Authors: Jenny Allen
“Is that the only reason?” Lilith kept her voice calm and neutral. It seemed that Farren’s outburst toward Chance was more about his rebellious attitude than his desire for information. She had to play her cards delicately, but at least she still had one or two in her hand. Or at least she hoped she did.
Farren’s heavy eyes rested on her for a long moment, recalculating his estimation of her most likely. The fact that she spoke up at all after he threatened Chance meant that she had guts or was very stupid. The slight lift to his left eyebrow and the downward quip of his thin lips seemed to suggest the question had merit so, hopefully, he was leaning toward guts.
“Is there another reason why you should be here?” His head tilted to the side in mild curiosity. It was a motion that fit his ancient fluidity but was at odds with his physical look of mid-forties. He seemed more like an archaic creature stuffed into a human skin.
Lilith settled back into her seat, folding her arms over her chest in relaxed confidence. All for show, of course. Thankfully, Cohen wasn’t the only actor on their side of the table.
“Perhaps because of my Uncle’s book.” Farren was trying very hard to bully Lilith and Chance into working for him. He was definitely succeeding, and Lilith wanted to cut through the intimidation and get to the job. She saw the tightness around his eyes, the firmness of his lips and the definitive arch in his eyebrows. Her words caught his full attention and desire lurked beneath the surface. He may be centuries old but micro-expressions are nearly impossible to overcome completely.
“Well, that is what you sent Cohen to Tennessee for in the first place, isn’t it?” Farren wasn’t flying into a rage but he wasn’t reacting much either, so Lilith decided to press her luck and hope that it would pay off.
“It doesn’t seem that your justice system includes any due process, so I’m sure that we’ve already been tried and convicted in your eyes. If you simply wanted us dead, your pet could have easily accomplished that in New York City. In fact, I only see one reason for bringing us here, luggage in tow, and risking even more exposure. You want something. So why don’t we skip the scare tactics? You win. We are properly and honestly terrified. Just tell us precisely what you want?”
The laughter that rang through the room, making Lilith’s head spin wasn’t Farren’s. Peisinoe apparently found Lilith’s remarks quite hilarious. While the men seemed unbothered, her laughter like razorblades burrowing into Lilith’s skull. Farren held up one hand and the
as Cohen referred to her, promptly shut her mouth with a smirk still on her full lips.
Once Lilith’s ears stopped ringing, she looked up to see Farren carefully studying her with his dark, ominous eyes. He was actually rubbing his long fingers against his chin as if weighing his own options. It felt like the most intense chess game ever, waiting to see if your bold move won the game or cost you everything.
Without a single word, Farren rose from his chair, lording over his ornate desk with eyes fixed fiercely on Lilith. That’s when her heart started beating a little faster and her skin crawled under the heavy weight of his stare. Pushing Farren was a real gamble and judging by the malicious glint in his eyes, Lilith was just hoping she could live to regret it.
With a regal confidence, Farren moved away from his table, stepped down off the dais and casually strolled across the room like he had all the time in the world. All Lilith could feel through her new little side effects was fear and lots of it, all coming from their side of the table. The bulk of which was coming from Cohen and that was definitely less than comforting. Every step closer the “old” man got, the more Lilith felt like she was drowning. He stepped past the table and Lilith turned in her seat to watch him.
Farren walked right up to the guard behind her and slowly wrapped his long fingers around the man’s gun, pulling it out of his holster. His dark eyes looked it over, considering it as if he’d never really seen one before. Lilith was certain that wasn’t the case. He was trying to decide exactly what he wanted to do with it.
Farren, still inspecting every angle of the gun, wandered nonchalantly around the table. The knot of dread in the pit of Lilith’s stomach grew stronger and stronger with every footstep until Farren stopped, right in front of her. Lilith’s heart started beating like a wild animal in a cage as she stared at the gun balanced in his hand, unable to focus on anything else. Shit. She’d overplayed her hand, pushed a little too far.
