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God of Fury – Chapter 7

BRANDON

“I’m fine, Mum. Seriously.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose as I stare at the canvas filled with sharp yellow while holding the phone to my ear.

“Then let me see your face, hon,” Mum says softly, almost pleadingly.

She’s always pleading with me, my mum, imploring, asking, probing, and disturbing my routine.

I exhale a long breath.

I sound like a damn twat to the mother who only ever treated me with care, love, and understanding.

And maybe I’m on edge because I don’t want her to hate me. I hate me enough for both of us.

“You know I don’t like FaceTime,” I grumble, then try in a more cheerful tone, “I have a school project to finish. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Bran.” She stops, probably trying to choose her words carefully. She never has to choose her words with the family’s golden boy, Lan. Apparently, I screw up everything, Mum’s caring side included. “If you’re under stress or anything, you know you can talk to me, right? Or you can speak to your dad if you prefer. We’re here for you, whatever it is. You know that, right?”

My chest expands with constricting breath and I expel it out of my lungs, but it gets stuck in my throat. Pressure builds behind my skull and I want to bang it against the nearest fucking wall.

But I don’t.

Because I’m in fucking control.

Always.

“I know, Mum,” I whisper back.

“Listen. I know it’s too soon to talk about this, but I think Grace might be open to take you next year.”

I frown. Grace, Mum’s agent, is not only world-renowned but also a legend in the UK’s art council and even holds the position of a Lady in the House of Lords.

Despite her reputation, she has only signed three world-famous artists, Mum being one of them.

“Why would she want to sign me?” I ask carefully.

“Because you’re a marvelous talent. I’m so happy you’re finally getting your chance. I know how it must’ve felt to see your brother get all the opportunities this whole time, but you’re as talented as he is, Bran.”

You have to say that because you’re our mum and can’t be caught showing favoritism.

“Okay,” I say simply.

“I love you so, so much, Bran. My life wouldn’t have been the same without you.”

Her words flood my mouth with nausea, but I swallow and smile. As if she can see me. “I love you, too, Mum.”

I hang up before she says anything else that will turn my stomach and send me rolling down the nearest cliff.

My hand tightens around the phone until I think it’ll break into irreparable pieces. A part of me is disappointed that it doesn’t and remains intact. Like my head.

My gaze slides from the phone to the canvas. I started to have a vision, made a few strokes, then had to physically force my hand down.

It was doing things my brain doesn’t approve of and never will. I should be working on a landscape painting, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch that.

Instead, I was thinking of eyes. I don’t fucking do eyes. Eyes send my head up a fucking wall.

I stopped painting people and animals for that reason. I succeeded for years, but now, here I am again.

My thoughts were running rampant, which is why I was thankful when I got Mum’s call. But then not so much when I couldn’t stop myself from staring at the canvas even when I was talking to her.

Things got worse when she could tell I wasn’t myself—not that I ever am—and she started probing and worrying.

I hate it when I’m a constant cause of concern for her.

It’s the worst.

My gaze falls back on my phone and my heart thuds when a new text pops in. But it sinks down so hard afterward when I see Clara’s name.

Fuck.

CLARA

BABE! I got your gift! Love the LV bag, it’s sooo pretty. I already posted it on IG and tagged you! You’re so precious, handsome. Love you and miss youuu x Can I come to hang out in your room tonight? I bought the sexiest lingerie *winking emoji* *aubergine emoji* *splashes of water emoji*

My fingers are on autopilot as I type.

ME

I can’t. I promised the guys I’d spend time with them. I’ll make it up to you another time.

CLARA

*pouting emoji* Ok. Love you, babe.

*heart emoji*

My gaze remains fixated on the conversation, specifically on the last word she sent.

Babe.

I didn’t care for it until someone else said it. Or a more intimate version of it.

Now, I fucking hate it.

My finger is unsteady as I exit my texts with Clara and scroll down for some time until I find the name that I hate more than baby.

I click on the conversation that I started two days after he called me that, touched me in ways he had absolutely no right to, then proceeded to punch my face.

ME

Hey. I wanted to apologize for what I said the other time. I really meant no disrespect and I’m sorry if you got offended.

This is Brandon King, by the way.

He read the texts but never replied.

That was over two weeks ago.

Two weeks and I still find myself checking in case I missed a text.

Like now.

What on earth is wrong with me?

