We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

God of Fury – Chapter 30

BRANDON

“You’re losing focus, son.”

I lift my head and jerk when I accidentally touch the hot pot.

“Bran!” Dad takes my hand in his and inspects my fingers.

His touch burns my cursed wrist. I feel as if his laser eyes will reach beneath the watch and see the evidence of how fucked I am.

Glyn was right. My parents love me—they always have. But a part of me can’t help thinking it’s because of the façade I put on so well. Their dutiful son, an obedient teenager, never complains and never throws a fit.

Never gets in their way. Never causes them headaches like Lan does.

A part of me believes that if they see me for who I truly am, I’ll lose the Son of the Year Award faster than lightning.

That prospect scares the shit out of me.

I subtly pull my hand from Dad and plaster on a smile. “It’s nothing. Just a little burn.”

“You need to be careful in the kitchen. That’s the first rule of cooking.”

“I know. Sorry.”

Dad pats my shoulder affectionately and goes back to chopping carrots, but not before he offers me his golden smile. The one Lan and I inherited. Though he’s a much blonder, more muscular version of us.

Mum said he was the most popular guy in school and garnered more attention than he should have. And I can see it. Not only does he drip with the ‘superior’ King genes, as Grandpa Jonathan likes to call them, but he’s also levelheaded and charismatic to a fault.

A select few prefer to do business with him instead of Uncle Aiden because he’s much more amiable. Uncle is…well, let’s say his motto is his way or the highway. Eli and Lan definitely take after him in that department.

While many have flocked to Uncle Aiden, Dad is the actual gem with his intense yet caring personality. His outward ruthlessness yet inner warmth. His firm demands and bear hugs. Dad has always been the ultimate role model and the type of man I’ve strived to be.

Responsible. Reliable. In control.

Too bad I’m too messed up in the head to ever be able to achieve that.

I thought with time, everything would get better, but the ink has been festering inside me and painting every beautiful color and memory in black.

And the thought of everyone seeing me at the end of that process makes me nauseous.

I’d rather bleed to death than let anyone see me like that.

“Bran?”

I blink at my dad, that last thought still coiling my stomach as I smile. “Yeah?”

“Shouldn’t you be adding the spices now?”

“Oh, right.” I focus on that and methodically sprinkle precise amounts of each one into the pot.

But even this activity that I used to take immense pleasure in only causes me pain now.

I can’t stop thinking about the times I was cooking in the penthouse and Nikolai was being clingy, and while I called him annoying, I actually loved having him around.

I loved the fact that he couldn’t stay away from me—not even for a minute. He made it his mission to touch me all the time as if I were the magnet to his steel.

Then everything came to an end.

“You sure it’s okay to be away from school all this time?” Dad asks amidst the sound of chopping. “It’s been a week since you came home.”

“Yeah. I told my supervising professor I’d be working on my graduation piece from here.” I smile and joke, “Bored of me already?”

“Nonsense. I’d rather you move back in. You know that.” He sighs. “Have kids, they said. They’ll keep you company, they said. And here I am trying not to haul the three of you back home.”

“You and Uncle Aiden left Grandpa, too.”

“That’s different. Your grandpa is a bloody dictator and a ruthless autocrat. He couldn’t wait for us to sod off so he could crack on with his plan to conquer the world.”

“The same grandpa who worships at Nan’s feet and treats Glyn like a spoiled princess?”

“That one, yes. Your nan tamed him. Before her, he was an insufferable prick and was often cross with us. We clashed all the damn time.” He shakes his head with apparent nostalgia and extends his hand.

I pass him the bowl of potatoes before he even asks for it. We’re in sync like that, Dad and I.

“Really? But you guys have a good relationship now.”

“That’s the thing about relationships. They take work and time. Besides, admittedly, I was a little wanker as a teenager. I might have burned down his mansion and caused enough problems in school to make him a permanent visitor.”

My hand pauses on stirring the broth. “No way.”

“Let’s say I was wild.”

“I can’t believe that. You, wild? Intense, yes. But wild?”

“Wilder than an untamed black horse. No one could restrict me. Not even your grandfather.”

“Wow. It’s hard to imagine you doing all that.”

“Who do you think your brother gets his behavioral issues from?”

