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The arrangement 23, p.3

The Arrangement 23, page 3

 part  #23 of  The Arrangement Series


The Arrangement 23

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  Vic’s hand slips across my shoulder. He hums in my ear, “Black didn’t think you had it in you. I said that bitch has more bite than that. I knew it.” He sounds as if he’s trying to convince himself that I didn’t steal his toy. “I told you to destroy Masterson. You did. You abided by the rules of the game, even though…” His voice is so tight that it barely comes out. “I wanted the kill.” The words are strained, they’re all lies, but the deceit is so thick that I’m not sure he knows the truth anymore.

  “You can’t get everything you want.” The words tumble out, and I could not care less about recourse. I’m not thinking of anything at the moment, except the man in the water.

  Vic tightens his grip on my shoulder, digging his nails into my skin and tearing it. He hisses by my cheek, “It’s going to be absolutely magnificent to break you.”

  His words sound like bees, his touch feels like feathers. I’m aware of the sensation that something is there. But it doesn’t make me move. Nothing does. The words are a wash of dull droning until that one word penetrates my haze—break.

  I turn toward him slowly, allowing his arm to fall off my shoulder. My mouth moves and words come out politely, passionlessly. “Break me?” A smile crawls across my face.

  Vic smiles back and drops his hands to his sides. “Of course. That’s the fun.”

  I laugh lightly, hollowly. “Do you not see it? Can you not tell that you’ve already done that? I feel nothing—not sorrow or pain. I’ve lost everything, but you still think there’s more take. More to decimate. Look at me, Vic.” I grab his cheeks in my bloody hands and make him look me in the eyes. My voice is deep, steady. There’s no plea, no cowardice, no bravery. It’s devoid of everything I once knew. “There’s nothing left of me. I don’t care what you do.”

  He leaves my hands on his face and grins playfully. “I doubt that.”

  I drop my hands to my sides and glance at the water again, and then back at my dead friend on the ground. This feels fake, like it’s not happening to me. How long do I have before transforming into a person like Vic? I can see edges of his brokenness. The lines that once defined who he was and what he’s become.

  I’d rather die. The words tumble out because I don’t care what he knows and it’s the truth. “Killing me would be a mercy.”

  Vic hoots and steps away from me, genuinely amused. He presses his fingertips to his chest and confesses, “I’m not a merciful man, but you will die. I can promise you that. In the meantime, I have plans for you.” He kicks Marty in the face, and there’s a loud crack as his jaw shattered. He giggles and glances over at me. “I wanted to kick someone and feel bones crack tonight. That wasn’t nearly satisfying enough.”

  I stand there, saying nothing, and do nothing. Marty is already gone.

  Vic swears and wails his foot into Marty’s body again. That flash of calm vaporizes. I ignore my brother as he loses his cool and wails on the lifeless body, slamming his foot into the corpse, hard. When that’s not enough, Vic gets on the ground and starts punching. Blood and flesh splatter as he screams at Marty, blaming him for dying, for choosing me instead. Vic is lost in a wave of unchecked feelings.

  While I have no emotion flowing through my veins, Vic has every last one. All his wires are crossing, arcing, and causing him momentary lapses in judgment—this is what makes people fear him. It’s the lack of logic, the complete and total hatred he carries. When it’s focused onto a single point, Vic is a terrifying man. But that emotion also blinds him, and it’ll be his downfall. He’ll never see it coming.


  Turning away, I fixate on the pool. There’s not a single ripple on the surface of the water. It’s like a sheet of glass. That’s odd. Water should be flowing. The filter is off, and the copper scuppers that jut out from the blue tiled wall don’t even drip. They had enough time to stop flowing and the line dried. Maybe there’s no power?

  I step closer and lean down to touch the water when Vic’s guard grabs my arm. I jerk my body away from him and elbow the guy in the gut causing him to step off balance on the rim of the pool. The curved edge is slick, and the guy goes down, swearing until he hits the water. There’s a crackling, snapping sound as the man cries out. His body stiffens and jerks as electricity sparks from him.

