Black Wings & Stolen Things: Chapter 11

EMERIC

Patience isn’t something I excel at. Impulsivity is usually the lane I find myself driving in, but for this to play out how I wanted it to, I needed to wait. Seven weeks have passed since New Year’s, and it’s finally time. Excitement buzzes beneath my skin at the anticipation for what’s to come.

The old church doors swing open, the wood banging into the wall behind them at the force. Nova and his team carrying in the precious cargo has a gleeful smile pulling at my lips. They’re hooded, their hands zip-tied, but still they’re fighting tooth and nail to free themselves. Let’s see how much fight they have in them when I clip their wings.

Giuliana sticks her head out of the building’s back office and nods her head at me. “We’re just finishing up the final touches.”

She’s a cut-throat attorney and businesswoman. I brought her in twelve years ago when she was working for a rival corporation. She tried her hardest to fuck me over and got so goddamn close to doing just that, that I decided I needed someone like her on my team. Giuliana and Nova are the only two people I can trust to properly handle delicate and important matters such as this.

Giuliana disappears again while Nova forces our guests to take their seats in the front two pews. After all, they’re the best seats in the house for tonight’s festivities, and I don’t want either of them to miss a single minute.

A small gesture of my hand has Nova ripping the black fabric from both of their heads and cutting their restraints. Matching sets of brown eyes widen at me when they find me standing behind the wooden pulpit.

With a shit-eating grin, I fling my arms out wide at my sides in an overexaggerated motion. “Welcome to church, boys!” I greet in my best southern minister accent “Who’s ready to confess to their sins?”

“What the hell is the meaning of this, Banes?” Niall spits, his usual ruddy face growing monumentally more red. He’s a stout man who’s eaten one too many servings of pot roast and mashed potatoes. Rionach got her looks solely from her mother, while Tiernan is an unfortunate replica of his father with his dark blond hair and stocky frame.

“Hey now. Watch your mouth,” I mockingly chastise, hands dropping back to my sides. “We’re in a church. Have some fucking respect.”

Tiernan Moran glowers at me as he snarls venomously, “I’m surprised you didn’t burst into flames the second you stepped foot in here.”

“You know what?” My fingers tap a couple beats into the worn wood in front of me. “I, too, was pleasantly surprised when this didn’t abruptly turn into a Sunday barbeque. It appears even your god is smart enough to not fuck with me, but we can’t say the same about you two now, can we?”

Tiernan’s response is immediate and defensive. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

His father at least has the decency to stay quiet and look worried. Niall knows where this is going because while he’s struggled monumentally with his family’s empire, his IQ is just high enough to know how to read a fucking room. His son, on the other hand? An imbecile. The overly cocky ones usually are. They think they can hide their lack of common sense and brain cells with an arrogant attitude.

Stepping to the side of the podium, I lean against it, my legs crossing casually at my ankles. “Here’s the deal. I’m going to give you one more chance to confess to your wrongdoings. If you want to make this difficult, I’m more than happy to oblige. Actually, I’d prefer it if you did. I have about two months’ worth of pent-up energy in me, and, boy oh boy, do I need an outlet.”

“Tiernan…” Niall tries to pull his son’s attention to him, but the cocky fucker seems to only have eyes for me. I’m so flattered.

“Fuck you.” He spits at me, and it lands two feet from my leather shoes.

Classy.

Nova has been with me long enough now to anticipate my next moves. Like a well-rehearsed dance, we move in tandem. As I grab the item I stashed in the pulpit, Nova takes hold of Tiernan while his team members move in on Niall.

The Morans fight and yell, but I don’t give a shit what they’re saying. The storm around me now matches the ever-present one thundering in my bones. It’s moments like these, when things are most hectic, that I feel most at peace. Calm. Steady.

The only other time I felt that way was when I was with Rionach in the cage. It was an unexpected and not unwelcome discovery. I was prepared to find only more chaos when I was inside of her, but instead I found myself feeling centered.

My second-in-command positions the kid’s arm exactly as I need it. Never fazed by my actions, Nova doesn’t flinch when the military-grade tactical tomahawk comes down, or when the resulting drops of blood splatter on our faces and clothes.

Trauma and shock do funny things to people. It’s like their bodies and minds are momentarily disconnected, and their neurons need a minute to catch up to fully understand what’s just occurred. When Tiernan looks down at his right hand, it takes him a solid five seconds to comprehend that it’s no longer connected to his body.

The scream of horror that comes from him rivals the one that comes from Niall’s windpipes. I’m sure there’s been talented choirs in this building before, but in my humble opinion, their cries are the sweetest symphony to ever grace this church. A harmonic melody I plan to commit to memory. To repeat when I’m bored.

