The moment I close my eyes, a phone rings behind me.
Ring, ring and my heart shudders in my chest. A shuddering as if being brought back to life. “Daniel,” Addison’s voice rings out clear, the moment I think Carter’s name.
My throat goes dry as I swallow and hear her tell him how worried she was.
Carter didn’t call.
It’s not Carter.
It takes everything in me to step forward. The feeling of loss runs deep in my blood and I struggle to keep it together. One heavy step after another, with the gun in my right hand and my left hand gripping the railing, I walk down the steps quietly, hearing the faint sounds of Addison from the bedroom and nothing else in the house.
I may not have felt anything for the man I killed upstairs, nothing but hate, and less than that for the other man in the same black hoodie who died earlier today, but as I stand over Eli’s dead body in the foyer, I cry.
Heavy sobs that bring me to my knees and steal the warmth from my body.
I can’t breathe as my trembling fingers touch his throat, searching for a pulse, but finding none.
My feet kick out and I crawl backward, away from his body until my back hits the wall.
Covering my face in the crook of my arm, I can’t stop crying.
His life was wasted on mine. Cason’s life wasted on mine.
How much death can I be responsible for, before I lose any love I could possibly have for myself?
The opening of the back door, the slamming of the knob into the wall forces me to go silent. I hold my breath and crawl to the other corner as the footsteps quicken.
“Fuck, no,” Daniel’s voice carries into the foyer as he reaches Eli. “Shit,” he breathes the word with true mourning before his heavy footsteps hit the stairs.
“Addison!” he cries out her name as my head hits the wall and my breath comes in staggered, sharp pulls.
The back door is still open, the wind carries through the house and the cool air calls to me like a siren.
I’m numb as I stand and make my way to the door, with trees lining the back of the yard, it’s pitch black, but I can see there’s no one here.
There’s nothing here.
Nothing but the dark and the quiet as I take a single step out. And then another as the cold flows over my skin. And another.
The thoughts of how life has spiraled downward ever since I laid eyes on Carter Cross run through my mind. Or maybe ever since he laid eyes on me. It’s hard to know which, really.
The thoughts consume me as I breathe in the cold air.
The thoughts… and then the hard chest that slams my back into it and the large hand that covers my mouth as I scream.
I recognize some of these faces. Men who have stared at me from a distance with hate but didn’t have the balls to pull the trigger. I’ve passed so many of them on street corners as I drove past Carlisle and sometimes into Talvery territory over the years.
I’ve imagined the bullet holes in their foreheads for years.
My blood is ringing with anger as I point the trigger at a man hunched behind the car and waiting with his back to me for one of my men to come into his view. He won’t even see it coming. Bang!
Declan’s iPad shows each of the streets, lined with dead bodies and riddled with bullet holes, broken glass and the shells of bullets that have stolen dozens of lives tonight.
War comes with a hefty cost and it’s sickening but it fuels my need for vengeance.
“Four more on Second Street,” Declan speaks into his mic.
Jase and I watch him carefully and keep an eye out on each side of the building we’re stationed behind. Declan cheats at war, using surveillance that doesn’t let a soul hide.
“Straight down from the street sign, head up the right side of the street and get them from the back. They’re behind the–”
Shots ring out and I glance at the screen to see each of the four turning around too late. Their guns held in the air, aiming, but too slow to do anything before their bodies drop.
The night air is quiet.
It hasn’t been more than thirty minutes since I’ve left, but the realization of how much time has passed since I’ve heard a word about Aria sends a tremor of terror rocking through me like a slow wave.
“We still have the two,” Jase reminds me and tugs my arm to follow him.
Only two of Talvery’s men are left. But he wasn’t among them and neither was Nikolai.
The thought reminds me of Aria, crying on the bed as she confessed how she’ll never forgive me if I killed them. How easy it would have been for the two of them to have died tonight at the hands of other men.