  Vic stands there next to me, watching with morbid curiosity as the man dies before him. The crackling sound mingles with a scream that seems unending. Vic lifts his slick chin and sniffs the air, grinning at the burnt, soggy stench. When it stops, the man’s body floats face up, eyes wide with all life drained from him.

  Vic smirks and takes my hand, pulling me away. “Looks like those fuckers did something before they got shot.” Vic snaps at a few guards that were hanging back. “Make sure nothing else was tampered with by those assholes.” He leers at the bodies floating face-down, his brow crumpled.

  I watch my brother’s body inch closer to the edge of the pool, and just as he is about to crouch down, I take my shot. I lunge at him. My hands are outstretched, poised to hit his back just below the shoulders. I make contact with one hand, my palm slamming into his shoulder blade. His thugs rush toward us, but they’re too late, too far from where we stand.

  Vic’s laughter turns vicious when my body collides with his. But I hit the wrong spot. Instead of my body knocking Vic off balance and into the electrified water, I only manage to shove one shoulder which makes him turn. There’s nothing stopping me from falling forward into the pool. There’s not enough counterforce to stop me. As Vic spins, I reach out for him, intending to pull him into a watery grave with me. My fingers find his forearm, and I hold on, trying to pull him down with me. Just before my head hits the water, he juts out his other arm. With the balance of a cat, my brother perches on the edge of the pool, holding my body in a graceful backward dip, my hair dangling just above the water.

  Vic snorts through his nose. The sound sends every hair on my body to stand on end. Or maybe that’s the current racing through the water below me. His eyes snap to mine, narrow and furious. “Cunning little bitch. You pretend you have no spine, all this time cowering behind Ferro, and then what—you plan to take it all for yourself? As if you didn’t have enough already.”

  His fingers dig into my back, and my heart is pounding. I can feel. The sensations are muted to a hollow echo of what they should be, but hostility trickles through me in a sluggish dose. My ankle twitches as I think about lacing it around Vic’s neck and pulling him down with me. Before I can move, his words sink in.

  Why does he think I have money? I scoff, sneering at him. “Enough? To what? Live in a fucking box?” The irrational bastard doesn’t make any sense.

  Snarling, he replies, “Don’t play stupid with me.” His grip tightens as he lowers my head closer to the water. His balance is much better than I can manage, his center of gravity stabilized. This went wrong. My neck strains as I try to right myself without any luck.

  I hiss back through gritted teeth, “I’m not playing, you dumbass. So enlighten me. Which of my massive fortunes are you referring to? The mountain of student loans I have to secure a career that I’ll never start? Or the wonderful home I own—oh wait, I don’t have a home! I’ve been living in the basement of the university all summer!”

  Vic’s vicious sneer fades as he stares at me. Something I said shocks him. His eyes dart to the side, at his thugs, as if he’s thinking before returning to meet mine. He swallows hard, and his grip loosens. This is my moment. I have no idea what threw him off guard, but I’m not asking questions. I twist slightly, enough to swing my foot up—enough to throw our entangled forms off balance. Our center of gravity shifts, tipping us toward the water. It can’t be stopped. He can flail, but we’re still going over the rim. A satisfied smile snakes across my lips as Vic cries out.

  There’s a metallic sound of something clicking, and when we fall over the edge, there’s no splash, no pain, no voltage coursing through my body. Instead, we fall onto something hard. Vic tumbles to one side, and I go to
the other. We both land on a plastic-reinforced cover that is feeding out from the wall of the pool just below the coping.

  Black snaps her fingers at the thugs and frowns at Vic. “Are we done here? I have better things to do.” She holds up a tiny remote for the retractable pool cover and rolls her eyes.

  Vic stands on the cover as it connects with the other side of the pool, covering the deadly water below. He glances at me, panting and pale. He’s insane, but he doesn’t have a death wish. I tense, ready to charge him, but the thugs grab my elbows and pull me off the cover. Vic watches me, dark brows knitting together as his large hand rubs his chin. He ignores Black, doesn’t thank her, or behave as if he’s now indebted to her. If anything, it’s still as if he’s holding something over her head, so why not let us fall? Why the hell did Black close the cover?

  Vic snaps his fingers at his men, commanding, “Pull them out. I want to see Ferro’s face.”

  “Finally.” Miss Black sighs dramatically and steps forward, one pointy scarlet stiletto at a time. She drapes her arms across her chest and tilts a hip to the side. “By the way, your plans for this evening went to Hell, Vic. I’m bored.” She snaps the last sentence at him.

  Vic’s men had been about to run to shut the power off to the pool and pull out the bodies. But with Miss Black barking at their boss, no one moves.

  Vic turns toward her slowly, a playful expression on his face. He gingerly places his fingertips against his chest. “You’re bored? Masterson is dead, and you’re telling me this evening is what—?”

  “You screwed up, Vic. Someone threw a few volts into that pool, and you never noticed. I’m not willing to be compromised like this. Your friend, Masterson, obviously had other loyalties. You fucked this up. I’m not going to risk staying here another second.”

  His hand clamps around her wrist. She glances at it before returning her sharp gaze to his eyes. “Are you seriously telling me that this fuck up was my fault, you calloused cunt?”

  Black’s eyes narrow to slits as she steps closer to him. They’re nearly nose to nose. She yanks free and steps back. “What did you call me?”

  “I’ll say it again, old lady. You’re a calloused cunt,” he sniggers, “and honestly, that’s the worst kind to have. Too much time on your back fucked you over, Black.”

  She’s in his face, hands at her sides with ruby manicured fingers spread wide, screaming, “I owned this town until you screwed everything up, you domineering little shit. You’re not half the man your father was or Masterson wouldn’t have turned your pool into a death trap. No one betrayed your father. Ever.”

  A low growl emits from the back of Vic’s throat. “Except Ferro. Everything comes down to that fucking asshole. He’s the reason everything went to Hell, not me. If you’re going to assign blame, pin it in the right place, you sadistic bitch. You’ve always had a blind spot for Sean. You’re fucking over the rest of the world to spite him, and you know what—he didn’t care. What he did care about is right here.” He extends a hand toward me.

  Black is still tense, ready to fight. Her lethal expression slices over to me, jaw tense. She spits the words out, “What do you want me to do with her?”

  Vic rakes his eyes over my body, not concealing his intentions. He steps toward me and runs a finger along my neck while saying to Black, “Teach her a fucking lesson while I have fun with her cock-sucking boyfriend. He died too fast.” Vic’s eyes darken while he’s looking at Sean’s body.

  “Don’t you touch him.” I find myself growling at Vic, but he doesn’t even look at me. Instead, his thugs flank me and grab hold of my arms. I try to jerk free. “I said…Don’t. Touch. Him.”

  Vic looks over at me. “Really? You’re going to beg me not to defile your dead fuckbuddy? That’s sad, little sis, but I don’t mind hearing you beg.”

  Black sighs as she folds her arms over her chest. “I’m leaving.”

  “The hell you are!” Vic is in Black’s face. “All the fun is about to start.”

  Black glances at Sean’s body as the pool cover retracts into the wall. She seems to make a snap decision. “Give me free rein with her.” She inclines her head toward me. “Tell your men, or I’m not staying.” Black is fierce and unflinching when Vic turns his unpredictable attention her way.

  “Free rein?” The anger sours before dissolving into a chuckle. He tucks his hands in the crooks of his arms and tips his head to the side. “Exactly what do you want to do to her?”

  Miss Black averts her eyes, looking me over again before meeting his gaze head on. “You’re not the only one who suffered because of this little piece of shit. Let me do what I do best.” She purrs as she lifts a perfectly plucked dark brow at him with a sadistic grin. “It gives you time with Ferro while I see to this parasite. Don’t worry. I’ll keep her in working order for when you return. And I know you want my assistance later this evening so make it worth my while.”

  Damn. I glance at the far end of the property, wondering if I should run. It’s too late now. There are too many men, too many guns. I’ll get shot in the ass before I make it halfway across the lawn. Plus, there’s no promise anyone is out there. Marty may have been telling the truth—that there is safety in the trees—but who the hell knows what Black is doing.

  A devilish grin seeps from the corners of his lips, and he laughs malevolently. “You earned your keep today, Black, as well as a bonus.” Vic glances at me and considers it for a moment before turning back to Black.

