my presence, he looked up. But instead of smiling, like I imagined he would, he glared at me, his eyes icy cold. My heart dropped to my toes, but I ignored the feeling of dread and entered the coffee shop.
“Decided to leave the dark side then?” he asked quietly, his voice dripping with sarcasm as I sat down opposite him. His deep blue eyes remained cold and his face showed no emotion when he spoke.
“Zac..” I replied softly, pausing when I saw the look on his face. A look of complete hatred. I knew why he was angry with me: Lucien, his grandfather, had given me a chance to escape before, but still fearing for my father’s life, I declined. He didn't think I deserved a second chance of freedom.
“ I've got you a passport and a plane ticket to Italy. The flight leaves in the morning, and there’s a hotel room booked for you near the airport tonight. Lucien said he’ll meet you when you get off the plane.” He snapped, still gazing at me with such hatred I was barely able to look him in the eye.
“Thanks,” I said, daring to give him a small smile. “What about you?”
“ I've got things to do here. I’ll be in Italy the day after you. Just try and stay out of my way until then,” he got up abruptly and almost ran towards the exit, leaving his untouched coffee behind.
My lips stretched into a smile when I noticed the coffee he had ordered for me; vanilla latte – my favourite. So he did remember.
I spent the four hour plane journey to Italy worrying about what would happen to my dad when Charlie realized I had left…what would happen to me. Charlie didn't know about Lucien though, he couldn't. I decided to ask Lucien if he knew Charlie. He normally didn't talk about his past, but this was important. I was sure he would be honest.
Hugging me gently, the warm rays of the Italian sun were a nice change from the autumn chill of England. Dragging my small suitcase behind me, I left the airport. Lucien was leaning out of his car window, waiting close to the airport doors. I was nervous he too might be annoyed at me, but, unlike his grandson, he smiled and waved when he saw me.
On the way to his house, I explained about Charlie and why I had left in more detail. He promised that I would be safe, and said that he was sure Charlie wouldn't hurt Katherine now I was gone: we would inform her parents of the danger before they had time to make another plan.
After about an hour, I started to recognize the places we traveled through. I had spent endless summer holidays here when I was younger, while my dad was away. My face stretched into a smile as the car pulled up alongside Lucien’s house. The modern cottage was set just meters from the beach, facing the white sand. I climbed out of the car, sighed, and realized this was the happiest I’d felt in two years.
The next day, Zac arrived back in Italy. He seemed to hate me more here than he had in London; he didn't say a word to me if he could help it, and acted like he couldn't bear to be in the same room as me. The only time he acknowledged my existence was when he was helping Lucien and I plan how I was going to hide from Charlie; I think it was because it meant I wouldn't be living with him if our plan worked.
I’d only been at the house for a couple of days when Lucien delivered some terrible news. Katherine was missing –Charlie had still kidnapped her! For a moment, I couldn't speak, couldn't breathe, then I almost shouted “We have to help her! Please Lucien, we have to do something!”
“Alina, calm down,” he answered quietly, “There’s nothing we can do, apart from inform her parents of what we know.”
Tears began to burn my eyes, but I did my best to hide them. “We could try to rescue her, there must be something we can do.”
“It’s to dangerous. We just have to hope he parents will find her soon,” he replied calmly but firmly. His eyes were kind, but the tone of his voice told me that arguing was useless.
“No, Alina’s right – we should try to help. I’m going to try and rescue her, even if you aren't,” Zac said unexpectedly. I stared at him in surprise, and he gave me a small smile before turning to Lucien, who sighed, defeated.
“Very well. But I warn you, it will be dangerous. I’ll speak to some of my friends and ask if they will assist us.” He said slowly, before getting up and reaching for the phone. No words passed between Zac and I, but I knew he had forgiven me.
Over the next few days, our plan began to fall into place. Zac introduced me to Sophia and her younger brother Tom, who had agreed to help us and Lucien spoke to his friend, Henry, who knew where Charlie was hiding Katherine. Everything was like it used to be…I should have known it wouldn't last.
Looking back, I know arguing with Zac was stupid – I don’t know what would have happened to me if Sophia hadn't realized that Charlie was involved in my disappearance. I was lucky that they managed to find me so quickly…if they hadn't, I’d probably be dead.
After I’d argued with Zac, I had ran into the village, only to be kidnapped by Charlie. He took me to the place he was keeping Katherine; a secret high security building just north of Lucien’s friend’s house.
I was locked in a room there when I saw Sophia walking down the corridor with a gun and what looked like a security card in her hand. She unlocked the door when she saw me, looking around for Charlie or any of the guards.
“Sophia,” I whispered, shocked “what are you doing here? How did you find me?”
She grinned at my confusion and continued walking down the corridor. “I followed you into the village as soon as I found out what happened between you and Zac. When I couldn't find you, I knew Charlie was involved. We set off the rescue you as soon as I told the others.”
“So are the others here then?” I asked, jogging to keep up with her.
“Yes, Zac was looking for you with me, but we split up, Tom disabled some of the alarms so we can get in and out, and Henry is outside waiting for us with Lucien,” she replied. “Now hurry up, we have to find Zac and Katherine then get out of here.”
Almost immediately, we found the room Katherine was trapped in. She was alone, but Sophia’s security card wouldn't open the door. She pulled out her mobile to call Tom, but we both froze as we heard a sound behind us.
“Well, well, well,” Charlie said menacingly, a sneer on his face. “What have we got here?” One of the guards with him opened the door to Katherine’s prison and pushed us inside. “You two can stay here for now,” Charlie continued, then his gaze fell on me, “Alina...I’ll deal with you and your friend later.” He gave an evil smile, sending a chill down my spine, before leaving with the guards.
“Nataliya?” Katherine stared at me in surprise, “What are you doing here? Why did Charlie just call you Alina?” Nataliya was the name I used while at the school; I had forgotten that she didn't know.
I took a deep breath, preparing to tell her the complete truth. But I didn't get the chance. The door flew open to reveal Zac, who ran to Katherine and grabbed her arm, pulling her out the door.
“Come on!” he said to Sophia and me, “We have to get out of here now!”
Sprinting through the corridors, we didn't care about being found anymore, only about getting out. Zac lead us to a side door, running to a van we could see through the fence.
We were almost at the van when we heard a shout. Turning around, I could see Charlie running towards us. Sophia pushed Katherine through the fence then followed her. I was about to go after them when I saw Charlie raise his gun and heard a shot echo through the grounds. Sinking to the ground, I felt something warm spreading across my arm. The last thing I saw were Zac’s eyes gazing into mine, then I blacked out…
The pearl white sand was as soft as velvet beneath my feet as I walked along, almost blinded by the bright sun. I could just make out Katherine waving at me from the house – she was angry at first when I told her he truth, but she understood why I felt I had no choice and forgave me. I waved back, then sat down on the sand, letting the water wash over me.
Hearing footsteps behind me, I turned to see Zac walking towards me. He sat down and smiled, taking my hand. The sun shone brightly, creating a misty haze around everything as I looked around to see Sophia, Tom, Lucien. Zac. My new life.