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God of Ruin: Chapter 35

MIA

Home has always been my sanctuary. A place in which I can unplug and be myself.

Not that I’ve found trouble being myself everywhere else, but whenever I’m in the presence of Mom and Dad, I feel like a kid again. Maybe childishly so.

The second Maya and I step through the door, we’re greeted by Mom’s radiant face. She’s dressed in an elegant knee-length burgundy dress with a belt that enhances her hourglass shape. An off-white jacket rests on her shoulders, giving her a sophisticated edge.

Her eyes glitter in a dreamy blue as she engulfs me in a bear hug. As soon as I inhale her warmth, the urge to burst into tears hits me out of nowhere.

All of a sudden, I’m that little girl who was trapped in the darkness with no way out. This moment is similar to when she and Dad found me.

I felt the same sense of crippling emotion when he personally came to pick me up at the airport after our private jet landed.

Yes, my parents have a private jet. It was actually Mom’s wedding anniversary gift from Dad. He got a lot of shit from Grandpa about it, but Dad told him he’s the reason their family has so much money in the first place, so if he decides he’ll buy his wife a plane or the moon itself, he has no say in it.

Grandpa Mikhail is more old-fashioned than the English monarchy, but he’s been present our entire lives. While he clashes with Dad sometimes, they actually get along pretty well. Mom said they found each other late in life, so that’s probably why Grandpa dotes on us more than his other grandkids. He’s spoiled us rotten since we were young and has never hidden the fact that we’re his favorites.

He learned sign language for me at an old age and often invited us over, despite having countless other grandchildren.

So it’s no surprise that he also accompanied Dad to the airport. Grandpa said that he wanted to see ‘his girls’ first. He received a call about some trouble one of my uncles is causing and we separated at the airport, but not before he told us we need to spend a day or two with him before we go back to the ‘tasteless’ Brits.

He and Dad definitely agree that we should’ve stayed on US soil so they could keep an eye on us.

My fingers dig into Mom’s back, probably harder than needed. But she doesn’t complain and even strokes my hair. “I missed you so much. I can’t believe I haven’t hugged my babies for months on end.”

“My turn.” Maya basically pushes me away so she can hug Mom.

Dad wraps an arm around my shoulder and I hug his waist, leaning my head on his chest. Since a young age, Dad has always had a smart, casual style and he rocks suits, like his current black Armani, better than a model. Whenever he and Mom are in public, they attract more attention than celebrities.

It’s part of the reason why I prefer not to go out with them much. Maya, however, is all over that crap, considering she needs attention as much as air.

I crave my parents’ company in private, though. Being surrounded by them offers me a much-needed escape from my head. So I tighten my hold on my dad. He smells like cedarwood and safety. This scent reminds me of when they first found me in that basement. As Dad carried me in his arms, I hid my face in his chest and remained so still, I don’t remember even blinking.

It took me a few minutes to fill my lungs with him and realize it was finally over.

Or was it really?

It wasn’t over. Not then.

Not now.

Mom pulls away from Maya to stroke her face. “You girls have grown so much. You look absolutely radiant.”

“Of course.” Maya flips her hair and then smooches Mom’s cheek. “We take after the best.”

“Where did you get the sweet talk from, I wonder?” Mom gives Dad a knowing look.

He grins and winks. “Proud of it, princess.”

Maya physically swoons. “You guys are goals! Come on, I want a selfie.”

“You can’t post my face on social media, Maya. You know that’s a hard rule,” Dad says.

She releases a dejected sigh. “Okay, fine. I’ll just keep it to myself. Come on.”

Dad starts to push me toward her, but I shake my head. He throws me a look, but then he gets in the shot for a selfie with Maya.

After she takes it, she pouts. “Are you going to stay mad at me for long?”

I cross my arms and look at the elegant, modern interior of our entrance area. This used to be a lake cottage, but Dad renovated it into this extravagant mansion at the edge of the lake.

Elegant pillars lift the three-story house and provide high ceilings and a symmetrical architectural structure. Tall French windows offer a direct view of the lake and illuminate the space with natural sunlight.

The luxurious mansion is crafted from premium rocks and enjoys an elevated, charming position in the middle of nowhere. Large balconies provide a front-row seat to mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets. Before we left for college, it was our family ritual to watch them together.

Nikolai, Maya, and I often played outside by the garden and swam along the shores of the lake, then splashed each other until we were giggling and out of breath. My twin and I usually conspired against Nikolai, but he often won. And whenever he didn’t, it was only because he felt sorry for us and let us beat him.

He’s often been our knight, but yesterday, he definitely didn’t act like one.

I understand his animosity toward Landon, and I get his need for revenge, but the fact that he shut me out so cruelly still hurts.

I texted Landon on my way to the plane.

Mia: I’m going back to New York to visit Mom and Dad. Maybe this is a good opportunity to put some distance between us.

Landon: Nonsense. The word distance doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. It’s for cowards who don’t know what the fuck they want. I know exactly what I want. The question is, do you?

I didn’t reply to that text.

I couldn’t.

My mind has been a mess since the whole encounter with the Heathens.