The color drains from Tiernan’s face and his brown eyes are dazed as he holds his shaking arm in front of him. Blood pours freely from it, spilling all over his legs and the floor below him. Niall is still screaming, surely cursing my mother for daring to give birth to me, and no doubt promising pain to my own future children. This is just a calculated guess as I’m not really paying the Irish mobster any attention.

Kneeling in front of his thieving son, I rest my chin on the very ax I used to maim him.

“I warned you to not make this difficult, didn’t I?”

His head bobs as he starts to lose consciousness from the shock and blood loss.

“Did no one ever teach you to not take someone else’s toys?” I ask, knowing I won’t get an answer. Not that I need one. Niall and Imogen did their son a disservice by making him believe he was above everyone else and untouchable. God’s gift to fucking earth, blah blah blah.

Fueled by rage and desperation, Niall musters up enough strength to break free of the hands holding him at bay. He charges at me like a bull having a red flag waved in his pudgy round face. Standing just in time to face him head-on, I slam my fist into his sternum, a blow that instantly has him doubling over in pain.

Nodding at Nova, who no longer needs to keep the kid in place, I order, “Put Mr. Moran against the cross.” My hand covered with the blood residue gestures to where the six-foot tall wooden religious symbol leans against the wall directly behind the pulpit. “I need him front and center, Nova.”

Tears run down the father’s face as he’s manhandled away from his bleeding son. He’s forced up onto the raised dais and pressed to the cross that sits against the wall painted with an absolutely hideous mural of the Garden of Eden.

“I’m going to fucking kill you, Banes. I’m going to skin you alive and⁠—”

“And what? Feed me to your leprechauns?” I finish for him, completely unimpressed and unmoved by his threat. “Your son broke into my warehouse in New Jersey and helped himself to my shipment of weapons. The dumbass brought this on himself, and I’m only settling the score.”

“He’s just a boy, he doesn’t know any better.”

This has me throwing back my head and laughing hysterically. “Okay, sure. He’s just a boy. In that case, he was in desperate need of learning a harsh lesson his father should have taught him decades ago. What I’m doing now is picking up your slack, Moran.”

Niall thrashes against Nova’s hold, but my right hand is built like a brick shithouse. A hurricane couldn’t move him.

“But that only answers for your son’s stupidity and actions. What about yours, Niall?” I press, my hands tucked casually in my jacket pockets. “Your son told you about his plans to steal almost half a million dollars’ worth of merchandise. You rushed to New Jersey that morning like a hellhound was on your ass but when you got there, what did you do? Did you stop him? No, you sat in your cushy hotel suite and waited for him. Your son proudly brought you his haul like a house cat bringing its owner a dead mouse, and you promptly found buyers for the entire shipment.”

“He didn’t tell me it was your warehouse. I had no way of knowing they were your guns.”

My brows quirk and my head tilts. “Is that your final answer?”

Sweat pours down his sweaty face in fat drops and his whole body shakes as he nods. “Y-yes. Yes. I didn’t know.”

I ponder this answer for all of three seconds before shrugging my shoulders. “I don’t believe you.”

Nova’s tattooed hand wraps around Niall’s. He uses his brute strength to yank Niall’s arm away from his thick body and pin it to the cross. The Irishman’s head turns to the right to look at his hand. From the dread in his eyes, I know he thinks I’m going to cut it off and make him match his son, but I have other plans for Mr. Moran. Those plans require that he stay conscious. There’s an important role he’s yet to play for me tonight.

Pulling one of the five-inch long and quarter-inch thick nails out of my jacket pocket, I position myself in front of the hand that is palm up. He shrieks when I place the sharp point of the nail against his skin, and he all but screams when I pull the hammer from the back of my waistband.

“Please, no. God no. Don’t do this, Emeric.” His voice is hoarse from all his pleas and his body is trembling with fear. A delightful and expected response.

Holding the nail in place and the hammer over the top of it, I ask one more time, “Tell me the truth. Did you know you were stealing from me when you accepted those guns?”

The internal fight he’s having with himself is clearly written across his face. I know he’s come to an answer when he nervously licks his dry lips. “Yes. I knew they were yours. I saw an opportunity and I took it.”

No fucking shit.

“Thank you for your candor.”

One harsh slam against the nail head, and it drives completely through the bones and tendons in his hand, and deep into the old wood of the cross. Niall hollers in pain, his eyes glued to the blood dripping down his palm.

Wanting his attention on me, I grip his chin and force him to look at my face. “That’s right, scream. Make sure your wife can hear you from where she’s bound and gagged. Let her know how your mistakes are costing you blood and body parts.”