  “I want Miss Stanz. Free rein. Give it.” Her clipped words are authoritative, and Vic looks pissed when she talks that way, but he doesn’t laugh it off this time.

  Instead, his hand is on his chin, and his eyes are thoughtful. He strokes his jaw as he stares at me. When he drops his hand, he nods to Black. “Do what you want with her, just keep her alive. But,” he lowers his voice and steps into Black’s space, meeting her glare head on, “you need to make it explicitly clear that no one fucks with me. Make sure she gets that. Make her scream. Use a hot poker on the bitch if you have to.” He lifts a finger and adds, “Oh, and you better fucking record it.”

  Black smiles broadly. “With pleasure.”

  Vic pecks a kiss on Black’s cheek before turning away. Somehow she doesn’t stiffen or pull away, although I can tell that she abhors him. Vic looks me over. “I’ll be back to finish her by morning. This ends tonight.”


  Holy shit. This went catastrophically wrong. What the hell is between Black and Vic? What was that? Before I can decide what I witnessed, I’m hauled back toward the mansion by a thug. Black leads the way, sauntering across the lawn like she’s at a picnic. Her shoulders are squared and she lifts her chin ever so slightly. Black hair is tied loosely at the base of her neck, allowing for strands to come free if not tightly tucked behind her ear. The waning moon reflects on her inky locks almost making them appear blue in the darkness.

  Her red ensemble is impeccable and helps sustain her couldn’t-care-less appearance. There’s only a single cue, a tiny movement of agitation that gives her away. She taps her index finger on her thigh as we walk. Everything about Black is calm power. The woman never has a hair out of place, but that finger twitches every few moments while the rest of her body is docile, pliant. The façade of calm control is cracking. When Sean gets like that, a few well-placed blows fracture the entire wall. I wonder what’s on the other side of Black’s glossy exterior, what secrets she’s kept locked up for so long that she’d spew in anger, just to tell another living being.

  I take a wild guess. Something to rattle Black, to show her that I see the fissures appearing and that it’s only a matter of time. Clearing my throat, I toss a comment at Black’s back. “You’re in bed with the wrong people, aren’t you? Sean wasn’t supposed to end up dead, and now that he is—you don’t know what to do.”

  Black’s index and middle fingers tense on her left hand. She stretches all her fingers to hide it, but I already noticed. Her back tenses as she exhales
in a slow controlled way. It makes her ribs stiffen and impairs her ability to expand her ribs again, preventing another breath.

  I laugh and think of the most outlandish thing to say. “Did you think you’d end up with Sean? After all this time, you really believe you had a chance to—”

  Black rounds on me, teeth bared and lets her hand fly. Her palm strikes my cheek hard. The sting shocks me into silence before she grabs the front of my dress and pulls me to her face, ignoring the blood and gore.

  Black’s nose touches mine as she hisses, “If you value your life, you’ll stop talking right now.”

  I wrap my fingers around her hands and dig my nails into the meat of her palms. “I obviously don’t care what happens to me, so let’s get it out in the open. You fell for Sean, but he chose me instead. That had to suck.” The corner of my mouth tips up, and I laugh in her face.

  “You’re an insignificant little pawn.” She shakes me once, hard, and pushes me away from her like I’m trash. “Victor and I are a team. Make no mistake about that.” She glances at the tree line again, looking past me. I have no doubt there is something in the trees, but I have no idea what. Black seems nervous on top of everything else. Sean is a sore spot. I’m not blind and seeing him dead in the water screwed with her too even though she tries to hide it.

  Black snaps her fingers to address the tall thug to my side. “Drop back.”

  The man is an ape, with hairy forearms the size of a Christmas ham. He shakes his large squared head. “Boss wants us to stay with her.” He points a beefy finger at me.

  Black rounds on him, narrows her gaze to thin slits and gets in his face, which is something since he’s twice the width of her. “Yes, and your boss gave me free rein to do anything I like with this girl. I said, fall back. Challenge me again, and I’ll make you wish you’d never been born.”

  The large man glances into the darkness that spans the shadowy paths back toward the pool. He lowers his head and holds out a palm, indicating we should walk ahead. He lingers behind us, following at a distance.

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