Best Laid Plans - Stylo Fantome

AUTHOR'S NOTE

Every location in the following story is real. Every hotel, landmark, border, neighborhood, etc.; they are all based on a real location that actually exits. Customs and holidays and hazards were all researched.

That being said, creative license was taken occasionally, as a drive across western Africa would be virtually impossible in real life – geographically as well as it's simply too dangerous. The U.S. Department of State advises using extreme caution when traveling through that part of the world, and the U.N. has listed many of the cities mentioned as extremely dangerous.

Best Laid Plans

The Mercenaries #1

LILY

Six days. Six days. Only six more days.

Liliana Brewster unloaded her Glock 22. Racked the slide and discharged the bullet from the chamber. Disassembled the gun. Took a deep breath. Put it all back together again, as quickly as possible.

Six more days and I never have to do this again.

Six more days. Six more days.

MARC

Three days. Three days. Only three more days.

Marcelle De Sant hopped from foot to foot, punching the weight bag harder. As hard as he could.

Three more days and I can get the fuck out of this country.

Three more days. Three more days.

DAY ZERO

Marc smiled to himself as he strapped a shin plate onto his right leg. He could always smell her before he saw her. For almost a month, that aroma had been tempting him. Tormenting him. It was faint, the scent could be lingering from a moment earlier in the day, but he didn't think so. He thought she was somewhere close by, and getting closer.

Sure enough, a moment later and someone walked into the room.

“Hey! I didn't know you were here.”

Lily. Funny, because she didn't smell like her namesake – she smelled like lavender. Not perfume, though. Maybe lotion? It was calming, and made her stand out. They were in a hellhole, one of the worst cities in the world, and here was an auburn goddess with rosy skin and a lavender scent.

At least she brightened up the scenery.

“Yeah,” Marc answered, standing upright and pulling on his flak jacket. “Just suiting up.”

“Oh, that's right, tonight's the night,” she replied. She moved around to his side, tightening the straps on the vest for him.

“The night. And you leave tomorrow?” he asked, though it wasn't necessary. He knew full well she was leaving in the morning. They had spent enough time together over the past month to know the roles they each had in the little scheme the Russian Stankovski Bratva had going. Still, he asked, just to hear her speak. Marc was normally a loner, but over the weeks, he'd grown to enjoy her company. He hated to admit it, but he would miss her.

“Yup. Bright and early. Without me riding your ass, life is gonna be pretty boring,” she teased, reading his mind.

“Life is going to be sweet. This time tomorrow, I'll be vacationing off the coast of Greece, sleeping my way through the women of Santorini,” he sighed dramatically. She yanked hard on a strap and he wheezed.

“Well, try not to let the syphilis eat too much of your brain. What's left of it, that is.”

With his vest in place, she came back around to his front and watched him as he loaded up the rest of his gear. Thigh holsters, shoulder holster, ankle holster; pretty much anywhere he could hang a gun, there was a holster. When he glanced at her, she had her eyebrows raised in surprise.

“What?” he looked himself over, looking to see if he'd missed anything.

“That's a lot of gear,” she commented.

“Can never be too careful. I don't feel like dying tonight.”

“Why are you getting ready here, anyway? Don't you have a home?” she pointed out. He snorted.

“Sweetheart, the job starts here and ends here. I don't want anyone following me back to my place – not even these fuckers. I don't let anyone see where I sleep,” Marc stressed. She pouted her lips.

“Pity.”

“Why?”

She stepped up close to him, standing on her tiptoes so her mouth was near his ear.

“Because I'd love to see where you sleep.”

Before Marc could respond, could even process what she'd said, there was a knock at the door, and they both turned towards it. A large man in a black blazer and black turtle neck came into the room.

“It is time,” was all he said, his Russian accent thick. Marc turned back to Lily and winked.

“Gotta go. Take it easy out there, don't break too many hearts,” he cautioned her. She rolled her eyes.

“I'll try my best. Don't get