Switching to the other side, I repeat the process on his left hand. His cries are quieter this time, the shock and adrenaline coursing through his system shielding him from feeling the full effect of the pain.

Nova lets him go and steps back, leaving me alone to inspect my masterpiece.

“You Irish are really into the whole Jesus thing, aren’t you? It must just tickle you pink that you get to emulate your god.” Blood drips down the mural and into twin puddles on the dirty hardwood floor. It’s a view I’d like to frame and mount on my fucking wall. “Go get the wife,” I order.

This stops the pathetic whimpering coming from Niall. “Please, don’t hurt her. She doesn’t have anything to do with this.”

“But she will,” I correct, patting him on the chest like an ol’ pal would. “The Moran women aren’t sitting on the sidelines tonight.”

The sound of high heels clanking unrhythmically against the floor has my head turning. A blindfolded and bound Imogen struggles to keep up with Nova’s long legs as he drags her into the room. Stopping in front of her barely conscious son, Nova removes the bag from over her head.

The scream that comes from the sight of her precious boy is so loud and long, I’m utterly shocked that it didn’t shatter the panes of stained glass in the windows. Any passerby would think that she was the one being maimed. Imogen drops to her knees in the pool of Tiernan’s blood and presses her bound hands to the open wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

“While I’m sure this is all very shocking and tragic for you,” I start, not an iota of sympathy or care in my tone, “I do want to move this along, as I have plans for the rest of my evening.”

Blue eyes snap in my direction and if looks could actually kill, I’d be the one bleeding out instead of her boy. “What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re a… monster.”

“While flattery will get you everywhere, Imogen, we need to talk about how you want this to play out.” Bloody hands tucked behind my back, I walk slowly toward the now sobbing woman. “Your husband and your son stole from me. Cost me a great deal of money, and I want to know how you intend to pay me for their crimes.”

Her tear-soaked face twists in confusion. “Pay—pay you?”

“I’ll give you the money,” Niall hoarsely says from his place on the wall. “I’ll need a few days to move the money into your accounts, but I can give you back every dime we made from the guns.”

“You returning my money goes without saying, Niall.” My eyes roll. Fool. “I’m asking your wife now what she is willing to pay to ensure that you and your son walk out of here alive and mostly in one piece.”

“You’ve already taken your pound of flesh and now you’re asking me for more?” The high-pitched octave the distraught woman’s voice jumps to is unpleasant, and, frankly, dramatic in my opinion. Her emotions are clear, there’s no need to add theatrics to it.

“This…” I gesture between the two bloody men. “Wasn’t my payment. This was my punishment. There’s a fine line, but a crucial difference between the two.”

“What else do I have that you could possibly want?” Imogen chokes out. Tiernan stirs and looks down at his mom from his slumped position on the pew. His mouth opens like he’s going to say something but his eyes close again before he can. “For God’s sake, you’ve already abducted me, tortured my husband, and disfigured my son…”

 “I’ve also fucked your daughter.” That malicious grin returns to my face at the sight of the matching expression of horror on her parents’ faces. “Just thought I’d put that out there since you’ve yet to mention her name once or show any semblance of concern for her. She’s safe, by the way, in case you were curious.”

Imogen’s head shakes in disbelief. “I don’t believe you. When… when would you have been around my daughter?”

“Well, I’m not going to give you all the dirty details. I would hate to come across as crass or ill-mannered. I do have a reputation to uphold, after all, but I will tell you this. While your son was stealing from me, I was taking your daughter.” Sending her away that night tested my restraint to an extreme I’ve never experienced before. For the first time in my adult life, I was depriving myself of something I wanted, and there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted more of Rionach Moran. To ensure that today went to plan, I needed to keep my distance. In the end, I know my reward will be worth the ache I’ve had in my cock for the past seven days. “Have you figured out what I want yet?”

Rionach?” both Niall and Imogen mutter.

“Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.” Stalking closer to where Imogen and Tiernan sit, I yank his injured arm away from her caring grasp.

“Stop it!” she pleads. “He’s going to bleed out.”

Wagging his arm around like a puppeteer, I nod in agreement as blood drips onto my shoes and her clothes. “Yes, I’m very much aware. That’s why you should answer this question quickly. I either take my payment by watching him bleeding out right here in this fucking church, or by taking your daughter as my wife.”

“You want to marry her? Why?” Niall asks. I can’t decide if the confusion in his voice is because he can’t understand why I’d want to marry someone, or because he can’t understand why I’d choose the daughter they have wrongly deemed inconsequential.

“That is for me to know. Now, ticktock, this offer has a time limit.” Reaching for Tiernan’s uninjured arm, I look down at the tacky gold watch on his wrist. “You have fifteen seconds to decide.”

“You can’t have her,” Niall grunts. “She’s already spoken for. A deal for her hand in marriage has been signed for weeks.” Yes, I’m aware, and I also know what filth you tried to pawn your daughter off to, you cocksucker. “Even if I wanted to, I can’t get out of⁠—”

Imogen cuts him off, not caring what else her husband has to say because for her, this isn’t a subject up for debate. “You can have her.” Her expectant gaze turns to her husband, who, to my shock, is still hesitating to answer. “Niall. Tell him he can take her. He’s already further soiled her. What is she worth to them now?”

Maybe I shouldn’t let them all leave here alive.

With two seconds to spare, Niall nods his head. “Fine.”

Unceremoniously, I drop the boy’s arms and spin away from the pair. “I can’t even pretend to act surprised by your answer.” Nodding my head at the men waiting at the back of the church for my signal, they come forward to collect Tiernan and Imogen. “It’s time for you two to leave. These men, believe it or not, are former combat medics. I’ve found it’s good to have them on staff because this, as you know, is a very dangerous world to live in. They’ll make sure your delinquent son is just fine and dandy.” My cheerful tone has murderous rage flaring in the mother’s eyes.

Picking up Tiernan by under his arms, they carry his limp body toward the back door.

Imogen turns to follow them but freezes at the sight of her son’s dismembered hand. It sits discarded on the dirty and dusty concrete floor in a pool of blood. I almost laugh aloud when she begins to squat down, as if she plans on taking it with her.

Leave it,” I snap, enjoying the way she jumps at the sound of my booming voice. “That belongs to me now.”

For a moment, the strong Irishwoman’s composure starts to break and her bottom lip wobbles. “But a surgeon might be able⁠—”

“Do you really think I would go through all the trouble of hacking off his hand—ruining a perfectly good pair of slacks in the process, by the way—if I planned on letting you reattach the fucking thing? No, because that would have been a waste of my time, which you’re also doing now by loitering.”

I’ll return the hand to them eventually, but it won’t be in the way Imogen is hoping.

Back stiff and chin lifted in false bravado, she spits, “I hope you rot in hell, Emeric Banes.”

“I’m sure you do.” Waving my hand in a dismissal, I add, “I’ll be sure to send you a Christmas card anyway.”

“What about my husband? Get him off that fucking cross.”

 I look between the married couple with raised brows. “He’s more than welcome to come down anytime he pleases once he’s played the rest of his part. I’m not keeping him there.”

Her mouth gapes in horror. “You… you expect him to pull himself free?”

“Correct, but only after he officiates the wedding. It’s a good thing he was ordained for his niece’s wedding last summer, or this plan really would have gone to shit. And besides, what little girl doesn’t want her daddy there on her big day?” Lifting my chin at Nova, he understands my silent order and prowls over. “Time for you to go, Mrs. Moran. I’m afraid this is an invite-only event.”

She periodically looks over her shoulder at her husband as Nova removes her from the building, but she doesn’t fight him once.

“You’re marrying her now?” Niall breathlessly asks. His chest is heaving like he’s just tried to beat his best time for running a mile.

“Sure am. Is it too soon to start calling you Dad?”

I’d saw out my own tongue with a rusty grapefruit spoon before I called another person Dad. The taunt was just too perfect to not say to my future father-in-law. It helped make clear to him just how fucking serious I am about this whole thing.

Turning back to Niall once mother and son are gone, I cheekily say, “I’d ask you for marriage advice, but seeing how your wife just left you nailed to the wall like a chubby Irish Jesus without any argument, I’m thinking things aren’t super cozy between the two of you.”

His chin hangs to his chest in a pathetic fashion instead of offering me any kind of answer. That’s fine by me seeing as I’ve always failed at small talk.

Minutes pass by in silence before Giuliana walks out the office door. My heart thuds against my ribs in anticipation for what’s to happen next. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for since I saw her smiling up at the dark sky. I knew then she’d be mine and that she’d be my wife.

“We’re ready,” she informs me.

On cue, the wooden front doors covered in cracked white paint swing open, and I set my sights on my bride for the first time. Dressed in a long-sleeved black lace dress, Rionach stands between two guards with a look of pure fury on her face. The mask that is constructed of lies she forces herself to wear is nowhere to be found.

Rage and venom come from her like strikes of lightning, but she’s never looked more beautiful, and I’ve never been so happy to call something I’ve stolen mine.

With a smirk pulling at my lips, and the storm inside me rattling my bones, I breathe a single word.

Finally.”

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