The Assassin

(8 customer reviews)

For black ops agent Elizabeth Darby, hunting a serial killer is easy. But navigating an increasingly complicated relationship with her superior? Well, she’d never trained for that, so how could she possibly survive?

Publisher’s Note: This steamy, suspense-filled thriller contains elements of power exchange.

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Sample Chapter

Chapter 1

Another kill.

Everyone would miss him: the kind man with a quick smile. Everyone would miss him until they checked in the basement of his house and found the evidence—evidence dating back decades and exposing his fixation on small children, a rich seam of toys and skeletons the authorities could mine for decades to come.

Agent Darby set down her newspaper as she sat at the Starbucks and watched her mark. People in the parking lot of the toy store began screaming and running to the body, sprawled next to his sedan with pink Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars spread like a funeral bouquet from one of his limp hands. Public executions were just, well, her style. She pulled her phone up and clicked a few times, taking a few pictures for proof of death, sipped her coffee once more, and then left for the airport. St. Louis was nice, but she needed to get back to Texas.

Justice is served. Was served? Had been served? No.

Hashtag: Justified.



She pulled her cell phone away from her ear as she crossed McKinney and entered the tinted glass lobby of the gray Frost Bank building. People rushed by without even noticing her. Her preference, in her line of work.

“Oh, I’m, I’m sorry, sir, you’re breaking up,” she mumbled, swiping at the black phone and stuffing it into her pocket. She would be in the office shortly. Her boss could yell at her then. Brushing past the people in line for the elevators, she held her thumb on the express elevator button, let it scan her print as people blindly barked into their cell phones and banged on their screens, then entered the dark elevator alone. She swiped a card, looked up at the camera, and waited.

Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’ softly played on a speaker above her head as the security system in the elevator scanned her body for unauthorized weapons.

The doors opened on the top floor and a man in a suit stood behind three inches of glass with a key. He used to raise an eyebrow at her, kind of in a snarky way. After a while he just got used to the little redheaded munchkin marching into the office every day.

“Agent Elle Darby,” she clearly said into the black speaker that was mounted mockingly far above her head. The suited man checked the voice recognition on a screen, and then turned his key to allow her entrance.

A door slid open and she strolled down the black tiled hallway towards her small office. She dumped her black Coach satchel on a chair and had just sat down when her intercom roared.


“Yes?” she asked, acting dumb as she pressed the speaker button on her desk phone. She knew it was her boss and she knew he was pissed off. He was always pissed off, though. And it was always her fault.

“You have one second to get your ass in here!”

Yes, he was clearly upset. Was it even nine yet?

“Coming!” she answered, falling out of her chair, running down the hallway in her four-inch Jimmy Choos, yanking on the jacket of her black suit over her dark green shell. She paused to brush her strawberry blond hair behind her ears and raised her hand to knock when his secretary spoke behind her.

“He’s waiting,” she said over her glasses, big Dallas hair perfectly sprayed into its puffy place.

Nodding, she slowly opened the door and didn’t take one step inside before he began yelling.

“Agent Darby, so glad to see you’re in the office today.”

“I-I was in St. Louis.”

“So I see!” he shouted, throwing a newspaper on his desk. He breathed heavily and stood ominously in his dark suit as he waited for her reaction.

She inched over and stood in front of the large oak desk, turning her head slightly so that she could read the headline.

“Local Philanthropist Dies at 50,” she said, shaking her head.

“Don’t play dumb with me. I know this is your work. The chemical adhesive planted under the car door handle? Causes myocardial infarction?”

She shrugged as he pointed his finger at her. It had gotten the job done, hadn’t it?

“What I want to know, first of all, is how this man went from our watch list to our hit list.”


“And how, Agent Darby, you got promoted overnight. You are not authorized to design and direct assignments on your own. And this is becoming a pattern. The murderess in Reno, the pedophile in Seattle, the fucking mascot at that high school in that small town! Are you getting me here?”

“Yes sir,” she quietly responded, holding back everything she wanted to say.

“And don’t think I’ve forgotten about the time when you slit that rodeo clown’s throat on the Ferris wheel!”

Now that guy had deserved it, but she still remained silent as she stood before his large desk in the large, modern office.

He finally fell back in his large leather chair and ran his fingers through his thinning brown hair.

“Director Dunner is going to fucking kill me.”

The director? Was he going to tattle on her?

“But, sir?”

“Darby, not another word!” he yelled, as his large plasma screen beeped on his wall. “Oh for God’s sake, he’s already heard-”

Director Dunner appeared on the screen in a frenzied tirade that made both Agent Darby and her boss lean backwards. The junior agent froze, the director of the black ops sector swallowed hard, and the Department of National Defense director proceeded as if already in the middle of his chastisement.

