familiar face stared at me with the same kindness, understanding, and sympathy I had always known from him.
Except, there were no bars between us, only the dull, green glow of his magic.
I stared at him from behind my scarred and filthy arms, from behind the blood that dripped from my hair. I gazed at the only familiar thing, wishing it was enough to drown out the demons my father had infected me with.
Kill him, too.
Kill them all.
“Ryland, it’s okay. You’re okay.” Sain’s voice was calm, low, insightful. It was like he was going to begin the State of the Union at any time.
I almost expected it.
I only wished the calm was enough to chase the demons away. It had been … once.
You saw her eyes.
Black, dead eyes.
You need to find her.
My heart rate sped up at his voice, my father’s rumbling scorn only growing from where it was trapped inside of me. Panic and desperation leaked into me with each syllable, my body twitching and convulsing as I tried to cover my ears, knowing it would be pointless. I knew I could never get away from it.
My focus moved from the aged face of the man to the pale, dreaded man I recognized at once as Thom, the brother I neither knew existed nor had seen until a few days ago. From Thom to the table to the wall to the window to the empty fireplace.
Thom. Table. Wall…
Do it now.
“I need … Kill…” I tried to keep the words from me, but they seeped out, anyway. They oozed from me like the poison that infiltrated me.
“No, Ryland,” I heard him say, but it did no good.
“Kill.” I slammed my back into the wall.
“Kill.” I slammed my head into the stone.
“No, Ryland,” Sain soothed again, the way he always had.
His voice was only enough to pull me out of the words, if not the movement. I still rocked myself into the stone, the heavy thumps of pressure feeling comforting somehow.
“You don’t want that.”
Table. Window. Fireplace. Thom.
“If I can’t have her,” I growled as I rocked, “then no one can.”
“You don’t mean that, Ryland.”
“Need … Now.”
“Ryland,” Sain whispered.
My focus darted right back over to him, my body jerking at the thunderous roar that broke from the sky before my focus began darting around once before going back to him. Although I tried to keep my focus on him, it was hard. It was hard to control my body, hard to control my mind.
“They are nowhere near here. The blade is nowhere near here. You are safe.”
You are never safe.
But, he said…
Not from me.
“You are safe,” Sain repeated as if he could hear the battle raging within me.
The foreign word that my heart clung to like a lifeline pulled me out of the frantic motions and right back to the man who hovered before me, his dark green eyes plunging into me like an anchor, one I clung to with all my might. It was another thing I knew, something else my father couldn’t quite take away.
I stared at him, my eyes focusing for the first time as I rejoiced in what I knew at once to be freedom, to be safety. The panicked breathing slowed as he looked at me, his hand pressing against my bicep in a firm reminder of the reality we were in.
We merely stared at each other as my breathing mellowed, the same way we had done so many times before, every day when he had pulled me from the insanity Cail had placed me in. Usually, it didn’t seem to hold. Usually, it was a fine line that I always fell from easily. While I knew this time was no different, it felt sturdier somehow, as though I was balancing on a wooden plank instead of only a high wire.
Sain realized it, too.
“You are safe, Ryland.”
My hand shook as I placed it against his arm, my fingers leaving streaks of blood on his elbow as I pulled him toward me.
“I want to kill her.” We both jerked at my statement, at the calm mellow of the
Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson