Chapter Six - Some Drawings & Some Men
The past tended to cling to her like an unbreakable spell. Like a curse that couldn’t be lifted. People who told her to forget didn’t understand that if she could, she already would have.
Forgetting or being distracted was even more impossible when the poster child of the woman she had lost roamed her halls, almost like a ghost determined to haunt her. Life had played a terrible joke on her by dumping Evangeline in her house.
Her decision of avoiding her was set in stone, so when she entered her office the following morning, Freyja didn’t ask her if she needed anything.
When Evangeline pulled out her coloured pens and got busy with what looked like drawing, Freyja said nothing.
When Evangeline dropped the paper on her desk a few hours later and shuffled out of the office, Freyja only passed a cursory glance at the paper. It was a drawing of her behind the desk, a deep scowl on her face. It was just a stick figure, but the message was clear: try to smile more.
Freyja tossed the paper into her drawer and got back to work, not giving it another thought. The girl probably had given identical drawings to Blake and Mila.
And if a small smile played on her lips, it was no one’s business but hers.
The routine continued for the following three weeks, in which only two more drawings graced her desk. One of her in a red dress with blood queen written on it in messy loopy handwriting – it was Evangeline’s way of flaunting her improved writing skills, she guessed. The other was of her and Mila, side-to-side stick figures with grinning faces. Mila’s eyepatch was made of flowers. Freyja tossed those in the drawer, too.
By the third week, Freyja was too curious to maintain the silence. “Why do you come here?” she asked as soon as Evangeline opened the door.
Evangeline jerked and looked at her in surprise. She pointed to the windows a moment later. “View,” she answered in a hesitant voice.
Freyja eyed her in thought. “You like the view?”
Evangeline nodded, gripping her supplies to her chest, face wary, eyes shifty.
“What about your lessons with Mila?”
Evangeline cleared her throat. “I take them. Tis art right now.”
Freyja held up one of the papers Evangeline had given her. “What does this mean?”
Evangeline stared at the words blood queen before looking at the floor. “It’s ’cause you’re a killer,” she whispered. “Blood ’cause of the red rivers on yer–your hands. Queen ’cause you’re pretty.”
Freyja narrowed her eyes, annoyed at the logic behind her drawing. It wasn’t good for a kid to know who she was and what she did. She was only six. That meant she should spend her days being ignorant and acting like a brat, demanding for toys that were too expensive and indulging in pretty dresses. Apparently this girl was different.
“Who told you I was a killer?” drawled Freyja.
Evangeline’s shoulders tensed. “No one.”
Freyja held in a surprised laugh, though she was even more annoyed now. The little minx was trying to protect someone. “Who?” she repeated.
“You said you was-were a witch.”
Freyja shot her a sardonic look, lifting a brow. She waited in silence and enjoyed watching Evangeline squirm. She finally broke after a couple of minutes.
“Mila!” she burst out suddenly. “But don’t kill her!”
“Yeah? Why not?” it was difficult to reign the scowl in. “I’m a killer, right? I should go and slit her throat right now.”
She immediately regretted talking harshly when Evangeline visibly paled. Disgust slithered down Freyja’s spine. Couldn’t snap at her, couldn’t send her away. What was she supposed to do with her?
Pretend she doesn’t exist. Avenge her mother and get rid of her. Make her hate you so she stays away. Throw her goddamned drawings in the garbage.
“That was a joke,” Freyja muttered, ignoring her thoughts.
Evangeline relaxed and nodded, still a little shaken. Great.
Exhaling slowly, Freyja signaled to the chair Evangeline sat in daily. “Go ahead. Don’t let me keep you. Draw away.”
Evangeline didn’t give her a drawing that day.
“Something’s up,” was the first thing Blake said as he intercepted Freyja in the dining room, looking wry.
Freyja looked at him expectantly.
“A team of lawyers is at the door. Asking for you.”
A thrill went up her spine. The word lawyer brought gray eyes and rough edges to her mind. She quickly blinked away the vision and frowned. “Are you sure they haven’t taken a wrong turn?”
“No,” said Blake. “Tell me why you’ve been messing around with the law of all things, Freyja. Don’t we have enough problems?”
Freyja glared at him as she stood and made for the entrance hall. “I’ll tell you I’ve been doing no such thing,”
Blake fell into step with her. “The team of lawyers outside says otherwise,”
“Goddamn,” cursed Freyja at the sight of four suited up men waiting for her.
Mila met them halfway there. “I am so tired of gorgeous men. Have you seen them? Such pretty boys!”
Blake threw her a look. “Stay away from them, Mila.”
Mila scowled. “Shut up and stop treating me like a child,”
Blake said something in return, but Freyja ignored their bickering as she came to a stop before the men who immediately shifted their attention to her.
She had been right. Mikhail was right there with them. If she had to guess, he was team leader.
Fantastic. Just how she liked to spend her Fridays.
“Gentlemen,” Freyja let one side of her mouth jump up. “How can I help you?”
Gray eyes met hers, looking a little more put together but equally messy at the same time. He had left his jacket on this time, and his shirt seemed properly tucked in. The liner was missing, and the eyebags were dimmer than before. The fingers were ringless, the sleeves cuffed. Freyja wondered if he had been sleeping better before frowning at her train of thought.
