Home > Timber (Hades #4)

Timber (Hades #4)
Author: Tate James

 

1

 

 

ZED

 

 

The dull ache in my hand sparked hot as I flexed and released my fist. Years of split knuckles had built up enough scar tissue that they hadn't busted this time, but goddamn, I'd have liked them to. I'd have liked to slam my fist into that smug bastard's head about seventy-five more times until both my fist and his face were nothing but hamburger.

One punch was all I got, though—after he clapped me on the shoulder, oozing victory as he called me old friend. Like I'd been colluding with him this whole goddamn time. My stomach flipped at the idea, but I knew damn well how it looked. Even so, I couldn't stop myself from swinging that punch.

"You should have fucking killed him," Lucas announced, his arms folded over his chest and his expression stricken. I paused briefly, surprised to see him still inside Timber. Then again, the Gumdrop was made of tougher stuff than I'd originally given him credit for. It'd take more than one omission of truth for him to give up on our girl. Shit. His girl. She wasn't mine anymore. Not after the way that shit had just gone down.

"The fuck are you still doing here, Lucas?" I asked in a weary groan. "Shouldn't you be pouring your feelings out into a diary or some shit?"

He gave me a baffled expression as I reached over the bar and grabbed a bottle of Maker's Mark straight out of the speed rail. "What?"

I just shrugged. Wasn't that what teenagers did? Fuck if I knew; I’d never gotten to be one. Neither had Dare.

Lucas's jaw clenched as he stepped closer, his eyes darting to the door, then back to me. We were alone inside Timber, the FBI crew all gone now that they'd picked up their mark. After I’d punched Chase, they’d pulled guns on me. But he'd waved them off with a laugh and all but taunted me into hitting him again. No doubt he'd have happily taken the opportunity to have me shot, so I'd backed off.

"Look, I'm still here," Lucas snapped, raking a hand through his hair in exasperation, "because I know this isn't what it looks like. You're not seriously going to act like that was all true."

I cracked the wax seal on the cap with my teeth, then tugged the stopper out and spat it aside. No way in hell was I putting the bottle down before it was empty. "Wake up and smell the betrayal, Gumdrop," I muttered, then took a long pull on the bourbon. "Sometimes if it quacks like a duck and shits like a duck, it's a fucking duck."

Lucas stared at the side of my head for a long time, but I kept my dead eyes fixed on the bar that was supposed to be the crown jewel in the Copper Wolf empire. The bar Dare and I had worked our asses off to build into something worthy of the new Timberwolves. Something to finally erase the ghosts of her father's reign. Fuck.

"You're so full of shit I'm basically choking on it," Lucas told me in a quiet voice as he leaned in close. "No way in hell would you betray her like this. You might have Chase fooled; you might even have Hayden fooled. But I can see right fucking through you." He gave a disgusted shake of his head and backed off a bit. "You know where to find me when you're done sulking. In the meantime, I'll start working on a plan to get our girl released from FBI custody. Fuck knows I don't trust whatever Chase has up his sleeve now that she's separated from us."

He started to walk away, and I turned to scowl at his back. "That's it?"

"What else is there, Zed?" he asked, pausing to shrug at me. "You can save your excuses and apologies for Hayden. God knows you'll need them."

Fucking kid had me speechless. I'd expected him to punch me in the face or something. I sure as fuck hadn't expected this trust that I hadn't just screwed over the love of my life.

"Oh, actually, now that you mention it." Lucas snapped his fingers like I'd just reminded him of something. Then he strode back over to where I sat on one of the brand-new bar stools and slammed me with a viper-fast right hook. The force of the blow knocked me clean off my stool, and my head smacked into the parquetry floor as Lucas stood over me with a hard look on his face. "That was for the look on Hayden's face when she realized you'd been lying to her. You ever make her feel like that again—no matter how noble your intentions—I'll fucking kill you. We clear?"

I groaned, touching my fingers to my throbbing cheek. "Yeah," I spat. "Clear."

Lucas just nodded and stormed out of the bar, leaving me to lick my wounds all alone. How fitting.

The front door of Timber slammed behind Lucas, and I rolled to my feet with a heavy sigh. I'd known this day was coming; I'd known all the secrets would bite me in the ass. Yet I'd kept my mouth shut. Over and over during the last few months, I'd wanted to tell her. And over and over I'd lost my nerve. At first, I'd worried she'd shoot me. Then I'd worried she'd stop loving me. And goddamn if I wasn't willing to do anything for even one more day inside her heart. Even knowing this would be the sorry outcome of it all.

I righted my stool and sat back on it with a muttered curse, grabbing for my bourbon that had thankfully remained upright. Karma was kicking the shit out of me today, though, so I barely managed three swallows of bourbon before the hollow sound of footsteps echoed through the empty club behind me.

A familiar perfume reached my nose, betraying my visitor's identity before she slid onto the stool beside me.

"Can I have some of that?" she asked, giving me a watery smile and nodding to the bottle in my hand.

I levelled a scathing glare in her direction and took a long, deliberate sip directly from the bottle. "Get fucked," I replied with a wince after I'd swallowed.

Her mouth tightened with anger, and one brow lifted. "That's no way to speak to your mother, Zayden."

I snorted a humorless laugh. "My mother is dead."

She gave an exasperated sigh and folded her hands together on the bar top in front of her. "Fine. Then it’s no way to speak to your handler, Agent De Rosa. You knew—"

Fuck that. She'd just poured gasoline on the smoldering burn of my anger, and I exploded before she could get any more words out.

"I knew what?" I roared, shoving my stool back from the bar and kicking it aside when it fell. "I knew that you were setting us up? That you were working with that revolting piece of shit Chase Lockhart this entire fucking time? Mom, you promised me she was safe. You fucking swore to me that this would all keep her safe." My voice broke over that, and I knew she heard it. Her eyes tightened like I'd just fired shots. "You told me that if I did this, Dare would be untouchable."

I was begging her now, with my eyes, with my very being. This whole shit show had gone against everything she'd promised. I wanted her to explain, and I lacked the maturity and faith in her that Lucas had just shown in me. Call me crazy, but I'd been burned by my mother’s lies before. Somehow, I knew this hadn’t been done to help me or Dare.

My beautiful mother, the former Veronica De Rosa, just drew a deep breath and cocked her head as she blinked at me unapologetically. "I lied."

Those two words had me seeing red, and before I even registered what I was doing, I had my gun to her head. Only then did I see any kind of guilt cross her face.

"Are you going to shoot me, Zayden? Your own mother?"

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