Bound By Vengeance(6)

By: Cora Reilly

He looked way too tame for someone like him. Or at least he’d tried. There was no fooling anyone about his nature. It seemed to radiate off him like a dark cloud of danger. It was almost palpable even from afar.

Father had mentioned him once or twice in hushed tones but I’d never seen him, and he definitely wasn’t the type to appear in the gossip parts of the newspaper. I doubted any journalist was crazy enough to risk the wrath of a man like him.

“The Bastard, that’s what most people call him,” Anastasia added. She looked like a cat that had spotted a bird. I knew why she was so excited. So far nothing interesting had happened, but Anastasia probably hoped that this had the potential for some decent gossip.

“What’s his real name?” I asked. I’d tried to get it out of Mother once but the look she’d given me had stopped me from asking again.

“I don’t know his real name. Nobody does. People call him “Growl” to his face, and The Bastard behind his back.”

I gave them a look. Really? Both were names he couldn’t possible have chosen for himself. Someone had to know his name. At least, Falcone. He knew everything about his subjects. “Why would people call him that?”

Anastasia shrugged but didn’t glance my way. “There’s something wrong with his vocal cords since a horrible accident. That’s why he’s got that big scar.”

I couldn’t make out a scar from our vantage point. We were too far away. I assumed Anastasia had gotten that piece of information from the gossip mill as well. “What kind of accident?”

“I don’t know. Some people say the Russian Mob did this, others say he tried to kill himself because he isn’t right in the head, but nobody knows,” Anastasia replied under her breath.

Who would try to kill themselves like that? And Growl didn’t seem the guy for suicide. The first story with the Bratva sounded far more likely. “So they call him Growl because that’s what it sounds like when he talks?” I asked.

Anastasia barely seemed to register my words but Trish nodded in confirmation.

I didn’t ask why they called him the Bastard. That much I could explain. People in our world didn’t look kindly upon children who were born out of wedlock. It was old-fashioned and ridiculous but some things never changed. I didn’t know who his parents were. They couldn’t be high-ranking members of society, that was certain.

I directed my eyes back to the man. He seemed completely indifferent to what was happening around him, as if this party was just another of his duties. But something told me that despite his displayed boredom he was alert. I doubted that much passed his attention. He was holding a glass of champagne in his hands but it was still full. The elegant crystal looked tiny compared to him and I marveled that he hadn’t crushed it between his palms yet. As if he could read my mind, he turned his head and stared straight at us. Trish let out a gasp and jerked beside me, spilling a few drops of her drink on the expensive looking wooden floor. She really couldn’t have acted more suspicious if she’d tried. After a moment, both Trish and Anastasia jerked their heads down, breaking eye-contact. Maybe to make him believe they hadn’t been watching him, or maybe they simply couldn’t bear the power of his gaze. Now I understood why my parents and even my friends had sounded so terrified when they’d talked about him. Even from the distance his eyes almost made my knees buckle.

It wasn’t only fear that made my heart speed up though; there was something close to excitement too. It was like watching a tiger through the glass of its enclosure and marveling at its power. Only here the only thing keeping him from attack were the social rules even someone like him was bound to. The leash Falcone had him on wasn’t a physical or visible one, but it was there nonetheless.

I wondered what was going on in his head. How did he feel surrounded by people he had hardly anything in common with? He was one of them and yet not really. A man of the shadows because nobody wanted him in the light. When I realized how long I’d been staring, I averted my eyes, but my pulse kept up its erratic pace afterward. I wasn’t sure when I’d felt this…alive the last time. My life always meandered in its predetermined pathways, but tonight felt like an adventure.

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