“What’s going on?” Mom studies me and my sister closely.

“It’s nothing.” Maya throws her hands in the air. “She’s just being unreasonable.”

I glare at her and she glares back.

She wasn’t supposed to come home with me for this long weekend that coincides with a bank holiday, but she likes to think that we’re twins attached at the hip.

“It’s not nothing,” Dad retaliates. “You weren’t speaking on the ride here, which is unusual, to say the least.”

“Well, Mia is being unnecessarily dramatic.” My sister releases a long breath.

I narrow my eyes on her, but I refuse to reply when she doesn’t even want to admit what she did wrong.

“What’s this all about, girls?” Mom asks. “You know it’s a house rule to talk about our problems so we can resolve them.”

Maya sighs and lets her phone with some fashion design case drop to her side. “Well, Mia has a crush on this British guy who’s more notorious than Satan himself, but she wouldn’t listen to reason when everyone—Niko, Kill, Gaz, and I included—told her that he’s bad news. Like the worst of news, Mom. Imagine Kill on steroids. Yeah, it’s that dire. So Niko decided to take matters into his own hands and teach the prick a lesson, and rightfully so. Kill and Jeremy joined in because, well, remember the part where he could give Satan a run for his money? He actually caused shit with the two of them as well, including hurting Kill because he just wanted to date this guy’s sister. Mia is illogically mad because I didn’t tell her about their plan to teach him a lesson he desperately deserves.”

“Illogically mad?” I sign, my lips curled in what must look like either a snarl or a growl. “Niko told him either he leaves me or he breaks his wrist, Maya! Landon said no, so if I wasn’t there, an artist’s wrist would’ve been broken to pieces. Is that the lesson you wanted to see?”

“Yeah, well, maybe that would’ve taught him to stay in his own lane.”

“Maya!” Mom scolds, her voice rising a little.

“She’s being unreasonable, Mom!” Maya shouts back. “She’s been choosing this idiot Landon over me and Niko over and over again, not caring how the fuck we feel about it. Maybe it hurts. Maybe it makes us feel like we’ve been cast aside, but she doesn’t seem to care!”

I swallow, my heart beating fast and erratically. This is the first time in over a decade that Maya has been this mad at me.

Ever since the incident, she’s often treated me with kid gloves and overwhelmed me with overprotection. The current situation is far from that.

Dad grabs us each by the shoulder in a firm fatherly hold and softens his tone. “I think we need to sit down for this. How about coffee or tea?”

“Yeah. I have your favorite strawberry pudding.” Mom proceeds to the massive open-floor kitchen that’s every cook’s dream.

Dad pulls out my chair like the gentleman he is. Seriously, considering his very British accent, his style, and the way he carries himself, no one would suspect he’s actually the most lethal human weapon anyone could cross paths with.

Maya and I sit across from each other and we avoid one another’s gaze as Mom pours both of us coffee. Dad brings out the pudding from the fridge and places one serving in front of each of us, then he sits beside me.

Mom settles beside Maya and places her arms on the table. “Okay. Now that we’re more settled in, let’s talk in more detail. Is there a reason why you didn’t tell me you were in a relationship, Mia?”

“Because he’s a psycho who actually physically hurt Niko and Kill, that’s why,” my twin says. “She was ashamed of him, as she should be.”

“Maya,” Dad says in a warning tone. “The question wasn’t directed at you. Don’t speak on your sister’s behalf when she’s fully capable of that.”

Would it be too cheesy to jump Dad in a hug? Probably. I just can’t help feeling grateful for his important form of validation of my voice, as nonexistent as it is, especially after Niko ignored me not too long ago.

“Is that true, Mia?” Mom asks.

“Partially,” I sign. “I didn’t mean to start this relationship, and I certainly didn’t think it’d last this long. The facts are, Landon did hurt Nikolai and Kill, but they hurt him back, you know. It’s not like they sat there and played poor victims. Besides, I did break up with him when I thought he was going too far, but he made a promise not to hurt anyone and to offer a truce. He kept both and I couldn’t stay away anymore. He’s the only man I’ve ever felt comfortable and safe with. I know he’s different, but I’ve come to the realization that I’m different, too, and I’m finally fine with that.”

I stop before I blurt that I love him.

Then it hits me.

I actually do love Landon. The fact has become clear after the time we’ve spent together lately.

Is it love if I worry about him more than myself and feel a black hole forming in my chest the more I don’t see him?

I think it is.

Shit.

When the hell did this feeling start and why am I having the epiphany now?

“But he’s bad news!” Maya slams her hand on the table, causing the cups to shake and her coffee to spill over the side. “You can’t possibly be thinking about staying with a psycho like him.”

“His sister stayed with Kill just fine, so does that mean you think it’s okay since he’s our cousin but the other way around isn’t? What type of double standard is that?”

“She has a point,” Dad says as Maya’s face scrunches up.

“I still don’t like him and won’t approve of him,” she says.

“You know I love you and I would appreciate it if you’d accept my decision, but even if you don’t, that doesn’t mean I’ll break up with him due to your and Niko’s over-the-top protectiveness.”

“You’d choose him over us? Again?”

