The Ruthless (Queen Crow #2) by J. Bree

Prologue





Atticus - Four Years Ago



“We can’t keep meeting like this.”

Luca pulls the cap down over his face a little more. “I know. This is important.”

Crossing state lines is the only way we have any chance of keeping this meeting secret and secure. I left my property on one of my motorcycles, a performance machine that is faster than any of my vehicles. Covered entirely in leather and a full helmet, there’s no way any of the Jackal’s spies would have realized it’s me.

I’ve been very quiet about this hobby of mine for a reason.

“As long as you’re sure we weren’t followed… what’s the information? What could be this important that you’d risk almost a decade of work to meet me?”

He huffs and steps in closer to my body. “The Wolf is leaving the Bay.”

It’s not at all what I’m expecting from him.

Not even close.

“She can’t. She’s fourteen, how can she leave?”

He huffs under his breath at me. “Fifteen in a few weeks. She’s going to apply for emancipation; she’s gotten a scholarship.”

I know exactly what he’s going to say now before the words come out of his mouth. Sure, the Wolf leaving the Bay is news I need to know, but it’s not worth the risk to deliver the news personally.

The Wolf attending Hannaford Preparatory Academy as a freshman with Avery and Ash Beaumont?

That I need to know.

“It’s a move against me. The Jackal must have found out about her. Fuck, we’re going to have to move on him now and to hell with the consequences.”

Luca shakes his head and scratches the back of his neck. “No. He definitely hasn’t, I’ve been over every inch of his plans with him and he doesn’t know. Fuck, when she came and told him she was leaving? He didn’t like that. After his falling out with the Butcher I think he’s spiraling out of control and with the Wolf gone he’s going to fucking lose it. Avery is safe for now, just as long as they don’t… talk about you.”

I keep my face locked down hard but we’ve been friends too long for him not to know just how worried this news has me. “There’s no way Avery would ever look twice at a Mounty gutter rat. The Wolf won’t hold her interest unless she walks in there and tells the whole school who she is.”

I hesitate. The girl has always been quiet, reserved, and calculating in everything she does. If I hadn’t seen her in action I wouldn’t believe half the stories about her kills. She’s unrivaled in the Bay, her skill set renowned and highly sought after.

If you want a blood-soaked massacre you call the Butcher.

If you want a knife in the dark, never seen or heard until your throat is already slit, you call the Wolf.

“I could offer to go with her? The Jackal will send men up there after her. I could be another set of eyes for you both and make sure they stay out of each other’s way?”

It’s tempting but he’s too valuable to me where he is. “I’ll send my own set of eyes. Good work bringing this to me; I’ll take care of it.”

Luca nods but he doesn’t move away. I don’t want to risk sticking around here for too long, the longer we stay the more we risk being caught, so I clap him on the shoulder and step away.

“There’s something else.”

I turn back to look at him and he hesitates before continuing, “The Butcher offered himself to her. The Wolf turned him down, but if things go south… he’s going to come after us all for her death. Whatever calculations you run about this mess, factor that in.”

He sounds like he’s pleading for her life. “Are you to argue with me if I do decide she needs to go? Have you grown attached to the little orphan Mounty?”

He meets my eye without any remorse, speaking through his teeth at the rage that still fills him at the memory as he says, “Standing there and watching that psychopath smash her leg to pieces was the hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done. You know that.”

I turn and walk away.

It wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Leaving Avery in a school with the most infamous assassin in the Bay might be, but I don’t plan on leaving the Wolf there for long.

I will do anything to keep Avery safe.





Chapter One





No matter how hard I blink, the murder board I’ve stumbled upon stays the same.