One Gang and a Bronze Battle

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Chapter 7, Buttercup

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BY VENESSA MACARTAN
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“Has he called back yet?” Xav asks Amber.

“No, and it’s been three days,” Amber replies concerned.

We’re all in the livin’ room. Or at least most of us. Paul is sittin’ on a couch with the ever-growin’ golden boy on his lap. I must say, Pollock would make a great coat if he wasn’ part of the family. Still, the little pup and I have a score to settle after I caught him chewin’ mah damn heels. I eye him and I swear he looks smug. The twins are sittin’ by the fireplace - playin’ cards. And Xav and Amber are snuggled on a sofa with papers surroundin’ ‘em as they’re tryin’ to get business sorted out. I’ve been watchin’ the two lovebirds stress abou’ Blake for far too long now. What I’m concerned over is Man Candy. Blake is Owen’s guardian or somethin’ and if the bastard is off the chart, so is Owen.

“What happened when ye spied on the South?” I ask frustrated.

“I told you,” Xav starts, “We couldn’t hear anything or see much either. All we got was the blood binding. Sterling and the South have merged to form Southern Sterling. We didn’t have much of a visual on Blake. We were counting on him telling us what was said, but he’s MIA.”

“Blake can be six feet up Jane’s arse for all I care. I say we go to his hoose and get Man Candy,” I say irritated.

“Nessa, it’s too dangerous. With Sterling and the South merged, it might be a trap. Maybe... Maybe Blake isn’t helping us anymore and has instead set up a perfect little trap for us,” Xavier tries explainin’.

“Xavi, I told you Blake wouldn’t betray us,” Amber warns.

I watch mah leader send Amber a sorry look. She smiles back at him before plantin’ a winch on his cheek and sortin’ through more paperwork.

“What if Man Candy is in danger?” I press.

And then I can see it. The undeniable stress and worry in Amber’s eyes. “I really want to go check on them, but Xav and I have been talking about it... Now that Sterling and the South is merged, all they need to do to win is kill me and Xav. We die and it’s checkmate. And... and I don’t even want to think about what would happen to the rest of the world if that’s the case,” Amber says. I know she probably wants to save Owen and I get what she means, but...

“Well, there’s no difference if I was to stick the spoon in the roof,” I say before getting up.

“They can keep you hostage!” Xav says to try and stop me.

“I don’ care, ye dipshite,” I say as a greeting while getting up and strutting to the kitchen.

Sure enough, Daniel is talkin’ to one of the new maids - makin’ her giggle in response. I immediately make a note to get that maid into mah bed instead of Daniel’s. I can’t see why she would want to go for him in the first place. His button-up shirt always has somethin’ horribly wrong with it, his shoes are a questionable brand and his hair always looks like a damn besom licked it.

“Yer comin’ with me,” I say as I grab Daniel by the collar.

“Ouch! For what?” he asks while failin’ at gettin’ me to let him go.

“We’re goin’ to go save Man Candy,” I say firmly as I drag us to the weapon’s closet.

“Uh, no. I’m not risking my life for someone I don’t even like,” he says defiantly.

I open the closet and hand Daniel a shotgun. He takes it reluctantly but still has that ‘I’m not goin″ look on his face. Knowin’ I’ll need to be armed mahself as well, I take us down to the basement and go left instead of straight. I don’ show anyone this room too often. Not even Xav has seen it more than a handful, but I have no time to waste. Daniel follows me to mah collection of herbs and flowers.

What gets me is that instead of fear and confusion, Daniel looks at mah collection in wonder.

“Wow, this is beautiful,” he says as he walks up to a magnificent violet flower.

“Touch it and yer skin will peel off in a few days,” I warn.

Daniel drops his hand immediately. But again, takes in the beauty of the poisons surroundin’ him. I frown at that.

Tryin’ to ignore Daniel possibly poisoning himself, I move to the back of the space filled with shelves and shelves of poisons and the rare healin’ kind of plants. I pick up a few tiny herb bombs that I made mahself. The gas that’ll be let out of these beauties will make every part of ye swell - includin’ yer throat and thus makin’ ye suffocate to death.

“It’s so soft,” I hear Daniel mumble a few shelves away.

Panicked at the possibility of the idiot holdin’ a stingin’ nettle or hogweed or, or a tread-softly, I leave the herb bombs to run over to Daniel possibly dyin’. When I get there, he’s holdin’ a red flower that I know all too well.

“This is the most beautiful flower in here,” Daniel says.

I’m immediately relieved. “Ye literally touched the most useless flower in ‘ere. And it’s ugly. Did ye touch anythin’ else? I think ye might not be thinkin’ straight,” I observe.

“What is it?” Daniel asks - smilin’ like an idiot.

“It’s a type of Ranunculus,” I dismiss.

“A what?” Daniel asks.

I roll mah eyes and contemplate whether to let him roll in the herbs in here. “A Ranunculus, A.K.A a buttercup flower,” I sigh.

Daniel frowns to himself before smilin’ down at the flower one more time. “Why would you have a useless flower in here?” he asks.

“Why would Xav have a useless member in his inner circle?” I snap at him.

Daniel glares at me. “No need to be nasty, Bagpipes.”

