Same height as me, the same determination in his voice.
“Knock it off,” Daniel says and walks between us, separating us with a hard hand on both of our chests. “What about Aria?” he says quickly as he pushes me back. His glare pleads with me to think about something other than her apparent betrayal. “She’s not okay.” He lowers his voice to tell me the obvious and then lets his gaze move to her before looking back at me.
“What about her?” I ask him in a hardened tone. My hands form fists so tightly, I can feel the skin across my knuckles nearly crack and the cuts that are there split even wider.
A whimper from the box catches the attention of my brothers, both of them looking toward her as I stare at them.
“What the fuck do you even care for?” I sneer at Daniel. I raise my voice to remind them of the hard truth, “She chose them.”
The sobs return from the box behind me and it enrages me. “Now she cries,” I say, talking to her more than to them as I walk closer to where she is. The box is off-center now, crooked and making the end of the rug uneven from my useless attempts to open it even though I know it can’t be done.
“She wasn’t crying when she held a gun to my head!” Everything turns to white noise. Whatever my brothers say, the relentless crying from the woman I loved as she hides from me for fear of her own life, all of it.
I hate everything at this moment. I hate everyone. But I hate myself the most.
“She wasn’t crying when she found out her family was coming to kill us. To kill all of us!” The last bit comes out louder and harsher than I can control, and I reach above the box to the bookshelves, shoving aside a row of them. The hardcovers and pages fly into a flutter before slamming down on the floor.
“I was!” Again, I hear her cry out, “I was!”
But all it does is fuel me to continue wrecking every shelf above her. All of the books falling around her, some of them slamming against the box, only make her cry out louder.
I hate her.
I hate them all.
I hate everything.
It takes both of my brothers to pull me back against the office window and away from the shelves. As I catch my breath, I think about destroying all of it. Wrecking every piece of this rich interior. It mocks me. It’s a façade of control and I have none anymore. Not a damn shred of control.
“You never loved me!” I scream at her. “I should have kept you in that fucking cell until you knew better than to defy me!”
“Please, Carter, let me explain,” she weeps.
“I was too fucking good to you,” I sneer at her as loud as I can, feeling my composure deteriorate just as any ounce of mercy has. I scream at the top of my lungs, wanting to shred something apart. Every last bit of my humanity will do.
“Stop,” Daniel says, his head close to mine. As he uses all of his strength to push me against the cold glass window, he’s so close that I can feel the burn of his body heat.
“It’s okay,” he tells me as Jase grunts, his expression strained and his face red with exertion. Every inch of my skin is numb with a pain I’ve never felt before.
I want to tell them all nothing is okay and that I’ll never stop. Never. There’s nothing left of me but this shell of a man. But before I can tell them that I’ll find the men they let get away and I’ll rip out their fucking throats before they can breathe a word of how Aria betrayed me, a small voice comes from the doorway.
“Fuck.” Daniel barely breathes the word before releasing me to run to her, to Addison, but he’s too late.
I don’t know how much Addison saw, or what she saw, but her face is pale.
Aria’s still crying uncontrollably, and it’s going to be obvious. It’s obvious I’m hurting her and that she’s scared. She’s scared of me because I’ve fucking lost it. Nothing else matters.
There’s no hiding now. Not from my brothers, not from the Talverys. Not from Addison, the one connection I still have to my brother Tyler.
Shame and disgust are a painful cocktail to swallow, but I choke it down.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Addison’s voice vacillates between strength and panic as she stands in the doorway to my office. Her eyes dart from me to Daniel.
“How long have you been standing there?” Daniel asks Addison.
“Long enough… to…” Addison struggles to even look at Daniel. “You’re hurting her,” Addison barely glances my way.
Aria’s sobs are punctuated with hiccups as she breathes in heavily, like she’s desperate to stop, desperate to quiet her cries.