“Enough, Maya,” Mom says. “You’re being unreasonable and uncharacteristically agitated.”

“Oh, so I’m the problem? Okay, then, fine. Let me remove myself from the situation so it’s better for everyone.” She jerks up and leaves.

“Maya!” Mom calls, but my sister doesn’t show any signs of hearing her.

“It’s okay.” Dad stands up and fetches her plate of pudding. “I’ll talk to her.”

He kisses the top of my head and offers me a smile. “I’m proud of you and your pragmatic way of solving problems, baby girl.” This time, I do hug him and he strokes my hair. “I still won’t approve of this Landon guy until I see him for myself.”

I gulp as I sit back down. Mom stands and then sits in the chair beside me. A soft glow covers her face as she rubs my shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know.” I feel a weight lift off my chest as I stop the knee-jerk need to lie. Mom and Dad have always offered me a safe space to tell the truth and I often resisted the urge because I had no confidence in what I might blurt out in moments of weakness.

What if I accidentally told them the identity of the monster and they get hurt because of it?

I would never forgive myself.

“Why don’t we talk about this Landon? Is he really Kill on steroids as Maya said? Because if that’s the case, we need to discuss it.”

“Yes and no. I won’t paint him as a saint, but that’s the thing, Mom. I’ve never liked saints. I was never attracted to the boys in school and felt so stupidly broken for that. I don’t feel broken when I’m with Lan.”

Her brows pull together in a soft frown and she takes my hands in hers. “Don’t hide anything from me, Mia. Is he taking advantage of you or threatening you in any way?”

“No. I’d cut off his balls before he did that.”

She releases a sigh and smiles a little. “That’s my girl.”

I smile back. “Whose daughter do you think I am?”

“Mine, of course. Now, tell me everything about Landon.”

“He learned sign language for me and helped me set up my own garden. He also plays chess with me and cooks my favorite pasta. He also drives me insane by being so socially and mentally different. But I’m taking my time getting to know him better and he’s letting me in.”

“That’s good.”

“You don’t think I’m being crazy for choosing someone so different?”

“Love is fundamentally crazy, Mia. If it doesn’t have that element of insanity, it’s not love, in my opinion. You have two solutions. Either you take it as it is or you let go. There’s no in-between.”

“You and Dad love each other, and it’s not crazy.”

She laughs, the sound carrying through the room before settling in the space between us. “Oh, we were more than crazy. Like you, I never liked normal either.”

“Really?”

“You think I would’ve ended up with your dad if that weren’t the case? We consume each other, but we also balance each other out. It might be unorthodox, but it works. We have the best three children anyone could ask for. So I’m the last person who’d judge your choices, honey.”

I wrap my arms around her. If only Maya and Nikolai thought the same. But for now, Mom is enough.

“Now, tell me more,” Mom says as we pull apart.

I do, omitting the details that I believe are too much information.

Mom listens carefully, even though I talk for what feels like an hour. I finish the first pudding and get my second serving and I’m still not done. I needed someone to listen to me without judging me since Maya is out of the equation now.

Dad is the one who interrupts our catching-up session. “Your sister wants to talk to you, Mia.”

My shoulders hunch, but I still drag myself up.

“You don’t have to speak to her now,” Mom says. “You can let her cool off for a bit.”

“It’s okay,” I sign and go to find Maya in the sitting room close to the entrance, arms crossed as she studies some of the crowns we made for class as children.

For some reason, Mom chose to display them above the fireplace like some sort of decoration. Maya’s were always more sophisticated than mine, but the teacher praised my crazy patterns. They’re different, she said. Art is about being different, not neat.

“They look so ugly now,” Maya says, still turned away from me. “I don’t know why Mom is being sentimental all of a sudden.”

I won’t step in front of her so she can see me talk. She’s the one who asked me here, so she has to face me. If she ignores me like Nikolai…

Maya turns around, her cheeks red and her eyes glittery. She looks out of sorts, which is so unlike her public image.

“I still love the crowns. They remind me of the times we had fun together,” she says, then sighs. “I’m sorry. I was being irrational and overprotective. I guess it’s hard for me to let you go and I was a bitch about it. I just don’t want to lose you.”

All the anger washes away as easily as it settled there. I simply can’t stay mad at her for long.

“You won’t,” I sign. “We’re twins for life.”

“Does that mean you forgive me?”

“Only if you don’t interfere in my life so negatively again.”

“I won’t. I will try to accept the psycho Landon, I guess.”

“That’s all I need from you, Maya. You’re my best friend and it hurts when you don’t talk to me.”

“I’m sorry.” She hugs me so tight, I can barely breathe. “I’m so sorry, Mia.”

I pat her shoulder to tell her it’s okay. Actually, the thought of never speaking to her again makes me sick, so I’m glad all’s well now.

We hear a commotion at the front door and we head there together.

My steps come to a halt when I see the last person I expected on our front porch.

His face is a map of bruises and one of his eyes is purple, but he still smiles at my parents as he says, “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Hunter and Mrs. Sokolov. My name is Landon King and I’m Mia’s boyfriend. May I come in?”


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