Finally Lilith tore her eyes away from the gun and they slowly rose as the knot of dread twisted and churned. Farren’s ancient eyes pierced through her, pinning her to the chair with their ferocity. Lilith couldn’t look away, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Her chest felt impossibly tight as the panic began to bubble up inside her.
“Peisinoe. Retrieve our guest.” There was a snarling anger lurking under his otherwise calm words and it took Lilith a minute to realize what he was instructing his pet to do.
A moment later, a strangled moan and the sound of shuffling feet ripped her attention away from Farren. Her father stumbled out of the side door with the siren behind him. Gregor’s face was an unrecognizable mass of bruises that brought tears to Lilith’s eyes. Blood coated his grey polo, charcoal slacks and even his dark grey speckled hair.
The bombshell shoved him forward forcibly sending Gregor sprawling to his knees on the carpet with a sharp whimper of pain. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Lilith remembered seeing her father as powerful and untouchable. He’d been her world, a pillar of goodness in the center of her life. In the past week she’d been proven wrong too many times to count. Now, her once regal father looked like a broken man who welcomed death as a release from the overwhelming guilt on his shoulders. It was enough to crack her heart in two as tears stung her eyes.
A heavy sigh escaped Farren’s crooked lips. “Get him on his feet,
Lilith gasped, heartbroken, as the banshee dug her nails into Gregor’s greying hair and hauled him to his feet like a rag doll. He coughed violently with a slight gurgling sound that may have been a punctured lung. Lilith wanted to run to him but Farren was still standing directly in front of her contemplating the gun in his hand. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Chance white-knuckling the chair, ready to spring but holding himself back. On her left, Cohen sat perfectly still with his head slumped forward.
Gregor’s swollen eyes rolled around wildly in his head as if they were having trouble focusing. Finally they came to rest on her and tears immediately sprang to his sky grey eyes. “Lily?” His voice was rough and so faint that she couldn’t tell if he’d actually said her name or if she’d just imagined it. “Oh god, Lily, my girl. I’m so sorry.” Peisinoe tugged hard on his hair, pulling a yelp of pain from his lips but ultimately silencing him.
“You’re right, Ms. Adams. There is something I want.” Farren’s voice sounded completely indifferent when he finally spoke again. Lilith wiped at the tears on her cheeks as she forced herself to look at Farren’s face. His entire expression was apathetic. He held no feelings one way or another about what he’d done or what he was about to do. Somehow that was even scarier than Ashcroft’s delirious mania.
“Your father has confirmed it for me. However, you are the one I need…” In one smooth, calculated motion, Farren turned, sighted down the gun and shot Gregor in the knee cap. Her father cried out and would have crumpled to the ground if Peisinoe hadn’t been holding him still. Blood splattered against the wall and Lilith’s ears just kept ringing as tears welled in her eyes. “Not him.”
Lilith leapt to her feet and the only thing keeping her from vaulting over the table was Chance and Cohen’s grip on her arms. “You monster!” She screamed with all the venom and hate she’d been bottling up for weeks as both men fought to get her back in her seat.
. Please.” Chance kept repeating it over and over. She knew he was right but her father’s howls of pain still echoed around the room, tearing at her skull. She was completely powerless. Lilith could only sit there and listen to the screams of agony ripping their way out of her father’s throat. She’d listen to Peisinoe’s ballads of terror for a hundred years to take back the sound of her father in so much anguish.
Farren calmly strolled across the room towards Gregor. Every step closer to her father was like a dagger to her heart as her eyes flickered from her father to Farren and back again. She fought for each labored breath as Chance finally stood and wrapped his arms around her to keep Lilith from vaulting over the table. She half-heartedly shoved him away, her eyes intently focused on Farren and the gun in his hand. No no no no, her mind screamed over and over.
Farren stopped next to Gregor and pressed the gun to his temple. Her father flinched from the hot barrel but Farren just shoved the gun harder against him, twisting her father’s neck with the force. Gregor’s eyes stayed solely on Lilith, willing her to understand a million different things, but he didn’t dare speak.
“No! Please!” Lilith screamed in pure desperation.
