Hold You Against Me(5)

By: Skye Warren

I hate that she’s right about that. “Then we’ll talk to Daddy. He can make him stop.”

Pain flashes over Honor’s face. “He already knows.”

My eyes close. I’d been afraid of that. Afraid that Byron’s connections and money were worth seeing my sister hurt. Byron may be relatively new to the scene, but he’s ambitious. And like Brutus, an ambitious man is a dangerous one. He has money and connections. My father is old and growing weaker. The other factions could see it as an opportunity to take over. So he’s solidified his rule by grooming Byron to take over—and marrying his oldest daughter to him as insurance.

I swallow hard. Our father never took much interest in me, except in the worst way.

Probably the rumors are true and I’m not really his daughter. I don’t have the dark hair and olive skin that marks our family. I have strawberry-blonde hair and freckles. But he’s always been fond of Honor. If he is willing to sacrifice her to assure our position, he must really have been worried about a takeover.

“What can Byron even do for him?” I ask, half angry, half wondering.

Honor lifts one shoulder. “He has everyone intimidated. Judges. Drug suppliers. He’s working both sides.”

I stare at the place where the bruises are. I can’t see them when the fabric rests naturally away from her skin. I’m sure that’s on purpose. She must keep an inventory of where her bruises are and make sure they’re covered up. It makes me exhausted—and desperate.

“Then let’s go,” I say. We don’t need Gio to take us away. We can leave ourselves.

She frowns, her delicate eyebrows drawing together. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying let’s run away. Just you and me.” My throat goes tight as I imagine never seeing Gio again. And I tell her the same thing I told him, though my voice cracks this time. “It will be an adventure.”

Her head is shaking no no no. “They’d find us. There’s no way, Clara. Don’t even say the words.”

But I’ve already said them. And once they’re out, I can’t put them away. Not when I close my eyes and see the dark bluish imprint of Byron’s fingers. “We’ll find some way to hide. To go underground. It has to be better than this, than you getting hurt.”

“And what will we do for money?”

“I don’t know. Something. I don’t need all this.” I wave my hand to indicate the ornate antique furniture and expensive artwork. These aren’t things I chose for myself. They are part of the cage that keeps me here. Money and family and obligation. All of them bind me.

“It’s impossible,” she says, her voice wistful. “I thought of leaving once. I even had a plan. But…”

“But what?”

“But you’re still a minor, Clara. You couldn’t work. You couldn’t even be seen.”

My heart clenches. I would be a liability to her. “You could leave without me.”

Her eyes flare with something—memory? Betrayal? Our mother left us both. The official story is that she died in a car crash. But everyone knows she wasn’t allowed to drive. And the casket at her funeral was closed. If she did drive that day, she was leaving. And if she died that day, it means my father caught her.

“I will never leave you.” She says it like a vow—fierce.

My eyes grow hot with tears. “Me either,” I promise her. Even if Gio showed up, ready to take me away. Even if that girlish dream came true. I’d never leave without Honor. She’s my sister. I love her. And that’s why I can’t stand by and let Byron hurt her. There’s no fighting a man like that.

The only way to keep her safe is to take her away.

* * *

The next night I creep across the grass. The bottoms of my feet feel extra sensitive when I do this. Maybe my sense of touch is heightened because of fear. Or because I’m about to see Gio. I can feel every blade of grass tickle my feet, every bump and dip in the earth. Even the night air becomes a tactile thing, blowing gently against my skin, leaving goose bumps in its wake.

When I reach the pool house, the door opens. “Clara,” he whispers.