I just can’t seem to stop replaying what happened that night. Over and over, like a broken fucking record. Again and again, it sneaks into my head and spreads on top of other thoughts like a special torture device.

Every day, I think of why I lost control so easily. I was cursing out loud—not once or twice, but several times. I snapped and growled and even used violence.

But the most embarrassing moment was when he had his lips on my jaw and throat, licking and exploring. My skin caught fire and I was on the edge of something nefarious.

My heart has never beat as fast as when he bit down on my throat.

And I groaned. Me. Brandon fucking King groaned because a guy was biting me.

It was like existing in the skin of an entirely different person. As if I broke apart from my physical being and morphed into an alien entity.

I hate that version of myself. I fucking despise it.

But what I hate the most is what I said because I was so livid.

I’ve never seen Nikolai as angry as when he punched me in the face and then tackled me to the ground.

He looked down at me as if I were a pest he wished to squash beneath his shoe. The switch from flirtation, skin licking to downright violence gave me whiplash.

Then I realized maybe he thought I said he was disgusting for being gay.

I really didn’t mean that.

People being straight, gay, or anything else has never mattered to me. Hell, Eli, Creigh, and Remi’s granddads are the oldest gay people I know, and I’ve always found their bickering with Grandpa Jonathan amusing.

I have nothing against gay people. But the truth remains, I’m straight. I can only be straight.

The reason I said Nikolai was disgusting was because he kept touching me when I repeatedly told him not to.

It was because I felt strange, on fire, and completely out of my skin.

It was because he can effortlessly rip at my control and tear it to shreds as if it was never there in the first place.

He clearly got the hint this time, so…silver linings, I guess.

I glare at the screen, then turn it black, throw my phone in my pocket, and pick up my palette and brush, then whip a few more strokes with red. I don’t even like red. I’m a fan of cool colors, blue and green.

But right now, I can’t help stroking along the lines of yellow with red, giving birth to some orange. Hot, fiery.

Wild.

So fucking wild and everything I’m not.

Art has always been my damnation and salvation. I have no clue what the hell I’d be without sketching and brushing strokes on a blank canvas, but at the same time, the extent it can go to scares the shit out of me.

When I was two, I was doodling small stars anywhere I could reach. The floor, with Mum’s makeup on the walls. On Landon’s forehead, chest, and back while we giggled and hid away from our parents.

Then those stars morphed into sketches of our family, small dogs, and the cutest cats. Now, my artistic style has settled on landscapes. Flowers. Trees. Seas. Gardens.

Fauna.

This is far from a landscape, my brain whispers, getting freaked the fuck out, but I can’t stop.

If I do, I’ll have no other way to cope. I’ll really have to resort to purging that ink from my veins.

Again.

Are you sure seeing the end result of this is safer than purging?

My hand suspends in midair.

The door opens and I startle, my heart lunging in my chest.

Fuck. I forgot to lock the door.

Lan strolls in, completely unruffled, comfortable in his own skin. Despite him being a bastard with not a humane bone in his body, a distant sense of comfort washes over me whenever we’re in the same room.

The sad truth is that seeing Lan’s face is the only way I can see my face looking peaceful.

We’re identical twins, but Lan is a bit more muscular than me. His eyes are meaner, too, and he wears this permanent provoking smirk.

Despite having the same physical image, we’re worlds apart. He’s clinically diagnosed with narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder.

I’m diagnosed with being fucked up.

He’s the charming twin, the one who everyone’s attention flocks toward, the superstar of the King family, and the genius of contemporary art.

He’s everything lumped into one supreme existence.

All my life, I’ve watched him soar and fly toward the sky while I’ve remained stuck underground.

I mentally shake my head. I’m not doing this today.

“What are you doing here?” I ask cautiously. It’s not a secret that Lan and I don’t have the greatest relationship. That happens when the person I always cared about labeled me as ‘Spare Parts’ in his contacts.

He meant it as a joke and I reciprocated it, but it cut something inside me. The illusion that we share a bond, maybe.

“I can’t come to see my brother?” He slides a hand into his pocket and I take note of his black trousers that are folded at the ankles. While we both dress elegantly, we have different styles. I doubt he has any khaki trousers or polo shirts in his wardrobe.

“What do you really want, Lan?”

“You don’t believe I’m here to check on you?” He grins. “I’m hurt, little bro.”

“I’m not your little bro.”