“Oh.” I continue stirring, breathing in the smell of aromatic basil and oregano. “Oh! Is that why you were strict with him at one point?”

“It was like watching myself and seeing the image from Uncle’s point of view. Not a pleasant feeling.” He clutches my shoulders. “But I have you, so I can’t complain.”

He pushes past me to the cupboard and I remain frozen in place, the thoughts from earlier rushing to the surface like a hungry shark.

“Will you be ready to serve in twenty?” he asks while fetching a salad bowl.

“Yeah, I think I can make it.”

“Make what?” Mum calls before I’m attacked from behind by a hug.

She’s much shorter than me and I have to bend so she can kiss me on the cheek.

Mum’s hair is gathered in a messy bun and some paint smudges her shirt’s sleeves. Unfortunately, I came at a time when she’s battling a deadline, so I haven’t seen much of her and she keeps apologizing for that, but I get it. I’m also supposed to be working on something. The keyword being supposed to.

The thought of painting those mindless nature scenes bores me to fucking death.

“Something smells divine.” She tries to sneak past Dad, but he wraps his arms around her waist and kisses her, then pushes her in the direction of the dining room.

“Go relax. We’ll serve in a bit.”

“I love it when my boys spoil me.” She strokes his hair and fixes his collar.

While I continue stirring, I can’t help watching them.

I grew up surrounded by their passionate, unconditional love and that’s one of the reasons that hope was kept alive inside me—as futile as it is.

“Dad, the oven,” I say and he finally releases her.

“By the way, Grace will be joining us for dinner. Can you count her in?” She stops beside me, grinning contagiously. “This is a good opportunity for you, baby. She’s really considering signing you. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“I already found an agent, Mum.”

“Oh. Who?”

“Maxine Saul.”

“Landon’s agent? She’s high on sculpting and wouldn’t get you. Besides, Grace is a household name and much more well-known and respected. She’ll get your work out there in no time. I was so lucky when she took me on.”

“I don’t think she appreciates my style.”

“She said she does. Come on, Bran. Just listen to what she has to say. If you don’t like it and still prefer to go with Maxine, I’ll respect your choice.”

I nod and she hugs me again before disappearing to the dining room.

“You don’t have to agree to anything,” Dad says. “Your mum wants you to sign with a celebrity agent because she worries about your future, especially since you’ve been refusing to take part in exhibitions, unlike Lan. But if you want to tell us anything, we’re all ears. Maybe you don’t want to continue with art. Maybe you prefer to go a different path. Whatever it is, we’re here.”

The tension disappears from my shoulders as I nod with a smile. Why does he always say the right words to make me relax?

When the four of us sit down for dinner, however, that tension returns in waves.

I try to swallow past the lump in my throat as they talk about Mum’s upcoming exhibition and how they’re expecting brilliant results.

Everyone can’t wait for it.

“You’ll be there, right, Bran?” Grace asks me with her posh, slightly snobbish upper-class accent.

Grace Bruckner is indeed a household name. She has three artists under her wing, all of whom are world-renowned and have bagged multiple awards. She’s about Mum’s age but couldn’t be any more different.

She dresses in red most of the time. Even now, she has on a red camisole, heels, earrings, and lipstick. The only different color is her black pencil skirt.

Her platinum blonde hair falls to her shoulders in a perfect bob, and she often wears a fake smile, probably because of the Botox.

“Sure. Anything for Mum.” I smile and my mother gives me heart eyes.

“Lan, too?” Grace pushes.

“You’ll have to ask him. He’s been…quite busy lately.”

“Apparently, he has a girlfriend who’s keeping him in line.” Mum’s words drip with glee like when I first told her about Mia and how she’s possibly taming her ‘wild child.’

In line?” Dad scoffs. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“You have my word, Dad. I’ve never seen him dedicated to anyone like he is to her. He even asked me for lessons in empathy.”

“That seems serious.”

“Dead serious.”

“How charming.” Grace takes a sip of her wine. “What about you, Bran? Any girlfriend?”

Pain rips through me at that and I choose to remain silent as I stuff my face full of food.

“No one?” she insists.

“Forget it, Grace. Bran likes to keep his relationships to himself.” Mum laughs. “Maybe one day we’ll get to meet your special someone, hon.”

