Twisted Roses

Page 5

After a night of wild partying and excess, drug addict Quinn McGuire’s tragic overdose.
* * *
I’m riding a high the entire trip back into Northam. It’s the dead of night, the subway terminals almost empty. At one point, I’m the only passenger on my subway car. I barely notice, a serene smile touching my lips. I’ve changed out of my club attire and into a comfy hoodie and leggings (spare clothes I make sure to keep in my extra apartment in Easton). The subway train lurches to a halt at the Centennial Village stop.
I pop to my feet and exit, stepping onto the platform. Silence echoes around the terminal except for the whoosh from the subway and the advertisements playing on the monitors hanging throughout the station.
The streets aren’t much better. Centennial is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Northam. Most residents work during the weekdays and are home by eleven or twelve at the latest. I walk the streets with my hands in my hoodie pockets. The lamp posts above cast a halo of light around me, so persistent it feels like the only other life force around.
That, and the distant buzz in more active parts of the city.
I make it to my building in no time, riding the elevator up to my floor. I’ll be sleeping soundly tonight. Doctor Keeney would approve in theory (until she found out the details). I’m engaging in a hobby that decompresses me and gives me joy.
It brings mesolace. Each and every time I emerge, I’m comforted with the knowledge I’ve put one more sick predator out of his misery. The methods might be unconventional, and it might be extremely risky and dangerous, but I’ve gotten results. I’ve made a difference; something I’ve always wanted to do for the community.
The guy who assaulted me is still out there. I’ll probably never catch him. It no longer matters anymore—knowing I’m punishing other men just like him is equally as rewarding.
I sleep easier. No more nightmares.
I unlock the door to my apartment and immediately stop. Pepa waits for me, sitting right by the door, her eyes bright even in the dark. She meows and paws at my foot. I look up from her and into the shadows. Where’s Salt?
He wouldn’t be far away if Pepa is by the door. They’re a package deal.
I drop my bag on the credenza against the wall and venture deeper into the dark apartment without flipping on a light. I don’t need to when I know exactly what to expect. As I pad down the hall and reach the living room, I stop.
I’m not alone. There’s a man sitting in the chair by the tall window, engulfed by deep shadows. Salt sits obediently in his lap as he strokes him.
“Hello, Salvatore.”
3. delphine
“Phi,”Salvatore says with a terse nod. His hand strokes down Salt’s spine. My fluffy white traitor with bendy devil ears nuzzles closer to him. “I’ve been waiting for almost an hour. You’re back later than usual.”
“Maybe next time I’ll stay out all night.”
I flick on the light in the living room and tug off my hoodie. I don’t dignify Salvatore with a glance. He might as well be a piece of the furniture for all I care. The more attention I give him, the more he seeks to get under my skin. The more he seeks to control things.
Once I’ve set my hoodie and sneakers in my closet, I return. I snap my fingers and both cats scramble toward me. With Salt no longer perched in his lap, he stands up, slipping his hands in his pants pockets. His gaze is unendingly on me. I expect nothing less. Intense, unblinking stare downs are Salvatore’s specialty.
“You need to leave,” I say when the silence has weighed down on us for several seconds.
“I’ll leave when I’ve said my peace.”
“Then say it. What do you want?”
“These late night outings of yours—they’re not a good idea.”
“Says the man who is making a late night visit of his own.”
“There’s a difference between what I’m doing and whatever you’re doing.”
“That’s subjective, isn’t it? I’d argue breaking into your ex’s apartment isn’t any more harmless.”
I move into the kitchen and grab one of my mugs to make tea. Chamomile has always been a favorite of mine before bed.
Salvatore refuses to let me go too far away. He tracks me into the kitchen, coming to a stop in the entryway. I’m blocked in until he decides to move out of the way. The downside of an apartment with a U-shaped kitchen, regardless of how expensive and luxurious it is.
I focus on making my cup of tea for now. As acapoin the Mancino crime organization, Salvatore intimidates people for a living. He roughs them up and scares them into silence should they toe out of line. He has an entire crew of men whose voices shake when they know they’ve pissed him off. Most would consider him highly dangerous and terrifying.