--- RONAN ---
Rain clouds grumble in the distance as I veer right onto County Road 622. The greying tufts of white tower above, swelling and spreading into ominous anvils; the atmospheric scent of dirt and water lingers in the air. Judging by the sight of it, they’ll open within the hour and I’ll have to rush if I want to make it home before the downpour. On the other hand, it presents a convenient excuse to spend more time with Justice.
...and if the storm lasts long enough...
The corners of my mouth curl at the notion of spending another night tucked under the covers with my enchanting fiancée. Visions of her stunning face suspended in the throes of passion race, unbidden, to the forefront of my mind where they take root, drawing me in. Her silky lips part in pleasure as her sultry purr gives way to whimpers of ecstatic delight.
Hints of citrus and mint reach through memory, seducing me to tempt fate and risk her father’s wrath for one more taste of her unique flavor while, conscience battles with impulse in a timeless, internal debate of mind versus libido.
You should go home. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s worse to leave her alone.
You know what will happen if he catches you.
I can protect her.
...and if he comes for you, instead?
I’m not afraid of Titus Castor.
My grip on the steering wheel tightens; four little words bubble to the surface - the only words that matter...
“Ronan, I love you.”
...and reason surrenders to requirement.
I need to be with her.
I need to feel her.
I need to savor her sweet lips and swallow the sounds they make.
Besides, we’re stronger together.
Maybe... or are you an easier target?
A shiver runs the length of my spine. Shaking it off, I revert my attention to the girl sitting next to me. “Actually, the process of scalping is relatively quick and efficient. Rather than sawing, the scalper would grip the hair, make several cuts, then yank the nearly severed skin from the skull.” As she says it, Jus gesticulates wildly, mimicking the motion and her sharp eyes brighten with fascination.
The fact that she’s a wealth of random information is one of many things I adore about her. Seeing she enjoys discussing something so violent makes me want to pluck her up and kiss her until those beguiling lights dim from lust. Despite the nature of our world, most girls I know would refuse to sit through a film as bloody as Inglorious Basterds, let alone lecture about the proper technique for removing the flesh from someone’s crown. Then again, My Angel is nothing like the girls I know.
“Where the hell do you learn all this stuff, Jus?”
Huffing, “For starters, I read...” Jus twists to face her brother in the backseat, “...and second, I don’t skip out on our lessons to play paintball with Mission Impossible over here.”
She jerks her thumb at me and I snag the digit, drawing her slender hand to my lips. “That’s funny. As I recall, you were there, too, prancing around in those tight things you wear all the time.” Planting soft pecks on each finger, I wink at her over the tops of her knuckles, “...or was that someone else shooting me repeatedly in the nuts?”
Watching me, her chocolate irises warm to a shimmering bronze, her cheeks redden with a charming blush and that signature wheeze escapes, “Whaaaa?”
A deep laugh rumbles up from within, rising to the surface on the wings of a desire so intense my entire body stiffens with restraint. Lacing our hands together, I groan, “Angel, do that again, and I’ll have to pull this car over.”
"Balalalala! Dude! I’m right here!”
Chuckling, I lock eyes with Truth in the rearview. “What can I say? Your sister turns me on.”
He moans, “I knew I should’ve taken a cab...” plugging his ears, “You two make me-”
Suddenly, the windshield shatters. Tiny fissures of laminated safety glass spread their web-like tendrils obscuring my view.
“Shit!” Reflexively, I yank the steering wheel to the left and my Mercedes slams into the brick retaining wall bordering the rear of the compound. The side of my head smacks the window and dazed, I release my hold on Justice. Gingerly, I touch my temple only to come away with blood and glass coating my fingertips. My ears ring with a deafening high-pitched squeal and tracers halo my eyesight as I struggle to form a single thought. Through the din and distorted fog I hear the frantic voice of My Angel.
Excruciating pain blossoms in my chest.
With each piercing wound, another round of agony arcs through me. With each round of agony, a fresh wave of torment echoes underneath. Through our bond - this indescribable link we share - I feel every ounce of Justice’s suffering and I know... I’m losing her. Calling to her, I beg for a response...
As darkness bleeds into consciousness, I hear...
“Ronan, I love-”
--- TRUTH ---
Clutching the bloody gash where a bullet nicked my shoulder, I spill from the back seat of Ronan’s Benz and tumble to the pavement, ”Ooof." The thunderous pop of gunshots cracks off concrete. Laboriously, I roll to my knees, inching toward my sister, “Jus-AAAAAH!"
An acute, stinging punch hits my chest knocking the wind from my lungs. Instinctively, I scramble for cover.
Another shot rings out, “Fu-uuuck...” and I crumple to the ground, “...Stop. Please.” My entire bodies burns with an unbearable ache, throbbing from head to toe, until eventually, the numbness of shock relieves me of my misery. Sinking to my back, I stare unblinking at the purplish sky looming overhead.
So, this is it.
This is how I... end.
If there’s one thing you learn as the son of a kingpin it’s that death is inevitable and a lucky few live a long and happy life before dying of old age surrounded by loved ones. Most of us die alone with our brains painting the wall behind us. It isn’t a pretty way to leave but at least it’s quick. While I lay here, feeling my life drain from me, I’m forced to reflect on the choices I’ve made in my short time on Earth - all the failures, and all the victories.
Fuck. Your life really does pass before your eyes.
It’s only in this moment that I realize it was absolutely meaningless, and I can’t help but wonder if others have felt the same way at the time of their passing.
On my left, footsteps scrape over asphalt in an odd, uneven gait of shuffle, slide, shuffle... slide. I turn my head at the sound and my gaze meets the barrel of a gun. Resigned to my fate, I nod to the figure standing before me like I’m giving him permission to end my life. Perhaps, I am. I never was one to panic or call for help.
“Castor’s don’t cry, boy, and they don’t beg for mercy.”
Of all the lessons my father taught me, he made sure I learned that one the hardest way possible. He drilled it into me with each kick and slap, each blackened bruise and fractured bone. Now, instead of fear, I feel a sense of euphoria. Instead of anger, I feel a sense of peace.
In these final seconds - my final seconds - I scan the area, taking one more look at the world I’m leaving behind... and spot a young girl laying in a pool of her own blood, “No...” My literal half, my twin. Instantly, euphoria and peace are supplanted by heartbreak. As the gun cocks, I angle toward her and whisper, “Please.”