Fat chance.

“So, Bran.” Grace leans forward in her seat. “I’m sure Astrid told you, but I’m officially considering signing you. Can you make time for us to discuss this further? Preferably in the studio, where I can see your recent work.”

“How about Glyn?” I ask.

She continues sipping her rosé wine. “Glyn is still too young and is in the process of developing her style. I’ll wait a few years before I move on to her. Let’s focus on you now.”

“Isn’t that exciting?” Mum grins at me. “We can do exhibitions together in the future.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” Grace agrees. “In fact, depending on what I see, I think we might be able to slip a painting or two into your upcoming exhibition.”

“Oh my God. You can do that?”

“It’s not an easy feat, but I can make it happen for you both.”

“Bran? What do you think?” She smiles so big, it makes me sick to my stomach. “Lev, hon, we need to open a bottle of champagne.”

He gauges my expression. “Are you ready to take this step, son?”

“I…need to think about it.” I dab my lips with the napkin and stand up on slightly unsteady feet. “I have to work on an assignment. Please enjoy the rest of your dinner.”

I walk out of the dining room with a calm I don’t feel. Instead of going to the studio, I take the stairs and head to my room.

As soon as I’m inside, I fall on the bed headfirst and wish I could suffocate myself with the fucking pillow.

Black ink creeps over me, pushing weight on my back until I’m panting for air.

I reach underneath the pillow and snatch my Swiss Army knife, then yank away my watch and hold the blade against my wrist.

One cut. A small one.

I just need to breathe.

I want to fucking breathe.

My phone vibrates and I startle. When I see the name lighting the screen, I let the knife fall to the mattress.

Nikolai.

The more the phone vibrates, the harder I breathe, scrabbling, fighting for air that doesn’t exist. My trembling finger hovers over the screen like every time he calls, but like always, I don’t answer.

One missed call appears on the screen.

Then, as usual, a text follows.

NIKOLAI

Answer the fucking phone.

I open his texts and flip onto my back to read them, inhaling deeply, holding it in my churning stomach, then puffing out the air in a long, shaky exhale.

Little by little, I can feel the ink retreating to the shadows, even if its invisible hands are still strangling my cursed wrist.

I scroll up, reading all the texts he’s sent since I left the island after I made sure Lan’s wrist was safe.

At that time, I needed to get away from it all and figured being with my parents was the perfect solution.

I’m not so sure anymore.

It hurts everywhere, whether I’m on the island or here.

Still, I can’t help rereading his texts. They’ve gone from raging to pleading to raging again. He calls me twenty times a day like a damn stalker.

A couple of days ago, he stopped the texts and calls altogether, so I thought he’d given up, but he called me just now. What does that mean?

Am I supposed to feel hopeful because of it?

I exit the texts and open Instagram, then go to his profile like a junkie. He hasn’t posted anything for a long time, but I scroll through the old pictures. As if I don’t have every single one saved on my phone in a special folder.

A knock startles me before Mum’s voice filters through. “Bran, hon, you awake?”

I throw the knife under the pillow and sit up in bed to put on my watch, then clear my throat. “Yeah. Come in.”

My fingers tighten around the phone, keeping it against my chest like makeshift armor as the door opens.

Mum and Dad walk in with handfuls of snacks, popcorn, and beer.

“Film night,” Dad says. “Don’t think you’re escaping.”

I smile and slide my phone into my pocket. “Shouldn’t we go to the home cinema for that?”

They abandon the contents of their arms on my desk and sit on either side of me.

“Before we do that…” Mum trails off. “I wanted to have a little chat first.”

“Okay,” I say warily.

“I wanted to apologize, honey. I was reflecting on my words and realized that in my attempts to get you the best deal possible, I’ve been pushing you, and I think that made you uncomfortable. If you prefer Maxine over Grace, go for it. I’ll stand behind you every step of the way.”

“Really?”

“Of course, Bran. You can tell me these things head-on. You know that, right?”

I nod.

“Do you forgive me?”

“There’s nothing to forgive, Mum. Anyone in your position would think it’s an honor to be represented by Grace. But I’m not at your level yet. I don’t want that pressure.”

“I understand. One step at a time, right?”

My smile is much more genuine this time.

