I smiled, the gears in my brain clicking into place. “Sure. I can agree to your request—” My uncle smirked. “—or I can save your life. You choose.”
The smirk disappeared. “What the hell are you talking about?”
I stepped toward him. Camo raised his gun in warning, but Ivan waved him off, his rheumy eyes narrowing as I stared pointedly at his skin, his hair, and the way his hand shook with barely concealed pain.
Realization dawned. “How?” he growled.
My smile slashed across my face. “You were quite thirsty after your drive to my house a few weeks ago.”
“The tea.” Ivan’s face pinched. “I checked after the symptoms started showing. The doctors said—”
“That you had Guillain-Barre disease?” I sighed. “It is unfortunate that the symptoms are so similar. But no, I’m afraid it’s not Guillain-Barre.”
“What did you do, you little shit?”
A flash of movement behind Camo—visible only from where I stood—caught my eye. I showed no reaction even as my mental calculations adjusted to account for the new development.
“You can buy anything on the black market these days,” I said, playing idly with the ugly monkey paperweight on the desk. “Including deadly poisons. The one currently destroying your system? Quite similar to thallium. It’s odorless, tasteless, colorless. Hard to identify because it’s so rare, and its symptoms often point to a range of other illnesses. But unlike thallium, it has no widely known antidote. Luckily for you, Uncle, there is a secret antidote—and I have a vial stashed away.”
My uncle trembled with rage. “How do I know you’re not lying?”
I shrugged. “Guess you’ll have to trust me.”
Three things happened at once. Ava threw herself at a distracted Camo and knocked the gun out of his hand, Bridget’s bodyguard tackled Camo from behind and caught him in a chokehold, and I whipped out the gun hidden in the shoulder holster beneath my coat and pointed it at my uncle. I used my other hand to send a quick, one-number message on my phone without taking my eyes off Ivan.
“Stop!” he shouted.
Everyone froze until we resembled a grotesque comedic tableau—Rhys with one arm around Camo’s neck and the other pressing a gun to his temple; Ava and Bridget wriggling out of their restraints, me ready to shoot my uncle point-blank in the chest.
“Alex.” Ivan let out a nervous chuckle. “My dear nephew, is this necessary? We are, after all, family.”
“No, we’re not. You murdered my family.” I cocked my gun, and he paled. “Ava, Bridget, leave the room.”
They didn’t move.
Camo hadn’t tied their legs, so they could scramble out of the room even though their hands were still bound.
“Think of all the good times we had together,” my uncle coaxed, his affable mask falling back into place. “When I took you to your first Krav Maga lesson, when we visited Kiev for your sixteenth birth—”
The shot rang out loud and clear over his pleas.
Ivan froze, his mouth hanging open in shock. A crimson stain bloomed across his chest.
“Unfortunately for you, I’m not someone who waxes poetic before I pull the trigger,” I said. I felt no hint of remorse for the man who’d raised me. He was a murderer and a liar. I was too, but I’d resigned myself to hell a long time ago. “You’ll die today, looking as ugly on the outside as you are on the inside.”
A second shot rang out. His body jerked. “That was for my mother. The first was for my father. This—” A third shot. “Is for Nina. For Ava. For Bridget. And this—” I cocked my gun for the last time. “Is for me.” I fired the bullet straight between his eyes.
My uncle was long dead by this point, his body riddled with holes and his feet steeped in a glistening pool of blood, but my words, like my bullets, weren’t for him. They were for me, my own fucked-up version of closure.
I turned to Camo, whose complexion now resembled the color of chalk. Rhys still had him pinned to the ground.
I picked Camo’s gun up from the floor and examined it. “You can let him go,” I told Rhys. “He’s mine.”
To his credit, the bodyguard didn’t even blink. He’d maintained the same stoic expression from the moment he entered the room. I had a feeling the man wouldn’t blink an eye even if aliens in silver tutus poofed into existence before him and started dancing the Macarena.
“You sure?” He dug his gun harder into Camo’s temple.
“I’m sure. Your princess is waiting for you—” My mouth formed a half-smirk. “So let me take care of the trash.” I pointed my gun at Camo while holding the second weapon in my other hand.
Rhys pulled back, keeping his gun aimed at Camo but his gaze on me.
I could tell he wanted to fuck up Camo himself, but Bridget was his priority, and a bodyguard’s mandate was cover and evacuation, not combat.
The second he disappeared, I fired two shots into Camo’s kneecaps—not to kill, merely to hobble him while I went to work. I ignored his pained screams as I locked the door.
“You made a mistake today,” I said conversationally, kneeling next to him. Images of Ava’s bruises and terrified face flashed through my mind, and my expression hardened. “You touched what was mine—” I pulled a wicked-looking knife from my boot. Camo’s eyes popped in terror. “You hurt what was mine—” The smell of urine filled the air as he pissed himself. For such a tough-looking dude, he scared easily. My lips curled in distaste. “And now, it’s time to pay. Don’t worry.” I pulled his shirt up and dug the tip of the blade into his abdomen. “I’ll make it slow and sweet.”
If Ava and Bridget had already called the police—which I was sure they had—I only had precious minutes before they arrived. But with a few handy tools and creativity? One could make a minute feel like an eternity.
We didn’t pass the ten-second mark before Camo’s screams started again.