I study the pattern in the rug, and pray to whoever might be listening for the storm to pass. With Cormac at the door, I have no real options. I can feel his anticipation—it hangs in the air like a physical thing, egging Faolan on, all but certain that this will be that time, the time he’s finally rid of me.
Fuck! If only I hadn’t come in when he was talking to Rian. Rian always makes him so crazy.
Maybe he’ll just rough me up a bit. I hardly dare to hope. If I can just take it, if I can just hold out for a little while, he’ll remember himself, he’ll remember he doesn’t want to kill me.
He’ll be sorry about what he’s done.
Submission is my only way out. I know that so well by now. I won’t look up. I won’t run. Give him time, and the overbearing, overprotective older brother will remember himself.
I’ve done what he told me to do. Maybe it will be enough.
The tick of the mantle clock grows loud in the silence, but I hold still.
“Cormac?” He says at last. “Give us a minute, will you?” His voice is soft.
I glance up, ready to pull away again if I’m wrong, but I’m not—he’s my older brother again. I open my mouth slightly and exhale as quietly as I can. Best not to let him hear my relief. Nothing can push him back over the edge quite so quickly as him seeing me afraid of him. When he doesn’t want me to be.
Faolan turns away from me and I follow his gaze to see Cormac still at the door. His eyes are terrible, and I can’t meet them. I shift my gaze back to Faolan, but I feel Cormac’s focussed still on me, his hatred drilling into my head.
“Cormac!” Faolan says again, sharply.
Not today, asshole. It takes everything I have not to mouth the words as I think them. Not today. I can’t help but smile.
The mantle clock ticks again. Twice. Three times.
The door slams, and I’m alone with my brother. The one who cares about me.
There are a hundred places I’d rather be . . . but things could be a lot worse.