“It wasn’t so hard to express yourself, was it, son?” Dad asks, throwing a comforting arm on my shoulder.

“We’re your parents, not your guardians or people you need to be wary around.” Mum takes my hand in her smaller ones. “You don’t have to think about it when you talk to us. You can tell us what’s on your mind freely.”

My breathing comes easier with every inhale and exhale as I summon all the courage I have and say, “Mum, Dad. I want to tell you something.”

“Anything,” she says and Dad gives an encouraging nod.

“So…the thing is. I…well, this is a lot more difficult to speak aloud than I thought.”

“Take your time.” Dad strokes my back. “Whatever it is, you’re not alone, Bran.”

“Thanks, Dad.” I clear my throat. “Remember when a long time ago I asked you why am I not normal?”

“When you were fourteen?”

“Yeah. You asked me in what department did I not feel normal, and I just shrugged and hoped you’d let it go. That thought came to me when I saw Lan and everyone else shagging their way through school. Lan first had sex at thirteen. I didn’t even consider it at that time.”

“Oh, my word.” Mum gasps.

“You weren’t supposed to know that.” I grimace. “Anyway, he told me all about it, said I’d get around to it myself, and gave me a lot of pointers. I was more bemused than interested. I didn’t like the concept of sex. I didn’t find it appealing in any shape or form. I thought I was a late bloomer and Lan agreed, which made sense. But even at fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, or beyond, I didn’t like the idea. I didn’t want to have it and didn’t find anyone attractive.”

“But…” Dad pauses, seeming to measure his words. “You had girlfriends.”

“Yeah. I did have sex. I didn’t like it, but I did it anyway to blend in.”

“Oh, honey.” Mum watches me with a wretched expression. “Why didn’t you talk to us? We could’ve—”

“No. The idea of being different haunted the hell out of me. I couldn’t just admit it out loud. Even to you guys. I didn’t want to be seen as a freak.”

“Not wanting to have sex does not make you a freak, Bran,” Dad says firmly. “Everyone is different and that’s the beauty of it. Just because you don’t have the sexual drive doesn’t make you any less of who you are.”

“I’m starting to learn that now. I wish it was easy to express one’s different sexuality without being judged for it.”

“We would never judge you, hon.”

“You wouldn’t, but society would, Mum. Society would compare me to my sex-god twin brother and label me as the defective one. They already think that in the art circuit anyway. I didn’t want to add my sexuality to it.”

“Society can go fuck itself,” Dad says. “What’s important is you. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin, everyone else can fuck off. If they say anything, I’ll drag them through enough courts to make them wish they’d never crossed your path.”

I smile a little. “Thanks, Dad.”

“Did…something change?” Mum asks in a hopeful tone.

“What makes you think that?”

“You often look at your phone and have a longing expression on your face.”

“I do?”

Both of them nod and I wince. I didn’t realize I was that obvious.

“Did you find someone who understands you?” Dad asks.

“Will you be too shocked if I say it’s a man?”

Mum’s lips break into a grin. “I knew it.”

“Me, too,” Dad says.

“What?” I stare between them as if they’re aliens. “How…? Why…? When? I didn’t even know it myself.”

“Well, hon. You had your first crush on a guy.”

“What?”

“My stepbrother, Jayden.”

“Jay?”

“You called him a prince and said, ‘Mum, he’s so pretty,’ when you first met him. You were, what? Five at the time? Lan was having fun watching girls fight over him, but you were all over Jay. That didn’t last long and you eventually became friends, but I definitely saw the attraction in your little eyes.”

Right. I do remember thinking he was really pretty. But then puberty came and I never thought of him in that sense. I never thought of anyone in that sense.

With one damning exception.

“Afterward,” Mum continues. “You were more into girls, so I thought maybe you were bi, but I didn’t want to broach the subject until you told me yourself. I’m happy you felt comfortable enough to tell us.”

I smile at her, feeling a bit daft for being so stupidly worried about this. Then I tilt my head in the direction of my father, who’s been awfully quiet.

His face is unreadable as he seems to be fighting his demons.

“Dad? Are you…okay with it?”

“Your sexuality? Naturally. This guy, however, I’m not sure yet. What’s his name? Age? Parents’ names?”

“Uh…so…remember Killian?”

