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God of Ruin: Chapter 25

LANDON

Different day, same irreparable need to fuck up the world and watch it crash and burn.

A wave of hostility shoots in my direction, attempting—and failing—to penetrate my skin from every side. Glares and sneers bounce off my outer layer like rubber arrows.

None of them mean shit to me.

The only one I honor with my undivided attention is the girl in a hot black dress that hugs her curves in all the right places. A leather collar is wrapped around her delicate throat and my favorite blue ribbons snake through her pigtails.

Defiant, proud eyes the color of blue wildflowers stare at me. For a moment, during the fraction of a second when I made my spectacular theatrical entry, those eyes were stupefied, then those emotions morphed into being horrified, but now they’re pools of disapproval.

I can work with disapproval.

Hate, even.

I’m proficient in antagonistic situations and won’t be leaving until I’m back in my muse’s good graces. I didn’t realize how much I missed her until I listened to the recording of her voice on a loop.

And I didn’t know I was capable of missing someone.

Now, the method I came up with might be controversial at best and suicidal at worst, but I need to set certain records straight in front of the whole world.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?” Jeremy, the waste of space bulk of a man, tightens his grip on Cecily and sharpens his entire body for an attack.

In fact, all of them do, including my own siblings. They don’t have a loyal bone in their bodies. The only one who’s subtle about their need to maim me is Killian, but he does hold Glyn close, as if he needs to protect her from me—her own flesh and blood.

Glyn and Cecily look more aggrieved than old ladies who’ve lost their pensions and are seriously considering the option of burying themselves alive. Bran’s expression turns to that of full-blown pain like when he watched me get stabbed for his fragile honor.

At the other extreme stands none other than Nikolai. In the myriad of conflicted and absolutely stunning reactions to my godly presence, he’s the one who fails to hide an ounce of hostility and lets it flood his body language and manic expression.

“I thought this was a birthday and everyone was invited,” I say lightly, ignoring the world war that’s brewing in the distance.

“You’re not,” Killian says point-blank.

“Seems that I am now.” I step toward Mia, who’s been watching me the entire time as if I’m a statue, not its maker. “Happy Birthday. Aside from the gift of my attendance, I have something else for you, but I’d rather give it to you in private—”

I don’t manage to take my second step before Nikolai slams his fist square into my beautiful face.

Coughs escape my clogged throat and I spit the metallic liquid that’s filling my mouth on the floor. My first instinct is to spew it in Nikolai’s fucking face, but that won’t do me any favors for the case I’m trying to make.

“Lan…” Glyn releases herself from her boyfriend and comes running to me.

Maybe I was wrong and she does have some semblance of loyalty to me, after all.

She stops a few paces away as if she’s scared to get any closer. “Just…go.”

I take it back. She just doesn’t want any drama in her lowlife boyfriend’s place and is probably scared for his cousin’s life.

Which is legitimate since if he weren’t my muse’s brother, he’d be driven up the wall with my fist as we speak. Then probably shipped to a mental institute that he so desperately needs.

“I didn’t go through all the trouble of bribing incompetent security guards just to leave.” My gaze meets Mia’s horrified one.

She’s taken a step forward, and one of her hands is balled into a tight fist. A part of me soars at the idea that she’s worried about me, after all, but it soon crashes and burns when she grabs onto her brother’s arm.

“He’s not worth it, Niko.”

That’s what she signs—with a straight face, I might add.

Did she just say I’m not worth it? Me? Landon fucking King?

Nikolai obviously disagrees and definitely thinks—like everyone else who isn’t Mia—that I’m well worth it since he raises his fist again.

Killian subtly pulls Glyn from the middle of the action so that she’s once again in his overrated protective cocoon.

“Time out.” I lift a hand in front of Nikolai. “Before you proceed with your attempts at rearranging my features, allow me to clarify an important element. I happen to be in the process of courting your sister, and any attempts at ruining my face will not play in the favor of said task.”

Everyone is stunned into silence, including Nikolai, whose fist remains suspended in midair. I like to call this the Landon effect—quite powerful and pleasing to watch.

Mia is the first one who recovers and graces me with the glare of all glares; lips pursed and eyes blazing with fire.

She’s the holiest view I’ve ever stumbled across, and I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination.

“I’m going to fucking kill you before you lay a hand on her.” Nikolai flings forward.

“Oh, that’s already done.”

Another pause.

Another myriad of beautiful, stupefied expressions that are a product of my words.

“What the fuck did you just say?” This time, Nikolai has enough patience to speak slowly.

“I said.” I close the distance between us so we’re eye to eye. “The touching part already happened. In fact, our rendezvous included more than touching, but I’ll spare you the details since you’re her brother.”

