Wasteland by Cara Elizabeth Vescio

Inside the halls of Osiris, the men and women who make the contract killing agency tick polish their weapons and hone their skills. But how did they start working for Nero and Lex in the first place, and when did they find out they were destined to kill people for a living?
Before Frankie Fairholm let you into her crazy, dysfunctional world of murder for hire, the lives of these men and women were already in danger. Their training was put to the test alongside their morals.
A troubled Catholic school girl with a penchant for murder, a naive con-woman in over her head, a driven socialite with a bad day that keeps getting worse, an assassin second-guessing his sworn oath... being a contract killer doesn’t mean you aren’t human, it just means your humanity is hard to find, and probably a bit tarnished.
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On the eve of her high school graduation, proper socialite Francesca “Frankie” Fairholm rebelled against her elitist and controlling family to pursue the dark lifestyle of a contract killer for the enigmatic Osiris Corporation. Years later, with her training complete, she believes she's doomed to the life of a sociopathic lone gun until a botched hit brings two unlikely allies, her cousins Addison and Katharine. Using Katharine’s etiquette school, Elegance, Inc., as a front, the trio weave through Frankie’s dark underworld, carrying out contracts, drinking too much wine, and trying not to get each other killed. Trouble follows the team home when the death of the cruel Fairholm matriarch reveals more than they ever wanted to know about their family. As the funeral preparations play out, the trio begin to realize there is much more to their employer than meets the eye and their family connections run deeper than they ever imagined.
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“I needed to learn to be less melodramatic, but it was hard in this family.”
It’s been a year since Francesca Fairholm met the rest of the Osiris team and the company heads, her two half brothers Nero and Lex. As they groom her for leadership, it’s all Frankie can do to keep her cynical sarcasm in check as she starts training two new Strikers, avoids the romantic advances of Spark Dawson, and does her best to pry a little family history from her cold, distant Aunt Alexa. With the pressure of her secret dual life building and her mother acting strangely, Frankie’s sanity is pushed to the brink when she makes a grisly discovery that shakes the young Striker to her core. Despite her cousins’ fear that her panic attacks signal a full mental breakdown, Frankie is positive she’s not crazy. Finding clarity in her personal investigation into Osiris’s origins, she uncovers more about the company than she would rather know. As her life starts to unravel, things get deadly and, before she knows it, she’s facing down an old target’s pissed-off widow, an unstoppable mercenary, and the one thing she’s most terrified of admitting to herself. It’s possible the whole situation won’t explode in her face. Yeah, like Frankie has that kind of luck.    Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads  Series Website


Author C. Elizabeth Vescio  likes to play in the dark world of cynicism and death. Her Wasted series touches on the demented and humorous side of a delightfully dysfunctional family. Vescio is an award-winning photographer and avid font snob. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and three dogs.

One signed copy of Wasteland, Wasted Series bookmarks and a pack of character cards.

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Excerpt from the Guilty Conscience.

Instead of going home, I made my way to River Hill Gardens to visit Donna Cohen, a lonely old lady slowly dying from lung cancer. She never questioned when I visited her—even when it was clear I was cutting class.
That particular day, however, she wasn’t alone. Her nephew, Judah, was visiting.
Judah collected killers. It was blind luck that I met him on the day that I realized I was one.
He saw right through me, too.
After the initial introductions, Donna left Judah and me alone on the front porch.
Donna liked to fix tea for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I hated the shit. So, like always, I let her go in the house and make it. 
I tried not to show my nervousness. My head still buzzed from adrenaline. I was distracted.
“You okay?” Judah asked me.
“No,” I said quickly. “I mean, yeah. I’m fine.”
He looked at me, questioning. 
“You have a cigarette I can have?” I asked.
“Smoking is bad for you,” Judah responded.
Fuck me, I thought. Here I was, visiting his aunt who had stage-four lung cancer, and I asked for a fuckin’ cigarette.
“I’m sorry,” I shook my head. “I’m not thinking straight today.”
“It’s fine,” Judah smiled. 
The shrill of an ambulance invaded the air as it flew by. I couldn’t help but think it was for Jimmy.
Too late.
“I smoke cigars, even though I know I shouldn’t,” Judah said, as the siren faded into the distance.
“Yeah,” I agreed.
I was too distracted to give anything but a one-word answer.
Judah’s eyes watched me closely. 
I grabbed one of the poles that connected the porch to the roof and tried not to fidget.
“Where you visiting from?” I asked.
“I’ve been on business in Italy,” he said.
Italy sounded fancy. He looked fancy, too. He couldn’t have paid less than three grand for his tailored Gucci suit and horsebit loafers. My uncle had the same taste in clothes.
“What is it that you do?” I threw him a look. 
“You live around here?” he asked, changing the subject.
“No,” I said. “I live uptown. I just go to school in the Bronx.”
“Right,” Judah nodded. “I remember what Donna said now. You’ve been having some problems at school lately…with a boy.”
“What?” I blurted out.
That’s right, I remembered. I told Donna about Jimmy.
The alarm that shot up my spine was almost enough to make me run away without an explanation. I didn’t think Donna would divulge information to her nephew. I didn’t think it would come up twenty minutes after I murdered Jimmy.
“Not that it’s any of my business,” Judah smiled. 
“I don’t have no problems with no boy.” I was flustered, and it showed. I released my grip on the railing and took a few steps down the stairs.
“I didn’t mean…” Judah’s face twisted into a crown. “I apologize for my rudeness.”
“I gotta get going, anyway,” I said. “Tell Donna I’ll see her next week. It was nice meeting you.”
Judah nodded at me, but didn’t say anything.
When I reached the sidewalk, he spoke up.
“Gretchen,” he called.
I turned back to him in acknowledgement. 
“You have blood on your shoe,” he told me.
I swallowed hard, trying to keep my internal panic from surfacing.

There wasn’t anything I could say to the man, so I turned and started walking down the street.

Let's leave it up to this quote from Emily Brontë: "And from the midst of cheerless gloom I passed to bright unclouded day."

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