Home > Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(6)

Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(6)
Author: J.A. Redmerski

“Falling in love with someone makes them family too,” I say. “Then it’s just a matter of which family member deserves your defense—my brother deserved a bullet at that time, not unlike your brother fifteen years ago, if I remember correctly.”

Not liking my answer, but unable to argue with it, Apollo tracks back to what he was saying before. “Anyway—I don’t know too much about when you went rogue, but it’s pretty fucking plain to me that you’re here, in this situation, because of that girl. And now you just admitted to being in love with her. Thought I was gonna have to break that out of you.”

I thought he was too—I did not even realize until now that I had said it out loud. So much for pretending Izabel means nothing to me in hopes they will not harm her. Apollo is right—I am slipping. But I knew that already. I have known that for a long time. Only now do I realize just how severely.

Other things are becoming clear to me as well: the real reason I was commissioned for the hit in Caracas.

“I take it you had a big hand in the job here?”

Apollo smiles.

“So then,” I go on, “I was brought to Venezuela under false pretenses just to get me where you wanted me.” I should have sensed something misleading about this job. I hope Apollo does not see that realization on my face, but I get the feeling that he does.

Apollo nods, and a smirk pulls one corner of his mouth. “You’re slipping, just like I told you,” he says, proving my assumption.

“Yes. I admit it. Vonnegut should have taken a page from the handbook of the SC-4—they are true soldiers. Emotionless. Loveless. Merciless. In a way I envy them.” I look away, lost in my thoughts, feeling regret for thinking them at all. If Izabel knew how often I thought of Nora…I have wanted to tell her, but for a long time I feared she would not understand. I had planned to tell her in the hotel, but the moment was…interrupted. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe none of that matters anymore now.

I look up at Apollo again, shaking the thoughts from my mind.

“So how many of your family are left?” I ask.

Apollo drags the chair he had been sitting on before, out of the shadows, and places it near my cell. He sits down, props his right ankle on his left knee, and folds his hands loosely within his lap.

“Me. Osiris,” he says, and casually gestures one hand. I get the feeling there are others.

“What about your sister, Gaia?” I say. “You were close with her.”

“Killed last August,” he says. “Pissed off boyfriend, or some such shit.”

I nod.

There is a pause, and then Apollo says, “Do you ever think about her?” shifting the subject to the one I was brought here for.

“Artemis?” I ask.

“Yeah, Artemis—who the fuck else would I be talking about?”

“What does it matter?” I say.

“It’s just a question. Do you still think about my sister?”


Apollo seems only mildly surprised—I cannot tell if he believes me. I am a skilled liar by default—except when it comes to Izabel—but if I am slipping as much as Apollo believes me to be, then he will probably know that I am lying about this. I do think about Artemis from time to time. She was the only woman who ever came close to being as important to me as Izabel is.

The memory, to this day, haunts me.

Fifteen years ago – Two days before the abduction

My eyes sprang open and my hand instinctively went for my gun on the nightstand. But the sweet, hysterical laughter, and the thin, delicate fingers digging into my sides, brought me into reality quickly.

“Happy Anniversary,” Artemis said, nuzzling her head into the side of my neck; she sat on my waist, straddling me on our bed; her hands still worked futility to tickle me.

I smiled up at her, reached up and cupped the sides of her face within my hands and pulled her down to kiss me. Her lips were soft, careful, as if she worried she might break me. She had always been that way with me; I thought it both amusing and endearing at the same time.

“One year ago today,” she said, her mouth inches from mine, “I met the only man in the world who can put up with my shit.” She kissed my forehead, then straightened her back and rose into a sitting position atop me.

“Are you going to let me up?” I asked. I could easily get away, and she knew it, but I enjoyed giving her more power over me than she really had.

I felt her thighs tighten against my hips; she grinned.

“No,” she said, “I want you to stay in this bed with me for the rest of your life.”

“If that is what you want,” I said, matter-of-factly, “then that is what you will get, my love.”

I felt myself growing beneath her; the palms of my hands moved up her thighs and I clutched her hourglass hips within them.

Curiously, Artemis cocked her head.

“What?” I asked.

She sighed lightly, looked away from my eyes for a moment long enough to make me wonder if she was ever going to answer.

“When you call me that,” she began, “sometimes it feels…”

“It feels what?”

She sighed again, a bit deeper this time; then her dark eyes fell on mine with a sense of urgency that made me uncomfortable.

“Forced,” she finally answered, and I blinked, stunned. “I don’t know, it just…I don’t know.”

“Speak your mind,” I told her, moved my hands up and down her bare thighs in hopes of comforting her. Of course I could have asked the obvious question: Are you insinuating that I do not love you, Artemis? But I needed to stay as far away from that topic as I could.

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