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God of Fury – Chapter 35

NIKOLAI

I never thought I’d say this, but I think I’m actually going through an intensive sugar coma.

Over the past two days, Bran has been taking me to all these Italian, French, and Chinatown bakeries that I came out of with an armful of goodies that I consumed behind his back. While he’s fine with me buying pastries, he believes in an annoying concept called portioning.

Sugar’s worst enemy ever.

Anyway, I still have to finish these sickly-sweet cream buns and then I can go comatose in peace.

Unfortunately for me, we have to leave tomorrow. While Bran could stay longer and work on his project from here, I’ve missed two tests and I’m risking my grade drastically falling. And while I couldn’t care less about that, I don’t want to seem irresponsible in front of his parents.

Not to mention my own parents, who keep asking why the fuck I’m not attending school. I kind of told Dad about him, but I still didn’t mention he’s Landon’s twin. I’d rather he meet him directly instead of getting the idea that he’s like his psycho brother.

Astrid will definitely miss me, as she told me this morning. We formed a bond, and I’m telling you, that amazing woman will be my mother-in-law one day. My future father-in-law, however, likes to play hard to get. Now I know where his son got the trait from. But I think even his grumpy self will miss me.

Bran had no chance with me and neither will he.

Since Astrid and I are basically best friends now, I tried probing to find out if she knew about Bran’s cuts, but I don’t think so. Again, they’re really great parents, so I doubt they would’ve left him to his own devices if they’d discovered his nasty habits.

It makes sense that they haven’t. He wears a watch at all times and the most annoying part is that he has steel control over which emotions he shows. When I first got to know him, I often thought he was ice-cold, when, in fact, he was just exceptionally good at sealing everything inside.

I can tell that even his parents struggle to get him to open up. Hell, the only reason I found out about the cuts was through a coincidence, and after I drove him into a panic attack.

His mom and dad definitely do not like to push him. Which might not be the best strategy to deal with someone as closed off and inward-oriented as my lotus flower.

But that’s fine. I can be the villain and push him. I have to, because I’ve been reading about people who cut themselves and the mental ramifications, and it’s never a good idea to leave them alone.

It doesn’t get better as he likes to say. It’s not an addiction that he can withdraw from without addressing the reason he does it in the first place.

The general consensus in the forums full of people who cut themselves is that they need to purge the pain. One guy said that when he sees the blood pour out of him, he can finally exhale a breath of relief.

My stomach twisted at that image because I could picture Bran doing the same. In that damned closed bathroom. Battling against his demons and bleeding out.

Fucking alone.

That won’t be happening anymore.

As soon as we go back to the island, we have to address the mental cancer that’s eating at his head.

His presence stopped me from going on suicidal missions, so I refuse to let him self-destruct.

Maybe it’s because I’m more attuned to him than should be healthy, but he hasn’t been himself today. It started this morning, but after we went out, he relaxed for a bit. However, he became uptight during dinner.

Minimum words. Monosyllabic replies. A noticeable absence of the usual joking around with his dad. The worst part is that he kept his distance from me—something he hasn’t done over the course of the period I’ve spent at his childhood home.

The only variable that changed compared to previous dinners was Astrid’s agent, Grace. A middle-aged blonde woman with a fake laugh and ridiculous consumption of wine.

Astrid said they had a bit of a misunderstanding because she wanted Bran to sign with her, but he chose the agent Landon introduced him to.

I remember how happy he sounded when he talked about that over text. He was basically buzzing at how his brother recognized his talent and introduced him to his agent.

According to Astrid, that agent has nowhere near Grace’s talent, but she respects Bran’s decision even though she doesn’t understand it.

After dinner, I help Bran carry the dishes to the kitchen. He turns to leave, but I grab his wrist, stopping him by the counter.

He looks up at me, appearing exhausted, probably because of staying up late and trying to wake up early. This morning, I insisted we stay in bed and not go for a run at an ungodly hour. He’s done that a few times at the penthouse, and I had thought it would help him feel more relaxed today, but it’s only made him more agitated.

It doesn’t show in his movements or his expression, but his eyes tell a different story.

Seeing the emptiness in them is no different than having a knife plunged deep into my gut.

I stroke the back of his hand. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You were uncomfortable in there, baby. If you don’t like the woman because of the pressure or whatever, just refuse to have dinner with her anymore. I’m sure your parents will understand.”

“She’s Mom’s agent and practically family at this point.”

“Family doesn’t get a free pass for everything. I don’t visit with members of my family who piss me off. Namely, my homophobe uncle who told me it’s okay to fuck guys as long as I marry a woman and give him Russian nephews.”

