Twenty-One Years, Three Months, Six Days Ago…
WHERE IS IT! GODDAMN you, where’s it at!”
Duran spit blood out of his mouth and spoke over the ringing in his ears. “I’ll never tell you—”
Chalen the Conqueror swung his open palm again, nailing Duran’s lacerated face like a bat hitting a fastball. But it didn’t hurt as much as the other shit they’d been doing to him in this castle’s great room. They’d already pulled out his fingernails, broken all of his toes, and whipped his back until strips of his own flesh flapped against his ribs. At the moment, he didn’t have the strength to keep himself on his feet, but no worries there—two guards, with grips locked under his pits, were holding him up off the floor.
As his head flopped back into its lolling hang, he shook it to get the sweat and blood out of his eyes. In the hissing, kicking light of the hearth, the male in front of him was stocky of build and ugly of feature, an oak stump with a bulldog’s muzzle and a hungry bear’s bad fucking attitude.
“You are going to tell me the location.” Chalen took Duran by the throat with one of his meat hands. “And you’re going to do it now.”
“Sorry, not… a big talker—”
The conqueror grabbed onto the lower half of Duran’s face, squeezing so hard his jaw split and the inside of his mouth was forced between the hard-and-sharp of his molars. More blood welled, spilled, fell on his bare chest.
“Why are you protecting the very male who put you here?” Chalen’s opaque eyes searched Duran’s expression as if he were trying to extrapolate a map of Maryland in the features. “All you need to do is tell me where that facility is. Your father has something that belongs to me.”
Duran waited for that grip to release. When it did, he spit more blood out. “I’m not… protecting him.”
“Then what are you doing?”
“Making sure you don’t cheat me of what’s mine.” Duran smiled, aware he must look deranged. “You kill him… I don’t get to. When it comes to revenge, sons win over business partners.”
Chalen crossed his strong-man arms over his barrel chest. He was dressed in weapons, whatever clothes he had on underneath the holsters of guns and knives largely hidden by metal. No daggers, though. He’d never been Black Dagger Brotherhood material and not just because he was a mutt according to his lineage: Even among black market thieves, there was a code of conduct.
Not for Chalen. He had no code. Not in the Old Country, and not during his last century here in the New World.
There was only one male who was worse.
No wonder the two of them had made so much money together in the drug trade.
“I will break you,” Chalen said in a low voice. “And I will enjoy it.”
Duran laughed in a wheeze. “You have no idea what I’ve already been through—”
Chalen swung that palm wide again, the crack so heavy Duran lost his vision, everything going checkerboard. And then there was a drop in blood pressure, his brain emptying of oxygen, floaty disassociation riding in, a foggy savior buffering the suffering.
The sound of chains moving and gears shifting brought him back to reality. A section of the sweaty stone wall rose by inches, the great weight ascending like a gate, revealing a corridor…
Revealing a male who was naked but for a black hood that covered his head.
“I will make you pray for death,” Chalen said. “And when you give me what I need, you will think back to this moment. When you could have saved yourself from so much.”
Duran exhaled in a gurgle. His body was on fire, the pain burning through his veins, turning him into a semi-living, kind-of-breathing, sort-of-conscious incubator for agony.
But fuck Chalen.
“Do what you will,” he mumbled. “I’m not going to give you a goddamn thing.”
“I will make you wish you were never born.”
As the hooded male came forward, Duran was dragged over and slammed face-first down onto a table, his torso bent parallel to the floor. Turning his face to the side, he smelled the spoiled meat and rancid fat embedded in the fibers of the planks.
“Already there, asshole.”
Chalen’s face appeared at table level, their eyes meeting. “He just gave you to me, you realize. He didn’t even take my money. Just delivered you here and dropped you like garbage.”
“No one ever accused my father of giving a shit.”
“You need to know who you’re dealing with—”
“I hope you stay and watch this.” As Chalen frowned, Duran smiled through the blood again. “I want to be looking at you when it happens. All of it.”
“There will be no mercy.”
“I don’t want that.” Duran felt his pants get cut with a knife. “You’re on my list now, too. I’m going to kill my father and you.”
Chalen laughed, his fangs showing. The one on the left was not as long, as if part of it had broken off in someone’s neck. Leg. Face.
“That is not your destiny.”
“I will make it mine.” Duran began to memorize every pore, each eyelash, all the flecks in those muddy hazel eyes. “And I shall not fail.”
“Such optimism. I hope it persists as I look forward to ridding you of it. Last chance. Tell me where your father is, and I will let you go.”
“I’ll see you in Dhunhd before that happens.”
Chalen shook his head and straightened. “Just remember, you could have stopped this…”