“Whatever,” I dismiss before goin’ back to the back of the room to get mah herb bombs. What is it about Daniel’s presence that makes me want to kill him? He’s worse than a chipped nail or broken heel. He’s always testin’ mah patience and makin’ life difficult. It’s only fair that I return the courtesy. Maybe he’s just mad because he’s known Xav since they were teens and yet Xav made me his second in command. That’s why I have to watch mah back around him and make sure he knows who’s got more authority. He wants to take mah place, I know it.

I hear Daniel slowly walkin’ after me before abruptly stoppin’. “What’s this?” he asks.

I look up to see him starin’ at my wall of faces. Most of those faces are crossed out, but not all of them. “That,” I answer, “Is everyone in the sex business. I’ve made it mah mission a long time ago to cross everyone there off of this world.”

Daniel keeps starin’ at those faces until his gaze lands on somethin’ he shouldn’ have seen. “Why’s Owen’s face here?” he asks.

“That’s none of yer business,” I growl before grabbin’ his arm and draggin’ him out with me.

“You’re going to kill Owen?” he presses.

“I’m not talkin’ abou’ this with ye,” I dismiss. Daniel couldn’ possibly wrap his wee little brain around the complicated situation that is me and Owen. He couldn’ wrap his brain around anythin’ that doesn’t include female body parts, to be honest.

“Hey, I’m not objecting. The guy annoys me, to be frank, but I feel like you have to come clean about it,” Daniel continues while I walk us out of the basement and to the garage.

I grab mah car keys and slip into mah white Porsche just as Daniel takes shotgun and we head out. “Oh yeah, so I should just tell Owen that I want to kill him right before poisoning him?” I ask sarcastically.

“You’re still planning on killing him?” Daniel asks cautiously.

I don’ answer and instead, race through the night towards the West side of town. It’s dark so there’s not a lot of car’s, but I take Xav and Amber’s worry into consideration the deeper I go into enemy territory. When I’m just a few blocks away from Blake’s hoose, I turn off the car lights and drive slower.

“I don’t want to kill him,” I finally tell Daniel.

“Then why’s he on your hitlist?”

“Because I never take a face down from that wall. I’ve had to go in deep to get some of those guys. Some were easy to kill, but others... Others seemed like good lads. Others made me feel like mah list might be wrong... Right up until they did somethin’ to remind me what they really are,” I answer, “Monsters.”

Daniel stays quiet for a bit. I haven’ tortured mahself with being in Daniel’s presence alone for more than necessary, but it weirdly feels good to talk about mah hitlist to someone who it doesn’ matter to.

“You think Owen could be a monster? The guy is in a wheelchair, Bagpipes. He isn’t even running his girls anymore. He only has his hotels - which Jane by the way manages,” Daniel reminds me.

“I know, I know, it’s just... It’s...” I try getting the words out, but they seem so ridiculous. “I’m not talkin’ abou’ this to ye,” I say firmly before drvin’ up to Blake’s gates. “Go open it,” I order.

Daniel mumbles a few insults at me that I only roll my eyes at while he goes to open the large iron gates. Feelin’ pretty spiteful tonight, I drive past him and go straight to the all white hoose on the hill. Let Man Candy walk I say. Still silent, I park the Porsche by the steps leadin’ up to the front door. It scares me how dark the hoose is. There’s no lights, no activity. What if they moved? What... what if they’re dead?

I kill the engine and slowly get out. All I’m grateful for at this point is mah fur jacket to keep me warm. But as I walk up the steps and find the door unlocked, I can’t help a chill goin’ through mah body.

“Man Candy?” I ask as I creep into the empty, quiet hoose.

The curtains are closed, so I can barely see the outline of a toppled foyer table in front of me. Tryin’ not to panic, I take another step inside and notice how the mirror that used to be the first thing ye see when walkin’ inside, is broken alongside the foyer table. I crouch down and pick up a rose that’s among the broken mirror. It’s still wet from the vase that fell with it. I look around and spot the blue fine china pieces of a no doubt valuable vase. There’s still some water on the floor - glitterin’ from the bit of moonlight streamin’ in behind me.

I can’t allow mahself to think about what happened ’ere... I just can’t...

When the glintin’ on the broken mirror pieces go away and that moonlight behind me gets blocked, I feel a hand on mah shoulder. Panicked, I whirl and jump up in a second - mah Prada heel in mah hand already.

“Whoa! It’s just me!” Daniel says with his hands defensively in the air.

“Don’t sneak up on me!” I scold. My heart is racing even more now - a horrible memory wedged in my mind that I’ve tried to get rid of for years.

Daniel doesn’t say anything but instead looks over at the toppled table and broken mirror. He walks past me - further into the hoose and I follow without delay. We find several pieces of furniture thrown to the floor and broken glass scattered everywhere. The curtains by the dining room are torn and it’s clear nobody is home. I’m thankful to see no bullet holes in the walls, but it’s still very clear that ’ere was a struggle. Did Blake and Owen try to fight someone off? Who could’ve done this if not Southern Sterlin’? But then... why would Jane and the Southern leader do this in the first place? Did Blake say somethin’?

My heart stops when all I can find of Owen is his wheelchair. Broken and very much empty.

“We’re goin’ to find him,” I tell Daniel.

Man Whore doesn’ sneak up on me this time when he puts his hand on mah shoulder - as if for the first time to give a lassie comfort instead of STDs.

“We’re goin’ to find him and kill whoever did this,” I say firmly.


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