Ciaran gripped a flower with the careful fingers of one hand. The other hand was pulling petals off with delicate precision, making a pile on the windowsill that he stood by. He was staring out into the night, green eyes closed, hair falling around his face. The sun had gone down hours ago but he hadn’t moved from his spot and there was a disarrayed pile of stems and petals at his feet.
Ciaran’s eyes slitted open and he looked at the figure reflected in the glass of the window with bright eyes. “I do that on occasion.”
‘Not this deeply.’
He laughed quietly. “You always know what I’m thinking.”
‘Only because you let me, Ciaran.’
He blinked his eyes open all the way. “And here I thought you just took what you wanted, when you liked.”
‘I would never do that.’
“I wish you would. Just once.”
“So that I can prove why I do this to myself. That I’m not alone.”
‘You have others with you in this mess you chose.’
“I know. But they’re not like you.”
‘Ciaran . . . you have to accept this life someday.’
He grimaced. “Someday? I accepted it years ago.”
Cool hands slid down his arm to the flower, chilling him with their touch. ‘I tried to protect you. You know I did.’
‘I just wish I could have done more.’
“You did all you could. I don’t hold it against you.”
A bitter chuckle.
‘The victim and the victimizer. You’re both, you know. You always were.’
“I always will be.”
‘So very true.’ Fingers slid over the petal that he held, thin, pale fingers attached to a hand that was achingly familiar. His own hand spasmed, the petal falling from his fingers.
“I can’t change.”
“This is who I am.”
‘Who will save you now?’
The fingers faded away and he clenched his hand into a fist. A ghost. A memory. He didn’t know anymore. A petal floated onto the back of his hand, whispering against his skin. He shook it off.
They had things to do tonight.
Ciaran sighed and watched as Arik typed on his computer with an almost fanatical reverence. “Are you done yet?”
“Then hurry up.”
“I’ll be done when I’m done, Ciaran. Don’t rush me.”
The Qolian made a face and brushed some of his hair out of his eyes. It was getting long again. “I can’t believe we have to do this. It’s so degrading. Someone else could have knocked these people off.”
“We were ordered to do this and we follow orders. That’s reason enough to do this,” Arik replied. They had been ordered to take down a drug lord’s operation that had turned against an entrepreneur of theirs.
They hadn’t killed the drug lord yet but were currently in the process of destroying the man’s business on the net and cutting off his contacts. They would go after him later on once they were finished here. Ciaran sighed and fingered the gun in his pocket. A sharp click and beeping noise brought Ciaran back to himself. Arik was closing his laptop and getting to his feet.
“Done?” Ciaran asked.
“Their entire system has been corrupted. We can leave now,” Arik told him.
“Good. Let’s finish this.”
Ciaran headed for the door and the other two followed him out into the blood splashed hallway. Silently they made their way out of the building and to Ciaran’s car.
Ciaran rolled his eyes and backed up. Moments later they were speeding down the street through the city. Ciaran took them where they were supposed to be and upon arriving, he braked to a halt and stared up at the tall office building with unblinking eyes.
A slow, dangerous smile slid up Ciaran’s face. Arik did say earlier to enjoy himself. “We have company.”
“Hm. Maybe they will do our job for us,” Ciaran said as they got out.
“I highly doubt it,” Arik said as he headed for the doors to the office building. “Split up. Kill anyone that moves.”
They parted in the lobby and for a moment, Ciaran stood still as he scanned the building. Then he moved forward with decisive steps for the stairwell and took it down to the parking garage beneath the building. He could faintly hear the sounds of a fight echoing up to him from one of the levels. He’d let Arik finish the mission. He wanted to have some fun.
Coming into one of the dark levels he could see the shadowed outlines of bodies in motion and the faint gleam of silver of a weapon. With silent, purposeful steps, he headed for the fight, eyes trained on the person who was winning, body cloaked by his mind. As the last person fell to the ground from the fighter’s blow, he was within touching distance, he dropped the holo-cloak that concealed him well enough in the dark.
“You’re good, kitty,” he said. “But not good enough.”
Startled, the person before him turned, but far too slowly. Ciaran was already moving as he turned, his fist snaking out to crack against a jaw. He followed through with a knee to the stomach, a blow that caused the other man to double over in pain.
A cut of a weapon through air.
Ciaran grabbed his arms and twisted them behind his back, dragging the young man against him. He smiled down into shocked wide eyes coldly.
“You lose.”And then Ciaran kissed him.