The door to the den is closed, but I can still hear raised voices through it. Cormac. And Faolan.
I guess I can’t blame them—if someone had just tried to kill me, I’d . . . . Yeah, well . . . I guess I know exactly how I’d be. But it leaves me with a problem. Nothing good comes of being around Faolan when he’s angry. Nothing. He’s never been very careful about his targets.
I look past the den again, to the staircase at the front of the house. But that’s a silly idea. There’s no reprieve there, either. I can’t get past Conlan’s room unless the door’s closed, and probably not even then. Too many creaky floorboards. And I know Tara too well; right now, she wants to kill me.
And, for all I know, when I see Conlan . . . I might want to help her do it.
If only Sheridan hadn’t seen me, I could just turn around and leave. Come back in the morning, when everything has blown over. Well, as much as it’s going to.
But she has. And I’m stuck.
“Tiergan?” she says, and I drag my attention back to the present. I hear concern in her voice. Or maybe just puzzlement.
Either way, I’ll take it.
There’s a thin cloak on the back of the door. It’s Faolan’s, but he won’t miss it for a while. I grab it and pull it on.
“Have you got extra?” I ask, and step into the kitchen. “I’m feeling kind of hungry.” I’m not—I can’t taste his blood any more, but I can still taste it, and even the thought of food turns my stomach. But I need an excuse—any excuse—to delay.
She looks at me—definitely puzzled—but only says, “Sure, hun. Pull up a stool and I’ll make you a sandwich.” She smiles at me, then busies herself cutting some bread for the loaf.
I step to the sink to pour a glass of water.
And I notice that my fingernails aren’t quite clean. I thought I’d gotten it all off in the river on the way home, but there it is . . . dried blood against the cuticles, and under a few of the nails. In some of the folds of skin over my knuckles too. I thrust my hands under the stream and start to scrub. She didn’t ask about it, so maybe I got lucky—maybe she didn’t notice. No reason she would.
So why do I feel so terrified?
I steal glances at her reflection in the dark window, but she’s still busy making my sandwich. If she noticed anything, she’s not letting on.
I check my own reflection; my face seems clean. But there’s a weight there, in my eyes, that I don’t remember seeing before. And I look so tired.
The anger isn’t far beneath, and it blazes up without warning.
Get over it, Tiergan! Grow the fuck up! You killed him. So what? He was trying to kill Faolan, and if you’d given him the chance, he’d have tried to kill you, too. You are such a fucking pup, sometimes. Now, grow! the fuck! up!
I realize what I’m doing at last and pull my hands apart, but too late. There’s new blood in the water now, and this time it’s mine, dripping form a fresh fingernail-shaped cut on the back of my right hand, between the thumb and forefinger.
“Tiergan?” Sheridan asks. I look up and meet her eyes in the glass. “Are you going to run that water all night?”
“Oh,” I mutter, and stare back down at my hand. “Sorry.”
I fill my glass and turn the water off, then grab some paper towels. I squeeze the cut hard, for a few seconds, in hopes of stopping the bleeding, then toss the towel in the garbage and arrange myself on a stool.
I leave my right hand on my lap, out of sight, and force a smile onto my face. It doesn’t feel like I’m quite managing it.
Sheridan smiles, then returns her attention to my sandwich. “You want to talk about it?” she asks casually, her eyes on her work.
I watch her hands as she finishes up. Lettuce, then turkey, then tomatoes, more lettuce. She’s already put exactly the right amount of mayonnaise on the bread.
But there’s a question pending, and more to follow, if I ignore it. “What’s to talk about?” I reply.
She places the bread on top, runs the knife through the centre, and hands me the plate.
“Thanks,” I say, as I take it from her. With my left hand. But, from the look on her face, she knows something’s up.
She eyes me for a moment longer, then says, “You don’t have to worry, Tiergan.” It’s her best comforting voice. “Faolan really will be fine.”
I smile. And almost laugh.
Fuck. And I was worried she could see right through me.
“Thanks, Sheridan,” I reply, with all the sense of relief I can fake. “I know it’ll all work out okay.”
I don’t know how anyone can be as effective as her when hunting, as brutal as her in a fight, and still be totally clueless about what’s going on around her.
But I guess I should be glad.
“Do you mind if I take this up to my room? I should get dressed.”
“Sure, hun,” she nods, and starts putting stuff away.
That little voice at the back of my head taunts me again: “You’re just upset she didn’t make you spill it. That’s why you’re going up to your room now. You want Tara to drag it out of you.
I pause at the door of the kitchen. He waits, too, to see what I’ll do.
But not for long. For me, the jumble in my head means nothing at all, but, for him, it seems to be all the confirmation he needs.
“You are such a worthless little shit. Can’t even kill in self-defense without turning it into a pity party.”
“You fuck off. You little turd. Go on, go cry to Tara. You know you want to.”
There’s only one other place I can go. I glance over my shoulder, to make sure Sheridan doesn’t see me, then duck into the stairway, and head down to the cellar.