His lips part. “Please don’t tell me you’re with your sister’s boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend?”

“What? No. Of course not, Dad.”

“Ew, Levi.” Mum smacks his hand.

“Fine, okay.” He releases a breath. “It can’t be worse than that.”

“He’s his cousin.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Dad’s face literally pales and I kind of feel bad for him. He’s been dealing with Lan his whole life, then he had Kill, who’s also a diagnosed psychopath, and I don’t think he’s even processed that.

“Please tell me he’s the levelheaded cousin who keeps him in check.”

“To be honest, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Killian is definitely the one who keeps Nikolai in check.”

“Fuck my life.” He exhales. “Astrid, Princess. I think I’m having a heart attack.”

“Dad…are you okay?” I study him closely. “I’m actually not with him right now, so you don’t have to worry.”

“Oh, screw that.” Mum shakes him again. “Your dad just needs to stop being a baby.”

Coincidentally, Dad’s expression returns to normal. “You’re not together, you said?”

“Levi!” Mum scolds.

“What? I can’t have this bunch of psychos corrupting my children. I’m sure you’ll find someone better, son.”

A sad smile curves my lips. “I don’t think so, Dad.”

“What happened?” Mum asks in a soft tone.

“Something concerning Mia.”

“Lan’s girlfriend?”

“Yeah. She’s also Nikolai’s younger sister and he really, and I mean really, hates Lan’s guts. Mostly because, well, my dear brother caused him and his friends a lot of trouble.”

Mum sighs with resignation. “Lan, oh, Lan.”

“So did Lan beat him up?” Dad asks with a note of anticipation.

“Levi!” Mum scolds again.

“I approve of Lan protecting his siblings.”

“Way to set an example for your children, hon.”

“Did he?” he asks me.

“It was the other way around, and I’m mad at Nikolai for that.”

“Well, didn’t Lan beat up Kill once?” Mum asks.

“That’s my boy.” Dad nods in approval and Mum rolls her eyes.

“Still, he shouldn’t have done it. I begged him not to and he didn’t seem to care.” I release a long sigh. “Anyway, I’m going to be fine.”

“It’s okay if you aren’t.” Dad slaps me affectionately on the back.

Mum hugs me and kisses the top of my head. Her smell and warmth engulf me as she whispers, “I’m proud of you, hon. I love you just the way you are.”

I wrap my arm around her even as I think.

I wish you didn’t.

Now that this admission is out in the open. I know it’s only a matter of time before the rest bulldozes through my weakened defenses.

And when that happens, I doubt I’ll be able to hug her again.


The following morning, after I come back from my run, I shower and go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for my parents.

It’s the least I can do after the love and understanding they showered me with last night. They’re the reason I’ve been hanging on to that thread of hope for years. If they weren’t in my life…I don’t even want to think about it.

Even though Mum is on a deadline, we sure as hell went to the home cinema and watched my favorite Poirot episode, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”.

Dad dozed off halfway through and Mum talked me into painting his face—something we always used to do whenever he fell asleep around us. The four of us. Dad had no chance of winning with four chaotic artists in the family.

Though only Glyn takes after Mum in being a chaotic creative. Lan and I are too consumed with perfection. Too methodical. Too…focused.

I’d actually never thought about that. Lan is a sculptor and I’m a painter, but we share the same creative energy.

Guess we’ve always had similar traits, no matter how much I’ve tried to ignore it.

Anyway, breakfast.

Dad will be up soon and Mum spent an all-nighter in the studio. I know how important this exhibition is for her. She’s been working for two years on her next big thing and I want to be there for her every step of the way.

I will not, under any circumstances, distract her.

Which means I should probably go back to uni soon.

I puff out a breath of air, dread, and another queasy feeling enveloping me at the thought of what waits for me on the island.

Our butler, Nolan, walks inside, all dressed in his impeccable suit and the slightly crooked bow tie.

“I’ve got this, Nolan. Thanks,” I tell him as I fetch eggs from the fridge.

“Sir, that’s not it.”

“Then what is it?”

“You have a peculiar visitor.”

“This early…?”

I lift my head and I can hear the sound of my shattering heart as my eyes meet those deep-blue ones.

Nikolai is in my parents’ house.


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset