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God of Ruin: Chapter 6

MIA

A week later, I’m sitting with Bran in the game room in the Elites’ mansion.

My relationship with this space is complicated at best. I love the vibe, but I’m not a fan of how big it is. Low red lighting casts a glow on our faces and around huge screens on the wall.

The chairs are comfortably massive, and sometimes, we opt to use the sofa so I can hit Bran whenever we’re playing opposite each other.

He’s competitive, but he’s not a sore loser.

Me? I don’t have sportsman spirit whatsoever. What? I don’t take well to losing.

Bran, however, is a total angel, which is why it’s no fun to win against him. It’s impossible to penetrate his walls or talk shit to him.

Then again, it’s easier to lose against him since he doesn’t really rub his win in your face.

He’s usually the only one who comes to this room since, I believe, he’s the sole gamer in the house.

After numerous visits, I’ve come to the conclusion that many men live in this mansion—Bran, his two cousins, his friend, and, most importantly, the devil himself.

My blood roars at the thought of that bastard and his gloating “Checkmate” before he left me stunned in the club. But none of that was as horrifying as the absolute skin-crawling sensation I felt when he touched me.

Not only did he touch me, but he also bit me like some freaking dog.

The shell of my ear is still in flames from when his teeth sunk into it like a starved monster.

It hurt, damn it.

But the pain paled in comparison to the pure terror that shot through my veins.

Even the thought of him now makes my spine jerk and goosebumps erupt on my skin.

I don’t succumb to threats, but his were different. His included a vibrant image of my sister being used for his revenge. Worse, my sister would be used as his response to my hotheadedness.

Maya didn’t initially agree to the plan of giving the bastard a pig blood makeover, but she’s also my ride-or-die and refuses to let me go on these sorts of missions alone.

I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if she were in danger because of me. Over the past week, I’ve been trying to protect her and told her to be careful, but she has little to no self-preservation skills and can’t be left to her own devices.

Maya and Nikolai take so much after Mom’s go-getter personality. They slam in headfirst—either they get their way or they die trying.

I’ve always been like my dad. Silent but deadly. Appears sophisticated but could kill you with a smile.

That sense of confidence, however, seems to have left the building since my ill-fated encounter with Landon.

Not only have I been over-the-top paranoid, but my sleep has been plagued by malicious nightmares from a time in my past that I can’t seem to forget.

I haven’t spoken to Mom and Dad for a while out of fear that they’ll see right through me.

And it’s all because of the bastard who hasn’t made a move.

Every night, I’ve been staring at my window, expecting him to jump through and murder me.

But people like Landon don’t murder. They prefer to leave you hanging, waiting, and scared for your life. They prefer the mental torture and looming threats.

“Are you sure he’s not here?” I show the typed words to Bran as we sit down for a dinner break.

He’s opposite me on the sofa as we dig into Thai food takeout.

We’ve both been playing since we finished our afternoon classes. We’re worlds apart in majors—he’s an art student and I’m studying business management since I’ve always wanted to start something that only belongs to me. Not my parents, not my legacy. Just something that’s purely mine.

Bran says he should be in the art studio, but he’s been succumbing to ‘one more game’ for the past two hours.

He chews on the mouthful of rice and shakes his head. “He’s out wreaking havoc and ruining someone’s—or some people’s—lives. Why are you asking? Are you scared?”

“He should be the one who’s scared after my pig blood episode.” I don’t even feel the confidence as I show him the words.

Bran merely sighs. “I told you it’s not wise to get on his bad side.”

I wince and throw a piece of tomato in my mouth to mask my reaction.

Bran did warn me when I asked him stuff about Landon’s Elite party that night.

I cock my head to the side and study him closely. He’s the spitting image of his asshole brother. But I guess it’s the personality that makes all the difference.

Bran is such a posh boy and what I imagine a well-bred and educated English youth to be like. His eyes are welcoming pools of pure blue, his jaw appears less sharp than Landon’s, and his lips are neutral and by no means a weapon of terrorizing grins.

Oh, and their only real physical difference is that Landon has a tiny mole at the corner of his right eye. A small detail that I noticed the first time I saw them together.

I remember thinking Landon needed to be brought down a peg or two, and I can proudly announce that I’m still of the same opinion.

Hell, maybe he should be locked up for the travesty.

It’s impossible to mistake the two brothers for each other, and I don’t think that has to do with my being an identical twin myself and, therefore, skilled in the business of differentiating.

The truth remains, one is always calm, and the other is the definition of a shit-stirrer.

Besides, I don’t feel threatened in Bran’s company, whereas I’m always in fight-or-flight mode in Landon’s presence.

“What is it?” Bran asks when I continue watching him. “Is there something on my face?”

I type, “I was just thinking how different you guys are.”

“Just like you and Maya are different, no?”

“She’s not a psycho.”

“Touché.” He laughs and takes a sip of a ginger lemon soft drink. “Still, I’m impressed with what you did the other day.”

Thanks, but it’s backfiring and causing me so much stress.

“He said he’ll make me pay,” I type and then show him my phone.

Bran gauges my expression. “Did you by any chance…challenge him?”

“How do you know that?”

“You shouldn’t have done that, Mia. It’s the easiest way to get on his shit list.”

“Well, he’s also at the top of mine.”

He smiles, but it’s sad at best and pitiful at worst. “Confidence is good, but no one has ever been able to win against Landon after he sets his sights on them.”

“There’s always a first. But hypothetically speaking, how far can he go?”

“You already know what he did to Killian because he pissed him off and to your brother because he was merely part of his plan. What you don’t know, however, is that he was probably behind the fire that destroyed half of the Heathens’ mansion, just because they proved to be an annoyance.”

My lips part and I scribble furiously. “I thought the Serpents did it.”

“They did, but he’s the one who supplied them with the information they needed. Then he sat back and watched the entire show unfold from the sidelines. He’s that dangerous.”

That freaking bastard. Either I’m going to kill him or he kills me. No in-between.

I stuff my face with food and swallow without much chewing. I choke and start coughing, the obstruction blocking my windpipe.

Brandon reaches over and pats my back, then offers me a bottle of water. I gulp half of it down and do the “Thanks” sign.

He understands some of the basic sign language, and he’s really been putting an effort into learning more lately. That’s how much of a good person he is.

“You okay?” His eyes dip at the corners with genuine worry.

Why aren’t there two of him instead of that evil Landon?

“I’m fine. Thanks, Bran. Not only for this but also for covering my back with Niko the other day.”

He reads the words and I think I imagine a tic in his jaw before he nods. “I figured you could use some help.”

“But how did you know to answer correctly about Maya?”

“I suspected that if he was asking about her, then it regarded the two of you.”

“Smart.”

“I know, thanks.”

And there it is, a hint of his brother’s overwhelming arrogance. Though Bran’s is more subtle and definitely not overpowering.

“Were you in trouble with your brother?” he asks, looking at me from beneath his lashes.

“Nah. It was just Niko being Niko. He said not to get involved with you guys, considering the whole rivalry thing with the Heathens. He wasn’t hearing it when I told him you’re different, because he’s a hotheaded mule. Anyway, these games and meetings will have to be our secret wherever Niko is involved.”

His eyes flicker as he reads the text. “It’s not like I’m acquaintances with your brother, so you have nothing to worry about.”

Is it me or did he sound a bit too restrained just now?

“Bran!” A third presence barges through the gaming room door. “Have you seen my red Jordans? I swear to fuck one of these fuckers is hiding them and my lordship is going to break all hell loose…” He pauses upon seeing me and his expression transforms from annoyed to flirty. “Why, hello there. My day just got a whole lot better.”

“You were literally just threatening violence,” Bran retorts.

“Now, hush, Bran. Don’t be rude in front of the lady.” He offers me his hand and I shake it. “I’m Remington. Everyone calls me Remi, or your lordship for short. I have an aristocratic title and a fortune that can last for generations. May I know the name that goes with the beautifully graceful face?”

“Her name is Mia,” Bran says to him. “She can’t speak, but she can hear you just fine.”

Usually, people’s expressions either change to awkwardness, or most often pity, but this guy’s smile remains the same.

He’s a bit taller than Bran and has a straight nose and an easygoing, pleasant presence. “Why have you been keeping such beauty to yourself, Bran? I thought we were friends.”

“Leave her alone,” Bran says. “You’re not her type.”

“Unless she’s a lesbian, I’m everyone’s type.”

I smile and type, “I like this guy.”

“See?” Remi says with glee. “I’m the model of every girl’s dream man.”

It’s arrogance, but, again, it’s not the same as Landon’s.

Why the hell am I searching for a type of egoism that fits his?

It hits me then.

I’m trying to find arrogance that’s not equally intimidating and terrifying. Obviously, it’s an epic failure.

“Get over yourself,” Bran says with a shake of his head.

“That would be such a waste to the universe. Anyway, what are you guys doing here? Can I join?”

“Do you game?” I show him my phone.

“More in real life since I’m a basketball god, just saying, but I do play with Bran sometimes when he’s being a loner.”

“Join us, then,” I type, then smile when he reads it.

“That’s not a good idea,” Bran tells me. “He’s loud and a hopeless amateur who blames the game for his failures.”

“Hey. Show some respect, peasant.”

“Aren’t you supposed to find your shoes?” Bran asks. “Lan probably hid them to mess with you.”

Remi’s disgusted face must match mine. I knew I liked this guy. “That little fucker is always out for trouble. He needs to chill for a second.”

“More like for a lifetime,” Bran mutters under his breath.

Seems I’m not the only one who’s done with Landon’s shit. His own brother and friend don’t seem pleased with him either.

I offer Remi some of my calamari. He accepts it and scoots a chair over.

“Has he always been like that?” I type and show it to them.

“For as long as I can remember,” Remi says, stealing Bran’s drink. “This one was always the pacifist, and Lan, the anarchist.”

That’s such a stark difference. Maya and I have our own personalities, but we’re both troublemakers in our own ways.

“He doesn’t fit into a mold, and he’s extremely proud of his twisted, individualistic view of life.” Bran stares in the distance as if he’s reliving a faraway memory. “He has antisocial tendencies that he tames enough to make him appear charming instead of threatening.”

“Tell me about it.” Remi sounds personally offended. “That little fuck keeps getting all the pretty ladies even though he has the attention span of a fly.”

“He’s a genius at what he does, so the girls make sense,” Bran says. “What doesn’t make sense is them knowing he refuses any form of commitment but still flocking toward him anyway.”

I type, “A genius at what he does?”

“He’s a sculptor and he’s always been gifted,” Bran says with a smidge of envy. “He’s had many of his works exhibited since we were in secondary school.”

Oh, right. I heard about that before. I did contemplate ruining his art studio, but it’s thumbprint protected, so I couldn’t get access.

“I still prefer your paintings. They’re so relaxing and pretty,” I type and show Bran.

A rare smile curves his lips and he pats the top of my head.

“But Lan hasn’t sculpted in a while,” Remi says after swallowing a bite of food. “The other day, he said it’s just dull.”

“Dull?” Bran echoes. “Sculpting is the only thing that reins him in.”

“Maybe that’s why he’s been acting like a maniac lately.”

That can’t be a good sign, right?

We play together for another hour before I have to leave. Partly because I don’t want my brother to question why I was out late and partly because I don’t want to cross paths with Lan on my way out.

Still, I keep thinking about the conversation I had with Bran and Remi. How can I use the information I learned to get rid of that bastard Lan?

The answer is that I can’t. At least, not yet.

But I can store the information for later, until I eventually come up with something.

The chill of the night prickles my skin as I walk to the car.

It’s darker than I anticipated. I don’t like being outside alone in the dark. It’s where the monster lurk, waiting to ambush me.

The low yellow lights stacked between the trees do little to dissipate the claim of the night.

My skin crawls and I have to breathe deeply so as not to trigger the weak part of me.

I take large steps, but it doesn’t help to dissipate my imagination.

A rustle swishes from the trees before large heads with big, ugly snake eyes rear through the branches.

My breath catches and I give up trying to stay cool, then run to where I parked my car.

You’re not taking me today, assholes.

Not today.

The monsters flicker and grow in size until I can feel them spreading behind me like wildfire. They’re running and I’m running, but I don’t think I can outrun them.

My muscles scream with exertion and my breathing comes out chopped and unnatural.

I’m almost to the car.

Almost—

I jolt to a halt when a dark figure appears from behind a tree, wearing a mask.

A scream bubbles at the back of my throat, but I can’t release it.

All I can do is stand there as it approaches me with the intention of swallowing me whole.

“We meet again, mouse.”


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