“You fucking—” He pushes into me and I’m about to let him pummel me to the ground for Mia’s difficult sake, but Bran moves in front of me and takes the punch.

My brother staggers back and falls against my chest.

The change of events is so fast-paced that everyone takes some time to come to terms with the new variable in the equation.

My idiotic fucking brother.

I grab him by the arm so that he doesn’t fall sideways and inspect the cut on his lower lip and the blood that’s gushing from it.

The motherfucker who would be dead if he didn’t have a blood relationship with Mia got him good. Bran shakes his head a few times as if he’s fighting a concussion. While I’m fine with violence and do strive for it whenever possible, Bran is literally squeamish about blood.

I pull out a tissue and help him wipe the shit off his lip as he struggles to remain standing.

Nikolai doesn’t move, his jaw ticking and his muscles tightening until the veins bulge. Killian, Jeremy, and Mia pull him back and, unlike what I expect, he doesn’t fight it.

Instead, he points his glare at his sister. “Is it true?”

She freezes, and any attempts to calm her brother down come to a staggering halt.

“Is what the fucker said true, Mia?” he asks again, his voice filled with enough tension to start a nuclear war. “Have you been sleeping with him?”

An expression I’ve never seen on Mia’s face greets me. An expression I now realize I don’t ever want to see on her delicate features again.

Shame.

First, I’m not worth it.

Now, she’s fucking ashamed of me.

She slides her gaze to me, and even though I’ve been busy trying to stop the bleeding on Bran’s fucked-up lip, I meet the eyes that have been haunting my every waking moment.

Go ahead and lie, Mia. Go ahead and deny yourself and pretend it’s all a fucking illusion.

“It’s not what you think,” she signs.

“And what does he think?” I slap the tissue against Bran’s mouth and shove his hand on it, then step in front of him so that I’m facing Mia.

“You shut up.” Her movements are jerky, uncoordinated, and hint at a complete loss of control.

Good.

Maybe this way, she’ll be able to understand the frustration of being cast aside and discarded like a used condom.

“I’m happy to shut up, but only if you tell the truth and nothing but the truth.”

Liquid eyes the color of a stormy sea glare me down as if I’m the next target on her hit list.

“What is he talking about?” It’s Killian who asks this time, his expression darkening.

Considering his pseudo-brother relationship with Mia, his distress brings me great satisfaction. How does it feel to walk in my shoes, motherfucker?

Mia glares at me again before she signs, “It was just a ruse that meant nothing. It’s all over now.”

I’m going to choke the little shit to fucking death.

But then, in the still-functioning logical part of my brain, I realize she’s saying all these demeaning things on purpose.

I let my grin show through, hoping the blood makes it more gruesome. “I disrespectfully disagree. It was more than a ruse and is far from being over. Mia and I came to a slight disagreement about priorities and my notorious penchant for anarchy. Despite my dramatic entry, I’m not here to stir up any shit. On the contrary, I came to propose a long-due truce between our clubs.”

“Not even when you’re buried six feet under,” Nikolai snarls.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to rule it out.” I meet Mia’s gaze. “This rare chance will work out so well for both of us if you just give it a go.”

“My sister is not for fucking sale.”

“I never suggested that. Unlike what she said, Mia came to meet me every night. There was no coercion involved in our nighttime rendezvous.”

Nikolai’s eyes slide to her again and she looks hotter than a ripe tomato before she meets my gaze. “Whether the truce happens or not, I’ll never go back to you.”

“Never say never.” I was going to add muse at the end, but I’m not in the mood for the extended audience to have their nose in my business.

It’s enough that I’ve made this very public display of affection.

Her chin trembles. “You’re insane.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“You won’t have me.”

“I had you once.”

“Won’t be happening again.”

“We won’t know until I try.”

“Stop being delusional.”

“Stop fighting the inevitable.”

Nikolai steps between us, accompanied by his dull sidekick Jeremy, and puts a sudden halt to our harmless banter. “Leave before I fuck up your face.”

“Last I checked, that’s not a good starting point for a truce, no?”

“Let’s just go.” Bran pulls on my arm, but I don’t move.

“I won’t be taking a step outside unless, one, you give me your word about the truce.” I meet Jeremy’s gaze. “You know this is for everyone’s benefit. Cecily and Glyn included.”

“Not happening,” Nikolai grinds out.

“It can be for your benefit, too,” I say casually. “In return, I will refrain from breaking your face for the damage you inflicted on my brother.”

“Forget it, Lan.” Bran pulls harder, his fingers digging into my arm. “I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not.” I tilt my head in Nikolai’s direction. “I don’t like it when others harm my family.”

“Funny coming from you.” He tries to free himself from Kill’s grip. “Once I’m done with you, nothing will be left for anyone to recognize.”

