The smile isn’t even a temptation any more.
In charge. I haven’t really thought that part through, have I. He really does think I’m going to fuck this all up, and that Faolan is going to take it out on him. Because he’s in charge. And that’s what Faolan does when you fail him.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Conlan,” I plead. But he’s not going to give me a choice. I guess he doesn’t have one to give.
He launches himself at me, arms wide. I drop down beneath him, grab his jacket, plant my foot in on his waist and launch him hard against the wall. He crumples as he lands, head and hands first. Even the sound of it hurts.
“Doesn’t mean I won’t,” I spit at him, hoping to change his mind. The blood is pounding in my ears, and it takes every ounce of strength I can muster not to run over to him to help.
But he wants this. He needs it. I know exactly what he’s thinking. And he’s right.
It’s better I do it than Faolan.
He flops—more than rolls—down, and struggles back to his feet.
“Stay down, Conlan. It’s enough. Please.”
“Fuck you,” he snarls and lunges forward, throwing a punch at me with his right. It’s a surprisingly good punch, considering, but he telegraphs his intent with his whole movement.
I step in and direct the punch aside, then knock my hip back into him and throw him over and down. He manages to drag his nails sharply across my bare back as he goes—maybe grasping for a hold, maybe just putting up a good fight. I barely notice the pain.
He arches his back up from the ground as he hits. There’s broken glass and sharp stones scattered everywhere. I feel his pain instead of mine, and it is raw.
I could stop him. Hold him, maybe lock his elbow, maybe start to pry a joint apart. That would be the humane thing to do.
But I get it. It’s not that kind of fight. He needs proof. That he tried. It’s the only way he’ll be safe from punishment for letting me walk over him. When he was in charge.
My eyes sting, but I clench my teeth and blink it away. He struggles to his feet, again. His balance is off—his movements are awkward and clumsy. He’s having trouble catching his breath. He’s holding one hand behind his back. Maybe in pain. Maybe getting ready for another punch.
“Please, Conlan. Just stay down. We’ve done enough.”
He stumbles forward again. He’s not a threat any more. I could leave him. Change and take off now.
But for that, he’d never forgive me.
I plant a scissor kick on his chin. His block is far too late. His head snaps back and blood sprays into the night air. His legs spill out from under him and he collapses in a heap.
It’s over, almost before it began.
I step into the alcove and pull my shoes and pants off. My hands are shaking, but I can’t worry about it now.
“Tara, where are you?” I ask into the phone.
“South. Taylee. Approaching the old factory. What’s taking you so long?”
“Nothing,” I reply, but the vileness of the lie tears at me as I say it. I shake my head to dislodge what’s building there. I don’t have time for it, now. “I’m coming.”
I drop the phone and change, then pause over Conlan. His breathing is shallow and ragged. The scent of blood is so much more intense than it had been. It oozes through this clothing, from his head, from his hands. I carefully lick a smear of blood away from his eye.
I could spend forever, and I’d never be able to put it all back.
Sometimes . . . I think maybe this family needs to end.
But it can’t be tonight. Not at Rian’s hand. That would make this a tiny prelude to what would come.
Conlan will be okay. I touch my nose to his. Then take off into the night.