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God of Fury – Chapter 19

BRANDON

A bit longer than two weeks pass in the most bemusing blur.

What started like a temporary loss of control has categorically turned into the most tragic addiction.

Every night, I say I won’t go to the penthouse and I manage to hold out for a few days—nightmare-riddled, completely sleepless, and absolutely torturous days.

I bury myself in the studio, in practice, in being outside of my skin. Day in and day out, I manage to lie to myself for a few hours, only to relapse to daunting bad habits again.

The blood and the penthouse. Both are dangerous addictions of different proportions.

Both are pulling me apart and leaving me completely desolate and unable to look at the distorted face in the mirror anymore.

Only one addiction can actually lead to my decimation. One addiction forces me to forget everything else whenever he’s in my vicinity. Whenever he touches me, kisses me, fucks me. I pretend my outer skin doesn’t exist.

I’m not Brandon King. I’m not the broken entity who sees black ink instead of his reflection in the mirror. Not the weak man who’s more often than not swallowed by disgusting nausea and the terrifying notion of nothingness.

I’m just me.

His lotus flower. His Prince Charming. His baby.

But that vacuum of emotions only lasts for the duration of the mindless release and the unbound lust. It lasts until I lose his touch and I’m forced back into my own skin.

I do the forcing—every time. I just rip off the plaster and walk away, but it’s getting harder to willingly lose his lips, his touch. I’m almost scared of that moment when I have to lock myself in the bathroom and battle my demons. They’re rather vicious lately.

The more I enjoy myself, the more painful the aftermath.

But it’s not as painful as forcing myself away from that damn penthouse. It’s not as painful as waking up every day and having this queasy feeling in my stomach because I know he’s waiting outside the mansion’s gate. Grinning.

Nikolai isn’t really a cheerful man. I’ve seen him outside, multiple times, even though I like to pretend I don’t. And yes, he’s loud, but not in Remi’s carefree, funny way. He’s notoriously violent and curses a lot.

Killian often kicks him so he’ll shut up, or Jeremy will whisper or speak to him calmly so he’ll stop drawing attention or rein in his infamous bursts of violence.

He doesn’t show them the version he shows me. Always smiling, grinning, and being an infuriating ray of sunshine, as if my mere presence makes him happy.

That part boggles my mind. Why would he be happy with me when I can’t stand myself most of the time?

No matter how often I ask that question, I can’t quite find an answer.

Still, I enjoy whatever I get, even if it hurts.

Even if every day, I want to watch the blood endlessly flow out of my wrist.

Today is one of those days. I didn’t go to Nikolai’s penthouse yesterday and I feel like I’m sucking breaths through a straw.

I stare at my painting and feel the urge to topple it over and light it on fire. The perfect silhouette of a mountain and a lake that I’ve been working on for weeks feels fake, completely at odds with what my fingers actually want to create. I’ve made more paintings that I don’t want to admit exist, but this perfectly manicured scenery has been a fucking struggle to work on.

Mum said maybe it’s because I’m not focused, but what she doesn’t know is that I couldn’t have been any more focused. It’s just that this thing feels wrong.

Painting landscapes has been my crutch for years. My way to avoid creating anything with eyes. But it’s not working anymore.

If anything, I’m starting to see them in the same light Lan does. Pathetic. Mediocre. Unoriginal. Boring.

Boring.

Fucking boring.

I pull out my phone and stare at the text I sent Nikolai earlier today because he didn’t join me on my run this morning.

The first time he didn’t—the day of that fight—I felt a hollowness so deep, I didn’t know how to explain it. That hole got bigger the following day and I ignored it.

Today, however, I had trouble breathing. The twat has left his mark in every corner of our running path with his endless questions and shameless flirting so that I can’t go there without feeling his shadow.

Why did he make it a habit if he wasn’t going to keep it up?

So I sent him a text.

ME

Slept in?

NIKOLAI

Nope.

Then why didn’t you come over?

Missed me?

You wish.

He left me on Read. The audacity of the bastard.

ME

Are you ignoring me?

NIKOLAI

Doesn’t feel so good when the roles are switched, huh? And to answer your question, I borrowed a page from the Brandon Asshole Dictionary and decided not to show up for the fuck of it. Just like you ghosted me last night.

We never agreed that I’ll be there every night.

Then be here every night. Just like I go to see you every day.

I can’t. You know that.

I know nothing.

You’re being ridiculous.

Me? Ridiculous? Jesus fucking Christ. Have you seen your hypocritical face in the mirror lately?

I do. Every day. I have to force myself away from him to see that fucking black hole in solitude. And his pointing it out doesn’t make me feel any better about this damn situation.