“Please stop,” Glyn pleads with him and I realize that she’s also on my side now, her hands slightly shaking. She looks at her joke of a boyfriend. “Lan isn’t the type who offers truces, so can you take it?”

My baby sister knows me, after all. Because she’s right. Truces don’t exist in my vocabulary of fucked-up anarchy.

But then again, drastic measures need to be made to trigger a considerable change.

“Even if we agree to the truce,” Killian says, “Mia is off the table.”

“That’s not for you to decide, is it?” I smile and meet her gaze.

“She already told you no,” Jeremy says.

“I can work with a no.” I step toward her, followed by Glyn and Bran, who install themselves as my amateur bodyguards.

Mia keeps watching me with that tense expression as I slip a small box into her palm, then say so only she can hear me, “Happy Birthday, little muse. Remember, a future where you don’t belong to me doesn’t exist.”

Nikolai shoves me back so hard, I half fall on Bran and Glyn, who wince at the brute’s animalistic force.

The fucker is pushing it, and I will make him pay. Just not today.

“I’ll take that as you said yes to my offer. As for the Mia issue, I’ll leave that to her. Just know that I won’t take lightly to any censorship or attempts to keep me away from her. You can torture me if you fancy. I’ll also leave my door open in case you want to kidnap me and exact revenge for past travesties, so let me know your plan. Or don’t. I’m open to surprises.” I stare at Killian. “You and I are even, considering the whole Glyn situation.”

He steps forward, but Glyn and Bran are already pulling me back.

“I’ll be out of your hair,” I call. “For some reason, it feels like I’m not welcome here. I wonder why.”

“You motherfucking—” Nikolai comes for me, but Killian, Jeremy, and Cecily drag him back.

Mia stands there, one hand balled into a fist around my gift and her eyes blazing with inextinguishable fire.

I physically have to stop myself from running back there and kidnapping the fuck out of her.

Then it hits me.

The reason behind the horrible feeling I’ve been experiencing ever since she fucked off out of my life.

The peculiar emptiness.

The absolute lack of motivation for anything but creating schemes for how to get her back without fucking up what she cares about.

I’ve become categorically obsessed with Mia Sokolov. My mind has filtered the whole world out and all I see is her defiant face.

In every corner.

On every statue.

Every-fucking-where.

And now that I’ve seen her again, the last thing I want to do is leave.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Bran asks as soon as we’re out of the pretentious Heathens’ mansion and in front of my car.

I shake myself out of the strange phase I’ve been trapped in and focus on the disapproving faces of my siblings.

Glyn crosses her arms. “This is ballsy even for you.”

“I’m nothing if not full of surprises.” I grin and wince at the pain that explodes in my mouth. “That being said, I love your loyalty and the feeble attempts at protecting me.”

“More like we were trying to protect people from you.” Glyn releases an exasperated breath. “Can’t you just stop?”

“Stop what?”

“This whole thing with Mia.”

“No.”

“But you don’t care about girls.”

“She’s not just a girl.” She’s my muse. There’s no other explanation for this need to possess her until she wholly belongs to me.

The inexplicable urge to have her with me at all times.

It’s getting to the point where I don’t recognize myself when I’m not with her and that’s a serious problem.

“You mean to tell us you won’t discard her the moment you’re bored, which is due to happen very soon?” Bran asks.

“If I were going to get bored, I would’ve been so weeks ago.”

“But you will, Lan,” Glyn says. “That’s what you do. You get bored and you hurt people to feel a form of pleasure.”

“Thanks for the amateurish psychotherapy, little princess. But if you want to make your psychological endeavors more realistic, you should’ve inserted your boyfriend as a plug. Doesn’t he get bored easily as well?”

“Kill is different.”

“In what sense? You’ve managed to understand him because he’s similar to me, so why, suddenly, is he the love of your life while I’m the forever devil?”

“Because you’ve never made an effort to love us, Lan!” she screams. “I know you’re wired differently and no one can change your nature. I understand that. What I don’t understand is why you expect us to behave according to the lines you trace, and when we act out, you squash us until we fall back to where you want us to be. You protect us because of your sense of possessiveness and the fact that we make you look good. Bran and I protected you just now because, despite everything, you’re our brother and we care about you. We don’t calculate in our relationship with you and we certainly don’t use you just because we’re bored. All we want is for you to make an effort and stop following your narcissistic instincts when dealing with your own brother and sister.”

Tears gather in her eyes and Bran holds her by the shoulder, his expression as wretched as hers.

As the scene plays out in front of me, I recall the conversation I had with Uncle Aiden right after I cornered Mia in the tiny bathroom stall.

I’d intended to pretend to let her go just so I could sweep in again and remind her that I’m her only option.

But then I called Uncle Aiden. He’s Eli and Creighton’s father, but we’ve always been close because I’m that loveable.

