I’ve never let a soul close to me other than my brothers. So, no one can hurt me.
No outsider has ever been close to me… except for her, the only woman I ever loved.
A chill rolls through my body like the unrelenting tides of the ocean. The adrenaline has waned as I sit here in the chair, staring at that fucking box. My knuckles are bruised and cut, but I keep putting pressure on them, to keep me from thinking of a different pain, the aching in my chest.
Every time I blink, the barrel of her gun is there, staring back at me.
“Carter.” Daniel’s voice breaks me from my thoughts and brings me back to this reality. It fucking hurts; every piece of me hurts. Sitting up slightly in the chair, I finally take my eyes away from the box, away from Aria. I tilt my head as I take in my brother and the man standing next to him. Eli’s one of our guards and head of security.
“Eli’s finished the walk-through.” He’s struggling to keep his eyes on me; I can see it in the way he swallows visibly and clenches his hands. Even his voice is strained.
She did this. I know Daniel cared about her. And she betrayed him like she did me.
Eli steps forward to speak, telling me about each of the bombs they found and disposed of and where exactly the Talvery men ran. No surprises and nothing I give a fuck about at this point. Not when the woman who caused all of this is still right in front of me, but safely hiding in plain sight.
“All of them?” I ask just to pretend to be present, pressing my sore back into the chair and still staring at the fucking box. I can barely see Eli nod in my periphery as he answers, “Yes, sir.” With his shoulders squared and his hands behind his back, he looks like the soldier he used to be.
But he defied me.
“You let them live,” I say flatly, turning my attention directly to him for just a second, so he can see how pissed I am, hardening my gaze and my scowl. Then I look back to the box. The box I took from a man I refused to show mercy to. Aria’s breathing picks up and she moves within its small confinements.
“I ordered Eli and the guards to let them live.” Jase’s voice sends a cold trickle down my neck. It’s hard to swallow as my blood heats with anger.
One by one, they’re all turning their backs on me.
Aria moves inside of the box again; I can faintly hear her crying. It’s then that Eli catches on to the fact that she’s in the box. Glancing at him, I can see his expression fall, the puzzle in his head forming as each of the pieces fall into place.
It takes a moment for him to fix his fucking face and wipe the look of disgust off of it.
She did this. She will suffer the consequences.
I gave her a chance; I would have given her anything had she simply chosen me. I was stupid for ever loving her. Or for thinking she loved me.
“Leave,” I bite out the command, feeling the raw word scratch against the back of my throat. Eli’s the first to turn around sharply and leave at once. Daniel and Jase step forward rather than retreating and my muscles tense, my teeth gritting as I lean forward in the seat I haven’t left for nearly an hour now.
“Carter,” my brother says, and Jase’s voice is strong and demanding. Not like the way Aria’s been saying it as she whimpers in the box, begging me to understand. I won’t hear it. There’s no excuse.
“Fuck off.” It’s all I can say back to him. The rage blisters inside of me, eating me alive that they all defied me.
“Carter.” Daniel’s tone is softer, more placating. “Just relax for a minute. Calm down,” he tells me.
I can barely inhale, refusing to believe everything that’s happened.
“Did you hear that, songbird?” I ask her rather than facing my brothers. The legs of the chair scratch against the floor as I lean forward, searching for a seam in the box where I think she can see me. I stare at it with an unforgiving bitterness as I tell her, “I just need to calm down.”
I can feel the depth of emotion roaring inside of me as Jase speaks, “It was an unfortunate event, but we can use this to our favor.”
“Unfortunate?” I can’t hide the disbelief and venom in my voice as I stare back at him, finally rising from my seat. The force of the abrupt movement shoves the chair back. All I can hear is my heart beat in time with my heavy footsteps as I move closer to my brother.