Holly Black Black Heart

ISBN 13: 9780575096813

Black Heart

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9780575096813: Black Heart

Cassel Sharpe knows he's been used as an assassin, but he's trying to put all that behind him. He's trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He's trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he's trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he's been raised to believe the government is the enemy. But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what's right and what's wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what's a con and what's truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet - this time on love.

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About the Author:

Holly Black is the co-creator of The Spiderwick Chronicles series. A NEW YORK TIMES No. 1 bestselling phenomenon, the series has been described as 'vintage Victorian fantasy' and has been made into a hugely sucessful film. The books have been translated into 32 languages. Holly Black lives with her husband in Massachusetts.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE

MY BROTHER BARRON sits next to me, sucking the last dregs of milk tea slush noisily through a wide yellow straw. He’s got the seat of my Benz pushed all the way back and his feet up on the dash, the heels of his pointy black shoes scratching the plastic. With his hair slicked back and his mirrored sunglasses covering his eyes, he looks like a study in villainy.

He’s actually a junior federal agent, still in training, sure, but with a key card and an ID badge and everything.

To be fair, he’s also a villain.

I tap my gloved fingers impatiently against the curve of the wheel and bring a pair of binoculars to my eyes for about the millionth time. All I see is a boarded-up building on the wrong side of Queens. “What is she doing in there? It’s been forty minutes.”

“What do you think?” he asks me. “Bad things. That’s her after-school job now. Taking care of shady business so Zacharov’s gloves stay clean.”

“Her dad won’t put her in any real danger,” I say, but the tone of my voice makes it pretty obvious I’m trying to convince myself more than I’m trying to convince my brother.

Barron snorts. “She’s a new soldier. Got to prove herself. Zacharov couldn’t keep her out of danger if he tried—and he’s not going to be trying real hard. The other laborers are watching, waiting for her to be weak. Waiting for her to screw up. He knows that. So should you.”

I think of her at twelve, a skinny girl with eyes too large for her face and a nimbus of tangled blond hair. In my memory she’s sitting on the branch of a tree, eating a rope of red licorice. Her lips are sticky with it. Her flip-flops are hanging off her toes. She’s cutting her initials into the bark, high up, so her cousin can’t claim she’s lying when she tells him she got higher than he ever will.

Boys never believe I can beat them, she told me back then. But I always win in the end.

“Maybe she spotted the car and went out the back,” I say finally.

“No way she made us.” He sucks on the straw again. It makes that rattling empty-cup sound, echoing through the car. “We’re like ninjas.”

“Somebody’s cocky,” I say. After all, tailing someone isn’t easy, and Barron and I aren’t that good at it yet, no matter what he says. My handler at the agency, Yulikova, has been encouraging me to shadow Barron, so I can learn secondhand and can keep myself safe until she figures out how to tell her bosses that she’s got hold of a teenage transformation worker with a bad attitude and a criminal record. And since Yulikova’s in charge, Barron’s stuck teaching me. It’s supposed to be just for a few months, until I graduate from Wallingford. Let’s see if we can stand each other that long.

Of course, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the kind of lesson Yulikova’s been imagining.

Barron grins, white teeth flashing like dropped dice. “What do you think Lila Zacharov would do if she knew you were tailing her?”

I grin back. “Probably she’d kill me.”

He nods. “Probably she would. Probably she’d kill me twice for helping you.”

“Probably you deserve it,” I say. He snorts.

Over the last few months I got every last thing I ever wanted—and then I threw it all away. Everything I thought I could never have was offered up on a silver platter—the girl, the power, a job at the right hand of Zacharov, the most formidable man I know. It wouldn’t even have been that hard to work for him. It probably would have been fun. And if I didn’t care who I hurt, it would still all be mine.

I lift the binoculars and study the door again—the worn paint striping the boards and crumbling like bread crumbs, the chewed-up bottom edge as ragged as if it had been gnawed on by rats.

Lila would still be mine.

Mine. The language of love is like that, possessive. That should be the first warning that it’s not going to encourage anyone’s betterment.

Barron groans and throws his cup into the backseat. “I can’t believe that you blackmailed me into becoming Johnny Law and now I have to sweat it out five days a week with the other recruits while you use my experience to stalk your girlfriend. How is that fair?”

“One, I think you mean the extremely dubious benefit of your experience. Two, Lila’s not my girlfriend. Three, I just wanted to make sure she was okay.” I count off these points on my leather-covered fingers. “And four, the last thing you should want is fairness.”

“Stalk her at school,” Barron says, ignoring everything I’ve just said. “Come on. I have to make a phone call. Let’s pack in this lesson and get a couple of slices. I’ll even buy.”