“Masters, I hope you have a good explanation for this because I’ll tell you what. I am tired of cleaning up after you and your sloppy agents! I created this covert agency ten years ago and put you in charge and I’ll be damned if I let you run it into the ground. Now one of your agents was exposed last week and we had to book it double time just to get him back into the country! Now I’ve got calls flooding my inbox from St. Louis? What is it this time?”

Agent Darby choked on her own spit a few times before she could speak to the head of the Department of National Defense. In the chain of command, he was pretty much in the top ten people directly underneath the President of the United States.

“Uh, Director Dunner, I…”

“Who the hell are you? The high definition of the screen showed a pulsating vein in his forehead and every single enlarged pore on his nose. He looked like he was not to be fucked with.

“W-well, I’m Elle Darby.”

“Are you responsible for this?”

“Yes sir, but you have to understand—”

“Understand me. We are covert. We are black ops. We can operate because we are invisible. You are going to get my foot up your ass if the National Security Organization is exposed because you killed fucking Santa Claus!”

“But that’s just it, damn it!” she yelled, stepping towards the screen and holding out her arms. Whoa, did she just say that? Quit yelling. “He wasn’t this wonderful pillar of the community like everyone thinks! The guy was a monster!”

Stop yelling!

“Is she yelling at me?” Director Dunner turned his glare towards Director Masters. His reputation for intolerance of insubordination was becoming clearer at every pulse of the vein in his head.

“Oh, no sir, our speaker and mic are all discombobulated,” Masters replied, eying her and popping a Tums.

She rolled her eyes.

“Turn your television to a twenty-four-hour news cycle,” she ordered, folding her arms across her chest.


Rolling her eyes again, she huffed and grabbed the remote off of Director Masters’ desk, turning to the news on a screen on the opposite wall. A guy was reporting away until a news alert interrupted him.

“This just in from Missouri: Stanley Sinton, a generous philanthropist, died yesterday from what emergency medical staff say was a heart attack.”

Darby held her breath.

“Remains of what appear to be children have been uncovered in his basement and identified, several other skeletal remains are also being examined in his back yard. It looks like several missing persons cases are going to be solved, some dating back twenty-two years…”

Darby turned it off and smirked at the other two. She reminded herself not to act smug. But, seriously, Hashtag: Justified.

“Look. I picked up on some FBI chatter that someone on his block was being investigated. Not charged, just investigated. He was getting ready to do it again,” she sighed. “I researched him for at least a month. He was casing the kindergarten down the street. I was thorough.”

“All right, Darby, you’re off the hook this time,” Director Dunner pronounced, straightening his tie and leaning back. “But consider yourself warned. Any more missteps and you’ll be terminated.”

“Yes, sir.” The screen clicked off and she turned towards her boss. The termination process for people in their black ops agency was unpleasant, to say the least. She swallowed hard.

Director Masters breathed heavily, rubbing his chin while he frowned at her. Then he walked around his desk and sat on the edge, pushing her back with a weathered hand into an oversized chair.

“Ellie, I’m not sure what to do with you, here.”

Do with her? She’d done the world a favor, damn it.

“I just…”

“Still talking.”


“You are a junior agent. Junior means you need supervision. You, however, seem to think that you are a senior agent. Are you seeing the distinction?”

“Yes sir,” she quickly replied. “But…”

“I’m glad that you have this confidence and ambition that we like to see in our agents. But if you aren’t careful, you are going to get yourself in a world of trouble. We are covert. We exist beyond the law. Director Dunner created us for that reason. But because of that, we have protocols, do you hear me? You can’t just decide to end someone’s life without going through me. Are you hearing me?”

“Yes, sir.” She felt thoroughly cut down to size.

“Good,” he grinned, patting her back with a little more than a friendly swat.

“When am I going to become a senior agent?” she asked, as he tried to push her out of the office. Her persistence would get her everywhere and nowhere. She knew it.

“When you have more experience,” he said, slamming the door.


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8 reviews for The Assassin

  1. Lillie1922

    I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.?? I wish I could give this book more than five stars.? I really really enjoyed it.? This book has danger, intrigue, romance, sex.?? More than that this book has characters who live their lives on the fringes of society as a nature of the work they do. Their lives are secret and most people never really know them, but somehow two of them find each other.?? Gray Gardner, give me another book pronto.?? Hand, spoon.