“Won’t you invite us in?” Mikhail asked in a droll tone.
“Would you want to enter a criminal’s home?” Freyja shot back with a smile.
He mimicked her smile. “Lair, you mean?”
Freyja glared up at him.
Mila snorted behind her.
One of the lawyers with blond hair and kind eyes stepped forward, smiling brightly. Freyja knew he was nervous by his stiff posture. “Hi, Miss Lovetta, I’m Neve. This won’t take long. Erik Kane has hired us, and he sends his best regards with a contract.”
“I doubt he sent any regards at all,” Freyja murmured skeptically, unease spreading through her. “What contract?”
Neve straightened. “It’s a contract stating that you have forcefully taken his step-sister away, but he’s happy to let her stay if you agree to his terms.”
“How generous,” Freyja muttered, her temper sparking.
“I wasn’t finished, Neve. How come none of you encouraged him to drag me to court, especially since he’s claimed I’ve kidnapped his sister?”
“Why explain it to you when you won’t understand, convict?”
Freyja’s glaring gaze snapped to Mikhail, who was watching her with an amused expression, hair once again falling into his eyes. She hated him in that moment. He had been there at the last meeting. He knew this was all a lie, that Erik had dumped Evangeline on Freyja. But the fact that he hadn’t said a thing about it made her guess he was just as corrupted as everyone else in his occupation. It wasn’t a hard pill to swallow. They were all the same.
“Why don’t you try me, detective,” she said quietly, giving him a contemptuous smile.
“We aren’t actual lawyers,” he murmured, indulging her to her surprise. “We’re private consultants. Get the messy business handled, keep the dirty secrets under wraps,”
“Then we’re the same, aren’t we?”
They were not. She doubted he had killed a soul in his sorry life.
He gave her a dry look, not bothering to comment. Freyja decided to move on.
“What are these terms, Neve?” she asked.
Neve shifted. “Mr. Kane has requested you pay for his apartment and deposit a million into his bank account. He’s also demanded an apology for a past offense.”
The past offense most likely referred to the coffee shop event. One glance at Mikhail confirmed it.
“And if I don’t agree to his terms?” Freyja questioned coolly.
Mikhail’s lips curved. “He presses charges.” His voice was entertained, as if he was laughing at a joke only he knew.
Freyja relaxed. “Tell you what, Neve. You tell Erik to shove this contract up his ass and face me in court like a man. If he manages to show up, we’ll continue to discuss his dilemma,”
“You’re prepared to go to court, especially with your reputation?” a third man asked incredulously. He had the greenest eyes Freyja had seen. “That seems a bit counterproductive.”
Before Freyja could speak, Mila sauntered up to him. “What’s your name, sir?”
His eyes narrowed as he stared down at her. Freyja noticed his eyes lingering on the scars. At the missing eye. “Lincoln.”
“Well, Lincoln,” Mila fixed his tie, though it was already in place. Lincoln went rigid but didn’t stop her. “You heard her. The boy wants to press charges, let him. We’ll deal with him.”
Lincoln raised his eyebrows. “Is that right? And how will you be doing that?”
Mila smiled up at him, face impish. “You let us worry about that,”
Blake was glaring at Lincoln, most probably because Mila had taken an interest in him. “Let him come.” His threat wasn’t nice, but Freyja only sighed wearily.
“Bunch of criminals,” the fourth and last of the group muttered under his breath, a scowl in his eyes.
“Problem?” Freyja asked casually.
He shook his head with a roll of his eyes.
Irritated by these men who thought they could approach her, especially on the demand of someone like Erik Kane, Freyja suddenly wanted them gone. Turning to Mikhail, she spread her hands. “If that’s all…”
Mikhail’s eyes trailed down her form once before coming back up and fixing her with a look that said that’s not all. Bristling, Freyja raised a brow but then he walked out without a word, shrugging off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves. Freyja ripped her eyes away when Neve started to speak.
“Are you sure you’re turning it down?” Neve asked, stressed lines appearing on his forehead.
Not a fan of repeating her answers, Freyja only nodded impatiently.
Sighing, he turned away and gestured the other two to join him. Freyja watched them until they were out of her sight and turned back to the twins.
“That boy is proving to be more trouble than I thought,” Freyja mused.
Blake’s jaw clenched. “No shit. Want me to take care of the bastard?”
“Oh, please, Blake,” Mila waved a hand, fingers fluttering. “Not everything is about murder. I say we pay him off.”
“The whole purpose of this was to threaten money out of me,” Freyja said. “I’m not going to give him money to keep him quiet. That never works, anyway.”
“What, then?” questioned Mila.
Freyja shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. If he presses charges, he’s only embarrassing himself. Evangeline will claim otherwise. If he doesn’t back off, we turn to firmer measures.”
Blake smirked, cracking his knuckles. “You leave that to me.”
Freyja sent him a cynical glance. “You’re such a brute,”
“A brute who does your dirty work,” he yelled as she started to walk away.
“Don’t be so proud. Mila has you beat in that.” Freyja returned.
The answering grumble made her smile. Mila snorted and said something that made Blake snap at her. And in that moment, all was right in their world.
No matter how temporary it may be.