“We’ll cooperate. Please, there is no need for this!” Chance growled in an almost feral voice as stood beside her, hands white-knuckling the table top.
Farren’s face transformed into a cold grin of victory but he still held the gun firmly to her father’s head. “Ah. So there is something you both want?”
“Lilith, please just cooperate.” Cohen’s voice sounded tired and bored, as if he was trying to get through a college lecture uninterrupted. Lilith flashed her eyes to Cohen. He was still sitting in his chair, watching everything with the same defeated mask. She just wanted to rip it off of him.
“You fucking coward! Are you just gonna sit there? Do something!”
Cohen bit his lip for a second, his hands clenching before he finally looked up at her. All she could see was frustration, like she was some sort of petulant child refusing to behave. “And what, exactly, would you like me to do? Throw myself in front of the bullet for a mass murderer? I don’t think so.”
With a scream of white-hot rage, Lilith kicked and caught Cohen right in his small chin, making his teeth rattle in his skull. Chance’s strong arms clamped around her from behind and dragged her away from Andrew who was yelping in pain, clutching his bloody mouth.
“Dammit, Lilith, are you trying to get everyone killed. Stop. Please.” Chance leaned in closer, his growling voice low enough so just she could hear. “
are supposed to keep
temper in check, love. You aren’t doing your father any favors by losing it.”
She went limp in his arms, tears flooding down her cheeks as she fought to just breathe. It felt like her chest was in a vice, impossibly tight with every strained breath. Chance spun her around, hugging her to his chest as his hand ran softly through her auburn curls, giving her every bit of strength he could spare.
“If I finally have your attention...” Lilith looked around Chance’s shoulder to see Farren standing beside her father, the gun at his side. “Cooperate and I will allow your father to live…for now, but do NOT test my patience. Your dramatics do not amuse me. As for Andrew…” Farren waved the gun in Cohen’s direction with a dispassionate look as he slowly, casually approached the table. Somewhere Lilith thought she detected a bit of satisfaction as Farren’s eyes caught on Cohen’s aching jaw.
“Do not blame him, vampire. Andrew never has had much of a spine despite my every attempt to remedy that.” The look that crossed the “old” man’s face was full of contempt and some sort of odd victory. It was perverse and it made Lilith’s stomach queasy just seeing it. Cohen definitely wasn’t her favorite person on the planet, but she imagined growing up with this monster as a grandfather wasn’t exactly a bed of fucking roses.
As Farren approached the table, he began to frown, a look of confusion blossoming on his face. His cold eyes started to drift toward Lilith and then Chance, who still had his arms wrapped around her. There was a question in his eyes, but before he could even properly form it in his mind, Cohen surged to his feet.
“Dammit, Grandfather!” He slammed his hands down on the table, completely catching the “old” man’s attention. It was the first time that Farren seemed genuinely surprised. In fact, his hard eyes looked over Cohen as if he was meeting him for the first time.
“I am not some family accident!” Cohen’s instant anger was thick enough to drown in and it seemed to spark out of nowhere. Everyone’s eyes were on him as he fought to stare down the man that obviously terrified him. “There is no need for this. Lilith and Chance are honest, reasonable people. If you just explain the circumstances, I’m sure they would…”
Farren’s hand shot out in a slap so vicious that Cohen stumbled sideways. His ancient, cold stare fixed Andrew in place like a pin piercing a butterfly. “Always running that…mouth of yours.” He snarled the words, his nostrils flared, his crooked lip curled upward in a hideous look full of venom.
Suddenly the whole situation just felt awkward. Farren stepped up to his grandson, grabbing him by his collar and leaned in to whisper in his ear. Lilith would have placed bets that it wasn’t to apologize. Whatever this was between Cohen and his grandfather, it was a long time coming and Lilith felt like she was intruding just by being present.
Lilith decided to let them have their moment and her eyes drifted over to her father. He wasn’t screaming anymore. He looked pale beneath all the bruises. A loss of blood would do that and so would shock. Lilith could tell that he didn’t want to break the temporary truce by speaking up, but there were so many things he wanted to say. He just stared at her with tears in his eyes.