Read The Other Brother (Snow and Ash Book 3) Online

Authors: Heather Knight

Tags: #Dark Erotic Romance

The Other Brother (Snow and Ash Book 3) (5 page)

BOOK: The Other Brother (Snow and Ash Book 3)
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“That figures.” The former deer park is now used by the military, so I’ve never been down there. I sigh and turn to leave.

“Sorry!” he calls after me.

At first I mean to take the meal back to the kitchen, but I change my mind halfway there. I’m not used to all this inactivity. I really could use the walk. It’s only a mile or two if I take the road, less than that if I cut cross-country. I grab a coat and boots and search out an exit with a shoveled walkway.

Once I step outside, I find the air crisp, invigorating. Don’t get me wrong. I want this endless volcanic winter to be over as much as anyone else. If I ever see another sunrise, I think I’ll cry. Words like sunrise and sunset aren’t even used anymore because there simply isn’t any sun. There won’t be, either, until the ash dissipates from the upper atmosphere. But it’s not snowing and there’s no wind and I’m properly dressed. My boots crunch on the thinly packed layer of snow that never seems to go away, and I caress that spot on my neck where he kissed me.

My stomach flutters at the memory. It’s a miracle. I never thought I could experience intimacy with a man, any man. The fact that he’s brought me this far fills me with hope. Heck, even if I never actually get to the point where I can have sex without freezing, I’m so happy I could sing. I think I may be falling in love with my husband.

I approach a guardhouse. It’s not original to the estate. The Barrys added several new structures for security reasons. This one is right at the turn onto Shiloh Road.

A burly man with a machine gun steps outside. Another remains by the door. “You shouldn’t be here, ma’am. No civilians allowed.”

“Oh.” I tuck my hair behind my ears, hair that Kent wants me to wear down now. “I was just going to bring my husband his lunch. Is that not allowed?”

He smirks. “You’re bringing him lunch?”

Oh boy. “Never mind. It was a stupid idea.”

Jeez, Bianca, what is wrong with you?

He cocks his head to the side. “Who’s your husband?”

“Colonel Barry.”

His eyes widen, and a grin spreads across his face. “My apologies, ma’am. I didn’t realize you were one of the Barrys. Please, go on in.”

I don’t like that twinkle in his eyes. “Are you sure it’s all right?”

“Oh, I’m definitely sure the colonel would love his wife to bring him his lunch.”

Is he dicking with me? For the first time I wonder if I’m making an ass out of myself. Would he hate it that I brought him lunch in front of his men? Dad kept family and military affairs completely separate. He could be a scary man when he wanted to be, and he didn’t bring that home. Kent’s not like that, though. He’s patient. He’s sweet.

The guard opens the gate and gestures toward the freshly shoveled road. “The deer park’s that way.”

I study him, and all trace of the smirk is gone. I hesitate, and the guy heaves a sigh and gets this glazed look on his face. I’m being an idiot.

“Thank you,” I tell him as I pass through the gate.

Not even half a mile up the road I spot what used to be a restaurant. I’m not sure what the army uses it for. As I approach the building, however, I hear military-like barks coming from the other side. I get to the corner and spot a troop of men standing five rows deep in what was probably once a parking lot. About twenty feet in front of them kneel four people, their hands tied behind their backs.

My chest feels heavy, and it hits me, hard, that I shouldn’t be here.

I spot Kent. I’m too far away to interpret the expression on his face, but he’s got that authoritative military posture going on. Well, he is on duty. He and two other men are in conversation. I’m about to turn around and retrace my steps when Kent’s two companions salute him. He salutes back, pivots on his heel, and heads for the four men. The ones kneeling on the ground.

Oh man. A chill tingles my scalp. I need to leave and leave now.

He approaches the first person. He bends and says something in his ear, and the man’s body bucks and shakes. Kent straightens, raises a pistol that I hadn’t noticed before, and fires it point-blank into the back of the man’s head.

I gasp. My parcel hits the ground in tandem with the dead man.

Kent repeats the process with the second man, and I clap a hand over my mouth.

I am wholly unable to look away as Kent, my husband, the man whose dick I held in my mouth last night, executes the two final men. Then like nothing happened, he hands his pistol to another soldier and strolls away.

I’m not sure I remember how to breathe. I shake so hard I think I’ll fall. I have to go. Now. Getting caught here will get me in serious trouble.; I can feel it.

Forgetting the lunch, I spin around and run until I think I’m out of eyesight. I want to bolt for the house, to run as fast and as far away as I can. Panic has never served me, though, so well before I reach the guardhouse, I slow to a walk.

I force a bland expression as I approach the gate.

The same guard greets me. “Find him?”

“No.” I make that stupid duck face I used to use for Instagram back when I was younger. “He must be busy somewhere.”

This time the guard’s smirk is unmistakable. “Maybe tomorrow.”

“I didn’t know how far away this was. He can figure out his own lunch.”

He lifts his chin and grunts.

Each crunch of my boots on the packed snow sounds like a gunshot, and my butt is in a total pucker until I’m well out of sight. I can only pray that the soldier doesn’t mention I was ever there. I don’t want to talk about it—not with anyone, especially Kent. I have no idea how to deal with what he just did. He’s a physically scarred man, authoritative too, but he’s always been good to me. Kind to a fault, really. The man who just shot four men in the back of the head doesn’t at all jive with the Kent I know. My stomach hurts as though I’ve swallowed a battery, and I don’t know if my head will ever stop spinning.

I know it’s not America anymore, and I realize nice people are the least likely to survive. Men like my father and the Barry brothers have to make tough calls to keep any semblance of civilization together. But my husband just walked up to the prisoners and shot them. You know, like he was tossing a baseball or picking up a bar of soap. Then he walked away, moved on to whatever was next on his agenda.

What’s on his list for me? Another blow job?

Maybe those men were cannibals. My dad used to make examples of them. In a way I can understand why. Maybe they were deserters. Your troops must respect and fear you, or you wouldn’t be able to run an army in a violent, dying world. There would be consequences for deserting, for sure. They could even have been rapists. If it was that, I’d probably shoot them myself, but what if they were just leaders from a town that didn’t pay their tribute? What if they were people who were in the way of something the Barrys want?

Shut up, Bianca. He’s always been nice to me.

Of course he is, a voice whispers in my head. He wants sex.

What happens if I stop cooperating?

~ ~ ~

At dinner people talk to me, say I have no idea what, and I nod. I smile. I’m all smiles. My nerves feel like bolts of lightning zapping throughout my body. Kent fills my plate a quarter full with lemon turkey. He dollops a sizable spoonful of herb-roasted potatoes topped with feta cheese, leaving room for about five green beans. Usually I would complain, but tonight I keep my mouth shut. It’s hard to look at him, let alone talk to him.

Servants replace our empty plates with dishes of semolina pudding. I’ve never heard of it, but it looks good. Smells delicious. I assume it’s enough calories to last a person an entire day. You wouldn’t know, sitting at the Barry table, that there were people hungry enough to eat human flesh not a hundred miles away.

You wouldn’t know by looking at him, but Kent killed four people today.

He smooths his hand down the back of my hair and leans in. “What’s wrong?”

I swallow and spread my lips into what I hope is a cheerful smile. “Nothing.”

I even spoon a dollop of the artery-clogging delicacy.

He frowns. “You seem…not yourself.”

“I’m fine.” I clear my throat. “I’m great. Good dinner tonight.”

I hold my breath as he studies me through narrowed eyes. Then he nods and shifts his attention to something Lawrence is saying.

When I get back to the suite, the bed seizes my full attention. No pajamas.

Huh-uh. Not tonight, not after seeing what he’s capable of.

Kent takes his shower. I know he’s expecting me to strip down and wait for him, but that’s the last thing I want to do. Would he let me skip a night? Or two? Or forever?

I’m not getting naked with this man. I’m not. I sit at the small desk and start another letter to my sister. Deliveries are more dependable now that the treaty is in place, and I figure she’ll get it sometime next week.

The sound of the shower hitting the walls sends a flutter to my stomach. I have ten minutes, maybe. What will he say to me when he comes out and I’m not in bed, waiting? I’ve never, you know, not done what he says. In the bedroom, anyway. I mean, I know he won’t force me. Even after what I saw today, I know he’d never do that, but when he comes back, he’s going to think it’s business as usual.

Maybe I should just get in the bed and let him do whatever and hope it’s quick.

I cringe. Moths flutter up my neck.

The first guy he shot begged. I could see that from where I stood. I adjust the neckline of my sky-blue cashmere sweater so it rests a few inches higher and resume my letter to Letitia.

The water stops. My stomach lurches, and I eye the bed, the bathroom door. I still have enough time. I don’t know how he’s going to react when he comes back out, and I clench my hands into fists.

I can say no if I want to. There’s no law against that.

The bathroom door swings open, and I stiffen. I press my pen to the paper and concentrate like it’s the night before an essay deadline and I need an A or I’ll fail the class.

The floorboards creek under his weight. I feel him behind me, breathing, watching. He lifts my hair aside and kisses my neck.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

I flick him what I hope is a cheerful smile. “Writing to my sister. I keep putting it off. She’s going to be pissed.”

Letitia and I aren’t tight, but he doesn’t know that. She’s five years older than me, and she doesn’t like to do any of the things I like to do. Plus, things have been weird between us since the attack. It’s like she resents me or something. I wonder sometimes if she feels guilty that I got raped and she didn’t. It’s stupid. I would never have wanted her to go through that.

Briefly he massages my shoulders. He bends again and nuzzles my neck.

I lean away and moisten my lips. “Why don’t you go to bed? I’m going to finish this letter.”

He removes his hands, and I hear the floorboard creek.

There’s a stone in my stomach as I wait for his reaction.

“Bianca.” His voice is quiet. Serious. It demands my attention.

I put the pen down and peek up at him. He’s completely naked, but Kent never acts like he’s ashamed of his body. The only thing he ever tries to hide is his face. I’ve noticed that there’s only one lamp in his office, and it’s powered by rechargeable batteries, not flames. He doesn’t like fire. Here in the bedroom, our only light comes from the fireplace, and I’m pretty sure if we could get electric heat, he’d use that instead. Even the lantern on my desk is battery operated. It’s light enough in here to see the tension in his posture, the fingers twitching at his sides. I don’t look any lower.

“Don’t be so weird about it.” I return his frown. “I just want to finish this letter.”

He raises his brows. “Really?”

“Yes!”

Just like that, he draws my chair away from the table and pulls me to my feet.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing. God, Kent, sometimes I’m thinking about other things. Or is that not allowed?” The best defense is offense, right?

He folds his hands over his chest. “Of course it’s allowed. Why are you acting this way?”

“What way?”

“Don’t give me any shit, Bianca. You’ve been acting strangely all evening.”

My heart thuds as I shake my head. “I’m…not …I just don’t feel like it. You know, I’m tired and I just want to finish my letter.”

He gives me an inscrutable look and retrieves the letter from the table.

I drop my jaw. “That’s private!”

“‘Hey Biiiiioch! What’s new with you? Is Dad still trying to hook you up with that old guy in West Virginia?’”

He looks up and waives the paper at me. “Mighty long letter. Intense.”

I square my shoulders. “Like I said, it’s personal. I’ve got a long way to go, so if you don’t mind…” I reach for the letter, but he crumples it in a ball and tosses it back on the table.

“Out with it,” he demands.

“I told you,” I say through gritted teeth. “Nothing’s wrong. God!”

“You’re lying. I told you not to lie to me.”

I breathe in, and my breath shakes.

“Don’t lie to me,” he says more softly. “You’re upset about something. I need to know what.”

I cross my arms and look away. “Look, maybe I’m just in a mood.”

His face twists, and his scars pull his eye down. “Don’t fuck with me, goddamn it! We’re going to stand here until you either get over your mood or you tell me what’s going on in that head of yours.”

My jaw works, but nothing comes out.

He sighs, and his shoulders slump. He turns his face away—the scarred side.

It dawns on me that he thinks this is about his face. That’s the last thing I want. It’s not true, and I can’t let him go on believing that.

“I stopped by your office today,” I mumble. “I was going to surprise you with lunch.”

“Sgt. Aguilar informed me,” he says, and in his tone is a definite go on.

I slide my eyes away. He’s unbelievably stubborn. I almost think it’s more agonizing to stand here and fight about what’s not wrong than to tell him and get it over with.

I shrug. “I wanted to surprise you, so I went down to the deer park.”

He goes still.

“I saw you.” I narrow my eyes. “You killed those people like it was nothing. I was standing by that old restaurant, and I saw the whole thing.”

BOOK: The Other Brother (Snow and Ash Book 3)
7.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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