Breathe.

Fucking breathe.

ME

This is going nowhere. Let’s stop talking.

NIKOLAI

Aaaand you’re back to your favorite hobby. Run away, baby. You’re a champion of that bullshit.

You know what? Fuck that. If you don’t feel the need to come over every night, I also don’t need to see you every morning. In fact, don’t show me your fucking face today.

As if I want to see your fucking face.

Fucking great.

Wonderful.

Awesome.

Fantastic.

He left me on Read. Again. Nikolai never leaves me on Read.

I keep checking the exchange every half an hour like a junkie, but there’s nothing from him.

No stupid, entertaining story of the day. No memes. No dick pics that he loves to send at the most random times.

It’s late evening, around the hour when I’d usually sneak out of the house and go to him like a druggy in need of a hit, but I doubt he’s there today.

Besides, he doesn’t want to see my fucking face anyway.

Good grief.

My hand finds the back of my neck and I tug on the fine hairs until pain explodes all over my skin.

But it’s not enough.

It doesn’t hurt enough or provide enough relief. I’m neurotic, my brain ticking and my skin prickling at the lack of him.

I really went ahead and made myself addicted, didn’t I?

The impulse to destroy the painting in front of me tingles under my skin and I’m about to give in when my phone buzzes in my hand.

My heart lurches and I’m taken aback by the force of my reaction.

Right. He can’t stay away. After all, he’s the one who’s obsessed with me.

I’ll forgive him for acting like a thick cow…

My heart falls when I find out it’s a text from Annika. But it’s for a different reason than disappointment.

ANNI

Hey, don’t be alarmed, okay? But there was a fire in the Heathens’ mansion and Creigh came to save me, but he got himself in trouble with the others. He’s okay, just unconscious. Can you and Remi come to pick him up?


The Heathens’ mansion is in full chaos—half of it is burned and almost unrecognizable. A madness of students, firefighters, and medics crowd the circular driveway, but Remi and I manage to carry an unconscious Creigh out and to the car.

Anni is with us every step of the way. Her face is covered in snot and smoke, and she’s wearing Creigh’s hoodie.

She seems distraught, her usual cheerful expression muted, and her eyes don’t leave Creigh, even after he’s in the back seat.

I lean against my car and pretend to watch the firefighters, the Heathens’ guards, and any individual who comes into my vicinity.

However, no matter how much I search, I can’t find a trace of Nikolai. The lump that I haven’t quite been able to swallow remains unmoving at the back of my throat, obstructing my breathing.

Maybe he’s not here. Maybe he’s in the penthouse.

But even I know that’s wishful thinking.

Pretending to be nonchalant, I face Anni. “Is everyone else okay?”

That sounded innocent enough.

“Jer got hurt.” She sniffles, tears gathering in her eyes.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine, Anni.” Remi rubs her shoulder.

I can’t even bring myself to comfort her as the doomsday feeling spreads in my brain like wildfire. He’s always with Jeremy, so what if…what if…

“If it weren’t for Nikolai and Creigh, I don’t know what would’ve happened to him,” Annika says with a sniffle.

“Nikolai helped?” I take an obscene amount of pride in how collected I sound.

“Yeah, he barged in with these smoke masks and stuff like a bull.” She smiles, but it soon drops. “I don’t like that he beat up Creigh, though.”

I release a breath. If he has the energy to hit someone, that means he’s fine. My gaze flits to Creigh, who’s probably unconscious because of that fucker.

Jesus.

After we say our goodbyes, I’m about to get in the car, when I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

I don’t know why I do it, but I look up at the balcony where I first saw the Heathens and Nikolai on that initiation night. It feels like forever ago.

One thing hasn’t changed, though. He’s still far away. It doesn’t matter how many times I touch him, how many times I kiss him. At the end of the day, we go back to our respective worlds.

And who made it that way, genius?

Nikolai’s hair is loose, haphazard strands framing his face and flying in the wind. Smudges of black cover his cheeks, his nose, and his naked chest.

He’s crossing his arms and watching me with narrowed eyes. I run my gaze over him and he seems okay.

Probably.

Nikolai slams both hands on the railing, fingers tightening around the metal, and leans forward as if he wants a better look at me. Even from this distance, I can almost feel his muscles tightening.

“Bran?”

I startle and turn my attention to Remi, who’s frowning.

“What are you looking at?”

Shit.

Fuck.

Was I too obvious?

“Nothing,” I say in my eternally calm tone. “Let’s get Creigh home.”

I’m thankful that Remi follows without a word. When I steal another look at Nikolai, his expression is murderous as he slips back inside.

