Winter Rain, part 33

The question hangs in the air between us while he grins.

I can’t imagine how he knows. Or maybe he doesn’t know. Maybe he’s just guessing. Maybe he’s hoping I’ll confirm something for him.

I try to stay impassive, but I’m sure I’m giving away panic on my face.

He laughs. “Tara’s a bad liar, Tiergan. She had blood on her clothes, and I couldn’t get a straight answer out of her about it. So I sent Brennan out to have a look.”

He chuckles again and says, “Relax, Tiergan. I told you, I’m proud of you! I was starting to doubt you had it in you.”

He beams at me, and, in the name of self-preservation, I force a smile. But I just can’t feel it. I want him to be proud of me. I’ve always wanted that. And now he is . . . I should be happy.

Why can’t I be happy about this?

I force some words to my mouth. “I think I left a bit of a mess,” I say. A practical concern. Safe middle ground.

He smiles and shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. The cops had already gone. Didn’t even find the body—not surprising, where you left it.

“Brennan says you tore his throat clean out! Fuck, I wish I’d been there to see it. My pup brother—grown up at last!”

He beams at me again, waiting expectantly for me to respond, to fill in all the dirty details, to revel in my brilliant kill.

And for an instant, I’m on that roof again, his hot, metallic blood rushing into my mouth again, into my nose, down my throat; his rasping gurgle in my ears; his desperate clawing at the ground before my eyes.

While I watch.

My stomach turns and I pull away from Faolan. I jump to my feet. “I’m sorry, Faolan. I can’t do this. I just . . . can’t.”

I turn to run away, but he grabs my hand and pulls down sharply. I crumple to the ground in a heap. I can’t keep the tears from my eyes, and I turn away from the punishment I know will follow. For my cowardice. For my weakness.

I cringe at the touch of his hand on my neck. But the punishment doesn’t come. Instead, he pulls me to him. He holds my head against his chest while I cry.

“I’m sorry Tiergan,” he says, after some minutes. “I’d forgotten how hard it is . . . the first time.”

He holds me up with his embrace as I sag against him.

“It will get easier, I promise.”

Mother fucker. Of all the wrong things to say.

I push away from him, suddenly furious, and yell, “What if I don’t want it to get easier? What if I don’t want you to be proud of me for this? What if I want you to have been right about me, all along?”

And something that should stop me doesn’t.

“What if I don’t ever want to be like you?”

I lash out at him with the hardest fist I can clench.

He lunges forward—faster than anyone has a right to move—and catches me around the chest. My punch hits only air behind him. I scream.

Come on Faolan, get angry! For fuck’s sake, hate me!

Hit me!

But he never gives when it is asked for.

“It’s okay, Tiergan,” he whispers in my ear. “I understand.”

I collapse in his arms.