Well, that’s a lie. He’s one of the few people who doesn’t judge me, despite my extreme chaos-oriented nature.

He also encouraged my dad to just let me be when I was developing my holier-than-thou personality.

Uncle Aiden has always treated me and Eli with respect, even though we’re different from everyone else.

Possibly because he shares some of our traits.

I put in my AirPods, fingers splaying on an unremarkable piece of clay that will definitely make it to the bin collection.

Uncle Aiden picks up after the first ring. “Why, hello, Landon. Is it just me or have you been avoiding me?”

“Me? Avoiding you? Not in a million years.”

“And here I thought you were reflecting about your recent reckless involvement in Creigh’s incident.”

“You know I didn’t mean to, Uncle.”

“Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” He pauses, then sighs. “You might think yourself a god, but your clear disregard for consequences will catch up to you sooner rather than later.”

I stroke the hip of my creation, then pause. “Maybe it already has.”

“Oh?”

“Hey, Uncle.” Stroke, swipe, stroke. “You always told me it’s okay not to be like the other kids and that I’m not broken. You said that just because my mind is wired differently doesn’t mean I’m any less than them. In fact, it means I’m more special.”

“That’s true.”

“So why the fuck doesn’t she see that?”

“She?”

“A certain thorn in my side who’s accusing me of being empty and a disaster to the tedious emotion called empathy.”

“And you care about her opinion?”

“No…I don’t know.”

“Then you probably do.”

“How do I stop caring?”

Uncle laughs.

I narrow my eyes. “This isn’t funny.”

“It is to an extent. You sound childlike with your emotions. But at any rate, if you want to keep her, you need to practice empathy.”

“No, thanks.”

“Then let her go and go back to your shallow encounters with people you barely remember come morning. That way, you won’t have to care for the rest of your life and will be able to wear the emptiness she previously filled as a badge.”

My movements stop, fingers resting on the hip. “How do you know she filled the emptiness?”

“Your Aunt Elsa does that for me. In fact, so does your mother for your father.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Your father wasn’t always put together, which is why he was a bit strict with you growing up. He didn’t want you to make the same mistakes he did.”

I didn’t know that. That must have been what he meant when he once said that he didn’t want me to regret my decisions after I grew up.

To which I naturally replied that I don’t do regrets.

Uncle Aiden continues, “That feeling of emptiness is a morbid emotion that eats you alive more and more the older you get, and unless you find someone to fill it, you’re irrevocably fucked. Sooner or later, you’ll succumb to higher felonies to reach that temporary reprieve that never lasts and will eventually self-destruct.”

I retrieve a cigarette, stuff it in my mouth, then light it. “I’m entirely uninterested in practicing empathy.”

“That makes sense since it doesn’t come naturally to you. But you have to think about whether or not you’re ready to succumb to a fundamentally bleak path just because you refuse to change.”

“I don’t know how the fuck to practice empathy.”

“Did you ever find yourself refraining from ruining or hurting something or someone she cares about because you understood that it would hurt her?”

“Maybe.”

“That’s a small step forward. You need to see the situation from her perspective first, not from yours. You have to shackle your instincts as much as possible.”

“You mean like I did whenever I wanted to hurt Bran and Glyn while growing up and directed that energy toward punishing those who hurt them?”

“Something like that. In fact, it’s best to have Bran give you advice on your relationship with her.”

“The prude who barely has any sex? Pass.”

“A relationship isn’t about sex, Lan. That’s a physical need that I’m sure you excel at. The emotional side, however, is your biggest weakness.”

“And Bran’s strength.” It’s not a question. It’s a statement.

“Remember what I told you when you were younger?”

“Bran feels too much and I feel too little, which is why we balance each other out.”

“Exactly.”

“He’ll never help me, Uncle.”

“Did you ask?”

No, I didn’t.

But as I look at my brother and sister, I fully understand the meaning behind Uncle Aiden’s words.

I, Landon King, lack something my siblings have in excess, and while I’ve always seen that as a power, maybe I need to reshuffle my cards.

“It’s pointless telling him all this, little princess,” Bran says. “He’ll never get it.”

“I do.”

Both Bran and Glyn look at me as if I’m being possessed by a demon who’s been expelled from hell for his friendly behavior.

“Is this a joke?” Glyn asks cautiously.

“When have I ever joked?” I grab both their shoulders. “I’ll make the effort.”

“Why?” Bran asks.

“Because you’re my family.” I smile. “In return, I might ask you a couple of things during the day.”

“Couple of things?”

“About how to practice empathy.”

Bran smiles. I don’t.

I know I won’t like this one fucking bit. In fact, my beast roars at the idea of being shackled, even if temporarily, but if it’s the price I have to pay for my little muse, then so be it.


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