  2. Lalaland

    I love these books, this is the third in the series Federal Hellions. This is Darby%u2019s story
    Agent Elizabeth (Ellie) Darby is an agent in a black ops dept of the government which %u2018does not exist%u2019. She has been an agent for 5 years and is an accomplished assassin. She has no problem blowing away bad guys and she is resourceful, strong and intelligent. Sadly her superiors cannot see how talented she is and do not understand when she has to improvise when things do not go quite according to plan. Darby wants to be promoted from junior to senior agent but her boss keeps telling her when she has more experience.
    Having blown away Santa Claus who turns out to be a serial child killer Darby is assigned to Senior Agent Peterson to hunt a serial rapist and although Ellie insists that she is not an undercover agent but an assassin she is ordered to go undercover as Peterson%u2019s daughter attending a private school.
    Ellie has problems all around, with her sport coach in school and her boss and the FBI and the rapist.
    This is a very entertaining and funny book with some hot moments and some eye watering discipline spankings but most importantly lots of laugh out loud moments. I loved this book and read it in one sitting, cannot wait for the fourth in the series. Brilliant.
    I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy

  3. DONNA L

    Donna L
    5.0 out of 5 starsExcitement All The Way
    March 3, 2019
    What a great premise for a story.It had had danger,humor,romance,
    good verses evil and a budding relationship.It was very entertaining
    and I laugh out loud at Elizabeth’s antics.Ellie Darby is a junior agent
    used to working on her own but after one to many mistakes is put
    under the control of Agent Peterson on a serial murder case.Young
    school girls are disappearing and it’s Ellie and Ryan’s job to find and
    capture him.Ellie finds herself in one predicament after another as
    she is treated as a school girl.She has to deal with a nosy neighbor
    the school coach,FBI agents and growing feelings for Peterson.She
    found it difficult to navigate this new relationship as it was so foreign
    to her.
    If you want a book with non stop excitement then you can’t go wrong
    the The Assassin by Gray Gardner.

  4. Tami

    When school girls are missing, Ellie and Ryan are partnered to find out what happened to the girls. Both are not happy to be forced to work with each other. Ryan does not put up with Ellie’s sassiness and lets his hand do the talking. First, Ellie is more than angry, but then she realizes that she feels drawn to him – and he also feels the connection.

    Ryan and Ellie were interesting character, I liked reading the story. There is romance, mystery and suspense.

  5. Toni L

    Book 3 in this series and just like the others this is completely standalone. While I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as the previous books, it was still a very fun, enjoyable read. One thing I can always rely on with this author is that the female characters will be strong but quirky and the story will have a good number of lighthearted moments and chuckles throughout. Very much worth the read.

  6. Redrabbitt

    Wow, what an amazing story that gives the reader a page-turning thriller. Mystery, suspense, secrets, action, adventure, lies, deceit, undercover, and more comprise this tale. I absolutely loved this story and was spellbound with the action and interaction of the characters. It is a great who-done-it from the beginning to the end.

    Ellie Darby is a trained assassin for the National Security Organization, but the NSO is one of those agencies that does not exist! Working for them for five years, she doesn%u2019t look the part, she is young, blonde and cute, but she is lethal and can kill.

    The plot will have Ellie taking down a pedophile while not on assignment, and that has her bosses at NSO livid. They will give her a simple assignment that is anything but simple, causing more problems when she is forced to improvise. When they are about ready to terminate her, it is decided she fits a new need, to go undercover and be a spy%u2014what, she isn%u2019t trained as a spy. Ellie will work under Senior agent Ryan Peterson, and be his teenaged daughter.

    The story will go from Dallas, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee where teenage blonde girls are abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered. Ellie will become a plant in one of the schools to help learn information and hopefully lure out the Beale Street Rapist. Getting Ellie to play along and act like a teenage girl isn%u2019t as easy as it sounds. To help with cover, they are going by the surname of Darby.

    The story is a roller-coaster ride of mystery, intrigue, adventure, danger, and yes, a bit of romance. Ellie could be the poster child for %u2018does not play well with others.%u2019 She is brash, bold, brazen, and a bit of a brat, but she will learn that Ryan is not afraid to stand up to her and hold her accountable. Dirty law enforcement agents, nosy neighbors, bratty rich kids, and lots of attitudes play roles in this story.

    There will be other agents from various agencies that play critical roles in the story, and you can%u2019t help but love the angst. While there are several spanking scenes, there are also a few sex scene that isn%u2019t overly detailed%u2014but packed full of emotions. The story is more the mystery and suspense of the case. I look forward to me in the Federal Hellions series.

  7. Hope W

    The Assassin is the 3rd book in the Federal Hellions series but can be read as a standalone. Gray Gardner gave the reader a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. The mystery, crime, and action kept me interested and guessing what would come next. One of my favorite parts of this book was watching Ellie’s character evolve from cold hearted assassin to undercover agent. Watching her balance being an agent, undercover as a high schooler, and falling in love with her partner showed the various sides to the challenges she faced. There was mystery, crime, sex, action, spankings, and so much more. I highly recommend this book for an exciting read! I voluntarily received an arc copy of this book.

  8. John

    I absolutely loved the concept of this book by Gray Gardner about a female assassin being assigned to high school undercover work. The conversations she has with herself about how to get out of jams by whether she should eliminate someone or how she could do it simply provide a great comedic relief to what is otherwise a very dark and dangerous subject matter. And, of course, let’s not forget the beginnings of learning about domestic discipline and the difference between good and bad girl spankings simply add some more spice to the story. This is a somewhat late voluntary review of an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Blushing Books.

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