Home > Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(20)

Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(20)
Author: J.A. Redmerski

“I do not understand,” I told her gently, and with interest.

She moved her hand from the glass and placed it atop mine, brushed her fingertips over the top of my knuckles as she spoke.

“Defiance,” she said. “I want to do it because I can; I want to be the opposite of what my parents were, and what they expected me to be.”

“So then why waste the money?” I asked. “Why not give it away? There are many charities—”

She laughed under her breath, then brushed her fingers across the top of my hand once more and then reached for her wine glass again, fitting her fingers around it. She brought it to her lips, paused before taking a sip and said, “I can’t pretend to be a do-gooder, Victor—there’s no Robin Hood blood in these veins. I’m a Stone, and I accept that. Not that I’m proud of it. It’s just the way I am.” She took a drink, then set the glass carefully back on the table.

When we were done eating, Artemis took the fancy cloth napkin from her lap, placed it on the table, and smiled over at me; it stopped me in my tracks—it was a mysterious smile that, at first, I could not place. But when I reached for my wallet so I could retrieve my credit card, I felt her hand touch my wrist to stop me.

I looked at her inquisitively, but already, somewhere in the back of my subconscious mind, I knew what she intended to do.

“Live a little, my love,” she said, grinning.

I smiled, placed my wallet back into my jacket.

We took off running out of the restaurant, leaving the unpaid bill on the table, Artemis cackling as two waiters came after us. I was laughing too, which surprised me. Though less and less the longer I was with her. I was certainly a different kind of man a couple of months after I met her. I did not know it at the time, but I was changing because of Artemis Stone.

Present day…

“Were you caught?” Apollo asks.

I look up from the floor, watching the memory of Artemis’s radiant smile evaporate from my mind; hearing her lovely laughter fade, like churned up dust settling over a lonely field.

“No,” I answer. “They never caught us.”

Apollo smiles, genuinely, and not with hatred, which can only mean that he, too, is remembering his twin sister.

Then he shoots up from the chair, wiping the smile away, and replacing it with something less inviting.

He looks right at me.

“Go on,” he demands.

After a lengthy hesitation, I continue, but with difficulty.

“After the restaurant, we went home and changed clothes. We sat together on the porch, looking out at the ocean; she had made coffee—black, the way I liked it—and we talked for a long time before she told me that…”

“Before she told you what?”

I do not want to answer.

“Before she told you what, Victor? Come on, don’t start skimping on the details now.” Apollo grins, and I look away, if for anything than just to alleviate my need to punch him in the face.

I think back to that night again, now with bitterness.

And despair.

Fifteen years ago…

“I do love you, Victor,” Artemis said, reached over and grabbed my hand. “And I owe it to you to tell you the truth about something I’ve been keeping from you.”

My eyes met hers, and I waited. I did not urge her, I just waited.

She looked out ahead then; the moonlight glistened on the surface of the water. “I was pregnant,” she said. “And I had an abortion.”

My hand had slipped from hers before I even realized.

“I’m sorry, Victor, I really am, but you know me—I can’t be having babies; I’m still a baby myself sometimes. Besides, I don’t really like kids much.”

I could not speak for a long time.

“I hope you understand,” she said. “I hope you can forgive me.”

She got up from the chair, moved around to stand in front of me, her face stricken with concern, worried that I did not understand, that I could not forgive her.

I raised my eyes. I looked at her. And then against the war raging inside my head and my heart, I softened my gaze and then reached out with both hands and cradled her face within them.

Leaning forward, I pressed my lips to her forehead.

“I understand, love,” I said quietly. “And I forgive you.” I lied.

I carried her in my arms and took her to bed. And I made love to her that night as a different man. A man that I had forgotten existed in the year that I had known her…

Present day…

“And what man would that be?” Apollo inquires, as if already knowing the answer.

I look straight into his dark eyes and say, “I was Victor Faust, highest honor operative of The Order—I was an assassin there only to execute a job.”

“And Artemis?”

“She was a means to an end. A tool in which I used to fulfill my contract. And I had but one Stone sibling left to kill”—I nod in Apollo’s direction—“You.”


Apollo smiles largely, close-lipped; he holds that smile for a long time, without saying a word. It is unnerving.

And then, breaking apart his hands and opening his arms wide at his sides, he says, “And yet here I am. Alive and well. Did you ever wonder why you couldn’t find me to kill me?” He laughs, shakes his head. “I mean, surely it’s been bugging the shit out of you after all these years. Come on¸ be honest with me, Victor!” He smacks his hands together excitedly.

“Yes,” I admit. “I have thought about it from time to time, how you could have eluded me.”

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