I sigh. The car is stuffy and smells like old coffee. I’d like to stretch my legs. And Barron is probably right—we should give this up. Not for the reason he’s saying but for the one that’s implied. The one about it not being okay to lurk around outside buildings, spying on girls you like.

My fingers are reaching reluctantly for my keys when she walks out of the worn door, as though my giving up summoned her. She’s got on tall black riding boots and a steel gray trench. I study the quicksilver gestures of her gloved hands, the sway of her earrings, the slap of her heels on the steps, and the lash of her hair. She’s so beautiful, I can barely breathe. Behind her follows a boy with his hair braided into the shape of two antelope horns. His skin is darker than mine. He’s got on baggy jeans and a hoodie. He’s shoving a folded-up wad of something that looks like cash into an inside pocket.

Outside of school Lila doesn’t bother wearing a scarf. I can see the grim necklace of marks on her throat, scars black where ash was rubbed into them. That’s part of the ceremony when you join her father’s crime family, slicing your skin and swearing that you’re dead to your old life and reborn into wickedness. Not even Zacharov’s daughter was spared it.

She’s one of them now. No turning back.

“Well, now,” says Barron, gleeful. “I bet you’re thinking we just observed the end of a very naughty transaction. But let’s consider the possibility that actually we caught her doing something totally innocent yet embarrassing.”

I look at him absently. “Embarrassing?”

“Like meeting up to play one of those card games where you have to collect everything. Pokémon. Magic the Gathering. Maybe they’re training for a tournament. With all that money she just handed him, I’m guessing he won.”

“Funny.”

“Maybe he’s tutoring her in Latin. Or they were painting miniatures together. Or he’s teaching her shadow puppetry.” He makes a duck-like gesture with one gloved hand.

I punch Barron’s shoulder, but not really hard. Just hard enough to make him shut up. He laughs and adjusts his sunglasses, pushing them higher on his nose.

The boy with the braids crosses the street, head down, hood pulled up to shadow his face. Lila walks to the corner and raises her hand to hail a cab. The wind whips at her hair, making it a nimbus of blown gold.

I wonder if she’s done her homework for Monday.

I wonder if she could ever love me again.

I wonder just how mad she’d be if she knew I was here, watching her. Probably really, really mad.

Cold October air floods into the car suddenly, tossing around the empty cup in the backseat.

“Come on,” Barron says, leaning on the door, grinning down at me. I didn’t even notice him getting out. “Grab some quarters for the meter, and your stuff.” He jerks his head in the direction of the boy with the braids. “We’re going to follow him.”

“What about that phone call?” I shiver in my thin green T-shirt. My leather jacket is wadded up in the backseat of my car. I reach for it and shrug it on.

“I was bored,” Barron says. “Now I’m not.”

This morning when he told me we were going to practice tailing people, I picked Lila as my target half as a joke, half out of sick desire. I didn’t think that Barron would agree. I didn’t think that we’d actually see her leaving her apartment building and getting into a town car. I for sure didn’t think that I would wind up here, close to actually finding out what she’s been doing when she’s not in school.

I get out of the car and slam the door behind me.

That’s the problem with temptation. It’s so damn tempting.

“Feels almost like real agent work, doesn’t it?” Barron says as we walk down the street, heads bowed against the wind. “You know, if we caught your girlfriend committing a crime, I bet Yulikova would give us a bonus or something for being prize pupils.”

“Except that we’re not going to do that,” I say.

“I thought you wanted us to be good guys.” He grins a too-wide grin. He’s enjoying needling me, and my reacting only makes it worse, but I can’t stop.

“Not if it means hurting her,” I say, my voice as deadly as I can make it. “Never her.”

“Got it. Hurting, bad. But how do you excuse stalking her and her friends, little brother?”

“I’m not excusing it,” I say. “I’m just doing it.”

Following—stalking—someone isn’t easy. You try not to stare too hard at the back of his h...

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Holly Black
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Book Description Orion Publishing Co, United Kingdom, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The conclusion to the gripping Curse Workers series from bestselling author Holly BlackCassel Sharpe knows he s been used as an assassin, but he s trying to put all that behind him. He s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what s right and what s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what s a con and what s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet - this time on love. Bookseller Inventory # AA29780575096813

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Book Description Orion Publishing Co, United Kingdom, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The conclusion to the gripping Curse Workers series from bestselling author Holly BlackCassel Sharpe knows he s been used as an assassin, but he s trying to put all that behind him. He s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what s right and what s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what s a con and what s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet - this time on love. Bookseller Inventory # AA29780575096813

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