“What are you smiling about?” he demands.
Shit. I drop the smile like it just bit me.
“Nothin’,” I reply, shrugging my head to one side.
He lowers himself into his chair behind the desk and motions me forward. I keep my eyes on his as I stand.
“Nothing?” he says, and a hint of danger slips back into his voice. I instantly break eye contact.
“You forget how well I know you, Tiergan.”
He’s right, of course. He raised me, after all . . . after Mother and Father . . . .
I’d better come clean. A bit, at least.
“Cormac really wants to kill me.” I hope for a laugh. A chuckle at least.
I get neither.
“Of course he does,” he spits in response. “He’s my Second, and you pay him no respect at all!”
He cuts me off with a sharp stroke of his hand. “Don’t talk, Tiergan. For once in your life, listen.”
I cautiously lower myself into the closer chair and set my eyes on a carving on the front of the desk. I’m not in the mood for a lecture. But I’m not in the mood to get hurt, either.
“You aren’t a pup any more Tiergan,” he says. The word “pup” drips with contempt.
“I grow tired of your selfishness, and your”—he thumps his fingers on the desk with each syllable—“dis, re, gard for our family. Not only don’t you respect your place, you actively defy both Cormac and me. And you go out of your way to goad Cormac. Do you have a death wish? I wouldn’t go into a fight with Cormac lightly, but you seem to beg him to come after you. You should be thankful no one else in this family behaves like you do, or Cormac would have killed you years ago!”
My hand starts to tighten on the arm of the chair, but I say nothing.
“Look at me,” he commands.
“Look at me!”
Maybe I do have a death wish. Because suddenly I’m angry, and against all better judgement, I don’t want to get it under control. I meet his eyes, anger for anger. Muscles grow tense.
I want to yell at him that he’s not Father. That he’s not and he’ll never be.
He knows it, too. Saying it would hurt him. Saying it would feel really good.
At least . . .
. . . it would for the half a second it would take him to cross the desk and sink his teeth into me.
I force the anger down, away from my eyes.
Faolan leans in. His eyes glitter darkly. “I’m warning you now, brother—I am just about ready to tell Cormac he can treat you like anyone else.”
I hear myself gasp.
“You wouldn’t.” The anger abandons me far faster than I’d have thought possible, leaving nothing but a gaping, empty feeling in my stomach.
Faolan doesn’t blink.
“I will. Your disobedience is unacceptable, Tiergan. How, dare you think you are special. You are the least member of this family, and let me assure you, that is of great disappointment to me.
“I told you a month ago to end it with Keaira. A month! And now you have the gall to come in here today and act as if you deserve some consideration for finally obeying me.
“You are lucky you have me for a brother, Tiergan. Lucky! Any other First would have ripped your throat out long ago.
“And Tiergan?” His voice drops to a low, harsh growl. Every hair on my body prickles.
“Believe me when I say this: if you push me any more, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”