His expression softens and some of that emptiness cracks and vanishes with each of his deep breaths. “I’m sorry.”

“What did I say about apologizing for no reason?”

“There’s a reason. I hate that you feel judged.”

“I couldn’t care less about him and his useless, entirely meaningless opinion. As Dad says, he can go fuck himself.”

“God. I love how you give the world the middle finger without caring about anything or anyone.”

“If that’s what they deserve, that’s exactly what they’ll get.”

“Did you…” he trails off. “Forget it.”

“If you have something to ask me, just ask.”

His hands land on my hips, his face appearing a bit fragile, vulnerable, even. “Have you thought about your future within the mafia? What your uncle said makes sense and it’s not like you aren’t attracted to women, so you could do it for the image—”

“Don’t finish that or I’ll be pissed at you. Do you think I’d get married or do shit just for the mafia’s sake or an image? Is that what you really think of me?”

His throat works up and down with a gulp. “No, but don’t you need to have kids?”

“I don’t if I don’t want to. It’s my decision and none of anyone else’s business.”

“But wouldn’t being with a guy hurt your position? I know how much you love the thrill of that life, so I’d hate to see you lose it.”

“I won’t. Jeremy, Vaughn, and I will rule over that empire. The two of them are the most important heirs to the Bratva and they don’t give a fuck about my sexuality, so neither will anyone who wants to keep his head in place.”

“Vaughn?”

“The Pakhan’s son. You might have seen him at the initiation. He wore the white mask.”

“Oh, right. But I’ve never seen him around.”

“And you never will—at least, not on the island. He lives in the States and just comes around for the initiations.” I cup his jaw. “Point is, don’t worry your pretty head about my position. I’ll fight tooth and nail for what I want. Is that understood?”

He nods.

I cock my head in the direction of the dining room. “You going to do what you want and ignore the hag?”

“After Mum’s exhibition. And, Nikolai?”

“Hmm?”

“Promise me you won’t talk to Grace.”

“Why not?”

His palms tremble as he wraps them around my cheeks. The agitation in his voice sends my hackles rising in a fraction of a second. “Promise me. Please.”

“Okay, I promise.”

He expels a long breath and then brushes his lips against mine. “Thanks.”

When he releases me, his movements are fluid and he even smiles. “Want to model for me?”

“Always.”

“Wait for me in the studio. I just need to speak to my dad and I’ll be there.” He starts to go but turns around and kisses me again, hard and fast, then whispers against my lips, “I can’t get enough of you, baby.”

And then he leaves as if he didn’t just rip my heart out and take it with him.

Fuck me.

I need to chill the fuck out before I actually kidnap him to a deserted island where I don’t have to share him with anyone else.

I go to wash my hands in the bathroom and as I leave, I catch a glimpse of Grace walking down the hall in my direction.

So I know I promised Bran I wouldn’t talk to her, but she’s the one who stops in front of me. Technically, I’m not the one who broke the promise.

She gives me a once-over as if I’m a cockroach stuck beneath her heel, then lifts her chin with an air of simmering arrogance.

Arms crossed, her witchy long red nails tap impatiently on the arm of her black jacket. “What’s your name again?”

“If you don’t remember it, that could be an early sign of dementia. I suggest you call your doctor.”

“You believe yourself to be funny?”

“Not intentionally.”

“I just don’t see it.”

“Your dementia? No one does at early stages.”

“I don’t see how someone like you”—she does that condescending once-over again—“can be with a gracious man like Bran. It just doesn’t add up.”

“And that’s any of your business because?”

“I don’t like seeing him wasting his talents or time on delinquents such as yourself. You must’ve threatened him with something.”

I lean back against the wall. “Again, I really don’t see why this concerns you. Hate to say it, but you’re starting to sound and look like an annoying Karen. What Bran and I do with our relationship has nothing to do with you. Pick up whatever dignity you have left and walk away.”

Relationship?” She laughs, the sound throaty and evil. “Relationship, you say. You’re delusional, boy. Bran doesn’t do those.”

“He does with me.”

“You think you know him better than me?” Her voice and face become stone-cold. “You’re nothing in the grand scheme of things.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

She uncrosses her arms and points a finger at me. “It means you should back off and leave him alone.”

“Or what?”

“You don’t want the answer to that.”

“No, I do.”

A wicked look passes through her beady eyes, then she flips her hair. “Give me your number. I’ll send you a goodbye gift.”

After I do just that to mess with her, she walks away with a sway to her hips and a flick of her hair.

Forget about Bran being uncomfortable around her. I don’t like the bitch one bit. There’s a sinister edge that she hides so well in public and shows so readily in private, and that in and of itself is a red flag.

Could it be that he’s not only stressed due to the agent thing?

I make a note to ask him about that later.

My feet lead me to the studio, and I smile mischievously when I realize I can snoop around without Bran knowing.

He’s been so secretive about what he’s working on and told me to be patient, but we both know I don’t have that.

I snatch his sketchpad and my lips part as I flip through dozens of sketches of me. Not my tattoos as I thought, but my actual face.

There are pages upon pages of my face from different angles with my hair mostly loose, but there are some where my hair is tied into a ponytail or a bun.

And he put so many details in my eyes. Some are glaring, others are when I stare at him while smiling, but my favorites are of the intense look in my eyes during sex.

Fuck me. He drew eyes for the first time in years and they’re mine.

The following pages are full-body sketches, and fuck me. He’s so thorough about details, from the way I arch my eyebrow to the tiny dimple at the corner of my mouth when I smile. It’s like I’m staring at a mirror.

I spend what seems like half an hour going through the sketches. When I’m done, I find two more notepads stacked full of me—mostly in the nude.

My lotus flower might pretend to be a prude, but I knew he loved seeing me naked.

Note to self: From now on, walk around the penthouse in no clothes.

My grin is permanent as I flip through them, greedily storing every detail in my memory.

But then it changes.

My smile falls when I see something different.

He sketched me half naked and there’s what I assume is his silhouette beside me, but he’s faceless. On the next page, there’s a contour of his face, but chaotic black lines fill his features. On the following page, he drew black lines so deep, they punctured the paper.

Fuck.

Please don’t tell me this is how he sees himself.

My phone vibrates and I think it’s him, so I put the sketchpads exactly where I found them.

After I pull out my phone, I suddenly feel parched, so I pour a glass of water from the jug he keeps on the table.

The glass remains suspended in midair as I open the text I got from a number I don’t recognize.

Your goodbye gift.

I click on the video attached, and my entire body tenses.

The surveillance footage shows an extravagant living room with a plush carpet and a white sofa. A younger version of Bran, no older than fifteen or sixteen, sits in the corner, doodling in a notebook. My fingers clench the glass when I make out Grace sitting close beside him with a slim arm thrown over his shoulder. She’s wearing a red satin camisole and shorts that are definitely not appropriate.

“I just don’t get it.” He sighs. “What does Lan have that I don’t?”

“Nothing, hon,” she coos and strokes his hair.

“But he gets all the girls.”

“They don’t matter. You’re the one who’s meant for greatness.”

“Really?” He peeks at her, sheepish and hopeful, and my heart starts fucking racing beneath my rib cage.

“Really.” Her grating fake soft voice echoes in the air. “As for the girls, they’re nothing. I’m more mature and beautiful. And guess what? I find you much more charismatic than him.”

“You…do?”

She kisses him and he wraps a hand around her neck to kiss her back, but it’s awkward and unsure at best.

The piece of fucking shit doesn’t seem to notice that as she unbuttons his shirt. “I’ll make you feel like you’re better than him, and one day, I’ll make you his god.”

He nods once, but he doesn’t touch her as she kisses his neck, his chest, and then pulls down his pants. He squirms when she wraps her hand around his dick. He tries to get away when she slides her shorts down her legs and positions herself on top of him.

“I…don’t like this,” he whispers, and his voice is so low, I wouldn’t have heard it if I didn’t have the volume on high.

“Shh, hon. I promise you’ll enjoy it.” She jerks him a few more times. “See, you’re hard already.”

“Grace…” He gulps, red blotching his entire body. “I don’t think I like sex…please stop…”

“Nonsense, honey. Everyone likes sex.” She strokes his hair and then whispers, “You don’t want to be seen as a freak compared to your brother, do you, Bran? Your mum and dad would be so disappointed.”

He shakes his head once and she comes down on him in one go. He screams. And it’s not from pleasure.

He screams and it sounds like a “No…”

But I can’t listen to what he has to say anymore because she slaps a hand on his mouth as she moans. The muffled sounds that rip from him as he tries to wiggle away will haunt me for the rest of my fucking life.

“Mmmmno… Mmmm… Mmmm…”

A breaking sound echoes in the air and a burn spreads through my arm. I can tell I broke the glass and can feel water and blood sliding down my wrist and dripping onto the floor, but I can’t look away from his face.

The confusion.

The pain.

The anger.

Animalistic growls reverberate around me and I realize they’re mine. My body vibrates with rage so extreme, it fills my vision with black. Demons I didn’t know existed flood my bloodstream, and pressure forms behind my eyes.

As I watch and listen, I know, I just know that I’m never coming back from this.


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