Bound By Vengeance(13)

By: Cora Reilly

But he walked out of the room without another glance at the man he killed – or at the wardrobe I was hiding in.

Only when he was gone and I didn’t hear his steps anymore did I dare to breathe. And then a new fear set in. Where was Father and what was happening to him? And what about Mother and Talia? I had to go looking for them, even if every fiber of my body screamed at me to stay where I was. We needed to stay together, but leaving my hiding place was a huge risk. I glanced toward the dead body in the middle of the room again. Was that our fate too?

Then a more hopeful thought crossed my mind. Maybe we’d be spared. It wasn’t a surprise that soldiers of the Camorra, like Growl was, killed members of the Bratva, their archenemies. Maybe there was a way we could convince everyone that the Russians hadn’t been here for our protection but instead to kill us. Screams and shots rang out below. I listened for a familiar voice, Father’s voice, but it wasn’t among the screams, neither were Talia’s or Mother’s. They were probably still hiding in the master bedroom.

I closed my eyes. I wasn’t accustomed to this world, even though I’d grown up around people who were part of it. But I’d always only brushed the edges of the nastiness my father was involved in. Now that I was thrown in headfirst, I wasn’t sure how to act. Waiting like a mouse in a trap wasn’t the solution though. At some point they’d search the rooms properly, and then I didn’t want to make it easy for them. I pushed to my feet and slowly opened the door, then stepped outside. Although I knew better, I crouched beside the Russian and pressed my fingers against his throat. He was still warm but there was no pulse. I considered doing CPR but then I noticed the way his neck was twisted and shoved away.

A violent shudder overwhelmed my body and for a moment I was sure I was going to have a panic attack, but the sound of voices brought me back to reality. I stood, my gaze falling on the knife the Russian had dropped during his struggle. I was about to take it when the words of the self-defense instructor that had given a weekend seminar at our school popped into my mind: ‘A weapon you can’t control is another advantage for your enemy.’

I had no doubt that I’d be disarmed in no time. I’d never learned how to fight with weapons, or to fight at all. My friends and I hadn’t taken the self-defense seminar very seriously. Now I wished I had. But we’d been so busy ogling our instructor that we hadn’t had time for anything else.

How much time had passed?

Talia screamed somewhere in the house, and I started moving without thinking. I stormed out of the room. I wasn’t sure how to help her, but I knew I needed to get to her. I didn’t get very far though. I crashed into someone, my temple colliding with a hard shoulder. My vision turned black and I staggered back, gasping. I dropped to my knees. Pain shot through my legs from the impact. After a moment, I peered up and found myself staring at the man who’d killed right in front of my eyes, the man who’d scared and fascinated me since our first encounter. He was even taller this close up and there was a long faded scar that reached around his throat. Growl. Always Growl. My fascination gave way to nothing but fear when his eyes met mine. He didn’t look human in that moment.

A killer, a monster – nothing human about his expression, or eyes, or him.

He grabbed my arm and pulled me roughly to my feet. My vision swam again. “Take her to the others,” he rasped. That voice, so deep and rough, sent a shiver down my back.

Another man took me by the arm and led me away. I threw another glance over my shoulder but, Growl, the man with the scar and no mercy, was gone. I hardly paid attention to my surroundings and almost fell down the stairs when my captor dragged me downstairs until we arrived in the living room where Father, Mother and Talia were already gathered. Father knelt on the floor in front of Falcone, who was dressed in a pin-striped suit and a high-collared stark white shirt. Talia and Mother stood a few steps back, looking as terrified as I felt. I was pushed toward them and Mother immediately wrapped an arm around me. The other was already holding onto Talia. I gave Mother a questioning look but she was watching Falcone with terrified eyes. Finally, I turned toward him as well. He’d been creepy at his party, but today he looked truly frightening.