Remi talks all the way home about how inhumane the Heathens are for hurting his ‘spawn’ and I’m thankful that he fills the silence. But nothing could dull the tension in my shoulders.

We manage to carry Creighton to his room and he soon wakes up and tells us he’s okay. Remi refuses to leave, but once I make sure my cousin is fine, I slip back to my room and pace the length of it as I fetch my phone.

ME

Are you okay?

NIKOLAI

You ask as if you care.

Don’t be like this. I’m asking if you’re okay. Can you just answer the question?

You could’ve asked in person, but that would kill you, right?

I close my eyes and pull at the hairs at the back of my neck.

NIKOLAI

If I say I’m not okay, will you come to the penthouse?

ME

If you want me to, yeah.

Then I’m not okay.

On my way.

I’ll be there in an hour or so. I have some shit to do here first.

Should you be doing anything if you’re not okay?

Love it when you worry about me, baby. See you.

I want to tell him I’m not worried, but even I don’t want to send that lie.

The drive to the penthouse is only fifteen minutes. I wait on the sofa as usual and turn on the telly, then settle on one of the late-night reruns of Agatha Christie’s adaptations.

Unable to stay still, I stand up to fetch a bottle of beer from the fridge. He started stocking it up and ordering groceries that he knows nothing about. I told him to stop after the first time and began to buy my own groceries. I usually make him something before I leave. Breakfast or dinner, depending on how late it is.

I guess a part of me is trying to make up for how I leave every night when he doesn’t seem like he wants me to.

He doesn’t say that out loud, but I can feel the crushing disappointment in his voice whenever he asks, “You leaving?”

Every night. Every time. As if he expects the answer to change.

And every night, it gets harder to say “Yeah” or “You know I am.” So I just nod now. And even that is excruciatingly difficult.

Watching the murder mystery that I’ve learned by heart at this point, I give up on the beer and prepare a quiche in case he’s hungry.

I’ve always loved cooking and used to do it with Dad all the time. Mum isn’t much of a cook and neither are Glyn and Lan.

Dad and I bonded over cooking. He often told me it’s an art and he only learned it to ensure his place in Mum’s heart.

“She’ll eat other people’s food and be like, nah. No one can cook like my Levi. Watch and learn, son. The best way to chain someone to you for life is to own their stomach.”

I smile to myself as I methodically mix the ingredients and do everything just right. I guess part of the reason why I love cooking is because it suits my meticulous personality. And it’s one of the few things I do better than Lan.

After I put the quiche in the oven, I set a timer and clean the kitchen. Nikolai always insists that he has someone who comes over for cleaning, but I just can’t stay in a place that’s not spotless.

He calls me a clean freak, but he doesn’t seem to mind. If anything, he’ll usually be sitting on the sofa and watching me with a stupid grin.

Other times, he tries to help, and that turns into a disaster. He’s just too chaotic. Whenever I tell him to do something, he takes a shortcut. He’s the type who mixes white and colored clothes and then says, “Well, they’re all clothes. Who cares?”

He drinks milk from the bottle and eats tuna from the can. Like a savage. Good grief. I get twitchy eyes just thinking about it.

But I guess he does mean well. He asked what my shampoo and body wash are and then bought them for me, although, really, I love his body wash. It makes me smell like him.

But then again, that’s not ideal when I’m trying to keep this whole thing a secret.

He also got my hair products and loves watching me get into my ‘Prince Charming’ look, as he calls it.

And he even taught me how to perform an enema. So…eh, that’s a thing for gay sex apparently.

The first time he did it for me, and that was…interesting.

He teased me the whole time while I was face down on the bed, arse in the air, and I might have come.

I later found out there’s actually another position, and when I confronted him about that, he wasn’t apologetic in the least and said, “But I like that one better.”

Twat.

By the time I finish cleaning, the oven dings and I turn it off, then sit down in front of the telly, watching the happenings of “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.”

I must fall asleep, because when I open my eyes, my head is lying on a muscled thigh and long fingers are stroking my hair.

My heart thumps loud in my chest as I look up at Nikolai’s masculine face, his eyes focused on the telly. I can hear the actors speaking, but I can’t make out a word. I just know it’s still the same murder mystery, which means I haven’t been out for long.

A part of me is fighting to get up. I hate it when he treats me so delicately like I’m some girl. It’s enough that he fucks me. I’m still not fully comfortable with the fact that I like being fucked by a man. It makes me feel less manly, less…normal.

But at least I can tune those thoughts out during sex. I can give in to his dominance and relinquish control for a while.

It’s different when he kisses my nose and eyelids and strokes my hair. It’s different when he lays me on his thigh, like now, with one hand resting on the middle of my chest and the other lost in my hair. There’s no sex involved and I don’t like how horrifyingly comfortable it feels.

Still, I don’t attempt to move.

I clear my throat. “When did you get here?”

He smiles even before his eyes meet mine. “About twenty minutes ago. Your snoring reached me from the elevator.”

“I don’t snore.”

“Christ. You should see your offended face.”

“Well, I don’t.”

“If you say so.” His fingers continue the same soothing rhythm in my hair, lulling me back toward sleep.

“Are you okay?”

He slides his other hand from my chest to wrap it around my neck. “I am now.”

“You lied about being hurt?” I ask with a ball lodged in my throat.

“I never said I was. I just mentioned that I was not okay.”

“You clearly are.”

“No, I’m not. I’m lonely without you, baby.”

I suppress a smile. “I thought you said you didn’t want to see, and I quote, ‘my fucking face.

“I lied. I always want to see your face.”

“I lied, too,” I whisper, then clear my throat. “Can you tell me why you beat up Creigh?”

“We thought he was sent by your fucking brother to burn down the mansion.”

“Creigh wouldn’t do that.”

“But Landon would?”

“Not personally, no. He likes to delegate his dirty work to others.”

“Not to Creighton?”

“I don’t think so?”

“You’re not even sure.”

“Not about that, but what I am sure about is that Creigh would not start a fire that would harm Annika. He cares about her. And I really hate it when you hurt my family members.”

“Hmm. I won’t hurt Creighton again if he doesn’t get in the way. Jeremy is injured and I wasn’t thinking straight.”

There it is again. That bond with Jeremy that makes me feel strangely hollow.

“You care about him that much?”

“Fuck yeah. He’s my best bro.” He smiles with nostalgia. “If it weren’t for him, I would’ve gotten myself killed a long time ago. He gets me, you know?”

I don’t, but I need to change the subject because this is starting to feel uncomfortable. “What happened tonight?”

“A small disturbance from the Serpents. Nothing to worry about.”

“They burned down your place. How is that nothing to worry about?”

“We’ll get back at them and pummel them to the ground.”

“Do you have to?”

“Of course. How else will they learn not to mess with us?”

“I’m sure there’s another way…”

“There’s no other way in the mafia. It’s either kill or be killed. Those little fuckers will one day lead the Bratva branches in Chicago and Boston, so they’re challenging us to gain ground. If we back down, we’ll look weak.”

Sometimes, I forget that he’s a mafia prince. One day, he’ll inherit his parents’ legacy and live a life that’s completely soaked in blood.

“Do you enjoy it?” I ask. “The violence and paybacks I mean.”

“Fuck yeah.” His eyes shine until it’s almost blinding. “I feel most like myself when I’m teaching some assholes a lesson or two.”

“Right.”

“Don’t worry, lotus flower, I won’t be violent with you. Except sexually, of course, since you love it.”

“Shut up.”

He chuckles and jerks his head in the telly’s direction. “So what are we watching? Seems dumb.”

“Agatha Christie is not dumb.”

“Who’s that? An ancient actress?”

“Nikolai, please tell me you know who Agatha Christie is.”

“Your godmother?”

“Crikey. Seriously? She’s a famous novelist.”

“Did she write any of the Marvel movies?”

“No.”

“DC?”

“Of course not.”

“Tarantino, then?”

“No.”

“Never heard of her.”

“You’re seriously an anomaly.”

“Maybe you are. This shit seems boring. Why are they talking all the time? Where’s the action? The cars flying and people jumping in the air?”

“It’s a murder mystery. They talk to give clues about the murderer.”

“Neat. I’ll use this to lull myself to sleep.”

I hit his chest even as I suppress a smile. “Let me guess. You like action films?”

“Hell yeah.”

“But they’re mindless.”

“The more mindless, the better. I’m a simple man. I see good violence, I rate it five out of five.”

“You need help.”

He licks his lips, eyes twinkling. “Then help me, baby.”

A fire erupts at the base of my stomach and spreads all over my body. I stare at his moist mouth and gulp. “You’re going to kiss me, aren’t you?”

“I’m starving for your lips.”

He dips his head and steals my lips and I just give in. It’s impossible to fight the pull he has on me, and at this moment, I don’t want to.

We kiss for what seems like hours, tongues stroking and teeth nipping. Only, this time, it’s not urgent or leading up to sex.

Once we break apart, we don’t go to the bedroom. We don’t tear each other’s clothes off.

We just stay in that position, with my head on his lap as we watch Agatha Christie.

And it feels peaceful.

Right.

At least, until my demons demand that I leave.

For now, I just soak in his presence and do what I excel at.

Pretend that everything is okay.


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