“I happen to be fifteen whole minutes older than you. Deal with it.” He ruffles my hair as if we’re back to being kids, and I knock his hand off.

I don’t want to think of our once-close relationship when I destroyed it with my own hands.

Once upon a time, we slept in the same bed and he told me everything, including details I didn’t care to hear.

Then everything collapsed. My mind included.

“Seriously, what are you doing here?” I ask with more exasperation than I usually show.

Might have to do with my exceptionally jittering nerves lately.

“I really just want to check on you. Mum sounded worried on the phone.”

I briefly close my eyes. “I’m fine.”

“Sure, Bran. If you keep telling yourself that often enough, you might eventually believe it.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I narrow my eyes, but he’s not looking at me.

He physically pushes me out of the way as he stalks to my canvas.

Shit.

Fuck.

Bloody fucking hell.

Sweat trickles down my back as my brother looks at the seemingly haphazard strokes on the canvas. If it were anyone else, I wouldn’t be so worried, but this is my genius twin brother we’re talking about.

The top dog of REU art school and the up-and-coming sculpting talent who’s won multiple awards for his devilishly detailed statues.

His head tilts to the side as he studies the canvas and I want to jump in front of him and hide it. I want to soak it in black ink. But I don’t, or Lan would sense something is seriously wrong.

There are two things that scare the fuck out of me.

My image in the mirror and Landon.

“This is…fucking brilliant.” He whistles.

My chest squeezes until it nearly topples me over. Lan hasn’t praised anything I’ve done in…eight years.

His previous descriptions of my work have been scathingly critical.

Severely mediocre.

Exasperatingly tedious.

Devastatingly unoriginal.

Exceptionally mind-numbing.

Disturbingly boring.

Boring.

Boring.

Boring.

That’s my twin brother, ladies and gentlemen. He pulls no punches in telling me how bad I am compared to his otherworldly talent.

It doesn’t matter how much my world-renowned artist mum and the professors have liked my work. It doesn’t matter how many awards I get for my technically superior nature scenes.

Lan has never liked any of them. Not even one.

“It’s just a fluke,” I mutter, fighting my emotions as I step to the canvas, wanting to bring it down and hide everything it represents.

For some reason, I feel completely raw and naked in front of him. Like that night he hugged me for the last time.

My brother clutches me by the shoulder and spins me around so that we’re both looking at the chaos of red and yellow. The fiery explosion my fingers made in translation of the chaos brewing in my mind.

“If that’s a fluke, do it all the time, Bran. Seriously, this is your best work in a long time.” He squeezes my shoulder. “I told you everything would get better if you stopped shackling yourself.”

I tense.

No. I am still shackling myself. I can’t stop doing that.

I’m in control.

Control.

Control.

Control.

He turns me around to face him as I’m about to lose my fucking shit and spiral down that nasty road.

His eyes are narrowed. “Please tell me this isn’t because you got back with Clara.”

“What does she have to do with it…?” Sometimes I forget we’re together. I keep making up all sorts of excuses to not meet at night—or even during the day—and send her designer bags and shoes as compensation.

“She’s flaunting you all over her IG like an attention whore.”

“Lan! That’s so rude.”

“Well, she is. A gold digger, too.” He frowns. “For the life of me, I can’t understand why the hell you keep going back to the bitch. She cheated on you, multiple times, and she’s so toxic, it makes drugs look like unicorn rainbows.”

“Very rich coming from the toxicity king.”

He huffs. “Classic Bran move.”

“What?”

“Always deflect, little bro. Run, hide, and change the subject whenever it hits too close to home. That’s working bloody wonders for you.”

I force a smile. “If you’re done, kindly get out.”

“Lose her, Bran. I mean it. If the bitch hurts you one more time, I’ll take things into my own hands and we both know how that will end.”

And then he steps out of the studio.

I continue watching the door long after he’s gone.

His words sounded like he cared, or like he was doing it for me, but no. Lan has always seen me as an extension of himself, so the reason he’d take revenge against Clara isn’t for me. It’s for him, so he won’t look weak.

My eyes land on the canvas and I groan. I’m so glad Lan didn’t see a certain silhouette. But I do.

Clearly.

In the middle of the volcanic chaos stands a figure—tall, muscular, and furious.

My hand shakes as I run it over my face.

Fuck.

What the hell is happening to me?

And how can I stop this?


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