Beard Up(3)

By: Lani Lynn Vale

Stone methodically searched me, double checking that I had nothing on my person that could be used to hurt him or myself, and then ordered me to start walking in the direction of where I had aimed the shot just moments before.

The closer I got to the man who I’d nearly killed, the more fear I started to feel.

Would the man I’d nearly shot recognize me? Would he know who I was? What would he say if he did?

I walked stiffly to the tiny cabin where I’d tracked him down, thinking that I should’ve paid more attention to the fact that he was meeting people out here rather than assuming he was alone.

 “Who sent you here? I know you could have made that shot and the fact that knocking him to the ground was all you accomplished is the only reason you are still breathing,” the older man hissed.

He sounded pissed.

I couldn’t blame him.

 “Someone is holding my family’s life over my head. Said he’d stop hunting them if I followed the rules,” I took a deep breath. “I was kidding myself. I knew that he wasn’t going to honor that. I just had to wait, had to play his game. Otherwise he would’ve sent someone else after h-h-him.”

Fuck the letter H. Goddammit.

My teeth were chattering. Fuck, it was cold.

I hated when I couldn’t control it.

It wasn’t something that happened very often. Not anymore, anyway.

But, it always got worse when I wasn’t in control of myself.

And with Stone’s gun to the back of my head, I definitely did not feel in control.

“Move slower. I don’t want to run to keep up with you,” he growled from behind me. “You even think about escaping, you’ll wind up with a bullet in one of your kidneys.”

I automatically slowed my pace, letting Stone catch up to me.

“Good boy.”

I gritted my teeth, stepped over a log and came to a sudden, bone-rattling halt when I saw the man standing in front of us.

It was him.

Face to face with the man that’d nearly gone down from a bullet from my own gun.

He studied me for so long that I thought for sure that he’d recognized me, but his next words proved that he didn’t.

“Who are you, and what do you want?” he growled.

I looked the man straight in the eye and opened my mouth to speak.

I wasn’t too worried that he would recognize my voice. Not only had my face changed over the last year, but my voice had, too.

Plastic surgery couldn’t fix damaged vocal cords.

“I’m…,” I hesitated. I couldn’t give him my real name. Then he’d surely recognize me. My name wasn’t a common one, and there was likely only a handful of fucking men in the entire world that shared it with me. “I’m T-im.”

I stuttered over the words, not because of my problem, but because I nearly told him my name.

So stupid.

His brows furrowed. “What did I ever do to you to deserve being shot at?”

Nothing at all. You’ve changed my life.

 “My father decided that you needed to die.” Once I made the decision to tell him why I was there, I let it all hang out. I told him everything that he would ever need to know about my father, and even some things he didn’t need to know.

“And who exactly is your father?” he challenged me.

Here’s where I fucked up.

I’d never, not once, spoken about my father or the fact that the whole reason I joined the brotherhood was because of him and my shitty family. What I should’ve realized, though, was that this man was a fucking magician. If he wanted to know something, he’d do whatever it took to get it, and there wasn’t anywhere in this world a person could hide from him if he wanted something from them.

And this was one of those times. I shouldn’t have told him the truth. Shouldn’t have told him my father’s name, because the moment that I did, his eyes zeroed in on mine.

And then they widened as realization dawned.

“Son. Of. A. Bitch.”


“You can’t go back,” the man said to me. “If you go back, I won’t be able to protect you or them anymore. I’ve got eyes on your family. You have to stay out of sight.”

I swallowed thickly.

“Just tell me where to go,” I hesitated. “And you promise me that you’ll keep me updated. Once a month, you and I meet, and I’ll keep myself scarce. You miss one of those meets, and I’m going to assume that I need to move in.”

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